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Japan PM adds nuclear, reconstruction posts amid crisis
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) June 27, 2011

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Monday added two posts to his cabinet to oversee the country's nuclear crisis and post-tsunami reconstruction, amid intensifying pressure on him to resign.

Kan told a press conference he would step down on condition that a second post-quake reconstruction budget, funding bills and legislation to promote renewable energy are passed first.

The appointments came as Tokyo Electric Power Co. was forced to suspend an operation to cool reactors at its stricken Fukushima plant with recycled decontaminated water due to a leak.

The setback compounds a previous delay in attempts to decontaminate and recycle more than 100,000 tonnes of highly radioactive water that has built up since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami sparked the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Kan appointed 39-year-old Goshi Hosono as minister in charge of the plant. Hosono has already played a key role in liaising between the government and TEPCO in the wake of a radiation leak that has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands.

In another appointment, former environment minister Ryu Matsumoto, who had been put in charge of disaster management in the wake of the quake and tsunami, was named minister in charge of reconstruction.

The 60-year-old senior ruling-party lawmaker has been in charge of programmes to remove debris and to deliver aid to tens of thousands of people living at evacuation shelters.

Kan also found roles for an opposition lawmaker and a coalition partner in a bid to shore up his position amid criticism of his handling of the nuclear crisis and slow progress in helping victims of the disasters.

His popularity with voters has tumbled while divisions within his own party have deepened. By pledging to step down earlier this month, Kan avoided a possible vote of no confidence against him.

On Monday he said his resignation was dependent on the passage of key bills including one on renewable energy, having earlier ordered a review of Japan's nuclear and fossil-fuel driven energy policy following the disaster.

"The passage of the second reconstruction budget, the renewable energy bill, and the bond issuance bill will be what I consider having reached a certain stage in reconstruction," he said.

In a move likely to further anger critics in both the opposition and his own party, Kan also named opposition lawmaker Kazuyuki Hamada as a vice minister for internal affairs to work on reconstruction of the region hit by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that left 23,000 dead or missing.

Hamada, a former think-tank researcher, quit the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party hours before the appointment.

Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People's New Party, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, will also become a special adviser to Kan.

Kamei, 74, said he was asked by Kan to become deputy prime minister but he had declined the offer.

The political turmoil has dismayed the electorate at a time of crisis and slowed debate on key measures the government must take in coping with the aftermath of the March disaster and efforts to ease its ballooning debt.

Justice Minister Satsuki Eda was to assume Matsumoto's former environmental duties while former government revitalisation minister Renho, who goes by one name and was the only woman in the Kan cabinet, was demoted to the role of special aide to Kan, who is limited to 17 ministers.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano assumed her previous duties.

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Japan quake caused $210 bln in property damage
Tokyo (AFP) June 24, 2011
Japan's March 11 quake and tsunami disaster destroyed buildings and infrastructure worth about $210 billion, excluding costs caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident, the government said Friday. The 16.9 trillion yen bill estimate by the Cabinet office also excludes other costs such as compensation payments for disaster victims and evacuees. The figure includes structural damage to the F ... read more

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