Japan signs action plan with Central Asian states

by Reiji Yoshida

Japan signed an agreement Monday to promote cooperation with four Central Asian countries that includes a plan to build roads in Tajikistan to transport natural resources via Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean.

The agreement was signed by Foreign Minister Taro Aso and top representatives of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan during a one-day meeting in Tokyo.

Foreign ministers who took part included Elyor Ganiyev of Uzbekistan, Alikbek Dzhekshenkulov of Kyrgyzstan and Talbak Nazarov of Tajikistan. Kazakhstan was represented by Kairat Abdrakhmanov, vice foreign minister and special government envoy.

Afghanistan, represented by Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, participated as a guest in the Central Asia Plus Japan dialogue, at which it was also agreed the foreign ministers would meet regularly and explore the possibility of holding a future summit, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

Under the wide-ranging plan, Japan will help the four countries improve their border management capabilities and prevent proliferation of terrorism and drugs in the region.

Aso has stressed the region’s diplomatic importance to Japan by pointing out how it is rich in natural resources and minerals, including oil, gas, gold and uranium. Although Japan does not directly import oil from the region, it is a major importer of gold.

China and Russia, together with the four Central Asian countries, have strengthened involvement in the region by establishing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security body, in 2001.

Asked if and how Japan would cooperate with the Shanghai group through the Central Asia Plus Japan framework, Aso said Tokyo has no immediate plans to this end.