New education and science minister Makiko Tanaka wasted little time before stirring up some controversy, questioning the strategy of phasing out nuclear power generation by the 2030s without terminating the long-standing policy to recycle spent fuel.
“It is very contradictory,” Tanaka, who is known for her outspokenness, told reporters Monday after she was named to the new Cabinet lineup.
Continuing the spent fuel policy is seen as reflecting the government’s consideration of the repercussions on local governments that host related facilities and on the United States, which has close ties with Japan’s nuclear industry.
By retaining Yukio Edano — who was involved in crafting the strategy — as the economy, trade and industry minister, the government indicated that there is no change in its stance to end reliance on nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 disaster.
But the pathway to achieving that goal appears to be unclear. The government has announced its intention to continue the fuel recycling program and to allow construction of reactors already approved by authorities.
Tanaka also touched on the ongoing territorial dispute with China and Taiwan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The daughter of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who established diplomatic ties with China in 1972, she is expected to help improve ties with Beijing that have been frayed by the clash over the islets’ sovereignty.
“My view . . . is the same as that of the Japanese government,” Tanaka said when asked about recent Chinese media reports that quoted her as saying the issue over the Senkaku Islands should be shelved for the sake of sound bilateral ties.
Dismissing the reports as “misinformation and misleading,” Tanaka refuted an assumption that her view runs counter to the government’s stance that no territorial dispute exists with China.
Japan contends the islets are an integral part of Japanese territory while China claims that the two countries came to an understanding in 1972 to shelve the sovereignty issue.