ODA大綱改定 平和構築へ戦略性を高めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Peace-building efforts should be strategic priority of ODA
ODA大綱改定 平和構築へ戦略性を高めよ

Japan should make active use of its official development assistance programs to help crystallize the goal of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in transforming the country into a “proactive contributor to peace.”

On Thursday, a Foreign Ministry panel of experts presented a report to Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida after wrapping up discussions on a review of Japan’s ODA Charter, a set of principles governing the country’s overseas development aid. The government is set to give Cabinet approval to a new ODA Charter by the end of the year, completing the first major review in 11 years.

The report cites the “pursuit of international peace through nonmilitary activities” as one of the guiding principles of ODA funding.

Conventionally, the government has banned assisting foreign military forces with Japan’s ODA. The report by the panel, however, recommends that aid to foreign militaries be permitted on a case-by-case basis, asserting that support for armed forces activities concerning nonmilitary objectives such as stabilizing citizens’ livelihoods and disaster relief “should not be excluded uniformly” simply because they are military-related.

A number of potential projects would be included in the envisioned uses of ODA funding, including improvement of ports, harbors and airports for joint military and civilian use and inviting military personnel from abroad for disaster relief training and other nonmilitary operations.

Many countries have been utilizing military forces in peace-building, the enhancement of people’s living standards and other objectives. ODA disbursements are an important diplomatic policy resource for Japan, and utilizing those funds for such purposes is commendable and in keeping with the philosophy of “proactive contribution to peace.”

Coordination with U.N.

Regarding ODA funding for the purpose of peace-building, the government has decided to provide the Philippines with 10 patrol boats using yen loans. A provision of patrol boats to Vietnam is also being considered.

China has been maneuvering to make maritime advances by force in the South China Sea. Helping the Philippines and Vietnam beef up their maritime security capabilities will help to ensure the safety of key sea lanes vital to maritime transport of trade and energy for Japan. Such strategic use of ODA must be expanded.

The report also proposes advocating strengthened coordination between Japan’s ODA and U.N. peacekeeping activities. This suggestion is based on the National Security Strategy approved by the Cabinet last December, which calls for a similar roadmap.

Under the strategy, Self-Defense Forces members participating in U.N. peacekeeping activities will engage in projects such as building roads and facilities, while the Japan International Cooperation Agency helps ODA-recipient countries expedite their nation-building endeavors. Every possible effort must be made to ensure optimal synergy between SDF activities and JICA operations.

Japan’s ODA missions are marking their 60th anniversary this year. The government’s budgetary appropriations for ODA projects peaked in fiscal 1997 at about ¥1.17 trillion, and have been on the decline, standing at about ¥550 billion for the current fiscal year, less than half the peak level. Now is the time to put the brakes on the downward trend in ODA outlays.

The report also stresses the significance of increasing the roles played by private-sector funds in developmental cooperation fields.

It is estimated that private-sector funds flowing from industrially advanced countries into developing countries total around 2.5 times as much capital as the aggregate of all global ODA.

Improving infrastructure in developing nations though an organic linking of government ODA with the business activities of Japanese companies should run parallel to Japan’s growth strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 27, 2014)


首相沖縄訪問 米軍基地負担を着実に減らせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Government must work to reduce Okinawa U.S. base-hosting burdens
首相沖縄訪問 米軍基地負担を着実に減らせ

The government must make utmost efforts to steadily ease the burden that hosting U.S. military bases places on Okinawa Prefecture.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a memorial service on Monday for those killed in the war commemorating the 69 years since the end of the Battle of Okinawa, which raged just before the Pacific War came to an end in 1945.

In a speech at the ceremony, Abe said: “We will give consideration to the feelings of the people of Okinawa and will do our best to reduce their burden for hosting the bases, while assuming a stance of carrying out what we can do as much as possible.”

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima last December approved a reclamation project necessary to transfer the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district in Nago. Nakaima had previously called for “relocation to a place outside Okinawa” in a peace declaration at the ceremony for three consecutive years, 2011-13. This year, however, he changed his wording to shift away from insistence on a plan for relocation outside of Okinawa.

His difficult about-face on the matter came as strong calls persist among prefectural residents for relocation outside of Okinawa. To show good faith in supporting Nakaima after his wrenching decision, the government must implement various measures to reduce the prefecture’s burden in hosting U.S. military bases.

The Futenma issue is expected to be a major topic of contention in November’s gubernatorial election, as Nakaima’s term in office ends. Nakaima remains uncommitted on whether he will run for a third term. At the same time, the conservative mayor of Naha, an opponent of the Henoko relocation plan, has been seeking to run in the election.

To minimize the impact of the gubernatorial election results on the relocation plan, it is imperative to take every possible measure.

Advance return of Futenma

The central government reportedly plans to begin boring as part of soil investigations at the planned reclamation site in July and to advance construction work on replacement facilities ahead of schedule as much as possible. It is imperative that the planned return of Futenma Air Station and associated land to Japan, targeted for fiscal 2022 and onward, be advanced as much as possible by speeding design and construction.

Tokyo and Washington agreed last week to restrict entry into the area scheduled for land reclamation and the surrounding waters at all times.

This may be an inevitable step to preclude obstruction by opponents and avoid unexpected confusion. To help promote the work, not only the Defense Ministry but also the National Police Agency, as well as the Japan Coast Guard and other relevant organizations, must join hands in taking all possible measures.

The government is also looking into the possibility of drastically pushing forward the return of Camp Kinser in Makiminato, which has been targeted for return to Japan in 2024-25 or later.

Japan and the United States have also been negotiating to conclude a new agreement under which environmental surveys for U.S. bases to be returned to Japan would be conducted in advance. This could amount to a de facto revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. If such a change were to be realized, it would have a great significance.

As for training involving the U.S. military’s MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft deployed at the Futenma base, efforts must be made to move more training to areas outside of Okinawa Prefecture. It is essential that the prefecture’s heavy burden be shared broadly across the whole of Japan.

Moving forward with the realignment of U.S. bases in Okinawa, while maintaining deterrence capabilities of U.S. troops, and completing this work in conjunction with regional development, will be an important part of reinforcing trust between the Abe administration and the local governments and residents of Okinawa.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2014)


被災地の防潮堤 地域に応じた見直しが必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Seawall plans should be amended to suit the needs of local people
被災地の防潮堤 地域に応じた見直しが必要だ

Plans to build huge seawalls along the coastal areas hit hardest by the Great East Japan Earthquake have been met with staunch opposition from local residents one after another. We urge the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectural governments to calmly reexamine their seawall plans and alter them as necessary.

In the 2011 earthquake, 60 percent of seawalls with a total length of about 300 kilometers in the three prefectures were either seriously damaged or destroyed. The central and three prefectural governments are currently pushing a project to build 390 kilometers of new seawalls with ¥800 billion from state coffers.

To prepare for tsunami, adequately sized seawalls must be constructed. The problem is that many communities are opposed to the project as local residents consider the proposed walls “too high.”
“[The seawalls] will leave less land available along the coasts, adversely affecting fisheries” and “They will block ocean views” are two of the opinions expressed by local residents.

Miyagi Prefecture has yet to win approval for the project from 40 of 276 communities where the construction of new seawalls is planned.

Compared to the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which struck mainly urban areas, the disaster-hit regions in the three Tohoku prefectures are mostly depopulated. If the fishery and tourism industries on which local residents depend decline, their livelihood would be severely affected.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, is among those who have questioned the advisability of building such high seawalls, saying, “I’m not sure that reconstruction should be carried out in such a way that it will block ocean views.” We completely understand their concerns.

Study cost-effectiveness

The higher the seawall is the more effective it will be as a safeguard against tsunami. But on the other hand, higher seawalls are more expensive to construct, ruin scenic views and take a toll on the environment. Such seawalls also entail higher maintenance costs. Moreover, the life of concrete seawalls is roughly 50 years, which makes rebuilding them inevitable at some point in the future.

Also from the viewpoint of cost-effectiveness, the project should be carefully studied.

Each of the three prefectures has decided on the height of the seawalls based on guidelines compiled by an examination committee of experts at the Central Disaster Management Council. The standard of seawalls in the guidelines is to protect the lives and property of local residents in the event of a huge tsunami, which can occur once in a few decades or more than a century.

Under its plan, Miyagi Prefecture will raise the height of its seawalls from the pre-disaster average of four meters to 7.5 meters. That height, however, will be insufficient to block gigantic tsunami equivalent to those in the Great East Japan Earthquake, which are said to occur once in a millennium.

Instead, the purpose of building seawalls should be to reduce the force of tsunami, thereby securing more time for residents to flee the area. It is important to ensure the construction of seawalls is a part of comprehensive measures to minimize damage from a disaster that also include the establishment of evacuation centers and routes.

Some communities have lowered the planned height of seawalls, while taking such measures as transferring houses to higher ground and building seawalls in locations further inland.

If the prefectural governments insist on keeping the planned heights and invite a backlash from local residents as a result, it will further delay work to implement disaster management measures and scuttle efforts to rebuild communities, and placing roadblocks in the path of reconstructing people’s lives.

Bearing this in mind, the prefectural governments must listen to what local residents have to say.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 201


河野談話検証 外交的配慮が事実に優先した

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Diplomatic consideration outweighed historical facts in Kono statement
河野談話検証 外交的配慮が事実に優先した

Once again a flaw in the 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on so-called comfort women has come to the fore.

A team of experts set up by the government has compiled a report examining the process of drafting the Kono statement, which was issued in August 1993 and expressed apologies and remorse to former comfort women.

South Korea demanded changes in certain expressions in the initial draft, saying The documents must be evaluated favorably by the South Korean people. The report shed light on the close coordination about the statement’s wording between the Japanese and South Korean governments.

Regarding whether coerciveness was involved in the recruitment of comfort women, a focal point of this issue, the 1993 statement said, “They were recruited generally against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc.”

In explaining why the statement used such expressions, the report clearly said, “...the question of how ‘coerciveness’ of the recruitment of the comfort women would be expressed and worded in the statement constituted the main issue of contention in the communication” with the South Korean side and “Coordination took place until the last moment.”

As for the Japanese military’s involvement in the establishment of comfort stations, the South Korean side insisted on using the expression “instruction,” which was rejected by Japan, the report said. Both sides eventually settled on the word “request” instead.

At the request of the South Korean government, the Japanese government interviewed 16 former comfort women, but the statement was drafted within the Japanese government before all the interviews were concluded.

Problem-plagued statement

It is clear that the government gave priority to making political compromises and paying diplomatic consideration over historical facts. It is a problem-plagued statement made jointly by Japan and South Korea.

Until this time, the Japanese government had avoided in-depth discussions to ascertain the facts regarding the issue of comfort women and the Kono statement.

Examining in detail the process of drafting the statement and releasing the results are meaningful in resolving misunderstanding in the international community about the issue of comfort women.

According to the report, the statement did not say the authorities were “forcefully taking away” women, as the Japanese government was not able to confirm it based on its investigations.

But at a press conference during which the statement was released, Kono responded to a question about whether women were forcefully taken away by saying, “We accept that to be the case.” Kono committed a serious transgression by further spreading wrong conceptions about the issue.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear that the government will not review the statement, a decision he probably made from the broader political perspective of seeking an improvement in relations between Japan and South Korea. Seoul, however, refuted Japan’s verification of the statement, saying the move could “impair the credibility of the statement.”

Since the Kono statement, there has been widespread misunderstanding in the world that Japan forcibly took away comfort women.

In the U.S. city of Glendale, Calif., Korean-Americans with strong ties with South Korea engaged in anti-Japanese activity by setting up a statue of a comfort woman.

The government has not launched effective counterarguments because of the Kono statement.

We believe it will eventually be unavoidable to change the statement.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 21, 2014)



June 19, 2014
EDITORIAL: Ishihara’s remark about interim storage facility adds insult to injury

No doubt about it. Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara’s insensitive remark about the problem of selecting a site to temporarily store radiation-contaminated soil reflected a slice of the grim reality of the terrible mess caused by the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“In the end, it will come down to money,” Ishihara said, giving the impression that giving wads of cash to residents in Fukushima Prefecture was the only way to resolve the problem.

Indeed, there are a slew of issues in areas affected by the nuclear catastrophe that cannot be solved without payments of money. A huge amount of funds will be needed to pay compensation to victims, complete decontamination work of affected areas and rebuild disaster-hit areas. There is also the question of returning local residents to their homes and providing support for evacuees who are living in new areas.

But it is not money people in the affected areas in Fukushima really want.

What they really crave is a return to the good old days when they didn’t have to worry about radiation while working their rice and vegetable fields or spending their leisure time on the beach laughing with their children and grandchildren.

They know full well that they can’t get that life back. That is what makes their current situation all the more wretched.

It is the central government, not residents in areas around the Fukushima nuclear plant, that wants to solve all the problems with money.

Money is certainly a convenient tool. It seems to be a panacea for issues involving compensation.

Since the triple meltdown in 2011, however, money has been undermining the affected communities in Fukushima.

Some people in these communities have received payouts, while others haven’t. Some have received what was seen as “too much” compensation, while others felt the payments to them were “insufficient.”

Despite appearing to be neutral and impartial, the money has aggressively intruded into local communities, families and relationships between friends in a divisive manner.

Over the past three years, people in Fukushima have had enough painful experiences to make them aware of how money can create contradictions and emptiness. During the period, they have also had to fight the perception that they are pursuing money as their ultimate goal.

Given these circumstances, they have been struggling to pull themselves together, rebuild their relations with people around them and figure out how to live. It is people in Fukushima, not the central government, who have been addressing these weighty problems.

The same can be said about the proposed facility for interim storage of radioactive soil. The residents, quite naturally, do not want such a facility in their hometowns. But there can be no progress in the efforts to rebuild Fukushima unless contaminated soil can be stored somewhere.

Some people probably attended explanatory meetings for local residents as a way to escape from their anxieties and find answers for the way forward.

Ishihara’s remark broke the hearts of those people.

The government’s promise to dispose of the soil outside the prefecture within 30 years can now only sound hollow.

Which community outside the prefecture would be willing to accept a huge amount of contaminated soil?

The grossly irresponsible way the government has been making empty promises concerning the issue seems to be reflected in the callous attitude of the minister, who bluntly said that it is after all a question of money.

Since the controversial remark, Ishihara has been busy explaining what he meant and offering apologies.

The negotiations over the storage site have already been difficult and arduous.

It will be a formidable task to repair the government’s relations with the local communities that have been badly damaged by Ishihara’s gaffe.

Ishihara, the minister responsible for the issue of the storage site, didn’t attend any of the explanatory meetings held over a period of about two weeks.

Ishihara should visit the communities and listen to what their residents say.

Doing so would help him realize the grave implications of what he said and the seriousness of the damage it caused to the communities.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 19



June 18, 2014
EDITORIAL: Abe needs to get priorities right before reactor restarts

The central government has required all prefectural and municipal entities within a 30-kilometer radius of nuclear power plants to have their own emergency response plans.
This was one of the lessons of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Does it follow then that areas outside the 30-km radius are safe?

That is anything but the case, as indicated by estimates of predicted dispersions of radioactive materials made by local governments around nuclear power plants.

For example, the border of Hyogo Prefecture is at least 40 kilometers from the offline Oi and Takahama nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture, which operator Kansai Electric Power Co. intends to restart at an early date.

But the Hyogo prefectural government used data on past weather patterns to estimate what levels of radiation thyroid glands would be exposed to in the event of Fukushima-class disasters taking place at both the Oi and Takahama plants. It found that the doses could exceed the international benchmark of 50 millisieverts in seven days, even on Awajishima island, which is 150 kilometers from the nuclear power plants. Individuals exposed to radiation levels of 50 millisieverts or higher are advised to take iodine tablets to protect their thyroid glands from radiation.

Depending on wind direction, similar scenarios were also indicated for the cities of Kobe, Amagasaki, Nishinomiya and elsewhere along the Hanshin belt between Osaka and Kobe.

Simulations by the Shiga prefectural government found that, in a worst-case scenario, a Fukushima-class disaster at Oi could spread radioactive materials exceeding the international benchmark into the airspace above Lake Biwako, more than 40 kilometers away. Similarly affected areas could include parts of Kyoto and Osaka prefectures.

What do these estimates signify?


A major accident at a nuclear power plant releases radioactive substances, which will eventually contaminate surface areas. Under international standards, evacuations and decontamination work would be required in areas where an individual's total body irradiation level exceeds 100 millisieverts in seven days. In the event of a Fukushima-class disaster, the areas requiring evacuation and decontamination work would be roughly within a 30-km radius of the stricken plant.

But winds carry and spread airborne radioactive plumes further away. In areas where radioactive iodine in the atmosphere has not been sufficiently rarefied, thyroid glands are exposed to radiation and the risk of thyroid cancer rises, especially among small children. It is vital to put a system in place to speedily discern the spread of radioactive plumes and determine the right timing for people to take iodine tablets.

One other factor that must be taken into consideration is that when it rains along the plume's track, concentrations of cesium and other radioactive materials that have long-term effects will fall to the ground and contaminate the soil. When that happens, temporary measures will not be sufficient.

In the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate, about 40 km from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, rain fell just when a radioactive plume reached the community. Before the nuclear disaster, the villagers were in the process of building a self-sustaining farming operation in the belief that everyone could live happily. The village had not benefited financially from the nearby nuclear power plant. But since the disaster, the entire village has remained off-limits to the villagers.

The Union of Kansai Governments, whose members come from seven prefectures, including Osaka and Kyoto, has called on the central government to issue comprehensive guidelines on measures that should be taken in areas outside the 30-km radius from nuclear power plants, based on studies by local governments.

Viable evacuation plans, along with prepared guidelines, need to be in place before issuing the order to evacuate. Otherwise, chaos can result. This was made clear from statements given to the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations by Tetsuro Fukuyama, a former deputy chief Cabinet secretary who was in charge of the evacuation process during the Fukushima crisis.

Acknowledging the need for such guidelines, the central government states in its nuclear disaster response policy outline that the Nuclear Regulation Authority will consider defining the extent of evacuation zones and other matters. 国も必要性を認め、原子力規制委員会が範囲の設定などを検討すると、原子力災害対策指針に記している。

However, the NRA has yet to embark on this task in earnest, mainly because it is engaged in safety screenings ahead of nuclear power plant restarts.


With nuclear power generation, there is no such thing as "absolute safety"--no matter how stringent the regulations.  もちろん規制をいくら強めても「絶対に安全」はない。

If any nuclear power plant is to be put into operation, the very least that must be done is to get an accurate grasp of the areas that will be affected in the event of a disaster.
By the same token, residents of those areas need to be informed of the exact nature of the risks they face and the steps that will be taken in the event of a nuclear accident.

But to assume the central government understands this concept would be asking a lot.

Even though municipalities that host nuclear power plants will not be the only ones affected in a nuclear accident, the government's Strategic Energy Plan states that the central government "will strive to obtain the understanding and cooperation of people associated with the municipalities that host nuclear power plants" before restarting offline reactors.

Here, we can see right through the government's intent to press for the resumption of operations by taking advantage of those local governments' dependence on nuclear power plants for their fiscal and employment needs.

After the onset of the Fukushima disaster, Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada came up with the term "higai jimoto" to denote all local governments, not just those which host nuclear power plants, that could be seriously affected by a nuclear accident.

Kada demanded the central government recognize them all as affected parties and allow them to get involved in the process before restarting nuclear plants.

This is a legitimate demand. In reality, however, it is still only the municipal and prefectural governments hosting nuclear power plants that have any real say.

Toshiki Kudo, mayor of Hakodate in Hokkaido, who filed a lawsuit demanding the suspension of construction of the Oma nuclear power plant in neighboring Aomori Prefecture, warned that the same old "safety myth" of nuclear power generation will be perpetuated if the project is allowed to have its way.

"It will be game over for our country if the government stops trying its hardest to win the understanding of the people," Kudo said.

At a recent news conference on Japan's right to collective self-defense, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated that the government will "protect lives of the Japanese people." If he is genuinely committed to saving people's lives, he obviously needs to look squarely at all local communities that could be seriously affected by a nuclear disaster before he can even begin to argue in favor of restarting idle nuclear reactors.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 18


(社説)若者の意識 「どうせ」のその先へ

June 17, 2014
EDITORIAL: Young Japanese need help to outgrow defeatist mentality
(社説)若者の意識 「どうせ」のその先へ

An international survey has offered much reassurance to certain people who are pessimistic about Japan’s younger generations.
Some of these pessimists passionately argue that young Japanese do not take pride in their country because of “self-deprecating views” about Japanese history that have been firmly planted in their minds. Others vociferously claim that the consciousness of social norms among Japanese youth has declined because excessive individualism has prevailed.

They should feel a little easier now given the results of an online survey, conducted by the Cabinet Office from November to December 2013, covering males and females between the ages of 13 and 29 in Japan, South Korea, the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Sweden.
The survey drew responses from around 1,000 individuals in each country.
The findings were included in this year’s White Paper on Children and Young People that has been approved by the Cabinet.

Seventy percent of the Japanese respondents said they are proud of being their country’s nationals, the fourth-highest ratio following the figures for the United States, Sweden and Britain. In addition, 55 percent of the Japanese respondents said they want to do things that will contribute to their nation, the highest ratio among the seven countries.

When asked if they think individuals are free to do anything they want as long as they don’t cause trouble for others, only 42 percent of the Japanese young people said “yes,” a far lower ratio than the average of about 80 percent for the other countries.

Such a survey, of course, cannot reveal all of the views and feelings of young people. But it is still troubling to know that only 46 percent of the Japanese respondents felt content with themselves, compared with more than 70 percent in each of the six other countries.

How should we feel about the unique fact that far fewer young Japanese are content with themselves than those who are proud of their country?

The mind-set of children and young people of today offers hints about what is the invisible but prevailing mood in this society. There is no absolutely correct answer to the question. But we are tempted to think there is a strong undercurrent of a defeatist mentality symbolized by the Japanese word “dose” (anyway, in any case or after all) as used in such a sentence as “Dose dame da” (It's no use, anyway).

The survey found that just 62 percent of young Japanese had bright hopes for their future. Only 52 percent of the Japanese respondents were willing to tackle important challenges with enthusiasm even when success is not certain, while just 44 percent wanted to get involved in dealing with societal problems to make society better, according to the survey.
And only 30 percent of young Japanese said they think their participation may change even slightly the social phenomena they want improve. Japanese ranked at the bottom for all these questions.

“Dose” is a convenient word. If you don’t have high hopes, you can avoid disappointment. This can be described as a “happy” attitude toward life in this age of low economic growth.

If this “dose” mentality spreads, however, many people will view society, which they should shape themselves, as something that cannot be changed.

By playing certain roles in society, people fulfill their desire to be recognized by others and have positive feelings about their lives. A society dominated by the “dose” mind-set probably cannot perform that function well.

The current situation in Japan poses a serious test of the ability of the more-experienced adults to reject this defeatist mentality. They shouldn’t refuse this challenge by saying, “Such a naive approach can make no difference, anyway.”

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 17


イラク情勢緊迫 過激派の攻勢をどう抑えるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
What can be done to stop offensive by extremist Sunni insurgents in Iraq?
イラク情勢緊迫 過激派の攻勢をどう抑えるか

The situation in Iraq has become ever more strained. Rebels led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a Sunni extremist group advocating the creation of a new Islamic state, have seized several cities in northern Iraq.

The Iraqi administration of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is fighting back with air strikes, while recruiting volunteer soldiers from among his Shiite supporters.

This is indeed an alarming situation that increases the turmoil in the Middle East.

The ISIS is an Al-Qaida-inspired armed group. Having expanded its influence by riding the tide of Syria’s civil war, the ISIS is said to have grown to about 5,000 fighters. Upon entering another theater of war in Iraq, the group even declared it would eliminate the border with Syria.

The United States has announced a $10 million reward for its leader, who is dubbed the second Osama bin Laden.

Imposing strict Islam in seized areas, ISIS militants have killed people for refusing to pledge allegiance to the ISIS. This is a horrific situation from a humanitarian viewpoint. The United Nations has rightly condemned the ISIS, saying the executions were carried out immediately without any legal process. As the turmoil has been spreading, oil prices have begun rising on the market.

Maliki should also be held strictly responsible for having brought about the current situation. He has given preferential treatment to Shiites, who represent the majority of the Iraqi people, in the administration, while persistently driving out their Sunni political opponents.

Morale deteriorating

Even within the military forces and public security organizations, sectarian conflicts have surfaced, undermining the morale of personnel.

In the areas attacked by the ISIS, officers and soldiers are said to have fled, discarding their uniforms and equipment. These are the prices Maliki is paying for failing to pursue national reconciliation.

It would be difficult for his administration alone to stem the ISIS offensive. For the time being, it is necessary for the international community to support and cooperate with the Maliki administration to avoid further turmoil.

Holding the key to such efforts is how the United States reacts to the situation. U.S. President Barack Obama said he would not rule out any options. Later he sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, with possible air strikes in mind. But he remains negative about U.S. intervention in the conflict in Iraq and has already ruled out the possibility of putting U.S. troops on the ground there.

Obama was elected to the presidency by advocating the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and completed their withdrawal in 2011.

The deteriorating situation in Iraq raises a question for Obama: Has the United States taken sufficient measures to maintain law and order in Iraq following its withdrawal?

A key point now is how Iran, a major Shiite country neighboring Iraq with a large influence on the Maliki administration, will act. The country is said to be ready to hold direct talks with the United States over assistance to Iraq, despite the fact that the two countries have broken off ties.

Other neighboring countries in the Middle East are urged to present a united front against the ISIS by joining international efforts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 17, 2014)


(社説)諫早湾干拓 有明海再生は開門から

June 16, 2014
EDITORIAL: Open floodgates to restore the Ariake Sea
(社説)諫早湾干拓 有明海再生は開門から

The government is being forced to pay 490,000 yen (about $4,900) to plaintiffs per day as a penalty because it is not abiding by a finalized court ruling.

Needless to say, the fine is coming out of taxpayer money. The unbelievable penalty stems from a 2010 Fukuoka High Court ruling.

In 1997, Nagasaki Prefecture’s Isahaya Bay, located in the western part of the Ariake Sea in the Kyushu region, was closed off from the sea by a wall of floodgates for a government land reclamation project. As a result, a wide area of tidal land disappeared.

The 2010 court ruling ordered the government to open some of the floodgates within three years to assess the impact the opening will have on the environment in the sea. Though the deadline for the opening came in December 2013, the government has yet to comply.

Subsequently, the plaintiffs, many of whom are engaged in the local fishing industry, filed a petition with a court to require the government to abide by the ruling. As a result, the fine was assessed until the government complied.

Why does the government refuse to comply? The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says that the Nagasaki prefectural government and people engaged in farming the reclaimed land are opposed to the opening of the gates.

In November 2013, the Nagasaki District Court issued an injunction that sided with the farmers’ request barring the opening of the floodgates. The farmers also filed a petition to force the government to comply with the court's decision. Their demand that the government be forced to pay 490,000 yen to the plaintiffs per day if it opens the gates was also approved by the court.

Whether it opens the floodgates or not, the government has to pay a penalty. Saying, “Opening the floodgates or being prohibited from opening the floodgates, we cannot take sides on the two opposing positions,” the government is caught in a dilemma.

However, behind the conflicting court rulings is the government’s stubborn stance.

The government has yet to acknowledge the causal relationship between the closing of the bay and damage to the local fishing industry. The stance worked to the disadvantage of people engaged in fishing in the hearings at the Nagasaki District Court.

It is futile to spend more time for arguments in courts. It is the time to leave the judicial system for now and turn attention to the situation in the bay.

In the huge reservoir set up in the closed bay, the water quality has deteriorated, where noxious blue-green algae is being generated in large quantities every year. When the water level in the reservoir rises, the water there is discharged outside the closed bay. As a result, the reservoir has become a source of pollution in the Ariake Sea.

After the bay was closed, benthos, such as lugworms, decreased sharply in the entire Ariake Sea. Some researchers show that the decrease could be one of the causes of the damage to the fisheries industry.

In 2002, the agriculture ministry opened the floodgates for a short period. Then, the number of benthos increased sharply in less than a month. If seawater is allowed to flow into the reservoir, part of the purification function of the tidal land will be restored. As a result, a way to improve the environment in the reservoir and the Ariake Sea will be gained.

Opponents of opening the gates say that if they are opened, the livelihoods of farmers will be damaged. However, the ministry is showing confidence in measures to prevent adverse effects. If farmers have anxieties over these preventative steps, the ministry will be able to strengthen the measures.

What we cannot understand is the Nagasaki prefectural government's insistence on continuing to refuse even discussions on opening the floodgates. How much longer will it allow the conflict between local people to continue?

Now is the time for all the people concerned to combine their wisdom toward the restoration of the environment in the Ariake Sea and reconciliation between local people.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 15



June 14, 2014
EDITORIAL: Defense policy talks test New Komeito’s political integrity

In talks with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initiative to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, junior coalition partner New Komeito is showing signs of accepting the policy switch if certain conditions are met.

With firm resolution, Abe is pursuing a formal Cabinet endorsement of a change in the government’s traditional interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution.

New Komeito has discarded the option of dissolving its alliance with the LDP in order to protect its political integrity.
New Komeito appears to have given up hope of holding its own against the fierce political pressure from its much bigger ally, and has decided to focus on setting strict conditions for supporting Abe’s initiative.

No matter what conditions it may set, however, the fact is that New Komeito will endorse Japan’s exercise of the right to collective self-defense if it strikes a deal with the LDP. Compromising on this vital issue could create serious problems for the future. The party leadership should be aware of the huge political implications of its decision on this issue.

During talks between the two parties on June 13, Masahiko Komura, who represents the LDP side, proposed “three requirements” for Japan’s involvement in collective self-defense operations.

Komura’s personal proposal would change the first of the three requirements the LDP has suggested, which says that there should be urgent and unjust aggression against Japan.

The first requirement as proposed by Komura says: “An armed attack against Japan has started or an armed attack against another country has started and as a result there are concerns that Japan’s existence could be threatened and that the Japanese people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could be fundamentally violated.”

This proposal goes far beyond the “limited use” of the right indicated by the LDP. It could end up paving the way for the use of the nation’s right to collective self-defense in a wide range of situations.

The phrase that the people’s right could be “fundamentally violated” has been inserted in response to New Komeito’s argument.

This phrase was originally a part of the government’s 1972 statement, which said Japan is not allowed to exercise its right to collective self-defense. Komura has used an expression that was once used to describe a situation that allows Japan to exercise its right to individual self-defense in a cunning way that is useful for his purpose.

New Komeito believes that strict observance of the requirement would ensure that Japan’s actual use of the right to collective self-defense will be almost limited to situations in which U.S. warships carrying Japanese citizens for evacuation need protection.

But Komura’s proposal leaves room for a broader interpretation of the rule by containing the term “concerns” with regard to the possibility of the people’s right being “fundamentally violated.”

New Komeito is opposed to this potential loophole. The party is apparently trying to score at least some political points against the LDP by setting strict conditions.

Even so, there is no denying that New Komeito, if it accepts the LDP’s proposal, will help the Abe administration to change the government’s constitutional interpretation at will.

Imagine what could happen if this kind of departure from the rule of law is tolerated.

Isao Iijima, special Cabinet adviser, recently indicated the possibility of a change in the government’s interpretation about the constitutional principle of the separation of religion and politics. It was a thinly veiled warning to New Komeito, which is backed by the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai.

Iijima’s remark is tantamount to the declaration that the powers that be might be free to change the official interpretation of not just the war-renouncing Article 9, but any other part of the Constitution that they don’t like.

Does New Komeito still intend to go along with the LDP’s attempt to force through an effective amendment to the Constitution?

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 14


自民農協改革案 全中の指導体制温存を許すな

The Yomiuri Shimbun
JA-Zenchu structure must not emerge unscathed from LDP reform plan
自民農協改革案 全中の指導体制温存を許すな

How can the JA Group of agricultural cooperatives be drastically overhauled to reenergize Japan’s farming industry? This reform process is about to face a moment of truth.

The Liberal Democratic Party has completed its agricultural reform plan. The centerpieces of the plan are revamping the leadership of regional agricultural cooperatives, which is currently concentrated in the hands of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu), and shifting JA-Zenchu’s structure to a new setup.

In response to criticism that the group’s all-encompassing administrative leadership has sapped the motivation of producers, the LDP’s plan would restrict JA-Zenchu’s role to collating the wishes and purposes of agricultural cooperatives, as well as liaising and coordinating among them.

The reforms aim to end JA-Zenchu’s excessive intervention into the affairs of regional cooperatives, and promote the switch to a more “proactive” form of farming that gives greater play to the self-initiative of farmers. We think the direction of the plan makes sense.

The LDP plans to solidify details, such as the group’s new structure after the JA group reviews its organizational makeup, and revise the Agricultural Cooperatives Law and other laws during next year’s ordinary Diet session.

However, it is disconcerting that essential elements of the reforms remain undecided.

Last month, the government’s Regulatory Reform Council proposed that JA-Zenchu be abolished. JA-Zenchu vehemently opposed the idea, stating the move would “lead to the dismantlement of the JA Group.” We cannot escape concerns that the LDP reform plan could be watered down due to such fierce backlash from JA-Zenchu.

Actions must eclipse titles

One idea being floated was to change JA-Zenchu’s status from a corporate body based on the Agricultural Cooperatives Law to a general incorporated association. But simply changing its status while it retains powerful influence over regional agricultural cooperatives will not improve the effectiveness of the reform.

It remains unclear how the LDP will handle JA-Zenchu’s levy system, through which ¥8 billion is collected annually for operating expenses from agricultural cooperatives and other sources nationwide.

We think legal revisions should be made to abolish this collection system for vast sums of money that, along with JA-Zenchu’s extensive administrative authority based on the Agricultural Cooperatives Law, form the base of its power.

In the reform plan, the LDP said it would “positively consider” converting the group’s National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (JA Zen-Noh), which runs a shipping and sales network for products grown by farmers, into a stock company.

It is a reasonable objective to support closer ties between JA Zen-Noh and companies through such means as mergers and acquisitions as well as expanding their operations through diversified capital procurement.

Steadily implementing reforms in areas other than the cooperatives will also be needed. The LDP plan included a call to raise the cap on business investment in agricultural production corporations from “25 percent or less” to “less than 50 percent.”

About 400,000 hectares of arable farmland in Japan has been abandoned, an area equivalent to all of Shiga Prefecture. We expect the involvement of more companies in agriculture will result in more effective use of farmland and more efficient management of the farming industry.

Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal are within grasping distance of a major agreement. The nation cannot afford to put off strengthening the competitiveness of its agricultural sector. Japan must quickly implement agricultural reforms that reward motivated farmers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 11, 2014)


認知症行方不明 関係機関の情報共有が重要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sharing information on missing elderly people with dementia crucial
認知症行方不明 関係機関の情報共有が重要だ

There is no end to cases of elderly people with dementia going missing. It is crucial that the system used to help identify missing dementia patients functions effectively so they can be reunited with their families quickly.

In 2012, police received 9,607 missing-person reports for patients with dementia, and the number rose to 10,322 in 2013. Of them, 258 people were unaccounted for as of the end of April.

In many cases, elderly people with dementia who went missing were taken into protective custody later by the municipalities and moved into nursing care facilities, ultimately remaining there as they could not be identified.

A woman with dementia who had been put into a nursing care facility in Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture, was reunited in mid-May with her husband after seven years. Their reunion was made possible thanks to a TV news program featuring her.

An elderly man with dementia who was living at a home for the elderly in Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, was identified on June 5 by relatives who had seen news reports featuring him late last month and made contact with him. Eighteen years had passed since he went missing and was placed under protective custody.

In both cases, the local municipalities and the police exchanged very little information, and no careful checks were made of the National Police Agency’s database after these elderly people were moved into nursing care facilities.

If such people cannot be identified within 24 hours after they are placed under protective custody, the police, in accordance with the Law concerning the Execution of Police Duties, will put them in the care of the municipalities.

No regulations in place

The problem is there are no regulations concerning the sharing of information between these entities after such people are put in the care of local municipalities. It is inevitable for such inappropriate responses to be criticized as ill effects of bureaucratic sectionalism.

The NPA has notified the Metropolitan Police Department and other prefectural police headquarters that they should cooperate with local municipal governments even after they have such elderly people placed in the care of the municipalities.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura said at a press conference on Friday, “We have to build a system to match up those who have gone missing and those who are looking for them,” hinting that the ministry will launch discussions with the NPA and other entities. Such efforts must be expedited to make such ideas a reality.

Also needed is a system that considers the characteristics of those with dementia who are unable to identify themselves.

With regards to the police’s missing person database, information searches can be made only by name. The NPA has said it will also utilize its database used for criminal investigations, in which searches can be made using various kinds of information, including physical characteristics and personal belongings.

The NPA will also have such information compiled by local municipalities, including photographs, on those placed under their care distributed among prefectural police headquarters and local police stations, so families searching for their missing relatives can examine them at nearby police stations and other places.

We hope these efforts can help identify missing dementia patients quickly.

More and more local municipalities have registered elderly people who are likely to wander away, and have asked local residents via e-mail to cooperate in finding them in case they go missing. Cooperation among local residents, municipalities and police is also essential.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 10, 2014)


香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「昔は昔、今は今」 /東京

April 27, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: That was then and this is now
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「昔は昔、今は今」 /東京

When the Olympics last came to Tokyo in 1964, Japan was in the midst of its postwar growth boom. The young parents of those hopeful times have, however, become the seniors of today; the "elder care" generation, so to speak.

Members of that generation, joining the workforce as Japanese society basked in its growing wealth, took to their jobs with a vigorous, proactive attitude, building tightknit nuclear families as they went. Their lifestyles began to reflect the benefits of economic success as well, with new cars appearing in driveways and pianos in living rooms. Parents also found they had the time and money to enhance their children's education, and it was in this era that the term "kyoiku mama" (education mom) -- mothers who pushed their children to succeed academically -- was coined.

Age has imposed its various frailties on this energetic generation, dementia not least among them. Their children, of course, understand intellectually that their parents are getting old, and that dementia may lay siege to once nimble minds. Still, they find it hard if not impossible to accept this in their own "always energetic" mothers and fathers. One patient of mine, a woman in her 50s caring for a mother with dementia, admitted to me, "I could do something to her, become a 'care abuser,' if things keep on like this.

"In my neighborhood, my mother was known as an amazing 'education mom,'" the woman continued. "Now, she has to ask me everything, even what season it is. When I was a little girl, one of her favourite phrases was, 'Try looking it up yourself.' Remembering that now, when my mother depends on me for everything like a little child, I just can't find it within myself to be kind to her. I yell at her without noticing, and sometimes I find myself ready to hit her. I scare myself."

The problem isn't that the woman hates caring for her mother. Rather, she is deeply saddened and disturbed that her once super-human mom has changed so drastically. These feelings are transformed into anger, into thoughtless verbal attacks and the temptation to do violence.

I have had a number of patients in the same boat, and they always tell me something like, "I can't forget how hardworking my parents were and how good life was at home when I was young." That image of strong and loving parents persists in the minds of their children, even if these parents are now in a very different stage of life. That was then and this is now, as the old expression goes. It's quite frankly odd to pine for the days when "mom and dad could do anything." By the same token, there's also no need to wall up memories of better times because remembering them makes us sad.

Watching our parents come to need nursing care is no fun, but we must set that aside. Instead, remember the good times. Perhaps they took you to Expo Osaka 1970, and the whole family had a blast. Maybe your mother was dressed to the nines for the big outing, and oh was she a sight to behold. If we find ourselves thinking, "Yeah, but look at her now," keep that talismanic phrase "that was then and this is now" firmly in mind. Resist the comparison.

Very importantly, when it comes to caring for parents with dementia, we cannot do everything on our own. Make full use of elder care services, and don't be afraid to ask friends for help from time to time. Believe me when I say that the psychological burden must be shared.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年04月22日 地方版


マイナス金利 デフレ阻止に動いた欧州中銀

The Yomiuri Shimbun
ECB adoption of negative deposit rate bold measure to prevent deflation
マイナス金利 デフレ阻止に動いた欧州中銀

The European Central Bank has introduced a bold monetary easing policy with a strong will to prevent the European economy from falling into deflation.

The ECB has decided to cut its annual policy rate to a record low 0.15 percent and lower the overnight deposit rate, which is applied to funds commercial banks park at the central bank, to minus 0.1 percent from zero percent. This makes the ECB the first major central bank in the world to adopt a negative bank deposit rate.

A negative deposit rate means that commercial banks have to pay interest at this rate, which is like a handling fee, to place funds at the central bank. The measure is expected to stimulate the European economy by encouraging commercial banks to cut back on parking excessive funds at the ECB and instead use the money to finance companies.

It also aims to lower interest rate levels in general and redress the strong euro.

The ECB is also to implement a measure to provide low-interest funds to commercial banks for up to four years. It is commendable that the central bank is trying to use every measure at hand to avoid deflation.

The European economy remains stagnant, though it has overcome the financial and debt crises of Greece and a few other countries.

The effects of the low growth rate and the strong euro have kept increase rates of commodity prices in the eurozone at less than 1 percent for eight straight months, far lower than the target of near 2 percent.

Avoiding a 2nd Japan

If the situation is left unaddressed, the eurozone will become a second Japan, which suffered from a strong yen and depression under deflation for many years. Such concerns are likely to have pushed the ECB to adopt the unconventional monetary easing measure.

Now attention is focused on whether the latest measure will achieve its intended effects. Not a few economists say the ECB’s policy rate is already close to zero and a further rate reduction will have only a limited effect.

It is also said that the introduction of a negative deposit rate will increase the burden on commercial banks and worsen their finances, leading to a minimization of new loans and higher lending rates.

Finance Minister Taro Aso said he plans to wait to see the outcome of the move. “I still can’t say whether the results will be good or bad,” he said.

Some market observers say the ECB will eventually have to resort to full-fledged quantitative monetary-easing measures like the Japanese and U.S. central banks, which have purchased a huge amount of government bonds.

However, there are many challenges for the ECB to overcome before implementing tangible measures, including deciding what proportion of government bonds would best be held by the central bank—which is responsible for the financial policy of the 18 eurozone countries—in purchasing them from member governments.

The future of the Japanese economy is looking brighter, while the United States, which has recovered its economic growth, is reducing quantitative monetary easing.

The ECB’s policy management capabilities are now being tested on how the growth of the eurozone economy can be recovered to help achieve the stabilization of the global economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 7, 2014)


福島原発汚染水 「凍土壁」だけでは解決しない

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Radioactive water issue cannot be resolved by ice wall project alone
福島原発汚染水 「凍土壁」だけでは解決しない

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has launched the construction of ice walls, a project aimed at curbing the buildup of radioactive water at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Halting the increase of contaminated water is the major task for the moment to end the crisis at the plant. Therefore, the project must be steadily promoted.

Pipes to circulate liquid coolants will be buried over a 1.5-kilometer perimeter around the plant’s Nos. 1 to 4 reactor buildings, thereby freezing the soil to a depth of 30 meters below ground to construct ice walls. The government and TEPCO expect the envisaged ice walls to help prevent groundwater from flowing into the reactor buildings, which has caused an increase of contaminated water at the plant.

Many essential pipes and electrical cables are installed underground around the reactor buildings. If such equipment is accidentally damaged, it could impair the cooling functions of the reactors.

Given the high radiation levels at the construction site, it is necessary to minimize workers’ radiation exposure. Due care must be taken in carrying out the work.

Installation will cost ¥32 billion. The government will bear the cost as a research and development project. Power consumption equivalent to that of 13,000 ordinary households, running more than ¥1 billion annually in simple calculation, will be needed to keep the underground walls frozen.

Such massive spending aside, the question is whether the ice walls will ensure that groundwater will not flow into the reactor buildings.

Ice walls have been used as a temporary method of halting the flow of groundwater when tunnels are constructed. The installation of ice walls on the currently planned scale is unprecedented in Japan.

Fears of subsidence

There are fears that if the soil is not frozen evenly, it could cause subsidence. Experts have warned that if the ice walls melt due to problems with cooling functions, there could be a widespread danger of radioactive water flowing outside the reactor buildings.

There is no reason to place overly high expectations on the ice walls.

Considering the fact that there has been constant trouble with the countermeasures taken so far to deal with radioactive water, it is essential to carry out several measures in parallel.

The amount of contaminated water has increased by 300-400 tons a day. Storage tanks built on the plant’s premises already number about 900, leaving no choice but to assign many workers to maintenance and surveillance duties.

This hinders work to repair the crippled reactors, which must be given top priority to end the crisis at the plant. This must be taken seriously.

Sooner or later, there will be no more sites available for the construction of storage tanks at the plant.

It is vital to reduce the amount of rainwater infiltrating the soil as one of the countermeasures. The decision was made to pave the plant’s site, but little progress has been made due to a delay in land leveling.

Experts have also pointed out the need to purify contaminated water before discharging it into the ocean. But the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) introduced for that purpose has continued to malfunction. It is necessary to achieve stable operation of the ALPS as soon as possible and launch a full-scale study into measures for discharging decontaminated water into the ocean, while seeking to win the support of the local governments and residents concerned.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 6, 2014)



June 04, 2014
EDITORIAL: 25 years after Tiananmen, China must heed calls for democracy

"Remember June 4" is a slogan that is banned in China. But in Hong Kong, Tokyo and other cities around the world, Chinese citizens and their supporters are chanting this mantra.

On June 4 exactly 25 years ago, China's Communist Party regime ordered the military to suppress pro-democracy students who had gathered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

We must never forget this date because the students' demands were absolutely spot on. Another reason is that Beijing is set on erasing the Tiananmen Square bloodbath from history.

Around the time of the crackdown, socialist countries around the world were undergoing painful restructuring of their systems. But the Chinese regime of the time survived the transition, and later spearheaded the country's rapid economic rise.

Probably emboldened by this, President Xi Jinping said in a speech during his visit to Europe in April, "Constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarism, a multiparty system and a presidential system, we considered them, tried them, but none worked," adding, "Finally, China took on the path of socialism."

But this assertion is nothing more than a simplistic perception of history from the Communist standpoint.

Now that China has abandoned a planned economy to allow market forces to rule, Xi's brand of socialism comes down to a system that does not tolerate any criticism against single-party rule by the Chinese Communist Party. The ranks of the oppressed do not consist only of political activists and intellectuals. All over China, ordinary citizens are unable to speak out against administrative and judicial corruption involving senior party members.

But Wang Dan, a leader of the democracy movement who played a prominent role in the Tiananmen Square protest, points out that, as a result of the bloody crackdown, Beijing can no longer ignore the public's awareness for human rights. According to a provision written into the Constitution in 2004, the state "respects and guarantees human rights."

Former Premier Wen Jiabao used to reiterate that Beijing would gradually expand the public's participation in politics and seek to promote individual freedoms through education.

But the direction seems to have been reversed since Xi came to power. Beijing certainly did not act "normal" when it began clamping down rigorously on activists and their supporters prior to June 4, and even applied pressure on foreign media.

Over the last 25 years, citizens groups have kept alive their resolve to change politics. The popularization of the Internet has promoted solidarity among citizens, enabling them to keep speaking out despite censorship and oppression. And in urban areas, citizens movements are being organized against factory construction and other issues.

Steadily and surely, the ranks of politically and socially aware Chinese citizens are growing. It has been argued that the intellectual level of the public is still too low for democracy and that democracy is not the right system for China. But such arguments are no longer tenable.

The Xi regime must heed the voices of the people seeking freedom. It is simply wrong to send people to jail for just criticizing the regime.

Beijing must allow free speech and accept the people's right to form associations to encourage healthy dissent. By skipping such phases of gradual democratization, China will never become a stable nation.

The shouted demands of students of 25 years ago are even more legitimate today. They must never be forgotten.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 4


(社説)被爆者の援護 国は争いに終止符を

June 03, 2014
EDITORIAL: Time to make peace with hibakusha A-bomb survivors
(社説)被爆者の援護 国は争いに終止符を

The 69th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is looming. The long-running legal battles between hibakusha survivors of the 1945 attacks and the government should be settled as soon as possible. It is the government that should take the initiative.

The number of A-bomb survivors who have a hibakusha certificate book issued by the government is expected to fall below 200,000 this year. In recent years, the figure has been declining at an annual rate of more than 8,000. It now stands at around half of its peak in the 1980s.

What should be noted here is that people with the certificate book don’t constitute all the victims of the A-bombings or their aftermath. Some people have not applied for the hibakusha book out of concerns that their families may suffer discrimination because of their radiation-related diseases.
Quite a few others have been denied the certificate book on grounds there is no witness who can testify to the truth of their claims of suffering exposure.

There are people who received high doses of radiation as a result of the “black rain” that fell on suburbs in Hiroshima after the attack. In Nagasaki, many people were exposed to radiation even though they were not in the designated atomic-bombed area. These people have also demanded the same level of aid as that received by the holders of the hibakusha book, but the government has so far rejected their demands.

Over the past 11 years, A-bomb survivors who have the book have filed a series of lawsuits against the government in an effort to change the system by which hibakusha are judged as suffering from radiation-related illnesses. In most of these suits, the courts have handed down rulings in favor of the plaintiffs. It is rare for the government to suffer such a series of defeats in administrative cases.

In December 2013, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare partially revised its criteria for recognition of atomic bomb diseases. Still, since then, three related court rulings have gone against the government.

Let us think afresh as to what is the greatest wish of A-bomb survivors.

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, which was established in 1956, is dedicated to the cause of preventing further and future suffering from nuclear weapons. The two key goals of the organization have been the elimination of nuclear arms and support for hibakusha.

The lawsuits concerning official recognition of illnesses caused by A-bomb radiation tend to be seen as attempts to obtain greater support. But that’s not the only purpose.

Hibakusha have urged the Japanese government, which started the war, to recognize correctly the damage caused by the atomic bombings and pay appropriate compensation to the victims because they believe these actions should be a first step in the effort to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy.

But the health ministry has limited the eligibility for the government’s hibakusha relief program mostly to people suffering from the effects of exposure to radiation. As for people who are believed to have been exposed to relatively low levels of radiation, the ministry is reluctant to recognize them as A-bomb disease sufferers even if they are showing related symptoms. The ministry has refused to change its stance despite a string of court rulings that criticized its position on the issue as inconsistent with the spirit of the atomic bomb survivor relief law.

Is the government waiting for these people to die? We urge the administration headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to respond sincerely to the question asked by angry hibakusha. The administration should acknowledge the government’s responsibility and take steps to end the legal battles. A radical revision to the criteria for recognition of A-bomb diseases would be a good place to start.

The inhuman nature of nuclear weapons is attracting serious attention from the international community. If hibakusha, who are living witnesses to the inhuman nature of nuclear arms, and the government of the country that has experienced nuclear attacks can work together harmoniously, such cooperation would contribute greatly to the efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Abe is expected to visit the two cities this summer once again. Boilerplate speeches and superficial conversations will be meaningless. Abe needs to pay serious attention to the true wishes of hibakusha and take action immediately in response to their voices.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 3


(社説)給食と牛乳 望ましい食事とは何か

June 02, 2014
EDITORIAL: Removal of milk from school lunches sparks debate over dietary habits
(社説)給食と牛乳 望ましい食事とは何か

Milk doesn’t go well with Japanese cuisine, called “washoku,” does it? This simple question has provoked a heated controversy over school lunch menus.

Sanjo, a city in Niigata Prefecture known as a rice production area, has decided to stop serving milk in its school lunches for four months from December this year on a trial basis. The decision represents a departure from a national tradition. School meals in this country almost always are served with milk.

Sanjo’s decision was a response to complaints by parents that milk doesn’t fit in well with the washoku meals featuring mainly locally produced rice and vegetables that had begun to be offered at schools in the city.

The menu for one day in May, for example, consisted of Japanese royal ferns and bamboo shoots boiled slowly in soy broth, a trout that has been sprinkled with salt and broiled, white rice steamed with red adzuki beans, plus green peas and clear soup with steamed egg custard.

Even such traditional Japanese-style meals are always served with milk at school.

This is a tradition that started soon after the end of World War II when powdered skim milk began to be served at schools nationwide. Since then, milk has been an essential part of school lunches in this country.

Sanjo’s move, which has been seen as a rebel against convention, has brought on spirited debates over the pros and cons in discussion forums on the Internet and in TV talk shows.

Proponents say Japanese-style meals should be served with miso soup and green tea. But critics argue that this is a matter of personal preference.

Some people voice nutritional concerns that the elimination of milk from school lunch menus could result in calcium deficiency among children in their growth periods. But others contend that milk doesn’t suit the physical makeup of Japanese.

Lurking behind this milk controversy, it seems, are the anxiety and doubts that Japanese people are feeling about their dietary habits despite the abundance of food in this country.

The history of school lunches in Japan dates to the Meiji Era (1868-1912). Originally, they were intended for students from poor families who were unable to bring their own lunches to school.

A typical menu was made up of rice balls, grilled fish and pickles. Such frugal meals were common among Japanese households in those days.

As the Japanese economy started growing rapidly after the war, triggering the massive migration of the rural population to urban areas, the nation’s culinary tradition began to fade amid a plethora of foodstuffs of all kinds, from high-end items to junk food. Since that era, a growing number of Japanese have become confused by a flood of information for fine food lovers and health conscious consumers.

The situation appears to have increased public expectations for school lunches, which have a good nutritional balance.

Let us stop to think what desirable meals mean in the first place.

The news that washoku was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in December 2013 is still fresh in our memory.

That means Japanese culinary culture, which makes the most of fresh food in season grown in a favorable natural environment, has been internationally recognized as healthy and delicious.

The key question is not whether milk goes well with Japanese food. Milk is an efficient source of calcium that has contributed significantly to the physical development of Japanese children as it has been served with school lunches.

But food is not a supplement. Another major cause of the calcium deficiency among Japanese is the decline of the traditional diet, which contains fish or sesame.

To make up for the elimination of milk from school lunches, Sanjo is tweaking other elements of the menu, such as the amount of rice and the contents of dishes accompanying the rice, to ensure the meals contain all the necessary nutrients.

We are willing to see how the city’s attempt to develop a well-balanced menu that reflects its reputation as a major rice production area will pan out.

That’s because truly luxurious meals may be something we are quite familiar with.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 1


首相アジア演説 積極平和主義の実行が重要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:44 pm, June 01, 2014
Abe’s Singapore address stresses need for ‘proactive contribution to peace’
首相アジア演説 積極平和主義の実行が重要だ

To ensure freedom of navigation and overflights in Asia and the maintenance of the rule of law in the region, Japan must pursue to the fullest a policy of engagement and international contribution. How the country addresses the challenge will be a key touchstone to Japan’s “proactive contribution to peace” being upheld by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

On Friday, Abe delivered a keynote address titled “Peace and prosperity in Asia, forevermore” at the Asia Security Summit being held in Singapore.

In the speech, he emphasized the importance of peaceful solutions to international disputes based on international law and not dependent on the use or threat of force. Abe also expressed his support for the idea of upgrading the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to a legally binding code of conduct.

Abe’s reference to the declaration was made in light of the current confrontation between China and Vietnam concerning the sovereignty over the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

China has unilaterally started oil-drilling operations in disputed waters near the islands, and caused a Vietnamese fishing boat to sink in a collision with a Chinese fishing vessel.

These are in the same vein as Beijing’s efforts to consolidate changes to the status quo through such means as the unilateral establishment in November 2013 of an air defense identification zone and having two Chinese fighter jets fly extraordinarily close to two Self-Defense Forces planes on May 24.

To stem China’s attempts to “change the status quo through force,” it is imperative for this country to work closely with the United States and ASEAN member countries to tenaciously push China into restraining its behavior.

Expand multilateral framework

In the keynote address, Abe unveiled a proposal for reinvigorating the East Asia Summit in which 18 countries—including Japan, the United States and China—have taken part, while calling for the creation of a permanent organization aimed at studying methods of multilayered collaboration between the EAS, the ASEAN Regional Forum and defense ministerial meetings in Asia.

For the purpose of crafting a set of international rules for regional security and pressing China to abide by the rules, Abe’s aim of beefing up the framework for multilateral consultations of the region, including China, should be deemed reasonable.

The country should continue its diplomatic efforts to obtain understanding from countries concerned through a series of talks to realize Abe’s proposals toward an ARF meeting scheduled for this summer and an EAS meeting scheduled for autumn.

It is also important to help boost the maritime security capabilities of Southeast Asian countries.

Abe, for that matter, expressed in the keynote speech Japan’s readiness to provide Vietnam with coast guard patrol ships, in addition to making a similar pledge to Indonesia and the Philippines.

The prime minister also indicated Japan’s plans to enhance defense equipment cooperation with ASEAN members through arms exports for such purposes as search and rescue operations, warning and surveillance, and transport on the basis of the three principles on transfer of defense equipment and technology that the government adopted in April.

Extending support for ASEAN in the field of security to make contributions to peace in Asia will surely be conducive to helping ensure Japan’s own peace and security. Achieving a “proactive contribution to peace” is of key significance.

It is also of great importance for Japan to heighten the effectiveness of supporting ASEAN through cooperation with the United States, rather than acting single-handedly. In addition, efforts are needed to expand the country’s assistance to ASEAN not only in material terms such as the provision of patrol boats, but also nonmaterial aspects such as helping to train and nurture coast guard service personnel.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 1, 2014)