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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #361: August 31, 2006

Japanese PM Winds Up Uzbek Visit

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Japanese PM Winds Up Uzbek Visit


Prime Minister Koizumi, for the first time for himself as well as the Prime Minister of Japan, visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan this week in a four-day trip. This was after three weeks the Prime Minister visited Mongolia. It indicates Japan's new focus of diplomacy - deep in the continent of Eurasia.

The first and most notable aim of the visit is to expand Japan's energy source. Japan relies about half of its energy on crude oil, and the other half is comprised of natural gas, atomic energy, and coal, each around 15%, and the rest being other sources. Practically all of crude oil is imported, and close to ninety percent is from the Middle East. Japan has very little energy resource of its own, so it is important to diversify its source of energy. Central Asia is rich in gas and oil, but the initial interest for Japan would be uranium, the fuel to run atomic power plants, which is clean in terms of emissions and the burden of transportation is small compared to other types of fuel.

The visit is in a sense a follow up and a recognition of development of the "Central Asia plus Japan" Foreign Ministers Meeting, the first held in August 2004 in Astana, Kazakhstan, and the second in June this year in Tokyo. The Central Asia as referred to here includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The four countries are all members - in fact four of the total of six, China and Russia being the other two - of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). It might be worth noting that Mongolia is one of four observer countries of SCO.

The diplomatic drive is Japan's own. While the U.S. is undoubtedly Japan's closest ally, the U.S., mainly because of the human rights issue, has distanced itself from the region. While Japan also believes in human rights, its diplomatic agenda is somewhat different. Japan has never attempted to force its philosophy on others, and tried to be a good partner with everyone unless some direct act of hostility is committed, as in the case with North Korea, or the international community, through the discussions at the U.N., collectively calls a country as a villain, as in the case of Saddam's Iraq. This policy is deeply engraved in the constitution, from which the famous "renunciation of war" clause is derived, and has been practiced by successive governments.

The visit by Mr Koizumi, and the general policy to seek further relationship with Central Asia, is a natural development of Japan's diplomacy. Japan's ties with the U.S. is secure, and stable and mature relationships are maintained with Europe, Oceania, and Canada. Good relationships backed by strong economic ties are established with neighboring Asian countries - except maybe one, and the Middle East and South America, remote as they may be, are good partners by way of mutually complementary relations. Japan has even begun assisting Africa - very far in terms of geography and economic relations - for its people to survive. It is about time, then, for Japan to seek closer relationship with Mid-Central Asia. Japan's diplomacy is not just following the lead of the U.S. nor getting heavily involved in minor quarrels with a couple of neighboring countries. Japan could, and should serve the world in its own ways to make it a better place to live.

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