• Kyodo

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John Holmes, U.N. undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said Tuesday he will visit Japan and South Korea in June as part of his effort to build partnerships in Asia.

Asked why the two nations had been singled out for his first trip to a nonconflict zone since taking up his current post, Holmes said: “Because they’re both very important countries in their own right. . . . But (they are) also particularly important from the humanitarian point of view.

“It’s a symbol of their importance as countries, but also of the importance for us in general of outreach to a wide variety of regions, a wide variety of countries, a wide variety of actors, and a sort of general need, if you like, to get away from the idea that humanitarian action is a Western thing, which it isn’t,” he said.

While Japan was the fifth-largest contributor in the world to humanitarian appeals in 2006 after the United States, the European Union, Britain and the Netherlands. South Korea has recently stepped up its donations as well.

Holmes said South Korea had just last year become an official member of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs donor support group and would be attending an upcoming London meeting in that capacity for the first time.

Both countries had also contributed to the Central Emergency Relief Fund, with Japan giving $7.5 million in 2006 and South Korea giving $5 million.

Holmes plans to visit each country for two days. He also expects to visit China within the next year, where he intends to speak about the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region among other issues.

In Seoul beginning June 12, he is expected to meet with the ministers and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Unification, with the president of the National Emergency Management Agency, the Korean International Cooperation Agency, as well as with policy planners, nongovernmental organizations, university students and parliamentarians.

In Tokyo from June 14, he expects to meet with Sadako Ogata, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, officials from the Finance and Foreign ministries, and parliamentarians and NGOs. On June 15, he will participate in a symposium hosted by the Tokyo Foundation.

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