All three countries expressed support for the work of UNRWA and acknowledged the difficult conditions in which the Agency operates. Mr. Hansen provided an update on the humanitarian situation of Palestinian refugees in the region which was appreciated by officials in the People's Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
During what was the first official visit by Mr. Hansen to the People's Republic of China, senior foreign ministry officials said that they would study how to increase their contributions to the Agency. In December 2003 China announced a 67 per cent increase in its donation for 2004, taking it to US$100,000. China will now consider other means of further increasing its support to the refugees - including the provision of in-kind assistance.
In Japan, Mr. Hansen met with Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi who expressed condolences for the deaths of UNRWA staff in the region and said that resolution of the Palestinian issue is crucial for Middle East peace and stability. She said that it was necessary to bring the Road Map process back on track and to alleviate suffering. Japan is trying to reverse the decline in its overseas development aid budget and will seek to strengthen its support to UNRWA.
The UNRWA visit to Japan coincided with the historic dispatch to Iraq of a force of Japanese troops and in this context Mr. Hansen made the point that Japan's Middle East policy could not focus on Iraq at the expense of Palestinians. "It remains important to maintain a balanced focus on theses two issues in the Middle East," he said.
In Korea Mr. Hansen met with Lee Sun Jin, Deputy Minister for Foreign Policy and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Kim Suk-Hyun, President of Korea International Cooperation Agency to brief them on the humanitarian situation of the refugees both in the strife-torn occupied Palestinian territory and in Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. Mr. Hansen also thanked the Government of Korea for its recent pledge of US$100,000 to the Agency's operations for 2004.