Speech by Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Mr.Shintaro Ito at the concert to honor the contributions to the victims of the Hurricane Katrina

December 13, 2005

Ambassador Schieffer, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the invitation to attend tonight's concert to honor the contributions made by Japan and its people to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Koizumi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe, and Foreign Minister Aso were unable to attend, but I know they share my wishes for a successful evening.

Let me begin by extending my deep condolences to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I also want to convey my admiration for the hard work being done by the people of New Orleans and other affected regions to restore their cities and towns.

As soon as we learned of the horrors wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese government assembled a package of financial aid and emergency supplies for delivery to the affected areas. The response from private organizations and citizens around Japan was even more generous. The people of Japan were eager to provide whatever relief was necessary to ease the suffering of the victims of the disaster.

Looking back, Japan and the United States have a strong tradition of mutual support at times of natural disasters. The U.S. delivered critical supplies to victims left homeless by the 1995 Hanshin Earthquake. In 2004, the United States provided Japan with both financial and material assistance in the wake of the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake. In 2002, Japan rushed emergency supplies to Guam to help residents recover from Super Typhoon Pongsona. These are only a few examples that underscore the longstanding friendship and compassion that we enjoy between our two countries.

This shared sense of compassion also serves as the basis for our efforts to respond to natural disasters in other parts of the world. For example, joint action by Japan and the United States formed the core of the international relief efforts following the Indian Ocean Tsunami last year.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to warmly welcome Doreen's Jazz New Orleans to Japan. Personally speaking, I really enjoy Jazz. I have been to New Orleans a couple times and used to go to a Jazz place called "Presentation Hall." I have always admired cultures that are formed from a diversity of sources. Jazz is one of the best expamples of this phenomenon. I am excited that Doreen and her band have come all the way from the home of Jazz to perform for us tonight. Finally, let me offer my best wishes for the success of tonight's concert and my prayers that the streets of New Orleans will be back to normal as soon as possible. Thank you very much.

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