Dili, 29 April 2002

JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER PAYS VISIT TO EAST TIMOR

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a visit to East Timor today during which he met with senior Government and UN officials and addressed Japanese troops participating in UN peacekeeping activities.

Koizumiís five-hour visit included meetings with President-elect Xanana Gusm„o, Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri and Special Representative of the Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello.

At his meeting with Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, Koizumi said that Japan would continue to actively support East Timorís national reconciliation and nation-building activities, and pledged to help East Timor build strong relations with other countries in the region.

In a joint press statement released after their meeting, Koizumi and Alkatiri expressed their common determination to establish ďa favourable and close future-orientated relationship between Japan and East Timor after its independence.Ē

Before leaving late this afternoon, Koizumi addressed some 40 members of the Japanese Engineering Group based on the outskirts of Dili. The Prime Minister thanked the Japanese peacekeepers for their concrete action in fulfilling what he said was Japanís important role on the international stage and for cooperating with peacekeepers from other countries for the sake of peace.

In March and early April, 690 soldiers from the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force Engineering Group arrived in East Timor to replace departing Pakistan and Bangladesh engineers as part of the ongoing downsizing of the UN Peacekeeping Force. The Japanese engineers will be serving East Timor until the mandate of the Peacekeeping Force ends.

Japan has been a major contributor to the international reconstruction effort in East Timor by implementing the US$130 million humanitarian and development aid package it pledged at the first Donorsí Meeting on East Timor in Tokyo in December 1999. Recent Japanese contributions include: a US$1 million donation to East Timorís Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation; a US$2.65 million rehabilitation of Dili Port; and the construction of three new markets in the capital.

Koizumiís visit is part of a regional tour that includes stops in Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam.