Japan's finance minister, Yoshihiko Noda, saw cause for optimism as his country struggled to emerge from the devastation of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear radiation that the twin disasters released. Still the third-largest economy in the world, Japan has tremendous capacity for recovery and eventual economic prosperity, Noda said at a meeting of financial officials from the G-20 group of nations.
The minister said that his country's government would embark on an ambitious new housing initiative, to address the still troubling problem of more than 100,000 people living in temporary shelters. Other of the G-20 nations promised cooperation, in both economic and political terms, to help Japan regain its economic legs. Noda said that Prime Minister Naoto Kan would be soon announcing a supplementary budget, including spending to address the housing and other economic crises gripping the proud nation.
Whole factories, businesses, and ways of life were wiped out by the devastating tsunami caused by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake, and some ramifications of the twin disasters are only being to be identified. The first priority was to help people in need. Now that more than a month has gone by, the focus can now turn to restoring economic confidence. Supply lines have been disrupted or cut off entirely, with venerable giants such as Toyota announcing a shortage of parts and vehicles.
A new report from the cell phone industry warned of a shortage of phones in the near future because among the factories damaged were some of the industry's largest suppliers of the image sensors that power cameras on cell phones made by Sony and Toshiba, among others.
Meanwhile, the country suffered another large aftershock, a 5.9 jolt that rattled the northern part of the country but caused no immediate damage. Still, officials at the country's nuclear safety agency made quick contact with the various nuclear power plants in an attempt to ensure that power was on and capable of remaining on. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, announced a plan to provide 1 million yen ($12,000) to each affected household in compensation for the forced evacuation after radiation began leaking out of the plant and into the surrounding air and water.
Kan also announced that he would be meeting with the leaders of China and South Korea next month in Tokyo to discuss, among other things, nuclear safety and disaster preparedness. The emphasis, Kan said, would be on cooperation between the three nations, such as has been seen in the presence of earthquake rescue teams sent to Japan from both China and South Korea. The three leaders also intend to discuss, in the shadow of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, ways to encourage North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.