The Foreign Ministers of Japan and Tajikistan have agreed to boost bilateral relations in a wide range of fields. Their meeting comes at a time when China is increasing its influence in Central Asia.

Japan’s Taro Kono met Tajikistan’s Sirojiddin Muhriddin in the Central Asian country on Sunday. Kono is the First Japanese Foreign Minister to visit the Nation in 15 years.

Kono said Japan will strengthen its relationship with Tajikistan, which holds the key to the stability of Central Asia.

China’s clout has been growing in the region as Beijing is promoting its Belt and Road initiative to create a huge economic zone linking Asia and Europe.

Muhriddin said the Japanese Minister’s visit has turned a new page in bilateral ties.

The Ministers agreed to bolster relations in a wide range of fields, including disaster preparedness.

Both sides also agreed to aim for the early conclusion of an investment deal to encourage Japanese businesses to further expand into Tajikistan.

Japan will grant Tajikistan about 1.8 billion yen, or roughly 16.3 million dollars, to help the mountainous country introduce snowplows and ambulances.

Kono told reporters that it is natural for China to have deep ties with Tajikistan as the two countries share a border.

But the Minister added that his visit has reminded him that the nation is extremely friendly to Japan. Kono said Japan will actively support Tajikistan in its efforts to develop its resources.