By Katsuhiro Asagiri and Ramesh Jaura
Striving for a nuclear-weapons-free world holds a special place in Kazakh-Japan relations, according to President Nursultan Nazarbayev who on November 9 visited Hiroshima that suffered U.S. atomic bombings along with Nagasaki 71 years ago.
Nazarbayev was on a three-day official visit to Japan less than two months before it joins the UN Security Council in January as its non-permanent member for two-years until the end of 2018. In the first year it would be working closely with Japan before Tokyo’s two-year term in the Council comes to a close at the end of 2017.
2017 will also mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Kazakhstan.
While calling for “the consolidation of the forces of Kazakhstan and Japan and our joint initiatives”, he urged “world leaders to renounce nuclear testing in order to prevent another nuclear tragedy”.
Nazarbayev stated he had reached an agreement with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on undertaking “joint efforts for building a world free of the threat of weapons of mass destruction”.
Nazarbayev, who was awarded the title of special honorary citizen of Hiroshima, said: “Visiting the Memorial Peace Park of Hiroshima once again reinforced my belief in the importance we place on the field of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives.”
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui thanked the Kazakh President, adding: “On August 29, 1991, you closed the Semipalatinsk (former Soviet) nuclear test site, based on the wishes of the people of Kazakhstan. You took the initiative to create a nuclear weapons-free zone in Central Asia and to announce August 29 as International Day against Nuclear Tests. You play a leading role in building a world without nuclear weapons.”
Earlier during the meeting in Tokyo with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who hails from Hiroshima, Nazarbayev said: “Japan and Kazakhstan are leaders in the anti-nuclear movement. I am confident that we will jointly keep our work on this issue.”
“We feel sincere respect for your leadership since Kazakhstan has gained independence. The fact that Kazakhstan was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018 indicates your successful leadership,” Kishida noted.
Addressing Japan’s Parliament on November 8 in Tokyo, the Kazakh President drew attention to his manifesto ‘The World. The 21st Century’ tabled on March 31, 2016 at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C.
Nazarbayev said: “The world creeps in a new nuclear age – potentially more dangerous and unpredictable. One of the most serious problems of the 21st century is the threat of nuclear terrorism, as well as illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials.”
He added: “An unprecedented crisis of confidence between the global players leads to the degradation of safeguards to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. Today, as never before, the political will of all leaders is required in order to reverse these negative trends.”
Nazarbayev pointed to steps taken by Kazakhstan to strengthen international security and stressed the importance of joint efforts to build a world free of the nuclear threat.
“We see an important task in the establishment of a global anti-nuclear movement. That is exactly the goal promoted by The ATOM Project that was proposed by our country. I invite our Japanese friends to support this initiative,” he said.
The ATOM Project – ‘Abolish Testing. Our Mission’ – is an international campaign designed to do more than create awareness surrounding the human and environmental devastation caused by nuclear weapons testing. It hopes to affect real and lasting change by engaging millions of global citizens to permanently stop nuclear weapons testing by joining together to show the world’s leaders that the world’s citizens deserve and demand a world without nuclear weapons testing, says the project website.
During the meeting with Emperor Akihito of Japan, on November 7, Nazarbayev emphasized close cooperation between the two countries in various fields, highlighted regular participation of the Japanese side in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions held in Astana, the capital. The first such congress was held in September 2003 and the fifth in June 2015.
The Kazakh President underlined Japan’s tremendous contribution in resolving global conflicts and facilitating sustainable regional development. He stressed that Kazakhstan will take measures aimed at building a nuclear- weapons-free world and solving the issues of energy, food and water security in the framework of its non-permanent membership on the UN Security Council 2017-2018.
Later, Nazarbayev and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe discussed a wide range of bilateral cooperation, including political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian issues.
Nazarbayev noted that Japan was one of the first countries in the world to support Kazakhstan’s independence 25 years ago. Development of friendly partnership relations with Japan was on top of Kazakhstan’s agenda.
“We agreed to continue active political dialogue, increase contacts at all levels, ensure security of the region, facilitate trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation, as well as collectively work against challenges of the modern world,” Nazarbayev said at the meeting of the two delegations.
“Kazakhstan is the largest trade and economic partner of Japan in Central Asia. The volume of mutual trade turnover in 2015 amounted to $1.5 billion. We have a potential to increase this figure and we will steadily expand the horizons of cooperation in the field of high technologies, agriculture, nuclear power, automotive and the steel industry,” the Kazakh President added.
Abe on his part emphasised that the two countries are closely working as co-chairmen of the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) legally banning all nuclear tests.
“I have an intention to continue to actively develop relations between Japan and Kazakhstan hand in hand with President Nazarbayev,” Abe said.
During the talks, the two countries signed documents, including the joint statement ‘On special strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and Japan in the age of Asia’s prosperity’, memorandum of understanding between the Kazakh Ministry of Investment and Development and the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
In addition, an agreement on Japan’s participation in EXPO 2017 and a memorandum of cooperation between Astana International Financial Centre and the Japan Securities Dealers Association were signed.
Later on, the Kazakh delegation headed by the President attended a meeting with members of the Kazakhstan-Japan Friendship Parliamentary League headed by Chairman Takeo Kawamura.
Nazarbayev noted that the Parliamentary League is making crucial contributions to strengthening the strategic partnership between the two nations. He expressed gratitude for the support given to Kazakhstan and the efforts being made to enhance cooperation, including the issues of nuclear disarmament.
“Next year, we will celebrate 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Kazakhstan. In addition, the exhibition EXPO 2017 will take place in Astana. We would like to use these events to strengthen inter-parliamentary exchanges,” Kawamura said while thanking Nazarbayev for the fruitful meeting.