Friday, May 9, 2014

May 2 - 8, 2014

Nationalists In Japan Become Internet Savvy

On 18 September 2009, a person using the online name of ‘xegnojw’ posted a four-minute video on YouTube entitled ‘Japanese Racists Hoot Down Korean Tourists in Tsushima’. It depicted members of a Japanese nationalist group harassing Korean tourists on Tsushima, a Japanese island 138 km from Fukuoka and 50km from Busan.  
This island has been attracting attention from Japanese nationalists because of the increasing presence of Korean tourists and Korean investment since the 2002 opening of high-speed ferry service between Busan and Tsushima. Nationalist campaigns over the island intensified when Korea’s Masan City adopted the ‘Tsushima Day’ bill in 2005, claiming that Tsushima should be a Korean territory, thereby countering Shimane prefecture’s ‘Takeshima Day’, establishing Japanese claim to Korea’s Dokdo island. 
The YouTube video in question captured several flag-holding Japanese men and women yelling: ‘Go home, Koreans!’ and ‘We won’t allow a Korean invasion!’ at tourists fresh off the ferry from Busan. Though not physically violent, the atmosphere was tense and disturbing.

Full Story from Asian Pacific Journal

Japanese Navy To Conduct Island Defense Drills

Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces will conduct a military exercise this month to practice defending an island, the Defense Ministry said, underscoring concern about East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
The dispute over the islands, called the Senkaku are Japanese but are claimed by China, has raised fears of a clash between the Asian neighbors which could even drag in the United States.
The Defense Ministry said the island defense exercise would run from May 10 to May 27 on a small uninhabited island in the Ryukyu chain, some 600 km northeast of the disputed isles.
Some parts of the exercise will be held in southwestern Japan’s Nagasaki prefecture and waters off Okinawa Island’s east coast. Okinawa is home is a major U.S. military base and Japan also bases forces there.
It will be the first time that the Naval Self-Defense Forces will use an actual island for island defense training involving its ground, air, sea and marine divisions.
About 1,300 troops, as well as several fighter jets and destroyers, will practice landing on and retaking an island, the ministry said.
But it said the exercise was not a response to the tension with China.
“Boosting island defense is something that has been mentioned in the defense white paper in recent years. This is not a drill that is responding to the current security situation surrounding Japan,” a ministry spokesman said.
U.S. President Barack Obama said last week while on a visit to Japan that the disputed islands were covered by a U.S.-Japan security treaty, angering China.
Last month, Japan announced it would break ground on a radar base in the area, on a tropical Japanese island close to Taiwan.
The radar station on Yonaguni Island, just 150 km from the disputed islands in the East China Sea, marks Japan’s first military expansion at the western end of its island chain in more than 40 years. 
Abe Lied About Fukushima Dangers To Win Tokyo 2020 Olympics
On September 7, 2013 Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the International Olympic Committee (IOC): "Some may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo." After hearing him, the IOC awarded the 2020 Olympic bid to Tokyo.

But on October 6, 2013, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Mr. Abe, speaking in English, told an international science conference hosted by the city and Kyoto Prefecture: "Our country needs your knowledge and expertise in coping with the aftermath of the triple meltdown triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem." AP noted that Mr. Abe requested more foreign assistance in cleaning up the Fukushima No. 1 power plant where work "has been plagued by the radioactive water crisis."

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, the BBC’s correspondent in Japan, reported the "devastating" conclusions of Professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa who chaired the Japanese parliamentary inquiry into the Fukushima disaster. "It was, he told me: ‘Man-made, and made in Japan’."

Tatsujiro Suzuki, the deputy head of Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission, had also been damning, wrote Wingfield-Hayes: "There were studies which showed a one-in-1,000-year probability of the Fukushima coast being hit by a 10m tsunami," he said. "Unfortunately, those studies were dismissed. The nuclear industry didn’t think it would happen, so they didn’t prepare for it."

"For me, this is the most revealing and shocking part of the Fukushima story," added Wingfield-Hayes. "There was no plan for how to deal with such a large and complex disaster. How was this allowed to happen?"

The answer was provided by Prof. Kurokawa, who called it ‘regulatory capture’, a process by which the nuclear power industry ‘captured’ the bureaucracy that was supposed to regulate it. [That’s a universal fact/phenomenon, including in our own little hideaway in the Indian Ocean where the bureaucracy has already been suitably ‘conditioned’ well ahead of nuclear’s possible arrival!]

Wrote Wingfield-Hayes: "Put crudely, the ‘poachers’ and the ‘gamekeepers’ were far too close. Many senior bureaucrats from Japan’s Nuclear Industry Safety Agency would take lucrative jobs in the nuclear industry after leaving government. The result was a nuclear industry imbued with a culture of arrogance, secrecy and complacency. Lessons learned after Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island in the US were not implemented here. When disaster struck, Japan was woefully ill-prepared.

"An investigation by Japan’s NHK broadcaster last year found that simple equipment, things like mobile generators and battery packs that could have helped prevent the meltdowns, were sitting at a depot just 25 miles from the Fukushima plant. After the tsunami knocked out the plant’s electrical system there was still time to bring in the back-up equipment. Army helicopters were on standby. But there was no plan. Chaos ensued. "A senior company official in charge of logistics was asked by the NHK team why he had not dispatched the equipment. "We had a very long list of things they needed. We had no way to prioritize which should go first," he said.

"And so the back-up equipment stayed in the depot, and the reactor cores melted down."

Concluded Wingfield-Hayes: "Finally let me end by quoting again Tatsujiro Suzuki, the deputy head of Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission. I asked him why, if the nuclear industry knows there is a possibility of a disaster, does it continue to tell the public nuclear power is safe?

"We need to be prepared for the worst case. We need to tell the public this is the worst case. But if we tell the worst case, the public says, ‘Don’t build the reactor near here.’ So that was the dilemma. And if you want to continue building nuclear power plants you have to keep telling people the reactors should be safe. But now that myth is gone," said Suzuki.

Takashi Hirose, author of Fukushima Meltdown: The World’s First Earthquake-Tsunami Nuclear Meltdown, in an open letter addressed to ‘All young athletes dreaming of coming to Tokyo in 2020’ reminded them that two weeks after Mr. Abe had held out a total and unqualified guarantee to the IOC about Tokyo being damage-free, post-Fukushima, Tokyo’s Governor Naoki Inose told a press conference that what Abe expressed to the IOC was his intention to get the situation under control. "It is not," Inose said, "under control now."

Among the points Hirose reminded likely participants at the 2020 Olympics:

* In a residential area park in Tokyo, 230 km from Fukushima, the soil was found to have a radiation level of 92,335 Becquerels per square meter. This is a dangerous level, comparable to what is found around Chernobyl (at the site of a nuclear catastrophe in 1986). One reason for this level of pollution is that between Tokyo and Fukushima there are no mountains high enough to block radioactive clouds.

* The water being poured into the reactor (to keep it cool) is now considered the big problem in Japan. Newspapers and TV stations that previously strove to conceal the danger of nuclear power, are now reporting on this danger every day. The issue is that the highly irradiated water is entering and mixing with the ground water, and this leakage can’t be stopped, so it is spilling into the Pacific Ocean. It is a situation impossible to control.

* In August, 2013 (the month prior to Abe’s IOC speech) within the site of Fukushima Daiichi Reactor, radiation was measured at 8500 micro Sieverts per hour. That is enough to kill anyone who stayed there for a month. This makes it a very hard place for the workers to get anything done.

* Vegetables and fish from around the Tokyo area, even if they are irradiated, are not thrown away . . . which is to say that, in Japan today, as the entire country has been contaminated, we have no choice but to put irradiated garbage on the dinner table. In particular, food distributed by the major food companies, and food served in expensive restaurants, is almost never tested for radiation.

Given Japan’s persistent denials of danger, and that radiation in the Pacific Ocean "has not yet exceeded safety standards", Hiroshe recalled the old joke of the man who jumped off a ten-storey building and, as he passed each floor, was heard whispering: so far, so good."

If that’s not living in a fool’s paradise, what is?

By Selvam Canagaratna

Former Worker At Fukushima To Sue TEPCO

A 48-year-old former contract employee at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has filed a damages suit against plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), claiming the company exposed him and other workers to dangerously high levels of radiation.
The man was among hundreds of contract employees sent in to work at the plant, following the catastrophic events of March 11, 2011.
The man told a news conference in Tokyo that he was sent to work at the plant only two weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, and came into contact with large amounts of accumulated radioactive water, which according to reports, was measured at over 20 millisieverts per hour, TBS reported Thursday.
He filed the lawsuit against TEPCO on the grounds that although TEPCO knew that a large amount of dangerously high radioactive water was present on site, they did not divulge that information to workers.
The man is seeking a settlement of 11 million yen in the Fukushima District Court.
Japan Today

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Constitution Day Shows Fragmenting Opinions Among Japanese

Differing platforms of political parties in Japan
on constitution revision

As the nation marked the 67th anniversary of the enforcement of the Constitution on Saturday, the certainty that a bill revising the National Referendum Law will be passed in the current Diet session makes it likely that constitutional amendment will occur.
The National Referendum Law sets procedures for constitutional revisions.
In a statement released Saturday—Constitution Day—the Liberal Democratic Party said: “We have entered the stage of discussing how to amend [the Constitution], not whether the Constitution should be revised or kept unchanged. We will push for constitutional amendments and legal arrangements in the face of rising tensions in international circumstances.”
Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) also released a statement signed by its acting leader Takeo Hiranuma, vowing to lead Diet discussions on the matter.
Other parties also released statements regarding the Constitution on the same day. Eight out of 10 leading and opposition parties have agreed to drive forward discussions to revise the Constitution, while the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party oppose such revisions. A focal point is now expected to be what provisions would be amended.
Hajime Funada, head of the LDP’s body promoting revisions to the Constitution, said during a Thursday meeting of a nonpartisan group of lawmakers that aims to establish a new constitution, “Under the eight-party agreement, I want to draw up a first-draft constitution with support from as many parties as possible.”
The eight parties, including the LDP and its ruling coalition partner New Komeito along with the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, reached an agreement to revise the National Referendum Law during the current Diet session.
Funada’s remarks indicated that he intends to win backing from many parties for the initiative to amend the Constitution as well.
However, the eight parties do not necessarily share identical stands. They are split over the specifics of constitutional amendment.
In April 2012, the LDP unveiled a draft constitutional amendment plan that seeks to review all provisions. The plan calls for the Constitution to refer to the nation’s right to self defense in Article 9, as well as to add new provisions for establishing a national defense force and responding to an armed attack. However, Komeito is cautious about drastic revisions to Article 9, and instead favors the addition of new principles and provisions without changing the existing content of the Constitution. It proposes adding new human rights, such as an environmental right, and expanding the authority of local governments.
Parties Ishin no Kai, Your Party and Yui no To intend to push for the decentralization of power by introducing a so-called doshu system for reorganizing prefectures into larger regional government units through constitutional revisions, for example. The three parties have also called for a one-chamber Diet system, but some LDP members strongly oppose the idea.
Any constitutional amendments must be proposed by the Diet and then approved by a majority vote in a national referendum.
“If the initiative is rejected in the first national referendum, it would be difficult to bring it to a second national referendum,” a senior LDP member said.
In light of this, observers say the parties are likely to accelerate discussions on provisions regarding new human rights and emergency responses, on which they would find it easier to agree. The parties are also expected to have heated discussions on the easing of procedures for constitutional revisions, which has been proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Japan News

Friday, May 2, 2014

Another Peruvian Child Bullied In Japan By Japanese Classmates

One week after it was revealed by Consul General of Peru, Julio Cardenas, that a 13 year old Peruvian girl had been raped by 5 Japanese classmates, a second case of a Japanese racist attack has emerged in Kanazawa.

A 12 year old Peruvian boy was savagely beaten by two Japanese boys of the same age.  The Japanese boys had a history of bullying the boy at school a teacher at the boys' school said.  The teacher wishing to be unnamed said, "The two boys have been bullying the Peruvian boy for the last year.  They have been known to use racist names, trip the boy, and to write racist notes to him.  The principal had a meeting with their parents in February and things seemed to have gotten better."

Unfortunately, they had not gotten better.  Three weeks ago the two Japanese boys confronted the Peruvian as he rode his bicycle home after school.  One boy pushed him off the bike and when he tried to defend himself, the second boy came from behind and beat him on the head with an empty drink can.

A witness says they continued to beat him after he fell to the ground, and did not stop even as he bled from his nose and the wounds on his head.  They only stopped when an unidentified Japanese man stepped in.  The Japanese attackers ran off and the man called police.  Knowing where the boy lived the man then went to the boy's home to tell his mother.  The man returned with the mother just as Kanazawa police arrived.

After an initial investigation at the scene, an officer went to one of the attackers' home and talked to the accused and his mother.  The accused then took the officer to the second accused home where the officer talked with his mother.  The officer returned to the scene where an ambulance crew had arrived and began treating the victim's injuries.  The boy was taken to a hospital where he was treated, and xrays showed no serious injury his skull, so he was released.

Police the next day arrived to the victim's home with an offer from the parents of the attackers of money for the medical treatment and a small amount of apology money.  When the mother refused so she could get legal consultation, the police informed her their offer would only be made once.

An attorney procured for the woman by the Peruvian Consulate in Tokyo, Kotaro Tanaka, says that he is looking into the case going to Juvenile Court in Kanazawa so the mother can get medical bills paid and also damages for the boy's physical, mental, and emotional anguish.  Mr. Tanaka says that his office can make no other statements as the case is being reviewed by Kanazawa courts.  Tanaka and the boy's mother want attempted murder charges filed against the attackers and their parents charged with obstructing justice for making a financial offer to quiet the case.  They also want Kanazawa prefecture and city government officials to investigate methods police use.

The boy is currently being treated by a psychologist in Kanagawa and also by a therapist specializing with victims of bullying.  The Peruvian Consulate says the case became known after the mother called the Peruvian Consulate after reading a Peruvian website reporting on the rape victim in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka.

The Peruvian Consul General, Mr. Cardenas, comments, "Foreigners in Japan need to be made aware of what their rights are by the Japanese government.  There are far too many cases of violence against foreigners at the moment."  The mother reports she is afraid of reprisals from the parents of the attackers after she received legal representation.  A note in Japanese was taped to the door of her home stating that "If you do not like your treatment go back to Peru and take all the other trash with you."  Parents of the attackers deny writing the note.  Police in Kanazawa say they are still investigating and the case is ongoing.

We will update as more information comes forth.  Rev. Daniel Rea, Editor Japan Times Herald

Update on Peruvian Rape Victim

Hat tip to Japan Times Herald

Peruvian Consul General Julio Cardenas reports that the 13 year old girl and her mother are doing well in Tokyo.  Currently they are staying in a home provided by the Consul.  The girl has been able to see a priest and a psychologist in Tokyo.  The mother has been able to get some medical attention for hypertension.

The Consul has been working with the Shizuoka police and with the school board in Fujinomiya.  The Consul could not comment on the investigation as it is ongoing.  An employee at the consulate who asked to remain anonymous noted on the telephone that, "Right now we are doing all we can to care for the needs of the family.  The mother has her younger son in Tokyo as well.  Our main concern is to provide for their well being."

The consulate has retained legal representation with Kotaro Tanaka.  The law firm would only confirm they are conducting legal representation and cooperating with the Consul and with authorities.

Questions still remain as to why the Japanese media has ignored this story.  The Japan Times Herald has sent this story to all major news outlets, including English language, and has received no reply as of the posting of this update.

By Rev. Daniel Rea, Managing Editor, Japan Times Herald

April 26 to May 1, 2014

"Resurrected" Tojo Causes Stir At LDP Rally

A picture has emerged on social media purporting to show a man dressed as General Hideki Tojo, the prime minister who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, saluting at a weekend conference, sparking outrage online.
General Tojo was among those executed for war crimes and later honored at the Yasukuni shrine.
The picture that surfaced on Twitter appeared to show a man dressed in period military garb saluting while standing on a campaign car for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)—sparking a backlash online.
“Does this mean the LDP tolerates this?” @hatsunoji wrote.
Said online user @okchibita: “This is not even a bad joke. I cannot believe this was done by the ruling party.”
The picture was believed to have been taken at a weekend conference organized by an Internet broadcaster, which Abe had briefly attended earlier in the day.
The huge two-day event, attended by more than 120,000 people, had dozens of booths sponsored by a wide variety of organisations including political parties, gaming firms and the country’s sumo association.
An LDP spokesman said he was unaware that the unidentified man was dressed to appear like Japan’s wartime leader.
“If we had known that he meant to be dressed up like Tojo, we would have had second thoughts about letting him get up there,” he told AFP.
A person claiming to be the man in the photo apologized on Twitter Monday and claimed he was simply dressed as a military policeman.
“There was the campaign car which people were allowed to climb on,” wrote the person, identified as @vice0079. “I was guided by LDP staff.”
(c) 2014 AFP

Residents of Fukushima Fear Return

Whenever Kazuhiro Onuki goes home, to his real home that is, the 66-year-old former librarian dons protective gear from head to toe and hangs a dosimeter around his neck.
Grass grows wild in the backyard. The ceiling leaks. Thieves have ransacked the shelves, leaving papers and clothing all over the floor so there is barely room to walk. Mouse dung is scattered like raisins. There is no running water or electricity.
Above all, radiation is everywhere.
It’s difficult to imagine ever living again in Tomioka, a ghost town about 10 kilometers from the former Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. And yet more than three years after meltdowns at the plant forced this community of 16,000 people to flee, Onuki can’t quite make the psychological break to start anew.
His family lived here for four generations. Every time he goes back, he is overcome by emotion. Especially during that brief time in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom.
“They flower as though nothing has happened,” he said. “They are weeping because all the people have left.”
The Japanese government is pushing ahead with efforts to decontaminate and reopen as much of a 20-kilometer no-go zone around the plant as it can. Authorities declared a tiny corner of the zone safe for living as of April 1, and hope to lift evacuation orders in more areas in the coming months and years.
Former residents have mixed feelings. In their hearts, many want their old lives back. But distrust about the decontamination program runs deep. Will it really be safe? Others among the more than 100,000 displaced have established new lives elsewhere, in the years since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami sent three of Fukushima’s reactors into meltdown.
If the evacuation order is lifted for their area, they will lose a monthly stipend of 100,000 yen they receive from Tokyo Electric Power Co, the owner of the Fukushima plant.
A survey last year found that 16% of Tomioka residents wanted to return, 40% had decided never to return, and 43% were undecided. Two-thirds said they were working before the disaster, but only one-third had jobs at the time of the survey, underlining the challenges to starting over.
Former resident Shigetoshi Suzuki, a friend of Onuki, is outraged the government would even ask such a question: Do you want to go back?
Of course, we all want to return, he said. People like him were effectively forced into retirement, the 65-year-old land surveyor said. If he hadn’t evacuated to a Tokyo suburb with his wife, he would have continued working for his longtime clients.
“It is a ridiculous question,” Suzuki said. “We could have led normal lives. What we have lost can’t be measured in money.”
In protest, he has refused to sign the forms that would allow his property to undergo decontamination.
The government has divided the no-go zone into three areas by radiation level.
The worst areas are marked in pink on official maps and classified as “difficult to return.” They are still enclosed by a barricade.
Yellow designates a “restricted” area, limiting visits to a few hours. No overnight stays are allowed.
The green zones are “in preparations to lift evacuation orders.” They must be decontaminated, which includes scrubbing building surfaces and scraping off the top layer of soil and is being carried out throughout the zones.
Tomioka has all three zones within its boundaries.
The green zones are those where authorities have confirmed radiation exposure can be brought below 20 millisieverts a year.
The long-term goal is to bring annual exposure down to 1 millisievert, or the equivalent of 10 chest X-rays, which was considered the safe level before the disaster, but the government is lifting evacuation orders at higher levels. It says it will monitor the health and exposure of people who move back to such areas.
In the yellow restricted zone, where Sukuki’s and Onuki’s homes lie, a visitor exceeds 1 millisievert in a matter of a few hours.
During a recent visit, Onuki and his wife Michiko walked beneath the pink petals floating from a tunnel of cherry trees, previously a local tourist attraction.
The streets were abandoned, except for a car passing through now and then. The neighborhood was eerily quiet except for the chirping of the nightingales.
“The prime minister says the accident is under control, but we feel the thing could explode the next minute,” said Michiko Onuki, who ran a ceramic and craft shop out of their Tomioka home. “We would have to live in fear of radiation. This town is dead.”
Both wore oversized white astronaut-like gear, which doesn’t keep out radioactive rays out but helps prevent radioactive material from being brought back, outside the no-go zone. Filtered masks covered half their faces. They discarded the gear when they left, so they wouldn’t bring any radiation back to their Tokyo apartment, which they share with an adult son and daughter.
Junji Oshida, 43, whose family ran an upscale restaurant in Tomioka that specialized in eel, was at first devastated that he lost the traditional sauce for the eel that had been passed down over generations.
He has since opened a new restaurant just outside the zone that caters to nuclear cleanup workers. He recreated the sauce and serves pork, which is cheaper than eel. He lives apart from his wife and sons, who are in a Tokyo suburb.
“There is no sense in looking back,” Oshida said, still wearing the eel restaurant’s emblem on his shirt.
Older residents can’t give up so easily, even those who will never be able to return — like Tomioka city assemblyman Seijun Ando, whose home lies in the most irradiated, pink zone.
Ando, 59, said that dividing Tomioka by radiation levels has pitted one group of residents against another, feeding resentment among some. One idea he has is to bring residents from various towns in the no-go zone together to start a new community in another, less radiated part of Fukushima — a place he described as “for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
“I can survive anywhere, although I had a plan for my life that was destroyed from its very roots,” said Ando, tears welling up in his eyes. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suffering. I’m just worried for Tomioka.”
TEPCO Reports Huge Annual Profit
The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Wednesday it booked a 438.65 billion yen annual net profit owing to an electricity rate hike and a massive government bailout following the 2011 disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) was teetering on the brink as cleanup and compensation costs stoked huge losses and threatened to collapse the sprawling utility until Tokyo stepped in with a rescue package.

The company at the center of the worst nuclear accident in a generation said it earned 438.65 billion yen in the fiscal year to March, compared with a net loss of 685.3 billion yen in the same period a year earlier.

Sales rose 11% to 6.63 trillion yen, it said.

The company’s results got a boost from a rate hike, and helped offset a decline in the amount of electricity TEPCO sold owing to warmer-than-usual winter weather, it said.

It also booked a special gain of 1.8 trillion yen based on funds the company received from a government-backed bailout fund as well as asset sales.

But it added that rising fossil fuel costs after Japan switched off its nuclear reactors were pressuring its bottom line.

“The business environment that surrounds us remains very serious,” TEPCO President Naomi Hirose told a news conference.

The Fukushima plant’s cooling systems were swamped by the 2011 tsunami, sparking reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from around the plant with decommissioning of the site expected to take decades.

© 2014 AFP

Russia Promises Revenge After Japan Rejects 23 Visas For Russians

Moscow on Tuesday vowed to hit back at Japan over its decision to deny visas to 23 Russian nationals as part of additional sanctions linked to the crisis in Ukraine.
The Russian foreign ministry said that Tokyo’s decision was “met with disappointment in Moscow, and of course will not be left without a response”.
The Japanese foreign ministry said Tuesday that the Russian nationals on its list—whom it did not identify but who were reported by Tokyo media to include some government officials—were suspected of “infringing the unity of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory”.
“Japan calls on all parties to act carefully with self-restraint and responsibility,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement. “We sincerely hope that the Ukraine situation will be normalised through diplomatic dialogue.”
Tokyo’s announcement came after the United States and Europe expanded their own lists of punitive measures against Russian officials and Kremlin-linked firms.
The Russian foreign ministry described Tokyo’s decision as “a clumsy step taken under the influence of foreign pressure”.
“Attempts by Japan to put pressure on Russia will in no way help de-escalate tensions around Ukraine,” the Russian statement said.
Relations between Moscow and Tokyo have been strained for decades because of the status of four Pacific islands that are known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.
The dispute has hurt the two sides’ trade relations and prevented the signature of a peace treaty formally ending hostilities dating back to World War II.
(c) 2014 AFP

Friday, April 25, 2014

April 19-25, 2014

13 Year Old Peruvian Girl Raped in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka School
A 13 year old Peruvian girl has reported to police and her mother that she has been repeatedly raped by five Japanese female class mates.

The girl who was a member of a music club in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka says as one girl penetrated her with a "device" other girls would hold her down as two others would film and take photographs of the rape on their phones.

The girl's mother, who is a single mother, says, "My daughter has been very troubled for some time and I wanted to know why. Last Friday she let me know the reason. I was horrified." After the mother received little help from police and the school or school board, she decided to involve Peruvian Consul General, Julio Cardenas.

Consul General Cardenas has been seen at the Shizuoka Central Police building and also at the school in Fujinomiya. When I contacted the Consul I was told by an employee who wished to remain anonymous, “Today we had a telephone discussion with the mother and we found her to be in a very emotional state. We offered all our support and full cooperation as diplomats in Japan for Peru. It is totally heart breaking that could happen to any child. We must assure our citizens we will not allow any abuse or bullying of our citizens."

School officials refused to comment, as did police in Shizuoka.

By Daniel Rea, Japan Times Herald
US and Japan Unable to Settle TPP Problems
As negotiators struggle, President Barack Obama is rejecting suggestions that an Asia-Pacific trade deal is in danger and says the U.S. and Japan must take bold steps to overcome differences that are threatening completion of the cornerstone of his strategic rebalance to the region.
Illustrating those difficulties, the top Japanese negotiator said Thursday that talks had come to a stop only to have a U.S. official later say that discussions would continue.
Standing alongside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama also affirmed that the U.S. will defend its Asian ally in a potential confrontation with China over a set of disputed islands. At the same time, he called on both parties to peacefully resolve the long-running dispute that has heightened tensions between the two countries.
Obama called for the U.S. and Japan to resolve disagreements promptly over access to agriculture and automobile markets, issues that are hindering completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The deal, involving 12 nations overall, is a key component of Obama’s efforts to assert U.S. influence in Asia in the face of China’s ascendancy in the region.
“Now is the time for bold steps that are needed to reach a comprehensive agreement, and I continue to believe we can get this done,” Obama said at a joint news conference with Abe at the Akasaka Palace. “All of us have to move out of our comfort zones and not just expect that we’re going to get access to somebody else’s market without providing access to our own. And it means that we have to sometimes push our constituencies beyond their current comfort levels because ultimately it’s going to deliver a greater good for all people.”
That was also a nod to the strong opposition Obama faces at home to the TPP, including from organized labor groups who fear such a deal with leave U.S. workers vulnerable to competition from counterparts in other countries who earn substantially less. Obama’s fellow Democrats in Congress also oppose granting him authority that would make it harder for lawmakers to change the trade pact. Business groups strongly back the deal, saying it would create jobs and open new markets to U.S. goods.
Akira Amari, the top Japanese negotiator for the TPP talks, said Thursday evening that the talks with chief U.S. trade negotiator Michael Froman “have stopped for now” and were not expected to resume “straight away.”
“The old issues still remain,” said a grim-looking Amari.
Abe Promises 2020 Olympics Will Be Safe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the scrapping of two Fukushima nuclear reactors that survived the 2011 tsunami, a write-off that threatens to complicate a turnaround plan the operator has presented to creditors.

He also said he stood by his commitments to the International Olympic Committee of insuring a safe 2020 Summer Games.

"I will work hard to counter rumours questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant," he said.

Abe, speaking to reporters after a tour of the plant on Monday, said he told Tokyo Electric Power Co to set a time frame for dealing with leaking contaminated water.

"In order for them to concentrate on this, I have directed them to decommission the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors that are now halted," Abe said.

A tsunami crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi plant on March 11, 2011, causing fuel-rod meltdowns, radioactive contamination of air, sea and food and triggering the evacuation of 160,000 people in the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

More recently, authorities have been struggling to contain leaks of radioactive groundwater.

Tokyo Electric president Naomi Hirose promised that the company will make a decision on the decommissioning of the two reactors within the year, Abe said.

Abe's visit to the plant, 240 km (140 miles) north of Tokyo, came after he pledged that the government would take a more central role in the clean-up as part of Tokyo's successful bid for the Olympics.

Four reactors were destroyed by meltdowns and hydrogen explosions. The No. 5 and No. 6 reactors escaped serious damage and Tokyo Electric has been allowed to carry the facilities as an asset on its balance sheet.

Tokyo Electric, which has posted more than $27 billion in net losses since the disaster, is negotiating with a syndicate of Japanese banks for a refinancing of 80 billion yen ($816 million) due next month.

As of April, the company listed 745.5 billion yen ($7.5 billion) in nuclear power generation assets. Those included the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors as well as the utility's Fukushima Daini nuclear plant and Kashiwazaki Kariwa - the world's largest nuclear plant - in northernJapan.

Both of those other two plants are now halted and it is uncertain whether they can be restarted in the face of local opposition.

Abe said Hirose promised to finish treating contaminated water at Fukushima by March 2015.

Centers for Disabled Close Due to Fukushima Plant
Thirteen out of 28 support centers for the disabled in 10 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture's Soso district -- within 30 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant -- have either suspended service or closed down, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
The decrease in the number of these welfare service providers has imposed a burden on people with disabilities and their families, who have found themselves suddenly without local support systems.
The Mainichi Shimbun recently asked 19 disability employment service providers and nine daycare service providers for children with disabilities in the district about their operations. Of those, seven employment service centers said they have continued operating in the same place, five have moved elsewhere and seven have either suspended their operations or closed down. Meanwhile, two of the daycare facilities for children remain in the same place, one has moved and six have either suspended their operations or closed down.
A 56-year-old woman with a psychiatric disorder in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Namie, who used to frequent the local "Coffee Time" employment support service center before the disaster, suffered from auditory hallucinations for the entire month she lived as an evacuee in a school gym following the March 2011 disaster. She was able to recover after talking to some Coffee Time staff she had known well. Coffee Time reopened in October 2011 in the city of Nihonmatsu, some 65 kilometers west of Namie. The woman, after moving seven times, has settled in an apartment in the city and now works at a cafe operated by the center.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 12-18, 2014

Japan Will Reject ICJ Ruling To Continue Whaling

The Japanese government said Friday it will aim to resume its whaling in the Antarctic from next fiscal year despite a U.N. court ordering Tokyo last month to halt its program there, igniting criticism from the international community.
Tokyo has announced it will not conduct whaling in the Antarctic this fiscal year, which started April 1, under the current program, abiding by the March 31 International Court of Justice ruling. But the government said it will submit a new whaling program to the International Whaling Commission by this fall.
"We have come to the conclusion (to continue whaling) after carefully examining the ruling," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters.
Japan's decision "reflects what the (ICJ's) judgment pointed out, and we would like to sincerely explain that to each country," he added.
Japan's eventual goal is to resume commercial whaling. What Tokyo calls "research whaling" is aimed at collecting scientific data to prove that catching whales commercially would not dent sustainable use of the whale stocks.
The government also decided to continue its whaling in the Pacific Ocean this fiscal year, with whalers set to depart later this month.
In the Pacific Ocean, the government plans to reduce the number of whales caught in an attempt to win support from the international community.
In fiscal 2014, Tokyo will slash the figure to 210 whales from 380 caught last year, based on "recent statistical data," a farm ministry official said.
The official also said that purposes of so-called research whaling have been narrowed down.
Tokyo's decision to review the program comes as the ICJ ruling pointed out that sample sizes of whales taken by Japan were "not driven by strictly scientific considerations," saying the country's whaling violated a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
Although the ICJ ruling only applies to the Antarctic Sea, Tokyo was considering whether it should also stop whaling in the Pacific, given strong criticism from antiwhaling countries such as Australia and the United States.
Japanese whalers are expected to leave a port in northeastern Japan on April 26 to conduct whaling in the Pacific Ocean off the Japanese coast. The departure had been initially planned for Tuesday next week but was put off due to prolonged discussion in the government over the matter.
In May 2010, Australia, one of the most vocal countries against whaling, lodged a case with the ICJ aimed at halting Japan's whaling in the Antarctic.
Kyodo News
Contaminated Water Leaks at Fukushima Plant
Just over one ton of water contaminated with radioactive particulates leaked from one of the containment vessels at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said.
According to TEPCO officials, the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, which is being used to remove radioactive substances from contaminated water, experiencing trouble, TBS reported Wednesday.
TEPCO officials told a news conference that workers discovered the water leak from a containment vessel being used to clean out tanks filled with water already processed by the ALPS system. However, radioactive substances were still present in the water in the tanks, which started to overflow, TBS reported.
According to officials, the leaked water showed readings of 3.8 million becquerels per liter. Also, dangerous levels of radioactive cesium reading 9,300 becquerels were detected in the contaminated water.
TEPCO said none of the contaminated water was leaked outside of the building housing the storage tanks. 
Japan-USA Deadlocked On TPP
Talks between the United States and Japan seen as vital to a broader regional trade pact had narrowed to a few critical areas and will resume again on Monday, officials of both countries said on Friday, as negotiators struggle to bridge gaps ahead of a summit between the countries’ leaders.
A U.S.-Japan agreement is critical to the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation grouping that would stretch from Asia to Latin America. The TPP is central to U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy of expanding America’s presence in Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for his part, has touted the TPP as a main element of his strategy to reform the world’s third largest economy and generate sustainable growth.
The two leaders are keen to show progress, if not clinch a deal, in time for their April 24 summit in Tokyo, but on Friday, after a 20-hour negotiating session, a deal remained elusive, a senior U.S. administration official said.
Negotiators are down to a relatively limited set of outstanding issues, but considerable differences separate the two sides, the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sticking points from the U.S. perspective revolve in equal measure around access to Japan’s markets for agricultural products as well as Japanese regulations that serve to block automotive imports, the official said.
Discussions will continue in the days and weeks ahead, but there is no particular deadline for concluding the talks, the official added. Momentum behind the talks need not stall because negotiators have not struck a deal ahead of Obama’s visit to Japan, the official said.
Japan’s Economy Minister Akira Amari echoed the U.S. official’s assessment.
“We still have big differences,” he told reporters in Washington after another round of talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, according to Kyodo news agency.
But “the gaps are getting smaller,” Amari was reported as saying before he left for Japan. Late on Thursday, he had said talks were at a “stalemate”.
USTR confirmed talks would resume between U.S. Acting Deputy United States Trade Representative Wendy Cutler and Japanese Deputy Chief Negotiator Hiroshi Oe in Tokyo on Monday.
The United States wants Japan to open its rice, beef and pork, dairy, and sugar markets - politically powerful sectors that Abe has vowed to defend. Japan wants a timetable on U.S. promises to drop tariffs of 2.5% on imports of passenger cars and 25% on light trucks.
Japanese media have reported that the United States, which has been pushing Japan to scrap its tariffs, is willing to let Japan keep import levies on rice, wheat and sugar while it will create a mechanism to boost its imports of U.S. rice.
Gaps remain over the size of cuts in tariffs on beef and over pork as well, the media said.
Japanese officials have been hoping that a two-way trade deal with Australia clinched this month, which allowed it to keep reduced tariffs on beef, would pressure the United States to make similar concessions.
Some experts say U.S. negotiators are at a disadvantage because the White House does not have authority to fast track agreements through Congress, given opposition by senior Democrats to a bill laying the groundwork for a yes-or-no vote by lawmakers.
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014.