Japan’s road to recovery and rebirth
By Naoto Kan,
On March 11, Japan was hit by one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. We are making all-out efforts to restore livelihoods and recover from the series of tragedies that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake. The disaster left more than 28,000 people, including foreign citizens, dead or missing.
Since March 11, Japan has been strongly supported by our friends around the world. On behalf of the Japanese people, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude for the outpouring of support and solidarity we have received from more than 130 countries, nearly 40 international organizations, numerous nongovernmental organizations and countless individuals from all parts of the world. The Japanese people deeply appreciate the kizuna (“bonds of friendship”) shown to us. Through this hardship, we have come to truly understand that a friend in need is a friend indeed.
Immediately after the earthquake, the United States, our most important friend and ally, provided swift cooperation. President Obama kindly called me to convey his strong commitment that the United States stood ready to provide all-out support to the Japanese people during this time of great difficulty. He reaffirmed that the relationship between our nations is unshakable. So many Japanese citizens, including myself, were enormously encouraged by these remarks. From an early stage in the response efforts, U.S. forces have diligently performed relief activities on multiple fronts as part of Operation Tomodachi (Japanese for “friendship”). The attitude that Americans have demonstrated during this operation has deeply touched the hearts and minds of the Japanese. Support has come from not only the government but also NGOs and countless individuals, in various forms of humanitarian assistance, search-and-rescue missions, charity events and fundraising. We have also received full U.S. support in responding to the accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, from providing equipment and other material assistance such as fire trucks and special protective suits, to dispatching nuclear experts and radiation-control teams.
I take very seriously, and deeply regret, the nuclear accidents we have had at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Bringing the situation under control at the earliest possible date is my top priority. Leading a unified effort by the government, I have mobilized all available resources to combat the risks posed by the plant, based on three principles: First, give the highest priority to the safety and health of all citizens, in particular those residents living close to the plant; second, conduct thorough risk management; and, third, plan for all possible scenarios so that we are fully prepared to respond to any future situations. For example, we continue to make the utmost efforts to address the issue of outflow of radioactive water from the plant into the ocean. In addition, the government has taken every possible measure to ensure the safety of all food and other products, based on strict scientific criteria. We have taken great precautions to ensure the safety of all Japanese food and products that have reached and will continue to reach markets. To ensure domestic and foreign consumer confidence in the safety of Japanese food and products, my administration will redouble its efforts to maintain transparency and keep everyone informed of our progress in the complex and evolving circumstances at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
I pledge that the Japanese government will promptly and thoroughly verify the cause of this incident as well as share information and the lessons learned with the rest of the world to help prevent such accidents in the future. Through such a process, we will proactively contribute to global debate to enhance the safety of nuclear power generation. Meanwhile, regarding a comprehensive energy policy, we must squarely tackle a two-pronged challenge: responding to rising global energy demand and striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming. Going forward, I would like to present a clear vision to the world — which includes the aggressive promotion of clean energy — that may contribute to solving global energy issues.
The Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting tsunami are the worst natural disasters that Japan has faced since the end of the Second World War. Reconstruction of the devastated Tohoku region will not be easy. I believe, however, that this difficult period will provide us with a precious window of opportunity to secure the “Rebirth of Japan.” The government will dedicate itself to demonstrating to the world its ability to establish the most sophisticated reconstruction plans for East Japan, based on three principles: first, create a regional society that is highly resistant to natural disasters; second, establish a social system that allows people to live in harmony with the global environment; and third, build a compassionate society that cares about people, in particular, the vulnerable.
The Japanese people rose from the ashes of the Second World War using our fundamental strength to secure a remarkable recovery and the country’s present prosperity. I have not a single doubt that Japan will overcome this crisis, recover from the aftermath of the disaster, emerge stronger than ever, and establish a more vibrant and better Japan for future generations.
I believe that the best way for Japan to reciprocate the strong kizuna and cordial friendship extended to us is to continue our contribution to the development of the international community. To that end, I will work to the best of my ability to realize a forward-looking reconstruction that gives people bright hopes for the future. I would wholeheartedly appreciate your continued support and cooperation. Arigatou.
The writer is prime minister of Japan.