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Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012
Noda to meet protesters, to hear from both sides of nuclear divide
By MASAMI ITO
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Friday he plans to meet soon with organizers of the huge antinuclear protests staged weekly outside his office to hear their views against restarting idled reactors.
The demonstrations, held Fridays to demand the government stop efforts to reactivate reactors, attracted increasing numbers of participants from all over Japan in recent weeks. During an interview with media outlets, Noda said he is arranging a meeting with the organizers in the "not-too-distant future."
"I can hear (the protesters' cries) when I open the windows" at the prime minister's office, Noda said. "There are many voices among the crowd, including those who support (reactivations) and those opposed, and I basically want to listen to all the different opinions."
Security around Noda's official office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, is on high alert every Friday and strictly guarded by the police. The prime minister, however, said he realizes the protests are a way for the public to voice their feelings.
"I think there are many ways the people can be heard and I believe (the demonstrations) are one way," Noda said. "I don't know whether they will be able to change (policies) . . . but they are naturally allowed to express their political views."
Regarding the nomination of Shunichi Tanaka as head of the new nuclear regulatory authority, Noda and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan are facing harsh criticism from the opposition and even some DPJ members. Tanaka's stance is viewed as pronuclear, since he has served as vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, which is seen as promoting atomic energy.
But Noda stressed Friday that he chose Tanaka and other members for the new watchdog based on their technical expertise, as well as their firm resolve to ensure safety in the nuclear power industry.
"The most basic (factor) is that the candidates have a deep sense of remorse over the nuclear disaster in Fukushima and must be prepared to regulate nuclear safety with a resolute attitude," Noda said. "All the members were chosen because the government believes they are appropriate for the positions."
Meanwhile, he said he will do everything in his power to defeat a no-confidence motion against his Cabinet that seven minor opposition parties are preparing to submit to the Diet as early as next week, in an attempt to prevent the enactment of controversial legislation to hike the sales tax.
"The parties want to block the bill's passage (in the Upper House), as well as the government's tax and social security reform legislation. If the seven parties submit a censure motion, we will devote ourselves to ensure it is rejected," Noda said.
On the arrival of the tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and their planned deployment to the U.S. Futenma base in Okinawa, Noda reiterated that no test flights will take place until the aircraft's safety is proven, given their appalling track record during initial flight testing dating back years and two recent crashes that have together claimed 36 lives.
"I must take the growing concern among locals in Okinawa and Yamaguchi seriously. . . . Our policy is that there will be no test flights until their safety has been confirmed, and the United States is in agreement with this," Noda said.