Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi toured Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan last 28-30th August . This was the first ever visit by a Japanese Prime Minister, where his objectives were seen to be securing access to energy and through financial and other means establish a bulwark against Russia and China.
The world' s second largest economy receives some 90% of it's oil from the Middle East and problems in Iran will directly impact upon the Japanese / Iranian agreement to jointly explore the Iranian Azaegan oilfields. Kazakhstan is rich in oil, Uzbekistan is seen as a useful source for Uranium.
Subsequent to this initial visit Akira Amari the current Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry leads a trade delegation on April 20th -23rd of over a 100 to Kazakhstan with senior representatives from some 30 power utilities, trading houses and manufacturing companies and they seek to negotiate deals in the energy sector, including Japanese investment in Kazakh uranium mines, he said.
The mission seeks to improve reciprocal deals and the official announcement says,
"The mission will not only aim to secure uranium and other fuels but also seek wide-ranging cooperation, including Japan's assistance to Kazakhstan's acquisition of nuclear reactors.'"
The Japanese also have a long term in-depth political purpose in trying to win the support for Japan's desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The trip also demonstrates one element in a US agreed strategy of plural influence with
the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) reflected by a trip to Mongolia at around the time he visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Before this visit, Japan has through the overall New National Energy Strategy stressed the importance of “drastically strengthening the supply of risk money” , especially for natural gas and oil developments overseas by domestic development companies.
The government-affiliated Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) after Koizumi's visit, signed a loan agreement with APPAK, a subsidiary of Kazakhstan’s Kazatomprom. This is the first time that JBIC has provided loans for an overseas uranium project. Kazakhstan has the world's second-largest uranium resources and Kazatomprom is the world’s fourth-largest uranium producer. Sumitomo Corp and Kansai Electric Power Co have stakes in APPAK of 25% and 10%, respectively. (Pic Koizumo meets his pal Karimov the Body Boiler)
The Government-funded Nippon Export and Investment Insurance NEXI has also underwritten insurance for the uranium project. JBIC also recently signed separate agreements with Kazatomprom and Uzbekistan’s Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade on forging a comprehensive strategic partnership.
NEXI also underwrites Japanese companies’ insurance in 13 high-risk countries. This list, which became effective as of mid-August last year, includes Libya, Angola, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Cameroon, Gabon, Dominican Republic, Armenia, Macedonia, Senegal, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Niger and the Central African Republic.
There are of course competing interests in the region Sergei Kiriyenk CEO of Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) announced plans only 3 weeks ago for a joint venture to build a new nuclear power plant in Aktau, Kazakhstan, he is quoted as saying
"It will be a nuclear power plant equipped with a third-generation modular reactor using technologies characteristic of reactors installed in nuclear submarines,"
Russia and Kazakhstan are the 2 largest Uranium suppliers in the world, "Integration will help bolster our positions on the global market," said Kiriyenk, Kazatomprom has just announced plans to increase its annual uranium output to 18,000 tons by 2010.
Kazakhstan transported 43 million tons of oil and 24 billion cubic meters of gas to Russia last year and , Russia and Kazakhstan have a large joint venture offshore the Caspian Sea.
“Russia is using four military facilities in Kazakhstan including the Baikonur Cosmodrome and we are jointly carrying out a very large space project including Kazakhstan joining GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) ”said President Nursultan Nazarbaev 2 weeks ago when he announced that President Putin would be making an official visit early this summer.
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