NHK reported this morning that Foreign Minister Kono, who is currently visiting the Middle East, delivered a speech at the inaugural Japan-Arab Political Dialogue in Cairo. According to the network, Kono announced Japan’s basic policy on the Middle East and the “Kono Initiative,” under which Japan will help resume the peace talks between Israel and Palestine by expanding the “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity Initiative” to cover IT in addition to agriculture. Kono also reportedly announced that he will be the first Japanese foreign minister to attend a foreign affairs meeting held annually in Bahrain to deepen discussions with the Arab nations on politics and security. In addition, Kono disclosed that Japan will provide a total of $25 million for measures to deal with Syrian refugees. He was quoted as saying: “We will play an even more active role in achieving peace and stability in the region by fully capitalizing on our unique position.” Kono also reportedly said North Korean workers in the Middle East are becoming a source of foreign currency revenue for North Korea and called for cooperation on the matter.
An NHK reporter said Kono has been visiting the Middle East almost every year, adding that his latest trip highlighted his broad connections with important people in the region. The reporter added that Kono is putting a lot of energy into diplomacy in the Middle East because he believes that Japan can contribute to resolving issues in the region since it has built friendly relationships with Middle East nations. The reporter said Kono’s diplomatic ability will be tested as some are concerned that Japan’s position may be undermined if it becomes too involved in the Middle East.