Liberia: President Sirleaf Holds Discussions With Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Tokyo

President Sirleaf meets with Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Photo Credit: Abraham Kabakeh/Executive Mansion

Tokyo, Japan – President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has appealed to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to reopen its Embassy in Monrovia and re-establish the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Programme which was suspended during Liberia’s civil crisis.

Mentioning that the United States Peace Corps have now come back to Liberia and are operating throughout the country, the President noted that Japanese Volunteers were doing essential work in Liberia prior to the crisis – teaching science and math, and working in the health sector. There is a need for them to return to assist in Liberia’s development efforts, President Sirleaf observed.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries in May 1962. Due to the civil conflict, the Japanese Government withdrew its Mission from Monrovia. On November 28, 2008, the first Japanese Ambassador to be accredited to Liberia since the closure of its Embassy in Monrovia presented his Letters of Credence to President Sirleaf. He is currently resident in Accra, Ghana.

According to an Executive Mansion Dispatch from Tokyo, Japan, President Sirleaf made the appeal when she held discussions with the Japanese Prime Minister at his office.

The President began by expressing, on behalf of the Government and people of Liberia, sympathy for the tragic loss of lives and property during the earthquake and tsunami which struck off the coast of Sendni on March 11, 2011, and had ripple effects in Iwate, Natori City, Ibaraki, Tokyo, Chiba and Yokohama. “I want to let you know our hearts are with Japan. We want you to convey to the Japanese people the strong sentiments of our condolence over that unfortunate incident that took many lives and cost billions of dollars worth of damage,” President Sirleaf stressed.

The Liberian leader provided a synopsis of how far Liberia has come since her ascendancy to the presidency and the long-term agenda, Vision 2030, expected to be rolled out next month. “We’ve called these past six years the period of stabilization and to put all the fundamentals in place,” she said, adding, “Now we are moving towards the period of transformation; as such, we’ve developed a long-term development agenda that will take us to the year 2030.”

President Sirleaf thanked Japan for all the assistance rendered to Liberia, pointing out that Japan has been a true, reliable and important development partner to Liberia. Japan has worked with the international community to restore peace in Liberia and has provided significant humanitarian relief and assistance. Since the end of the conflict, Japan has contributed significantly to Liberia’s post-conflict reconstruction.

Japanese assistance to Liberia over the last six years has focused largely on the rehabilitation of infrastructure and the delivery of basic social services under Pillar 4 of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), as well as achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

President Sirleaf enumerated major challenges facing her government, including infrastructure, youth empowerment, and reconciliation, among others. The Liberian leader highlighted, as a priority, support for a 10 megawatt power plant for the Liberia Electricity Corporation, as well as support for the Somalia Drive expansion. She also called for the continued supply of petroleum and rice products under the Non-Project Grant Aid (NPGA). “We just hope that those particular projects so vital to our reconstruction will be considered favorably,” she said. With Japan vying to host the 2020 Olympics Games, President Sirleaf pledged Liberia’s support for Tokyo.

In his response, Prime Minister Noda said he was grateful for the sympathy and compassion expressed to the Japanese Government and people for the tragic loss. At this critical juncture, he said, Japan will consider the two projects mentioned in President Sirleaf’s request to him, and promised continued support not only in infrastructure but also in the areas of health and the consolidation of peace in the country.

Prime Minister Noda extended an invitation to President Sirleaf to attend the Fifth Summit of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), expected to take place in Japan next June. President Sirleaf attended the Fourth Summit in Yokohama in 2008.

The Japanese Prime Minister promised to cooperate with President Sirleaf, in her new role as co-Chair of the High-Level Panel on the post-Millennium Development Goals Framework.

Speaking about regional issues, particularly Japan’s ongoing dispute with the People’s Republic of China over the Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands, which both countries claim, and which escalated dramatically in the past month with violent protests across China, Prime Minister Noda deplored the demonstrations that led to destruction and looting of Japanese businesses in China.

The Prime Minister promised to adhere to the broader perspective that Japan and China have a responsibility for the peace and stability in south-east Asian region. “We will maintain and intensify communication with China and will deal with this issue in a peaceful manner based on international law,” Prime Minister Noda assured.

Concluding the talks, President Sirleaf promised to be a part of next year’s TICAD Meeting, and extended an official invitation to Prime Minister Noda to visit Liberia. The Prime Minister, for his part, expressed his pleasure at the outcome of what he termed as useful bilateral discussions. “Our two countries have common ground on many issues,” he declared.

In addition to President Sirleaf, the Liberian delegation at the talks included: Finance Minister Amara Konneh; Commerce & Industry Minister Miata Beysolow; Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sylvester Grigsby; and Liberia’s Ambassador to Japan, Youngor Telewoda. The Japanese side included, along with Prime Minister Noda, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, Finance Minister Koriki Jojima, and the President of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Akihiko Tanaka.

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