Swiss and Japanese mark diplomatic anniversary

Burkhalter and Akihito met at Tokyo's Imperial Palace Keystone

Swiss President Didier Burkhalter and Japanese Emperor Akihito have kicked off four days of events to mark the signing of a treaty of friendship and commerce between the countries 150 years ago on February 6, 1864.

This content was published on February 3, 2014 - 16:30 and agencies

Like Burkhalter, the man who signed that treaty, Aimé Humbert-Droz, also hailed from canton Neuchâtel. According to the foreign ministry, Akihito viewed this symbolic visit as a sign of strengthened bilateral relations.

However, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper pointed out on Monday that although Burkhalter’s visit to Japan is on the books as work, he will only meet his Japanese counterparts for about an hour in total with the rest of the time earmarked for celebrations.

The only political agreement being signed during the visit involves approving unrestricted air traffic between Japanese and Swiss airports, and that will be signed by ambassadors instead of by Burkhalter and Akihito.

An official ceremony to mark the anniversary of diplomatic relations will take place on Thursday, with another celebration planned for the same day in Neuchâtel. During the next four days, Swiss artists will present their work in downtown Tokyo as part of a “Swiss Days” event which will also include concerts by musicians from Switzerland.

Japan is Switzerland’s fourth-largest global trading partner and its second-largest trading partner in Asia.

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