10 Sep 2012

PM tours site of Japanese quake

5:04 pm on 10 September 2012

New Zealand's Prime Minister has visited some of the areas worst hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

John Key is visiting Japan following the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit which concluded at the weekend.

On Monday, Mr Key presented a pounamu carving to a member of the Japanese Urban Search and Rescue team as a token of appreciation for their efforts in the aftermath of the Christchurch quake in February last year in which 185 people died.

Mr Key said it was hard to comprehend the scale of the devastation in Miyagi prefecture, where at least 12,000 people were killed and 85,000 homes were destroyed. The rebuild is expected to take 10 years.

He visited what was the beachside village of Shobutahama which was obliterated by the 10-metre-high tsunami which carried debris 2km inland.

Mr Key will meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Tokyo on Tuesday and says he will be looking for a signal from Mr Noda that Japan still wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, which include New Zealand.

Trade was also high on the agenda at the APEC leaders' meeting in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

After meeting President Vladimir Putin, Mr Key said he was invited to Moscow in 2013 and hopes a trade deal can be signed then.