Colombo: Shinzo Abe arrived here today as the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Sri Lanka in 24 years, aiming to boost trade and counter China's rising influence in South Asia.
Abe, who landed here on a two-day visit, was welcomed at the airport by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Immediately upon arrival, Abe joined Rajapaksa in launching the Japanese-funded second phase of the development of the Bandaranaike International Airport here.
Abe's visit assumes significance as Japan has been keen to distance itself from Western nations who demand that Sri Lanka demonstrate accountability on alleged human rights violations during the country's three-decade civil war against the LTTE that ended in 2009.
The UN's human rights investigation has got underway despite Sri Lanka's stance of non-cooperation with the probe.
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March ordered an international investigation into charges that Sri Lanka's security forces killed at least 40,000 Tamil civilians during the final phase of the civil war.
Japan, the largest single foreign aid donor to Sri Lanka, remained neutral at the UNHRC session in March that voted to set up the war crimes probe.
Japan backs Sri Lanka's view that reconciliation with the Tamil minority can only be achieved through an internal mechanism without external pressures.
The Japanese leader is accompanied by a large business delegation. Abe arrived from Bangladesh as part of a regional tour aimed at increasing trade and offsetting bitter rival China's mounting influence in the subcontinent.
Abe is the first Japanese premier in 24 years to visit Sri Lanka.