Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 180 (March 17, 2005)
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
The Japan Disaster Relief Team comprising Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) and Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) units completed its mission last Wednesday, March 9, in Indonesia, where it had been engaged in assistance activities following the damage wrought by the great earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sumatra. The Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) units which had remained in the region to continue transporting people and goods completed their duties yesterday, March 16, and have also headed back to Japan.
Over the course of the past two months, the Japan Disaster Relief Team has provided assistance for medical treatment, disease prevention, and transportation of goods and people. Team members have treated over 6,000 people in the region, spreading about disinfectant to guard against infectious diseases across an area ten times the size of Tokyo Dome and vaccinating approximately 2,300 people.
The members of the Japan Disaster Relief Team must have faced various difficulties in the course of carrying out assistance activities, especially given the difficulties in access and transportation due to roads being fractured after the earthquake, compounded by the annual monsoon season.
In spite of these difficulties, the Japan Disaster Relief Team has made us proud. I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to them as we welcome them home.
In addition to Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel, the Japan Disaster Relief Team consists of three other main teams: the medical team comprising volunteer doctors, nurses and pharmacists; the rescue team encompassing personnel from the Police Agency, Fire Department and Japan Coast Guard; and the experts team which conducts assistance in areas such as DNA analysis.
The medical team is structured so that registered members can be immediately dispatched to the area in need at times of emergency. In this week's Japanese version of the e-mail magazine, there is a contribution by Ms. Harumi Lin, a volunteer nurse who provided medical services in Sri Lanka.
The number of volunteers and SDF members of the Japan Disaster Relief Team dispatched on this mission totaled approximately 1,800. In addition to Indonesia, Japanese volunteers rushed to the aid of the disaster-stricken regions of Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives to offer their cooperation, and all these countries have been most appreciative of all the help that was extended.
There is no perfect, fail-safe measure against disasters. It is truly saddening that so many lives were lost and that countless people are still suffering from this disaster. I believe it is our duty to apply the lessons learned from assistance activities in the wake of the tsunami to future relief operations.
On the night of March 14th, a Japanese-registered tugboat was attacked by a group of pirates in the Straits of Malacca. Two Japanese nationals, including the captain, and a Filipino were captured and taken away. This region has long been subject to attacks by pirates. Measures to combat these frequent attacks almost always find their way onto the agenda of summit meetings among Asian leaders.
I intend to keep in close contact with the parties concerned and make utmost efforts to secure the safe release of the three crew members.
The Straits of Malacca is one of the key sea routes for Japanese vessels, taken by 70 percent of Japanese oil tankers. Japan will continue to take every possible step to draw up measures to combat piracy in cooperation with other countries to achieve and ensure safety in this region.
* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.
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