U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Japan on Sunday, where he plans to visit the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone, as the crippled atomic power plant simmers and a food safety scare deepens.
The secretary-general will visit hard-hit Fukushima Prefecture later on Sunday night as one of the most senior foreign leaders to go to the area after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 triggered the catastrophe.
On Monday, Ban will meet some of the 85,000 people who have been evacuated to shelters from areas around the plant after what has become the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years ago.
“I wanted to come to Japan as soon as possible after the tragedy of 11 March to express the solidarity and deep sympathy that the whole world feels for the people of your great country,” Ban said.
The U.N. chief will also meet Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto later on Monday in Tokyo.
Ban has convened a nuclear safety summit for the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September and he is expected to reinforce his calls for tougher international standards while in Japan.
Ban plans to visit Haragama beach at Soma, 40 kilometers north of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which continues to leak radioactive material. A 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the battered facility prevents him going much nearer.
In his meetings with Japanese leaders, the U.N. chief is also expected to request Japan’s Self-Defense Forces be dispatched for a peace-keeping operation in South Sudan.