June 20, 2015

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

July 9, 2015 Pohnpei, FSM -On the evening before the Joint Inauguration Celebration the Embassy of Japan hosted a reception they called "Japan Night" at the home of Ambassador Sakai. The reception was well attended by FSM leadership including the President, Vice President, Speaker, several members of Congress, and Governors of FSM states.

Special guest speaker during the evening's festivities was Mr. Keiji Furuya who was personally appointed by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to represent the Government of Japan during the FSM joint inauguration celebration.

As the reception was winding up Mr. Furuya, who has served in Japan's Parliament for over 25 years sat for an interview. He told us that he is the President of two Parliamentary Friendship Leagues. One of them is the Japan FSM Friendship League and the other is the Japan Pacific Island Countries Friendship League.

"Japan and Micronesia, historically have a very close relationship," he said through his interpreter. "Also Japan has strong ties with Pacific Island countries. We think this region is very important for Japan in terms of the marine fisheries resources."

He reminded us that during the 7th Pacific Area Leaders Meeting (PALM 7) held in Japan on May 22 and 23 that the Japan Parliamentary Friendship Leagues conducted several events and projects. One of those was to double the number of trainees including exchange students from the region over the next three years from 2000 to 4000. Additionally the intention is to make the program stronger in terms of content.

"One of the goals of the program is to make supporters of Japan and to develop good human resources in this region", he said. "…That will contribute to the two countries' relationship and friendship further…I think that people are the most important resource in the region."

The second point he wanted to make during his interview regarded continuing grant aid and financial assistance. He said that on the 8th of July Japan and the FSM signed an agreement for 400 million yen in financial support, over $3 million at today's exchange rate. He also reminded us that during the PALM 7 Prime Minister Abe announced 55 billion yen (nearly $444 million) in assistance in the region for helping in such areas as Climate Change and disaster management.

He spoke of the challenges that both FSM and Japan face as island countries in terms of dealing with natural disasters and reminded us of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan and killed almost 20,000 people. He said that Japan has introduced a proposal at the United Nations to establish a World Tsunami Day in an effort to establish a worldwide cognizance of the importance of early warning systems and preparedness. He said that Japan is asking for the support of 14 Pacific Island nations in the U.N. for their initiative and said that the leaders had expressed support during PALM 7.

"I have one story from the March 11 earthquake," he said. "There was one Elementary School Principal who remembered what happened in 1960 when a big earthquake hit Chile and the tsunami reached to Japan and killed many people. When he noticed that the sea level was lowering he predicted that the tsunami would come so he evacuated all the children from the school to a higher place. Because of that effort, no one from that school was killed despite the fact that the four story school building was entirely flooded over the roof line because of the tsunami. If they had merely evacuated to the roof, the children would not have survived." "Those kinds of experiences should be shared all over the world," he said.

His third talking point regarded cooperation between the FSM and Japan on marine fisheries resources. "I discussed this issue with President Christian and also with Speaker Simina," he said and indicated that the meeting had been productive with both leaders indicating that they would consider the matter. "

"For Japan the issue is very important," he said. "Of the tuna consumed in Japan, 80 percent of it comes from this region."

He said that the issue is also very important to the FSM since the country would lose significant fishing and other fees if the Japanese fleet is forced to decide to fish elsewhere. The entire Japanese fleet did leave the FSM Exclusive Economic Zone shortly after the FSM pressed charges against three Japanese vessels. Charges on one of those vessels are still being heard at the FSM Supreme Court. He said that some vessels have since returned and are paying the proper and agreed upon fees to fish in the FSM's EEZ. "But it is certainly true that the Japanese fishing industry is operating in fear because of that situation because they don't know when the next capturing of the ship will happen," he said.

"So what I discussed with President and Speaker was that it is important for both FSM and Japan to create a win-win situation," he said.

We told him that we have heard the sentiment expressed by several of Japan's citizens who were not necessarily speaking for the Japanese government, that perhaps Japanese aid should be curtailed for FSM until the fisheries matter is resolved. Yet Japan continues to provide aid to the FSM.

"Yes, that is why I said that Micronesia and Japan should develop a win-win situation," he concluded.