Shinzo Abe’s poor reception in the U.S.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in the U.S. this week to schmooze with the president and other leaders, but he’s getting a lot of unwanted attention as well.

Most of the hostility is due to the ongoing issue of Japan’s failure to officially acknowledge its wartime exploitation of Korean women as sex slaves, often referred to as “comfort women.”

Though the PM and some of his predecessors have made apologies around the issue, there has been a conspicuous reluctance to fully own-up to Japan’s culpability, and many feel that adequate reparations have yet to be offered.

Those bad feelings have accompanied the Prime Minister on his visit to the U.S. and threaten to damage prospects for President Obama’s Asian trade agreement.

While this conflict claims the lion’s share of press, there is an undercurrent of hostility to the PM’s visit from nuclear safety advocates who cite Abe’s close ties to the Japanese nuclear industry and his rush to restart the island nation’s reactors following the Fukushima disaster as reason enough not to welcome him to our shores.

Yesterday, the advocacy group, On Behalf of Planet Earth held a vigil outside Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in Boston to remind the world that Fukushima remains an unresolved catastrophe of growing environmental impact. That local crisis is being compounded for the entire nation and beyond by irresponsible waste management practices and the growing suspicion that Fukushima radiation is finding its way into the food chain.  A government corrupted and captive to the nuclear industry enables this dangerous situation.

“On Behalf of Planet Earth” shared with passersby a letter recently sent to Prime Minister Abe on the occasion of the fourth ‘anniversary’ of the commencement of that nuclear disaster, and released a statement that reads in part as follows:

“Listen Shinzo Abe: Do You Hear the Cries of the Children?”

As we stand outside the John F Kennedy School of Government, let us remember Kennedy’s words: “The number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard­and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby­who may be born long after we are gone­should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent.”  John Fitzgerald Kennedy, July 26th, 1963

By continuing his support for nuclear energy expansion in the U.S. as well as a dubious new trade agreement, President Obama risks finding himself on the wrong side of history, just as Prime Minister Abe has repeatedly positioned himself to be.

That would indeed be a regrettable legacy.

(Note: I am a non-technical member of the Fairewinds Energy Education crew, but the opinions I express here on GMD are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fairewinds).

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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