シリア内戦 化学兵器疑惑の徹底解明を

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 29, 2013
Uncover the full truth about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria
シリア内戦 化学兵器疑惑の徹底解明を(8月28日付・読売社説)

The death toll in the Syrian civil war has already exceeded 100,000. With last week’s alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces in mind, it is all the more imperative that the country’s bloodshed be stopped without further delay.

President Bashar Assad’s regime forces fired rockets loaded with chemical gas on the suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday, killing and injuring a large number of civilians, according to the opposition Syrian National Coalition. Video footage of children injured in the attack has also been released on the Internet.

The Assad government adamantly denies using chemical weapons, and insists the attack in question was perpetrated by rebel forces.

Using chemical weapons is a clear violation of international law. If it is established that regime forces used chemical weapons, the Assad government must be sternly brought to task.

A U.N. investigation team in Syria has started trying to confirm whether chemical weapons were used. However, the U.N. team is experiencing difficulties in probing the incident. One of the mission’s vehicles was fired on by unidentified snipers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a visit to Kuwait, had every reason to say, “I hope the U.N. investigating commission’s on-site probe will be conducted without disruption, and that all the facts will be established at an early date.”

Results of the investigation will likely be referred to a session of the U.N. Security Council. The council should implement necessary measures toward Syria after establishing the facts about the alleged use of chemical weapons, based on the U.N. team’s findings.

Military response looming

The United States has started discussions with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including Britain and France, regarding whether to launch a military strike on Syrian government targets. Washington has concluded that Assad regime forces used chemical weapons during last week’s attack. Its talks with NATO allies over possible military action came before the U.N. team produces its report.

U.S. President Barack Obama had initially been cautious about becoming directly involved in the Syrian civil war. However, he is shifting to a hard-line approach.

This is presumably because the alleged chemical weapons attack took place despite his repeated warnings to the Assad government that the use of deadly gases would cross “a red line.” Overlooking the latest incident would tarnish the national prestige of the United States. It could also encourage the use of chemical weapons in other parts of the world.

However, it should be noted that the U.S. State Department has emphasized the importance of seeking “a political solution” to the Syrian problem. Needless to say, further diplomatic efforts must be made to resolve the armed conflict before the United States and NATO nations possibly decide to launch a military operation.

Another important task that must complement efforts to uncover the truth about the alleged chemical weapons use is to renew efforts to end the Syrian civil war, a challenge that will require shoring up international pressure on the Assad regime, which has relentlessly attacked the people of its own country.

This year’s Group of Eight summit meeting in June agreed that the Syrian government, rebel forces and nations with a stake in the problem would hold an international conference aimed at ending the civil war. Such a meeting would ideally be convened as early as possible.

We will be closely watching how the United Nations and the international community handle the Syrian situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2013)
(2013年8月28日02時13分  読売新聞)


潘国連事務総長 資質問われる偏向「介入」発言

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 29, 2013
Ban’s bias on history issues incompatible with U.N. post
潘国連事務総長 資質問われる偏向「介入」発言(8月28日付・読売社説)

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s recent remarks are unbelievable.

“I think Japanese political leaders need to profoundly reflect on how to perceive history to maintain good-neighborly relations in a future-oriented way, and a vision to look ahead into the global future,” Ban said at a press conference at the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Monday.

He made the remarks in response to a question from a South Korean reporter who asked about the United Nations’ view and his own view as U.N. secretary general with regard to the confrontation between Japan and China and South Korea on the perception of history and territorial issues as well as Japan’s moves to revise the Constitution.

Ban is a veteran diplomat who served as foreign minister under the administration of former South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun. However, as U.N. secretary general, he is obliged to remain neutral and fair, refraining from siding with any particular country.

He did not refer to South Korean and Chinese politicians. By restricting his remarks to Japanese politicians, people around the world may believe Japan is the cause of frictions in Northeast Asia. It is obvious his remarks were one-sided and problematic.

Customarily, a U.N. secretary general speaks at a press conference in English or French, two of the United Nations’ official languages, but Ban spoke in Korean throughout most of the press conference. This is extremely unusual.

Ban implicitly demanded that Japan correct its view of history, saying a country only can earn respect and trust from other nations through a correct recognition of history.

Parroting Seoul’s stance

His remarks echo what South Korea has been saying. Seoul has relentlessly demanded that Japan face up to its prewar history by saying it should “have a correct recognition of history.” Ban’s comment therefore supports South Korea. The secretary general, who is supposed to mediate international disputes and conflicts, should not openly fan confrontation.

History cannot be neatly packaged under the term “correct recognition.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshi-hide Suga said, “I strongly wonder whether Secretary General Ban made the remarks while considering Japan’s position.” He cited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remark, “It’s necessary for leaders to exchange opinions to maintain regional peace and stability.” It was natural for him to raise objections.

The Japanese government needs to confirm Ban’s real intentions and to actively convey Japan’s position at such places as the United Nations so that its stance will not be misunderstood around the world.

For nearly 70 years since the end of World War II, Japan has consistently made efforts to promote world peace and prosperity. How does Ban evaluate Japan’s postwar history?

The Japan-South Korea Basic Relations Treaty of 1965 is an established international agreement that defines the bilateral relationship between the two countries after World War II. Even though the issue of compensation rights has been resolved, South Korea keeps raking over the issue of reparations for former forced laborers and on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Ban, as an official of the international organization, should inform Seoul that South Korea’s common sense is irrational in other parts of the world.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2013)
(2013年8月28日02時13分  読売新聞)

薄煕来被告公判 中国権力闘争の危険な火種だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 28, 2013
Bo trial may become genesis of power struggle in China
薄煕来被告公判 中国権力闘争の危険な火種だ(8月27日付・読売社説)

The administration of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has faced a problem, the settlement of which can never be forgotten in consolidating Xi’s power base.

Of course, we are speaking of the case in which Bo Xilai, the former top official of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing and former member of the Communist Party’s Politburo, was charged with bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

In the public hearing of the case held in Shandong Province, Bo thoroughly dismissed all accusations, bringing the five-day trial to an end on Monday, and maintaining his showdown with the Xi administration.

The Xi administration, having made a crackdown on corruption a focus of its first year, appears to be attempting to condemn Bo as the embodiment of corruption.

In China’s one-party system the judiciary is controlled by the Communist Party.

The first public hearing of the Bo trial was set following a key conference this summer of party elders, following Xi’s official inauguration in March.

Apparently in a bid to emphasize the “fairness” of the trial, Beijing took the extraordinary step of allowing the court proceedings to be reported live on China’s Weibo microblogging service.

The trial, in the eyes of the Xi administration, should have been a scrupulously prepared “political show.”

In the public hearing, however, Bo, who had admitted his culpability on some of the charges during investigations by the Communist Party, changed his stance. A factor behind this may be the strong support for Bo that remains among left-wingers within the Communist Party.

The development may be a major miscalculation by Xi, who appeared to have intended to use the trial to unify different views in the party by making clear Bo’s malfeasance in going against the party leadership.

Indignation over disparity

Bo used to be an influential figure among the “princelings,” as high-ranking party officials’ offspring are known. When he was the party secretary in the top post in Chongqing, he achieved fame through such acts as cracking down on the city’s business leaders and branding them “crime syndicate members.” He also used public money to provide the poor with low-priced housing.

His apparent goal was to assume one of the seats on the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee. Bo’s political style is designed to appeal to the masses who are indignant at economic disparities between rich and poor and at how those with power are able to obtain spoils of office and wealth. His ideas however, came to be seen at odds with the government, resulting in a conflict with the then administration of Hu Jintao.

Bo himself is far from being called a person of integrity.

In the wake of an incident in which his close associate ran into the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu in February 2012 in a defection attempt, a case in which Bo’s wife allegedly murdered a British businessman was brought to light. The incidents demonstrated the corruption-prone propensities of the China’s ruling class.

However, people are supporting Bo on China’s Internet. This can be considered representing the reality of China, where discontent over disparities has been smoldering across the country.

Bo is almost certain to be subject to heavy punishment. The Xi administration, however, appears to fear public criticism if the punishment is deemed too lenient or too harsh. This is because the political style taken by Xi is similar to that of Bo.

A mistake in dealing with the situation could lead to a full-scale power struggle in China.

Confusion in China’s political arena could have major consequences and possibly destabilize the global economy. We are concerned the Xi administration, in an attempt at deflecting public dissatisfaction, might seek to strengthen its leadership by ratcheting up its intimidatory diplomatic approach to Japan.

We cannot help but keep a close watch on what consequences will eventually come from this trial.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2013)
(2013年8月27日02時03分  読売新聞)


NISA 投資活性化の呼び水にしたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 28, 2013
Use NISA system as pump-priming step water to reinvigorate investment
NISA 投資活性化の呼び水にしたい(8月27日付・読売社説)

We hope the Nippon Individual Savings Account system, or NISA, will help move individual financial assets held in the form of cash and deposits into investment and revitalize the nation’s economy.

NISA, a new tax system that offers tax exemptions on capital gains and dividend income from stocks and other investments of up to ¥1 million a year, will be introduced in January next year.

Financial institutions, including securities companies and banks, have already put their efforts to win new customers into full gear.

We applaud that stock markets will be reinvigorated due to competition over services among financial institutions, but they should refrain from forceful solicitation.

It is essential to carefully foster NISA by listening to investors so that the new system will become a pump-priming measure to help individual investment take root in this country.

People aged 20 or older and living in Japan can open a NISA account at a financial institutions. The tax exemption period is five years and if ¥1 million is invested every year, the capital gains and dividends on ¥5 million worth of investments will be tax exempt.

The total amount of individual financial assets in Japan is estimated at a massive ¥1.6 quadrillion. However, more than half of those are in cash and deposits. The ratio of stocks and other investments used to fund corporate activity is only about 8 percent, which is far lower than the 34 percent in the United States and 15 percent in Europe.

If individual assets, encouraged by NISA, flow into stock markets, it would be beneficial to corporate growth. The spread of long-term investment by individuals for the purpose of asset building will help stabilize stock prices.

Under Britain’s Individual Savings Account system, which NISA is modeled after, 40 percent of the population opened an ISA account.

Careful explanation essential

To promote wide use of NISA in Japan, it is indispensable for financial institutions to give detailed explanations about the new system to their customers.

Rather than placing priority on sales quota or simply stressing NISA’s merits, they must explain risks associated with investments as well as the system’s flaws.

For example, if losses are incurred due to a drop in the value of stocks and investment trusts, investors are not eligible for tax exemptions. Another problem is that if investors open a NISA account at a financial institution that only handles investment trusts, they cannot invest in particular stocks.

We urge people considering a NISA account to think carefully about selecting the financial institution where they will open their NISA account.

One person can only open one NISA account in principle and in the first four years, the individual must keep investing at the same financial institution. This is inconvenient for investors and is believed to be one reason financial institutions are desperately trying to attract and keep customers.

It is said that the Financial Services Agency plans to change this regulation so people can switch their NISA accounts to a different financial institution every year. The government should discuss changes to NISA to encourage its use by more people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2013)
(2013年8月27日02時03分  読売新聞)


首相中東訪問 資源確保へ戦略的協力深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 27, 2013
Deepen strategic ties with nations of GCC to ensure energy security
首相中東訪問 資源確保へ戦略的協力深めよ(8月26日付・読売社説)

To ensure stable supplies of energy resources to this country, it is crucial to deepen strategic cooperation with the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Bahrain, the chair of the GCC, and had talks with Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

The two leaders agreed to hold strategic ministerial dialogues between Japan and the GCC, while setting up a framework for working-level security talks. Signs are that the strategic dialogues may begin as early as September.

The GCC, a regional organization comprising six Middle East nations facing the Persian Gulf, groups Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

Abe, who visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE in spring this year, will also visit Qatar and Kuwait on the current trip.

Japan depends on GCC members for more than 70 percent of its annual crude oil imports amid the country’s stringent energy supply-demand situation caused by delays in the resumption of nuclear power plant operations after the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake.

The Persian Gulf’s maritime shipping lanes for transporting crude oil and other resources are vitally important to the Japanese economy. Continual consultations must be held on such issues as securing the sea lanes and preparing antipiracy countermeasures as part of the strategic Japan-GCC dialogues.

In January, Japanese nationals were taken hostage in Algeria. As part of the Japan-GCC dialogues, information about terrorist activities by extremists in the Middle East and Africa must be shared.

Conducive to ME peace

As chances of having summit talks with China and South Korea in the near future appear slim, Abe has focused his diplomatic efforts on the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Expediting efforts to strengthen ties with these regions’ mid-level countries will most likely earn Japan a precious diplomatic asset from the mid- and long-term points of view.

In the Mideast, the situations in Egypt and Syria have been deteriorating alarmingly amid discussions on the problems of Iran’s nuclear development programs and Middle East peace negotiations. Building up strategic relations between Japan and the GCC nations may indirectly help stabilize the Middle East as a whole.

In Saturday’s talks, Japan and Bahrain agreed to resume talks on a Japan-GCC free trade agreement and expand cooperation in such fields as agriculture, railways and medical services.

In the current tour of Middle East countries, Abe is accompanied by an economic mission comprising about 50 people, who represent mostly private-sector businesses. This is because a number of large-scale infrastructure development projects have been planned in the GCC countries, including some in Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament.

Economic cooperation between the two sides should be encouraged in a way reciprocally beneficial to Japan and the GCC.

The prime minister will visit Djibouti on Tuesday to encourage Maritime Self-Defense Force members engaged in antipiracy activities in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. The MSDF has been enhancing its presence in the region by dispatching destroyers and P-3C surveillance aircraft.

Abe’s words of encouragement will be sure to help improve the morale of the MSDF personnel. The prime minister has often expressed his appreciation of the roles of the Self-Defense Forces, frequently visiting SDF troops in various places. We hope the prime minister will continue this practice.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2013)
(2013年8月26日01時17分  読売新聞)


「はだしのゲン」 教育上の配慮をどう考えるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 26, 2013
Should ‘Barefoot Gen’ be stricted from educational point of view?
「はだしのゲン」 教育上の配慮をどう考えるか(8月25日付・読売社説)

The ripples are spreading after the Matsue Municipal Board of Education requested that the city’s public primary and middle schools restrict student access to “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), the signature work by late manga author Keiji Nakazawa that depicts the horror of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Students in the capital of Shimane Prefecture are now unable to read freely this 10-volume manga series at most school libraries unless they get special permission from their teachers.

The education board judged that the manga’s graphic depictions of the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath were not a problem. However, it decided that some descriptions of actions involving Imperial Japanese Army soldiers in other Asian nations were extreme and inappropriate.

The problematic scenes in “Barefoot Gen” included beheadings of non-Japanese Asians just for fun, slicing open the abdomen of a pregnant woman to pull out her baby, and the brutal killing of other women.

The municipal board of education apparently limited access to the manga in consideration of the nature of libraries at primary and middle schools, where children become familiar with books as they grow up.

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, and states, “No censorship shall be maintained.”

Restricting access to books available at an ordinary public library open to citizens can never be permissible in light of the spirit of the Constitution.

However, it may not be fair to treat libraries at primary and middle schools in the same way as ordinary libraries. The possible impact books can have on children must be taken into account. There may be cases in which meticulous care must be taken in accordance with the stages of children’s physical and mental development.

Doubtful claims

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura said the board’s decision “should be considered as representing one way of thinking.” He added that “due consideration should be paid from an educational point of view” on the matter. We think his view is reasonable.

“Barefoot Gen” is based on Nakazawa’s own experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The story’s protagonist, Gen, is a boy who bravely overcomes a number of hardships in spite of losing relatives in the bombing.

The manga series started in 1973 in the Shukan Shonen Jump comic weekly and was carried in several magazines during a run that lasted more than 10 years. When published as an independent book, “Barefoot Gen” became a best seller. The story has been translated into about 20 languages and published in many countries.

Initially, some of the scenes depicting Hiroshima just after the atomic bombing were criticized as being excessively graphic, but there can be no doubt such descriptions conveyed the appalling reality of the bombing.

Given that survivors of the nuclear bombing are aging and passing on memories of the war has become a pressing task, “Barefoot Gen” is definitely a valuable work of literature.

On the other hand, the closing stages also make assertions apparently designed to favor a particular political standpoint, making flimsy claims including that the former Imperial Japanese Army “brutally killed more than 30 million people in other Asian countries such as China and Korea in the name of the Emperor.”

While it is, of course, essential to respect freedom of expression, due attention should be paid at the same time to the manga’s impact on children’s education.

The decision by the Matsue board of education has brought to the fore the question of where schools should draw the line in exposing children to items of literature as part of their education.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2013)
(2013年8月25日01時25分  読売新聞)


中国海洋強国化 地域の緊張高める覇権主義

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 25, 2013
China’s hegemonic ambition heightening regional tension
中国海洋強国化 地域の緊張高める覇権主義(8月24日付・読売社説)

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which has been stepping up efforts to make the country a great maritime power, seems to have more fully revealed its hard-line stance through a recent statement by the Chinese defense chief in the United States.

In a joint news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held after their meeting, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan warned that nobody should have the idea that China would ever relinquish its core interests.

This was a peremptory statement, as he clearly had in mind the confrontation with Japan over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and friction with Vietnam and the Philippines over sovereignty in the South China Sea. Chang went on to say that China’s determination to defend its territory, sovereignty and maritime interests should not be underestimated.

His statement echoes Xi’s remarks at a key conference in late July that “core interests cannot be sacrificed” and his resolve to build a “strong maritime state.”

Chang’s warning could be intended as a check on the Asia-focused military strategy of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. It was also likely meant to put pressure on Japan prior to the first anniversary of the Japanese government’s nationalization of the Senkakus in September.

On Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Chinese military conducted live-fire drills and other training with the aircraft carrier Liaoning. These might be intended as threats to Japan.

Xi has said that China will never seek to reign supreme. But backed by its strong military power, China has been trying to forcibly impound the sea, a common resource, thereby achieving hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region.

Accidental clashes feared

In light of the January incident in which Chinese Navy ships locked weapons-targeting radar onto a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel near the Senkakus, the Xi administration’s hard-line stance may provoke Chinese troops to engage in radical and provocative actions in the field.

Japan must tighten its guard around the Senkakus.

To prevent accidental military clashes involving ships and aircraft, it is necessary to accelerate the building of a “maritime communications mechanism” between Japanese and Chinese military authorties. The Xi administration must proceed with talks on the matter as long as it claims to seek “peaceful development.”

The situation is no less serious in the South China Sea. China last year took control of the Scarborough Shoal, over which the Philippines also claims sovereignty, and has its government ships patrol around the shoal.

The United States and the Philippines entered into negotiations in the middle of this month to conclude a new agreement that would increase the frequency and expand the scale of U.S. military patrols. This is a concrete step to push the new Asia-centered U.S. strategy and a laudable strengthening of deterrence against China.

Japan will provide 10 patrol boats to the Philippines. These ships will help improve the country’s maritime security capabilities. Cooperation must also be deepened in terms of personnel development.

It is crucial for Japan to emphasize the unjustness of China’s provocations in international forums, including the expanded defense ministerial conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held later this month.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2013)
(2013年8月24日01時11分  読売新聞)


TPP交渉 米国のペースに惑わされるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 24, 2013
Japan must proceed with TPP talks without being chafed by U.S. intent
TPP交渉 米国のペースに惑わされるな(8月23日付・読売社説)

The current round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is the first in which Japan has taken full part. How will Japan demonstrate its presence to proceed with talks to its advantage? An aggressive stance is called for.

Japan and the 11 other countries that are participating in negotiations on the TPP free trade agreement, including the United States, Australia and Canada, kicked off two days of ministerial talks in Brunei on Thursday. A ministerial statement was scheduled to be announced Friday to confirm that the talks will be accelerated to conclude an agreement before the end of this year.

In line with this commitmment, working-level officials will hold negotiations by the end of the month.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who chairs the ministerial talks, has said that reaching an agreement this year is a top priority for President Barack Obama. With a TPP accord as a leverage, Obama seeks to expand U.S. exports and boost job opportunities.

The United States probably wants to reconfirm with other countries the policy of concluding the talks this year during the current round of negotiations in Brunei and use it as momentum to reach a broad accord in October.

But if the talks proceed in line with the U.S. scenario, there are fears Japan will not be able to secure sufficient time for negotiations because the country was only able to take part in the TPP talks from the latter half of the previous round of talks.

Secure chances for assertions

It is necessary to avoid a situation in which Japan will be deprived of opportunities to present its case if the negotiations are cut off early in line with the schedule as planned by the United States. We urge Japan’s negotiators to hold talks separately with other TPP nations in an effort to increase the number of member nations that support Japan’s stance.

Prior to the Brunei round of talks, Japan worked out proposals on tariff abolition and presented them to other participating nations to sound out their responses.

The proposals called for abolishing tariffs on about 80 percent of trade items and left pending five categories of farming products, including rice, wheat and dairy products, that the Liberal Democratic Party wants handled as exceptions.

This was based on the fact that Japan’s degree of trade liberalization has been held to 84 percent to 88 percent in the economic partnership agreements it has concluded with 13 countries and territories. Rice and other items were exempted from free trade.

In the case of TPP talks, the government opted to set lower liberalization targets in the first place, possibly in preparation for bargaining that is expected to become tougher.

Froman has said that Washington is aiming for a more ambitious agreement, so the United States is likely to call on Japan to carry out greater liberalization and further market opening.

Each participating country has crucial fields that they want to protect with high tariffs, including sugar for the United States and dairy products for Canada.

For Japan, protecting all of the five farming product categories would not necessarily serve its national interests.

The government needs to expedite coordination of domestic opinions by focusing discussions on which fields Japan should concede and on which it should win concessions. Concerning the formation of rules on intellectual property rights and investment, Japan should actively present its assertions.

In conjunction with such efforts, the government must earnestly study measures to boost the competitiveness of the agricultural field, as well as to assist sectors that are expected to suffer as a result of opening their markets.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2013)
(2013年8月23日01時31分  読売新聞)


社会保障工程案 持続可能な制度へ必要な道筋

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 23, 2013
Social security reform bill must show path for sustainable system
社会保障工程案 持続可能な制度へ必要な道筋(8月22日付・読売社説)

Reforms to make the nation’s social security system sustainable must cover a wide variety of areas. It is important for the government to prioritize each area to steadily carry out reform measures.

The government has approved in a Cabinet meeting the gist of a bill on social security system reform measures, which outlines a schedule for reforms. The government will submit the bill to an extraordinary Diet session in autumn.

Based on a report compiled by the National Council on Social Security System Reform, the bill indicates plans and timetables for the reform of medical care, nursing care, the pension system and measures to deal with the low birthrate.

The main focus of the reforms is to change the current social security system, in which the younger, working generation bears most of the burden of supporting the elderly, to one in which all generations proportionately share the burden.

Given that the burden of the working generation will become heavier and heavier along with the low birthrate, it is unavoidable to ask elderly and high-income earners to bear more of the burden than they do now in order to maintain the social security system. In this sense we praise the stance of the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to tackle reform measures the previous administrations avoided.

One such measure is to raise the share of medical expenses paid by people aged 70 to 74. Law revisions made in 2008 stipulate that people in this age group pay 20 percent of medical costs, but the then administration of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito kept it at 10 percent as a special measure. The share has remained at 10 percent since then.

However, the gist of the bill gives a great deal of latitude over the timing of raising the percentage to the legally stipulated level: sometime between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2017. The measure should be reviewed as early as possible, taking into consideration that ¥200 billion of tax money is spent annually on the special measure.

Regarding the nursing care insurance program, the current across-the-board self-pay rate of paying 10 percent for nursing care services will be raised for high-income earners from fiscal 2015. On the other hand, the premiums for low-income elderly will be reduced.

Fairness among the elderly

There is a large disparity in incomes among the elderly. It is appropriate to increase the burden on high-income earners and reduce that of low-income earners as a way to seek fairness among the elderly.

Concerning pension reform, the bill lists some reform measures requiring further study, but only says, “Necessary measures will be carried out after studying these measures.” The government did not make clear when it will carry out pension reform, probably because it will take time to design concrete reform measures.

The report of the national council made clear the direction of social security reform, such as increasing tax on pensioners with high incomes and introducing a mechanism to hold down pension benefits in response to changes in wage levels even in a deflationary period.

People who live on pensions are subject to large tax deductions and can receive greater net incomes than salaried workers receiving the same gross income. To lessen young generations’ sense of being imposed on, it is necessary to impose a heavier tax on high-income earners.

It is indispensable to hold down the payments pensioners receive to stabilize the pension system.

If the government cannot even say when to carry out such important reform, we doubt the sustainability of the pension system.

To formulate concrete pension reform measures, the government must quickly study when to carry out pension reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2013)
(2013年8月22日01時22分  読売新聞)


社説:靖国参拝 首相は見送り継続を

August 16, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: PM must steer clear of Yasukuni Shrine
社説:靖国参拝 首相は見送り継続を

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refrained from visiting Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined along with Japan's war dead, on the Aug. 15 war-end anniversary. Instead, in his role as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Abe contributed money to the shrine through the purchase of a branch of the sacred sakaki tree.

Visits to the shrine by the prime minister and Cabinet members can become major diplomatic stumbling blocks in Japan's relation with its Asian neighbors. As such, we commend Abe's decision to take the broad view and abandon visiting the controversial shrine on Aug. 15 this year.

The money for the sakaki branch was sent by an LDP legislator and special assistant to the party president on behalf of "Shinzo Abe, president of the Liberal Democratic Party." Since Abe used his own money to purchase the branch from the shrine, the donation will not stir controversy over whether it constitutes a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
玉串料は私費で、自民党総裁特別補佐の国会議員が代理で納め、「自民党総裁 安倍晋三」と記帳したという。私費であれば政教分離上の問題は生じない。

Abe made the donation out of apparent consideration for his conservative backers. These supporters are holding out hope the prime minister will visit Yasukuni Shrine in his official capacity, as Abe has stated that failing to visit during his previous one-year term in office in 2006-07 was "a matter of the greatest regret." We share their sense of gratitude and respect toward the war dead.

Many years have passed since visits by the prime minister and Cabinet members to Yasukuni became major diplomatic issues. Such visits have drawn fire from not only China and South Korea, victims of Japanese aggression and colonial rule, but United States officials have also expressed grave concerns over the potential for aggravating Tokyo's already strained ties with Beijing and Seoul.

Japan's postwar history began when the San Francisco Peace Treaty -- under which Japan accepted the results of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in which Class A war criminals were sentenced to death -- came into force in 1952. In the eyes of China, visits by the prime minister to Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined, would represent Japan's justification of its wartime actions. The U.S. could view such visits as a challenge to the San Francisco peace framework that was created on the initiative of Washington.

Yasukuni has become a highly complicated diplomatic problem as successive Japanese administrations failed to do anything to deal with the matter. As such, the government should exercise prudence in addressing the issue. In particular, Japan-China diplomatic relations are already deadlocked because of an intensifying dispute over sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and there is no prospect that a bilateral summit meeting will be held in the foreseeable future. Japan's relations with South Korea have also deteriorated to new lows over the interpretation of history, although the two countries share many of the same social and political values. In this sense, it is only natural that Prime Minister Abe abandoned visiting the shrine this summer.

The question is whether the prime minister will continue to forgo visiting the shrine. He will need to decide whether to pay a visit to the shrine during its autumn and spring festivals, as well as on the war-end anniversary on Aug. 15, 2014. He should make a clear decision if he hopes to stay in power for a long period.

Various measures to address the issue have been proposed. One such plan calls for separating the Class A war criminals from the war dead enshrined at Yasukuni, an idea that has been discussed since the government of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in the 1980s. There are testimonials stating that Emperor Hirohito, posthumously named Emperor Showa, eventually refrained from visiting Yasukuni because Class A war criminals were enshrined there. Some conservatives support the idea of separating such war criminals. During the tenure of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a plan to build a non-religious cenotaph for the war dead was considered.

What is the Yasukuni issue about in the first place? How did the enshrinement of Class A war criminals emerge as a point of contention between Japan and its Asian neighbors? Is there any solution to the problem? It is a good idea to set up a panel of experts to consider these matters, and the prime minister should refrain from visiting the shrine until after that panel proposes solutions.

China and South Korea should also watch over the Abe government's response to the issue from a long-term perspective. Japan and these neighbors should avoid intensifying their conflicts with narrow-minded nationalism.

毎日新聞 2013年08月16日 02時31分



The Asahi Shimbun, August 20, 2013
EDITORIAL: All children should have free access to ‘Hadashi no Gen’

The Matsue municipal board of education has instructed public elementary and junior high schools in the city not to make a famous manga about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima freely available to children in school libraries. The board’s move to restrict children’s access to “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen) has drawn criticism from all over the nation.

In the final parts of the book, some atrocities committed by the former Japanese army, such as beheading Asian people, are depicted. In December last year, the municipal education board decided that these descriptions are “extreme expressions” and asked principals to make sure that students cannot read the manga in the libraries without obtaining permission from the schools. It has also been withdrawn from circulation.

“Hadashi no Gen” was created by manga artist Keiji Nakazawa, who died in December last year. In addition to the devastation of Hiroshima and people’s sufferings after the war, both of which he experienced himself, Nakazawa described, in shocking detail, various battlefield scenes he learned from historical records and materials. Due to its vivid descriptions of the frightful spectacles of war, the manga drew an immense response.

Many children became interested in the nuclear attacks against Japan in the closing days of World War II for the first time when they read “Hadashi no Gen,” one of the few manga books among the school library collection.

The education board’s decision could deprive children of a good opportunity to learn about the tragedy. Moreover, the board didn’t follow the rule that it must make any important decision in an open meeting of board members. The decision was made in an opaque manner by the secretariat of the board. The education board should immediately withdraw its directive concerning “Hadashi no Gen.”

The board’s move was made after a man submitted a written petition to the Matsue municipal assembly in August last year. The petition called for the removal of “Hadashi no Gen” from schools, claiming it described fictitious acts of barbarity by Japanese soldiers and had a harmful effect on the minds of children.

Although the man’s demands were not accepted, some assembly members argued that the manga should be designated as a “bad book” and asked the education board to take appropriate action. The request led to the board’s move to restrict access to the manga in school libraries.

Soon after Nakazawa started the manga series in the Weekly Shonen Jump comic magazine in 1973, his descriptions of the war were criticized as “brutal.” Nakazawa once said he had agonized over how to depict the war. Because it bitterly denounces the acts of the army and holds Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, responsible for the war, conservatives criticize the manga as “biased” and “anti-Japanese.”

Still, “Hadashi no Gen” has been widely accepted because Nakazawa’s anti-war message has obtained a favorable response from children. By using all of his skills as an artist to describe the cruelty of war he witnessed, Nakazawa tried to tell children that war must never be allowed to happen again.

Teachers, who generally had a negative stance toward manga, also embraced “Hadashi no Gen” and allocated part of the limited school library budget to add the manga to the library’s collection because of its power to send its anti-war message.

There are still various views and opinions about the wartime acts of the former Japanese army and Emperor Hirohito’s responsibility for the war. Nakazawa’s historical views about the war as expressed in the work are also open to criticism.

“Hadashi no Gen” is exactly the type of material that can be used for discussions among adults and children on these and other issues concerning the war. There is no need to keep children from accessing this material.



The Asahi Shimbun, August 16, 2013
EDITORIAL: Abe should not look away from Japan's history of aggression

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eschewed visiting Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II.

Japan’s relations with China and South Korea remain chilly over problems concerning the Senkaku Islands, the Takeshima islets and perceptions of history. A visit to the war-related shrine at this juncture would put off the improvement of relations even further.

Thus, the decision not to visit the shrine was a realistic one.

How is the prime minister trying to face up to the past? Not only China and South Korea but also the United States and European countries are keeping a close watch. Visits to Yasukuni Shrine are not the only problem. Behind their misgivings is Abe’s comment earlier this year: “The definition of aggression has yet to be established,” which can be construed as denial of Japan’s war responsibility.

A wrong move could cause Japan to become isolated in the international community. The prime minister is urged to take this point to heart.

In that sense, there is something we find disturbing.

While Abe delivered a speech at the government-sponsored memorial service for the war dead on Aug. 15, the address made no reference to reflection on Japan’s responsibility for inflicting damage on Asian nations or any expression of condolences.

Starting with Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in 1993, successive Japanese leaders have mentioned the wartime devastation inflicted on Asian countries by Japan in their speeches for the annual ceremony.

In 2007, during Abe’s first tenure as prime minister, he also stated: “(Japan) caused considerable damage and suffering to the people of Asian countries. … I offer deep remorse and express my heartfelt condolences to those who were killed.”

This time, “a pledge not to make war” that had been expressed in the past was not mentioned, either.

Aides to the prime minister say the memorial address reflects his intention that the ceremony is for the war dead, and that he mentioned consideration toward Asian nations in his responses to questions in the Diet.

But such an expedient response is unacceptable. The ceremony also serves as an occasion to show Japan’s stance toward the war to the world. With the absence of wording about Japan’s responsibility for causing damage, Abe's speech could give the impression that Japan lacks consideration for the people of Asia.

Even though the prime minister declined to visit Yasukuni, wasn’t he sending a message to the opposite effect?

What we find disturbing is the fact that the words that were not mentioned in Abe’s speech overlap with Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's 1995 statement that Japan “through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”

For a long time, Abe has shown an inclination toward re-examining the Murayama statement. If his memorial address reflects such intentions, there is no way we can accept it.

Although the prime minister refrained from visiting Yasukuni Shrine, some members of his Cabinet, as well as a group of many lawmakers, visited the shrine.

Without looking away from history, Japan needs to use its imagination to understand the pain of other countries. Such an attitude is what Japanese politicians need now more than ever.


学校の耐震化 つり天井の撤去を急ぎたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 18, 2013
Suspended ceilings should be removed to boost quake resistance at schools
学校の耐震化 つり天井の撤去を急ぎたい(8月17日付・読売社説)

Schools must be safe places that protect children at a time of disaster. They can also serve as shelters for local residents.

We call for the disaster prevention capability of schools to be strengthened.

A survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry showed that 89 percent of 120,460 school buildings and gymnasiums at public primary and middle schools across the nation met national earthquake-resistance standards as of April. The survey also found that 86 percent of structures at public high schools were quake-resistant.

These high percentages, which resulted from a push for reinforcement work and other antiseismic efforts in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, are laudable. But progress differs among regions. In some municipalities, the percentage of quake-resistant schools remains below 50 percent. Such municipalities should accelerate their efforts.

One major concern in this connnection is the delay in dealing with suspended ceilings, which experts have pointed out are at risk of collapsing in earthquakes.

Suspended ceilings made of gypsum wallboard are effective for noise and heat insulation, but their hanging frames make them vulnerable to movement. Even though the buildings themselves are resistant to quakes, their suspended ceilings could collapse. This requries attention.

In the March 2011 earthquake, many such ceilings fell in large facilities such as event halls. In school gymnasiums, falling ceilings injured students.

The survey, in which the ministry asked about suspended ceilings for the first time, showed that such ceilings were installed in about 8,500 structures, including gymnasiums and auditoriums, at public primary, middle and high schools. The survey found that 90 percent of the structures lacked measures to prevent ceilings from falling. This is a problem.

The collapse of a ceiling at a gymnasium where many students gather could be catastrophic. Even if a collapse happened when no one was there, it could prevent the gymnasium from being used as a shelter.

Safety checks urged

The ministry has drawn up a guide, which includes a list of safety check points, and urged municipal governments to carry out safety checks thoroughly. We believe suspended ceilings should be removed as soon as possible in light of public safety.

Meanwhile, many schools are not prepared to serve as local disaster-management centers. Among public schools designated by municipalities as emergency shelters, only 28 percent have in-house power generators, while 34 percent are equipped with water reservoirs and other useful devices.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake, many people were forced to take refuge amid prolonged power outages and cuts in water supply. We urge municipalities’ disaster-management sections and boards of education to work together to make necessary preprations.

It is also crucial to raise public awareness through education. Last year, public high schools in Tokyo began a project in which students stay at their schools overnight, prepare meals outdoors and receive training in conducting rescue activities.

If high school students gain experience such as taking care of the elderly through the training, they could play a key role in operating shelters in disasters. Regularly cultivating the spirit of volunteerism could prove to be useful in an emergency.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 17, 2013)
(2013年8月17日01時40分  読売新聞)


韓国大統領演説 日本を重要な隣国と言うなら

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 17, 2013
Is Japan an important neighbor for S. Korea amid unresolved issues?
韓国大統領演説 日本を重要な隣国と言うなら(8月16日付・読売社説)

First, political leaders should make their own efforts to have a direct personal dialogue to restore a relationship of trust between their two nations.

For the first time since taking office, South Korean President Park Geun Hye made a speech marking the country’s day of independence from Japan’s colonial rule.

Park said in the speech that Japan is an important neighbor South Korea can work with to establish peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia, but she added that recent situation over historical issues is darkening the future of the two countries.

Her remark is apparently an expression of distrust toward Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, whose “rightward tilt” South Korea is wary of.

However, Park generally kept her criticism of Japan restrained in her independence day speech.

She moderated her expressions of emotion and avoided direct references to so-called comfort women and the territorial issue over the Takeshima islands. The president might have wanted to avoid further deterioration of South Korea’s relations with Japan.

Even so, Park demanded that Tokyo take tangible action. The Japanese government should take “responsible and sincere measures to alleviate the pain of those who live with suffering and wounds arisen from past history,” she said in the speech.

The comfort women issue is a thorn in the side of Japan-South Korea relations. It is unreasonable that South Korea has ignored the background of the issue and demanded that Japan alone resolve it.

Japan believes that Tokyo and Seoul agreed to resolve the comfort women compensation issue by signing a bilateral agreement on property claims and economic cooperation in 1965. Moreover, the Japanese government has made an effort to fulfill its moral responsibility on the matter.

The government collected donations totaling ¥600 million from the public and set up the Asian Women’s Fund, based on which a relief project for former comfort women was begun, including payments of atonement money.

However, the South Korean side criticized Japan’s effort as avoidance of responsibility. As a result, many of the former comfort women in South Korea did not accept the atonement money, and the fund was disbanded.

Abe, Park should have talks

South Korea has only demanded that Japan make concessions and has refused to have a dialogue or other exchanges. We hope Seoul will change such attitudes.

Meanwhile, Abe opted not to visit Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday but gave a donation from his own pocket to make an offering of a branch of a sacred tree. The prime minister showed a certain consideration for China and South Korea, which are trying to make visits to Yasukuni Shrine a diplomatic issue because Class-A war criminals are enshrined there together with many other war dead. Only three of the Abe Cabinet members visited the shrine.

As Park admitted, Japan and South Korea are important neighbors. However, abnormal situations have continued between them because no meeting of their top leaders has been held since the governments changed in both countries.

The two countries have many significant issues on which they share interests, including joint efforts to deal with North Korea, which persists in developing nuclear weapons, and enhancement of their economic partnership. It would be a problem if their leaders do not talk because Japan and South Korea cannot reach agreements over history and territorial issues. Their attitudes toward improving bilateral relations would be called into question.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2013)
(2013年8月16日01時27分  読売新聞)


エジプト騒乱 流血の拡大をまず食い止めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 17, 2013
International pressure needed to stop bloodshed in Egypt
エジプト騒乱 流血の拡大をまず食い止めよ(8月16日付・読売社説)

Egypt has seen its bloodiest incident since the autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak ended in 2011.

An early end to the violence is to be hoped for, but a bumpy road lies ahead.

Egypt’s military-led interim government crushed sit-in protests by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Wednesday. His supporters clashed with government security forces across the country, resulting in a death toll that the Egyptian Health Ministry reported as more than 500.

The interim government declared a one-month state of emergency, but there is no prospect of the chaos subsiding. Eyewitnesses say security forces fired live bullets at rally participants. The government cannot escape condemnation for using excessive force.

Diplomatic efforts by the United States and the European Union to avoid clashes between the military-led government and Morsi’s supporters have come to nothing.

It was natural that the United States and the EU strongly condemned the interim government over its brutal crushing of the demonstrations. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has expressed “strong concern and anxiety” about the bloody incident.

Secularist Mohamed ElBaradei, a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, resigned as Egypt’s vice president in protest, saying “there must have been a more peaceful choice.”

The military ousted and detained Morsi in a de facto coup in July. Even after the establishment of the interim government, the military increased pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s main support base, in such ways as seeking criminal charges against its leaders on suspicion of instigating riots.

Brotherhood also to blame

The Muslim Brotherhood is also to blame for the situation.

Despite the Morsi administration having made policy blunders that worsened the economy and reduced public safety, the Brotherhood clung to its demand for Morsi’s reinstatement after he was deposed. The Islamist organization rejected dialogue with the military-led provisional government, thereby intensifying confrontation.

The interim government has announced a road map for democratization that calls for revising the Constitution within this year, holding a parliamentary election early next year and then calling a new presidential election.

But without participation of the Brotherhood, the biggest political force in Egypt, in the process of reinstating a civilian government, it will hardly be possible to realize social and political stability. To help achieve a return to civilian rule, the interim government should take conciliatory steps such as releasing Morsi in preparation for resuming dialogue with its political adversaries.

The Brotherhood, for its part, should take a more flexible stance toward dialogue.

Arab Spring reforms still have a long way to go. If the chaos is protracted in Egypt, a great regional power, there is concern that the stabilization of the Middle East as a whole will be further delayed.

As long as the military-led interim government continues to use force against its opponents, the situation will only go from bad to worse. International pressure must be brought to bear in such ways as suspending military assistance by the United States, Egypt’s biggest aid donor, thereby forcing the interim government to refrain from bloodily quashing its political foes.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2013)
(2013年8月16日01時27分  読売新聞)


終戦の日 中韓の「反日」傾斜を憂える

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 16, 2013
Increasing anti-Japan sentiment in China, S. Korea cause for concern
終戦の日 中韓の「反日」傾斜を憂える(8月15日付・読売社説)


Today marks the 68th anniversary of the end of World War II for Japan.

It is the day on which the nation commemorates its war dead and renews its pledge for peace so that the tremendous suffering caused by war will never be repeated.

This summer, an animated movie titled “Kaze Tachinu” (The wind has risen) has been attracting attention. Its protagonist is modeled after Jiro Horikoshi, a brilliant designer for the Imperial Japanese Navy who helped create Zero fighters.

Postwar steps applauded

The movie’s protagonist is drawn to the beauty of airplanes as a boy, but after the war breaks out, the Zero fighter planes he was involved in designing are used by suicide attack units. The movie’s last scene is impressive, as the saddened protagonist stands blankly in front of many badly damaged Zero fighters.

For many younger viewers, the movie will probably be a chance to think again about war. The experiences of World War II should never fade from memory.

Based on its reflections on the war in the Showa period, Japan made a fresh start after World War II and peacefully achieved high economic growth. It has also made extensive contributions to the international community, mainly through official development assistance and peacekeeping operations by the Self-Defense Forces.

These steps by Japan have been applauded by the United States and Southeast Asian nations.

In contrast, China and South Korea have been heightening their criticism of Japan regarding perceptions of history. We believe this is an extremely deplorable situation.

In the United States and elsewhere, South Korean President Park Geun Hye has said Japan should have a correct recognition of history. She has made the remark in connection with sovereignty over the Takeshima islands and the issue of so-called comfort women.

South Korean courts ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation for damages to South Koreans for being forced to work for the firms during wartime.

These rulings are unreasonable because they obviously violate the agreement on property claims and economic cooperation that was reached in 1965, which stated that the issue of property claims was “resolved completely and finally.”

The South Korean judicial authorities also have been taking advantage of the rising anti-Japan sentiment in their country and disregarding the agreement reached between the two countries. This is a mystifying attitude for a country ruled by law.

When it comes to the Senkaku Islands, China claims that Japan seized the islets from Taiwan during the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Beijing also insists that because Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, the islands should be returned to China.

Yet Japan incorporated the islands under the administration of Okinawa Prefecture shortly before the end of the Sino-Japanese War, after confirming that they did not belong to the Qing empire. Is China twisting this historical fact?

In some respect, the Chinese government is utilizing the anti-Japan sentiments of its people to maintain national unity, while the administration of South Korea is doing so to turn the domestic political situation to its advantage.

China and South Korea also oppose the prime minister and other state ministers visiting Yasukuni Shrine, where Class-A war criminals have been enshrined together with war dead, saying the shrine symbolizes Japan’s militarism.

War dead domestic issue

How we should pay tribute to the memory of our war dead is, in principle, a domestic affair of Japan, an issue in which other countries have no right to meddle.

Nor has Japan forgotten the responsibilities of the Japanese leaders who erred in handling the international situation, started a reckless war and caused suffering to people in neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once said that it was “extremely regrettable” that he did not pay a visit to the shrine during his first term as prime minister. Yet he said he would refrain from visiting the shrine on Thursday, the anniversary of the war’s end.

China and South Korea are intensifying their criticism that Japan is failing to reflect on its past militarism, and is instead leaning to the right and returning to the past.

They will probably not change their stance even if Abe refrains from visiting Yasukuni Shrine.

It is difficult to handle the issue of historical understanding, which cannot be dealt with separately from the international politics of today.

Abe made a controversial remark during a Diet meeting in April, saying that an academic and international definition of “invasion” had not been fixed.

It is true, as Abe said, that the definition of invasion has not been fixed. There is no war completely of aggression and no war completely of self-defense.

Yet Abe’s remark was interpreted, both at home and abroad, as rethinking a 1995 statement in which then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama expressed deep remorse for Japan having caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations, through its “colonial rule and wartime aggression.”

Wisdom needed

Abe recently said that discussing perceptions of history in the political arena would develop into a diplomatic issue. He then said such issues should be left up to historians and other experts to discuss. Discussion of such issues should be deepened at venues of experts.

On the other hand, it is imporant for Abe, as a politician, to tenaciously promote his views on national territory and sovereignty to the international community, including his understanding of history.

We should further ensure the peace and prosperity that we have strived to build since the end of the war. To do so, we must also explore ways to reconcile with our neighbors. Never has it been so necessary for us to be wise and work to build constructive relations with our neighbors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2013)
(2013年8月15日01時41分  読売新聞)


中電の越境販売 「地域独占」の壁はなお厚い

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 15, 2013
Electric utilities monopolies show no sign of weakening
中電の越境販売 「地域独占」の壁はなお厚い(8月14日付・読売社説)

Chubu Electric Power Co.’s planned purchase of electricity retailer Diamond Power Corp. marks a step toward changing the status quo of the solid regional monopoly enjoyed by electric power companies, though thick barriers to overcome remain.

By purchasing Diamond Power, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp., Chubu Electric will start selling electricity in Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s service area.

Chubu Electric also plans to jointly build a new coal-fired power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture with Mitsubishi and others and start supplying electricity in TEPCO’s service area in 2016.

The sale of electricity to large-lot customers, including factories and offices, was liberalized in stages from 2000. However, Kyushu Electric Power Co. is the only major utility engaged in the “cross-border” sale of electricity. Kyushu Electric sells electricity in Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s service area.

This is probably because power companies place priority on providing electricity in their own service area, where they are responsible for power supply. However, it is undoubtedly the case that major power companies have avoided competing with each other as much as possible.

The government plans to resubmit to the Diet during its extraordinary session in autumn a bill for electricity system reform. The sale of electricity, including small contracts with households, as well as small and midsize stores, is expected to be fully liberalized as early as 2016.

Chubu Electric apparently aims to expand its revenue base by advancing into the Tokyo metropolitan area as it makes strategic preparations for the upcoming full liberalization of the electricity market.

If more power companies—encouraged by Chubu Electric’s move—enter each other’s turf in the electricity market, it will pave the way for consumers to have a choice among more than one power company. Greater convenience can also be expected amid increased competition over rates and services.

Ensure competition

So far, however, other power companies are reluctant to engage in cross-border sales of electricity.

Chubu Electric’s case is unique. As TEPCO has been mired in financial difficulties due to the crisis at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it has become difficult for TEPCO to build a power plant on its own. Chubu Electric’s idea of selling electricity beyond its territory was thus able to progress because TEPCO was willing to go along with it.

A worrisome factor is that the electricity market will be liberalized, and power generation and transmission will be separated through electricity system reform while major power firms’ regional monopolies are effectively maintained. It is feared this will have various negative effects.

If the current approval system for electricity rates is hastily abolished, there will be no means to restrain a rate hike under an “unregulated monopoly,” which would seriously undermine consumers’ interests. The government must carefully monitor progress in competition among power companies.

In the United States and other countries, intensified competition due to market liberalization resulted in cuts to budgets for repairing power lines and other equipment. In one case, defects at power facilities caused a massive blackout.

It is important to ensure a stable electricity supply to promote fair competition in the electricity market. To do so, nuclear reactors must be reactivated steadily once they have been confirmed safe to operate and efforts must be swiftly taken to resolve serious power shortages.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2013)
(2013年8月14日01時56分  読売新聞)


2.6%成長 消費増税に耐えられる体力か

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 14, 2013
Has the economy recovered enough to withstand consumption tax hike?
2.6%成長 消費増税に耐えられる体力か(8月13日付・読売社説)

Although Japan’s economy continued to grow in the April-June quarter, it is worrying that the improvement has begun to lose steam.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a final decision in autumn on whether to raise the consumption tax rate next April as scheduled. The tax increase would be in vain if it harms the economy and spoils an opportunity to escape deflation.

Abe will have to make a difficult judgment on whether the national economy has recovered enough to withstand a consumption tax hike.

The nation’s real-term gross domestic product for the April-June period, released by the Cabinet Office on Monday, improved 0.6 percent over the previous quarter, recording a third straight quarter of growth. The growth rate stood at 2.6 percent on an annualized basis, down from 3.8 percent registered in the January-March quarter.

Personal consumption and exports soared in the April-June quarter due to the effects of Abenomics, the economic policy put forth by the Abe administration. But plant and equipment investment, which had been expected to be a growth engine, declined for the sixth consecutive quarter and housing investment dropped unexpectedly.

The growth rate for the April-June period is an important indicator to judge whether the consumption tax rate should be increased from 5 percent to 8 percent as scheduled.

Private-led growth vital

Akira Amari, state minister for economic and fiscal policy, acknowledged the continued growth during a news conference Monday, noting that “favorable figures have continued to be recorded.” But the growth rate figure was far lower than the mid-3 percent level anticipated by economists.

Abe told reporters the government “will continue to take all possible economic measures.” The goal of ending deflation must be achieved by putting top priority on business revitalization.

It is important to achieve self-sustaining economic growth led by the private sector. The government must promptly carry out measures such as those to help boost capital investment by private firms. An extraordinary Diet session to be convened in autumn is expected to be a crucial stage for the promotion of the government’s growth strategy.

A tax rate increase of three percentage points is estimated to raise consumer prices by about 2 percent. If prices rise but household income does not, consumption will suffer a blow. The key here is whether corporate profits will be smoothly reflected in wages.

When the sales tax was increased from 3 percent to 5 percent in April 1997, households suffered additional burdens caused by, among other factors, the discontinuation of special tax reductions. This was accompanied by the Asian monetary crisis and serious financial uncertainties, thereby causing the national economy to slow down sharply. It must be remembered that these developments led to long years of deflation.

Consumption tax revenue climbed, but revenue from income and corporate taxes dropped, making it more difficult to achieve the key goal of fiscal rehabilitation.

To prevent a repetition of the past policy blunder, it is of utmost importance to analyze the economic situation from multiple perspectives.

It was reasonable that Abe has called for listening to the opinions of experts and corporate managers about the advisability of raising the consumption tax and the likely effects of a tax increase and using that input when making a policy judgment.

The government must lend an unprejudiced ear to voices from various sectors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug.13, 2013)
(2013年8月13日01時29分  読売新聞)


ケネディ大使 新たな日米関係を構築したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 13, 2013
Appointment of new ambassador chance to build new Japan-U.S. ties
ケネディ大使 新たな日米関係を構築したい(8月11日付・読売社説)

We welcome the nomination of the incoming U.S. ambassador as indicating the great importance that President Barack Obama’s administration places on its relations with Japan. This should be used as a step forward to build more mature Japan-U.S. relations.

Obama has named Caroline Kennedy, a lawyer and the eldest daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, as ambassador to Japan. Kennedy, 55, will be the first female U.S. ambassador to this nation. She will assume the post as early as this autumn, upon her Senate confirmation.

Kennedy comes from one of the most distinguished families in the United States. Early in 2008, before the presidential election later that year, she gave her support to Obama, helping create the momentum that led to Obama’s selection as the Democratic nominee for president. She also contributed to Obama’s reelection in 2012. Hers is a political nomination, a reward for her outstanding contributions to the Obama administration.

People with various careers and backgrounds have been apppointed as U.S. ambassadors in the past. These include heavyweight politicians such as Mike Mansfield, scholars like Edwin Reischauer and diplomats such as Michael Armacost.

In recent years, the appointments have been based on strong personal relations with presidents, as in the cases of John Scheiffer and John Roos. Kennedy’s nomination can be said to be in this line.

Kennedy has no experience with diplomacy or politics, leaving her abilities as an ambassador unknown. On the other hand, she has strong connections with Obama and a close relationship with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kennedy brings big guns

A big-name ambassador is expected to be able to get the president on the phone and explore ways to solve problems when bilateral Japan-U.S. relations reach a critical point. In this sense, Kennedy is equipped with an important “weapon.”

Yet another of Kennedy’s strong points is her oustanding name recognition and popularity. As an iconic figure for stable Japan-U.S. relations, she will be asked to boost both Japanese and Americans’ interest in each other.

Both Japan and the United States are facing various important challenges.

How should they face China, which is becoming an economic and military power, and how should they confront North Korea, which is pursuing nuclear and missile development programs? How should Japan and the United States proceed with the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, and with bilateral defense cooperation? How should they promote free trade in Asia through such frameworks as the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord negotiations?

To solve these thorny issues, it is vital to reinforce intergovernmental relations, including those on the summit level. We hope Kennedy will make a contribution in this area.

Recently, the number of Japanese students studying in the United States has been on the decline, falling to No. 7 among all the nations that send students to the states and raising concerns that bilateral exchange between the two countries will dwindle.

If Japan weakens its presence in the United States, while China and South Korea are making ever-greater efforts to transmit information and expand exchanges there, it would harm Japan’s national interests.

Expansion in grass-roots exchanges, including exchanges among the next generation of young people, will serve as the foundation for promoting mutual understanding and confidence-building efforts. We hope Kennedy, with her strong ability to communicate, will contribute in this field as well.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 11, 2013)
(2013年8月11日01時17分  読売新聞)


最低賃金アップ 消費拡大の呼び水になるか




The Yomiuri Shimbun August 9, 2013
Will higher minimum wage help increase consumption?
最低賃金アップ 消費拡大の呼び水になるか(8月8日付・読売社説)

The minimum hourly wage will be increased at the strong urging of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration. Could this be a trigger to bail the country out of deflation?

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s Central Minimum Wages Council has decided to set this fiscal year’s target for raising the minimum hourly wage at 14 yen on a national average--nearly 2 percent higher than the current minimum of 749 yen and the first increase of 10 yen or more in three years.

The minimum wage is the lowest possible rate that companies can pay their employees. After the revision, the average minimum hourly wage nationwide will be 763 yen. This means that a minimum-wage, full-time worker would take home about 120,000 to 130,000 yen per month, an increase of about 2,000 yen.

While this is still insufficient for maintaining family finances, it is the first step toward implementing increases in the basic wage table.

The issue of raising the minimum wage received a lot of attention this year in particular because it was associated with Abenomics, a set of economic policies set forth by the Abe administration that aims to lift this nation out of deflation.

In its Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform compiled in June, the government set a goal of hiking wages by more than 2 percent. The minimum wage increase corresponds almost exactly to the government’s wage hike target.

Business performance has been improving, mainly at major corporations, making the tone of recovery clearer. However, the general public is still complaining about Abenomics, saying it has yet to result in income increases.

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “The council held serious discussions in considering the Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform.” He welcomed the minimum wage hike, while emphasizing the necessity of creating a virtuous cycle that can build momentum and result in pay raises at each company.

Expand consumption

It is generally believed that a high percentage of low-income earners tend to use wage hikes for consumption. The government must utilize the minimum wage hike as a way to prime the pump of consumption and push up economic growth.

Currently, minimum wages are less than the livelihood protection benefits in Tokyo, Hokkaido and nine other prefectures--hardly a tool to stoke people’s zeal for work. We would like to applaud the panel’s proposal as its minimum wage review will finally resolve the “reversal phenomenon” between minimum wages and livelihood protection benefits in 10 prefectures, excluding Hokkaido.

Of course, if the minimum wage is increased, struggling small and midsize firms will have to shoulder a heavier burden. We are concerned about the side effects of raising the minimum wage. For instance, it could deprive young people of job opportunities if such firms decide to cut back on employment to secure the financial resources for pay hikes.

Most importantly, the government should prepare an environment for companies that will help them raise wages. The government must steadily promote its growth strategy, the pillars of which include revitalizing local economies and expanding business opportunities, to prompt small and midsize enterprises to improve productivity.

The labor ministry has been providing assistance to small and midsize firms that actually raised wages through measures such as extending subsidies for introduction costs of accounting systems. We hope the ministry will consider more measures that will create an environment in which companies can comfortably increase wages.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2013)
(2013年8月8日01時40分  読売新聞)