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Fukushima 'not obstacle' to Japan business: PM
by Staff Writers
Nusa Dua, Indonesia (AFP) Nov 18, 2011

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Friday that the Fukushima nuclear disaster was no longer "an obstacle" to business in Japan.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago, left 20,000 people dead and missing and was a huge blow to the world's third-biggest economy.

Speaking on the Indonesian island of Bali, where he is to attend the East Asia Summit on Saturday, Noda said: "The nuclear accident is not an obstacle to business in Japan any more.

"Eight months have passed since the earthquake," he added. "Japanese people have made strong efforts for recovery.

"Infrastructure and local economy in the affected areas have been restored, normal daily life has come back... and many factories have restored their supply chains.

"This is more than just a recovery after a disaster. What we're observing is that the recovery process itself is creating a powerful force that drives innovation. Recovery is not a restoration of the past."

Japan has approved more than 18 trillion yen ($230 billion) in three emergency budgets, and agreed to give TEPCO, the stricken plant's operator, more than $11 billion to help it compensate those affected by the accident.

Thousands of people remain evacuated from a large area around the plant, 220 kilometres (140 miles) northeast of Tokyo, and on Thursday Japan banned rice grown nearby after samples showed radioactive contamination above legal limits.

Japan's economy rebounded in the third July-September quarter this year, growing by an annualised 6.0 percent, after shrinking 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter in April-June.

But Japanese firms are grappling with a strong yen that erodes repatriated profits and have been hit by Thailand's worst flooding in decades, which has affected their supply chains and damaged manufacturing facilities.

Even so Noda said the IMF was projecting Japanese growth at 2.3 percent in 2012, "higher than in average advanced economies".

Tokyo is to join negotiations to set up the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with the United States and 10 other countries -- a pact that could become the nucleus of a vast free trade area spanning the Pacific.

"Japan's recovery cannot been achieved without the bonds with the East Asia region, and at the same time the sound future of East Asia cannot be achieved without Japan's contribution," Noda said.

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Japan minister gives up pay over Fukushima soil dump
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 18, 2011 - A Japanese minister said Friday he would give up his $240,000 annual salary after his staff discarded mildly radioactive soil sent for testing by a worried local near the country's atomic crisis zone.

Goshi Hosono said he would refuse the 1.5 million yen ($20,000) he receives each month as environment minister for the whole time he remains in office to make amends for his staff's treatment of the concerned resident.

The soil in question was not dangerous.

"I have heavy responsibility as the head of this organisation," said Hosono, who also serves as the government's point man on the nuclear clean-up.

Hosono's decision came a day after he said an official had dumped a small amount of low-level radioactive soil sent to the ministry by a resident of Fukushima city, 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The plant has sent radiation into the air, soil and sea since it was badly damaged in the March earthquake and tsunami.

The sender said the soil was taken from his garden and he wanted the ministry to store and clean it.

The ministry said analysis of the soil showed radiation of 0.18 microsieverts per hour, about the same as soil in areas around Tokyo.

After a discussion, one member of staff took the package and poured it on an empty lot near his home in Saitama prefecture, northeast of the capital.

The soil was later collected, and officials involved and their supervisors received disciplinary measures including temporary pay cuts, job transfers and warnings, Hosono said.

Hosono, a telegenic rising star in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, will retain the 1.3-million-yen monthly salary he separately receives as a member of parliament.


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Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Nov 18, 2011
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