徳田議員辞職 政界去っても説明責任は残る

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 26, 2014
Resignation is a start, but Tokuda is still accountable for an explanation
徳田議員辞職 政界去っても説明責任は残る(2月26日付・読売社説)

It is only reasonable that lawmaker Takeshi Tokuda has chosen to resign from the Diet, given the seriousness of the recent scandal concerning his relatives’ alleged involvement in massive election irregularities. We feel that his decision comes too late.

On Monday, House of Representatives member Tokuda submitted a letter of resignation in connection with the scandal over violations of the Public Offices Election Law by people tied to the Tokushukai hospital group. His move comes after he left the Liberal Democratic Party in November.

Since the scandal came to light last autumn, Tokuda has been frequently absent from plenary sessions of the lower house and committee meetings of the chamber. In this respect, he should be criticized as an extremely irresponsible Diet member.

Shortly after tendering his resignation as a lawmaker, Tokuda gave a press conference in which he issued an apology for the first time in the ongoing scandal. However, he should have sought accountability when investigators first delved into suspicions surrounding individuals involved in his election campaign.

The Tokushukai group is believed to have put more than ¥200 million to use bribing election campaigners and in efforts aimed at securing Tokuda’s win in the December 2012 lower house election.

Prosecutors arrested and indicted his mother, two of his sisters and some other figures in connection with the case, though his father, Tokushukai founder Torao Tokuda, has not yet been charged due to his suffering from an intractable illness. The elder Tokuda formerly served as a lower house member as well.

The sentencing session in the trial of one of Takeshi Tokuda’s sisters is scheduled for Wednesday. During the prosecution’s probe into the case, the sister, the family’s second daughter, acknowledged her involvement in the alleged electoral irregularities.

Tokuda’s resignation comes just as he was set to be stripped of his seat on the basis of the election law’s guilt-by-association provisions. It is believed that the legislator timed his resignation announcement in consideration of the hearing of his sister’s trial.

Tokuda’s selfish hopes

During Monday’s press conference, Tokuda said, “I’d appreciate it if [the judicial authorities] acted with leniency [in passing judgment on the case].” The remark apparently reflected a desire on Tokuda’s part that his voluntary resignation from the Diet would encourage authorities to consider extenuating circumstances surrounding his relatives and other indicted figures in their sentencing decisions. We find this an extremely self-serving attitude.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is investigating the case of the questionable transfer of ¥50 million in cash from Tokuda to former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose. The focus of the probe, led by the prosecution’s special investigation squad, is whether the cash was intended to help finance Inose’s campaign for the Tokyo governorship in late 2012.

If the money was offered to Inose to fund his election campaign, he and his election staff could be accused of neglecting to write the fund into a report on income and expenditures incurred through his electoral bid.

At the press conference, Tokuda declined to comment on the purpose for which the cash was intended, despite having admitted that he and Inose discussed the gubernatorial election when they dined together. “I cannot talk [about the nature of the money],” he said.

Tokuda also declined to speak about the details of his conversation with Inose. He defended his refusal to comment, saying the scandal is under investigation. However, Inose’s acceptance of ¥50 million in cash from Tokuda is already known to the public. Given this, Tokuda, as a key figure in the case, should provide an appropriate explanation of the nature of the money transfer.

The press conference also brought to light discrepancies in the explanations given by Tokuda and Inose about the funds. When asked whether Inose had asked him for the loan, Tokuda said, “I think so.”

However, Inose has asserted that Tokuda himself made the offer to loan the money.

Once again, we want Tokuda to explain his position on issues relevant to the scandal, including the Tokushukai group’s failed attempt to buy a hospital owned by the struggling Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Tokuda’s resignation will mandate a by-election for his lower house seat in Kagoshima Constituency No. 2 in April. We hope the lessons learned from this scandal will be put into practice in how the election is conducted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 26, 2014)
(2014年2月26日01時31分  読売新聞)


ウクライナ政変 安定回復へ欧露の責任は重い

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 25, 2014
EU, Russia have grave responsibility to help Ukraine regain stability
ウクライナ政変 安定回復へ欧露の責任は重い(2月25日付・読売社説)

International cooperation is needed to help Ukraine regain its stability, a country beset by the rival influences of the European Union and Russia.

The administration of President Viktor Yanukovych has effectively collapsed, and Yanukovych was forced to leave Kiev in the face of fierce antigovernment protests.

The parliament has approved opposition leader Oleksandr Turchinov as acting head of state and decided to hold a presidential election in May. Yet, how the current chaotic situation will unfold remains uncertain.

Yanukovych’s downfall was triggered when he reneged on plans to sign an agreement with the EU in November, centering on a free-trade pact.

Wary of seeing Ukraine move closer to the EU, Russia is believed to have made blatant approaches to the country by promising large-scale economic assistance in return for postponing conclusion of the EU accord.

The opposition and its supporters strongly protested and launched antigovernment demonstrations. Fighting between the opposition and security forces, which left more than 80 people dead this month, doomed the administration.

Historically, Ukraine’s western region has been strongly influenced by the West, while the eastern region looks toward Moscow. Ever since its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, pro-Russian groups have attached great importance to the country’s ties with Russia, while pro-EU factions have been trying to bring the country closer to the EU. The rivalry between the two groups resulted in repeated changes in administration.

Shift to West likely

Yanukovych, seen as pro-Russian, was forced from power by pro-EU groups, and these groups, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been imprisoned, seized power. Ukraine is likely to shift further toward the EU.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hopes to use the success of the Sochi Olympics to move forward with the economic reintegration of the former Soviet bloc, probably feels as if he has been doused with cold water.

If Putin, in an attempt to influence Ukraine, takes such hard-line measures as restricting supplies of natural gas to Ukraine, as Russia has in the past, the current turmoil will only worsen. We hope Russia will be prudent.

The EU should coordinate its views with Russia to prevent the situation in Ukraine from deteriorating. We highly appreciate German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s telephone conversation with Putin in which they agreed that Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be upheld. They also concurred that splitting Ukraine into eastern and western regions should be avoided.

With its massive external debt, Ukraine is said to be in danger of default. Assistance from the international community, including the EU, is the key to the country regaining stability.

Ukraine, which experienced the devastating Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, has inked an accord with Japan on nuclear issues, exchanging information and experts. We should keep a keen eye on how developments will turn out in the days ahead.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 25, 2014)
(2014年2月25日01時24分  読売新聞)


G20共同声明 世界成長2%底上げへ結束を


The Yomiuri Shimbun February 24, 2014
G-20 economies must stand together to attain 2% global growth target
G20共同声明 世界成長2%底上げへ結束を(2月24日付・読売社説)

Amid such concerns as the declining values of currencies of emerging economies, Japan, the United States and Europe should strengthen their cooperation with such emerging economies as China and Brazil to help accelerate the growth of the global economy.

With both industrially advanced nations and emerging market economies taking part, the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors adopted a joint communique at the close of a two-day meeting in Sydney on Sunday.

The communique said, “Despite these recent improvements [in such countries as the United States, Britain and Japan], the global economy remains far from achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth.”

It went on to declare a new target for raising global growth “with the aim to lift our collective GDP by more than 2 percent...over the coming five years,” a potent message for the future of the world economy.

The G-20 meeting confirmed that each of its member economies will work out an action plan in time for a G-20 summit scheduled to be held in Brisbane, Australia, in November.

This is the first time the G-20 has set a numerical target for global growth.

The establishment of this target comes as not all is well with the global economy, although there are some bright signs. It seems the participants in the meeting agreed on the need to demonstrate their resolve to work together for sustainable growth by laying down a numerical goal.

The International Monetary Fund has released its global economic outlook, forecasting a year-on-year global growth of 3.7 percent in real terms for 2014 and 3.9 percent for 2015.

Fears over ‘Fragile Five’

The U.S. economy is clearly on its way to recovery, while business activities in the eurozone have become positive at last. Japan’s economy, too, is continuing to gradually recover.

What is worrying is that the slowdown of emerging economies, which replaced the industrial economies in propping up the global economy after the 2008 world financial crisis, has become increasingly conspicuous.

With the U.S. Federal Reserve Board having launched its “exit strategy” by tapering its quantitative monetary easing, the value of the currencies of the so-called Fragile Five emerging economies, including Turkey and India, are under increasing downward pressure.

The depreciation of these currencies has been caused by the fact that the massive amounts of cash, which flowed into from abroad while the Fed’s extraordinary monetary easing policy was in place, are now flowing out of them. It is essential to stem the vicious cycle of the global market being pummeled by erratic situations in emerging economies and slides in their currencies.

Apparently focusing on emerging economies affected by the weakening of their currencies, the G-20 communique this time has rightly noted the need to “further strengthen...macroeconomic, structural and financial policy frameworks.” We hope to see them step up efforts to address such challenges as swelling current account deficits and runaway inflation.

Also incorporated in the communique is a passage to the effect that the United States should consider the effects of the handling of its financial policy on the global economy.

In tapering its monetary easing policy, the Fed should exercise ingenuity in its “dialogue with the market” by noting changes in emerging economies.

High expectations are placed on Japan’s role in accelerating the pace of global growth.

No time should be wasted in beefing up the third pillar of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy—growth strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 24, 2014)
(2014年2月24日01時27分  読売新聞)


竹島の日 内外に訴えよ韓国の不法占拠

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 23, 2014
Japan should present case abroad, at home on Takeshima occupation
竹島の日 内外に訴えよ韓国の不法占拠(2月23日付・読売社説)

The Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture are an inherent part of Japanese territory, but South Korea has been illegally occupying them. It is important that many more Japanese people share this understanding.

The Shimane prefectural government has held its ninth “Takeshima Day” ceremony. Yoshitami Kameoka, parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office, represented the government at the ceremony and said in a speech, “The government will do its best to solve the Takeshima issue rationally and peacefully.”

Feb. 22 is the day that Japan incorporated the Takeshima islands into Shimane Prefecture in 1905. The prefecture enacted the “Takeshima Day” ordinance in 2005 and has been organizing the ceremony on the day every year since 2006. It is highly praiseworthy that the prefecture has steadily continued its Takeshima awareness campaign.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government last year sent the parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office to the ceremony for the first time. Of course, resolving the territorial dispute is not easy and will take a long time, but the persistence of such awareness activities is important.

In the past, Japan used Takeshima as a transit point of maritime traffic and a fishing base, and established sovereignty over the islands in the mid-17th century. After the end of World War II, South Korea demanded the United States include Takeshima among territories Japan should give up, but Washington refused.

However, Seoul unilaterally established the “Syngman Rhee Line” in 1952 to demarcate the limits of its waters, including the Takeshima islands within its extended territory. It then illegally occupied the islands. South Korea has refused Tokyo’s proposal to settle the dispute at the International Court of Justice.

Raise awareness on islands

Results of a Cabinet Office survey released in August showed that 63 percent of Japanese polled knew that South Korea has illegally occupied the islands, and 61 percent realized they were an inherent part of Japanese territory. It is regrettable to say that these figures are not necessarily high. The government must make a greater effort to spread the correct understanding of the issue among the public.

In January, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry revised instruction manuals for its course of study for middle and high schools to stipulate for the first time that the Takeshima and Senkaku islands are inherent territories of Japan. This should help improve the public’s awareness of the government’s views on the Takeshima and Senkaku islands.

It is also important to disseminate Japan’s views on the territorial issues among other countries in the world. The Foreign Ministry last year uploaded to its website video footage explaining the government views on the territories in 12 languages, which attracted more than 1 million hits.

South Korea objected to the observance of “Takeshima Day” and demanded Tokyo stop sending a parliamentary secretary to the ceremony. However, its claim lacks legitimacy and is nothing but intervention in internal affairs.

Tokyo decided not to organize a government ceremony to mark the day as the Liberal Democratic Party had stipulated in its policy pledges for the last House of Representatives elections. It also did not send the prime minister or other ministers to the ceremony, though Shimane Prefecture invited them. We think these are appropriate diplomatic considerations made with the South Korean government in mind.

There are many other issues Japan and South Korea should work on together, such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord. The foreign ministries of both countries should carefully handle the dispute over the Takeshima islands so it does not become a major factor to hinder improvement of their bilateral relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 23, 2014)
(2014年2月23日01時41分  読売新聞)


河野談話 慰安婦証言を検証・公開せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 22, 2014
Govt should publicize comfort women testimony cited in Kono statement
河野談話 慰安婦証言を検証・公開せよ(2月22日付・読売社説)

The government should thoroughly get to the bottom of the manner in which a 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on so-called comfort women came to be.

At a Thursday meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, current Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he would study whether a government team should be established to examine the process of preparing the Kono statement.

The Kono statement expressed “apologies and remorse” to former comfort women. However, it has become clear that testimony by 16 former comfort women from South Korea—on which the statement was based—was not backed up by documents or other evidence.

Suga also said it was desirable to study the issue from academic points of view. It would thus be necessary to make public the transcripts of the former comfort women’s testimony—which are now classified—so historians and other experts can examine their contents.

Thursday’s meeting was also attended by Nobuo Ishihara, deputy chief cabinet secretary when the statement was issued in 1993.

Ishihara, serving as an unsworn witness, said the government conducted interviews with the former comfort women at the urging of South Korea. “The atmosphere would not allow us to demand investigations to back up their testimony,” Ishihara told the committee.

As the statement was issued without solid evidence, the Imperial Japanese Army has been viewed by the world as having forced young women to serve as comfort women.

Statement spawns problems

It is undeniable that the Kono statement has spawned many problems.

For example, a group of Americans with South Korean roots spearheaded a campaign to erect a statute of a girl symbolizing comfort women last year in Glendale, Calif.
An inscription beside the statue says, “In memory of more than 200,000 Asian and Dutch women who were removed from their homes...to be coerced into sexual slavery...” Such a campaign has started spreading across the United States.

Japan has been unable to wage effective counterarguments against South Korean campaigns, as the Kono statement included expressions that can be construed as acknowledgment by Japan of the forcible recruitment of women.

As a questioner at the committee meeting, Hiroshi Yamada, a lawmaker from Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restration Party), asked Ishihara to clarify whether the government at that time coordinated the wording of the statement with South Korea while preparing it.

“It can naturally be assumed that the wording was coordinated,” Ishihara said, though he said he did not personally confirm it. It is extremely problematic if the core part of the statement—saying that “at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments”—reflected the wishes of the South Korean side.

The South Korean government, which had not raised comfort women issues for a while after the Kono statement was released, has brought them up again and again in recent years. South Korean President Park Geun-hye is seeking new solutions from the Japanese government.

The government issued the Kono statement to show “good will” toward South Korea in the interest of building a forward-looking relationship between Japan and South Korea. However, it became clear that its intention was never understood. The government must expedite work to examine the Kono statement and correct errors as soon as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 22, 2014)
(2014年2月22日01時22分  読売新聞)


集団的自衛権 憲法解釈の変更に問題はない

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 21, 2014
Constitutional reinterpretation of collective defense right not problematic
集団的自衛権 憲法解釈の変更に問題はない(2月21日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his willingness to review the government’s current constitutional interpretation to enable the country to exercise its right of collective self-defense.

The envisaged reinterpretation is undoubtedly necessary to ensure peace and security for the nation, and we throw our support afresh behind the prime minister’s thinking.

In Thursday’s House of Representatives Budget Committee session, Abe indicated his intention to seek Cabinet approval of a new constitutional interpretation of the right of collective self-defense after holding discussions with the ruling camp. The discussions will follow a government feasibility study of the reinterpretation focusing on the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and releasing a report by a government-appointed expert panel in April, he said. Abe also told the committee that his administration will subsequently address such tasks as revising the Self-Defense Forces Law.

Given such developments as advances in military technology and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the time has come when it is difficult for the country to fully ensure the integrity of its land and territorial waters single-handedly.

In light of such realities as China’s military buildup and maritime expansionism as well as the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles, it is urgent and essential that Japan beef up its alliance with the United States, as well as other aspects of international cooperation, through changes to the government’s interpretation of the Constitution.

In response to an interpellation in a Budget Committee session last week, Abe said: “I am the one who is ultimately responsible [for a Cabinet decision on constitutional reinterpretation]. I, not the head of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, am also the one who will be evaluated by the people [regarding the reinterpretation issue] in an election.” His remarks, however, elicited objections even from some members of his own Liberal Democratic Party.

Since the government’s interpretation of the supreme law is statutorily up to the judgment of the cabinet as a whole based on advice from the Legislation Bureau, the prime minister’s statement is not wrong. It is regrettable, however, that his remarks seem to have created the misunderstanding that the prime minister can change the constitutional interpretation on his own as long as he can win an electoral victory. The prime minister is urged to be more scrupulous about providing convincing explanations.

Examining constitutionality

On the other hand, some parties including the Democratic Party of Japan are far off the mark in lambasting Abe’s acknowledgement of the exercise of Japan’s right of collective self-defense through a constitutional reinterpretation as being tantamount to violating “constitutionalism.”

Constitutionalism comprises two key elements: the guarantee of basic human rights and the separation of the three powers of state—executive, legislative and judicial. It places importance on governance in accordance with a constitution. Though a constitution places the government under constraints, it should not be considered the only thing that may be said about the top law.

The process through which the cabinet comes up with a new interpretation of the Constitution, the Diet approves legislation endorsing the reinterpretation and the judiciary adjudicates the legislation’s constitutionality explicitly conforms to constitutionalism.

What the government is now considering is a change of constitutional interpretation for the sake of maintaining the nation’s peace and prosperity in the face of a fast-changing security environment by ensuring a degree of logical consistency with the past government views on the matter.

Yusuke Yokobatake, deputy director general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, who has been said to be wary of altering constitutional interpretation, has said, “If the conclusion is reached that a reinterpretation of the Constitution should be deemed just and proper, it can no longer be said that no changes of interpretation are ever permissible.”

Changes of constitutional interpretation, as a matter of course, must not be allowed without limits. Should there be a danger of crossing such bounds, it would be more appropriate to revise the Constitution itself rather than its interpretation.

New Komeito, which has so far been reluctant to acknowledge exercise of the right of collective self-defense, has recently begun to indicate readiness to engage in discussions on the reinterpretation of the top law. Komeito Secretary General Yoshihisa Inoue has said on the record that his party does not “entirely oppose” discussing the issue.

To increase public understanding on the matter, the prime minister should advocate the Constitution’s reinterpretation as important and necessary with his head held high.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 21, 2014)
(2014年2月21日01時33分  読売新聞)


オバマ外交 アジア重視へ日米韓の連携を

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 20, 2014
Ties between Japan, U.S., ROK essential for Obama’s diplomacy
オバマ外交 アジア重視へ日米韓の連携を(2月20日付・読売社説)

To maintain peace and stability in Asia, the United States and its allies, including Japan and South Korea, must deepen their cooperative relations.

U.S. President Barack Obama has started to reshape his administration’s “pivot to Asia” diplomacy in an effort to restructure the currently shaken cooperative relationship among Japan, the United States and South Korea.

Earlier this month, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington, he visited South Korea, China and Indonesia. In late April, Obama is scheduled to make a tour of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Within Asia, China has made such conspicuous moves toward expansionism as the declaration of an air defense identification zone. The ongoing instability in North Korea has only heightened the nuclear threat. We believe Obama must have concluded that he ought to place greater emphasis on U.S. engagement with Asia.

In a meeting with Kerry, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his desire to shape a “new type of major country relationship” with the United States. While the United States would like to discourage China from going too far militarily, the two countries’ relationship of mutual economic dependence has served to further increase China’s importance.

With complicated interests at stake, how can the two countries shape a “major country relationship”? It is indeed a difficult issue.

In light of such circumstances, it is all the more indispensable for the United States to beef up cooperative ties with its allies.

Crisis felt by U.S.

Kerry has strongly urged the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers to improve their nations’ relationship. The U.S. administration must have felt a heightened sense of crisis over the deterioration of unity among Japan, South Korea and the United States, a cornerstone of its Asia strategy, due to Japan-South Korea confrontations over historical and other issues.

At a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, Kerry said, “We urge both of them [Japan and South Korea] to work with us together” to find a solution. His statement is regarded as an announcement that the United States will serve as a mediator between Japan and South Korea.

However, remedying the situation will not be easy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wishes to hold a summit meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye with no preconditions. However, Park has put forth various conditions, including that Japan yield to South Korea over the so-called wartime comfort women issue.

We are also concerned that the Japan-U.S. relationship has been on the rocks since the United States announced its “disappointment” over Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine in late December.

On the Yasukuni issue, Kerry said at the press conference, “I don’t think we need to dwell on it now.” However, the tone of some U.S. media outlets suggests distrust toward Japan.

The Japanese side has also expressed dissatisfaction. On a video sharing site, Seiichi Eto, a special adviser to the prime minister, made a public statement criticizing the United States, saying, “It was we who were disappointed that the United States said it was disappointed.” Although he later deleted the upload, his actions caused controversy.

Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae made a local plea for the U.S. government to clarify its stance. “We also want to see the United States make clear” who its friends and allies are, and who the troublemakers are, he said.

We ask Obama, who is strengthening his administration’s commitment to Asia, to adopt an attitude that recognizes afresh the importance of the Japan-U.S. relationship.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 20, 2014)
(2014年2月20日01時37分  読売新聞)


国連人権委報告 認定された北朝鮮「国家犯罪」

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 19, 2014
U.N. inquiry finds systematic state-sponsored crimes by N. Korea
国連人権委報告 認定された北朝鮮「国家犯罪」(2月19日付・読売社説)

The United Nations has issued a stern accusation of state crimes committed by North Korea, including abductions of Japanese nationals. The organization’s condemnation is likely to stoke strong international pressure on North Korea, and it will be important to use this international pressure as leverage to bring a resolution to the abduction issue.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has issued its report on the state of human rights in North Korea.

The report acknowledges “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” and concludes that these behaviors are “based on state policies.” The report finds that the violations constitute “crimes against humanity,” and the investigation panel recommends that the U.N. Security Council refer the domestic situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court for action.

The investigation panel was established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March last year, the product of a unanimous vote. The panel’s denunciation of state-sponsored crimes by North Korea is of great significance. The international community should not stand as an impassive observer, watching historic and ongoing human rights violations in North Korea.

The report is based on a massive quantity of testimonies made by many protected victims, witnesses and government officials in various countries. The document provided the entire picture of human rights violations in the country in a comprehensive manner.

It details the chilling reality of human rights violations including prison camps, arbitrary detention, torture, public executions, starvation as a policy implement, suppression of freedom and discrimination. The report points out, quite persuasively: “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

In particular, the report states unambiguously that abductions of foreign nationals including Japanese “were approved at the level of the Supreme Leader” under the three-generation dynastic regime of “Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un.” Michael Kirby, the inquiry panel’s chair, spoke of the possibility of examining the responsibility of Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korea’s ruling party.

Seeking end to abduction issue

North Korea provided no cooperation at all to the inquiry panel. It reacted strongly against the report, saying that the country “categorically and totally rejects the report.” However, North Korea cannot expect improved relations with the international community, indispensable to the rebuilding of its economy, unless it reverses the current woeful state of human rights in the country.

North Korea must, for example, take very seriously the report’s recommendations calling for the disclosure of complete information on abduction victims and the immediate return of surviving abductees to their home countries.

The report demonstrated that the abduction issue is a problem not only for Japan, but also a matter of grave concern for the international community as a whole. The panel’s findings can also be seen as one fruit of the diplomatic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who proactively engaged in the establishment of the inquiry panel.

We hope the government will seize the opportunity presented by heightened international concern over North Korea’s human rights situation. It must urge North Korea to resume bilateral talks and do its best to realize the immediate return of all abduction victims, the hand-over of the perpetrators of the abductions and the uncovering of the full truth behind the abductions.

There is no end of defectors from North Korea who have been forcibly returned to the country after entering China, and there have been cases in which defectors living in China were abducted by North Korean agents as well.

As a major power with influence over North Korea, China has a responsibility of its own to cooperate with the international community to improve the human rights situation in North Korea, including helping to resolve the abduction issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 19, 2014)
(2014年2月19日01時39分  読売新聞)


米債務上限問題 不毛な対立の棚上げは前進だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 16, 2014
U.S. Congress takes step forward by shelving showdown over borrowing
米債務上限問題 不毛な対立の棚上げは前進だ(2月16日付・読売社説)

With the turmoil in the U.S. Congress over government finances having been settled at last, the danger of President Barack Obama’s administration plunging into a debt default—the inability to service government bonds—has been averted, at least for the time being.

The ruling Democratic Party and the opposition Republican Party have repeatedly clashed over the debt cap issue, and the resolution for now of the thorny problem that has shackled the U.S. political system can be called a step forward. We welcome the congressional agreement.

The House of Representatives approved by a majority vote last Tuesday and the Senate approved by a majority vote Wednesday an increase in the federal debt limit, with no conditions attached, on the statutory ceiling on government borrowing through March 15, 2015. The ceiling is currently set at about $17.2 trillion.

Congressional approval was made possible by major concessions from the Republican Party at the initiative of senior Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, that were in line with the assertions of Obama and his Democratic Party.

In October last year, a Democrat-Republican standoff prevented the enactment of the federal budget for fiscal 2014, leading to a partial shutdown of government organizations. Government liabilities subsequently reached the maximum allowed, threatening to cause the United States to default on its debts. Republicans came under particularly heavy fire from the public for continuing to take a hard-line attitude.

The ruling and opposition parties later agreed to temporarily nullify the debt ceiling up until Feb. 7 this year, but they failed to reach an accord to raise the ceiling in time for the deadline.

The congressional impasse came against Republican conservatives’ insistence that any increase in the debt ceiling should be met by spending cuts equivalent to the rise in the limit.

Republicans under fire

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned that the government, even if making the best of budgetary handling, would default on its debts as early as toward the end of February. It seems that renewed turmoil over the debt ceiling would likely intensify public criticism against Republicans.

Midterm elections will take place in November. Taking public opinion into account, the Republican Party may have found it advisable to lay down its arms at this stage.

Toward the end of last year, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to set the budget for policy implementation at $1 trillion each in the coming two fiscal years, thus averting the risk of another government shutdown due to failure to pass budget legislation.

The settlement of these two issues, which should help stabilize stock and other financial markets, should serve as a tailwind for the U.S. economy, for which signs of recovery have been becoming brighter.

Arguments of the ruling and opposition parties, however, have remained wide apart over how the government should steer its fiscal policy. There are said to be people in the Republican Party who still criticize Boehner for being “weak-kneed” toward Democrats.

As a result, partisan confrontation may intensify all the more toward the midterm elections and the 2016 presidential election.

Conservatives in the Republican Party, holding up the goal of “small government,” have remained steadfastly opposed to Obama’s health care programs for the elderly and poor.

We hope to see Democrats and Republicans constructively engaging in policy discussions over a wide range of issues, including measures to the benefit of middle-income families and steps for rectifying economic disparities in the United States.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 16, 2014)
(2014年2月16日00時04分  読売新聞)


保険金不払い 顧客軽視の悪弊を断ち切れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 17, 2014
Irresponsible practices of insurance firms must be thoroughly addressed
保険金不払い 顧客軽視の悪弊を断ち切れ(2月17日付・読売社説)

It is a problem if practices of making light of customers still remain in corporate culture in a leading nonlife insurer.

It came to light recently that Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. had failed to partially pay out automobile insurance benefits that policyholders were entitled to over a period of more than 10 years.

The unpaid cases concerned special benefits in auto insurance to cover extra costs, such as consolatory money to be paid to victims injured in accidents or otherwise. According to the insurer, there may be more than 100,000 special benefit policies left unpaid.

Through an inspection of the life and nonlife insurance sectors led by the Financial Services Agency in 2005, nonpayment cases were discovered on an alarmingly large scale. The agency imposed a series of administrative punishments, resulting in a wave of corporate manager resignations.

With costly lessons learned, the insurance companies involved have taken measures to prevent a recurrence of nonpayments in the future.

However, it is a problem that Tokio Marine has decided to exclude the special benefits contracts when the company conducted internal inspections in 2005 and 2006.

Claiming that the company had applied the corporate rules of paying out the special benefits only if claims were made, Tokio Marine has still insisted that the company’s previous actions did not constitute nonpayment. However, this argument suggests that the company places the logic within its own circles rather than interests of its customers.

Some policyholders unfamiliar with insurance contracts failed to claim special benefits, which are in themselves quite diverse.

Insurers must explain

Responsibility lies with an insurance company to clearly explain the contract to policyholders, ensuring they do not fail to make their claims when they are most likely to be in a state of confusion after being involved in an accident.

Tokio Marine said the company changed its policy in July 2003 so that it would pay insurance benefits even if claims are not made. But the company failed to brief policyholders with the change in rules, at a time when they should have solved the nonpayment cases retrospectively.

At a press conference, Tsuyoshi Nagano, president of Tokio Marine, said, “We did all we could at the time,” justifying the company’s actions in the past. It is not surprising that the policyholders who were unable to claim their insurance benefits may be left unconvinced with such an explanation.

Many of them are just as skeptical about the stance of the Financial Services Agency, which considers the insurer’s actions as “not being a problem.”

Consumers may grow more distrustful of insurers that, while they have people sign insurance contracts by capitalizing on various kinds of special benefits, are unwilling to pay insurance benefits when accidents occur. To prevent such feelings, expectations are rising for Tokio Marine to explain itself and sincerely respond to policyholders.

Nagano has said that the company will flexibly deal with benefit payouts if claims are made from now on. But uncertainty hangs in the air because the company stores relevant data for nine years, meaning most of the data related to the unpaid special benefits have already been destroyed.

Tokio Marine should do all in its power to remedy the situation by consolidating what details can be gleaned from memory of its employees and examining any remaining copies of relevant documents with great care.

Other nonlife insurance companies would do well to heed Tokio Marine’s case not just as “someone else’s misfortune” but as a wake-up call to look out for and address any outstanding nonpayment cases.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 17, 2014)
(2014年2月17日00時04分  読売新聞)


高速有料の延長 安全確保にはやむを得ない

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 17, 2014
Expressway toll system must be continued to ensure safety
高速有料の延長 安全確保にはやむを得ない(2月17日付・読売社説)

With an extension of up to 15 years, or up until 2065, eyed for the expressway toll-collection system, the government has submitted a bill to the current Diet session for revising the Special Measures Law Concerning Road Construction and Improvement.

The rebuilding and repair of aging expressways is urgently needed to ensure the safety of their users.

About 40 percent of all expressway sections have been in use for 30 years or longer.

In December 2012, ceiling panels in the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture collapsed apparently due to aging, an incident that created many victims.

Because of its financial woes, the government can hardly afford to invest huge amounts of public funds into maintaining expressways. Extending the toll-collecting period is unavoidable as the expenses involved in renovations and repairs must be covered mainly by toll revenues.

Six expressway operators, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway Co., have recently estimated their renovation and repair costs to total ¥4 trillion in the next dozen years or so.

When privatizing then Japan Highway Public Corp. in 2005, the government came up with a projection to make expressways toll-free by having the public corporation’s debt of about ¥40 trillion repaid through toll revenues up until 2050.

The projection, however, failed to fully take into account the colossal expenses of repairs and related work in the future. There can be no denying that the projection was based on overly optimistic estimates.

All expressway companies must do their utmost to keep a tight rein on road renovation and repair costs so that expressway users in the future are not forced to shoulder excessively heavy burdens.

End toll-free policy

The expressway companies also should use their ingenuity for tapping private-sector funds through such measures as selling or renting the rights to use the space above expressways and the ground below elevated ones.

Another issue of high importance is the renovation of expressways to make them easier and safer to use, such as by making them wider and reducing the number of tight curves, instead of simply rebuilding aged expressways with few design improvements.

Thus we cannot help but find it questionable that the government has been continuing to uphold the goal of making expressways free of charge in the future.

Given that expressways will certainly remain in use regardless of whether they become toll-free, it is evident that additional expenses will be necessary to fund renovation and repair projects in the future. The problem of how to secure new sources of revenue to take the place of tolls is bound to be raised.

In light of this, it is unavoidable to thoroughly review the current expressway policy, which is premised on abolishing expressway tolls in the future. It may be a feasible option to continue to levy low tolls for many years to come.

It is reasonable that the government has now decided to reduce toll discounts for motor vehicles equipped with electronic toll-collection systems starting in April.

Since 2008, about ¥3 trillion of taxpayers’ money in the aggregate has been used for the toll discount system. Discounts, however, should be carried out as part of expressway operators’ services offered through their business management efforts.

The specifics of toll discounts have been changed with every change of administration, and they have become highly complicated and unintelligible in the eyes of drivers.

The current discount system should be scrutinized in terms of its effectiveness and be revamped into a new system to make the discounts more useful for such purposes as revitalizing distribution systems and alleviating traffic congestion on ordinary roads.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 17, 2014)
(2014年2月17日00時04分  読売新聞)


中国漁船長提訴 尖閣の主権を内外に明示した

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 15, 2014
JCG collision lawsuit is logical response to China’s actions over Senkakus
中国漁船長提訴 尖閣の主権を内外に明示した(2月15日付・読売社説)

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a logical response to China over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

The Japan Coast Guard has filed a lawsuit with the Naha District Court against the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that was operating in Japan’s territorial waters off the Senkakus when he intentionally rammed JCG patrol boats in defiance of a JCG order to stop in September 2010.

The government has repeatedly asked the Chinese side to cover the cost of repairing the JCG boats, but to no avail. It decided to file the lawsuit because the statute of limitations on damages will expire soon.

It is natural for the government to seek a judicial judgment based on domestic laws regarding an illegal act committed in Japan’s territorial waters.

It is also hugely significant that the lawsuit once again underscores Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands.

When the incident occurred, the administration of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan was subjected to outrageous protests from China. The Naha District Public Prosecutors Office released the arrested captain of the fishing boat—a difficult decision the Democratic Party of Japan administration was forced to make following a series of events, including the detention of Japanese citizens by Chinese authorities in an apparent tit-for-tat.

But the government’s excessively conciliatory stance weakened Japan’s assertions of sovereignty, leading China to trumpet its irrelevant claims. This is a lesson Japan should heed.

Since the ramming, China has been escalating its attempts to change the status quo regarding the Senkakus by force. The Abe administration must convey Japan’s assertions abroad to disseminate them widely in the international community. Maritime surveillance activities around the Senkaku Islands should not be neglected.

Video to back claim

“In filing the suit, we will submit video records to prove that the government’s claim is justified,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said, indicating that the JCG will make the video available to the general public upon request.

The video has been widely viewed after a JCG officer posted it on the video-sharing site YouTube and other developments.

But officially releasing the video to the public is intended to demonstrate to people both at home and abroad how just the Japanese government’s legal action is.

Viewing the video will make it clear that the Chinese captain was at fault for intentionally ramming the JCG boats.

Furthermore, the latest release of the video is apparently aimed at underscoring the significance of the law on protecting specially designated state secrets enacted last year.

The Kan administration deemed the leak of the video by the JCG official unpardonable, which prompted it to consider establishing a legal system to protect state secrets. However, Abe has said that the video showing the ramming should not be categorized as a specially designated secret.

Instead, as he has emphasized, the enactment of the law will prevent administrations from arbitrarily concealing information as they see fit.

The government is expected to appropriately distinguish between classified information connected to state security and information that does not cause harm when released to the public.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 15, 2014)
(2014年2月15日00時13分  読売新聞)


中台閣僚級会談 歴史的な一歩にはなったが

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 14, 2014
Beijing-Taipei ties mark historic advance, but much remains uncertain
中台閣僚級会談 歴史的な一歩にはなったが(2月14日付・読売社説)

Relations between China and Taiwan have entered a new chapter with the recent commencement of direct government-to-government dialogue.

We should keep a close eye on whether this latest development will boost stability in East Asia by helping ease tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

The chiefs of the highest-level governmental offices in charge of cross-strait affairs—Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, and Wang Yu-chi, head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council—met in Nanjing on Tuesday and agreed to establish a permanent channel of communication between the two sides.

This is the first time a ministerial-level meeting between officials tasked with policies on China-Taiwan affairs has taken place since the 1949 split.

There has so far been no framework for dialogue between the Chinese and Taiwan authorities, with Beijing and Taipei refusing to acknowledge the other’s sovereignty. Talks on such subjects as bilateral economic cooperation have been conducted via “quasi-official” organizations on both sides.

From now, various forms of direct cross-strait interchanges between the Chinese and Taiwan authorities will be considered, including exchanging permanent representative offices.

It seems, however, there are major differences in the Chinese and Taiwan governments’ intentions in bringing about the historic ministerial-level talks.

President Ma Ying-jeou may primarily seek to gain China’s agreement to ease its trade regulations so as to expand Taiwan’s business opportunities in China, while pushing for China to acknowledge Taiwan’s status as a party to international economic agreements.

Can Xi-Ma talks take place?

Ma may have placed his hopes on restoring his popular support by realizing such outcomes. With unified local elections scheduled for toward the end of the year, the Ma administration’s popularity ratings have been painfully low due to reasons including the slowdown in Taiwan’s economic growth, widening economic disparities, corruption scandals involving Ma’s close aides and internal strife in his governing Nationalist Party (Kuomintang).

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in contrast, must have certainly considered the cross-strait talks as a launching point for political consultations for China-Taiwan unification.

However, Taiwan is wary of having political consultations with China, as a great majority of Taiwan’s residents support the status quo and reject the idea of unification with China.

The current focus of attention is on whether a meeting between Ma and Xi can be held at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit meeting scheduled for this coming autumn in Beijing.

Wheeling and dealing will continue between Taiwan, which places priority on gaining practical benefits, and China, which sees a direct cross-strait channel of communication as a foothold for political consultations for unification.

In spite of the creation of full-scale interchanges between Chinese and Taiwan authorities, there has been no change at all in the basic security situation surrounding Taiwan. China has not given up its long-standing option of eventually taking back Taiwan, by force if necessary. Taiwan, for its part, is dependent on the backing by the United States for such matters as purchasing weapons.

For Japan, Taiwan is most certainly an important neighbor for restraining China’s acts of hegemony in such areas as the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands.

While watching closely what impact closer China-Taiwan ties will have on the future of the regional situation, Japan should make efforts to further boost its friendly relations with Taiwan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 14, 2014)
(2014年2月14日01時44分  読売新聞)


診療報酬改定 「病院依存」から転換できるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 13, 2014
Steer patients toward home-based care through revision of medical fees list
診療報酬改定 「病院依存」から転換できるか(2月13日付・読売社説)

Will the latest proposal from a key health ministry panel trigger a retreat from excessive reliance on hospital-based treatment and attach greater importance to home health-care services?

On Wednesday, the Central Social Insurance Medical Council adopted a set of recommendations for revising the list of medical treatment fees. These medical service payments constitute a portion of the income earned by medical institutions.

The advisory panel’s proposal calls for tightening requirements for medical care involving the use of beds designated as equipment for patients in the acute stage, a practice that can incur higher bills for seriously ill patients. Meanwhile, the proposal would pay higher fees for services involving beds that are used to place greater emphasis on rehabilitation so patients can leave the hospital at an early date.

The average number of days spent in hospitals by patients in this country is greater than in the United States and Europe. This has contributed to an enormous increase in national medical care expenditures.

The graying of Japanese society is expected to accelerate. A number of older people suffer from chronic diseases that can be managed with home-based treatment. In light of this situation, it was a sound decision for the advisory panel to call for a reduction in the number of beds for acute stage treatments and for efforts to encourage patients to leave the hospital at an early date.

The question is how to move forward in consolidating hospital beds that are classified by curative purpose.

Previous revisions to the schedule of medical treatment fees by the health ministry have caused significant confusion among medical institutions.

Revisions made to fees involving beds used to treat acutely ill patients in fiscal 2006 exacerbated this potential for confusion. The revisions set fees for medical services involving acute treatment beds at a higher level, which encouraged many hospitals to set up more of these beds than necessary and contributed to a surplus of them.

This resulted in medical institutions scrambling for nurses, because the use of such beds requires more nurses to provide appropriate care for acutely ill patients. The situation also fostered a tendency among nurses to prefer to work in urban areas, leading to an uneven distribution of such medical workers.

Negative impact clear

The adverse impact of the 2006 revisions was also evident in the many hospitals providing elderly people with treatments using beds designated for critically ill patients. However, the fact is that many of them are placed in such beds despite improvements in their conditions.

The ministry needs to acknowledge that it should have been more thorough in designing a new system for medical treatment fees in 2006.

There also is cause for apprehension about the latest proposed revisions. If fees for services involving beds for patients undergoing rehabilitation are set at a higher compensation level, it could create a spike in the number of hospitals seeking to take advantage of that. It seems likely that an excessive number of rehabilitation-designated beds could encourage patients to stay in the hospital, despite their ailments being treatable through home-based health services.

It is essential that the ministry take adequate measures to prevent a large surplus in beds for rehabilitation treatments.

The latest proposal would expand the pricing schedule to include fees for practicing doctors’ management of patients receiving home-based care. The plan is intended to ensure stability in the conditions of older patients receiving home-based treatment. However, because there is a perceived preference among older patients for large hospitals, it is unclear whether they would desire treatment from outpatient doctors as their regular physicians.

Consolidating purpose-classified hospital beds requires more than revisions to the fee schedule. It will also be necessary to accurately determine the number of beds needed in each region for acutely ill patients and patients in rehabilitation.

In fiscal 2015 or later, the national government intends to require Tokyo and all prefectural governments to put together new community-based health care plans that must include the number of rehabilitation beds needed by each community. The move is aimed at improving the quality of current community-based care schemes, which were prepared by the local governments. The national government is seeking to establish relevant legislation during the current Diet session.

Given the authority possessed by each municipality to supervise medical institutions in its area, Tokyo and all prefectural governments have a significant role to play in achieving a good balance in the consolidation of hospital beds.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 13, 2014)
(2014年2月13日01時15分  読売新聞)


アラブの春3年 新たな政治体制へ模索が続く

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 12, 2014
Nations groping for new political systems 3 years after Arab Spring
アラブの春3年 新たな政治体制へ模索が続く(2月12日付・読売社説)

Three years have already passed since the Arab Spring democracy movements that saw people rising up in search of freedom.

In Middle Eastern countries where long-reigning dictatorial regimes were brought down, moves to seek new systems of governance have been ongoing.

Egypt and Tunisia have managed to establish new constitutions that stipulate democratic procedures. We can safely say these nations took a step forward toward enhanced freedom and the establishment of a rule of law.

In Egypt, there was a prolonged state of confusion after the administration of Hosni Mubarak was brought down. Although Mohamed Morsi from the Islamist organization Muslim Brotherhood was elected as president, he was dismissed by the military as he lost the confidence of the people because he overzealously tried to expand the influence of Muslim Brotherhood.

Even under such circumstances, countries such as Japan and the United States, as well as European nations, have continued providing assistance to the provisional military-backed government. These actions were based on the common interest of avoiding a situation in which Egypt, a strategically important country in the Middle East region, will be destabilized again.

The turning point for resolving the disorderly situation was the approval of the revised Constitution, drafted by a committee comprising representatives from various sectors, in a national referendum in January.

Compared with the previous Constitution, which had strong Islamist elements, the current Constitution is distinguished by its consideration of an appropriate balance between the teachings of Islam and secularism. The new top law retained an article to respect Islamic laws, while it clearly stipulates new human rights protections including “gender equality.”

Countries struggling

The revised Constitution also has an article that requires approval by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in appointing the defense minister for eight years from now. This means veto power is given to the military when the government forms a cabinet. We believe the people of Egypt approved the revised Constitution as many of them thought it would be impossible to prevent confusion without dependence on the military.

In the coming spring, a fresh presidential election will be held and a full-fledged administration will be launched. Still, we are afraid a situation in which part of Muslim Brotherhood, labeled by the provisional government as a “terror organization” and suppressed, will resort to radical action.

In reactivating its economy, it may be indispensable for the country to improve public safety and get foreign tourists and investment back to the country.

In Tunisia, the first country where a dictatorial administration collapsed due to public demonstrations and protests, the National Constituent Assembly recently adopted a new Constitution. Including human rights protection articles such as freedom of religion, the content of the new charter is much more progressive than that of Egypt. The freedom sought by the country's general public was then realized in a form of the Constitution.

Yemen and Libya—where dictators were driven away from power—are still in the process of establishing a new top law, while the two countries must deal with tribal and regional hostility.

The situation is most serious in Syria, where the civil uprising turned into a civil war. Dictator Bashar Assad still sits in the seat of president, holding on to power. Although an international peace conference was held, there appears to be no prospect for a ceasefire.

The Arab Spring has brought about complicated changes in the Middle East. Japan, which depends on the Middle East for most of its imported crude oil, also needs to keep a close eye on the country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 12, 2014)
(2014年2月12日01時11分  読売新聞)


タクシン、アピシット、インラック wikipedia で比較してみました

Thaksin Shinawatra

Abhisit Vejjajiva

Yingluck Shinawatra




日露首脳会談 信頼醸成を「領土」につなげよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 11, 2014
Abe-Putin confidence-building must lead to resolving territorial dispute
日露首脳会談 信頼醸成を「領土」につなげよ(2月11日付・読売社説)

The confidence-building relationship between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin has deepened, but now it is being put to the test.

Abe met with Putin Saturday after attending the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics for the fifth bilateral summit with the Russian leader since the prime minister returned to the post in December 2012.

Even though leaders of the United States and major European countries did not attend the opening ceremony citing Russia’s human rights record, Abe decided to visit Sochi on a tight three-day schedule.

Putin gave Abe a warm reception, saying, “I’m very grateful for your attendance at the opening ceremony,” and he hosted a luncheon for the prime minister. The meeting is believed to have been effective in building confidence between the two leaders, as seen by the fact that they called each other by their first names.

Putin’s visit to Japan this autumn was decided during the meeting. Hailing the recent expansion of bilateral trade, the Russian leader said he would dispatch his Cabinet ministers in charge of agriculture, railways and energy to Japan, plus top company executives.

Development of the Russian Far East and East Siberia is regarded by Putin as “a national project to be undertaken by the country on a priority basis in the 21st century.” Offering cooperation in the development of natural gas and other resources is expected to prove beneficial also for Japan, because of this country’s scarcity of fossil fuels.

The thing is that negotiations on the return of four Russian-occupied islands off Hokkaido, a major concern for Japan, have made little headway.

Resolution remains remote

Abe reportedly said he “wants to carry out talks in concrete terms.” In response, Putin was quoted as saying, “Efforts will be made toward a solution.” However, a political decision on the matter is a long way off.

In vice foreign ministerial talks in Tokyo late last month, the two countries failed to iron out their differences. Russia has repeated its conventional stance that the four northern islands became part of its territory as a result of World War II.

Japan should insist that Russia’s claim is not based on historical facts.

The former Soviet Union reneged on the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact and declared war on Japan in the closing days of World War II. It invaded the Kuril Islands after Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration and it occupied the four islands, which it then unilaterally integrated into its territory. The four islands are not included in the Kuril Islands that Japan relinquished when it signed the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Russia’s internal politics are also a matter of concern. To ward off public discontent, Putin has come up with populist policies. The situation does not seem ripe yet for Russia to make a concession on the northern territories.

Prior to his summit with Abe, Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and confirmed that the two countries would jointly sponsor events in 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of their victory in World War II. Japan must realize that Beijing and Moscow are acting in concert in dealing with an issue involving Japan’s history.

To make progress in resolving the territorial issue, it is imperative to closely examine the true intentions of Putin administration’s domestic and foreign policies, while reinforcing Japan-Russia relations from a wide perspective.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 11, 2014)
(2014年2月11日01時35分  読売新聞)


東京都知事選 無責任な「原発ゼロ」信任されず

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 10, 2014
Voters in Tokyo gubernatorial election spurn irresponsible antinuclear drive
東京都知事選 無責任な「原発ゼロ」信任されず(2月10日付・読売社説)


The outcome of Sunday’s Tokyo gubernatorial election can be said to attest to the strongly negative reaction by the majority of Tokyo residents to unrealistic arguments for an immediate end to nuclear power generation.

Former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe won an overwhelming victory in the race for the top post of the nation’s capital.

Masuzoe pledged in the campaign to make Tokyo the world’s No. 1 metropolis, stressing his resolve to do his utmost regarding Tokyo’s social welfare services, antidisaster measures and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympics.

Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa and former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations Kenji Utsunomiya were the two other major candidates in the Tokyo contest, and campaigned against reactivation of nuclear plants by calling for nuclear power generation to be immediately reduced to zero. Utsunomiya finished a distant second to Masuzoe and Hosokawa a distant third.

Their electoral tactics focused on nuclear and energy issues, which should be dealt with primarily in the arena of national politics. Wasn’t this off the mark in the gubernatorial race, which is a local election?

‘Single-issue’ campaign

Hosokawa’s decision to run immediately before the official announcement of the election dramatically changed the nature of the election drives for a new Tokyo governor. In tandem with fellow former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose popularity is still markedly high, Hosokawa focused his campaign efforts on the choice between whether to eliminate nuclear power plants or not.

There is precedent of an election campaign focused on a single issue: While in office, former Prime Minister Koizumi led the Liberal Democratic Party to a sweeping triumph in a House of Representatives election by focusing on the pros and cons of postal privatization. However, similar tactics failed to work this time.

According to voting day exit polls by The Yomiuri Shimbun, voters gave considerably less weight to issues related to nuclear plants and energy policy than they did to medical services and social welfare, and business growth and employment.

Hosokawa asserted, “There will be little difference in policies regarding anything but the nuclear power problem no matter who is elected to the governorship,” but failed to refer to any specific measures to secure renewable energy sources that would serve as the pillar to replace nuclear power generation. There is no choice but to call that way of campaigning extremely irresponsible.

Fuel costs for the thermal power generation currently taking the place of idled nuclear plants have kept ballooning, causing electricity charges to rise repeatedly. Anxiety is also on the rise over the environmental impact of the increasing carbon dioxide emissions resulting from thermal power generation.

Arguing in abstract terms in favor of reducing nuclear power to zero, without taking these problems into account, can never be convincing.

Masuzoe, in contrast, expressed his belief that energy policy should be handled primarily by the central government, pledging that he would make efforts to enhance the percentage of renewable energy in Tokyo’s total power consumption. In addition, his campaign placed high importance on issues close to Tokyo residents’ daily lives, such as improving the metropolitan government’s support for child rearing.

Many Tokyo residents may have high hopes regarding Masuzoe’s stance, which was well geared to the realities of their day-to-day lives.

War between Koizumi, Abe

Earlier on there were some within the LDP who were wary of throwing the party’s support behind Masuzoe, who was expelled from the party for criticizing it. In response to the moves by Hosokawa and Koizumi, however, the LDP eventually embarked on full-scale support of Masuzoe.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba and other party leaders made campaign speeches for Masuzoe. They probably concluded that if Hosokawa gained more votes than expected, it could adversely affect the envisaged restart of nuclear power plants or even the growth strategy championed by the Abe administration.

Koizumi, who can be referred to in a sense as the protagonist on the stage of Tokyo election, has been a political mentor to Abe, and has urged the prime minister since last year to make a political decision to halt nuclear power generation immediately.

But Abe did not comply with Koizumi’s call, causing a rift between the two. It cannot be denied that the Tokyo gubernatorial election also became a proxy war between Abe and Koizumi.

At the Diet, Abe said there was no way for his administration to say, “We will end nuclear power generation now,” citing the possible adverse effects on people’s lives and economic activity.

His administration should consider nuclear power as an important source of electricity in the government’s basic energy plan, which is to be decided on shortly, and squarely tackle the issue of restarting nuclear power plants.

The stance of the Democratic Party of Japan is questionable. The party initially indicated it would support Masuzoe but later shifted its stance to back Hosokawa.

The DPJ has advocated halting nuclear power generation sometime in the 2030s, so its stance is actually different from Hosokawa’s desire to halt nuclear power generation immediately. This is nothing less than an ad-hoc response.

With the crushing defeat of Hosokawa in the election, the scheme of reorganizing opposition parties, which some within the DPJ have been advocating and centers on the idea of breaking away from nuclear power generation, will stall.

There is a mountain of issues that the metropolitan government has to tackle, including how to deal with the aging society and low birthrate, which Masuzoe mentioned in his campaign speeches.

One in every four people in Tokyo will be elderly six years from now. Due to difficulty in securing plots of land, the shortage of facilities for the aged, including homes for elderly people requiring special care, will become ever more serious.

During the campaign, Masuzoe promised to utilize plots of idle land owned by the metropolitan government. He must present concrete steps to that end. We also hope he will fulfill his pledge to reduce the number of children on waiting lists for certified day care centers to zero in four years.

The new governor will also assume a heavy responsibility for making preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Masuzoe has repeatedly promised that he would aim at realizing the “best Olympics in history.”

The metropolitan government has a ¥400 billion fund set aside for preparations for the 2020 Games. Needless to say, the Tokyo government has to move ahead without delay with construction work on athletic arenas and other facilities, while at the same time avoiding waste and securing transparency in the spending of the money.

Build relations of trust

It is also important to prepare for a major quake whose focus is directly below Tokyo, a quake that has a 70 percent possibility of occurring within 30 years. It is urgent to boost fire resistance in areas packed with wooden houses and to improve dilapidated infrastructure, measures that are lagging behind.

Former Gov. Naoki Inose often acted too arbitrarily on his own authority. We hope Masuzoe will manage the administration of the Tokyo government in a modest manner, without becoming puffed up from his overwhelming victory.

For Masuzoe to steadily achieve his campaign promises, it is important to build a solid relationship of trust with the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, in addition to displaying leadership to lead the colossal organization of the Tokyo metropolitan government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 10, 2014)
(2014年2月10日00時15分  読売新聞)


日米外相会談 強固な同盟をアジアに示そう

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 10, 2014
Japan, U.S. should show strength of their alliance to rest of Asia
日米外相会談 強固な同盟をアジアに示そう(2月9日付・読売社説)

Strained relations between Japan and the United States will only benefit China and North Korea. Tokyo and Washington must show the strength of their alliance to the whole Asian region.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida visited the United States and held separate talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. They agreed that Japan and the United States will deal jointly with China without accepting the Chinese-claimed air defense identification zone over the East China Sea.

“We will deal calmly but resolutely with China’s attempts to change the status quo with force,” said Kishida. Kerry reiterated the U.S. position that the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands, is covered by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty that stipulates the U.S. obligation to defend Japan.

Washington expressed its disappointment over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine late last year, revealing its position to be different from Tokyo’s. At the first foreign ministerial meeting since then, however, it is significant that Kishida and Kerry clearly confirmed enhancement of the Japan-U.S. alliance and coordination of their policies vis-a-vis China.

Building strong and stable relations between Japan and U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration with its emphasis on Asia will greatly contribute to peace and prosperity in the whole Asian region. Japan should make Obama’s visit to Japan, scheduled for April, an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance to the rest of the international community.

Kishida and Kerry agreed that the cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea is important to deal with North Korea’s nuclear ambition and other issues. Kishida indicated his intention to improve Japan-South Korea ties by accumulating successes in working-level, tangible cooperation between the two countries.

Fix Japan-S. Korea ties

It is not clear what North Korea will do next. Pyongyang has shown its emphasis on a willingness to participate in dialogue by agreeing with South Korea to allow reunions of families separated by the Korean War, while strongly opposing the U.S.-South Korea military exercises scheduled late this month.

To urge Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions, Japan, the United States and South Korea should not march to different drummers. Mutual efforts by both Japan and South Korea are indispensable to repair their bilateral relations, which have become ice-cold due to disputes over the Takeshima islands and the issue of the so-called comfort women.

The Japanese and U.S. foreign ministers also agreed to proceed steadily with the transfer of functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Okinawa Prefecture, and to start negotiations on a new bilateral treaty to allow environmental field studies at U.S. bases in Japan that are scheduled to be returned to the Japanese government.

The envisaged new treaty is expected to smooth the way for the planned return of U.S. bases in Japan. We hope both governments will reach a conclusion as soon as possible to make stationing of U.S. forces in Japan, a foundation of their deterrence in the Asia-Pacific region, sustainable.

Kishida and Kerry also agreed to accelerate bilateral talks in an effort to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact as soon as possible. The negotiations on the trade agreement are now deadlocked.

Tokyo and Washington have differing opinions over whether to abolish tariffs on five Japanese farm products. It may be time for the United States to review its commitment to a hard-line policy and demonstrate some flexibility from a common strategic viewpoint shared by Japan and the United States to create a new free trade system in the Asia-Pacific region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 9, 2014)
(2014年2月9日00時23分  読売新聞)