Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono has left for a 6-day tour of 3 former Soviet countries in the Caucasus region, as well as Germany.
Kono will become the first Japanese cabinet minister to visit Armenia and Georgia. He will also make the first trip to Azerbaijan by a Japanese foreign minister in 19 years.
Kono is hoping to strengthen relations with these Caucasus countries. He says they are geopolitically important, being located between Asia and Europe.
Kono wants to agree with his counterparts to work together to stabilize the region, which is experiencing conflicts, and to create an environment favorable to Japanese companies.
Kono also plans to ask for cooperation to completely denuclearize North Korea and resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North. The 3 countries have all diplomatic ties with North Korea.
In Germany, Kono is scheduled to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel. He hopes to confirm cooperation in maintaining free trade in a time of intensifying trade tensions between the US and China.