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Message from the Prime Minister

Friday, March 18, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Today marks one week since the earthquake struck. I hereby express my deepest condolences for those who lost their lives and my sympathy for their families. I also extend my heartfelt sympathy to the families of those who remain missing in the aftermath of the disaster.

Over this past week, the people of Japan have reacted calmly to the situation, honoring their bonds to family and community and helping one another, cooperating in efforts to overcome the conditions they face. I am deeply thankful to everyone for their actions.

There are two major problems facing us now. The first is the damage from the massive earthquake and tsunamis, and the second is the serious nuclear power station accident caused by this earthquake and tsunamis. These are the two crises we now face.

There has been considerable confusion in relief operations, and there are still difficulties we face. But we are gradually overcoming these difficulties, and relief materials are beginning to reach the suffering people who need them. I believe we will make progress in getting people's lives back on track. With respect to a recovery for Japan, I am confident that the nation as a whole will overcome the damage of the earthquake and tsunamis and achieve a recovery.

Meanwhile, the situation regarding the nuclear power accident in Fukushima remains precarious. At the moment, all the people involved from TEPCO, the Self-Defense Forces, the police, and fire departments, are literally risking their lives to work on overcoming this crisis. I too am resolved to do absolutely whatever it takes to resolve this incident. Together with the people of Japan and the people working to resolve the situation, particularly those on the scene, I am determined to overcome this crisis and restore peace of mind to the people. With this determination in my heart, I will work even harder from now on until the situation is resolved.

We have received a truly great number of messages of consolation and support from countries around the world. So far, we have received offers of support from 117 countries and regions and 29 international organizations, and relief activities are already underway. I am extremely grateful for these offers of support. With the support of the whole world, we must not allow ourselves to become despondent in facing this, the biggest crisis in our nation's history since World War II. We must be resolved as a people to do whatever it takes to move forward to overcome this crisis together.

To everyone in the emergency refuge centers, I express my deepest sympathy for the hardships you are undergoing, in the cold, with meager supplies of food and water, and limited access to toilet facilities. I ask all of you to do everything you can to help one another families and local communities, and even complete strangers now living alongside each other and to support each other through the hardships of life in the refuge centers.

At present, we in the government are working flat out to supply you with the food and blankets and other things you need. We are also doing our utmost to prepare a more stable environment for you to live in greater comfort and peace of mind in the future. I am afraid that life in the emergency refuge centers will continue for some time yet. Please take good care of your health, and persevere through the hardships until it is time to move to more comfortable locations. This is my request to the people in the refuge centers.

Let me say it again. Without any doubt, this is a moment of true crisis for Japan, and a true test of us, the Japanese people. But remember our nation's past. Despite those who dismissed us as a small island nation, thanks to the strength of the people and the efforts of every individual, we built up the country and achieved miraculous economic growth. Despite this earthquake and tsunami, it is vital that we do not give in to despondency. We will rebuild Japan let that be the resolve with which we face this crisis together. Let every one of the people of Japan be determined to do what it takes, let us join hands together with our families, local communities, co-workers and classmates, and ask ourselves what we can do as individuals and what we can do together to overcome the situation. Let us resolve to overcome this moment of crisis for Japan, and to move forward to rebuild the country together. In making this appeal to the people of Japan one week after the disaster occurred, I restate my own personal determination to do everything I can as one of the people of Japan.


CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right, Mr. Aoyama, go ahead.

QUESTION: I'm Aoyama, with Nippon TV.

With regard to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, I believe this is an accident that is now causing considerable worry among all the people of Japan, not just the people in the surrounding area. Furthermore, distrust in the information released by the government is spreading in certain quarters. As prime minister of Japan, how dangerous would you say the current situation is? Alternatively, to what extent should we be setting our minds at ease? Finally, what outlooks are there for the future? Please tell us these things, including as many concrete examples as you can.

PRIME MINISTER KAN: Both I and the chief cabinet secretary have released all of the facts we have learned about the ongoing accident at the nuclear power station. Let me take this opportunity to make this clear once more to the people of Japan and to the global community as a whole.

Having said that, the present conditions at the Fukushima nuclear power station are such that we cannot say for certain how things will turn out. I will tell you this frankly. Right now, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Self-Defense Forces, firefighters, the police, and other personnel are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice as they take measures to deal with the situation.

Today we carried out operations to spray water onto the Unit 3 reactor. While it is still far too early to say for sure, in the not-too-distant future we should be able to bring the situation firmly under control and extract ourselves from the present situation. I want the people of Japan to know that we are doing our utmost to move things in this direction.



QUESTION: I'm Igarashi, with the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Prime Minister, as you just noted, we've gone through the earthquake and tsunami, the nuclear power station accident, and the rotating power cuts. And most importantly, we have the relief efforts for the disaster victims. Any one of these would be a serious crisis, and we have a whole chain of them. In the midst of this, many people are concerned whether the present government response is truly sufficient.

Do you feel that the government's current posture is sufficient? Today, [Democratic Party of Japan] Secretary-General [Katsuya] Okada stated that there was a need to appoint three new state ministers, but if you have any specific ideas about ways to bolster the government's disaster response footing, please let us know.

PRIME MINISTER KAN: The government moved swiftly to take action immediately after the earthquake struck, and since then has been doing everything in its power to resolve these problems and overcome the crisis. Building on this, we are at present engaged in discussions between the ruling and opposition parties on ways to strengthen the Cabinet in order to further bolster the disaster response framework. I intend to continue efforts like these, along with other efforts to boost our response and overall capabilities, as we deal with the crisis.


CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Let's make this the last question. Mr. Tanaka, if you please.

QUESTION: Tanaka, with the Mainichi Shimbun.

I have a question about reconstruction in the stricken regions. In your message just now, you spoke of devoting maximum efforts to building an environment in which people can live with peace of mind, and of having people move to new locations. The areas affected by this disaster have seen tremendous damage, with towns' buildings being totally washed away, and rebuilding them, along with associated infrastructure, is going to take a considerable amount of time. What about the people currently in evacuation facilities what will they do during this period? Please tell us what ideas the government has on this.

PRIME MINISTER KAN: In response to the likelihood that residents' evacuations will last a long time, we have had a variety of offers of aid, and we are preparing numerous measures to address the situation. From all over the nation, we have received offers from local governments, organizations, and individuals to house evacuees; we are also soliciting such offers from our side. So that people do not have to remain in difficult evacuation conditions for too long, the government will be doing all it can to help people around the nation provide places for the disaster victims to live. This is our take on the situation.