After three years of deliberations, a government panel on Monday handed Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi a list of three areas for further consideration as sites for the relocation of the Diet and government offices from Tokyo.
The Council for Relocation of the Diet and Other Organizations identified an area between Abukuma, Fukushima Prefecture, and Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, as well as the area covering Tono, Gifu Prefecture, and the northern Nishimikawa area of Aichi Prefecture as the top two sites.
The council also named the Mie-Kio region, which straddles Shiga, Kyoto and Nara prefectures, as a potential candidate, on condition that a high-speed transportation network be built there.
Although the Mie-Kio region scored next to last in a quantitative evaluation of 10 sites in a scoring system of 16 factors, it remained a potential candidate, while the northern part of central Ibaraki Prefecture, which scored third quantitatively, was dropped and judged best suited as a supplementary area to the Tochigi-Fukushima area.
“Mie-Kio has characteristics none of the other sites has,” said Wataru Mori, the council chairman, citing its proximity to Kyoto and Osaka and the historical importance of the area. “Although the council values the scores, there are dangers in being tied to numbers.”
Deliberation will now pass to a special committee in the Diet, which will evaluate whether relocation is necessary and make a final selection.
The council’s final report comes nine years after the Diet first adopted a resolution concerning its relocation in November 1990, four years after a final report was submitted by a study group to deliberate guidelines for relocation in December 1995, and follows 31 sessions by the council.
The failure to choose a site has dismayed supporters of relocation who in 1990 projected that construction would have begun by the end of 1999.
“You might say there are two, or four, or three final candidates,” Mori admitted.
Council members were fiercely divided on the decision to submit a short list instead of one selected site, said Nobuo Ishihara, the council’s deputy chairman.
“Some said that choosing a single site was the raison d’etre of the council,” he said. Due to the closeness of the scores of the top candidates, however, the majority decided it was best to leave the final decision to the people and the Diet, and to submit instead a full report of the council’s investigations and evaluation, he said.
Pressure from Diet members and local officials was a large factor for the conditional inclusion of the Mie-Kio region, panel sources say.
“Basically, if the Diet decides on the Mie-Kio region, it won’t go against the council’s deliberations,” Mori said.
The sites were selected from 10 in three regions. The Tochigi-Fukushima and Gifu-Aichi areas scored highest — the first for its easy access to Tokyo and the second for its safe location in terms of disaster threats such as floods and landslides.
Ibaraki, which in September suffered the nation’s worst nuclear accident, had a full score on earthquake safety but was rejected as a candidate reportedly because it is unlikely that a high-speed transportation system to the region will be developed.
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Monday that the central government does not need to relocate the capital because the move would only cause the nation a loss. He also said he believes the relocation plans will dissipate because they are only an election campaign ploy.
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