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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid