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Protesting nuclear power

TOKYO — In a rare move by a former Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama joined a boisterous anti-nuclear demonstration outside his old office today, a fresh sign that the ruling party he once led is fracturing over energy and other policies.

Japan’s debate over nuclear power has become increasingly heated after incumbent Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s decision to restart idled reactors despite persistent public safety concerns following last year’s Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The question of nuclear power’s role in a new energy portfolio the government is set to decide next month is adding to divisions in Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan, already rent by feuds over his plan to double the sales tax to curb debt and the possibility Tokyo might join a US-led trade deal.

On Monday, an estimated 100,000 anti-nuclear protesters took to the streets in Tokyo, while ever-bigger crowds have been gathering every Friday outside Noda’s office.

“It is truly regrettable that the voices of all of you gathered here today are so far removed from politics and the prime minister’s office,” said Hatoyama, wearing a clear raincoat under a steady drizzle and surrounded by reporters.

“As a former prime minister … I want to take your message inside the prime minister’s office,” he said after shaking hands with a few of the thousands of demonstrators.

He then entered Japan’s equivalent of the White House, where Kyodo news agency said he met Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura. (Reuters)

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