Editor's Note: Sheila Smith is a Senior Fellow for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is her Expert Brief.
By Sheila Smith, CFR.org
Japan's unprecedented "triple disaster" on March 11, 2011–a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdowns–presented the government with its largest crisis since the end of World War II. The quake resulted in more than 19,000 dead or missing and devastation of the coastal communities of the Tohoku region. More than 340,000 Japanese have been displaced from their homes, and many will not return. Rebuilding Tohoku will cost an estimated $238 billion and will take a decade or longer.
The repercussions were felt worldwide. Global supply chains were disrupted, currency and stock markets were shaken, and the meltdowns of reactors at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant raised the specter of a man-made disaster of historic proportions. Nations around the world undertook a reassessment of nuclear power, with safety a central consideration.
Japan's ability to rebound from last year's disasters will have major consequences beyond its borders. A stronger Japan bolsters the global economy. As the third-largest economy, Japan is a major driver of growth and investment. Geopolitically, Japan's recovery seems even more important as the region adjusts to the increasing influence of a rising China. FULL POST
In his acceptance as elected leader of the ruling Democratic Party, Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda likened his nation's political plight as a snowball falling fast downhill.
"Running Japan's government is like pushing a giant snowball up a snowy, slippery hill," he said. "In times like this, we can't say, 'I don't like this person,' or 'I don't like that person.' The snowball will slide down." FULL POST