Race to replace Kan as prime minister an opportunity to display national will, vision
Denuclearization," or the idea of reducing and eliminating Japan's dependence on nuclear energy, is becoming increasingly hazy.
As the countdown for Prime Minister Naoto Kan's resignation begins, many potential candidates for the next president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) -- and hence the next prime minister -- are expressing their willingness to either maintain the current nuclear policy or to further promote nuclear power.
What I believe matters in the next DPJ presidential election is not so much whether Kan's successor is or is not a charismatic leader, but what his or her views are on the nuclear issue.
In an essay titled "Gimon darake no Kan oroshi" (Calls for Kan to step down that leave a trail of doubts) that well-respected literary critic Norihiro Kato contributed to the Mainichi in the Aug. 11 Tokyo evening edition, Kato slams the lacking rhetoric of those who criticize the now anti-nuclear Kan.
According to Kato, the most important political challenge we now face is the issue of nuclear power.
Kan has explicitly put forth the new goal of denuclearization, but his detractors have not contributed any clear proposals short of maintaining the status quo, i.e. the promotion of nuclear power.
How to deal with a lack of electricity is a problem of economics.
Kan's critics have dodged the real work of much-needed political debate, working merely to undermine Kan's political efforts, Kato writes.
Indeed, successor candidates have shown acceptance toward the preservation of nuclear power plants. 実際、後継候補たちは原発の維持に理解を示している。
Frontrunners in the race for DPJ presidency including Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, former Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Sumio Mabuchi and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda have respectively said: "It is realistic to amass nuclear power technology," "We will adopt the world's most stringent safety standards," and "It is dangerous to allow a simplistic notion of denuclearization to take a life of its own."
Some DPJ presidential hopefuls are in fact for denuclearization. But there's a sense that they're not as invested in it as Kan is.
"Corruptio" (corruption), a novel written by Jin Mayama and published in July, is set in the not-so-distant future in which a political realignment takes place in a post-quake Japan, resulting in a pro-nuclear coalition government.
Under current circumstances, such a plot is not entirely unthinkable.
Kan doesn't seem to think that will happen, however. "I think we've come to a point of no return," he told an acquaintance. "But (denuclearization) is a major policy that affects the entire social structure. So in that sense, there's still a long ways to go."
Asked whether he had any lingering regret about leaving his post, Kan responded, "If I waited until I had no more regrets, I'd have to continue (to be prime minister) for another 10 years.
" Kan is said to have read through Kato's essay, and said, "Somewhere out there, there are those who understand."
It is not that post-Kan candidates are outright against denuclearization.
It's that their campaign strategies involve refraining from making any concrete pro- or anti-nuclear power statements.
Only with votes can they win the post of DPJ chief and prime minister.
One can imagine how one of these candidates-turned-prime minister will fare when he or she comes head-to-head with the pro-nuclear government-industrial complex.
Pro-nuclear advocates argue that the promotion of nuclear energy is a major trend around the world, with an unsophisticated Japan the only one left wavering.
However, domestic distrust toward nuclear power has been smoldering respectively in the U.S., Russia, Britain and France.
After all, one of the world's largest nuclear power plants -- with three times the output of Chernobyl -- in the world's third largest economic superpower had collapsed.
The world has watched as some 100,000 people have fled their homes because of government-sanctioned or voluntary evacuations.
There's no reason for Japan to speak about its future in hushed tones out of regard for those who are a part of some "major trend around the world."
I also have a problem with the know-it-alls who remark the decision for denuclearization has already been made, and that all that remains is "just" a schedule for its implementation.
Sure, but who's actually going to do the scheduling?
Setting a deadline for five years from now or 50 years from now is as different as denuclearization and the promotion of nuclear power.
It is worrisome that we do not know where Ichiro Ozawa, who leads the biggest faction within the DPJ and has the power to make or break the election for party president, stands on nuclear energy policy.
Let us hope that he comes clean with his views.
The DPJ presidential race is not an election in which to select a leader "with common sense" to counteract Kan, who has been characterized as lacking in that area.
Nor is the election one in which to select a puppet leader that can be manipulated by a former DPJ head.
Rather, the election is a chance to choose a leader who will challenge the pro-nuclear government-industrial complex, possessing both the will and ability to implement reforms.
The election must be seen and used as an opportunity to display Japan's national resolve to the world.
(By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)
毎日新聞 2011年8月22日 東京朝刊