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Much at stake for Japan at upcoming G8 summit
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Japan, host of this year's Group of Eight (G8) summit next week, hopes to utilize the gathering on the northern island of Hokkaido to wield increased clout in the battle against climate change and on African issues, shore up domestic support for Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's cabinet and promote Japan's image.

At a series of G8 ministerial meetings in the run-up to the event, Japan played an active role in preparing topics of discussion for the summit and had its voice and pledges clearly heard. But does Japan look on the three-day summit as a mere forum of the world's richest countries?

Opportunity to wield clout 

As the world's second largest economy only after the United States, Japan has long aspired to become a major political power on the world stage, to make its presence better felt in international affairs and to subsequently secure a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

The G8 summit bestows an unparalleled opportunity on Japan to have a bigger say in the presence of the heads of states of the eight key industrialized nations, as well as the leaders of major emerging economies invited to the outreach sessions.

In addition to the traditional topic of the world economy, the challenges of global warming are expected to top the agenda of the three-day G8 gathering.

Having recognized its vulnerability to oil price hikes in the first oil crisis in the early 1970s, Japan set about developing energy-saving technologies. It has now become one of the world's most energy-efficient nations and is taking the lead in energy conservation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Home to the Kyoto Protocol, which serves as a framework for global emission cuts by 2012, Japan is now mulling a leading role in formulating a post-Kyoto framework for emissions reduction.

Japan also hopes to wield greater influence with regard to Africa, the development of which will be a key issue of discussion at the summit.

In May, Japan pledged 40 billion US dollars in soft loans and doubled Official Development Assistance, among other aid, for Africa at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), which it initiated.

Japan has invited leaders of seven African nations to the G8 summit, hoping to take the upper hand in the hunt for Africa's rich resources and secure the support of African nations in its bid for a permanent Security Council seat.

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