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Japan gives $700 million to 5 Central Asian countries

13 november 2012, 18:19
0
©RIA Novosti
©RIA Novosti
Japan has decided to allocate $700 million to 5 Central Asian countries to help develop deposits of natural gas and rare minerals, NHK reports.

However, AFP reports that Japan pledged to launch projects worth $700 million in Central Asia to help the resource-rich region promote trade, energy-saving and regional cooperation in stabilizing nearby Afghanistan.

The commitment followed a meeting in Tokyo between foreign ministers from Japan and five Central Asian nations -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

"We had frank discussions to help build a stronger, richer and more open Central Asia," Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba told reporters after the meeting, the fourth edition of the "Central Asia plus Japan dialogue" which started in Kazakhstan in 2004.

According to their joint statement, the projects will cover five areas -- trade investment, environment and energy-saving, narrowing the wealth gap, regional cooperation in stabilizing Afghanistan and cooperation in disaster prevention.

"Promoting cooperation between Japan and Central Asia will contribute to sustaining peace and stability in Afghanistan and resolving problems in the international community," said Gemba in an opening speech at the meeting.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the visiting ministers on Friday: "I place importance on Central Asia which is placed in a geopolitically important position and rich in resources and energy."

Tokyo wants Japanese firms to play a greater role in the mineral business in the region, which has ample reserves of crude oil, natural gas, uranium, rare minerals and other natural resources, media reports said.

These $700 million will be used to attract experts to improve drilling technologies and procure supplies of excavators. NHK suggests that this investment is a way Japan wants to decrease its dependency on resources from China because of the recent aggravation of the relations with this country over the disputed islands.

Rare earth metals are the type of resources that high-tech Japanese are especially interested in. A plant for production of rare earth metals was launched in Stepnogorsk in November. It was built by a joint Kazakhstan-Japanese company SARECO. Japan is a target market for the plant. According to Japanese ambassador to Kazakhstan Yuzo Harada, Kazakhstan will become Japan's new stable supplier of rare earth metals.

The plant will officially start operations in December 2012. According to head of KazAtomProm Vladimir Shkolnik, the initial plan was to produce 1.5 thousand tons of concentrated rare earth elements a year with further expansion to 5-6 thousand tons.

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