Shinzō Abe’s visit to Kazakhstan to foster Kazakh-Japanese economic cooperation – Ambassador Masayoshi Kamohara


Shinzō Abe's visit to Kazakhstan to foster Kazakh-Japanese economic cooperation - Ambassador Masayoshi KamoharaKazakhstan and Japan have grown to become reliable partners after establishing diplomatic relations years ago. More importantly, ambitious economic policies Abenomics and Nurly zhol advocated by Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in Japan and President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan echo each other. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Kazakhstan Masayoshi Kamohara discussed these and other topics in an interview with Kazinform correspondent.

– What can you tell us about the progress and results of Kazakh-Japanese relations in 2014? What are the plans and prospects for the years to come?

– In 2014, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev had two meetings – one in The Hague in March and the second one in Milan in October. The two leaders have built trusting relationships. It is safe to say that 2014 saw major strides in terms of Kazakh-Japanese economic cooperation. Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Tarō Asō and then Minister of Economy, Trade and industry Toshimitsu Motegi paid visits to Kazakhstan in May and August 2014 respectively. During his visit to Astana, Mr. Motegi had bilateral meetings with Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Massimov, Minister for Investments and Development Asset Issekeshev and Minister of Energy Vladimir Shkolnik and the sides agreed to solidify cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy as well as bilateral economic relations. In addition, Japan and Kazakhstan inked the Treaty on the Encouragement and Mutual Protection of Investments in October 2014.

This year Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is expected to visit Kazakhstan. Besides, Japan and Kazakhstan will co-chair the 9th Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) scheduled to be held in late September in New York. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both Japan and Kazakhstan suffered from nuclear tests in the past and will continue to spearhead efforts for banning nuclear weapons. I hope that these efforts will serve as a powerful impulse for the entry into force of the CTBT. Thus, Japan and Kazakhstan, remaining well-reputed and trusted partners, will further strengthen their economic cooperation and further political dialogue.

– What do you think of Kazakhstan’s bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017-2018?

– First and foremost, I would like to note that when I looked into the history of modern Kazakhstan, I realized that Kazakhstan’s foreign policy has always been very constructive. As you know, Japan together with its partners is trying to realize the United Nations Security Council reforms and UN reforms in general. When I had a conversation with my colleagues at the Japanese Foreign Ministry and Parliament, I mentioned that Kazakhstan had had a constructive approach to the UN Security Council agenda and pressing issues regarding political and economic situation in the world. Currently this issue is on the table in Tokyo and the result is still unknown.

But, I’m confident, that Kazakhstan will become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in the future.

– Is there any progress in cooperation within the framework of the Central Asia plus Kazakhstan dialogue?

– In July 2014, Kyrgyzstan hosted the 5th meeting of the foreign ministers within the Central Asia plus Kazakhstan dialogue. To step up preparations for the next ministerial meeting that is set to be held in Turkmenistan, it was decided to include the following topics into the agenda: agricultural cooperation, war on drugs and borders checking, and further development of the Central Asia plus Japan dialogue. Participants of the 5th meeting in Kyrgyzstan adopted the roadmap of regional cooperation in agriculture. As for war on drugs and borders checking, the participating nations agreed to cooperate in fight against international terrorism and situation in Afghanistan.

Possible participation of Japanese companies in the construction of nuclear power station in Kazakhstan is under negotiation. What are the prospects of Kazakh-Japanese cooperation in the development of peaceful civilian nuclear energy?

President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe touched upon the issue of possible nuclear energy cooperation at last’s years top-level meetings. As a result, Japan handed its project to the Kazakh side in late 2014.

From what I heard, Minister of Energy Vladimir Shkolnik said that the project of AP1000 nuclear power plant developed by Westinghaus Electric Corporation jointly owned by Toshiba and Kazatomprom looked quite promising. If Kazakhstan chooses that project, it will further solidify economic relations between Japan and Kazakhstan.

– What areas of common interest do you see between “Nurly Zhol” Program and the economic policy conducted by Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe, so-called “abenomics”?

– “Nurly Zhol – Path to Future” Program is a decisive measure for overcoming current economic situation in Kazakhstan and I highly value the leadership of President Nazarbayev.

“Abenomics” is based on the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. Thanks to reduction of control, technical innovations and effective use of human resources our country will be on the way to stable economic growth.

Thus, they definitely have something in common, which is the leadership of their initiators,  bold economic policy and skillful management of economic development of the state which stretches beyond the borders of the common framework.

– Are Japanese companies planning to participate in the EXPO-2017 already known? Will there be a Japanese pavilion at the exhibition in Astana?

– We received an invitation to participate in the EXPO on behalf of the President of Kazakhstan last July. As a result, the Government of Japan considered the proposal and made the decision on February 20 to participate in the exhibition. The ministries of economy, trade and industry as well as other state bodies will begin the preparation for the participation in the event. We cannot name companies that will take part in the exhibition yet, but given the theme of the exhibition – “Future Energy”, I think Japanese companies can contribute significantly. We also can state that there will be no special pavilion for Japan.

In 2017, Japan will show very interesting ideas and achievements in science and technology. I also think that organization of the EXPO-2017 is scheduled for the right period for Kazakhstan. Your country needs to hold such a large-scale event to demonstrate the entire world the Kazakhstani way of success, which has been achieved over the recent 20 years.

It will give a new impetus for other countries to develop relations with Kazakhstan. As you know, Japan organized the first EXPO in 1970, and it became a truly significant event for our country. It was a tremendous success. Hosting the Olympic Games in 1964 and then in six years the international exhibition were the first attempts to show the world how Japan had developed after the war.

I am confident that organization of the EXPO-2017 is a good idea and it is very important for Kazakhstan.

– How do you assess cultural and humanitarian and scientific cooperation between Astana and Tokyo?

– The people of Kazakhstan show great interest in Japan and its culture. We organize a lot of different cultural events, so Kazakhstanis could learn more about the culture and art of Japan. Since last year we have held such events as the Day of Japanese culture, exhibition titled “Dolls of Japan”, the tea-ceremony master classes, the exhibition called “Reminiscence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, the Japanese art exhibition, the festival of Japanese films, etc.  As far as I know the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Japan also organizes different cultural events providing an opportunity to learn more about the culture of Kazakhstan.

Regarding the scientific sphere, several agreements on scientific cooperation were signed with several universities of Kazakhstan. Based on these agreements, the parties implement different joint projects. Besides, our countries have been historically cooperating in the sphere of nonproliferation for a long period. Specifically, the team of the University of Hiroshima runs tests on the state of pollution in the areas which are in the vicinity of the former nuclear test site in Semipalatinsk.  Moreover, the University of Hiroshima and the Kazakh National Medical Research Center cooperate in the healthcare sphere.

– Will the delegation of Japan take part in the 5th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana?

– Representatives of religious confessions from Japan come to Kazakhstan every time to participate in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. I think representatives of Shinto and Buddhism will come to Astana again.

Personally, I think that holding of such an event is a very important initiative to bring together leaders of religious organizations from many world countries because it helps create conditions for development of the interreligious dialogue and strengthen mutual understanding and trust.

– We are all waiting for a direct flight between Kazakhstan and Japan to be launched. What do you know about it?

– I think that in order to strengthen economic relations between Japan and Kazakhstan, it is important to activate the movement of goods and people between the countries, therefore, the opening of the direct flight is the necessity. The EXPO is scheduled to be held in Astana in 2017, there is a possibility for the launch of an APS construction. Nevertheless, in order to open a direct flight between Japan and Kazakhstan, the Kazakh side has to meet all the standards of the ICAO. We hope for a positive result and the launch of a direct flight in the nearest future.

– What is the situation in the sphere of implementation of the projects of small and medium-sized business of Japan in Kazakhstan? Is there any interest from the Japanese side in the market of Kazakhstan?

– We are aware of the fact that the majority of Japanese companies are involved in such spheres as natural resources development and energy and not seriously engaged in small and medium-sized business. The other critical conditions for activation of the work of Japanese companies besides the scale of the market and geographical factor are acceptable imposition of taxes, ensuring of transparency and stability of the taxation system and its regulation. It is quite difficult to attract attention of Japanese small and medium-sized business to Kazakhstan as long as the representatives of this sphere usually do not have great financial means and credit capacity. Therefore, it is so critical for the above mentioned sphere that the Government of Kazakhstan takes the measures on improvement of the conditions for foreign small and medium-sized business.