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Veteran Politician Calls For Abe To Fire Foreign Minister Over Nuke Ambitions

Japanese lawmaker Koichi Kato of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, August 2006. Photo courtesy of Ken Shimizu and AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 11, 2006
Veteran Japanese politician Koichi Kato called for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to fire his foreign minister and top policy aide over their remarks on going nuclear following North Korea's atom bomb test, a report said Saturday. Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Shoichi Nakagawa, the policy research chief of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), have both called for a frank debate on going nuclear in light of Pyongyang's atom bomb on October 9.

Abe has shrugged off criticism of the remarks, saying they are their personal views.

Senior LDP member Koichi Kato disagreed in an interview with Tokyo Broadcasting System.

"If the prime minister continues leaving such comments as personal views, it would make rules of politics dysfunctional," Kato said.

"They (Aso and Nakagawa) should resign or Abe should make them resign before they make such comments," he said.

Leaders of the four opposition parties also have jointly called on Abe to sack Aso for his remarks on the nuclear option, a longtime taboo in the only country to have been attacked by atomic bombs.

But Abe refuses opposition demands that he fire his foreign minister.

Both Aso and Nakagawa have stopped short of openly calling for an end to Japan's 1967 "three principles" of refusing the possession, production and presence of nuclear weapons on its soil.

Kato has been an outspoken critic of the increasingly hardline moves of his own party, including former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's controversial war-shrine pilgrimage.

In August, his house and office were burned down in an arson attack by a rightwing nationalist, hours after Koizumi made his annual visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war dead including top war criminals from World War II.

earlier related report
Japan Orders NHK To Focus On North Korea
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 10 - Japan on Friday ordered public broadcaster NHK to give airtime to a dispute with rival North Korea on abductions, despite criticism the government was trampling on freedom of speech. Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshihide Suga said he handed over instructions for NHK to choose content in its overseas shortwave radio broadcasts "keeping the abduction issue in mind."

The move, which is unprecedented in Japan since World War II, comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's conservative government ramps up pressure on North Korea after its October 9 test of a nuclear bomb.

North Korea's past abductions of Japanese civilians are an emotionally charged issue in Japan and have prevented the two countries from establishing relations.

But Japan's opposition and media groups have voiced concern over government intervention in the media.

"I wonder if it's good to unilaterally force (NHK) to carry the government's propaganda," main opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa said earlier.

Masao Kimiwada, president of TV Asahi, a private network often seen as politically liberal, said Japan was heading down a slippery slope.

"If this becomes a precedent, it may allow the government to issue orders on other topics," he said.

But Suga, the minister, said the order was in the public interest.

"Resolving the abduction issue is one of the most important policy goals of Prime Minister Abe's administration," he said Friday.

The radio broadcasts "will offer hope to the kidnapped people to let them know that their families, their country and its citizens are all working actively to save everyone who is there," Suga said.

He met with NHK chairman Genichi Hashimoto, who said the broadcaster would maintain its overall independence despite the order.

"I told him that we will keep our right to organize programs as a news organization which holds independence and autonomy."

NHK was re-established in 1950 to replace its predecessor which aired the government line throughout World War II.

NHK -- the Japanese initials for Japan Broadcasting Corp. -- is primarily funded through viewer fees, although the government supports shortwave broadcasts.

Japan's sole public broadcaster has come under repeated criticism by liberals in recent years.

Abe admitted last year before he became prime minister that he pressured NHK to tone down a documentary on Japan's sexual enslavement of foreign "comfort women" during World War II.

The conservative leader rose to public popularity campaigning for a tough line on North Korea, which has admitted kidnapping Japanese civilians in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies.

North Korea has returned five kidnap victims and their families. Japan believes at least eight more are alive and kept under wraps because they know secrets.

Teruaki Masumoto, whose sister Rumiko was abducted in 1978, welcomed the order to NHK.

"We have asked the government to take any measures available to send messages to the abducted," he said. "I am a bit bewildered at the criticism that it is against freedom of speech."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Tehran (RIA Novosti) Nov 12, 2006
Iran's foreign minister said Saturday his visit to Moscow for talks on Tehran's nuclear program is still on the agenda. Manouchehr Mottaki's visit planned for Thursday was postponed to give way to the Islamic Republic's influential chief nuclear negotiator. Ali Larijani is currently in Moscow holding talks with Russia's leadership, while the countries involved in the long-running dispute aimed at dissuading Iran from enriching uranium are discussing sanctions against the defiant Islamic Republic.

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