Address by H.E. Mr. Eiichi Oshima, Ambassador of Japan, at the Reception to Celebrate the Birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, at the Official Residence, in the evening of Thursday 5th December 2013:

H.E. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President of the Republic of Fiji and Madam Adi Koila Nailatikau, Honorable Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Honorable Cabinet Ministers, H.E. Ratu Isikeli Mataitoga, Fiji’s Ambassador to Japan, Fellow Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Representative of the International Organizations, Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to convey my warmest greetings to everyone and Ni sa bula, Namaste!

I thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, who will be 80 years old on 23rd of this month.

As the end of the year is approaching quickly, we have observed many remarkable achievements throughout this year both here in Fiji and in Japan. First of all, I wish to congratulate Levuka Town on being listed as the country’s first World Heritage site of UNESCO in June this year. At the same time, Japan’s Fujisan (Mt. Fuji) has also been listed as a World heritage site. Fujisan is a 3,766 meter volcano which lies about 100 km south-west of Tokyo, and it is the highest mountain in Japan. I hope that more people from all over the world will visit Levuka Town as well as Fujisan to feel and experience these valuable World Heritage sites, which are like jewels in the cultural crowns of both countries. By saying so, I myself have to visit Levuka Town in near future to experience the cultural value and legacy of the old capital of Fiji!

Another big news for Japan this year was that Tokyo has been named as the host of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. All Japanese, especially the victims of the Earthquake and Tsunami which occurred in March 2011, have been very much excited and encouraged by this big news. We are thankful to many countries and on this occasion I wish to thank the people and the Government of Fiji for their warm support for Tokyo.

At this juncture, I would like to refer to Fiji’s progress towards democratization this year. As all of you know that the new constitution was promulgated by the Government of Fiji in September as an important step for return to democracy. Japan welcomes the continuous efforts made by Fiji, and we expect that the process for democracy will take concrete progress towards the general election which is scheduled to be held next year. We are pleased by the commitment of the Government of Fiji in ensuring the implementation of free and fair election. I look forward to the results of the election being widely accepted domestically as well as internationally. Japan is willing to assist Fiji’s efforts towards achieving this goal by seriously considering supporting the elections.

Japan and Fiji have established diplomatic relations 43 years ago, and both countries have developed cordial relations ever since then. Over the years, this close relationship has further strengthened by bilateral cooperation, people to people and cultural exchange, ODA projects and through high level visits between two countries. In this regard, earlier this year in September, Mr. Nobuteru Ishihara, Japan’s Minister of Environment visited Fiji and Tuvalu to obverse the direct impacts of climate change in both countries. In Fiji, he met H.E. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, the President and Hon. Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

In October, Honorable Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (and Lt-Col. Pio Tikoduadua, Permanent Secretary of Prime Minister’s office) visited Japan to participate in the PALM (Pacific Leaders Meeting) Second Ministerial Interim Meeting. This meeting was successfully concluded with the representation of 16 PIF members in order to follow up on the outcomes of the PALM6 last year as well as to prepare for PALM 7 in 2015. During Honorable Minister’s stay in Japan, he also conducted a bilateral meeting with Mr. Fumio Kishida, Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. Both Ministers have committed to further strengthen bilateral relations through promotion of economic cooperation, trade and investment as well as mutual high level visits between two countries.

In addition to high level visits, I also wish to highlight the importance of youth exchange for the promotion of mutual understanding between two countries. Throughout this year, the Government of Japan in cooperation with USP implemented the program entitled JENESYS 2.0. Under this program, more than 350 University students from 14 Pacific Island Countries, including 102 students from Fiji, visited Japan. I am confident that this program benefited youth of both Pacific region and Japan to enhance mutual understanding of our culture and values through face to face interaction. Students at USP who participated in exchange programmes voluntarily launched the Japan-Pacific Alumni Association in October this year. We are delighted to see this initiative comes from students themselves and I am sure that they will bridge better understanding between the Pacific region and Japan, especially for future generations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Japan and Fiji are strong economic partners as well. Such partnership can be reflected on a daily basis not only in Fiji but also in Japan. For example, Japanese tourists visiting Fiji are surprised to see a huge number of Japanese built Fijian taxis on the roads. In Japan, Fijian Tuna is enjoyed at sushi bars although many Japanese might not be aware of its origins. I am glad to say that we are seeing signs of further progress in such mutual relationship. The Japanese economy is now growing strongly and steadily after 20 years of stagnation. In fact, Japan’s economic growth rate this year is expected to be the highest among developed countries such as the U.S.A. and Germany. I am convinced that Japan’s economic revival will push up trade between Fiji and Japan.
Corresponding with the revival of Japanese economy, the General Election and the democratization of Fiji next year will also motivate Japanese investors, who have been reluctant to invest in Fiji, to start considering on their investment in Fiji seriously. Given such brighter prospects, I am sure that this is the time for our economic relations to leap higher.    

Tourism is another area with huge potential for both nations. I regrettably recognize that Japanese tourist arrivals in Fiji last year amounted to approximately less than one third of the annual arrivals five years ago. When I began my tenure in Fiji last year, I had mentioned to Foreign Minister, Hon. Ratu Kubuabola, that it was my hope to see tourists from Japan to increase during my stay in Fiji. This hope hasn’t been fulfilled yet but I believe a positive change is forthcoming. As a matter of fact, Fiji has long impressed the Japanese as “A Paradise in the South Pacific”. Given the opportunity, many Japanese are interested in visiting Fiji. Next year, the restoration of democracy in Fiji will certainly appeal to potential tourists, especially Japanese honeymooners. Of course this alone is not enough to attract Japanese tourists back to Fiji. I believe that the revival of the Direct Flights between Japan and Fiji, which disconnected in March 2009, is the most effective way to increase the number of Japanese tourists. I take this opportunity to request Fiji Airways, on the assumption that the Chairman or any representatives from the airline are among our guests tonight, to consider resuming direct flights and to make it possible for more Japanese tourists to visit this fantastic country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am proud that Japan is able to contribute towards the nation building efforts by Fijian people.
Japan as an island nation of the Pacific Region has long experienced natural disasters similar to Fiji. Completely avoiding natural disasters would be impossible. On the other hand, we can minimize suffering and damages by enough preparedness for natural disasters. As we remember clearly, devastating floods hit Nadi twice last year. The floods paralyzed this international gateway in Fiji, for months. Upon request of the Fijian Government, Japan has been surveying the Nadi River Basin in order to determine solutions on preventing floods. As a preliminary result, we have realized there are a lot of different factors that may trigger floods. Japan will dispatch experts next month again and continue to seek the most effective way to address the impact of floods in this area.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Climate Change is a major concern for countries all over the world including Japan and Fiji. Japan realizes that Climate Change is an imminent threat to Pacific Island Countries which are facing serious impacts of sea-level rise. In the past, Japan’s economy used mass energy consumption system. We had produced a lot of harmful gases and suffered from serious air pollution. After our corrective efforts, we have realized an economy with high energy efficiency in terms of having the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per GDP in the world. According to an estimate, if all countries in the world reach the same energy efficiency as Japan’s, total emissions of CO2 all over the world can reach lower than the 1990 level. Aiming to transfer advanced Japanese technology to Pacific Island nations suffering from Climate Change, the PEC (Pacific Environment Community) Fund was launched by Japan in 2009 with 66 million USD. So far, 12 PEC Fund projects have been implemented in Pacific Island Countries. In Fiji, 1000 Solar Home Systems were installed in 41 villages around the country and Desalination Plants were installed in Kia, Viwa, Vanuavatu and Kavewa Islands .

Now, as I conclude my address, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me propose a toast to celebrate the 80th birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, to wish yet heightened relations between Japan and Fiji, to wish a happy holiday season and to wish for the good health of all present here this evening.

Thank you, Vinaka Vakalevu and Dhanyavaadh.