Marat Nurgaliev, Visiting research fellow, the Japan Institute of International Affairs (Tokyo, Japan)

At the present stage, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is arousing great interest in the international community. The leading actors in international relations, such as the U.S., Japan, and the European countries, are keeping a careful watch over the organizations development. The interest of these countries is mainly related to the lack of information about the SCOs actual activity and the organizations real essence. The leaders of the SCO member states constantly assure everyone that the organization has peaceful intentions and is not going to start a confrontation with the West. Nevertheless, some steps and decisions taken by the member states within the SCO arouse suspicion and distrust among the leading global powers. Thus any significant event organized within the framework of the organization is often regarded as a challenge to the West and to the United States in particular. Japan, as one of the leading world powers and Washingtons close partner on the international arena, is showing interest in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as well. An increasing number of Japanese experts and researchers have begun reflecting on SCO development issues. In particular, they want to form a clear idea of the organization and understand the cooperation possibilities that can be pursued with the SCO. Japans current interests in Central Asia can explain the attention Japanese scientists and some politicians are paying to the SCO. It is a well-known fact that Japan has recently become more active in its cooperation with the Central Asian countries in the sphere of atomic energy. Another important factor which arouses Japans interest in the SCO is Russias and Chinas participation in this organization. In particular, Moscow and China can create obstacles for Japanese policy in Central Asia and even make use of the SCOs mechanisms to that end.

Development of Japanese Diplomacy in Central Asia

Japans policy toward Central Asia after the end of the Cold War passed through several stages. With the appearance of the new independent players in the region Japan began taking steps toward developing relations with the post-Soviet states. At its first stage Japans regional policy mainly concentrated on the development of bilateral relations with the Central Asian countries. For example, in 1992 Japan established its first diplomatic contacts with Uzbekistan. Later, Japan gradually and steadily established bilateral relations with the other Central Asian countriesKazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Japans first regional strategy toward Central Asia was the so-called Eurasian diplomacy declared by Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in 1997. It should be noted that the Eurasian diplomacy strategy appeared as a practical result of the Obuchi Mission conducted from 28 June to 9 July, 1997. The Obuchi Mission was Japans first significant diplomatic initiative with respect to Central Asia. Members of the mission visited Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan and laid the foundation for long-term future cooperation. At that time, one of Japans most important tasks was to..

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