Recently former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 74, was seen talking to 62-year-old Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Their encounter was recorded on a photo page of the Sept. 29 issue of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun.
The scene was Aoyama Funeral Hall in Tokyo, where they had attended the Sept. 15 funeral of former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Koichi Kato and were waiting for their cars to arrive. For about 90 seconds the "master and disciple" stood side by side. Below are the details of Koizimi's comments and the prime minister's reaction, which didn't appear in Shukan Bunshun.
Koizumi: "Why don't you totally eliminate nuclear power plants?"
Abe: (Faint smile, bow)
Koizumi: "Having zero nuclear power plants is cheaper. Why don't you understand such a simple thing? It's all lies, what the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is saying. The things advocates of nuclear power plants are saying -- they're all lies. Don't be fooled."
Abe: (Wry smile, bows again, and with head kept low heads to official vehicle)
Koizumi is currently pouring his efforts into a fund to support those who say they were affected by radiation during "Operation Tomodachi," a U.S. Armed Forces operation to support Japan in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Over 400 soldiers from the USS Ronald Regan aircraft carrier and accompanying ships complained of ill-health after helping in rescue efforts following their urgent dispatch to the seas off Fukushima Prefecture in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Some of them are said to have died from causes including leukemia.
The aircraft carrier fleet worked intermittently in a radiation plume from the stricken power plant between March 13 and 17, 2011. After returning home from Japan, a stream of soldiers developed ailments including brain tumors and thyroid cancer. The nuclear plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and the Japanese and U.S. governments acknowledged that they had been exposed to low-level radiation, but do not accept a causal relationship between exposure and their illnesses.
Koizumi learned that some soldiers had left the military at a young age, had no insurance and couldn't pay their medical fees. It was in May this year that the former prime minister traveled to the United States and directly inquired about their circumstances.
Former soldiers earlier filed a lawsuit against parties including TEPCO, and oral arguments over whether jurisdiction of the case should lie in Japan or the United States were heard in an appeals court in California on Sept. 1. At the time, a Japanese government adviser is said to have supported an agent for TEPCO, stating that radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military.
Koizumi, who read a note on the hearing (carried in the Sept. 9 issue of the magazine Shukan Kinyobi), responded immediately.
"This is embarrassing. They were relief efforts for Japan, right? The American judge is said to have been appalled," he was quoted as saying.
On July 5, Koizumi appeared in a news conference with figures including former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 78, and Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, 61, an adviser at The Johnan Shinkin Bank, to announce the start of fundraising activities to help the U.S. soldiers. Koizumi himself approached the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) but was turned away on the grounds that TEPCO is a member of the federation.
Reinforcements have nevertheless appeared on the funding front. Japanese architect Tadao Ando, 75, posed the following question: "Mr. Koizumi, will you come to Osaka and give a lecture? I'll assemble 1,000 people. With a fee of 10,000 yen per person, that'll bring in 10 million yen."
When Koizumi appeared at the lecture in August, 1,300 people turned up. The same style of lecture is due to be held in Tokyo on Nov. 16, organized by the head of a group of managers of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Additionally, the president of a solar power generation company provided 10 million yen.
Through these efforts, the total has climbed to 50 million yen. Koizumi apparently hopes to amass 100 million yen by next spring.
The connection between radiation exposure and the development of illness is delicate. There's a possibility of developing cancer, but there are doubts about whether a person would suddenly die, experts say.
On Sept. 7, Koizumi spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo's Yurakucho district. He was asked if it was responsible to talk about damage from radiation exposure without presenting scientific evidence.
Below is the gist of his reply:
"I'm no longer a member of the government. I'm a civilian. There are people who are actually suffering. It's common sense for me to support them."
Fundraising and service instead of criticism; denial of the perception of saying, "Radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military" to protect nuclear power policies ... I support this form of common sense from our former prime minister. (By Takao Yamada, Special Senior Writer)