“The present situation and perspectives in
Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake”
A Speech by H.E. Mr. Natsuo AMEMIYA,
Ambassador of Japan in Romania
On the occasion of the “Environment Security” Conference
at Central University Library Carol I, on April 28th, 2011
Dr. Doru Frunzulica, President of George C. Marshall Assoc. – Romania
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Opening Remarks
It is an honour to have been given the opportunity to address you here, at the Central University Library Carol I, with a long and distinguished history, on the occasion of the “Environment Security” Conference”. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the organizers of this event.
Japan, as you know, was struck by an unprecedented disaster on March 11. The Great East Japan Earthquake, a magnitude 9 quake, is the greatest disaster Japan has faced since the end of World War II, having at the same time caused tsunamis and a nuclear power accident. One month has passed since the tragic disaster, which caused over 14,000 people to lose their lives in the enormous earthquake and tsunamis that struck. Even now, about 12,000 people remain unaccounted for, and more than 170,000 people remain forced to take shelter as evacuees.
This one month since the great earthquake has been an extremely arduous time for Japan. Yet, at the same time, it has been a period during which Japan has once again realized that we stand together with the world.
Thus far, over 140 nations and regions, nearly 40 international organizations, a number of nongovernmental organizations and people from all around the globe have expressed their support and solidarity through donations and other means.
From Romania, many people have sent us warm words of compassion and encouragement. In addition, the Romanian Red Cross is currently running a campaign to collect funds for the people affected by the earthquake. Moreover, support events have been organized in different parts of Romania, such as exhibitions of children’s drawings and memorial concerts dedicated to the earthquake victims. I extend my heartfelt gratitude for such assistance.
2. The Japanese and Natural Calamities
In terms of natural disasters, Japan is one of the most frequently affected countries in the world. Each year, earthquakes, sometimes accompanied by tsunamis, and typhoons with heavy rain are reported. Volcanic activities have caused the Japanese people numerous hardships, too.
The worst natural calamity after the modernisation of Japan was the Great Kanto Earthquake, in 1923, which struck the region surrounding the capital, Tokyo. Approximately 143,000 people lost their lives or were unaccounted for, and approximately 450,000 houses were burnt down. Faced with these difficulties, the Interior Minister at that time, Mr. Goto Shinpei, who also became the President of the Department for Reconstruction of Tokyo, drew up a reconstruction plan after the earthquake. It was a big-scale land, park and infrastructure readjustment plan, which, at the time, took up almost 50% of the national budget. Most of the infrastructure network in contemporary Tokyo owes its existence to Minister Goto’s work, and his foresight is still very much appreciated.
To refresh your memory, there was also the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, in 1995. In its aftermath, approximately 6,500 people lost their lives or were unaccounted for, and almost 250,000 houses were completely or partly destroyed. The total damage was estimated at a scale of 10 trillion yen. Overhead highways and many other important elements of social infrastructure were destroyed. The then Government set up an emergency headquarters and drew up a reconstruction project and implemented it. Due to the project, the economic indexes, such as the population, industries, the number of tourists, the number of job offers, of the affected area were recovered at the level prior to the earthquake.
Thus, Japan has a history and tradition of overcoming calamities and of achieving creative recovery from the difficulties in the past.
Japan is the beneficiary of a rich natural heritage from the ancient period. The climate is mild and humid, and the landscape is covered in greenery and washed by waters. In addition, Japan is surrounded by the ocean, and its people created a culinary culture based on cereal and fish. Nature is not a thing to be dominated by human beings, but the object of human admiration and faith, as well as a giver of mercy.
On the other hand, although Japan is an island country, which has not been subjected to any massacres by other nations in its history, the loss of lives by natural calamities has been repeated. Nature is a thing to be feared, and those who survived natural calamities had to collaborate and live by compromising with nature. It is proof of this traditional Japanese spirit that many evacuees caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake are helping each other and sharing the limited amount of resources among themselves without any conflict, although they are living in severe conditions.
3. Current State of the Nuclear Plant and Future Prospects
We sincerely regret that a serious nuclear accident happened at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Our immediate focus is to bring the situation at the nuclear power plant under stable control at the earliest possible date. In order to combat the danger posed by the plant, we are tackling the problem through the advice and cooperation from not only our domestic resources but also from foreign governments, international organizations, private corporations, as well as experts.
On April 12, Japan renewed the assessment and announced that the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station corresponded to Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). Let me inform you, however, this new assessment does not mean that the situation in Fukushima is aggravating. The new assessment is a result of the latest calculations, based on newly obtained data of the total amount of radioactive substances released, in accordance with the IAEA criteria.
The causes and the aspects of the accident at the Fukushima Station are very different from those of the Chernobyl accident. First, while the reactor itself exploded at Chernobyl, the reactors at Fukushima automatically shut down and there was no large-scale fire at the site. The IAEA also points out that the two accidents are different in this regard. Secondly, the total amount of radioactive substances released from the Fukushima plant to this day is estimated to be far less than that of the Chernobyl. Thirdly, there is neither loss of life by radioactive exposure, nor health problems caused by radiation among residents in the vicinity of the nuclear power station.
International organizations, such as International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International maritime Organization (IMO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have made objective assessments that excessive measures, such as general travel restrictions to Japan, are not needed.
On April 17, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced the “Roadmap toward Restoration from the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station”, which will bring the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station under control. The Government of Japan considers the roadmap an important first step forward in coping with the accident caused by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake. Taking this opportunity, we would like to move from the “emergency response phase” up until now, to the “planned and stabilizing action phase”, in which the settlement of the situation will be aimed under the solid roadmap.
Japan intends to share with the international community the knowledge and experience obtained through this situation in order to contribute to reinforcing the safety of nuclear power generation.
4. The Activities of the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and of the U.S. Forces
The Self-Defense Forces (SDF) of Japan and the U.S. Forces are very active in dealing with this calamity. As it is stated in the National Defense Program Guidelines, response to large-scale disasters is an important mission of the SDF. The SDF maintains a “posture of 100,000 personnel” in the Joint Task Force. Over this period, the SDF has implemented a rescue activity to save human lives as the primary mission right after the earthquake, and has so far rescued about 19,000 people. In daily life support, the SDF has also supplied more than 18,000 tons of water and over 1,9 million meals, etc.
In addition, the U.S. forces, in close cooperation with the SDF, have been conducting large-scale aid activities (Operation “Tomodachi” [“Friends”]), such as assistance at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, search and rescue operations, transportation and provision of humanitarian relief supplies, repairing Sendai Airport, clearing away the rubble from the port, etc, with over 20 ships and 160 aircraft, as well as over 20,000 personnel.
I think that, through these operations, the Japan-U.S. alliance has further been strengthened.
5. Impacts on the Economy and Supply Chains, and the Current Situation
This disaster has another significant impact on the economy. Capital stock has been lost at an enormous scale, centred on the Tohoku and northern Kanto regions. According to a preliminary survey by the Japanese Government, damage has been estimated at a scale of 16 to 25 trillion yen, which is approximately 133 to 208 billion euros.
A large number of parts/components and materials manufacturers are located in the Tohoku and northern Kanto regions. These important production facilities halted temporarily as a result of the earthquake disaster. The effects on supply chains both domestically and overseas have had ripple effects, with repercussions felt in a portion of the manufacturing and trade activities of Europe, the United States, and Asia.
Let me inform you, however, that the industrial production of the regions impacted by the tsunamis is approximately 2% of the national figure, and manufacturing hubs in western and central Japan are undamaged. Moreover, production activities in the impacted regions are steadily moving towards resumption.
We believe that Japan has a responsibility to provide parts, materials and industrial products to the world. In order to minimize the negative impacts on supply chains both domestically and overseas, we will assess in careful detail the magnitude of the losses, the potential for substitutions, and other aspects and will implement as rapidly as possible various forms of assistance measures, including those for restoring infrastructure, supplying electricity, and financial sector-related efforts.
6. Ensuring Safety
In light of such circumstances, it will also be critical to address reputational damage. Japan will exercise adequate care in ensuring the safety of local residents and, moreover, continue to work to provide information that is prompt and accurate to the international community, with the greatest possible transparency.
Some countries and regions are conducting radiation-related testing and taking other measures to strengthen regulations. With regard to food safety, for example, Japan has been taking steps to ensure distribution of safe food by establishing provisional standard for food and beverages and specifying consumption and shipment restrictions among other measures.
Industrial products are also subject to stringent quality control. At the current time, the amount of radiation on Japan’s industrial products is not at a level that causes impacts upon health of people. The safety of seaports and airports that serve as hubs for international distribution is also recognized internationally.
In order to communicate the current state of affairs in an accurate manner, briefings are being conducted for foreign diplomatic missions in Japan, the foreign press corps, and business people and we are providing accurate information on the level of radioactivity in various locations. We will continue to work to provide information that is prompt and accurate so as to avoid reputational damage and ensure the smooth implementation of Japan’s economic activities.
We would like to thank Romania for undertaking mostly level-headed responses firmly grounded in scientific facts, and we would like to ask Romania to undertake the same responses in the future as well.
7. A Call for Participation by Companies Worldwide in the World’s Most Advanced Reconstruction Plan
The current natural disaster is truly a crisis for Japan. However, as its miraculous reconstruction after World War II illustrates, Japan has been built up through the efforts of each individual citizen in the face of adversity.
In the future, embracing a spirit of “building Japan once more” together with the Japanese people under a long-term perspective, we will move forward towards the earliest possible recovery and reconstruction of the disaster-impacted regions and build communities well-equipped to withstand natural disasters.
For example, preparing for tsunami, we will situate residences on higher ground carved out of mountainsides and commute to fishing ports and other workplaces along the coastlines. We will create ecotowns that are fully equipped with district heating utilizing plant matter and biomass from the region and cultivate features of communities that thoroughly foster public welfare. We will proceed by moving forward with the world’s most advanced reconstruction plan, with a vision of going beyond mere restoration to the previous state and instead create a truly marvellous Tohoku region and indeed a marvellous Japan.
In aiming towards this reconstruction plan, we wish to make abundant use of corporate wisdom and technologies from not only within Japan but also from around the world. Japan very much welcomes and looks forward to the cooperation and the participation of a large number of relevant parties.
I would like to close my remarks today with my sincere wish that going forward, this “Environment Security” Conference will develop into a forum for productive exchanges of views, sharing of knowledge and experience.
Thank you very much for your attention.