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Fukuda Advocates Creation Of Quick Disaster Response Network In Asia-Pacific

May 22, 2008

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on Thursday called for the creation of a regional network of emergency relief organizations and infectious disease research institutes to enable quick responses to future emergencies such as large-scale natural disasters and a new type of flu.

Speaking at a banquet in Tokyo following a conference organized by Nikkei Inc., the prime minister said Japan will double to 1 million doses the anti-viral vaccines, such as Tamiflu, that are currently stockpiled in Singapore by the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The vaccines will be distributed to the ASEAN countries according to the size of their population. Under this formula, Indonesia, with more than 200 million people, will be allocated roughly 200,000 doses.

Fukuda said public health organizations in Asia must further strengthen their cooperation to prevent a large-scale influenza outbreak from occurring at a time when the movement of people throughout the region is sharply increasing.

The prime minister also said the 10 ASEAN nations, as well as Japan, China and South Korea, should sign multilateral treaties enabling them to send emergency response teams to countries in the region suffering from a natural disaster, like an earthquake, without receiving a formal request. He said the framework should be expanded later to include Russia, India and Australia.

During the speech, Fukuda outlined the basic premises of Japanese diplomacy toward the Asia-Pacific region, predicting that the Pacific Ocean will "become like an inland sea" for the area in 30 years. He called for all Pacific Rim countries to bolster their cooperation by breaking down the barriers separating them.

Specifically, he pledged to: (1) support ASEAN's efforts to build a genuine community; (2) further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance; (3) contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region; (4) foster and strengthen the infrastructure for youth exchange programs; and (5) make an all-out effort to combat global warming.

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.