3 Août 2012
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is set to meet a representative of a citizens group arranging large weekly protests in front of his office in Tokyo against the restarting of nuclear power plants, it has been learned.
Sources close to the prime minister said he is "positive" about taking part in a meeting with a group representative. The move is seen as a response to suggestions from within the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) that he could be seen as ignoring the voices of people opposed to restarting suspended nuclear power plants in Japan. Protests against reactivation of the reactors have been rapidly expanding.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference on Aug. 1 that when Noda had a telephone conversation with former Prime Minister Naoto Kan on July 30, Noda discussed the protests, saying, "I want to hear the opinions of the public, no matter which side they are on."
In the meeting with the citizens group, Noda is expected to express understanding of the public's concerns in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and explain the need to reactivate nuclear reactors for the time being.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will meet the organizers of the antinuclear rallies attended by tens of thousands of protesters every Friday outside his office, possibly next week, according to government sources.
Members of the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, which vocally protested the July restart of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, earlier this week asked former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other Diet members to arrange a meeting with Noda.
The prime minister has been reluctant to meet with them until now, but the growing scale of the protests has apparently forced a change of stance. Noda intends to listen to the activists' views but will reiterate his support for restarting the two Oi reactors and explain the safety measures taken, the sources said.
The coalition's first antinuclear rally drew only 300 people March 29, but the number of protesters has continued to swell, especially after the government's approval June 16 for the Oi reactor to be restarted.
About 200,000 people turned out for a demonstration held June 29, according to the organizers, although the Metropolitan Police Department put the figure at less than 20,000.