Japanese ambassador urges U.S. cooperation

Fighting climate change is one of the biggest challenges the United States and Japan will need to face together, Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki said Wednesday afternoon.

Before an audience of nearly 100, Fujisaki argued that Japan and the United States will be able to make more progress on environmental issues now that President Barack Obama has taken office. Fujisaki said Japan deserves a seat on the United Nations Security Council, adding that Japan wants a larger role in deciding the direction of international development.

The United States, China, India and many developing nations did not sign onto the 1997 Kyoto Protocols, Fujisaki noted, saying that these countries must be included in any future climate change agreement.

“If we leave these countries out, all the framework will be meaningless,” Fujisaki said. “We have to have them on board.”

Fujisaki also offered a comparison of U.S. and Japanese environmental and economic statistics, accompanied by detailed slides and a laser-pointer.

For example, Fujisaki said, Japan far exceeds the United States in high-speed rail technology. The famous shinkansen bullet trains can run up to 186 mph and, in 45 years of operation, have caused not a single fatality, he said. Delays, when they occur, average 30 seconds, he added.

“I will not talk about other countries’ rail,” Fujisaki said. “I am a diplomat.”

To bolster his argument that Japan should receive a seat on the UN Security Council, Fujisaki noted that Japan is the second-largest donor to the UN, behind the United States. It is also the second-largest donor in Iraq and the third-largest in Afghanistan.

In response to a student question, Fujisaki said engagement with Iran is necessary to combat drug trafficking and terrorism and to ease the plight of refugees in the region. Tokyo also co-hosted an aid conference with the World Bank last Friday, at which donor countries pledged more than $5 billion to help stabilize Pakistan.

The largely Japanese and Japanese-American audience reacted favorably to the ambassador’s talk.

Kyohei Yamada GRD ’12, a Japanese citizen, said he agreed with Fujisaki’s assertion that many Japanese living abroad have internalized the need to “reduce, reuse and recycle” and feel “uncomfortable” with the waste they see in other countries.

“I was really surprised when I first came over here,” Yamada said, adding that the Japanese culture emphasizes frugality. “My grandparents are like that, using pieces of newspaper to make the trash cans, and you have to eat the last grain of rice.”

But Michael Murray ’09, who is writing his senior thesis on Japanese missile defense systems, said he would have liked Fujisaki to focus on “more controversial” topics, particularly security issues — such as the recent North Korean missile launch — that could affect the relationship between the United States and Japan.

Fujisaki, whose father was also a diplomat, spent part of his childhood in Seattle. Prior to his appointment as ambassador to the United States, Fujisaki served as ambassador and permanent representative of Japan to international organizations in Geneva.

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