TASHKENT (Kyodo) Japan pledged increased assistance for Central Asia ranging from antiterrorism measures to infrastructure development for goods distribution when foreign ministers from Tokyo and the region gathered Saturday in the Uzbek capital.

“The development of Central Asia in an open way is a common good for all of Eurasia,” Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said at the outset of the third “Central Asia plus Japan” dialogue meeting.

“The Japanese government, now led by the Democratic Party of Japan following the change of power, intends to continue proactively supporting” the region, he said.

Okada’s trip to Central Asia follows his visit to African nations and the holding of talks in Tokyo with Mongolian government officials earlier this year as Japan strives to forge closer ties with countries rich in natural resources, precipitated by China’s aggressive pursuit of resources around the globe.

He said Saturday during the dialogue meeting that Tokyo will step up its assistance for the region in preventing the entry of radical extremists and narcotic drugs from Afghanistan.

Japan will help the five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan strengthen their border controls by holding a seminar to train personnel on measures to cope with terrorism and illegal drugs.

Okada also proposed holding an economic forum meeting in Tokyo by March 31, to be attended by government officials from Japan and Central Asia, to encourage more Japanese companies to branch out to the region.

The dialogue between Japan and the five Central Asian countries was launched in 2004.

The participants of the six-way talks agreed to hold the next meeting in Japan in 2012.

Okada also held separate talks with his Uzbek and Tajik counterparts in Tashkent on Saturday.

During a meeting with Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov, Okada sought cooperation in facilitating engagement by Japanese companies in uranium development operations in Uzbekistan, while proposing a visit to Japan around February next year by President Islam Karimov.

He later held talks with Tajik Foreign Minister Khamrokhon Zarifi and asked for cooperation with Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Zarifi said Tajikistan will continue to support the bid, Japanese officials said.

Okada also promised to assist Tajikistan in removing antipersonnel land mines left in southern parts of the country.

Prior to his departure for a six-day trip to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Japanese foreign minister said Friday Central Asia is geopolitically important and he believes Japan should deepen its relations with the region, which is rich in resources such as uranium, natural gas and rare metals.

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