Manama: Kuwait's First Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Shaikh Jaber Al Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah on Thursday became the first Arab to be awarded Japan's highest-ranked decoration conferred on foreigners.

The Imperial Decoration of "Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun" was bestowed by Japan's Emperor Akihito at a special ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The distinction is in recognition of Shaikh Jaber's significant contribution to promoting mutual understanding as well as political, diplomatic, and environmental ties between Kuwait and Japan, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama handed Shaikh Jaber the certificate of the order.

"I deeply appreciate the honour. It is not only for me, but also for the entire Kuwaiti armed forces and the Kuwaiti people," Shaikh Jaber told KUNA following the ceremony.

The Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, established in 1875, is Japan's oldest award and bestowed by the emperor upon outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to promoting ties with Japan.

The Japanese monarchy is the world's oldest continuous hereditary monarchy still in existence.