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Abe shelves effort to gain passage of Turkey, UAE nuclear export deals

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Due to the clash in the Upper House over the contentious state secrets bill, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will not pursue approval in the current Diet session of two deals signed earlier this year to export nuclear reactor technology and know-how to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

In May, Japan and Turkey signed a $22 billion deal with a Japanese-French consortium to build a nuclear power plant in Sinop, on the Black Sea coast. The consortium includes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Itochu Corp. Construction of four reactors is slated to begin in 2017, and the first reactor is scheduled to begin operating from 2023.

Also in May, Japan and the UAE signed a nuclear cooperation agreement, paving the way for future exports of nuclear technology to oil- and gas-rich Abu Dhabi, which seeks to eventually have nuclear power provide up to 25 percent of its electricity.

Abe had hoped to have at least the Turkish agreement ratified by the Diet before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Tokyo in January. However, both Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and the Democratic Party of Japan oppose the export agreements.

At the same time, the Abe government is pushing hard to get the state secrets bill through the Upper House and passed into law by the time the current Diet session finishes Friday, despite growing criticism, inside and outside Japan, that the bill’s vagueness will lead to abuses of power by the state.

Thus, the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito coalition decided to postpone discussions on the nuclear export agreements, concluding there was no time to debate what are also likely to be contentious issues.

Nippon Ishin in particular is conflicted about the agreements. Though an opposition party, Nippon Ishin shares many of the LDP’s goals, particularly constitutional revision, a key Abe objective.

However, the party is split on the nuclear export agreements, with co-leader Shintaro Ishihara and those loyal to him supporting the deals. But founder and co-leader Toru Hashimoto and his allies are skeptical or opposed.