Japan: Silk Road diplomacy

(The Belt and Road Initiative)

Updated:2017-04-20 | By:China.org.cn

Japan: Silk Road diplomacy


The concept of Japan’s Silk Road diplomacy was first introduced in 1997 by Hashimoto Ryutaro, a former Japanese Prime Minister, to ensure Japan’s access to diverse sources of energy supply. The plan covers the eight countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus, referred to as the “Silk Road region,” and places them high on Japan’s new foreign policy agenda. This Silk Road diplomacy has since defined Japan’s diplomatic engagement with Central Asia.

日本“丝绸之路外交”由前首相桥本龙太郎于1997 年首次提出,初衷是保障日本能源来源的多元化。桥本龙太郎倡议把中亚及高加索八国称为“丝绸之路地区”,并将其置于日本新外交战略的重要位置。此后,日本对中亚的外交逐渐被称为“丝绸之路外交”。

The objective of this strategy is twofold: to ensure diverse sources of energy supply by securing access to the treasure house of Central Asia (which has larger reserves of oil than the Middle East) so as to protect Japan’s economic interests; and to establish a strong geopolitical presence in Central Asia and the Caucasus.


In 2004, Japan’s Silk Road diplomacy gained new momentum with the launch of the “Central Asia Plus Japan” dialogue in an effort to increase Japan’s political influence and economic penetration and gain a leading role in energy development and trade in Central Asia. In 2012, Japan provided US$21.91 million worth of government development assistance to build roads, airports, bridges, power plants and canals in the Silk Road region. In October 2015, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo visited Mongolia and five Central Asian countries with the mission of reinvigorating the “Central Asia Plus Japan” dialogue focusing on cooperation in transport and logistics. These moves have been interpreted as Japan’s attempt to counter China’s Central Asia policy.