David Cameron meets Japanese PM on Asia trade tour

David Cameron has met Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda for talks in Tokyo, as he attempts to boost UK trade with East and South East Asia.

The UK prime minister is on a week-long visit to the region and is expected to agree a new defence deal with Japan.

He said it was part of his job to "load up an aeroplane full of business people" to "fly the flag for Britain".

On a visit to Nissan's headquarters in Yokohama, he welcomed news that its new hatchback is to be built in Sunderland.

The prime minister is expected to agree a new defence deal with Japan which would see both countries develop weapons together for the first time.

Mr Cameron told reporters on the flight to Japan he was "completely upfront" about including several large defence contractors among his 40-strong business delegation and hailed the UK's "very strong defence sector".

"We have some of the toughest rules on defence exports anywhere in the world," he said.

"But as these countries, particularly Japan, that have tended in the past to buy only American equipment are opening up, there are opportunities for people like AgustaWestland, who make helicopters, who are on this plane.

"I think that's perfectly responsible and respectable."

Postponed visit

He said he wanted to boost and strengthen diplomatic relationships with countries in the region.

David Cameron meets Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda
Mr Cameron met his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda for talks in Tokyo

"All these countries represent huge opportunities.

"Part of the job of the prime minister is to load up an aeroplane full of business people, large and small, get our exports up, get our investment up, get out there and fly the flag for Britain."

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Science Minister David Willetts, Chief Scientist Sir John Beddington and representatives from BAE Systems, the Nuclear Industry Association and Rolls Royce are among the delegates taking part in the trade visit.

The government has said that when the prime minister embarks on foreign business trips, exports rise by 20% in the countries he visits.

Mr Cameron, whose planned trip to Japan last year was postponed because of the eurozone crisis, also met Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for discussions about a variety of issues including the global economy and British expertise on nuclear decommissioning following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami which led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.

Rocket launch 'unacceptable'

Speaking after the talks, the prime minister also warned North Korea not to defy calls for it to abandon a rocket launch planned for later this week.

Officials in Pyongyang have said concerns that the launch is a cover for developing missile technology are "nonsense" and say it is part of the peaceful development of a space programme.

But Mr Cameron told TV station News Zero it would be "unacceptable" to go ahead with the launch: "If they go ahead it should be condemned in the strongest possible terms by the UN Security Council."

He added: "We need to explain that they need to take a different path. They need to do less in terms of weapons and the military and more engagement with the rest of the world."

Mr Cameron, who also met Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, visited Nissan's head office in Yokohama, along with the company's chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga.

Nissan has announced it is to build a new hatchback at its UK plant in Sunderland in 2014, boosting jobs at the plant and component companies supplying it. The prime minister said that was "a huge vote of confidence in the skills and flexibility of the UK workforce" and he hoped to attract more investment.

The government is encouraging overseas companies with a variety of incentives to invest in the UK, such as the regional growth fund.

It hopes to reach deals on more than £200m worth of Japanese investment in the UK.

Other announcements expected during the trip include Panasonic choosing to set up a fuel research centre in Cardiff and Mitsubishi using Edinburgh as a base for a project on wind turbine generators.

Mr Cameron is expected to visit Burma later this week - the first Western leader to do so since the country's landmark by-elections on 1 April.