TOKYO -- Representatives from 50 Japanese companies and organizations will accompany Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a Central Asia tour that kicks off Thursday, seeking to tap the resource-rich region.
Abe will visit Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan through Oct. 28, meeting separately with their leaders.
Resource-poor Japan hopes to secure a stable supply of energy by strengthening ties with a region known for an abundance of such natural resources as oil, natural gas and uranium. Kazakhstan has 1.8% of the world's global oil reserves, and Inpex holds an interest in the Kashagan field in the west.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Corp., which are expected to formalize a deal with an Uzbek state chemical company to build a fertilizer plant, are among the businesses sending their people along with Abe. Some other Japanese companies are also working out details of cooperation agreements they hope to seal with Central Asian enterprises.
No Japanese prime minister has gone to Central Asia since 2006, when Junichiro Koizumi swung by the region. Abe will be the first to visit Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Abe last traveled abroad with a business delegation on a trip to the Middle East in January.