Statement by Mr. Joe Nakano Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan at the Seventeenth Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

November 11, 2011

His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Republic of Maldives and Chair of SAARC,
Distinguished Representatives of SAARC Member States, Observer States and Organization, as well as the Secretariat,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure and honor to be given the opportunity to speak here in the 17th SAARC Summit Meeting on behalf of the Government of Japan.  I would like to commend President Nasheed and the Maldivian government on their excellent chairmanship and thank them for the warmest hospitality extended to all of us.

Mr. Chairperson,

First and foremost, I would like to reiterate the profound gratitude of all the Japanese people for the compassion, solidarity and support shown by all SAARC countries and observers in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Just as one example, the Maldives has kindly provided us with around 690,000 tuna cans in addition to a generous monetary donation.

With support and encouragement from the international community, the daily lives of those outside the affected areas have almost returned to normal and damaged supply chains are close to full restoration. We are making steady progress towards securing stable control of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station of the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

The Japanese people will never forget all the assistance received. We shall repay your kindness by contributing to peace and prosperity around the globe in an active manner.

As part of such efforts, Japan will hold an international conference in the disaster-stricken Tohoku region in 2012 to share the lesson learnt from large-scale natural disasters such as the Great East Japan Earthquake and to boost international cooperation. Building upon its outcome, we propose to host the Third World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2015 to take a leading role in building a resilient society.

Mr. Chairperson,

We continue to attach great interest in the discussion in this Summit on environment and climate change as well as natural disaster.

I congratulate the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disaster just signed by the foreign ministers today. On our part, we remain committed to implementing the 15 billion dollar Fast-Start Financing up to 2012 to countries vulnerable to natural disasters. In the SAARC region, we have supported the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System through financial assistance and information sharing. As another example of our cooperation, the development of early warning systems and cyclone shelters in Bangladesh had contributed to the reduction of human casualties when Cyclone Sidr hit the country in 2007. We continue to support the strengthening of disaster reduction measures by SAARC countries.

Regarding the UN climate change negotiations, Japan firmly believes that the international community must make clear progress at COP17 towards the ultimate goal of adopting expeditiously a new, single and comprehensive legal document which will establish a fair and effective international framework in which all major economies participate. We would like to cooperate with SAARC countries to address climate change as this region’s greatest long-term security threat.

Mr. Chairperson,

Japan fully supports the theme of this Summit, “Building Bridges.” While progress in regional cooperation has been highlighted at the leaders’ inaugural speeches, much more work needs to be done, as President Nasheed pointed out. I strongly agree the further need to bridge the divides which still remain between the countries, economies, and people. We will thus continue to assist SAARC’s efforts in improving connectivity within and beyond its borders through ODA and private sector investment.

We are also eager to “build bridges” between Japan and SAARC countries through people-to-people exchanges. The Government of Japan is considering the launch of a youth exchange program to connect Japan’s disaster-afflicted areas with Asia-Pacific region including the SAARC region.

Mr. Chairperson,

Last but not least, I would like to say a few words on Japan’s cooperation with SAARC member states in the area of peace and security. We are committed to supporting the stability in Afghanistan; a democratic government and economic reform in Pakistan; the peace and democratization process in Nepal; further consolidation of democracy in Bhutan and the Maldives; and further disaster preparedness in Bangladesh. As maritime piracy has been addressed as a growing threat to our security and stability in this Summit, Japan has been tackling the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden in cooperation with India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

In closing, I would like to praise determination expressed by SAARC leaders to take further actions to build on what has been discussed in the past summit meetings. With such determination for more tangible results, I would like to reiterate Japan’s commitments to work closely with South Asian countries towards peace and prosperity of the region and beyond.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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