TOKYO, December 2 (Itar-Tass) — Ratification of the agreement on cooperation with Russia in the sphere of peaceful use of nuclear energy has faced unexpected resistance from the opposition parties in the parliament of Japan.
Together with similar agreements concluded with the governments of Vietnam, Jordan and South Korea, it was approved on Friday by the lower house Foreign Affairs Committee. After that it was planned to put the four documents to the vote at the plenary meeting of the parliament deputies.
However, the opposition Komeito party, which demands radical revision of Japan’s policy in the nuclear sphere after the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, has unexpectedly opposed ratification. This group has allied relations with the leading opposition force - the Liberal Democratic Party. As a result, it also demanded to postpone the ratification, although within commissions in had voted in favour of the approval of the agreements. The parliament is currently engaged in active consultations on this matter between the ruling Democratic Party and the opposition.
The agreement with Russia on cooperation in the nuclear energy industry sphere was signed in Tokyo in May 2009. Both house of the Russian Federal Assembly ratified it in December last year. In Japan, however, this process has been delayed for various reasons - including, most recently due to Tokyo’s doubts concerning the country’s nuclear industry development prospects after the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant. Influential industrial and political circles that referred to the danger of loss of markets and undermining international confidence in Tokyo are seeking ratification of the document.
The agreement with Russia has a term of 25 years with the possibility of automatic extension. It is called upon to create a legal framework for cooperation, in particular, in the exploration and development of uranium deposits, design, construction and operation of light water reactors, radioactive waste processing and nuclear safety. The agreement contains provisions relating to the transfer of nuclear materials, equipment and technology.
Before the crisis, the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan regarded exporting the country’s nuclear technology, especially to fast-growing economies, as one of the most promising ways to generate economic growth, the Kyodo news agency reported. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the lower house panel that the government is seeking the parliamentary passage of the accords as necessary domestic procedures have already been completed in Jordan, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam. He said those countries are still hoping to have Japan's cooperation even after the nuclear crisis -- which has yet to be brought under control.
Noda said diplomatic relations must be taken into account with regard to the four accords as well as others Japan began negotiating prior to the crisis, including with Brazil, India and Turkey, according to Kyodo. As for new agreements, Noda said the government must examine how Japan can cooperate for the peaceful use of nuclear energy taking into account the findings on the Fukushima accident.
To date, Japan has concluded bilateral nuclear accords with seven countries -- Australia, Britain, Canada, China, France, Kazakhstan and the United States -- and the European Atomic Energy Community.
A vote on the four nuclear accords in a lower house plenary session, which was initially due to take place on Friday, has been rescheduled for next week. If all goes smoothly, they will come into force early next year after also being approved by the opposition-controlled House of Councillors during the current parliamentary session, which will end December 9 unless extended.