Asia-Pacific

New Japan PM Noda in nuclear restart call

New PM Yoshihiko Noda addresses parliament on 13 September 2011
Image caption Mr Noda said Japan's politicians, bureaucrats and business sector should come together

New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has called for nuclear plants halted after the Fukushima crisis to be restarted.

But in his first policy speech since taking office, he told parliament that Japan should aim to reduce its reliance on nuclear power in the long term.

He said earthquake reconstruction and economic rebuilding would be his twin priorities.

And he warned of possible tax rises to tackle Japan's public debt problem.

Mr Noda, who is Japan's sixth prime minister in five years, took office less than two weeks ago after predecessor Naoto Kan stepped down.

Mr Kan had called for Japan to abandon nuclear power, but Mr Noda said that plants offline since the 11 March earthquake and tsunami should be restarted to meet power shortages.

"It is not productive to see things in simple black and white, and talk in either anti-nuclear or pro-nuclear terms," he said.

"We must move towards our mid- and long-term goals of lowering, as much as possible, our reliance on nuclear energy."

Local communities have opposed reactor restarts after routine maintenance, meaning two-thirds are offline.

Mr Noda pledged a rethink on energy policy within a year and vowed to increase the use of renewable energy.

'Exporters' scream'

Calling earthquake reconstruction work the top priority, he said that the cabinet's "other top priority will be rebuilding the Japanese economy".

The high yen threatened to undermine both industry and reconstruction, he warned.

"We hear screams from exporters and from the small and mid-sized companies that have led our country's industries. If things carry on like this, domestic industries could go downhill and jobs could be lost.

"If that happens, it would be almost impossible to break out of deflation and reconstruct areas hit by the disaster."

He said the government needed to take "every possible policy measure in co-operation with the Bank of Japan".

Acknowledging the multiple leadership changes of recent years, he said politicians were perceived as delaying decisions on how to reduce Japan's huge public debt.

He said he would study new tax measures and cut spending, but gave few details.

And he issued a call for political unity, saying that politicians, bureaucrats and the business sector needed to co-operate.

"Let's come together and rally our strengths to overcome this time of historical adversity and bring about a rebirth of Japan," he said.