Press Conference 4 January 2005

  1. Japanese victims of the earthquake/tsunami disaster
  2. Assistance for the earthquake/tsunami disaster
  3. Upcoming emergency leaders' meeting in Jakarta
  4. Question concerning non-Japanese casualties
  5. Questions concerning assistance for earthquake/tsunami disaster
  6. Question concerning Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura's itinerary
  7. Questions concerning upcoming emergency leaders' meeting in Jakarta

  1. Japanese victims of the earthquake/tsunami disaster

    Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima: Good afternoon and Happy New Year to you. Thank you very much for coming to the briefing. Today, I would like to give you some information on the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean area, especially about Japan-related items.

    Firstly, the Japanese casualties. So far, we have 21 Japanese citizens who are confirmed dead because of this disaster. So far, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has counted 653 missing Japanese citizens. These missing people are not specifically mentioned as missing in that area. It is quite possible that those who are missing are in other parts of the world, for example, Europe or Africa. We suspect that there are somewhere between 270 and 300 Japanese people that could have been in the region and could have been victims of this major disaster. We are still searching and doing rescue work.

    Related Information (Major Earthquake off the Coast of Sumatra and Tsunami in the Indian Ocean)
  2. Assistance for the earthquake/tsunami disaster

    Mr. Takashima: As Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced on New Year's Day, Japan has committed US$500 million as emergency assistance to the countries concerned and also to international organizations. In addition to that, we have already dispatched emergency relief teams, both medical and search and rescue teams, to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Republic of Maldives. Also, we have sent two helicopters to the region and we had three vessels of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) conduct search and rescue operations off the island of Phuket. They recovered 57 bodies floating in the ocean, but this operation has been terminated in accordance with the decision of the Thai Navy.

    As for material and food assistance, the Government of Japan has already disbursed emergency equipment and goods worth approximately US$500,000 to three countries, Sri Lanka, Maldives and the Republic of Indonesia. In addition to that, the emergency food assistance has been given to Sri Lanka. It is approximately another US$500,000 worth through the World Food Programme (WFP). Japanese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are now in full operation in rescue and assistance work. We count more than 10 NGOs that are operating in the region.

    Related Information (INDIAN OCEAN TSUNAMI DISASTER (Comments by Prime Minister Koizumi))
  3. Upcoming emergency leaders' meeting in Jakarta

    Mr. Takashima: The next announcement is about the emergency leaders' meeting to be held in Jakarta under the leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This meeting will be held on 6 January. The Government of Japan decided to dispatch Prime Minister Koizumi and Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura to attend that meeting. They will depart Tokyo tomorrow. Prime Minister Koizumi will be returning to Tokyo very late in the evening on 6 January, but Foreign Minister Machimura will stay in Indonesia and after that, he will visit Thailand. In both countries, Indonesia and Thailand, Foreign Minister Machimura will have meetings with his counterparts, the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Thailand, in addition to some other meetings that are currently being arranged. Foreign Minister Machimura will also visit the island of Phuket and take a close look at the situation there.

    Lastly, the Government of Japan is considering dispatching some of the units of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) to the region as part of the emergency international rescue team, mainly for the purpose of keeping sanitation and giving medical services to the victims. The Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) is also considering sending transport airplanes and helicopters to support the rescue assistance operation being undertaken in the region.

  4. Question concerning non-Japanese casualties

    Q: Do you have any casualty figures for people of other Asian nationalities.

    Mr. Takashima: We do not have any specific figures, other than to say that the number of total casualties exceeds 100,000.

    Q: Japanese newspapers reported numbers for people of Japanese nationality and also for Europeans, but perhaps there were so many casualties for Asian people.

    Mr. Takashima: I am sorry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have the figure.

    Q: If you can find something later, please let me know.

  5. Questions concerning assistance for earthquake/tsunami disaster

    Q: How many Japanese doctors and nurses have now been dispatched?

    Mr. Takashima: I do not have the exact figure here, but approximately half o. emergency rescue team consists of doctors and nurses.

    Q: By the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)?

    Mr. Takashima: We have a special law to dispatch this kind of emergency rescue team. In Indonesia, there are 22 doctors, nurses and chemists. In Sri Lanka, we have a Japanese medical team consisting of 20 doctors and nurses. In the Maldives, there is a medical team of 10 doctors and nurses.

    Q: I wonder if Japan could ask nurses from the Philippines to help because of expenses?

    Mr. Takashima: As I have said, we have already decided to disburse US$500 million and half of it will be given to the nations concerned. This money will have no strings attached and will not be earmarked as far as Japan is concerned. It is up to them to decide how to use this money. They can use this either way.

    Q: But considering the size of the casualties, would 20 or so Japanese doctors be able to deal with diseases?

    Mr. Takashima: Medical assistance is one of our major concerns and the Cabinet Office is considering dispatching SDF personnel, especially the medical staff, to the region for the purpose of making some sort of medical service available to the victims as well as to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

    Q: Could you tell us to which country or area the Government of Japan is planning or considering to dispatch the medical units of the SDF?

    Mr. Takashima: We are now considering to dispatch this team to the northern part of the island of Sumatra, near the area of Aceh. In order to do so, we need to have further consultation with the Government of Indonesia, so no final decision has been made yet.

  6. Question concerning Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura's itinerary

    Q: I wonder if you could tell us more details about Foreign Minister Machimura's itinerary regarding Southeast Asia. Is Foreign Minister Machimura returning to Japan directly after visiting Thailand?

    Mr. Takashima: Yes. He will return on 9 January.

    Q: Initially, we heard that Foreign Minister Machimura tried to visit the Republic of Singapore.

    Mr. Takashima: The visit to Singapore has been cancelled and the meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs George Yong-Boon Yeo of Singapore will be rearranged.

  7. Questions concerning upcoming emergency leaders' meeting in Jakarta

    Q: Which country will sponsor the ministers' meeting in Jakarta, or who is organizing this conference?

    Mr. Takashima: This conference is being organized by ASEAN and Indonesia will host it. We are all invited, Japan, United States, United Nations (UN), World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), among others.

    Q: We understand Japan is biggest donor.

    Mr. Takashima: Yes, because this natural disaster happened in Asia, where we have special relations and we feel deep sympathy to the victims and for the people in the region. Another thing is that "tsunami," as you know, is a Japanese word, and we do have a special sentiment toward that. We feel a strong sympathy toward those who were killed or injured by this tsunami. We hope that we will be in a position to support the establishment of tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean area to prevent any recurrences of this kind of disaster. Indeed, this will be something Prime Minister Koizumi will propose at the international conference.

    Q: It is very important for foreign donors to cooperate with each other, instead of competing with each other. The duplication of assistance would be confused and it was very good that Foreign Minister Machimura talked to US Secretary of State Colin Powell on the first thing to cooperate with each other. Why does the Government of Japan not talk to the Government of the People's Republic of China to cooperate more?

    Mr. Takashima: Japan, along with the United States, Republic of India and Australia, has been forming the so-called core group for the rescue and assistance operations. We are coordinating in order to prevent any sort of duplication or creating any missing links or zones. This core group is now being joined by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Canada. Moreover, at this international conference in Jakarta, the UN is expected to issue an appeal. This will be another good opportunity to coordinate the international effort to give assistance firstly for emergency rescue operations, and then for reconstruction and rehabilitation operations.

    Q: What about getting China more involved in cooperation with other nations?

    Mr. Takashima: Premier of the State Council of China Wen Jiabao will be participating in this international conference. That is my understanding. Also, China has offered US$60 million worth of assistance, so I believe they are doing their best.

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