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Japan faces important challenges - Nuke phase-out "irresponsible" says Abe

October 10, 2012


Abe lambasts Noda's nuclear phaseout plan as "irresponsible"



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Main opposition Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe on Tuesday lambasted the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for its plan to phase out the nation's nuclear power plants in the 2030s as "irresponsible."

Abe's remarks were aimed at rebuilding a close relationship with Japan's most influential business lobby, which has argued that the policy would lead to higher electricity prices and deal a serious blow to the broader economy.

"Responsible action is necessary. We'll reduce the percentage of nuclear power plants, but we don't hold the view that we'll reduce (dependency on nuclear energy) to zero," Abe told a meeting with business leaders, including Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren.

Yonekura in a rare move met with the newly elected opposition leader before having talks with Noda, who reshuffled his Cabinet just last week in the run-up to the next general election, which must be held by next summer.

At the outset of the meeting, Yonekura said, "Our country is facing many important challenges, such as overcoming deflation and reviewing our energy policy."

Regarding foreign policy, Yonekura said Japan's tensions with China and South Korea have been rapidly growing and that the deteriorating relations between Japan and China "have been significantly affecting" Japanese business activities.

Abe responded, "In diplomatic negotiations, it is most important to build consensus through close talks on politics and economy."

The LDP is trying to gain support from the business world ahead of the next general election. Abe vowed Tuesday to bolster the nation's flagging economy, saying, "We have to obtain a strong economy to restore Japan."

But the leading opposition party is opposed to Japan's entry into the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks that Keidanren wants the government to join, blurring the outlook of their ties.

LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura and Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba were also present at the meeting.

Later Tuesday, Ishiba said at a press conference that Abe plans to meet the other opposition parties on Thursday and hold a meeting of all opposition leaders, as he looks to coordinate efforts to force Noda to dissolve the House of Representatives.

In August, Noda, former LDP chief Sadakazu Tanigaki and Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the LDP's ally the New Komeito party, agreed to enact legislation for a tax hike and social security reforms in exchange for a promise from Noda to call a general election "sometime soon."

Yonekura told reporters after meeting with Abe, "Cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties is necessary for policy decisions."

Unless Noda makes good on the promise with the two main opposition parties, he could face difficulties in steering proceedings in the Diet, Yonekura said, indicating he hopes that the premier will call a general election soon.

Opposition support is required for the government to secure passage of any legislation in the current divided Diet, in which the ruling bloc lacks a majority in the House of Councillors.

Noda, however, is believed to be delaying dissolution of the more powerful lower house as long as possible, given that public support for his Cabinet has fallen to below 30 percent, due in part to his unpopular move to double the 5 percent sales tax rate by 2015.




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