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Okinawa, Foreign Ministry prepare for G8 Summit

Date Posted: 1999-07-30

With the official announcement last week Nago will host the Group of Eight Summit, the Cabinet also voted to create a taskforce to ensure the summit is successful, throwing much-needed national assistance into preparations for the 2000 summit.

During a press conference immediately after the announcement, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said it is vital for the country to provide a clear and detailed vision of Japan’s role for the new millennium, adding the summit would showcase Okinawan culture to the world. Komura also stressed the need for G8 member nations to realize Japan’s dedication and determination to ensure peace in the region.

Komura’s words echoed those of Prime Minster Obuchi who, as host of the summit, plans to take the opportunity to highlight Japan’s “new visions for the new century.”

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Secretariat for what is now known officially as the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit was established on July 21, and appointed Yoshiyuki Motomura as its secretary-general. This Secretariat is expected to further strengthen the preparatory work. Of an initial staff of 17, the ministry plans to boost that number to 500, and has tasked other government agencies from Okinawa and the mainland to support their efforts.

Okinawa Prefecture has already pre-empted government moves with the creation of its own taskforce. Currently the taskforce is developing strategies and plans for the summit, including taking requests for meetings with the world’s top leaders.

Meanwhile, host city Nago is busy making preparations for the Summit, and work is underway to construct an assembly hall on Cape Busena. The hall, expected to be completed by March 2000, will house conference and reception rooms for the visiting dignitaries. To ensure their are few language problems with staff at hotels in Nago, several hundred employees are currently taking intensive English language lessons.

Perhaps the most pivotal moment of the G8 Summit will come with the arrival of U.S. President Bill Clinton. His presence on Okinawa will mark the first time a U.S. president has visited the island since 1972, the year the Ryukyus was formally returned to Japanese sovereignty.

Many Okinawans hope for an opportunity to express their feelings and opinions to President Clinton about the massive military presence on the island, where almost 30,000 service men and woman and their dependents are currently stationed.

During last week’s Cabinet meeting, it was decided Miyazaki Prefecture will host meetings between G8 foreign ministers, and Fukuoka Prefecture, to the southwest of Tokyo, will be home for the Treasury Ministers' meeting, the Asahi said. The ministerial meetings will precede the Nago summit.

The Summit, to be held from July 21-23, 2000, will be attended by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The President of the European Commission will also attend the meeting.

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