An Asian Odyssey for Poland’s President

President Lech Kaczynski and his wife spent November 30th to December 7th in Asia, paying official visits to Mongolia, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

In Mongolia, President Nambaryn Enkhbayar met with Lech Kaczynski at the State Palace. It was the first visit of a Polish president to Mongolia since the fall of communism in 1990. The two politicians signed a joint declaration regarding economic cooperation between Poland and Mongolia. In 2010, Mongolia and Poland will mark their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations, echoing a diplomatic link that was established in 1950. During the visit, President Lech Kaczynski also met Prime Minister Sanjaagiin Bayar.

In Ulan Bator President Kaczynski received an honorary doctorate from the National University of Mongolia for his “contribution to the development of democracy and friendship among nations, as well as comprehensive relations between Poland and Mongolia.” The Polish head of state gave a lecture in which he spoke about the history of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and academic life in Poland. He stressed the importance of universities in developing nations and he congratulated Mongolia’s academic achievements.

On December 2nd, the presidential couple left Mongolia following a rather embarrassing hiccup. Kaczynski’s entourage was obliged to arrive in Japan with an almost seven hour delay, due to problems with the airplane. The Polish government plane had frozen on the runway at Ulan Bator Airport and Kaczynski had to hire a Mongolian one to take them to Japan. He left the Polish plane to defrost, after temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius at night. The president’s plane is reported to have been repaired, but it was not the only problem which faced Kaczynski during the eight-day Asia tour.

At the beginning of December, Japan’s Emperor Akihito cancelled all meetings for two days, which included the audience with the Polish president scheduled for December 4th, after he was diagnosed with an irregular pulse. Kaczynski spent his time in Kyoto, where he had a tour of the Kyoto State Guest House and the old Emperor’s Palace. Continuing the visit in Japan, Lech Kaczynski and his wife travelled by super express train to Tokyo to take part in a reception inaugurating the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Poland and Japan.

In Tokyo, the Polish president met with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. They affirmed that bilateral cooperation between the two countries should continue to evolve, and discussed economic and security issues. Kaczynski again underlined the long history of Polish-Japanese relations: “Once more I wanted to thank Japan because after 90 years it was the fourth country to recognise Poland in March 1919,” reported Reuters. Taro Aso answered: “We will be celebrating 90 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Poland next year, as well as the 200th anniversary of the birth of Poland’s greatest musician Chopin. So in addition to these events, we’ve agreed to further strengthen our relationships in broader areas such as economics, politics and culture,” he added.

According to official information from the President’s Palace during the Japanese visit, honouring their meritorious services in missionary and didactic work, Lech Kaczynski awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Poland Reborn to Father Michal Moskwa and Father Nikodem Pisarski, the Salesians who have been carrying out their ministry in Japan for more than 70 years.

Following his meetings in Japan, the president of Poland continued his trip to South Korea on Friday, December 5th. The programme of the visit to the Republic of South Korea included talks with President Lee Myung-bak and a meeting with Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, as well as the signing of the Executive Programme for 2009-2011 to the Intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in the fields of politics, society, education, science and culture.

President Kaczynski agreed to help South Korean companies participate in the planned expansion of Poland’s infrastructure. He also promised active cooperation in enhancing the environment for Korean businesses in Poland. The summit reaffirmed the determination of the two governments to strengthen substancial economic cooperation while discussing ways to meaningfully commemorate the 20th anniversary of formal ties. In this way, the summit established a milestone in friendly relations between Seoul and Warsaw.

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