Entries in Yoshihiko Noda (4)


Japan Restarts Nuclear Reactors

STR/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restart of two idle nuclear reactors Saturday amid widespread public opposition, more than a year after a powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered three nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant, and halted all 50 reactors in Japan.

The decision to reactivate the Ohi reactors in western Japan marks the first time the government has turned nuclear power back on since the Fukushima accident, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Japan was rocked by a series of powerful earthquakes and a tsunami in March 2011.

Operator Kansai Electric Power or KEPCO said it would take several weeks to restart its reactors. They could be fully operational by late July.

"We will increase our efforts to restore the public's trust over nuclear safety regulation and atomic energy administration," Noda said, following a meeting with ministers.

Saturday's decision comes as the government scrambles to shore up its energy supply, to avert power shortages during the summer months, when usage is at its peak.

KEPCO provides power to Kansai, the area around Osaka, Japan's third-largest city. Without the Ohi reactors, the utility has said the region would see a 15 percent electricity shortfall in July and August.

Japan relied on nuclear power for a third of its energy prior to the Fukushima disaster, but all 50 reactors have been taken offline since, for maintenance and safety checks.

Noda, who favors reducing Japan's reliance on nuclear power overtime, has aggressively pushed to turn existing reactors back on, saying the country's economy depended on it. But the Japanese public remains largely opposed to the idea.

Recent polls show a majority of the public opposes the restart of the Ohi reactors, and think Japan should reduce its reliance on nuclear power.

In a sign of how polarizing the issue has become, crowds of demonstrators protested outside the Prime Minister's residence in the rain, as Noda met with ministers.

In Koriyama city, where many of the 80,000 evacuees displaced by the nuclear disaster now live, residents said the government was acting too quickly, just 15 months after the Fukushima accident.

"[The politicians] don't care because it doesn't affect them," one man told broadcaster NHK. "They act as if they're taking responsibility but they're not. Nothing has been resolved."

The focus will now shift to the remaining 48 reactors, and how quickly the government moves to resume operations.

Officials will likely hold off on any decision until a new, more independent nuclear regulatory agency is created, to replace the old one.

The Japanese parliament is expected to pass a bill calling for that change, as early as next week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japan’s Prime Minister Reshuffles Cabinet

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reshuffled his cabinet on Friday, just four months after taking office, in an effort to win bipartisan support for an unpopular sales tax hike.

Noda replaced five members of his cabinet, two of whom had been censured by the upper house over a series of gaffes.

Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa, who sparked outrage in Okinawa when he compared the planned relocation of a U.S. Marine base to rape, will be replaced by upper house lawmaker Naoki Tanaka.

Jin Matsubara replaces Consumer Affairs Minister Kenji Yamaoka, who was criticized for ties to dubious business groups and a gaffe comparing the collapse of the euro to the tsunami.

Noda also appointed former Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada as the deputy in charge of tax and social security reform, a move that could further divide the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.  Supporters of veteran powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa are weary of Okada, who led the push to suspend Ozawa’s party membership, following his indictment over a political funding scandal.

The cabinet overhaul comes as Noda looks to forge ahead with a bill to double Japan’s five percent sales tax in two stages, something that hasn’t been done since 1997.  The prime minister has said the tax hike is necessary to rein in a public debt that is now twice the $5 trillion economy.

But opposition lawmakers, who control the less powerful upper house of parliament, refused any discussion of the increase until the censured ministers were removed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Japan to Join US-Backed Free Trade Talks

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced Friday his intention to join discussions for a U.S.-backed free trade zone, facing revolt from his own party and the powerful farm lobby.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership would eliminate trade barriers between 10 countries, and open up Japan’s $48 billion farm market -- a move opponents say threatens the livelihood of farmers, but supporters argue is vital to keeping the world’s third-largest economy competitive.

The pact is seen as the first step in establishing a free trade zone that encompasses all of Asia and the Pacific.

Joining the TPP would give Japanese exporters greater access to the U.S. market and other countries.  But the pact has faced fierce opposition from the heavily protected agriculture sector, which accounts for just 1.5 percent of economic output, but has a large influence in parliament.  Farmers say they simply can’t compete with larger competitors in the U.S. and Australia.

Just 16 percent of Japan’s trade is covered by free trade agreements, compared with 36 percent for rival South Korea.  The Cabinet Office has said participation in the TPP would boost gross domestic product by $34.7 billion.

TPP proponents argue markets must be opened to lift a sagging economy, battered by a strong currency and an aging population.  The country is also struggling to recover from the March 11 tsunami and the nuclear disaster that followed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan's Ruling Party Selects Finance Minister as New PM

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images (TOKYO) -- Just days after Naoto Kan stepped down as Japan's prime minister, the country's ruling party voted on Monday to select its new leader.

The Democratic Party of Japan chose Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who was considered a favorite to win, to step in as Kan's successor.

Noda will become the country's sixth prime minister in five years.  Parliament will vote on Tuesday to make the transition official.

Last Friday, Kan officially resigned after facing mounting criticism over the government's slow response to Japan's triple disasters -- the March earthquake and tsunami, and the nuclear crisis that ensued when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was crippled.

Kan had announced his intention to step down in June but held off on the resignation until parliament passed a renewable energy bill that reduces the country's reliance on nuclear energy and a budget financing bill.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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