河野談話 「負の遺産」の見直しは当然だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 30, 2012)
Kono's 'comfort women' statement must be reviewed
河野談話 「負の遺産」の見直しは当然だ(8月29日付・読売社説)

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's recent visit to the Takeshima islands has reignited the so-called comfort women issue.

It is undeniable that a 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono is the root cause of the controversy. The government should review this statement, prepare a new concept concerning the issue and convey it to the public and the international community.

At a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said his administration would adhere to the Kono statement. However, Noda added that the government "was not able to confirm the forcible recruitment [of comfort women] from documents, so the [Kono] statement was based on interviews with comfort women."

Jin Matsubara, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, proposed that ministers should debate the comfort women issue from the standpoint of reviewing the Kono statement.

The 1993 statement said: "The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to a request from the military.

"In many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, and so on, and that, at times, administrative and military personnel directly took part in the recruitments."


No verification

However, the government could find no documents proving the military or other government authorities forcibly recruited comfort women. The Kono statement was based solely on the statements of former comfort women and there were no investigations to verify their remarks.

At the time, several South Korean women identified themselves as former comfort women and demanded an apology from the Japanese government. We assume the government took into account Japan's diplomatic relations with South Korea when it issued the Kono statement.

However, as a result of the statement, the international community came to believe things that were not true, such as the Imperial Japanese Army systematically and forcibly recruiting women to make them "sex slaves."

The U.S. House of Representatives and the European Parliament adopted resolutions condemning Japan on the comfort women issue, and called on the Japanese government to apologize.

Up to now, however, no evidence proving the forcible recruitment of comfort women has been found.

When the U.S. House of Representatives was discussing the comfort women issue in March 2007, the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a written reply to a question posed by a Diet member on the issue. The reply said "descriptions directly indicating forcible recruitments by the military and other government authorities had not been found in documents" unearthed by the government.

The response clarified the government's stance that documents supporting the Kono statement did not exist, although at the same time it adhered to the statement.


'Negative legacy' of LDP

However, if the situation is left unchanged, it will be difficult to dispel the international community's misunderstandings on the comfort women issue.

It was reasonable for Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to call on the government to review the contents of the Kono statement after saying the statement--which was not authorized by the Cabinet--and the 2007 written reply contradict each other. He also said the statement was the "main cause" of Japan-South Korea friction.

The government must take measures to prevent misunderstandings on the comfort women issue from spreading further.

As there is no conclusive evidence that the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly recruited comfort women, the Noda Cabinet should review the Kono statement--a "negative legacy" of Liberal Democratic Party administrations--and explain the government's stance on the issue to the public and the world in a manner easy to understand.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2012)
(2012年8月29日01時18分 読売新聞)


与野党の対立 衆院選改革の放置にあきれる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 29, 2012)
Failure to address election system reform deplorable
与野党の対立 衆院選改革の放置にあきれる(8月28日付・読売社説)

The current ordinary Diet session closes in less than two weeks and many legislative issues are still pending. Both the ruling and opposition camps must work tirelessly to reach accords on them until the last minute.

The biggest concern is that the Diet has yet to realize the House of Representatives' electoral system reform, although the Supreme Court has ruled the current disparity in the weight of votes between the most- and least- represented constituencies is "in a state of unconstitutionality."

The Democratic Party of Japan voted on a DPJ-sponsored election system reform bill in a special lower house committee on Monday in the absence of opposition parties. The DPJ is poised to pass the bill in a plenary session of the lower house on Tuesday.

The opposition bloc, as a matter of course, has opposed the DPJ's actions.

Given that the DPJ will be unable to obtain approval from the opposition that controls the House of Councillors, it is certain the bill will be scrapped when it fails in the upper house. This will leave the state of unconstitutionality unresolved.


DPJ out to put off election

Having the bill hastily approved by the committee is presumably motivated by a desire to shift the blame for failing to achieve electoral reform to the opposition.

DPJ Acting Secretary General Shinji Tarutoko has lambasted the opposition parties for "taking a stand even against rectifying the gap in the weight of votes."

The DPJ, however, has persistently spurned the idea of cutting five single-seat electoral districts before other election system issues. This is the only option the DPJ and the major opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, agreed to on the election reform issue. The DPJ should be held responsible for stalling this reform.

In light of the irresponsibility of the DPJ, the party is not qualified to criticize the opposition. The DPJ has employed the tactic of delaying the legislation in a bid to postpone the lower house dissolution and a general election.

The DPJ-sponsored bill entails not only a five single-seat constituency cut, but also the reduction of 40 proportional representation seats. It also includes the partial adoption of a seat allocation formula in proportional representation contests favorable to small and midsize parties, which Komeito has demanded.

Electoral system reform based on such a hodgepodge of arguments backed by different parties is unintelligible to the public. Introduction of a seat allocation formula designed to give disproportionately preferential treatment to small and midsize parties may be a constitutional violation, according to some analysts.


Opposition equally at fault

The LDP is set to submit a censure motion in the upper house against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda as early as Wednesday.

The censure motion will likely pass the upper house by an opposition majority. If the opposition boycotts all Diet deliberations after that, the current session could end with many issues unaddressed.

Citing reasons to censure the prime minister, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki claims Noda's ability to tackle the problems facing the country "has reached its limit."

However, the opposition is just as responsible for the turmoil in the nation's politics.

A case in point is a government plan for a bill to issue deficit-covering government bonds.

Should the bill fail to pass, it would become impossible, at some point, to implement the state budget. The opposition parties have continued to assert they will not cooperate unless the DPJ commits to an exact date for the dissolution of the lower house.

Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada has said, "There is a possibility of a power change [in the next general election] and the opposition should stop these maneuvers."

While Okada is right, the DPJ should remember that, when it sat in opposition, it also used budget-related bills, including one to issue deficit-covering bonds, as bargaining chips.

If the censure motion is passed by the LDP, Komeito and other opposition parties, the relationship of trust between the DPJ and the two major opposition parties would almost certainly collapse.

A censure motion, which has no binding power, must never be exploited in a power struggle.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2012)
(2012年8月28日01時45分 読売新聞)


北極海開発 日本の発言権をどう確保する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 28, 2012)
Japan needs to gain voice in Arctic Ocean development
北極海開発 日本の発言権をどう確保する(8月27日付・読売社説)

Countries such as Russia and Canada are maneuvering more actively to stake out advantageous positions in using the Arctic Ocean for shipping routes and in developing natural resources there. Japan also should become actively engaged in drafting rules on developing the Arctic Ocean.

Though long covered with thick ice, the Arctic Ocean recently has attracted attention as its ice is rapidly melting due to global warming.

The ocean's shipping routes, possible only in summer, have elicited interest as they are the shortest way to link Asian countries--the world's growth center--and Europe. Not only oil and natural gas but also gold, copper, nickel and other minerals are believed to be in abundance below the Arctic seabed.

The Antarctic Treaty has frozen territorial claims in the Antarctic continent and surrounding seas and prohibits military use of the area, but there is no such treaty for the Arctic Ocean.

Due to the lack of an international treaty, eight countries--the United States, Russia and other coastal nations--and indigenous minorities make up the Arctic Council, a forum to discuss rules on use of the Arctic Ocean.


Blatant moves by China

Meanwhile, China's moves are a cause of concern. Like Japan, China does not border the Arctic Ocean. Nonetheless, China considers shipping routes and natural resources there among its maritime interests and is trying to increase its influence over the ocean as a national strategy.

China's large icebreaker Xuelong has been on a research voyage in the ocean since early July. It took a shipping route north of Russia and in mid-August became the first Chinese ship to traverse the Arctic Ocean.

Beijing is also actively undertaking summit diplomacy with member nations of the council. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Sweden, which currently chairs the council, and Iceland in April, while President Hu Jintao visited Denmark in June. They were able to reach agreements with leaders of those countries to enhance bilateral relations.

However, the efforts by China, which has a massive military force, to promote its maritime interests in the ocean are so blatant that other countries have become vigilant.

Utilization of the Arctic Ocean also is essential for the growth of the Japanese economy. Nonetheless, it is apparent Japan has started out late in the game.


Join Arctic Council

Three years ago, the Japanese government applied to the Arctic Council to obtain observer status. China and South Korea completed such applications ahead of this country.

How much a country contributes to the council's activities is said to determine approval as an observer. We think the government first should join the council as an observer and then enhance its information gathering activities to secure a voice there. The nation must accelerate its preparations to deal with issues concerning the Arctic Ocean.

The government also must promote summit diplomacy to strengthen Japan's relations with Russia and northern European countries. Japan also needs to undertake full-fledged research activities in the ocean.

It is unavoidable that the Chinese and Russian navies will become more active in seas north of Japan. The government will need to discuss with the United States how to build up Japan's defenses against them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2012)
(2012年8月27日01時27分 読売新聞)


エネルギー選択 「意識調査」はあくまで参考に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 27, 2012)
Don't take results of nuclear power surveys too seriously
エネルギー選択 「意識調査」はあくまで参考に(8月26日付・読売社説)

It is problematic to decide the nation's energy strategy, which affects the fate of Japan, through an approach that resembles a popularity contest.

Since the outbreak of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, a considerable number of people are demanding the nation break away from its dependence on nuclear energy.

Securing the safety of nuclear power plants is of course important. However, factors such as economic efficiency and a stable energy supply are also important in deciding the nation's energy policy. As a country poor in natural resources, Japan needs to have various sources of electricity, including nuclear power plants, to ensure a stable power supply.

Thus the government should promote a realistic energy policy of utilizing nuclear power plants from a mid- and long-term standpoint.

The government recently released the results of multiple surveys that asked the public to choose from three scenarios on the percentage of nuclear power generation in 2030: zero percent of all power generation, 15 percent, and 20 percent to 25 percent.

The government conducted 11 public hearings, solicited public comments and held a deliberative opinion poll. In all three methods, those who chose the zero percent scenario outnumbered those who selected the other two.


Avoid slipping into populism

However, it is too early to conclude that the results truly reflect public opinion on the nation's nuclear energy policy.

Many people who participate in public hearings and submit comments are eager to express their opinions on the nuclear power plant issue. They tend to prefer a nuclear-free future.

A random telephone survey was conducted in the first stage of the deliberative opinion poll, and respondents were asked if they wished to participate in the following discussion stage. Only about 300 people participated in the second stage.

It is important for politicians to listen to the voices of the people. However, there is a risk that politicians may slip into populism, depending on how much they rely on public opinion.

A member of an expert panel tasked with analyzing the results of the surveys said, "We don't need politics if opinion polls decide everything."

The results of the surveys should be used as one element in discussing the nation's nuclear policy. The government should avoid having the results directly influence its energy policy.


Risks of zero percent scenario

Meanwhile, the surveys also highlighted a problem the government has to tackle. In the deliberative opinion poll, 41 percent of respondents supported the zero percent scenario before the discussion, but the figure increased to 47 percent after the discussion.

At the same time, the percentage of people who gave top priority to "securing safety" in the nation's energy policy increased after the discussion to about 80 percent. This change seems to be the reason why the number of people who chose the zero percent scenario increased.

However, everyone is highly concerned about the safety of the energy supply. We assume that was the reason only a low percentage of respondents chose "stable energy supply" and "prevention of global warming."

If all nuclear power plants were abolished in the nation, it would slow down the economy, resulting in higher unemployment and poverty. Ordinary citizens would be hit hardest, but strangely, understanding of this fact has yet to spread among the public.

Along with beefing up its efforts to enhance the safety of nuclear power plants, the government must provide information to citizens that helps them choose appropriate scenarios for the nation's future energy policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2012)
(2012年8月26日01時28分 読売新聞)


首相「領土」会見 国際社会へ反転攻勢の一歩に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 26, 2012)
Govt must stress sovereignty over isles to intl community
首相「領土」会見 国際社会へ反転攻勢の一歩に(8月25日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda held a press conference Friday on the dispute involving the Takeshima islands and other territorial issues. This occasion should pave the way for Japan to take the offensive in seeking understanding of the issues both at home and abroad.

Noda said at the press conference, "We'll deal with the issues calmly but uncompromisingly with unwavering determination."

"They're Japanese territory both historically and under international law," he said, referring to the Takeshima islands. "In keeping with international law and justice, the proper path is to hold debates and settle the matter at the International Court of Justice."

We consider it highly significant that the prime minister stated explicitly that his government will protect the nation's sovereignty over the islets.

South Korea has reinforced its illegal occupation of the Takeshima islands through such actions as building a structure there. Japan protested the actions, but it is hard to say that Tokyo has taken effective countermeasures.


Take advantage of legal action

It is vital for Japan to make the legitimacy of its territorial claim and the reasoning behind it widely known to the international community by taking the dispute to the international court. The government also needs to make efforts to help as many people as possible properly understand the Takeshima issue by explaining it thoroughly.

Noda also spoke about the recent illegal landing on the Senkaku Islands by Hong Kong activists. "The government will make every effort to strengthen the nation's information-gathering ability and take all possible measures to improve its policing and surveillance capabilities in the surrounding waters" to prevent such incidents in the future, he said.

To maintain and stably manage the Senkaku Islands, which are under Japan's effective control, the government faces the urgent task of nationalizing the islets. To that end, it is important to closely cooperate with the Tokyo metropolitan government, which plans to purchase the islands.

The government must not fail to strengthen the abilities of the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self-Defense Force to swiftly respond to illegal landings on the islands and intrusions into Japan's territorial waters by foreign countries.


Noda letter not re-sent

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has decided not to resend the personal letter from Noda to South Korean President Lee Myung Bak that South Korea rejected and returned to the ministry by mail.

Returning a personal letter from a national leader is unusual and considered disrespectful. However, we can understand the decision by Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and other government officials to accept the returned letter, considering "the dignity" of Japanese diplomacy. The decision was based on the logic that Noda's message, which calls Lee's visit to Takeshima regrettable, has been conveyed to Seoul.

The House of Representatives on Friday adopted a resolution condemning Lee's visit to Takeshima and his remarks seeking the Emperor's apology to Koreans who died while fighting for Korea's independence. The resolution demands that South Korea halt its illegal occupation of the islands and Lee withdraw the remarks about the Emperor. The remarks have sparked criticism not only in Japan but also in South Korea. Seeking the withdrawal is reasonable.

We view the resolution as well-balanced because, among other things, it calls South Korea a vital neighboring country of Japan. However, it is disappointing that the resolution was not approved unanimously as the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and others opposed it.

Japan and South Korea share common security interests on such issues as North Korea's nuclear program. We urge Seoul to handle the territorial issue with a cool head without losing sight of the broader significance of the two countries' relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2012)
(2012年8月25日01時29分 読売新聞)


竹島・尖閣審議 民主は「配慮外交」を反省せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 25, 2012)
DPJ must reconsider overly conciliatory stance on Takeshima
竹島・尖閣審議 民主は「配慮外交」を反省せよ (8月24日付・読売社説)

When handling a territorial issue, it is essential for the government to assert the nation's stance resolutely while keeping a cool head in pursuit of a peaceful solution to the problem.

A session of the House of Representatives' Budget Committee was held on Thursday for intensive deliberations on diplomatic issues.

In response to an announcement by the South Korean government earlier on the day that it would return a letter Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sent to South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, Noda expressed his displeasure, telling the session Seoul's action constituted "behavior utterly devoid of reason."

The act of sending back the prime minister's letter, which expressed regret over Lee's surprise visit to the Takeshima islands on Aug. 10, is, without a doubt, particularly disrespectful in terms of diplomatic norms and cannot be overlooked.


Diplomacy cast aside

No matter how different two nations' views on an issue may be, a bare minimum of etiquette in diplomatic relations must be upheld by each country. South Korea has now crossed the line with this recent development.

The government should file a firm protest with the South Korean government.

In doing so, however, it is important Japan conduct itself in full conformity with diplomatic protocol.

In the Budget Committee session, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba stressed that South Korea is "illegally occupying" the Sea of Japan islets, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.

Out of diplomatic consideration for South Korea, the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan has used the expression "rule without legal grounds" in reference to the matter since Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada served as foreign minister. Gemba is the first Cabinet minister to have used the phrase "illegal occupation" to refer to the issue.

The change of wording is seriously overdue.

There can be no denying that disproportionate concern by the DPJ administration about inciting conflict with a partner country, even over an issue affecting the nation's sovereignty, has led South Korea to harbor the misconception that Japan is a country that backs down easily.

Although the issue of compensation for the so-called comfort women in South Korea has been completely resolved, DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Seiji Maehara recently unveiled a plan to study the feasibility of "humanitarian measures" related to the matter. This may have caused South Korea to have false expectations about further steps from the Japanese side.

The government must do some serious soul-searching about the recent string of events in bilateral relations and carefully consider how to deal with the situation effectively.


Parties need to work together

In Thursday's Budget Committee meeting, Noda expressed his intention to seek an apology and a retraction of Lee's remarks demanding the Emperor apologize for the wartime past.

In a similar event, a spokesman of South Korea's Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry has demanded Gemba back down from his statement about South Korea's "illegal occupation" of the islets and pledge to avoid making similar remarks in the future.

Given the circumstances, Japan-South Korea relations have now begun a negative course.

Even if the two countries confront each other on the Takeshima issue, overall bilateral relations should be prevented from further deteriorating.

It is evidently important for both nations to continue working-level discussions, including negotiations for concluding a free trade agreement between Japan, China and South Korea.

During the Budget Committee session, the Liberal Democratic Party lashed out at the government for its failure to prevent a group of activists from Hong Kong from illegally landing on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. It also criticized the government's failure to charge the activists on suspicion of obstructing Japanese officers from performing their duties.

It is highly desirable, however, for both the ruling and opposition camps to cooperate in steering the nation's diplomacy, particularly in the case of territorial disputes.

It would be regrettable for the LDP to make a point of finding fault with the government for its handling of territorial disputes.

There are a host of issues that must be addressed on a suprapartisan basis, such as the proactive expression of Japan's stance on territorial disputes to the international community and the improvement of history lessons in school education.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2012)
(2012年8月24日01時23分 読売新聞)


シリア混迷 周辺諸国の不安定化も心配だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 24, 2012)
Syria's civil war could destabilize neighboring countries
シリア混迷 周辺諸国の不安定化も心配だ(8月23日付・読売社説)

With Syria's civil war deepening, there appears to be little chance for a ceasefire in the conflict. There are concerns the civil war could even spill over into neighboring countries.

Journalist Mika Yamamoto was shot dead earlier this week in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo while covering the conflict.

Yamamoto's death highlighted the reality that urban districts, home to ordinary Syrians, have become battlefields between government forces and rebels. The United Nations estimates more than 18,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011.

Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who served as the joint U.N.-Arab League special envoy, failed to broker a ceasefire and members of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria have left the country.

Former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi has been named as Annan's replacement. However, it is unlikely he will be able to fulfill his role, considering that the U.N. Security Council has been hamstrung as the United States and other Western countries are at odds with Russia and China over possible solutions.

With no end in sight in the country's civil war, it is inevitable the bloodshed will continue to worsen.


Sectarian conflicts emerging

Rebels have expanded their hold over more areas of Syria, while government forces have been trying to maintain control of major cities by mobilizing all of their overwhelming forces.

However, more and more officials in President Bashar Assad's inner circle have been defecting, including the prime minister who fled the country earlier this month.

Despite these developments, Syrian forces still stand by Assad mainly because members of the Alawite community--an offshoot of Shiite Islam that serves as a power base for the president--hold key military positions.

The Alawites, which are a minority in Syria, have been ruling the Sunni majority population and the civil war has increasingly taken on shades of sectarian violence.


Refugees becoming a burden

Worrisome is the ever growing possibility that Syria's deepening turmoil could destabilize the entire Middle East.

Earlier this week, several people were killed in neighboring Lebanon as Alawite and Sunni militia exchanged gunfire. The fighting shadowed the pattern of Syria's civil war.

Turkey, to the north of Syria, has been watchful to see how Kurds in the country react to the civil war, as it could reignite the Kurdish independent movement in Turkey.

The civil war has created more than 170,000 Syrian refugees, according to the United Nations. Accommodating them has placed a great burden on neighboring countries.

Syria's neighbors face their own possible conflicts. The situation could further deteriorate if Syria distributes the chemical weapons it is believed to possess to terrorist groups and other organizations.

Russia bears a heavy responsibility as it has long supported the Assad regime. It should work together with the United States and other Western countries to put strong pressure on Syria for an immediate ceasefire.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2012)
(2012年8月23日01時45分 読売新聞)


衆院選政権公約 実現可能な政策へ論議深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 23, 2012)
Deeper discussions needed for realistic manifestos
衆院選政権公約 実現可能な政策へ論議深めよ(8月22日付・読売社説)


Unless policy pledges are feasible, politics will be unable to make any progress. This is the bitter lesson learned from the failed manifesto of the Democratic Party of Japan.

With the dissolution of the House of Representatives and a general election expected to take place "sometime soon," ruling and opposition parties are gearing up for the election. The major issue is how the DPJ will revise its manifesto, a document cynically called "a synonym for lies" that has disgraced the party.

The main campaign issues in the next lower house election are shaping up to be the consumption tax rate increase, Japan's possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, and the nation's nuclear and energy policies.


Specify fiscal resources

Policies quickly cobbled together just before an election tend to become "discount sales" that smack of populism and suck up to voters' interests. We hope each party holds down-to-earth discussions, even during the current Diet session, to come up with realistic policies.

The most glaring fault of the DPJ manifesto for the 2009 lower house election was the party's insistence that--without mentioning a consumption tax rate hike--it could find 16.8 trillion yen in fiscal resources to implement its policy pledges through such measures as overhauling budget allocations. There was never any prospect this could be achieved.

The DPJ must now be painfully aware just how poorly thought-out its manifesto was.

Referring to the manifesto for the next lower house election, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said at a general meeting of DPJ lawmakers of both Diet chambers on Aug. 8, "It's necessary to thoroughly and carefully discuss these issues within the party and make innovative efforts to ensure these discussions are 'visible.'"

Noda's argument sounds reasonable, but it also sounds like words of reflection. It is essential that many lawmakers are involved in the manifesto-compiling process and fight the election with a shared awareness.

There are probably concerns that if party members openly discuss policy matters, they would reveal their cards to other parties. But this process would be a yardstick voters could use when deciding who deserves their ballot.

If the lower house is not dissolved during the current Diet session, both the DPJ and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party should make their presidential elections, both scheduled for September, an opportunity to set the course for their election manifestos.

We also think it necessary to again consider what the point of an election manifesto is. A party that is in opposition may not know well how the system works until it takes power. Unpredictable events may occur, such as major disasters and abrupt changes in economic and international situations.

A party in power should flexibly revise or withdraw its policy pledges if its manifesto obviously becomes unrealistic or difficult to achieve.

Rather, it is preferable to carry out policies that are necessary and serve national interests, even if they run counter to the manifesto. In this instance, reasons for the policy change must be explained to the people.

Needless to say, it is essential for politicians to deliver on their pledges. But it is insincere to insist on adhering to policies that are no longer useful. It benefits nobody to fall into a trap of "manifesto supremacism."


A manifesto is supposed to be part of a cycle: parties try to achieve their stated aims, and voters evaluate the party's level of achievement in the next election. However, the DPJ manifesto has caused fundamental problems in state politics.


Problems in DPJ manifesto

The first problem involves a House of Councillors election.

After acknowledging its visions had been overly optimistic, the DPJ revised part of its 2009 election manifesto when it drew up the party's pledges for the 2010 upper house election. In connection with the consumption tax, the 2010 campaign manifesto stated, "Suprapartisan discussions will be started on drastic reform of the tax system, including the consumption tax."

But afterward, the promises for the 2010 election were put to one side and debate focused on the advisability of sticking to the manifesto for the lower house election.

How can the manifesto for a lower house election be tied to campaign pledges for an upper house election? The DPJ must clarify its stance on this point as well as its handling of the pledges for the upper house election in which it suffered a major setback.

A consumption tax increase was a central point of contention in the DPJ presidential election last summer. Noda was elected after clarifying his position in favor of a consumption tax hike. This also marked a policy change by the party.

Voters cast ballots after not only measuring the extent to which a manifesto has been achieved, but also evaluating whether such a policy change is worthwhile.


Diet will stay divided

Secondly, the next lower house election will inevitably be fought on the premise that the Diet will remain divided.

This is because neither the DPJ nor the LDP holds a majority by itself in the upper house. No matter which party wins the lower house poll, it will need to form a coalition with a party--or parties--with similar policies to form a stable government after the election.

Cooperation from opposition parties will be crucial for achieving policy goals.

It is natural for parties to advocate their policies in lower house elections, but in view of the likelihood of a coalition government and a divided Diet, it is not realistic to give specific promises, such as setting deadlines for implementing policies.

We urge all parties to compile campaign pledges for the next general election without pursuing populist lines so they can take responsibility for Japan's future.

Voters, for their part, must understand fully that there are limits to the implementation of campaign pledges.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2012)
(2012年8月22日01時51分 読売新聞)


中国反日デモ 邦人の安全確保へ沈静化図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 22, 2012)
Beijing should ensure safety of Japanese in China
中国反日デモ 邦人の安全確保へ沈静化図れ(8月21日付・読売社説)

Following the illegal landing by Hong Kong activists on one of the Senkaku Islands last week, anti-Japanese demonstrations have spread in China. The Chinese government should quickly take action to calm the situation.

Anti-Japanese demonstrators, who support China's territorial claim to the Senkaku Islands, took to the streets in about 25 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, on Sunday. In Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, and other cities, demonstrators became violent and smashed the windows of Japanese restaurants.

The large-scale demonstrations imperil Japanese who live in China. The Chinese government has a weighty responsibility for causing turmoil by tacitly approving the demonstrations. We urge the Chinese authorities to do everything they can to secure the safety of Japanese individuals and companies in the country.

The Chinese government obviously is trying to counter Japan's moves over the islands, but at the same time it apparently wants Chinese people to vent their frustrations over economic disparities and other domestic issues through the demonstrations. Some observers say the "anti-Japan card" was used as a tool in the power struggle ahead of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China in autumn in which the Chinese leadership will undergo a complete change.


Attitude unlikely to change

It is highly likely China's anti-Japan attitude will remain unchanged. The Japanese government needs to respond to the situation while keeping in mind that problems stemming from China's domestic circumstances will continually occur.

The Chinese government criticized the landing by 10 Japanese on Uotsurijima island, one of the Senkaku Islands. However, this criticism is way off the mark. Vice Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae is correct in rebutting the protest by Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua by saying, "The latest move [by Japanese individuals] comes against a backdrop of the landing by Hong Kong activists."

What the Japanese government should do first is gradually strengthen the management of the Senkaku Islands. The Tokyo metropolitan government, which plans to purchase three of the islands, has applied to the central government for permission to land on the islands.

It is essential for the central government to steadily put the Senkaku Islands under state control in cooperation with the metropolitan government.


Territorial protection essential

Aside from a bill to revise the Japan Coast Guard Law, which would allow JCG officers to apprehend criminals on uninhabited islands, it is also an urgent task to develop a system to protect Japanese territory and territorial waters.

Akihisa Nagashima, a special adviser to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, said on a TV program that the government "will review territorial patrol operations, including relevant legislation."

Jin Matsubara, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, said, "We should treat illegal entry into the country to violate Japan's sovereignty separately from ordinary illegal entry and heavily punish the former illegal entrants."

Japan's preparedness for national crises such as unlawful intrusions into its territory is woefully inadequate.

Japan had to take this problem to heart on a number of occasions after the incursion of North Korean spy ships in 1999. At that time, The Yomiuri Shimbun proposed "territorial patrol operations" as a new duty for the Self-Defense Forces and that the SDF be commissioned to conduct "guard-and-watch" missions.

Illegal landings by anti-Japan organizations, such as in the latest case, may be a frequent occurrence in the future. The government should also consider legislation to beef up territorial patrol operations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 21, 2012)
(2012年8月21日02時06分 読売新聞)


原発ゼロ発言 無責任な楽観論を振りまくな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 21, 2012)
Denuclearization is not a viable option
原発ゼロ発言 無責任な楽観論を振りまくな(8月20日付・読売社説)

It is irresponsible for a Cabinet minister in charge of promoting exports of nuclear power plants as part of Japan's growth strategy to state that the nation's ratio of nuclear power generation to total electricity output should become zero as soon as possible.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano recently visited Vietnam, where Japanese firms have won tentative orders to construct nuclear reactors, and signed an agreement with the Vietnamese government under which Japan would cooperate to create a system necessary for the introduction of nuclear plants.

Edano told the media Japan has a responsibility to contribute to the international community by disseminating nuclear safety technology abroad.

Before visiting Vietnam, however, Edano said he believed the ratio of nuclear power generation in Japan's total electricity output "should become zero as soon as possible." Does this mean he will sell nuclear reactors to other countries while abolishing them quickly in his own country? How can he win international trust that way?

If this nation decides to abolish nuclear power generation, it will not be able to foster nuclear power experts. This means it would not be able to maintain its contribution to Vietnam in terms of nuclear safety. Edano should withdraw his contradictory remarks on denuclearization.


Zero option unrealistic

The government has presented to the public three scenarios on the ratio of nuclear power generation in 2030: zero percent, 15 percent, and 20 percent to 25 percent. Without doubt, the most unrealistic among the three is zero percent.

If the ratio were reduced to zero percent, the damage to the Japanese economy would be immense. According to the government's estimate, Japan's gross domestic product would drop by 50 trillion yen.

The private sector's outlook in this respect is also bleak. The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) warned that the number of unemployed would increase by 2 million under this scenario. The steel industry, which consumes huge amounts of electricity, said this scenario suggests their businesses would have to close as electricity bills could increase up to two times.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has instructed ministers concerned to study what challenges the nation would face if the ratio became zero and to work out measures to overcome them. We cannot turn a blind eye to his instructions if they are aimed at arming the government with theories justifying denuclearization.


Edano irresponsible

We are extremely worried when we hear casual opinions voiced by some members of the Noda government despite painful calls from the economic sector that Japan can do without nuclear plants.

It is particularly distressing when Edano, a minister responsible for both the stable supply of electricity and industrial development, is spreading such overoptimistic views.

In saying that zero percent is a viable option, Edano said, "It will rather benefit the economy as long as we do it right."

He meant it would lead to expansion of domestic demand if renewable energy sources replaced nuclear reactors.

However, the reality is harsher. Germany has decided to promote renewable energy ahead of Japan, but it has come up against a number of negative factors, such as sharply increased financial burdens on households because of higher electricity bills, and the bankruptcy of German solar panel makers overwhelmed by an influx of lower-priced Chinese products.

It is extremely dangerous to decide on an energy strategy that affects the fate of Japan on the basis of such uncertain hopes.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2012)
(2012年8月20日01時32分 読売新聞)


不法入国者送還 「尖閣」管理へ海保の拡充を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 19, 2012)
Govt must boost JCG power to control Senkaku Islands
不法入国者送還 「尖閣」管理へ海保の拡充を(8月18日付・読売社説)

The government should make further efforts to bolster the Japan Coast Guard's policing abilities to maintain and stably manage the Senkaku Islands.

The government on Friday authorized the deportation of 14 people, including anti-Japan activists from Hong Kong, who were arrested earlier this week on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law by landing on Uotsurijima island, one of the Senkakus. Judicial proceedings against them were not taken because it was concluded their action did not constitute a serious violation of law, such as the obstruction of public duties.

Such a decision appears to be inevitable, but it is unlikely to bring down the curtain on this issue.

Anti-Japan groups such as the one based in Hong Kong have seen their funding boosted and are likely to step up their activities. There are signs that the latest Senkaku incident could develop into anti-Japan protests throughout China.

The government should press China again not to ignore such provocative acts by private groups.


Be cautious of China's tactics

Regarding measures to prevent further illegal intrusions onto the islands, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference, "Ministers concerned will swiftly deal with the matter."

Members of the government must share the same recognition of what is at stake and establish a system to quickly eliminate illegal acts.

There is concern that the Chinese government could try to take control of events if another incident like this one flares up in the future.

China has expanded its effective control of the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with neighboring countries, by having fishing boats enter disputed waters and then deploying fisheries patrol vessels and warships for the ostensible purpose of protecting the fishing boats.

The situation of the East China Sea, where the Senkaku Islands are located, differs from that of the South China Sea, but the government needs to be cautious to prevent Beijing from using similar tactics.

China reportedly plans to increase its number of patrol vessels to 520 by 2020, including ones to be deployed in the East China Sea.

In contrast, the JCG has basically taken a scrap-and-build strategy for patrol vessels. A significant increase from the current fleet of about 360 patrol vessels would be difficult. The JCG is bound to be overtaken by its Chinese counterparts in terms of both quality and quantity. The time has come for Japan to consider plans to expand JCG power.


Buildup plans for JCG needed

We suggest the government create mid- and long-term buildup plans for the JCG, analogous to the National Defense Program Outline and the Mid-Term Defense Program for the Self-Defense Forces.

During a plenary session of the House of Representatives in July, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, "The government will respond firmly [to intrusions on Japanese territory including the Senkaku Islands] and use the SDF if necessary."

The SDF needs to speed up work to increase its surveillance of the Nansei Islands to counter China's naval buildup.

The presence of the U.S. military is also important. The Senkaku Islands fall within areas for Japan-U.S. joint defense.

The U.S. deployment of new MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft to Okinawa Prefecture would enhance the mobility of U.S. marines in times of emergency. It would also be conducive to protecting the Senkaku Islands. The latest Senkaku incident reaffirms the need for the deployment.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2012)
(2012年8月18日01時38分 読売新聞)


「竹島」提訴へ 日本領有の正当性を発信せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 19, 2012)
Use ICJ suit to emphasize Japan's Takeshima sovereignty
「竹島」提訴へ 日本領有の正当性を発信せよ(8月18日付・読売社説)

It is highly significant that our country is making a wide appeal to the international community to recognize the legitimacy of Japan's sovereignty over the Takeshima islands.

The government has announced plans to take the sovereignty row involving the islets in the Sea of Japan to the International Court of Justice.

Japan will shortly propose that the two countries work together to bring the Takeshima issue before the U.N. tribunal in The Hague. If South Korea refuses the overture, Japan will file a suit on its own with the ICJ.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura stressed in a news conference Friday that Japan wants to "resolve the issue calmly, fairly and peacefully based on international law."

He went on to say, "If South Korea believes its claim to the ownership of Takeshima is justifiable, it should accept our government's proposal."

South Korea has rejected going to the ICJ for a ruling on the disputed islets two times so far, and it plans to dismiss the Japanese move this time, too.


Given the ICJ is unable to begin proceedings over an international dispute without the consent of all parties concerned, there are no prospects for the main judicial body of the United Nations to start hearings over the Tokyo-Seoul territorial row.


Syngman Rhee Line outrageous

Through Japan's planned lodging of a suit, however, South Korea's illegal occupation of the islets and the unconscionability of its claim to Takeshima will become widely known to the international community. It is very important for Japan to calmly proceed with the court proceedings.

A look at Takeshima's history makes it indisputably clear that Japan established its sovereignty over the islets in the middle of the 17th century. A Cabinet decision was made in 1905 to incorporate the islets under the jurisdiction of Shimane Prefecture.

In the San Francisco Peace Treaty signed after World War II, Takeshima was excluded from the list of areas for which Japan was obliged to renounce its territorial claims.

In 1952, just before the treaty went into effect, however, then South Korean President Syngman Rhee unilaterally took control of the Takeshima islets by creating the so-called Syngman Rhee Line--in violation of international law--and South Korea has been illegally occupying Takeshima since then.

The Japanese government, for its part, must assert from time to time that Takeshima is clearly Japanese territory both historically and under international law.

The responsibility for causing the turmoil this time lies entirely with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, who brashly visited Takeshima on Aug. 10.

It has been the practice of successive administrations of South Korean political leaders, when beleaguered by domestic politics, to wheel out historical and territorial problems vis-a-vis Japan in the form of political claptrap to exploit nationalistic sentiments of the South Korean people.


Avoid irreparable animosity

President Lee's deeds this time, combined with his subsequent demand for an "apology from the Emperor" for the wartime past, is particularly unforgivable. South Korea should be cognizant of this.

The Japanese side, in a bid to work out further countermeasures against Lee's words and deeds, is considering such steps as postponing a Japan-South Korea summit meeting and intergovernmental consultations scheduled for the near future.

Finance Minister Jun Azumi, for that matter, does not rule out the possibility of scaling down a credit line Japan was prepared to set for a bilateral currency swap deal designed for the transfer of foreign currencies to one of the two countries in time of a monetary crisis.

Indications are that Japan-South Korea ties will remain stalemated at least for the time being.

The price for the worsening of bilateral relations will eventually have to be paid by both Japan and South Korea.

A prolonged feud between the countries is bound to benefit only North Korea in connection with security affairs in the northeastern Asian region.

Both Japan and South Korea must act with cool heads and keep talking to prevent bilateral relations from irreparably plunging into animosity.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2012)
(2012年8月18日01時38分 読売新聞)


尖閣不法上陸 再発防止へ態勢を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 18, 2012)
Beef up measures to prevent future Senkaku intrusions
尖閣不法上陸 再発防止へ態勢を強化せよ(8月17日付・読売社説)

It was an act of blatant defiance against Japan's sovereignty. To prevent the recurrence of such actions in the future, the government should enhance its preparedness to handle such cases.

A boat belonging to an anti-Japan group based in Hong Kong recently traveled to Uotsurijima, one of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and some of the group members landed on the island.

The Okinawa prefectural police and the Japan Coast Guard arrested all 14 members who were aboard--five who illegally landed on the island and nine others who were on the boat--on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.

This group let Hong Kong television reporters accompanying them broadcast the activists' landing live on the Internet. They obviously intended to provoke Japan and whip up Chinese nationalism. They probably attempted to take advantage of a Japan-South Korea standoff over the Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture as well.

The JCG and police should be hailed for cooperating on such steps as the deployment of their respective members in advance and promptly making the arrests.

The 14 arrested people likely will soon be deported by immigration authorities after being investigated. The same steps were taken after Chinese activists landed illegally on Uotsurijima in March 2004.


Smooth actions will bolster control

It is significant that Japan smoothly acted in accordance with the law to maintain order on the Senkaku Islands. It will help Japan bolster its effective control over the islands.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the government would strictly deal with the matter in accordance with the law. We hope the government duly moves ahead with procedures.

After a Chinese trawler collided with JCG patrol ships near the Senkaku Islands about two years ago, the trawler's skipper was sent to prosecutors on suspicion of obstructing official duties, which is a serious crime.

If the activists arrested this time are probed over alleged violations of the immigration law only, it is appropriate, at least for now, to settle the case quickly with their deportation.

What is important is not to allow the recurrence of such illegal entries into Japan's territory.

Hong Kong authorities could have prevented the departure of the anti-Japan organization's boat, but instead gave it tacit approval. We sense the Chinese government's intention to pressure Japan over the Senkaku issue.

But it is obvious that if turmoil arises, Japan-China relations would be harmed, which would bring disadvantages for China as well.

The government should make Chinese and Hong Kong authorities understand this point and urge them to take measures to prevent similar acts in the future through such means as strengthened surveillance of anti-Japan organizations.


Did JCG do enough?

The opposition Liberal Democratic Party and others are stepping up their criticism of the fact that the JCG failed to block the activists' landing. The JCG needs to thoroughly examine whether it was sufficiently vigilant and further beef up its equipment and personnel.

A bill to revise the law governing the coast guard to strengthen the JCG's power has finally passed the House of Representatives six months after it was submitted to the Diet. We attribute the long delay in passing the bill, which was unanimously approved, to the negligence of ruling and opposition parties.

It is essential to put the Senkaku Islands under state control to achieve stable administration of the islands. We hope the government expedites procedures for their nationalization by coordinating with the Tokyo metropolitan government, which plans to purchase the islands.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 17, 2012)
(2012年8月17日01時36分 読売新聞)


韓国大統領発言 日韓関係の停滞化を懸念する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 17, 2012)
Lee's remarks could paralyze Japan-South Korea relations
韓国大統領発言 日韓関係の停滞化を懸念する(8月16日付・読売社説)

No matter how much South Korea stresses it wants a "future-oriented" relationship with Japan, Seoul's diplomacy toward Tokyo always hits a snag due to historical perceptions and territorial issues.

It seems that South Korean President Lee Myung Bak was unable to escape from this pattern, which has been repeated by his country's previous administrations.

Following his visit to the Takeshima islands last week, Lee indicated Tuesday that an apology from the bottom of the Emperor's heart to independence activists is a condition for the Emperor to visit South Korea.

We have to say Lee's remark is unbecoming to the head of a Japanese ally.

We are concerned that the Japan-South Korea relationship, which cooled due to Lee's Takeshima visit, will deteriorate further and the estrangement will be prolonged.

It is very irresponsible for Lee, who has only six months left in his term, to commit himself with words and actions that could create problems for the future bilateral relationship.

After Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic relations in 1965, former South Korean presidents, starting with Chun Doo Hwan in 1984, visited Japan and met with the Emperor. In 1990, Seoul formally invited the Emperor to visit South Korea.


President changes tune

Lee himself invited the Emperor to visit his country while he was on an official visit to Japan in 2008. He also showed eagerness to realize the Emperor's visit to South Korea in 2010, the centennial year of Japan's annexation of Korea.

It has been reported that Lee went so far as to say during a meeting with a group of schoolteachers, "The Emperor doesn't need [to visit South Korea] if he is coming just to express his 'deepest regret.'" Lee was apparently referring to a term used by the Emperor at a banquet at the Imperial Palace for then South Korean President Roh Tae Woo during his visit to Japan 22 years ago.

The side that invited the Emperor set a condition afterward and said he does not need to come if the condition is not met. Such an attitude is extremely impolite.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Lee's remark was "hard to understand and regrettable." Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said, "Making unconstructive remarks goes against South Korea's own interests."

It is only natural that the Japanese government lodged a protest with the South Korean government.

It is desirable for the Emperor's visit to South Korea to be realized in a way that it can be accepted naturally by the people of the two countries. As a result, there is no option but to shelve a possible visit by the Emperor to South Korea for the time being.


'Comfort women' issue settled

In a speech Wednesday during a ceremony to commemorate Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, Lee reiterated his demand that the Japanese government take "responsible measures" on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Against the backdrop of South Korean public opinion, Lee has urged Noda to apologize to victims and pay compensation. But as far as the right to claim compensation is concerned, it was fully and finally settled when the two countries normalized diplomatic ties.

When it comes to territorial and comfort women issues, Japan and South Korea must calmly discuss history based on accurate facts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2012)
(2012年8月16日02時35分 読売新聞)


8月15日 「史実」の国際理解を広げたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 16, 2012)
Govt must explain historical facts to the rest of the world
8月15日 「史実」の国際理解を広げたい(8月15日付・読売社説)


Sixty-seven years have passed since then. Today marks the anniversary of the end of World War II for Japan. This is a day to remember the war dead who laid the foundation for Japan's postwar prosperity.

But almost as if to coincide with this day, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak brazenly visited the Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture without any hesitation. We consider his visit extremely regrettable.

Why did South Korea make such an outrageous move at this particular time?

Lee flaunted Seoul's effective control of the islets over which Japan and South Korea remain locked in a standoff over territorial rights. He also referred to the issue of the so-called wartime comfort women. He asserted that Japan has failed to show sincerity on the issue, although it has been raised during a summit meeting with the Japanese prime minister.


Anti-Japan feeling whipped up

It is generally believed that Lee, who has seen his influence wane as his term as president draws to a close, was attempting to show his "achievement" as the first South Korean head of state to visit the Takeshima islands.

Deep-rooted anti-Japan sentiment remains in South Korea, which was once under Japan's colonial rule. Lee's actions also can be perceived as populism designed to tap that national sentiment.

During the London Olympics, a South Korean soccer player held up a paper sign reading "Dokdo is our land" while celebrating his team's win over Japan in the third-place playoff. The Takeshima islands are called Dokdo in South Korea. The player's act was blatantly a political activity at a games venue, which is prohibited by the Olympic Charter.

There is no doubt that Lee's recent actions have recklessly whipped up nationalism among the South Korean people.

Japan-South Korea relations, which appear to be sound, are actually fragile and could suddenly collapse when issues of historical perceptions become politicized. Both sides must make efforts to overcome differences in their perceptions of history and build a constructive relationship.

Meanwhile, South Korea has hosted a summit meeting of the Group of 20 major economies as well as the Nuclear Security Summit. The post of U.N. secretary general is held by a South Korean. That nation has produced many world-class companies, such as Samsung and Hyundai Motor Co., that rival Japanese companies.

Lee himself said Japan no longer wields the international influence it once did. It should be noted that Seoul apparently is attaching less importance to some aspects of its relations with Japan as a result of confidence bred by South Korea's rapid economic growth.

Japan intends to file a suit on the Takeshima issue with the International Court of Justice. At the same time, we believe the government should strongly urge Seoul to refrain from making further efforts to impose its illegal occupation of the islands.


Territorial dispute with Russia

A territorial dispute is also causing friction in Japan's relations with Russia.

In November 2010, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kunashiri--one of the four islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan but which have been held by Russia since the end of World War II. In July this year, Medvedev, this time as prime minister, conducted an inspection tour of the same island.

Moscow probably wants to demonstrate to people at home and overseas that Russia acquired the islands--the northern territories of Japan--as a result of the war and has been promoting development projects there on its own.

Moreover, in view of the fact that Russia's oil and natural gas development projects in Sakhalin in the Russian Far East have been proceeding steadily, Moscow apparently is telling Tokyo it will no longer need Japan's assistance in developing the four islands.

In fact, South Korean firms have taken part in development projects on Etorofu and Shikotan islands. If the situation continues like this, the "Russianization" of the northern territories will only advance further.

On the other hand, bolstering Japan-Russia relations will be indispensable in countering China, which has been increasing its presence through its growing economic and military might.

The government must rework its strategy for resolving the territorial dispute with Moscow from many angles.

Historical claims made by South Korea and Russia are being heard over the world. The Japanese government should handle these territorial issues with a stronger sense of urgency.

A cenotaph for the comfort women was installed at a public library in a small town near New York City in 2010. An inscription on the plaque reads: "In memory of the more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of Imperial Japan."

Korean-Americans have been promoting the movement to build such cenotaphs in various parts of the United States. The movement is apparently aimed at generating pressure on Japan from the United States.

The comfort women issue became more prominent following a statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993.


Kono's remarks problematic

His statement included a portion indicating as if the women were systematically and forcibly made comfort women by Japanese authorities at the time. This opened the door to greater misunderstanding on the issue. In the end, no documents that could prove there was any truth to what Kono had suggested have been found.

It has been widely publicized in the United States that Korean girls and women were abducted by the Japanese military and used as comfort women. Due to the existence of Kono's statement, the Japanese government cannot refute this effectively. This is extremely problematic.

Tokyo should thoroughly explain both at home and abroad the historical facts and background surrounding the Takeshima, northern territories and comfort women issues.

In August, when we remember the end of the war, it is essential to disseminate Japan's position on these issues to the international community in an effort to seek its understanding and support.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2012)
(2012年8月15日01時37分 読売新聞)


GDP減速 景気優先の政策対応を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 15, 2012)
Govt, BOJ must act quickly to shore up economy
GDP減速 景気優先の政策対応を急げ(8月14日付・読売社説)

The nation's economic growth, which had been buoyed by demand for reconstruction from last year's earthquake and tsunami disasters, has slowed down.

Concerning the economic outlook, the government said, "Mild growth is expected to continue." But no optimism is warranted.

The government and the Bank of Japan should strengthen economy-boosting policies and realize stable growth led by private demand.

The real gross domestic product for the April-June period increased 0.3 percent over the previous quarter, marking the fourth straight quarter of growth. But the pace slackened from the 1.3 percent growth recorded in the previous quarter. The nominal growth rate, which reflects economic conditions more vividly than the real economic growth rate, dropped into negative territory for the first time in two quarters.

The standstill in growth is attributed to the stagnation of consumer spending, which accounts for a major portion of domestic demand. New car sales were brisk thanks to government subsidies for purchases of fuel-efficient eco-friendly vehicles. But overall consumer spending did not fare well due to the bad weather and the drop in workers' income, among other factors.


Grim outlook ahead

The eco-car subsidies, which have been a lifeline for domestic consumption, are likely to be cut off in September as the budget set aside for that purpose runs out. This makes it impossible to dispel concern that the economy will slow down further in autumn.

The growth rate for public investment, which had been robust in disaster-stricken areas, shrank. The signs of decline emerging in domestic demand, which is said to be sustained by government spending for purposes such as reconstruction, are a cause for concern.

Prospects are also growing uncertain over foreign demand. Japan's exports slackened due to the slowdown of the world economy, particularly that of Europe, and domestic industrial production declined for the third straight month in June.

To prevent the economy from losing steam, the government should adopt policies that back up private-sector economic activity.

It will also be necessary to rectify the strength of the yen, which has risen to historic highs, to save the export industry from the predicament it now faces. We hope the government and the central bank will look into the possibility of market intervention and further easing of monetary policy. We suggest that they positively study measures, such as the central bank's purchase of foreign government bonds, that will lead to selling of the yen and buying of the U.S. dollar.


Aggressive policies vital

It will be essential to strengthen aggressive policies such as promoting overseas investment by taking advantage of the yen's strength.

Nearly all of the nation's nuclear reactors currently stand idle, leaving the power supply still in limbo. It is feared that the possibility of power shortages will restrain domestic production and investment, further accelerating the hollowing out of industry. Reactors must be put back into operation in rapid succession as soon as their safety is confirmed.

It will also be important to push ahead with a growth strategy by working to expand free trade through participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade framework talks, lowering the corporate tax rate and promoting deregulation for fostering of new industries.

The delay in implementing policies due to the confrontation between ruling and opposition parties over a dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap election is another factor in the uncertain economic outlook.

The government and ruling parties must work hard to achieve early legislation of important bills, including a special bill for issuance of deficit-covering bonds that is indispensable to the implementation of the budget for the current fiscal year.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2012)
(2012年8月14日01時32分 読売新聞)


終盤国会 民自公で残る懸案に取り組め

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 14, 2012)
Parties must tackle remaining issues before end of Diet session
終盤国会 民自公で残る懸案に取り組め(8月13日付・読売社説)

The passage rate of bills submitted by the government during the current ordinary Diet session is only 48 percent. Many observers doubt whether it will even reach the record-low 54 percent seen in the 2010 ordinary Diet session.

Poor management of Diet affairs by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and resistance of the opposition parties, triggered by censure against two cabinet ministers, have stagnated deliberations on bills.

A large number of issues need to be dealt with in the final phase of the current Diet session. We expect the DPJ, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito to maintain their current partnership and achieve tangible results.

Only three weeks--if the Bon holiday period is excluded--remain to discuss bills before the end of the current session on Sept. 8.


Prioritize important bills

Diet members have to identify important bills and deliberate them efficiently. These include a bill to allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds and bills on the revision of the Public Offices Election Law to alleviate disparity in the value of votes by reducing the number of seats at the House of Representatives by five.

For instance, the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito have agreed on the early passage of bills to create a common personal identification number for social security and taxation systems, which is necessary for comprehensive reform of those systems, and to realize an Osaka metropolis.

The three parties must also recognize the urgency of Diet agreement on personnel appointments for a nuclear regulatory commission.

Why has Diet agreement on the personnel appointments proposed by the government in late July been put off?

If the launch of the commission scheduled for September is postponed, it might delay the safety inspections necessary for reactivation of idle nuclear reactors.

It is also intolerable the Diet failed to approve international treaties.

The government has submitted 11 bills in the current session on international treaties for Diet approval, including the Hague Convention on treatment of children when international marriages fail.

However, none have been approved so far, due to confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties in the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. The Diet cannot escape criticism for being negligent in its duty.


TPP, energy also on agenda

There is also a mountain of political issues other than bills, which require consensus building between the ruling and opposition parties.

They include possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade agreement, the realization of a new energy policy, including the role of nuclear power, and mid- and long-term reform of the public pension system.

None of the issues can move forward without a stable political foundation where the national leader can look resolutely forward.

It is a grave fact that neither the DPJ nor the LDP and Komeito have a majority in the House of Councillors.  参院では、民主党も自公両党も過半数を握っていないという事実は重い。

Whatever election pledges or policy issues the three parties make in the next lower house election, they cannot be realized and will become empty promises without a tripartite partnership among the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito in the so-called divided Diet where the opposition maintains control of the upper house.

We believe it is significant for the three parties to maintain a relationship of trust as they must seek a tripartite partnership not only before, but also after the lower house election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 13, 2012)
(2012年8月13日01時17分 読売新聞)


大統領竹島入り 日韓関係を悪化させる暴挙だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 13, 2012)
Lee's visit to Takeshima threatens Japan-S. Korea ties
大統領竹島入り 日韓関係を悪化させる暴挙だ(8月12日付・読売社説)

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak went ahead with a visit to the Takeshima islands in the Sea of Japan on Friday. The islets are part of Japan's sovereign territory but illegally occupied by South Korea.

If a head of state visits an area of land whose sovereignty is also claimed by another country, the act can be considered provocative, as it blatantly disregards the other nation. It is inevitable that Lee's visit will erode the trust Japan and South Korea have built until now and cool bilateral relations.

Soon after assuming the presidency, Lee focused on cultivating mature relations with Japan. He maintained a pragmatic, forward-looking stance and was dedicated to strengthening ties with his neighbor.

However, Lee spoiled his progressive reputation when he brought up the so-called comfort women issue again during talks with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in December last year. We cannot help but feel more disappointment over the South Korean president's latest indiscretion.


Japan should take firm stance

As territorial issues pertain to state sovereignty, the government should not treat Lee's visit lightly.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba summoned the South Korean ambassador to Japan to file a complaint on the matter and temporarily recalled Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Masatoshi Muto. He also made clear the government's intention to refer the Takeshima issue to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. These were natural diplomatic countermoves.

Noda expressed his strong disapproval of Lee's visit, describing it as "totally unacceptable" and saying the government would "resolutely respond" to the incident.

The question remains as to how effective the government's response can really be.

The Takeshima islets, known as Dokdo in South Korea, are a symbol of independence and patriotism for South Koreans. However, the country's past presidents--even Lee's predecessor Roh Moo Hyun, who was known for having made many anti-Japan remarks--did not visit the disputed islands out of consideration for Japan and to prevent bilateral relations from deteriorating.

Lee has now crossed the line. The president, in an apparent bid to regain popularity in his last days of presidency, pulled out the anti-Japan card. Lee's leadership has come into question recently as his brother and various close aides have been arrested or resigned from their posts over corruption and other scandals.

South Korea's ruling camp might have felt pressured to show hostility toward Japan because opposition parties have been displaying a more confrontational stance against the nation as South Korea's presidential election approaches in December.


Govt's leniency also to blame

Japan is also indirectly responsible for the incident. The Democratic Party of Japan-led government has been lenient in its diplomatic approach toward Russia over the disputed northern territories.

The government was unable to prevent former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev from visiting Kunashiri Island, one of the four islets claimed by Japan, two years ago. It also failed to prevent his subsequent visit to the island in July after he became prime minister.

The government said it would take "appropriate steps" when Medvedev first visited the island. However, its later stance toward the issue failed to encourage Russia to exercise restraint.

It is only natural South Korea has exploited the fact that Japan's diplomatic relations with the United States and China have been faltering.

It is also concerning that South Korea has been conducting military exercises near Takeshima in recent years. The government should monitor such developments to ensure they do not lead to the acceleration of the islands' position as a strategic military base, while also calling on Seoul to refrain from further provocations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 12, 2012)
(2012年8月12日01時36分 読売新聞)