The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 18. 2011  
May 2, 2011  
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In This Issue


Our features on the March 11 catastrophe this week focus on the high risk of radiation confronting the contract workers (Paul Jobin) and the children of Fukushima, as well as the controversy touched off by the resignation of government advisor Kosako Toshiso whose charges of failure to protect Japan's children now threaten Prime Minister Kan Naoto's struggling administration. Other nuclear stories include an interview with filmmaker Kamanaka Hitomi and David McNeill's report from Fukushima.
Peter Dale Scott writes on the Libyan War and the decline of American power.

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 Paul Jobin, Dying for TEPCO? Fukushima's Nuclear Contract Workers


While the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) experiences difficulties in recruiting workers willing to go to Fukushima to clean up the damaged reactors, the WHO is planning to conduct an epidemiological survey on the catastrophe. This is the first of two reports offering a worker-centered analysis of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In the titanic struggle to bring to closure the dangerous situation at Fukushima Nuclear Plant No1, there are many signs that TEPCO is facing great difficulties in finding workers. At present, there are nearly 700 people at the site. As in ordinary times, workers rotate so as to limit the cumulative dose of radiation inherent in maintenance and cleanup work at the nuclear site. But this time, the risks are greater, and the method of recruitment unusual.

Job offers come not from TEPCO but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose business is construction and cleaning maintenance. The description indicates only that the work is at a nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture. The job is specified as 3 hours per day at an hourly wage of 10,000 yen. There is no information about danger, only the suggestion to ask the employer for further details on food, lodging, transportation and insurance.

Paul Jobin is Director, French Center for Research on Contemporary China, CEFC, Taipei Office, and Associate Professor, University of Paris Diderot.

Original French article at L'Humanité: "Pour travailler à Fukushima, il faut être prêt à mourir." Interview by Anne Roy. Translated Thursday 7 April 2011, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Recommended citation: Paul Jobin, Dying for TEPCO? Fukushima's Nuclear Contract Workers, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 18 No 3, May 2, 2011.

Read more . . .  
Kamanaka Hitomi and Norma Field, Complicity and Victimization: Director Kamanaka Hitomi's Nuclear Warnings

"They keep saying on television that it's safe, there's nothing to worry about. I regard this as criminal." So Kamanaka Hitomi stated on a recent talk show. ["The harm caused by trace amounts of radiation will show up ten years later ... Director Kamanaka Hitomi appeals to her fellow citizens to awaken to the dangers of radiation: 'Tokyo is now a contaminated area, too.'

Her pursuit of the issue of nuclear power over a dozen year has resulted in three films to date.  The first, Hibakusha at the End of the World (2003), followed the ravages of radiation from Iraq (depleted uranium contamination following the Persian Gulf War) to Hanford (downwinders of the plutonium factory) to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The second, Rokkasho Rhapsody (2006), explored both the health effects of radiation and the social rifts created by the siting of a nuclear reprocessing plant in northern Japan. Her most recent work, Ashes to Honey: Toward a Sustainable Future (2010), depicts the nearly three-decades' long struggle by fishermen on an island in western Japan to block the construction of a nuclear power plant, juxtaposed with a look at communities successfully converting to renewables in Sweden. 

In the interview translated below, Kamanaka criticizes the government for its less than forthcoming reporting and its tendency to minimize, and acknowledges as well the difficulty of mounting a challenge.

Recommended citation: Kamanaka Hitomi and Norma Field, Complicity and Victimization: Director Kamanaka Hitomi's Nuclear Warnings, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 18 No 4, May 2, 2011.

  Read more . . . 

Peter Dale Scott, The Libyan War, American Power and the Decline of the Petrodollar System

Scott argues that the American war in Libya  is both ill-conceived and dangerous  -- a threat to the interests of Libyans, Americans, the Middle East and conceivably the entire world. Beneath the professed concern about the safety of Libyan civilians lies a deeper concern that is barely acknowledged: the West's defense of the present global petrodollar economy, now in decline..

The confusion in Washington, matched by the absence of discussion of an overriding strategic motive for American involvement, is symptomatic of the fact that the American century is ending, and ending in a way that is both predictable in the long run, and simultaneously erratic and out of control in its details.

To explain  America's and NATO's confusion over Libya, Scott examines key signs of American weakness:

· Standard & Poor's warning of an imminent downgrade of the U.S. credit rating
· the unprecedented rise in the price of gold to over $1500 an ounce
· the gridlock in American politics over federal and state deficits and what to do about them

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War, The Road to 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His most recent book is American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan.

Recommended citation: Peter Dale Scott, The Libyan War, American Power and the Decline of the Petrodollar System, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 18 No 2, May 2, 2011.

  Read more . . . 
APJ editors, Save the Children: Radiation Exposure of Fukushima Students

Despite the fact that Japan has in the past set the maximum radiation exposure for citizens at 1 millisievert, the government has now increased that amount to 20 millisieverts for Fukushima school children. Defending this twentyfold increase, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology argues that 20 millisieverts is still within the recommended range of 1-20 millisieverts set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection for exposure in emergency situations. Others question the wisdom of using maximum guidelines for children in areas that may be impacted for years to come. A petition has been launched to urge the Japanese government to repeal this decision as experts write about the potential risks.
Tilman Ruff, chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and associate professor at the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne, writing in English for Japan's Kyodo news service, outlines the risk to Fukushima's children.

  Read more . . . 
 Kosako Toshiso, 20 Millisieverts for Children and Kosako Toshiso's Resignation

Tokyo University Professor Kosako Toshiso, a specialist on radiation safety, has resigned his position as Special Advisor to the Cabinet.
In the past, Kosako has supported Japanese government views on radiation in a variety of contexts. For example, from 2003 he testified on behalf of the state in an important court case in which victims of the atomic bombings sought to force an official broadening of the definition of "atomic bomb related illnesses". He supported the government's assertions that many medical conditions of survivors should not be considered related to the atomic bombs.
In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi crisis, Kosako was appointed as a Special Advisor to the Cabinet on radiation safety issues. According to his resignation statement, Kosako was confronted with a lack of government openness, poor cooperation with international organizations, and an ad hoc decision making process that he argues has put political and administrative convenience before public health.
Castigating government irresponsibility, Kosako singles out the decision to permit 20 millisieverts of radiation exposure for Fukushima school children. His statement is printed below in full.

 Read more . . .


 David McNeill, Japan's government faces looming crisis over 'whack-a-mole' nuclear policies

Like most Japanese parents, two months ago Sasaki Takayuki barely knew what radiation was. Today, he thinks about little else. "I've sent my kids to my wife's family in Tokyo," says the baker and father of two. "I told her to stay there till it's safe but who knows when that will be? We've all been left in the dark."
Seven weeks since the start of Japan's worst nuclear crisis, political tremors are intensifying in the prefecture that hosts the ruined Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Mr. Sasaki is among thousands of parents in the prefecture, about 250 km northeast of Tokyo, demanding that the government of Prime Minister Kan Naoto reverse a decision to hike radiation limits for schools in the area by 20 times.
The decision has come in for withering criticism by government advisor Kosako Toshiso, who announced his resignation on Friday after denouncing what he called the prime minister's "whack-a-mole" policies on the crisis.

 Read more . . .


Ryukyu Shimpo, Okinawan Appeal to US Senate

Though Okinawa has receded from national and global consciousness since 3:11, nothing of the "Okinawa problem" has been resolved. The governments of the US and Japan agreed in 2006, and then in 2009 and again in 2010, that Japan would construct a new comprehensive military facility (estimated cost ca. $10 billion) for the US Marine Corps in the pristine waters of Oura bay in northern Okinawa, and pay another $6 billion towards the construction of new facilities for the Corps in Guam, where 8,000 Marines and their dependents would move. But Okinawa, at every level including, from November 2010, the Governor, insists that no new base will be built on the island (video of recent protests).

When Defense Secretary Gates said recently that he wants these agreements moved forward during the spring of 2011, it was clear that the only way that could happen would be by Okinawa surrendering or its resistance being crushed.
Furthermore, both governments face acute financial problems, and Japan the additional burden stemming from the catastrophe that struck its entire Northeast region on 11 March. This is the context for a rare English language appeal from each of Okinawa's leading newspapers.

 Read more . . .


Andrew DeWit and Sven Saaler, Political and Policy Repercussions of Japan's Nuclear and Natural Disasters in Germany

The Fukushima nuclear reactor accident has had an immense economic and political impact worldwide, leading many countries to rethink their nuclear policies and programmes. Germany is a striking case in point, as the two statements introduced here show. Published in mid-March by IG Metall (the German metal workers' union), and updated for this translated release, the documents are in reaction to the disasters in Japan. The first policy paper is an explicit declaration of the need to get completely out of nuclear and more fully into renewables, while the second expresses grave concern about the worldwide economic repercussions of Japan's multiple disasters.

Andrew DeWit is Professor of the Political Economy of Public Finance, School of Policy Studies, Rikkyo University and an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator. With Kaneko Masaru, he is the coauthor of Global Financial Crisis published by Iwanami in 2008.

Sven Saaler is Associate Professor of Modern Japanese History at Sophia University. Together with J. Victor Koschmann, he edited Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese History, with Wolfgang Schwentker The Power of Memory in Modern Japan and with Christopher W. A. Szpilman Pan-Asianism: A Documentary History (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011).

Recommended citation: Andrew DeWit and Sven Saaler, Political and Policy Repercussions of Japan's Nuclear and Natural Disasters in Germany, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 18 No 5, May 2, 2011.

  Read more . . .


 Okinawa Times, Another Appeal from Okinawa

Okinawan calls that the dangerous Futenma Air Station be closed and no new bases be built in the prefecture continue. On April 27, the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper addressed an open letter in English to Carl Levin, Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee stating "If the governments of the United States and Japan push through the construction of a new base, the U.S. military will not only find itself surrounded by hostility from the people of Okinawa and mainland Japan, but also from members of conservation movement groups all over the world." The plan to build a new base in the environmentally sensitive Henoko has sparked outrage and the opposition of 84% of Okinawans according to recent polls. The Okinawa Times, highlighting pollution, accidents, and crimes, echoes the Ryukyu Shimpo's call that the controversial US-Japanese plan be reconsidered.

Read more . . .