Japan and five Central Asian nations pledged Friday to closely communicate over responses to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

During online talks with ministers and officials of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi condemned Moscow's aggression on Ukraine that began in late February as a serious breach of international law, according to the ministry.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi takes part in a teleconference with his counterparts from five Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan -- at the ministry in Tokyo on April 15, 2022. (Pool photo) (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

"The international community needs to keep in step to deal with (the Ukrainian crisis)," Hayashi was quoted by the ministry as saying.

Other participants were Uzbekistan's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev, Tajikistan's Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Adil Tursunov and Turkmenistan's Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Hajiyev.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Japan's establishment of diplomatic ties with the five Central Asian countries following their independence from the former Soviet Union.

Originally, Tokyo planned to host an in-person meeting of foreign ministers from the five nations by the end of June but switched it to a virtual format due to a scheduling conflict, Japanese government sources said.

The videoconference came as Hayashi is arranging a visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan starting in late April, according to the sources.

Launching the foreign ministerial dialogue with the Central Asian countries for regional development in 2004, Japan has been trying to enhance economic relations with Central Asia, in an apparent effort to counter growing Chinese clout in the area.

Beijing continues to invest in large-scale infrastructure in Central Asia through its "Belt and Road" initiative. President Xi Jinping held online talks with leaders from the same five nations in January.

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