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Japan to Swiftly Consider Declaring State of Emergency: Kato

Japan to Swiftly Consider Declaring State of Emergency: Kato

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Nippon |
5:02 AM

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Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato indicated on Monday a need to consider swiftly whether to declare another coronavirus state of emergency if asked to do so by Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture.

If the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Osaka prefectural government request that the central government declare a state of emergency again, the Japanese government “should consider (the requests) at once,” Kato said at a press conference.

The central government has been bolstering coronavirus measures in Tokyo and Osaka, which have seen sharp rises in the number of new coronavirus cases, after placing the Japanese capital and the western prefecture in the coronavirus pre-emergency stage.

Noting that the number of new coronavirus cases in Osaka has continued to rise, Kato said, “We are extremely concerned” about the situation.

The medical care system in Osaka is in an especially tough situation, Kato said.

https://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2021041900520/

Category: Japan

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New agency intended to put Japan’s child policies under one roof

New agency intended to put Japan’s child policies under one roof

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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OSAKA With the strong backing of prime minister Yoshihide Suga, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is discussing legislative proposals for a new Cabinet-level agency that would centralise administrative control over child education and welfare policies.

The new Children’s Agency is now being discussed among LDP members. The party hopes to formally present legislation in next year’s Diet session and launch the agency during fiscal 2022. Opponents have criticised the move as a political ploy designed to win votes at election time, but the new agency’s supporters say it will be an effective way of streamlining bureaucracy in relation to children’s issues.

“Preventing child abuse currently involves the National Police Agency, the education ministry, the Justice Ministry and various other government organs. We need to think about eliminating these bureaucratic walls and fundamentally consider the way things are organised,” Suga said in the Upper House earlier this month.

As it stands now, at least five different government bodies are in charge of policies related to children, often leading to confusion among parents as to who is in charge of what.

For example, the health ministry is in charge of support for day care centers and providing children’s medical care, infant exams and vaccinations. The ministry also runs support facilities for mothers and children, women’s shelters for victims of domestic violence and protection facilities for children suffering from domestic abuse.

The education ministry, meanwhile, is responsible for kindergartens and pre-kindergarten educational facilities, conducting school medical checkups and policies to prevent school bullying. The Justice Ministry handles juvenile detention centers and reform school facilities, and deals with human rights assistance. Finally, the National Policy Agency is involved with preventing delinquency and criminal incidents involving children.

Yet the Cabinet Office, in charge of dealing with the low birth rate, has introduced certified nursery schools that, since 2006, provide both day care and education. It is also in charge of nursery care centers operated on the grounds of private firms for use by employees of those and other companies. And it is responsible for developing policies dealing with children who are isolated or lonely.

In addition, the Cabinet Office is in charge of centers for spousal abuse and, under its Gender Equality Bureau, women’s centers operated in each prefecture to provide information and support on a wide range of women’s issues.

In the case of parents with toddlers or young children, issues involving their kindergartens would be dealt with by the education ministry. But if their child is in a day care centre, it’s the health ministry that sets the rules and provides assistance. Certified nursery schools are under the authority of the Cabinet Office.

Child abuse cases are dealt with by the health ministry. But suicides, perhaps due to that abuse, are investigated by the police.

The Children’s Agency was proposed last month by a group of nearly 20 younger LDP members led by Upper House lawmakers Hanako Jimi and Taro Yamada as a way to put these administrative responsibilities related to child care all under one roof. The proposal has led to a series of LDP meetings on child-related issues that, beginning April 13, were chaired by powerful LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai

“We’re proposing this new agency that would comprehensively grasp the various issues regarding child medicine, health, rehabilitation, social welfare and education and unify them,” Jimi told the Upper House on April 5.

Suga has indicated his support for the idea. But creating a single new agency under the Cabinet could face resistance from current ministries. On April 2, health minister Norihisa Tamura told reporters that there were any number of issues that would have to be dealt with first, and that discussions on which areas should be transferred to the new agency are vital.

There have also been charges by those wary of the plan that it’s little more than an empty political stunt on the part of the LDP an attempt to appeal to voters with children before the general election later this year. An Upper House election must also be held by July next year.

Upper House LDP lawmaker Yamada acknowledges the criticism but says it’s still a good idea.

“There has been some criticism on social media that this idea is an attempt to draw votes in the election. But even if people say that, voters should be the judge,” Yamada told the Asahi Shimbun on April 13. “If the LDP makes it a campaign pledge in the Lower House election but then does nothing, the party will lose in next year’s Upper House election.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/04/19/national/japan-childrens-agency/

Category: Japan

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Renesas aims for full return of fire-hit chip plant by July

Renesas aims for full return of fire-hit chip plant by July

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Bloomberg |
5:02 AM

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Renesas Electronics Corp. said it is aiming to resume shipments from its fire-hit chip factory at full capacity by early July, roughly in line with its previous target.

The chipmaker suffered a fire at its facility in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, on March 19, exacerbating shortages in the technology supply chain as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The company, which restarted partial production at the plant over the weekend, had said previously it would need about 100 days to bring the factory back to full shipments.

“I appreciate all the help from our partners that enabled us to restart the factory without falling behind,” said Chief Executive Officer Hidetoshi Shibata at a briefing in Tokyo on Monday.

Shibata said the plant should be able to resume full production in late May and then reach its previous shipping volumes about a month later. He said it may take slightly longer than 100 days, by a week or 10 days.

The company’s shares rose 4.3 percent on Monday.

The incident hit as the global semiconductor industry is suffering through unprecedented shortages, leaving automakers in particular short of components that they need for their vehicles. Even before the fire, car manufacturers were expected to miss out on $61 billion of sales this year alone. Renesas is one of the top providers of automotive chips, used by virtually all the top carmakers.

Renesas warned in March that there would be a vacuum of about a month when the company would be unable to ship chips from the factory. The company had asked other chipmakers to deliver components to customers on its behalf, but estimated it would lose revenue of as much as JPY 24 billion due to the fire.

“Sales in the second quarter could decrease due to the fire, which may reduce the company’s operating income by JPY 10 billion to JPY 15 billion,” Bloomberg Intelligence’s Masahiro Wakasugi said.

Shibata declined to provide details of the fire’s financial impact, saying the company would give an update with its next earnings announcement.

Renesas, whose chips are used by Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., gets about half its revenue from car chips. The Naka plant makes parts used in automotive and industrial applications.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/04/19/business/corporate-business/renesas-plant-resumption/

Category: Japan

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Japanese journalist detained in Burma moved to prison, embassy says

Japanese journalist detained in Burma moved to prison, embassy says

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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A Japanese freelance journalist detained by security forces in Myanmar’s largest city on Sunday has been transferred to prison, the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar said Monday.

Yuki Kitazumi, a former reporter for the Tokyo-based Nikkei business daily who now lives in Yangon, was detained at his house in the city on Sunday night and taken away in a police vehicle, local media reported.

Kitazumi has been moved to Insein prison in Yangon where many political detainees are imprisoned, the embassy said. The reason for his detention is not yet known.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga said Monday the embassy is seeking information regarding Kitazumi’s detention.

“We will do our best to protect Japanese nationals in the country,” Suga told reporters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said in a news conference, “We are urging the Myanmar government to release the journalist as soon as possible.”

Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said they had asked the Myanmar military about the reason for Kitazumi’s detention and whether he was suffering from any injuries.

The 45-year-old journalist was also briefly detained by security forces while covering an anti-coup protest in Myanmar on February 26.

His reports have been carried by Japanese media and he has also posted information on the situation in Myanmar on social media.

According to posts on social media, some people saw Kitazumi being forced to raise his hands and kneel down by security forces who brought out cardboard boxes from his house after searching it.

Myanmar’s ruling military has detained many journalists including foreign nationals since the February 1 coup that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military has increasingly suppressed free speech by stripping local media companies of their licenses. It has also restricted use of the internet.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/04/19/national/journalist-detained-myanmar/

Category: Japan

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Will Japanese Olympians be vaccinated ahead of the public?

Will Japanese Olympians be vaccinated ahead of the public?

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
AP |
5:02 AM

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The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1 percent vaccinated, causing concern about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that are scheduled to open in just over three months.

Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, said last week that even if the Olympics go on, it’s possible the venues will be empty. This is partly because of the low vaccination rate.

Fans from abroad are already banned from the Olympics, and it’s hard to imagine venues even half-filled with mostly unvaccinated fans. Many non-Japanese entering Japan are expected to be vaccinated.

Q: Are Japanese athletes being vaccinated?

A: This is a minefield for the organisers and the Japanese government. It will be very unpopular to push young, healthy athletes to the front of the vaccination line when almost no one else in Japan is vaccinated. Traffic on social media is strongly opposed.

Kono, organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto and Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa said the government so far has not issued any plans to vaccinate athletes.

However, Kono has said he is ready to deliver vaccines if Hashimoto and the government think they’re needed.

“So far, there is no consultation or no action about Japanese athletes getting vaccine,” he said.

Marukawa said last week the government is considering testing all athletes daily. Previous plans had called for virus tests every four days. That change may show up when the second version of the “Playbook” is published this month.

The IOC has said vaccines are not required to participate. However, IOC President Thomas Bach has openly encouraged athletes to be vaccinated. Of course, that causes conflict when athletes are a priority ahead of vulnerable populations.

Q: Tokyo organisers have repeatedly said the Olympics will be safe and secure. Last week the British Medical Journal challenged this. Who is responsible if they are not?

A: IOC vice president John Coates, in an interview published online Sunday in the Japanese magazine “Number,” responded to the question.

Coates said, quoting the magazine: “The responsibility for the response to COVID-19 during, before and after the games lies with the Japanese government, and to a lesser extent with the Tokyo city government. Under an agreement with the government, the Tokyo government and Tokyo organisers, the IOC is doing its best to keep to a minimum the spread of infections, as well as the contact between the Japanese public (and the athletes). The IOC is responsible for that aspect.”

Q: When are we likely to know if there will be local fans in venues? And if so, what will be the capacity?

A: Hashimoto has said for weeks that a decision could come this month on capacity at the venues. Now she seems to be hedging.

“Within April I would like to set the basis direction,” she said Friday at her weekly press conference. “The final judgement time this as well we need to monitor the situation of the pandemic and we need to remain flexible for that.”

Hashimoto did not raise Kono’s suggestion that there may be no fans, and did not challenge it.

It seems increasingly likely that local fans could be banned, too, as cases surge in Japan’s two largest metropolitan areas Tokyo and Osaka.

Ticket sales are worth about $800 million to local organisers. Any shortfall will have to be made up by Japanese government entities.

Q: Where do we stand with the torch relay, which started on March 25 from northeastern Fukushima prefecture?

A: It was run for two days last week in a largely empty city park in Osaka. The city’s mayor and prefectural governor forbade that it be run on public streets because of the rising cases in the region.

Organisers say the torch will be taken off public streets again on Wednesday in Matsuyama City, which is located in Ehime prefecture.

Local officials have also asked it be taken off public roads on May 1-2 in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. It will be held there “in restricted areas without spectators,” organisers said in a statement.

Organisers said the relay on the smaller islands of Ishigaki, Miyakojima and Zamami will go on as scheduled.

Q: Is Bach headed back to Japan?

A: Local news reports say he will be in Hiroshima to meet the torch relay on May 17 or 18. He is expected to place flowers at the Peace Memorial Park in memory of the victims of the August 6, 1945, atomic bombing of the city. The A-Bomb Dome could also be a backdrop for Bach.

He is also expected to meet in Tokyo with Japanese government and Olympic officials.

https://apnews.com/article/tokyo-health-coronavirus-pandemic-japan-olympic-games-4c4cfb37bfe4ddbb55d5f53b8fc693bb

Category: Japan

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Japanese journalist detained in Burma questioned over fake news: embassy

Japanese journalist detained in Burma questioned over fake news: embassy

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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A Japanese freelance journalist detained by security forces in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon, has been investigated for allegedly spreading fake news, the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar said Monday.

Yuki Kitazumi, a former reporter for the Tokyo-based Nikkei business daily, who now lives in Yangon, was detained at his home on Sunday night and taken away in a police vehicle, local media reported.

Kitazumi has been moved to Insein prison in Yangon, where many political detainees are imprisoned, the embassy said earlier Monday.

“We will do our best to protect Japanese nationals in the country,” prime minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters earlier in the day.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said in a news conference, “We are urging the Myanmar government to release the journalist as soon as possible.”

Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said they had asked the Myanmar military about the reason for Kitazumi’s detention and whether he was suffering from any injuries.

The 45-year-old journalist was also briefly detained by security forces while covering an anti-coup protest in Myanmar on February 26.

His reports have been carried by Japanese media and he has also posted information on the situation in Myanmar on social media.

According to posts on social media, some people saw Kitazumi being forced to raise his hands and kneel down by security forces who brought out cardboard boxes from his house after searching it.

Myanmar’s ruling military has detained many journalists including foreign nationals since the February 1 coup that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military has increasingly suppressed free speech by stripping local media companies of their licenses. It has also restricted use of the internet.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/04/19/national/journalist-detained-myanmar/

Category: Japan

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Japan’s hard-hit regions may slide back to COVID-19 state of emergency

Japan’s hard-hit regions may slide back to COVID-19 state of emergency

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
5:02 AM

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A recent surge in COVID-19 cases could see major parts of Japan slide back into states of emergency with authorities in Tokyo and Osaka looking at renewed curbs to stop the spread.

The new wave of infections complicates preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are due to start in July having already been postponed due to the global coronavirus outbreak last year.

Japan this month put Osaka, Tokyo, and eight other prefectures under “quasi-states of emergency” aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19 with shorter business hours for restaurants and bars and stronger calls for teleworking.

Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura is pictured during a prefectural anti-coronavirus task force meeting in Osaka, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 7, 2021. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Osaka governor Hirofumi Yoshimura is pictured during a prefectural anti-coronavirus task force meeting in Osaka, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 7, 2021. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

But those measures have done little to reverse the trend so far, with Osaka reporting a record 1,220 cases on Sunday, two weeks after those restrictions took effect as a mutant strain fueled the spread.

“The fruits of these measures should be appearing now,” Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters in comments carried online.

“Medical services are also in a dire state, and we’ve decided that we need a state of emergency. We need stronger measures such as those that would stop the movement of people,” he said, adding that Japan’s third-most populous prefecture would make the formal request to the government on Tuesday.

In a TV Asahi poll published Monday, just over half of respondents said they believed the “quasi-emergency” restrictions were ineffective.

Tokyo is also considering a state-of-emergency request, Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters late on Sunday, in a step backwards as Japan scrambles to bring the pandemic under control ahead of the Summer Olympics.

“Taking pre-emptive action is crucial right now,” Koike said. Tokyo reported 543 new cases on Sunday, the 18th straight day of seven-day increases.

Asked about possible requests from Osaka and Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, the government’s top spokesman, said any such calls would need to be considered “swiftly.”

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japans-osaka-ask-govt-declare-state-emergency-governor-2021-04-19/

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Japan exports grow by double digits for first time since 2018

Japan exports grow by double digits for first time since 2018

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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Japanese exports posted a double-digit gain for the first time in more than three years in March, offering another indication that a recovery in global trade is gaining strength.

The value of overseas shipments jumped 16.1 percent from a year ago, for the biggest increase since November 2017, led by exports of cars, plastics, semiconductors and chip-making equipment, the finance ministry reported Monday.

Economists had forecast a rise of 11.4%. Exports to China surged by more than a third.

While the stronger-than-expected figures were boosted by comparison with data from 2020 when the coronavirus was slamming global trade, the value of exports was also the highest in three years, indicating solid improvement. Month-on-month, exports rose 4.3 percent after seasonal adjustment.

“China’s economy has completely normalised, so it’s true that exports to China are doing well,” said economist Yuichi Kodama at Meiji Yasuda Research Institute. “The same goes for the US The Biden administration’s fiscal package has meant that personal consumption has been rising steadily, so I expect exports to also keep doing well next month and onwards.”

Rising exports provide key support for Japan’s economy at a time when vaccination delays and an emerging fourth wave of virus infections are weighing on domestic activity, with speculation of a renewed state of emergency in Tokyo gaining traction.

The March jump helps lift exports gains to 6 percent for the first quarter, compared with a year earlier. Quarterly imports were up 1.9%. Economists flagged the difficulty of capturing the true strength of the trend with year-on-year figures.

Looking ahead, climbing US retail sales and demand from China, where on-year growth jumped by a record last quarter, are likely to keep driving Japan’s exports.

A drop in the yen’s value gives exporters another tailwind. The currency fell roughly 4 percent versus the dollar last month, increasing the value of repatriated profits.

Imports rose 5.7 percent from the previous year, compared with a 4.7 percent increase forecast by analysts.

Exports to China surged 37.2 percent from a year earlier, with chip-related gear and automobiles among the largest gainers. Shipments to the US rose 4.9%. Exports to the EU gained 12.8%, the largest increase in nearly three years.

The trade balance was JPY 663.7 billion in the black. Analysts had expected a JPY 493.2 billion surplus.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/04/19/business/double-digit-export-growth/

Category: Japan

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US backs Japan’s Fukushima plans despite S Korea’s concerns

US backs Japan’s Fukushima plans despite S Korea’s concerns

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Aljazeera |
5:02 AM

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US climate envoy John Kerry has reaffirmed Washington’s confidence in Japan’s decision to release contaminated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea despite concerns raised by South Korea.

Kerry arrived in Seoul on Saturday to discuss international efforts to tackle global warming, on a trip that included a stop in China ahead of President Joe Biden’s virtual summit with world leaders on climate change this month.

South Korean Foreign minister Chung Eui-yong sought to rally support behind the country’s protest against the Fukushima plan at a dinner meeting with Kerry.

The Japanese government decided to release treated water containing tritium from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean [File: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA]

The Japanese government decided to release treated water containing tritium from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean [File: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA]

Under the plan, more than one million tonnes of water will be discharged from the plant wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 into the nearby sea off Japan’s east coast.

Seoul strongly rebuked the decision, with the foreign ministry summoning the Japanese ambassador and President Moon Jae-in ordering officials to explore petitioning an international court.

“Minister Chung conveyed our government and people’s serious concerns about Japan’s decision, and asked the US side to take interest and cooperate so that Japan will provide information in a more transparent and speedy manner,” the ministry said in a statement.

But Kerry, at a media roundtable on Sunday, said Tokyo had made the decision in a transparent manner and will continue following due procedures.

‘Very rigorous process’

“The US is confident that the government of Japan is in very full consultations with the IAEA,” he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“The IAEA has set up a very rigorous process and I know that Japan has weighed all the options and the effects and they’ve been very transparent about the decision and the process.”

The former US secretary of state added that Washington would closely monitor Japan’s implementation “like every country, to make certain there is no public health threat”.

“We think we have confidence in the ability of IAEA and Japan and our relationship with the agency. We need to see how it progresses, and how they do, but we don’t think it is appropriate for the US to jump into a process that’s already underway and where there are very clear rules and expectations,” Kerry said.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/18/s-korea-us-show-differences-over-japans-fukushima-plans

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Japanese government gives briefing on Fukushima water release plan

Japanese government gives briefing on Fukushima water release plan

20-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
JapanTimes |
5:02 AM

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The government on Sunday held a briefing session to explain to local industries and municipalities about its decision to release treated radioactive water from the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea.

The briefing session was the first of its kind to be held since the government made the decision on April 13.

Participants in the session, held in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, included officials from agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism industry groups and municipalities along the Pacific coast of the prefecture.

Tetsu Nozaki, head of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, voiced opposition to the water release plan, citing difficulty in winning the understanding of related officials, while many other participants expressed concerns about possible reputational damage to products from Fukushima Prefecture.

Tomoaki Kobayakawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, said the company will “be sure to keep the promise” made in 2015 with the federation and the government that it will not carry out any measure without the understanding of related officials.

“While we’re still facing lingering damage from negative rumours related to the nuclear accident, the government decided on the water release as if to pour salt on the wound,” a senior official of a prefectural federation of fish markets said, seeking the thorough implementation of measures against such rumours.

Takashi Kanno, chair of JA Fukushima Chuou-kai, a group of agricultural cooperatives, touched on the fact that some neighbouring countries have yet to lift import restrictions on farm products from Fukushima and said, “I wonder if the Japanese government can explain about the safety of (Fukushima’s products) to Japanese people even though it has been unable to give such explanations to other countries.”

A representative of a hotel industry group said, “What we will be suffering as a result of the ocean release is real damage, not reputational damage.” The representative asked the government to create a system that would allow business operators to receive related compensation swiftly.

Some municipality officials threw doubt about the credibility of Tepco after a series of safety-related scandals involving the company came to light.

Iwaki Mayor Toshio Shimizu said, “It’s obvious that fishery operators will be hit by reputational damage unless the public’s understanding of the ocean release plan is enhanced.”

After the briefing session, State minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kiyoshi Ejima said in a news conference that the government will continue to make utmost efforts to give thorough explanations so as to win people’s understanding.

In about two years, the government plans to start gradually releasing into the ocean the treated water generated at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, after diluting the levels of tritium in it to about one-40th of the state-set standard. More than 1,000 tanks built at the plant’s premises to hold the treated water are expected to reach full capacity by autumn 2022.

The government will instruct Tepco to provide compensation to those affected by reputational damage without limiting the range of subject industries and regions.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/04/19/national/fukushima-water-briefing/

Category: Japan

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