Archive for the Naoto Kan Category

Japan’s earthquake anniversary highlights lessons to be learned [Xinhua]

Posted in Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan, Naoto Kan, Nukes, Tokyo on March 11, 2012 by Zuo Shou / 左手

I remember when the Chernobyl nuclear accident happened, it was exploited to the hilt as anti-communist, anti-Soviet propaganda. Funny how the capitalist media can’t apply the same standard to Japan’s Fukushima, which had at least the same level accident. – Zuo Shou

By Jon Day

TOKYO, March 10 (Xinhua) — The biggest earthquake since records began rocked Japan’s northeast seaboard on March 11 last year, triggering a colossal tsunami to surge inland and causing carnage in coastal cites unseen in this nation since WWII.

Within an hour of the initial quake hit, torrents of more than 10 meters in height breached sea defenses and tossed cars, boat and trains around like toys, leveled buildings and washed away everything in its path.

As of Friday, the official death toll was 15,854, with more than 3,167 people still unaccounted for. But the unfolding catastrophe did not end with just the quake and tsunami.

As the sea floor off the Tohoku coast shifted violently and unleashed the force of a magnitude-9.0 quake, the fourth largest in the world since 1900, the resulting torrent of water breached the primary and secondary defenses of a coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, located 240 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.

The vital cooling functions at the No.1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima were knocked out as the facilities’ basements housing key equipment quickly became inundated.


Just four hours after the tsunami hit the nuclear plant, the Japanese government feared the damage to the reactors was so severe that a full meltdown was possible and the then Prime Minister Naoto Kan was on the brink of issuing an emergency evacuation order for Tokyo.

“If temperatures in the reactor cores keep rising beyond eight hours, there is a possibility of meltdown,” a government official was quoted as saying during the first crisis meeting four hours after the earthquake struck.

However, the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) only conceded there had been a partial meltdown and that radioactive substances had been released into the air, land and sea in May, nearly two months after the crisis began.

As spent nuclear fuel pools continued to deteriorate and following a number of hydrogen explosions and fires at reactor buildings at the plant, it was only on March 16 that the nation’s premier first warned his cabinet that the unfolding crisis was possibly on a par with the Chernobyl accident in 1986.

“The amount of radiation that could be released from those reactors could be larger than Chernobyl. We must keep cooling the reactors, whatever it takes. It’s going to be a long battle,” Kan was quoted as saying in the crisis meeting minutes, released just recently.

On March 25, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission produced a paper stating that the likelihood existed that the crippled Fukushima plant was potentially heading towards a “worst case scenario” and in that event 30 million people from the greater Tokyo area would have to be immediately evacuated.

The commission’s evaluation was kept under wraps for fear of mass public panic, compounded by daily news reports, both domestic and international, of conflicting information regarding the severity of the crisis and levels of leaked radiation.

The report, however, surfaced publicly in January much to the chagrin of both the Japanese and the international community and trust in the Japanese government’s handling of the crisis plummeted further amid harsh international and local criticism.


The nuclear disaster caused thousands of people to be displaced and rehoused in temporary shelters as the ineffective communication between the government’s nuclear agencies and the plant’s operator became publicly ridiculed, with discerning citizens deferring to international nuclear watchdogs like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for more trustworthy information.

Indeed, Kan unceremoniously stepped down at the end of August to take responsibility for his government’s slow response to the nuclear crisis and inability to communicate clearly and effectively with TEPCO and his domestic nuclear agencies.

Japan’s current prime minister Yoshihiko Noda admitted during a recent press conference that the Kan government monumentally failed to respond to and deal with the triple disasters of last March and lambasted Kan and his cabinet for being sluggish in passing on vital information and for being overly reliant on “a myth of safety” regarding nuclear power.

“We can no longer make the excuse that what was unpredictable and outside our imagination has happened,” Noda said. “Crisis management requires us to imagine what may be outside our imagination.”

LESSONS LEARNED [? …take the following with a grain of salt – ZS]

The prime minister went on to say that through the ineptitude of the former administration, a number of important lessons have been learned. That would ensure that were a similar disaster to happen, the nation’s nuclear plants, following a series of stringent safety and stress tests, would be better equipped to deal with failing cooling systems, with potential power outages not resulting in reactors melting down, as was the case with Fukushima.

While the likelihood is that the complete decommissioning of the stricken reactors at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant will take 30 years or more according to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, and public concerns about nuclear power have sparked intense debate on utilizing alternative energy sources. Noda stands charged to move forward practically and responsibly as he looks to bring the nation’s idled reactors back online.

“We can say in hindsight that the government, business and scholars had all been seeped in a myth of safety, but the responsibility must be shared,” the Japanese leader said.

Edited by Zuo Shou

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See also: “‘Planetary Genocide’: Fukushima One Year Later : The Poisoning of Planet Earth” by Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri –


“Poll finds more support for U.S. bases” – Japanese population increasingly paranoid about China, DPR Korea [AP / Japan Times]

Posted in China, Fukushima nuclear plant, Germany, Hu Jintao, Japan, Naoto Kan, Obama, Okinawa, Russia, south Korea, Tokyo, US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA on September 8, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

What the biased corporate press won’t say: “Japanese overwhelmingly like the nation which bombed it with atomic weaponry, along with its World War II Axis ally. However, they feel threatened by those they have invaded and colonized in the recent past. We’ll gloss over rightist / Cold War mentalities and Japanese’ record high disapproval rates of their own “democratically”-elected government. Backgrounding of recent Japanese-US military joint saber-rattling in Northeast Asia is ignored, as is the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown[s].” – ZS

September 7, 2011


* Excerpted *

Japanese have become more welcoming toward the U.S. military presence in the country over the past six years, as neighboring China and North Korea [sic] are increasingly perceived as a security threat, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found.

The survey released Monday on the public’s views of other countries, security and the Imperial family also showed that while about half of Japanese have a positive view of the U.S. and Germany, they are overwhelmingly negative or neutral toward Asian neighbors China, Russia and North Korea. Opinions toward South Korea, meanwhile, are mixed.

The telephone poll, conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, surveyed 1,000 adults nationwide by calling land lines between July 29 and Aug. 10. It has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points…

…while they gave elected leaders low marks, most Japanese think highly of Emperor Akihito and the Self-Defense Forces.

Tokyo is cautiously monitoring China’s growing military spending and its more assertive stance over disputed islands in the region. Ties between the two countries deteriorated to their worst point in years last autumn, after a Chinese fishing trawler and Japan Coast Guard cutters collided near the Senkaku [aka Diaoyu] Islands in the East China Sea, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

China’s state-run media have already issued warnings to new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda over his past statements suggesting that Beijing’s military buildup is a regional security threat.

For protection [!], Japan relies on the SDF and nearly 50,000 U.S. troops based in the country under a 51-year-old bilateral security pact. That arrangement came under increased scrutiny last year, when then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sought — and ultimately failed — to move the controversial Futenma base out of Okinawa Prefecture.

U.S. forces were also actively involved in humanitarian relief efforts following the natural disasters in March.

Amid public alarm about China’s assertiveness, support for U.S. military bases in Japan has grown to 57 percent, while 34 percent want them shut down. In a similar poll in 2005, Japanese were evenly divided on the issue, with 47 percent in favor and 47 percent against.

“The U.S. military presence has received a greater acceptance, apparently because people think this region has grown more unstable,” Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said in response to the results.

China is viewed as a threat to world peace by nearly three-quarters of the respondents, and about the same number have a negative impression of the country, despite it being Japan’s largest trading partner. Unfavorable views of Chinese President Hu Jintao outweigh favorable views by more than 11 to 1, the poll showed.

North Korea, meanwhile, is viewed as a threat by even more Japanese — 80 percent, up from 59 percent in 2005. Pyongyang, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, and fired missiles…into the Pacific Ocean in 1998 and April 2009, is viewed negatively by 94 percent. The North’s leader, Kim Jong Il, is disliked by 9 in 10.

Many Japanese are supportive of the SDF, with 74 percent trusting it to do the right thing all or most of the time.

People were mixed over changing the Constitution to allow the SDF to play a greater international role, although more favored than opposed such a change — 38 percent for and 28 percent against. About a third were neutral on the issue.

The Constitution, drawn up by the Allied Occupation after World War II, prohibits the creation and use of a military force in an offensive capacity. But under pressure from the U.S. to play a larger role in regional security [sic], Japan has become more involved in peacekeeping operations overseas…

…Some 41 percent of respondents feel positively about U.S. President Barack Obama, compared with 16 percent who view him unfavorably, and 41 percent who are neutral. As a country, the United States is viewed favorably by 49 percent, neutrally by 36 percent and unfavorably by 14 percent.

While South Korean cultural exports such as television dramas and K-pop singers have become increasingly popular in Japan, the country itself isn’t viewed as favorably, with 31 percent positive and 27 percent negative.

Russia, meanwhile, is viewed positively by just 11 percent and negatively by 44 percent…

Edited by Zuo Shou

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Poll: Chinese See U.S. And Japan As Main Military Threats [China Daily]

Posted in China, Diaoyu Islands, DPR Korea, Japan, Naoto Kan, US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War on September 8, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

August 12, 2011

by Qin Jize

“…The poll showed that most of the Chinese general public and students think the No 1 threat to China is the United States and Japan is second…”

“Bitter memory of collision off Diaoyu Islands remains divisive” [Original title]

BEIJING – A fishing boat collision in waters off the Diaoyu Islands remains a major obstacle in cementing Sino-Japanese ties, according to a public opinion poll.

The poll found that 51 percent of the Chinese general public believes the Japanese government’s tough stance escalated the incident. And 62.1 percent of Chinese students hold the view that the sensitive nature of the territorial disputes has made the situation worse.

Sino-Japanese relations have been at a low point since a Chinese fishing boat and two Japanese patrol boats collided in waters off China’s Diaoyu Islands last September.

The Chinese captain was held in custody in Japan for half a month, and the incident disrupted official and non-official exchanges between the two countries.

Forty-eight percent of the [Chinese] general public says the collision remains an obstacle because of the different views the two nations have toward sensitive issues, and 41.2 percent says it is because of the lack of negotiations and consultation between the two governments.

The Japanese elite respondents think the two reasons above are equally important.

According to the poll, the people of Asia’s two biggest economies view each other as a military threat.

The poll showed that most of the Chinese general public and students think the No 1 threat to China is the United States and Japan is second.

Fifty-one percent of Chinese people believe that Japan’s strategic policy always follows the United States, which makes it a military threat to China.

And 49.7 percent are worried about the Japanese attitudes toward the war [?].

Unlike the general public, Chinese students pay more attention to conflicts between the two countries, with 70.8 percent of students believing the disputes over territory and maritime resources have made Japan a military threat to China. Less than 40 percent of the general public shares that opinion.

Also, 36.7 percent of the students say Japan has begun to dispatch self-defense forces abroad, a move that is likely to help the country to develop into a military power.

In Japan, 57.5 percent of the general public views China as a threat, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. Among the Japanese elite, the figure is even higher.

Eighty percent of the Japanese elite respondents express concern about China’s growing power, while 69 percent believe the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a threat.

This is the first time since the question was placed on the survey in 2006 that more members of the Japanese elite consider China more of a threat than the DPRK.

Also, 58.3 percent of the Japanese general public says the reason for seeing China as a threat is the territorial and maritime disputes between the two countries, and 64.5 percent says the Chinese should reconsider their protest against Japan after the fishing boat collision.

Only 0.7 percent of the Japanese general public says Japan shares responsibility for the incident.

In its 2011 annual defense report released last week, Japan officially challenged Beijing’s military budget and voiced concern over China’s “assertiveness” in dealing with international conflicts.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense jointly criticized the report’s “irresponsible comments” and reaffirmed that “China has not and will never be a threat to any other country”.

Analysts said that Japan’s political strategy toward China has been twisted – on one hand it wants to make good use of China’s economic development and on the other it always tries to constrain China in the defense and security sector.

Liu Jiangyong, a professor of Japanese studies at Bejing’s Tsinghua University, said the responses and mentality of the Japanese have something to do with Japan’s current defense guidelines, which were adopted at the end of last year.

In these, it was claimed that China’s military development and lack of transparency were matters of concern to the region and international community.

Japan labors under a long-standing Cold War mentality and is trapped in the US-Japanese alliance, Liu said.

He said Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has attached great importance to the US military presence in Japan and this alliance and Japan’s current implementation of US policy toward China will hinder the improvement of Sino-Japanese strategic relations.

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Highest Level of Radiation Detected in Fukushima – 2011 August [Prensa Latina]

Posted in Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan, Naoto Kan, Nukes on August 16, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Tokyo, Aug 2 (Prensa Latina)

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) revealed that radiation levels registered in the Fukushima nuclear plant were the highest since the March 11 earthquake.

Tepco reported that radiation levels reached the 10,000 milisievert in a pipe between the Fukushima’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, a lethal dose for humans and an alarming situation, according to news reports.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government was silent on the issue for now, after being strongly criticized by the Japanese population.

A survey published 24 hours ago showed that 65 percent of the population is demanding Kan’s immediate resignation for what they consider his incompetence in handling the crisis.

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China ‘very displeased’ with Japan’s White Paper [People’s Daily]

Posted in China, Japan, Naoto Kan, PLA, South China Sea on August 15, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

August 4, 2011

China’s central government said it is very displeased with Japan’s making categorically irresponsible remarks that China’s ongoing defense modernization would hamper its neighbors.

The 2011 Japan Defense White Paper, made public on Tuesday, criticized China’s defense ability buildup. The report said: “Given the modernization of China’s naval and air forces in recent years, its sphere of influence is likely to grow beyond its neighboring waters.”

“It is expected that China will try to keep expanding the area of activities, and to make naval activities a routine practice in waters surrounding Japan including the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, as well as in the South China Sea,” the White Paper said.

The report, approved by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s cabinet, described China’s stance in its maritime territorial disputes with its neighbors as “assertive”.

Ma Zhaoxu, a spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters that China is strongly dissatisfied with Japan’s 2011 defense white paper, as it contains irresponsible comments on China’s national defense construction.

“The Japanese 2011 defense white paper made carping and irresponsible comments on China’s national defense construction,” Ma said.

Ma said China’s reinforcement of national defense and military modernization drive is entirely for safeguarding China’s sovereignty, national security and territorial integrity, not targeting any other country.

“China’s development is offering significant opportunities to all countries in the world including Japan,” Ma said. “China has not, and will never be a threat to any other country”.

“I hope Japan can learn from the past, seriously reflect on its own defense policy and do more to deepen mutual trust with neighboring countries, maintain regional peace and stability, while not the contrary,” Ma added.

Source: People’s Daily Online

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Japanese PM’s approval rating equals previous all-time low [Xinhua]

Posted in Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan, Naoto Kan, Okinawa, US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA on July 22, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

TOKYO, July 4 (Xinhua) — The approval rating for the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has plunged 5 percentage points to a joint record low of 19 percent, a survey by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper showed Monday.

The Mainichi Shimbun’s survey, conducted over the weekend, also revealed that in addition to the 5 percent slump, the disapproval rating for the beleaguered prime minister’s cabinet remained at 56 percent, as with last month’s survey by the popular daily.

Prime Minister Kan saw the public approval rating for his cabinet tumble to 19 percent in a February poll by the Mainichi.

February’s poll marked the lowest rating since Kan’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept to power in September 2009, bringing an end to an almost half-century of uninterrupted Liberal Democratic Party rule in Japan.

Another of Japan’s top-three dailies, the Yomiuri Shimbun, also conducted a survey between Friday and Sunday showing that the prime minister’s support rating slid 7 percentage points to 24 percent, also marking this particular poll’s joint lowest level.

In March, the daily recorded the same support rating, the lowest since Kan stepped into office as the nation’s leader just over a year ago.

According to the Yomiuri poll published Monday, the disapproval rating for Kan’s cabinet increased by 4 points from the previous survey taken last month, to stand at 63 percent.

Kan took office in June last year from his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, who hastily resigned after his public support rating plunged to 20 percent following his bungled handling of a controversial U.S. base relocation deal in Okinawa prefecture struck with the United States and his involvement in a money and politics scandal.

On June 2, parliament rejected a no-confidence motion submitted by opposition parties against Prime Minister Kan and his cabinet.

However, in an attempt to avoid policy deadlocks Kan promised to step down as prime minister and leader of the ruling DPJ once three legislative stipulations have been met.

These include budgets to finance post-quake and tsunami reconstruction efforts, deficit covering bond issuance and new energy initiatives, although there is no guarantee the new bills will be passed through an increasingly divided parliament.

The opposition-controlled upper caucus has been incensed by the prime minister’s handling of the March 11 disasters, extending of the current parliamentary session, the naming of an LDP lawmaker to join his newly rejigged cabinet and generally clinging on to his position for longer than they feel is necessary.

The upper house can effectively block bills from being enacted, creating a legislative gridlock.

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Quake disaster renews debate over Japan’s relations with China [World Socialist Web Site]

Posted in Beijing, China, Encirclement of China, Fukushima nuclear plant, Iraq, Japan, Naoto Kan, Natural disaster, Obama, Taiwan, Tokyo, US "War on Terror", US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA on July 10, 2011 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Despite Japan’s Fukushima disaster creating a critical opening for a warming of Sino-Japanese ties, the recent visit of imperial masters Clinton/Gates to Japan sadly indicates that even a nuclear disaster will not shock Japan’s current rulers out of their puppet fealty to the USA. – Zuo Shou

By Peter Symonds
24 May 2011

Japan’s triple catastrophe—the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis—has brought to the surface deep-seated political fault lines in the country’s political establishment.

As with most other countries in the region, the central dilemma is where to line up in the deepening rivalry between Japan’s longstanding strategic ally, the US, and its largest economic partner, China. The tensions within the country’s ruling elites have been exacerbated by the global economic crisis, Japan’s decline from the world’s second to third largest economy after the US and China, and now a devastating earthquake.

The London-based Financial Times featured a significant article last week entitled “Tokyo has no option but to cleave to China” by the former editor-in-chief of the Asahi Shimbun, Yoichi Funabashi. Amid the economic wreckage wrought by the earthquake, he argued, Japan had to seize the opportunity and make a fundamental economic reorientation to China.

Funabashi began by declaring: “As the Fukushima nuclear reactors continue to buck efforts to bring them under control, Japan’s triple disaster holds a magnifying glass to my country’s vulnerabilities.” He pointed out that the nuclear crisis had led to the savage downgrading of the bonds of plant operator, TEPCO, “one of Japan’s most powerful businesses” and raised fears “that this will spell the collapse of the Japanese government bond.”

Any breakdown of confidence in Japanese government bonds would have a devastating economic impact given that public debt now amounts to more than 200 percent of gross domestic product.

Funabashi’s gloomy prognosis was underlined by the latest statistics for the first quarter of 2011, which recorded a contraction in the gross domestic product of 0.9 percent, or 3.7 percent on an annualised basis. The figure was nearly double the predictions of economists and foreshadows a worse result for the current quarter when the full economic impact of the quake will be evident.

As a former editor of an influential daily, Funabashi reflects the thinking of powerful sections of the Japanese corporate elite. He reported: “At a recent dinner in Tokyo, senior business leaders posed an intriguing scenario for Japan’s recovery—if not revival: this is the moment for Japan to break with the past and move closer to China.”

Funabashi noted that the acute disruption to corporate supply chains caused by the devastation in the country’s north eastern region had forced Japanese companies to reconsider their business strategies. “This is quite a moment,” he wrote. “With Chinese markets and factories representing an increasingly crucial element to their global business, numerous Japanese companies are seeking to diversify their parts supply-chains and, and in some cases, to transfer such operations to China.”

If it failed to grasp the opportunity through “unstable and ineffective political leadership,” Funabashi declared, “Japan would almost certainly marginalise itself from the global scene… This is the moment of truth as to whether or not Japan will remain a global power.” While “the road to deepening mutual trust between Japan and China will not be smooth,” he wrote, “the political leadership on both sides will need to muster courage to reorient the relationship.”

What was absent from Funabashi’s commentary, although he could hardly be unaware of the issue, was any consideration of the implications for Japan’s ties to the United States. He referred to the need to continue “the robust US-Japan alliance,” but not to Washington’s evident hostility to any move by Japan to forge closer ties with China.

In fact, tensions over Japan’s balancing act between the US and China have been a major factor contributing to the country’s unstable political leadership. During the Cold War, successive Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) governments gave their unswerving support to the US-Japan alliance. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the astounding economic rise of China, sections of the Japanese political establishment began to call for a more independent foreign policy and closer relations with China.

The subterranean divisions in ruling circles came to the surface with the installation of Junichiro Koizumi as prime minister in 2001. He backed the Bush administration’s “war on terror” as the means for Japan to adopt a more aggressive posture in Asia and internationally. He dispatched Japanese troops as part of the US occupation of Iraq, despite widespread public opposition, and alienated China by publicly visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to Japan’s war dead.

Koizumi’s foreign minister, Makiko Tanaka, took a diametrically opposed stance, publicly criticising the prime minister for affronting China. She came under fire for allegedly describing US President Bush privately as an “arsehole” and for supporting Taiwan’s incorporation into China. As a result of her pro-Chinese orientation, Tanaka was muzzled and dismissed. She quit the LDP and aligned herself with the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in 2003.

The DPJ won power in September 2009, putting an end to half a century of virtually unbroken LDP rule. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who had promised a more independent foreign policy and better relations with China, quickly ran into resistance from the Obama administration. Matters came to a head over Hatoyama’s proposal to shift a US military base off the island of Okinawa. Washington bluntly refused to renegotiate a deal that had been struck with the previous LDP government, forcing Hatoyama to renege on his election promise—a decision that contributed to his resignation in June 2010.

Hatoyama’s replacement, Naoto Kan, swung squarely behind the US alliance as the Obama administration adopted an increasingly provocative stance against China in waters off the Chinese mainland. Last September, with US backing, the Kan government turned a collision between a Chinese trawler and two Japanese Coast Guard vessels in disputed waters in the East China Sea into a major diplomatic row with China.

However, sharp divisions exist within the DPJ over Kan’s pro-US orientation. DPJ political strongman Ichiro Ozawa, who challenged Kan for the top party post and therefore the prime ministership last September, is known for his advocacy of closer economic relations with China. In December 2009, he made a point of leading a huge delegation of politicians and businessmen to Beijing for talks, even though he was not part of the cabinet.

With Kan’s political stocks at rock-bottom, Ozawa has been criticising the prime minister’s handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and suggesting that a new leader is needed.

Funabashi’s comment in the Financial Times makes clear that far more is at stake than the government’s immediate response to the triple crisis. The decision on relations with China was no less significant, he explained, than Japan’s post-war alliance with the US that “constituted the spark to jump-start Japan’s recovery and revitalisation.”

While Funabashi presented the issue as a matter of economic strategy, any significant reorientation to China would inevitably involve a major political crisis in Japan and conflict with the US. The very fact that such discussions are taking place in Tokyo is another indicator of the extent to which the polarising US-China rivalry is raising tensions throughout the region, including in what was, until last year, the world’s second largest economic power.

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