(社説)ミサイル発射 日朝協議でも説得を

July 29, 2014
EDITORIAL: Japan must tell North Korea that its provocations are pointless
(社説)ミサイル発射 日朝協議でも説得を

North Korea has kept up a series of provocative missile launches this year. In its latest test, apparently a political gesture, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan off its eastern coast on July 26.

North Korea's history of reckless tests of nuclear weapons and missiles caused the U.N. Security Council to tighten international sanctions against the secretive regime.

Even a short-range missile test is enough to antagonize the international community and deepen Pyongyang's diplomatic isolation. It's time that North Korea came to grips with the absurdity of its actions.

Politically, North Korea appears to be trying to exert pressure on the government of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

The Park administration has been beset by a string of serious accidents, crimes and scandals at home, and North Korea seems intent on gaining the upper hand ahead of talks it must have with South Korea sooner or later.

The Park administration has pledged to make efforts to improve the North-South relationship but maintained a hard-line stance toward Pyongyang. This policy has not gone down well in North Korea and blighted prospects for dialogue between the two countries.

North Korea has shown that its missiles can reach any part of South Korea. In the meantime, it has announced its intention to send athletes and cheerleaders to the Asian Games in September. The multisport event is slated to be held in South Korea's northwestern city of Incheon.

The North has said a “peaceful environment” needs to be created for its participation, implying that it wants scheduled joint military exercises involving the United States and South Korea in August to be called off. The North Korean regime is trying to put pressure on the Park administration by using both a hard and a soft approach.

As it is pursues this diplomatic strategy, North Korea may be seeking to make tactical use of its talks with Japan over Pyongyang’s past abductions of Japanese citizens and other issues.

Pyongyang’s recent missile tests should be considered also as a tactical move to achieve certain diplomatic objectives concerning relations among Tokyo, Washington and Seoul.

The Japanese government lodged a protest against the missile tests, but intends to continue holding talks with the North after concluding that they did not pose any immediate threat to Japanese territory or the general population.
But the North’s actions have different security implications for South Korea.

That is why both the United States and South Korea are casting a wary eye on Japan’s plan to continue talks with Pyongyang. At the same time, they have expressed their understanding of Tokyo’s motive.

The relationship between Japan and South Korea remains deeply strained mainly over differences in their views about history-related issues and a territorial dispute. If the two countries fail to put up a united front in dealing with North Korea, they risk playing right into Pyongyang’s hands.

Viewed from another angle, it can be said that Japan is currently the only country that is able to engage in direct, head-on diplomatic talks with the secluded regime in Pyongyang. In the bilateral talks on trying to resolve the abduction issue, Tokyo should keep urging Pyongyang to stop provocative acts like missile launches.

There is speculation that North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Su Yong, will attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar next month. The conference may offer a rare opportunity for Japan to communicate with a high-level official of North Korea.

Japan needs to use its official talks with North Korea wisely in its tenacious efforts to make the regime realize that military provocation is not in its best interest.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 29


(社説)再エネと地域 「主権」育てる好機に

EDITORIAL: Renewable energy promotion a good opportunity to nurture local ‘sovereignty’
(社説)再エネと地域 「主権」育てる好機に

A recent survey jointly conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and Hitotsubashi University has found that 80 percent of municipalities throughout the country that responded to the questionnaire are willing to promote renewable energies for regional development.

More than three years have passed since the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. During the period, the local governments have been “deepening” their efforts from moves to review power sources to attempts to reconstruct their areas by themselves.

For example, some municipalities are using the revenue earned from the sale of electricity to electric power companies to operate welfare facilities. Others are increasing local employment by setting up companies to maintain power generation facilities. The number of power plants established by collecting funds from citizens and others in their local areas apparently exceeds 500.

If electricity sales are liberalized in the future, consumers will be able to choose their electric power company or sources of the electricity when they purchase it. To prepare for such a time, some producers in the agricultural, fishery or forestry industries are considering selling electricity directly to consumers in distant areas along with their products.

There are also some moves that go beyond conventional economic activities.

In Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, which was affected by the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, an organization is operating not only a solar power plant but also a vegetable farm using electricity from the plant. In addition, it is offering learning opportunities to children in those facilities.

The organization’s representative director, Eiju Hangai, is a former director of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Minami-Soma is his hometown. Reflecting on the nuclear accident, he started the project. His purpose is to nurture people who think and act for themselves through learning of the mechanism of electricity and how to use it.

So far, the development of electricity sources has tended to separate “people who generate electricity” from “those who use it.” In particular, nuclear power has been generated for urban areas where large amounts of electricity are consumed. Places that can serve as good locations to host nuclear power plants have been limited. Therefore, municipalities that can receive benefits from those plants have also been limited.

As for regional development, local governments have so far asked big companies to set up factories in their areas or implemented public works projects with subsidies. One of the typical cases was to ask for construction of nuclear power plants.

Renewable energies have a technical problem from the standpoint of a stable electricity supply. The feed-in-tariff system, in which electric power companies have to buy electricity from renewable energy producers at fixed prices, also has a defect because consumers have to pay higher electricity rates unless costs to develop electricity sources decline.

In spite of that, renewable energies that can be obtained easily in local areas will become catalysts to nurture “sovereignty” in those areas by changing the traditional way of thinking.

If municipalities promote renewable energy projects, they will face various problems and differences of opinions among residents. How will they overcome those difficulties and obtain understanding from them? It will be testing sites for “small democracies.”

A growing number of people are thinking about energies from the context of their areas and lives. We want to support such a move.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 27


ガザ流血拡大 本格停戦への道筋を探りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Concessions needed on both sides to secure durable Gaza ceasefire
ガザ流血拡大 本格停戦への道筋を探りたい

The United States, European countries and the United Nations should act in concert with Middle East nations capable of exercising influence over the warring parties to bring about a long-lasting cessation to ongoing hostilities.

The shedding of blood has been escalating in the conflict between Hamas, the militant Islamic group that dominates the Gaza Strip, which is part of the Palestine autonomous territories, and Israel. Although both sides temporarily reached a brief ceasefire in the fighting, there are no immediate prospects at all for an end to the conflict.

In addition to air strikes, Israeli troops have launched a ground offensive in Gaza. This operation is aimed at finding and destroying Hamas’ large number of underground tunnels crisscrossing the Gaza border. This is because the tunnel network has been exploited for firing rockets and across-the-border assaults by Hamas militants against Israel.

As many tunnels have been constructed beneath residential and other civilian facilities, a large number of civilians have been killed. This is a matter of grave concern. The number of people who have been killed on both sides since Israel began its offensive on July 8 has reportedly passed 1,000.

The United Nations has strongly condemned the Israeli offensive in which hospitals, schools and evacuation facilities have been attacked, as well as the despicable means Hamas has of employing civilians as human shields in the conflict, as both possibly “amounting to war crimes.”

Israel, which has a firepower overwhelmingly superior to that of Hamas, justifies its offensive as “exercising our right of self-defense.” This is hardly reasonable. At the very least, Israel must avoid attacking civilian facilities. Hamas, for its part, must promptly stop responses that treat human life lightly.

More efforts essential

Such figures as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon have continued to mediate the situation. On top of their efforts, cooperation not only from the two Arab countries with diplomatic relations with Israel—Egypt and Jordan—but also from countries with influence over Hamas, such as Qatar and Turkey, is indispensable for resolving the crisis.

With many regions in the Middle East being thrown into turmoil because of the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, countries in the environs of Israel and the Gaza Strip have been unable to unite in halting the Gaza conflict. The influence of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah-Sissi, who has regarded Hamas with hostility for years, is considered limited.

Prior to the latest 12-hour humanitarian truce, Kerry came out with a proposal for a seven-day lull in fighting so consultations could be held to realize a full-fledged accord on a prolonged ceasefire.

Both Israel and Hamas turned down the proposal, but the United States and other countries concerned should persevere. They should tenaciously consider ways to work out a plan acceptable to both Israel and Hamas.

To put a full-scale truce in place, concessions on both sides are essential, with a guarantee of Israel’s security on one hand and steps to help rebuild Gaza, a chronically impoverished region because of a seven-year-long economic blockade by Israel, on the other. The impasse can never be resolved by military power alone.

The fact that Israel and Hamas reached an accord on the truce from a humanitarian viewpoint is praiseworthy, even though it is only for 12 hours. The pause in fighting makes it possible for Gaza residents, including those who have been wounded, to evacuate to safer areas and stock up on such supplies as food and medicine.

Although there is little room for optimism over what lies ahead, the mutual concessions Israel and Hamas demonstrated this time should be made the first step toward a breakthrough for resolving the Gaza crisis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2014)


朴・舛添会談 国民の心を遠ざけたのは誰か

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Who caused alienation in hearts of Japanese, South Korean people?
朴・舛添会談 国民の心を遠ざけたのは誰か

It was regrettable to see South Korean President Park Geun-hye continue her anti-Japan position of unilaterally criticizing this nation when she met Tokyo Gov.

Yoichi Masuzoe for talks in Seoul on Friday.

Park stressed that the deterioration in Japan-South Korean relations stemmed from the “words and acts of some politicians,” and added that it was necessary for the two nations to share a correct perception of history if they want their relationship to develop. These comments are a repetition of her pet opinion critical of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historical perception.

Park also indicated that she would put top priority on solving the issue of so-called comfort women, which she said was “a matter related to universal human rights.”

Ahead of Masuzoe’s talks with Park, Abe asked him to convey a message to the president. The message said, “The door for dialogue is always open,” indicating his desire to hold a bilateral summit meeting. Park’s comments, however, can be taken to show her continued determination to make the settlement of the comfort women issue and other issues a precondition for meeting with Abe.

Park did hail an exchange project under consideration between Tokyo and Seoul and supported a plan for parties concerned to cooperate in hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

But such exchanges will inevitably be limited under this abnormal situation, in which Park has been refusing to meet Abe ever since she was inaugurated nearly 1½ years ago.

Park part of the problem

“It’s regrettable that a difficult political situation seems to be alienating [Japanese and South Korean] people’s hearts from each other,” Park said during her talk with Masuzoe. We found it odd for her to speak as if she were not a party to this problem.

Her backbiting diplomacy of criticizing Japan in front of foreign dignitaries has provoked ire in Japan. What does she think about her own responsibility for this?

After the March summit meeting among Japan, the United States and South Korea, which was mediated by U.S. President Barack Obama, Tokyo and Seoul started talks by foreign affairs officials at the director general level.

The South Korean officials are seeking concessions from their Japanese counterparts over the comfort women issue, while the Japanese side took up the issue of lawsuits filed by South Koreans conscripted to work in factories in Japan during World War II. No progress has been made in their talks.

Early this month, a Seoul hotel abruptly refused to provide a venue for an event commemorating the inauguration of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, in response to a flood of protests it received after an influential South Korean newspaper blasted the event.

This was a result of Park spreading anti-Japanese sentiment throughout South Korean society.

What should not be overlooked is her stance of joining forces with China’s leadership over historical issues. During her talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Park and Xi jointly expressed alarm over recent progress in Japan-North Korean talks.

In addition to North Korean issues, there are many issues that require cooperation between Japan and South Korea, including the conclusion of a bilateral economic partnership agreement and the implementation of measures to deal with air pollution from China. We wonder if Park believes no efforts are necessary to break the impasse over bilateral relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 26, 2014)


中国期限切れ肉 外資企業にも及んだ背信行為

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Expired meat scandal in China a betrayal of Japan’s safety efforts
中国期限切れ肉 外資企業にも及んだ背信行為

Yet again, a problem that greatly damages the trustworthiness of Chinese-made food products has been exposed. This is a matter of enormous concern.

Shanghai Husi Food Co., a Shanghai-based subsidiary of a major U.S. food processing company, was revealed to have shipped meat products that had passed their expiration dates.

As a result, McDonald’s Co. (Japan) and leading convenience store chain FamilyMart Co., both of which had imported chicken meat from Husi Food, have been forced to suspend sales of some of their products.

Chinese police authorities have concluded that the selling of meat past its sell-by date was the result of illegal production led by Husi Food’s management. They detained five people, including the factory’s quality manager. The full scope of the situation must be elucidated promptly.

According to the Chinese TV reports that revealed the meat shipping irregularities, the Husi Food factory repackaged meat products that had been returned unsold by turning them into ground meat. The chicken meat, which investigators said required frozen storage, was handled in a warehouse at room temperature.

Regarding the mixing of out-of-date meat into ordinary ground meat, one factory employee was quoted as making the remarkable assertion, “People won’t die from consuming expired foods.” That sentiment is emblematic of the many words and deeds pointing to the total moral failure at food-processing facilities, where the safety of consumers should have been the absolute top priority.

In a 2008 incident in China, baby formula was tainted with a toxic chemical, affecting the health of about 300,000 babies and toddlers. There has been a seemingly uninterrupted stream of food-related problems in China, including the revelation last year of the distribution of rice contaminated with cadmium.

The tendency to disregard consumers’ health and put profits ahead of all else is likely behind this succession of problems.

Dependence on China foods

The Chinese public is extremely dissatisfied with this state of affairs, in which the need for safe food receives little scrutiny. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party administration, eager to ensure the stability of society, may have found it necessary to hurriedly launch law enforcement investigations into the latest food scandal, aiming to demonstrate the government’s intent to clamp down rigorously on such wrongdoing.

What cannot be ignored in the Husi Food case is that the illegal production occurred at the factory of a foreign-capitalized company—one generally believed to operate in a relatively safe manner compared to Chinese-run firms.

A deliberate poisoning incident in 2008, in which an employee at a Chinese food firm laced frozen gyoza dumplings with pesticide, spurred food processing companies affiliated with Japanese food firms and trading houses to redouble their efforts to enforce strong quality control and ensure the maintenance of a high standard of food safety. In recent years, food imports to Japan from China have been steadily growing.

This incident at Husi Food is an unmistakable betrayal of the work of many on the Japanese side and throws cold water on their food quality crusade.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has ordered the suspension of food imports from Shanghai Husi Food. Over the past year, Japan’s chicken meat imports from the company totaled 6,000 tons. Thorough probes must be conducted to determine whether the firm had previously shipped expired meat, to help alleviate customers’ anxiety.

The continued existence of Japan’s food industries relies on low-priced ingredients produced in China.

Companies importing Chinese goods must strengthen their inspection and supervision systems, working from the assumption that people should be deemed dishonest by nature when it comes to food processing in China. These companies may have to take such measures as arranging regular factory visits by officials from Japan for safety checks and installing security cameras in factories.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2014)


撃墜非難決議 国際調査にはまだ障害がある

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Despite UNSC resolution, investigation of MH17 downing still faces obstacles
撃墜非難決議 国際調査にはまだ障害がある

To ensure that the truth behind this tragic incident can be quickly determined, all parties involved in the conflict and other nations that have a stake in the matter, including Russia, should positively cooperate with an international investigation team.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane over eastern Ukraine last week.

The resolution called on all states to cooperate fully with efforts to ensure that those responsible for this incident will be held to account. It demanded that pro-Russian militant groups that control the area where the plane came down immediately provide international investigators “safe, secure, full and unrestricted access to the site” and “refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site.”

In the days after the airliner was shot down, armed rebels brazenly interfered with investigators’ efforts to examine the crash site and removed bodies of the victims. Some of their actions appeared to constitute tampering with evidence, such as their quick retrieval of the black boxes that contain flight data and records of communications between the flight crew and others.

The Security Council’s adoption of a legally binding resolution demanding the correction of these actions is significant.

The militants accepted the resolution and have handed two black boxes to Malaysian authorities. They have also relented on their initial refusal to hand over the victims’ bodies. Although this has come far too late, they are steps in the right direction.

Ukraine and the United States have criticized the Russian military’s involvement in this incident, including its provision of surface-to-air missiles to the pro-Russian militants. Their accusations are backed by evidence, including satellite images of the missile launch and intercepted conversations and communications between the militants after the plane was shot down.

Onus on Moscow

As the main supporter of the rebels, Russia has an important role to play in the investigation.

Moscow supported the resolution in an apparent bid to avoid becoming internationally isolated at a time when Britain, France and Germany are considering tightening sanctions on Russia as anti-Russia sentiment grows in Europe, where most of the passengers on Flight MH17 came from.

However, there is no guarantee efforts to unravel the truth will progress smoothly. Russia continues to say one thing while it does another.

Although Moscow has indicated its willingness to cooperate with the investigation, it still denies involvement in the incident. It has lambasted Ukraine for permitting civilian aircraft to fly through airspace over a conflict zone as “criminal,” and also has been trying to shift the blame for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane.

We think Russian President Vladimir Putin has a responsibility to exercise the influence he wields over the armed groups and supply whatever information he possesses to ensure the international investigation team can get to the bottom of what really happened.

The investigation will clarify whether the claims made by Washington and Moscow have reason on their side. The International Civil Aviation Organization and nations caught up in this incident must ensure that a fair, transparent investigation can be conducted.

The Security Council resolution also demanded that all military activities immediately cease in the area surrounding the crash site. Using this opportunity, the Ukrainian military and the pro-Russian armed groups should refrain from hostilities and work toward an immediate ceasefire.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 2014)


BRICS開銀 欧米主導への対抗軸となるか

What are the Bretton Woods Institutions?
The Bretton Woods Institutions are the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They were set up at a meeting of 43 countries in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, USA in July 1944.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Can BRICS bank be counterweight to current intl financial order?
BRICS開銀 欧米主導への対抗軸となるか

A recent announcement by the BRICS countries, which have grown in economic stature, can be considered a demonstration of a stance that rivals the international financial order led by the United States and European countries.

The BRICS emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—decided at a recent group summit to create a new development bank.

The new bank is intended to fund infrastructure projects in emerging economies and developing countries, with each of the five countries contributing $10 billion. The bank will be headquartered in Shanghai, and its first president will be from India.

In addition to the planned development bank, the BRICS countries have also agreed to create a joint foreign reserve fund of $100 billion. The fund will assist these countries, by providing a well of foreign currency at the time of a future financial crisis.

With their growing presence, the attempt by these economies to take on important roles in assisting developing countries and maintaining the international financial order warrants recognition.

Behind the creation of the new development bank lies a strong sense of discontent among emerging and developing countries over the current U.S.- and Europe-led international financial order.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have long contributed to the world’s economic system, such as by assisting developing countries and working to check financial crises.

Yet in crucial times, such as Asia’s currency crisis in the 1990s, the two institutions imposed fiscal austerity and other strict conditions on developing countries, which led these countries to feel strongly dissatisfied over the institutions’ lack of consideration for their particular circumstances.

Lack of weight

The BRICS powers have grown to account for about 20 percent of the global economy, and for around 40 percent of the world’s population. Yet their combined contributions to the IMF, which reflect the force of their voices in the institution, constitute only 11 percent of the IMF’s total funding. The BRICS have also expressed opposition to the lack of weight they carry in the IMF.

The IMF has compiled a reform plan to raise the contribution ratio of the BRICS to 14 percent, but, due to opposition from the United States and other countries, this plan has yet to be realized.

It is necessary to promote IMF reform from the viewpoint of allowing the emerging economies to assume responsibility proportional to their economic might.

It remains to be seen whether these two new multilateral institutions can function as the Bretton Woods institutions have been doing.

The BRICS countries have not specified when these institutions will be established, and uncertainty remains over the concrete frameworks through which they will extend financial assistance.

It would be troublesome if the new development bank were to attach importance solely to expanding the natural resource interests or corporate profits of contributing countries, and to extend financial assistance without careful consideration.

There is also a likelihood that lax screening on loans and investments by the bank could lead to a massive increase of irrecoverable loans and investments, which would upset the international financial system.

No assistance should be extended to countries beset with records of suppressing human rights and overdevelopment of natural resources. Highly transparent management is a must for the new bank.

The BRICS countries are by no means a monolithic group.
The territory dispute between China and India is just one example of their differences.

It is also questionable whether the members can deal with financial crises and other problems through close cooperation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 22, 2014)


大陸棚延長 戦略的に海洋資源を開発せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tap Japan’s extended continental shelf for strategic development of resources
大陸棚延長 戦略的に海洋資源を開発せよ

A move has been taken that is highly important for further consolidating Japan’s status as a maritime nation.

The government has decided to lay down an ordinance to designate two sea areas, including the area north of the island of Okinotorishima, which constitutes the southern extremity of the country, as part of the nation’s continental shelf. The ordinance will cover further two areas, such as that in the vicinity of the Ogasawara Islands, after consulting with the United States on the matter.

The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that each coastal state has sovereign rights over an area 200 nautical miles from the coastline as its continental shelf for exploring and developing resources, such as those on the seabed, and for other purposes. It is possible for a state under the convention to expand the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles if and when it can prove that the extended continental shelf can be construed as having formed naturally.

The government’s plans for designating the continental shelf this time are in the wake of the acknowledgement in April 2012 by the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) that the expansion of the limits of the nation’s continental shelf should be recognized as valid.

The total area to be covered by the expansion of the nation’s continental shelf will stand at an estimated 310,000 square kilometers, equivalent to about 80 percent of the nation’s entire land area. It is said precious resources exist on the continental shelf including methane hydrate, which contains natural gas. The expansion of the oceanic interests of Japan, a country poor in natural resources, is definitely of high significance.

Commenting on the continental shelf expansion, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed, “It is possible that the resources from the expanded sea areas will have a great impact on the future of Japan.” It is also important from the viewpoint of ensuring this country’s energy security.

Objections from China, ROK

Resource developmental projects on the seabed, however, are extremely expensive and many technological challenges exist. Long-term plans should be formulated at the initiative of the government.

The CLCS, meanwhile, has been postponing judgment of Japan’s application seeking the U.N. body’s acknowledgement of the nation’s expansion of the continental shelf of the Southern Kyushu-Palau Ridge Region located to the south of Okinotorishima. This is because China and South Korea have opposed Japan’s submission of the application, claiming that Okinotorishima should not be deemed an island but “rocks,” meaning that it should not be considered a base point for determining the limits of Japan’s continental shelf.

Under the circumstances, the government should appeal to the international community to support the legitimacy of Japan’s assertion about the continental shelf expansion.

Around Okinotorishima is a vast exclusive economic zone, providing Japan with a wealth of marine products and seabed resources. The government should forge ahead with the task of preserving the island by pushing ahead with such projects as port and harbor construction.

China’s heavy-handed maritime advances are not limited to the East China and South China seas, but have been spreading to the western Pacific region. It has been pointed out that there is a possibility Beijing, on the strength of extending support for construction projects of ports and harbors to island states in the region, might build naval bases there in the future. Through these moves, China most likely has taken into account the U.S. military base on Guam.

Beefing up Japan’s efforts to ensure adequate oceanic administration in the seas in the environs of Okinotorishima, as well as such islands as Minami-Torishima and the Ogasawara Islands, will certainly have strategic significance on holding China’s moves in check.

In April last year, the government laid down the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy that is intended to serve as the basis of maritime measures for a period of five years. The plan sets key policy goals, including development of maritime resources, preservation and administration of remote islands, and technological development projects for oceanic, renewable energy sources.

By working closely with the private sector, the government should address these objectives from a broad range of perspectives.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 21, 2014)


南シナ海情勢 掘削を中止させた対中包囲網

The Yomiuri Shimbun
International pressure forced China to stop oil drilling in South China Sea
南シナ海情勢 掘削を中止させた対中包囲網

In the face of fierce criticism from the international community, China perhaps had no choice but to suspend its attempt to “change the status quo by force” when it ended its operations to drill for oil near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

The operations were originally scheduled to continue through mid-August but ended earlier because “work proceeded smoothly,” according to China’s explanation. Undoubtedly, however, China bowed to the international pressures and curtailed the operations.

In early May, China unilaterally started drilling for oil in a sea zone also claimed by Vietnam, which strongly urged it to halt its operations. Chinese and Vietnamese vessels rammed into one another repeatedly, sinking a Vietnamese boat in one instance and escalating the tension to a dangerous level.

Large-scale anti-China demonstrations erupted in Vietnam one after another, while its government waged an international campaign denouncing China for its unjustness. Perhaps China had not expected that Vietnam—increasingly becoming economically dependent on China—would put up such fierce resistance.

Exposing a greater miscalculation by China was the fact that Japan, the United States and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations swiftly rallied behind Vietnam to strengthen their cooperation to counter China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized China for its self-righteousness at international conferences and on other occasions by repeatedly underscoring the importance of the rule of law in light of China’s territorial claims, which have no grounds in international law. His assertions were widely accepted in the international community.

Stronger Japan-U.S. ties backed

Strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance through the approval of the exercise of the right of collective self-defense has won the support of many countries concerned.

With its policy of focusing on Asia, the United States made it clear it is willing to actively engage in South China Sea issues. At a time when Beijing is trying to exclude the United States from building an Asian security order, it is significant that the United States is squarely challenging such Chinese endeavors.

At their foreign ministerial talks in May, ASEAN members—whose stances toward China usually differ—took the concerted action of expressing “serious concerns” about the dangerous situation in the South China Sea.

China’s isolation could not have been any clearer.

A series of international meetings awaits China. The ASEAN Regional Forum, which will be joined by Japan, the United States and China, will be held early next month, while China will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Beijing in November.

China apparently wants to avoid being the target of criticism in these forums. Some observers predict that the country will exercise self-restraint for the time being.

Even so, China will surely not change its strategy of expanding its territories and maritime interests in the South and East China seas.

Japan and the United States must brace themselves for a prolonged, hegemonic campaign by China.

It is notable, however, that accumulated efforts by the international community have borne some fruit this time around. Factoring this experience in, the nations concerned should try to persuade China to constructively participate in an initiative to build a new Asian order.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 20, 2014)


ウクライナ撃墜 真相究明の国際調査が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
International investigation critical to discovering truth in MH17 tragedy
ウクライナ撃墜 真相究明の国際調査が急務だ

Innocent civilians have been caught up in a terrible tragedy in conflict-torn Ukraine.

The international community must stand united and quickly get to the bottom of what happened.

In eastern Ukraine, an area effectively controlled by pro-Russian militants, a Malaysian Airlines jet that was flying at an altitude of 10,000 meters crashed on Thursday. All 298 passengers and crew aboard the plane died.

Ukrainian authorities have determined that the pro-Russian insurgents launched a Soviet surface-to-air missile, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has condemned the incident as “an act of terrorism.” There are reportedly records of communications between the separatists and a Russian officer, which has fueled suspicions of Russian military involvement.

The insurgents and the Ukrainian military have frequently clashed in the region where the civilian airliner crashed. A Ukrainian military transport plane and a fighter jet also were shot down in the area recently. Observers have suggested that the militants possibly launched the missile after mistaking Flight MH17 for a Ukrainian military aircraft.

The rebels have claimed that Kiev’s armed forces shot down the airliner. However, the United States found the missile was fired from an area under rebel control. The United States detected the missile tracking toward the plane based on its satellite data and other information, and analyzed where it was launched from.

Poroshenko has decided to set up a commission to investigate the incident. Experts from Malaysia and the International Civil Aviation Organization will participate in the commission, and the United States has indicated it plans to cooperate.

Probe needs full support

Collection and analysis of fragments of the missile and the black boxes that recorded flight data of the airliner will provide major clues for determining the truth behind the attack.

U.S. President Barack Obama has urged Poroshenko to safeguard all the evidence at the crash site. This is an appropriate response, given the need to prevent interference with the investigation and destruction of the evidence.

It is essential that the investigation team and its experts are given access to the crash site area and are allowed to conduct their examination properly. The militants should heed calls for a ceasefire and guarantee the safety of the investigators.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and issued a statement calling for an “international investigation.” It is important that this investigation be transparent and independent. Nations affected by this incident, not least Russia, also will need to provide full cooperation to the investigation.

Political maneuvering is intensifying among nations affected by the crash. The United States and the European Union had only just tightened sanctions on Russia over its violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Shortly before the airliner crashed, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with Poroshenko and other officials, and pledged to continue Japan’s assistance to Ukraine. We hope Japan will cooperate to ensure the stability of Ukraine and help establish conditions that will ensure there is no repeat of the Flight MH17 tragedy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2014)


沖縄「密約」判決 文書管理と原則公開の徹底を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Top court ruling must not impede information disclosure requests
沖縄「密約」判決 文書管理と原則公開の徹底を

Documents on a secret agreement may have existed, but that does not mean they were kept by the Foreign Ministry—this was the opinion expressed by the Supreme Court in a recent ruling regarding the disclosure of documents on a secret Japan-U.S. accord.

Former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Takichi Nishiyama and other plaintiffs have demanded the court order the government to disclose documents confirming the existence of a secret accord tied to the 1972 reversion of Okinawa Prefecture to Japan from U.S. control.

On Monday, the top court upheld a high court ruling which concluded that it was legitimate for the government to turn down an information disclosure request for the documents on the grounds that such documents “do not exist.”

Despite the ruling, the high court acknowledged that the secret agreement did exist between Tokyo and Washington, and referred to the possibility that the documents were secretly destroyed by the Foreign Ministry or other parties.

But Monday’s ruling did not go that far, and we believe the top court was duly careful to avoid making assumptions.

The papers in question include one showing that Japan, during the negotiation process with the United States for the 1972 reversion, has agreed to pay $4 million for the restoration of land occupied by the U.S. military.

Nishiyama obtained a copy of the relevant documents from a Foreign Ministry official. Based on the copy, an opposition party lawmaker questioned the government in the Diet.

Nishiyama was later convicted for violating the National Civil Service Law.

These series of events are now known as the “Nishiyama incident.”

The government denied the existence of the secret accord when suspicions were raised.

The decision was apparently not easy—we assume that the government decided to deny the suspicion so the reversion of Okinawa would smoothly proceed.

There are always secrets in diplomatic negotiations, which have a huge impact on national interests.

Govt’s irresponsible attitude

In 2000, an official document indicating the existence of the secret accord was discovered in the United States.  2000年になって、米国で密約の存在を示す公文書が発見された。

Later, a former director of the Foreign Ministry’s American Bureau who was in charge of negotiations with the United States for the handover admitted Japan’s payment for land restoration during a media interview.

However, the government continued to deny the existence of the secret accord.

There is no way to avoid criticisms that the government had dodged its responsibility to explain the incident.

Examination of the case took place under the Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations from 2009 to 2010, and a Foreign Ministry advisory panel admitted that Tokyo and Washington exchanged “a secret pact in a broad sense.”  民主党政権下の2009~10年に検証作業が行われ、外務省の有識者委員会は、日米間に「広義の密約」があったと認定した。

The ministry also conducted an in-house investigation but failed to find documents of the secret accord itself.

Considering the circumstances, the top court likely decided to cautiously approach the issue.

There is one concern over the ruling, however: The top court ruled that those requesting information disclosures bear the burden of proving the existence of the documents in question.

But it is extremely difficult for an ordinary citizen to know how administrative bodies handle the documents they are seeking.

We are afraid that Monday’s ruling may raise the bar for people wishing to access government documents through the freedom-of-information system.

The system is able to exist on the condition that administrative organs preserve their documents appropriately.

It is impermissible for such organs to arbitrarily destroy their documents to avoid them being disclosed to the public.

The principle must be reasserted once again that diplomatic documents should be disclosed to the public after a certain period of time to let posterity examine them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2014)


集団的自衛権 国会の論議をさらに深めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Diet debate must be deepened on collective self-defense right
集団的自衛権 国会の論議をさらに深めたい

Diet debate must be intensified further on what can or cannot be done under the government’s new interpretation of the Constitution that would enable a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

The first Diet discussions on the matter since the Cabinet approval of the new interpretation were held at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Monday. Banri Kaieda, president of major opposition party the Democratic Party of Japan, expressed strong opposition to the Cabinet’s decision on the new interpretation, arguing: “The government has made an about-face in constitutional interpretation without holding Diet discussions. Is it all right to make a decision without listening to the people’s opinions?”

Countering that 70 lawmakers had been involved in question-and-answer sessions, including intensive deliberations, in addition to discussions by an expert panel and consultative talks between the ruling parties, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brushed aside the criticism that the Cabinet decision was made “with more haste than caution.”

Abe’s contention is reasonable because the government and ruling parties went through adequate procedures before making the Cabinet decision.

Diet deliberations will be conducted on bills related to a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. We hope to see that the planned sessions will serve as forums to hold intensive discussions about specific cases in which the right will be exercised, so as to win over a greater number of the people on the new constitutional interpretation.

It is also indispensable to hold discussions on the security environment around Japan, which has been growing more severe due to such factors as North Korea’s recent series of ballistic missile launches.

Referring to the three conditions newly set for exercise of the right of collective self-defense, including “there is a clear danger that the people’s rights will be fundamentally undermined,” Abe presented criteria for judgment on whether to approve an exercise of the right.

Abe said the government will make judgments by “comprehensively considering” such factors as “the intention and capability of a country threatening to attack, and the location, scale and situation of a contingency,” and in light of “the seriousness and graveness of damage anticipated to be suffered by the people.”

Too many constraints harmful

The DPJ’s Katsuya Okada, a former deputy prime minister, criticized the government, saying, “The criteria for judgment are ambiguous, and this leaves much room for [the government’s] discretion.”

Limiting the exercise of the right of collective self-defense is unavoidable to maintain the legal consistency of constitutional interpretation. However, if too much emphasis is placed on restraints for their own sake, it would lead to excessively restricting the scope of Self-Defense Forces activities and the effectiveness of their operations would be lost.

Giving the government a certain level of discretionary power is a realistic option to make it possible to deal with various situations effectively.

While stressing that the SDF will not take part in international military operations such as those during the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, Abe showed an interest in the SDF’s participation in minesweeping operations, saying that they are “passive and limited and different in nature [in terms of the use of force].”

The idea of differentiating between attacks on other countries and minesweeping operations is understandable. We hope to see the government provide more detailed and comprehensible explanations on the matter.

The DPJ is opposed to the government resorting to changing the constitutional interpretation to approve the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, but has yet to reach a conclusion of its own on whether to approve a limited use of the right. This is because the party has avoided internal discussions of national security due to intraparty differences of opinion. The party should present a unified view of national security as soon as possible.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party have already decided to endorse the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. The government and ruling parties must make steady efforts to compile relevant bills that would enable the limited use of the right.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2014)


滋賀県知事選 与党の緊張感欠如も響いた

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shiga election results highlight complacency in ruling parties
滋賀県知事選 与党の緊張感欠如も響いた

A government and a Liberal Democratic Party that had grown overconfident were apparently handed a rebuke when a former Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker defeated a candidate supported by the two ruling parties in Sunday’s Shiga gubernatorial election.

Taizo Mikazuki, an independent candidate and a former member of the House of Representatives with the DPJ, was elected to his first term in a poll contested by two other independents, including Takashi Koyari, who had the backing of the LDP and New Komeito.

Mikazuki’s victory owes much to his election tactic of positioning himself clearly as the successor to Gov. Yukiko Kada, who served two terms, and criticizing the political stances of the government and the LDP.

Mikazuki was also supported by a timely tailwind, especially after criticism mounted against Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara for his comments last month that “money will be what matters most after all” in negotiations between the central and local governments over selecting locations for the construction of temporary storage facilities for contaminated soil in Fukushima Prefecture.
Much criticism has also been directed toward LDP members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and the lower house Committee on Internal Affairs and Communications who made sexist jeers.

Voters apparently felt that these words and deeds, which lacked respect for women, and residents seriously affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, demonstrated the arrogance and complacency of the ruling parties.

The LDP is the sole powerful party in the Diet, occupying an overwhelming majority of seats, and the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe still enjoys a high approval rating. Nonetheless, the government and the LDP should be more humble and take every necessary step to carry out policies.

Taking national politics local

A gubernatorial election is generally expected to hinge on the capabilities of the candidates, and their stances on important issues facing the prefecture. LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said, “[The election] was influenced by some factors other than those directly connected to the candidates and prefectural administration.” It is regrettable that the race unfolded the way he described.

Mikazuki’s move to call for a phaseout of nuclear power, as Kada did, is questionable, because nuclear policies should be left to the government to decide from a broader perspective. Governors have no legal authority over decisions to resume operations at nuclear power plants.

There are no nuclear power plants currently operating in Japan, which has led to higher fuel costs for thermal power plants and higher electricity charges.

The government must expedite efforts to restart nuclear reactors by persuading relevant municipal governments to give their consent.

Koyari, a former official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, pledged to revitalize the Shiga prefectural economy, while stressing the achievements of the Abe administration’s economic policies, known collectively as Abenomics.

He failed to garner wide support, however, as the effects of Abenomics remain limited in communities away from the country’s major urban centers—a reminder of the government’s need to revitalize local communities in earnest.

The Shiga race came on the heels of the Cabinet’s approval of the government’s new constitutional interpretation allowing for limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

Given the recent deterioration in Japan’s security environment, strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and international cooperation by making it possible for the nation to exercise this right is a significant development.

The Mikazuki election camp criticized the new interpretation as part of its attacks on the Abe administration, dragging the campaign fight “outside the ring.”

The government and ruling parties should not dwell on the outcome of this election, but instead try to win wider acceptance among the public for the right of collective self-defense by sparing no efforts to explain why it is necessary to permit its exercise.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2014)


日豪首脳会談 「特別な関係」築く安保協力を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan-Australia partnership crucial to improve defense of Asia-Pacific
日豪首脳会談 「特別な関係」築く安保協力を

Japan and Australia are strategic partners that share the responsibility of fostering peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. We urge the two countries to deepen their mutual relationship on the occasion of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Australia.

In his talks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday, Abe explained Japan’s reinterpretation of the Constitution to allow limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

Abe stressed that the aim of the reinterpretation was to “protect the lives and peaceful livelihood of the people and let Japan play a more proactive role in the international community.”

Abbott welcomed Japan’s move and credited Japan as being a peace-loving country, saying that “Japan has been...an exemplary international citizen in the postwar era.”

The reinterpretation enables Japan to exercise its collective self-defense right and order the Self-Defense Forces to protect Australian vessels when an emergency occurs on the Korean Peninsula or elsewhere.

During a speech to the Australian Parliament, Abe said, “Australia and Japan have now freed ourselves from one old layer and are now moving towards a new ‘special relationship.’” We concur with Abe’s view.

Abe and Abbott signed an accord on the joint development of defense equipment. Australia is interested in Japan’s submarine technology, and the two countries are scheduled to conduct a joint study on the fluid mechanics of ships. We urge the two nations to steadily continue cooperation in this respect.

Trilateral cooperation

It also is essential to expand joint exercises between the SDF and the armed forces of Australia and the United States, an ally of both Japan and Australia.

China has been trying to change the status quo in the East and South China seas by force. Australia has strong economic ties with China, but like Japan and the United States it places emphasis on the rule of law. It is important for the three nations to join hands and tenaciously press China to exercise restraint.

Abe and Abbott also signed an economic partnership agreement. Japan will reduce tariffs on Australian beef, while Australia’s tariffs on Japan’s medium-sized cars will be removed. The two nations will work for early enforcement of the agreement.

The two leaders also agreed to cooperate to bring about the early conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade negotiations.

Prior to his visit to Australia, Abe held talks in New Zealand with Prime Minister John Key. Abe and Key confirmed that they will work proactively for a conclusion of the TPP talks.

Promotion of free trade is one of the main pillars of the Abe administration’s growth strategy. It is imperative that the administration work hard on opening up its market on farm produce and other products and play an active role in concluding the TPP talks as early as possible.

Abe will next head for Papua New Guinea. It will be the first time in 29 years for a Japanese prime minister to visit the island nation. In talks with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, the two leaders are expected to reach an agreement to cooperate on natural gas development.

In the western Pacific, China is increasing its influence over the Pacific Islands by supporting the building and renovation of harbors and ports. It therefore is important for Japan to build trust in the region through cooperation in such fields as disaster prevention and human resources development.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2014)


香山リカのココロの万華鏡:使用一瞬、依存一生 /東京

July 06, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Addiction recovery can take a lifetime
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:使用一瞬、依存一生 /東京

A man recently drove his SUV onto a sidewalk in Tokyo's Ikebukuro area, leaving a woman dead and seven others injured. The man has admitted to purchasing and smoking a so-called "legal loophole herb," and it is believed that he was under its influence when he caused the crash. What he did is unforgivable.

Although the substance is called an herb, it is no simple plant concoction. These drugs, which are not technically illegal, are made of leaves processed with chemicals, resulting in a product with effects similar to those of stimulants and marijuana. Most of these chemicals were first developed for medical uses including as pain killers for people with cancer or other diseases.

Some people try them out thinking they are made of natural ingredients and that they are simply relaxing, but the chemicals with which these leaves are laced are strong. Examples of these drugs' symptoms include hyperactivity, hallucinations, tremors, nausea and disorientation. Repeated use may cause chronic psychological illnesses, and those who become addicted to the substances oftentimes end up destroying their lives. The strength of these loophole drugs and the horror they can cause are incompatible with the deceptively innocuous term "herb."

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has designated over 1,300 chemicals as harmful drugs and bans the use and possession of such substances like marijuana and stimulants. However, the ministry is having a hard time keeping up with new chemicals that evade existing regulations and controlling the circulation of new substances.

There used to be a road safety ad that went, "It only takes a moment to pay attention, but it takes a whole lifetime to recover from a car accident." When I see patients suffering from the aftereffects of addiction to these "herbs," I'm reminded of that ad and always think, "It only takes a moment to take a drug, but it takes whole lifetime to recover from addiction."

They might have used the hallucinatory herb for only a short time in their lives, but addiction patients must use a lot of energy trying to beat their dependence on the drug. They must pay the price for abusing these loophole drugs, including but not limited to quitting their job due to the substance's aftereffects. In other words, by the time a user regrets taking the drug, it's already too late.

You may come across pills and drinks that are labeled as "herbs," "aromatherapy goods" or "supplements." Some people take these substances without thinking very much about it, especially when they come from friends or significant others, possibly worrying that to refuse would endanger these relationships.

That one sip or one pill may be the beginning of the end of the person's life. I want readers to refuse to take these substances. Make excuses if you have to. Say you have an allergy. If the person offering the pill takes offense, that person does not care about you in the first place. We have to do whatever it takes to prevent "loophole" drugs from spreading throughout our society.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年07月01日 地方版


中韓首脳会談 地域の安定損なう「反日共闘」

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China-ROK anti-Japanese campaign threatens to bring regional instability
中韓首脳会談 地域の安定損なう「反日共闘」

China’s intention to drive a wedge into cooperative ties among Japan, the United States and South Korea by wooing Seoul to its side has become more clear than ever.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited Seoul for talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, and the two leaders confirmed their nations’ “firm opposition” to the development of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula in connection with their policies toward North Korea.

It was the first time that a top Chinese leader has visited South Korea ahead of North Korea, a traditional friend of the communist state. Xi played up the impression that China was placing importance on South Korea and that the two nations were forging a cooperative relationship.

In an article he contributed to South Korean newspapers just before his visit, Xi said it was essential for the two nations to take joint steps for the security of Asia. The proposal is based on his “Asian security concept,” in which “Asian security must be protected by Asian people.” It is a clear indication that China is trying to exclude the United States from the security framework of Asia.

Japan, the United States and Southeast Asian nations are sharply criticizing China for its unilateral attempts to change the status quo in Asia, which have increasingly isolated the nation. Given the situation, Bejing apparently wants to gain Seoul’s cooperation in creating a China-led Asian order through strengthened relations with South Korea, whose economy increasingly depends on that of China.

Limited results

But a joint statement merely said the two nations will regularly hold high-level strategic dialogue on security and diplomatic issues. As South Korea naturally sought to avoid causing cracks in its relations with its ally, the United States, Xi’s diplomatic strategy was not fruitful.

As for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that Xi is proposing, the joint statement only said the two nations will continue talks on the matter. China will not easily realize its ambitions to lead efforts to build a financial order in Asia to counter the Asian Development Bank, which is led by Japan and the United States.

Above all, Japan should be alarmed by the fact that China and South Korea agreed to conduct joint research on materials related to so-called comfort women as spelled out in a supplementary note to their joint statement.

China has already submitted an application to register materials related to comfort women with UNESCO’s Memory of the World. South Korea is also preparing to make a similar application.

Of serious concern is the fact that China and South Korea are expanding their joint anti-Japanese campaigns by using historical issues—which they have interpreted for their own convenience—in their efforts to sway international opinion to their sides.

During his speech at Seoul University, Xi called on the South Korean people to join anti-Japanese campaigns by saying, “Japanese militarists carried out barbarous wars of aggression against China and Korea.”

Park was cautious about China’s maneuver to scuttle ties among Japan, the United States and South Korea in the areas of security and finance, but actively responded to China’s calls to bash Japan over historical issues.

Park apparently intends to use her anti-Japanese stance to buoy her approval rating, which has dropped due mainly to her administration’s poor handling of the sinking of a ferry in April. Park’s irresponsible move in becoming closer to China has been met with unveiled expressions of concern from the United States.

This is a good time for Park to rethink how important coopera-tive ties are among Japan, the United States and South Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 5, 2014)


集団的自衛権 抑止力向上へ意義深い「容認」

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Constitutional reinterpretation enhances Japan’s deterrent power
集団的自衛権 抑止力向上へ意義深い「容認」

The government has made a historic decision that will reinforce our coordination with the United States and other members of the international community. It is also likely that the decision will contribute to solidifying Japan’s peace and security.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved the government’s reinterpretation of the Constitution to allow limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

At a press conference that day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his resolve to “consolidate Japan’s path as a peace-seeking nation.” He also pledged to establish “a seamless legal framework on national security to protect the lives and daily livelihood of the people.”

There have been gaps between the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito over the issue. While the LDP has supported permitting Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defense, Komeito held onto a cautious approach. We would like to praise both parties’ efforts to find middle ground and reach an agreement.

Baseless accusations

It is safe to say that Abe’s fiery devotion to the cause, as well as his persistent and unyielding position on the reinterpretation of the Constitution, has made it possible for the ruling parties to overcome difficulties and reach an agreement.

Komeito had to take time in building a consensus, including holding talks with its regional organizations, but in the end it was able to reach a responsible decision. We believe Komeito’s experience as a member of the ruling coalition has greatly helped the party reach such untiy.

Under the government’s reinterpretation of the Constitution, Japan will be permitted to use the minimum necessary force when an armed attack takes place against a foreign country with which Japan has close relations, and there is a clear danger that the basic rights of the people of Japan will be fundamentally undermined.

The interpretation that Japan “possesses, but cannot exercise” the right of collective self-defense has long stood. Allowing Japan to exercise the right is a major sea change, as it means Japan has overcome a national security problem that has long loomed over the nation.

The reinterpretation does not touch on specific issues, but it will likely enable Japan to deal with all eight example scenarios cited by the government as cases in which the nation should be able to exercise its collective self-defense right. Those scenarios include protecting U.S. vessels under armed attack, minesweeping operations and missile defense.

The reinterpretation has also left rooms for Japan to participate in minesweeping operations authorized by a U.N. resolution under a collective security framework. If the government goes too far in narrowing the scope of the nation’s permissible exercise of the collective self-defense right, it would restrain the activities of the Self-Defense Forces and hollow out the significance of changing the interpretation of the Constitution.

The reinterpretation follows the core principle of the 1972 government view on the right of collective self-defense and is logically consistent with previous interpretations. It is clear that this reinterpretation was made within a reasonable range.

This is not a case of using constitutional reinterpretation where actual amendments to the Constitution are required, and it differs fundamentally from such cases. This case is more a matter of the government making necessary adjustments to previous interpretations that were overly self-restrictive due to conditions in the Diet.

The reinterpretation is made based on the Cabinet’s right to an official interpretation of the Constitution. The Diet will play a role in this issue through deliberation of bills related to the reinterpretation, and when the government asks the Diet for approval of plans to exercise the right of collective self-defense. The judiciary also has a voice in the issue through the power of judicial review.

Thus the issue will be handled consistently with the Constitution’s principle of separation of powers among the administrative, legislative and judicial branches. It is difficult to understand criticisms asserting that the reinterpretation is “counter to constitutionalism.”

It is similarly off base to argue that the latest Cabinet decision would pave the way for war, a line of argument propagated by left-leaning and liberal voices. Exercising our nation’s right of collective self-defense does not mean using force to protect any other nation in a situation unrelated to our own defense. The government’s new stance on the right has categorically ruled out our nation’s involvement in military situations such as the Iraq War.

Permanent dispatch law needed

The government’s revised view on the right has also expanded the range of cooperative international peace activities the SDF will be able to conduct.

For instance, the revised interpretation has narrowed the scope of a constitutional ban on SDF actions inseparable from the use of force by another country. The Cabinet decision has limited the ban to “activities in combat zones.”

The decision has also made it possible for the SDF to conduct armed rescue operations during their involvement in U.N. peacekeeping missions and other overseas missions.

If civilians or foreign troops face an armed attack in areas distant from but accessible to SDF members engaged in such overseas tasks, these personnel will be able to go to their rescue. In such cases, they would be permitted to use weapons in their execution of such duties, under the latest Cabinet decision.

We believe these changes will enable the SDF to better accomplish international missions such as supply, transport and medical support activities along with U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The Cabinet decision also addresses some issues regarding SDF actions to be taken in what have been described as gray-zone situations, including a potential scenario in which foreign armed groups take control of remote Japanese islands. It expedites procedures for invoking SDF maritime patrol operations and other activities aimed at addressing such situations.

We suggest the government consider expanding the list of SDF duties to include territorial patrols, thereby enabling our country to carry out “seamless activities” in the event that the nation’s peaceful situation is subverted by a military contingency.

The government and the ruling parties are set to begin implementing legislative measures to complement the Cabinet decision during this autumn’s extraordinary Diet session. Among those measures are amendments to the Self-Defense Forces Law and the Armed Attack Situations Response Law. It is important to create and refine laws to respond flexibly to a variety of situations.

It is also worthwhile to consider establishing a permanent law on SDF dispatch for overseas missions—not only for U.N. peacekeeping missions, as sanctioned under the current legislation.

At the end of the year, Tokyo and Washington are scheduled to revise the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. The Japanese and U.S. governments must ensure the planned changes to the defense cooperation guidelines properly incorporate changes made to our nation’s defense policies as a result of the latest Cabinet decision. These changes include the newly granted approval for exercise of the right of collective self-defense and the reconsideration of the ban on SDF actions that are inseparable from the use of force by other nations.

Public support essential

We hope Japan and the United States will work together to deepen their defense cooperation. Japan should increase SDF support for U.S. forces, and U.S. forces should be more significantly involved in the defense of remote islands and other parts of our country.

Drafting plans for military emergencies and repeating joint military exercises under the new defense cooperation guidelines will also function to shore up the Japan-U.S. alliance and increase the two nations’ combined deterrent potential.

Abe’s efforts to lift the self-imposed ban on our nation exercising its collective self-defense right has garnered support not only from the ruling parties, but from opposition lawmakers as well. The idea is endorsed by such opposition members as Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Your Party and some members of the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan. However, the DPJ’s top cadre remains noncommittal about whether to approve the exercise of the right, and has criticized Abe’s initiative in reinterpreting the nation’s fundamental law.

With the Cabinet’s decision completed, Abe should take every opportunity—ad-hoc parliamentary sessions that can be convened even during the the Diet’s recess, for example—to explain the significance of ending the ban on the collective self-defense right. It is crucial for the prime minister to make every effort to ensure that the public better understands the true meaning of revising the government’s official stance on the right.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 2, 2014)


社会福祉法人 地域貢献で存在意義を示せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Social welfare service corporations must step up role as local entities
社会福祉法人 地域貢献で存在意義を示せ

Criticism has surged recently against social welfare service corporations for failing to sufficiently fulfill their roles, despite having an easier time engaging in almost the same services as ordinary private-sector companies as a result of such measures as preferential tax treatment.

To reform social welfare service corporations that run such facilities as nursing homes for the elderly and child care centers, an expert panel of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has worked out a draft report containing a set of recommendations. The proposed report should be seen as a good opportunity to enhance the quality of their services.

Social welfare service corporations are nonprofit private-sector organizations based on the Social Welfare Law. They number about 20,000 nationwide. While being subject to strict regulations and supervision by administrative authorities, the corporations are entitled to receive preferential treatment in various areas, such as exemption from corporate tax and other public dues, and eligibility for subsidies to improve their facilities.

Bodies authorized as social welfare service corporations have played pivotal roles in the nation’s social welfare programs since the 1950s, but recently an increasing number of businesses and nonprofit bodies from various fields have been entering the field of social welfare services. The environment surrounding social welfare service corporations has been changing drastically.

Because of such phenomena as the rapidly aging society and the instability of employment, tasks that cannot be fully handled through the existing government-run social welfare programs have been brought to the fore, such as the need to provide care for elderly citizens living alone and supporting hikikomori youths who have withdrawn from society.

As things stand, however, few social welfare service corporations have actually been meeting these new challenges in local communities.

Reexamine mission

The draft report by the health ministry panel has rightly pointed out the need to make it obligatory for social welfare service corporations to engage in activities for the benefit of local communities. It is undoubtedly one of the principal duties of such corporations to address tasks in their fields that cannot be undertaken by profit-pursuing businesses.

The draft has also deemed it problematic that tokuyo homes, which are operated by social welfare service corporations for elderly people who require around-the-clock nursing care, have amassed as much as ¥300 million on average in profits.

It was quite reasonable for the draft report to stress as it did that the raison d’etre of the corporations would be called into question if they fail to make good use of such funds to provide their localities with better welfare services.

To make their activities more effective for the good of local communities, it is necessary to take such steps as expanding the scale of the corporations and facilitating joint operations by a larger number of corporations.

Worthy of note in this respect are social welfare service corporations in Osaka Prefecture, which have been cooperating with each other by pooling funds to jointly offer counseling support services for people in need. They have also provided people in straitened circumstances with livelihood expenses and food. Their activities can serve as a positive model for other social welfare service corporations.

Effective from fiscal 2015, the administration of some publicly run nursing care insurance services will be transferred to city, town and village entities. The law for helping disadvantaged people become self-reliant will also be put into force at the beginning of the next fiscal year, with city, town and village governments taking charge of providing the low-income residents with livelihood counseling and helping them find employment.

Social welfare service corporations are expected to be major bodies to be entrusted with such operations. This means that corporations must play even larger roles.

Some chief executives’ practice of treating social welfare service corporations like their exclusive property has become an issue. To ensure public trust, it is essential to enhance the transparency of their operations.

Only half of such corporations have disclosed their financial statements. As stated in the draft report, it is imperative to make it obligatory for the corporations to make them public.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2014)


イラク流動化 無秩序の拡大を食い止めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Further chaos must be stemmed in face of deepening Iraq crisis
イラク流動化 無秩序の拡大を食い止めたい

The chaos in Iraq has been fast spreading across its border. To avoid this situation leading to destabilization of the Middle East as a whole, countries concerned such as Iraq and the United States must join hands in pressing ahead with addressing this challenge.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a Sunni militant extremist group that claims to uphold the founding of a new state based on Islamic law, has taken control of towns and oil fields in the central and western regions of Iraq, and expelled Iraqi government forces from the Iraqi-Syrian border area.

In the region near the border with Syria, the Al-Nustra Front, a terrorist organization affiliated with Al-Qaida that is fighting the administration of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has launched a joint struggle with ISIS. Members of the two extremist groups have reportedly moved freely between the two countries as if no border exists, thus aggravating the chaotic situation.

As a result, the Syrian military has carried out air strikes on the border region, which has been welcomed by the Iraqi government. The new development is indicative of a blending of the civil wars in the two countries stemming from conflicts between Shiite and Sunni militants, exposing how complex the confrontation really is.

As if taking advantage of this turmoil, Kurdish forces, a minority group based in northern Iraq, have embarked on running one of Iraq’s main refineries and oil exports on their own, a highly alarming move that could end up splitting Iraq.

Iraqi existence at stake

Also problematic in this connection are reports that huge amounts of cash have been flowing to Sunni extremists from Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, a major Sunni power. Saudi Arabia’s decision to sever the flow of funds would be a key step toward resolving the imbroglio.

It is only natural that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on a tour of Middle East and European countries earlier this month, warned that the ongoing crisis could be fatal to “Iraq’s existence as a state, and it is also a threat to the wider region [of the Middle East as a whole].” As it has ruled out the option of deploying ground troops in Iraq, the United States should accelerate its diplomatic efforts.

Washington, for that matter, has decided to extend financial assistance to Syria’s moderate rebels against the Assad regime. The decision appears to be aimed at blunting the capability of ISIS by helping the moderates hold the Al-Nusra Front in check.

In the meantime, a 180-strong team of U.S. military advisers has begun operating in Iraq. Washington says the advisers will help rebuild the Iraqi forces, while collecting information about how ISIS is organized and its probable future moves, in an effort to eventually specify targets by armed drones, which are one of the options the United States may employ in the future.

To prevent the collapse of Iraq’s foundation as a state, the United States aims to rally states and other forces that have an influence over Iraq, but has still fallen short of completing the task of drawing up any feasible scenario.

Kerry has been persistently urging Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form a government of national unity, including Sunni and Kurdish forces. The Iraqi prime minister must waste no time in realizing national reconciliation.

The Japanese government, for its part, has decided to provide about ¥600 million in assistance to Iraqi refugees. This country should continue its cooperation to help stabilize the Iraqi situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 29, 2014)