Japan’s top diplomat Hayashi plans Central Asia tour from late April

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi plans to visit Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from late April, Japanese government sources said on Tuesday, in an apparent effort to counter China’s growing influence in Central Asia.

Tokyo also plans to host a meeting of foreign ministers from five regional countries, also involving Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, by the end of June to discuss measures to strengthen their economic ties, the officials said. the sources.

Japan and the five countries launched the Foreign Ministerial Dialogue in 2004 for regional development. In 2020, they held a videoconference, agreeing to cooperate in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

China continues to invest in large-scale infrastructure in Central Asia through its “Belt and Road” initiative. President Xi Jinping held online talks with leaders of the same five countries in January, discussing regional security.

At the scheduled meeting, Japan is expected to warn against such funding by China, fearing it will burden recipient countries with loans they cannot repay. Hayashi will likely highlight the quality of Japanese investments and also announce pandemic relief assistance, the sources said.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the five Central Asian countries after their independence from the former Soviet Union.

During the tour, Hayashi also plans to stop in Mongolia, where he would meet with his counterpart and other officials to ask for help in resolving the issue of past abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea, it said. the sources. Mongolia has close ties with North Korea.

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