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UN chief asks Japan to share lessons on nuclear safety
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 8, 2011

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday pledged solidarity with Japan after its quake, tsunami and nuclear disasters and asked Tokyo for input to a UN meeting on atomic safety next month.

The UN secretary-general spent the day touring the rubble-strewn tsunami zone and meeting evacuees from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, before holding talks with centre-left Prime Minister Naoto Kan in Tokyo.

"I'm here to express the solidarity of myself and the United Nations to all the people of Japan, particularly the affected people," said Ban after also expressing his sympathy in a short message spoken in Japanese.

"While I was struck and saddened by the level of destruction by the triple crisis, I was also encouraged by what I have seen," said the UN chief.

"I have seen such strong will and unbreakable strength and determination and the resilience of the Japanese people," he said, sitting next to Kan after their talks. "I am sure Japan will be able to overcome this very soon."

Ban was visiting almost five months after Japan's most powerful quake on record shook the region and sparked the massive tsunami that left over 20,000 dead or missing and crippled the coastal Fukushima nuclear plant.

Some 85,000 people have fled from a 20-kilometre (12-mile) no-go zone around the plant, and more from radiation hotspots further afield, after the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

Ban -- who has convened a nuclear safety summit for the UN General Assembly in New York in September -- asked that Japan share its experiences and lessons learnt from the disasters with the international community.

"I expect the Japanese government to contribute constructively to the success of a high-level conference in the United Nations on September 22 on nuclear safety and nuclear security," said Ban.

"I am very encouraged by assurances of Prime Minister (Naoto Kan) that the Japanese government will share invaluable experiences learned from the tragedy with the international community, particularly in the areas of disaster risk reduction, preparedness and also strengthening of nuclear safety standards."

Kan promised Japan's "maximum cooperation" at the meeting.

Nearly five months on from the disaster, Japan's government and the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) are struggling to stabilise three reactors at the plant following a series of meltdowns and explosions.

Japan wants to bring all reactors to stable "cold shutdown" by January.

But lethal hotspots were detected inside the plant last week, with radiation so high that it would kill anyone exposed for one hour within weeks.

TEPCO has also faced a series of technical glitches affecting a system to decontaminate radioactive runoff water used to cool the reactors.

Earlier in the day Ban, joined by his wife, visited a shelter where more than 300 evacuees, mainly from Minamisoma city and the evacuation zone around the plant, have lived in cramped conditions since the disaster.

"You will hang in there," Ban said in Japanese to the evacuees, who live in tiny spaces separated by cardboard partitions.

Ban, who arrived in Japan on Sunday, also visited Fukushima Minami High School, where he gave words of encouragement to some 100 teenagers, telling them, "the entire world and the United Nations are behind you".

The UN chief then visited tsunami-ravaged Haragama beach in Soma city, 40 kilometres north of the Fukushima plant, where he observed a moment's silence.

Ban is on an Asian tour that will also take him to his native South Korea on Tuesday, where he will launch a UN youth conference in Incheon.

He will also address an academic forum in Seoul and meet President Lee Myung-Bak and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan during his five-day stay there.

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UN chief heads to Japan as nuclear crisis simmers
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 7, 2011
UN chief Ban Ki-moon arrives in Japan on Sunday, where he plans to visit the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone, as the crippled atomic power plant simmers and a food safety scare deepens. The secretary-general will visit hard-hit Fukushima prefecture on Sunday evening as one of the most senior foreign leaders to go to the area after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 triggered ... read more

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