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Compromise in East China Sea a test of leadership

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 20 December 2012


The incoming Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe will face a number of significant challenges, including some that appear intractable.

He must deal with the terrible aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated so many communities along Japan’s eastern coastline in March 2011.

This includes the crippled Fukushima nuclear power reactor that leaked radioactive material into the surrounding region and beyond.

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While the Fukushima reactor has largely disappeared from international headlines, the situation on the ground remains challenging.

Chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority Shunichi Tanaka said recently:

Workers have been obliged to respond with highly stopgap measures. Many devices, such as a purifier for radioactive water, have been installed with no time for sufficient design considerations and safety screenings. The situation surrounding the decommissioning process is volatile, so there is a need for constant reviews in securing safety.

The challenge of managing this issue would have confronted whomever became the national leader of Japan, as it relies on nuclear experts to plan the way forward.

Mr Abe will also be faced with reinvigorating the Japanese economy which has struggled through decades of sluggish growth.

The new Prime Minister has signalled that he intends to take a more radical approach to that of past administrations.

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He intends to work with the Bank of Japan to establish an inflation target of 2 per cent and is prepared to use what he described as “unlimited” stimulus.

Economic commentators have interpreted Mr Abe’s comments as meaning he intends to print large amounts of Japanese currency to reverse deflationary pressures on the economy.

There are risks associated with this approach, however Mr Abe must believe that it is preferable to allowing Japan to continue down the same road it has taken for more than 20 years.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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