Monday, December 21, 2009

First visit of Turkmenistan head of state to Japan

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov visited Japan from December 16th to 18th. It was the first time for a head of state of Turkmenistan to come to Japan. During his stay, he met with both Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and was honored as a state guest.

Berdimuhamedov’s meeting with Hatoyama was held at the Kantei on the evening of the 16th. They met for about 45 minutes and discussed a range of subjects. Business relations were high on the agenda. In particular, the Turkmen leader was thankful for Japan’s anticipated support in upgrading the facilities at Turkmenbashi port. Japanese companies are preparing proposals for the reconstruction of the international seaport with a view to turning it into an “ultra-modern” facility.

The Japanese government and private companies have also been invited to join large-scale projects such as the construction of the Turkmen section of the new transcontinental North-South railway, the creation of a national tourist zone at Avaza on the Caspian Sea coast, and possibly the opening of a Japanese Information Center for High Technologies in Turkmenistan. Berdimuhamedov commented, “Turkmenistan welcomes the participation of Japanese partners in the development of national economy and intends to increase this effective collaboration.

The Turkmen leader also said that he was taking the initiative to establish the first Japanese-language program at a university within his country. Hatoyama stated that Japan would be interested in supporting this project.

Hatoyama spoke about the “War on Terrorism” and the importance of Central Asia’s efforts in helping stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Japanese prime minister went on to say that multilateral efforts to combat international terrorism and the drug trade could not be neglected, were “one the most important issues” in the world today, and that he would like to utilize the “Central Asia Plus Japan” framework to begin discussions on these issues.

Yoshiaki Sasaki—an academic based at the Tokyo Foundation—noted in a blog entry of December 18th that Japanese business interest in Turkmenistan is guided in particular by the fact that this little country has the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas. He explained that even a casual visitor to Ashgabat will immediately understand that a major construction boom is underway there. Turkmenistan, however, does not possess high-technology and thus would very much welcome greater participation from Japanese companies

Human Rights Watch did not let this occasion of Berdimuhamedov’s visit pass without comment. On the 15th, they issued a statement in both English and Japanese calling on the Japanese government to “use the upcoming state visit by the Turkmen president to raise concerns about the appalling human rights situation in Turkmenistan and to press for concrete improvements."

However, based on the public statements issued, it does not appear that Tokyo raised these concerns in any serious manner.

Michael Penn
APP, Nonresident Senior Fellow
Executive Director, Shingetsu Institute

Picture from here.

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