On Thursday, March 31, Prime Minister Naoto Kan held a summit meeting with H.E. Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic. An outline of the meeting is as follows.
- President Sarkozy made the following remarks: I have respect for and have been moved by the composed response and the courageous actions of the people of Japan in the face of the most serious national crisis since the end of World War II. Japan has been among the first to offer generous assistance to other countries facing great difficulties in the past, and the international community now needs to reciprocate Japan's generosity. As the chair of G8 and G20, I would like to convey the international community's sense of solidarity to the people of Japan.
In response, Prime Minister Kan expressed his deep gratitude for the warm condolences and support received from France as well as its statement of solidarity, and stated that the people of Japan are determined to work together to face and overcome this national crisis.
- Prime Minister Kan stated that the immediate challenges can be largely categorized into "assisting those affected by the earthquake and the evacuees" and "responding to the accidents at the nuclear power plants." In particular, Prime Minister Kan answered the questions asked by President Sarkozy about the current status of the accidents at the nuclear power plants and its outlook, by explaining with maximum transparency that a certain progress has been made with regard to the injection of fresh water, the decrease in water temperature and pressure, the securing of a power source and the gradual decrease of radiation in the surrounding areas, but challenges such as the treatment of radioactive water and the treatment of the reactors in the medium term still exist.
- President Sarkozy stated that France possesses various knowledge as a nation with advanced energy technologies and is prepared to provide all the necessary assistance in addition to the assistance that has been offered. Prime Minister Kan expressed his gratitude for the various assistance provided by France, and expressed his hope for further assistance.
- President Sarkozy stated that it is necessary to establish strict international safety standards in order to increase the safety of nuclear energy. He also stated that to this end he would like to ask Prime Minister Kan to make an opening statement at the G8 Summit Meeting and discuss this issue within the framework of the G8 and G20 as well as at the international conference to be organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
- Prime Minister Kan stated that the G8 countries should start discussion on international safety standards of nuclear reactors. He further stated that the accidents that occurred at the nuclear power plants in Japan is not only an issue of Japan but an issue of the international community as a whole, and that it is Japan's responsibility to examine the lessons learned from the accident and share them with the international community to ensure that similar accidents will never occur again.
- Aside from the issues related to the earthquake and the accident at the nuclear power plants, Prime Minister Kan explained Japan's position with regard to the start of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations and North Korea's nuclear issue. President Sarkozy replied that France naturally shares the same position as Japan.
- At the end of the meeting, President Sarkozy extended an invitation to Prime Minister Kan for an official visit to France before the G8 Summit. Prime Minister Kan replied that he would consider visiting France according to the situation, and concluded the Meeting with the remark "a friend in need is a friend indeed."
- After the Summit Meeting, the two leaders attended a joint press conference and mainly spoke about the issues discussed during the Summit Meeting. In particular, President Sarkozy repeatedly offered his condolences to the people of Japan, and stated that he has respect for and has been moved by the composed response and the courageous actions of the people of Japan, and that Japan is not alone but the international community stands by Japan. President Sarkozy also emphasized that even though an accident occurred at the nuclear power plants, there is no doubt about the necessity of nuclear energy, and the issue is not whether to rely on nuclear energy but how to increase its safety on an international basis.
For reference, the following meetings are currently scheduled related to the above leaders' talks.
- The G8 Summit, May 26-27, Deauville
- The IAEA Ministerial-level Conference, June 20-24, Vienna