日中国交40年 「互恵」再構築へ長期戦略を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 29, 2012)
Long-range strategy a must for Japan-China reciprocity
日中国交40年 「互恵」再構築へ長期戦略を(9月28日付・読売社説)


When diplomatic relations were established between Japan and China in 1972, who could have imagined the relationship would become as strained as it is now?

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of a joint declaration by then Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing. Despite the importance of the milestone, events celebrating Japan-China ties have been canceled or suspended one after another.

Boycotts of Japanese goods have spread in China, and the bilateral relationship is in an unprecedentedly grave situation. There are no signs that Chinese protests against Japan's decision to nationalize the Senkaku Islands will subside anytime soon.

Rocky relations between the world's No. 2 and No. 3 economies are bound to have an adverse effect on the region as well as the global economy.

How should Japan deal with China? First, it must map out and execute a long-range strategy for normalizing relations.


A political, economic chill

Among the anti-Japan demonstrations that have occurred recently in China, the event that best symbolizes the bleak state of bilateral ties was the attack on a Panasonic Corp. factory by a violent mob.

Panasonic has played a pioneering role among Japanese firms in expanding its operations in China.

A meeting in 1978 between Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of the current Panasonic, and visiting Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping served as a catalyst for expansion by Japanese companies in China. In the meeting, Deng asked Matsushita to support China's development with both technology and business management.

In the wake of the meeting, Japanese firms rushed to establish offices in China, which created many jobs. In addition, the Japanese government continued to loan China yen until fiscal 2007.

There is no doubt the assistance of the Japanese government and companies strengthened China's economic fundamentals and helped China's economy surpass even that of Japan's in terms of gross domestic product.

Japan's cooperation with China, however, is largely unknown to the ordinary people of China.

On the contrary, China in the 1990s strengthened patriotic education in its schools, inculcating anti-Japan sentiment and spreading attitudes downplaying Japan's role among the Chinese public even as the economy developed.

This state of mind appears to be intensifying in China, allowing the current political and economic chill in the bilateral relationship.

Nevertheless, it should never be forgotten that the economies of Japan and China have grown deeply intertwined.

The two countries have established a system of international division of labor in which China imports industrial parts from Japan to assemble into finished products. These are then marketed domestically in China or exported to the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Both sides must not forget this fact.


Strengthen coast guard

The root cause of problems surrounding the Senkaku Islands lies in China's unilateral assertion of a groundless claim to the islets in the 1970s, but only after learning that the area of the East China Sea around the islands might contain rich oil resources.

At a press conference when the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China came into effect in 1978, Deng said, "It does not matter if this question [the dispute over the Senkaku Islands] is shelved for some time," thus proposing leaving the issue to future generations to solve.

However, China in 1992 enacted its Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, which specifies that the islands belong to China. More recently, China has caused friction to flare by repeatedly sending surveillance ships to the waters around the islands.

The recent nationalization of some of the Senkaku Islands is merely a transfer of ownership from a private citizen to the central government. China may have been angered because the purchase took place shortly after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Vladivostok, Russia, but China's ire has been greater than Japan expected.

At a recent meeting between Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in New York, Yang called Japan's nationalization of the islands a "denial" of the outcome of "the anti-fascist war," by which he meant China's victory over Japan in World War II.

We see Yang's attempt to associate the islands with unrelated historical events as extremely far-fetched.

Japan should not stand idly by while China battles for world opinion by vehemently criticizing Japan over nonexistent "faults."

Noda, speaking before the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, said, "Any attempt by a nation to achieve its ideology or claims through the unilateral threat or use of force is absolutely unacceptable." We see this view as eminently reasonable.

China recently launched its first aircraft carrier. The country's policy of expanding its military is sure to continue under its new leadership and will likely be promoted more strongly than ever.

If effective control over the Senkaku Islands were lost, it would be extremely difficult to regain. Therefore, the government must set as its highest priority the strengthening of the Japan Coast Guard's capabilities to counter any infringement on the nation's sovereignty.

Needless to say, a military confrontation must be avoided at all costs. The deployment of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture is an important part of boosting deterrence toward China.


Achieve prosperity together

Since several years ago, beginning with the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan had held talks with China over the joint development of gas fields in the East China Sea from the standpoint of fostering a "strategically reciprocal relationship" so both nations could live in harmony and prosperity.

However, "reciprocal" ties have been stalled since a Chinese fishing vessel rammed JCG patrol vessels off the Senkaku Islands in 2010.

Thorough preparations are essential to rebuilding the reciprocal relationship. The government must inform China through various channels that it is willing to cooperate, not only in the industrial and tourism sectors and in enhancing agricultural productivity, but also in areas such as energy efficiency and environmental protection.

Close cooperation with the United States is also vital in improving the Japan-China relationship, as is strategic diplomacy by reinforcing ties with neighbors, including India, Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 28, 2012)
(2012年9月28日01時12分  読売新聞)


安倍自民新総裁 政権奪還への政策力を高めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 28, 2012)
Abe should enhance policymaking capability to retake reins of govt
安倍自民新総裁 政権奪還への政策力を高めよ(9月27日付・読売社説)


Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "retry" comes with a heavy task--retaking the reins of government.

Abe was elected president of the Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday, defeating four contenders, including former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba.

Ishiba won the first round of the race by securing a majority of local chapters' votes, but Abe turned the tables in a runoff in which only Diet members were eligible to vote.

Depending on the results of the next House of Representatives election, it is highly likely that Abe will become prime minister. After winning the presidential election, Abe expressed his resolve, saying: "I'll make all-out efforts to retake the reins of government. I'll make a strong Japan." He needs to devise a strategy and policy to revive the nation starting now.


Senkaku issue changes race

The fact that the runoff was fought by Abe and Ishiba, neither of whom head their own faction, illustrates the changes in LDP presidential elections, which in the past were characterized by alliances of intra-party factions.

Initially, LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara was seen as the likeliest to win the LDP presidency, but Abe and Ishiba expanded their support among local rank-and-file members. This is obviously related to China's high-handed behavior toward Japan over the Senkaku Islands.

During the presidential election campaign, Abe and Ishiba stressed the importance of diplomacy and security policy, saying they will resolutely protect Japan's land and territorial waters.

However, we cannot expect sticking to a hard-line stance to improve Japan's relationship with China.

When he was prime minister, Abe rebuilt the relationship with China, which had deteriorated under the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Abe agreed with Beijing to seek a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests."

Amid growing anti-Japan sentiment in China after the Japanese government's purchase of three of the Senkaku Islands, concrete measures to rebuild the Japan-China relationship are now called for again.

Abe indicated that he will work on strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance by enabling Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and also that he would work to amend the Constitution. In addition, he has a favorable attitude toward reviewing a 1993 statement concerning so-called comfort women, which was issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

These are all reasonable aspirations. We urge Abe to present concrete steps to realize them.

It was unfortunate that there was little in-depth discussion on the challenges Japan currently faces during the party presidential race.


Show clear stance on TPP, energy

Regarding the issue of whether to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, Abe has been wary of clarifying his stance. "We first have to enhance our bargaining power. Then we should consider whether [joining the TPP] would serve the interests of the nation," he said.

A considerable number of LDP members oppose Japan's joining the TPP, so we assume Abe was concerned about the opinion of such lawmakers. However, if Abe really plans to lead the party in regaining power from the Democratic Party of Japan, he must prepare measures to enhance the competitiveness of the nation's agricultural sector and pave the way for the nation to join negotiations for the TPP.

On the energy issue, it was appropriate for him to express negative views on the DPJ-led government's "zero nuclear" policy. However, that is not enough.

Abe should lead discussions within the party over an energy policy capable of securing a stable supply of electricity for the nation--a purpose for which safe nuclear power plants are necessary--and come up with a viable counterproposal.

Six years ago, Abe became the first Japanese born after World War II to assume the post of prime minister. Under the slogan of "departing from the postwar regime," he revised the Fundamental Law of Education and upgraded the Defense Agency to the Defense Ministry. His other achievements include the enactment of the National Referendum Law, which stipulated procedures to amend the Constitution.

However, under his leadership, the LDP suffered a humiliating defeat in the House of Councillors election in July 2007, which divided the Diet as opposition parties took control of the upper house. Soon after the election, Abe resigned from his post.

It is now said that one of the reasons Abe decided to quit was a chronic disease--ulcerative colitis--but the abrupt resignation left a strong impression with the public that Abe had irresponsibly thrown away his administration.

Abe will be tested on whether he can wipe away his negative image of being plagued with health problems and a lack of vigor.

Abe's first task as new LDP president will be to appoint new party executives.

In the first round of the presidential race, Ishiba secured a majority of votes cast by local chapters. At a press conference held after being chosen as the new president, Abe said he will "take this fact seriously." The results showed that Ishiba is highly popular at the local level. It would be reasonable for Abe to give him an important post.

During his time as prime minister, Abe was criticized for appointing too many of his sworn friends and aides to important Cabinet posts. We would like to carefully watch to whom Abe will give senior party posts.


Avoid unproductive confrontations

How Abe will steer the LDP in the next extraordinary Diet session will be important in determining his fate as the new leader.

The ordinary Diet session closed earlier this month after the upper house adopted an opposition-backed censure motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The LDP has said the fact that the upper house has adopted the censure motion will carry over to the next Diet session. However, Abe showed a flexible attitude on the censure motion at the press conference, saying that his party will not necessarily refuse to participate in all Diet deliberations.

It seems that Abe wants to hold Noda to his promise to dissolve the lower house "sometime soon," which the LDP regards as a gentlemen's agreement, in exchange for the LDP's cooperating with the Noda administration on such matters as the passage of a special bill that enables the government to issue deficit-covering bonds in the extraordinary Diet session. We believe this is a constructive approach.

Abe was plagued by a divided Diet when he was the prime minister. It is time to put an end to unproductive confrontations between the ruling and opposition parties, such as opposition parties refusing to participate in Diet deliberations and justifying it with the passage of a censure motion, and political paralysis caused by such confrontations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 27, 2012)
(2012年9月27日01時30分  読売新聞)


中台の領海侵入 示威行動に動ぜず冷静対処を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 27, 2012)
Japan should not be perturbed by recent territorial intrusions
中台の領海侵入 示威行動に動ぜず冷静対処を(9月26日付・読売社説)

China and Taiwan are stepping up pressure on Japan over the Senkaku Islands. The government must remain unshaken by this, and should seek to calm the situation through levelheaded diplomacy as soon as possible.

A week has passed since China sent about 10 surveillance ships at one time to areas around the Senkaku Islands. China has repeatedly intruded into Japan's territorial waters, making such surveillance activities appear to be routine operations.

On Tuesday, about 40 Taiwan fishing boats and 12 patrol ships entered Japan's territorial waters. The Taiwan vessels departed after Japan Coast Guard patrol ships took measures against the intruders, such as spraying water at fishing boats.

Taiwan and China in succession started claiming territorial rights over the Senkaku Islands during the 1970s. If the government allows Taiwan and China to enter Japan's territorial waters with impunity, the nation's effective control of the islands might be shaken.

The government must address the issue with precautions and countermeasures. To maintain maritime order, surveillance by JCG patrol ships and other means must be strengthened as much as possible.


Enforcement must be firm

With the enforcement of the revised law on navigation of foreign ships, the JCG is now allowed to issue an order for foreign fishing boats operating in Japan's territorial waters to exit without boarding the vessels. It is essential to eliminate illegal actions more quickly and effectively than before and demonstrate the nation's determination to protect its sovereignty.

Since the government placed the Senkaku Islands under state ownership, China has continued making outrageous responses.

China has called off exchange events with Japan in economic, cultural and sports fields one after another. A major memorial event to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, scheduled for Thursday, has been canceled. So has a visit to China by a Japanese business organization. This is an unusual situation.

These unilateral actions will undermine the international reputation of China itself. Further deterioration in Japan-China relations will only leave scars that will be hard to erase, and the situation will become much more difficult to heal.


Clear understanding needed

The fact that Japan has effectively controlled the Senkaku Islands has not been properly conveyed to the Chinese people due to Beijing's control of the media in that nation. We suspect the Chinese people do not understand what Japan's "nationalization" of the islands means.

China is stepping up its diplomatic offensive as well. It has released a white paper to justify its territorial claim to the Senkaku Islands. In doing so, Beijing apparently aims to make its case in the court of world opinion.

Japan, for its part, needs to make other nations properly understand what has happened with the Senkaku Islands and how calmly Japan has dealt with the issue.

Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai has held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, at the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing. The Chinese side reportedly said that Japan "must abandon any illusion, face up to its erroneous actions and correct them with credible steps."

This highlighted Beijing's usual high-handed attitude. But the fact that the two nations agreed to continue talks on the matter can be viewed as positive. The government should find a way to break the deadlock by having a series of talks between foreign ministers as well as between the top leaders of the two nations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2012)
(2012年9月26日01時22分  読売新聞)


液化天然ガス 官民連携で高値買い是正せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 26, 2012)
Public, private sectors must team up to lower LNG prices
液化天然ガス 官民連携で高値買い是正せよ(9月25日付・読売社説)

Imports of liquefied natural gas to be used as fuel for thermal power plants have skyrocketed, and the price of LNG has been surging. The public and private sectors must cooperate more to ensure LNG can be procured at a lower price.

LNG-consuming nations, including Japan and South Korea, and producing countries, including Qatar, took part in the first LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Tokyo last week.

Japan is the world's biggest LNG importer and sucks up 30 percent of the total production volume. Since the crisis began at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Japan has increased its reliance on thermal power generation as an alternative to nuclear power.

Before the crisis, Japan's LNG import bill came to about 3 trillion yen a year. This is expected to double to about 6 trillion yen this year.

If generation costs at electric power companies increase and these costs are passed on through higher electricity bills, it will deal a blow to industries and people's daily lives.


Paying a 'Japan premium'

We are concerned that LNG import prices have surged to about six times the price of natural gas in North America.

LNG prices in Asia are linked to crude oil prices; the recent spike in LNG is partly due to higher oil prices. During last week's conference, Japan called for a review of the current crude oil-linked pricing system, but discussions on the matter ended up being carried over to the next conference.

The top LNG importers following Japan are South Korea, Taiwan, China and India. Asian countries and regions import more than 60 percent of total global LNG output.

It is essential for Japan, together with South Korea and other nations, to introduce a new pricing system and lower LNG prices by pressing producing countries.

As for price negotiations with LNG-producers, we hope a method in which not just a single company but many firms, including electricity and gas utilities, can jointly participate will be considered.

With Japan unable to restart idled nuclear reactors and the government laying out a zero nuclear power policy, LNG producers are cashing in by charging a "Japan premium"--forcing Japan to pay a higher price for LNG.

To alleviate this situation, the government should quickly reactivate nuclear reactors once they have been confirmed safe to operate. The government must give consideration to maintaining a balance among power sources, or it could find itself at even more of a disadvantage when negotiating LNG prices.


Shale gas could be savior

In the United States and other countries, new technologies are being used to extract shale gas contained in rocks deep underground. Shale gas reserves are huge, and extracting them will likely relax the supply-demand balance in the market in the future. Some observers have called this the "shale gas revolution."

It is encouraging that Japanese trading and other companies have started moves to obtain concessions to develop shale gas fields in the United States. The government should provide massive development funds and build a framework that will ensure the stable procurement of shale gas.

However, the United States has decided that its LNG can be exported only to nations that are signatories of free trade agreements with Washington.

The U.S. policy on LNG exports under the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement--an expanded version of an FTA--remains unclear. Nevertheless, Japan, to prepare for the future, needs to quickly announce it will participate in the TPP to ensure negotiations on the trade framework are to its advantage.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2012)
(2012年9月25日02時13分  読売新聞)


中国威圧外交 リスク増大で日本の投資減も

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 24, 2012) Anti-Japan stance may curb investment in China 中国威圧外交 リスク増大で日本の投資減も(9月23日付・読売社説) Anti-Japan demonstrations in cities around China to protest the Japanese government's purchase of the Senkaku Islands have mostly calmed down.  日本の尖閣諸島国有化に反発する中国各地の反日デモは、ほぼ沈静化した。 However, it is a problem that the Chinese government is escalating its overbearing approach in diplomacy.  だが、中国の威圧外交が強まっていることは問題である。 Chinese authorities banned demonstrations in Beijing after Tuesday, which marked the 81st anniversary of the Liutiaohu bombing incident that prefaced the Manchurian Incident.  中国当局は、満州事変の発端となった柳条湖事件から81年となる18日を最後に、北京でのデモを禁止した。 The authorities apparently became wary that continuing to allow the demonstrations could threaten social stability because some of them developed into riots.  一部が暴徒化したデモを容認し続けると、社会の安定が揺らぐと警戒したようだ。 But we are concerned that Chinese President Hu Jintao and other national leaders have made a series of hard-line statements against Japan. Premier Wen Jiabao said in Brussels, where the China-European Union summit meeting was held, that China "must take strong measures," referring to the Japanese government's purchase of the Senkaku Islands.  懸念すべきは、胡錦濤国家主席ら首脳の強硬発言が相次いでいることだ。温家宝首相は、欧州連合(EU)との首脳会談が開かれたブリュッセルで、尖閣諸島国有化に言及し、「有力な措置を講じなければならない」と述べた。 Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who will succeed Hu at the upcoming National Congress of the Communist Party of China, also said some groups in Japan repeated mistakes and "staged the farce" of purchasing the islands.  近く開かれる共産党大会で胡氏のポストを引き継ぐ習近平国家副主席も、「日本の一部勢力は過ちを繰り返し、島購入という茶番を演じた」と発言した。 They apparently were expressing their determination to make no concessions at all to Japan.  日本には絶対に譲歩しない、という決意を示したのだろう。 === Doing business in China risky However, we believe it was to the Chinese side's disadvantage that the demonstrations have made Japanese companies keenly realize the risks of doing business in China.  しかし、中国での事業リスクを日本企業に痛感させたことは、中国側にもマイナスではないか。 Resumption of operations is being delayed at some of the Japanese factories in China attacked by demonstrators. The Chinese side has not shown any willingness to pay compensation for damage caused during the protests. The Japanese nonlife insurance sector estimated that insurance payouts to the damaged companies would reach 10 billion yen in total. That eventually might raise insurance fees of the companies.  反日デモで襲撃された企業の一部の工場再開は遅れている。中国側が損害賠償する姿勢は見えず、日本の損保業界は被害企業への保険金が約100億円にも上ると試算した。いずれ各社の保険料も値上がりしかねない。 It is also a matter of concern that strikes for pay raises are occurring frequently at Japanese-affiliated plants in Guangdong and other provinces in China.  広東省などの日系工場で、賃上げを要求するストライキが頻発していることも憂慮される。 We understand why one Japanese business leader after another is expressing wariness about investment in China, saying they must be cautious.  経済界で「対中投資は慎重にならざるを得ない」と警戒する声が続出しているのは当然である。 Japanese firms have placed much value on China as the factory of the world and increased their investment in that country. Such investment reached a total of 6.3 billion dollars last year, up 50 percent from the previous year. This contrasts with U.S. investment in China, which fell 26 percent last year to a mere 3 billion dollars.  日本企業は中国を「世界の工場」と重視し、投資を増やしてきた。昨年の投資額は前年比50%増の63億ドルに達し、26%減の30億ドルにとどまった米国と対照的だ。 === Millions work at Japan firms Such aggressive investment by Japanese companies is sustaining China's employment and economy. It is estimated that several million Chinese work at Japanese-affiliated companies in China.  こうした積極的な投資が、中国の雇用と景気を支えている。日系企業による中国での雇用者は数百万人に達するとも推計される。 The violent anti-Japan demonstrations have trampled on cooperative relations between China and Japan that have been nurtured over many years.  過激な反日デモは、長年培ってきた日本との協調関係も踏みにじったことになる。 It is highly likely that Japanese companies will sharply curb their investment in China and instead increase investment in other Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.  日本企業の対中投資には急ブレーキがかかり、代わって、ベトナムやタイなどアジア他国への投資が増える可能性が大きい。 Because the Chinese economy is continuing to slow down due to a decrease in exports and other factors, China's real economic growth rate this year is expected to drop below 8 percent. It is certain that--depending on the investment strategy of Japanese companies--downward pressure could further increase on the Chinese economy, negatively affecting employment there.  中国経済は輸出減などで景気減速が止まらず、今年の実質経済成長率は8%を割りそうだ。日本企業の投資戦略によっては、一段の景気の下押し圧力となり、雇用にも悪影響を与えるに違いない。 China should realize that continuing its hard line against Japan could boomerang to its own disadvantage.  中国政府は、対日強硬姿勢を改めないと、自国にも不利になって跳ね返る恐れがあることを自覚すべきだろう。 (From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 23, 2012) (2012年9月23日01時13分 読売新聞)


野田代表再選 民自公党首会談で連携確認を




The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 23, 2012)
With Noda reelected, DPJ must reconfirm 3-party pact
野田代表再選 民自公党首会談で連携確認を(9月22日付・読売社説)


By the numbers, it was a landslide victory, but considering the difficulty of the tasks ahead, the win can only be seen as bittersweet.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was reelected as Democratic Party of Japan president on Friday. Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi and the two other challengers only managed to garner about one-third of the votes between them.

At the cost of splitting the ruling party, the prime minister pushed legislation through the Diet to comprehensively revamp the social security and tax systems, reforms that are essential for Japan's revitalization. Noda's reelection is a clear sign that DPJ members endorse the agreement to work together toward reform made between the three major political parties--the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.


Noda's stance endorsed

In a speech after winning the election, Noda called for party unity, telling DPJ members, "I'd like to work with all of you to make a country where smiling faces are everywhere."

We think the party should now unite behind its newly reelected leader.

However, it was disappointing that the DPJ presidential candidates did not conduct a meaningful policy debate.

Noda has been supportive of Japan participating in talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, but he hedged his remarks on the issue during the campaign, only acknowledging that the discussions with other countries are ongoing. He did not address the issue directly around his rivals, who were either against the TPP or had adopted cautious positions.

The prime minister was probably concerned that pushing for TPP participation would cause more DPJ members to bolt. However, the decision should not be put off any longer, and we urge the government to join the TPP negotiations as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Noda supported the goal of eliminating nuclear power in the nation in the 2030s. "I want to unswervingly promote various measures in line with this basic policy," he said, while Haraguchi and the other candidates proposed an even earlier target date.

However, it is worrying that the four candidates hardly touched on the formidable challenges that could arise from reducing the nation's reliance on nuclear power to zero, such as negative impacts on the economy and foreign affairs, as well as how to maintain consistency with already existing policies such as a nuclear fuel-cycle policy.

They appeared enamored with the belief that touting the zero nuclear policy would work to their advantage in an election. As prospective leaders of the ruling party, we see such actions as irresponsible.

The debate over how to buffer low-income earners from the impact of a consumption tax hike also was mostly left alone, although two contenders--Hirotaka Akamatsu and Michihiko Kano, both former agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministers--proposed implementing reduced tax rates on certain items.

We lament that the DPJ missed an opportunity to set the direction for several key issues through its leadership election.


Thornier path ahead

Although he emerged victorious, Noda faces even more difficulties than before the election in steering the ship of state.

A total of 114 ballots were cast against Noda in the party leadership race.

In the debates prior to the election, Kano criticized Noda by calling for a "stronger culture of responsibility in the DPJ," while Haraguchi called for Noda "to take responsibility for causing the party to split more than once."

Seeking any possible advantage in the next House of Representatives election, DPJ members have continued to move away from the party to join the new Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and other emerging political forces.

If around 10 more DPJ lower house lawmakers were to leave, the party would lose its majority in the powerful chamber, even counting the seats held by its coalition partner, the People's New Party. This would leave the ruling camp vulnerable to a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet proposed by the opposition.

In such circumstances, the prime minister walks a tightrope in navigating political issues, and must maintain a precarious balance between preserving party unity and addressing difficult policy tasks.

At this stage, it is vitally important that the tripartite framework between the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito be kept intact.

In the divided Diet, where the opposition controls the House of Councillors, no bill stands a chance without cooperation between the three parties.

The prime minister has said he will make a preliminary decision on a reshuffle of the DPJ leadership by Monday, when he leaves for the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

The focal point in the reshuffle is whether Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi will retain his post. Noda appointed Koshiishi to the No. 2 post last year to help ensure party unity.

Koshiishi, however, has clashed often with the opposition over Diet affairs, including during the deliberations over the social security and tax system reform. Koshiishi's behavior highlighted the differences between his views and Noda's.

We urge Noda in reshuffling his party's executive lineup to place more importance on promoting cooperation between the ruling and opposition camps, instead of sticking only to crafting a strategy relating to dissolving the lower house for a general election.

The prime minister has also expressed an intention to meet with the new leader of the LDP, who will be elected in the largest opposition party's presidential contest Wednesday, to reconfirm the three-party reform accord.

We see a meeting in which the heads of the three main parties can exchange views on key political challenges as highly significant.

We hope the three party chiefs will have a candid discussion over such issues as how to rectify vote disparities in lower house elections, legislation for issuing deficit-covering bonds, and the compilation of a supplementary budget for fiscal 2012.


Start by cutting 5 seats

Concerning reform of the lower house's electoral system, the DPJ caused considerable consternations in the Diet by proposing, over strong objection from the opposition, legislation that included partial adoption of a seat-allocation formula for proportional representation elections that would favor small and midsize parties. The ruling party should not repeat such a sloppy, irresponsible act.

Noda in a news conference showed he is willing to tackle the task of slashing the number of seats in the lower house.

Before anything else, it would be practical to cut five single-seat districts to end the "state of unconstitutionality" in vote disparities. This would pave the way for dissolution of the lower house.

There is a high possibility that any talks between the three party heads would include on the agenda the prime minister's pledge to dissolve the lower house for a general election "sometime soon."

Noda has hinted that a general election should be postponed because "the political situation has changed" after the passage of an opposition-backed censure motion against him in the upper house. However, neither the LDP nor Komeito has backed off their demands for an early lower house dissolution.

Given this, we suspect the prime minister will have a difficult time unilaterally scrapping his pledge to dissolve the lower house.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 22, 2012)
(2012年9月22日01時14分  読売新聞)


原子力規制委 安全確認の基準作りを急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 22, 2012)
New N-body must quickly create safety guidelines
原子力規制委 安全確認の基準作りを急げ(9月21日付・読売社説)

It is urgently necessary for the new regulatory body to restore public trust in the administration of nuclear safety, which has been damaged by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was launched Wednesday, and its secretariat organ, the nuclear regulatory agency, bear heavy responsibilities in this regard.

In launching the new authority, regulatory divisions that had been overseen by several ministry and agency bodies have been absorbed into the new entity. The new authority has also been separated from the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and other government bodies that promoted nuclear power generation.

The new authority is an organ set up in line with Article 3 of the National Government Organization Law, and it has a high degree of autonomy from politics.

What is required for the new entity is, first and foremost, to make objective and rigorous judgments on whether the safety of each nuclear power plant can be ensured, based on its technical knowledge and expertise.

The new authority, comprised of chairman Shunichi Tanaka and four commissioners, must hammer out safety guidelines and establish effective inspection protocols as soon as possible.


Idle plants need to be restarted

Except for the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant, where operations were restarted in July, the other 48 nuclear reactors in the nation remain idle.

This situation was caused by the provisional guidelines the government set for restarting suspended operations of nuclear reactors. Taking lessons from the Fukushima crisis, the government imposed emergency safety requirements, such as improved measures to secure power in emergencies, on the nuclear plants.

In addition, the government ordered utility companies to conduct stress tests at nuclear plants. The tests were introduced by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, an advocate of abandoning nuclear power, and have no legal grounds.

Although test results on 30 nuclear reactors have been submitted, most of the results have yet to be examined. These results have been passed on to the new regulatory authority.

It is necessary to correct this half-hearted situation.

Tanaka said at a press conference: "Stress tests are politically motivated. I won't stick to them."

We consider this remark reasonable, given that stress tests are not a condition for restarting nuclear reactors in the United States or Europe.

It is also understandable that he showed an intention to improve disaster prevention systems and look into whether existing safety measures are flawed.


Timing is important

The problem is how much time the new authority will spend in compiling safety guidelines and making safety assessments.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. has expressed serious concerns over whether winter electricity supplies will meet demand without the restart of nuclear reactors. But Tanaka said, "It will probably be difficult [to restart] by year-end." He also said, "I'm not going to take electricity supply and demand into account."

Surely, it is not acceptable to make snap decisions on matters concerning safety measures. But if the new authority postpones making judgments by giving too much weight to thoughtless calls to abandon nuclear power, which likely will have a negative impact on industry and the people's daily lives with blackouts, the role of the authority itself will be put into question.

The new authority is facing a number of tasks, such as establishing measures to ensure safety at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant while its reactors are decommissioned and studying the feasibility of decommissioning reactors after 40 years of operation.

There has been criticism over the fact that Diet approval has yet to be given to the government's appointments of members of the new authority. But nothing is more important for them than steadily fulfilling their duties and producing tangible results.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2012)
(2012年9月21日01時40分  読売新聞)


原発ゼロ方針 「戦略」の練り直しが不可欠だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 21, 2012)
Govt must retract zero nuclear target for good of economy
原発ゼロ方針 「戦略」の練り直しが不可欠だ(9月20日付・読売社説)

What was the conclusion of the recent Cabinet meeting on the government's "zero nuclear" target? It is unclear whether the government has decided to review the policy or push it through.

The government should clearly retract the zero nuclear target, which could deal a serious blow to the economy and employment if implemented, and instead come up with a feasible energy strategy.

The Cabinet refrained from approving the government's "innovative energy and environmental strategy," which sets a target of "zero nuclear power plants operating" in the 2030s, at the meeting Wednesday.

Instead, the Cabinet merely approved the government's policy to "conduct responsible discussions with related local governments and the international community based on the strategy" and implement future energy and environmental policies "while making tireless efforts to examine and revise them."

The new energy strategy has drawn angry reactions from the business community as well as local governments that host nuclear power plants. The United States, which concluded a cooperation agreement on nuclear energy with Japan, has also expressed strong concerns over the plan.


Economic losses 'unavoidable'

Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, heads of the nation's top three business organizations--the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Japan Association of Corporate Executives--held a joint emergency press conference Tuesday to demand the government retract the zero nuclear target.

It was unusual for the heads of the three top business organizations to jointly express their dissatisfaction with government policy. The demand reflected their fears that electricity charges may double if the government implements a zero nuclear policy, and unavoidably force companies to relocate production overseas, leading to massive employment losses.

The government has so far failed to work out how to secure viable alternatives to nuclear energy, such as methods to further utilize renewable energy, mainly solar and wind power. The zero nuclear target may threaten the country's ability to secure a stable supply of electricity.

Considering these concerns, it was entirely appropriate for the Cabinet to refrain from quickly approving the new energy strategy.

However, Motohisa Furukawa, state minister in charge of national policy, said at a press conference that the Cabinet meeting "did not change the decisions made regarding the strategy." It was problematic for him to make remarks that can be interpreted as the government maintaining the zero nuclear target.

Without assuaging the deep resentment of the business community, it will be almost impossible for the government to implement its energy strategy smoothly. The government should sincerely listen to the opinions of businesses and improve soured relationships with them soon.


Energy policies not political tool

Energy policies should not be made to please voters in the upcoming general election--far-sighted initiatives concerning the nation's future are necessary.

All candidates of the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential race have carefully avoided expressing opinions in favor of the zero nuclear target. We believe they made appropriate decisions.

Meanwhile, during the election campaign for the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential race, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said: "The public has expressed its resolve [to abolish all nuclear power plants]. Based on the wishes of the people, the government has also made its decision."

However, we doubt whether there is a sufficient number of people who understand the risks of a zero nuclear policy--such as unemployment and poverty--and would be willing to undergo the hardships involved.

The government has a responsibility to choose the best national policy. It is a mistake for the government to pass the responsibility to the public and justify it as the "will of the people."

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 20, 2012)
(2012年9月20日01時21分  読売新聞)


反日デモ続く 対中感情の悪化を招くだけだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 20, 2012)
Anti-Japan rallies can only worsen feelings toward China
反日デモ続く 対中感情の悪化を招くだけだ(9月19日付・読売社説)

In the face of days of fierce anti-Japan demonstrations in China, Japan's attitude toward China has continued to deteriorate. We wonder to what extent the Chinese government is aware of the serious effect the protests are having on bilateral relations.

On the 81st anniversary of the Liutiaohu Incident, which triggered the Manchurian Incident, on Tuesday, large-scale anti-Japan demonstrations were held in dozens of places across China. Demonstrations over the Japanese government's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands have been held for the eighth consecutive day.

In Shenyang, Liaoning Province, where the Liutiaohu Incident took place, the windows of the Japanese Consulate General were smashed by rocks thrown by demonstrators. This reckless violence followed vandalism against Japanese-affiliated companies in a number of places in China last weekend.

Although the Chinese government appears to be trying to stem the extreme violence, it still permits the demonstrations. Some Japanese-affiliated companies have been forced to suspend factory operations and close their outlets. Chinese working at Japanese-affiliated companies or Japanese restaurants are also victimized by the acts of destruction.


Income gap also protested

Demonstrators holding portraits of Mao Zedong aloft apparently were also showing their strong discontent over the growing income disparity under the current Chinese administration. This indicates the demonstrations were not simply aimed only at Japan.

If China's pressure on Japan escalates, tensions between the two countries will increase further. To prepare for unpredictable events, the Japanese government should keep in close contact with Japanese citizens and Japanese-affiliated companies in China. It also should strongly press the Chinese government to ensure the safety of Japanese people and companies.

It has been reported that more than 10,000 Chinese fishing vessels set sail in the East China Sea and that about 1,000 vessels are expected to arrive in areas around the Senkaku Islands. In an attempt to wrench the islands from Japan's control, those vessels, escorted by fishery surveillance ships of the Chinese Agriculture Ministry, may enter Japan's territorial waters.

Ships sent by the Chinese authorities entered Japan's territorial waters Friday and Tuesday. The Japan Coast Guard must not relax its vigilance and surveillance activities in the immediate future.


Japan, U.S. should cooperate

In talks in Tokyo on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba agreed the two nations would cooperate to prevent Japan-China relations from being irreparably damaged. Japan and the United States must continue to urge China to handle the matter in a levelheaded manner and resolve the situation as soon as possible.

The Japanese and U.S. governments also have agreed that deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps' new Osprey transport aircraft in Okinawa Prefecture will proceed as planned.

Strengthening the functions of the U.S. forces stationed in Japan will help guide China to act in a restrained manner.

The Chinese government has submitted to the United Nations a nautical chart that identifies the areas around the Senkaku Islands as its "territorial waters." Beijing also has decided to submit an application to move the outer limit of its continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles from the baseline of its territorial waters in the East China Sea. These are steps apparently aimed at strengthening China's territorial claim over the Senkaku Islands.

The Japanese government for its part must make its stance clear to the international community that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's territory.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 19, 2012)
(2012年9月19日01時50分  読売新聞)


反米デモ 中東の不安定化を憂慮する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 19, 2012)
Anti-U.S. feelings mustn't lead to destabilization of Middle East
反米デモ 中東の不安定化を憂慮する(9月18日付・読売社説)

Anti-U.S. demonstrations have spread in Middle Eastern and Asian countries over a video clip from a U.S. film regarded by Muslims as disparaging the Prophet Mohammed.

In the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, the U.S. ambassador and three staff members were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate. It is strongly believed that armed extremists carried out the terrorist attack by taking advantage of the chaos caused by the anti-U.S. protests.

In Cairo, some protesters stormed into the U.S. Embassy compound. U.S. embassies also were attacked in Sudan and Tunisia. In Yemen, people were killed in clashes between protesters and police.

The wave of protests has spread to Asian countries with Muslim majorities, including Indonesia and Malaysia.

Images from the video clip of the film, which was produced in the United States, spread across the world after it was posted on the Internet. It is not known which individual or group produced the video clip or why it was posted on the Internet, but it has fueled religious hostility. No wonder Muslims are offended.


Violence should be avoided

Even so, acts of violence and sabotage should never be permitted regardless of the anger the film provoked.

U.S. President Barack Obama strongly denounced the attacks on the U.S. ambassador and others, saying "we reject the denigration of any religion...Yet there never is any justification for violence."

We hope the situation will calm down as early as possible.

A major concern is that anti-U.S. sentiment has spread widely among common people in the Middle East, not just Muslim radicals.

This may be because of their distrust in and discontent with U.S. policies vis-a-vis the Middle East.

After taking office in 2009, Obama made an effort to improve relations with the Islamic world, where anti-U.S. sentiment had increased because of the Iraq War. He supported the Arab Spring reform movement against autocratic leaders.

Nevertheless, the demonstrations triggered by a video that has no connection whatsoever with the U.S. administration have spread. This underscores the existence of deep-rooted anti-U.S. feelings in addition to religious issues. Obama's Middle East policies do not seem to be functioning effectively.


Democratization half done

In Egypt and other countries where autocratic rulers were ousted during the Arab Spring movement, democratization is only half carried out. We are worried over how the anti-U.S. protests will affect the internal politics of Middle Eastern countries.

If the Middle East is thrown into chaos, it will have a global impact.

As a "Pacific nation," the United States has attached more importance to Asia. But if Washington changes this policy and deploys a significant number of troops to the Middle East, it may affect Japan's national security.

As Japan relies on the Middle East for slightly more than 80 percent of its crude oil imports, it is essential for this country to support the region's economic development by providing official development assistance and contribute to stabilizing the political situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 18, 2012)
(2012年9月18日01時24分  読売新聞)


反日過激デモ 中国政府はなぜ容認するのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 18, 2012)
Why does Beijing permit anti-Japan protests?
反日過激デモ 中国政府はなぜ容認するのか(9月17日付・読売社説)

Anti-Japan protests have been expanding and escalating in China.

This is a serious situation.

Protesters railing against the recent nationalization of three islets of the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, by the central government have taken to the streets of about 100 cities in China.

In Beijing, protesters hurled rocks at the Japanese Embassy, while in other cities they attacked Japanese-affiliated business establishments. Some Japanese citizens have been assaulted in places where there have been no street demonstrations.

It is quite reasonable for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to have lodged a protest with the Chinese government. The Japanese government must continuously press China to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens and businesses and the protection of their property.

The Chinese government should strictly punish those involved in behavior that results in property destruction in accordance with the law.

In parallel with these protests, there have been aggressive acts by the Chinese government itself, which is apparently trying to undermine Japan's control of the Senkaku Islands.


Unprecedented intrusion

In an unprecedented action, six Chinese government maritime surveillance ships intruded into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands on Friday at the same time.

This is the first time that China has raised tensions with Japan to such a stage since bilateral diplomatic relations were normalized in 1972.

China has probably acted out of a heightened sense of crisis that it may lose face if the administration under the Chinese Communist Party is perceived by the people to have conceded to Japan over the Senkaku islets.

In China, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Japan's "wrongful act" (nationalization of the three islets) has been provoking strong righteous indignation in China, showing Beijing's sympathy for the anti-Japan protests. A senior Commerce Ministry official has also implied a boycott of Japanese products would be a natural consequence.

Such developments have fueled the anger of a younger generation that has been immersed in patriotic education, causing an escalation of their actions.

The Chinese government has apparently decided to politically exploit the people's anger against the Japanese government's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands to exert diplomatic pressure on Japan.


Maintain the rule of law

But for the Chinese government to sanction illegal behavior under a slogan that a patriotic act should not be considered a crime would be to deny the rule of law. And boycotting products of a specific country violates the spirit of free trade, which also runs counter to China's interests.

Appeals are being made for people to demonstrate against Japan again on Tuesday, which marks the 81st anniversary of the Liutiaohu Incident that triggered the Manchurian Incident. It is feared the daily activities of Japanese people and businesses in China may be badly affected again.

It is highly likely that a fleet of Chinese fishing boats, escorted by fishing monitoring vessels of the Chinese agriculture ministry, will soon leave ports for the Senkaku Islands shortly and try to intrude into Japanese territorial waters.

The Japanese government, for its part, must make absolutely sure that the Japan Coast Guard protects the territorial waters.

The government must assert to the international community that the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory and that the recent acquisition of the islands is intended to place them under stable government management.

The national leaders of Japan and China should bring the current situation under control so as not to aggravate the conflict of their people's sentiments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 17, 2012)
(2012年9月17日01時20分  読売新聞)


エネルギー選択 「原発ゼロ」は戦略に値しない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 13, 2012)
Local govts need bigger ax to slash personnel costs
地方公務員給与 自治体はもっと削減努力を(11月11日付・読売社説)

Slashing personnel costs is a crucial task for local governments and from the viewpoint of rebuilding the central government's finances. It is essential that local governments redouble their efforts to cut expenditures.

With preparations for compiling a state budget for fiscal 2013 under way, the Finance Ministry announced provisional calculations regarding salary levels of local government employees.

The Laspeyres index--an indicator that compares local government employees' salaries against a base of 100 for salaries of central government workers--stood at 106.9 for fiscal 2012, marking a reversal for the first time in nine years, according to the estimates.

Salaries in more than 80 percent of about 1,800 local entities across Japan exceeded the pay pocketed by central government employees.

This seems partly due to the fact that the central government decided to cut its employees' salaries for two years from fiscal 2012 to raise funds for budgetary appropriations for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Salaries of local government employees are stipulated by ordinances, mainly after consultations between municipalities and trade unions of their workers. The central government has no say in pay scale decisions by local governments.


Averse to pay cuts

However, local government employees' salaries are paid from local tax grants allocated by the central government, in addition to local tax revenues.

These tax grants, which are designed to help local governments make up for budget deficits, have reached more than 17 trillion yen a year. The central government funds these grants by incurring debts. Providing cash for local tax grants has been a major cause of the central government's fiscal crunch, along with fast-ballooning social security costs.

Personnel costs account for about one-fourth of the more than 80 trillion yen in total expenses of local governments throughout Japan. Curtailing employees' salaries is essential for turning around the finances of chronically debt-ridden local governments.

Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada, who chairs the Association of Prefectural Governors, has bristled at the Finance Ministry's suggestion that local government workers' salaries must be cut. He said the central government "should recognize the efforts being made by local governments" to reel in budget deficits.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Shinji Tarutoko also joined the chorus of criticism, saying the Finance Ministry was "making figures arbitrarily, apparently with the aim of misleading public opinion. This is extremely inappropriate."

The way salaries of local government employees are determined is baffling for several reasons.

Salary levels for a local government are decided, in principle, after checking salaries of other local entities and the central government, as well as salary trends in the private sector.


Fringe benefits too generous

According to the Finance Ministry, workers at local governments in every prefecture earned larger pay packets than the average monthly pay of private business employees. Local government monthly salaries were more than 100,000 yen higher than company employees' salaries in Aomori, Akita and Ehime prefectures, the ministry noted.

Aside from regular administrative positions, local government employees handling cleaning and bus-driving duties are paid 1.5 times the amount their private-sector counterparts receive. The figures are 1.9 times higher for security guards and and 1.8 times for telephone operators.

Some local entities pay employees housing allowances--a perk already abolished for central government employees. Others give special allowances to teachers for accompanying school excursions and supervising high school exams.

Both the ruling and opposition camps appear reluctant to take up the issue of local government salaries. They seem afraid of antagonizing local entities when a House of Representatives election is likely to be held soon.

Community residents and assemblies should press harder for administrative reform of local governments.

When the consumption tax rate is raised to 10 percent from October 2015, revenue from 1.54 percentage points of the five-point hike will go to local governments' coffers, which they can use at their discretion.

Given this, local governments should remain aware of their responsibility to further cut expenditures to ensure fiscal matters are handled effectively and properly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 11, 2012)
(2012年11月11日01時19分  読売新聞)


自民総裁選告示 日本の針路に責任ある論戦を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 17, 2012)
LDP presidential candidates should thoroughly debate issues
自民総裁選告示 日本の針路に責任ある論戦を(9月16日付・読売社説)


If the Liberal Democratic Party's goal is to regain power, the candidates seeking their party's leadership must reveal concrete measures on how to tackle the vital tasks facing the nation.

The LDP presidential race kicked off Friday, with five members running for the leadership: former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba; former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura; LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara; and Yoshimasa Hayashi, acting chairman of the Policy Research Council. Verbal clashes among the five are heating up ahead of the voting on Sept. 26.

If the LDP wins the next House of Representatives election, the new party president will likely become the prime minister. We are looking forward to scrutinizing the qualities of the candidates as well as their policies through the election race.


The public is watching the campaign to confirm whether the LDP is capable of holding the reins of government. To regain the public's trust of the party, all candidates must clarify how they would deal with issues that have split public opinion.


Show details on collective defense

All five candidates have pledged to amend the Constitution. Furthermore, they have stated in their election pledges that Japan should be allowed to exercise its right to collective self-defense. The five plan to establish a basic law on national security that will enable the nation to exercise this right. This is essential in order to restore the Japan-U.S. alliance after it was eroded during the administrations of Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan.

We commend them on this issue.

However, when the LDP formed a coalition government with New Komeito, the party failed to get the ball rolling on allowing the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense. The candidates must show specific steps to achieve this goal.

The present government recently set out a target of "zero nuclear power plants operating" in the 2030s. Machimura criticized this policy, saying it is "just an expression of hope without specific means to achieve it." The other four candidates have similar opinions on this issue.

We can never approve the government's slipshod decision of announcing its "zero nuclear power" policy without sorting out ways to secure viable alternatives to nuclear power.

What do the presidential candidates of the LDP--which had promoted nuclear power for so long during its administrations--think about the nation's future energy policy? If they say only that it is too early to draw a conclusion, they are evading the issue.

On the issue of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework, all candidates have stated they oppose joining TPP negotiations if the premise is to eliminate tariffs without any "sanctuaries." If so, the candidates should explain their conditions for joining the TPP and how they would go about joining it.

Hasn't the LDP emphasized expanding free trade in its growth strategy? The party should not turn its back to the TPP, which is essential to take advantage of economic growth in neighboring Asian nations.

We believe the candidates are considering the reactions of agricultural organizations such as agricultural cooperatives. However, under the existing circumstances, Japan's agriculture will only continue declining. The candidates must discuss measures to revive domestic agriculture so it can cope with further trade liberalization.


Diplomacy toward Beijing

On the diplomatic front, we want to hear what the aspirants for the top LDP post think about issues affecting Japan's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and how they would rebuild this country's diplomatic ties with China, South Korea and Russia.

The candidates have all agreed on the need to beef up Japan's control of the Senkaku Islands. The tricky part is what measures they would take to achieve this.

Ishihara said, "It's natural for this country to defend its sovereignty, but now is the time for us to keep a cool head."

Anti-Japanese demonstrations have become increasingly boisterous in China. To urge the Chinese government to calm the situation, the government and the ruling and opposition camps should levelheadedly work as one.

Another matter of high significance is which party or parties the LDP should link up with after the next lower house election.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the LDP will still lack a majority in the House of Councillors, even when counting the seats held by New Komeito. This situation will continue until at least next summer's upper house election.

The five candidates are all wary of the idea of forming a grand coalition with the Democratic Party of Japan. Instead, they favor cooperation with the DPJ on a policy-by-policy basis.

Abe, for his part, has hinted at a possible partnership with Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which is led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

Some of Ishin no Kai's policies neatly fit those of the LDP, such as seeking revisions to the Constitution. However, many policy commitments of the party starkly contrast with those of the LDP, including the former's demand that the number of lower house seats be halved.

The LDP will need to consider these details carefully before forming any full-blooded political alliance.

Regarding comprehensive reform of social security and tax systems jointly undertaken by the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito, all the LDP candidates have committed to adhering with the three-party accord. This is a natural course of action.


New Diet rules required

The DPJ-LDP-Komeito tripartite agreement must be kept intact. The three parties should jointly address such key tasks as working out how to lower the financial burdens low-income earners will face when the consumption tax rate is increased, and enhance efficiency in budget appropriations for ballooning social security expenditures.

Abe said the proposed consumption tax hike "could put a damper on the economy if it's implemented at the wrong time," indicating the possibility he would postpone the first stage of the tax raise in April 2014.

Although due consideration should be paid to national economic conditions before the tax increase, the importance of reconstructing the deficit-ridden government finances--a problem left alone for too long--should never be taken lightly.

Ishiba said the government-sponsored bill for enabling the issuance of deficit-covering bonds "shouldn't be used as a tool in a power struggle" between the parties. We agree entirely.

This bill must not be used as a bargaining chip by the LDP as it pushes for the early dissolution of the lower house for a general election.

In the divided Diet, where the opposition holds a majority in the upper house while the ruling bloc controls the lower house, what can be done so this nation has "politics capable of making decisions"?

Deeper discussions should be held about how to formulate new rules for running Diet affairs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 16, 2012)
(2012年9月16日01時15分 読売新聞)


尖閣国有化 中国の圧力外交は行き過ぎだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 15, 2012)
China should not go too far in its response over Senkakus
尖閣国有化 中国の圧力外交は行き過ぎだ(9月14日付・読売社説)

China is escalating its opposition to the Japanese government's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, over which China claims sovereignty.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that Beijing would never concede, even half a step, on issues concerning what it claims as its sovereign and territorial rights.

The Chinese Defense Ministry said the Chinese government and military would reserve the right to take appropriate measures. They apparently aim to unnerve Japan and force it to cancel the purchase of the islands.

There is no doubt that China's leaders cannot allow themselves to appear weak-kneed toward Japan given domestic circumstances dominated by the Chinese Communist Party's upcoming National Congress, in which the nation's new leadership will be installed.

Will China repeat the reckless measures it took against Japan two years ago, in the wake of the collision incident involving a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels? Beijing at that time imposed stricter restrictions on the export of rare earth minerals. If China wishes to call itself a responsible major power in the international community, it should restrain itself from imposing excessive diplomatic pressures.


No doubt that isles are Japanese

Japan maintains that a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands does not exist. It was a matter of course that Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba firmly refuted China's claim, saying, "The Senkaku Islands are inherent territories of our nation, and this is a fact without doubts in light of international law and in historic terms."

Regarding the nationalization of the islands, the Japanese government has explained that it was "for peaceful and stable maintenance and management" of the islands. It is important that the government persistently make the case to the international community.

The Japanese government must beef up its vigilance over actions taken by China in an attempt to undermine Japan's effective control over the Senkaku Islands. Chinese state media recently reported that two patrol ships of China's State Oceanic Administration had started patrol activities in waters near the islands.

A scenario in which many patrol ships and armored fishing boats enter Japan's territorial waters and take other demonstrative actions cannot be excluded from possibility.


Coast guard must be strengthened

The Japanese government needs to expand and strengthen the Japan Coast Guard's structural functions so that all possible measures can be taken to ensure security in the nation's territorial waters.

Growing anti-Japan sentiment in China also is a cause of concern. With the approach of the Sept. 18 anniversary of the Liutiaohu Incident, which triggered the Manchurian Incident, calls to join anti-Japan protests have been made through the Internet across China.

Japanese communities in China also have been shaken by developments such as the postponement of an athletic meet at a local Japanese school. We urge Chinese authorities to act quickly to calm such situations and ensure the safety of Japanese citizens and companies there.

It is also problematic that a number of exchange programs have been suspended. China told a group of about 30 Japanese lawmakers from different parties to postpone their visit to Beijing to attend events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China diplomatic relations. An increasing number of Chinese tourists have also canceled their plans to visit Japan.

Japan and China have historical ties. For the sake of further development of bilateral relations, China should not unilaterally close the channels of exchange and communications.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 14, 2012)
(2012年9月14日01時24分 読売新聞)


「日本維新の会」 国政改革への道筋が見えない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 14, 2012)
Hashimoto's new party lacks road map to reform natl politics
「日本維新の会」 国政改革への道筋が見えない(9月13日付・読売社説)

Nippon Ishin no Kai, or the Japan Restoration Party, is poised to become a political force to be reckoned with, but it cannot be denied that its policies and management structure were hastily formulated.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, leader of the regional political group Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), declared the launch of the new party during a fund-raiser in Osaka on Wednesday.

Hashimoto stressed the significance of Osaka Ishin no Kai's foray into national politics. "The nation's systems and laws are barriers we hit when we try to do something," Hashimoto said. "If we carry out Osaka's reform in the true sense, revising the laws is our only choice."

Hashimoto said the new party will aim to win "a majority" of the 480 seats in the next House of Representatives election.

However, it is unnecessary for Hashimoto to advance into national politics if all he wants is to realize his Osaka metropolis plan. His rash eagerness, or big talk, is what makes him stand out. But what does he plan to achieve in national politics, and how? He needs to present a convincing vision.


Platform grandiose but vague

Osaka Ishin no Kai has changed its campaign pledges for the next lower house election, dubbed "Ishin Hassaku" (eight-point policy statement), to the "platform" of the new party. Hashimoto said this is because the listed points represent the new party's sense of values.

Ishin Hassaku contains such phrases as "self-sustaining nation" and "democracy that is capable of making decisions and takes responsibility," but these abstract expressions do not tell what kind of nation the new party will pursue. The ideals should be explained in a more understandable way.

Ishin Hassaku is a mix of slogan-like goals--such as the introduction of a system to elect prime ministers by popular vote, which would require a constitutional amendment, and halving the number of lower house seats--and policies for social security, education and employment. The mid- and long-term tasks and immediate policy challenges must be properly sorted out.

Hashimoto stressed that elections are the only way to solve problems that cannot be solved by bureaucrats and problems that divide public opinion. If that is so, he should present specifically what pledges the new party will make for the next lower house election.


A highly unusual structure

The new party has an extremely peculiar structure. Its headquarters will be in Osaka. Because seven Diet members, including former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yorihisa Matsuno, will join it, the new party will meet a major requirement to be recognized as an official national political party, which must have at least five lawmakers. The party's Diet members and its groups of local assembly members, including Osaka Ishin no Kai, will be on equal terms with each other.

Hashimoto will double as both Osaka mayor and leader of the new party, and has said he will not run in the upcoming lower house election. This is probably because it has been less than one year since Hashimoto transitioned from Osaka governor to Osaka mayor and his commitment to the Osaka metropolis plan, the biggest item on his political agenda, is expected to enter a difficult phase in which he will work on such tasks as dividing cities into special wards and making relevant financial resource arrangements.

There is widespread speculation over the possibility that Hashimoto's new party will make great strides, becoming the force holding the key to cooperation between political parties after the lower house election.

Hashimoto said, "I'll cut down the amount of time I spend for myself, and use it for national politics." However, will it really be possible for Hashimoto, in Osaka, to control rookie lawmakers who lack experience in politics?

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 13, 2012)
(2012年9月13日01時36分 読売新聞)


自民党総裁選 「野党ぼけ」の克服が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 13, 2012)
LDP must quickly recover from 'opposition slumber'
自民党総裁選 「野党ぼけ」の克服が急務だ(9月12日付・読売社説)

What will the Liberal Democratic Party aim to do if it recaptures power, and how will it achieve these objectives?

We urge the candidates in the party's presidential election to explain their views and policy stances, given that they aspire to grab the reins of this nation.

LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara has announced he will run in the party race. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba have already declared their candidacies. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and LDP Policy Research Council Acting Chairman Yoshimasa Hayashi also expressed their intention to throw their hats in the ring.

The LDP race will choose who might become the prime minister, depending on the outcome of the next House of Representatives election. It is only natural that the race is heating up.

However, we consider it problematic that LDP members are preoccupied with jockeying for position among party factions and figuring out how many party lawmakers support each candidate.

Current LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki piled so much pressure on the two previous prime ministers of the Democratic Party of Japan--Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan--that they stepped down. The LDP won the previous House of Councillors election, a result that created a divided Diet in which the opposition controls the upper house.


Tanigaki frozen out

It was commendable that Tanigaki, as leader of the largest opposition party, joined hands with the DPJ to pass bills on integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, the main pillar of which is a consumption tax rate increase.

In the latest Yomiuri Shimbun opinion survey, 21 percent of respondents--the biggest proportion--said they planned to vote for the LDP in the proportional representation segment of the next lower house election.

Nevertheless, Tanigaki was considered to be lacking something as the party's face for the coming election, and thus decided he had no option but to stay out of the party race. He must feel desperately disappointed to have come this close to guiding the party to its long-sought goal of returning to power.

Tanigaki's fall was in part due to his failure to hammer out policies representative of the LDP, other than the integrated reform. He was unable to attract wide support.

Tanigaki became increasingly isolated when senior LDP figures such as former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Makoto Koga, who heads a party faction, turned their back on him over his handling of party affairs.

Tanigaki led the LDP to support a recent censure motion submitted by several opposition parties against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda--a motion that also criticized the LDP for approving the consumption tax rate increase. The party was accused of "self-condemnation."

The LDP's policy goals and vision for after it returns to power will be scrutinized afresh during the presidential race. Party members should be well aware that revival of the party, which Tanigaki aimed for, has only been half completed.


Take stand on nuclear power

Ishihara said his "mission is to realize policy measures and courses" the party promoted under Tanigaki's leadership. It would be disconcerting if the party, after a change in leadership, forgets about implementing the integrated reform in line with the accord it reached with the DPJ and New Komeito.

The LDP for many years steered an administration that was pro-nuclear energy. Is it right for the party to stand idly by while the DPJ has set out a "zero nuclear power" policy direction? We urge the LDP to propose realistic energy policies.

The LDP is irresponsible for opposing the nation's possible participation in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework if abolishing tariffs "without sanctuary" is a precondition. The party should also debate the matter from the viewpoint of a growth strategy through expanded free trade.

Rebuilding diplomatic relations with China, South Korea and Russia, and the deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps' new Osprey transport aircraft also are pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Considering these issues after it takes power will be too late. During the LDP election, the party urgently needs to awaken from its "opposition slumber" in which it devoted itself only to lobbing criticism around and failed to make its own decisions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 12, 2012)
(2012年9月12日01時50分 読売新聞)