Diplomatic Bluebook 2017

Chapter 2

Japan's Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map

2.Central Asian and Caucasian Countries

(1) Central Asian Countries

Japan is supporting the “open, stable and autonomous development” of Central Asia, which is geopolitically important and is promoting the development support diplomacy with the objective of contributing to the peace and stability of the region. The three pillars of Japan's diplomacy in Central Asia are as follows; (1) fundamental strengthening of bilateral relationships; (2) encouragement of regional cooperation and contribution to the common issues of the region through the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue, and; (3) cooperation in the global arena.

In relations with the Central Asian countries, as the follow-up to the visit of Prime Minister Abe to five Central Asian countries in 2015, vigorous exchanges including VIP visits, etc. were carried out in 2016 as well. From Japan, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Miki Yamada visited Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in April. Furthermore, in August the Central Asia Cultural Exchange Mission3 was dispatched to Uzbekistan and Uzbekistan Japanese Drum Performance4 hosted by the Japan Foundation was given, and the Spouse of the Prime Minister, Akie Abe, visited Uzbekistan as a special advisor to the performance group. Moreover, from August to September, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Motome Takisawa visited Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and in response to the death of Uzbek President Karimov on September 2, he visited Uzbekistan and attended the farewell ceremony. From the Central Asian countries, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan visited Japan in November, held a summit meeting with Prime Minister Abe, and gave a speech to the Diet, which was the first from the leader of a former Soviet country, and confirmed the strengthening of bilateral relations and cooperative relations in the international arena. In addition, Jalil Sultanov, Director of the Memorial Exposition Museum of the Japanese Citizens' Sojourn in Uzbekistan in the 1940s, visited Japan in January, Deputy Chairman of the Mazhilis of Parliament of Kazakhstan Issimbayeva and Chairperson of the Parliament of Turkmenistan Nurberdiyeva in April, and Minister of Employment and Labour Relations Aziz Abdukhakimov of Uzbekistan and Ganiev, Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade of Uzbekistan in May.

Prime Minister Abe and President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan shaking hands (November 7, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)Prime Minister Abe and President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan shaking hands (November 7, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)
The “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue mascot (designed by manga artist Kaoru Mori for use in cultural events on the occasion of the Tokyo Dialogue)The “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue mascot (designed by manga artist Kaoru Mori for use in cultural events on the occasion of the Tokyo Dialogue)

Furthermore, in January permanent ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary were dispatched to the Embassies in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Regarding Uzbekistan, as a result of the death of the first president, Karimov, a presidential election was held in December and former prime minister Mirziyoyev became the new president.

In the framework of the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue, the 11th Senior Officials' Meeting was held in Tokyo in March, and the participants followed up on the previous (July 2014) Foreign Ministers' Meeting and held an exchange of views about a variety of topics, in particular, the promotion of practical cooperation in the fields of transportation, logistics, etc., toward the next Foreign Ministers' Meeting. Furthermore, in September the 9th Tokyo Dialogue (Intellectual Dialogue) was held on the theme of “Undiscovered Central Asia: Its Charm and its Bonds with Japan” and in order to raise the profile of Central Asia in Japan, in addition to the previous public symposiums, film festivals, music festivals, and embassy open events were held and a total of nearly 1,200 people participated in them.

  • 3 In response to the visits by Prime Minister Abe to a number of Central Asian countries in October 2015, the Japan Foundation positioned Central Asia as one of its “priority regions” and is intensively planning and implementing cultural exchange projects in a wide range of areas in this region. As a part of this, it dispatched the Japan Foundation Central Asia Cultural Exchange Mission, a cultural exchange delegation comprised of experts and knowledgeable persons in a variety of fields and led by Nobuhiko Shima, the Chairman of the Japan-Uzbekistan Association, to five Central Asian countries where it inspected cultural and community projects in Central Asia and held exchanges of views and information with knowledgeable persons, etc., and going forward it plans to consider what kinds of exchange programs should be advanced in order to further deepen and develop Japan-Central Asia relations. The first country that the mission visited was Uzbekistan, from August 2 to August 5.
  • 4 Sponsored by the Japan Foundation, the Japanese drum performance group DRUM TAO gave their first performance in Central Asia at the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre in Tashkent. The Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre is an opera house completed in 1947 and Japanese detainees were involved in its construction in the former Soviet era.

(2) Caucasian countries

The relations with Caucasian countries were further strengthened through high-level mutual visits as well.

From Georgia, which shares values of liberty and democracy with Japan and seeks integration with Europe, Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia Usupashvili visited Japan in February, Minister of Education and Science Sanikidze in May, Minister of Finance Khaduri in July, and Minister of Energy Eloshvili in November. Furthermore, parliamentary elections were held in Georgia in October and the ruling party Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia won more than three-quarters of the seats.

With abundant natural resources, Azerbaijan leads the economy of the Caucasus area. A group led by the Director-General of the International Bureau of the Liberal Democratic Party Tanaka (May) and the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Takisawa (August) visited the country, and from Azerbaijan, a delegation of the New Azerbaijan Party (February), presidential aide Hasanov (March), and Minister of Youth and Sport Rahimov (October) visited Japan. Furthermore, in April, Deputy Prime Minister Sharifov was conferred the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of his contribution to strengthening bilateral relations and promoting mutual understanding between the two countries.

Armenia enjoys rich human resources, particularly in the IT field. In August, a delegation headed by the President of the Japan-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship League Eto visited the country for the first time and held a meeting with President Sargsyan and other officials on the Armenian side.

Meanwhile, Caucasian countries are burdened with disputes over territories including South Ossetia and Abkhazia5 in Georgia, and the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict6 between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which still cause tensions among the countries involved. Although efforts toward resolution have been made, no specific progress has been seen (as of February 2017).

  • 5 In August 2008, an armed conflict took place between Georgia and South Ossetia; the latter was aiming for separation and independence from the former. Russia intervened in the dispute which led to a military conflict between Georgia and Russia. About one week after the conflict occurred, France, which was then EU president, and other states acted as mediators and realized a cease-fire. Based on the agreement reached at that time, international conferences have been held in Geneva to discuss security and humanitarian issues among parties concerned.
  • 6 This is a dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. Most of the residents living in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area are Armenian and during the Soviet era they made increasingly strong demands to change their affiliation from Azerbaijan to Armenia and this led to a dispute between the two countries following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Armenia had occupied almost the entire region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding seven areas by 1993. In 1994, the two countries agreed to a cease-fire through the intermediation of Russia and the OSCE; however, conflict with casualties has been repeated until now. In April 2016, the largest military clashes since the cease-fire in 1994 occurred and a few days later both parties agreed to a cease-fire. Since 1999, an intermediation of the OSCE Minsk group has allowed direct talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan at various levels, including their leaders and foreign ministers, but there is still no prospect of a resolution (as of February 2017).