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Interview with Yohei Sasakawa

JapanCIA The World Factbook
Interview with Yohei Sasakawa,
Yuli Ismartono [time 34:34]

13th March 2008,

Yuli Ismartono: Sir, thank you for being with us today. Among your many activities, your primary interests seem to be in the areas of sustainable development of maritime activities and the elimination of leprosy. Let us begin with the sustainable development of maritime activities and what first attracted you to the subject.

Yohei Sasakawa: Well, thank you very much for that question. It is a very good question. As you know, of course, Japan is a country where we have hardly any natural resources, therefore we must depend on importation of different resources. And they all come through the Malacca-Singapore Strait. And these imports are what supports the people of Japan and also supports its economic activities that we carry out in our country. Therefore, it is so important that we have navigation safety in the seas. In recent years, China's economic development has been phenomenal. And it's not only China but also Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, are all developing their economies. I feel that it is very important that the sea is safe for us all these countries. That is the reason I have taken an interest in the sea. When we look back at history, since the beginning of the 20th century, everyone thought the sea was limitless, that we could use it free of charge. But in recent years, there has been an outcry to stop global warming, and therefore we have to change the minds of the people all over the world. We know now that the sea is not limitless. So we have to make sure we use the sea wisely, otherwise the survival of mankind will not be realized. Yet, I feel there is so little interest in the sea. I believe it is my role to appeal to the world on the importance of the sea.

YI: You mentioned the importance of the Malacca Strait as an important sea route. But there is a serious problem of piracy there. How can the littoral countries of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia address this problem and how can Japan help?

Yohei Sasakawa: Our foundation has been involved with issues relating to the Malacca Strait for more than 40 years. In fact, we are probably the only institution involved in the issue. In recent years, piracy and other forms of maritime terrorism in that area have become a major problem. Therefore, I feel strongly that the littoral states cannot solve the problem on their own. We need to get the stakeholders -- users of the Strait -- to contribute to the solution of this problem. I wanted to create an international mechanism through which we can all take part. The governments have long been involved in negotiations on how to solve this problem, yet no agreement has been reached. So, I thought we, the private sector, should come up with a solution, an international mechanism, to solve this problem.
Our foundation has been involved in issues of the Singapore-Malacca Strait for more than 40 years. I think it is safe to say that our foundation is probably the only institution is involved in the Singapore-Malacca Strait. But in recent years there has been a problem with piracy in the Singapore-Malacca Straits as well as maritime terrorism developing which has been critical and a major issue. Therefore I feel strongly that for the littoral states to solve that problem on their own is not possible. We need therefore to involve many of the stakeholders who are users, many of the stakeholders who are users of the Singapore-Malacca Straits to contribute to the solution of this problem. Therefore I have a desire to create an international mechanism where we can all donate or contribute towards a solution to this issue. Of course, the governments have been involved in negotiations on how to solve this issue, yet there has been no agreement on how to solve this major critical issue. So I thought that if we, from the private sector could think and come up with a solution, an international mechanism, we would be able to solve this issue from the private sector side.

YI:Is this your proposal to establish a mechanism through which users would pay for the support of safe navigation through the Strait of Malacca?

Yohei Sasakawa: Yes, in international negotiations, there is what is known as track one diplomacy, which is inter-governmental negotiations. Then there is track two, which takes place in the private sector. We felt that track two initiatives may be able to stimulate track one in this case. I thought, for example, that the stakeholders in the private sector should pay voluntarily. Through such a mechanism, we should be able to secure safe navigation and ensure environmental protection, as well as solve the problem of piracy. If we in the private sector start to do something like this, we feel that international organizations as well, as related governments, will follow suit.

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Personal Plofile
Yohei Sasakawa Yohei Sasakawa,
In today's world of increasing conflict and complications, the mission of Yohei Sasakawa is never done. From seeking solutions to maritime problems, a cure for leprosy and providing sign-language dictionaries for the deaf, to ensuring that farmers produce maximum harvests, Mr. Sasakawa always tries to give his personal attention. As chairman of The Nippon Foundation, Japan's largest charitable foundation, he is seen as a pioneer in the private sector, playing a major role in guiding public-interest activities. Mr. Sasakawa, a graduate of Meiji University's School of Political Science and Economics, has received many awards and is globally recognized for his philanthropic activities.
For his immense contribution and tireless effort to bring about a better world for all, Mr. Sasakawa has been receiving countless awards in the past two decades, among them the International Gandhi Award in 2006. For his personal attention towards leprosy, he was named World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination in 2004 and Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by Leprosy last year.
Yuli Ismartono Yuli Ismartono, [Interviewer]
Yuli Ismartono is an executive editor at Tempo, Indonesia's foremost weekly news magazine. Ms. Ismartono, who holds degrees in political science and journalism, has been with Tempo for 15 years, mostly assigned to covering events around the Asia region and interviewing national leaders - such as former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung,Cambodia's King Sihanouk and prime minister Hun Sen, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and other newsmakers. She is currently in charge of Tempo's English language edition and managing editor of AsiaViews, an online and hardcopy magazine featuring news and commentaries from the Asia region, of which Tempo is a member and coordinator of the media group that publishes it.
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