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Tokyo, March 25: Secretary of State – Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kanat Saudabayev visited Tokyo on March 23-25 for top-level meetings with Japanese officials focused on promoting political dialogue and expanding partnership in peaceful nuclear energy development.

In Tokyo, Kanat Saudabayev met Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Speakers of the House of Representatives Takahiro Yokomichi and the House of Counselors Satsuki Eda, as well as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Masayuki Naoshima. Together with Minister Naoshima, Saudabayev oversaw the signing of an agreement between the Central Asian country’s National Atomic Company Kazatomprom and Sumitomo Corporation establishing a joint enterprise in mining and processing rare-earth metals.

Kanat Saudabayev began his visit with a meeting with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama where they reaffirmed the mutual desire of Astana and Tokyo to build stronger political and economic ties.

The partnership between Kazakhstan and Japan is based on common approaches to ensuring peace and security in Asia and in the entire world, and Kazakhstan is ready to build on joint efforts, Saudabayev said at the meeting which took place in the Prime Minister’s office.

He further noted that the area of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation presents wide opportunities for closer coordination between Kazakhstan and Japan, as both countries have learnt the tragic way the horrors of nuclear weapons. Saudabayev specifically thanked the Japanese government for its assistance in rehabilitation of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site region.

Energy partnership is the backbone of economic relations between the two countries, with nuclear energy playing an increasingly important role. Earlier this year, an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in peaceful use of atomic energy was signed, opening the way for an even wider interaction.

While this is an important agreement for the development of business ties between the two countries, Hatoyama also called for an early signing of a bilateral agreement on mutual protection and encouragement of investments.

Saudabayev presented an invitation to Prime Minister Hatoyama from President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President Abdullah Gul of Turkey to participate in the third summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), scheduled for June 7-9 in Istanbul. Japan is an observer in the CICA, and Kazakhstan would like to see its full fledged membership in that process, which was initiated by President Nazarbayev in 1992.

At a meeting with Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Katsuya Okada on March 24, the two diplomats discussed the current state and prospects of bilateral relations, as well as a number of international issues of mutual concern.

In a special statement issued at the end of their meeting, Saudabayev and Okada said they welcomed expansion of economic ties between Kazakhstan and Japan. The Japanese side announced its intention to give a loan for financing the construction of a highway in South Kazakhstan, which would serve as part of an international transport corridor being developed by the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation framework. The two sides also welcomed the recent implementation of intergovernmental agreements on avoiding double taxation and noted the important role of the Joint commission of private and public sectors on Kazakh-Japanese economic cooperation.

On the political front, Saudabayev and Okada praised the work of “Central Asia + Japan” dialog format between involved foreign ministries, noting the success of the latest, fourth meeting of the dialog participants that took place in Tokyo recently. The two sides also confirmed they would coordinate their participation in the upcoming Global Summit on Nuclear Security in Washington on April 12-13 and the NPT Review Conference later this year.

On the same day, Kazakhstan’s national atomic company Kazatomprom and one of Japan’s largest firms, Sumitomo Corporation signed an agreement establishing a joint enterprise “Summit Atom Rare Earth Company” (SARECO). The project stipulates construction of a mining and enrichment complex dealing with extraction and processing of rare-earth metals, mainly from used mineral deposits in East Kazakhstan. It is expected SARECO would start operating in June 2010 and deliver its first products to international markets in 2012.

On the last day of his visit, Kanat Saudabauev addressed representatives of Japanese political, business and academic circles at a meeting organized by the Council of International Friendly Exchanges.

He started with quoting President Nazarbayev who once said that “the potential of two countries is complementary, as the Kazakh-Japanese strategic partnership has splendid prospects and will develop in the spirit of sincere friendship and mutual understanding”. The head of Kazakhstan’s diplomacy continued by noting that his latest talks with the Japanese leadership would stimulate further strengthening of bilateral ties.

“The international community today understands the need for coordinating efforts in raising the efficiency of regional security mechanism. In this context the strategic partnership of Kazakhstan and Japan has a great potential in strengthening stability and security on the Eurasian continent”, Saudabayev claimed.

“We call upon Japan’s leading corporations to realize new projects in Kazakhstan. We look forward to detailed proposals,” he added. In his opinion, Kazakhstan could become a regional hub for introducing and disseminating Japanese technologies and advancing Japanese business in Central Asia, Caucasus, and Russia.  

“This is especially relevant in the context of establishing the Customs Union of Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus. The favorable business climate of Kazakhstan allows foreign companies to invest beneficially in our country, from where their commodities could be offered in the Customs Union’s internal market of 200 million”, Kanat Saudabayev concluded.

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