"Central Asia plus Japan" Dialogue
The Fourth Tokyo Dialogue:
Keynote Speech by Mr. Tetsuro Fukuyama, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan
I would like to thank you all for attending today's Fourth "Tokyo Dialogue"; the intellectual dialogue within the cooperative framework of the "Central Asia plus Japan" Dialogue. I would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to all the participants on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Today, with experts in each field from all five Central Asian countries and also from Manila and London, as well as specialists and scholars from Japan, a lively discussion is highly expected under the theme of improvement of infrastructure in Central Asia.
2. The Significance of the "Central Asia plus Japan" Dialogue
Central Asia lies between Russia and China and borders Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, and its geopolitical importance is increasingly high. The region is also attracting attention from the perspective of international energy security as it is rich in oil, natural gas, and other energy sources, as well as uranium, rare metals, and other mineral resources. Last November, I myself attended the inauguration ceremony of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan as Special Envoy of the Prime Minister, where I experienced first hand the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and conveyed to President Karzai directly Japan's new assistance package to Afghanistan. Within that assistance package, we are hammering out a policy to ensure stability in Afghanistan by encouraging its development along with the bordering Central Asian region, grasping the region as a whole. The stability of Afghanistan and the region as a whole, which Central Asia borders, is one of the most important issues for us in the international community. The stability and prosperity of Central Asia is mutually linked with those of not only Afghanistan and the surrounding region, but also the Eurasian continent as a whole and the entire international community.
Japan has provided support to the region immediately after the independence of each Central Asian country in various fields such as roads, airports, water and sewage systems, power plants, and other infrastructure improvements, as well as the improvement of legal systems, medical care, education, and development of human resources. Such assistance provided by Japan to the Central Asian countries has reached a cumulative total of approximately 300 billion yen as of fiscal year 2007. Japan has also supported consistently the reform efforts of each country in their progress toward democratization and a market economy, and has developed a friendly and valuable partnership with each country by promoting exchanges in various areas, including economy, trade, and culture.
To ensure sustainable development of the Central Asian countries, it is crucial to promote dialogue and cooperation within the region to bring out the tremendous potential hidden in the Central Asian region as a whole, not only by taking action on a bilateral basis. Under this approach, Japan has launched the framework for the "Central Asia plus Japan" dialogue in 2004. Japan aims to encourage regional cooperation with Central Asia by acting as a catalyst in the region, while respecting the autonomy of the Central Asian countries to the maximum extent, in order to tackle cross-border issues together.
3. The Role of the Tokyo Dialogues
A variety of meetings have been carried out within this framework. In 2006, the Second Foreign Ministers' Meeting was held, and there the "Action Plan," indicating specific courses of action for cooperation in this Dialogue, was adopted. The Tokyo Dialogue falls under the category of "Intellectual Dialogue," which is stipulated in the "Action Plan" as one of the areas of cooperation. There have been a number of dialogues held under important themes on various areas, whereas these dialogues are aimed at producing suggestions that could be reflected in inter-governmental dialogue and cooperation and to expand the scope of intellectual exchange between Central Asia and Japan through free and vigorous discussion among intellectuals.
4. The Aim of the Fourth Tokyo Dialogue under the Theme "Future Improvements to Logistics Infrastructure in the Central Asia Region"
The theme for the Fourth Tokyo Dialogue which is going to be held today is "Future Improvements to Logistics Infrastructure in the Central Asia Region." The "Action Plan" I mentioned a moment ago promotes regional cooperation in a broad range of areas, among which the area of transportation constitutes a particularly important challenge.
Upgraded logistics infrastructure alone can forge a path to spurring economic growth. Infrastructure enhancements improve the coordination of economies within the region, encouraging intra-regional trade, and also facilitate access to markets outside the region -- including Japan -- which could ease integration with the global economy and is expected to open the door to dynamic economic growth. Bringing together all five Central Asian countries, although each country's market is relatively small and natural resources are unevenly distributed, the area can become a very large-scale and attractive economic zone. This will also lead to the mutual understanding and reliance that accompanies vigorous exchange of people, goods, and money, and in turn it will contribute to the stability of the whole region. From this perspective, Japan has supported efforts toward improvements to logistics infrastructure in this region in a variety of forms up to now.
First of all, as improvements to air route logistics infrastructure, we have granted yen loans to support the renovation of an airport in Kazakhstan's new capital of Astana, modernization of Manas International Airport in Kyrgyzstan, and projects to expand local airports in Uzbekistan, such as those in Samarkand and Bukhara.
By way of support for land route logistics infrastructure, Japan has started by cooperating toward the strengthening of railway infrastructure based on the geographical characteristics of the landlocked Central Asian countries and the fact that railway shipping constitutes 80 to 90% of ground transportation. We are supporting railway construction projects in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as well as the railway construction project in the area between Tashguzar and Kumkurgan in Uzbekistan, the construction of which I understand to be scheduled for completion within the year.
Japan is also promoting aid for improvement of road infrastructure. Renovation of the road from Bishkek to Osh has had the effect of revitalizing north-south passage in Kyrgyzstan, which had been hindered by treacherous mountains. Moreover, a renovation project on the West Kazakhstan road that runs east-west through the country has contributed to smooth distribution in the country's expansive land area. This route is positioned so as to connect Central Asia with Russia and Europe, and it also functions as a distribution route to neighboring countries.
Improvements to logistics infrastructure must be carried out in conjunction with appropriate border control policy measures against the issues of the movement of extremists across borders and the smuggling of drugs and other illegal materials. As these issues are directly tied to the national security of each of the Central Asian countries, such issues can frequently become a hindrance to regional cooperation in the area of transportation. From this standpoint, the "Action Plan" in the "Central Asia plus Japan" dialogues also promotes intra-regional cooperation in the areas of countermeasures against drugs and terrorism and the trade and investment areas, in addition to the area of transportation.
Particularly the area of strengthening border control capabilities requires broad-based cooperation not only within the Central Asia region, but also includes the nearby countries. The situation in Afghanistan especially remains unstable, thwarting major leaps forward in broad-based regional cooperation. Amid these circumstances, the international community is advancing measures for border control with Afghanistan along with the Central Asian countries, part of which includes Japan's plans to provide Uzbekistan with X-ray scanning equipment at the border checkpoints.
Promoting improvements to transportation infrastructure and diversification of energy supply routes with the southern countries of Central Asia has the potential of leading to the uncovering of a path to the ocean in the south for the landlocked Central Asian countries. From this viewpoint, promoting efforts toward constructing a Central Asia "Southward Route" in parallel with efforts toward stability in Afghanistan is critical to the continued stability and development of the region. Japan has supported projects that contribute to the construction of a broad-based transportation network, starting with support for improvement of a road that stretches from Tajikistan to the Afghan border as well as construction of bridges in Kyrgyzstan, and we would like to continue our efforts along these lines.
The necessity of such improvements to transportation infrastructure in the Central Asia region is widely recognized not only by Japan but also among other donor countries and international financial institutions, and we know that international conferences and other events are taking place within all manner of frameworks. Today we are welcoming experts from relevant international bodies, as well as from Japan, and we expect that by sharing approaches from various angles we will have a fruitful discussion and generate beneficial suggestions leading to further deepening of cooperation and development of relationships.
For Japan, the countries of Central Asia are, in addition to the bilateral and regional ties, important partners with which we can join forces in the resolution issues of global challenges such as the issue of climate change, the issue that I personally regard it as my life's work, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and the elimination of terrorism, and others. Henceforth, to build a more multi-layered and solid relationship, it will be essential to promote mutual understanding between Japan and the Central Asian countries.
I would like to conclude my remarks with my hope that today's dialogue will be the impetus for even deeper intellectual exchange between Japan and the countries of Central Asia. Thank you for listening.
Back to Index