Crisis a "Leadership Opportunity" for Japan

A man cycles past upturned cars and tsunami wrought devastation in Natori City, Miyagi prefecture on March 14, 2011. (Mike Clarke /AFP/Getty Images)

Northeast Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami have already killed thousands and left a landscape in ruin, but the country's nightmare is far from over. Rescuers are struggling to find survivors and the Japanese government is grappling with unstable nuclear reactors.

"The Japanese government and its people are working together to deal with both the physical and emotional damage left in the wake,” says Michael Kulma, Asia Society's Executive Director for Global Leadership Initiatives.

"For a government faced with severe challenges prior to the disaster, the ability to adequately address the needs of its impacted population stands as a leadership opportunity.

"In this effort, Japan's political parties, often at odds with each other, must present a united message as the country continues to deal with the aftermath of this terrible tragedy."

Asia Society Executive Vice President Jamie Metzl says, "As terrible of a tragedy as the Japanese tsunami is shaping to be, at least two things are clear.

"First, given the magnitude of the natural disaster, it would have been far, far worse but for the careful planning and preparation of the Japanese government and people – more than 20 times more people were lost in a far weaker earthquake in Haiti last year.

"Second, as tragically devastating as this is turning out to be, it is certain that Japan will show the same level of resilience that it showed in picking itself up by the bootstraps in the 1870s and again after the Second World War. Japan has been an outstanding global citizen over the past half century – it has supported, for example, nearly 20 percent of the costs of the United Nations for years.

"Now, at this moment of need, the world must rally around Japan and help its remarkable people do what it already knows it can do."

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About the Author

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Shreeya Sinha is an award-winning Journalist, Multimedia Producer and Social Media Editor for Asia Society. She was raised in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India.