Japan’s New Leader Endorses Nuclear Plants

From New York Times

By Hiroko Tabuchi

The newly elected prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, said Sunday that he would seek to build nuclear reactors, reversing within a week in office a campaign pledge to move Japan away from nuclear power.

The statement about the reactors came in Mr. Abe’s first televised interview since taking office. During his five days as prime minister, he had hinted that he would take a closer look at nuclear power.

“They will be completely different from those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant,” he told the national television network TBS. Multiple meltdowns at the plant after an earthquake last year forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes.

“With public understanding, we will be building anew,” Mr. Abe said.

He did not specify where or when. Building nuclear power plants would depart from the direction of the previous government of Yoshihiko Noda, who had pledged to phase out nuclear power by 2040.

It also appeared to go against a campaign platform adopted by Mr. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party that aims “to establish an economy and society that does not need to rely on nuclear power.” The platform also said Japan would put the development of alternative energy sources, like solar and wind, ahead of nuclear power, and made no mention of new nuclear plants.

Though fervent antinuclear protests across the country have kept all but two of Japan’s 50 reactors off line, Mr. Abe is betting that Japan’s silent majority will condone a return to nuclear to help bolster the economy.

Mr. Abe’s pro-business Liberal Democrats won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections this month, campaigning on promises to take bolder measures to kick-start Japan’s moribund economy. The nation’s biggest business lobby, the Keidanren, has publicly urged the government to restart the nation’s reactors.

Signaling what could be rocky relations with Tokyo’s neighbors, Mr. Abe, who returned as a prime minister after a yearlong stint in 2006-7, also hinted that he may replace or void apologies from 1993 and 1995 for Japan’s having used women as sex slaves during World War II and for past colonial rule and aggression in Asia.

In a separate interview with The Sankei Shimbun, a national daily, he said his previous administration had found no evidence that the women who served as sex slaves to Japan’s wartime military had, in fact, been coerced. The Japanese government will seek to communicate that view, the newspaper quoted Mr. Abe as saying.

A perceived lack of remorse by Japan for its colonial and wartime history has been severely criticized, especially by South Korea and China, which bore the brunt of Japan’s colonial aggressions.

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