Japanese PM lands in Romania as leader he is to meet resigns

January 16, 2018

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens during joint press statements with Romania's President Klaus Iohannis at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Bucharest on Tuesday for key talks on North Korea and investment, but landed in a Romanian political crisis prompted by the prime minister’s unexpected resignation.

Just as Abe was arriving in Romania at the end of his six-nation European tour, President Klaus Iohannis named Defense Minister Mihai Fifor as the country’s interim prime minister.

″(Romania’s) political uncertainty should not degenerate into political instability” that court hurt its economy, Iohannis said.

Mihai Tudose, who took office in June 2017, quit as premier late Monday after the left-wing Social Democratic Party withdrew its support for him amid a party power struggle between him and the party’s powerful chairman, Liviu Dragnea.

The resignation plunged Romania’s currency, the leu, close to record-low levels and a two-week low against the euro.

The crisis meant Abe’s lunch and talks with the prime minister were canceled, but Abe later met Romania’s president, where they talked about the danger posed by North Korea’s nuclear arms.

Abe said both countries could “not accept the nuclear armament of North Korea and we believe it is necessary to intensify to a maximum level the pressure on this country.” He also called for closer cooperation between Japan and Europe “in the name of the common values” they share.

Abe also spoke about a subway line planned from Bucharest’s Henri Coanda Airport to the capital of Bucharest, which Japan will provide one-third of the financing. The line is expected to be running by 2022.

He also said to encourage Romanian visitors, Tokyo had waived visa requirements for Romanians visiting Japan.

Despite the importance of Abe’s visit — the first by a Japanese prime minister to Romania — the political crisis dominated the news agenda.

The Social Democrats later named Viorica Dancila, a Romanian member of the European Parliament and an ally of Dragnea’s, as their choice for prime minister. Dragnea said her connections with EU officials would benefit the government.

Iohannis plans to consult with political parties Wednesday before proposing a candidate, who would need to be approved by Romania’s lawmakers to take office.

Dragnea himself can’t be prime minister due to a 2016 conviction for vote-rigging.

Update hourly