Nishioka Calls on Kan to Resign, Many Follow

On May 19, the Yomiuri Shimbun evening edition ran an open letter by House of Councillors President  Nishioka Takeo in which he called upon Prime Minister Kan Naoto to resign due to his handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. This would be significant enough if Nishioka were a member of the opposition, but he belongs to the same DPJ as Kan himself. The letter, as well as the admission that Kan, based on unfounded concerns that the injection of seawater could induce re-criticality in the reactor, encouraged TEPCO to halt the injection of seawater based coolant into the plant, has spurred a movement towards calling a  no-confidence vote, with support from the Ozawa faction of Kan’s own DPJ, as well as from the opposition LDP. Among the harsh critics are LDP leader Tanigaki Sadakazu, who, based on the newly released information, described the decision to suspend the injection of seawater at such a critical stage as a “man-made disaster”.

Although the English Yomiuri website summarizes the key points of Nishioka’s letter in the same article I linked to above, they did not originally post the entire text or even publish it in the English print edition, although they did promise that “The English translation of Nishioka’s open letter to Kan will be carried on The Daily Yomiuri’s Commentary page on Tuesday.” Well, Tuesday has passed and you can now read the entire letter in English, at Yomiuri or below here.

In the annoyingly typical fashion of the Japanese newspaper industry, they haven’t even published the original Japanese text of the full letter online! Luckily it can be easily found on a number of Japanese blogs, and here I will give my own quick and dirty translation.

To Prime Minister Naoto Kan:

I am sure the weight of the world is on your shoulders, with duties that require your attention day and night. I thank you for your hard work.

As a representative of one of the supreme organizations in the nation’s three independent branches of authority, I would like to venture to express my candid opinion in this open letter. Prime Minister Kan, you should immediately resign from your post.

I think many people share my present thoughts about you: among them survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake, residents forced to evacuate their homes due to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, members of the general public and Diet members from both opposition and ruling parties.

I also believe that heads of local governments and assembly members distrust and are concerned about you.

There is a reason why, despite this situation, hardly any voices have called, “Prime Minister Kan, you should resign.” It is generally believed it would be unthinkable to change the supreme leader of the nation at a time when serious problems are occurring that are not limited to national politics, and when measures are under way to deal with the situation.

However, you have continued to abandon your duties as prime minister since the March 11 disaster took place.

This is in itself unthinkable.

Given that you also abandoned your duties as prime minister last year, when a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japan Coast Guard ships off the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, I believe you are not aware of your duties as prime minister concerning state affairs.

There is a Japanese saying that may be used to refute my anger: Don’t change horses in the middle of a rapidly flowing stream.

I agree with this saying, but only when the horse is bravely grappling with the violent current. You, Prime Minister Kan, have neither the passion, determination nor skill to lead the nation. I believe there is more danger in maintaining the status quo than in changing our horse in a rapid current.

If you do not resign now, it will be impossible to solve the problems of survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as the serious problems brought about by the nuclear crisis. At this moment, the plant continues to discharge radioactive substances into the air and ground, and contaminated water is being released into the sea.

I would now like to touch upon points I have been wondering about since March 11–why you did not do certain things or had no inclination to do so.

First, why did you not compile an emergency situation bill and pass it into law immediately after March 11?

You launched various councils and headquarters after the disaster, which ended up confusing the chain of command–a measure to make your responsibility ambiguous and delay decisions.

In restoration efforts after the great quake, considerable burdens and trouble were shouldered by heads of prefectural and municipal governments, their employees, local fire brigades, fire stations, police officers, the Tokyo Fire Department, local welfare commissioners and members of the Self-Defense Forces.

I cannot overlook the fact that you did not hold a meeting of the Security Council of Japan before issuing an order to the Defense Ministry to mobilize 100,000 SDF members. In addition to national defense matters, the Security Council of Japan exists to discuss important matters regarding the handling of serious emergency situations. You ignored the law.

Second, the nuclear plant crisis is a great concern for the international community. You made a serious error when you declined an offer of assistance from U.S. forces in the early stages of the crisis.

Also, you have no vision of how to end the crisis even now.

Third, you must urgently provide people hit by the disaster with any type of housing, instead of promising to provide them with temporary housing units by “early August.”

The government should provide all possible housing for people affected by the disaster, letting them move from shelters to temporary housing units, vacant units of publicly run apartments and private rental units.

Another urgent task for the government is to secure the funding for such measures and improve medical services for disaster victims.

Fourth, it is the prime minister’s duty to deal with the debris created by the disaster. Sorting and disposing of the debris is more difficult than predicted, and it is also an urgent task in the run-up to the rainy season.

You should have presented clear directions and deadlines for various measures, such as new national land planning; urban planning; reconstruction of agriculture, forestry and fisheries; blueprints for helping small and midsize companies rehabilitate themselves; and creation of new educational programs.

Fifth, you should have provided accurate, true information not just to people who have been forced to evacuate from their homes but also people across the country, who have been fearfully watching the development of the nuclear plant crisis.

The nuclear reactors, as experts predicted, went into meltdown. I suspect both Tokyo Electric Power Co. and you already knew it had happened.

Sixth, your political approach is to try to postpone everything. Even in this national crisis, you did not set deadlines on most of the aforementioned tasks.

Faced with growing criticism, you hurriedly announced a new timetable on May 17, but funding for it has not been secured.

Revenue sources for measures to tackle disaster damage, the cost of dealing with the nuclear plant crisis and the government’s new electricity policy all remain uncertain.

If they are too difficult for you to handle, you should voluntarily step down.

Under the current situation, you will have no defense against accusations that your actions are measures to stay in the post of prime minister. This is like washing your own wounds with other people’s blood.

Our nation is facing many difficult tasks, including diplomatic problems and domestic issues such as public pension schemes.

I do not believe you have the ability to deal with these tasks. Before it becomes too late for everything, I again strongly insist you step down as quickly as possible.

Even if opposition parties pass a censure motion in a majority vote in the House of Councillors, you may continue in the post. If you don’t voluntarily resign, the only alternative for opposition parties is to submit a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet to the House of Representatives before the Group of Eight summit meeting to be held on May 26 and 27.

I now feel deep regret about my help in creating the Kan Cabinet, looking back on my long experience as a politician.

I am asking myself: Can I look straight into the clear eyes of infants, who do not understand they have left their hometowns because of radiation, and of children forced to study in other places than their own schools?

All Diet members, regardless of their parties or groups, must dedicate their lives to ensuring that the March 11 disaster and the nuclear crisis will not cast dark shadows on the future of our children at least.



13 thoughts on “Nishioka Calls on Kan to Resign, Many Follow”

  1. Most countries would benefit from being run by a kind but firm grandmother

  2. I just hope the LDP doesn’t get any traction out of this.

    That bunch were directly confronted twice in the past 6 years specifically about tsunami resistance at Fukushima Daiichi and what did they do? Reduced yearly safety inspections at the plant from once a year to once in two years in the name of less regulation for business.

    Now, to hear LDP members critiquing Kan for shutting down Hamaoka using the same words that Koizumi used to dodge doing anything to follow up on Tokaimura and Fukuda and Aso used after Niigata in 2007 – basically “what about the economic damage to the region and damage to tourism?” – what are we even supposed to say about these jokers?

    Nishioka is also being stunningly unreflective. He was first elected to the Diet 50 years ago, just before Japan’s first nuclear plant was built and yet never asked a single question or made mention of nuclear power until last week.

  3. “I just hope the LDP doesn’t get any traction out of this.”

    I don’t see how they could not. In any case, this has been a long time coming. Kan’s government is clustered around a minority faction in a party where even before the election, the majority thought the cabinet was going against its mandate. It seems a bit trivial now, but before the quake people were talking about Kan retiring in March, and a scandal over his finances was emerging. Besides which, Nishioka does make some good points. Kan did an adequate job with some failure understandable in the heat of the moment, but it was just adequate when the country needed something more. You’re right, though, I doubt anyone in the LDP could have handled things better. Of the DPJ superstars, Maehara would have been a flop and Okada would probably have lost his temper or prevaricated as much as Kan. Now, who does that leave….?

  4. “I don’t see how they could not.”

    Yes, I say that I hope they won’t knowing that they will.

    “So, M-Bone, business as usual.”

    Sort of. The LDPers that I am concerned about may be scum, but they are smart scum. They are taking over the rhetoric of prefectural and municipal rights (a change) to essentially pimp a status quo argument that is not only pro-nuclear (a defensible position) but is opposed to doing anything that gets in the way of energy business, which I think is an indefensible argument at this point.

  5. Japan’s gerontocracy has so perfected status-quo defense, that they will get away with shipping radioactive vegetables all over the country. Something not even the USSR did. This is a new record.

  6. Nishioka is a joke.But now that Ozawa shook hands with Watanabe,Kan’s days are numbered.

  7. If the Republicans were the ruling party in Japan they’d show a cult-like allegiance to their leader and never give up office early. What is it about LDP and DPJ power brokers that leads them to sweep the rug out from everyone they put at the top?

  8. Republicans are just through eating Newt alive, however.

    They have a chance to brutalize candidates for the top spot in primaries but essentially have to lockstep behind a president. In a parliamentary system, the Prime Minister can end up being just another cabinet member so factions are ripping them down all of the time.

    I’d also posit that there is a greater variety of viewpoints in Japanese politics than American right now. Putting aside JCP and SPJ, in the DPJ there is Ozawa (leans toward China, UN centered interventionism) and, say, Maehara who was big a few months ago (US centered foreign policy, China threat / defense within constitutional limits) throw in the LDP and you have Abe (constitutional revision, US centered foreign policy) and their right wing fringe (constitutional revision, break with US, nuclear arms – they don’t broadcast this loudly, though).

    In the US, the libertarians are different voices and there are deep divisions on healthcare (which generally confuse the hell out of people from, oh, every other developed country) but both of the major Japanese parties have far more internal division on foreign policy than the USA does (note Obama getting ripped for his essentially identical to Bush comments on Israel).

    The recent screed against Kan isn’t really about Fukushima, it’s about the Ozawa group getting back in the saddle. They were totally marginalized during the Senkaku moment and are looking for their shot to get a more credible head than Hatoyama to move things.

  9. A new Fuji TV poll shows the cabinet support rate up 7.4 points to 29.2%. The negative rating is still high at 58.3% but that’s down 4.4 points. The party approval rates were 17.5% for the DPJ and 20.7 % for the LDP.

    Those who trust official government announcements about Fukushima and radiation levels fell from 26.3% to 15.4%. Those how don’t have faith rose from 66.2% to 80.8%.

    Distrust of TEPCO rose from 76.4% to 84.7%. Trust in Kan remains at the same low 16.5% while distrust is 78.2%.

    30.2% can’t think of anyone who would make a good PM. Edano is proposed by 10%. Ozawa by 8.4%, Maehara by 7.6%. On the LDP side Ishiba gets 6.3%. Kan’s rating is 5.6%.

    45.6% see the point of a no-confidence motion while 47.1% don’t. If the motion passes, 62.2% want the cabinet dissolved rather than a new election. If it fails, 63.9% want the current cabinet to keep at the helm.

    Asked how long Kan should stay as PM if he survives a no confidence motion, 46.3% want him to finish dealing with Fukushima and get an economic recovery package under way. 19.3% want him gone as soon as possible, 14.5% want him out by summer and 9.4% think he should serve out his term until autumn next year.

    73.7% support Kan’s call for Hamaoka to be suspended while 78.2% want Japan to raise its reliance on alternative energy supplies to 20% by 2020.

    48.9% want lower dependency on nuclear, up from the 33.3% registered in April. 48.5% want the status quo (though it’s unclear whether the status quo includes keeping with scheduled new reactor openings).

    48.7% think electricity bills need to rise to help pay for the disaster, 47.5% think not.

  10. “though it’s unclear whether the status quo includes keeping with scheduled new reactor openings”

    Polls that I have seen elsewhere giving similar numbers (Asahi, no longer see it online) phrased this as “the same number of reactors as now” vs. “more reactors” so it probably doesn’t include planned plants. In addition, I noted that 85% of Japanese polled as saying they don’t want a nuke plant near them in 2009 (and it must be higher now), which makes me think that whatever direction the national policy moves, local resistance will be a major factor.

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