Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 247 (August 31, 2006)
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
Starting Monday of this week, I visited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia and flew back to Tokyo early this morning, August 31. This marked my 50th overseas visit since my inauguration, and also the first visit to either country by a Japanese prime minister.
Kazakhstan is a country located to the east of the Caspian Sea, and just like its neighbor country, Uzbekistan, it became an independent state with the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991. It boasts the ninth largest land area in the world and is rich in natural resources. Particularly of note is their uranium reserve, which is second in the world, only after Australia.
At the meeting with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, we agreed to further develop the friendly and cooperative relations between our two countries. In addition, we exchanged opinions constructively on international issues including United Nations reform and issues concerning North Korea, and came to an agreement to hold talks as needed between our foreign ministries regarding the regional situation in Asia.
In particular, we signed a memorandum on cooperation in the field of nuclear power, such as the development of uranium mines.
Astana, their new capital since nine years ago, is a modern city constructed based on the master plan designed by Mr. Kisho Kurokawa, a Japanese architect. Massive buildings were still under construction everywhere. From a window of President Nazarbayev's office I could see a large glass-walled pyramid-shaped building, and President Nazarbayev himself showed me around the site after our meeting. It was an attractive city, full of spirit and vitality.
My next destination Tashkent, a two-hour flight from Astana, is the largest city in Central Asia. This city is filled with lush greenery and has prospered since the time of the Silk Road as a hub city. I met with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan four years ago at my office and we agreed for our countries to develop a strategic partnership. Four years have passed since President Karimov invited me to Uzbekistan and I was glad to see him there.
Uzbekistan maintains a very friendly and positive relationship with Japan, and President Karimov seems to be very fond of Japan. While recalling the conversation we had at our last meeting, we reaffirmed our intention to develop our bilateral relations. I hope that my visit this time will serve as a major impetus to enhance our relations and that the cooperation Japan extends to Uzbekistan will in some form help Uzbekistan prosper as a democratic country.
The next morning I offered flowers at the Memorial for the Japanese Dead and the Memorial for the Japanese Detainees.
After the Second World War, many Japanese detainees were transferred to Siberia and the Central Asian region. Approximately 25,000 detainees were sent to Uzbekistan to serve as forced laborers, out of which around 800 lost their lives in the country. The Memorial for the Japanese Dead was constructed in 2003 to pray for the repose of their souls.
There still remain today a number of buildings that were built by these detainees. Navoi Theater in the city of Tashkent is one such building. It is said that people in Uzbekistan praised the work of the Japanese detainees when the theater survived the large earthquake that hit the city 40 years ago while many of the nearby buildings collapsed, saying that, "Buildings constructed by Japanese people are indeed sturdy."
I visited Ulan Bator in Mongolia before the Obon holiday. Their National Opera and Ballet Theater too was constructed by Japanese detainees working under forced labor conditions. Approximately 14,000 people were detained in Mongolia, out of which around 1,600 lost their lives in the country.
My heart aches when thinking of those who died in a distant foreign land, while living through day after day of harsh forced labor with a strong longing for their homeland. I offered flowers with feelings of respect and gratitude.
The last destination of my overseas visit this time was the key junction city of the Silk Road, Samarkand, approximately an hour- long flight from Tashkent. I visited historic sites including a mosque from the time of the Timur Empire and the ruin of an observatory constructed roughly 580 years ago. I was told that one year was calculated as 365 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes, and 8 seconds at this observatory back then, which is only a minute off today's calculation. I was deeply impressed by the astounding level of astrological knowledge the people of the Timur Empire possessed.
Today is the last day of August, and a new semester will start at many schools tomorrow. Students, I hope you will study in high spirits, as the saying goes, "study hard and play hard."
There is one more month left to go for the Koizumi Cabinet. I will make every effort to fulfill my responsibility as Prime Minister for the full remainder of my term.
* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.
- Disaster Reduction - Japan's Global Contribution
- Prime Minister Visits Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (Kazakhstan) (August 28 to 29, 2006)
- Prime Minister Visits Kyoto Prefecture and Attends the World Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (August 25 to 26, 2006)
- Prime Minister Receives a Courtesy Call from the Medalists of the International Science Olympiads (August 24, 2006)
- Prime Minister Attends the Memorial Service for the War Dead (August 15, 2006)
- Prime Minister Visits Mongolia (August 10 to 11, 2006)
- Reader's Comment on the e-mail magazine is available only to the subscribers.
- Click below to make comments on administration of Japan
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