PM Calls For Disaster-Relief Network

May 26, 2008

Fukuda urges Asia-wide system to respond to large-scale emergencies, disease outbreaks

In a speech to participants in the "14th International Conference on The Future of Asia," Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has called for the creation of a regional network of emergency relief organizations and infectious disease research institutes to enable quick responses to emergencies, such as large-scale natural disasters as well as flu pandemics.

"I would like to pursue diplomacy for disaster management cooperation," Fukuda said at a May 22 banquet in Tokyo as part of "The Future of Asia" forum organized by Nikkei Inc.

Specifically, the Japanese government plans to extend financial support toward doubling to 1 million treatments the anti-viral drugs, such as Tamiflu, that are currently stockpiled in Singapore by the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The drugs are to be distributed to the ASEAN members according to the size of their population. Under the formula, Indonesia, with more than 200 million people, will be allocated roughly 200,000 treatments.

The prime minister said he wants to consider creating a network among disaster relief organizations already existing in Asian countries and establishing a structure to enable immediate and coordinated disaster relief operations upon the occurrence of a large-scale catastrophe.

He apparently aims to start the framework with Japan, the 10 ASEAN nations, China and South Korea.

During the speech, Fukuda outlined the basic ideas 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 that separate them.

Fukuda Doctrine

In his speech, he referred to the Fukuda Doctrine - the basic principles of Japan's diplomacy in Southeast Asia proposed by his father, former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, in 1977. The doctrine says Japan will never become a military superpower and stresses the importance of developing relations in the region based on mutual trust.

Reflecting the fast economic growth in Asia since the doctrine was announced, the prime minister said, "I think that the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean has come to shrink to the size of the Mediterranean Sea, and it will become even smaller in 30 years' time."

In what might be called the new Fukuda Doctrine, the prime minister envisioned a framework including Asia, the Americas, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and even the nations of the Middle East.

Concrete pledges

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

Regarding the youth programs, Fukuda said he hopes to "expand dramatically our exchanges among universities within the Asia-Pacific region." Concrete steps, which will be discussed later, will likely include universities in the Asia-Pacific region approving credits students earn at other colleges.

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