Staff writer

Japan will pay the full cost of a $370,000 project proposed by the United Nations Drug Control Program aimed at curbing the rise in the use of illegal stimulant drugs — particularly among the young — in Southeast Asia, government officials said Wednesday.

The decision was made in response to a UNDCP request and will be announced at a special session of the U.N. General Assembly on narcotics scheduled to be held June 8-10 in New York, the officials said, asking not to be named. The three-day session is to be attended by heads of state or government from industrialized and developing countries, including U.S. President Bill Clinton, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Japanese delegation will include State Foreign Secretary Masahiko Komura and Yuko Sekiguchi, director general of the National Police Agency, the officials said.

Among other things, the UNDCP project will collect and analyze information on the manufacture, smuggling and abuse of stimulant drugs in Southeast Asia. The project will also provide education in the region, especially aimed at the young, about the dangers of using such drugs, the officials said. It may also outline steps between judicial and law-enforcement authorities in the region in fighting crimes involving stimulant drugs, the officials said.

The Japanese decision to fund the project is in line with a “five-year strategy for preventing the abuse of drugs,” which was formally adopted Tuesday by a government panel chaired by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. The strategy represents Japan’s first long-term program to combat drug abuse and reflects a growing sense of crisis within the government over a sharp rise in cases of stimulant drug abuse, especially among schoolchildren, in recent years.

The strategy calls for increased international cooperation, especially with Japan’s Asian neighbors, as well as for more education on the issue in schools and a tougher crackdown on drug smuggling into Japan. Topics that will be high on the agenda at the U.N. session are: ways to restrain the demand and supply of narcotic drugs; a harsher crackdown on the laundering of money linked to drug trafficking; increased cooperation among judicial and law-enforcement authorities and the need to develop alternatives to crops that are used in the manufacture of illicit drugs.

The session is expected to adopt a political declaration calling for, among other things, concerted action between U.N. member nations to achieve significant progress in the fight against narcotics within the next decade. A draft of the document, obtained recently by The Japan Times, calls on over 180 U.N. members to “eliminate or significantly reduce the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by 2008.” It also urges all U.N. members to submit reports on their antidrug efforts to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a 53-member affiliate of the U.N. Economic and Social Council, every two years.

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