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Reform minister may target power monopolies

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The government plans to set up a panel this month to review regulations that may be blocking industrial growth, especially in the fields of energy, environmental technology and medical care, said Tomomi Inada, state minister in charge of regulatory reform.

The panel also is expected to touch on the nation’s regional electricity monopolies, which have been questioned since the Fukushima nuclear disaster erupted in March 2011, Inada said in an interview with The Japan Times and other media outlets Friday.

Inada, 53, said that the details of the panel, such as its members and the report due date, are pending, but that it will aim to cooperate with related panels set up by the new government.

“There are various panels, and I think each will have its own ideas and requests, so we should work closely to realize the goal of boosting the economy,” said Inada, a member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

The Lower House representative of Fukui’s No. 1 district is also in charge of administrative and civil service reform, the Cool Japan promotion strategy, and the new Sai Challenge (rechallenge) initiative.

Asked about the Democratic Party of Japan-led government’s decision to slash the number of new bureaucrats from fiscal 2014 to cut costs, Inada questioned the policy but limited her criticism, saying only, “I don’t think it’s right.” Abe’s Cabinet has said it will review the measure.

As for her stance on historical issues, the known nationalist declined to comment on whether she will visit Tokyo’s war-related Yasukuni Shrine in her official capacity or support moves to packpedal on the 1993 statement issued by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that admitted the Japanese government and military were responsible for forcing women and girls into sexual slavery at frontline brothels.

“I think I share the same political beliefs and understandings of history as Prime Minister Abe . . . as a member of his Cabinet, I will make decisions appropriately. I’d like to decline to comment further,” said Inada, who was urged by Abe to run in the 2005 general election.

Yasukuni Shrine honors some 2.47 million military personnel, as well as 14 Class-A war criminals who were convicted or accused by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, better known as the Tokyo war crimes tribunal.

In her 2010 book “Watashi wa Nihon o Mamori-tai” (“I Want to Protect Japan”), Inada advocates official visits by Japan’s prime minister to the Shinto shrine, which served as the country’s spiritual backbone for the war.

“Regardless of any historical perception, if a person who represents the nation does not pay respect to the people who gave their lives for the nation, there is neither rebuilding of morals nor security,” she says in the book.

Inada also wrote in the daily Sankei Shimbun last August that the country’s recent territorial disputes are rooted in historical perceptions, which means Japan needs to issue a new statement and repeal previous declarations, including Kono’s.