Nuclear power plant reactors in both Shikoku and Kyushu islands are currently off-line. Hopefully the public opinion will hamper their restart after their inspection is done, although this is not a certainty as the government is already self-defeating its new law and allowed a loop-hole for extending nuclear power plant operations well past their designed lifespan.

The nuclear village is bracing until the public dissent fades to resume business as usual, with the extra gift to be allowed to participate in weapon development together with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (the Japanese equivalent of NASA now has operational rockets ready for ICBM usage). Besides, Japan just enacted a law which allows joint weapon development with other countries, i.e. US, so it is only a matter of time until the screw-driver nuclear nation is up-and-ready for war with China.

In other news, Japan is still pushing for nuclear technology export in countries such as Vietnam and India, so we should not be too wishful and naive about the plans to restart domestic nuclear plants, especially with less access to alternative electricity producing-resources such as Iranian oil.

Until nuclear power plants are fully decommissioned (and the question of hazardous waste and materials remains even then), they represent a hazard in case of earthquake, tsunami and the usual lack of professional ethic that leads to all sorts of nuclear incidents in Japan.

Mainichi Daily News – All 3 nuclear reactors in Shikoku suspended

IKATA, Ehime — Operations at all three nuclear reactors in Shikoku have been suspended as the last one was stopped for a regular inspection on Jan. 13.

Shikoku Electric Power Co. suspended operations at the No. 2 reactor of its Ikata Nuclear Power Plant on the night of Jan. 13. Its No. 1 and 3 reactors, which had been shut down for regular inspections, cannot be reactivated because of the ongoing crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

Shikoku Electric Power became the second utility in Japan with no nuclear reactors running, following Kyushu Electric Power Co.

Currently, only five of the 54 commercial nuclear reactors across the country are in operation.

Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime Prefecture is pictured in this Dec. 19, 2011 file photo. (Mainichi)

January 14, 2012

(Source)

Although Shikoku is relatively far away from Fukushima, its geographical situation puts it in the path of radioactive fallout, which is ongoing in spite of official “cold-shutdown” nonsense. Actually, there is a 70-80% probability that reactor no. 4 at Daiichi has been vaporizing its fuel around January 9th / 10th when its cooling pool has been let to empty by some 6th level unidentified and unaccountable subcontractors who went to celebrate the New Year – or so the rumor has it.

The region of Kochi is particularly under threat when north-east winds blow like they do today especially since it’s raining (they have been western winds most of the winter however). In case Osaka decides to carry on their plan to incinerate radioactive waste, the prefectures of Tokushima and Kagawa will be under the wind. The Seto Inland Sea and Osaka Bay have been a large industrial pollution reservoir for about a century, so the cancer rate should not really spike up from a little additional radioactivity but Shikoku is not the most sheltered place inside the Monitored Land.

In the event where Tokyo should be evacuated, as former Prime Minister Naoto Kan once considered to, and as might be the case someday if the unusual military activity in its skies and the broad range of new “state of emergency” laws are to be trusted indicators, Shikoku might benefit from its relative nearness to Kansai and Hyogo industrial areas. However, the economic state of Japan would be that of current Vietnam when this happens – and public health lower than that of current China.

Shikoku is an economically depressed area but it offers some beautiful mountain landscapes with onsens (hot springs) and some whale-watching activities so it is well worth visiting while still relatively radiation-free.

Further reading on the topic of state of emergency in Japan:

Japan Today – Gov’t to discuss measures to prevent outbreak of possible ‘super flu’

 TOKYO — Jan. 17, 2012

The government on Monday announced it will hold a special council this month to discuss policies aimed at preventing the spread of disease in the event of a hypothetical new influenza that is deadlier and more virulent than current strains.

The health ministry says it wants to determine mandatory quarantine procedures and other options for a worst-case scenario “super flu,” which could see as many as 640,000 citizens dead, according to projections.

Tokyo already maintains a policy to declare a state of emergency if faced with a dangerous epidemic. But, NTV reports that the soon-to-convene council is expected to also lay out rules for voluntary and mandatory restrictions on citizens leaving their homes or gathering, and the council may also determine new restrictions on pharmaceutical companies.

An attempt to impose such restrictions in light of a breakout of a novel flu strain in 2009 resulted in mass confusion, the government says, prompting the call for a meeting to update policies, NTV reported.

(Source)

Mainichi Daily News -Gov’t to retain powers to order evacuation in crisis-hit areas

January 17, 2012

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japanese government has finalized its decision to seek the amendment of a law to allow it to retain the power to issue evacuation orders and set evacuation zones even if it lifts the state of emergency when the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant is resolved, government sources said Monday.Under the current law, the government would technically not have authority over evacuation orders once the lifting of the state of emergency automatically dissolves its nuclear disaster response headquarters, despite the need for its continued involvement over the long term.

The government plans to submit a proposal to revise the nuclear disaster law during the ordinary Diet session starting later this month.

The government decided last December to reclassify evacuation zones around the Fukushima plant into three categories at around the end of March, depending on estimated annual radiation exposure.

The first category covers areas with an estimated annual radiation exposure exceeding 50 millisieverts, to which entry will remain prohibited in principle for at least five years.

The second category covers areas with an estimated annual radiation exposure of between more than 20 millisieverts and 50 millisieverts, where the entry of evacuated residents would be restricted but decontamination and infrastructure rebuilding work could take place.

The third category includes areas with an estimated annual exposure of 20 millisieverts or less, where the government will lift evacuation orders in stages according to progress made on decontamination and the rebuilding of infrastructure.The current evacuation zones cover areas within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant, where entry is prohibited, and areas with an estimated annual radiation exposure reaching the government-set upper limit of 20 millisieverts, where most of the residents have been evacuated.

(Source)

Fukushima Diary – Roads in Tokyo will be shut down at emergency

January 10th, 2012

Metropolitan police department decided to ban some roads (Highway and normal roads) in emergency situation such as earthquake etc..

It’s supposed to let ambulance and fire truck go smoothly, but it means you can not escape when you really need to evacuate. (Source)

For the readers living around in Tokyo, I would like to post the maps of the roads you can’t use.

Now that the Spent Fuel Pool of reactor 4 is in the crisis, it is important to know that you can not use your car to move.

(Source)

Fukushima Diary – Military helicopters observed around south Tokyo area

January 10th, 2012

Around Yokohama, where is south to Tokyo, people are watching unusual number of military helicopter flying.

(Source)

Further reading on the topic of weapon manufacturing ramp-up and push for a regular army in Japan:

Mainichi Daily News – Editorial: New standards for exporting weapons should be strictly enforced

December 28, 2011

The government should strictly enforce new standards it has worked out to ease its weapons export ban.The new measures, announced in a statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, retain the spirit of the three principles on weapons exports aimed at keeping Japanese weapons from contributing to international conflicts.

They state that Japan can jointly develop and produce weapons and technology with countries with which it has security relations if it contributes to Japan’s security. They add that the transfer of the weapons overseas can be permitted only for the purposes of contributing to peace and international cooperation.

Moreover, the new standards ban countries to which Japan will provide weapons from using them for purposes other than those agreed upon or transferring them to third countries. Nations that acquire Japanese weapons are required to gain consent from Tokyo if they intend to use the weapons for purposes not outlined in bilateral agreements or transfer them abroad.

So far, Japan has exported weapons by setting exceptions to the ban on a case-by-case basis, but the new steps, which clearly provide for exceptions, apply to cases that meet certain requirements in a comprehensive manner.

The three principles of weapons exports derive from the 1967 declaration by the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato that Japan would ban the exports of weapons to the communist bloc, as well as to countries to which weapons exports are prohibited by U.N. resolutions and conflicting parties and those feared to go into armed conflicts.

In 1976, the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Takeo Miki announced that it would refrain from exporting weapons to other countries, effectively leading to a total ban on weapons exports.

In 1983, however, the administration of then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone gave the green light to providing weapons technology to the United States. Tokyo has since eased the ban by setting exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Currently, the Japan-U.S. joint development and production of a missile defense system and the provision of patrol boats to Indonesia are among those recognized as exceptions to the ban.

The new standards are aimed primarily at opening the way for Japan’s participation in the joint international development and production of fighters and other high-priced equipment, which is common practice in the international community.

The F35, which Japan has decided to introduce as a next-generation fighter, was developed jointly by nine countries including the United States and Britain. Japan’s participation in the international joint development and production of expensive equipment would undoubtedly help reduce its defense equipment procurement expenses, build up the foundation for domestic production and improve Japan’s security and defense policies.

Japan has banned the provision of heavy machine tools, helmets, patrol boats and other items that Japan uses in peacekeeping operations or for humanitarian purposes to other countries, but questions have been raised over the government’s view that such items fall into the category of weapons under the three principles.

The new standards are basically appropriate in light of changes in the circumstances surrounding the procurement of defense equipment and their limit on the use of equipment strictly for peaceful and humanitarian purposes. Critics argue that the old system under which exceptions are set on a case-by-case basis should be retained. However, an accumulation of exceptions will eventually be equal to the new standards.The important thing in enforcing the new standards is to respect the spirit of the three principles of weapons exports. Specifically, Japan should examine how the countries that buy weapons from it will use them and if it is feared that jointly developed and produced weapons and Japanese technology could fall in the hands of third countries such as conflicting parties, Tokyo must clearly express opposition to that.

Many members of the general public fear that the new standards could be rendered ineffective if the United States strongly urges Japan to allow weapons Japan provides to other nations to be handed over to third countries. The government should keep this fully in mind, and strictly enforce the new standards.

(Source)

Mainichi Daily News – Gov’t eyes revising space agency law to allow defense use

January 14, 2012

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A government panel on space development strategy decided Friday to revise a law to allow the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to be involved in the use of space for security purposes by stepping out of its current framework committing it to peaceful utilization.

If the amendment bill is approved by the Diet, to be convened later this month, JAXA will be allowed to cooperate in developing spy and early warning satellites.

The controversial move, however, is likely to provoke opposition to the military use of space.

Japan’s space development program was based on a 1969 parliamentary resolution limiting it to nonmilitary fields in principle.

But a basic act on space development, enacted in 2008, stipulates that space development should contribute to security, permitting the use of space for defense purposes.

(Source)

Mainichi Daily News – SDF troops on int’l duty should be allowed to use weapons: vice minister

December 30, 2011

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Senior Vice Defense Minister Shu Watanabe called Thursday for the relaxation of Japan’s restrictions on the use of weapons by Self-Defense Forces troops participating in international cooperation activities, such as peacekeeping operations.

In an interview with Kyodo News, Watanabe said the government needs to discuss the issue of Japanese troops’ inability under the restrictions to protect members of nongovernmental organizations and foreign troops if they come under attack.

The Japanese government currently restricts the use of weapons by SDF members to cases of self-defense, emergency evacuation and protection of their weapons, he said.

“Things possible for the armies of other countries should be made possible for the SDF as well,” Watanabe said, referring to SDF participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Although Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution prohibits the use of force to settle international disputes, Watanabe argued that the use of weapons by SDF troops during peacekeeping operations would not contravene the Constitution, noting that SDF members would engage in peacekeeping activities at the request of the United Nations.

The ruling and opposition parties should discuss the matter during the next regular Diet session beginning in late January, Watanabe said.

Article 9 states, “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

Watanabe visited South Sudan earlier this month with a delegation from the foreign and defense ministries to inspect the security situation in the newly independent country.

Japan plans to send a Ground Self-Defense Force engineering team next year to help construct roads and bridges in South Sudan as the rebuilding of infrastructure is vital for the development of the country, long battered by civil strife until it gained independence in July 2011.

Watanabe said there are no concerns about the security situation in South Sudan’s capital Juba and its vicinity where it is planned the GSDF team will operate.

The senior vice minister also discussed the government’s decision Tuesday to relax Japan’s arms export ban and pave the way for participation in joint weapons development and production with other countries.

Watanabe said the government will abide by the country’s long-standing arms export ban in principle but Japan’s participation in international weapons development projects would lead to technological innovation and cost reductions.

He also discussed the delivery of a key environmental impact assessment report on the relocation of a U.S. Marine base within Okinawa Prefecture to the prefectural government in the early hours of Wednesday.

“The U.S. presence in Okinawa is necessary for peace in Japan and the rest of Asia when looking at recent developments in North Korea and moves by China,” he said.

Watanabe said Japan and the United States have agreed to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station from a densely populated area in Ginowan to a less populated coastal district in Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture, in order to remove the risk posed by Futenma, “which is called ‘the most dangerous base in the world.”‘

On the situation in North Korea following the death of its leader Kim Jong Il, Watanabe said he has no idea about the future course that the new leader, Kim Jong Un, will take.

Japan will continue to keep a close watch on North Korea, which he said has so far sought a military-first administration and might take some action in a warning to the rest of the world.

(Source)

Further reading about the shift of US from NATO to Asia-Pacific with Japan on the front line:

Stop NATO – Southeast Asia: U.S. Completing Asian NATO To Confront China

November 6, 2011

Since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization adopted its first Strategic Concept for the 21st century a year ago this month in Portugal, and in the process all but formalized the bloc as a global military intervention force, discussion has been rife concerning a collective partnership with the 54-nation African Union, a “mini-NATO” in the Persian Gulf and another in the Arctic Ocean and the Baltic Sea, the culmination of the transformation of the Mediterranean into a NATO sea and the effective “NATOization” of the ten-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The U.S.-dominated military alliance, whose current American ambassador, Ivo Daalder, for years has advocated becoming a full-fledged global NATO (in one instance in an article with that precise title), expanded from 16 to 28 full members in the decade beginning in 1999 and has over forty partners in four continents outside the Euro-Atlantic zone under the auspices of programs like the Partnership for Peace in Europe and Asia, the Mediterranean Dialogue in Africa and the Middle East, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative in the Persian Gulf,  the Contact Country format in the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea), Annual National Programs with Georgia and Ukraine, the Afghanistan-Pakistan-International Security Assistance Force Tripartite Commission, the NATO-Russia Council, the NATO Training Mission-Iraq and NATO-Training Mission – Afghanistan (with a Libyan version to follow), a bilateral agreement with the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia where NATO has airlifted thousands of Ugandan and Burundian troops for the war there and other arrangements.

Formal partnerships with the African Union and ASEAN would gain the world’s only military bloc fifty new cohorts in Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Mauritania and Morocco – the last not an African Union member – are already members of the Mediterranean Dialogue) and ten in Southeast Asia: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore. Thailand and Vietnam.

In addition, in September U.S. permanent representative to NATO Daalder told Indian journalists visiting the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels:

“I think it is important to have a dialogue (with India) and deepen that dialogue.

“It is through dialogue, through understanding each other’s perceptions and perhaps by working on misperceptions that may exist, that we can strengthen the relations between India and NATO.”

He also bluntly suggested that India, a founding member of the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement, should abandon its policy of neutrality and collaborate with the U.S. and NATO in the development of an international interceptor missile system.

In articles written in the last decade, including the aforementioned “Global NATO,” Daalder and fellow Brookings Institution and Council on Foreign Relations officials argued for partnerships between the bloc and nations around the world under Daalder’s concept of an Alliance of Democratic States and other mechanisms. The countries mentioned by name include Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea.

Immediately ahead of the NATO summit in Lisbon, Daalder was quoted stating:

“We’re launching Nato 3.0.

“It is no longer just about Europe – it’s not a global alliance but it is a global actor. We need to look for opportunities to work with countries we haven’t worked with before, like India, China and Brazil.”

The month before, in October of last year, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a video post on his blog, “We should reach out to new and important partners, including China and India.”

With NATO as the prime mover and in charge, that is. He added: “We should encourage consultations between interested allies and partners on security issues of common concern, with NATO as a hub for those discussions.”

In September of this year he told the Xinhua News Agency: “I would very much like to see a strengthened dialogue between China and NATO.” China and India were among 47 nations represented at a meeting at NATO headquarters on September 14 to discuss naval operations in the Gulf of Aden and in the broader Indian Ocean where NATO runs Operation Ocean Shield. Other non-NATO nations present were Australia, Egypt, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates. At the time the last two were supplying warplanes for NATO’s Operation Unified Protector assault against Libya.

If the architects of an international NATO realize their ambitions fully, more than 140 of the world’s 194 nations will be members or partners of the North Atlantic Alliance. Their troops, military hardware and air and other bases will be available to the U.S.-dominated bloc for actions nearly everywhere in the world, as warplanes from NATO partner Israel have recently been training in Romania, Greece and a NATO air base in Sardinia for strikes against Iran.

With every nation on the European continent and every European island nation except for Cyprus now either a NATO member or partner and with the Alliance now firmly ensconced in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, the U.S. and its Western allies are concentrating their firepower on East Asia.

The war in Afghanistan is in its eleventh year and it has provided NATO the opportunity to integrate the militaries of over fifteen Asian-Pacific countries (including the Middle East and the South Caucasus in that category) through supplying troops and other military personnel to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force: Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Georgia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Tonga, Turkey and United Arab Emirates. All but Bahrain and Japan are what the bloc refers to as Troop Contributing Nations, of which Kazakhstan is to be the 49th, with its parliament at least temporarily blocking the formalization of that status.

Before his death late last year U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke was recruiting Bangladesh to become the 50th official supplier of troops for NATO’s Afghan war.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently concluded an eight-day trip to Asia, his first as Pentagon chief, where he visited Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.

On the first leg of his journey he met with the defense ministers of the ten members of ASEAN. Indonesia holds the organization’s chairmanship this year. Next year it will be transferred to Cambodia, where at the same time Panetta was in East Asia his subordinate, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Robert Scher, visited for two days to solidify military relations with the host nation where U.S. Army Pacific has led multinational Angkor Sentinel military exercises for the past two years.

Xinhua quoted the Pentagon official as saying:

“It’s a fruitful visit. I participated in a series of productive meetings with the Cambodian Ministry of Defense and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) to discuss the growing U.S.-Cambodia bilateral defense relationship…”

He was additionally cited stating he “had discussions about Cambodia’s objectives as it approaches to take over the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2012.

“The U.S. Department of Defense is committed to continuing to work with the RCAF to develop a professional force that will contribute to regional and international peace and stability” and “the United States’ overall commitment is to enhance its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region in the future.”

While in Indonesia, Panetta indulged in the affectation of identifying himself as “a son of the U.S. Pacific coast,” having been raised in California, as his commander-in-chief, Hawaii-born President Barack Obama, has touted himself as America’s first Pacific head of state.

He met with Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, according to the Stars and Stripes newspaper, “to discuss growing bilateral military relations and broader issues facing Southeast Asia…[c]hief among those issues [being] China’s growing assertiveness in an area it considers its own backyard.”

In his own words, “I’ve made it very clear that the United States remains a Pacific power, that we will continue to strengthen our presence in this part of the world and that we will remain a force…in this region.”

Later in Japan, the Pentagon chief told American troops at  the Yokota Air Base near Tokyo: “We are not anticipating any cutbacks in this region. If anything we are going to strengthen our presence in the Pacific.” Two weeks earlier Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken in a  similar vein: “Probably the greatest opportunities in the years ahead will be found in the Asia Pacific region, which is why we have renewed America’s leadership and pre-eminent role there.”

In July of 2010 Clinton attended the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi and entered the fray in the disputes between ASEAN member states and China over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea, in essence pledging the U.S. as guarantor for ASEAN against China. Panetta’s meeting with his ten ASEAN counterparts last month provided an overt military component to the commitment.

While in Japan the defense secretary celebrated a half century of American-Japanese military colloboration enshrined in the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan of 1960, adding, “And it will be for the next 50 years as well.”

Panetta also told assembled U.S. and Japanese troops: “I just had the opportunity to be in Indonesia and meet with the (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) defense ministers. And I conveyed the same message to them: the United States will continue to work with all of them to improve our cooperation, to improve our assistance, and to make sure that we strengthen security for all nations in the Pacific region.”

Southeast Asia has a population of approximately 600 million, two-thirds that of the Western Hemisphere and almost three-quarters that of Europe. It contains one of the world’s most vital shipping lanes, the Strait of Malacca. The strait runs for 600 miles between Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to the east and the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the west.

According to the United Nations International Maritime Organization, at least 50,000 ships pass through the waterway annually, transporting 30 percent of the goods traded in the world, including oil from the Persian Gulf to major East Asian nations like China, Japan and South Korea. As many as 20 million barrels of oil a day pass through the Strait of Malacca, an amount that will only increase with the further advance of the Asian Century.

Since the end of the Cold War the U.S. and its Western allies have expanded NATO throughout Europe and combined that effort with the creation of an Asian NATO that in part consists of the revival and expansion of other Cold War military alliances based on NATO: The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS).

But what is being built currently is far more extensive than all the latter three combined and is, moreover, not complementary to but in collusion with NATO, the Afghan war serving the purpose of unifying East and West under American and NATO control as the Korean War and Vietnam War did for the creation and consolidation of SEATO and ANZUS.

In May of 2010 the Atlantic Council of the United States, the main NATO lobbying group in the Western Hemisphere and indeed in the world, posted an article by Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and frequent lecturer at the Army War College and the Command and General Staff College, titled “Building an East Asian NATO.”

It contained this excerpt:

“A common complaint heard among American officials and policy analysts is that in East Asia – one of the most important and conflict-prone areas of the planet – there is no security architecture comparable to NATO. The U.S. has ties to many key countries, notably Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and Taiwan. But they do not have strong ties to one another, and there is no joint military planning of the kind that NATO undertakes…”

In recent months the topic of a NATO-ASEAN military partnership has been given increased attention.

In August  U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell gave an interview to The Australian in which he said:

“One of the most important challenges for US foreign policy is to effect a transition from the immediate and vexing challenges of the Middle East to the long-term and deeply consequential issues in Asia.”

“There is an undeniable assertive quality to Chinese foreign policy and we’re seeing that play out in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

“What has been effective in the past year or so is the number of countries in the Asia-Pacific (that) have been prepared to say to China that greater transparency (from China in military matters) is in the interests of the Asia-Pacific region.

“I think what you see is an across-the-board effort (by the US) to articulate India as playing a greater role in Asia, and also revitalising relations with ASEAN – both ASEAN as an institution, and with its key members, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore, and revitalising what used to be a very important relationship with The Philippines.”

His comments paralleled those of defense chief Panetta and other Pentagon officials in affirming that with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the beginning of a drawdown in Afghanistan, the Pentagon is focusing on East Asia, with NATO to take a greater role in policing the Greater/Broader/New Middle East and Africa in order to free up the American military to shift to the east.

In July an article appeared in the Jakarta Post with the title “Sketching out a future ASEAN-NATO partnership” by Evan A. Laksmana, identified as a researcher for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, presumably an affiliate of the think tank of the same name in Washington, D.C. Indonesia, recall, currently chairs ASEAN.

The author’s comments included:

“As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) enters its seventh decade and as ASEAN consolidates its regional community building ahead of and beyond 2015, the bodies have much to learn from each other.

“For NATO, ASEAN will be increasingly critical for the future of Asian stability and order and would be an ideal candidate for a strategic counterpart to tackle common regional and global security challenges – especially when ASEAN consolidates its regional community building, allowing it to share NATO’s role as a community of like-minded nations…

“Southeast Asia’s geopolitical, geo-strategic, and geo-economic value also suggests that NATO’s future missions beyond its traditional area of operations might increasingly depend on ASEAN.”

Further, he recommended:

“Any future ASEAN-NATO partnership could at least be placed within five major policy areas: peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), maritime security, defense reform and counterterrorism.”

“These five areas of engagement could be further executed in four levels of cooperation: strategic, institutional, operational and people-to-people.

“Strategically, NATO can engage ASEAN in discussions and dialogue regarding the five security issues using two tracks.

“In track one, the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (consisting of all ASEAN countries plus Australia, the US, China, South Korea, Japan, India, Russia and New Zealand) as well as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) provide critical dialogue venues.

“In track two, two groupings are crucial: the ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and International Studies (ASEAN-ISIS), a network of nine major think tanks in Southeast Asia, and the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP), a network of nearly all major Asia Pacific think tanks.

“Institutionally, NATO could explore future cooperation or collaboration with either the ASEAN Secretariat, the network of ASEAN Peacekeeping Centers, the ASEAN Center for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief or even the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.

“Other forms of diplomatic defense activities such as port visits or officer exchanges that are more practical and ‘neutral’ might also help alleviate some of the sensitivities of regional countries regarding NATO’s visibility.”

The writer ended his piece with these comments:

“This would slowly and gradually raise the public profile and awareness of NATO’s potential contribution to regional stability.

“This is at least the writer’s impression from discussions with various NATO officials on a recent trip.

“NATO should at least start thinking of engaging ASEAN early to avoid any surprises when a new, region-wide crisis in Asia comes knocking. For ASEAN, if we are serious about boosting our regional security community building, would it hurt to learn from a multi-national organization that has had the longest practical experience in the endeavor?”

Three days later an article appeared in the Pakistani press called “NATO knocks at the door of ASEAN” by Dr. Jassim Taqui, which issued these warnings:

“Having failed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has decided to change direction towards Southeast Asia. In this regard, NATO shows a keen interest to establish a partnership with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).”

Although “the United States continued to influence ASEAN since 1997,” now “Washington is combining with India to influence the region in a bid to neutralize the rising cooperation between ASEAN and China.

“During her visit to India, the US Secretary of State Ms Hillary Clinton urged India to expand its traditional sphere of influence from South Asia to Central Asia and Southeast Asia to contain China’s increasing assertiveness. Ostensibly, Clinton’s slip of the tongue suggests a strategy that aims to encircle China in its backyard in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim on one hand and to boost engagement in Central Asia, on China’s western flank, on the other.

“Clinton’s tone is confrontational. It justifies the containment of China by Washington and New Delhi on the ground of ‘common values and interests.’ Clinton also announced that the Obama administration would soon launch a three-way dialogue with India and Japan to counter China.”

At the beginning of the year U.S. Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters:

“We have 28,500 troops on the Korean Peninsula. We’ve got, I think, north of 50,000 troops in Japan. So we have significant assets already there. Over the long-term lay-down of our forces in the Pacific, we are looking at ways to even bolster that, not necessarily in Korea and Japan, but along the Pacific Rim, particularly in Southeast Asia.”

In September a U.S. Pacific Command spokesperson told The Diplomat “that ASEAN’s pursuit of regional defence industry collaboration would help advance US national interests in the Asia-Pacific as it would usher in a new ‘set of standards, similar to NATO, (that) will facilitate interoperability among ASEAN and US militaries.’”

The feature also stated:

“From an operational perspective, the adoption of NATO standards by ASEAN would advance long-term plug-and-play interoperability between NATO and ASEAN militaries. While this would improve joint-military action across numerous mission spaces, it also would allow Pentagon defence planners to view ASEAN militaries as potential forward-based force multipliers for some regional scenarios with potential adversaries, including China.”

As the year nears it end it is apparent that the Pentagon and its increasingly global military bloc, NATO, are concentrating on integrating the militaries of Southeast Asia in their inexorable drive to contain and confront China and abort the emergence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a viable, non-military alternative to them in Eurasia.

(Source)

Further reading about Japan still betting on nuclear technology exports and domestic restart of nuclear power plants:

Mainichi Daily News -Editorial: Japan needs more discussion before exporting atomic energy technology

December 10, 2011

The Diet’s approval of atomic energy agreements, which the government has signed with Jordan, Vietnam, Russia and South Korea, has opened the way for exports of nuclear power plants to these countries, but the decision came too hasty and has not been thought through.

The pacts are expected to come into force as early as January. However, the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has not been brought under control and the cause of the accident needs to be clarified. The Diet has endorsed the accords without in-depth discussions on how to ensure safety of nuclear power stations.

Atomic energy agreements are aimed at preventing exported atomic-energy-related technology and materials from being diverted to military use, and are a prerequisite for exporting nuclear plants. Japan has already signed such accords with seven countries including the United States, France and China as well as the European Atomic Energy Community.

Under the agreements, Japan is expected to construct nuclear power plants in Jordan and Vietnam and commission Russia to enrich uranium while exporting parts for nuclear reactors to South Korea.

During Diet deliberation on the pacts, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, “If we receive requests for cooperation despite Japan’s current situation based on lessons learned from the crisis, we should do whatever we can to contribute to international efforts to enhance the safety of atomic energy.”

However, one cannot help but wonder how Japan can prove its nuclear technology can contribute to global safety. True, the Japanese nuclear power industry is quite advanced, but it alone cannot ensure the safety of operations at nuclear power stations.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, is highly unlikely to participate in such an international deal even though it had been expected before the crisis to play a leading role in operations at these nuclear power stations abroad. Moreover, even if Japan emphasizes that its nuclear technology is safe without clarifying the cause of the crisis, it cannot win confidence from the international community.

At the same time, the prime minister also emphasized that it is Japan’s responsibility to share its experiences learned from the nuclear crisis with the international community. While this is correct, Japan should put greater emphasis on sharing with the world its knowledge on how to prevent nuclear accidents based on its thorough investigation into the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The Diet had only 10 days to deliberate on the atomic energy pacts. It failed to carry out thorough discussions on safety measures even though Jordan is an earthquake-prone country and it is reportedly difficult to secure the massive amount of water needed to cool down reactors that are expected to be built in inland areas of the country.

It has been pointed out by some critics that the government was desperate to ensure the pacts clear the Diet within this year so that Japanese companies will not be put in a disadvantageous position amid international competition for contracts on the construction of nuclear power stations. However, some members of the ruling coalition voted against the pacts. Deliberations that fail to convince even some ruling coalition legislators can never win confidence from the Japanese public and the international community.

The government is currently negotiating atomic energy agreements with India, South Africa and Turkey. In particular, Japan should exercise prudence in its negotiations with India, which is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty even though it possesses nuclear arms.

To prevent Japan from exporting danger and anxiety to the world while decreasing its reliance on nuclear energy, the executive and legislative branches of the government are urged to hold more in-depth discussions on nuclear energy safety based on its verification of the cause of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

(Source)

New York Times – Japan Courts the Money in Reactors

By Hiroko Tabuchi

October 10, 2011

TOKYO — Even as Japan plans to phase out nuclear power as too risky for domestic use, the government is supporting a new push by Japanese industry to sell nuclear power technology to other countries.

Japanese industrial conglomerates, with the cooperation of the government in Tokyo, are renewing their pursuit of multibillion-dollar projects, particularly in smaller energy-hungry countries like Vietnam and Turkey. The effort comes despite criticism within Japan by environmental groups and opposition politicians.

It may seem a stretch for Japan to acclaim its nuclear technology overseas while struggling at home to contain the nuclear meltdowns that displaced more than 100,000 people. But Japan argues that its latest technology includes safeguards not present at the decades-old reactors at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, which continues to leak radiation.

While Fukushima Daiichi could not withstand the magnitude 9 quake and the tsunami that ravaged much of Japan’s northeast coast in March, Japanese officials argue, their nation has learned valuable lessons — and has good nuclear track record withstanding most earlier earthquakes.

“Many countries of the world are seriously exploring the use of nuclear power, and we have assisted them in improving nuclear safety,” Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, said at an address at the United Nations General Assembly recently. “We will continue to answer to the interest of those countries.”

Mr. Noda’s government considers foreign reactor projects a way to help stimulate Japan’s export-led economy, which had been struggling even before March’s natural and nuclear disasters. Tokyo’s backing— including financial assistance to the customer countries — has become critical in negotiating deals, especially as global confidence in nuclear safety has faltered in Fukushima’s wake.

The World Nuclear Association, a trade industry group, says the world’s stock of 443 nuclear reactors could more than double in the next 15 years, but analysts say that expansion will require strong support from the governments on both sides of any deal.

In early September, after a six-month hiatus following the earthquake, the Japanese government restarted talks with Vietnamese officials on a 1 trillion yen ($13 billion) project to build two reactors in southern Vietnam. The terms include possible Japanese financial aid.

The project would involve a new government-supported company whose largest shareholder is Tokyo Electric Power, operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant. The industrial conglomerates Toshiba and Hitachi, which supplied reactors to the Fukushima plant, are also investors. Ichiro Takekuro, a former executive of Tokyo Electric, is the president of the new company, called International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan.

The Vietnam project, if it proceeds, would join a roster of about two dozen other nuclear plant projects that Japanese makers are bidding or working on in countries including the United States, China, Turkey and Lithuania.

Japan’s nuclear drive is a contrast to the recent announcement by Siemens, Europe’s largest engineering conglomerate, that it would stop building nuclear power plants. Siemens, with headquarters in Munich, is responding to Germany’s decision this year to phase out nuclear power — largely in reaction to Japan’s calamity.

But makers of nuclear reactors from other countries, including Areva of France, General Electric of the United States, Russia’s state-owned Rostacom and several government-backed Chinese conglomerates like China National Nuclear, are pursuing new contracts. Within Japan, Tokyo’s effort has already drawn protest from nuclear opponents.

“The Japanese government’s promotion of nuclear exports is clearly a double standard and a mistake,” the environmental group Friends of the Earth Japan, said in September.

The opposition Liberal Democratic Party has also called for more debate on the nuclear export initiative by Mr. Noda and the ruling Democratic Party, although opinion in both parties remains divided.

“Some people are asking: Why is Japan trying to export something it rejected at home?” said Itsunori Onodera, a Liberal Democratic lawmaker and director of a parliamentary foreign policy panel charged with approving bilateral nuclear agreements. “Even if Japan ultimately does decide to continue nuclear exports, there needs to be more debate on the issue.”

But analysts say Japan’s top three nuclear engineering companies — Hitachi, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toshiba — which had combined profit in their energy and infrastructure businesses of about 242 billion yen ($3.14 billion) in the latest fiscal year, are keener than ever to look overseas.

Only about one in five of Japan’s 54 reactors — which previously met about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity needs — is still in service. The rest were damaged by the tsunami, are still being put through routine tests, or have not been restarted after such tests because of local opposition.

It is unclear when any will restart. Adding to the uncertainty, on Oct. 4 a reactor in Genkai, in southern Japan, went into automatic shutdown because of problems with its cooling system. And because the government has said it will be difficult for new reactors to be built, a gradual phase-out of nuclear power is inevitable, as old reactors are retired.

But Japan is still intent on keeping industrial exports afloat at a time when the country’s export-led economy faces strong headwinds: a strong yen that makes Japanese goods and services expensive on world markets, post-Fukushima energy shortfalls and stiffening competition from Asian industrial rivals.

Expensive projects like new reactors, often accompanied by ancillary business for utilities in fuel operations and maintenance, remain particularly attractive to Japanese commerce officials.

Last year, Japan’s nuclear exports totaled 15 billion yen. The ruling Democratic Party had made the expansion of nuclear exports a centerpiece of its economic growth strategy before March. A trip by the former prime minister, Naoto Kan, to Vietnam last October, which gave the country a leg-up in negotiations, was seen as an early triumph.

And when Mr. Kan himself tried to shut down efforts to continue nuclear exports in July, many within his own party urged him to reconsider. If anything, Mr. Kan’s successor and fellow Democrat, Mr. Noda, is more actively promoting nuclear exports than Mr. Kan did. The trade minister under Mr. Noda, Yukio Edano, who now oversees Japan’s nuclear policy, had been a vocal supporter of continued nuclear exports.

Vietnam says it is happy that the deal is back on the table. Vietnam’s ambassador to Japan, Nguyen Phu Binh, told the Mainichi newspaper in late August that he wanted to see construction proceed and believed Japan would “use the Fukushima crisis to learn important lessons.”

Still, some Japanese companies have been forced to withdraw their nuclear bids in the wake of Fukushima.

Toshiba and Tokyo Electric withdrew from a proposed effort to expand the nuclear South Texas Project south of Houston, after the operator NRG Energy said it would scuttle the plan in light of the Fukushima crisis.

The Toshiba-Tokyo Electric team also abandoned a bid to build Turkey’s second nuclear power plant after the Turkish government indicated that it was interested in a different kind of technology than the boiling water reactors that are Toshiba’s specialty. Older versions of boiling water reactors were in use at Fukushima.

But that could benefit yet another Japanese company, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which specializes in so-called pressurized water reactors, a technology in which Turkey has shown interest. Mitsubishi has already won contracts to build three nuclear reactors in the United States, two in Texas and one in Virginia.

Japanese politicians, however, have stalled some potential overseas nuclear projects. Parliament recently postponed the approval of a nuclear agreement with Jordan that could allow Japan to bid on a planned nuclear power plant there.

One reason: the proposed site is far away from any large body of water, giving the plant no reliable way to cool its reactors to prevent a meltdown in the case of an emergency.

“After Fukushima,” Mr. Onodera said, “we felt that could be a problem.”

(Source)

Wall Street Journal – Mitsubishi Heavy Predicts Restart for Japan Reactors

January 17

By Chester Dawson

TOKYO—The chief executive of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said he expects Japan’s idled nuclear reactors to restart operations this spring despite widespread safety concerns among the Japanese public, and that the domestic backlash against nuclear technology won’t affect overseas demand.

Japan has idled all but five of its 54 commercial reactors, and has been conducting so-called stress tests to gauge nuclear plants’ resilience to natural disasters. So far, no Japanese reactor shut down for regular maintenance has been restarted amid the public’s safety concerns after the March tsunami that triggered an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

But Hideaki Omiya, Mitsubishi Heavy’s president and chief executive, said during an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he is confident the plants will resume operations soon, after they gain approvals from local officials nearby.

“My sense is that this process will be completed by spring, and from spring to summer this year there will be a resumption of operation at some power plants,” Mr. Omiya said.

The Japanese heavy-equipment manufacturer is one of Japan’s three major nuclear-plant-equipment makers, along with Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. Nuclear equipment accounts for about one-third of Mitsubishi Heavy’s nearly ¥1 trillion ($13 billion) in power-systems revenue, which itself makes up 34% of the company’s total revenue—the largest of its six core businesses.

The last of Japan’s reactors still in operation are slated to go offline by May, effectively eliminating the source of one-third of the country’s electricity supply.

The Japanese government has signaled its intent to persuade municipalities near nuclear plants to approve restarts before the traditional midsummer peak in demand for electricity.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has vowed to scrap plans for new plants as part of a policy designed to gradually reduce Japan’s dependence on nuclear energy as older reactors are decommissioned.

Still, Mitsubishi Heavy is optimistic about nuclear energy’s future outside its home market. “There’s been a severe backlash against nuclear-plant construction in Japan so we don’t expect to see a lot of new reactors here for some time,” Mr. Omiya said. “But globally, demand for nuclear power is not declining.”

While the company expects to see higher revenue from safety upgrades of existing nuclear plants in Japan and increased reactor decommissioning projects, the loss of new domestic orders has prompted it to curtail growth plans. The company abandoned a goal of doubling its annual nuclear revenue of ¥200 billion to ¥300 billion by 2014, Mr. Omiya said.

Mr. Omiya said he expects to see strong demand at home and abroad for power-generation equipment, especially natural-gas-fired plants.

Mitsubishi Heavy has been hurt by the sharp appreciation of Japan’s yen against the dollar and other currencies to record levels because it depends on foreign markets such as the U.S. and China for about 50% of its sales. A strong yen reduces the price competitiveness of exports and erodes the yen value of dollar-denominated profits.

Noting that Mitsubishi Heavy loses about ¥5 billion for every one yen appreciation in Japan’s currency against the dollar, Mr. Omiya said the company might shift more of its output overseas. “If the current yen strength continues…manufacturers like us will move more production offshore and spur the hollowing out of Japanese industry,” he said.

The European financial crisis is another headache for Mitsubishi Heavy and other Japanese exporters, even though their direct exposure to euro-denominated sales might be limited. “We’re worried about how the European crisis will affect the [overall] Japanese economy,” Mr. Omiya said. “The impact on the U.S., China and the rest of Asia is also a big concern.”

For the fiscal year ended on March 31, Mitsubishi Heavy said Europe accounted for 15% of its net sales, compared with 26% from Asia and 21% from the U.S.

(Source)

Japan Today – Japan to let some nuclear plants operate after 40-year limit

By Mari Yamaguchi

TOKYO — Jan. 19

Japan’s planned 40-year cap on nuclear power plants could be extended up to 20 years, but exemptions will be rare, the government said Wednesday.

Japan currently does not have a limit on the operational lifespan of reactors, and the government had hinted when it announced the cap that extensions were a possibility. The proposed legislation requiring plants to shutter after 40 years is part of the government’s campaign to improve safety following the nuclear crisis set off by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Concern about aging reactors has grown because three of those at the tsunami-hit plant were built starting in the late 1960s and many more of Japan’s 54 reactors will reach the 40-year mark in coming years.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government still plans to stick to the 40-year cap in principle. He said exemptions would be rare, with each reactor only allowed a maximum of one. He said to qualify a reactor would have to meet strict safety requirements.

The Cabinet is set to approve the proposed bill by end of January before submitting legislation to parliament for further debate, he said.

The proposed legislation is similar to regulations in the U.S., which grant 40-year licenses and allow for 20-year extensions. Such renewals have been granted to 66 of 104 U.S. nuclear reactors. That process has been so routine that many in the industry are already planning for extensions that could push the plants to operate for decades longer.

If the 40-year-rule is applied, 36 reactors would have to close by 2030, the Asahi newspaper reported.

Since the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan has ordered reactors across the country to undergo new “stress tests” and get community approval before they can be restarted.

On Wednesday, Japan’s nuclear officials moved a step closer to restart two of more than 40 nuclear reactors that are offline – most of them for regular inspections.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency presented a preliminary ruling on two nuclear reactors at the Oi power plant in western Japan, telling a panel of experts that operator Kansai Electric Power Co had properly carried out stress tests. It was still unclear if the community would approve.

The operator said the tests found the two reactors had a safety margin of 1.8 times the strength of an anticipated quake, and four times the height of an anticipated tsunami.

The meeting was delayed for several hours as activists stormed into a conference room demanding they be allowed to observe the proceedings in the same room, not on a TV monitor downstairs.

The stress tests are similar to those used in France and other European countries, where they conduct a simulation designed to assess if the plants could weather extreme events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and other disasters.

Some experts and concerned residents in Japan say the tests have no clear criteria, rendering them meaningless. They also say disasters often occur in a string of events, and evaluation by computer simulation on a single event is not realistic.

University of Tokyo metallic material scientist Hiromitsu Ino, who is on the panel, said the way stress tests are designed is not adequate even though an attempt to find vulnerable spots to improve safety is good.

“The problem is that stress tests are not comprehensive. They only look at certain areas, and it’s not appropriate to determine safety based on an evaluation on limited areas.”

Japan is currently reviewing its future energy policy and plans to announce one this summer. Fujimura also said that Japan is trying to be less reliant to nuclear energy.

“If you limit an operational lifespan at 40 years, obviously the number of nuclear power plants would decrease,” he said. “We are still aiming to reduce reliance on nuclear energy, but it’s a goal that we cannot be achieved overnight.”

(Source)

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