In 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.
Toshimitsu Motehi, Japanese Industry Minister:
We will figure out how much nuclear power we need and we will secure that amount.
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.
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.
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.
Protests in Thailand aren't letting up. For months anti-government demonstrators have filled the streets of Bangkok. They're calling for an end to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. With her main offices blocked by protesters, Yingluck moved to a temporary office within the defense ministry and protesters have rallied to shut her out. With the latest on the unrest in Thailand, here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.
Anti-government protesters are targeting businesses linked to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s family in their drive to force her to resign.
Demonstrators led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban gathered near a property development firm owned by Yingluck’s family. Thailand’s elite and middle class form the core of the anti-Thaksin faction. They want Yingluck to resign and eliminate the influence of her older brother, former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra. He now lives in self-imposed exile.
Yingluck now has another political crisis on her hands. More than 2-thousand protesting farmers drove from Central Thailand to Bangkok on Thursday in a convoy of farm vehicles. They want the government to make good on its pledge to buy rice for about 40% more than the market price.
We don’t go back until we get our money. We’ve been waiting for four or five months. If we weren’t running out of food to eat, we wouldn’t have come.
The elite and the middle class say the Thaksin family has used government money to buy votes, mainly in the northern and northeastern parts of Thailand. Yingluck, earlier this month, went ahead with a general election. But protests caused officials to cancel voting in nearly 20% of the country’s electoral districts. Thailands’ Electoral Commission rescheduled elections for late April, but on Wednesday decided to postpone voting in those constituencies until an unspecified date. Thailand’s political divide seems only to be deepening as anti-government protesters vow to topple the government.
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.
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.
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.
Murayama called on South Koreans to work to improve relations with Japan that have soured over historical and other issues.
Japan and South Korea must maintain friendly ties. For their mutual benefit, the development of the whole Asian region and world peace.
South Korean president Park Guen-hye reportedly considered meeting with Murayama, but decided not to.
Countries that border the South China Sea are worried that China will set up another air defense identification zone. This will allow it to push its claim to a wide area of the waters. And some are ramping up the rhetoric. Philippine president Benigno Aquino compared China to Germany’s carving up Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War Two. Aquino called on nations around the world to help the Philippines resist China’s claims. That brought a response from the US. Here’s NHK.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russell spoke to reporters in Washington. He said the U.S does not recognize China’s air defense zone and warned its leaders not to set up more.
Daniel Russell, State Department:
We urge China not to attempt to implement the ADIZ and certainly not to replicate it in other sensitive areas including and particularly in the South China Sea.
Russell said the U.S military had shown that China air defense zone won't affect its operations.
South Korea and Japan seem to be in disagreement over what to call the body of water that lies between them. Japanese call it the Sea of Japan, but to South Koreans it's the East Sea. That dispute is now causing waves in the US. One state wants to publish both names in school textbooks. Here's Japan's NHK.
The delegates voted 81 to 15 to pass the bill. It’s expected to pass the state’s Senate and be signed by the governor. The bill would require new textbooks from July to note that the body of water that separates Japan from the Korean Peninsula is also known as the 'East Sea.' Japan's ambassador to the United States , Kenichiro Sasae has been urging the governor and state lawmakers to oppose the bill. Japanese officials maintain that the 'Sea of Japan' is the only internationally established name for the waters. They note that the US government recognizes it as such.
In Thailand, anti-government protesters are ramping up their efforts to disrupt this weekend’s general election. They wanted a postponement, but Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra refused. Here’s NHK.
Yingluck met with members of the electoral commission. They urged her to put off the poll something that Thai constitutional court ruled would be legal. They said a fair election is unlikely given the current situation, but the prime minister didn’t agree. So the vote will go ahead. Demonstrators are vowing to stop it. Already they’ve been sabotaging absentee voting. They want Yingluck to resign because they feel her brother, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, exerts too much influence. Protest leader and former deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, denounced Yingluck for ignoring the will of the people.
We must continue the fight. And expand our protests to topple the Yingluck’s government.
Suthep called on demonstrators to surround the offices of security authorities. The government declared a state of emergency last week for Bangkok and the surrounding area to maintain security ahead of the election.
And now to a problem that's affecting hundreds of millions of people in Asia. More than 650 million don't have clean water to drink. A city in Japan says it has a solution. Here's NHK with the story.
Regional municipalities operate almost all the water work systems in Japan. The city of Kitakyushu in western Japan provides clean tap water to the city’s 490-thousand households. The city developed a water-purifying machine with the private company 15 years ago. Micro-organisms attached to activated carbon dissolve the pollutants. The machine is half the price of other technologies. It uses less chlorine to disinfect the water. Kitakyushu officials started promoting the technology with private firms from 2010 to emerging economies in Asia.
Kazuya Kubata, Waterworks Bureau:
Kitakyushu has a long history as a city of technology and manufacture. It's our mission to take action. That’s something we must do.
Kitakyushu officials are now turning their attention to Vietnam. Haiphong is the country’s third biggest city. Raw sewage and industrial wastewater is discharged into rivers. The river water is purified for use in tap water by adding lots of chlorine. But that combination can generate harmful substances. Citizens boil tap water for drinking and cooking. They want clean water that their children can safely drink.
I don’t feel safe using tap water. I feel uneasy. Because I have small children. But I don’t have any other choice.
Kitakyushu officials told their counterparts at the Haiphong Water Authority about their water purification technology. The Vietnamese officials liked what they saw and decided to start using the Japanese system. It went into operation last month.
The Haiphong officials based their decision on low cost of the Japanese system and the fact that it uses less chlorine. The machine succeeded in eliminating most of the pollutants.
The Japanese system has caught the attention of officials in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s biggest city.
They started testing at this month. That could lead to a deal worth almost 20 million dollars. Seven other Vietnamese cities have also asked Kitakyushu officials to do on site service.
Ho Chi Minh City water official:
Providing people safe water supply is one of our biggest goals. I hope their technology will bring us good results.
If we want to get orders from abroad. We need to go into the field with local officials, and talk with them about what needs to be done.
Kitakyushu officials have high hopes for their work in Vietnam. They hope it will encourage Japanese companies to work together to design water resource management systems and win orders from overseas clients.