MAPUTO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested Sunday that nuclear power should not be the main focus of the closely watched Tokyo gubernatorial election on Feb. 9.
In response to growing speculation that former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa might be a key contender in the race and call for ending Japan’s use of nuclear power, Abe said: “Energy policy is an issue not only for Tokyoites, but all people in Japan.
“Energy issues will of course likely be discussed, but balanced debate is also necessary for other issues that must be dealt with by a Tokyo governor,” he told reporters in the Mozambique capital. Abe, who is considered pro-nuclear, is in Maputo on the third leg of his weeklong tour of four Middle East and African nations.
In the gubernatorial election, Hosokawa is apparently aiming to seek an alliance with ex-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is also in favor of a nuclear-free society. The political and economic reformer retired from politics in 2009 but remains extremely popular with the public.
Abe said that the key issues in the election should include clearing the waiting lists for children seeking to enter nurseries, ensuring the success of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and beefing up measures to minimize damage from disasters.
Those who have declared they plan to run in the election include former Japan Federation of Bar Associations President Kenji Utsunomiya, former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe and former Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Toshio Tamogami.
On when the government may change its interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution to enable the nation to exercise its right to engage in collective self-defense, Abe said, “I have not decided a specific schedule.”
Yosuke Isozaki, an aide to Abe and a member of the House of Councilors, has said the government is expected to revise its interpretation during the Diet session scheduled to convene on Jan. 24.
But Abe, who doubles as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, stopped short of specifying when the reinterpretation will take place, apparently due to hesitance on the part of Buddhist-backed New Komeito, the LDP’s junior partner in the ruling bloc.
Abe stressed his government’s resolve to quickly enact the fiscal 2013 supplementary budget, which is mainly dedicated to economic stimulus measures, and the full fiscal 2014 budget, in the coming 150-day Diet session lasting through June 22.
On the Jan. 19 mayoral election in Nago, Okinawa, Abe said, “The government is determined to do all it can to reduce Okinawa’s heavy burden of hosting U.S. bases by seriously considering the feelings of the people there.”
The biggest issue in the local election is the plan by the Japanese and U.S. governments to build an airstrip on Nago’s Henoko coast to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is in the congested city of Ginowan.
The election will be closely watched as it comes after Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima last month approved the central government’s application to begin filling in offshore areas of Henoko for the planned runways.
“The Futenma base should never be allowed to remain at its current location permanently,” Abe said.