休眠預金法案 公正性の確保へ審議を尽くせ


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bill on using dormant accounts must be deliberated to ensure fairness
休眠預金法案 公正性の確保へ審議を尽くせ

A nonpartisan group of lawmakers has compiled a bill to use money in dormant bank accounts — accounts that have had no deposit or withdrawal activity for more than 10 years — for social welfare and other purposes.

The group said that it would submit the bill for passage during the current Diet session.

Every year, about ¥50 billion worth of deposits are categorized as dormant and recorded as profits of financial institutions. Britain and South Korea have a system to use such funds to support welfare and other activities. The nonpartisan group drafted the bill based on those and other examples.

The bill stipulates that the money would be used for various welfare activities, including assistance for children, youth and impoverished people. But if depositors subsequently claim their money, it would be repaid, according to the bill.

We think the bill’s aim to use such funds to improve welfare while paying due consideration to protecting depositors is reasonable.

Private-sector organizations would be entrusted to distribute the funds to foster activities beyond the reach of the support from the government and other public-sector organizations. To coordinate the distribution, a general incorporated foundation called a “designated utilization organization” would be created.

This organization would choose several fund distribution organizations from among incorporated foundations around the country. Through the fund distribution organizations, aid funds would be given or loaned to nonprofit and volunteer organizations working on welfare projects.

With the wisdom of private-sector organizations involved, we expect the money to be used for assistance in a way that suits situations on the ground.

Legal compliance important

However, it is worrying to see that there are not a few who doubt if the bill guarantees fair and transparent distribution of the funds.

They particularly find problems concerning good governance and legal compliance of the envisaged utilization and distribution organizations. Many of them point out that measures to prevent corrupt conduct such as payoffs from fund recipients are obscure.

Both organizations, which would broker a huge amount of funds, would require strict management.

New Cabinet Office ordinances would be made to set up details of the system to use the deposits, according to the bill. However, we think that a law should include more details concerning regulation to secure fair distribution of aid funds, such as an auditing method.

A measure to prevent people involved in the distribution of funds from providing “peer support” to organizations they belong or are related to is essential.

After all, money in dormant accounts belongs to the account holders. As much of this money as possible should be returned to the original depositors. Britain and South Korea have an online system enabling the public to check easily whether they have dormant accounts. Japan, too, should consider efforts to reduce the amount of dormant deposits.

It is important to win the public’s understanding of the system to utilize dormant deposits by eliminating various suspicions about it. The Diet should thoroughly deliberate the bill to improve the envisaged system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2015)


自民党総裁選 無投票再選も前向きな選択肢


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Unopposed reelection of Abe as LDP leader a positive course
自民党総裁選 無投票再選も前向きな選択肢

We think it appropriate that the schedule for election of the Liberal Democratic Party president has been decided from the standpoint of lessening its effects on Diet deliberations of the security-related bills, which are the most important business in the current session.

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term as LDP president expires at the end of September, the main ruling party decided to hold its presidential election on Sept. 20, with the official campaign period to begin on Sept. 8.

An LDP presidential race at the expiration of a presidential term is normally held before an extraordinary session of the Diet in autumn. However, since the current ordinary Diet session has been significantly extended, the upcoming election is held during the session — an exceptional situation.

The LDP considered other schedules, such as holding the vote on Sept. 27 with a campaign period starting on Sept. 15. However, since deliberations on the security-related bills are a little stagnant at the House of Councillors, the party has decided to hold the election as early as its election regulations permit after examining its effects on deliberations of and voting on the bills at the Diet, as well as a scheduled trip abroad by the prime minister.

In the presidential race, Abe is highly likely to be elected again without a contest.

All seven factions of the LDP, including the Hiroyuki Hosoda faction of which Abe was originally a member, have decided to support the prime minister. With such moves, the factions apparently aim to win posts for their members in the Cabinet reshuffle and the changes of LDP executives expected in October after the current Diet session adjourns.

Shigeru Ishiba, minister in charge of vitalizing local economies, competed with Abe in the LDP leadership race in September 2012, but he does not intend to run for the presidency this time because he is currently a member of the Abe Cabinet. Former LDP General Council head Seiko Noda is trying hard to run for the election but is said to be having difficulty collecting the support from 20 LDP lawmakers required for candidacy.

No rival candidate

Considering the prime minister’s achievements in the last three years, it is certainly not easy to field a rival candidate. Abe has built a strong political foundation by scoring crushing victories in two House of Representatives elections and one upper house election. Even after a drop, his Cabinet still has a public approval rate above 40 percent.

In September last year, Abe reshuffled his Cabinet but retained ministers necessary to keep its basic frame, such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Finance Minster Taro Aso. At the same time, he appointed Sadakazu Tanigaki as LDP secretary general and Toshihiro Nikai as LDP General Council head, both executive posts of his party. The Abe regime has been made stable with his strategy of placing political heavyweights in important posts in anticipation of a long-term government.

If several candidates run for the presidential race, it is likely to create an opportunity for policy discussions on the course of Japan for the next three years. However, can the LDP afford that now?

The global economy is destabilized, and the recovery of the Japanese economy is at a standstill. Is it really productive to spend energy on making counterproposals to Abenomics, the prime minister’s economic policy package, and fighting among members of the same party?

The security-related bills are extremely significant in terms of securing the peace and safety of Japan and the surrounding region, but the understanding of the bills is not necessarily spreading among the public.

With Diet deliberations on the bills entering a crucial phase, it is also difficult to secure the environment necessary to hold a full-scale presidential election, including arrangements for a stumping tour of candidates around the country and voting by party members.

It may be a positive course for LDP members to unite under Abe to overcome difficult challenges.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2015)


橋下氏維新離党 何とも分かりづらい内紛だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hashimoto’s departure from JIP caps baffling intraparty squabble
橋下氏維新離党 何とも分かりづらい内紛だ

Conflict within the Japan Innovation Party has spiraled into the departure of two members who founded the party. Many people must be baffled at the events that led to this.

Toru Hashimoto, supreme adviser of the JIP and also Osaka mayor, and adviser Ichiro Matsui, who is also Osaka governor, have both announced they will leave the party.

Hashimoto said he “plans to shift his focus from a national political party to Osaka’s regional politics” for Osaka gubernatorial and mayoral elections, which will be held in November. In the background to his decision was a lack of confidence in JIP leader Yorihisa Matsuno and other party executives, and there is a possibility that this intraparty friction could lead to a split.

The origin of the squabble was JIP Secretary General Mito Kakizawa’s support for an expected candidate in next month’s Yamagata mayoral election who also was backed by the Democratic Party of Japan and other parties. Matsui regarded this as problematic and demanded Kakizawa resign from his party post. Kakizawa refused to step down. Consequently, Matsui lashed out at Kakizawa and some other members, saying, “They’re addicted to what’s going on in Nagatacho,” referring to the Tokyo area that is considered the nation’s political nerve center.

As the JIP’s local organization in Yamagata had been maneuvering to support another expected candidate, party headquarters had refrained from supporting any specific contender. Although it is undeniable that Kakizawa’s actions, which disregarded the party situation, were indeed careless, the general consensus is that he had not done anything that warranted his resignation.

The decision by Hashimoto and Matsui to step away from the party was overly abrupt and shows a lack of responsible attitude.

Questions must be raised about the behavior of two politicians who wield tremendous influence over the running of the second-largest opposition party. In particular, it is difficult to understand why Hashimoto left the party while he accepted Kakizawa staying in his post.

Keep security talks on track

Matsuno’s inability to bring this fracas under control also displayed a lack of leadership.

Hashimoto and others are close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and have taken stances toward the administration on an issue-by-issue basis. In contrast, Matsuno and Kakizawa have placed great emphasis on working with the DPJ and other parties, so a policy conflict continued within the JIP.

The party is scheduled to hold a leadership election in November. It is possible that many of the party’s Osaka-affiliated lawmakers in the Diet and local assembly members might follow Hashimoto, who is skilled at conveying messages to the public, and leave the party en masse. Such repeated splits and political realignments, which have been done so easily, will make it harder for the JIP to gain the support of the public.

This is a crucial moment for the JIP.

We also are concerned about the impact of the party’s ructions on discussions regarding security-related bills.

The JIP has submitted five counterproposals to the House of Councillors and planned to hold negotiations with the ruling coalition parties about possible amendments to the bills. It also is considering the joint submission — with the DPJ — of a territorial security bill and other bills.

Wide gaps remain between the government-sponsored bills and the JIP counterproposals, so the negotiations were expected to be anything but smooth. Even so, it was hugely significant that constructive discussions were to be held on a range of key points.

Hashimoto stressed, “When the security bills reach an important phase, it is not the time for internal dissension.”

We hope Matsuno and other JIP bigwigs will sincerely engage in talks on possible amendments to the bills. The JIP’s ability to remain a “responsible opposition party” is on the line.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2015)Speech


企業年金改革 多くの人が活用できる制度に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Make corporate pension programs accessible for more employees
企業年金改革 多くの人が活用できる制度に

It is important to make many people eligible to participate in corporate pension programs, as a means of supplementing public pensions.

A bill to reform the corporate pension system is under deliberation at the House of Representatives. The government aims to get the bill passed into law during the current Diet session.

The central pillar of the bill is to review the defined contribution pension system, in which subscribers choose how their pension premiums should be managed, with the amount of their pension benefits to be determined by the results.

The bill calls for establishing “simplified defined contribution pension plans,” with the establishment procedures to be simplified so as to make it easier for even small and midsize corporations to introduce them for their employees.

The bill also envisages creating a system to support the subscription of more people, by creating “individual-type defined contribution pension plans” for employees of companies unable to have such plans on their own and for self-employed people. Under this system, corporations, if only small and midsized firms, can add their contributions to their employees’ pension premiums.

A corporate pension plan is a program to be established by each corporation voluntarily in addition to the kosei nenkin corporate employees pension scheme, part of the nation’s public pension system.

As the level of benefits paid under the public pension system declines against the backdrop of a low birthrate and a graying population, the role of corporate pension plans is growing.

It is appropriate for the corporate pension plan to be utilized by workers other than only those at big companies.

At present, among subscribers to the kosei nenkin scheme, fewer than 40 percent also participate in corporate pension programs. And the ratio of companies that have introduced corporate pension programs is declining. Among smaller firms, with 30 to 99 employees, only 18.6 percent have introduced such programs.

Major programs dissolving

On top of this, kosei nenkin kikin (corporate employees’ pension funds), which once were the leading corporate pension programs, are to be dissolved, with certain exceptions, by March 2019. Faced with management difficulty following the collapse of the bubble economy, one corporate employees’ pension fund after another became unable to stay afloat. As leading companies have pulled out of their schemes swiftly, most of the pension funds still operating are ones formed by smaller firms.

It is an open question whether the reform will be sufficient to help those who will no longer be covered by corporate employees’ pension funds after they are dissolved. It is necessary to try one way after another to promote the spread of the corporate pension plans envisaged by the bill, while assessing the status of the introduction of schemes such as “simplified defined contribution pension plans.”

Also incorporated in the bill is an expansion of the scope of people eligible to participate in “individual-type defined contribution pension plans,” by making full-time homemakers and public-service workers also eligible. In effect, anyone will be able to participate in defined contribution pension schemes.

As working styles have diversified, voluntary resignations and job-switching have become common. The number of nonregular workers who are not eligible to participate in corporate pension plans has also increased.

We can understand the course of action to encourage people’s self-help efforts for their post-retirement years, by providing everyone with a means of supplementing the roles of public pensions.

Open to question is the idea of making even homemakers eligible to participate in “individual-type defined contribution pension plans,” which offer preferential tax treatment, while keeping in place the system of “Category III insured,” under which a dependent spouse of a company or government employee is eligible for basic pension benefits without paying pension premiums themselves. Will the envisaged plan give them excessive preferential treatment?

Regarding nonregular workers, it is also vital to attempt to increase pension benefits for them, by expanding the scope of nonregular workers eligible to participate in the kosei nenkin scheme.

It is important to discuss income security for people in their old age within the framework of the whole pension system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2015)Speech


世界同時株安 市場不安の沈静化を急ぎたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prompt efforts should be made to soothe concerns of markets
世界同時株安 市場不安の沈静化を急ぎたい

With China’s economy the focus of concern, turmoil continues to roil global markets.

The Nikkei Stock Average plunged 733 points from Monday’s close to end at 17,806 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Tuesday. This was the sixth straight trading day the market has declined, with the plunge totaling more than 2,800 points.

The accelerated appreciation of the yen on the foreign currency market also helped send stocks plummeting.

The plunge in stock prices, which started on the Chinese market, has had a knock-on effect on other major markets — the United States, European and Asian countries — taking on an aspect of stock prices simultaneously falling the world over.

We should not let our guard down, but a feature of the wild fluctuations of stock prices seems to be due to speculative moves.

Economic revitalization minister Akira Amari said it is necessary to deal with the issue calmly. In fact, the economies of Japan, the United States and European countries are still on a firm footing. We should not become too pessimistic about the current situation.

It is vital to assuage the uneasiness in the market and prevent it from adversely affecting the real economy.

Japan, the United States, European countries and China have to strengthen policy coordination to calm the market.

The stock plunge was triggered by China’s devaluation of its currency, the yuan, on Aug. 11. This led to the view that China’s economy had deteriorated to such a degree that measures were needed to prop up its exports, leading to prices on the Shanghai Stock Exchange to nosedive.

China is maintaining its economic growth at 7 percent. But many of the country’s key economic indicators, such as consumption and exports, have shown signs of an economic slowdown. There is a deep-seated belief that the real state of the economy is even more serious.

China slowdown worse?

By pursuing a “new normal” policy, which allows the country’s economic growth to slow down, can the Chinese government lead its economy to a soft landing through structural reforms? A sense of distrust in the Chinese government’s economic management has exacerbated market uneasiness.

The administration under Chinese President Xi Jinping needs to face up squarely to the reality that China has become the cause of the global market turmoil.

Although China decided to further ease monetary policy on Tuesday, it needs to do much more to stabilize its economy.

Another major point of issue is whether the United States will raise interest rates in the near future. It has been pointed out that if the United States forcibly raises interest rates while markets are still in tumult, funds would immediately flow out of emerging markets, possibly resulting in currency and financial crises.

The United States has to end its monetary relaxation policy eventually, but it should not send the world economy into disorder by hastily exiting from that policy. The Federal Reserve Board should keep a close eye on market trends and look for the proper time to increase rates.

Following the stock price decline, there are calls, including those within the Liberal Democratic Party, for a supplementary budget to initiate economic stimulus measures.

But as the performance of Japanese companies is at a record high level, the government should refrain from taking fiscal action too quickly.

It is most important to steadily implement Abenomics, the economic policy pursued by the administration under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and realize a full-fledged economic growth led by private-sector demand. The government should promote a comprehensive growth strategy to induce vitality into the private sector by easing regulations to encourage the fostering of new businesses.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2015)


南北高官協議 衝突の回避へ冷静に歩み寄れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
North, South Koreas must work toward concessions to avert armed conflict
南北高官協議 衝突の回避へ冷静に歩み寄れ

Escalating tensions through military provocations while seeking to win concessions through dialogue — North Korea should avoid this dangerous brinkmanship and practice self-restraint.

Given the heightening of military tensions between South and North Korea, representatives from the two countries entered into negotiations Saturday at the Panmunjom.

The South was lead by chief of the National Security Office of South Korea, and the North was lead by Hwang Pyong So, director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean People’s Army. The exceptionally high-level bilateral talks were held on and off for three consecutive days. But the two sides are having difficultly reaching any kind of compromise.

To avoid the worst-case scenario of an armed conflict, we want the two sides to make an earnest effort to reach mutual concessions and find concrete measures to ease tensions.

Tensions were triggered after two South Korean soldiers were seriously injured when land mines, believed to have been laid by North Korea, exploded on Aug. 4 near the military demarcation line.

Seoul criticized Pyongyang for violating the Korean Armistice Agreement, and in response resumed anti-North Korea loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in 11 years.

The North demanded a halt to the broadcasts and fired artillery shells into South Korean territory. Pyongyang proposed negotiations with Seoul while at the same time threatening to take further military action. North Korea has been alternating between a hard-line or moderate attitude to rattle the Park Guen-hye administration, which took retaliatory measures.

North Korea’s international isolation is regarded as a factor behind its latest provocative action. Its relations with China, historically the most friendly nation to the North, soured after Pyongyang carried out nuclear tests in defiance of international protests. Exchanges of leaders between the two communist countries have been suspended.

Cool heads vital

The North’s artillery fire came immediately after Park announced she would attend a Chinese ceremony to mark the “victory in its war against Japan.” We wonder whether this action was aimed at cooling the relationship between Seoul and Beijing, which has become closer.

Kim Jong Un issued a decree declaring a “quasi-state of war” to the country’s frontline troops. Can Kim, who lacks leadership experience, deal adequately with such an explosive situation while the country's political situation is so unstable? This fear will be difficult to eliminate.

Park, on the other hand, declared that her country “will cope with the provocation resolutely.” She cannot make concessions easily due to a domestic situation in which popular support for her administration has declined and media organizations are insisting on a hard-line stance.

It is essential, however, for the two Koreas to consider the risk of a military conflict and deal with the situation with cool heads.

The North Korean leadership is reportedly trying to tighten its grip on the military and the Workers’ Party of Korea, among others, by emphasizing the “threat” posed by South Korea. There is speculation that North Korea will test-launch an intermediate-range or a long-range missile to enhance its national prestige and time it to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the party on Oct. 10.

Japan, South Korea and the United States must cooperate closely and bolster information-sharing on North Korean affairs. Preparing all possible deterrent measures is also essential to deal with the North’s new military provocation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2015)


(社説)自民と教科書 政治は採択に関わるな

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 23
EDITORIAL: LDP should not meddle in school textbook selection process
(社説)自民と教科書 政治は採択に関わるな

The process is under way for local governments to select textbooks that will be used in junior high schools from next spring.

Given that, a league of lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has compiled a brochure that compares social studies textbooks issued by various publishers, and has distributed it to local LDP assembly members across the country.

The action is purportedly aimed at encouraging boards of education, through questions by local assemblies and other means, to select textbooks with a strong conservative slant.

Selections, after all, belong to the authority of education boards, which are supposed to make them on the basis of discussions from educational viewpoints on which textbooks are the most suitable for the children and schools of their communities.

Political parties are free to have their own perceptions of the textbooks issued by different publishers. But they should refrain from encouraging the selection of textbooks that are more in line with their philosophies.

Local assembly members are there to approve the appointments of education board members. They should exercise self-restraint so that their actions will not be perceived as applying pressure. What they should do is to serve as a monitor to ensure that education boards can fulfill their primary functions.

The brochure, certainly, contains no text that explicitly recommends any particular publisher.

But the issues being taken up in the brochure include the national flag and the national anthem, the right to collective self-defense and constitutional amendment--pet issues of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe--as well as the Nanking Incident and "comfort women," which the LDP has argued some textbooks contain “self-deprecating” statements about.

Concerning the national flag and the national anthem, for example, the brochure presents strongly conservative textbooks in a favorable light, saying that one contains “detailed descriptions on a feature page.” Some other textbooks are portrayed in a negative light, as seen in a statement that “some textbooks contain no reference in the index” to the issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.

School textbooks are not tools for inculcating arguments of a political party.

Education board members should ensure they are making independent judgments and, even if they are asked questions at local assemblies, they should only regard these queries as the opinions of individuals.

The education board system was reformed so that, starting this spring, the heads of local governments should set up a “general education council,” a forum for exchanging views with education boards.

The education ministry has said the selection of school textbooks should not be a subject of discussions in the council, because it is believed that political neutrality is de rigueur in the textbook selection process.

The LDP has proposed--and has realized--a revision in textbook screening rules so that textbooks must mention the government’s official position, wherever available. As 18-year-olds will be given suffrage from next year, the party has also proposed to Abe that law could be revised to punish senior high school teachers who have deviated from political neutrality.

We cannot accept the sequence of these moves, whereby the political sector is meddling in public education.

The selection process throughout the nation will continue through the end of August.

The LDP brochure is titled, “To deliver better textbooks to our children.”

Thought should be given again to what should be done and not be done by a political party and assembly members if that goal is to be achieved.


露首相択捉訪問 領土交渉に背向ける軽挙妄動

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Through rash actions, Russia turning its back on territorial talks with Japan
露首相択捉訪問 領土交渉に背向ける軽挙妄動

It is an action that will greatly set back the momentum toward improving bilateral ties between Japan and Russia and settling territorial disputes. By no means can we tolerate this.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Etorofu Island in the northern territories on Saturday.

After inspecting the status of the development of harbor and airport facilities on the island, he announced, at a political forum for local youths, a policy of designating the islands of Etorofu and Kunashiri as “advanced development territories.”

The visit is apparently aimed at demonstrating that Russia’s effective control of the northern territories is entrenched, as this month marks the 70th year since the then Soviet Union occupied the islands.

By ignoring Japan’s request to cancel the visit, Medvedev’s arrival on the island constitutes a serious infringement of sovereignty.

It was reasonable that Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told Russian Ambassador to Japan Evgeny Afanasiev on Saturday, “The visit hurt the feelings of the Japanese people and was extremely regrettable.”

Lately, Russia’s hard-line stance on Japan has been intolerable. At the end of June, Russia decided to impose a ban, starting next year, on drift-net fishing for salmon and trout within Russia’s exclusive economic zone, where Japanese fishing vessels also operate. There are fears the Japanese fishing industry will be affected.

Since July, the Russian health minister and the deputy prime minister have successively visited the northern territories. Russia has also announced a “development program,” injecting about ¥120 billion over 10 years for the development of social infrastructure for the whole of the Kuril Islands.

Moscow makes threats

We can discern Russia’s intention of shaking the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and causing disarray in Japan’s cooperation with the United States and European countries, which are imposing sanctions on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.

Japan has attached importance to dialogue with Russia to hold in check China’s military rise and to prevent China from forming a united front with Russia against Japan.

By using the personal relationship between Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japan is seeking a possible visit to Japan by Putin sometime this year to advance bilateral negotiations over territorial issues. We can understand Abe’s strategic course of action.

But Russia’s recent moves vividly demonstrate that the Putin administration has no intention of earnestly dealing with the territorial issues with Japan.

Even if Putin’s visit to Japan is realized, it is hard to expect any substantial dialogue between Abe and Putin, nor any tangible results.

Kishida said he would freeze for the time being the coordination for his planned visit to Russia, in preparation for Putin’s visit to Japan. Japan’s strategy is coming to an impasse.

Behind Russia’s recent moves is the reality that Putin is utilizing as a unifying force for his administration his adoption of hostile views, particularly toward the United States, and inflaming patriotism in the Russian people.

Putin has also referred to the possibility of using nuclear weapons, having repeatedly made threatening remarks to the United States and European countries.

By undergoing a rapid military buildup, Russia also continues its military provocations toward the United States and European nations. Russia’s changing of the status quo by force, such as its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, can never be permitted.

A Russia that abides by international rules and assumes a constructive role would benefit Russia. Japan, in cooperation with the United States, has to continue urging Putin to understand this point, on such occasions as the U.N. General Assembly and the summit talks of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, both scheduled for this autumn.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2015)


年金情報流出 危機感の欠如が被害を広げた

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Low security consciousness at JPS exacerbated pension data breach
年金情報流出 危機感の欠如が被害を広げた

The Japan Pension Service can hardly be regarded as an organization properly handling a massive amount of personal information. Its sloppy information management must be corrected urgently.

An in-house investigation committee at the JPS and a third-party panel at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry have released, separately, reports on the findings of each of their investigations into an incident in which 1.25 million cases of personal information, including the basic pension numbers of pension recipients, were compromised at the JPS.

According to the JPS report, the organization received a total of 124 targeted e-mails carrying a virus from May 8 to 20. File attachments of five of the e-mails were opened, causing 31 personal computers to be infected with the virus and information to be compromised within three days from May 21.

There were several opportunities during that period for the JPS to prevent the damage from spreading.

However, the organization failed to block further e-mails from the address used for the first problematic e-mail following its receipt. It did not confirm properly from mail recipients whether they had opened attachments, and delayed action to cut off Internet connections for the entire JPS computer system.

JPS President Toichiro Mizushima said during a news conference Thursday, “I thought we had confirmed whether the attachment had been opened.” The comment is one indication of the lenient attitude within JPS of leaving everything to those in charge. It was natural for the report to say that “a sense of crisis was lacking.”

It is also problematic that sloppy information management has become everyday practice at the JPS.

Personal information was permitted to be stored in an Internet-connected shared file server when deemed necessary. It can thus be said that the JPS faced a constant danger of the unauthorized exposure of information.

Absence of systematic checks

Rules such as setting passwords were not observed and the JPS did not have a system in place to check what was going on.

The report identified that long-standing problems — carried over from the era of the JPS’s predecessor, the Social Insurance Agency — including a lack of unity as an organization, underlie the data breach. At the now defunct SIA, a lack of control was caused by a three-tier structure for employees, including those recruited by the SIA’s central and local offices. This led to a number of scandals, including a huge blunder with pension record-keeping.

Such an organizational culture likely remains pervasive within the JPS. A sweeping organizational reform is called for, in addition to the bolstering of information management systems.

The welfare ministry’s responsibility is also grave in this regard.

According to the report released by the ministry’s third-party investigation panel, adequate supervision could not be provided because it was not clear which department at the ministry was in charge of the JPS’s information systems.

Despite the fact that the JPS had suffered a similar cyber-attack in April, before it received the targeted e-mail in May, the ministry provided no information on the incident nor did it issue an alert.

It was natural for welfare minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki to say, “Both the JPS and the ministry must take responsibility [for the incident].” It is necessary to ensure that a recurrence of similar incidents is robustly prevented, and that work proceeds toward restoring confidence in the pension system.

Joint efforts by private and public sectors are sought to deal with cyber-attacks, which are becoming more ingenious and shrewd.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2015)


社説:武藤議員離党 公認した自民の責任は

August 21, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: LDP's responsibility for money scandal involving legislator questioned
社説:武藤議員離党 公認した自民の責任は

House of Representatives member Takaya Muto has left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over a money scandal. The scandal has raised questions as for what purposes he became a legislator.
It is still fresh in people's memory that Muto, 36, came under fire for criticizing a group of students and other youths as "selfish" after they urged the public to participate in demonstrations against security bills. He just cannot draw a curtain on his own problem simply by leaving the LDP. The party's responsibility for endorsing him in elections is also serious.

According to the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine, Muto recommended last year that acquaintances and others buy pre-listed shares of a software company, telling them that they could buy shares specially set aside for Diet members. He then collected approximately 40 million yen from 23 people as funds to buy shares. However, shares of the company were never purchased for these people, and some investors have not got back the money they paid. Some have pointed to the possibility that Muto communicated with others over share transactions, using a communication application, while he was attending a session of the lower chamber's Committee on Foreign Affairs.

It is necessary to conduct a further probe to get to the bottom of the scandal because those involved have made conflicting statements.

The latest scandal involving pre-listed shares apparently has reminded numerous members of the general public of the Recruit stock-for-favors scandal that came to light in 1988 and rocked the political world. In the Recruit case, pre-listed shares of a company, whose prices were certain to rise significantly after the stock was listed, were donated to prominent figures in the political and business worlds as well as bureaucrats, and a few of those involved were convicted of giving and accepting bribes.

In the latest case, it remains unclear whether some shares of the software company were actually set aside for legislators. Still, it is common sense for politicians not to be involved in transactions in pre-listed shares. It is only natural that some legislators from opposition parties are demanding that Muto step down as a lawmaker.

In 2007, Muto reportedly joined the policy staff for an alliance of political parties within the Shiga Prefectural Assembly and individual assembly members that backed then Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who was calling for suspension of dam construction projects. However, Muto did an about-face, and applied to run for the lower house on the ticket of the LDP that was critical of Gov. Kada after the party publicly sought candidates. He is currently in his second term as a member of the lower chamber. One cannot help but wonder how the LDP has evaluated and officially endorsed Muto, who appears to lack qualifications as a representative of the people, judging from his policies.

Muto was also present at a study session in June among junior LDP legislators supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in which some attendees called for pressure on the news media. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, leader of an LDP intraparty faction of which Muto was a member, has been quoted as warning Muto to "express your personal views after the security bills are passed into law" over Muto's criticism of the youth group opposing the proposed legislation. This suggests that Aso viewed the timing of Muto's remarks, and not their content, as a problem.

The LDP's responsibility for the money scandal and other scandals involving Muto is grave and the party's half-baked response is also inappropriate. Nevertheless, LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki and other top-ranking members of the governing party failed to question Muto in person over the details of the latest case. After Muto notified the party leadership that he would leave the party, Tanigaki said, "The legislator needs to fulfill his accountability," as if to regard the money scandal as someone else's problem, and not a problem involving the party.

The LDP also has accountability for the money scandal.

毎日新聞 2015年08月21日 東京朝刊


香山リカのココロの万華鏡:利己的なおとなたちへ /東京

August 16, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Learning not to jump to generalizations
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:利己的なおとなたちへ /東京

Twitter has become a tool even among politicians to express their opinions. A tweet recently posted by a House of Representatives lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has stirred controversy. He wrote that claims made by students protesting against the government-sponsored security-related bills are "based on their self-centered and extremely egoistic thinking that they don't want to go to war," and he went on to say that it was "very regrettable."

After learning about this incident, I thought to myself that this politician could only understand war as a general, abstract concept. A war in reality is not "a battle between right and wrong." Those who fight in the front are young people with different personalities and dreams. Behind those youths, furthermore, are their families and lovers. If a young man dies in a battle, people around him will also face drastic changes in their lives.

Though it is different from the topic of war, I always think about the effects of generalizations. It is easy to say, "depression is on the rise because people have become weaker," and speak in generalities, but each patient is in a different situation, faced with different problems.

Suppose there is a man who is a breadwinner in a family and he goes to see a doctor after developing depression. The doctor tells him, "Generally speaking, if the cause of depression is work-related stress, a person would not feel better unless the burden placed on them is released." What if he quits his job after seeing the doctor? There will be a significant impact on his family -- they may have to sell their house, the children may have to transfer to different schools, the daughter's wedding may be called off, and ultimately this could lead to the parents' divorce. People's lives may be ruined by a casual suggestion by a doctor.

I can't always pay attention to the details of every single patient I see, but I tell myself at my clinic, "I should not just give out general opinions. I have to pay attention to individual situations."

At Rikkyo University in Tokyo, where I currently work as a professor, a committee of faculty and staff members of the university released a statement against the controversial security-related bills with nearly 1,000 people signing to support the movement. In the statement, there is the following passage:

"War is not an abstract idea. It means young people with names face each other on the battlefield and kill each other."

Today, teens and people in their 20s are not seeing war as something in the past or some generalities, but rather as something real, which they themselves may be dragged into.

For adults who can only consider young people's desire of not wanting to go to war as "selfish" and "egoistical," I recommend reading diaries, or even one memo, written by student soldiers who perished in the Pacific War and think about the lives of those who died.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2015年08月11日 地方版


GDPマイナス 景気の停滞を長引かせるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt must take all possible steps to end lull in economic recovery
GDPマイナス 景気の停滞を長引かせるな

The national economy has been on a path of mild recovery, but its prospects have turned uncertain.

The real-term gross domestic product for the April-June quarter declined 0.4 percent from the previous quarter for an annualized fall of 1.6 percent, according to preliminary figures released by the Cabinet Office, representing the first negative growth in three quarters.

The slump in personal consumption and exports is a major reason behind the poor economic performance. Plant and equipment investment, which holds the key to full-scale growth, also declined, albeit slightly, for the first time in three quarters. Some analysts have pointed out that Japan has entered a lull in its business recovery.

The important thing is not to let the lull drag on. The government and the Bank of Japan must closely examine possible risky factors and do what it takes to prevent business from losing its steam.

Private consumption — the pillar of domestic demand — dropped by 0.8 percent in the April-June period, compared with the previous quarter, marking the first quarterly fall since the April-June quarter of last year, when personal consumption plunged due to the impact of the consumption tax hike to 8 percent.

Economic revitalization minister Akira Amari cited the light vehicle tax hike and unseasonable weather as reasons for the shrinkage of consumption, indicating that the decline was “caused largely by temporary factors.”

But it must be noted that the benefits of wage hikes have been offset by the continued rise in prices of food and other products, a consequence of high raw material prices amid the yen’s weakening. It is certain that households have become more budget-minded. Perhaps consumers have yet to break away from the bearish mind-set ingrained during long years of deflation.

Excessive pessimism is unwarranted, but the government must analyze factors behind slack consumption from a multifaceted viewpoint and work out improvement measures.

Alarming overseas factors

A more alarming factor is the slowdown of overseas economies. It is necessary to keep a close watch especially on the volatile Chinese economy.

China has posted a conspicuous slowdown of such economic indicators as industrial production and construction investment. Affected by this, the growth in emerging Asian countries has begun to slacken. The dull overseas demand, centering on China, has been dampening Japan’s exports.

Given that the People’s Bank of China devalued the yuan on three consecutive days last week, many market dealers concluded that the Chinese economy has been worsening more seriously than expected. A loss of steam in China’s growth would have a big impact on the world economy.

Some point out that an increase of interest rates in the United States, which can be expected within this year, will trigger outflows of a huge amount of funds from emerging economies. Thus, the uncertainties in economic prospects have been increasing.

To survive economic disturbances that originate overseas, the Japanese economy’s fundamental power of growth must be urgently augmented.

It is also essential to enhance the motivation and vigor of the private sector. We suggest that the government expedite the implementation of growth strategies, including promotion of plant and equipment investment that will improve productivity and deregulation that can help expand growth industries.

It is right for the government to aim for a virtuous circle in which corporate profits are passed on to workers in the form of wage hikes and this leads to expanded consumption. To ensure this is realized, the government should steadily carry out measures that can deepen this dimension of the Abenomics economic policy package.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2015)


(社説)マイナス成長 危うい政策目標と想定

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 18
EDITORIAL: Dismal GDP data highlights need to review policy targets
(社説)マイナス成長 危うい政策目標と想定

Japan’s economy shrank during the three months from April through June, its first decline in three quarters. The nation’s real gross domestic product--the value of total economic output adjusted for price changes--fell 0.4 percent during the quarter from the previous three months, according to preliminary data released Aug. 17 by the Cabinet Office. At this rate, the size of economic contraction will reach 1.6 percent on an annualized basis.

Consumer spending dropped in spite expectations of continued recovery. That is because a weaker yen triggered increases in the prices of food and other daily products while wage growth was weaker than expected. This only added to the financial burden on households.

Exports declined for the first time in six quarters, even though they were expected to grow due to the effects of a weaker yen that makes Japanese products cheaper in overseas markets.

The consensus view was that the economy had been recovering gradually since the consumption tax rate increase in April last year, which depressed consumer spending.

The fall in GDP was not caused by any specific factor that delivered a body blow to the economy.

Rather, overall economic conditions were relatively good during the period.

Corporate earnings improved further and the stock market rebounded.

Job growth was strong.

A surge of foreign visitors to Japan was a big boon to related businesses.

The Bank of Japan continued its aggressive monetary easing, while public works spending remained at a high level.

The contraction in the April-June quarter offers some important clues to what's going on in the Japanese economy.
Despite this favorable environment, the economy failed to expand.

And yes, there was some destabilizing factors in the world economy.

In Europe, the debt crisis in Greece caused serious confusion. China’s economic slowdown became more pronounced.

But these external factors are not temporary in nature. We should probably assume that instability in the global economy will continue for a while.

If so, it is hard to expect a dramatic rise in exports or a further sharp increase in spending in Japan by foreign tourists in the coming months. In short, we should not place too much hope on growth in external demand.

In its policy efforts to restore fiscal sanity, the government is pursuing a target of a primary surplus--a situation where government tax revenue exceeds all its spending other than net interest--in fiscal 2020.

In setting the target, however, the government assumed that the economy would pull off a strong real growth of 2 percent and expand by 3 percent in nominal terms.

A tough-minded analysis of Japan’s economic reality behind its negative growth during the April-June period, however, makes clear that it is risky to bet on any significant economic expansion in planning and executing policy measures to dig the nation out of a budget hole that is driving accumulated debt to dangerous levels.

The latest GDP data also offers valuable reference information for the Bank of Japan, which has continued to provide huge monetary stimulus to the economy with an eye to achieving an inflation target of 2 percent.

The central bank started the radical monetary expansion campaign on the assumption that consumers will ramp up their spending when they expect prices to rise. Increased consumer spending then should bolster economic growth by pushing up overall domestic demand, according to the BOJ’s scenario.

But Japanese consumers have not behaved as the BOJ expected. It has become increasingly clear that the central bank’s monetary policy is not working.

The latest economic data points to the need for both the government and the BOJ to revise their growth and inflation projections so they are more in line with the reality and then readjust their economic strategy and monetary policy accordingly.


戦没者追悼式 「深い反省」を世界の平和に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Emperor’s ‘feelings of deep remorse’ must be taken to heart for world peace
戦没者追悼式 「深い反省」を世界の平和に

We must not forget that Japan’s peace and prosperity after World War II have been built on the enormous sacrifices of the people who lost their lives in the war.

Events were held throughout the country on Aug. 15, the 70th anniversary of the war’s end, to honor the souls of the war dead, who number an estimated 3.1 million. In the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, the National Memorial Service for the War Dead was held that day under the sponsorship of the government and in the presence of the Emperor and the Empress.

In his address at the commemorative ceremony, the Emperor said, “Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated.”
“[I] pray for world peace and for the continuing development of our country,” he said.

The words “deep remorse” were newly incorporated into the Emperor’s address for this year’s national commemoration ceremony. This can be said to reflect the Emperor’s feelings toward the last war.

In his New Year’s address this January, the Emperor emphasized, “It is most important for us to take this opportunity to study and learn from the history of this war, starting with the Manchurian Incident of 1931, as we consider the future direction of our country.”

This can be taken as an expression of his Imperial Majesty’s desire to link the lessons of the war to Japan’s peace by reflecting upon the past.

The Emperor saw the war’s end at the age of 11 in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, where he was evacuated. He has been quoted as saying that when he returned to Tokyo, the capital had been reduced to “completely burnt-out ruins, which stand out especially clearly in my memory.”

As a member of the generation that experienced the war first-hand, the Emperor likely has special feelings for the bereaved families of the war dead.

Preserve historic shelter

In April this year, the Emperor and the Empress made an official visit to the island of Peleliu in the Republic of Palau, which was one of the fiercest battlefields in the war. The Imperial couple laid flowers at both the Japanese and U.S. memorials.

The way the Imperial couple are squarely and sincerely facing the scars left by the war this year, the 70th anniversary of the war’s end, has made strong impressions both at home and abroad.

The Imperial Household Agency recently made public the master record and audio of the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War that then Emperor Hirohito, posthumously called Emperor Showa, announced via radio broadcast to the public. They were made public at the Emperor and Empress’ suggestion that the advisability of replaying the recording of the rescript be considered, according to the agency.

Also made public were photos and video footage of an underground air-raid shelter in the Imperial Palace, which was referred to as “Obunko fuzoku shitsu” (Room attached to the Imperial shelter), where Emperor Showa made a “sacred” Imperial decision to bring the war to an end. Its current state, with crumbled floors and fallen wall coverings, conveys the passage of a great deal of time.

In accordance with Emperor Showa’s personal desire that the shelter be not maintained, the room has reportedly never been repaired. But considering that the shelter was an important historical setting, the government may be better advised to study the wisdom of preserving it.

Of the about 5,000 bereaved relatives who attended the national memorial ceremony this year, about 60 percent were children of the war dead. Many children of the war dead are now older than 80.

Spouses of the war dead accounted for no more than 15 of the attendees.

The generation that personally experienced the war is aging rapidly. Steps must be taken to ensure that the memories of the miseries of the war are handed down to the next generation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2015)


終戦70年 平和の堅持へ国際協調貫こう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Enhance international cooperation to guard peace
終戦70年 平和の堅持へ国際協調貫こう


Aug. 15 this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

We should take this occasion to offer silent, sincere prayers for the repose of the souls of more than 3 million people who perished against their will in that terrible conflict, while renewing our resolve for peace.

Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki, in a Peace Declaration he issued on Aug. 9, made reference to the security-related bills, stating, “There is widespread unease and concern that ... the peaceful ideology of the Constitution of Japan [is] now wavering.” He went on to say, “I urge the government and the Diet to listen to these voices of unease and concern ... and conduct careful and sincere deliberations.”

Bills misunderstood

The set of security-related bills centering around endorsement of the exercise of Japan’s right of collective self-defense is aimed at ensuring Japan’s peace and security through strengthening defense cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces and others.

It is regrettable that the bills’ aim has been taken as meaning the exact opposite.

Japan in the past 70 years has never been involved in any war, including the period of Cold War between East and West and the post-Cold War days. This record was not achieved simply by the grace of the pacifism based on the Constitution.

Of greater significance are efforts to found the SDF in 1954 to upgrade the country’s defense capabilities in a way better suited to the changing times, and to revise in 1960 the Japan-U.S. security treaty to steadily strengthen the bilateral alliance.

The Japan-U.S. alliance has now been broadly recognized as an international public good conducive to stabilizing the Asian region as a whole.

Examples illustrating the crucial importance of military might and deterrent power for the sake of defending a country’s territory and its populace are innumerable indeed, including the Korean War, the incursion by the former Soviet Union into Afghanistan, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq and Russia’s invasion of Georgia.

A belief that peace can be secured merely by desiring “peace for all time” and “trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world” as stipulated in the preamble of the Constitution is no better than an idealistic theory that disregards the harsh realities of international relations.

Before the war, Japan withdrew from the the League of Nations, which was groping for ways of materializing the ideal of collective security, deliberately shattering the world order at that time.

After the war, this county, because of soul-searching about that wartime past, placed excessively strict constraints on the activities of the SDF.

There can be no denying that many Japanese, dependent on the United States for the nation’s security policy while blessed with peace and prosperity under the U.S.-led international order, have been apt to drift into a state of being unable to think about what should be done to secure the country’s peace and security.

Record of trust

The turning point came with the 1991 Gulf War. The SDF was dispatched after the fighting ended to conduct minesweeping operations and has since been involved in U.N. peacekeeping operations. The SDF built up a solid track record and steadily earned the trust of other nations.

The new security-related legislation, which will expand the international activities of the SDF, is an extension of this. As well as rectifying the previously overcautious interpretation of the Constitution, Japan must play its part as a nation willing to support the new international order and fulfill an appropriate level of responsibility.

The United Nations, which will mark the 70th anniversary of its founding in October, is prone to dysfunction for reasons including the veto power held by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. It is often a stretch to say the United Nations is effectively playing a role in resolving international disputes.

At present, China is trumpeting its self-righteous logic in the East China and South China seas, where it is attempting to change the status quo through force. Russia is doing the same in Ukraine. Both of these nations, backed up by their massive military might, ignore international criticism of their behavior.

For Japan, China’s military buildup and maritime expansion are serious problems. If China’s defense budget continues to grow at its current pace, in five years it will be more than four times the size of Japan’s defense budget; a decade from now, it will be almost seven times the size.

North Korea possesses several hundred ballistic missiles that can reach Japan. The threat of terrorism is spreading, as exemplified by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist group.

To ensure Japan remains safe from these threats, it is essential to pass the security bills into law and strengthen multilayered cooperation with the United States, Australia and nations in Europe and Southeast Asia.

Diplomacy and military affairs are closely connected with each other and form a complementary pair. Making it possible for the SDF to provide a seamless response to any situation will help prevent conflict from erupting and provide backing to support peaceful diplomacy that stabilizes the region.

Critics in some quarters have claimed the security-related bills will “make Japan a nation that can once again wage war” and “return the nation to the prewar days.” These assertions can only be described as twisted interpretations.

Japan firmly pacifist

Modern-day Japan is decisively different from prewar Japan in several ways. Now, Japan stands staunchly by the pacifism enshrined in the Constitution, rejects aggression and territorial expansion, and attaches great weight to international cooperation. Civilian control of the SDF remains firmly in place.

Allowing the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, as stipulated in the new security-related bills, and expanding the SDF’s humanitarian and reconstruction support activities overseas and the logistic support it can provide to military forces of other nations, will all help reinforce international solidarity.

This is precisely why the overwhelming majority of nations — with the notable exceptions of China and South Korea, which have rifts with Japan over perceptions of history — highly regard and support the content of the legislation.

Nations have extremely high expectations for the “proactive contribution to peace based on the principle of international cooperation” put forward by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The prime minister should redouble his efforts to explain the significance and necessity of the security-related bills to the public and gain greater understanding of the legislation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2015)


(社説)戦後70年の安倍談話 何のために出したのか

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 15
EDITORIAL: Abe’s war anniversary statement falls way short of the mark
(社説)戦後70年の安倍談話 何のために出したのか

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has left us wondering for what purpose and for whom it was written.

Issued Aug. 14, the statement falls grossly short as an accounting to sum up Japan’s modern history on the occasion of this landmark anniversary.

The statement includes all of the terms that had been singled out as crucial elements and were the main focus of international attention: aggression, colonial rule, remorse and apology.

But the statement somewhat obscures the fact that Japan was the country that committed the aggression and carried out colonial rule.

The document referred to remorse and apology for the war only indirectly by mentioning the fact that past Cabinets expressed these sentiments.

We feel strongly that the Abe administration did not have to issue, or rather, should not have issued this flawed statement.


The Abe statement struck us as an awkward compromise between the views about history held by him and his supporters and the hard and weighty historical facts.

The statement issued in 1995 by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the war has been internationally recognized as a document describing the Japanese government’s views about the nation’s wartime past. Its most important feature is that it clearly acknowledged Japan’s act of aggression and candidly expressed remorse for the nation’s past and apologies to peoples of Asian countries.

In contrast, the Abe statement referred to Japan’s aggression in the following passage.

“Incident, aggression, war--we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.”

This declaration, in itself, is not wrong, of course. But this clearly represents a back down from the position set by the Murayama statement, which Abe himself had pledged to uphold.

Even a report drawn up by a panel of personal advisers to Abe appointed to offer advice over the war commemorative statement made a clear reference to Japan’s aggression on the Asian continent.

The new statement is also a back down from how past prime ministers of the Liberal Democratic Party who held office before the Murayama statement described Japan’s wartime behavior. These leaders said to the effect that there was no denying Japan’s aggressive acts, even if they didn’t use the word “aggression.”

Much the same is true with the issue of apology.

Abe’s statement says, “We must not let our children, grandchildren and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize.”

Many Japanese certainly have the feeling of how long Japan has had to keep apologizing. On the other hand, China and South Korea have their reasons to keep demanding that Japan apologize.

Although the Japanese government has expressed remorse and apology, ministers and other top government officials repeatedly made remarks that cast doubt over the government’s statements. Prime ministers and other politicians paid many visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war criminals along with general war dead. Japan itself has done things that undermine the credibility of its own words.


If he wants to relieve Japan from the burden of having to keep apologizing, Abe, who is suspected by the international community to have biased views about history, should have gracefully offered his own apologies to end the cycle of negative sentiment that has been straining the relationship between Japanese and the peoples of other Asian nations. It is a pity that he failed to make that decision.

Aside from the content of the statement, the political process leading to the release of the document was a depressingly sad spectacle of flip-flopping by the administration.

Immediately after returning to power, Abe began expressing his desire to issue a “future-oriented statement fit for the 21st century.” His remarks indicated his intention to replace the history perceptions displayed by the Murayama statement with his own.

As this move caused serious concern to not only China and South Korea, but also the United States, Abe tilted toward issuing only his personal statement without official Cabinet endorsement.

But some close aides to Abe and Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, voiced an objection to the idea, saying that such a statement would not represent the government’s official position.
Abe then decided to have the statement approved by the Cabinet after all. It was distressing to see the administration change its mind repeatedly on the milestone statement.

Meanwhile, Western scholars as well as Japanese researchers called for Japan’s “unbiased” accounting of past wrongs. In opinion polls, a majority of Japanese also said the statement should acknowledge Japan’s “aggression” and other past wrongdoings.

In the first place, whether it is approved by the Cabinet or not, the prime minister’s statement cannot be cast merely as his “personal view.”

The statement is inevitably taken by the international community as Japan’s official view about its past based on the people’s collective will.

After making a wrongheaded and miserably failed move to turn the statement into his personal credo, Abe pathetically ended up issuing a statement that is fuzzy about the responsibility for aggression and his intention to offer an apology.


It is simply impossible for Abe to push through a major revision to the standard history perceptions that have been accepted by many Japanese and the international community by taking advantage of the ruling camp’s majority control of the Diet.

Abe has been stressing the need to adopt a future-oriented attitude toward history. But making the present and the future better than the past requires coming to terms with the past.
From this point of view, there are still many problems concerning Japan’s past that have been left unsolved, despite the urgent need to settle them.

The biggest of these problems concerns Yasukuni Shrine and the issue of how the government should mourn the war dead.

Diplomatic friction over Yasukuni has eased somewhat recently because Abe has not visited the Shinto shrine since the end of 2013.
But the issue will flare up immediately if he pays it another visit.

Even so, there has been no notable political move toward finding a solution to this problem.

No political consensus has been reached on any possible solution to the issue of “comfort women.” There has also been no progress either on the problem of the past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea, with which Japan has no formal diplomatic relationship. Tokyo’s negotiations with Moscow for a settlement of the territorial dispute over the Northern Territories, a group of islands off Hokkaido controlled by Russia, have become bogged down.

While it has spent so much time and energy on a statement that did not have to be issued, the administration has done little to tackle these history related problems, which are crying out for effective political actions for solutions amid the aging of the Japanese and peoples of neighboring countries who experienced firsthand the ravages of war.

We cannot help but wonder for what purpose and for whom the administration is making its policy efforts. Its priorities are totally wrong.

The blame for this wretched situation should be borne by Abe himself.


Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 内閣総理大臣談話

Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Friday, August 14, 2015

On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, we must calmly reflect upon the road to war, the path we have taken since it ended, and the era of the 20th century. We must learn from the lessons of history the wisdom for our future.

More than one hundred years ago, vast colonies possessed mainly by the Western powers stretched out across the world. With their overwhelming supremacy in technology, waves of colonial rule surged toward Asia in the 19th century. There is no doubt that the resultant sense of crisis drove Japan forward to achieve modernization. Japan built a constitutional government earlier than any other nation in Asia. The country preserved its independence throughout. The Japan-Russia War gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.

After World War I, which embroiled the world, the movement for self-determination gained momentum and put brakes on colonization that had been underway. It was a horrible war that claimed as many as ten million lives. With a strong desire for peace stirred in them, people founded the League of Nations and brought forth the General Treaty for Renunciation of War. There emerged in the international community a new tide of outlawing war itself.

At the beginning, Japan, too, kept steps with other nations. However, with the Great Depression setting in and the Western countries launching economic blocs by involving colonial economies, Japan's economy suffered a major blow. In such circumstances, Japan's sense of isolation deepened and it attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force. Its domestic political system could not serve as a brake to stop such attempts. In this way, Japan lost sight of the overall trends in the world.

With the Manchurian Incident, followed by the withdrawal from the League of Nations, Japan gradually transformed itself into a challenger to the new international order that the international community sought to establish after tremendous sacrifices. Japan took the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.

And, seventy years ago, Japan was defeated.

On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.

More than three million of our compatriots lost their lives during the war: on the battlefields worrying about the future of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families; in remote foreign countries after the war, in extreme cold or heat, suffering from starvation and disease. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the air raids on Tokyo and other cities, and the ground battles in Okinawa, among others, took a heavy toll among ordinary citizens without mercy.

Also in countries that fought against Japan, countless lives were lost among young people with promising futures. In China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and elsewhere that became the battlefields, numerous innocent citizens suffered and fell victim to battles as well as hardships such as severe deprivation of food. We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honour and dignity were severely injured.

Upon the innocent people did our country inflict immeasurable damage and suffering. History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone. Each and every one of them had his or her life, dream, and beloved family. When I squarely contemplate this obvious fact, even now, I find myself speechless and my heart is rent with the utmost grief.

The peace we enjoy today exists only upon such precious sacrifices. And therein lies the origin of postwar Japan.

We must never again repeat the devastation of war.

Incident, aggression, war -- we shall never again resort to any form of the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes. We shall abandon colonial rule forever and respect the right of self-determination of all peoples throughout the world.

With deep repentance for the war, Japan made that pledge. Upon it, we have created a free and democratic country, abided by the rule of law, and consistently upheld that pledge never to wage a war again. While taking silent pride in the path we have walked as a peace-loving nation for as long as seventy years, we remain determined never to deviate from this steadfast course.

Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war. In order to manifest such feelings through concrete actions, we have engraved in our hearts the histories of suffering of the people in Asia as our neighbours: those in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and China, among others; and we have consistently devoted ourselves to the peace and prosperity of the region since the end of the war.

Such position articulated by the previous cabinets will remain unshakable into the future.

However, no matter what kind of efforts we may make, the sorrows of those who lost their family members and the painful memories of those who underwent immense sufferings by the destruction of war will never be healed.

Thus, we must take to heart the following.

The fact that more than six million Japanese repatriates managed to come home safely after the war from various parts of the Asia-Pacific and became the driving force behind Japan’s postwar reconstruction; the fact that nearly three thousand Japanese children left behind in China were able to grow up there and set foot on the soil of their homeland again; and the fact that former POWs of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia and other nations have visited Japan for many years to continue praying for the souls of the war dead on both sides.

How much emotional struggle must have existed and what great efforts must have been necessary for the Chinese people who underwent all the sufferings of the war and for the former POWs who experienced unbearable sufferings caused by the Japanese military in order for them to be so tolerant nevertheless?

That is what we must turn our thoughts to reflect upon.

Thanks to such manifestation of tolerance, Japan was able to return to the international community in the postwar era. Taking this opportunity of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Japan would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to all the nations and all the people who made every effort for reconciliation.

In Japan, the postwar generations now exceed eighty per cent of its population. We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize. Still, even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on to the future.

Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were able to survive in a devastated land in sheer poverty after the war. The future they brought about is the one our current generation inherited and the one we will hand down to the next generation. Together with the tireless efforts of our predecessors, this has only been possible through the goodwill and assistance extended to us that transcended hatred by a truly large number of countries, such as the United States, Australia, and European nations, which Japan had fiercely fought against as enemies.

We must pass this down from generation to generation into the future. We have the great responsibility to take the lessons of history deeply into our hearts, to carve out a better future, and to make all possible efforts for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan attempted to break its deadlock with force. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to firmly uphold the principle that any disputes must be settled peacefully and diplomatically based on the respect for the rule of law and not through the use of force, and to reach out to other countries in the world to do the same. As the only country to have ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings during war, Japan will fulfil its responsibility in the international community, aiming at the non-proliferation and ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honour of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s injured hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when forming economic blocs made the seeds of conflict thrive. Upon this reflection, Japan will continue to develop a free, fair and open international economic system that will not be influenced by the arbitrary intentions of any nation. We will strengthen assistance for developing countries, and lead the world toward further prosperity. Prosperity is the very foundation for peace. Japan will make even greater efforts to fight against poverty, which also serves as a hotbed of violence, and to provide opportunities for medical services, education, and self-reliance to all the people in the world.

We will engrave in our hearts the past, when Japan ended up becoming a challenger to the international order. Upon this reflection, Japan will firmly uphold basic values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights as unyielding values and, by working hand in hand with countries that share such values, hoist the flag of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” and contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world more than ever before.

Heading toward the 80th, the 90th and the centennial anniversary of the end of the war, we are determined to create such a Japan together with the Japanese people.

August 14, 2015

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan
内閣総理大臣  安倍 晋三