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Japan’s earthquake-resistance expertise part of aid on the way to Italy

by Jun Hongo

A friend indeed will answer calls from a friend in need, as Japan readies to provide its earthquake-resistance expertise to Italy at the Group of Eight summit in L’Aquila.

“We are preparing some proposals, which Prime Minister Taro Aso will pitch to Prime Minister (Silvio) Berlusconi when the two hold a meeting,” Shinsuke Shimizu, minister at the Japanese Embassy in Italy, told The Japan Times.

“I certainly feel there is keen interest in our knowledge on earthquakes,” Shimizu said, explaining that officials from the embassy have been interviewed by the Italian media about quake resistance. Japan’s experience of surviving and reconstruction following the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that killed nearly 6,500 people was broadcast on national television, he said.

Nearly 300 people died after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck L’Aquila, the venue for this year’s G8 meeting, on April 6.

The Japanese Embassy has called for donations together with the local Japanese chamber of commerce to support the victims of the tragedy, and has collected over 400,000 euros. A portion of this has already been provided to the Red Cross, the embassy’s Shimizu said.

But monetary assistance will only be a part of the aid, as the spotlight has settled on Japan’s earthquake-resistance technology following the tragedy. Specifics on what Tokyo can provide remain in talks, but the momentum to strengthen bilateral ties has been built.

Japan’s Ambassador to Italy Hiroyasu Ando has met with Berlusconi’s foreign policy advisers, and assured them that Tokyo is ready to cooperate in rebuilding and reinforcing the damaged city.

Shimizu, who has visited L’Aquila twice since the earthquake, said parts of the city remain closed to the public and that the road to recovery will be long. Rebuilding the city from scratch will require substantial time and effort, he said.

But the diplomat has high hopes for the G8 meeting in the city.

“This will be an important occasion where leaders of the world gather to discuss global and economic issues. I certainly hope for a positive outcome,” Shimizu said.