中国の尖閣発言 「核心的利益」とはお門違いだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 29, 2013
China's 'core interests' comment over Senkaku Islands uncalled for
中国の尖閣発言 「核心的利益」とはお門違いだ(4月28日付・読売社説)

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping should refrain from dangerous behavior that could escalate tensions around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

At a recent press conference of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, a spokeswoman said the Senkaku issue pertains to China's territorial sovereignty. "They are certainly part of China's core interests," she added.

It was the first time a senior Chinese government official has made a clear remark that the Senkaku Islands are considered a "core interest."

China uses this term to describe matters of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and other national interests over which it will never make compromises.

Beijing has used the expression in reference to Taiwan, Tibet and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region before, but in recent years it has been using the term when referring to the South China Sea.

The Senkaku Islands were deemed a core interest by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, in January last year. However, the Chinese government never used the expression in its public statements.

A show of maritime might

The latest press officer's remark can be seen as proof that Xi's administration has placed high priority on the islets as it aims to propel China's development as a maritime power.

Beijing has been obsessed of late with extending its purported territory and maritime rights and interests, by unilaterally applying the core interest designation to new areas. Such a stance is nothing but self-righteous expansionism.

This behavior is totally unacceptable. The Japanese government should continually inform the international community about China's transgressions.

Beijing is likely to dispatch an increasing number of surveillance vessels from its State Oceanic Administration to intrude into waters around the Senkaku Islands. Japan should prepare countermeasures by assuming every possible contingency.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endorsed the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy during a Cabinet meeting last week. The plan stipulates bolstering the defense system and maximizing surveillance activities in waters around the Nansei Islands, which include the Senkakus. It is crucial that cooperation be reinforced between the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces, among other measures.

It cannot be forgotten that the Chinese military has been increasingly involved in activities in waters around the islands. In January, a Chinese Navy vessel locked its fire-control radar onto a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer north of the islets.

The situation in these waters remains tense as a standoff between Chinese Navy and MSDF vessels continues.

Military standoff alarming

China, backed by a strong military, seems to be signaling it may use force to knock Japan off balance and erode Tokyo's effective control of the islands.

Beijing has claimed it will never pursue hegemony in the Asian region. However, its actions have only been viewed as an increasing threat to neighboring countries.

Abe has expressed his own concerns, saying: "The military balance between Japan and China will totally break down within two years."

China has adopted a hard-line stance by putting its military might at the fore. Such an attitude is extremely perilous as it could provoke an unexpected conflict.

Japanese and Chinese defense officials have resumed talks on creating a maritime communication system to prevent unintended clashes between the two countries' ships and aircraft. Tokyo and Beijing should aim to reach an agreement on this front as soon as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 28, 2013)
(2013年4月28日01時31分  読売新聞)


非核化拒む「北」 警戒も制裁も緩めてはならぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 27, 2013
International community mustn't lower guard, sanctions against North Korea
非核化拒む「北」 警戒も制裁も緩めてはならぬ(4月26日付・読売社説)

North Korea's Chief of General Staff Hyon Yong Chol pledged at the 81st anniversary of the inauguration of the Korean People's Army to mass-produce precise miniaturized nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery.

His remark reflects the order to develop more powerful nuclear weapons that was given by North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un at a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in March.

Pyongyang apparently intends to accelerate development of nuclear warheads. We must stay alert for additional nuclear tests and test-launches of ballistic missiles by the country.

Members of the international community need to unite to strictly carry out U.N. Security Council resolutions on sanctions against North Korea. They should thoroughly inspect cargo suspected of containing embargoed goods such as those related to nuclear weapons and missiles. They should also tighten monitoring of North Korea's financial transactions.

Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army of China, has said North Korea might go ahead with its fourth nuclear test and that he resolutely opposes it.

China's responsibility

China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, is the biggest aid donor and trade partner for North Korea. Beijing should be aware of its responsibility regarding North Korea and deal with Pyongyang strictly.

North Korea is still poised to fire ballistic missiles. Its strategic rocket units maintain the highest level of attack readiness.

Japan must cooperate with the United States to stay on alert and maintain surveillance for a Pyongyang missile launch.

U.S.-South Korea joint military drills are scheduled to conclude at the end of April. Last week, North Korea responded to U.S. calls for dialogue and presented conditions for the resumption of talks. This might be a strategic move toward starting negotiations with Washington.

However, North Korea's National Defense Commission said in a statement that retraction of the U.N. Security Council's sanction resolutions, termination of U.S.-South Korea military drills and withdrawal of U.S. tools for a nuclear war, such as strategic bombers, were necessary to resume any talks with Seoul or Washington.

Denuclearization of N. Korea

The demand for the retraction of U.N. sanctions is too much. Pyongyang implies it would hold talks with Seoul or Washington if they recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, but such a stance cannot be tolerated.

It is a matter of course that Japan, the United States and South Korea have flatly rejected these conditions, saying the only aim of resuming talks is to denuclearize North Korea.

Recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Japan, China and South Korea. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se traveled to China and South Korean President Park Geun Hye is scheduled to visit the United States next month for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.

More active diplomatic talks among countries concerned would provide valuable opportunities for them to seek a common strategy in dealing with North Korea.

The nuclearization of North Korea is a grave threat to the safety of Japan. The government must do its best in diplomatic talks with countries concerned to enhance national security.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2013)
(2013年4月26日01時40分  読売新聞)


危険運転厳罰化 重大事故の撲滅につなげたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 26, 2013
Tougher penalties needed to curb deadly drivers
危険運転厳罰化 重大事故の撲滅につなげたい(4月25日付・読売社説)

Horrific accidents caused by drunk driving, unlicensed driving and other reckless driving seem to occur unceasingly. Planned harsher punishment of such practices must serve to prevent accidents.

The government has submitted a bill to the Diet to toughen penalties in cases of reckless driving. The bill is designed to take elements relating to reckless driving from the Penal Code, such as definitions of dangerous driving resulting in death or injury, and include them in a new law.

The heart of the bill is the creation of new provisions on what may be called the offense of "quasi-dangerous driving."

One requirement for applying the charge of dangerous driving resulting in death or injury is a "state in which it is difficult for a person to conduct normal driving." For example, the subject of the offense must be a person who caused an accident while driving a vehicle at uncontrollable speeds or in a state of extreme intoxication from alcoholic beverages or drugs. The maximum punishment is 20 years in prison.

However, it is quite difficult to accurately determine the exact driving speed or precise degree of intoxication at the time of an accident. For this reason, there have been many cases in which investigation authorities had to build their cases on suspicion of "negligent" rather than "dangerous" driving resulting in deaths or injuries. The maximum penalty for this offense is seven years in prison.

A great gap

The gap between the punishments for dangerous driving resulting in death or injury and for negligent driving resulting in death or injury is too large.

In consideration of the feelings of bereaved families, who have demanded tougher punishments, it is understandable that the government intends to create regulations enabling a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

The major problem with the new rules is ambiguity. If a driver was "in a state in which significant obstacles to normal driving might occur," the person can be accused of the offense. However, the standards for defining the situations in which "significant obstacles to normal driving might occur" are not clear.

The government needs to make the standards for applying the new rules easy for everyone to understand through Diet deliberations.

Under the bill, accidents caused by the effects of medical conditions are designated as dangerous driving acts. The bill targets illnesses and symptoms that may disrupt consciousness, such as epilepsy, in response to a 2011 accident in Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture, in which the driver of a crane truck suffered an epileptic seizure behind the wheel and killed six primary school students.

Epilepsy and other patients' organizations strongly oppose the bill, saying it will invite discrimination against people with certain conditions. It is important for the government to carefully explain to such groups the intent of the bill, which is to prevent accidents.

Patients are also asked to voluntarily refrain from driving if they know they may suffer seizures.

The bill also includes a provision to put a heavier penalty on driving without a license. This was prompted by an accident a year ago in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, in which 10 people including primary school students were injured or killed by a car driven by an unlicensed driver.

Frustrating explanation

The teenage boy arrested over this incident was found to have repeatedly driven a car without a license. Investigative authorities thus did not apply the dangerous driving charge, due to the judgment that "his driving technique was not underdeveloped."

Yet even in the latest bill, the government did not include driving without a license as it judged it is insufficient to establish dangerous driving charges. Having no driving license cannot, by itself, prove the element of "difficulty of normal driving," according to the government.

There must be many people who are frustrated with such an explanation. How to deal with reckless unlicensed drivers is a subject that demands further discussion.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 25, 2013)
(2013年4月25日01時45分  読売新聞)


尖閣諸島 海も空も中国への警戒強めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 26, 2013
Air and marine patrols must increase vigilance to defend against China
尖閣諸島 海も空も中国への警戒強めよ(4月25日付・読売社説)

The need to reinforce patrol and monitoring activities on the water and in the air around the Senkaku Islands to respond to China's perilously provocative acts has grown.

Eight Chinese maritime surveillance ships entered the territorial waters off the Senkakus in Okinawa Prefecture on Tuesday and remained in the vicinity for about 12 hours.

Since the Japanese government purchased part of the Senkakus in September, Chinese government vessels have intruded into Japanese waters on 40 occasions, often using multiple ships for a total of about 130 intrusions. Tuesday's intrusion marked the largest simultaneous entry.

In its attempt to justify its actions, China claimed they were engaging in "law enforcement" against the "trespassing" of Japanese fishing vessels in the waters. Such an assertion is totally unacceptable.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly cautioned China by saying, "The reasonable response is for us to respond physically [to intruding vessels], with a strong determination to prevent them from landing on any of the islands."

Possible countermeasures

Abe hinted at the possibility of taking such countermeasures as stationing public servants on the islands if Chinese vessels continue such intrusions into Japan's territorial waters.

The Chinese government last month unified, under the State Oceanic Administration, maritime surveillance duties, which were performed by various institutions, including the agriculture and public security ministries.

This time, together with the maritime surveillance ships that intruded into Japanese waters, two fishery surveillance ships sailed in the contiguous zone in the vicinity, indicating unified management of surveillance.

It is expected a large number of China's surveillance ships will intrude into the territorial waters again in the days ahead, staying there for longer periods than before.

The Japan Coast Guard needs to improve its capability to deal with such intrusive acts, while cooperating closely with the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Air intrusions also occurring

The tense situation has not been limited to the sea.

The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets to intercept Chinese aircraft intruding into Japan's airspace a record 306 times in fiscal 2012, almost double the number of the previous year. It also marked the first time such flights outpaced those against Russian aircraft.

The scrambles mostly targeted Chinese Air Force aircraft, including fighter jets, flying north of the Senkakus.

As long as the Chinese government maintains its hard-line stance on securing its purported territorial and maritime rights and interests, the Japanese government must make a strenuous effort to take necessary measures and prepare for the tense situation to last into the middle- or long-term.

The government will review the National Defense Program Guidelines at the end of this year. In the review, it must prioritize its efforts in reinforcing the "dynamic defense capability," which emphasizes force mobility, and in boosting the capabilities of the ships and aircraft in the Okinawa area, as well as increasing the number of SDF personnel there.

It is also necessary to introduce the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle earlier than planned.

On the other hand, Japan should avoid unnecessarily raising tensions with China. It is important to continue mapping out rules to prevent incidents like the one that occurred when a Chinese frigate locked its weapons-control radar on an MSDF vessel in January.

The defense authorities of both countries in June last year reached a basic accord on creating a maritime communication system. It is designed to have information hotlines between the countries' respective defense forces, with the two countries' vessels or aircraft communicating on a common radio frequency when approaching each other. However, the idea has not been implemented.

It is important, first of all, for both countries to put this accord into action, and build a trusting relationship between their respective defense forces.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 25, 2013)
(2013年4月25日01時45分  読売新聞)


閣僚の靖国参拝 外交問題化は避けるべきだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 25, 2013
Don't let ministers' Yasukuni visits become thorn in diplomatic relations
閣僚の靖国参拝 外交問題化は避けるべきだ(4月24日付・読売社説)

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se's response must have been unexpected for the Japanese government.

Yun canceled a trip to Japan that was scheduled for Friday and Saturday. This was a protest against visits by three Cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The South Korean Foreign Ministry says the Shinto shrine "glorifies Japan's wars of aggression."

A trilateral meeting between leaders from Japan, China and South Korea, which was originally scheduled for late May, will likely be postponed due to China's unwillingness to participate. South Korea, chair of the meeting, intended for Yun's visit to help create an environment conducive to holding the talks.

Yun's visit also was expected to provide a golden opportunity for Japan and South Korea to continue their close cooperation in dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile issues, over which tensions have recently risen. It was also designed to improve the bilateral relationship under South Korean President Park Geun Hye, after ties became strained due to such factors as former President Lee Myung Bak's visit to the Takeshima islands last year.

All this makes the cancellation of Yun's visit to Japan very regrettable.

Nagging questions remain about South Korea's diplomatic approach. Although then South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun canceled a visit to Japan in protest after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine, Seoul has never made Yasukuni visits by Cabinet ministers a diplomatic issue to such a serious degree before.

A matter for Japanese to decide

On issues concerning the perception of history, the Japanese government said: "Each country has its own stance on different issues. We should not let these matters affect diplomatic relations." We agree entirely.

How Japanese mourn the war dead is not something that other countries can give orders on. Both Japan and South Korea must make efforts not to let differences in their position on this issue affect overall diplomatic relations.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said visits to Yasukuni Shrine are "a matter of the heart." Suga indicated that the government does not particularly regard Yasukuni visits by Cabinet ministers, including Aso, as a problem.

Ties have been harmed

However, it cannot be denied that the Yasukuni visits by Aso and other ministers have adversely affected Tokyo-Seoul relations. In politics and diplomacy, results are always important and "a matter of the heart" should not be trotted out as an excuse. Shouldn't Aso have been more careful about visiting the shrine while he is deputy prime minister, a key Cabinet post?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was "extremely regrettable" that he could not visit the shrine during the tenure of his first Cabinet several years ago. We hope Abe will handle government affairs with the utmost care so historical issues will not negatively affect diplomatic ties.

Amid the tense relationship between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, improving Japan-South Korea ties must be the top priority for Abe's diplomacy.

The crux of the problem over Yasukuni visits is the fact that "Class-A war criminals," including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who was executed following his conviction by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Tribunal, are enshrined along with Japan's war dead. There has been severe criticism of the Japanese leaders who led the nation to war, not only from South Korea and China but also from Japan.

The government should resume discussions on the construction of a new national facility where everybody can pay homage to the war dead without resentment or awkwardness.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 24, 2013)
(2013年4月24日01時38分  読売新聞)


社会保障会議 「節度ある医療」へ議論深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 24, 2013
Panel should deepen discussions for cost-effective medical system
社会保障会議 「節度ある医療」へ議論深めよ(4月23日付・読売社説)

With Japan facing a so-called super-aged society, the government must arrest sharply increasing expenses of medical and nursing care services and establish a reliable social security system.

The National Council on Social Security System Reform, a government panel discussing this issue, has compiled a number of points regarding reform of medical and nursing care services.

The panel described medical facilities and staff, which are not unlimited, as "assets of the people," and underlined the importance of their proper use. We consider the panel's views reasonable for building sustainable medical and nursing care systems.

The point the panel made was that medical services should be altered to allow patients to "receive proper treatment when needed at a proper place and at a minimum cost."

'Free access' to hospitals

At present, Japan's medical services allow patients to have "free access," meaning that a patient can visit any medical institution at any time without worrying too much about payments.

This system has brought about a situation that can be described as chaotic, as patients even visit university hospitals when they have a slight cold. As a result, many doctors are overworked.

To rectify the situation, the panel proposed that patients be charged about 10,000 yen if they seek treatment at major hospitals without a referral letter, in addition to regular charges for treatment they receive. The extra charge would not be covered by health insurance.

This would sharply increase the financial burden patients would have to shoulder. We consider it well worth considering.

Among items discussed, the panel said wider use of generic drugs should be realized as soon as possible, as they are cheaper than their original versions.

In the United States, Britain and Germany, generic products account for 60 percent to 70 percent of all prescribed drugs. In Japan, the figure is about 40 percent.

The low usage of generic drugs in this country can be ascribed to deep-seated doubts doctors have of their efficacy, although their quality has improved.

Generic drugs are priced at 20 percent to 70 percent of the original products. If generic drugs are used more widely, medical spending will be reduced.

Regarding prescriptions, which are currently left to the discretion of medical institutions, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry should consider a system in which generic drugs are the main types of medication prescribed.

Treatment at home

The panel also called for an improvement in health and nursing care services at home by suggesting that patients be cured and supported in local communities, rather than relying on hospitals to provide medical treatment.

The panel said prefectural governments should take over the national health insurance program, which deals mainly with self-employed people and is currently operated by municipal governments. This position is reasonable as the panel took into account a number of municipalities in which insurance premiums have sharply risen as fiscal conditions have worsened.

However, it is necessary to discuss these issues from various angles to realize the envisaged measures. The panel is expected to wrap up its discussions by August, as stipulated in a law on integrated reform of social security and tax systems. It is vital for the panel to determine priorities and reach viable conclusions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 23, 2013)
(2013年4月23日01時26分  読売新聞)


中国国防白書 危険過ぎる習政権の強軍路線

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 23, 2013
Xi administration's 'strong army' policy ramps up Chinese threat
中国国防白書 危険過ぎる習政権の強軍路線(4月22日付・読売社説)

The Chinese administration of Xi Jinping has reiterated its intention to push ahead with a "strong army" policy. This policy centers on building China into a maritime power.

In its biennial defense white paper released last week, Beijing declared: "It is an essential national development strategy to exploit, utilize and protect the seas and oceans, and build China into a maritime power. It is an important duty for the PLA (People's Liberation Army) to resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests."

The white paper also emphasized China has developed a policy of bolstering cooperation between its navy and the State Oceanic Administration's surveillance vessels and others.

Senkakus remark disturbing

The white paper says China's first aircraft carrier, which was commissioned into the navy last year, has a "profound impact on building a strong People's Liberation Army's Navy and safeguarding maritime security."

There is no doubt China will accelerate efforts to augment its naval capabilities through such projects as building new aircraft carriers.

In Japan's eyes, China's expansion of its maritime strength is truly alarming.

What cannot be overlooked is the white paper's reference to the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The report denounces Japan by name for "making trouble over the issue of the Diaoyu Islands," the Chinese name for the Senkakus. It opted not to mention such countries as Vietnam and the Philippines that have their own sovereignty issues with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Singling out Japan for condemnation is presumably designed to beef up China's military pressure with the aim of eroding Japan's effective control of the Senkakus.

The Japanese government naturally lodged a protest with China, saying this country "can never accept any words and deeds based solely on China's own assertions."

Waters surrounding the Senkakus have already seen stepped-up muscle-flexing by Chinese naval vessels. On Wednesday, the day after the white paper was released, a Chinese destroyer and a frigate sailed in the vicinity of the Senkakus.

Fears are rising that provocations involving Chinese naval vessels and surveillance ships could escalate.

Japan, for its part, must increase its vigilance through cooperation with the United States while deepening collaboration between the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces.

Xi, who is general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, has said, "The great dream of the restoration of the nation of China is the dream of a country with a mighty military."

In January, a Chinese frigate locked its weapons-control radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel. Xi's hard-line posture might invite the Chinese military to take further extreme actions.

On April 9, Xi inspected China's latest amphibious assault ship at a naval base on Hainan Island, southern China, and issued an order to the troops to "take to heart the goal of strengthening the army, and devote efforts to realize this goal." We find this remark deeply disturbing.

Transparency still lacking

China tooted its own horn over the white paper, saying it had disclosed a breakdown of China's ground, naval and air forces. The paper, however, included not one iota of information about personnel in charge of strategic missile operations with nuclear capabilities, or the scale of China's armed police.

The report has far fewer pages than a defense white paper published two years ago. Breakdowns of defense expenditures, such as living expenses of military members and equipment outlays, have been omitted this time.

Although China's swelling defense budget intimidates the international community, the white paper gives no indication that China itself is aware of that.

Instead of concealing information, China has an obligation as a major power to enhance transparency of its military.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2013)
(2013年4月22日01時45分  読売新聞)


G20共同声明 円安だけに頼れぬデフレ脱却

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 22, 2013
Japan should not rely solely on yen's depreciation to escape deflation
G20共同声明 円安だけに頼れぬデフレ脱却(4月21日付・読売社説)

Japan's ability to gain the understanding of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies that Tokyo's bold monetary easing policy is not intended to induce a weaker yen was significant.

The government and the Bank of Japan have assumed a greater responsibility in overcoming deflation and putting the country on a path toward a steady economic recovery.

Finance ministers and central bank heads from the G-20 countries--which include Japan, the United States, some European nations, China and Russia--adopted a communique Friday at the end of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The statement first mentioned Japan, whose recent monetary moves were seen as a major issue during the meeting.

"Japan's recent policy actions are intended to stop deflation and support domestic demand," the joint statement said, referring to the quantitative and qualitative monetary easing policy that newly appointed Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has forged.

The rapid pace of the yen's depreciation is a result of what some call "another level" of monetary easing policy, which has prompted criticism from South Korea and other countries.

However, the policy is aimed at pulling the nation out of deflation, not intentionally weakening the yen to boost exports. It is commendable that Japan was able to gain some degree of understanding concerning its stance from other G-20 members.

More pressing global concerns

The joint statement expressed a grim view on the global economy, saying, "Global growth has continued to be too weak" mainly because of fears that Europe's credit unrest may stir once again as the continent has marked a negative growth rate.

The G-20 members accepted Japan's stance apparently because they share a sense of crisis over the global economy and agree that the nation's efforts to boost growth may have positive international repercussions.

It was also significant that G-20 officials reaffirmed they will "refrain from competitive devaluation," in which currencies are guided lower, which was also discussed at the last meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank heads in February.

The nation has successfully averted criticism over the weakening yen from emerging economies and other G-20 members, at least for now. However, similar criticism may reemerge if Japan constrains its focus to the monetary easing policy and depreciation of the yen as measures to improve the economy.

Japan will need to continue seeking other countries' understanding concerning its revitalization strategies and produce results in its efforts to vanquish deflation as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled the first package of measures for his growth strategy, the "third arrow" of Abenomics following monetary easing and fiscal policy. The measures aim to maximize opportunities for young people, create more jobs for women and expand the nation's medical industry.

We hope Abe will take the results of the G-20 meeting as an opening to compile additional measures.

Avoid shortsighted tactics

However, the G-20's communique also said, "We will be mindful of unintended negative side effects" stemming from the monetary easing policies of Japan, the United States and Europe. This declaration should be taken to heart.

Some emerging countries have complained that speculative funds, which have posted huge gains recently due to the monetary easing policies of the developed countries, have been overheating their financial markets. Japan should work with the United States, Europe and other parties to monitor any additional side effects that their policies could cause.

It was natural that the joint statement took aim at Japan by saying it "should define a credible medium-term fiscal plan."

Japan has the worst fiscal situation of all developed countries. Fiscal stimulus measures may be acceptable for an immediate economic boost, but the nation must be careful not to lose international confidence due to efforts that are remiss in addressing fiscal reconstruction over the medium term.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 21, 2013)
(2013年4月21日01時13分  読売新聞)


スー・チー来日 官民連携で国造りを支えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 20, 2013
Myanmar nation building must be supported by govt, private sector
スー・チー来日 官民連携で国造りを支えたい(4月19日付・読売社説)

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar's largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has visited Japan at the invitation of the government and had successive meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and others.

This is her first visit in 27 years. She was a guest researcher at Kyoto University in the mid-1980s before getting involved in the democracy movement in her home country.

Suu Kyi confronted the junta and was placed under house arrest for a total of about 15 years. Her Japan visit symbolizes Myanmar's democratization, which has been promoted by the administration of President Thein Sein since the country changed to civilian rule two years ago.

The Japanese government has welcomed the Thein Sein administration's reform efforts and has been proactively supporting the country through such actions as restarting official development assistance projects, including yen loans, ahead of the United States or European countries.

NLD and democratization

The government is trying to strengthen its relationship with the NLD on the thinking that growth of a sound opposition party in the national assembly could lead to further democratization of the country and stability of society. It is also thought that the NLD is likely to further gain strength in a general election to be held in 2015.

Abe told Suu Kyi during their talks, "We'd like to support your country so that reform can progress further." He then explained to her the government's policy of supporting Myanmar's nation building through ODA and private investment.

Suu Kyi responded that she hopes Japan will cooperate with Myanmar in the country's development. She asked for Japan's assistance for her country in vocational and agricultural education, among other fields.

Concrete achievements

Since she was elected in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Assembly of the Union, in spring last year, she has been trying to transform from a pro-democracy leader outside the government into a pragmatic politician. To respond to supporters' expectations, she needs concrete achievements such as an improvement in the country's standard of living.

There is a rough road ahead for Myanmar's nation building. As Suu Kyi insists, the Constitution must be revised for further democratization, including the abolishment of guaranteed seats for the military in the assembly, which are stipulated in the Constitution to secure the military's political influence.

Efforts of the Myanmar government to improve relations with ethnic minorities who have confronted it have seen rough going, meaning national reconciliation is not in sight. Also, worsening public security may pour cold water onto Japanese companies' passion for investment in the country.

Of all countries, Japan is providing the most economic assistance to Myanmar. It is important for Japan that the public and private sectors cooperate in development assistance to Myanmar, which contributes to the stabilization of society, such as raising the standard of living for ethnic minorities and improvement in roads and electricity.

The strategic value of Myanmar, which is situated in an important location between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, has been ever increasing. Myanmar has turned away from its exclusively pro-China diplomacy under military rule and has been strengthening relations with such countries as Japan, India and the United States.

To keep China, which has been increasing its influence through military and economic expansion, in check, it is important for Japan to deepen relations with Myanmar.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 19, 2013)
(2013年4月19日01時17分  読売新聞)


ボストン・テロ 市街地イベント警備の点検を

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 19, 2013
Thorough checks needed for major events in urban areas
ボストン・テロ 市街地イベント警備の点検を(4月18日付・読売社説)

The recent bombing at the Boston Marathon in the United States was an act of indiscriminate terrorism that targeted a traditional event familiar even to Japanese people. We can never forgive this despicable, atrocious crime that killed and injured many people.

Two bombs exploded successively on a road along the route near the finish line as runners streamed past about four hours after the start of the race. At least three people, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed, while more than 170 others were injured in the horrible incident, some of them seriously.

About 23,000 people, including more than 200 Japanese runners, participated in the race, with relatives, friends, Boston residents and many others cheering the participants on.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the attack, saying, "Anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terrorism." Obama expressed his determination to make every effort to arrest those responsible and determine the details of the crime.

It was the first terrorist bombing in the United States since the simultaneous terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States placed top priority on reinforcing antiterrorism measures and prevented many incidents from actually taking place. It discovered the hideout of the mastermind of 9/11 and killed him.

These achievements make the impact of the latest twin bombing particularly strong in the United States. The incident has made the U.S. government and its people keenly aware that terrorism still exists as a real threat in everyday life.

It is still unknown whether the bombing was committed by a terrorist organization or a single culprit. We hope U.S. authorities will conduct a thorough investigation based on material evidence and information.

Bombs simple yet deadly

The Federal Bureau of Investigation suspects the bombs were made from pressure cookers packed with explosives and other materials. The FBI now strongly believes they were placed in a black nylon bag or backpack.

Similar bombs are often used in terror attacks in countries such as Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. They are easily made but highly lethal as nails and other metal objects are mixed with explosives.

It has been reported that the security arrangements for the Boston Marathon were thorough. However, it is difficult to employ baggage inspections and metal detectors over a wide scale to achieve complete security control in outdoor events in urban areas. The culprit focused on this vulnerability in the security arrangements.

Japan must be prepared

This terrorist attack is not an event of the other side of the ocean for Japan, as large marathons for ordinary people have already become common here. The Tokyo Marathon in February was a huge sporting event that drew about 37,000 runners. About 1.7 million people watched and cheered them along the route.

Japan also needs to implement measures against terrorist attacks to guard marathons and other major events.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government will do its best to ensure safety. "Police are now doing everything they can to ensure security and safety at important facilities and places where many people gather," Abe said.

Even if security checks become stricter, citizens' cooperation with antiterrorism efforts is indispensable.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 18, 2013)
(2013年4月18日02時04分  読売新聞)


憲法96条改正 首相は参院選へ議論主導せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 18, 2013
Abe should lead debate on top law revision ahead of upper house poll
憲法96条改正 首相は参院選へ議論主導せよ(4月17日付・読売社説)

Japan's current Constitution has not been revised even once since its establishment.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is laying the groundwork to ask voters whether the hurdles to constitutional amendment should be lowered. We applaud Abe's willingness to amend the Constitution to respond to changes in Japan and the international community.

During an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe said he wants to make the issue of revising Article 96 of the Constitution, which stipulates conditions for proposing amendments, a central plank of the Liberal Democratic Party's pledges for this summer's House of Councillors election.

Article 96 stipulates that a revision must be initiated by the Diet through an affirmative vote by two-thirds or more of all members of each chamber, followed by a national referendum in which a majority of the public must support the change.

To make it easier to propose constitutional revisions, the LDP plans to lower the threshold of "two-thirds or more" to "a simple majority."

Komeito still cautious

Abe has met with Toru Hashimoto, coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), and they have already agreed on this point. Abe is trying to pave the way for constitutional revision by first reviewing Article 96, a process that some other parties support. We think his idea is realistic.

For Abe, coordination with the LDP's coalition partner New Komeito will be crucial if constitutional revision is to become a reality. Komeito remains cautious about amending Article 96, saying the time is not ripe to do so.

However, leaders of the LDP and Komeito will reportedly hold regular meetings to discuss this matter. We hope Komeito will deepen its deliberations on revising the nation's supreme law.

The Democratic Party of Japan insists that discussions on concrete details of the revisions, rather than tweaking Article 96 itself, are necessary. But it is the DPJ that should be discussing the content of possible revisions. The LDP has already compiled a draft of constitutional revisions in which the existence of the Self-Defense Forces would be spelled out in Article 9.

There might be resistance to changing Article 96. This is because the United States and Germany still require an affirmative vote of "two-thirds or more" in their legislatures as a condition for revisions, although they do not hold national referendums on proposed changes to their constitutions. These countries have altered their top laws many times. Why has Japan been unable to do the same?

Systemic obstacles

After World War II, the Japan Socialist Party, which championed the principle of unarmed neutrality, and other political parties held a degree of power in the Diet. They trumpeted that militarism would be revived if the Constitution was revised. The LDP, for its part, promoted policies that put the economy first and shied away from making an active commitment to revise the Constitution.

The electoral system also has hindered constitutional revision. Since the multiple-seat constituency system was introduced, no ruling party has held two-thirds or more of the seats in both Diet chambers. Under the current system, in which proportional representation elections that give consideration to small parties were introduced in parts of both houses, it became difficult for ruling parties to secure at least two-thirds of the seats in either chamber--until the House of Representatives election in December.

July's upper house election could, depending on the results, create conditions in which constitutional revision will become realistically possible for the first time. The upcoming election is extremely important because it will also affect Japan's future course.

There are a wide array of points to be discussed regarding the Constitution, including Article 96, the preamble, national security, the bicameral system, local autonomy and environmental rights. Each party should actively debate these matters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 17, 2013)
(2013年4月17日01時21分  読売新聞)


教育委員会改革 機能の立て直しをどう図るか

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 17, 2013
Functions of boards of education must be rebuilt in stable manner
教育委員会改革 機能の立て直しをどう図るか(4月16日付・読売社説)

The Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, which works directly under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has submitted to Abe its second set of proposals calling for drastic reform of the education board system.

In the proposals, the council clearly states that the superintendent of a board of education, who is appointed by the head of a local government with the consent of a local assembly, is responsible for educational administration. The head of the local government also has the right to dismiss the superintendent under the proposals.

The proposals are aimed at transforming the education board system. Currently, board members and other experts make decisions without any input from the head of a local government.

It has come to light that local boards of education around the country have failed to function properly in dealing with such incidents as one involving an Otsu middle school boy who committed suicide in 2011, apparently due to bullying at school.

Prompt action essential

The government's Central Council for Education plans to study the proposals further.

We hope the panel's assessment of the proposals will lead to rebuilding the educational administration at the local level.

Under the current system, local boards of education have a chairperson representing the board and a superintendent in charge of administrative work. This has raised questions about who is responsible for educational administration.

Except for the superintendent, board members are appointed on a nonregular basis, and they hold meetings only a few times a month. The board's deliberations, therefore, tend to be a mere formality.

It has recently become apparent that they often fail to take prompt action when serious incidents occur, such as bullying and corporal punishment.

The proposals are aimed at correcting these shortcomings and enhancing the board's maneuverability in implementing educational administration with the responsibility and power centering on the superintendent.
However, under the proposals, the authority for the personnel management of teachers and school officials and the selection of textbooks will be the responsibility of the superintendent.
Certain checks and balances are needed to prevent the superintendent from adopting biased policies.

In light of this, the proposals are calling for the maintenance of the education board system, rather than abolishing it. When the superintendent decides on basic policies and other key issues, the proposals call for these issues to be discussed by the entire board.

The method of appointing board members also holds the key for the new boards of education to monitor educational administration.

Political neutrality

The political neutrality of educational administration is essential, as the head of a local government would be empowered with the right to dismiss the superintendent. It is obvious the intentions of the head of a local government will be reflected, more than ever, in educational administration.

Will the head of a local government appoint someone who exercises little discretion in educational administration merely because he or she shares the same political beliefs?

Should the educational targets and policies change significantly every time a new head of a local government is elected, it would cause great confusion among teachers at local schools.

Even if the makeup of an education board changes, it is important to maintain the stability and continuity of educational administration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2013)
(2013年4月16日01時05分  読売新聞)


ケリー長官来日 対中朝で日米連携を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 17, 2013
Japan, U.S. should cooperate closely to address China, North Korea issues
ケリー長官来日 対中朝で日米連携を強化せよ(4月16日付・読売社説)

To effectively address North Korea's brinkmanship tactics and China's overbearing diplomacy, it is essential for Japan and the United States to step up cooperation further.

Visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held separate talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. They agreed to press North Korea to exercise self-restraint on ballistic missile launches. They also agreed not to allow the country to possess nuclear arms and to urge the country to undertake concrete steps toward denuclearization.

It is a typical tactic of North Korea to intentionally heighten a crisis to try to gain economic assistance through later negotiations. We think Abe rightly pointed out, "It's necessary to make North Korea understand its repeated provocations will not bring about any benefits."

Japan and the United States must not neglect missile defense and other military preparations. At the same time, the two nations must continue dealing with the issue in a coolheaded and resolute manner, through such means as steady implementation of sanctions against North Korea, without excessively responding to its intimidating actions.

Multilateral cooperation

It also is important that Japan and the United States urge China, which wields a certain amount of influence over North Korea, to fulfill its responsibilities in a proactive manner.

Kerry emphatically said in a speech, "The United States remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization."

It is not an easy task to make Pyongyang abandon its nuclear development. But the international community should continue pursuing this goal. North Korea may eventually return to a dialogue-based approach, such as the six-party talks.

In such a scenario, economic assistance must not be provided to North Korea unless that country takes concrete actions. It is necessary for Japan, the United States, China and South Korea to carefully hammer out a workable plan so North Korea will not benefit from its diplomacy of threats.

Territorial, troop issues

In talks with the Japanese foreign minister, Kerry touched on the Senkaku Islands, saying, "We oppose any unilateral or coercive action that would somehow aim at changing the status quo."

Similar to remarks made by his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, in January, it is significant that Kerry flatly rejected China's apparent attempts to alter Japan's effective control of the islands by force. We consider this the fruit of prior arrangements made by the Japanese side.

China should not be allowed to employ such tactics as blatantly dispatching government ships and others with an eye toward expanding its territorial rights and maritime interests. It is vitally important for Japan to persistently stress that having China abide by international law and rules is a challenge faced by the entire international community.

In the foreign ministerial talks, the third of their kind since Kerry assumed the post in February, Kishida and Kerry also confirmed the two nations would steadily move ahead in the process for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. This includes the planned relocation of Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, and the transfer of some U.S. marines from the prefecture to Guam. They also confirmed they would steadily work toward Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

On enhancing Japan-U.S. cooperation in policies toward North Korea and China, Tokyo and Washington are expected to make progress on underlying bilateral issues through frequent dialogues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2013)
(2013年4月16日01時05分  読売新聞)


衆院選挙制度 「格差」と定数削減は別問題だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 16, 2013
Don't lump 'vote value disparity' issue with planned cuts in lawmakers
衆院選挙制度 「格差」と定数削減は別問題だ(4月14日付・読売社説)

Both the ruling and opposition camps must place top priority on resolving what the judiciary has described as a "state of unconstitutionality" in the House of Representatives electoral system, and do everything possible to enact a bill that will alleviate the problem.

The government has presented to the lower house a bill that would change the demarcation of the chamber's single-seat constituencies by revising the Public Offices Election Law, with the aim of trimming the number of first-past-the-post districts by five to 295 from the current 300.

The bill would revamp 42 single-seat districts of 17 prefectures, including Tokyo, based on recommendations submitted in March to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by an expert panel tasked with rezoning lower house constituencies.

If the bill becomes law, disparities in the weight of each vote on the basis of the 2010 national census will fall below 2:1 between the most and least populated districts, the ratio the Supreme Court has ruled as "being within the bounds of reasonableness."

No consensus on reform

In 17 administrative lawsuits filed over vote value disparity in the previous lower house election in December, high courts have handed down rulings of "unconstitutionality" in 15 of them. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue as early as this autumn.

Given that this will have a bearing on its makeup, it is only natural that the the Diet should rectify state of unconstitutionality.

However, most opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan, are poised to oppose the bill.

They say the bill would not abolish the system under which each of the 47 prefectures is automatically allocated one single-seat constituency, and the remainder of seats is apportioned among them, according to their populations. A 2011 Supreme Court ruling said this system should be scrapped because it was a major cause of vote value disparities.

DPJ Secretary General Goshi Hosono insists the government-submitted bill for eliminating five single-seat districts "doesn't go far enough to eliminate the state of unconstitutionality." He has called for consultations between the ruling and opposition blocs on drastically reforming the lower house electoral system, including slashing the large number of seats in the chamber.

It should be remembered, however, the DPJ agreed in November to a bill that would establish a framework for pruning five single-seat constituencies from the chamber. The party's latest tactic smacks of opportunism.

The parties remain far apart in their thinking on how the electoral system should be reformed. Given the slim chances of forming a consensus on this issue, it is the minimum responsibility of the legislature to pass into law as quickly as possible the bill to erase five seats.

Fundamentally, the arguments by many parties for advocating reforms by linking them with the issue of reducing lower house seats are not reasonable.

In an apparent bid to justify its position, the DPJ insists Diet members should be willing to put themselves on the line to obtain public support for higher burdens the people will face due to looming increases in the consumption tax rate. The DPJ assertion, however, is completely unrelated to the issue of rectifying vote value gaps.

Revote may be inevitable

We have doubts about the debates among the parties that are seemingly vying over the number of seats to be cut. This seems little more than a populist tactic to garner support as the House of Councillors election draws near.

Japan has relatively few legislators per head of population compared with other developed nations. The legislature must ensure it functions to properly oversee the actions of the administration by representing the opinions of a wide spectrum of the public.

The ruling parties have floated an idea to make the bill, if it is voted down or is not put to a vote in the upper house due to a failure to agree on terms with the opposition, passed into law through a revote in the lower house in accordance with Article 59 of the Constitution.

Time is running out, as the current Diet session will be adjourned in June. The Diet must not let the "unconstitutionality" issue go unaddressed any longer. Under the circumstances, the government may have no option but to take a revote to legislate the bill as an emergency step.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 14, 2013)
(2013年4月14日01時37分  読売新聞)


日米協議決着 TPP交渉の勝負はこれから

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 14, 2013
With entry to TPP talks imminent, negotiating challenges await Japan
日米協議決着 TPP交渉の勝負はこれから(4月13日付・読売社説)

How can Japan make up for its late entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations? The government must make all-out efforts in the talks.

Japan announced Friday it has completed its bilateral preliminary consultations with the United States, which are viewed as the most crucial step for Japan to enter the TPP talks.

The U.S. administration is now set to notify Congress of its intent to accept Japan's entry into the TPP negotiations. It is expected to obtain formal approval this summer after a 90-day period for congressional procedures.

Japan's entry needs to be approved by all 11 countries currently taking part in the TPP talks.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which have yet to endorse Japan's participation, are likely to give the green light soon, finally opening the way for the nation to join the talks. We welcome the prospect that Japan likely will go to the negotiating table as early as July.

Japan makes concessions to U.S.

Among the highlights of the bilateral accord between Japan and the United States, the two countries agreed that U.S. tariffs on imports of Japanese passenger cars and trucks will be phased out over the longest period possible. This is an apparent effort to ease the U.S. auto industry's concerns over expected increases in Japanese auto imports.

The two countries also agreed that Japan will refrain from approving new products of Japan Post Insurance Co., the life insurance unit of Japan Post Holdings Co. This agreement addressed a concern among the U.S. insurance sector that business expansion of Japan Post, which is partially funded by the government, would impede fair competition.

In the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers had begun coordinating with the U.S. auto and insurance sectors and other entities to put the brakes on Japan's entry into TPP talks. We think it inevitable for Tokyo to place top priority on early entry into the TPP talks even if that results in making concessions to Washington in the bilateral consultations.

The 11 countries are aiming to conclude the TPP negotiations by the end of this year. There is not much time left for Japan. The nation will lose room to maneuver in making trade rules in the TPP framework if its participation is delayed further.

Meanwhile, Japan and the United States also confirmed in their bilateral consultations that Japan has certain trade sensitivities regarding agricultural products.

The Liberal Democratic Party has called on the government to treat five agricultural items, including rice and wheat, as exceptions to the tariff elimination being sought under the TPP framework. However, calls for trade liberalization have been strong from participating countries. Japan will be tested on the extent to which it can take advantage of its bilateral agreement with the United States to push for its stance in the negotiations.

Tough strategy needed

Japan should be wary of Australia and other countries taking up the call to postpone lowering tariffs on Japanese auto imports. This could hamper growth of Japan's exports.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting of key ministers Friday: "We'll face a real challenge to realize our national interests from now on. We'll participate in the negotiations as soon as possible and aim to take the lead in the talks."

We hope the government will enter the negotiations with a tough strategy. Above all, Japan should boost its growth by expanding free trade and taking advantage of the vitality of Asia and other regions.

In parallel with the TPP negotiations, Japan needs to accelerate efforts to beef up its agricultural sector to prepare for global competition that will come after opening markets further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 13, 2013)
(2013年4月13日01時14分  読売新聞)


「北」瀬戸際外交 予測不能な言動に警戒強めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 14, 2013
World must step up vigilance against North Korea's unpredictable actions
「北」瀬戸際外交 予測不能な言動に警戒強めよ(4月13日付・読売社説)

The international community, including Japan, must unite and deal strictly with North Korea, which is trying to strengthen its nuclear arsenal. We must tighten sanctions against Pyongyang if it launches a ballistic missile.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations on Thursday adopted a communique urging North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and agreed to tighten sanctions if the country fires a missile. The move is a strong warning to North Korea.

The international community is now being tested over how it can effectively thwart North Korea's drive to go nuclear.

North Korea has threatened Japan, the United States and South Korea by name, saying they are potential targets of its preemptive nuclear strike, and declared that it will reactivate its nuclear facilities. The country appears to be preparing to launch one or more ballistic missiles.

Missile threat

There is a possibility that North Korea may fire missiles capable of reaching the U.S. Pacific island of Guam, Japan and South Korea from mobile launch pads.

To prepare for a case in which a missile falls on Japan, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera ordered the Self-Defense Forces to shoot down any missile from North Korea using the missile defense system. The government should take all possible measures to intercept North Korea's missiles.

Repeating threatening words and actions, Pyongyang is seeking nuclear armaments that will menace global peace and security. This is intolerable.

North Korea has continued provocative words and actions, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said "have reached a level at which they are difficult to tolerate." It is only natural that U.S. President Barack Obama took a firm stance, saying the United States will "take all necessary steps" unless North Korea changes its belligerent attitude.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to South Korea, China and Japan, which started Friday, has a significant meaning. It is essential for Japan, the United States, South Korea and China to coordinate thoroughly in dealing with North Korea.

It is problematic that Kim Jong Un, North Korea's supreme leader, does not have strong connections with Chinese leaders and therefore it is unclear how well he understands the international situation.

U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said Kim seems "impetuous."

Constant concern hangs over his unpredictable words and actions.

During a ceremony to celebrate the first anniversary of Kim's promotion to first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea on Thursday, a nuclear test and the firing of a long-range ballistic missile were praised as his great achievements.

Menacing weaponry

At a plenary meeting of the party's Central Committee held late last month, Kim gave the order to mass-produce "precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery" and actively develop "more powerful nuclear weapons."

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Defense, reportedly compiled an analysis that concludes that North Korea has developed a nuclear weapon that can be mounted on a missile.

The international community should make efforts to grasp the actual situation of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development and further strengthen vigilance and measures against the country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,  April 13, 2013)
(2013年4月13日01時14分  読売新聞)


老いる大都市圏 介護の担い手をどう確保する

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 13, 2013
EDITORIAL / Secure nursing care staffers as major urban areas go gray
老いる大都市圏 介護の担い手をどう確保する(4月12日付・読売社説)

How to respond to the need for medical and nursing care in major urban areas, which will sharply rise in coming years, is a grave theme in social security policy.

In the 30 years from 2010, Tokyo and the prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba and Aichi, among others, will see huge jumps in the number of residents aged 65 or older. This was revealed in a recent survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research on population projections for specific regions.

In Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures, the number of residents who are 75 or older--a group with higher need for medical and nursing care services--will double during the period.

Urban areas will gray as generations who moved there from regional areas during the period of rapid economic growth become senior citizens. Rural society is already graying as depopulation has steadily continued in farming village areas, and the trend will spread to major urban areas.

In such a situation, it is indispensable to improve facilities for the aged, including special nursing care homes for the elderly. Such facilities have the advantage of being able to take care of many elderly people with a limited number of nursing care staff.

However, it is not easy to construct new facilities in urban areas, where land prices are high. The lack of facilities for the aged will worsen in the future.

We hope each local government will wisely prepare facilities for the aged by, for instance, utilizing the buildings of schools that are no longer in use.

Home care needed

It is also important to create an environment in which people can receive sufficient medical and nursing care at their homes. Expectations are running high for the 24-hour home-visit nursing care service that the government launched last year. Nurses or nursing care staff visit the homes of aged people several times a day, and can also respond to emergency calls.

However, this service has not been used widely: Less than 10 percent of local governments in the nation have introduced it so far.
Nursing care service providers are hesitant to adopt the service due to such burdens as responding to midnight calls. Difficulty securing nurses, a condition for entering the market, is said to be another cause.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry must study measures to improve the situation, such as easing conditions for participating in the market.

It is also important to secure nursing care staff. Even people who have experience in this area often stop working due to marriage and childbirth. An environment has to be created in which such people can continue to work in nursing care while rearing their children, by solving the problem of the long waiting list to enroll children in licensed day care centers, among other things.

It is also necessary to improve salaries in this business sector, which are lower than in other industries.

Single men face isolation

The number of elderly men living alone in urban areas will sharply increase in the future, much more than single elderly women. This is going to be a big problem.
A major reason is that the percentage of unmarried men currently in their 30s and 40s is rising due to such factors as the increase in non-regular employees, who are paid less than regular full-time workers.

Single people cannot expect family members to provide nursing care when they become old. They tend to have tenuous connections to their neighbors and become alienated.

The urban graying problem must be discussed, including such factors as employment, salaries and an appropriate way for the public to bear the burdens. We hope the government's National Council on Social Security System Reform will deepen its discussions on these issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 12, 2013)
(2013年4月12日01時42分  読売新聞)


日台漁業協定 戦略的外交で「尖閣」を守れ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 12, 2013
Japan-Taiwan fisheries pact strategic diplomacy tool to protect Senkakus
日台漁業協定 戦略的外交で「尖閣」を守れ(4月11日付・読売社説)

The Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement will have a significant impact on preserving Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

It also demonstrates the direction of the diplomacy being pursued by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reinforce strategic relations with China's neighbors to keep the country in check.

Japan and Taiwan reopened official negotiations for the first time in four years over fishing activities in waters near the Senkaku Islands and signed a bilateral agreement on private fishing activities.

The pillar of the agreement is the establishment of a zone exempt from the fishing-related laws of both Japan and Taiwan within Japan's exclusive economic zone, set outside Japan's territorial waters. This will allow Taiwan fishermen to operate in the zone, in addition to another special cooperative operational zone specified in the agreement.

The agreement does not allow Taiwan fishing boats to operate in Japanese territorial waters.

Concerning the Senkaku Islands, both China and Taiwan have claimed territorial rights on the islets. In September last year, many Taiwan fishing boats entered the Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus. China had called on Taiwan's cooperation in confronting Japan.

The latest agreement is aimed at blocking such cooperation between China and Taiwan. The Chinese side immediately expressed "grave concern" over the agreement as it must have felt displeasure over the Japan-Taiwan cooperation.

Negotiations over fishing have been held intermittently between Japan and Taiwan since 1996, but a compromise could not be reached as the two sides butted heads over operational zones and rules, for example.

The Japanese government asked Taipei to reopen the negotiations in autumn last year, immediately after the Japanese government nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands.

Priority on islands' sovereignty

The call to reopen the talks was based on Japan's diplomatic strategy. Negotiations were led by the Prime Minister's Office. It was a major compromise for Japan on fishing rights as it prioritized protecting the Senkaku Islands. As Taiwan gains practical benefits in expanding its fishing area, the pact thus provides advantages for both sides.

Yet, the problem is whether the terms of the agreement will be smoothly carried out in the actual fishing areas. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima was vocal in his protest against the Japanese government.
"It is extremely regrettable a major compromise was made. We'll face fierce competition and the shrinkage of quality fishing areas," Nakaima said.

In spring, fishing activities pick up and the waters around the Senkaku Islands are good for catching Pacific bluefin tuna and flame snapper, in addition to other fish. The number of fishing boats to work in the zones and the catches must be coordinated to prevent overfishing.

Japan and Taiwan will establish a joint fisheries committee to put the finishing touches on the agreement.

To appropriately control fisheries resources, which are common assets for coastal nations, both sides need to proceed with the talks while keeping a broad perspective.

Improvement in relations

Fundamentally, Taiwan has been taking a pro-Japanese stance. At the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Taiwan provided huge donations. Abe has been taking into consideration the improvement in relations with Taiwan. For instance, at a ceremony to commemorate the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, a place for an official representing Taiwan was prepared alongside seats for the representatives of foreign countries.

The latest fisheries agreement will consequently result in reinforcement of the entire scope of Japan-Taiwan relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 11, 2013)
(2013年4月11日01時30分  読売新聞)


サッチャー死去 今なお生きる国家再生の教訓

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 11, 2013
EDITORIAL / Thatcher leaves indelible lesson on how to revitalize a nation
サッチャー死去 今なお生きる国家再生の教訓(4月10日付・読売社説)

Margaret Thatcher was a female politician who not only revitalized a sinking Britain but changed the world by playing a key role in ending the Cold War.

Thatcher, who served as British prime minister for 11 years from 1979, died Monday at the age of 87.

In expressing his condolences, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said she was "a great leader who demonstrated a force of will and was a respected politician who devoted herself to her country and people."

Even today, Japan can learn many lessons from Thatcher. Her greatest achievement was carrying out drastic reforms known as Thatcherism.

She stood firm against the "British disease"--a reference to the country's recession and financial woes--by promoting a small government. She embraced privatization and took a series of deregulation steps, including the "Big Bang" that transformed financial markets. She also boldly pushed through unpopular measures such as reducing generous welfare services and streamlining the coal mine sector.

However, as her economic policy focused mainly on the financial sector, Britain's manufacturing industry waned, widening the rich-poor gap. Despite the negative impact, her reforms are regarded to have laid the groundwork for the country's economic growth from the 1990s.

Impact on Japan

In the wake of Thatcherism, the state-owned Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation and Japanese National Railways were privatized under the administration of then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, and Japan's version of the "Big Bang" financial reforms were carried out under the administration of then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Along with Reaganomics, the economic policies promoted by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Thatcher managed the remarkable achievement of resuscitating the global economy.

Currently, Japan is trying to turn its economy around under Abenomics. Abe must exert his leadership to implement the necessary measures.

Thatcher's educational reforms have also influenced Abe. In a book, the Japanese prime minister praised her commitment to boosting Britain's educational levels by correcting a "self-deprecating" view of history in education.

Thatcher's role in international politics is also unforgettable.

When the United States and European countries were divided over U.S. plans to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe and other issues, Thatcher stressed the need to counter the Soviet Union militarily. She played a pivotal role in unifying the West and ending the Cold War.

Maintaining rule of law

The world's spotlight was directed on Thatcher in April 1982 when Argentine forces invaded the British territory of Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. She did not hesitate to send a naval fleet to retake them.

In his recent policy speech, Abe quoted Thatcher who, on reflecting on the Falklands War, said Britain was defending the principle that international law should take precedence over the use of force.

She strongly advocated the protection of territories and sovereignty while abiding by international law. Japan should adopt this kind of firm attitude.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 10, 2013)
(2013年4月10日02時00分  読売新聞)


食物アレルギー 給食の事故防止を徹底したい

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 10, 2013
Strong measures needed to prevent food allergy cases occurring at schools
食物アレルギー 給食の事故防止を徹底したい(4月9日付・読売社説)

How can we prevent children with food allergies from experiencing allergic reactions during a pleasant lunch at school?

As a new term has begun at schools, school administrators are asked to do their utmost to ensure their safety measures for school lunches are flawless.

Those with food allergies can develop such symptoms as eczema and respiratory difficulties if they eat certain foods, such as eggs, milk, wheat, peanuts, shrimp or crab.

There are also life-threatening allergic reactions, such as a sudden drop in blood pressure or impairment of consciousness.

According to a survey taken by the education ministry, 2.6 percent of students in the country suffer from food allergies. This means almost one student in every class has a food allergy.

There has been an increase in cases of students mistakenly eating food containing an allergen and requiring medical treatment. In fiscal 2011, such cases topped 300. Thoroughly implementing countermeasures is an urgent matter.

Allergic reactions can be fatal

At a municipality-run primary school in Chofu, western Tokyo, a fifth-grade girl died in December last year after consuming dairy products she was allergic to.

A report compiled last month by a local board of education examination committee pointed out a series of mistakes on the part of the school.

On the day of the incident, the school provided her with a special meal without cheese, to which she was allergic. When she asked for seconds, her teacher mistakenly gave her an ordinary portion containing cheese. The teacher should have checked the list of those foods she was not supposed to eat.

When the student complained about feeling sick, neither her teacher nor a nurse gave her an injection, which could have mitigated her allergic reaction.

At the same school, another student had an allergic reaction during lunch three months earlier. Later the school conducted an instructional program on food allergies for teachers and other school officials. It is quite regrettable that the lesson was not learned.

To prevent such tragic incidents from recurring, it is important for schools to cooperate with students' parents and doctors and to have accurate knowledge of possible allergy symptoms of food-allergic children and take careful steps.

With regard to measures to be taken for food-allergic students, a guideline was worked out in 2008 under the supervision of the education ministry. However, the reality is that schools differ from one another in how they deal with food allergies.

Schools must be vigilant

It is important for every school to thoroughly take such fundamental measures as distributing in advance lists of school lunch ingredients to parents, while arranging special meals for students with food allergies.

Parents also need to always remind their food-allergic children of those foods that they should not eat.

When a child suffers an allergic reaction to food, the initial response is crucial. Teachers and other school staff need to be trained so that they can administer an injection properly to someone having an allergic reaction.

The education ministry will examine how schools across the country are coping with food allergy issues. We hope any problems can be cleared up to help to prevent further accidents from occurring.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 9, 2013)
(2013年4月9日01時12分  読売新聞)