Japan in Central Asia

by Nathan Hamm on 8/22/2006 · 1 comment

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is heading to Central Asia at the end of the month, making him the first Japanese prime minister to visit the region. Hisune Masaki reports on the trip and Japanese efforts to woo Central Asian governments at Crisscross.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry released its new national energy strategy at the end of May. It calls for, among other things, strengthening ties with resource-rich countries through such measures as free-trade agreements (FTAs), promoting nuclear energy, and securing energy resources abroad through the fostering of more powerful energy companies. The new strategy specifically calls for increasing the ratio of “Hinomaru oil,” or oil developed and imported through domestic producers, from the current 15% to 40% by 2030. Japan has also decided recently to utilize aid to strengthen ties with resource-rich countries.

The article notes that Central Asia is a logical choice for Japan to turn to as it seeks to reduce its reliance on the Middle East. Additionally though, Japan is seeking uranium from the region. Japanese companies are pressing Koizumi to secure uranium rights while he is in Kazakhstan.

“Kazakhstan and Japan will talk on possible co-development of various resources, such as uranium,” said Tetsuo Ito, Japan’s ambassador to Kazakhstan. “There is room for Japan as Kazakhstan wants our expertise in the nuclear fuel business.”

Dissiyukov Almas, an official in the economic division at the Kazakhstan embassy in Tokyo, confirmed that uranium development will be discussed at the summit.

“We are very much interested in gaining uranium mining rights for our future business plans,” said Marubeni spokesman Taigo Noguchi. “We are keenly watching Koizumi’s visit.”

Japan faces competition from South Korea, China, and India, all of which also have growing demands for uranium.

Koizumi will meet President Nazarbaev while in Kazakhstan and then President Karimov when he moves on to Uzbekistan. As the BBC reports, energy is not the only thing on the agenda. A Japanese foreign ministry official said that human rights and democratization would be brought up by Koizumi.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

Laurence August 23, 2006 at 6:04 am

I remember that when I was teaching at UWED, the Japanese ambassador gave a talk where he said something like: America is finished–the future belongs to Asia, and so Japan wants good relations with Uzbekistan…

That was in an official speech by a US ally. Sort of makes you think, sometimes…

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