Category - Asia: NE & Koreas

Northeast Asia including North Korea and South Korea.(List countries here)

Japan’s crown prince calls for ‘correct’ telling of history

Comments seen as rebuke to Abe and others in right wing who downplay Japan’s system of wartime sex slavery.

Al Jazeera / Wire Services, February 23

Japan’s crown prince has warned of the need to remember World War II “correctly,” in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country’s crimes.

Naruhito’s mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right-wing drive to minimize the significance of Japan’s institutionalized system of wartime sex slavery.

“Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back on our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation that knew the war to the generation that doesn’t,” Naruhito said.

The comments, released Monday on the prince’s 55th birthday, come as Abe’s controversial views on history roil Japan’s relations with China and South Korea and cause unease in Washington.

Reckon?

North Korea responds with fury to US sanctions over Sony hack

Pyongyang denies involvement in Sony Pictures hack and accuses US of stirring up hostility.

The Guardian, By Haroon Siddique and agencies, January 4

North Korea has furiously denounced the United States for imposing sanctions in retaliation for the Pyongyang regime’s alleged cyber-attack on Sony Pictures.

North Korea’s foreign ministry reiterated that it did not have any role in the breach of tens of thousands of confidential Sony emails and business files and accused the US of “groundlessly” stirring up hostility towards Pyongyang. He said the new sanctions would not weaken the country’s 1.2 million-strong military.

“The policy persistently pursued by the US to stifle the DPRK [North Korea], groundlessly stirring up bad blood towards it, will only harden its will and resolution to defend the sovereignty of the country,” North’s state-run KCNA news agency quoted the unnamed spokesman as saying on Sunday.

Risk in Fukushima No. 4 reactor mitigated as last of nuclear fuel removed

The Asahi Shimbun, By Yu Kotsubo & Hiromi Kumai, December 21

Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture – Tokyo Electric Power Co. removed the last four nuclear fuel assemblies that remained in the No. 4 reactor building of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from its storage pool on Dec. 20.

The No. 4 reactor was offline at the time of the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. However, an explosion occurred in the building four days later, seriously damaging it.

After the accident, experts pointed to the risk of nuclear fuel in the pool melting from insufficient cooling and releasing a large amount of radioactive materials. However, the threat has been mitigated with the removal of the last assemblies.

[…]

TEPCO started the removal of those assemblies from the pool in November 2013 after installing a new roof and a crane on the building. The removal of spent nuclear fuel assemblies concluded in November this year.

There will be no work in the No. 4 reactor building for the time being. TEPCO will be engaged in efforts at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactor buildings and in dealing with the growing volume of contaminated water partly resulting from efforts to keep the reactors from overheating.

Of course, there are still troubles; EX-SKF: #Fukushima I NPP: Plan C Also Failed in Plugging Reactor 2 Trench… Now What?

Japan’s Abe wins mandate in downbeat election

Los Angeles Times, By Yuriko Nagano, December 14

With the economy limping but no obvious contenders offering a more compelling fiscal strategy, Japanese voters on Sunday gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party a fresh mandate to forge on with his reforms, known as Abenomics.

Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, predicted late Sunday that the Liberal Democrats and their coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, would together win at least 324 of the 475 seats in the lower house of parliament, a two-thirds majority.

Abe called the snap elections last month even though his approval ratings were faltering amid several scandals and news that the country had officially tipped into recession. But turnout was just 52% — the lowest in the postwar era — and political scientists, economists and foreign diplomacy experts say the Abe win didn’t necessarily mean the ruling party had stellar support among the public.

“The Liberal Democrats are the lesser evil,” said Yoshihisa Hara, a political scientist and professor emeritus at Tokyo International University. There are seven opposition parties and they are splintered, noted Hara. “In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have held together.”

Voter Miho Kobayashi, 20, a Tokyo office worker, agreed. She voted for the Liberal Democrats, she said, because they “seem better than the other parties” and appear “stable.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek: Abe Faces Policy Balancing Act After Commanding Election Victory

Japan’s third quarter recession deeper than estimated

BBC, December 7

Japan’s economy shrank more than initially estimated in the third quarter of 2014, according to revised gross domestic product (GDP) figures.

The economy contracted by 1.9% in annual terms from July to September, well above a preliminary reading of 1.6%.

It also shrank 0.5% on a quarterly basis, compared with an initial estimate of 0.4%, data showed.

A big fall in business spending plunged the economy into a deeper recession.

The revised figures, which come just days before Japan’s national elections, showed that business spending dipped by 0.4% from the previous quarter, instead of the 0.2% estimated in the preliminary reading.

Japan nuclear plant gets approval to restart, over three years after Fukushima

Reuters, October 28

Tokyo – A town in southwest Japan became the first to approve the restart of a nuclear power station on Tuesday, a step forward in Japan’s fraught process of reviving an industry left idled by the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011.

Satsumasendai, a town of 100,000 that hosts the two-reactor Kyushu Electric Power Co (9508.T) plant, is 1,000 km (600 miles) southwest of Tokyo and has long relied on the Sendai plant for government subsidies and jobs.

Nineteen of the city’s 26 assembly members voted in favor of restarting the plant while four members voted against and three abstained, a city assembly member told Reuters.

The restart of Japan’s first reactors to receive clearance to restart under new rules imposed since Fukushima is unlikely until next year as Kyushu Electric still needs to pass operational safety checks.

Typhoon Vongfong injures dozens in Japan

BBC, October 12

Typhoon Vongfong, the strongest storm to hit Japan this year, is moving north towards the country’s main islands, leaving at least 30 injured in Okinawa.

Flights were cancelled amid pounding winds and rain, while hundreds of thousands had to evacuate their homes.

The storm is due to make landfall on Kyushu island on Monday morning. Kyushu’s bullet train services were suspended on Sunday due to the wind.
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Fukushima nuclear meltdown worse than initially reported – TEPCO

Russia Today, August 7

The meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s third reactor building was even worse than initially believed, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has announced.

In fact, the power company’s new appraisal of the Fukushima No. 3 reactor building shows that all – or nearly all – of the fuel rods contained inside were melted, dropping onto the floor of the containment vessel. If true, the news means the power plant could be even tougher to decommission.

According to the Japan Times, TEPCO first estimated back in November of 2011 that roughly 63 percent of the reactor’s fuel rods had melted.

But TEPCO now believes that after studying conditions surrounding the fuel core, the reactor’s cooling system stopped functioning more than five hours earlier than previously estimated. As a result, the meltdown would have started around that same time period.

ENE News: Gov’t: Fuel melted “much deeper” into concrete at Fukushima reactor than revealed — Triple the depth of original estimate — Tepco: “Impossible for us to evaluate potential impact”
Ex-SKF: (UPDATED) #Fukushima I NPP: Source of Neutron Detected on March 13-15, 2011 May Be Plutonium and Uranium Released by Core Melt
Enformable: TEPCO says Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 meltdown worse than estimated

Japanese cabinet may agree on conditions to collective self-defense

CCTV.com, By Terrence Terashima, June 30

Japan’s ruling coalition is expected to reach an agreement over the conditions of the country’s right to exercise collective self-defense, and change the interpretation of its pacifist constitution to allow that right.

It has been Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ambition, for Japan to reinterpret its pacifist constitution and adopt the long-prohibited right of collective self-defense. And after several heated discussions within the ruling coalition, Abe administration is looking likely to reach consensus on its final draft.

[…]

It was also apparent that Abe wanted to rush the final draft and the diet debate. Targeting the revision of the US Japan defense guidelines at the end of the year.

Also, Majirox News: Japan: The Mystery of the (Almost) Invisible Suicide


Update, Bloomberg: Japan’s Cabinet Agrees to Allow Military to Help Defend Allies

Fukushima No. 1 boss admits water woes out of control

Reuters, By Yuka Obayashi, April 20

Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture – The manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant admits to embarrassment that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water, eight months after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the world the matter had been resolved.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, has been fighting a daily battle against contaminated water since Fukushima was wrecked by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Abe’s government pledged half a billion dollars last year to tackle the issue, but progress has been limited.

“It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don’t have full control,” Akira Ono told reporters touring the plant last week. He was referring to the latest blunder at the plant: channeling contaminated water into the wrong building.
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North Korea human rights abuses resemble those of the Nazis, says UN inquiry

Inquiry chairman Michael Kirby writes to Kim Jong-un warning he could face trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity.

The Guardian, By Peter Walker, February 17

North Korea’s leadership is committing systematic and appalling human rights abuses against its own citizens on a scale unparalleled in the modern world, crimes against humanity with strong resemblances to those committed by the Nazis, a United Nations inquiry has concluded.

The UN’s commission on human rights in North Korea, which gathered evidence for almost a year, including often harrowing testimony at public hearings worldwide, said there was compelling evidence of torture, execution and arbitrary imprisonment, deliberate starvation and an almost complete lack of free thought and belief.

The chair of the three-strong panel set up by the UN commissioner on human rights has personally written to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to warn that he could face trial at the international criminal court (ICC) for his personal culpability as head of state and leader of the military.

“The commission wishes to draw your attention that it will therefore recommend that the United Nations refer the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [the formal name for North Korea] to the international criminal court to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for the crimes against humanity,” Michael Kirby, an Australian retired judge, wrote to Kim.