Japan from the inside out

The news media east/west, continued

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, August 6, 2011

HERE’S how the Western news media (and the Asahi in Japan) are reporting the personnel replacements at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which is responsible for regulating the nuclear power industry.

The Japanese government has sacked three officials in charge of nuclear power safety and policy. Radioactive material is still leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after it was damaged by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.

For Japan’s Trade and Industry Minister, Banri Kaieda, the three senior officials were responsible for mishandling the plant and the problems that followed the incident.

For the rest of the country, Mr. Kaieda’s boss Prime Minister Kan Naoto and his Cabinet are responsible for the problems following the incident, as they assumed direct control immediately after the accident. But since we know all that, let’s move on to what those media sources either don’t know or won’t say.

Here’s an excerpt from a Japanese account by the Jiji news agency:

Replacing Matsunaga Kazuo as METI Deputy Minister will be Adachi Kenyu, currently the head of METI’s Economic and Industrial Policy Bureau. The objective is to clarify the responsibility for nuclear power administration, including the accident at the Fukushima power plant, but the post of Economic and Industrial Policy Bureau Chief is referred to as “the designated position for the next deputy minister”. METI Minister Kaieda said he wanted to start over with a clean slate, but the move is likely to generate criticism for being merely a personnel rotation in the bureaucracy.

In early May — two months after the earthquake/tsunami, when the bureaucratic handling of the matter was already apparent — Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio asked that all Cabinet ministers retain senior officials in their positions and refrain from the normal personnel rotation.

Deputy minister personnel rotation usually occurs during the summer at the end of a Diet session.

Mr. Kaieda specifically mentioned the inadequacy of the anti-tsunami measures, but Mr. Matsunaga and one other official had been in their positions for only one year, and the third official for only two years. Their agencies were responsible for those measures.

Tweeted Takahashi Yoichi, former Finance Ministry official, author, university professor, and bureaucracy critic:

These personnel moves at METI seem like an ordinary rotation…It’s a farce that Mr. Kaieda has been squeezed in the Kasumigaseki intrigue to trash Secretary Edano’s freeze on personnel movements. The DPJ is lousy at personnel appointments.

He also dismissed it as a “goldfish shit” personnel move. That Japanese expression derives from the phenomenon in which the dung of goldfish in a tank comes out in a long string and doesn’t separate from its body. It’s used to disparage a person’s long-term behavior patterns or the perennial hangers-on of someone in a position of authority.

Hasegawa Yukihiro, award-winning author and member of the Tokyo Shimbun editorial staff, is just as dismissive writing in Gendai Business Online. He says the elevation of Mr. Adachi means that METI was able to successfully defend its own interests when push came to shove, and that the three “sacked” officials will be rewarded with excellent amakudari positions as a reward for their self-sacrifice for the good of the ministry.

Mr. Kaieda mentioned that he had been thinking of the personnel moves for about a month. What he didn’t mention, and Mr. Hasegawa did, is that during that time he sounded out a few candidates that METI didn’t care for, so METI made sure that the candidates it did care for got the jobs. Mr. Hasegawa also mentions that despite Mr. Kaieda’s claim that the personnel choices were his own decision, a delay in the announcement of Mr. Adachi’s selection shows that the prime minister had to sign off on it. (He provides specific details on the timing and coordination of announcements.)

He concludes that Mr. Adachi will continue to promote METI’s pro-nuclear power position, Mr. Kaieda is completely in METI’s clutches, and Kan Naoto is incapable of significant reform.

You think that’s all? The world’s media is bringing a new dimension to the term auto-eroticism in their coverage of the prime minister’s speech in Hiroshima today, in which Mr. Kan repeated his vision of a Japan that does not rely on have nuclear energy.

Now see if you can find any English-language stories reporting that Mr. Kan’s Cabinet decided to maintain the government’s policy of exporting nuclear technology overseas.

Just yesterday.

The Cabinet statement read:

If any countries want to utilize Japan’s nuclear power technology, we should provide them with (technology) of the highest level of safety in the world.

The statement was issued to gain Diet approval of agreements for nuclear power cooperation between Japan and four countries, including Vietnam and Jordan.

At a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio said with a straight face:

We will proceed with the intent of not harming the relationship of trust between countries. There is absolutely no contradiction (with the prime minister’s statement).

In short, not even the rest of the Japanese government cares what Kan Naoto thinks.

I feel sorry for those people interested in Japan who can read about the country only in the English-language media, and thereby think they know something about what is happening here.

All it amounts to is goldfish shit.

The song’s the same; only the performers have changed.

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One Response to “The news media east/west, continued”

  1. toadold said

    From my brief readings the nuclear plants that Japan has for export are much more up to date in design and safer than what is in place in Japan itself, or the US for that matter.
    Mean while I kind of worry about the rest of Japan’s infrastructure if Kan and company start to fool with it.
    Ironic that at the present time the Chinese public has admiration for the Japanese lack of corruption.

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