--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 29
EDITORIAL: Nonregular workers' pay

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) has decided to demand bigger wage hikes for part-time, temporary and other nonregular workers than the pay raises for full-time employees during next year's spring wage offensive. We welcome the decision.

The nation's largest labor organization says it will try to narrow the income gap by demanding larger increases in terms of hourly wages for nonregular workers than those for regular employees. Officials at labor unions belonging to Rengo will start discussions Nov. 1 on how to achieve the goal.

This is a groundbreaking policy shift for Rengo, which has traditionally focused on the interests of full-time employees who make up 90 percent of its members.

The move was prompted by a decline in the average wage level of Japan's work force due to a sharp rise in nonregular workers.

Over 15 years since 1995, the number of permanent employees has decreased by about 4 million, while the ranks of nonregular workers have grown by about 7 million to account for more than a third of the overall work force. As a result, the rate of unionized workers has fallen below 20 percent, eroding labor unions' bargaining power.

Despite the longest postwar economic expansion between 2002 and 2007, the average gross pay for Japanese workers has sunk 12 percent from its peak in 1997.

Shrinking paychecks have choked growth in consumer spending.

In addition, companies shed a huge number of nonpermanent workers during the economic crisis that began in fall 2008.
Union members on the regular payroll realized that their positions are being saved at the expense of the jobs of their nonpermanent colleagues, according to union leaders.

In a bid to stem the trend, Rengo has pledged to place greater importance on the interests of nonregular workers, showing its commitment to redressing the disparities between the two groups over the long term.

But it remains unclear how Rengo's new goal can be achieved.

The yen's sharp rise has aroused strong anxiety about the outlook for corporate earnings, and concerns remain about the trend among companies toward shifting operations overseas.

What Rengo has decided to demand is a higher share of nonregular workers in the pay increase for next year that doesn't involve a cut in the salaries of full-time employees. Still, it could spark howls of discontent among regular employees.

What is needed is a serious joint effort by the unions and the management of individual companies to share income in a fair manner. Such efforts should be based on a clear understanding of the effects of economic inequality on society and businesses.

Last year, Hiroshima Electric Railway Co., in response to a demand by its labor union, gave full-time positions to all contract workers by increasing its funds to pay wages.

In the United States in the late 1990s, a transport industry union staged a prolonged strike at United Parcel Service Inc., a major package delivery company, demanding better working conditions for part-time workers who were paid only about half the hourly wages of full-time employees. The company eventually agreed to a 3-percent pay raise for full-time employees and a 7-percent wage hike for part-timers to narrow the gap.

In both cases, the union succeeded in getting its demands granted by preventing a division among members. It provided detailed information to members about the issue while enlightening management on the serious effects of income disparities, such as weakened morale and declining quality of services.

It is also important to support such efforts by establishing a system to ensure fair work conditions based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

Another key step is to increase the responsibility of companies that use temporary workers placed by staffing agencies. This is crucial for supporting such workers' labor talks with businesses that use them. Unfortunately, this measure has been dropped from the revision to the worker dispatch law.

Bolstering the foundation for economic growth requires ensuring that hard work, either by regular or nonregular workers, is rewarded accordingly.



--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 28
EDITORIAL: Kansai federation

A Kansai regional federation to cover the affairs of seven prefectures, including Osaka and Hyogo, is expected to be established before the end of the year. Shiga, Kyoto, Wakayama, Tokushima and Tottori prefectures will also take part in the federation, which will be set up as a special organization under the local autonomy law.

Most administrative affairs, such as education and road maintenance, will continue to be under the jurisdiction of each prefecture. However, the seven prefectures will fund joint work in seven areas that they feel are better dealt with collectively, including disaster prevention, promotion of tourism and culture, industrial development, medical provision and environmental conservation. The federation will be run by an assembly of 20 members chosen from prefectural assembly members and a committee of the seven governors.

This is Japan's first attempt to establish a regional federation that transcends prefectural borders. There are pressing needs that the new body can help address, such as getting seriously ill patients to hospitals in neighboring prefectures when no hospitals in the local community will accept them.

As a next step, the organization will consider expanding its remit to improving infrastructure for transportation and goods distribution, and plans to eventually take over functions from central government.

Long-held discontent in the local business community is behind the move. Business people question why the Kansai area is lagging behind Tokyo despite its advanced technology and economic strength. There is also an expectation that the new structure will allow the streamlining of administration and some local business leaders, including members of the Kansai Economic Federation, hope the move will advance decentralization.

However, Nara, Fukui and Mie prefectures, which took part in advance consultations about the new federation, decided not to join. Skeptics say that the federation is redundant within the existing structure of government, which is made up of municipalities, prefectures and the central government, and that cooperation is enough in the seven areas the federation will deal with. Another criticism is that the new body will complicate government and obscure where responsibility for lies.

The federation agreement asserts that it will not directly lead to a doshusei regional system of government and the abolition of prefectures. While the Kansai Economic Federation and Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto are positive about the doshusei concept, quite a few other governors are either opposed or cautious about the idea. The federation will start with different views as such.

Some people have voiced concerns that once the federation is established, funding will be concentrated on densely populated areas, causing surrounding areas to decline. This has been seen to happen in some municipal mergers. Thought is needed to avoid concentration on central areas.

The Kansai region has many historic and cultural sites. It would be more effective for prefectures to work jointly to attract tourists. When natural disaster strikes, prefectures should help each other, not only during the initial emergency response but all the way down the path to full recovery. Will residents actually see results? This could decide whether the federation is successful.

The new federation was forged on the initiative of business people and governors, not ordinary residents. The impetus has come from above, rather than the grass roots. It must ensure that it does more than just increasing the government payroll, and actually present residents with achievements.

While opinion is divided on this novel experiment, we believe it is worth giving a go and will carefully watch its progress.


Nagai dies for Burmese Democracy


cite from wikkipedia,


Nagai, with a camera still in his hands, after he was fatally shot by a Burmese soldier. Taken by Adrees Latif, this photo won Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2008. Nagai had been in Burma covering the anti-government protests since Tuesday, September 25. On Thursday, September 27, Nagai was photographing the protests near the Traders Hotel, a few blocks away from the Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators, killing Nagai and reportedly injuring another foreign journalist.

Reports initially stated that Nagai was hit by stray bullets fired by soldiers or possibly shot from the front. The "stray bullet" explanation was proposed by the government of Burma as an explanation for Nagai's death. However, video footage obtained by Japanese television appears to show a Burmese soldier shoving Nagai to the ground and shooting him at point-blank range.

A still image photographed by Adrees Latif showed the soldier standing over Nagai, who was sprawled on the ground and still clutching his camera.

This photograph appeared on the front page of The New York Times on September 28, 2007.

A subsequent shot showed Nagai's body sprawled in the street as the soldier walked away.

Judging from the patch, the soldier responsible is believed to be from one of the Light Infantry Divisions (possibly LID 66) in charge of crowd control in Yangon at the time of protests.

At the Japanese embassy in Burma, a physician established the trajectory of the fatal bullet that killed Nagai, determining that the bullet entered Nagai's chest from the lower right side and pierced his heart before exiting from his back.
在ビルマ日本大使館によると、ドクターの所見では銃弾は背後から撃たれたもので右胸低部から心臓を突き抜けていた。(日本語版と齟齬がありますが、英語版の翻訳です by srachai)

On October 8, new footage showing how a Burmese soldier apparently confiscated fallen Nagai's video camera was revealed on a Japanese news show.

Adrees Latif's photo, depicting Nagai sprawling on the pavement before his death, won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2008.


Reporters Without Borders condemned the killing of Nagai, noting that Nagai was carrying a camera in his hand when he was shot, identifying him as a journalist. The director of the RWB's Washington, D.C. branch, Lucie Morillon, said that Nagai was "left to die in the street."

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda bemoaned Nagai's death as "extremely unfortunate" and Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura offered his prayers and condolences.

Machimura said: "We strongly protest the Myanmar government and demand an investigation (into the death). We demand (Myanmar) take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the Japanese citizens in that country."

Japan's Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura stated that Japan holds Burma accountable for the death of Kenji Nagai.

According to Komura, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told him that the "international community cannot allow peaceful protesters to be killed and injured".

On September 28, Masahiko Komura lodged a protest over the killing of Nagai when he met with Burma's Foreign Minister Nyan Win at the United Nations Headquarters. In the meeting, Nyan Win apologized for Nagai's death. 9月28日、高村正彦外務大臣はニューヨークの国連本部でミャンマーのニャン・ウィン(Nyan Win)外相と会談。「平和的デモに強圧的な実力行使が行われ、日本人が死亡した。大変遺憾であり強く抗議する」と述べ、ウィン外相が謝罪した。また「報道の映像で見る限り、至近距離から射殺されており決して流れ弾のようなものではない。真相解明を強く求める」と発言した。

Yabunaka Mitoji, Deputy Minister for Japanese Foreign Affairs, left for Burma on September 30.

Although Nyan Win officially apologized, an October 13 article locally published in the government-owned Mirror newspaper offered a different view of the events. It claimed that Nagai had entered the country using a tourist visa instead of proper journalist visa and faulted the cameraman for failing to get a permit to cover the news inside Burma. It emphasized that the event occurred at the time of martial law being imposed and the soldiers could not differentiate between a Burmese citizen and a Japanese because of the resemblance in Asian looks.
事件は戒厳令下に発生した。同じ東洋人でビルマ人と見分けがつかなかった。(嘘です、一目瞭然です by srachai)

Nagai's father, Hideo, told the media: "I don't want Myanmar authorities and the government to resort to such measures. I want them to prevent something like this from happening again." According to Japan's Foreign minister Masahiko Komura, Japan is considering curbing development aid for Burma.

"The Group Protesting the Murder of Mr. Nagai by the Army of Myanmar" was founded by Japanese journalists, intellectuals and celebrities in order to protest Nagai's killing and petition for the return of his camera and tape.
By November 2007 the group collected 20,000 signatures, primarily in Japan. On November 26, 2007, the group posted an English version of the letter on their website and started collecting signatures internationally.

(翻訳は意訳です by srachai)


太平洋経済連携 首相は交渉参加に指導力を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 28, 2010)
Kan must take initiative to join TPP negotiations
太平洋経済連携 首相は交渉参加に指導力を(10月27日付・読売社説)

Members of the government and the Democratic Party of Japan are split over whether Japan should join an economic partnership framework to liberalize trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is extremely important for Japan's economic growth that this nation harnesses the economic vitality of nations in Asia and elsewhere.

We urge Prime Minister Naoto Kan to exercise leadership to quickly form a consensus within his party on this matter, and make sure Japan is actively involved in the partnership framework.

The framework is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, whose original agreement came into force in 2006 with four members--Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. Five more nations including the United States and Australia later started negotiations to join the partnership. The nine nations have been negotiating with the target of concluding a final agreement next autumn.

Canada, China and South Korea are reportedly keen to join the TPP. It is highly likely that this grouping will eventually expand into a huge strategic economic partnership agreement.


Chance to grow at stake

If Japan does not join the TPP, it would be excluded from a framework indispensable for the country's economic development. We think the government would be wise to join the negotiations as early as possible to boost trade and give economic growth a shot in the arm.

Discussions for and against participation in the TPP came to life after Kan told the Diet he would consider joining the negotiations.

Japan's strategy on economic partnership agreements has fallen behind those of South Korea and other countries. The government will at long last formulate a basic policy on EPAs in early November. It seems Kan wants to include Japan's participation in the TPP in this basic policy.

The timing of these developments suggests Kan would like to lead discussions on promoting free trade at a series of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings to be held in Yokohama next month. Kan will be chairman of the APEC summit.

Japan urgently needs to regain lost ground in its trade policy. We welcome Kan's zeal for joining the TPP.

However, difficulties lie ahead. The TPP defines rules to abolish tariffs of commodities in principle. If Japan signed on to the agreement, it would be required to abolish tariffs on agricultural products such as rice, which have been protected by high customs duties. Therefore, the framework will pose some vexing problems for Japan.


Conflicts of interest

Agricultural organizations and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry fiercely oppose joining the TPP. Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Masahiko Yamada and many other DPJ members participated in a recent study meeting for DPJ members who oppose the TPP. They are at odds with the Foreign Ministry, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and the business community, which are all for participation in the TPP.

We think Hatoyama and other TPP opponents are more concerned with trying to rattle the Kan administration than actually objecting to the trade partnership.

Admittedly, diametrically differing estimates of the effects of Japan's participation in the TPP have created confusion. METI and others say joining the TPP would help Japan's economy by about 7 trillion yen to 10 trillion yen in 2020. However, the farm ministry says participation would result in a loss of nearly 16 trillion yen, if the decline in agricultural production and effects on other industries are factored into the equation.

The government needs to settle on one final figure and show it to the people. Failure to do so will leave the public unable to judge whether joining the TPP would be to Japan's advantage or not.

The DPJ-led government has introduced income support for individual agricultural households, but it has done nothing to improve the international competitiveness of Japan's agricultural products. It should review this dole-out policy and quickly formulate measures to revamp the nation's agriculture sector to prepare for liberalization of the market.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 27, 2010)
(2010年10月27日01時46分 読売新聞)


インド首相来日 経済・安保両面で連携深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 27, 2010)
Japan, India must deepen security, economic ties
インド首相来日 経済・安保両面で連携深めよ(10月26日付・読売社説)

India, a major power in South Asia, is not only a promising market with a fast-developing economy but also a country that shares concerns with Japan over China's military expansion.

Tokyo should strategically enhance its partnership with India in both economic and security fields.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Japan this week and agreed with Prime Minister Naoto Kan to establish a ministerial-level economic dialogue between the two countries.

Japan has been holding similar ministerial talks with China. But the aftermath of a Chinese fishing vessel's collision with Japan Coast Guard patrol boats off the Senkaku Islands in September has revealed that China, under the single-party regime of the Chinese Communist Party, does not hesitate to use high-handed diplomatic measures over economic and personnel exchanges to push its political demands.

By contrast, India is a democratic country and shares similar values with Japan, such as the rule of law. It does not present the political risks that China does. Besides, India has a population of 1.2 billion, the second largest after China, and maintains a high economic growth rate of 9 percent annually.


Economic enhancement

Enhancement of Japan's economic partnership with India will alleviate the nation's economic dependence on China.

In their summit talks, Kan and Singh also agreed that Japan will help India increase production of rare earths, which are indispensable in manufacturing many high-tech products. India's output of rare earths is far behind China's but is still the second largest in the world.

We think Japan's cooperation agreement with India in this field is very timely because it is an urgent task for Japan to redress the current situation, in which the nation is totally dependent on China for its imports of rare earths.

The two leaders also officially endorsed an economic partnership agreement and promised each other to put it into effect as soon as possible.

With the agreement, India's tariffs on imports of Japanese auto parts and steel would be abolished within 10 years. This would enable Japanese companies manufacturing products in India to drastically reduce the costs of procuring parts from Japan.

The agreement also will simplify procedures for Japanese businesspeople to obtain visas for brief visits or longer stays in India. It will surely help expand business opportunities for Japan in the country.


Security cooperation

Security cooperation between the two countries is significant, too. Japan faces a direct threat from China's maritime expansion in the East China Sea, while India is exposed to a similar threat in the Indian Ocean.

Japan and India should actively utilize vice-ministerial talks between their foreign and defense ministries, which were established at the end of last year, to discuss common strategy regarding China, such as measures to ensure the safety of sea lanes.

The two countries also need to seek partnerships with the United States, and then with the Southeast Asian countries that stand at the forefront of friction with China. To realize this goal, Japan and India, regional powers in Asia, must further deepen bilateral relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 26, 2010)
(2010年10月26日01時52分 読売新聞)



Burma's highest court has agreed to hear my final appeal for release from house arrest. I want to be out before the election.
9:01 AM Oct 22nd via Seesmic Desktop

@Plaid_Hu I'm tricky like that! Guess the Junta never noticed the satelite dish I had installed on the roof.
9:00 AM Oct 22nd via Seesmic Desktop in reply to Plaid_Hu
(これは軍事政権が容認しているものと考えられます。民主化の流れは中国でもそうですし、ビルマ軍事政権も考えているということです。ビルマ軍は国防上大切な役目を担っています。そのうちきっとわかってくれると確信します by srachai)

Great story. "How can we expect change when there are still 2,200 political prisoners on election day?” http://bit.ly/b3O0Ds
10:23 AM Oct 20th via Seesmic Desktop

I agree. "Election will be credible only if the junta allows opposition leaders & ethnic minorities to participate" -UN rights investigator
1:40 PM Oct 19th via Seesmic Desktop

学研究予算 戦略なき削減は禍根を残す

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 26, 2010)
Reckless budget cuts create future problems
科学研究予算 戦略なき削減は禍根を残す(10月25日付・読売社説)

For Japan to survive intense international competition, there is no alternative but to build a nation driven by science and technological development. But it seems to us that the government is making light of this premise.

Many science-related budgetary allocations, including subsidies to sustain a wide range of basic research, are subject to "policy contests" in which budgetary requests by government ministries and agencies in the fiscal 2011 budget will be screened publicly.

State-run universities, which are instrumental in promoting research and fostering human resources, are included in the list of entities to be publicly screened. Operational subsidies, which are the universities' major financial lifeline, will be cut by about 56 billion yen--or nearly 5 percent--if all of their requests are rejected during the public screening.
The 56 billion yen corresponds to the entire amount of subsidies provided to Kyoto University, the second-biggest amount among national universities.

Protect university subsidies

Since state-run universities were turned into incorporated bodies in 2004, state subsidies to them have been trimmed by about 1 percent annually--a total cut of just over 80 billion yen. This might exacerbate the current severe situation under which it is difficult to maintain research and education levels.

About 210 billion yen, or 15 percent, of the budgetary requests for promoting science and technology projects--direct investments in this important field--will be subject to public screening. Also subject to scrutiny is the budget for a space probe to succeed Hayabusa, which earlier this year returned to Earth after completing its mission to the Itokawa asteroid.

The important thing is to promote research and development in both basic and practical fields while fostering capable personnel. Government investment should be decided from comprehensive and strategic viewpoints.

Screening science budgets, in which participants vie for superiority from a short-term perspective against other government policies, will open the door to serious problems in the future.

Final decisions on whether the projects will go ahead will be made by an evaluation panel comprising government leaders. We hope the panel will at least scrutinize individual projects closely so as not to nip promising programs in the bud.

Many people in the science and technology field are concerned that there could be a repeat of last autumn's open budget screening to eliminate waste in government spending.

Investments in future vital

The advisability of the government's project to develop a world-class supercomputer was questioned at a screening panel last year. One panel member even asked why Japan should try to develop the world's fastest computer. It is foolhardy to cut a budget without understanding how importance the project is.

The policy contests--and the opportunity to divide up more than 1 trillion yen set aside by the government--were introduced in return for a uniform 10 percent cut from the previous fiscal year in budgetary requests by all government ministries and agencies.

Most science-related budgets are compiled by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. Due to constraints such as the 10 percent cut in budgetary requests and the 400 billion yen required for free high school education--an important policy of the ruling parties--subsidies for state-run universities will be screened.

We think high school tuition should only be made free if there is an income ceiling on recipients, so that only families who cannot afford to pay are entitled to the financial aid.

Investments in the future should not be trimmed because money has to be set aside for government hand-out policies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 25, 2010)
(2010年10月25日01時01分 読売新聞)




Plaid_SuuKyi The new flag has a white star in the middle with 3 columns of color - yellow, green and red. http://bit.ly/d3BQfl
1,287,763,699,000.00 via Seesmic Desktop
Reply Retweet .

Plaid_SuuKyi Yesterday the junta reveiled our new national flag, its suppose to stand for solidarity, peace & tranquility, & courage & decisiveness.
1,287,763,611,000.00 via Seesmic Desktop
Reply Retweet .

Plaid_SuuKyi My house arrest is due to expire on Nov 13 a week after the election.
1,287,763,334,000.00 via Seesmic Desktop
Reply Retweet .

Plaid_SuuKyi Burma's highest court has agreed to hear my final appeal for release from house arrest. I want to be out before the election.
9:01 AM Oct 22nd via Seesmic Desktop

Plaid_Hu Surprised the Myanmar Government allows @plaid_suukyi to use Twitter and have access to the Internet #imjustsayin
11:24 PM Oct 21st via web
(今までジャンタにより制限されていたのは間違いないと思う byスラチャイ)


反日デモ拡大 中国指導部は沈静化を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2010)
Chinese leaders must calm anti-Japan rallies
反日デモ拡大 中国指導部は沈静化を急げ(10月19日付・読売社説)

Even as official Japan-China relations have been improving, a string of large anti-Japan demonstrations have been taking place in inland Chinese cities such as Chengdu, Xian and Wuhan.

Involving thousands to tens of thousands of people, the demonstrations began at the end of last week over the September incident involving the collision of a Chinese fishing boat and Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels off the Senkaku Islands.

University students joined the demonstrations, responding to cell-phone text messages urging them to protest, and some ordinary citizens followed them.

Some demonstrators became violent and attacked Japanese supermarkets and restaurants, breaking their windows. Rioters also burned Japanese national flags, turned over Japanese automobiles and left streets in shambles.

Similar demonstrations seem to be spreading to other cities in China. They are a serious concern for Japan-China relations.

Chinese authorities must use every means at their disposal to stop demonstrations from turning into riots, protect the safety of Japanese residents and avoid any disruption to the operations of Japanese companies in the country.


Chinese youth frustrated

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "It is understandable that some people expressed their outrage against the recent erroneous words and deeds on the Japanese side." This stance sounds as if Beijing is encouraging illegal acts.

University students living in inland regions of China have been suffering from a serious hiring slump. Economic disparities are also spreading between urban and rural regions of the country.

In addition to these factors of social instability, young people born from 1980 on have been taught anti-Japanese propaganda to stir their patriotic and nationalistic sentiment, education that was strengthened under the government of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Any little catalyst can prompt them to anti-Japan action.

The international community is paying even more attention to the democratization of China, especially since imprisoned activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are apparently most afraid that young people's frustrations, which are now taking the form of anti-Japan protests, could transform into antigovernment movements demanding democracy.

That is why some observers suspect Chinese security authorities are maneuvering anti-Japan demonstrations to alleviate young people's discontent.


Chinese leaders tested

The latest demonstrations happened during the plenary meeting of the party's Central Committee. Some observers have even said that it is difficult to rule out the possibility that the military and the conservative wing of the party, which are profoundly wary of Japan, have staged the demonstrations to pressure party leaders so they will not readily make concessions to Tokyo over the Senkaku incident.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping was elected vice chairman of the party's Central Military Commission at the committee's plenary meeting. This makes Xi certain to succeed party General Secretary Hu Jintao at the party's congress in autumn of 2012. We believe Xi needs to realize the significance of China's relations with Japan.

Early this month, Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao confirmed in Brussels that they would promote a strategic, mutually beneficial relationship between their countries. However, if anti-Japan demonstrations continue to happen frequently in China, efforts to mend bilateral relations might fail. Chinese leaders' stance on the matter is being tested.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2010)
(2010年10月19日01時30分 読売新聞)


格安航空参入 本格化する「空」の価格競争

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 19, 2010)
Low-cost carriers will ignite airfare war
格安航空参入 本格化する「空」の価格競争(10月18日付・読売社説)

Foreign low-cost carriers (LCCs) are lining up to enter the Japanese market. They are catching the eyes of customers by offering ultralow fares--for example, 5,000 yen for Haneda-Kuala Lumpur flights and 4,000 yen on the Ibaraki-Shanghai route.

Airfares in Japan are said to be the highest in the world. Intensified price competition will be ringing alarm bells at major domestic airlines, which have provided service to passengers calculated on the premise of charging high airfares.

The advance into Japan by these carriers is expected to stimulate demand for air travel among passengers--especially young people--who are sensitive to fares, thereby attracting visitors from Asia and elsewhere. We hope these carriers' full entry into the Japanese market will help revitalize the national economy.

LCCs now fly about 40 percent of all passengers in the United States and Europe and nearly 20 percent in Asia. Their trademark management strategy is to offer rock-bottom airfares by slashing operating costs.


Cost-cutting efforts

These airlines keep a lid on maintenance costs by using a limited number of aircraft models and maximizing flight numbers by shuttling between destinations with a short turnaround time. They crimp on personnel costs by making cabin crew clean the aircraft. Seats are squeezed close together and passengers must pay for in-flight meals and movies.

Australia's Jetstar Airways, South Korea's Jeju Air and China's Spring Airlines are already here, and Malaysia's AirAsia--the largest low-cost carrier in Asia--will start operating in Japan in December. This is expected to crank up competition among LCCs.

Regular international flights will resume at Haneda Airport late this month for the first time in 32 years with the completion of a new runway. The number of departure and arrival slots at Haneda and Narita airports will expand to 750,000 a year--1.5 times the current figure--in three to four years.

The planned increase in slots will have the LCCs rubbing their hands with glee. Their entry into Japan had been hampered by the restricted number of available slots.

To counter the arrival of foreign LCCs, All Nippon Airways will establish Japan's first full-scale LCC this year and start service next fiscal year. Japan Airlines, which is struggling to reconstruct itself after filing for court-administered bankruptcy early this year, also is contemplating launching an LCC.


Change concept

Some observers have suggested the Japanese LCCs will steal passengers away from their parent airlines. But domestic airlines will fall behind foreign LCCs in attracting Asian passengers and also lose Japanese passengers to them if they sit idly by. ANA and JAL must overhaul their deep-seated, high-cost management mind-set and promote their low-cost business in earnest.

LLCs have not found a foothold in the Japanese market because this nation's civil aviation policy paid more heed to the intentions of domestic airlines sticking with high fares than to passengers.

We think the government should reinforce its policy support of LCCs as this will enhance the international competitiveness of domestic airlines and promote Japan as a tourism-oriented country.

The government must consider lowering the expensive landing fees that have rankled foreign airlines, build terminals exclusively for LCCs and deregulate the fare system so fares can be set flexibly. Needless to say, the industry must be closely supervised to ensure that passenger safety is never compromised.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2010)
(2010年10月18日01時28分 読売新聞)


生物多様性会議 自然の恵み守るルール作りを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 18, 2010)
Formulate rules to protect gift of nature
生物多様性会議 自然の恵み守るルール作りを(10月17日付・読売社説)

International cooperation is indispensable to protect the Earth's natural environment, which is inhabited by a vast array of organisms.

The 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) kicks off in Nagoya on Monday to discuss related measures. About 190 countries and regions will participate.

It is an urgent task to head off the ecosystem destruction currently under way across the globe. We hope COP10 will serve as a catalyst toward this end.

Biodiversity is a keyword of the conference, but it is unfamiliar to most people.

The Earth's organisms are interconnected and interdependent. Microbes fertilize soil on which trees grow. Berries and fruits on the trees are precious food for animals.

Of course, seafood and grains on our table also are a gift of nature.

This natural cycle is predicated on the continued existence of a wide variety of organisms, believed to number in the tens of millions. We must protect this biodiversity and maintain the environment for its sustainable future use.

Halting biodiversity loss

However, it is said that as many as 40,000 kinds of organisms go extinct on Earth each year. This is partly due to a decline in tropical forests, host to a plethora of life forms, because of development by humans.

Therefore, setting a concrete target to stop this biodiversity loss likely will be the focus of attention at the Nagoya conference.

The European Union is calling for a target of halting biodiversity loss by 2020, but developing countries that want to place priority on development insist on a more moderate goal.

We hope countries will cooperate to reach a realistic agreement to tackle the problem.

Another contentious issue on the COP10 agenda is formulating rules on how profits should be apportioned to developing countries if companies in advanced countries make pharmaceuticals using animals, plants or microbes taken from developing countries.

Biological resources help our life in a variety of ways. For example, Madagascar periwinkle originally from Madagascar is used as a compound in making anticancer agents.

Bridging the divide

However, a wide gap exists between developing countries, which demand a larger share of the lucrative profits from their biological resources, and advanced nations, which want to reduce profit-sharing out of concern over an increased burden on drugmakers.

The Convention on Biological Diversity, together with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are called "twin treaties."

Yet the reality is that in either case, the tug-of-war between advanced countries and developing countries keep discussions from progressing.

The diplomatic and organizational abilities of COP10 chair Japan will be put to the test in Nagoya, as attention focuses on whether the conference will be able to draw up fair and equitable rules.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 17, 2010)
(2010年10月17日01時06分 読売新聞)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 15
EDITORIAL: Lessons from Chile

People all over the world held their breath as they watched the dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners and then breathed a collective sigh of relief as they were reunited with their families.

All of the 33 miners were trapped 700 meters underground when the copper mine in northern Chile collapsed in early August. They were lifted safely to the surface after being stuck in a tunnel for 69 days.

It was a rescue drama that will be remembered by posterity. It was made possible by good judgment and effective leadership from a veteran miner, fine teamwork among the miners, the family love that supported them throughout the ordeal, aid offers from around the world, and the tenacious efforts and technological prowess of the rescue team that accomplished a dangerous mission.

Behind the accident, however, lies a daunting challenge for today's world: soaring global demand for resources driven by the robust economic growth of China and other emerging countries, as well as the decreasing availability of those resources.

Chile has the world's largest copper reserves and is the largest producer of the metal. It has the world's largest open-pit copper mine, which stretches more than 4 kilometers and attracts droves of tourists, as well as many smaller mines.

The San Jose mine, where the accident occurred, is one of those medium- to small-sized mines. Its safety has been repeatedly called into question, and it was shut down following a fatal explosion in 2007. The mine was reopened in summer 2008 as copper prices shot up.

It is hard to deny that the mining was resumed hastily without enough effort to deal with safety concerns. In the August accident, as much as 700,000 tons of rock collapsed. After years of serious effort to improve safety at large mines across the globe, the rock fall surprised many industry observers, who say such a large-scale mine cave-in is now almost unthinkable.

Demand for copper and other metals is perking up as the world economy recovers from the global recession triggered by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008. In particular, China, where demand for copper started growing sharply in the late 1990s, now accounts for about a third of global demand. As a result of the explosive growth of demand, copper prices have skyrocketed.

Higher prices make even poor-quality mines economically viable. The trend in recent years has been toward deeper and poorer-quality mines.

The San Jose mine was reopened against this backdrop.

The world's dependence on China for supplies of rare earth metals, which are indispensable for manufacturing a wide range of high-tech products, is attracting much international attention.
But there is also no room for optimism about the future outlook of such common metals as copper, aluminum and lead. There are few alternatives for copper, an essential material to produce electric wires, and many of the easy-to-operate copper mines have already been developed.

Mining-related accidents are, unfortunately, not a rarity. More effort should be made to expand international cooperation, not just in dealing with accidents once they occur, but also to prevent accidents by implementing proper safety measures.

It is also necessary to take steps to prepare for the eventual depletion of these natural resources. It will become increasingly important in the coming years to make more efficient use of limited resources and expand their reuse. Japan has a significant role to play in promoting such efforts.

The U.S. administration of President Barack Obama has approved the lifting of the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling imposed after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is also vital to minimize the environmental impact of underground mining and resource development projects.


海上阻止訓練 「北の核」包囲へ日韓協力深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 16, 2010)
Japan-S. Korea navy ties needed to contain North
海上阻止訓練 「北の核」包囲へ日韓協力深めよ(10月15日付・読売社説)

Our world would immediately be put at risk if ships carrying nuclear weapons and nuclear-related goods were free to sail wherever they wanted. Nations around the world must join hands to stop such unrestricted conduct.

The latest maritime interdiction drill performed in waters off Busan, South Korea, was an example of the kind of cooperation that can be facilitated by the international community.

The two-day exercise that ended Thursday was organized by South Korea in accordance with the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a U.S.-led program involving 96 nations to prevent the further spread of weapons of mass destruction. Four nations took part in the training--Japan, South Korea, the United States and Australia.

The exercise included a drill in which two destroyers from the Maritime Self-Defense Force played a leading role in halting and searching a vessel in cooperation with two South Korean Navy destroyers and a U.S. Navy aegis-equipped destroyer. The drill was based on a scenario in which the searched ship was carrying suspicious freight.

Over the years, the MSDF and the South Korean Navy have joined a large U.S. Navy exercise off the coast of Hawaii, known as RIMPAC.

However, this latest event was the first of its kind in which Japan and South Korea sent ships for a multilateral drill in waters close to their shores.

Shared threat

The two nations have long adhered to their respective perceptions of history. This has probably been a factor behind the cautious attitude both nations have toward bilateral security cooperation.

However, a deepening threat posed by North Korea has changed all this.

Immediately after the reclusive state conducted a second nuclear test in May 2009 despite condemnation by the international community, South Korea said it would fully join the PSI. Seoul's decision to take the lead in organizing this month's maritime drill came after it concluded the sinking of a South Korean Navy patrol boat in March was caused by a torpedo attack by the North.

North Korea--a country that has relentlessly pursued nuclear arms and ballistic missiles--is the greatest element of instability in East Asia.

Pyongyang has declared it will bolster its nuclear deterrent, despite an economy facing imminent collapse. The hermit nation has also entered a period of transition, in which Kim Jong Un is being positioned as the heir apparent to his father, supreme leader Kim Jong Il, in what would be the third generation of the Kim family to hold power.

Keep up intl pressure

The international community should not drop its guard with respect to North Korea, which exports ballistic missiles to earn foreign cash, and imports materials and commodities needed to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.

The U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution against North Korea imposing an embargo on WMDs and goods related to the production of such arms, while also requesting member states to inspect vessels connected to North Korea suspected of carrying such cargo.

We believe it is essential to continue PSI-based maritime interdiction drills to ensure the U.N. resolution blocks Pyongyang's WMD ambitions.

There is a limit to what can be achieved through such exercises, given the need to obtain consent from the nation a ship belongs to when a cargo inspection is deemed necessary in international waters. North Korea cannot be expected to accept such inspections. Still, carrying out multilateral maritime interdiction drills can do much to strongly deter the unpredictable regime from proliferating WMDs.

Further progress in advancing cooperation between Japan and South Korea in this area will increase trust between the two nations, as well as improve collaboration between Tokyo, Seoul and Washington as they stand up to the challenge Pyongyang presents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 15, 2010)
(2010年10月15日01時21分 読売新聞)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 13
EDITORIAL: Unified Germany at 20

When the Berlin Wall came down, East Germans spilled into the streets and chanted, "We are one people." The outpouring of their longing for the freedom and prosperity of the West turned the wheels of history.

Germany's reunification, on Oct. 3, 1990, heralded a new era in contemporary history.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary, German President Christian Wulff noted: "In 1989 the East Germans chanted 'We are the people, we are one people.' This evoked a sense of national identity that had long been buried ... . Now, 20 years on, a new self-confidence has taken hold throughout Germany, a relaxed brand of patriotism, a frank assertion of belief in our country--a country that is aware of its great responsibility for the past and that is shaping the future accordingly."

We would say Germany has scored historic successes over the past 20 years.

Back in 1990, Germany's neighbors were apprehensive about reunification. Although Germany engaged in deep soul-searching after its defeat in World War II, former victim nations had yet to fully get over their collective memories of the destruction caused by Germany in the two world wars and the unspeakable horrors of the Nazi death camps.

Aware of these sentiments, German leaders chose to incorporate their country into the multilateral cooperative framework of European nations which were striving to realize regional integration, even if that meant making some sacrifices.

Germany abandoned the Deutsche mark, which was Europe's strongest currency at the time, and agreed to adopt the euro. Germany also encouraged Poland, Czechoslovakia and other central and eastern European nations to join the EU as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. These policies won the support of the rest of Europe and the United States and the acceptance of Russia.

Rather than allow itself to be swallowed up in the current of history, Germany opted to go with the times and lead the nation in a direction that would best serve the interests of its people.

There is no question that Bonn's foreign policy, based on this position, has worked very favorably for the country.

As a result of the integration of European markets, more than 60 percent of German exports today are bound for Europe. Germany's highly competitive automobile and chemical industries are helping to prop up the European economy as a whole.

In foreign policy, Germany maintains independent relations with the United States and Russia, and is also party to negotiations over the Iranian nuclear issue. Also, many German troops are on missions in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia to restore law and order.

Naturally, Germany is not without problems. The per-capita income of former East Germans is still only 70 percent of that of their West German compatriots, and the jobless rate is high.

During the ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of reunification, Wulff appealed to his countrymen to be more accepting of Turkish and other immigrants from the Islamic world.

What should the European Union do to reinforce its functions to overcome the problem of a single currency and fiscal concerns? How should the EU deal with conflict in the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear problem? The EU has an extremely important role to play in the international community.

As a core EU member, Germany bears the responsibility of further advancing the integration of Europe and leading the way in resolving various global issues.

This autumn, commemorative events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Japan and Germany kicked off in Japan. In Asia, a divided nation exists on the Korean Peninsula, and disputes over sovereignty and territory continue to flare elsewhere.

Japan's circumstances are obviously different from Germany's, but there are many things we can learn from Germany.


海上安全保障 中国は協議に前向き対応を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 14, 2010)
Continue dialogue with China to ensure security
海上安全保障 中国は協議に前向き対応を(10月13日付・読売社説)

The recent meeting between Japanese and Chinese defense chiefs marked a definite first step toward improving the soured relationship between Tokyo and Beijing, but the road ahead is not likely to be smooth.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie agreed to steadily promote a strategic, mutually beneficial relationship between the two nations in Hanoi on Monday. Their conversation was held on the sidelines of a defense minister's meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus eight countries that include Japan and the United States.

The meeting was in line with an agreement to "hold high-level talks when appropriate," made when Prime Minister Naoto Kan met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Brussels on Oct. 4. With Monday's meeting, Japan-China relations seem to be gradually normalizing after being strained following collisions last month between a Chinese trawler and two Japan Coast Guard vessels in waters near the Senkaku Islands.


China still reluctant to engage

However, the meeting also revealed Beijing is still cautious toward Tokyo. In response to requests from China, the meeting was unofficial, and a scheduled port call to Qingdao, China, from Friday by a fleet of Maritime Self-Defense Force training ships likely will be postponed.

Liang reportedly told Kitazawa the naval exchange would be put off because China must carefully consider its citizens' feelings. But this claim sounds too one-sided and is difficult to understand.

However, when Kitazawa requested the quick establishment of a maritime contact mechanism in the East China Sea, Liang reportedly agreed that tangible results needed to be produced soon.

The contact mechanism would facilitate emergency communication between defense chiefs and high-ranking officers to prevent minor collisions between Japanese and Chinese naval vessels from developing into serious situations. China established similar military hotlines with the United States and South Korea two years ago.

Although Japan and China have been planning such a system for more than 10 years, results have yet to materialize. But after the recent collisions off the Senkaku Islands and two incidents in which a Chinese Navy helicopter buzzed a MSDF destroyer this spring, establishment of a hotline is needed as quickly as possible.


Resolve needed to mend ties

There are still bones of contention between Japan and China, but the strategic, mutually beneficial relationship can only take shape if the two countries continue engaging in dialogue and making tangible achievements.

China's reluctance to promote bilateral defense exchanges, such as visits by high-ranking officers and port calls, is apparently motivated by a desire to keep its military situation hidden.

However, enhanced military transparency by China will help reassure its neighbors, which see Beijing as a threat. We believe this also will benefit China itself.

While in Hanoi, Kitazawa met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday. The two defense chiefs reportedly agreed to continue to cooperate and consult closely to deal with China's intensifying naval activities in the East China Sea and other waters.

On Tuesday, 10 ASEAN member states and eight other countries, including Japan, the United States and China, held the first meeting of their defense chiefs. The group adopted a joint declaration promoting multinational cooperation in maritime security and disaster rescue operations, among other areas.

To steadily urge China to contribute to Asia's stability, we believe it is vital for Japan to increase cooperation with the United States and other concerned nations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 13, 2010)
(2010年10月13日01時50分 読売新聞)


NHK reporter violated ethics code

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 13, 2010)
NHK reporter violated ethics code
捜索情報漏洩 報道倫理逸脱したNHK記者(10月11日付・読売社説)

The illegal gambling on professional baseball by dozens of sumo wrestlers and stablemasters has taken yet another twist--one that raises serious questions about the ethics of the press.

A male reporter in his 30s, who then belonged to the sports section of NHK's News Department, allegedly sent an e-mail from his mobile phone in July to stablemaster Tokitsukaze, who was being investigated by the police over the gambling scandal. The reporter's e-mail allegedly tipped off Tokitsukaze, former makuuchi division wrestler Tokitsuumi, that the police would likely search sumo stables the following day.

If this allegation is true, the reporter has committed an abominable act that violates journalists' code of ethics. NHK reportedly has been flooded with protests and complaints from the public following these revelations.

Several hours after the reporter sent the e-mail, the Metropolitan Police Department searched several sumo stables on suspicion of organizing illegal gambling for profit. The MPD discovered the reporter had leaked the information as they trawled through the contents of Tokitsukaze's mobile phone, which was confiscated as evidence during the search.


Standards thrown out

If the information leak by the reporter had resulted in evidence being destroyed, it could have seriously impeded the police investigation. The reporter's actions also might have violated certain laws.

"Don't tell this to anybody else," the journalist's message reportedly said. "I'll get in huge trouble if you're found to have been tipped off by NHK." This suggests the reporter was fully aware that sending the e-mail was illicit.

Nonetheless, the reporter fired off the e-mail because he wanted to reestablish his relationship with Tokitsukaze, the reporter reportedly said during an internal NHK investigation.

Objective reporting requires a journalist to keep some distance from the subject being covered. NHK reporters should observe this rule even more strictly than other sumo journalists because the broadcaster exclusively televises sumo tournaments live and enjoys special relations with the Japan Sumo Association.

On the day before the reporter sent the e-mail, NHK made the painful decision not to broadcast the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament live--the first time a basho would not be aired live since NHK started televising the national sport decades ago. If the reporter tried to glean information by currying favor with a subject of NHK's coverage, we have to say the reporter has absolutely no ethical sense.


Lessons to be learned

An ironclad rule for journalism is that information gained through news gathering activities will not be used for anything but reporting purposes.

NHK has claimed the reporter heard about the impending police search from a newspaper reporter. Even if that is true, it does not justify leaking police information to a person subject to investigation.

In 2008, NHK found that three employees, including a director, had engaged in insider trading based on information distributed within the public broadcaster. Since then, NHK employees have been given in-house training such as workshops on broadcast ethics. However, these efforts have failed.

Between 2004 and 2006, an increasing number of TV owners refused to pay NHK viewing fees following revelations of accounting irregularities at the broadcaster, including embezzlement of production money and fraudulent business trips by employees. We wonder if NHK has already forgotten just how difficult it is to regain viewers' trust.

The latest scandal should not be dismissed simply as the actions of a single reporter. The whole NHK organization should examine the latest episode seriously and announce steps to prevent a repeat of similar scandals.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 11, 2010)
(2010年10月11日01時06分 読売新聞)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 9
EDITORIAL: Nobel Peace Prize

A strong message has been delivered to China's political leaders, who have shown little, if any, respect for democracy or human rights while their country has been accomplishing amazing economic growth.

The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese writer and pro-democracy activist.

Since he was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Liu has been consistently and passionately fighting for democracy in China. Liu has expressed his opinions in writing and spoken up without using violence or other radical means.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee highly praised his peaceful struggle.

At the end of 2008, the year of the Beijing Summer Olympics, Liu drafted "Charter 08," a manifesto calling for fundamental reforms for democracy that would ultimately end the Communist Party's monopoly on power. This and his criticism against the party and its leaders earned him an 11-year jail sentence for "inciting subversion of state power."

Liu is now in prison in northeast Liaoning province.

It is not clear whether Liu even knows yet that he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Many Chinese citizens probably are still unaware of the fact because of the media blackout imposed by the authorities.

But the news will spread, sooner or later. And it will provide a big morale boost to other Chinese activists who have been struggling, along with Liu, to give their country democratic freedoms.

Beijing warned the Nobel committee that awarding the peace prize to a dissident like Liu would be regarded as an unfriendly act, according to the committee.

If so, China again acted in a high-handed manner that apparently reflects the growing sentiment that it is now a major power fueled by its rapid economic growth and military buildup.

We applaud the Nobel committee for not giving in to pressure from China.

The committee chastised the Chinese authorities for violating international conventions approving peaceful expressions of political beliefs to which Beijing is a party, as well as the country's own constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and other human rights. It pointed out that China now must accept greater responsibility.

China's behavior concerning the collisions between a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels near the Senkaku Islands and the actions it took against Vietnamese fishermen operating near disputed islands in the South China Sea have alarmed the international community and strengthened China's image as a country willing to ignore rules for the sake of its interests.

As economic interdependence among countries has grown, the international community has been inclined to overlook China's trampling on universal values.

The United States and Europe, which traditionally place great importance on human rights, have also been willing to turn a blind eye to Beijing's poor human rights record to keep relations with the rising economic power on friendly terms. China also faced no harsh criticism at the recent Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels.

The Nobel committee's decision to award the prestigious honor to a Chinese dissident should be taken seriously as a warning, especially to industrial nations.

China's Foreign Ministry has criticized the committee's move, saying Liu violated Chinese law and his actions run counter to the spirit of the prize. The ministry also indicated that the decision would adversely affect ties with Norway.

There are concerns about the possibility that Beijing may tighten its crackdown on democracy advocates and other activists in China.

Taking a hard-line posture both at home and abroad, however, will not serve China's interests.

Chinese leaders must realize now that their country will never be recognized as a legitimate world power unless they start respecting universal values.


高橋さん解放 中国は事態の全容を説明せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 11, 2010)
China must fully explain detention of Fujita 4
高橋さん解放 中国は事態の全容を説明せよ(10月10日付・読売社説)

China on Saturday released Sadamu Takahashi, the last of four Japanese employees of construction company Fujita Corp. detained last month.

First and foremost, we rejoice at his safe release.

However, Takahashi was freed after 20 days in custody; such a long detention represents flagrant contempt for human rights. Chinese authorities must explain in detail what led to Takahashi's release and the reasons for his detention.

The four were taken into custody Sept. 20 by state security authorities for allegedly illegally videotaping what China called "military targets" in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, while they were looking at potential construction sites for a plant to process chemical weapons left behind by the Japanese military during World War II.

Takahashi and the others were questioned while in the custody of security authorities at a hotel in the city. China freed all the employees except Takahashi on Sept. 30.


Obvious retaliation

The three were released after explaining they were unaware they were in a military zone and entered accidentally. China must have realized from the beginning that their actions were not malicious. If so, why did China keep Takahashi in custody even after releasing the others?

Although Beijing denies it, there is no doubt the arrest and detention of the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that collided with Japan Coast Guard vessels off the Senkaku Islands affected the case involving the Fujita employees.

The four were detained the day after the Ishigaki Summary Court in Okinawa Prefecture authorized prosecutors to extend the captain's detention for 10 days. It is likely that China, which expected Japan to release the captain at the end of the first 10-day detention period, retaliated to prevent criticism from its people.

The three were released five days after the Naha District Public Prosecutors Office released the captain without further legal action against him for the time being. After that, China partially eased its restrictions on rare earths exports to Japan, which may have been an effort to present a softened stance on the issue before the image of China as a threat to global stability spread around the world.

Since then, the Japanese government came under growing public criticism over its handling of the captain's release. Calls also heightened for the release of video footage of one of the fishing boat collisions and for the Japanese government to take a tough approach toward China to realize the release of the detained Fujita employees.

The Chinese government may have been closely watching how the Japanese government would respond to these issues, using Takahashi as a diplomatic bargaining chip to pressure Tokyo.


Visitors must be wary

The prolonged detention of Japanese company employees indicates the possibility that so-called China risk will continue to exist in every area for the time being.

Employees of companies doing business in China and those doing business with Chinese companies should be very careful about their actions in that country. The same holds for people who visit China on cultural exchanges or as tourists.

We must keep in mind that China is a country where the government limits human rights, and there is always a possibility this will happen.

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


ノーベル平和賞 中国に民主化を迫る授賞だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 10, 2010)
Liu's Nobel pressures China on democracy
ノーベル平和賞 中国に民主化を迫る授賞だ(10月9日付・読売社説)

The winning of the Nobel Peace Prize by an imprisoned Chinese pro-democracy activist sends a strong message to China to respect fundamental human rights. The nation, which has grown into a major economic power, is overdue to take steps toward democratization.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it honored Liu Xiaobo, who has been sentenced to 11 years in prison, "for his long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights."

The committee then called on China to respect freedom of speech and other rights of its people.

The Nobel Peace Prize is seen as highly political in nature, having been awarded to such figures as the 14th Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, in 1989, and Aung San Suu Kyi, a Myanmar pro-democracy leader, in 1991.

This year's recognition of Liu apparently is in line with such precedents.


Beijing lashes out

But the head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Information Department lashed out at the Nobel committee's decision, saying that Liu is "a criminal who has been sentenced for violating Chinese laws." The decision to award him the peace prize runs counter to the purpose of the award, the senior spokesman added.

Prior to Friday's announcement, a Chinese vice foreign minister visited Norway and pressured the Nobel committee not to award the peace prize to Liu. With this request now clearly rejected, China likely will continue criticizing the decision.

Liu, who is also an author, played a leading role in writing Charter 08, a document listing 19 demands including direct elections and freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.

Chinese authorities arrested and indicted Liu, saying that his speech and acts were aimed at subversion of the government. A jail sentence for Liu was finalized at an appeal hearing in February.


Rights charter suppressed

Chinese authorities suppressed Charter 08, and further stepped up regulations and oversight of media and publications.

Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao have recently called for some political reform. It is likely they can no longer ignore the international community's calls for political reform in China.

The party leadership aims to carry out political reform within the framework of the socialist regime. But there is no sign that any concrete steps toward reform have been taken.

China's defense spending has increased every year since the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, at an even faster pace than the nation's economic growth. While the military buildup has been proceeding, China has flourished economically. But in terms of the people's rights, no progress has been seen. We wonder how long such a distorted situation can continue.

If China wants to become a responsible member of the international community, it must take to heart the meaning of Liu's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2010)
(2010年10月9日01時12分 読売新聞)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 7
EDITORIAL: Nobel Prize winners

Akira Suzuki, professor emeritus at Hokkaido University, and Eiichi Negishi, distinguished professor at Purdue University in the United States, have won this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with a U.S. chemist.

The two Japanese scientists have been awarded the prize for their achievements in synthetic organic chemistry, a field of research focused on producing a wide variety of compounds, from medicines to electronics, by using specifically designed chemical reactions.

Synthetic organic chemistry may not be familiar to the general public, but for researchers it is a field full of intriguing theories and of great practical importance.

Negishi and Suzuki developed techniques called palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling, which can freely bind carbon atoms together, leading to new ways to create various chains of carbon atoms that constitute the backbone of organic compounds.

Their methods are called the Suzuki reaction and the Negishi reaction, respectively, and have spawned a vast range of related research.

Organic synthesis using palladium as a catalyst is a field of research in which Japanese scientists have made many great contributions. It is sometimes referred to as "chemistry of Japanese."

There are many other palladium-based reactions named after Japanese researchers. The palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling reaction developed by Richard Heck, who shared the Nobel Prize with the two Japanese, is called the Mizoroki-Heck reaction, after the American researcher and a Japanese chemist, the late Tsutomu Mizoroki.

A chemically interesting and useful reaction can be discovered at a relatively small cost if the effort is based on a good idea.

Some experts say this was a field suitable for creative Japanese researchers who worked during the era of insufficient funding.

The Nobel Prize for Suzuki and Negishi is a glittering monument to all the great achievements by Japanese researchers in the field.

They won the prize as representatives, so to speak, of the many Japanese chemists who have reactions named after them. Their feats have proved the effectiveness of Japanese approaches to research in chemistry.

The two have brought to 15 the number of Japanese winners of the Nobel Prize in science, including Hideki Yukawa, the first Japanese laureate, and those in such fields as physics, physiology and medicine.

Only five Japanese won the Nobel Prize in science up to 1999. But Japan's Nobel performance gained huge momentum--three straight years of winning from 2000--which added four to the list of Japanese laureates.

Now, a Nobel Prize for a Japanese scientist is no longer a rarity. This undoubtedly testifies to the high level of Japanese scientific research.

There is, however, no room for optimism about the situation of scientific research in Japan.

The trend toward demanding short-term results has grown markedly in recent years, and there are troubling signs that the environment for long-term and basic research has deteriorated.

Despite the widely shared recognition of the importance of human resources for scientific research, the job outlook is gloomy for students with doctorates.

Scientific research is no longer an area that offers many opportunities for young people to pursue their dreams.

It has also been pointed out that the low priority given to scientific research in the government's sweeping budget review has demoralized young researchers.

Fresh efforts should be made to promote scientific research in this nation. Japan's future depends to a great extent on science and technology.

We want Japan to continue to be a country that produces original scientific achievements. We hope many young Japanese will be inspired and encouraged to pursue scientific research by what older generations of Japanese researchers have achieved.
It is crucial to improve the research environment for young scientists.


ノーベル化学賞 受賞の喜びを次につなげたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 8, 2010)
Joy in Nobel prize should be linked to future
ノーベル化学賞 受賞の喜びを次につなげたい(10月7日付・読売社説)

This is very encouraging news for Japan, which is beset by a sluggish economy and a diplomatic row.

It was announced Wednesday that the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Akira Suzuki, a professor emeritus at Hokkaido University; Ei-ichi Negishi, a chemistry professor at Purdue University; and American researcher Richard Heck.

This brings the total number of Japanese Nobel laureates to 18, and the number in chemistry to 7. In both figures, Japan is ahead of the pack in Asia.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the winners were honored for their development of chemical methods for efficiently producing pharmaceuticals and liquid crystal substances.

Crucial tools for industry

The synthesis of organic compounds, in which carbon atoms are linked in complex chains, was at one time extremely difficult. But Negishi and Suzuki found new ways of easily bonding carbon atoms together.

Their methods have already become essential tools in a number of industrial fields, including the production of hypertension and cancer medicines and light-emitting organic compounds.

Chemistry is the basis for the synthesis and analysis of materials, and has helped Japan's basic materials industry. This latest award has demonstrated once again Japan's high level of research in this field, and we rejoice in the honor bestowed on Suzuki and Negishi.

Yet there are worrisome signs emerging as to how long Japan will be able to retain such technical prowess.

One such indicator is what has been called an inward-looking attitude among young Japanese researchers. An increasing number are studying only at home, rarely going abroad.

Only a few young Japanese researchers are pursuing knowledge in the United States, the country considered to be the international center of research.

Of non-American students who receive doctorates at U.S. universities, Chinese students account for about 30 percent and South Koreans for about 10 percent, compared to only about 2 percent for Japanese.

If things continue this way, won't Japan be left behind in the fierce international competition in research?

After graduating from Hokkaido University, Suzuki began studying with a prominent chemist in the United States. Negishi went to the United States after graduating from the University of Tokyo and lives there today.

Their unwavering diligence abroad led Suzuki and Negishi to the prize.

Foreign opinion worsening

Also worrisome is the fact that international opinion of Japanese universities is declining. One warning bell was sounded last month by global university rankings for this year compiled by a British education magazine on the basis of their achievements in teaching and research.

The University of Tokyo, which until last year was the top-ranked institution in Asia, was ranked 26th overall. This was still the highest among Japanese universities, but it was overtaken in Asia by the University of Hong Kong, which was ranked 21st.

Also, the number of Japanese institutions in the top 200 declined from 11 last year to five this year.

Due to harsh fiscal conditions, the central government's budget for science and technology is shrinking. In stark contrast, Europe and the United States are increasing their public investment in science and technology.

The Japanese government and research institutions may need to renew their sense of alarm.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 7, 2010)
(2010年10月7日01時37分 読売新聞)