ASTANA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that Japan sees economic potential worth more than ¥3 trillion in infrastructure and other projects in Central Asia.
“The Japanese government will push for private investment and will support infrastructure building as well as human resource development. By doing so, business opportunities surpassing ¥3 trillion will be created,” Abe said in a speech in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, as he wrapped up a weeklong, five-nation tour of Central Asia, where Japan is hoping to boost its presence.
Abe made the remarks after holding talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, during which the two leaders agreed to step up cooperation in bringing nuclear power to the Central Asian country.
Abe’s offer of support for Kazakhstan’s plan to build nuclear power plants is part of Japan’s bid to increase its presence in the resource-rich region.
Political observers said Abe’s visit to the region was aimed at countering China’s growing economic clout there.
During their talks in Astana, Abe and Nazarbayev reaffirmed that they will boost economic ties now that a bilateral investment treaty has come into force.
“Japan (also) supports the economic structural reforms of Kazakhstan and agreed that it will support such efforts both at the public and private-sector level,” Abe said at a joint news conference after their talks.
Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit all five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Kazakhstan has abundant uranium reserves and is rich in other natural resources, including oil and rare earths, making it a potentially attractive destination for Japanese companies.
To contribute to the development of Central Asia, Abe said in his speech that Japan will support at the private and public sector-level the region’s efforts to become “open, stable and self-reliant.”
Abe said there is strong interest from Japanese firms in Central Asia and expressed hope that Japanese technology and know-how in railway building and other areas will be fully made use of by Kazakhstan and the other countries in the region.
Abe said Japan “wants to address issues of transportation and the flow of goods, which are indispensable for the development of Central Asia.”
He said he hopes the foreign ministers of Japan and the five Central Asian nations can come up with measures to improve such issues.
On the political front, Abe and Nazarbayev agreed to cooperate on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, tapping into their roles to help facilitate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty’s entry into force.
In a joint statement, they expressed their commitment to ratification of the CTBT, saying their countries share a moral responsibility to prevent tragedies caused by nuclear weapons.
Japan suffered the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while hundreds of nuclear tests were carried out in Kazakhstan when it was part of the Soviet Union.