Japan's prime minister has warned that a British vote to leave the EU could put Japanese interests "at stake." Brexit supporters, however, doubt that Abe's comments will have an effect on Japanese business in the UK.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined the growing list of world leaders who have weighed in on the debate over whether Britain should remain in the European Union.
Abe told reporters at a joint-press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron that "Japan's interests are also at stake" in the UK's June 23 referendum on EU membership.
"A vote to leave would make the UK less attractive as a destination for Japanese investment," Abe said.
"About 1,000 Japanese companies operate in the UK, employing 140,000 people," he said. "Many of the Japanese companies set up their operations in the UK precisely because the UK is a gateway to the EU."
Cameron said Japanese investment in Britain totaled £38 billion (48 billion euros, $55 billion) at the end of 2014 and played an important role in revitalizing the British car manufacturing industry.
"Japan is a country that matters enormously to the prosperity of the UK," Cameron added.
Those who support the UK's exit from the 28-nation bloc dismissed Abe's comments, saying Japanese companies such as Toyota, Nissan and Hitachi would continue investing in Great Britain regardless of the referendum's outcome.
"Japan wouldn't accept the huge loss of control Britain has suffered because of our EU membership, so much of the public will be skeptical of the Japanese prime minister's 'do as I say, not as we do attitude,'" said Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Vote Leave campaign.
Abe's statement came shortly after US President Barack Obama warned that the UK would be "in the back of the queue" for a trade deal with the United States should the country decide to drop out of the EU.
Abe also met with French and German leaders this week on a European tour ahead of a G7 meeting. Leaders from the group of seven advanced, industrialized nations are set to put forward their competing economic visions at the meeting later this month.
rs/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)