Japanese Deputy Director-General for Middle Eastern Affairs to Yemen Times:”Yemen’s major problem is population” [Archives:2004/772/Community]

September 13 2004

Interviewed by Shaker Mohammed
Yemen Times Staff

Yemen Times seized the opportunity during his recent visit to Yemen, to ask about the situation in Iraq and the international efforts of reconstruction. Mr. Kuni Miyake, Deputy Director-General for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also gave a summary of Japanese policy regarding Yemen.

Q: Could you tell us about the purpose of your visit to Yemen?
A: I was in Baghdad between February and July this year. I came back from Baghdad to Tokyo, to become Deputy Director General. Now I have to cover not only Iraq but also the whole region of the Middle East. I always wanted to come to southern Arabia where the Arabs were born. I wanted to sea some friends here and witness the developments of the past seven years in this country. I was director for the second Middle East Division, which is in charge of the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. This was when I visited Yemen for the first time in 1997. I wished for an opportunity to come back to Sana'a to see what is happening here. I have come back and I think over the past seven years you have made great progress.
However, there are difficulties in Yemen that we are fully aware of, primarily, the population problem. The birth rate is more than 3%, and you have some financial and economic problems too. Nevertheless, I think it is better to get first-hand information about your country. When I go back to Tokyo, we will try to consider all things when we formulate the policy for Yemen.

Q: Could you give us an account of the international reconstruction efforts in Iraq up until now?
A: The overall picture: I was in Iraq in 1982 and 1984. I have some friends there and I know how much they have suffered, not only during the past year, but also for the past twenty years since the Iranian-Iraqi war, which started in 1980. So when I went back to Baghdad and talked to people, I found the situation very miserable. I became convinced that they need help for reconstruction. They are capable people, and very sophisticated, and proud. They can take care of themselves if things are right. Unfortunately, there are various kinds of insurgencies, which prevented us from implementing the reconstruction programs. We have to send people to help them but because of the explosions, and kidnapping, we cannot send as many reconstruction experts to the country as we wish. It is the same for the UN, the Americans, the British and everybody who wants to help. As far as Japan is concerned, we have already committed up to $5 billion: a $1.5 billion grant; and up to $3.5 billion in loans. Of the $1.5 billion, we have already implemented $1.1 billion. We are the biggest donor after the Americans, who have devoted a huge budget.

Q: It is said that Americans do not provide grants for the Iraqi government, but use the revenues of the oil industry for the reconstruction process. What do you think?
A: No, revenues are in the hands of the Iraqi government. I was in the CPA and the funds went to the Iraqi Ministry of Finance. The problem is the security. We are committed and will continue to do our best to help the Iraqis. The Iraqi people can govern themselves. We are not occupying powers, and we are not fighting there. We are there to help, and we believe it is the Iraqis who govern Iraq. That is how we can help Iraq. This is our policy; it has been so and will continue to be so.
When American General MaCarthy (the former US commander of Japan) controlled Japan, the Japanese army protected him. Japanese people could keep the sense of unity and they therefore could rebuild their country.
We hope that soon the situation will improve so we can send people of the UN and other like-minded countries, not troops, but civilians, experts, and construction workers to Iraq to help Iraqis rebuild their country.

Q: How much have you achieved in terms of reconstructing Iraq?
A: More facilities have been damaged by the insurgencies than by the Americans. If you go to Baghdad, there are some damaged buildings, but American weapons pinpoint targets so that damage is a minimum. However, these days, because of the insurgencies and terrorist activities, many pipelines and power plants have been damaged. They are all soft targets, and have been destroyed by unknown groups of people that may be Iraqis or that could be foreigners. Nevertheless, it is sad to see that more and more facilities are still being damaged even after the war has ended.

Q: What is the role of countries in the international efforts and of Japan in particular?
A: For us, we concentrate on the basic requirements of the Iraqi people: medical facilities, power plants, water, hospitals and we send vehicles. We have been doing our best to help the Iraqis' basic human needs. These are our main concerns. Japanese reconstruction efforts have focused on those areas.
The Americans have a larger budget. They focus on other issues including security. Iraqi security forces still require improvement, and training. Other countries are helping through their own means. Many areas require help. I cannot give you more details because actually they are doing everything and trying to do as much as they can.

Q: Is it a concerted effort?
A: Yes. In the CPA, there was an organization called CIC (Council for International Coordination). The Iraqi minister of planning heads the organization. He chairs the donors' meeting, and the domestic donor coordination mechanism, through which we try to avoid duplication, and try to concentrate on most needed areas. I think the coordination has been successful. In addition, the Americans or the foreigners have not dictated the coordination, but the minister of planning and his staff and the minister of finance have controlled it. Therefore, it is a concerted effort by Iraqi ministers in close cooperation and coordination with the international community.
I am part of the organization, and my main responsibility is to coordinate Japanese reconstruction efforts with other countries' efforts.
We propose projects, and if they have similar projects, we talk to the other parties to avoid duplication so that we can make the best use of funds.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of Iraq?
A: Well, it is most difficult and in a sense a sad thing to sum up, because probably in the short run, I do not know how long it will take to improve, the situation will remain as bad as now. I have enough reason to believe that insurgents or terrorists are still entering Iraq. You have murder, kidnapping, bombing, mortar attacks, and all kinds of destructive activity by many players from abroad and from inside. Their number is growing. It will never stop in the short term. Therefore, I am afraid the situation will continue as bad as it is now.
In that sense I am pessimistic, but in the medium term and the long term I am not that pessimistic, because the Iraqis can govern themselves, and it is in their hands. The US is only represented by an embassy. It has no authority though it may have some influence, and maybe some relationships with the Iraqi government, but it is the Iraqi leaders, and ministers who are making decisions. The Americans are aware of that. Of course, the Iraqi people should eventually select their leaders. We do not want to do that, because it is their country. There are some difficulties, but I believe that in the long term, they will find the right people through elections, and the democratic process, and they will rebuild their country, and we will help them as long as they are elected by people and show good governance.

Q: Taking into account the damages and losses that have befallen Iraq so far, do you think that the decision of toppling the former regime was not well studied?
A: We thought that Saddam was not complying with UN resolutions. I was the director for the Gulf at the Japanese Foreign Ministry and I visited Iraq in 1997. We strongly encouraged them to abide by the UN resolutions, but they did not listen. We wanted them to tell us everything, whether they had weapons or programs, and we waited four years until 2003. We had come up with many kinds of resolutions to give Saddam's regime a chance to comply with international obligations.
Of course, everybody wanted to avoid war, but the decision complied with some UN resolutions. I feel sad for the Iraqi people, but not the Iraqi government of Saddam.
If Saddam had shown a little more flexibility and willingness to share information with us, we could have avoided it. Nevertheless, the victims are the people, and I feel sorry for the people.

Q: What is the Japanese policy for Yemen?
A: We believe that Yemen is an important country for us. It is not only because you have a great leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom we had the honor to welcome in 1999 when he visited Japan as a state guest. We have a traditional friendship since the '60s, and being the origin of the Arabs, Yemen has a great tradition, and a great number of talented people. They are hard working and willing to be active. I have talked to a number of high-ranking government officials including deputy ministers and several university professors. They are very competent, and fully aware of the difficulties. We want to help, because we want Yemen to be stable.
I think we need to continue this kind of friendship.
We have been extending economic assistance to Yemen. We used to be number one or two in terms of grants to Yemen, but now I think the Americans have surpassed us. Yet, we are still among the major donors to Yemen, and will continue to be so.
What is more important is that we should maintain a constant dialogue. The stability of this part of the world is a common interest we all share. We do not want to see instability in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf area or in Yemen.
I think we have a lot in common, and you have good relationships with neighboring countries, not only in economic assistance but also in terms of cultural exchange, and political dialogue. We can do many things with Yemen and we will learn from each other.

Q: Do you have any last comments?
A: I am very happy to be here. It is nice to be back, and nice to see old and new friends. We highly value our relationship with the people of Yemen. I hope that we can continue this kind of good relationship for the years to come, and I will try to come back again.