クール・ジャパン 海外の人気を成長に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 31, 2010)
Time to capitalize on 'Cool Japan' boom
クール・ジャパン 海外の人気を成長に生かせ(8月30日付・読売社説)

Japanese pop culture--widely referred to as "Cool Japan"--has taken off overseas. The government should take advantage of this boom in all things Japanese to push domestic businesses' advance into foreign markets.

Japanese anime and manga have become immensely popular among young people overseas. Japanese fashion grabs plenty of headlines, and foods such as sushi are a hit with health-conscious diners.

But this popularity has not necessarily led to overseas expansion by domestic companies involved in these industries. The domestic animation industry remains dominated by small and midsize companies, and exports of textiles have slackened. Japanese restaurants have been mushrooming the world over, but many are operated by non-Japanese.

While Japan fails to transform its overseas popularity into economic growth, South Korea has been increasing its presence in other Asian countries.

According to a report by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, CD and DVD stores in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore brim with South Korean dramas and K-pop albums by South Korean singers. In China, the sales of a South Korean apparel maker often compared with Japan's Uniqlo brand operator are going through the roof.

Public-private sales model

As Korean dramas gain popularity, South Korean makers follow up by promoting fashion brands worn by actors and actresses starring in the programs. The South Korean private and public sectors seem to be jointly building a business model that uses Korean brands to expand sales in targeted countries.

The government seems content for Japan to just be extolled overseas as "cool." However, we think the government has not tried hard enough, or been imaginative enough, in taking advantage of this popularity for the benefit of business expansion.

In June, the trade ministry released its "strategy to promote a culture-oriented industry." This plan to harness "Cool Japan" to revitalize the national economy seemingly reflects an awareness that more must be done to tap this industry.

The strategy calls for an integrated support system--from product development to the signing of overseas sales contracts--for small and midsize companies that lack the expertise and funds needed to develop their business abroad. We hope the ministry's strategy will be steadily implemented.

Get on same page

The government's administration of overseas activities has been divided among its ministries--the trade ministry fosters "Cool Japan" industries, the Foreign Ministry looks after cultural exchanges and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry promotes Japanese foods.

South Korean products could dominate rapidly growing Asian markets, but they are less likely to do so in European and U.S. markets, where Japanese brands' reputation for high quality is well entrenched.

Japan should emulate the Korean formula of ensuring cooperation transcends fields such as fashion, movies, food and manga, instead of promoting business through separate government ministries and agencies. If the "fences" between these government offices remain too high, the Cabinet minister and other politicians who head each ministry must step up and exercise leadership to make this cooperation a reality.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2010)
(2010年8月30日01時26分 読売新聞)


日韓併合100年 協調と競争の未来へ向けて

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 30, 2010)
Japan, ROK must partner, compete for future
日韓併合100年 協調と競争の未来へ向けて(8月29日付・読売社説)

People of the Korean Peninsula, who were ruled by a different people, must regret the fact that their country was taken away and their pride was trampled upon. These feelings apparently are a source of the Korean people's strong sense of rivalry with and resentment against Japan.

Without Japan truly understanding these sentiments, its good-neighbor diplomacy will never come to fruition.

The Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty became effective 100 years ago, on Aug. 29, 1910. The world was in an age of imperialism at the time and Japan, like other imperialist countries, kept up with the tide of the times and colonized the peninsula.

It is an undeniable fact that Japan's 35-year colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, until Japan's World War II defeat, still casts a shadow over the present-day Japan-South Korea relationship.

Earlier this month, ahead of the Aug. 29 centenary, Prime Minister Naoto Kan issued a statement expressing "deep remorse and heartfelt apology." This is because he places importance on the Japan-Korea relationship.

Japan must build a relationship with South Korea in which the two countries cooperate and compete each other.


Impressive postwar growth

When Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic ties in 1965, the two countries confirmed the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty to be "already null and void" and thereby entered a new relationship.

Using funds provided by Japan, South Korea built dams, ironworks and expressways, and threw its energy into exports.

South Korea has transformed into an economically advanced country, achieving political democratization and affluence. Its society has diversified, and the now wealthy nation has changed from being a recipient of assistance to a country that provides it to others.

Japan and South Korea are trade partners, and each maintains an alliance with the United States as its main axis of national security. The two countries also share values such as the market economy and democracy.


International leadership

In November, South Korea will host a Group of 20 summit meeting while Japan will host a summit gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Tokyo and Seoul play increasingly greater roles and have larger responsibilities when it comes to ensuring the world's stability and prosperity.

The two countries should never miss mutual opportunities and should strengthen their cooperation.

How to establish a stable relationship with economic and military superpower China is a heavy task for both Japan and South Korea.

The two countries also must appropriately respond to North Korea--a destabilizing factor in the region.

It appears increasingly necessary that Japan and South Korea build a future-oriented bilateral relationship that is not mired in the past.

However, difficulties remain. Japan and South Korea, because they are neighbors, have deep relations rooted in history, and their sentiment toward each other tends to be complex. Japanese people feel increasingly more kinship with South Korea every year, but South Koreans still have a deep-seated distrust of Japan.

In fact, pending issues between Japan and South Korea such as the territorial dispute over the Takeshima islets remain unresolved and a source of repeated diplomatic tension between the two countries.

Overcoming those difficulties is an assignment for both Japan and South Korea as they head into the next 100 years of their relationship.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2010)
(2010年8月29日01時19分 読売新聞)


死刑刑場公開 まだ開示すべき情報は多い

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 29, 2010)
More death penalty info should be disclosed
死刑刑場公開 まだ開示すべき情報は多い(8月28日付・読売社説)

The execution chamber at the Tokyo Detention House was shown to the media for the first time Friday.

With the introduction of the lay judge system, ordinary citizens now have a chance of being called to participate in the process of sentencing someone to death. The Justice Ministry, which had been reluctant to disclose information related to executions, has likely realized the need to change its earlier stance.

The ministry should make further efforts to disclose information on the death penalty.

Media organizations were allowed to film or photograph certain areas, such as the room in which hangings take place, and the button control room, where prison officers push buttons to activate the trapdoor.

Debate requires data

Justice Minister Keiko Chiba this month set up a study panel within the ministry to discuss the death penalty system. Chiba, who had been calling for the abolition of capital punishment, expressed her intention to start discussions on whether the system should be maintained and stressed the need for national debate on the issue.

But the public in fact has been given little information that would help people think about the death penalty.

An execution must be carried out within six months after a death sentence is finalized, according to the Criminal Procedure Code. But this rule has not been followed. Over the past decade, the period from the finalization of a sentence to actual execution stood at five years and 11 months on average. Some death row inmates have been detained for more than two decades since their sentences were finalized. What has caused this situation?

In 1998, the Justice Ministry began to publicly announce when it had carried out executions and how many inmates were executed on each occasion. In 2007, it also began disclosing the names of the inmates who were executed. But it has not provided information on how decisions are made about which inmates are to be executed.

It also is hard to know anything about how death row inmates live in their cells and whether they regret what they have done.

The Penal Code stipulates that executions are to be carried out by hanging. But we wonder whether arguments on this point have ever been raised.

In the United Sates, where the death penalty exists in 35 of the 50 states, members of the media and relatives of crime victims can be present to watch executions. They also can be briefed by authorities about developments before actual executions.

We think the Justice Ministry should provide as much information as possible while giving consideration to the privacy of death row inmates and the wishes of victims.

Some in the ministry were cautious about releasing detailed information on the final moments death row inmates face, being concerned that discussions of how executions are carried out and how inmates are treated would eventually lead to arguments supporting the abolition of the death penalty.

It is necessary for the ministry to provide the public with information about the actual situation regarding the death penalty and to allow discussions as to whether practical details of the death penalty system, including the execution method, should be reviewed.

Seek the best system

An opinion survey conducted by the Cabinet Office showed that more than 80 percent of respondents were in favor of the death penalty. Many victims' relatives demand capital punishment as a penalty matching the seriousness of the crimes committed.

We do not advocate rushing discussions on whether the death penalty should be maintained or abolished. Rather, we hope that discussions are held from the viewpoint of improving the existing system's operation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2010)
(2010年8月28日01時13分 読売新聞)


小沢氏出馬表明 日本の針路を競う代表選に

to fend off a barrage of questions from the opposition camp
右顧左眄(うこさべん) =右を見たり左を見たりして迷うこと。左顧右眄。
Kokugo Dai Jiten Dictionary. Shinsou-ban (Revised edition) ゥ Shogakukan 1988/国語大辞典(新装版)ゥ小学館 1988

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 28, 2010)
DPJ election should be battle over policy
小沢氏出馬表明 日本の針路を競う代表選に(8月27日付・読売社説)

The Democratic Party of Japan's upcoming presidential election is almost certain to be a two-man race between Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who is seeking reelection as DPJ chief, and former party Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa.

Selecting the leader of the largest ruling party is effectively synonymous with choosing the next prime minister.  与党第1党の党首選は首相選びに直結する。

We hope the DPJ will choose the winner of the race through a serious battle of words concerning the course this country should take.
The election should not be reduced to a race in which its two opposing camps struggle to win party members over to their respective sides, thus determining which can seize power: the bloc that wants Ozawa removed from the center of the party and the government, or the side that supports him.

Ozawa has expressed his intention to run in the Sept. 14 election, campaigning for which will start Wednesday.  小沢氏は、9月1日告示、14日投開票の党代表選に出馬する意向を表明した。

His move comes after he secured the support of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama; Ozawa had been considering entering the race if he could receive support from a wide range of DPJ lawmakers.

However, this does not mean Ozawa has been guaranteed support from most DPJ members.

Attempt at truce failed

A key factor behind the Kan-Ozawa showdown is the bitter discord between the former DPJ secretary general and senior party leaders seeking to eliminating his influence within the party, including the prime minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku and party Secretary General Yukio Edano.

Ozawa's announcement of his decision to run was preceded by Hatoyama's attempt to broker a compromise between Kan and Ozawa, in the hope of averting a deepening schism among intraparty groups.

However, Kan was reluctant to accept Hatoyama's request to ensure key figures from each intraparty group, including Ozawa, were represented in the party's leadership and the Cabinet, in what could be called a whole-party approach.

This bitterly antagonized Ozawa.
A decision by Ozawa not to run would have enabled Kan to win unopposed, a development that would cost the veteran DPJ kingpin support among a number of party members. Ozawa's decision to run can be seen as a last-resort measure to avoid this.

Kan's rejection of Hatoyama's request caused the former prime minister to shift his support from Kan to Ozawa. Hatoyama earlier said he would back Kan's bid to be reelected as DPJ president, provided he adopts a whole-party approach.

Hatoyama's obvious change of heart must be criticized as unacceptable. It is disconcerting that he has endorsed Ozawa's bid to become DPJ leader--we should remember that Hatoyama stepped down as party head and prime minister before the House of Councillors election in July to take the blame for the turmoil arising from his poorly thought-out approach to politically divisive issues, at the same time urging Ozawa to resign as party secretary general.

Ozawa's decision to run in the wake of Hatoyama's failed peacemaking means he has concluded that taking the DPJ's top post will be the best way for him to escape the damned-if-he-does-and-damned-if-he-doesn't situation he is in. All this likely will turn the upcoming election into a battle that will divide the ruling party. The DPJ could be broken up into different groups and this could eventually result in a new round of political realignment--that is, new splits and mergers among both ruling and opposition parties.

Back to basics

Some groups of pro-Ozawa DPJ legislators have insisted their party "return to square one" in policy administration, saying the party's defeat in the upper house election was the result of its failure to honor its manifesto for last year's general election. These groups also have criticized Kan for stating his administration would explore the possibility of raising the consumption tax rate during campaigning for the upper house election.

However, it is easy to see that lavish handout policies such as child-rearing allowances cannot be carried out as initially pledged, given the extremely optimistic estimate drawn up by the DPJ regarding the necessary financial resources.

If Ozawa truly believes in a back-to-square-one approach, he must show what kind of realistic measures would be implemented to raise the funds necessary for promised policies, while also presenting a timetable for each policy as soon as possible.

This is not the only thing on Ozawa's must-do list; he must also fulfill his duty to answer questions about the political funding scandal surrounding him.

Ozawa's politics-and-money scandal includes alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law in connection with a shady land purchase by his funds management organization. During the last ordinary Diet session, Ozawa refused to attend the House of Representatives' Deliberative Council on Political Ethics and state his position on the issue. He also escaped being forced to testify under oath in the Diet.

However, it will be extremely difficult for Ozawa to fend off a barrage of questions from the opposition camp in the divided Diet. The upper house is at the mercy of the opposition bloc due to the ruling coalition's loss of its majority in the July election, while the ruling parties have an overwhelming majority in the lower house.

Ozawa seeking escape?

Ozawa will be automatically indicted in connection with his alleged funding irregularities if a Tokyo independent inquest-of-prosecution panel decides in autumn that his case merits indictment, after reconsidering prosecutors' earlier decision not to do so.

The Constitution contains an article that stipulates ministers of the state "shall not be subject to legal action without the consent of the Prime Minister" during their time in office.

Some DPJ members who support Kan have said Ozawa may be seeking to become prime minister in the hope of taking advantage of this constitutional provision to escape indictment.

What will Ozawa actually do, if and when the judiciary panel concludes he should be indicted? Well before the committee reaches its eventual decision on the case in question, Ozawa should tell the public how he will deal with such a situation.

Meanwhile, Kan must take seriously Ozawa's candidacy for their party's leadership.

The DPJ's top echelon, including the prime minister, has done little to settle the dispute over their responsibility for the party's electoral setback. Neither have they fully analyzed why the ruling party was defeated in the upper house race. This failure has done much to foster discontent among many DPJ members.

There is no denying that many DPJ lawmakers feel uneasy about Kan's ability--or lack thereof--to manage his own party and make decisions about government policies.

Take this nation's current economic crisis--including the recent surge in the value of the yen and falling stock prices. The Kan administration has been slow to address these problems. Despite having to campaign for his reelection as DPJ chief, Kan must fulfill his duties to run the country as prime minister.

Kan must speak clearly

If he hopes to amend the manifesto, the prime minister should reexamine the policies the DPJ-led government has implemented since the party took power, while also clearly showing the public which policies will be changed and which will be kept in place.

This also applies to Kan's approach to the consumption tax issue. He should be resolute in stating his opinions about the matter.

The current DPJ came into being in 2003, when Kan and Ozawa agreed to merge their respective parties, with the aim of toppling the then Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition from power and establishing a DPJ-led administration. In those days, the DPJ was headed by Kan and the defunct Liberal Party by Ozawa.

Even since its inauguration, the current DPJ has been described as a "mutual aid society" aimed at ensuring its two constituent parties help each other in elections. The DPJ-LP integration also has been dismissed as a merger that lacks political goals and principles.

In fact, the DPJ has yet to lay out guiding principles for such fundamental policies as constitutional amendment, national security and reform of the consumption tax.

The ruling party's inadequacy in this has hindered progress in implementing such key policies.

Kan and Ozawa should lock horns in a debate over their party's basic policies, instead of fearing that their battle in the DPJ leadership race could lead to a rupture in the party or renewed alignment of political parties and groups.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2010)
(2010年8月27日01時23分 読売新聞)


円高加速 政府・日銀は具体策を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 27, 2010)
Govt, BOJ should move on yen--now
円高加速 政府・日銀は具体策を急げ(8月26日付・読売社説)

There seem to be no brakes on the rise of the yen as speculators apparently take advantage of the sluggish response of the government and the Bank of Japan to the yen's appreciation.

The yen is surging, hitting a 15-year high in the 83 yen range against the U.S. dollar on foreign markets Tuesday. There are whispers in the markets that the yen could soon even reach a record high in the 79 yen range versus the dollar.

With the yen's surge set to batter the Japanese economy, the 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average dropped below the 9,000 mark Wednesday to close at the year's low of 8,845.39.

Unless the sharp appreciation of the yen is checked, business sentiment and the willingness of households to spend may cool, stalling the economy.

The government and the central bank should resolutely act to deal with this worrying situation, and consider intervening in the market to stem the yen's rise.

The recent responses of the government and the Bank of Japan have been missing the mark.

On Aug. 10, the central bank held off adding measures to expand liquidity. Soon after, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board took additional money-easing steps, triggering the latest rise in the yen.

Talks fall flat

A discussion over the telephone between Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa on Monday, which set tongues wagging that steps would be taken to deal with the yen's rise, ended in just 15 minutes.

Contrary to what policymakers had intended, the talks ended with little substance and led to a further advance of the yen and offloading of stocks as disappointment spread among market players.

There have been striking inconsistencies in messages sent by Cabinet members to the market.

At a hastily arranged press conference Tuesday evening, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda indicated he would closely watch the market. He failed to offer any concrete response to the situation, which only fueled the yen's rise.

On Wednesday, Noda finally hinted the government might intervene in the market, saying, "When necessary, we will take appropriate measures."

During meetings with Democratic Party of Japan members of the House of Representatives the same day, Kan said, "We'll respond properly in the not-so-distant future."

None of this changed the tide in the financial markets.

The halfhearted response by policymakers probably has speculators believing the government will not take any specific action to stem the yen's rise for the time being.

No time to waste

The government could be keeping an ace up its sleeve, which it will play when the yen stands on the brink of rising above 80 yen to the dollar. But this is no time for the government to be sitting on its hands. We think the government should discuss in earnest the possibility of going it alone in intervening in the currency market.

The United States and European countries embrace the depreciation of their currencies against the yen. But it is difficult to put a finger on why only the yen is rising against other major currencies, despite the fact that Japan is plagued by deflation and sluggish growth.

Japan will probably not be strongly criticized by other nations even if it moves to correct the yen's excessive appreciation.

The Bank of Japan is reportedly considering taking additional money easing measures ahead of the next Monetary Policy Meeting set for early September. We hope the central bank will both check the yen's rise and stimulate the economy.

Depending on market developments, the central bank should promptly ease the money supply by holding an extraordinary meeting, rather than wait until the regular policy meeting.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2010)
(2010年8月26日01時03分 読売新聞)


企業の国際化 英語が社内公用語となる時代

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 26, 2010)
English necessary to cope with globalization
企業の国際化 英語が社内公用語となる時代(8月25日付・読売社説)

The United Nations has six specified official languages: English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic; but in the world of business, English has effectively established itself as the common language.


Recently, some Japanese firms have decided to make English their official language.

Internet company Rakuten Inc. announced it will adopt English as its official language by the end of 2012.

Fast Retailing Co., operator of Uniqlo, the nation's largest clothing chain, and with several outlets around the world, also announced a policy of using English at meetings where non-Japanese staff are present.

Both companies are aggressively expanding their global operations by increasing overseas bases and taking other steps. They are also reportedly planning to drastically increase their number of non-Japanese employees.

Such moves are vital to make best use of a workforce with diverse mother tongues and enable smooth communication.

English ability will be an important attribute for employees of global firms so they can share the latest information instantly through e-mail and efficiently take part in negotiations with clients.


Adapt to a changing world

As society becomes more globalized, Japanese companies must respond to the changing world by using English as their official language. Such efforts are needed to meet the needs of the times.

Rakuten said it will ask Japanese employees to use English when communicating about work-related matters.

At a press conference earlier this month to release its midterm financial report, Rakuten President Hiroshi Mikitani spoke in English to reporters and analysts from around the globe. Simultaneous interpretation was provided.

The company is making a thorough effort to promote the use of English inside the company, with even its cafeteria menu written in English.


A wake-up call

However, some people have criticized the language policies as going too far, saying, "It's absurd to force people working in Japan to use English."

It is, of course, necessary to treasure the Japanese language, which represents our sensibility as a people and is the basis of our culture.

Attempts to make English the official language of a company may seem like an extremely radical idea. But it can be looked at as a kind of "shock therapy," to completely change employees' state of mind.

How much English needs to be used at each firm is debatable, but individual companies should be left to make this decision in consideration of their specific circumstances.

Apart from Rakuten and Fast Retailing, more than a few companies use English at board meetings and other occasions to cope with the growing diversity of their board members.

Companies trying to access the global market likely have no choice but to introduce English, or some other foreign tongue, as an official language.

Rakuten's moves to make English its official language is symbolic of the changing environment Japanese companies face.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2010)
(2010年8月25日01時31分 読売新聞)


菅・白川会談 政策協調で景気の失速防げ


The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 25, 2010)
Coordinate policy to ward off slowdown
菅・白川会談 政策協調で景気の失速防げ(8月24日付・読売社説)

What policy measures will the government and the Bank of Japan take to deal with the sharp slowdown in the economy and the overvaluation of the yen? Their capabilities are being put to the test.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa spoke on the phone Monday morning. They reportedly exchanged views on the recent economic situation, including currency exchange rates, for 15 minutes and agreed that it was important to maintain close communications with each other.

The government is planning to compile additional economic measures soon. To boost their effectiveness, the government apparently tried to trumpet its coordination with the central bank by arranging the talks between Kan and Shirakawa.

Unfortunately, however, exchange rates and stock prices hardly reacted to their dialogue. The markets apparently decided it lacked substance.

Rethink unhelpful policies

The strong yen and deflation are depriving the Japanese economy of its vitality. The government and the central bank must pursue policy coordination in a flexible manner to prevent the economy from slowing down further.

The real economic growth rate in the April-June quarter was almost flat and the nominal rate, which is closer to the public mood, went into the negative. More and more economists believe the Japanese economy has entered a temporary stagnant period.

To deal with the situation, the government has decided to use reserve funds and other spare money in this fiscal year's budget to continue its eco-point program for housing and to help jobless people find new jobs.

We think that stimulation of consumption and job placement assistance are appropriate measures to prevent the economy from losing its momentum. However, the scale of these measures is likely to be a little less than 2 trillion yen.

Though some members of the ruling coalition parties have called for larger economic measures, the government should avoid issuing additional government bonds for that purpose, given the nation's tough fiscal condition. It is also not realistic to suddenly raise tax rates.

Under such circumstances, the only possible course for the government is to eke out the necessary funds by scaling down low-priority policy projects. The government and the ruling coalition parties should screen policy measures with dubious economic effects, including child-rearing allowances, based strictly on their impact on the economy, and make a zero-based review of how to use the budget more wisely.

No talk of intervention?

An even more pressing issue is the yen's appreciation, which will not only reduce the volume of exports but also harm a wide variety of other areas. It will accelerate the drain of domestic companies from Japan to other countries and further worsen deflation.

During their recent telephone conversation, Kan and Shirakawa did not discuss a currency intervention to stem the yen's rise against other major currencies, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku. But we are not sure if this is true.

If Japan is viewed as acting weak in currency intervention, speculators will try to capitalize on that. If the yen rises further in the near future, the prime minister should meet the central bank governor in person to discuss countermeasures.

A key factor in dealing with the rising yen is what action the Bank of Japan will take. The central bank should introduce further quantitative monetary easing because monetary relaxation not only helps alleviate the upward pressure on interest rates caused by increased public spending, it also promotes the depreciation of the yen.

The Bank of Japan should consider a method that has worked well in the past--heightening the effects of monetary easing by not absorbing funds the government funnels into the market as yen-selling intervention.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2010)
(2010年8月24日01時00分 読売新聞)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 23
EDITORIAL: U.S. pullout from Iraq.

U.S. President Barack Obama has set the end of 2011 as the deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq. The midterm goal of the plan is to end combat operations in the country by Aug. 31. In line with the schedule, the last U.S. combat unit left Iraq to move into neighboring Kuwait last week.

The number of U.S. troops remaining in Iraq will be reduced to 50,000, about one-third of the peak level, at the end of this month. Their main mission will be training Iraqi security forces that will take over the role of the U.S. troops.

The death toll of American troops in Iraq has surpassed 4,400, while estimates put the number of Iraqi civilians killed at more than 100,000.

Answering to an embedded foreign journalist, a U.S. soldier who has left Iraq said the best thing would be for no one to get hurt anymore. The U.S. forces have just done their duties, but many of them probably have mixed feelings, wondering if they fought a just war.
 イラクを離れた兵士が外国の従軍記者に答えた。「何がいいかって? 第一に、もう誰も傷つかないこと」。この戦争は正しかったのか。任務とはいえ、兵士たちにも複雑な思いが去来したのではないだろうか。

Immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, many countries and people around the world supported U.S. plans for a war against terrorism. But the U.S. government's push to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein bitterly divided the world and provoked deep anger within the Islamic world. As a result, terrorism has spread widely both within and outside Iraq.

What was the meaning of the Iraq war? It is time for both the United States, which started the war, and Japan, which supported the U.S. action, to ask themselves some serious questions about what they did.

A 'preventive war'

Let us look back.

Suspicions arose that Iraq had a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction. If these weapons found their way into the hands of terrorists, the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush argued, they would pose a serious security threat.
The Bush administration used these concerns as justification for starting the war against Iraq despite a lack of definite evidence to support these claims.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq started with willing allies, such as Britain and Italy, flying in the face of opposition from Germany, France and other countries. The U.N. Security Council did not issue a resolution that clearly sanctioned the use of armed forces against Iraq.

A "preventive war" to nip a potential threat in the bud by a country solely on its own judgment violates the U.N. Charter, which permits a country's use of force only for self-defense against an imminent security threat to the country or when the Security Council has passed a resolution to approve military action.

The international community struggled to persuade the United States to restrain itself from heading into a preventive war. Before the Iraq war began, a French diplomat said it was a U.S. problem, not an Iraq problem.

The U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the president that invading Iraq would be very costly for both the United States and the world. He pointed out that occupying Iraq would mean the United States would have to own the hopes, aspirations and problems of all Iraqi people. Still, Bush decided to start the attack, true to his pledge to combat terrorism by all possible measures.

Lack of support

The U.S. administration was apparently driven by the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was, however, difficult for Washington to win support from people in Iraq or the international community for a fight against terrorism when it was actually an attempt to use force to upset an anti-U.S. regime without offering any clear rationale.

But the Bush administration couldn't understand this obvious truth.

The search after the collapse of the Saddam regime found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, making the war even more questionable.

The U.S. billed the overthrow of Saddam as part of its fight against terrorism and continued operations to eliminate the remnants and supporters of the regime. This provoked strong anti-American sentiment and a wave of terrorist attacks in Iraq. The U.S. invasion gave extremist groups like al-Qaida a justification for jihad in Iraq, setting off an endless chain of violence.

Iraq remains deeply mired in political turmoil. Parliamentary elections in March have triggered a political standoff between religious groups, failing to establish a new government and leaving the country in a political vacuum.

Meanwhile, the United States under President Obama, who harshly criticized Bush over the Iraq war, has dramatically changed its policy. Now, Washington is trying to rebuild war-devastated Iraq through efforts supported by the United Nations and the international community.

As the country that destroyed Iraq and created chaos in the country through its preventive war, the United States has a grave responsibility.

President Obama, however, has called the conflict in Afghanistan a "necessary war" and has tripled the number of U.S. troops deployed in the country since he took office.

But the United States has failed to win the hearts of the people in Afghanistan even though it has overthrown a regime linked to al-Qaida.
The current situation in Afghanistan, where the United States is struggling badly in its efforts to help rebuild the nation and eliminate terrorism, is reminiscent of Washington's plight in Iraq.

David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary, has cited overconfidence in military power as one of the mistakes made in the war against terrorism. Expanding the war front, which inevitably leads to a larger number of war victims, doesn't help increase allies for efforts to prevent terrorism. The United States should keep this lesson in mind for its operations in Afghanistan as well.

Japan supported the U.S.-led war against Iraq and dispatched Self-Defense Forces troops to what the government described as a "noncombat zone" in the country. It was a move to demonstrate its solid commitment to its alliance with the United States. But how should we judge the Japanese government's decision to back a war that was started on the basis of inaccurate information?

"There is obviously no way for me to know at this moment which parts (of Iraq) are combat areas and which are noncombat zones," then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said during a Diet session. Didn't the government make a wrong choice when it decided to send SDF troops to Iraq when it had no accurate information, as Koizumi's remarks indicated?

Review decision-making process

The North Korea problem influenced the policy decisions of the ruling party and the government concerning Iraq.

A senior lawmaker of then ruling Liberal Democratic Party said, "Can we afford to allow Japan's alliance with the United States to be damaged by walking away (from the Iraq war) when Japan is facing a threat from North Korea?"

But how was the Iraq war actually linked to the North Korea problem in policy debate within the Koizumi administration?

At that time, as chief of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Naoto Kan, the current prime minister, argued that sending SDF troops to Iraq, most parts of which were combat areas, was unconstitutional. The current DPJ-led government must now make clear what it has learned from the episode.

Government decisions about war must be rigorously scrutinized. Otherwise, the experience will leave no useful lesson for the governance of the nation, especially for its diplomatic and national security policies.

The time has come for the Diet to take a fresh and hard look at the process in which Japan made its decisions concerning the Iraq war through such efforts as intensive debate at an Upper House fact-finding committee.


取り調べ可視化 海外調査を論議の出発点に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 24, 2010)
Open discussion needed on taping interrogations
取り調べ可視化 海外調査を論議の出発点に(8月23日付・読売社説)

The Justice Ministry will send prosecutors overseas to study the feasibility of introducing a system to make audio and video recordings of investigators' interrogations of suspects. The prosecutors will conduct research for a year on how recording systems function in the countries they visit.

The mission represents this nation's first comprehensive overseas research of such systems. Prosecutors will visit countries including the United States, Britain and France, as well as Germany, which has yet to adopt a recording system, and South Korea, which just introduced one.

The ministry should widely publicize the results of the research and consider what would be the most desirable form of recording system for this country.

Police and prosecutors have begun making partial audio and video recordings of interrogations conducted in connection with criminal cases tried jointly by lay and professional judges. Such records are meant to prove that confessions are not forced but voluntary.

As of June, DVD recordings of interrogations had been shown in six cases tried under the lay judge system.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations is calling for the entire interrogation process to be recorded, to prevent false charges from being brought. The Democratic Party of Japan called for the adoption of a full recording system in its campaign platform for the general election last August, and since the launch in September of the DPJ-led government, it has urged the ministry and the National Police Agency to look further into the feasibility of adopting such a system.


Different situation overseas

But the situation in Japan is different from that of the countries where recording systems are in place.

In Britain, suspects are usually interrogated once after being arrested and the questioning is said to finish within 30 minutes in many cases. Defendants also have a good chance of being acquitted in jury trials.

Furthermore, there is a plea bargain system under which suspects can receive lighter sentences if they admit crimes at early stages of investigations. Wiretapping and undercover operations are also permitted.

Plea bargains are common in the United States, where about one-third of the states record interrogations.

In Japan, investigators face suspects for long hours in investigation rooms, to conduct detailed questioning that spans from suspects' childhoods to the motives for their alleged crimes. In cases involving organized crime syndicates, investigators try to win over suspects and obtain statements implicating gang leaders.


Give investigators more tools

Many investigators have expressed concern about making audio and video recordings of the entire interrogation process.

It is important to prevent false charges. But at the same time, public safety should not be threatened because criminal cases are left unsettled with authorities unable to indict the real culprits. It is essential to reconcile these two goals when considering the introduction of a recording system.

Before the full-scale adoption of such a system, it may be necessary to consider the introduction of a new investigative process that facilitates such methods as court-approved wiretapping and sting operations, so police and investigators can collect material evidence in addition to statements from suspects.

As the lay judge system is now in its second year of operation, public interest in the judiciary has been increasing. Discussions about the introduction of an interrogation recording system should be conducted in the public eye.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2010)
(2010年8月23日01時18分 読売新聞)


海保ヘリ墜落 原因究明を阻む悪質な隠蔽だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 23, 2010)
JCG's cover-up obstructs investigation
海保ヘリ墜落 原因究明を阻む悪質な隠蔽だ(8月22日付・読売社説)

The outrageous cover-up by the Japan Coast Guard over a recent fatal helicopter accident is nothing but an attempt to obstruct the investigation.

The 6th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters' helicopter Akizuru hit power lines and crashed in the Seto Inland Sea off Kagawa Prefecture on Wednesday afternoon, killing all five aboard.

For more than a day after the accident, the coast guard concealed the fact that one of the purposes of the helicopter's flight was a demonstration for a group of legal trainees who were aboard a JCG patrol boat to experience coast guard missions at sea.

The JCG initially said the helicopter was on a patrol flight and only changed its story when the media brought up the demonstration flights.

It is not surprising that Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara strongly criticized the JCG, saying, "The coast guard's concealment is serious, and it should reflect deeply on its conduct."

There is nothing wrong with carrying out demonstration flights. It is meaningful to give legal trainees an opportunity to observe the JCG's activities to help them understand the coast guard's mission.

However, the coast guard even concealed the demonstration flights from an official of the ministry's Japan Transport Safety Board who visited the crash site. In a broad sense, the JCG's conduct appears to be an attempt to destroy evidence related to the crash.

Systematic deception

What makes the latest case heinous is that senior JCG officials, including the chief of the 6th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, systematically decided not to disclose the demonstration flights.

In addition, when the JCG first acknowledged conducting the demonstration flights, the chief of the headquarters' general affairs division said, "I intentionally decided it was better not to disclose [the demonstration flights]," indicating that it was his decision. The coast guard covered up another fact by saying the head of the headquarters and other senior JCG officials were not involved in the decision.

The coast guard would never have acted in this manner if it had considered those who lost their lives in the line of duty and their bereaved families. The ministry should closely question the headquarters' chief and other senior JCG officials to lay the blame at the right door.

Commenting on the cover-up, the headquarters explained it did not mention the demonstration flights "because the site of the accident and the [area of the] demonstration flights were 17 kilometers apart and, therefore, they were unrelated."

Problem with flight plan?

However, the accident occurred between two demonstration flights when the helicopter was investigating an abandoned ship. Was there some problem with the helicopter's flight plan? A thorough investigation must be carried out before deciding on the relationship between the demonstration flights and the accident.

The transport safety board needs to look into the case thoroughly to determine the real reason behind the cover-up and the cause of the accident.

In investigating the 2005 JR Fukuchiyama Line derailment accident, a member of the then Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission, a predecessor of the board, leaked information related to its investigation to West Japan Railway Co. before the commission compiled a report on the accident--a monstrous mistake that investigative authorities should have prevented.

The transport safety board will lose public trust if it treats the coast guard with kid gloves during its investigation simply because the board and the JCG are organizations under the same ministry.

Merely keeping an eye on the piloting of aircraft is not enough to prevent such an accident from recurring. The board must investigate the JCG and the headquarters from all possible angles, including flight safety.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2010)
(2010年8月22日01時20分 読売新聞)


パキスタン洪水 対テロ前線国に支援を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 22, 2010)
Japan must lose no time in getting aid to Pakistan
パキスタン洪水 対テロ前線国に支援を急げ(8月21日付・読売社説)

Pakistan has been hit by devastating floods said to be the worst in 80 years.

It is feared flood damage will continue to spread as monsoon rains are expected to continue through the end of this month.

In a special meeting Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution urging member nations to extend emergency relief to the flood-ravaged nation. The meeting was called as international assistance had been insufficient despite the wide extent of the disaster-stricken areas and the seriousness of damage there.

The United States, which pressed for the U.N. meeting and had already extended 100 million dollars (about 8.5 billion yen) in relief funds for Pakistan, announced that it would contribute an additional 60 million dollars.

Pakistan has been at the forefront of the war on terrorism. Islamist militant terrorist groups operating there are trying to seize the opportunity to increase their influence under the guise of disaster relief efforts. The international community must offer immediate relief to prevent this natural disaster from helping the terrorists flourish.

Millions affected

The flood damage was caused by torrential rain that hit the Indus River basin in northwestern Pakistan in late July. Mud slides and flash floods washed away houses and bridges, and roads were submerged across the affected area.

Damage spread to the middle and lower reaches of the river, killing more than 1,500 people and affecting 20 million people. This means that more than 10 percent of Pakistan's population has been hit by the floods.

Three weeks after the initial damage, more than 8 million people still need emergency relief as they have lost their homes and possessions.

Evacuees reportedly are having difficulty obtaining enough food, water and tents. Besides having to endure hot and humid weather, many--especially children and the elderly--are suffering from cholera caused by worsening sanitary conditions. Many are also suffering from malaria.

Given the scale of damage, the United Nations is calling on member nations and relief organizations to extend 460 million dollars in aid. But a number of nations, with their ailing economies, are slow to respond. Aid money offered by the United States, Europe, Australia and some others totals only half the targeted amount.

GSDF to help

Japan's state secretary for foreign affairs, Osamu Fujimura, announced at the meeting that Japan would not only extend 14.4 million dollars but also dispatch a helicopter unit of the Ground Self-Defense Force.

The helicopter mission is expected to transport relief materials and rescue people isolated in areas where transport systems have been cut off. This aid measure probably will be the best match for the needs in the disaster-hit areas.

The problem is that SDF personnel cannot carry arms with them as the mission is based on the law governing the dispatch of the disaster relief teams. Given the security situation in Pakistan, it cannot be said there is no risk at all for SDF personnel to carry out their mission there.

We consider it problematic that the law is based on the idea that weapons are unnecessary for natural disaster relief activities. In cooperation with the Liberal Democratic Party, which had been calling for revision of the law in this regard, and others, the government should revise the law so SDF personnel could carry weapons with them during any mission in which security concerns exist.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,Aug. 21, 2010)
(2010年8月21日01時33分 読売新聞)


民主党代表選 「小鳩」の総括と政策論が先だ

(Aug. 21, 2010)
DPJ should debate policy, shun politicking
民主党代表選 「小鳩」の総括と政策論が先だ(8月20日付・読売社説)

With less than two weeks until campaigning for the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election gets underway on Sept. 1, each DPJ group has been engaged in an increasing amount of intraparty wheeling and dealing.

On Thursday, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama held a seminar for members of his group. The meeting was attended by former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, who heads the ruling party's largest segment.

Ozawa is reportedly considering running in the presidential race, provided he can receive support from a wide range of DPJ members, including those of the Hatoyama group. This has given rise to speculation that Ozawa's attendance at the Thursday meeting may have been part of his preparations for the election.

The seminar, which attracted about 150 DPJ lawmakers, served to display Hatoyama's continuing influence within the party. After stepping down as prime minister in early June, Hatoyama at one time expressed his intention to retire from politics.

Hatoyama's move could be seen as an attempt to regain his lost political privileges, by taking advantage of the obvious advances being made toward him by both Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Ozawa. Kan is apparently trying to woo Hatoyama to his side, in the hope of ensuring his reelection as DPJ chief and consequently prime minister. Ozawa is behaving in a similar fashion as he explores the possibility of running in the Sept. 14 election.

DPJ chiefs must fulfill duties

During Thursday's seminar, Hatoyama reiterated his assertion that the DPJ must be firmly united in running the country as the ruling party. He has said he will support Kan's bid to win reelection as DPJ leader if all the party's groups close ranks with each other.

However, we believe both Ozawa and Hatoyama must look squarely at their respective must-do lists, instead of engaging in calculated activities tied to their party's election.

Hatoyama bears a heavy responsibility for the rift created in the Japan-U.S. relationship as a result of the turmoil that arose from his inconsistent approach to the dispute over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture. Both Hatoyama and Ozawa have yet to fulfill their duty to fully explain about their connections with politics-and-money scandals.

How do Hatoyama and Ozawa appear to the public in these circumstances? These DPJ heavyweights are obviously resorting to an alliance as a political expedient, instead of reflecting on the scandals that erupted when the former was head of the DPJ and the latter was the party's secretary general.

Ozawa deserves particular reproach as a Tokyo inquest of prosecution panel continues to reconsider the pros and cons of prosecutors' earlier decision not to indict him over the politics-and-money scandal. If Ozawa enters the DPJ election, he should explain what he will do to settle the dispute over the scandal politically, morally and otherwise.

Use election opportunity

Meanwhile, Kan's attitude is no less problematic.

During a press conference in late July, he said the list of pledges he would prepare for the DPJ race would not include a rise in the consumption tax rate. Is it acceptable for Kan to use his party's setback in the last House of Councillors election as a reason for retracting his promise to restore fiscal health?

We believe the prime minister should more actively use the DPJ race as an opportunity to deepen intraparty discussions about the controversy over the consumption tax rate.

Another important issue to be taken up in campaigning for the race is how to treat the DPJ manifesto for last year's House of Representatives election.

It is easy to see the DPJ-led government will be unable to continue such lavish handouts as child-rearing allowances and toll-free services on expressways, when one considers the need to raise a massive amount of funds for such measures.

The DPJ government cannot avoid fundamentally reconsidering the electoral manifesto, given its year-end budget compilation.

Last year's change in administration means the DPJ race is comparable to the Liberal Democratic Party's earlier presidential elections in that the winner will, in effect, gain a passport to the premiership.

The DPJ should take this to heart. The upcoming presidential race must provide its candidates with an opportunity to compete to discuss what shape our country should take and present policies that would affect people's lives.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2010)
(2010年8月20日01時25分 読売新聞)


日韓FTA 未来志向で早期妥結をめざせ

(srachai from khonkaen, thailand)

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 20, 2010)
Get wheels turning on S. Korea trade talks
日韓FTA 未来志向で早期妥結をめざせ(8月19日付・読売社説)

Japanese and South Korean industrial circles both hope talks between their governments over a free trade agreement will be concluded soon, according to a recent survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and a leading South Korean business daily.

Responding to the poll taken by the Yomiuri and The Korea Economic Daily, more than 80 percent of 200 major Japanese and South Korean corporations said they thought a free trade accord between the two countries was "necessary." However, bilateral negotiations on a trade deal have been suspended since 2004.

We welcome the readiness expressed by these corporations to deepen relations in a future-oriented manner while competing yet coexisting in observing this year's centennial of Japan's annexation of the Korean Peninsula.

A free trade agreement is a treaty between two or more nations and territories seeking to reduce or abolish tariffs on industrial, agricultural and other products. Such an accord can do much to expand trade.

The current round of multilateral trade talks under the World Trade Organization has been stalled due to conflicting interests among WTO member nations. This has given rise to a sharp increase in the number of free trade pacts and economic partnership agreements aimed at expanding the scope of cooperation to include increased investment and other activities. In fact, about 200 FTA and EPA accords have come into effect around the world.

Japan lagging others

However, free trade agreement negotiations between Tokyo and Seoul have been left behind by the trend of the times. The gridlock in bilateral talks can be attributed to Japan's objection to market liberalization targeting farm and marine products, as well as South Korea's concern that its trade deficit with Japan could widen.

A six-year hiatus in bilateral talks is too long. The Japanese and South Korean governments should live up to the expectations of their respective industrial circles when they meet for working-level talks aimed at resuming the negotiations, probably in September.

Japan's slowness in forming economic partnerships with other countries is exemplified not only by its failure to break the impasse in trade talks with South Korea. This lack of progress is also evident in Tokyo's delay in forming similar ties with other nations and territories.

Japan has signed economic partnership agreements with 11 economies, including Singapore and Mexico, that have already taken effect. This nation is struggling to make headway in striking EPA deals with such agricultural powers as Australia and India. It is unknown whether or when the Japanese government will be able to sit at the negotiating table for trade pact talks with the United States and the European Union.

DPJ policy won't help

Dogged resistance from the domestic agricultural sector has been a stumbling block to efforts to open this country's market for farm imports.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government has introduced an income compensation system for individual rice farming households. However, this lavish handout policy will do nothing to increase the nation's agricultural competitiveness in preparation for trade liberalization.

The government likely will expand the income compensation program to include fishermen and other workers. This kind of protective policy must be wisely used to help pry open the domestic market.

Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa, an envoy chosen from the private sector, has expressed a desire to kick off free trade talks between Tokyo and Beijing. Progress in negotiations between Tokyo and Seoul could jump-start similar talks between Japan and China--and even free trade talks involving all three nations.

South Korea has reached free trade agreements with the United States and the EU. If Seoul gets a head start on Tokyo in starting talks with China, it would deal a blow to Japan.

The administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan has put together a new growth strategy that would utilize the vitality of emerging economies in Asia. If it truly seeks to accomplish that aim, the government should expedite free trade talks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2010)
(2010年8月19日01時59分 読売新聞)


南シナ海 中国進出の抑止は国際連携で

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 19, 2010)
Intl cooperation vital in South China Sea
南シナ海 中国進出の抑止は国際連携で(8月18日付・読売社説)

China is using its powerful navy to aggressively advance into the South China Sea, a key junction of international sea-lanes. The United States and countries in Asia are increasingly wary of China's moves.

The U.S. Defense Department said Monday in its annual report to Congress that "current trends in China's military capabilities are a major factor in changing East Asian military balances," referring to its moves in the South China Sea.

Japan also cannot overlook China's moves given the fact that it relies on marine transportation for imports of 90 percent of its energy and 60 percent of its food. The government must deepen cooperation with the United States, Vietnam, India and other countries concerned to resolve the problem.

Territorial disputes

The South China Sea, dotted with more than 200 islands and reefs, including the Spratly Islands, is the stage for several territorial disputes involving China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and other countries.

In recent years, China has been causing friction with other countries by dispatching its warships in the area on the pretext of protecting its fishing boats.

China is currently building a large submarine base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. A recent series of such moves can be interpreted as the country's attempt to bring the entire South China Sea under its control, not only for the sake of protecting its interests in oil and maritime resources but also for military reasons, such as to deter any possible intervention by U.S. forces in the event of an emergency involving Taiwan.

China has used the expression "core interests" in regard to its sovereignty and territorial integrity when it refers to Taiwan and Tibet. Recently, the country said it considered the South China Sea part of its "core interests" as well, a move that underlines concerns over China's possible intentions behind its latest moves.

The South China Sea is crossed by vital international sea-lanes that connect the Middle East with the Northeast Asia. No country can be allowed to make exclusive moves in the area. We strongly urge China to restrain itself.

Multilateralism a must

Vietnam and other Asian countries are calling on China to resolve territorial disputes through multinational negotiations. But China is unwilling to relax its position that countries claiming sovereignty should separately hold bilateral negotiations.

However, if territorial disputes develop into military conflicts, they would significantly affect all countries that use the area's sea-lanes. Given that, it will be reasonable to hold multinational negotiations among countries with interests in the area to discuss ways to ease tensions and measures to build trust.

It may also be a good idea to take up the issue at the East Asia Summit, which the United States also plans to join.

In order to persuade China to sit down for multinational negotiations, it will be essential for countries sharing concerns to cooperate with each other.

The Japanese government launched dialogues on a strategic partnership with India at the end of last year and with Vietnam last month, with the participation of both foreign and defense authorities. We urge the government to proactively take advantage of such dialogues and promote joint actions to alleviate tensions in the South China Sea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2010)
(2010年8月18日01時43分 読売新聞)


GDP急減速 景気腰折れへ警戒を強めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 18, 2010)
Govt must prevent economic slowdown
GDP急減速 景気腰折れへ警戒を強めよ(8月17日付・読売社説)

The Japanese economy, which has been recovering thanks to external demand and the effects of the government's economic stimulus measures, has suddenly slowed. The government must ensure that the adverse effects of this do not prevent economic growth.

The nation's real gross domestic product increased in the April-June quarter by 0.1 percent from the previous period. This represents the third consecutive quarter of growth, but the annualized growth rate is extremely low--only 0.4 percent.

Although domestic demand has shrunk, growth in the GDP had finally been maintained through exports and other forms of external demand. But the future of external demand is uncertain because of the rising yen and fears of economic downturns in other countries. In their policy management, the government and the Bank of Japan should give priority to stimulating the economy.

Sharp drops feared

The sluggish domestic demand is the result of previously robust personal consumption that slumped in the April-June quarter to an almost flat level. Government measures such as eco points for purchases of energy-saving home electrical appliances and subsidies for buying environmentally friendly cars seem to be finally losing their impact.

These are only a few economic stimulus measures, but the government is planning to terminate its subsidies for eco-friendly cars at the end of September. Car dealers and auto parts manufacturers are concerned about possible declines in sales and production as a result. Many predict that a sharp decrease in orders cannot be avoided from October.

This summer's heat wave is boosting sales of air conditioners and other summer-related products. However, more than a few electronics retail stores fear sales will drop sharply in reaction after the end of the seasonal demand caused by the blazing temperatures.

The government has said that its child-rearing allowances, which began in June, and other measures will eventually stimulate the economy. However, past handout policies such as the flat-sum allowance show that a significant economic boost cannot be expected from such steps.

Instead, the government should use the reserve fund of this fiscal year's budget to implement measures to prevent the economy from slowing down, such as continuing part of the government subsidy program for purchases of eco-friendly cars.

Block further yen rise

Lower budget allocations for public works projects are apparently affecting the economy. Public investments dropped by a drastic 3.4 percent in the April-June quarter from the previous period. This in particular will deal a heavy blow to regional economies that lack powerful local industries.

Apart from the reserve fund, the budget contains 1 trillion yen as a special allocation for future economic measures. Couldn't this money be used efficiently now to improve the economy?

External demand maintained growth, but the growth rate has slowed. Domestic industries are affected significantly by the yen's appreciation--if it rises by just 1 yen against the dollar, Toyota Motor Corp. will lose 30 billion yen in annual profits and Honda Motor Co. will lose 17 billion yen. This may dampen recovering investment on plant and equipment.

The latest appreciation of the yen was triggered by additional steps taken by the U.S. government to ease the supply of money. To alleviate this influence, this nation's central bank must adopt a more proactive stance toward monetary relaxation.

A strong yen lowers the prices of imported goods and fuels deflation. Sharp appreciation must be avoided.

If the yen soars toward 80 yen to the dollar, the government should stress its willingness to intervene in foreign exchange, if necessary, to prevent further appreciation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 17, 2010)
(2010年8月17日01時22分 読売新聞)


港の国際競争 上海や釜山が遠くに見える

albeit 発音注意、アルバイトではなくてオールビートと発音される。=although, even though
albeit belatedly 遅ればせながら

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 17, 2010)
Give hub ports the tools they need
港の国際競争 上海や釜山が遠くに見える(8月16日付・読売社説)

The government plans to enhance the allure of Japanese ports, which have been increasingly bypassed by gigantic containerships in recent years, so they can recapture cargo currently heading straight for rival ports in neighboring countries, such as Shanghai and Busan, South Korea.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry will promote a plan to build "international container strategic ports." The plan has designated the Keihin and Hanshin port areas as candidates to become major hubs that will receive priority investment to transform them into two of Asia's five major shipping centers by 2020. Keihin consists of Tokyo, Yokohama and Kawasaski ports, and Hanshin covers Osaka and Kobe ports.

Boosting Japanese ports' competitiveness by lowering transport charges and offering around-the-clock service would cheer domestic manufacturers, whose profitability often hinges on shipment costs. It would not be a bad idea to flexibly divert the limited state budget for ports to priority projects.

However, we doubt that reinforcing port facilities alone will increase the freight volume passing through Japanese ports. Rather, the entire operation of Japanese ports, which have been shunned by the international shipping industry as "costly and slow," needs to be overhauled.

Japan falling behind

Three decades ago, Kobe, Tokyo and Yokohama stood among the world's top 20 ports in terms of volume of freight containers handled. In 2009, Tokyo was the top Japanese port in this category, but ranked 26th in the world. The world's top five ports were all in Asia--Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Busan.

Large containers transporting auto parts and machine products account for a large portion of international shipments.

Consequently, ports with piers capable of mooring ultralarge containerships and low entry and usage charges and convenient access to key land routes have become indispensable.

Japan lags other Asian countries that have heavily invested in ports boasting such characteristics. Instead, Japan has continued pork-barrel investments in ports across the country to meet local needs, a strategy that has done little to improve the ports' convenience.

Even Japanese cargo owners are opting for shipping routes from domestic ports to U.S. and European destinations via hub ports in other Asian countries. Transshipment costs at Busan Port, for example, are 40 percent cheaper than those charged by some Japanese ports. It is little wonder that an increasing number of shipping companies sail past Japanese ports.

No easy task

The so-called strategic port plan calls, albeit belatedly, for integrating and privatizing port terminal corporations to streamline port operations.

But as long as port operations are conducted separately by shipping and cargo handling companies through their vertical administrations, improving the ports' efficiency will be easier said than done.

In 2004, the infrastructure ministry designated six ports, including Yokohama and Kobe, as "super hub ports." But the plan was half-baked. This time, too, the ministry did not select just one hub port, possibly to avoid upsetting one of the two major urban areas.

This latest port reform plan should go the extra step by learning from rival ports.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2010)
(2010年8月16日01時34分 読売新聞)


終戦の日 平和な未来を築く思い新たに

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 16, 2010)
Renewing our pledge for peace in the future
終戦の日 平和な未来を築く思い新たに(8月15日付・読売社説)

Once again, Aug. 15 has arrived. It is the day on which the nation commemorates its war dead and renews its pledge for peace.

Sixty-five years have passed since the end of World War II. However, wars and regional conflicts continue around the world despite efforts by the United Nations and others for nuclear disarmament and peace negotiations. We have yet to see a clear path to global peace.

Looking back on the end of the war in the summer of 1945 means reflecting on the origins of postwar Japan, which pledged to follow the path of international cooperation.

Today, the idea that the end of the war on Aug. 15 brought immediate peace to people's lives seems to have taken root in society.

Last-minute aggression

However, the Soviet troops that had invaded Japanese-held Manchuria in northeastern China just a week earlier on Aug. 9, in violation of a neutrality pact with Japan, continued their combat operations even after Aug. 15.

On Aug. 18, Soviet troops landed on Shumushu Island, the northernmost island in the Chishima group of islets, turning the island into a fierce battlefield between a garrison of the Imperial Japanese Army and the Soviet forces. Author Jiro Asada recently published a novel based on the battle, titled "Owarazaru Natsu" (Never-ending summer). The work helped the incident become more widely known to the public.

In Maokacho, a town in Sakhalin under Japanese rule, nine female telephone operators, who stayed on until the bitter end to maintain communications, killed themselves. A film called "Hyosetsu no Mon" (Gate of ice and snow), which is based on the tragedy and takes its title from the name of a monument in Hokkaido, has just been rereleased for the first time in 36 years.

Under international law, Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Powers on Sept. 2, 1945, with a signing ceremony aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. However, U.S. forces and most others stopped their attacks against Japan immediately after the Japanese government expressed its intention to accept the Potsdam Declaration on Aug. 14.

However, the Soviet troops continued their invasion and occupied four islands off Hokkaido, including Kunashiri Island, that are historically an integral part of Japan.

About 600,000 Japanese officers, soldiers and others were captured and sent to concentration camps in Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union as prisoners of war and forced to engage in harsh labor. About 60,000 of them are believed to have died in concentration camps due to hunger and cold.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1993 offered an apology for the detention in Siberia, calling it an "inhumane" act.

Last month, however, Russia designated Sept. 2 as the anniversary of the end of World War II, effectively stipulating it as the day the former Soviet Union triumphed over Japan. The Russian move is seen as a response to Japan's demand that Russia return the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

In light of such a move, Japan must be persistent in demanding that Russia return the islands.

Cruel atomic bombings

Another tragedy in the summer in 1945 was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

U.S. President Harry Truman insisted that the U.S. government had no choice other than dropping the atomic bombs on the two cities because Japan had refused to accept the Potsdam Declaration, which demanded unconditional surrender. However, the declaration was issued on July 26, the day after the president issued an order to drop the bombs.

Yet, if the Japanese government had announced its intention to accept the declaration immediately after the announcement, it might have been possible to avoid the bombings. The then Japanese leaders wasted time, pinning too much hope on the possibility of Soviet mediations for peace.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos became the first official U.S. representative to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima on Aug. 6 this year. However, some in the United States criticized his attendance at the event, saying it could be interpreted as an "unsaid apology."

For the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who said the United States has a moral responsibility to lead as the only nation ever to have used a nuclear weapon, it must have been a delicate decision.

There are strong arguments in the United States that the dropping of the atomic bombs saved the lives of many Americans by avoiding battles on mainland Japan.

However, the use of such cruel weapons deprived more than 200,000 citizens in Hiroshima and Nagasaki of their lives. The gravity of this fact cannot be erased.

Remember and reflect

Meanwhile, if Japan does not openly admit its own mistakes of the past and reflect on them, the country will not be able to win the confidence of the international community.

Japan misunderstood the world situation of the time and entered a reckless war while becoming increasingly isolated in the international community. It brought immense tragedy to the peoples of China and other East Asian countries.

In 2005, taking the opportunity of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, The Yomiuri Shimbun reexamined who was responsible for the Showa War.

(The Yomiuri coined the term "Showa War" in connection with its war responsibility series to describe the period of conflict lasting from the Manchurian Incident of 1931 to the end of World War II in 1945.)

As a result, many Class-A war criminals, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who were tried at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (also called the Tokyo Trial), were among those found to bear responsibility for the Showa War.

This year's Aug. 15 is the first time for the anniversary of the end of the war to be observed by a Democratic Party of Japan-led administration. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and all his Cabinet members were expected to shun the controversial visits to Yasukuni Shrine that have been made by some of their predecessors.

Kan said that he would not visit the Shinto shrine during his term of office, as Class-A war criminals are enshrined there.

In its policy platform announced last year, the DPJ expressed its intention to tackle the building of a new national memorial facility for the war dead. Full-scale discussion should begin with the aim of building a permanent facility where anyone can pay memorial tribute to the war dead without being troubled in mind.

Also this year, the government was expected to hold its annual ceremony Sunday at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward to mourn the nation's war dead. Although years have passed, the war remains deep in the memories of the Japanese people, which are handed down from generation to generation.

We hope that Aug. 15 will be a day to renew our determination to take assertive steps for world peace, seeking international cooperation and taking history into account.

By doing so, we would surely carry out the wishes of those who died in the war.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2010)
(2010年8月15日01時10分 読売新聞)