Japan eyes meeting with Central Asia foreign ministers

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo

The government is considering hosting a December meeting between the foreign ministers of Japan and five Central Asian nations of the former Soviet bloc, according to several Japanese government sources.

Japan hopes to cooperate with Europe and the United States to rein in Russia and China, both of which have a strong influence in the region. Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and his counterparts from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are expected to attend the meeting, likely to be held in Tokyo.

Central Asia is a key geopolitical hub linking Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and boasts abundant natural resources, including oil. The Japanese government established a framework for dialogue with the five nations in 2004, viewing such relationships as strategically important.

Hayashi held an online meeting with the five foreign ministers in April, but there have been no face-to-face gatherings since May 2019.

Central Asian nations have close ties with neighboring China and Russia. For example, Russia regards each of the five countries as being within Moscow’s sphere of influence and exerts political sway over the region. China, meanwhile, is a major exporter of natural resources and has strengthened its economic links with the nations in recent years.

In mid-October, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution condemning Russia’s unilateral “annexation” of four Ukrainian provinces as illegal. Four Central Asian nations abstained from voting, while permanently neutral Turkmenistan refrained from joining the resolution.

Deepening Japan’s relationships with Central Asian nations is expected to be an agenda item when G7 foreign ministers meet in Germany from Thursday. During the meeting, Hayashi could announce Japan’s plan to host the Central Asia ministers.