Prime Minster Shinzo Abe's trip to Mongolia and Central Asia — in which he became the first Japanese leader ever to visit Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — looks to bring in a raft of investment deals for Tokyo. But the whirlwind tour likely had other motivations, too, and raises questions about Abe's willingness to do business with strongmen with dubious human rights records.

In a speech Tuesday in Astana, Abe said Japan saw huge economic potential in infrastructure and other projects in the region.

"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.