The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 2, 2013)
Use transfer of power to achieve specific results
"The close alliance between Japan and the United States has now been perfectly revived," and "Let's begin in-depth discussions toward revising the Constitution."
These remarks from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy speech to the Diet on Thursday were especially conspicuous, as they marked changes in Japan's key policies following the transfer of power late last year.
We appreciate the prime minister's fundamental stance to seek a "strong Japan" centering around the keyword of the nation's "self-reliance."
With such countries as China apparently in mind, Abe spoke about the integrity of Japan's land, territorial waters and airspace, as well as the challenges being made to its sovereignty, during the key policy speech.
Abe mentioned his plan to increase Japan's defense spending for the first time in 11 years, while launching full-fledged discussions on creating an organ similar to the U.S. National Security Council. It is of truly high importance for the government to steadily put these ideas into practice.
China has defined 2013 as the first year of its becoming a naval power, and is augmenting its maritime capabilities.
The Japanese government must appeal strongly to the international community for the need to solve international problems not through the use of force but on the basis of law.
Many urgent tasks await
The prime minister referred in the speech to his recent summit meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, vowing that Japan will play additional roles to help beef up bilateral security arrangements.
The nation must urgently solve such pending issues as asserting its entitlement to exercise the right to collective self-defense and relocating the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.
Regarding the politically sensitive issue of whether Japan should participate in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, Abe explained in the speech that the multilateral negotiations will not be held "on the premise of abolishing tariffs without exception."
He indicated the government's willingness to take part in the TPP talks, saying a final judgment on whether to participate "will be made on the government's responsibility."
Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers backed by farming organizations and other groups that oppose Japan's participation in the TPP negotiations have begun to shed their wariness at joining the talks on the condition that Japan secure a guarantee through international negotiations that certain trade items will be excluded from the planned abolition of tariffs.
Therefore it can safely be said that the environment is right for the prime minister to officially announce Japan's intention to participate in the TPP talks.
Japan does not have sufficient time to be involved in crafting the guidelines governing free trade rules in the TPP talks. The government should proceed swiftly with procedures for taking part in the talks to protect Japan's national interests.
In the policy speech, Abe also stressed that the government will do its utmost to make Japan the world's best country for business.
Moves for partial coalition
He stated his government will formulate a responsible energy policy, and expressed his resolve to restart nuclear reactors if their safety is ensured. But simply making such a statement is hardly enough.
Screenings for the reactivation of reactors will not come before July, when the Nuclear Regulation Authority is scheduled to decide on a set of new safety standards. Given this, there will not be satisfactory progress in restarting reactors unless the NRA conducts the screenings in a highly efficient manner. The stable supply of energy and reductions in its cost could be jeopardized.
The prime minister must fully exercise his leadership to achieve the earliest possible restart of reactors.
At the end of his speech, Abe called for the opposition to engage in constructive discussion to produce good results, instead of engaging in partisan bickering with the ruling coalition.
His call for expediting interparty talks to review the electoral system and discussions by the panels of both Diet houses on the study of constitutional revisions can also be considered appropriate.
Despite the divided Diet, in which the opposition controls the House of Councillors while the ruling camp has a majority in the House of Representatives, a partial coalition is gaining momentum as exemplified by the passage of a supplementary budget through the upper house.
We strongly hope to see the ruling and opposition blocs work together to form a consensus on key issues.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 1, 2013)