Japan's former premier sues PM Abe

2013-07-16 15:01
Former Finance Minister Naoto Kan waves after being elected leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, before being elected as the next prime minister. (Itsuo Inouye, AP)

Former Finance Minister Naoto Kan waves after being elected leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, before being elected as the next prime minister. (Itsuo Inouye, AP)

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Tokyo - Japan's premier at the time of the Fukushima crisis said on Tuesday he was suing the current prime minister for defamation over online comments about the way the emergency was handled.

With less than a week to go before upper house elections, the now-opposition figure Naoto Kan said on his official website he would be taking legal action against Shinzo Abe.

Kan's office has said in the days immediately after a massive tsunami swamped Fukushima in March 2011, his government pressed plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to use seawater to cool overheating reactors and prevent a catastrophe.

Tepco subsequently said Kan had wavered on allowing seawater to be used.

Kan's statement, posted on Tuesday, says Abe has repeated this claim.

"Mr Shinzo Abe in his online newsletter ran a story entitled 'Mr Kan's instructions on using seawater [to cool reactors] are made-up', and despite my request for a correction and apology... the story remains," Kan said on his official website.

Key role

Abe "is responsible for carrying out a fair election campaign... I strongly demand he immediately admit his misconduct, delete the story and apologise for this", Kan said.

Abe has not yet responded publicly to Kan's renewed demand to take down the newsletter, which was published in May 2011, two months after the Fukushima disaster.

Asked why Kan moved to take the legal action now, he told reporters that it was because his repeated demands to correct the story have continued to be ignored, Jiji Press reported.

"The newsletter remains posted on the internet even after the political campaign for the upcoming elections kicked off," Kan said.

Management of the crisis at Fukushima - the world's worst atomic disaster in a generation - has been picked over in the more than two years since the tsunami rolled ashore.

Last year, an independent panel on the Fukushima disaster said Kan played a key role in preventing the crisis worsening further.

Anti-nuclear campaigner

The panel said that as the situation on Japan's tsunami-wrecked coast deteriorated, Tepco had wanted to abandon the plant and evacuate its workers, but that Kan had ordered them to keep their men on site.

Experts concluded that if the premier had not stuck to his guns, Fukushima would have spiralled further out of control, with catastrophic consequences. The utility did not co-operate with the study.

Kan's brief tenure as prime minister ended in September 2011. He has since become an anti-nuclear campaigner.

Japan goes to the polls on Sunday in an election for half the seats in the upper chamber.

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party is expected to win comfortably after a campaign where nuclear power as an issue has been largely absent, displaced by talk of a rejuvenated economy.

Read more on:    shinzo abe  |  japan  |  nuclear  |  japan earthquake

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