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ASEAN calls for more disaster cooperation

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A Japanese woman observes a minute of silence yesterday. Reuters

ASEAN members – including Cambodia – have vowed to strengthen regional cooperation in response to natural disasters in the wake of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit northern Japan last month.

ASEAN foreign ministers met with Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Takeaki Matsumoto in Bogor, Indonesia, on Saturday to discuss preparations for natural disasters in the region and relief efforts.

Japan’s March 11 quake left more than 13,000 dead and an equal number missing, in addition to billions of dollars in damage and a nuclear disaster.

Speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport on Sunday after returning from the regional gathering, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong said ASEAN and Japan agreed to share experiences and expand cooperation in preparing for natural disasters in the region.

“In the ASEAN region there is also the danger of natural disasters, so we have to cooperate with each other,” Hor Namhong said.

Southeast Asia has proven vulnerable to costly natural disasters in recent years, with Cyclone Nargis hitting Myanmar in 2008 and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated Indonesia. According to the ASEAN secretariat, Takeaki Matsumoto spoke about tackling the Fukushima nuclear crisis as Japanese officials tried various methods to try to contain a radiation leak following the disaster.

“I hope we can work together, and that those countries which have similar facilities can offer their assistance towards Japan,” said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. “We have all experienced disasters in the past. We all have expertise and wide experience.”

Several ASEAN member states are vulnerable to natural disasters, with Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam regularly hit by typhoons, floods and cyclones and Indonesia and the Philippines previously struck by earthquakes.

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