08 August 2011

Secretary-General's remarks at press stakeout with Foreign Minister of Japan

Matsumoto gaisho tono kaidan dewa, kokuren to Nihon no kankei ni tsuite hanashiai mashita. Totemo yuuigina hanashiai deshita.

[“I have just discussed with Foreign Minister Matsumoto UN-Japanese relations. We had a very constructive meeting.]

Nihon wa kokuren no juuyouna ichi-in desu. Soshite, mata, kokuren wa nihon ni tottemo daijidesu.

[“Japan is an important member of the UN. And the UN is also important for Japan.”]

Nihon ga konkai no higashi nihon daishinsai kara ikkokumo hayaku kaifuku shi, kokusai shakai eno kouken wo, sarani kyouka shiteiku koto o kitai shiteimasu.

[“I would like to extend my best wishes to Japan for an early recovery from the huge disaster in Eastern Japan and to further expand its role in global affairs.”]

Sekai mo kokuren mo ouen shiteimasu. Minna de chikara wo awasete gambatte kudasai.

[“The United Nations and the world are behind you. Please combine your strengths to allow Japan to recover.”]

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When the tsunami struck on 11 March, I was closely following the images of the devastation. And I was so much struck by the extent of devastation and losses of human lives. And I was very much saddened. At the same time, I was able to see the signs of hope and the Japanese people and government united and determined to overcome this crisis. I believe that with such a strong leadership and unbreakable spirit of the Japanese people, you are already on the right track and you will be able to overcome this crisis soon.

Japan is playing an important role in sharing these experiences and lessons learned. And I sincerely hope that while the international community is trying to have a regional and international coordination in sharing information and strengthening nuclear safety standards, let us work together so that we will not experience this kind of tragedy in the future.

I met many victims Azuma Sogo Sports Park and Evacuation Centre. Many of them told me, “Please do whatever the United Nations can do so that this Fukushima disaster will never happen in the future, not only in Japan but all throughout the world.”

And I met Fukushima Minami High School students. They also asked the United Nations and the international community to work together to strengthen this disaster risk reduction capacity. In that regard, I welcome the Japanese Government's initiative to hold, to convene, a high-level meeting next year and also to convene a third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015.

We have discussed other regional issues and I express my sincere appreciation to the Japanese Government for their very generous support for the people in the Horn of Africa. And I asked whether Japan could be the number of affected people has reached more than 12 million people, and we need much more necessary assistance and funding, and I am encouraged by the Prime Minister and also the Foreign Minister's assurances that they will look into this matter positively.

And we also discussed how the United Nations and Japan can work to build peace and security around the world, particularly in Africa. We discussed about the possibility of the Japanese dispatching peacekeeping missions, particularly to Africa, particularly in the form of engineering teams. I really appreciate, it's not only me, the whole world appreciated very much when the Japanese Government dispatched an engineering team to Haiti in the wake of the Haitian earthquake, January last year. Japan was one of the first responding countries to dispatch an engineering team who constructed this road between Port-au-Prince and the Dominican Republic which [has been] very important in transporting and logistics as well as people's transportation. I am going to discuss this matter with Defence Minister Kitazawa tomorrow morning. And I sincerely hope that this will be considered favourably. I know that most of the Self-Defence Forces of Japan are heavily occupied, engaged, in restoration and rehabilitation of tsunami damages. Japan has shown as such a strong and generous commitment to peace and security and development despite your tragedies. That is what the international community is very much appreciating.

Japan can play a great part in this crisis and in so many areas.

The experience in coping with the tragedy at Fukushima can provide lessons for the world.

Major nuclear accidents spread beyond national borders. They are a matter of international concern.

Of course it is the sovereign right of all States to determine their own stance toward nuclear energy. But all of us have an interest in nuclear safety.

I welcome the nuclear safety action plan being developed by Director-General Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA].

To maintain the political momentum, I am also convening a high-level meeting in September on nuclear safety and security.

I have asked experts from across the United Nations system to prepare a study on the implications of the Fukushima disaster.

Let me also say a few words about nuclear disarmament. This is the anniversary of the terrible week more than six decades ago when Japan suffered unprecedented nuclear bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Many of the survivors courageously devoted their lives to creating a world free of nuclear weapons.

I met many of these hibakusha last year when I was privileged to be the first Secretary-General to participate in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony. And I have seen them since at United Nations Headquarters in New York. I deeply respect and fully support their efforts to rid our world of the nuclear threat.

I also thank Japan for its constructive engagement with the nuclear-weapon States in the context of the Australia-Japan ten-nation nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament initiative.

Japan is our great partner in ending the nuclear threat and in so many other areas: combating poverty, promoting peace, and ushering in a greener future.

Of course, the Minister and I discussed many regional crises and conflicts, focusing on the need to do more towards their prevention.

I thank you very much for your kind hospitality and look forward to our greater cooperation in the future during my second term as Secretary-General. And I thank you again, this time expressing my sincere appreciation for the Japanese Government's and people's strong support for my leadership as Secretary-General so that I can continue to work together with all Member States, including Japan to address all peace and security, development and human rights issues to make this world better for all.

Arigato gozaimasu.

[“Thank you very much.”]

Q: [in Japanese] You referred to the peacekeeping operation in South Sudan and that you asked the Japanese Government to send an engineering unit of the Self-Defense Forces. Why is Japan's participation necessary in the South Sudan peacekeeping operation?

SG: Japan has been contributing greatly to the United Nations peacekeeping operations. And particularly last year, in the wake of the Haitian earthquake, Japan has shown such great efficiency and discipline and hard work by dispatching an engineering team that was widely appreciated. This time, as South Sudan has just embarked on their nationhood, that country needs all of our support. They have to start from scratch. The most needed area is to help build the infrastructure of South Sudan. If countries like Japan, with the efficiency and discipline of its people, as well as the capacity to mobilize all this equipment, that would be a great support for the people of South Sudan, the newest nation in the world, and they are eagerly in need of our support.

Q: Were you able to confirm that Prime Minister Naoto Kan will likely come and participate in the high-level meeting on nuclear safety in September [in New York]?

SG: We discussed at length how the international community and Japan can work together to strengthen disaster risk reduction capacity and to strengthen nuclear safety standards, and I told him that sharing such invaluable experiences and lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, as well as all the tsunami recovery process, that will be very valuable for the international community and I reiterated the importance of the Prime Minister's participation. The Prime Minister assured me that the Japanese Government will contribute and participate proactively, but we will have to continue our consultations on this matter.

Q: [in Japanese] Some countries have expressed their intention to do away with nuclear power. As United Nations Secretary-General, do you support this trend? What would be the response from the United Nations regarding some countries trying to do away with nuclear power?

SG: I have made my position and the United Nations' position clear on many occasions on this very important issue. I know that some countries have stopped using nuclear energy programmes. Some countries are considering phasing out in the coming few years time and some countries also consider that nuclear power energy still can provide very important sources of energy. These are the policies which need to be determined and decided by sovereign countries. What I have been emphasizing is that in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power accident, that has underscored the importance of having, first of all, strengthened nuclear safety, and while reviewing the current nuclear safety at the national level, if that can be coordinated at the regional and international levels, that will be much better in serving the interests of the world in promoting the energy. I also took note of what Director General Yukiya Amano of the IAEA said that nuclear power, energy can still be one of the viable options to provide energy, particularly in addressing climate change and also allowing universal access to energy by many people around the world. Still there are at least 1.2 billion people who do not have access to electricity, so this will have to be a continuing topic of discussions among the Member States of the United Nations.