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Gauck stresses German-Japan ties amid 'global uncertainty'

President Joachim Gauck has reaffirmed the importance of German relations with Japan while on a visit to the country. He underlined the need for vigilance in the face of rising nationalism.

"Strengthening bilateral relations is all the more important amid the current global uncertainty," Gauck told Japan's Emperor Akihito while visiting the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Tuesday, according to the Imperial Household agency. 

"I am glad that we can develop Japan-German relations further," the emperor replied during the 25-minute meeting

Akihito talked of his experiences during World War II, while Gauck told him how he grew up under the socialist regime in the former East Germany.

Gauck is in Japan for the first time, and it is the first visit for a German head of state to the country since Christian Wulff in October 2011. Gauck's keynote speech takes place on Wednesday at the Waseda University of Tokyo.

Halting the spread of nationalism

German President Joachim Gauck (L) and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) before their meeting at Abe's official residence on 14 November

Gauck (L) and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before their meeting at Abe's official residence on November 14

In an interview of the Japanese daily newspaper "Yomiuri Shimbun," Gauck warned against the emergence of anti-European and populist tendencies.

"These movements stir up resentment, use nationalist ideas and pretend that the problems of our time can be solved in a simple way," he said.

Gauck added that watching the US presidential election campaign, and noticing how little facts and truth played a role, was "highly irritating." However, he said that the US remained a leading political, economic and military power. "I wish for [President-elect Donald] Trump to take on these responsibilities with great care," Gauck said.

Respecting the rule of law

Gauck kicked off his five-day trip to Japan on Monday by sitting down with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The German president told a joint news conference after the meeting that he was watching the situation in the East and South China seas "with concern."

Japan itself has repeatedly expressed concern about Chinese vessels operating near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Abe and Gauck agreed to work together to maintain the international rule of law and would not accept attempts to change the status quo by force.

Gauck will wrap up his trip on Friday by traveling to the city of Nagasaki, which was devastated by the US atomic bombing in during World War II that killed 74,000 people.

The Japan visit is likely on of Gauck's last foreign trips as German president. He is set to make way for current Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier following an election in February.

jbh/dr (dpa)

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