Nuclear Comeback in Energy Policy

TEPCOIn Japan, government officials are moving ahead with plans to revive nuclear power. Prior to the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi meltdown, 30% of the country's electricity was generated by more than 50 commercial reactors. Previous leaders had vowed to phase nuclear out, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released a new policy redefining it as an important energy source. Here's NHK with more.

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Toshimitsu Motehi, Japanese Industry Minister:

We will figure out how much nuclear power we need and we will secure that amount.


Reporter:

The draft document adopted by a group of cabinet ministers endorses a major change in Japan’s energy policy. The nuclear accident in Fukushima 3 years ago triggered a nationwide debate over nuclear power. The ruling party at that time promises to phase-out nuclear energy within 30 years. Shinzo Abe’s return to power in the December 2012 election changed the situation. The Prime Minister called elimination of nuclear power irresponsible.


The draft energy policy adopted on Tuesday says the government will re-start the reactors once they clear the latest safety regulations.


The document also underlines the need to learn from the nuclear accident and the importance of safety. But some people question whether it is really safe to resumes operations at nuclear power plants.

Among them, the governor of Niigata. His prefecture hosts the world largest nuclear plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company.


Hirohiko Izumida, Niigata Governor:

TEPCO hasn't learned from the Fukushima accident. It's not qualified to operate nuclear plants.


Reporter:

Paul Scalise is an expert on Japan’s energy policy. He explains the rationale behind the government renewed  emphasis on nuclear power.


Paul Scalise/ Research Fellow, Temple University:

You have Japan's very precarious lack of natural resources and the hope that by moving away from fossil fuels like imported gas, oil, and coal, you can avoid very disrupted shocks to both electricity prices as well as gas prices that took place in the 1970s.


Reporter:

Scalise said the energy policy will be welcomed by the business community. But he adds the utilities and the government needs to display more transparency in order to convince the general public. 

 
 

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Former Japanese PM Seeks to Mend Ties with South Korea

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama has stepped front and center into the argument over history between his country and South Korea. He is famous for the so-called ‘Murayama statement’ in 1995 apologizing for Imperial Japan’s aggression in the first half of the 20th century, he said, "Japan…through its colonial rule and digression caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations," he further went on to say "[I] express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and submit my heartfelt apology."


During a recent visit to Seoul, Murayama said all Japanese prime ministers are bound by the apology he made back in 1995.  And the current one, Shinzo Abe, had no choice but to do the same.  Murayama’s statement got wide play in South Korea and Japan. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.


Reporter:

Murayama is the former leader of Japan’s Social Democratic Party, which is currently in opposition. He is on a private visit to South Korea – invited by the country's opposition lawmakers.


Tomiichi Murayama:

I am convinced that my statement has national consensus. Therefore, I can assure you that Mr. Shinzo Abe, as prime minister of Japan, cannot deny my apology.


Reporter:

Murayama called on South Koreans to work to improve relations with Japan that have soured over historical and other issues.


Tomiichi Murayama:

Japan and South Korea must maintain friendly ties. For their mutual benefit, the development of the whole Asian region and world peace.


Reporter:

South Korean president Park Guen-hye reportedly considered meeting with Murayama, but decided not to.

 
 

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Shinzo Abe Continues Push for Japan's Right to Collective Self-Defense

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants Japan’s military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to be bigger and more active. But he’ll need to make changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution, drawn up by the US after the defeat in World War Two. To push for the changes, Abe assembled a panel of experts to study the issue and make recommendations. The experts agreed that lawmakers should act. Here's NHK.


Reporter:

Members of the panel met on Tuesday. Sources say they backed the government's view that the constitution should allow the right to collective self-defense. That would give the SDF the right to defend an ally under attack.

Some panel members said the current legal framework does not allow the SDF to use force in anything short of a direct military ­­strike.


Abe said the current law allows the forces to act only in cases of systematic and premeditated attacks on Japan. But he noted there might be cases that do not involve the use of force.


Shinzo Abe:

Many believe the SDF must respond to situations where there is a grey area. As when contingencies occur on remote islands, and if police and the coast guard cannot immediately respond.


Reporter:

Abe's views have been causing concern abroad. Neighboring countries such as China and South Korea are worried that Japan is taking a shift to the right. But an expert on security policy says the panel's decision is a necessary step in light of increasing tensions in the region.


Tetsuo Kotani:

Japan's security and civility in the region heavily depends on the global environment. So, it's not appropriate to name the specific region, but still as we can see, the tensions are very high in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.


Reporter:

The panel members will issue a final report to Abe as early as April. It will likely list the conditions that the SDF will be able to exercise collective self-defense. Kotani says the panel members need to hold more discussions about how the government would authorize such actions.


Tetsuo Kotani:

The key issue is of course the civilian control, or in other words, how the Diet should be involved when the Japanese government exercises collective self-defense.


Reporter:

Debate among lawmakers and the public is likely to grow heated before the panel members submit their final report.

 
 

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Abe's Aggressive Stance Puts Japan at Odds with Neighbors
Japan textbooksJapan's relations with its neighbors are getting worse. The most recent cause for friction is Japan's move to revise history and geography textbooks for middle and high school students. The books would say that a couple of small islands close to Korea's easternmost coast belong to Japan. Japanese call them Takeshima, the Korean name is Dokdo. South Korea has a coast guard station on the biggest island - itself only a rocky outcrop. The new textbooks will also say disputed islands in the East China Sea are sovereign Japanese territory too. There will be no mention of China's claims in the forthcoming books. Japan's minister of education defended the policy.

Hakubun Shimomura:
This policy is not directed towards China nor South Korea. It is something that should be included in education, seeing that Senkaku and Takeshima are both Japanese territories. We are simply including contents that thus far have yet to be taught.

Shimomura went on to say the current texts don't give Japanese students ammunition to debate the territorial issues with their Chinese and Korean counterparts. Students in those countries are taught the disputed islands are theirs. School curricula are only the latest problems facing Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. According to an opinion poll done by our Japanese broadcast partner, NHK, his popularity is slipping. The cause of the decline seems largely due to his rocky relations with Japan's neighbors. Here's NHK's report.

Reporter:
Prime Minister Abe started the year talking about something he mentioned again and again last year. He used his New Year media conference to emphasize his determination to revitalize Japan's economy.

Shinzo Abe:
It's time to take offensive action to end deflation. It hope that improved earnings among companies will lead to higher wages and more personal spending.

Reporter:
Abe's next challenge comes in April when the five percent consumption tax rises to eight percent. He's trying to minimize the impact with a 50 billion dollar stimulus package. Prime minister Abe took office at the end of 2012 following his Liberal Democratic Party's monster lower-house election victory. Then, the LDP and its coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, consolidated their hold on power in July by winning the Upper House. Abe's support rating hovered around 60 percent for most of the past year. That's higher than many of his predecessors during the past decade. But NHK's opinion poll in December suggested Abe's support dropped by 10 percentage points, and the latest poll indicates it hasn't quite recovered. In some ways the survey reflected how the public felt about his policy shift. After a year in power, he seems to be focusing on implementing some of his long-held goals. Last month, his ruling coalition passed a controversial secrecy bill. The law gives the government authority to designate official information as "special secrets." Many respondents to the December poll said they were concerned it may infringe on the public's "right to know." Then, before the end of 2013, Prime Minister Abe went to Yasukuni Shrine. The visit angered leaders in South Korea and China. The US government expressed "disappointment" as did many Japanese citizens. Abe is now pushing for Japan to be allowed to exercise the "right of collective self-defense", or the right to defend allies that come under attack. But to do that he needs to change the long-standing interpretation of the constitution that Self-Defense Forces can only protest Japan. Members of the LDP's coalition partner have already raised concerns.
 
 

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Japan to Ramp Up Military Under Banner of 'Proactive Pacifism'

Japan's militaryJapan has taken a major step in modernizing its military. Since the end of World War Two, Japan's defense forces have been limited by a strict interpretation of its pacifist constitution. But prime minister Shinzo Abe has broken through those limits. His cabinet has passed a wide-ranging defense program. Japan's public broadcaster NHK aired this report on December 17th.

 

Shinzo Abe:
Japan will contribute further to international peace and stability from the stance of "proactive pacifism."

Reporter:
The strategy says China's foreign policies and military posture are matters of concern for Japan and other nations. And, it adds, they must be monitored closely. The paper says recent moves by China indicate authorities in Beijing may be trying to use force to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas. But it says they are using claims that are inconsistent with international law. It says Japan will work to establish strategic and mutually-beneficial ties with China from a broad, long-term perspective. It notes leaders in Tokyo will call for restraint from their counterparts in Beijing. The strategy says Japan will consider reviewing its policy on arms exports. Currently, such exports are essentially banned. The strategy also emphasizes the need to raise public awareness about national security.

The guidelines recommend greater operational integration between Japan's air, ground, and maritime Self-Defense Forces. They say units should be more mobile and they say Japan should enhance its deterrence and response capabilities by securing necessary and sufficient power. Specifically, they call for the creation of an amphibious brigade within the ground Self-Defense Force. The unit would quickly respond to an invasion of remote islands and re-take them. The guidelines say it should be equipped with 52 amphibious vehicles, and an increased number of destroyers and fighter aircraft. The package calls for the introduction of 17 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, three drones and 99 combat vehicles. The aim is to strengthen mobility and surveillance activities. The guidelines say Japanese leaders should assess their capability to respond to North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities. Analysts see this as a reference to a possibility of a shift in policy that would allow them to strike enemy bases.

 
 

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Secrecy Bill Debacle Weakens Japanese Prime Minister's Support

Shinzo AbeJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is nearing the end of his first year in office. Following a landslide victory in 2012, Abe launched a number of policies to promote economic recovery. He also moved to revise the country's pacifist constitution to allow the military use of force. And the recent passage of a secrecy bill is Abe's latest move to boost Japan's defense capabilities. But do Japanese approve of this direction? A recent NHK poll suggests his popularity is the lowest it's been since he was elected.

Reporter:
Our interviewers spoke to more than 1,000 people by phone. Fifty percent said they support Abe's cabinet, a drop of 10 percentage points from last month. Thirty-five percent said they don't. Our poll asked for feedback on the new secrecy law. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner approved last. The law gives the government more power to decide what people can and can't know. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they disapprove of the law. Thirty-two percent said they approve of it. Fifty-nine percent said the discussion over the bill by Diet members wasn't sufficient. Eight percent said lawmakers had a thorough discussion. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they are worried the law may infringe on the public's right to know. Abe spoke on Monday and addressed the criticism over the new law.

Shinzo Abe:
I sincerely recognize the citizens' severe criticism as a reprimand. I should have taken more time to explain the bill. But the problem lies in the fact that we lack rules to decide what constitutes a secret and how to keep secrets classified.

 

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FukushimaDespite his poor poll numbers, Abe's going ahead with plans to strengthen Japan's military. His cabinet is expected to approve a plan to deploy more war planes and unmanned drones in the country's southwest. They'd be stationed closer to the islands that Japan's disputing with China. The defense review also calls for setting up an amphibious force to take back any islands occupied by a foreign country. The review makes no secret that the build-up is designed to counter China's growing presence in the East China Sea. Abe's cabinet is expected to approve the defense review in a few days.

And three years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster people in the area still fear the risk of cancer and other illnesses caused by consuming contaminated radioactive food and drink. Produce, meat, milk and fish from the affected areas are known to be contaminated. Since 2011, more than 300,000 people in the prefecture have been tested for internal contamination using a device called the whole body counter. But until recently, the scanning machine was too large for infants, who are the most vulnerable to radiation exposure. In response to this problem, scientists developed a new testing device for babies. Once again, here's NHK.

Reporter:
Tests for radiation exposure for infants began at a hospital in Hirata village. Over 30 families showed up for the test.

Parent:
I have been so worried. I've been waiting a long time for my baby to be checked.

Parent:
I don't know what will happen when my baby grows up. So I'd like this checkup.

Reporter:
Yumi Takahara lives 80 kilometers from the nuclear plant. She has long been worried about the effects of the radiation on her three daughters. Manami, the youngest, is six months old.

Yumi Takahara:
I'd feel safer if my baby were checked at a younger age.

Reporter:
This new device is called Baby Scan. It measures the internal radiation level of an infant placed inside it. Infants undergoing the radiation check are placed in this compartment where they remain for four minutes. The machine has a relatively wide opening and children can watch their parents during the checkup, which helps them stay relaxed. Professor Ryugo Hayano of the University of Tokyo headed the research team that developed the scanner. He says the main challenge was to make it as precise as possible.

Professor Ryugo Hayano:
Even though the baby, or the children, are eating the same amount of radioactive cesium as compared to parents, the amount of radioactive cesium accumulated in the body will be much less. In order to quantify the amount of radioactive cesium in the body, it doesn't make sense to measure with the same detection limit that is used for adults.

Reporter:
The machine makes meticulous calculations and is designed to block as much external radiation as possible. It has four radiation sensors, twice as many as previous models. Takahara was anxious to hear the results of the scan. Manami was put into the machine. She cried a bit because she had to be away from her mother for several minutes. But her body was successfully measured and the examination was completed. The results came in minutes later.

Healthcare employee:
No cesium is detected.

Yumi Takahara:
We have been eating a variety of foods, so that was my main concern. I am very relieved to hear this positive result.

Reporter:
A thousand people have already made appointments to have their children examined. Thanks to this machine, those most vulnerable to radiation, infants, are finally beginning to get the protection they need.

 
 

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Japanese Prime Minister Woos Southeast Asia on Landmark Trip
Prime minister Shinzo Abe's just completed visits to all the countries in the region. And it's no secret that he's hoping to make a dent in China's influence. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, reporter on the trip.

Reporter:
Prime Minister Abe visited all 10 members of the association of Southeast Asian Nations during his first year in office. He's the first Japanese prime minister in 13 years to travel to Cambodia and Laos. He met with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen. They agreed to work together on economic and medical models. Abe also met with Laotian prime minister Thongsing Thammavong. He promised financial support to reduce poverty in Laos and fund major infrastructure projects. He stressed his country will further strengthen ties with ASEAN.

Shinzo Abe:
ASEAN member nations have become a driving force behind the world's economy and are essential for Japan's economic recovery. They are also important partners in keeping Asian waters, open, free, and stable.

Reporter:
Government sources also say it's significant that the prime minister has visited all ten members of ASEAN. China is rapidly increasing it maritime activities and military presence in regional waters. Abe is sending a warning to Chinese by saying all nations must follow the rule of law over maritime affairs. Abe has so far visited 25 countries during his first year in office. Next year, he plans to visit African nations and India. But relations with China and South Korea remain a matter of concern. No summit talks have been held with either country since Abe came to power last December. Government officials say Abe plans to deal with territorial disputes with those nations.
 
 

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Weekly Roundup of News from Japan's NHK World NEWSLINE
Thuy Vu:
The latest crisis at Japan's crippled Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant: Officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company announced another leak of highly radioactive water. Six workers were exposed to radioactive liquid. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, filed this report on the radiation leak on October 9th.

Reporter:
Tokyo Electric Power Company says workers mistakenly disconnected the pipe carrying radioactive water. This caused toxic wastewater to wet six of eleven workers, spraying radioactive substances onto their skin. TEPCO staff are now checking their exposure level. Company officials say the water continued leaking for about one hour. They say some seven tons of spilled water is presently being contained. It is highly radioactive at about 34 million Becquerel's of beta ray-emitting material per liter. Human error has caused a string of recent mishaps at the Fukushima plant.

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Shinzo AbeThuy Vu:
Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, spent time at this week's summits talking defense. Japan, like four other Southeast Asian nations, has a territorial dispute with China. And Abe told Indonesia's president that Japan is going to take a more active role in the region's security problems. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, reported on the summit on October 8th.

Reporter:
Abe told President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that Japanese officials will play a more active role in maintaining peace and stability. He referred to China's presence in the South China Sea. Chinese leaders have been arguing with their counterparts from other nations over the sovereignty of various islands. Abe offered to help those leaders deal with their territorial disputes. Yudhoyono agreed they need to draw up a maritime code of conduct to insure the rule of law.

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Thuy Vu:
An animal on the list of critically endangered species has been captured on video. The Sumatran rhinoceros was thought to be extinct in Indonesia. And this is the first time in decades that conservationists have recorded one. Decades of poaching and deforestation have reduced the number of Sumatran rhinos left in the wild to less than 300. Japan's NHK covered the story on October 8th.

Reporter:
The rhinos are native to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, but locals cut away at the forest in which they lived. And poachers harvested their horns for use in Chinese medicine. So their population declined drastically. Specialists with the World Wildlife Fund and local officials installed cameras in 16 locations to try to catch one on camera. They were delighted with their success. A WWF official says they hope to work with authorities to ensure that measures are in place to protect the animal.
 
 

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Asiana Crash: Dispute Over Blame Goes International
Asiana crashAll week, Asian media has focused on news about the plane crash in San Francisco over the July 4th weekend. A Korean airliner crashed on landing and burst into flames. Two people died, dozens were injured. Was the crew at fault? The Asiana Airlines co-pilot did not have much experience flying a Boeing 777. Or did a vital instrument fail at a crucial moment? Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are still trying to piece together exactly what happened. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, filed this report with their perspective on the accident.

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Reporter:
The Boeing 777 crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport and burst into flames. Two Chinese high school students were killed. More than 180 people were taken to hospital. The chairwoman of the US National Transportation Safety Board said the pilot told them he was relying on the auto-throttle to adjust engine power and control speed. He told them he realized just before landing that the plane was flying too slow.

Chairwoman Deborah Hersman:
One of the very critical things that needs to be monitored on an approach to landing is speed. So we need to understand what was going on in the cockpit and also what was going on with the aircraft.

Reporter:
Hersman said it's still too early to conclude whether the crash was caused by human error or a mechanical fault.

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In other news from Japan, change could be on the way if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party wins the house elections this month. He's counting on his Liberal Democratic Party to win back control of the upper house of the Japanese parliament, also known as Diet. Control of both houses of the Diet is a vital step towards achieving Abe's goals for the country. And it will also be an endorsement of his economic policy, known as Abenomics. The leader's plan to revive Japan's economy includes measures like stimulus spending and tax cuts. So how are Japanese feeling about Prime Minister Abe leading up to election day? Japanese broadcaster NHK looks at the poll numbers.

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Reporter:
The NHK poll suggests Prime Minister Abe remains popular with voters. We spoke to 3,088 people over the weekend. Fifty-seven percent said they support his administration. In the 2010 Upper House election, then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan's approval rating was 48 percent. Respondents to our pool are clearly in favor of Abe's party, the Liberal Democrats. Forty-three percent say they back the LDP. Compare that to the eight percent for the opposition Democratic Party. Abe's economic policies have helped win him this support. He's focused on fixing Japan's physical woes since taking office at the end of December. His three pronged approach is monetary easing, stimulus spending, and a growth strategy to spark private investment. Our poll suggests 65 percent of respondents agree with his plans, and 80 percent say they consider economic policies one of the major issues in this election.

Voters give post-disaster reconstruction slightly more weight. Many people want the government to speed up the pace of the work in the northeast. The third most important issue with voters is social security policies, including healthcare and nursing care for the elderly. It's interesting to note how respondents view one of Prime Minister Abe's main priorities -- changing the constitution. He wants Japan to have a military. And the power to defend its allies if they come under attack. On a list of eight issues though, revising the constitution comes last.

Abe argues his party needs to win this election to ensure a stable future for Japan. The Liberal Democrats and their partner, New Komeito, control the Lower House. But the opposition controls the Upper House. With the Diet divided, it takes more time for Abe to pass Legislation. And the divided diet makes it tough for him to change the constitution. He needs two-third support in both chambers.

Voters may not be interested in Abe's long standing goal. But their support for how he's handled the economy may help give him the power he needs. We'll find out the result of their decision on July 21st.

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And leading up to the elections later this month, there is good news for Abe's calls to strengthen Japan's military. The Defense Ministry published a report recommending increased maritime presence in the East China Sea, waters that Japan shares with China and Taiwan. And there's growing concern over the increased presence of Chinese ships in the region. The report warns that China has increased its naval activities around a disputed chain of islands, China calls them the Diaoyu and Japan calls them Senkaku. While Japan controls the islands, both China and Taiwan claim them. Japanese broadcaster NHK shows us Japan's perspective on the disputed territory.

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Reporter:
A White Paper on Defense Policy says Chinese ships repeatedly enter Japanese waters around the islands. The report says some ships behave so dangerously they could have caused emergencies. It says China's expanded the maritime activities, a threat to the region and international community. Defense officials are also worried about developments in North Korea. The report says the North has made substantial progress in its program to develop ballistic missiles. The missiles could potentially reach the US West Coast and even central states.
 
 

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Tensions Rise in the East: Asia's Arms Buildup & Japan's Revisionist History
Taiwan - PhilippinesIncidents like the one between Taiwan and the Philippines this past week are fueling an arms race in Southeast Asia and beyond. The annual defense fair in Singapore had plenty of visitors this week checking out the latest in military hardware. Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, reported on this weapons bonanza on May 15, and we have the transcript from the piece.

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Reporter:
The three day long arms show opens on Tuesday. It is held once every two years. And attracts mainly naval officers from Asia, and elsewhere. On display are mockups of the latest missiles and vessels along with radar equipment. Not just China and India, Asian countries like Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam are also keen to modernize their military assets. Participants from Southeast Asian nations appear to be more inquisitive than ever. They attentively listen to their exhibitors and try to collect up to date information on the arms on offer.

The background to all this activity is China's escalation of its maritime power. In March, a Chinese ship reportedly fired a Vietnamese fishing boat in the disputed South China Sea. In the same month, China conducted a large scale military exercise off Malaysia. Every year Beijing increases its defense spending by about 10 percent, putting great pressure on Southeast Asian nations.

Agus Setiadji:
We have planned to upgrade our system and then we tried to make our armed forces bigger.

Reporter:
Also on display at Singapore's Naval base are real vessels and warships from different navies. Showing the greatest presence was the United States. It showcased for the first time a vessel that can operate in shallow waters. It's called a Letoro Combat Ship, or LCS. And it can travel at more than 70 kilometers per hour. It's capable of a variety of missions including, mine clearing, anti-surface operations, and anti-submarine warfare. It's low height enables it to cruise shallow waters where conventional warships cannot maneuver. The US chose Singapore as the vessel's first deployment site. Last week the US Secretary of the Navy came to Singapore to inspect the vessel for the main event.

Ray Mabus:
Freedom and LCS's are tangible, essential elements of America's commitment to this strategy to this region, to the Asia Pacific. That commitment will not waver and is not in doubt.

Reporter:
The US continues its arms buildup in the Asia Pacific region despite domestic pressure to cut its defense spending. One expert says this US military shift will have an impact on China's Naval strategy. 

Euan Graham:
It sends a signal that the US is here and that it's putting some substance behind its declaratory commitments.

Reporter:
In the face of an emboldened China, the US is trying to maintain its influence. The struggle between the two major powers over the waters of Asia appears to be growing.

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Toru HashimotoJapanese politicians are in hot water for their take on history. And Osaka's mayor, Toru Hashimoto, put his foot in his mouth this week when he said that comfort women were necessary for soldier morale during World War Two. The term comfort women refers to sex slaves who were forced to cater to Japanese soldiers. On May 14, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on reactions to Mayor Hashimoto's remarks.

Reporter:
Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto has a reputation for making attention grabbing remarks. Now that he's also the coleader of the National Japan Restoration party what he says has even more impact. His latest statement is no exception.

Toru Hashimoto:
The Comfort Women system was necesssary for brave soldiers who were in the line of fire. Anyone can understand that.

Reporter:
Hashimoto says the comfort woman system helped maintain discipline and that various countries had similar setups during the war. He argues the claim that Japanese systematically abducted women and forced them into prostitution hasn't been proven. At the same time, he says it was a tragic consequence of war if anyone served as a comfort woman against her will. The Japanese government issued a statement in 1993 admitting that comfort women were forced to work in military brothels. It apologized to the women. They came from Japan, the Korean Peninsula and other parts of Asia. Hashimoto made it clear he supports the apology. His remarks also touched on US military forces in Okinawa. Some troops have been involved in sex related crimes over the years. Hashimoto says when he visited the southern islands he made a suggestion to senior US military officers.

Toru Hashimoto:
I had asked them to let Marines in Okinawa use local sex related services.

Reporter:
Members of the government have lined up to criticize Hashimoto's views.

Tomomi Inada:
A comfort women system is definitely a breach of women's rights.

Haukubun Shimomura:
I think his remarks come at a bad time. I'm not sure why he said that. Considering the way the situation is right now.

Reporter:
South Korean leaders have recently criticized Japanese politicians for their approach to Japan's past wartime aggression. Media in South Korea have reacted harshly to Hashimoto's statement saying he used abusive words. The comfort women issue has long been a source of tension between the two nations. Hashimoto's remarks will likely make navigating this delicate issue even harder.

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In Japan, the achingly slow recovery of the country's nuclear power facilities continues to burden not only politics and the economy, but perhaps more importantly the environment. The risk of nuclear contamination has grown worse since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that disabled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactor. Plant operators are running out of space to store the tons of water needed to cool the spent radioactive fuel, and now that water is leaking into the groundwater and ocean. This week, a non-governmental group of scientists are studying the impact of the radioactive water that has run into the Pacific Ocean. On May 14, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on the scientific mission.

Reporter:
Scientists from Japanese and the US institution  are on a mission to check the health of the Pacific off Fukushima. Thirty-six researchers will spend 10 days aboard the ship testing the waters below. They will collect samples of water, sediment and marine life at 15 locations.

Ken Buesseler:
We're looking two years plus after the accident and now it's more the longer term fate of, say, cesium on the sea floor into the biota and the water concentrations are much lower. But still to try to determine how much is still continuing to come from the reactor area.

Reporter:
Officials with Tokyo Electric Power Company have conducted their own surveys of Fukushima-Daiichi. These researchers are the first from outside TEPCO to test the ocean within five kilometers of the plant.
 
 

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