A petition to get a referendum on the use of nuclear power in Kansai got 50,000 signatures in Osaka. Although a similar petition against Kobe airport was ignored by the city, this could be a first step towards a Kansai nuclear-free region. The future of civil nuclear power in Japan is however strongly dependent on US imposed export restrictions upon Iran. Currently, Japan imports extra crude oil to produce electricity, since most of its nuclear power plants are off-line, and has opposed the US sanctions. As for everything related to defense, and the question of civil nuclear power is directly linked to the ability of Japan to rapidly build ICBM in case of a serious conflict with China, Japan will likely give way. In fact, it is now preparing for alternative supply sources and asked Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help it make up any shortfall (read articles below).

The Asahi Shimbun – Group says it has enough backing to press for Osaka nuclear vote

January 10, 2012

A citizens’ advocacy group set up to press for referendums on the use of nuclear power says it has collected enough signatures in Osaka to petition the city government for a vote on the issue.

The group, called Minnadekimeyo Genpatsu Kokumintohyo (Let’s have referendums to decide on nuclear power), will submit its list of 50,000 signatures to the city’s board of elections on Jan. 16.

If the board confirms the list, the group will be able to officially petition Mayor Toru Hashimoto to submit the ordinances necessary for a referendum. A direct popular vote would also need the backing of the city’s assembly.

The group began gathering signatures on Dec. 10 in Tokyo and Osaka, with a Jan. 9 deadline imposed in Osaka. It said the number of signatures reached 50,000, more than the 2 percent of voters, or 42,673 signatures, required to press for a referendum, as of Jan. 9. The total is expected to grow to about 53,500, according to the group.

A woman signs a petition calling for a referendum on nuclear power plants in Osaka's Nanba district in December. (Yoshiaki Arai)

The group is still well short of the support it needs to press for a vote in Tokyo. With just one month left before the deadline for submitting signatures on Feb. 9, only 78,240 signatures had been collected as of Jan. 8. That was less than one-third of the 214,236 required to petition the governor of Tokyo to adopt referendum ordinances, the group said at a Jan. 9 meeting in Tokyo.

The group is still targeting 300,000 signatures in the capital.

“We are aware that we are in a difficult position to achieve our target, but we can still make it if we try even harder,” a representative from its administrative office said.

A referendum in Osaka would be the first direct popular vote in Japan on the nuclear power issue outside of municipalities hosting or considering hosting nuclear power plants.

Link to the original story.

AFP – Japan refuses to stop Iranian oil imports

Dec 19, 2011

WASHINGTON — Japan’s foreign minister said Monday that his country would not stop imports of Iranian oil, striking a rare note of divergence with the United States during a visit to Washington.

After talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that focused mostly on North Korea, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba highlighted Japan’s sanctions imposed on Iranian institutions due to concerns over its nuclear program.

But Gemba said: “I conveyed my view that there is a danger of causing damage to the entire global economy if the imports of Iranian crude oil stop.”

The United States and European powers have sought to step up global pressure on Iran after the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, came its closest yet to accusing Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons.

Japan has traditionally maintained cordial relations with Iran, although in recent years it has pared down its energy investments in the Islamic republic due to the concerns over its nuclear program.

But Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, is heavily dependent on foreign oil as it has virtually no fossil fuel resources on its own.

In another point of divergence between the allies, Clinton pressed for action on the abductions of half-American children by their estranged Japanese partners.

Clinton said she “urged that Japan take decisive steps so that is accedes to the Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction and address outstanding cases.”

Japan is the only member of the Group of Eight industrialized powers that it not part of the 1980 convention that requires countries to return wrongfully held children to their countries of usual residence.

Mindful of international criticism, Japan has agreed in principle to sign the Hague treaty. But the move would only apply to future cases and not to the more than 120 ongoing cases in which US parents are seeking children in Japan.

Japanese courts virtually never award custody to foreign parents.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved

Retrieved from Google News.

Reuters – EU ministers plan Iran oil embargo, IAEA team to visit (emphasis added by SurvivalJapan)

By Parisa Hafezi and Fredrik Dahl

TEHRAN/VIENNA | Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:13pm EST

(Reuters) – Europe and Japan moved ahead Tuesday in planning for punitive cuts in oil imports from Iran, where a senior official dismissed Western anger at news Tehran is enriching uranium deep underground as cover for ulterior motives.

A day after Iran confirmed the start of enrichment at a mountain bunker near the holy city of Qom – and sentenced an American to death for spying – the European Union brought forward a ministerial meeting that is likely to match new U.S. measures to hamper Iran’s oil exports.

Russia expressed “regret and concern” at news that Iran had begun enrichment operations at the Fordow bunker and criticized Tehran for ignoring the international community’s demands for a response to its concerns.

An official at the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, said inspectors were expected to visit Iran soon to discuss their worries about possible military aspects to its nuclear program.

Japan took precautions in case it joins an international embargo on buying Iranian crude by asking Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help it make up any shortfall.

Anxiety about the Iranian nuclear program helped push up oil prices, and Brent February crude rose 92 cents to $113.37 a barrel by 12:48 p.m. EST (1748 GMT)

Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency was scathing about reactions to Monday’s news, confirmed by the IAEA, that the Fordow site was enriching uranium – something Western powers say is aimed at developing nuclear arms, rather than the civilian uses that Iran asserts.

Noting that Fordow had been monitored by the IAEA for two years, Ali Asghar Soltanieh told Iran’s ISNA news agency that Western reaction had “political purposes.” The clerical leadership in Tehran, under pressure from sanctions that are disrupting the economy ahead of a parliamentary election, often accuses Western powers of seeking to overthrow it.

In Brussels, the European Union said it brought forward by a week, to January 23, a meeting at which foreign ministers from the bloc, which rivals China as Iran’s biggest customer for crude, are expected to confirm an embargo on oil purchases.

The 27 EU governments are still debating how quickly some of their ailing and oil-dependent economies can afford to drop a key supplier and find alternatives.

The change is officially to avoid a clash with an EU summit on January 30, but bringing the ministers’ meeting forward could speed a decision on when to impose the ban, following U.S. President Barack Obama’s New Year’s Eve move to stop payments to Iran for oil.

The Islamic Republic’s decision to carry out enrichment work deep underground at Fordow could make it much harder for U.S. or Israeli forces to carry out veiled threats to use force against Iranian nuclear facilities. That in turn could narrow a time window for diplomacy to avert any attack.

The U.S. State Department Monday called uranium enrichment at Fordow a “further escalation” of Iran’s “ongoing violations” of U.N. resolutions.

France called for measures of “unprecedented scale and severity” against Tehran. Germany and Britain also condemned it. Others, including Greece and Italy, which are bigger customers for Iranian oil, are seeking delays before cutting off imports.

DEATH SENTENCE

The death sentence Monday for Amir Mirza Hekmati, 28, an Arizona-born former U.S. military translator with dual Iranian-U.S. nationality, further riled Washington, which denies he is a spy and has demanded his immediate release since his arrest.

The two moves come at a time when new U.S. sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear program are causing real economic pain.

The rial has lost 20 percent of its value against the dollar in the past week alone, raising the cost of living for Iran’s 74 million people [nL6E8CA2MQ]. As they scrambled to buy dollars to protect savings, some said mobile phone text messages were being blocked where they included discussion of “dollars” or “currency.” Officials denied any state censorship.

Tehran has responded to the sanctions moves with threats to international shipping that have frightened oil markets. A parliamentary election in two months is widening Iran’s internal political divisions, though the widely diverse opposition to the clerical leadership is also divided, both in Iran and in exile.

LEADERS JOKE

Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela mocked U.S. disapproval and joked about having an atom bomb.

“Despite those arrogant people who do not wish us to be together, we will unite forever,” the Iranian leader told Chavez during a visit to Caracas.

On New Year’s Eve, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law by far the toughest financial sanctions yet against Iran, which if fully implemented could make it impossible for most countries to pay for Iranian oil.

Nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany collapsed a year ago. Efforts to restart them have foundered over Iran’s refusal to negotiate over its right to enrich uranium.

The United States and Israel say they are leaving the military option on the table in case it becomes the only way to prevent Iran from making a nuclear weapon.

Hekmati’s family says he was arrested last August while visiting grandparents in Iran. The United States urged Iran to “release him without delay.” His execution could still be blocked by Iran’s highest court, which must confirm all death sentences.

Iran disclosed to the IAEA in 2009 that it was building the facility beneath a mountain at Fordow – but only after learning that it had been detected by Western intelligence.

After years in which economic sanctions had little effect, the latest measures against Tehran are causing real pain.

Iran has remained defiant. In a televised speech Monday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “Sanctions imposed on Iran by our enemies will not have any impact on our nation. The Iranian nation believes in its rulers.”

Link to original story.

Wikipedia- Kobe Airport article:

Construction began in September 1999 but political controversy continued. 87,000 signatures were collected in a petition to recall the mayor in 2000, and a citizen lawsuit to cancel the project was dismissed in 2004. The airport finally opened on February 16, 2006.

(Source)

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