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Message from Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Friday, March 25, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Two weeks have now passed since the earthquake struck. I extend once again my most sincere condolences to the many people who have been suffering from this disaster.

The government is currently engaged in all-out efforts to address two challenges. The first of these is bringing the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station under control and responding thoroughly to radioactive contamination. The second is providing assistance to the disaster victims, and in addition, transitioning into full-scale preparations for reconstruction.

First, I will speak about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. I would like to express my sincere respect and appreciation towards the people from TEPCO, the Self-Defense Forces, the police, and moreover fire departments from Tokyo, Osaka, and elsewhere for literally putting their lives at risk as they work.

I also extend my heartfelt condolences to those who yesterday were transported to the hospital on account of radiation exposure. Paying careful attention to safety, we are engaged in all-out efforts to bring the situation under control, with the public and private sectors working in unity, centered on the Headquarters for Integrated Countermeasures to the Nuclear Incident, together with assistance from the U.S. Forces, towards the restoration of cooling functions.

We have reinforced our monitoring of the impacts of radioactive materials on food and water so that monitoring is conducted through collaboration with local authorities. We have promptly released information obtained, publicly disclosing this information in a highly transparent manner to every segment of the public and to the international community. We have at the same time provided thoroughgoing explanations of the impacts on health. Taking just such an approach, we will continue to tackle this issue.

I would like also to express my heartfelt regret to the farmers, dairy farmers, and other people in affected businesses for the considerable damages to which they are being subjected. I intend to pursue all possible means to ensure that compensation and assistance are extended to such people without fail.

Second, I will address assistance to the disaster victims and forthcoming reconstruction. We will continue to enhance further the provision of material support. We have furthermore implemented a system by which the Cabinet Secretariats Volunteers Coordination Office will support the smooth provision of assistance by volunteers. Damage has been inflicted across a broad area, notably Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures, as well as Ibaraki, Chiba, and elsewhere. We will be assisting all such areas without exception. On that basis, from now we must also move forward in our preparations for full-scale restoration and reconstruction. I consider it imperative for us to rebuild these regions in their entirety together with peoplefs overall lives and livelihoods from the dual dimensions of housing, medical services, nursing care, education, employment and other such aspects of daily living concurrently with production activities such as the fishing, agriculture, and manufacturing industry.

The government has established a Headquarters for Special Measures to Assist the Lives of Disaster Victims. Centered on this Headquarters, we have created a system enabling us to materialize the requests of each region through the full mobilization of human resources. As part of this, we will dispatch personnel from the national government to assist with public administration in disaster areas. I intend to move forward on these kinds of efforts. Rather than imposing the burden associated with the earthquake disaster on individuals and individual households, we will share this burden throughout society and throughout the nation. As we will be tackling the situation through this kind of approach, I urge the people impacted by this disaster as well to summon their courage as we take steps forward towards reconstruction.

I very much want to convey to the Japanese people as well that in this way, the government has been working around the clock in all-out efforts, taking an approach of utilizing all capacities. At the same time, I wish to convey my respect to all those who have suffered from this disaster and, indeed, to all of my fellow citizens, for working together and summoning their strength to tackle the greatest crisis our nation has faced since the Second World War. Together, let us overcome this crisis, carrying that same spirit into the future.

As we reach the end of the second week since the earthquake occurred, going forward, we will merge the greater solidarity among the public, together with our heightened spirit that we must overcome this crisis. It is with these thoughts that today, on the day marking two weeks since the disaster, I send out this message from myself to you, my fellow citizens.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I will open up the floor for three or four questions. Mr. Sakajiri, please.


QUESTION: I am Sakajiri with the Asahi Shimbun. With today marking the second week since the disaster, I would like to inquire about taking a look back somewhat, specifically regarding the governmentfs response surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Mr. Prime Minister, the evacuation directive that you issued to residents was at first for those living within 3 to 10km, which changed to 20km, along with a directive for people within 20 to 30km to remain indoors. Today it was announced that people sheltering indoors within that 20 to 30km range are requested to undertake voluntary evacuation. Looking back over the course of events over this period, it seems undeniable that in the face of a deteriorating situation, the governmentfs response has lagged behind the state of affairs. From the perspective of crisis management by the government, how do you view the responses taken during this time?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: With regard to the scope of these evacuations, the government has ultimately issued its evacuation directives based upon analyses and determinations that, taking the Nuclear Safety Commission as the core, were made by experts of that Commission, on the basis of the situations at the nuclear power stations, forecasts of where and in what matter radioactive materials would travel, including relationships with the weather, and most importantly, the numerical monitoring values obtained at various locations and other data. These responses give due regard to the assessments made by such experts, and in the future we will continue to take such an orientation to address this matter.


QUESTION: As a related matter, I would like to ask you, Prime Minister Kan, once more regarding your recognition of the current state of the nuclear reactors and of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station at this moment, as well as your view on the outlook for restoring the situation to a normal state. Also please address whether you have any intention of expanding the scope of the evacuation directive.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station today has still not reached a state that warrants optimism. While we are addressing the issue by preventing a deterioration of the situation, my recognition is that we have not reached a state where we can be optimistic.

I hold this recognition because there continues to be a situation in which individual incidents must each be addressed with an extremely intense degree of concern.


QUESTION: I am Yamaguchi with NHK.

A large number of people have no choice but to live a very hard existence in evacuation centers even now. There are many calls to construct temporary housing as the first step, so please tell us what sense of schedule the national government envisions for temporary housing.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Regarding temporary housing, efforts centered on Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism [Akihiro] Ohata have been underway since immediately after the earthquake struck, including the ordering of prefabricated structures to be used as temporary housing in the affected areas. In areas receiving early assistance, we expect construction to begin within March. Regardless, in light of the sheer enormity of the scale of this earthquake disaster, we will be tackling this issue after thoroughly listening to the requests of the local residents.

We intend to move forward by making such plans in each of these areas through the Headquarters for Special Measures to Assist the Lives of Disaster Victims that I mentioned earlier.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I will take a final question. Ms. Ito, please.

QUESTION: I am Ito with The Japan Times.

This was mentioned in your remarks a bit earlier, but while the Japanese government has issued an evacuation directive to people residing within 20km [of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station], some foreign governments have issued directives through their embassies and other channels [for distances] of 80km and so on, resulting in confusion and anxiety particularly among the foreign community in Japan.

In that regard, some have pointed out that the Japanese government has not communicated well with foreign countries, or that information or other matters have not necessarily all come out. Please tell us how you regard this, as well as how in the future you intend to improve this situation and share information with other countries.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As for your first point, as I stated earlier, with regard to the scope of the evacuation, analyses and assessments have been made by experts, centered on the experts of the Nuclear Safety Commission, which is an assemblage of experts, with a focus on the state of affairs at the nuclear power stations, forecasts of how radioactive materials will diffuse, as well as the numerical monitoring values obtained from various locations and other data. The scope of the evacuations have been decided based on these analyses and determinations and through the guidance and recommendations we have received.

As for the views of individual countries, I believe that each country has established its own criteria. Japanfs thorough provision of information to other nations is of course a given, and we have been intent on doing exactly that. We have been providing information to other nations in various forms throughout this period, providing information with a high degree of transparency to all countries and to international organizations regarding the state of affairs, such as through the embassies, through press conferences conducted in English, and other means. It is my understanding that concerning this point, there has been a deepening of understanding among foreign governments as well, regarding the adequate transparency of Japanfs provision of information.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I will now conclude the message from the Prime Minister. Thank you very much.