— Protests in Taiwan on relaxing Japan food ban; hearing canceled after erupting in chaos

From Japan Times

December 25, 2016

The first of three public hearings on whether Taiwan should ease its ban on Japanese food imports imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis was canceled Sunday amid shouting, table pounding, and physical altercations.

Hundreds of protesters mobilized by the main opposition Kuomintang clashed with police outside the hearing venue in New Taipei City. A truck parked outside bore placards calling President Tsai Ing-wen “Japan’s servile follower” and demanding her resignation.

Participants allowed inside criticized organizers for blocking people outside from entering. One opponent who prepared her own microphone said the hearings are meaningless because Tsai has the final say on the matter.

In addition to the protest in the morning, KMT also organized a march in Taipei during the afternoon.

When the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple core meltdown, Taiwan banned food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi, and Chiba prefectures, and began conducting random radiation checks on nine categories of imported foods.

The Tsai administration recently formulated a plan to relax the ban in two stages.

Under the proposal, Taiwan plans to keep in place its ban on the import of all food products from Fukushima but conditionally allow imports of certain products from the other four prefectures.

The first stage of the plan will serve as a reference for the further relaxation of restrictions in the second stage, possibly about six months later.

Sunday’s public hearing, video conferencing with participants on the outlying Matsu Islands and streamed live on the internet, was the first of three the administration promised to hold after 10 were held across the island last month.

The KMT criticized the Tsai government for holding the 10 hearings in three days, questioning whether it has made a secret deal with Japan in exchange for something.

The administration then decided to hold three more, one in New Taipei on Sunday, another in Kaohsiung in the south on Jan. 2, and the third in Taipei on Jan. 8.

During Sunday’s hearing, opponents alleged that the event was improperly organized and that documents were not provided in an appropriate manner.

The organizers decided to cancel the event but allowed participants to voice opinions in the afternoon, calling it a discussion session.

The morning session began with chaos, with participants shouting, throwing documents and pounding and jumping on the tables.

KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin argued that Sunday’s hearing was “illegal” and “meaningless” because the Tsai administration has already planned to ease the ban.

Hau, who initiated a signature drive to endorse a referendum on whether to relax the ban, said the administration is duty-bound to explain the possibility of it using the ban easing as a bargaining chip in exchange for a trade deal with Japan and how such a trade deal will benefit Taiwan.

KMT legislator Wang Yu-min said Chiou I-jen, chairman of the Association of East Asian Relations, Taiwan’s semi-official agency handling the island’s relations with Japan, should attend Sunday’s public hearing because he is responsible for negotiating the trade deal.

She also argued the administration is in no position to talk about the government’s plan to ease the ban because it cannot ensure food safety, citing the recent discovery that packets of soy sauce subject to the ban entered the country illegally.

Following the discovery, the Executive Yuan, or Cabinet, said before a mechanism is established to ensure the safety of food products imported from the five prefectures and public confidence in the government is restored, easing the ban is not an option.

It also emphasized that the government does not have any set position and there is no timetable set for easing the ban.


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— Please don’t shoot our civilians, UK begged US during height of 1980s nuclear cruise missile protests

From Sputnik

Nikolai Gorshkov
July 20, 2016

Secret UK Cabinet files released by the National Archives in Kew, west London on Thursday reveal that at the height of protests against the deployment of US nuclear cruise missiles in 1983-1985 the government of Margaret Thatcher was horrified by a prospect of US military shooting British peace activists.

Throughout the 1980-s Britain was in a grip of mass peace protests against the deployment of American cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads.

While publicly dismissing the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and other peace groups as “unrepresentative” of the British people, privately Thatcher and her Ministers were agonizing over the ways of “combatting” them, as the declassified files show. The Defense Secretary Michael Heseltine established a pro-government “peace” group to challenge CND’s “unilateralism”, while the Secret Service was charged with “exposing” the CND’s foreign backers. They failed to find any. Apparently, they hadn’t yet mastered the art of creating “dodgy dossiers” at the time.

Top secret documents
Top secret documents

A handwritten note informed the Prime Minister of the failure: “you will remember asking me to find out whether Sir Robert Armstrong knew who was financing CND’s activities at Molesworth. The attached is his answer, though it does not answer the question where CND get their money from.”


The CND was considered by the government to be a fairly responsible organization, but the famous peace women of Greenham Common (the US cruise missile site to the west of London) were branded “extremist”.

Handwritten note to Thatcher regarding CND
Handwritten note to Thatcher regarding CND

The repeated attempts by peace activists to breach security at bases housing nuclear weapons, like RAF Upper Heyford, ran the risk of a confrontation with armed US guards, and the Ministers were horrified by a prospect of the US military shooting British civilians on their home turf.

“The Home Secretary believes that an incident involving US firearms could be a major election problem”, a handwritten note of 17 May 1983 advised Thatcher who was in the middle of her reelection bid.

Even warning the demonstrators of this mortal danger was deemed to be politically too sensitive.

“…it would be a mistake to make any public reference to the presence of armed guards in the next few weeks”, wrote Home Secretary William Whitelaw on 17 May 1983. “The arming of security personnel in any circumstances is a potentially controversial issue. In this case there is the added complication that they are US personnel outside our control.”

A flurry of minutes between the Home, Defense, Foreign Secretaries and the PM explored how to “tactfully” impress on the Americans that shooting a British civilian during the UK election campaign would be a very bad idea.

The Home Secretary cautioned: “I see the difficulty of signaling tactfully to the US authorities our expectation that firearms will not be used without good cause during the proposed blockade [of RAF Upper Heyford – NG] from 31 May to 3 June [1983]. But the timing, which could hardly be more sensitive [UK general election – NG], and the traditionally different approach to the use of firearms in law enforcement in the United States make me think that the possibility should, at least, be explored.”

It appears from these discussions that the British Government did not feel to be in a position to take up the issue directly with the US military commanders stationed in the UK!

The Home Secretary suggested “a high level approach to the US Embassy who might [NG] be persuaded to emphasize the risks to the military commanders responsible for the base… The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary would, no doubt, advise on whether [NG] some message might be sent and how it could best be delivered.”

Reply from Secret Service
Reply from Secret Service

Not entirely sure that the Americans would heed the plea, the Ministers planned to insert a thousand or more UK personnel between the demonstrators and the US armed guards. On quite a few occasions there were two guards for every protester! The Ministers were also crunching numbers as to how many millions of pounds they would need to install electronic security systems around the bases. Security at UK military installations, even at those housing nuclear weapons, Ministers agreed, was inadequate.


The best solution to the government’s worries would of course be the eviction of protesters from peace camps around the USAF/RAF bases. But there was a legal conundrum, as explained by the then Secretary of State for Transport Nicholas Ridley:

“First, there is our policy towards travellers [e.g. gypsies — NG]. The situation of these people and the Greenham Common protestors is, I believe, in law much the same. They both trespass on the highway. Yet in the case of travellers, we condone it.”

This advice was not something Margaret Thatcher and other Ministers apparently wanted to hear, just like Tony Blair after them didn’t like the legal warnings about the Iraq invasion. In both cases the voices of reason were eventually silenced. As the declassified files show, Nicholas Ridley was put under serious pressure, not least by the Defense Secretary Michael Heseltine, to reconsider his position.


Heseltine also took the lead in the “presentational” aspect of “combatting” the peace activists.

Request to Secret Service
Request to Secret Service

To counter the publicity of a series of mass protests across the UK planned by the CND for Easter 1983 he volunteered to make a speech at the Berlin Wall accusing the CND of working for the “forces of oppression” on the other side.

Heseltine’s visit to West Berlin was welcomed by his West German counterpart Dr. Woerner but he warned that it could provoke demonstrations in Berlin itself!

Foreign Office ministers and Thatcher’s own chief press secretary Bernard Ingham were equally in two minds about the validity of Heseltine’s counter-offensive:

“What we have to avoid is the charge that the CND’s Easter activities have the government rattled.”

The CND’s Easter “peace offensive” will only “secure less airtime and have less impact if something more newsworthy in television terms occurs – e.g. (to be brutal) a North Sea blowout; an assassination attempt on the Pope, etc.”, Bernard Ingham wrote in confidence on 17 March 1983.

“… If we accept that only a major tragedy can compete with CND pictures, Mr. Heseltine’s visit to the Berlin Wall should be seen more as a preemptive strike than a competitive event. In any case, I have serious doubts about Ministers being seen to be competing with CND on Good Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion.”

“…It is also a day when there is not much sport,” Thatcher’s chief press secretary lamented.


To win the “battle of ideas” against the CND Ingham suggested to “feed into the BBC and ITN at an appropriate level the idea of getting cameras to film the various pursuits” like “pigeon, or whippet or tortoise racing (or whatever respectable minority sport we can confidently prove attracts more participants than CND demonstrating).”

Upper Heyford US Armed Guards
Upper Heyford US Armed Guards

But what would really “do the trick would be press and TV pictures, for TV release on the evening of Good Friday and/or Saturday newspapers of Prince William in Australia.”

Eventually, the UK government succeeded in reclaiming parts of the land occupied by the peace camps under the pretext of road improvements, and the Soviet-American arms reductions deals made US cruise missiles in Europe redundant.

In his notes of March 1983 Bernard Ingham wrote that “CND, if successful, contains not the seeds but the certainty of its annihilation”. CND, in its own way, did contribute to the success of arms talks in late 1980-s, but this did not lead to its annihilation. To the contrary, with the relapses of Cold War mentality in the British Establishment the peace movement appears to go through a revival.


German region protests, fears Fukushima-style disaster after Belgium restarts aging reactor

From Japan Times

December 16, 2015

Belgian power utility Electrabel restarted an aging nuclear reactor Tuesday after a near two-year shutdown, angering neighboring Germany, which fears the danger of a Fukushima-style meltdown.

Electrabel said it put the Tihange 2 reactor back on line “in complete safety,” despite opposition from officials in adjacent North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.

Belgium has been hit by a series of nuclear mishaps in recent years, with three of the country’s seven reactors at one point closed, due in two of the cases to the discovery of micro-cracks in the reactor casings.

The Belgian nuclear authority gave the greenlight to relaunch Tihange 2, as well as another reactor near Antwerp, in November, giving Electrabel permission to operate the plant until its legislated final closure date in 2023.

Garrelt Duin, North Rhine-Westphalia’s economy minister, had warned strongly against the relaunch of Tihange, calling it outright “irresponsible.

Four of Germany’s 10 biggest cities — Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen—- are located within the state.

The city of Aachen, only 60 km (40 miles) from Tihange, said it had explored legal options to stop the reopening but without success.

Germany, unlike Belgium and France, decided to phase out what was a substantial nuclear energy program after the 2011 disaster in Fukushima.

At the time, Belgium also committed to a withdrawal from nuclear power but has since scaled back its ambitions due to a lack of reliable alternatives.


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