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People's anger forces LDP policy chief to apologise

June 19, 2013


LDP's Takaichi retracts death toll comment after sparking anger in Fukushima





Amid calls for her resignation and growing outrage in Fukushima Prefecture, the ruling party’s policy chief on June 19 apologized for saying the Fukushima nuclear disaster has not directly caused any deaths.

“It was regrettable if people in Fukushima Prefecture felt bitter and were angry,” Sanae Takaichi, chairwoman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, told reporters at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo. “I will retract everything I said about the energy policy.”

Politicians and families of people who died in the evacuation process described Takaichi’s June 17 comment as insensitive, baffling and inaccurate.

Although the central government has defended Takaichi, the criticism has been so great that some members of the LDP want to limit her public appearances during the Upper House election in July.

Takaichi made the comment when she was arguing for the need to restart idle nuclear reactors during a meeting of the LDP’s Hyogo prefectural chapter in Kobe.

“We are in a situation in which no one has ever been killed by an accident at a nuclear power plant (in Japan), including Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant,” she said.

Takaichi later said she wanted to emphasize that no one has died due to radiation exposure from the Fukushima disaster. But opposition party leaders said Takaichi was missing the point.

“Some people died due to stress during their prolonged stays at evacuation centers. It was undoubtedly caused by the nuclear accident,” Goshi Hosono, secretary-general of the Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters on June 18. “Anyone who cannot accept the seriousness of such a situation has no right to manage things at the center of the government.”

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, was more blunt.

“The LDP, which has promoted nuclear power, is most responsible for the Fukushima accident,” she said. “(Takaichi’s remark) was outrageous. She should resign her post as the policy chief.”

And Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, who himself has come under fire for his remarks about wartime “comfort women,” said of Takaichi’s comment, “It is wrong to judge the nuclear problem based on whether people died or not.”

However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on June 18 defended Takaichi’s remark, saying, “Seen from the context, I don’t think it so problematic.”

Not all LDP members agreed.

The LDP’s Fukushima prefectural chapter filed a protest to the party headquarters on June 19, demanding Takaichi retract her remark and apologize.

Takao Hiraide, secretary-general of the chapter, said the previous day: “With many prefectural citizens having died during the evacuation, their relatives are heartbroken. Takaichi’s remark was truly regrettable.”

A Lower House member who belongs to the LDP chapter was furious and bewildered. “With the central government and the LDP saying they would stay close to the pain in the disaster-stricken areas, what she said goes exactly against it.”

According to Fukushima Prefecture, 1,415 residents in the prefecture have died during the forced evacuation or after they were relocated since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear disaster in March 2011.

About 160,000 people in the prefecture still live in evacuation.

Forty patients at Futaba Hospital in Okuma, about 4 kilometers from the crippled plant, had died by the end of March 2011 during the chaos in the evacuation process.

“(Takaichi’s) comment tramples on the feelings of people in Fukushima,” said a resident whose family member was one of the Futaba patients who died. “I was unhappy about (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe’s plans to restart nuclear reactors, and I cannot stand his subordinate’s remark, too.”

Relatives of several patients who died in the evacuation sued TEPCO earlier this month, arguing that the deaths were caused by the accident.

In addition, some residents are still suffering from anxiety after being temporarily evacuated to an area with high radiation levels due to the government’s failure to release predictions on the spread of radioactive materials immediately after the accident.

Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie, which was designated as a no-entry zone after the accident, said Takaichi displayed a lack of sensitivity to the continuing plight of the affected residents.

“It was an outrageous comment, given that town residents are living hard lives and were scattered in the evacuation,” he said. “I am afraid that memories of the accident seem to be fading.”

The LDP, currently well ahead of other parties in opinion polls, plans to include the resumption of nuclear power operations in its platform for the Upper House election.

Yoshimi Watanabe, who heads Your Party, said Takaichi’s comment “showed one aspect of the LDP’s intoxication caused by the high support rates.”

However, many LDP members have expressed concerns that Takaichi’s remark could hurt the party in the election and fuel opposition to its plan to restart nuclear reactors.

“I don’t want Takaichi to make a campaign speech,” a senior LDP official said.

Abe plans to visit Fukushima Prefecture on June 30 for the third time.


June 20, 2013


LDP policy chief retracts Fukushima comments

Staff Writer



Facing flak from both the opposition — and her own party — Sanae Takaichi, policy chief for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, retracted earlier remarks that no one was killed in the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns and that the government should restart reactors nationwide.

Takaichi told reporters Wednesday that she would retract all of the remarks she made Monday during a speech in Kobe, adding that it was up to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to decide her fate.

Abe, who was later briefed on the matter during his diplomatic trip in Europe, said he would keep Takaichi in the position, but warned her against making remarks “that could cause misunderstandings,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Abe and Suga have apparently rushed to stave off any political damage from the controversial remarks ahead of a critical Upper House election next month.

In the wake of Takaichi’s comments, Suga contacted her several times to discuss the matter, a government source said.

“It’s true (her words) caused misunderstanding,” Suga said. “A politician should be careful not to make any remarks that could lead to misunderstandings.”

No deaths have been confirmed to be directly related to the massive amount of radioactive materials spewed from the Fukushima No. 1 plant’s wrecked reactors since the March 2011 triple meltdowns.

However, the hasty evacuation of elderly and hospitalized patients resulted in at least 70 deaths, and many other evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture died at shelters or killed themselves after the meltdowns.

Earlier the same day, the LDP’s Fukushima prefectural chapter submitted a letter of protest to party headquarters in Tokyo, saying Takaichi had ignored those victims as well as numerous Fukushima residents still unable to return to their hometowns because of dangerious levels of radiation.

Abe’s Cabinet has urged party executives and Cabinet ministers in particular to avoid any gaffes that could hurt their electoral chances since his first Cabinet in 2006 and 2007 suffered political setbacks after a rash of ministerial scandals.

LDP policy chief apologizes for remarks on nuclear disaster



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The policy chief of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party apologized Wednesday over her remarks that drew criticism for making light of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

"I retract (the remarks) and offer my apology," said Sanae Takaichi, who said on Monday that Japan should keep using atomic power while pointing out there was no death directly linked to the crisis.

The remarks sparked criticism from both ruling and opposition camps with the opposition parties urging her to resign as LDP policy chief and a lawmaker.

Takaichi told reporters at the party's headquarters that she has left the decision of whether she should resign as the LDP policy chief to "the hands of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference that Abe wants Takaichi to stay on as policy chief, given that she has already backtracked on her remarks and apologized.

"The prime minister told me over the phone that he wanted Ms. Takaichi to be careful about what she says, and continue to soundly fulfill her role as policy chief. And I told her about that," Suga said.

The row over her remarks, however, could negatively affect Abe's position for restarting nuclear power reactors, most of which remain offline nationwide due to safety concerns.

In a speech in Kobe on Monday in which she called for the resumption of atomic power generation in Japan, Takaichi said, "No one has died" in the crisis following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan, adding, "So, we have little choice but to utilize (nuclear reactors) while ensuring maximum safety."

After facing fierce criticism, Takaichi tried to clarify her remarks Tuesday, saying, "My way of phrasing things was bad." But On Wednesday, she even faced protest from a Cabinet member.

"I'm very angry," Masako Mori, minister in charge of declining birthrate, told reporters after meeting with Takaichi. Mori, a House of Councillors member, is elected from Fukushima Prefecture.

The LDP chapter in Fukushima submitted a letter of protest to the party's leadership, saying Takaichi "is not fully aware of the current situation in Fukushima and lacks consideration" for people affected by the crisis.

The letter also noted many people remain evacuated due to radiation fears, and that more than 1,400 people have died for reasons related to the disaster, including those who committed suicide due to negative mental health.

Radiation fears forced more than 150,000 people to flee their homes in Fukushima Prefecture as of May, the government said, while seriously damaging farming and fisheries industries in surrounding areas.


LDP politician apologizes for Fukushima remarks



A high-ranking member of Japan's ruling party has apologized for remarks she made about victims of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

In a speech in Kobe on Monday, policy chief of Liberal Democratic Party Sanae Takaichi suggested that no one was killed by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. She added that Japan should restart its idled nuclear plants while ensuring their safety.

The remarks caused a backlash from within the LDP. The secretary general of the party's Fukushima chapter, Takao Hiraide, visited LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Wednesday.

He said more than 1,400 people in the prefecture have been recognized as having died as a result of the disaster. They include people who died because of the stresses of evacuation and those who killed themselves due to anxiety.

Hiraide said Takaichi's remarks are inappropriate and that they lack consideration for the people of Fukushima. He submitted a letter demanding her to withdraw the remarks and apologize to residents.

Takaichi later told reporters that she retracts the remarks. She added that she regrets if her remarks caused people to suffer or feel anger. She apologized for offending residents and LDP members who are devoting themselves to reconstruction efforts.

Jun. 19, 2013 - Updated 07:11 UTC


LDP policy chief clarifies remarks on nuclear disaster



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Sanae Takaichi, policy chief of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, on Tuesday tried to clarify her earlier remarks that drew criticism for seeming to make light of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in 2011.

In a speech in Kobe on Monday in which she called for the resumption of atomic power generation in Japan, where most reactors remain offline due to safety concerns, Takaichi said, "No one has died (in nuclear power plant accidents) including the Fukushima plants which suffered devastating explosions" after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan.

"So, we have little choice but to utilize (nuclear reactors) while ensuring maximum safety," she added.

Takaichi told reporters Tuesday, "If I have caused misunderstanding, it may be that my way of phrasing things was bad."

"I am aware that there are people who died due to poor health (after the disaster), even if it was not actually caused by radiation exposure, and others who killed themselves after losing their jobs and livelihood," she said.

Takaichi added she is not supporting the restart of nuclear power generation simply because there had been no deaths in the Fukushima plant disaster.

Radiation fears forced some 150,000 people to flee their homes in Fukushima Prefecture as of May, according to the government. The crisis has also seriously damaged farming and fisheries businesses in surrounding areas.

Takaichi's remarks sparked criticism from opposition parties, as well as from some lawmakers within the LDP and government.

"I believe politicians must be very careful with their own words so to avoid causing misunderstandings," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

But the top government spokesman also defended Takaichi, saying that some media reports had played up her remarks without taking the context into account.

June 19, 2013(Mainichi Japan)

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