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In tragedy, Japan impresses the world

Residents walk along a street littered with cars crushed by the tsunami in the town of Ofunato in Iwate prefecture on March 14, 2011 three days after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami hit the region. Economists say it is still too early to assess the cost of the destruction from the record 8.9-magnitude quake and the 10-metre wall of water that laid waste to swathes of the northeastern coast and triggered an atomic emergency. Photo courtesy AFP.

BoJ pumps 5 trillion yen ($61 bln) into money market
Tokyo (AFP) March 15, 2011 - The Bank of Japan on Tuesday pumped five trillion yen into the financial system to soothe money markets shaken by Japan's biggest ever earthquake, a devastating tsunami and a nuclear emergency. The move came after the central bank said Monday it would inject a record 15 trillion yen ($184 billion) to help stabilise the short term-money market, making good on an earlier pledge that it would unleash "massive" funds following the disasters.

The BoJ also said it will double a five trillion yen asset purchase scheme to help buffer the economy from the shock of the catastrophes, and left its key rate at between zero and 0.1 percent. The central bank's priority is to ensure that financial institutions in disaster-hit regions do not run out of funds. Over the weekend it provided them with 55 billion yen to ease the pressure before Monday's fresh fund move. Japanese shares nosedived again Tuesday after a third blast at a stricken nuclear plant, as the atomic crisis escalated following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake -- Japan's biggest -- and the devastating tsunami it unleashed.

G8 ministers to discuss Japan quake measures
Paris (AFP) March 15, 2011 - G8 ministers meeting in Paris Tuesday were set to discuss how best to help Japan, after the massive earthqake and tsunami that left it with a humanitarian crisis -- and dangerously damaged nuclear reactors. "The ministers will begin their work looking at the consequences of the unprecedented natural catastrophe that has just hit Japan," French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told journalists. Matsumoto would help the G8 "better define their activities in the short, but also the medium and long term, to help Japan overcome this ordeal."

Japan's new foreign minister, Takeaki Matsumoto, was also due to meet Clinton Tuesday before she travels to Cairo and Tunis, US officials said. Japanese police have said the official death toll following Friday's earthquake and tsunami has risen to 2,414,but officials say at least 10,000 are likely to have perished. Engineers were left struggling to control overheating reactors there, after a huge explosion rocked a nuclear plant, the third since the devastating quake-tsunami catastrophe. Millions have been left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food and hundreds of thousands more are homeless and facing harsh conditions with sub-zero temperatures overnight, and snow and rain forecast.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 14, 2011
Despite the horrific scenes of destruction, Japan may emerge from its quake-tsunami disaster with a stronger international brand-name as the nation's resilience wins wide praise.

Television stations around the world have broadcast the footage of the seismic waves as they razed homes and carried away cars as if they were toys, stranding dazed survivors on the brutalized landscape.

But coverage has also shown another side -- Japanese showing calm as they search for loved ones or wait for basic necessities. There is not a hint of looting or violence, even as residents line up at half-empty stores.

Entries on the English-language blogosphere speak of the Japanese as "stoic" and wonder the reaction in Western countries would be to a disaster of similar magnitude.

Harvard University professor Joseph Nye said that the disaster may turn out to benefit Japan's "soft power" -- a term he coined to describe how nations achieve their goals by appearing more attractive to others.

"Though the tragedy is immense, this sad event shows some of the very attractive features of Japan, and thus may help their soft power," Nye told AFP in an email exchange.

"In addition to the sympathy it will engender, it shows a stable, well-mannered society that was as prepared for such a disaster as any modern country could be, and which is responding in a calm and orderly way," he said.

Officially pacifist Japan has historically relied on aid as a key tool of foreign policy, but it is expected to reconsider at least some of the spending as it contends with a hefty reconstruction bill.

Even though Japan is one of the world's wealthiest countries, Americans alone have donated more than $22 million since Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake, according to a tally compiled from aid groups.

While nearly all nations enjoy sympathy at a human level when they experience tragedy, countries' reputations rarely benefit as a result.

Pakistan received aid from the United States and other countries last year when it was submerged by major floods. But funding came slowly from individuals overseas with relief groups pointing to Pakistan's image problems.

China and Haiti also faced criticism over government handling of earthquakes in 2008 and last year.

Some experts believed the earthquake could change the narrative about Japan to one of rebirth after years in which the country was identified with feeble economic growth, an aging population and revolving-door governments.

"The question was whether Japan was going to be able to deal with what's necessary, to innovate and revive its economy," said Nicholas Szechenyi, deputy director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"It's way too early to make any predictions, but I think so far, viewed from afar, it seems like the Japanese people are demonstrating resilience at a time of crisis. I think that could say a lot about Japan in the days and weeks ahead," he said.

Japan, however, has come under scrutiny for the safety of its nuclear industry after explosions rocked overheating reactors at the Fukushima plant.

Critics of nuclear power have pointed to the crisis as a reason to freeze moves for nuclear power, while lukewarm supporters of atomic energy in the United States have now called for a safety review.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel put off a plan to postpone the date when Europe's largest economy abandons nuclear power.

However, in the United States, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the number two Republican in the chamber and advocate of nuclear energy, spoke of being "very impressed" with earthquake preparations by Japan.

"It may well turn out here that the Japanese did a phenomenal job of avoiding a catastrophe," Kyl told reporters.

Leaving aside the nuclear issue, newspapers saluted the Japanese response.

Canada's National Post said that Japan's foresight saved "untold tens of thousands of lives."

"Unlike in Haiti (2010), Pakistan (2005) or Sichuan (2008), the rolls of the dead were not needlessly extended by acres of ramshackle tenements that collapsed immediately upon the heads of their occupants," it said.

The Wall Street Journal said in an editorial: "After a once-in-300-years earthquake, the Japanese have been keeping cool amid the chaos, organizing an enormous relief and rescue operation, and generally earning the world's admiration."

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Japan to deploy 100,000 troops on quake aid
Tokyo (AFP) March 13, 2011
Japan will double to 100,000 the number of troops on rescue and relief missions after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast, the government said Sunday. Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told a meeting of his ministry's emergency headquarters that he had received the order from Prime Minister Naoto Kan, a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Police ... read more

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