Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

8 August 2011

Secretary-General's Press Encounter at Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture (Japan)

SG: Souma-shi no minasama, fukushima no minasama, watakushi wa kokuren jimusouchou no pan gimun desu. Konotabi no higashi nihon daishinnsai dewa minasama ookina eikyou wo ukemashita. Shikashi, nihon wa kanarazu tachiagaru to shinjite imasu.

[People of Soma City, people of Fukushima, you were severely affected by the huge disaster but I firmly believe that your great country will recover from it.]

I just paid my respects in memory of the many people who lost their lives.

This is a terrible tragedy: many lives lost, many houses and properties have been devastated. But as the sea, as we see, we endure.

While we have sun here, my heart is breaking. [This is] heart-breaking. I cannot express how much I am sad, how sad I am, to have seen the destruction and loss of lives.

At the same time, I am encouraged by what I have seen; such national will, unbreaking spirit, and determination and resilience of the Japanese people and Government. You are united. You are overcoming this tragedy. Japan is one of the best-prepared countries in the world for this kind of tragedy [in terms of] national disaster risk reduction.

I met [evacuees] this morning in the Azuma Sogo Sports Park and Evacuation Center, and I met also many young students in Fukushima Minami High School, and I was encouraged by what they said. They have shown such great strength. I am sure that with this strength and support of the United Nations and the international community, you will be able to overcome this tragedy.

This is temporary, but the extent and magnitude of this tragedy is unspeakable, indescribable.

I wish you all the best. You have a good Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Kan Naoto and you have a good governor, Yuhei Sato, and Mayor of Soma, Hidekiyo Tachiya, and you have all the support from the international community, all the caring people from the United Nations. I will bring this message to the United Nations and we will discuss how we can help the Japanese people overcome this.

We have to learn how we can strengthen nuclear safety, how we can make this world safer and better for all the people around the world.

Arigatogozaimasu. [“Thank you very much.”]

Q: [in Japanese] The people in Fukushima are in deep suffering from the impact of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, the radioactive materials released and so forth, and because they have had to evacuate. There is much anxiety amongst the people. More serious may be the reputation of the negative impact on tourism and international trade and so forth, the so-called indirect damages that have been caused by the accident. How would you be able to more concretely respond to the needs of Fukushima? How would you try to convey the tragedy of Fukushima to the whole world?

SG: I was struck by the level of destruction and sadness at all the loss of lives here. However, you have shown such great strength to the world - the unbreaking will to overcome this. This is positive. It might have impacted your tourism, your industry, your well-being here. But what you have shown to the world, the orderliness and disciplined way of overcoming this, such composure that has impressed many people around the world, including myself. Japan is well prepared but simply the extent and magnitude of the natural disaster has been [overwhelming]. That is why we have to learn from this how we can make a better capacity, stronger capacity to address this natural disaster. And we have to work together. The United Nations is leading this assessment.

Q: You have mentioned the magnitude of the disaster at this time was so big –more than Japan was able to prepare for in reality, but that has also led to the accident at the nuclear power plant. How will we be able to seek a way forward? What would be a better way forward, in view of nuclear energy? I understand you also had a dialogue with the children who will be the leaders of the next generation; what was your impression? And also, in September you will be having the United Nations General Assembly. Has Prime Minister Kan conveyed to you whether he will be attending the General Assembly?

SG: My dialogue with high school students this morning was very inspiring. They asked me many questions; how the United Nations can make this world safer. They were concerned about their own future. I think these were quite legitimate questions. I know that there have been discussions in the international community [on] how we can strengthen nuclear safety and what to do with nuclear energy. National energy policies –whether it be nuclear energy, hydro, renewable or alternative sources of energy –that is to be determined by the national government. But the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident has underscored the importance of coordination at the regional and national level.

That is what has already been discussed in Vienna under the leadership of Mr. Yukiya Amano, IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] Director-General on June 21st, and that is exactly what I am going to do again on September 22nd at the United Nations, together with all world leaders including Prime Minister Kan Naoto. I am going to discuss this matter with the Prime Minister this evening and I am expecting and I hope that Prime Minister Kan will be able to participate in this high-level meeting this September.

Q: What was the most unforgettable lesson, or most important lesson, that you learned today from the Fukushima local people and could you tell us the reason for that?

SG: I was very much touched when I met [evacuated] people at the Azuma Sogo Sports Park and Evacuation Center. Their current life seemed to be very miserable, and I sympathized with their tragedies and hardships.

At the same time I was able to read from their faces that they were really asking the Government and the United Nations that this kind of accident which happened in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant should never happen again in other parts of the world. That was quite touching.

What makes me more moved and grateful to Japanese people and Government is that even under these tragic circumstances, the Japanese people and Government have been helping other people around the world. You have helped the Haitian people last year when they were struck by the earthquake by dispatching an engineering team. You have recently helped many African people in the Horn of Africa, in Somalia; you have made generous contributions. I am also going to discuss this matter with Prime Minister Kan Naoto and the Foreign Minister: how the UN and Japan can work together to help other people around the world, in South Sudan and Somalia and elsewhere. That is Japanese leadership, Japanese magnanimous generosity, which the world's people really appreciate.

I thank you very much for your endurance and your strength to overcome these difficulties.

Kokusai shakai mo kokurn mo ouen shiteimasu. Ganbatte kudasai. Arigatogozaimasu.

[The international community and the United Nations are supporting you. I wish you all the best. Thank you very much.]