News / Asia

Japan's Koizumi Backs Fellow Ex-PM in Opposing Nuclear Power

Former Japanese prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi (front R) and Morihiro Hosokawa (front L) are surrounded by the media after their meeting in Tokyo, Jan. 14, 2014.
Former Japanese prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi (front R) and Morihiro Hosokawa (front L) are surrounded by the media after their meeting in Tokyo, Jan. 14, 2014.
Reuters
Two former Japanese prime ministers challenged incumbent Shinzo Abe's pro-nuclear power policy on Tuesday, as charismatic Junichiro Koizumi backed ex-premier Morihiro Hosokawa's bid to become Tokyo’s governor on a platform opposing atomic energy.
 
Hosokawa's candidacy could turn the local election into a referendum on Abe's energy policies and boost the anti-nuclear movement, which has lost momentum after a surge following the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
 
Surveys show most voters favor abandoning nuclear power, but the electorate nonetheless propelled Abe's pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) back to power in December 2012, largely because of his promises to revive the economy and divisions among anti-nuclear opposition forces.
 
Asked why he was coming out of retirement to seek the Tokyo governor post, Hosokawa, 76, told reporters, “because I have a sense of crisis that Japan faces various problems, especially nuclear power that could imperil the fate of the country.”
 
Koizumi, one of Japan's most popular prime ministers from 2001 to 2006, has already nagged Abe with his anti-nuclear power pitch, a turnabout from the days when he led the LDP.
 
“The biggest reason why I support Mr. Hosokawa is his view that Japan can prosper without nuclear power,” a silver-haired Koizumi, 72, told reporters.
 
Hosokawa, heir to a samurai lineage, seized the imagination of a public weary of decades of scandal-tainted LDP rule when he formed the pro-reform Japan New Party in 1992. The next year, he took power at the head of a multi-party coalition that ousted the LDP for the first time in nearly 40 years.
 
However, once in office his unwieldy coalition fractured and Hosokawa stepped down after just eight months amid a financial scandal. He was never charged but his image as a bold reformer was tarnished, and he retired from politics in 1998, taking up pottery instead.
 
How much of a threat the Hosokawa-Koizumi duo poses to Abe is hard to gage, but Koizumi could be a draw on the campaign trail. Meanwhile, the candidacy could tap into a deep well of anti-atomic power sentiment even as the government seeks to restart nuclear reactors that have been offline since the Fukushima disaster.
 
A tsunami crashed into the 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.
 
Anti-nuclear hopes
 
“Given that the LDP government has been seeking to resume nuclear power generation slowly and quietly without drawing too much popular attention, Hosokawa's candidacy is bad news in itself,” said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano.
 
“What Hosokawa and Koizumi show is that the anti-nuclear hopes are not held just by left-wing radicals, but also by a good number of middle class including even those who are conservative otherwise,” Nakano continued.
 
A survey by the local Tokyo newspaper showed that about two-thirds of Tokyo voters want the country to cease using nuclear power altogether sooner or later. Just over nine percent back the government policy.
 
A government panel said last month that Japan should embrace nuclear power as an “important and fundamental” energy source, rejecting the previous government's plan to abandon atomic energy.
 
Still, Hosokawa's age and the way he left office could cloud the outlook for his campaign.
 
“Hosokawa has little direct contact with Tokyo and Tokyo governor elections are more about name recognition and local connections than policies,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University's Japan Campus.
 
The Tokyo poll follows the resignation in December of then-governor Naoki Inose - three months after he helped the capital win its bid for the 2020 Olympics - over his receipt of 50 million yen ($484,000) from a scandal-hit hospital chain.
 
“Twenty years ago, Mr. Hosokawa stepped down as prime minister due to a problem regarding money - twice as much money as in Mr. Inose's case - from Sagawa Kyubin,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. “I wonder how this will be viewed by people in Tokyo.”
 
Hosokawa resigned in 1994 amid criticism over a 100 million yen loan he had taken 12 years earlier from the scandal-tainted Sagawa Kyubin trucking firm.
 
Other candidates include former air force chief of staff Toshio Tamogami, who resigned in 2008 after denying in an essay that Japan was the aggressor in WWII. He heads the nationalist group “Gambare Nippon” (Stand Firm! Japan).

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs