Statement by H.E. Seiko Hashimoto
State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan
on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty
April 6, 2009
- It is my great pleasure to be here in Washington DC, where the Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959, to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. My deep appreciation goes to the United States for so graciously agreeing to host this conference and the Secretariat, which has made tireless effort for its success.
Antarctica is still an unknown place, one very different from where most of us live. Perhaps this is why it has attracted so many people almost over the past two centuries. Since courageous people such as Japanese Lieutenant Nobu Shirase successfully explored Antarctica, many adventurers have added to the history of Antarctic exploration. Meanwhile, scientific interest in Antarctica has grown steadily, with Japan among those countries actively engaged in research and observation that has had added greatly to the store of human knowledge about that part of the world.
- It is well known that the ozone hole was discovered over Antarctica for the first time in the 1980s. Japan started the observation of atmospheric ozone in 1961. After continued regular observations, the ozone hole was discovered by the member of the 23rd JARE (Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition). Our observation of surface ozone density then commenced in 1988. I believe these observation results made a great contribution to the international effort under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
Observation of the Antarctic provides valuable data about the past condition of the Earth and helps us to understand something about its future. In 2007 at the Dome Fuji Station, scientists succeeded in drilling into the ice shelf to a depth of 3,035 meters, and acquiring data on the changes in temperature and greenhouse gases that have taken place over the past 720,000 years. These data will undoubtedly help to clarify the history of the global environment, and it is expected they will be utilized as we address issues such as climate change. I think Antarctica is a place that gives a direction to our activities to protect the global environment.
- These achievements were made possible by the establishment of fundamental principles of the Antarctic Treaty, namely, "peaceful use" and "freedom of scientific investigation and international cooperation". These principles made clear that Antarctica is a place for peaceful use including scientific research, which encouraged confidence-building among nations.
Japan is an original signatory of the treaty and has acted responsibly as a consultative party. It will continue to do so and work to maintain the basic principles of the Treaty.
- As consideration is given to the activities that will take place in Antarctica in future, I understand that the issue of tourism is attracting attention. I think Antarctic tourism should be conducted in a responsible manner not to interfere with the value of Antarctica as the place for scientific research or to adversely affect the Antarctic environment. We should protect the Antarctic environment and its place for scientific research, which deserve protection, from tourist activities. On the other hand, Antarctic tourism itself can also be beneficial for the mankind, by contributing to raising public awareness of Antarctica and providing the general public with opportunities for environmental education.
My country has promoted environmental conservation in Antarctica by enacting the "Law Relating to Protection of the Environment in Antarctica", to ensure that Japan is in full compliance with the provisions of "the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty".
Japan will continue to take part in the discussion on necessary actions on Antarctic tourism in good faith. In this way, we hope to contribute to the discussion for the steps to be taken specific to the type, place, time, etc of the activity, based on its scientific and objective assessment and anticipation.
- In the Arctic, climate change is said to be causing the shrinking of sea ice. I understand this has increased the potential use that can be made of the Arctic Ocean and encouraged international discussion concerning sea lanes, resource development and the environment.
As a country completely surrounded by water and relying for most of its trade on marine transportation, Japan is very interested in this potential. Above all, the risk of marine pollution could be an issue we cannot ignore as a country actively making effort to protect the global environment.
We therefore would like to take part in international discussions on issues relating to the Arctic. We will shortly start application procedures to the Arctic Council as an observer. In that context, I would like to take this opportunity to seek kind assistance and cooperation of the members of the Arctic Council, especially Norway as its chair.
- Before closing, I would like to mention that next month Japan will launch the new "Shirase". It will be equipped with a variety of environmentally-friendly devices and I believe that it will represent Japan's environmental technologies and become a model of Antarctic activities.
- Because Antarctica is a special place in a special environment, all of us gathered here have a special responsibility to protect it. With this in mind, Japan will continue to promote research and observation there, and do its part in preserving the Antarctic environment, abiding by the principles of the landmark treaty we celebrate here today.
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