Friday, August 24, 2012

Noda Snubs Anti-nuke Group

There were no smiles. There were no handshakes.
Yoshihiko Noda conceded nothing and angry protesters stormed out of the room on Aug. 22 after a 30-minute face-to-face confab between the prime minister and representatives of the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes.
The meeting at the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Tokyo came after months of weekly anti-nuclear protests outside Noda's office that have swollen from hundreds of people to thousands of irate citizens upset over Noda's decision in June to restart two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
"I don't think our demands meant anything to him," said a coalition member who attended the meeting.
Undaunted, the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes said after the meeting that the weekly protests will continue.
It all came about on July 31, when representatives of the group consulted with lawmakers who favor a gradual phaseout of nuclear energy. During that meeting, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he would act as an intermediary to try and set up a meeting with Noda.
The prime minister's office initially said the gathering would take place only if initial parts of the meeting would be disclosed and that there would no live television coverage. However, the prime minister's office eventually gave the OK for media coverage and a live broadcast of the entire meeting, coalition members said.
Both sides agreed to meet for just 20 minutes. The protesters agreed beforehand among themselves to avoid any conversations that could allow Noda to make long remarks.
"There will be no petition or negotiation," a group member said. "This will be a protest inside the prime minister's office."
The meeting got under way at 2 p.m. After Noda's opening remarks, the 10 members of the protest group demanded the shutdown of the restarted nuclear reactors and stressed the "change" their weekly protests have generated.
"There has long been an aversion to social movements and demonstrations in Japan," one of them said. "But that is undergoing a major shift now."
"Demonstrations are venues where people express their anger," another said. "The protesters are maintaining their strength because you (Noda) keep throwing fuel into the fire."
But Noda gave no nod of approval or recognition of their demands. Instead, he reiterated his government's policy of deciding on a mid- to long-term energy policy after listening to various opinions. He talked for three minutes in total.
When the allotted 20 minutes were up, the protesters demanded more time. They were given 10 minutes, after which they angrily left the room.
"There is almost nothing we can approve of," one of them said.
"Representative democracy is not functioning in Japan," illustrator Misao Redwolf, a key member of the protest group, said at a news conference after the meeting. "Nuclear reactors were restarted, although more than 80 percent of the people prefer a departure from nuclear energy."
"It was the dormant democracy of Japan that has been restarted," another group member said.
The weekly protests outside the prime minister's office in Tokyo have spawned similar protests in dozens of other cities across Japan.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Japan - China Island Dispute Gets Out Of Hand

The governor of Tokyo wants to buy them, Taiwan says it would like them back and China has made their return a national priority. But for the Kurihara family, the islands Japan knows as Senkaku are just a bit of land they would really rather sell.
“The conflict is escalating more and more,” Hiroyuki Kurihara told AFP in an interview about the islands, known in China as Diaoyu, where Japanese nationalists landed Sunday after a similar venture by pro-Beijing activists.
All 14 involved in that action were deported Friday in an apparent bid by Tokyo to head off a potentially destabilizing row with Beijing.
“We are worried that the government cannot cope with the situation over the islands,” said Kurihara.
His powerful merchant family are the legal owners of four of the five islands in the Senkakus, an archipelago some 2,000 kilometers from Tokyo but less than 200 kilometers from Taiwan.
China, Taiwan and Japan all say they are part of their territory. They are administered by Tokyo, which holds title to the fifth island and bans development on them all, not allowing anyone to land.
While Beijing claims more than five centuries of control, Tokyo says a Kyushu businessman landed on the uninhabited—and unclaimed—outcrops at the end of the 19th century.
That businessman was Tatsuhiro Koga, who set up factories there processing bonito fish and albatross feathers.
The tumult of war led to the islands being abandoned, and along with Okinawa they were put under US military control following Tokyo’s surrender at the end of World War II.
When Okinawa was handed back to Japan in 1972, the Senkakus were returned to Koga’s son Zenji.
Around that time geologists said the seabed nearby could contain large reserves of oil and gas, while Beijing and Taipei began asserting their claims.
With no heir of his own, Koga decided to sell the islands to the Kuriharas, long-time friends from the suburbs of Tokyo who ran a trading house and owned land throughout Japan.
The eldest brother Kunioki, now 70, holds the legal rights to Uotsurijima, Kitakojima and Minamikojima, which the national government leases for 25 million yen a year. A fourth island is owned by his sister and rented to the defense ministry for an undisclosed sum.
Koga made only one demand when he sold the islands to the family.
“My brother promised Mr Koga that he will never do anything to sever history,” said Hiroyuki Kurihara. “That means he won’t sell them to private entities.”
But with a potentially huge inheritance tax bill if the islands are passed on to the next generation, the Kurihara family want to sell.
Conveniently for them, the nationalist governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, earlier this year announced that his administration wanted to buy them, catching the governments of Japan and China off-guard.
He has since collected more than 1.4 billion yen in donations towards a reported purchase price of up to 2 billion yen.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stepped into the row in June, saying the national government was also thinking about putting in a bid, provoking a frosty response from Beijing.
The Kuriharas insist their ownership of the islands is not political and they do not want to be involved in the dispute.
“It is not about guarding the islands,” Kurihara said. “All that matters to my brother is that he retains his honor as the 17th heir of the Kurihara family.”
© 2012 AFP