パレスチナ和平 米国の仲介努力は奏功するか

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 30, 2013
Israeli-Palestinian talks resumption 1st step in U.S. Mideast peace effort
パレスチナ和平 米国の仲介努力は奏功するか(7月29日付・読売社説)

It is imperative to ensure that emerging positive signs in the Middle East result in a resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians after a hiatus of about three years.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has pressured Israel and the Palestinian Authority since March, announced on July 19 that both sides “have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.” Ministerial-level officials from both parties are to meet in the near future to work out the terms and preconditions for the negotiations, according to U.S. government officials.

The Palestinian Authority has set the goal of establishing a Palestinian state, and Japan, the United States and European nations as well as Arab states have thrown their support behind this goal.

Kerry’s endeavors pay off

The long-envisaged establishment of a Palestinian state, however, will not be possible without Israel’s agreement. We strongly hope the Israelis and Palestinians hold direct talks to begin the process of having the two sides live side by side in peace and security.

The broad agreement is the fruit of mediation efforts by Kerry, who, after assuming the post of secretary of state in February, traveled many times to the Middle East.

With upheavals continuing in the wake of the Arab Spring, U.S. policies have been put to the test. While the civil war in Syria has bogged down with no clear end in sight, Egypt, a major power in the Middle East, has been unable to resolve its political problems.

It appears the United States hopes to play a role conducive to stabilizing the Middle East situation by using its diplomatic leverage to bring about peace between Israel and Palestinians.

The basic accord to hold preliminary talks appears partly due to Israel’s adopting more moderate policies after realizing its inflexible hard-line stance in dealing with the Palestinians left it internationally isolated.

In a U.N. General Assembly session last year, a resolution in favor of giving the Palestinian Authority the status of a “nonmember observer state” was adopted by an overwhelming majority vote despite intense opposition from the United States and Israel.

Israel’s sense of crisis increased when the international community, particularly Israel’s biggest trade partner, Europe, intensified criticism of Israel’s continuing construction of settlements in the West Bank.

A freeze in settlement construction would help pave the way for realizing a resumption of dialogue with the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, must resolve the current situation in which its authority is limited only to the West Bank, with the Gaza Strip remaining under the control of the Islamist organization Hamas. This is essential for the Palestinian Authority if it wants to show that it is the proper party to negotiate with the Israelis.

Japan must help out

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida toured the Middle East region last week. In separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he pressed them to resume peace talks.

In addition, Kishida conferred with ministers from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan over ways to utilize an agricultural park to process farm produce. The park is under construction in the West Bank city of Jericho with the support of Japan.

The agreement among Kishida and the others on the project should be rated highly.

Japan must continue to make such diplomatic efforts by extending a helping hand to encourage peace moves by the Israelis and Palestinians.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 29, 2013)
(2013年7月29日01時19分  読売新聞)


朝鮮休戦60年 平和妨げる北朝鮮の核武装化

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 29, 2013
Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions continue to be impediment to peace
朝鮮休戦60年 平和妨げる北朝鮮の核武装化(7月28日付・読売社説)

The 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice in the Korean War comes as North Korea continues to push ahead with its nuclear programs.

The Korean War began with the North’s invasion of the South in 1950, and claimed the lives of more than 3 million people before the armistice was signed three years later.

Fierce fighting between U.S.-led U.N. Command forces backing South Korea and China, which deployed Chinese People’s Volunteer Army troops because it feared North Korea would collapse, ended with a divided Korean Peninsula in the absence of a peace treaty.

China’s change of mind

The North and South are continuing their military confrontation across the Demilitarized Zone, and there is a danger the situation could explode into an armed conflict.

North Korea, which falsely claims the armistice was a “victory,” celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice on Saturday with a massive military parade in Pyongyang.

The scale of the parade was aimed apparently at flaunting the power of Pyongyang’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, while diverting the people’s increasing discontent over the country’s wrecked economy.

The biggest concern for Japan and other countries is the beefing up of North Korea’s nuclear programs, which Kim has been promoting. Massive throngs of armed soldiers marched in the Pyongyang parade as if trying to impress the rest of the world with the strength of the North’s ability to wage war with missiles and nuclear weapons.

As a matter of course, North Korea has been forced to pay the piper. The U.N. Security Council has imposed economic sanctions on Pyongyang for repeatedly carrying out nuclear tests and test-launching long-range ballistic missiles.

China’s recent change from its conventional stance of fully defending North Korea appears to have made the international coalition against the North more solid.

During the military parade, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao stood alongside Kim on the podium overlooking Pyongyang’s main Kim Il Sung Square. Li reportedly told Kim that Beijing was determined to maintain its policy of pursuing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, working to ensure peace and security on the peninsula and resolving tensions through dialogue and consultations.

This can be taken as a message to Pyongyang to return to the six-nation talks, as Beijing is resolved not to allow North Korea to possess nuclear weapons or engage in military provocations.

China, as the largest donor country and trade partner of North Korea, has a life-or-death influence over the North. Beijing’s stance on seeking North Korea’s denuclearization will now be put to the test.

In regard to North Korea’s call for a direct dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington, the United States has made such a dialogue contingent on the North abandoning its nuclear ambitions. This condition is quite reasonable.

North must heed others

Pyongyang, for its part, must heed the voices of Japan, the United States and South Korea, which are calling on the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The environment surrounding the Korean Peninsula has changed dramatically since the signing of the armistice.

For one thing, South Korea has established diplomatic relations with China, and the value of its trade with Beijing has expanded to such an extent that it has surpassed its combined trade with Japan and the United States.

North Korea has made the choice of becoming a nuclear power, with the result that it cannot normalize diplomatic relations with Japan or the United States. As it has been driven into a corner, Pyongyang has even declared it is ready to “pull out of the deal” concerning the armistice agreement.

Japan, the United States, China and South Korea must remain vigilant to prevent North Korea from conducting new nuclear tests, missile launches or military provocations by firmly maintaining stringent sanctions to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 28, 2013)
(2013年7月28日01時09分  読売新聞)


首相アジア演説 ASEAN重視戦略の表明だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 28, 2013
Abe’s increased focus on ASEAN partnership a strategic move
首相アジア演説 ASEAN重視戦略の表明だ(7月27日付・読売社説)

A speech made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday served as a strong message to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a key economic and security partner of Japan.

During his visit to Southeast Asia, Abe delivered the speech on the Japan-ASEAN relationship in Singapore.

Using an airplane to describe relations between Japan and the rapidly growing region, Abe said, “Japan and ASEAN are like twin engines on the right and left wings.”

The prime minister also said his Abenomics economic measures would benefit ASEAN countries as both Japan’s imports from and exports to ASEAN members have doubled over the past decade. Abe is apparently determined to further bolster Japan-ASEAN ties.

Both Malaysia and Singapore, which Abe visited this week, are participants in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact. Japan will likely seek ways to partner with them when the TPP talks enter the final stage.

Beyond economic alliance

Abe stressed that the nation’s relationship with ASEAN encompasses more than economic matters, saying the ties are “meaningful in ensuring regional security, particularly freedom of navigation at sea.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of Japan-ASEAN friendship and cooperation.

He made such remarks apparently with China in mind, as Beijing has attempted to assume control of the East and South China seas. Especially now, when Japan’s ties with China and South Korea have become strained, it is strategically significant for the government to deepen its partnership with ASEAN.

On Friday, Abe also met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who has been touring Asia. This meeting was seemingly effective in highlighting the Japan-U.S. alliance, which could be conducive to ensuring peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia.

Abe was to meet with Philippine President Benigno Aquino in Manila on Saturday. During the meeting, Abe was expected to express his intention to provide the Philippines with patrol ships through the Official Development Assistance program.

The Philippines has been at loggerheads with China over the sovereignty of the Scarborough Shoal and other territories in the South China Sea. In light of this, helping the Philippines boost its maritime capability could serve as a symbolic aid gesture to benefit the whole ASEAN community.

Look to China allies

This is already Abe’s third visit to Southeast Asia since returning to power. Of the 10 ASEAN member countries, he has visited seven.

Cambodia and Laos, both nations that have close ties to China, are among the ASEAN members. With due consideration for local circumstances in both countries, the prime minister should also visit these nations in a bid to increase their understanding of Japan.

China has apparently attempted to undermine Japan-ASEAN relations due to its alarm over Abe’s aggressive diplomacy in the region.

To prevent military tensions with China from escalating, it is vital for Japan to seek regional stability in line with international regulations and the spirit of the rule of law by working together with the United States and other countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2013)
(2013年7月27日01時26分  読売新聞)


TPP交渉参加 攻守両にらみ戦略で挽回せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 27, 2013
Hammer out effective strategy to redeem lost time in TPP talks
TPP交渉参加 攻守両にらみ戦略で挽回せよ(7月26日付・読売社説)

At last Japan has entered talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade agreement, which have so far been conducted by 11 countries, including the United States.

Regarding Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed, “We will make full use of our negotiating power to protect what needs protecting and push for what we want, to seek the best way to serve national interests.”

To ensure that this country can make up for the time lost due to its late entry into the TPP talks, the government must beef up its defensive and offensive strategies.

The latest round of TPP negotiations took place in Malaysia from July 15, and Japan joined the talks as the 12th member for only two and a half days in the final phase of the round that ended Thursday.

By taking part in the talks, Japan received for the first time a pile of texts on the TPP negotiations comprising 29 chapters on such subjects as abolition of tariffs, intellectual property rights and investment.

Talks may be prolonged

It is of great significance that Japan can now grasp the entire picture of issues that have been discussed among TPP members.

The next TPP gathering is scheduled for late August in Brunei, while consultations on the TPP between Japan and the United States will be conducted in parallel with the Brunei round from August on.

The government must waste no time working out how to deal with the increasingly accelerating pace of the TPP talks by making a detailed analysis of the assertions of each participant country.

The United States and some other TPP participants have set a goal of finalizing a basic agreement in the negotiations by October and concluding the talks by the end of the year. The TPP representative of Malaysia said in a news conference on Thursday that his country will energetically engage in discussions to complete them as scheduled.

However, the TPP countries are still at loggerheads regarding the abolition of tariffs, the main point of contention, which has apparently caused the negotiations to stall.

Given the current pace of the talks, it is unlikely they will be concluded by the end of the year. Indications are that the negotiations may continue into next year.

Although Japan, as a late starter, remains in a difficult position in the negotiations, prolonged talks may give Japan more room to make up for lost time.

In its platform for the recent House of Councillors election, the Liberal Democratic Party pledged to “give top priority to securing exemption of five agricultural products,” including rice and wheat, from tariff abolition.

In the upper chamber election, Toshio Yamada of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Zenchu) secured his reelection as one of the highest-ranking winners in the proportional representation contest. Yamada has pledged to press the government to protect national interests without fail in the TPP talks.

Another upper house member, Hidehisa Otsuji, who ran in the Kagoshima prefectural constituency on a platform of opposing the TPP, won an upper house seat for the fifth time.

‘Going on the offensive’

While some LDP legislators remain firmly opposed to the TPP, the government and the LDP must buckle down to swiftly push ahead with concrete measures for improving the competitiveness of the nation’s agriculture, in preparation for further opening of the domestic farm market to foreign competition.

Given that the TPP is aimed at a high degree of trade liberalization, protecting rice and other farm products as exemptions from tariff abolition will not necessarily secure Japan’s national interests.

A well-balanced strategy must be hammered out in this respect.

Of higher importance for Japan is to “go on the offensive” by increasing exports of motor vehicles and electronics through tariff abolition, as well as establishing an environment conducive to business activity through such steps as lifting restrictions on capital investment from abroad.

The envisaged TPP pact will constitute a huge free trade zone accounting for about 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

Japan must utilize the TPP to tap the vigor of other economies in Asia, to spur the nation’s economic growth.

How can Japan play a leading role in crafting trade and investment rules in Asia? How to address this challenge is of crucial significance, and could determine the fate of the growth strategy on which the Abe administration has placed such importance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 26, 2013)
(2013年7月26日01時18分  読売新聞)


憲法改正 実現への布石を周到に打て

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 26, 2013
Prepare carefully for long, winding road of amending the Constitution
憲法改正 実現への布石を周到に打て(7月25日付・読売社説)

Debate on amending the Constitution has taken concrete form since the recent House of Councillors election. It is imperative that discussions on the issue be developed further.

We urge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration to carefully and throughly take steps to gather momentum to realize the goal of amending the Constitution.

A point of contention during the upper house campaign was whether to change Article 96, which stipulates procedures for constitutional revision. Parties have argued over whether to relax the requirements for amending the Constitution.

Currently, the approval of at least two-thirds of the legislators in both chambers of the Diet is necessary to initiate amendments to the top law. After the upper house election, the parties that actively support amending the Constitution--the Liberal Democratic Party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party--still did not have a two-thirds majority in the chamber. Hurdles remain high for amending the top law.

However, if the seats held by New Komeito--which favors adding new philosophies and provisions to the Constitution without changing the existing ones--are factored in, that would achieve the two-thirds requirement. Komeito’s actions hold the key to constitutional revision.

Komeito should present ideas

According to the party’s pledges for the upper house election, it seeks to discuss a number of issues regarding “adding new elements” to the Constitution: environmental rights, expanding the scope of local autonomy, stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in the top law and how the nation should contribute to the international community.

We urge New Komeito to hold thorough discussions on the issues and specify its ideas in a draft proposal. That would help clarify the similarities and differences between New Komeito and other parties, such as its coalition partner, the LDP, on the issues. It would also help expand discussions on amending the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Your Party has said there are other things to be accomplished before amending the Constitution, including civil service reform. The party has proposed radical ideas for civil service reform, such as eliminating the jobs of 100,000 national government officials and allowing government officials to be laid off as easily as employees at private companies, in exchange for giving them the right to strike.

We can never agree to making such reforms a precondition for amending the Constitution, as the two issues can be dealt with simultaneously.

Start from pending issues

Abe has said he will deal with constitutional revision “without haste, and move forward on the issue with persistence.” The prime minister stressed he will first deal with unresolved issues involving the National Referendum Law, which was enacted during the first Abe administration. We believe Abe’s decision is appropriate, as those issues will lay the basic groundwork for amending the Constitution.

The National Referendum Law stipulates procedures for a national referendum for constitutional amendments. It allows those aged 18 and older to participate in such referendums.

To be consistent, the law’s supplementary provisions require lawmakers to discuss lowering the minimum voting age for elections, which is stipulated in the Public Offices Election Law, and the age of adulthood stipulated in the Civil Code, from the current 20 to 18. The provisions also call for the review of the National Civil Service Law, which limits the political activities of government officials.

All the issues are long overdue. Lawmakers were expected to reach conclusions on the issues before the National Referendum Law was put into force in May 2010.

We urge both the ruling and opposition parties to start discussions on the unresolved issues as soon as possible.

Even if the Diet succeeds in initiating constitutional amendments, it is the public that makes the final decision on revising the Constitution via referendums. A majority of all votes cast in a referendum is needed to amend the Constitution--it would never be an easy task.

LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba has revealed the idea of hosting meetings across the nation aimed at explaining to the public the necessity of amending the Constitution. The meetings would be carried out as easy-to-understand dialogues, according to Ishiba.

To amend the Constitution, efforts to nurture public awareness of the necessity of constitutional amendments are essential. There are three years left, at most, before the next national election. The time should be used strategically for the goal of amending the Constitution.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2013)
(2013年7月25日02時15分  読売新聞)


夏休みの安全 子どもを犯罪から守りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 25, 2013
Children deserve to have a safe and crime-free summer vacation
夏休みの安全 子どもを犯罪から守りたい(7月24日付・読売社説)

School is out for summer, and children are free to play outdoors. Yet even at this happy time, measures must be taken to ensure no children fall victim to crimes during their summer vacation.

In late June, a man with a knife injured three first-grade primary school students in front of the gate to a ward primary school in Nerima Ward, Tokyo. The incident took place while the boys were on their way home from school. In mid-July, a fifth-grade primary school student suffered serious injuries when she was beaten by a man on the street in Ryugasaki, Ibaraki Prefecture.

National Police Agency statistics remind us of the disturbing reality that not even children under 13 are safe from criminals. Crimes against them include a significant number of serious offenses, such as sexual assaults and attacks resulting in grave injuries.

Parents should immediately call the police if their children have been spoken to or followed by suspicious persons.

Adults must stay on guard

It is essential for the police to thoroughly investigate such cases, while also providing information about suspicious individuals to local organizations likely to be affected by such incidents, including school authorities and neighborhood associations.

School administrators have taken measures to better protect the safety of their students in recent years. The move was prompted by a stabbing incident that took place in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in 2001 at a primary school affiliated with Osaka Kyoiku University. Eight students at Ikeda Primary School were killed by a knife-wielding man, and many others were injured.

Ikeda Primary School has set up a class called “anzen-ka” (safety course) in which students are encouraged to discuss what they should do if they face such situations as total strangers talking to them on the street. An increasing number of schools are adopting similar safety education programs.

A large number of primary and middle schools have installed security cameras and other protective devices around their buildings and grounds, hoping to detect any suspicious person attempting to intrude.

In other cases, parents accompany their children to and from school, while crime-prevention volunteers from neighborhood associations patrol school-commuting roads. Local communities are making progress in implementing various steps to prevent children from becoming crime victims.

However, defense of children tends to become lax during the summer vacation. Particular attention should be given to the safety of children during certain hours of the day--for instance, when they are playing outdoors, and while they are on their way to and from cram schools and or swimming courses. At such times, it is difficult for grown-ups to keep an eye on children. Given this, it is advisable to make sure children carry crime prevention buzzers with them when they go out, so they can sound an alarm if necessary.

Teach kids to be alert

Most importantly, children should be taught how to escape from crimes targeting them. They need to develop such awareness on a routine basis, when it comes to averting potential danger.

For instance, it is a good idea for both parents and children to confirm whether any hazards exist in their neighborhood, such as a vacant house into which children could be taken or an unlit street. Parents would be well advised to tell their children to stay away from such high-risk places.

In many areas around the nation, shops, private homes and other buildings have been designated as emergency shelters for children. Those in charge of such shelters agree to provide temporary protection for children who encountered danger, and report it to the police. If they have been taught where such facilities are located, children will be able to run to the shelter when they recognize danger.

Other facilities that can play a role in crime prevention include convenience stores that stay open round the clock or till late at night.

It is essential for families and local communities to join hands in making sure children can spend the summer vacation in safety.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2013)
(2013年7月24日01時22分  読売新聞)


安倍政権の課題 国力の向上へ経済に集中せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 24, 2013
Abe administration must focus on economy to enhance nation’s power
安倍政権の課題 国力の向上へ経済に集中せよ(7月23日付・読売社説)


The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must make all-out efforts to revitalize the national economy and concentrate on enhancing national power.

The administration has made a new start after the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito scored an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s House of Councillors election.

Abe met with Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi Monday to confirm their policy of strengthening cooperation. It will be necessary for the two parties, which failed to put forth common campaign platforms for the upper house poll, to steadily promote coordination on various policies.


In a news conference on Monday, Abe stressed he would put utmost priority on economic policy, saying, “Ending 15 years of deflation will be a historic undertaking.”

The foundation for social security, diplomacy and security cannot be bolstered unless the country can regain a strong economy and national power. Revitalizing the national economy is a way of meeting the expectations the people expressed in the upper house election.

Sales tax hike key issue

The biggest focal point for the moment is whether the government will decide to raise the consumption tax from 5 percent to 8 percent in April as scheduled.

Abe said he would make a prudent decision by autumn after analyzing such economic data as the real-term gross domestic product for the April-June quarter, which will be released on Aug. 12.

The economy has been picking up steadily due to the effect of Abenomics. But raising the consumption tax before a full-scale business recovery may affect the economy adversely. Some of the prime minister’s economic advisers have come out in favor of postponing a tax increase.

On the other hand, the nation’s fiscal condition is the worst among industrialized countries. Japan has made an international pledge to implement midterm fiscal reconstruction. The adverse effect of postponing a consumption tax increase on the government bond market is also a matter of concern.

In a recent Moscow meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 economies, Finance Miniser Taro Aso said the tax increase would be carried out as scheduled. Abe faces a hard policy decision on how to reach a balance between economic growth and fiscal reconstruction.

Discussions on the consumption tax hike will be also unavoidable from the standpoint of promoting reforms of the social security system. Based on conclusions of the national conference on social security reform to be announced in August, the government needs to set forth policies to curb medical bills and pension benefits, which have been burgeoning due to the graying of society, as well as concrete measures to deal with the declining birthrate.

The government is being put to the test over how to implement a growth strategy, the “third arrow” of Abenomics after bold monetary easing and fiscal stimulation.

Abe regards the autumn extraordinary Diet session as an opportunity to realize his administration’s growth strategy and is aiming for early passage of a bill to boost the competitiveness of the Japanese industry, including an investment tax cut to encourage businesses to make capital investment.

Boosting the vitality of Japanese companies could help realize a virtuous circle of wage hikes and an expansion of job opportunities.

In promoting the growth strategy, however, it is essential to secure a stable supply of electricity.

TPP talks in full swing

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has launched safety checks of nuclear power plants seeking to restart their idled reactors in line with new safety standards. To efficiently implement various kinds of safety checks, the safety examination system of the NRA should be reinforced.

Abe’s leadership is also needed to win the understanding of local governments and communities to resume the operations of nuclear plants.

The government should promote a realistic energy policy, while considering its impact on the economy, employment and the global environment.

Also important are the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which Japan will join for the first time on Tuesday. Japan should seize the opportunity to promote free trade and bring out the vitality of Asia.

Efforts must also be made to boost the international competitiveness of our agricultural sector in preparation for market liberalization.

On the diplomatic front, the biggest issue is how to improve bilateral relations with China.

Abe said, “The important thing is to have heart-to-heart talks with each other,” emphasizing the importance of dialogue. Also needed are persistent diplomatic efforts by both Japan and China to solve their differences.

China is still behaving provocatively by having its marine surveillance vessels sail around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. It was also recently learned that China is developing a new gas field near the median line between Japan and China in the East China Sea, which is escalating bilateral friction.

With China’s recent aggressive and intimidating actions and its military buildup, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development threats, Japan’s security environment has been deteriorating.

Review collective self-defense

It is only reasonable for the government to review its interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the use of the right to the collective self-defense, a pending issue for many years. Such a review would strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

An expert panel of the government will compile a new report on the issue by mid-October and is expected to propose that Japan should exercise its right to collective self-defense. Based on the proposal, the government should proceed to change its interpretation of the supreme law.

The nation’s security system needs to be strengthened by establishing the Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, promoting the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago and compiling new National Defense Program Outlines.

The next national election is not scheduled for three years. It is crucial for Abe to proceed with diplomatic and security issues step by step, together with his economic policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 2013)
(2013年7月23日01時31分  読売新聞)


参院選自公圧勝 数に傲らず着実に政策実現を

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 23, 2013
Coalition must not be arrogant but should firmly pursue policy goals
参院選自公圧勝 数に傲らず着実に政策実現を(7月22日付・読売社説)


The ruling coalition parties have scored a resounding electoral victory following their landslide in the December 2012 House of Representatives election.

In Sunday’s House of Councillors election, the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, garnered a majority in the 242-seat upper chamber, including seats that were uncontested this time.

It is of great significance that the divided Diet, in which the upper house was controlled by opposition parties, has been brought to an end.

There is no national election scheduled for up to three years.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has now acquired an environment that will allow it to buckle down to various policy tasks. Among them are making the nation’s economic recovery compatible with fiscal reconstruction, strengthening the country’s security arrangements and considering the wisdom of revising the Constitution.

However, neither the LDP nor Komeito should be complacent or arrogant about their newly won political power but instead should engage in managing the Diet considerately and respectfully.

Voters favor stability

The divided state of the legislature developed six years ago as a result of the first Abe Cabinet’s suffering a crushing defeat in the 2007 upper house contest. Abe’s triumph this time has avenged that defeat.

When the outcome of the latest upper house race began emerging late Sunday night, Abe said on a TV program his administration was given a “great voice of encouragement from the public, which wants a political process capable of making decisions, achieving a stable government and moving ahead with our economic policies.”

The stagnation and political turmoil caused by the divided Diet were major factors behind the anomaly of a new prime minister every year. Many voters this time favored political stability as pointed out by the prime minister.

The prime minister’s package of economic policies, dubbed Abenomics, was the focus of contention in the upper house election and can be said to have won the public’s confidence, at least for now.

However, Abenomics has not yet produced any conspicuous improvements in the income of ordinary citizens or employment. It remains unclear whether the national economy can really break away from deflation.

To meet the public’s expectations for economic revival, the prime minister must do his utmost to produce tangible results by mobilizing all available resources of the government and the ruling coalition parties.

The resounding win of the LDP, the only party in the latest upper house election that did not call for “reducing nuclear power generation to zero,” can be considered proof that voters favorably evaluated the party’s down-to-earth approach to energy problems.

Moves for realignment

The LDP was strong enough in the upper house race to score 29 wins versus two losses in single-seat prefectural constituencies, while also garnering seats in all multiple-seat constituencies. Komeito also performed well in securing upper house seats.

The LDP’s victory in prefectural constituency contests owed partly to the poor performance of opposition parties, just as in last year’s lower house election, and to the circumstances under which they found themselves scrambling among themselves for upper house seats.

Voter turnout, meanwhile, fell well below the level in the previous upper house election. It seems some voters averse to the LDP might have chosen to abstain from voting.

The DPJ suffered a crushing defeat, the worst since its inauguration, in the upper house election. In many cases, the party was defeated by other opposition parties even in multiple-seat prefectural electoral districts.

There can be no denying that the desire to “punish” the DPJ for a pile of policy blunders while in power remains deeply ingrained among the public.

The election result shows the DPJ, as in the past, lacked solidarity as a party. One such example is that former Prime Minister Naoto Kan openly backed a candidate in the Tokyo constituency who had to run as an independent after the party dropped her from its ticket.

Taking into consideration the DPJ’s dogmatic “out-and-out opposition” in the Diet and its ambiguous stance on such key issues as the Constitution, the DPJ failed to attract the votes of those critical of the Abe administration.

DPJ leader Banri Kaieda expressed his intention to stay on as head of the party. The party leadership has no option but to clarify responsibility and start afresh after reflecting on its crushing defeat in the latest election. If it fails to do so, it may cease to be one of the two major parties in the next lower house election.

Those who bolted from the DPJ also failed miserably in the latest election. People’s Life Party failed to win a seat even in the Iwate constituency, the home base of its leader, Ichiro Ozawa, symbolizing his declining political clout. Green Wind lost its seat in the upper house.

While Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party saw gains in their upper house seats, the parties cannot be considered to have solidified their foothold as the “third major force” in the upper house.

During the election campaign, Ishin no Kai coleader Toru Hashimoto criticized the DPJ for being supported by labor unions of public servants and asserted the need of forming a “new opposition party” that has no affiliation with business organizations and “can rival the LDP.”

The opposition camp is certain to reorganize in a bid to explore a way to create a force that can fight the ruling coalition.

The JCP, which advocated “confrontation with the LDP,” made major gains in the election, as it did in the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election. The low voter turnout must have served as a spur to the highly organized party.

Focus on growth strategy

For the time being, the Abe administration will deal with the tasks of implementing its growth strategy plans, deciding whether to raise the consumption tax rate as planned and reviewing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the right to collective self-defense. It also intends to proceed with the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and the establishment of the Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council.


All of these are important issues that affect the nation’s future.

We hope the administration will realize them by strategically setting priorities.

Abe said, “Now that the divided Diet has come to an end, we can no longer lay the onus on the opposition parties” if the ruling camp fails to handle these tasks adequately. How well the government and the ruling parties can deal with these issues will be tested in the days ahead.

Another focus will be on Komeito’s future actions. During the campaign, the party said it would act as a brake on some of the LDP’s policies.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi has even said the party would “adamantly oppose” a review of the government’s interpretation of the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, as Abe advocates.

Abe needs to consult with Yamaguchi afresh over the tasks facing the ruling coalition. It is vital for both to cooperate by communicating with each other well so they can properly manage the powerful ruling parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 22, 2013)
(2013年7月22日03時38分  読売新聞)


性犯罪の起訴状 被害者匿名が必要な時もある

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 20, 2013
Crime victims’ names should be kept anonymous in some cases
性犯罪の起訴状 被害者匿名が必要な時もある(7月19日付・読売社説)

Should the real names of victims of crimes be mentioned in an indictment? In a rare development, the court and prosecutors involved in a case are locking horns on the matter.

In a bill of indictment for an indecent assault charge, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office left out the name of the victim, who was a minor. The Tokyo District Court disputed the omission and called for the name to be given.

If prosecutors refuse to comply with the court’s request, it is feared that hearings for the case will be canceled following the dismissal of the prosecution.

The minor in the case was assaulted in an indecent manner in a park restroom. In response to a complaint filed by the child’s parents, the prosecutors indicted a man in his 20s. The parents told the prosecutors up front they would “withdraw the complaint if the child’s name were revealed.”

This is probably because they feared the accused might harbor a potentially dangerous grudge against their child, among other concerns.

Law murky on issue

Indecent assault is an offense that can only be prosecuted after a complaint is filed. Therefore, indictment is not possible without a complaint. The prosecutors, it may be said, had no choice but to withhold the victim’s name in the indictment to prevent the family from having to bear the burden of the offense on their own.

The child was presumably selected at random by the accused. Even before the assault, the alleged offender was not aware of the name of his victim. Disclosing the name in the prosecution process could become problematic from the standpoint of protecting victims of crimes.

The district court took issue with the prosecution’s omission out of concern that withholding the victim’s name would undermine the criminal trial system, which is based on the use of real names. Though there is no such specific requirement in the Criminal Procedure Code, in principle the victim’s name is usually mentioned in addition to other information such as the time and date of the crime committed against that person.

Behind this practice is the idea that if the victim’s name, which is an indispensable element in establishing a crime, is not identified, it could disadvantage the accused when the defense is making a rebuttal.

In fact, in trials over molestation and other crimes, lawyers have proved the accused’s innocence by constructing an effective defense based on information gathered through acquaintances of people claiming to be victims.

Still, it should not be assumed that the names of sex crime victims should always be withheld in indictments.

Overly strict stance

In the case in question, the accused has not disputed the facts presented. If the child’s name remains hidden, it should not negatively affect the court hearings. The district court’s request for disclosure of the name seems to be an excessively rigid stance.

The need to protect victims in judicial procedures was highlighted in connection with a stalking and murder case that occurred last autumn in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture.

When police read the victim’s address aloud as written on the arrest warrant, the offender was made aware of the victim’s whereabouts and found the new address after being released from jail. This provoked the final tragedy in which the victim was murdered.

In a trial at the Kobe District Court’s Himeji branch, a victim’s name was written in katakana on an indictment. This is one example showing that trial and error continue on this issue on the judicial front.

The Supreme Court’s Training and Research Institute for Court Officials will soon investigate the issue of anonymity by reviewing cases that have set precedents on the matter. It is essential for the results of such research to be utilized to help judges facing these kinds of decisions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2013)
(2013年7月19日01時49分  読売新聞)


エジプト情勢 民政復帰への道のりは険しい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 21, 2013
After military coup d'etat, Egypt faces bumpy road to civilian rule
エジプト情勢 民政復帰への道のりは険しい(7月20日付・読売社説)

Egypt’s provisional government has been inaugurated, led by interim President Adly Mansour. Mansour replaced former President Mohammed Morsi, who was dismissed in a de facto military coup d’etat.

In fact, it is a military-led government. Defense Minister Abidel Fattah el-Sissi retains his post and doubles as the first vice premier. Many economic experts have been appointed as Cabinet ministers in light of the people’s discontent over the worsening economic situation and to make a show of the government’s emphasis on economic policy.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and other leaders of secular groups have been given key government posts.

But the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s support base, refused to join the interim government.

Stability cannot be expected

Given that the Islamist elements are not taking part in the government, it is hardly possible to expect the political situation to stabilize.

Since the military took the extralegal step of detaining Morsi, who was elected by popular vote, Brotherhood supporters have continued protests in the streets, demanding Morsi’s reinstatement. Increasingly bloody consequences are feared in the wake of clashes between Brotherhood supporters and government security forces and other incidents.

Mansour has announced a political road map for return to a civilian government, probably with the aim of stabilizing national sentiment.

The road map calls for a committee of experts from legal and other fields to draft a proposal on constitutional revision by October. The proposal will be put to a national referendum by November. A parliamentary election is scheduled to be held by January, and a procedure to elect a president will start after a new parliament is convened.

But will things turn out as planned? A bumpy road lies ahead.

If Islamist forces are eliminated, the process will lack legitimacy. The interim government and the Brotherhood should sit down at a negotiating table as early as possible. Naturally, Morsi’s release is a prerequisite for this.

In addition to restoring public safety and achieving a return to civilian rule, the interim government must strive to overcome an economic crisis. In particular, it is essential to bring back foreign tourists and investments.

Gulf monarchies vow aid

Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies, which are wary of the growing influence of Brotherhood elements in their own countries, have pledged to provide a huge amount of economic assistance for the Egyptian provisional government.

Using such aid as leverage, the interim government must work toward resolving a shortage of foreign exchange reserves and achieving a full-scale economic recovery.

Protracted chaos in Egypt would inevitably destabilize the Middle East as a whole, and spikes in crude oil prices and other destabilizing factors would adversely affect the world economy.

Japan, the United States and European countries have not suspended economic assistance to Egypt despite the coup. This is because they put priority on the stabilization of Egypt. They should cooperate in urging the military and interim government to realize national reconciliation and a return to civilian rule as early as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 20, 2013)
(2013年7月20日01時02分  読売新聞)


13参院選 対中国外交 歴史的事実を浸透させたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 20, 2013
Let facts tell more in diplomacy toward China
13参院選 対中国外交 歴史的事実を浸透させたい(7月19日付・読売社説)

How to face up to our neighbor China, which persists with its aggressive behavior over the Senkaku Islands, is the biggest diplomatic challenge facing Japan.

In their pledges for the House of Councillors election, most major parties, bearing the Senkakus issue in mind, have made commitments to “act in defense of the nation’s territory.” All of them, however, have fallen short of providing specific steps that should be taken--and how--to ensure the nation’s territorial sovereignty.

The Chinese government has been lashing out at Japan, asserting that the latter’s decision in September to place the Senkakus under state ownership altered the status quo of the Senkaku situation, which Beijing argues had been “shelved” for many years.

China’s claim contradictory

There can be no room, however, to doubt that the Senkaku Islands are part of Japan’s intrinsic territory, both historically and in the eyes of international law. It is never a territorial problem to be “shelved.”

In fact, while arguing for “shelving” the issue, it is China that attempted to change the status quo, by enacting the Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of the Republic of China in 1992, which explicitly stipulates China’s sovereignty over the islands.

In addition, it was recently brought to light that China has plans to develop many new gas fields in waters in the vicinity of the Japan-China median line in the East China Sea. These moves are in blatant violation of the Japan-China agreement in 2008 that the two countries will refrain from unilaterally engaging in any developmental projects in the East China Sea.

It is only natural that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has criticized China for continuing to act with only itself in mind.

That said, if the current state of relations between Japan and China goes unchanged, it would certainly be detrimental to both countries. Strenuous diplomatic efforts aimed at improving bilateral relations must be made.

The Democratic Party of Japan, which nationalized the Senkaku Islands in its then capacity as the ruling party, has said little in its election platform on the issue except to call for “making the East China Sea an area of peace, friendship and cooperation,” a reference that makes the Senkakus issue sound like someone else’s problem.

New Komeito and Your Party, in connection with the Senkaku row, have called for the creation of a Japan-China “maritime liaison mechanism” for emergencies that would comprise working-level officials from the two countries. This idea should be realized swiftly to prevent an accidental clash that could lead to a conflict.

The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, meanwhile, have been insisting that the Senkakus should be dealt with as a territorial problem for both Japan and China. Does their insistence not run contrary to this country’s national interest? If Japan were to acknowledge the existence of a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, China would certainly ratchet up its demands, such as pushing for a scheme for placing the islets under joint management by the two countries.

Intertwining histories

We should never ignore the fact that China has mixed the Senkakus problem up with differing perceptions of history and the countries’ wartime past.

The Chinese administration of President Xi Jinping has criticized Japan for “posing a grave challenge to the international order after World War II.”

Which one of the two countries should be blamed for trying to disrupt the international order? Japan must deal with this matter on the basis of international law.

The Liberal Democratic Party has been stressing the need to establish a new study institute regarding territory and problems of perceptions of history to compile an effective rebuttal and disproof against unsound arguments regarding historical facts. Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) also advocates the nation’s dignity must be secured through such a method.

What approach should be considered the best for conveying historical facts throughout the international community in an appropriate manner?

The ruling and opposition parties must cooperate, using their combined ingenuity, to resolve the problem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2013)
(2013年7月19日01時49分  読売新聞)


13参院選 規制改革 成長促す緩和策を見極めよう

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 19, 2013
We should clearly comprehend parties’ deregulatory proposals
13参院選 規制改革 成長促す緩和策を見極めよう(7月18日付・読売社説)

To foster new industries and put the economy on a growth track, it is necessary to remove excessive regulations. We should form a clear view of which political parties advocate realistic and effective regulatory reforms.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been leading his Liberal Democratic Party’s campaign for the House of Councillors election by making regulatory reforms the top priority in the administration’s growth strategy.

One of the most important points of contention is a review of employment regulations.

Many experts have pointed out that many businesses have redundant staff in loss-making divisions. Such surplus workforce strains companies’ business performance, causing the overall economy to stagnate.

As a way to deal with such problems, the government is studying the idea of institutionalizing “limited regular workers,” whose job descriptions, job locations and working hours are limited as stipulated in their job contracts, while easing regulations on the ability of employers to dismiss such workers. Abe has also shown an interest in introducing this system.

For companies, it would become easier to close down unnecessary operations and eliminate obsolete job categories. For the limited regular workers themselves, there would be the merit of greater job stability, compared with the status of nonregular workers, although job insecurity would not be fully eliminated.

Workforce redeployment

Regarding employment issues, the LDP, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party advocate in their respective election platforms that workers should be shifted from declining industries to sectors with higher productivity. New Komeito advocates the expansion of the system concerning “regular workers with shorter work hours,” showing common ground with these three parties when it comes to increasing the diversity of employment patterns.

The Democratic Party of Japan, meanwhile, opposes the idea of easing employment regulations, such as institutionalizing limited regular workers. People’s Life Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party take similar stances.

If low-paid nonregular workers are the only category in which numbers increase, the average income of workers will decline, which will not lead to sustainable economic growth.

How can the smooth transition of workers from one sector to another be realized while protecting employment security? We should listen carefully to what these parties are saying about related issues, including assistance such as vocational training for those who want to change jobs or rejoin the workforce.

Mixed treatment

Regarding the relaxation of regulations in the medical field, the main issue is so-called mixed treatment, meaning the combination of medical treatments that are covered by public health insurance with those that are not. Such combinations are currently allowed only in exceptional cases.

The LDP advocates the expanded application of mixed treatment so that the most advanced drugs and medical equipment can be used promptly. If renegerative medicine or other cutting-edge techniques that are not covered by public health insurance were approved as part of mixed treatment, it would help patients in terms of their other medical expenses that would remain covered by the insurance.

Your Party and Ishin no Kai call for complete approval of mixed treatment, while PLP and the SDP oppose expanding it.

Implementing regulatory reforms would mean addressing a thorny tangle of interests among organizations concerned. Although the political parties make differing assertions on reform, and tend to focus on different aspects, important issues having to do with the future of this nation have been presented.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 18, 2013)
(2013年7月18日01時18分  読売新聞)


燃料電池車競争 低価格実現が普及のカギ握る

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 18, 2013
Developing budget fuel cell cars is a key task for automakers
燃料電池車競争 低価格実現が普及のカギ握る(7月17日付・読売社説)

The race among carmakers to develop vehicles powered by fuel cells is heating up. With no direct carbon dioxide emissions, electric automobiles with fuel cells are envisioned as the preeminent next-generation eco-car.

When will the world’s major automakers be able to reduce the price of such a vehicle through mass production? Drivers around the world are keenly watching to see which carmaker will be the first to achieve an affordable fuel cell car.

Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have agreed to jointly develop a fuel cell-powered vehicle. The Japanese and U.S. carmakers hope technical cooperation in such fields as developing the basic system for a fuel cell car will result in a jointly devised system fit for practical use as early as 2020.

Sharing the burden

The Honda-GM tie-up marks a change in their respective strategies for developing fuel cell electric vehicles. The two corporations have been separately working to develop such automobiles in recent years. Their alliance can be seen as an attempt to reduce the otherwise massive financial burden of developing fuel cell cars, while also completing the development project in a shorter period.

The motive behind their decision is a desire not to fall behind alliances formed by their rivals in developing fuel cell vehicles.

Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG have signed an accord on joint development. Nissan Motor Co. has also said it will carry out a similar project with Renault SA, Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co. The Toyota-BMW tie-up aims at mass production in 2020, while the latter group hopes to reach a similar goal in 2017.

All this means the development race will be bitterly fought by carmakers around the world, including South Korean and Chinese competitors and other corporations unrelated to the Japanese, U.S. and European manufacturers.

The fuel cell vehicle is powered by a motor run by electricity generated through a hydrogen-oxygen reaction. It is comparable to an electric vehicle (EV) in that neither automobile emits carbon dioxide.

Another advantage the fuel cell car offers is mileage. A hydrogen refill for a fuel cell vehicle enables a 500-kilometer drive, nearly twice the range of an EV car. Moreover, refueling takes only three minutes.

About 10 years ago, fuel cell cars were priced at a hefty 100 million yen per unit. Although prices have fallen sharply, a fuel cell vehicle still carries a price tag of about 10 million yen today.

Toyota and Honda are seeking to lower the price to 5 million yen or so. An important challenge facing each car manufacturer is reducing the price through technical innovation. This task also must be complemented by efforts to ensure the safety of such vehicles.

Another key task is to expedite efforts to build more hydrogen stations. Companies in the oil and other industries are planning to set up 100 stations nationwide by the end of 2015. However, that would be too few to encourage the spread of fuel cell car use.

Infrastructure needed

The government’s growth strategy includes a plan to reconsider regulations with regard to the installation of hydrogen stations. It is essential for the government to further support the efforts of related businesses to spread such facilities.

As circumstances stand today, hybrid vehicles (HVs) have become a common choice for ecologically friendly vehicles. The race to develop hybrid cars, which combine an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, has been led by Toyota and Honda. The situation contrasts with the slow progress in the spread of EVs, partly due to the short distance covered by such automobiles for each recharge.

We hope Japanese automakers will strive to improve the performance of HVs and EVs while at the same time stepping up efforts to develop fuel cell vehicles, a move that will provide consumers with more choices for an eco-car purchase. If they can lead the development race, it would do much to shore up Japan’s industrial competitiveness in the global market.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2013)
(2013年7月17日01時19分  読売新聞)


米中戦略対話 世界の安定に責任を果たせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 17, 2013
China must act responsibly for sake of global stability
米中戦略対話 世界の安定に責任を果たせ(7月16日付・読売社説)

The fifth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue was held recently in Washington, D.C. For the stability of not only the Asia-Pacific region but also the entire world, it is vital that cabinet members of the world’s two largest economic powers hold talks to confirm the need for bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including diplomatic relations, national security and economic matters.

This was the first strategic and economic dialogue for the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping since it was launched earlier this year. Building on summit talks held last month, Washington and Beijing hope to deepen bilateral ties.

Their agreements on drawing up an action plan to fight global warming and starting working-level talks for concluding a bilateral investment accord are positive results of the dialogue.

In step on North Korea

The two countries also shared the recognition that it is important for North Korea to take concrete steps to end its nuclear development program.

We hope China will not only urge Pyongyang to resume six-nation talks on its nuclear program, but also warn North Korea that sanctions against that country will not be eased unless it takes tangible steps to eliminate its existing nuclear weapons.

However, the United States and China found little else on which their positions matched.

They have been at loggerheads over cybertheft. The United States condemned China’s actions of illicitly obtaining information of U.S. companies through cyber-attacks. Although both sides agreed to continue discussing the issue at working-level talks, they remain far apart.

The Chinese side reiterated its previous assertions that it is also has been a victim of hacking. Yet as long as China only tries to avoid dealing with this problem, it does not deserve to be called a “responsible major power.”

Territorial tussles

Territorial and maritime issues have also been a bugbear in U.S.-China relations.

During the dialogue, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressed concern and said the future of “the freedom of navigation” will depend on how China deals with territorial disputes with its neighboring countries.

U.S. President Barack Obama, during his meeting at the White House with Chinese officials who attended the dialogue, also urged China to peacefully handle maritime territorial issues with its neighbors, rather than use threats or coercion.

Chinese surveillance vessels have repeatedly entered Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. In January, a Chinese Navy vessel locked its fire-control radar onto a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer. China’s intimidation of the Philippines and Vietnam over islets in the South China Sea has been escalating.

The Obama administration has attempted to strongly restrain China, which has threatened U.S. allies and their sea lanes, with intolerable acts of provocation.

Not to be outdone, China called on the United States not to meddle in territorial issues in the East China and South China seas. Beijing maintained its stance that it would resolutely defend its territory and that the disputes would be resolved properly through talks with the nations concerned.

As long as the Xi administration continues intimidating neighboring countries with shows of force and unilaterally pursues its “pivotal interests,” there will not be stability in the region.

If China genuinely aims to build “a new type of relationship as major powers,” a relationship of coexistance on an equal footing with the United States, it needs to fulfill the responsibilities commensurate to such a power.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2013)
(2013年7月16日01時37分  読売新聞)


食品ロス削減 消費者の意識改める第一歩に

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 16, 2013
New rule should be used to make society aware of immense food loss
食品ロス削減 消費者の意識改める第一歩に(7月15日付・読売社説)

The amount of food loss, or food that is still edible but is discarded, is increasing. Business corporations, consumers and the government must cooperate with each other to reduce this waste.

Seventeen million tons of food is discarded annually in this country. It is estimated that between 5 million and 8 million tons of the total is food loss. This almost equals the annual domestic rice crop and represents an immense waste.

lst step forward

Under the leadership of the government, which had discussed ways to deal with food loss, about 40 food producers, wholesalers, and retailers such as operators of convenience stores and supermarket chains decided to start reviewing their trade practices concerning the best-before date of processed food. This can be a first step forward in the efforts to reduce food waste.

In the food production and retail industries, there is a trade practice called the “one-third rule.” Under this rule, foodstuff is to be delivered to retailers in the first one-third of the period from the food production date to the best-before date, while in the remaining two-thirds of the period, the food is to be sold by retailers.

Food whose time limit for delivery passes is returned from wholesalers to producers, and most of it is discarded, a leading factor behind the increase in food loss.

Starting next month, the 40 companies will change the one-third rule and extend the time limit for delivery to retailers to one-half of the period from the food production date to the best-before date, if only for a certain type of processed food, such as confectionery and beverages.

This will reduce food inventories, but it may also reduce the amount of food that is discarded.

Trimming the costs needed for returning and discarding products, and for managing inventories can lower the products’ prices, which would also benefit consumers.

Unless the review of the one-third rule spreads through the entire industry, however, the effect of reducing food waste will be limited. Therefore, it is important for the government and related businesses to increase the number of those businesses adopting the new rule.

Business firms also need to make efforts to develop new technologies to improve such things as containers and packaging to extend the best-before date.

It is also necessary to raise consumers’ awareness about food waste, primarily because households account for one-half of food loss. The government must also proactively work to raise consumers’ awareness.

One-third rule deep rooted

The one-third rule has taken root in our society primarily because consumers prefer to buy fresher goods.

The best-before date for processed food is considered to mark the end of the period during which the food tastes its best.
Therefore, even if the food passes its best-before date, there is no need for it to be discarded right away.

The best-before date is different from the expiration date for perishable food, which means one should not consume it for safety reasons beyond that date.

If consumers seek freshness of foodstuffs excessively, food prices are likely to rise, which would be against the interests of the consumer. Although it is important for consumers to take food safety seriously, they should refrain from seeking food freshness too much.

With the global supply-demand situation of foodstuffs tightening, Japan depends on imports for as much as 60 percent of its food. All of society should continue making efforts to reduce food loss.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2013)
(2013年7月15日01時31分  読売新聞)


13参院選 憲法改正 新たな国家像の議論を深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 15, 2013
Deepen debate on Constitution to build consensus on revision
13参院選 憲法改正 新たな国家像の議論を深めよ(7月14日付・読売社説)


The supreme law provides the framework of this country, but what form should it take?

Revision of the Constitution is a major issue in the campaign for the July 21 House of Councillors election. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party support revising the Constitution, and New Komeito is considering it.

Depending on results of the upper house election, political conditions allowing the Diet to propose constitutional revisions could be created for the first time since the end of World War II.

Dealing with Article 96

One bone of contention in the election campaign centers on Article 96 of the Constitution, which stipulates procedures to revise the supreme law.

The article says a constitutional revision will be put to a national referendum after the Diet proposes it with a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all members in each chamber. This requirement is said to be much stricter than that of other countries.

The LDP advocates that the requirement for the initiative should be lowered to a simple majority so the public can more easily have “an opportunity to participate in a constitutional judgment” through a national referendum.

Ishin no Kai says that Article 96 should be revised first, and Your Party agrees with relaxation of the requirement. The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Komeito oppose amending this article first, but they do not disagree with the revision itself.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a flexible stance in consideration of the position of Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, suggesting that articles on basic human rights, pacifism and sovereignty of the people would not be subject to the relaxed requirement for revision.

The LDP needs to coordinate its opinions with the other parties to realize revision of the Constitution. The ruling party should take a pragmatic approach through consensus-building with other parties even if it has to revise its own draft.

The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party oppose amending the Constitution, including Article 96, based on “constitutionalism,” the idea that harnessing power of the state and protecting the people are the essence of a constitution.

Abe has hit back at this interpretation of constitutionalism and said it is to rein in an autocratic government. The prime minister pointed out that a constitution will not only harness state power but also show what form a state should be.

Of course, a constitution can restrict state power but it also provides the philosophy and role of a state.

Even if the Diet’s requirement for a constitutional revision is relaxed, there will be no change in the need for a national referendum to revise the Constititution. We can hardly understand why some parties consider it incompatible with constitutionalism.

Some people claim that revision of Article 96 will allow a person in power to revise the Constitution as easily as ordinary laws. Isn’t this rather simplistic?


Article 9 also is a major point of contention.

The LDP’s draft, released last year, for revising the supreme law calls for keeping the war-renouncing principle of Article 9 intact, while deleting its second paragraph, which prohibits this country from possessing any war potential. Instead, it calls for newly including a provision in Article 9 for establishment of a “military force for defense” and the state’s obligations for securing the nation’s territorial integrity in cooperation with the public.

Define status of SDF

Abe has stated, “Although the SDF are regarded by other countries as a military force, in this country they are not,” adding, “It is unreasonable for a large-scale organization of forces to have no status in the eyes of the Constitution.” Abe’s argument is reasonable.

Revision of Article 9 is vitally important to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance as well as to increase Japan’s participation in such international cooperation activities as U.N.-mandated peacekeeping operations.

In this connection, it is a major development that Komeito in its upper house election pledges has said the party’s stand of “reinforcing the postwar Constitution by adding new ideas and articles to the supreme law” does include studies about the wisdom of having the existence of the SDF explicitly stipulated by the Constitution.

Ishin no Kai, for its part, has been advocating the need for constitutional revisions “for the sake of solidly establishing the nation’s own security system on the basis of its right to self-defense.”

Another opposition party, People’s Life Party, insists that the legal basis for the SDF’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions must be clearly laid down.

In contrast, the JCP and the SDP have been dead set against any changes to Article 9, arguing that alteration of the article would be tantamount to “turning Japan into a country that could wage war.”

It is undoubtedly irresponsible to affix an extremely negative label to parties favoring constitutional revision without squarely facing up to reality. The aim is to unnecessarily stir voters’ anxieties.

People’s Life Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, JCP Executive Committee Chairman Kazuo Shii and SDP head Mizuho Fukushima have criticized the LDP’s revision draft because it seeks to delete Article 97, which stipulates the inviolability of basic human rights.

It seems they are keen to give the public the impression that the LDP is poised to crack down on basic human rights.

In a rebuttal, Abe has stressed his party has no intention at all to change the fundamental principles of the Constitution, explaining that in the LDP draft Article 11 “absorbs” Article 97. Article 11 contains provisions that have the same effect as Article 97. Therefore, there seems to be no major problem.

Readiness for emergencies

Ishin no Kai, Your Party and other parties that are seeking to drastically reform the government structure through revisions of the Constitution have referred to the advisability of creating a system that allows for election of the prime minister by popular vote.

A plebiscite for choosing the prime minister, however, could end up as a mere popularity contest. Israel introduced a referendum system for electing the prime minister in 1996, but abolished it in 2001 because of the resulting political turmoil.

The LDP, Your Party and People’s Life Party, meanwhile, have proposed that new provisions be incorporated into the Constitution concerning such contingencies as a massive natural disaster and terrorist attacks.

There must be no stinting in drawing up legal preparations to cope with such possible calamities as an epicentral earthquake focused just below the Tokyo metropolitan area and a mega-quake such as a Nankai Trough earthquake.

Revision of the Constitution should also take the possibility of these national crises into account. Constitutional discussions must be deepened from this point of view.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2013)
(2013年7月14日01時56分  読売新聞)


ソウル不当判決 日韓合意に反する賠償命令だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 13, 2013
Seoul court ruling on damages defies 1965 Japan-ROK accord
ソウル不当判決 日韓合意に反する賠償命令だ(7月12日付・読売社説)

A South Korean court has handed down a ruling that could worsen relations with Japan. It was an unjust decision.

In an appellate case sent back from the Supreme Court, which involved four South Koreans seeking compensation for damages from Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., a descendant of the companies they had been forced to work for during wartime, the Seoul High Court ordered payment of 100 million won (about 8.8 million yen) to each of the plaintiffs.

This is the first time that a South Korean court has ordered a Japanese firm to pay damages to former forced laborers.

The ruling is totally unacceptable because it obviously violates the agreement on property claims and economic cooperation that was reached when the two countries concluded a treaty to normalize relations in 1965. The accord clearly stated that the issue of property claims was “resolved completely and finally.”

In its 1976 white paper on funds deriving from property claims, South Korea’s Economic Planning Board listed construction of a steelmaking plant, dams and highways as concrete examples of how $500 million in grants and other funds the country received from Japan in the name of economic cooperation had been used. The white paper clearly stated that “its usefulness cannot be belittled.”

Erroneous judgment

Nevertheless, South Korea’s Supreme Court said in a May 2012 ruling that “claims by individuals have not yet expired.” The current ruling is based on that erroneous judgment.

Some of the plaintiffs filed a similar suit in Japan but their loss was finalized by a Supreme Court decision.

The Seoul High Court’s decision this time demonstrates disregard for the final decision in this country. It is natural that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We cannot accept a decision that doesn’t comport with Japan’s position.”

There are five other similar lawsuits filed against Japanese firms. The latest decision will inevitably have an influence on future court rulings. It is feared that more South Koreans who were once forced laborers will file class action suits, causing new problems between the two countries.

In the first place, the South Korean government itself is obliged to pay compensation for damages suffered by South Koreans during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The $300 million Japan paid in grants to South Korea contained “the funds to resolve the compensation over forcible recruitment.”

Because the South Korean government did not sufficiently pay out this compensation money, dissatisfaction has been smoldering among many South Koreans who were excluded from compensation for individuals.

Moreover, the South Korean government has failed to give sufficient explanations to its own people.

Fostering ill will

As Seoul has intensified antagonism against Tokyo in recent years, over topics such as sovereignty over the Takeshima islets and perceptions of history, unfounded demands against Japan have been flaring up again.

A sudden shift by the South Korean judiciary from its conventional stance is not completely unrelated to the rise of anti-Japan sentiment in the country.

The normalization of bilateral relations opened the way to tremendous progress for South Korea. The financial resolution of damages from the past was determined diplomatically and is fundamentally a matter to be dealt with domestically in that country. It is unreasonable that South Korea persistently continues to point its accusing finger at Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2013)
(2013年7月12日01時26分  読売新聞)