TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and China plan to support an initiative to launch a fund aimed at facilitating exchanges between children of the two countries who lost one or both parents due to the natural disasters last year and in 2008, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The fund, expected to be worth 2 billion to 3 billion yen, will be used to deepen ties of children who lost parents in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan's northeastern region of Tohoku, and the 2008 massive quake in China's Sichuan Province, the sources said.
The two governments plan to support the initiative to be taken up by Japanese talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc. in timing with the 40th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations this year, according to the sources. The talent agency produces pop groups including SMAP and Arashi.
Government officials and people who are involved in planning the project are hoping to collect donations to launch the fund, through which the children's expenses to mutually visit the disaster-hit areas in Japan and the Chinese province will be financed, they said.
About 2,000 children lost one or both parents in the March disaster as did an estimated 10,000 children in the Chinese quake, according to Ashinaga, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support to orphans.
In recent years, Johnny & Associates has been playing a significant role in strengthening relations of the two countries. Late last year, it said it will cover part of the cost for China's lease of giant pandas to a zoo in the city of Sendai, which was affected by the March disaster, to cheer up children there.
(Mainichi Japan) January 6, 2012