Japan-Kazakhstan Relations

Speech by Prime Minister Abe on Japan's Foreign Policy Toward Central Asia

October 28, 2015
Japanese

Thank you, President KATSU, for your introduction. To everyone at Nazarbayev University, you are the best and brightest from across Kazakhstan. I was surprised to hear that all the lectures are being given in English by a world-class faculty of teaching staff. I am so very happy to see you.

Beyond the horizon is Japan, a country of people who respect and feel friendship with you. There is esteem and camaraderie between our people, just as there is between two of our star athletes, the figure skaters Mao ASADA and Denis TEN.

In the past two years, I have met with President Nursultan NAZARBAYEV three times at international conferences, but this is my first visit to Central Asia. I am the first sitting Japanese Prime Minister to come to Central Asia in nine years and the first-ever Japanese Prime Minister to have the privilege of making a state visit to all of the five nations of Central Asia during the same journey.

In Kazakhstan, the last stop of my Central Asian tour, I have come to Nazarbayev University.

To you and other people in Central Asia, I have a three-point message.
First, Japan will dramatically strengthen its relationship with the nations of Central Asia. To do so, Japan will help make the region’s industries more sophisticated and develop human resources.

We want to climb the value-added ladder. We want to diversify our industries. And for that, we want to build high-quality infrastructure in transportation and electric power. I heard those desires voiced everywhere I went during this trip. Now I have realized how much hope you place in Japan.

Such partnership has already begun. In Kazakhstan, Toyota Motor Corporation built a factory in Kostanay last year. Toyota cars rolling off the production line there represent the fruits of young Kazakh engineers’ use of Japan’s advanced automotive technology.

Gas resources abundant in this region can be turned into motor fuel, an energy source driving Turkmenistan’s motorization, by using Japan’s “GTL” (gas to liquid) technology.

Meanwhile, in Japan, automotive technology is evolving further. And CO2-free hydrogen energy technology has entered the stage of practical use. In 2017, here in Astana, in your university’s neighborhood, an international expo will be held. Japan immediately expressed its willingness to participate in the event. We hope that at the expo, you will see the vision of a future hydrogen society with your own eyes.

Since ancient times, we Japanese have valued the idea that “building a country is about building a people.” When the modern age dawned and Japan saw the overwhelming scientific and technological superiority of the West, we devoted ourselves simply to pouring funds and sweat into education in order to catch up. When World War II laid waste to the country, we still had a resource called people. Even from that low point, we were able to again achieve accelerated growth.

Why has Japan joyfully accepted 8,723 trainees from Central Asia over the past 24 years? Or sent 2,299 experts as instructors to the region, or—in one example—passed on methodologies for industrial automation right here at Nazarbayev University? I think you know the answer now, based on everything I have said. Going forward, Japan will continue to emphasize empowering you as individuals, strengthening the power you already have, each and every one of you here today. As a new initiative, Japan will support training of people who lead advanced industries in Kazakhstan and other nations of Central Asia by making use of Japan’s high-quality engineering education.

Secondly, Japan will more actively involve itself in efforts to resolve challenges faced universally by Central Asia.

We have been engaging in “Central Asia + Japan Dialogue” since 2004. I thought to myself this: If something—an issue—calls for a regional solution, then Japan can be a “catalyst” that all parties trust. This dialogue is developing into a framework for the nations of Central Asia and Japan to tackle challenges faced universally by this region.

For example, we are discussing cooperation in the field of agriculture in this dialogue. Tajikistan called attention to the plague of locusts that destroys crops across national borders and requested Japanese cooperation in taking steps to resolve this problem, an initiative which will bring benefits to the whole of Central Asia. During this trip, Japan expressed support for this initiative.

“Made in Japan,” a term which has become a byword for high quality, applies not only to manufactured products such as cars and TV sets. Japanese vegetables, fruits and other agricultural commodities, which are delicious and safe, are also products that we should be proud of internationally. We Japanese have been cultivating agricultural knowhow during the course of our country’s long history, as we ploughed soil and introduced water into the fields, as we lived with nature and enjoyed its benefits.

I hear that in some cases, Japan’s kaizen concept has been adopted to drastically improve crop yields and labor productivity in this vast, fertile land of Kazakhstan.

Furthermore, Japan is ready to help make it easier to move around people and goods, which is a critical challenge that must be achieved if Central Asia is to attain further development. This is another area in which we are extremely interested.

I am looking forward to the day when Japanese technology, experience and knowhow relating to railways and other infrastructures contributes to the well-being of the people in Kazakhstan and other nations of Central Asia, a landlocked region which is remarkable for its diversity of geography, from vast plains to steep mountains. The Central Asia + Japan Dialogue and a meeting of foreign ministers from this region and Japan will be held next year with transportation and distribution as one of their main themes. I hope discussions on this theme will deepen in the run-up to these events.

I understand that Kazakhstan intends to establish an external aid organization. JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) has an abundance of experience in this field. I am looking forward to the day when Japan can work with Kazakhstan in promoting the development of this region.

Japan is hoping to make active contributions to the development of the whole of Central Asia while carefully listening to each country’s needs.

Japan will help Central Asia achieve an open, stable and autonomous development, under close public-private sector collaboration. Private companies are already quite keen to engage. The Government of Japan will provide support through public funding to encourage private-sector investment, improve infrastructure and develop human resources. Through such measures, Japan will create business opportunities worth more than 3 trillion yen.

Third, we would like to deepen the partnership between Japan and Central Asia on the global stage as well.

Kazakhstan and Japan are now walking hand-in-hand at the head of a momentous march, a march towards nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Since this past September, our two nations have been serving as Co-Presidents of the Article XIV Conference (or the Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of the CTBT) for a two-year term. In my meeting with President Nursultan NAZARBAYEV earlier today, we confirmed our will to strive together in this respect and transformed that will into a written commitment.

The International Science and Technology Center, which is engaging in the initiative to prevent a brain drain from the former Soviet republics in order to ensure nuclear non-proliferation, made a fresh start here at Nazarbayev University this summer. Japan will continue to support this institution’s activities, which have now continued for more than 20 years.

This development was perhaps inevitable. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then Semipalatinsk. For Japan, this year is the 70th anniversary of the two atomic bombings, and for Kazakhstan, it marks a quarter century since the closing of the atomic test site. Our thoughts are the same on this historic year: we seek nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and our will is indomitable.

Fortunately, at present, Japan has been elected to serve on the UN Security Council, for the 11th time. We would like to work with Kazakhstan at the United Nations as well, in order to push for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as well as the reform of the Security Council.

There was one more reason why I wanted to visit Central Asia.

After the end of World War II seventy years ago, many Japanese people were detained in this region as prisoners of war. Many perished here with the memories of their homeland in their hearts. I paid respect to and prayed for the souls of those who died such a sad death.

The peace with which Japan is now blessed has been built upon the precious sacrifices made by such people. While reflecting on the gravity of this fact, Japan will make active contributions to the peace and prosperity of the world together with the people in Central Asia and our friends around the world. I have renewed my resolve to perform this task.

Wherever I have gone, I heard or saw myself that the buildings raised by former Japanese prisoners of war are still intact, cared for by the people of Central Asian nations. The National Science Academy in Almaty is one such example. The Navoi Theater in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, is another. As you know, there are many others in Shymkent, Temirtau and other cities.

Perhaps, at the sight of the rising sun each morning, those Japanese prisoners of war in this land turned their thoughts to their loved ones back in their hometowns, which would be somewhere beyond the horizon. My heart aches when I think of them. Their work was forced labor, yet our forebears still did the best they could. The buildings stand as a testament to their dignity.

Among Japanese prisoners of war detained in this faraway land was Kyuzo KATO, who went on to become a noted archaeologist after returning to Japan.

Professor KATO translated Ilyas YESENBERLIN’s iconic work, “The Nomads,” which relates the history of the building of Kazakh Khanate about 550 years ago, and introduced it to the Japanese people. He is now 93 years old, but he is braving the harsh sun of this land to excavate ancient ruins, as he has been fascinated by Central Asia.

Central Asia was a bridge through which Buddhism, which originated in India, arrived in Japan. Furthermore, Central Asia has been a crossroads of the Oriental and Western cultures for thousands of years. People of various ethnic origins and religious beliefs have traversed this region.

The openness of mind to diverse cultures and the energy to open up the future, which is created by diversity. These are the qualities that attract us to Central Asia.

Therefore, although Japan and Central Asia are far apart geographically and have different historical backgrounds, I believe that huge possibilities lie ahead for the future of our partnership. If we accept each other and take advantage of each other’s strengths, if we join our hands and work together, we can make our future shine more brightly.

I intend to immediately start making efforts to realize such partnership. By sending a cultural exchange mission to Central Asia, or alternately, by inviting Japanese-language learners from Central Asia to Japan, we will give force and energy to this endeavor.

On the map, we are far apart. But distance doesn’t matter when we are united in heart.

To all of the people in Kazakhstan and other nations of Central Asia, I would like to say this. Let’s join our hands and move forward together toward the future.