Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The challenge of communicating with the world in crisis
NUMATA Sadaaki  / Vice Chairman, The English Speaking Union of Japan

April 25, 2011
The catastrophe of the earthquake, the tsunami and the crippled nuclear power plant on 11 March posed an unprecedented challenge of crisis communication with the world. Those in charge were faced with the difficult choice between calming the public by presenting an optimistic scenario, which could lead to complacency, and preparing for emergencies by painting a worst-case scenario, which could cause panic. They seemed to take the middle course.

The world was watching Japan with acute concern. The media relations people in the Cabinet Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, etc. were working very hard for information transparency through their almost daily foreign press briefings. To dispel the images of an "unsafe Japan" created by some foreign media, unambiguous, forceful messages rather than detailed factual accounts were called for, but they were not easy to come by in a fast-moving situation.

The demonstrated resilience of the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami, such as their calmness, orderliness and perseverance, presented a positive image abroad. Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman of Sony Corporation, said on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria's GPS on 20 March, "Japan will rebuild with a ferocity the world will not have seen."

A cloud was cast, however, on Japan's image by allegations of secrecy and lack of transparency on the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The low point was when Jacques Attali declared that the international community must intervene in Japan to prevent radiation from poisoning the planet (Christian Science Monitor, 30 March 2011). Takeshi Hikihara, Consul General of Japan in Boston, openly rebutted the French intellectual's false and misleading statements (Christian Science Monitor, 9 April 2011).

We now have a clearer picture with respect to both the severity of the nuclear disaster and the prospects for its resolution. Japan upgraded its INES rating of the Fukushima nuclear crisis to Level 7 on 13 April, on the basis of its estimate of the total amount of radioactive substances released. The fact remains that leaks at Fukushima are still one-tenth of those released by Chernobyl, and, in Tokyo, radiation has never reached the level which would affect human health. The TEPCO Roadmap for resolving the crisis announced on 17 April represents the combined wisdom of Japanese, American and French experts. It lays down important benchmarks for ensuring a steady decline in radiation dose over the next three months, then bringing the plant into a state of cold shutdown in six to nine months.

We have moved into the stage of drawing up the master plan for not just simple reconstruction but creative reconstruction and taking the necessary budgetary and legislative steps. This will be our major internal preoccupation. However, we should not forget that the world will continue to watch us, keen to see whether Japan will react to the disaster by reenergizing itself for reconstruction and resuming its role in the world. For example, Thomas Donohue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce, who accompanied Secretary of State Clinton to Japan on 17 April, said in a press interview that the U.S. help to Japan to keep its position in the global supply chain would serve to maintain Japan's geopolitical position in the region.

Resuming Japan's role in the world is not just about the global supply chain, the Japan-U.S. alliance, or the set of issues such as nuclear safety, energy security and global warming. It is reported that, according to the U.N., Japan is expected to become the No.1 recipient of foreign aid in 2011, with its receipt of emergency donations and supplies reaching \86.4 billion (US $105 million), exceeding the receipt by Sudan. Surely, we should repay this outpouring of support and solidarity from 143 countries by continuing to discharge our responsibility as a major donor.

The task before is not only to achieve creative reconstruction but also to show that Japan is determined to act as a global player. The lessons learned in terms of global communication in crisis should serve us well. What we need above all is a visionary political leadership that can rise above myopic partisan squabbling and send clear, forceful messages to the world.

The writer is a former Foreign Ministry Spokesman and ambassador to Pakistan and Canada.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田 貞昭  / 日本英語交流連盟副会長

2011年 4月 25日



しかし、福島原発をめぐる秘密主義とか透明性の欠如と言った批判が日本のイメージに影を落とした。ジャック・アタリが, 放射性物質が地球を毒するのを防ぐために、国際社会は日本に干渉しなければならないと宣言した頃(3月30日付クリスチャン・サイエンス・モニター)、この悪影響は顕著だった。引原毅在ボストン総領事は、このフランスの知識人の誤った主張に公に反論した(4月9日付クリスチャン・サイエンス・モニター)。





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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The challenge of communicating with the world in crisis