Zero-nuclear policy, Kono Statement in the sights

Abe Cabinet signals big changes ahead

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet got down to work Thursday dismantling various policies of the previous administration, including the zero-nuclear target, and musing on a review of the 1993 Kono Statement, an apology for the coercion of women into sexual slavery during the war.

Industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi stated that the new government would review the Democratic Party of Japan’s plan to completely abandon atomic power as an energy source by the 2030s. He also hinted the Liberal Democratic Party-led government would permit the construction of new reactors.

“It is not about making a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision right now, but a major political decision will be made in the future after collecting expert opinions,” Motegi told reporters early Thursday, hours after he was appointed.

Pressured by a vociferous nationwide call to abandon nuclear power, then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his DPJ-led government adopted a zero-nuclear policy in September. The decision was adamantly opposed by Keidanren, the nation’s largest business lobby and a strong supporter of the LDP, which has welcomed the Abe government’s intention to change course.

“The previous government’s policy to stop all active nuclear reactors by the 2030s needs to be reviewed,” Motegi said.

Abe has repeatedly stated that the LDP would take 10 years to come up with the “best energy mix,” indirectly suggesting his government intends to maintain reliance on atomic energy despite the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which forced thousands of residents to flee and contaminated many of the prefecture’s resources, from fish to vegetables to water, with radiation.

Motegi’s comment was the first from Abe’s Cabinet to clearly broach the subject of reviewing the zero-nuclear policy.

Also potentially up for review, if Abe has his way, is the 1993 statement issued by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the so-called comfort women who were forced into prostitution during the war. The statement acknowledges that the Japanese military was “directly or indirectly involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.”

During a news conference Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated he was willing to unofficially listen to the opinions of experts and historians regarding the statement. However, he stopped short of saying the Abe Cabinet would back the statement, as its predecessors have done.

“It is not about whether we will follow the statement or not. What the Abe Cabinet does not want is for the statement to turn into a political or diplomatic issue, and our basic position is that it is desirable for the statement to be studied by experts and historians in and outside Japan and that I would perhaps hear their views — nothing more, nothing less,” Suga said.

The LDP is back in power for the first time in 39 months after voters bounced the DPJ in the Dec. 16 general election. Abe himself walked away from the prime ministership in 2007, when Cabinet scandals, a plummeting support rate and health problems overwhelmed him. Every leader since has lasted roughly a year at the top.

On Wednesday night, after his official reappointment as the nation’s leader, Abe said he was older and wiser, and expressed confidence he could rule better this time.