英国がEU離脱へ 内向き志向の連鎖を防げ

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 25
EDITORIAL: ‘Brexit’ vote must not trigger wave of global nationalism
(社説)英国がEU離脱へ 内向き志向の連鎖を防げ

The British people’s decision to pull their country out of the European Union has sent shock waves across the world.

The stunning decision could turn out to be the biggest tectonic shift in the world order since the end of the Cold War.

A majority of votes cast in the June 23 referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain in the bloc were for “Brexit.” Britons have decided that their country should not be part of an integrated Europe.

Since the end of World War II, Europe has moved steadily toward integration. Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will be a historic development that runs counter to this movement, launched with a pledge of no more war in Europe.

Britain is the second largest economy in Europe and has unique global influence, a legacy of the British Empire. Its secession from the EU will have immeasurable effects on the entire world.

The outcome of the referendum is also a sign of the British people's will to resist globalization, which has accelerated since the end of the Cold War. They have run out of patience with the trend of many countries sharing rules on important issues such as immigration and trade.

This anti-globalization sentiment is, however, not unique to Britain. In the United States and in other parts of Europe, groups trying to take advantage of growing public resentment toward globalization to promote their political agenda for closing the doors of their nations are gaining ground.

At a time when countries should make united efforts to counter burgeoning narrow-minded nationalism, Britain has opted to take the path of expanding the scope of its unilateral actions. In mapping out its future course, Britain will have to navigate through uncharted waters.

No matter how the country’s negotiations with the EU over its withdrawal pan out, the two sides should not lose sight of the importance of maintaining close cooperation.

Britain and the EU can secure mutual benefits and contribute to stability in the world only when they work closely together to tackle challenges.

We strongly hope that the two sides will figure out a way to build a new constructive relationship without undermining the movement toward European integration.


The outcome of this referendum should not be allowed to serve as a starting point for a new, dark chapter of world history in which citizens around the world become estranged from one another.

The first thing is to heal the rift in British society. The bitterly fought referendum left the nation sharply divided.

Campaign debates were often dominated by remarks designed to emphasize the threats of an economic crisis or immigrants.

Amid heightened tensions due to a heated confrontation between the two camps, a member of parliament in the Remain camp was shot to death.

British society is now gripped by a dangerously charged atmosphere.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who passionately called for votes to remain in the EU, has announced he will step down by autumn.

It is, to be sure, natural for the country to have a new leader to draw up a road map for the future.

But his own Conservative Party has been divided between the Leave and the Remain camps. Scotland, which has a strong sense of belonging to the EU, could make a fresh attempt to become independent.

Britain seems to be in for a prolonged period of political turmoil.

Both Cameron and his successor will have to act swiftly to heal the rift within the country and create a conductive environment for cool-headed discussions on the country’s relations with the EU and its position in the world.


Britain, which had a mighty empire in the 19th century, entered a period of serious stagnation in the late 20th century. It was able to shed stagnation and attain new prosperity because it opened its door to the world and rode the wave of globalization to enhance its competitiveness, especially in the financial services industry.

But British citizens who have not benefited from their country’s economic growth have become increasingly disgruntled with the system and worried about their future. As a result, British society as a whole has developed an inward-looking attitude.

Besides people drawn to the reactionary argument that Britain should regain “sovereignty,” many other Britons voted for leaving the EU because of their economic discontent.

Despite the fact that their country has achieved economic growth due to the lowered barriers of national borders, British people have made clear their wish to see high border walls built up again.

This twisted public psychology has also been behind the Trump Phenomenon in the United States and the recent rise of rightist political forces in many other European countries.

Britain’s decision could trigger a wave of movements toward secession from the EU in other member countries.

If in such a political climate Trump is elected U.S. president and Marine Le Pen, the leader of the rightist National Front of France, is elected French president next year, the world will be filled with policies of intolerance.

The situation where the world is dominated by this inward-looking trend must be prevented.

The spread of narrow-minded and self-centered unilateralism among countries will make it impossible for the world to grapple with challenges such as global warming, the proliferation of terrorism and loopholes in taxation.

It is difficult for any industrial nation to maintain its political health.

Low economic growth, declining welfare standards due to fiscal strains and widening income gaps are formidable problems common to industrial nations. Politicians everywhere are struggling to find effective solutions to these problems.

That’s why expanding international cooperation is the only option for countries in tackling these tough challenges.

All nations should reflect afresh on the fact that the only way to deal with problems transcending national borders is through cooperative actions based on collective experiences and wisdom.

We hope Europe will not lose its solid status as a strong, consistent voice for freedom and democratic values.


The impact of Britain’s decision to leave the EU has roiled stock and currency markets. Leading nations should first focus on responding to confusion in financial markets.

In addition to Britain and the EU, the Group of Seven major industrial nations, which also includes Japan and the United States, should play the leading role in securing emergency policy coordination to calm the unnerved markets.

The central banks of the major countries, including the Bank of Japan, are apparently prepared to cooperate in providing cash-strapped financial institutions with dollars.

If an unpredictable situation or the necessity of emergency responses arises, they should take flexible and powerful actions in solid cooperation to prevent a full-blown financial crisis.


慰霊の日 沖縄戦の記憶、共有を

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 24
EDITORIAL: The meaning behind June 23 should be shared beyond Okinawa
(社説)慰霊の日 沖縄戦の記憶、共有を

Okinawa recalled its horrifying experiences in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa and consoled the spirits of the victims on June 23, the 71st anniversary of the end of the bloody warfare. June 23 is a prefecture-designated holiday marking the end of organized fighting by Japanese troops deployed to the southern island prefecture.

More than seven decades since the end of the devastating battle in the final days of the Pacific War, many scars are left unhealed in Okinawa.

U.S. military bases, for instance, occupy 10 percent of the prefecture’s land. Unexploded shells are still discovered frequently in various parts of the prefecture. The remains of the war dead are found in road construction sites.

More than 100 sets of remains are uncovered every year. In the last fiscal year, which ended in March, the remains of 103 bodies were discovered. The numbers for the preceding two years were 194 and 263, respectively.

More than 200,000 people died in the Battle of Okinawa. By March this year, 185,224 sets of remains of Japanese war dead had been laid to rest at the national cemetery for people who died in the Battle of Okinawa in the Mabuni district of Itoman, the site of the last major fighting in the warfare, according to the prefectural government.

The remains of nearly 3,000 Japanese victims have yet to be found.

In the Battle of Okinawa, 66,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians in the military services from other parts of Japan died along with 28,000 from Okinawa Prefecture. In addition, an estimated 94,000 non-military residents of the prefecture, or a quarter of the prefectural population, were killed.

Although many remains are still waiting to be discovered, the task of gathering them has been left to private-sector volunteers. As a result, the work has been proceeding at a glacial pace.

A law mandating the government to collect all remains of the war dead finally came into force in April.
In response, the government has decided to make intensive efforts to collect the remains over the next nine years. The government should take this opportunity to make up for lost time.

The June 23 official memorial ceremony, sponsored by the prefectural government, was held at the Peace Memorial Park in Mabuni. But a spirit-consoling service was also held in front of the gate of Camp Schwab, a U.S. military base in the Henoko district of Nago.

Immediately after the Battle of Okinawa ended, the U.S. military established an internment camp for Japanese civilians. Many residents of the prefecture, ranging from an estimated 20,000 to 40,000, spent several months in the camp. A number of civilian prisoners of war died in the camp from malaria, malnutrition and other reasons.

The construction of Camp Schwab started around 1956. But a citizens group opposed to the proposed relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan in central Okinawa Prefecture to Henoko started holding the spirit-consoling service last year, believing there are still unfound remains within the camp.

With the law promoting the collection of war dead remains taking effect, the government has pledged to carry out such work in U.S. bases as well.

The U.S. military should cooperate with efforts to ensure an early completion of the project.

People in Okinawa are still suffering from the excessive burden of hosting so many U.S. military bases within their prefecture. The central government has stuck stubbornly to the Futenma relocation plan despite strong opposition among people in Okinawa.
The prefecture was recently shocked by the arrest of a former U.S. Marine working as a civilian at the Kadena Air Base in the prefecture on suspicion of raping and murdering a 20-year-old woman. Her body was found in a wooded area after she went missing in late April.

The suffering of Okinawan people due to the heavy U.S. military presence in the prefecture is inseparable from their memories of the Battle of Okinawa.

The central government and Japanese living in the mainland need to understand the full meaning of June 23 and reflect afresh on the history of suffering experienced by people in Okinawa.


北ミサイル発射 安保環境の深刻化を直視せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
After DPRK launches, Japan must squarely face severe security situation
北ミサイル発射 安保環境の深刻化を直視せよ

The threat to the security of Japan and the United States has become more severe. We should step up our vigilance.

North Korea has launched two missiles thought to be Musudan midrange ballistic missiles. The first missile exploded in midair, but the second flew about 400 kilometers before it plunged into the Sea of Japan. The second missile reportedly reached an altitude of more than 1,000 kilometers.

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said the launches “showed a certain degree of capability as midrange ballistic missiles.”

North Korea launched four missiles in April and May that all failed. It must be acknowledged that North Korea, by repeatedly conducting test launches, is steadily improving its technological competence and boosting the accuracy and capability of its missiles.

Musudan missiles use mobile launchers and are estimated to have a range of up to 4,000 kilometers. Its targets are assumed to be U.S. military bases in Guam and Japan.

U.N. Security Council sanction resolutions prohibit North Korea from launching ballistic missiles. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized the launches as “clear violations” of the resolutions. “We can never condone it,” he said. This was a natural response.

Representatives and experts from the six nations involved in talks on the North Korean nuclear issue are holding an international conference in Beijing. Officials from North Korean authorities are also taking part. Firing missiles at this particular time appears to be a demonstration of Pyongyang’s continuing nuclear and missile development, and a show of defiance directly aimed at the international community.

DP, JCP ignore reality

China is also escalating its maritime advances. On June 9, a Chinese military vessel entered the contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture for the first time. Another military ship also intruded into Japan’s territorial waters off Kagoshima Prefecture and the contiguous zone around Kita-Daitojima island.

Security-related bills that were passed in September 2015 permit a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense, and make it possible for the Self-Defense Forces to defend U.S. military ships. To prepare for unforeseen situations, it is vital that the laws are appropriately implemented and continuous efforts are made to boost deterrence.

We have questions about the assertion by the Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, which will collaborate in the House of Councillors election, that they still call for the abolition of the security legislation package.

DP leader Katsuya Okada emphasized the Japan-U.S. alliance must not be turned into “an alliance of blood.” While Okada made this comment during a street speech, was it not demagogy itself?

In connection with the abolition of the laws, Okada also explained that he “isn’t saying the DP will abolish” the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and that the alliance will not become “distorted.” His comments can be described only as opportunism.

Strengthening Japan-U.S. defense cooperation based on the laws will contribute to the stability of Asia, and has been highly evaluated by the international community. The alliance relationship must not be allowed to stray off course by abolishing the laws.

JCP leader Kazuo Shii even went so far as saying his party would gradually dissolve the SDF, which it considers “unconstitutional.” This is unrealistic in the extreme.

Arguments that ignore Japan’s security environment will not be able to win the support of the people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2016)


参院選 きょう公示 戦略的投票でこたえよう

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 22
EDITORIAL: 'Strategic voting' is a must for pivotal Upper House election
(社説)参院選 きょう公示 戦略的投票でこたえよう
Campaigning for the July 10 Upper House election kicked off on June 22.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making the economy the main issue. But there is no question that constitutional amendment will also be at stake, even though Abe says it is not necessary for it to become an election issue. His reasoning is that the Diet needs to debate this subject further.

Abe is more than eager to revise the Constitution. But with the prime minister giving no indication whatsoever of which parts of the Constitution he intends to rewrite and how, voters have no way of forming a judgment.

Abe is conducting politics the "wrong side up" or "back to front." Do we voters allow such an approach to escalate, or do we put the brakes on it? This Upper House election definitely carries far more weight than a mere "midterm evaluation" of the Abe administration.


This will be the second Upper House election since Abe began his second stint as prime minister in December 2012. In retrospect, Abe became the "sole winner" by bringing both chambers of the Diet under the control of the ruling coalition with the previous Upper House election in 2013, which was seven months after the change in government from the then Democratic Party of Japan.

Voters who voted for the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, now called Komeito, in that election were apparently disgusted by the inefficacy of the DPJ administration, and wanted the LDP-New Komeito coalition to stabilize politics and focus on improving the Japanese economy.

After that Upper House election three years ago, we wrote in our editorial that the government should not be "divorced from popular will."

We wondered if the wages would go up for small and midsize company workers and those working outside the big cities. We wondered if the Abe administration would be able to secure revenues needed to stabilize the health-care and social security systems. And the thrust of our argument was that should Abe ignore these concerns and proceed instead with his policy of "departure from the postwar regime," he would be betraying the wishes of the people.

We believe we have been proven right, given the continuing surge of popular protest against the Abe administration since the enactment of national security legislation last year.

In the upcoming election, Abe says the focal point is to seek the public's approval of his "new decision" of postponing the consumption tax hike. By stressing economic statistics such as increased tax revenues and employment, he is telling voters to decide whether they want "Abenomics" to advance or regress.

The proper thing for Abe is to take responsibility for reneging on his promise to raise the consumption tax rate “for certain." But in not doing so, he appears to be taking advantage of the honest feelings of many people who are reluctant to "swallow the bitter medicine" of paying a higher consumption tax.

Abe has said that the victory depends on "the ruling coalition winning a majority of contested seats." Setting the goal may demonstrate his resolve, but whether he will step down if he fails to achieve that goal is anyone's guess.


The ruling coalition of Abe's LDP and Komeito has won three national elections in a row since 2012. And one common factor among the three polls was low voter turnout.

The rates were at the 59 percent level for the 2012 Lower House election and at the 52 percent level for both the 2013 Upper House election and the 2014 Lower House election. Voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest in the postwar history of Lower House elections.

The difference is substantial from the nearly 70 percent voter turnout in the 2009 Lower House election that resulted in the historic change in government. In terms of the number of voters, 72.02 million people voted in the 2009 election, whereas only 54.74 million people did so in the 2014 election. To put this simply, about 17 million voters stopped going to the polls in the 2014 election.

Between 2009 and 2014, the LDP experienced both its fall from power and return to power, but there actually was no significant difference in the number of votes the party won. In the proportional representation portion, the LDP won less than one out of five votes in each election, when abstentions are taken into account.

In other words, the LDP under Abe has not really gained supporters. Under the current election system, which is prone to create wasted votes, the simple fact is that the drastic decrease in the number of DPJ supporters and the increased number of abstentions have given the LDP more seats than those in proportion to the votes it has actually won.

The Abe administration arbitrarily "reinterpreted" the Constitution to allow the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense, instituted the controversial state secrets protection law, and threatened freedom of the press and the public's right to know by hinting at invoking the Broadcast Law.

Not only has the Abe administration marginalized the constraints of the Constitution, but it is now trying to start debate on revising the Constitution without seeking the public's input in the upcoming election.
But what can we voters do about the dangers of the administration?


"Strategic voting" is one way to use each vote effectively.

This may be an unfamiliar term, but one example is to vote for candidates—even if they are not one’s best choices--who have a chance to defeat the party or candidate one definitely does not want.

Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901), whom Abe often quotes in his speeches, once observed to the effect, "Government is not 'good' by nature. What needs to be borne in mind is to acknowledge the reality of how bad it is."

Political scientist Masao Maruyama (1914-1996) commented on Fukuzawa's observation after World War II: "A political choice is made on the basis of how bad something is."

The failure of the DPJ administration is still fresh in many people's minds. The low voter turnout rates that have continued since the party's fall from power apparently reflect the people's disillusionment with politics and sense of helplessness.

But if nothing is done about this, not only will democracy deteriorate, but constitutionalism will also be in grave danger.

Even if we don't have any candidate or party we want to support, we must make up our minds to go to the polls to stop what we see as "bad" from winning the election.

And we have until July 10 to think through how effectively we can use our two ballots--one for the single-seat electorate and the other for the proportional representation portion.

With 2.4 million 18- and 19-year-olds voting for the first time, the older generation cannot just sit out this upcoming election.


中国艦侵入 法の適用も都合次第か

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 17
EDITORIAL: China interprets international law to suit its convenience
(社説)中国艦侵入 法の適用も都合次第か
A Chinese naval intelligence ship entered Japanese territorial waters off Kagoshima Prefecture on June 15, just six days after Tokyo filed a strong protest over the entry of a Chinese naval frigate into Japan's contiguous zone near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Coincidence? We think not.
These incidents clearly signal China’s intention to achieve its aims while ignoring the security concerns of neighboring countries.

The Chinese government contends that passage of the warship through Japanese territorial waters was legal under freedom of navigation laws. China's Defense Ministry argues that the Tokara Strait south of Yakushima island in southern Japan is “a strait within territorial waters used for international navigation.”
“The Chinese warship’s passage was based on the principle of freedom of navigation that is stipulated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” a Chinese defense official said.

If the Tokara Strait is actually an international strait, as Beijing contends, it is, to be sure, open to the passage of foreign vessels, including warships, even though it lies in Japanese territorial waters.

But it is hard to believe that the Chinese spy ship was simply passing through the strait minding its own business. What was it actually doing?

The Chinese ship entered Japanese territorial waters shadowing Indian warships that were participating in an exercise involving Japan, the United States and India. The Chinese vessel may have been monitoring the Indian ships.
The Chinese government has not offered a clear or specific explanation for the warship's presence. It has only said the ship was engaged in “a drill in the open sea.”

It was the second time for a Chinese warship to enter Japanese territorial waters since a nuclear-powered submarine was sighted around the Sakishima islands in Okinawa Prefecture in November 2004.
The submarine violated international law by entering Japanese territorial waters submerged. At that time, the Chinese government admitted that the vessel had strayed into Japanese territory by mistake.

During the 12 years since then, China has aggressively beefed up its Navy and become increasingly assertive in expanding its naval presence.

China has used its naval muscle to stake out a position without holding any talks with the countries concerned, and then tried to justify its behavior by interpreting international law in a way that suits its purpose.

If Beijing continues acting this way, tensions in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea will keep growing.

If China really respects the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, how does it explain its moves to unilaterally draw up a demarcation line called the “nine-dash line” to claim the major part of the South China Sea and forcefully reclaim reefs in disputed areas?

How can it justify its refusal to respect the ruling that the international Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to hand down soon over the validity of China’s claim based on the line in response to a case filed by the Philippines?

The foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressed concern about the situation in the South China Sea during a June 14 meeting with their Chinese counterpart in China’s Yunnan Province.

China apparently wanted to highlight its close ties with ASEAN in the special foreign ministers’ meeting, but, not surprisingly, the outcome was the opposite of what was intended.

China is one of the world's leading countries, and it should take responsibility for peace in Asia.

But China has at times ignored the rules and norms of the global community and at other times used them to justify its dubious actions. The way China has been behaving has made it impossible for its neighbors to trust it.

China is not only disturbing the tranquility of the high seas, it is also treating principles of international law as if they were at its disposal. We are deeply concerned about China’s attitude.


香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 必要とされる実感 /東京

June 19, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Everyone needs to be needed
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 必要とされる実感 /東京

This year's rainy season has started in most parts of Japan. There are patients coming to my clinic complaining that they usually don't feel well around this time of year. I don't think it's just in their heads; I believe humidity and changes in atmospheric pressure are affecting them both mentally and physically.

When the rainy season starts it reminds me of a patient I met when I was younger and working at another hospital. The patient had been hospitalized for a long time, and he was in charge of taking care of people's umbrellas when it rained. He would come to the entrance hall and take hospital visitors' umbrellas, hand them number cards and return their umbrellas in exchange for the cards when they left. The first time I went to the hospital after I was dispatched there by a university hospital, the patient came to me out of nowhere and said, "Where's your umbrella?" A bit dumbstruck, I handed him my umbrella.

After working at the hospital for a little while, I came to learn that there were a number of patients doing various jobs at the hospital, just like the umbrella man. It would make sense as part of a rehabilitation program if those people were scheduled to be released from the hospital, but there were no prospects of them leaving the hospital anytime soon. Then, I thought, the hospital was using them as free labor. The young hospital staff, myself included, argued that it was wrong that those people were given jobs without pay, and told them that they didn't have to work anymore. For those who kept doing their tasks despite our suggestion, we told them, rather forcibly, "Please stop doing this."

The umbrella guy was one of those patients. I myself had repeatedly told him not to continue working and thought, "I freed him from unfair labor practices."

One day, I found him sitting on his bed and chatted with him. "Are you feeling a little better now?" I asked. He then replied, "I don't like rainy days. I have nothing to do now since my job was taken away."

I was taken aback by his response. I realized that even if it looked like an unfair labor practice from my perspective, he took pride in it and it had motivated him to live. If we were going to ask him to stop working, we should have given him another role to fulfill.

Being "right" doesn't necessarily mean we get to know how patients feel. That was what I learned from him.

Everyone, from kids to the elderly alike, wants to have something only they can do, and to feel that people need them, even if they are hospitalized. Every time it rains, I remind myself of that.

(By Rika Kayama, Psychiatrist) (精神科医)


参院選 改憲の是非 正面から問わぬ不実

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 17
EDITORIAL: Abe’s silence on Constitution suggests another election trick
(社説)参院選 改憲の是非 正面から問わぬ不実
Parties have effectively started campaigning for the July 10 Upper House election, with their leaders delivering speeches on the streets and their platforms now available to the public.

Conspicuously missing from the ruling camp’s campaign is the argument for constitutional amendments.

It is widely known that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s biggest political goal is to revise the postwar Constitution.

During the latest Diet session, Abe repeatedly expressed his desire to pursue this goal. “I intend to seek public support during the campaign for the Upper House election,” he said. “I wish to achieve (the goal) while I’m in office.”

But Abe has not referred to the issue even once in his campaign speeches so far.

In sharp contrast, Katsuya Okada, president of the main opposition Democratic Party, has made the issue a top priority in his campaign strategy.
Okada has clearly expressed his party’s opposition to Abe’s bid to revise war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution as one of the party’s two central campaign promises and discussed the issue with great vigor in his speeches.

The proposal to amend the Constitution is a grave political issue the Japanese public has never faced as a real possibility in the postwar era.

If Abe wants to achieve this goal, he should cast the proposal as a principal campaign topic.

However, Abe has been oddly quiet about this issue, a radical change from his eloquence in arguing for the initiative.

If he is trying to prevent the touchy issue from becoming a major campaign topic, he should be accused of acting in an insincere manner.

In a 26-page booklet on its campaign platform, the LDP refers to constitutional amendments only in the last two items.

The party only discusses the issue in regard to the two new combined constituencies created by combining two prefecture-based electoral districts to narrow vote-value disparities. These constituencies will be introduced in the Upper House election.
The LDP pledges to reassess the appropriateness of the method and explore options to eliminate such cross-prefecture constituencies, including a constitutional amendment.
“We will promote debate on the issue at the Commissions on the Constitution at both (Diet) houses and seek cooperation with other parties while trying to build broad public consensus for constitutional amendments,” the party’s platform says.

These passages appear to suggest that the LDP plans to start its constitutional amendment initiative with changes to provisions related to combined constituencies.
But LDP policy chief Tomomi Inada has not endorsed this view, saying there are various opinions about the approach.

The LDP has thus left it unclear to voters which constitutional provisions it will try to change and in what ways.

The LDP’s junior coalition partner, Komeito, doesn’t even touch on constitutional amendments in its campaign platform.
Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi has said amendments will not be a key campaign topic for the Upper House election because “there has been no mature debate” on the issue.

Neither the LDP nor Komeito is willing to make a straightforward appeal to the public to support the proposal to rewrite the Constitution.

Under these circumstances, even if the two parties and their political allies win the two-thirds majority in the chamber needed to initiate the formal process of constitutional revision, they must not be allowed to start pursuing the initiative with sudden zeal after the election.

The Abe administration has a history of deliberately sidestepping debate on divisive policies during election campaigns. After the ruling camp wins a majority, however, the administration suddenly starts pushing through such policies by claiming it has won a public mandate to do so.
The state secrets protection law and new national security legislation, which were enacted in 2013 and 2015, respectively, are two examples of the administration’s sneaky way to achieve its policy goals.

The four kanji characters representing “constitutional amendments” are written in small print at the end of the LDP’s campaign platform. They may be a sign of the party’s intention to use such tactics again to push through its initiative to amend the Constitution. We should not allow the party to do so.


参院選へ アベノミクスの行方 地に足の着いた議論を

June 15, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Political parties need to debate long-term economic policies
参院選へ アベノミクスの行方 地に足の着いた議論を

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the pros and cons of the government's determination to speed up "Abenomics," the economic policy mix promoted by his government, to the maximum extent is the key point of contention in the upcoming House of Councillors election. However, it is essential to examine the results of speeding up Abenomics before evaluating the policy mix.

Prime Minister Abe worked out a scenario of reviving the economy 3 1/2 years ago. Under the scenario, if the government and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) shared the goal of achieving an annual inflation rate of 2 percent within two years and implemented all possible policy measures to that end, Japan would overcome deflation, generate a virtual economic cycle and achieve the high growth that the country had previously experienced.

However, the government is far from achieving this goal.

The inflation rate was minus 0.3 percent this April for the second consecutive month. The average real-term economic growth rate between 2013 -- shortly after Abe returned to power -- and 2015 came to 0.6 percent, far below the goal of 2 percent.

The public is becoming increasingly pessimistic about the economy. According to a survey conducted by the BOJ, 38 percent of respondents predicted that economic conditions will worsen in a year, close to 41 percent who answered so in a survey shortly before the Abe government was formed in December 2012.

Despite these scenarios, Prime Minister Abe emphasized that Abenomics has produced positive results. He often cites the ratio of job offers to job seekers, which is the highest in 24 years, as evidence of the success of his economic policy mix. However, the rise in this index is attributable to a shortage in the workforce. There is a particularly serious labor shortage in the day care and nursing care fields where there is a growing demand for human resources.

It is difficult to secure workers in these fields because the number of people working is falling, wages are lower and workers in these fields are forced to work long hours. The rise in the ratio of job offers to job seekers due to such circumstances is never favorable but problematic.

The prime minister explains that Abenomics is producing positive results but that its effects are dampened by the world economy. However his explanation is inaccurate. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised downward its forecast for Japan's economic growth this year to 0.5 percent. The range of the drop and the sluggishness of economic growth in Japan is conspicuous as compared with Western countries.

It is obvious that Abenomics is not making its intended achievements. Then why is the economic policy mix not working well?

The problem is that the government set unrealistic goals in the first place. Japan's economic growth rate is far lower than those of other developed countries. However, the figure is not necessarily too low considering that Japan's potential annual economic growth has declined to 0 to 0.5 percent.

The fact that Japan's potential economic growth has declined due largely to a decline in its population should be called into question. However, the Abe administration pictured a scenario of reviving rapid economic growth based on the assumption that a virtuous cycle of economic growth can be generated if Japan overcomes deflation.

The Abe government is still pursuing its dream of economic growth.

In September 2015, the second phase of Abenomics was unveiled under the slogan of "the dynamic engagement of all citizens." Under the policy mix, the government is aiming to increase Japan's gross domestic product to at least 600 trillion yen by 2020. This goal is based on the assumption that productivity will be raised to levels equivalent to those during the economic bubble in the late 1980s to the early 1990s. The goal is based on a hypothesis that even many experts believe is unfeasible.

One cannot help but wonder what would happen if the government were to speed up Abenomics based on such an illusion of rapid economic growth. It must be kept in mind that the most negative aspect of Abenomics could be exposed.

The BOJ has kept buying a massive number of government bonds. The outstanding amounts of government bonds that the central bank has amassed have exceeded those owned by commercial banks and account for about one-third of the outstanding government bonds. The amount of such bonds that the BOJ possesses will likely continue to increase.

Risks involving the BOJ's purchase of massive amounts of government bonds would be exposed when consumer prices rise and the BOJ is forced to decrease the volumes of government bonds that the central bank buys. The government bond market has been stabilized because market players believe that bond prices will not decline because the BOJ will continue to buy them. However, if the central bank suggests it may discontinue buying massive amounts of government bonds, the prices of the bonds could plummet.

To avoid such risks, the central bank needs to continue purchasing large amounts of government bonds. However, such a practice could cause the economy to overheat, and it could become impossible to control inflation. Such risks have heightened to an alarming level. If the BOJ is to buy growing amounts of government bonds in response to the prime minister's order that Abenomics be sped up, the central bank would find it increasingly difficult to find a way out of this policy.

Neither Prime Minister Abe nor BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda will talk about these risks. During the campaign for the upcoming upper house race, ruling and opposition parties should not only evaluate Abenomics but also address such potential risks involving the policy mix.

Opposition parties should show new economic policies to counter the unrealistic economic growth policy line in Abenomics. In particular, it is necessary to work out policy measures to respond to the population decline as the country's population is estimated to fall by 10 million over the next 15 years. The opposition parties should address the issue of accepting more foreign workers, which tends to be viewed as a taboo, in addition to reforming labor practices and expand day care services to promote women's empowerment.

Policy measures that bring only short-term benefits to the public, such as the government's decision to postpone the consumption tax increase, and future visions that are overly optimistic could cause anxiety among members of the public. Due to such concerns, people continue to save money even though interest rates on their savings are almost zero while companies are hesitant to make capital investments.

Both the governing and opposition parties should squarely face the reality and hold in-depth debate on long-term economic policies.


英国民投票 欧州の中で歩む決断を

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 15
EDITORIAL: Brexit vote worst outcome for U.K., Europe and rest of the world
(社説)英国民投票 欧州の中で歩む決断を

The outcome of Britain's June 23 referendum on whether to remain a member of the European Union has major ramifications not only for the future of Britain and Europe, but also the entire world.

Sections of the British public have always harbored a deep desire to keep some distance from the EU. But if Britain actually does pull out of the EU, a major shakeup will be a certainty for the British economy as well as the global marketplace.

And the political repercussions will be incalculable. A vote to "Leave" would create a rift in Europe's solidarity over many of its shared problems with respect to immigration and counterterrorism.

The EU's influence on the rest of the world would weaken, and that could well affect the way international law on human rights and democracy is upheld by the international community.

The departure from the EU by any of its current members is bound to reverse the trend toward European integration that has been in place since the 1950s.

In this age of ever-increasing traffic of people and goods across international borders, any momentum toward isolation will render it even more difficult to resolve global problems.

Britain is a major power that ought to be a acting as a strong leader in encouraging international cooperation, not a nation that turns its back on European unity to try to go it alone. We strongly hope Britain will choose to remain in the EU.

Instead of parting ways with the rest of Europe, we hope Britain will continue as a member of the EU and cooperate with all countries while seeking its own prosperity.

In past opinion polls, British public opinion tended to be more in favor of remaining in the Union than against. However, the pendulum has begun to swing in recent weeks.

One of the main reasons for this is said to be the immigrant issue. There is a growing call in Britain for it to be free of the EU's immigrant policy so that it can explore its own destiny.

As evidenced by the "Trump phenomenon" in the United States and the surge of ultra-right forces in parts of Europe, an isolationist mentality is spreading around the world. British public opinion seems to have been influenced by this.

But we want British citizens to stop and think: That the only reason Britain managed to pull itself out of decades of postwar decline and achieve its present prosperity was that its openness to the rest of the world enabled it to benefit from the global economy. This reality can neither be changed nor denied today.

One thing that bothers us is that discussions in Britain about the June 23 referendum seem to be focused almost entirely on economic and immigrant issues, and we hear very little about how the Britons are looking at the big picture.

What sort of relationship should Britain maintain with continental Europe? This is the sort of question that needs to be debated at length and in depth in the context of the history of civilization, until the public is truly ready to reach a consensus.

For the sake of the future of Britain as well as the rest of the world, we hope British citizens will make a decision that is objective and carefully thought out.


米乱射テロ 銃規制へ冷静な議論を尽くせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
U.S. should discuss tighter gun controls in level-headed manner
米乱射テロ 銃規制へ冷静な議論を尽くせ

The latest shooting incident is a despicable act of terrorism strongly influenced by extremism and a sense of discrimination. It can never be condoned.

A man fired an assault rifle inside a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing and wounding a large number of clubgoers and other people inside. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The man, a U.S. citizen and a son of Afghan immigrants, was shot to death in a gun battle with special police units. The gunman allegedly made calls to police from the scene, in which he pledged his loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremist group.

As Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, started earlier this month, ISIL has called for terrorist attacks against the United States and Europe. An ISIL-affiliated media body claimed one of its militants had attacked a gay nightclub.

It remains unknown whether ISIL did order the man to attack the nightclub, but it is highly likely that he was inspired by ISIL. The Federal Bureau of Investigation called the incident terrorism. The FBI must uncover the entire picture of the massacre quickly.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that the man had been questioned several times since 2013 by law enforcement agencies as part of their investigations into terrorism and was on a watch list. Wasn’t there any way the authorities could have foreseen the attack and averted it? This must be verified.

The man was said to have lawfully bought an automatic rifle, an extremely lethal weapon, about one week before the atrocity.

Aiming at ‘soft targets’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe naturally condemned the terrorist action, saying, “Japan will continue to advance efforts to eradicate terrorism, together with the United States and the international community.”

In the United States, a married couple inspired by ISIL committed acts of terrorism also in December last year, using an automatic rifle. According to some statistics, the number of deaths caused by firearms totals 30,000 annually.

There seems to be no end to mass shootings aimed at “soft targets” — sites where large numbers of people gather, such as schools, churches and movie theaters.

If the situation is left unchanged, in which people can easily obtain weapons normally used by the military, the damage from terrorist incidents will only spread.

The Obama administration is calling for stricter gun controls. Yet due to opposition from the Republican-dominated Congress, such legislation has not been realized.

Priority should be placed on making it mandatory for those who purchase weapons on the Internet and elsewhere to be identified at the time of purchase, and on limiting the buying and selling of highly lethal weapons.

The latest shooting incident occurred at a place where gay people gather. There are witness accounts that the attacker hated these people. It is significant that Obama said in a statement, “This was an attack on all of us,” and called for people to unite against such actions.

With the presidential and congressional elections scheduled for November, measures to fight terrorism, responses to Islamic extremism and concrete gun control steps should be discussed in a level-headed manner.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 14, 2016)


英国民投票 EU残留が世界的にも賢明だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Britain’s continued membership in EU most sensible also globally
英国民投票 EU残留が世界的にも賢明だ

A national referendum will be held in Britain on June 23 for British citizens to vote on whether the country should stay in or leave the European Union.

It is an important decision as the outcome will determine the future course of Britain and Europe.

According to public opinion polls, the pro-EU camp and the pro-exit camp are running neck and neck. We hope the British people vote for the country to remain in the EU.

Should Britain leave the bloc, it will become a factor for causing economic turmoil such as jolting global financial markets. It was no surprise that the finance ministers’ meeting of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) expressed concern that the issue concerning a British exit from the EU is complicating the global economic condition.

The major points of contention in Britain’s referendum are “the economy” and “immigrants.”

The British government has released an economic forecast saying that a vote to leave the EU risks causing a recession and job losses. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who leads the pro-EU campaign, warns that leaving the EU would be a “self-destruct option” for the British economy.

If Britain left, the country would have to renegotiate trade and investment rules with the EU, making the country’s economic outlook increasingly uncertain.

While a fierce debate continues between the two camps, Cameron visited a Hitachi, Ltd. train factory in the Midlands. He said that if Britain remained in the EU, the country would be able to attract more foreign investment.

Foreign companies, including Japanese firms, invest in Britain to build bases for advancing into the EU market, which has a population of 500 million.

These foreign companies are setting up businesses in Britain, based on the premise that EU rules are applied in the country, irrespective of whether they are in manufacturing or the financial sector.

Leaving may shatter unity

In light of such circumstances, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Cameron when he visited Britain in May that it would be desirable for Britain to remain in the EU.

On the other hand, the pro-exit camp asserts that if Britain left the EU, the country would be able to control the flow of immigrants. The country cannot block immigrants from other EU member countries as long as it remains in the bloc. The strategy of the pro-exit campaigners is to insist that the increase in foreign workers threatens the country’s employment and welfare situations.

Should Britain leave the bloc, the EU also would suffer incalculable damage.

In various parts of Europe that face a massive influx of refugees, political parties skeptical of the EU and voicing anti-refugee and anti-immigrant calls are gaining influence.

If Britain voted to leave the bloc, it would lend support to such a movement and could lead to a decline in the EU’s power for integration.

In dealing with Iran’s nuclear issue and in imposing sanctions on Russia over the Ukrainian issue, cooperation between the United States and Europe played a pivotal role. Should Britain leave the EU, the bloc may see its influence decline also in diplomatic and security areas, as Britain has historically strong relations with the United States.

U.S. President Barack Obama also has called for Britain to stay in the EU, saying Britain is at its best when “helping to lead” a strong EU.

The EU is a bastion of an international order based on such values as democracy, freedom and a market economy. Shaking the entity’s stability must be avoided.


香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 脱差別 日本も仲間入り /東京

June 12, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 脱差別 日本も仲間入り /東京
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Discrimination has no place in Japan

The so-called anti-hate speech law has come into force.

When I first saw a hate speech demonstration, with marchers barking vicious slogans aimed primarily at Japan's Korean residents, I could barely believe my eyes. On the internet, too, people toss out discriminatory comments against other foreign citizens, against Japan's Ainu and Okinawan peoples, against those receiving welfare benefits and the disabled. There are those who spread false rumors that these people are getting unfair financial aid.

The new hate speech law is what you might call a "principle law," as it has no provisions for punishing violators. Furthermore, it only protects "those originally from nations outside this country" who are "living legally in Japan." As such, it does not outlaw discrimination against Japanese citizens or foreigners applying for refugee status, among other groups. However, the supplementary resolution that accompanied passage of the law states, "It would be a mistake to believe that discrimination against groups not specifically mentioned in the law is forgivable." I suppose we can say that the Diet essentially stated, "Discrimination is unforgiveable in Japan."

In fact, I have a lot of people struggling with discrimination come to my practice; people discriminated against because they are foreigners, because they are ill, because they are single mothers. Some are treated unfairly at work or in the areas where they live, are looked upon with frigid eyes that seem to say, "You are not like us," all for some aspect of themselves that they cannot change.

What's more, the reasons given for this prejudice are usually untrue. For example, the romantic partner of one of my patients didn't want to get married "because depression is inherited." This is simply not true, and in the end I had the couple come in together to explain things. When the session was done, the reluctant party was reluctant no more, leaving with a smile and promising to "explain this to my parents as well." Arbitrary "those people are all so-and-so" labels are very often founded on basic errors of fact.

I have read a paper based on research conducted outside Japan that showed that ethnically diverse workplaces produce more creative ideas than those dominated by a single race or nationality. In contrast to working with people who understand one another from the get-go, getting people with wildly varying perspectives and ways of thinking together in one place apparently sparks the easy flow of groundbreaking ideas.

So, talk to someone different than yourself. Even if that's impossible right away, you will come to understand one another somehow. It's time to put an end to knee-jerk hatreds, to discrimination and pushing away our fellow human beings. With the new hate speech law, Japan has finally become a country where we can say, "We will not tolerate discrimination."

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist) (精神科医)
毎日新聞2016年6月7日 地方版


参院選へ 安倍首相の手法 民主政治を問い直す時

June 11, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Upper house election opportunity to review Japan's democratic politics
参院選へ 安倍首相の手法 民主政治を問い直す時

The battle between ruling and opposition parties has begun as the campaign for the July 10 House of Councillors election is scheduled to kick off on June 22.

Three and a half years have passed since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012. As Abe is predominant in the political world, his government has taken advantage of its majority in the Diet to overwhelm opposition without even attempting to form consensus. After winning an election, the Abe government has acted as if it had been given carte blanche.

One cannot help but wonder whether Prime Minister Abe will retain his predominance following the upper house race.

Attention is focused on how voters will evaluate the past 3 1/2 years of Abe government. Moreover, questions should be raised over how democratic politics should work.


When he announced at a June 1 news conference that the government has decided to once again postpone a consumption tax increase from 8 percent to 10 percent, Prime Minister Abe said he will "seek voters' trust" in his government over the decision in the upper house election. "The biggest point of contention is whether to speed up Abenomics (the economic policy mix promoted by his administration) or roll it back," he told reporters.

The phrase, "seek the voters' trust" usually means dissolving the House of Representatives for a general election that could lead to a change of government. When he decided in November 2014 to delay the consumption tax hike the first time, the prime minister dissolved the lower house for just that reason. This time, he is trying to ask if voters support his latest decision through the upper house race. The prime minister may have wanted to show his determination to stake his political life on the decision.

However, one should keep in mind that Abe has repeatedly sought the voters' verdict on Abenomics in particular.

In the last upper house election in 2013, Abe emphasized the achievements of the "three arrows" of his government's economic policy mix, while he stressed during the December 2014 lower house race that Abenomics is "the only way" to achieve economic recovery.

After these elections, however, the Abe administration placed priority on other policy issues.

Following the last upper house election, his administration hastily tried to pass the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets allowing the government to keep secret not only sensitive security information but also information disadvantageous to the administration, which could threaten freedom of speech. Also fresh in people's memory is the ruling coalition's railroading of security-related legislation that could run counter to Japan's war-renouncing Constitution. The ruling coalition did not bring these policies up for debate in elections held shortly before the laws were passed.

Before the enactment of the security laws, the government appointed a Foreign Ministry bureaucrat who shares views on the issue with the prime minister as head of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. This was a blatant bid to smooth the reinterpretation of the Constitution to open the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. The Abe Cabinet then decided in July 2014 to change the interpretation of Article 9 of the supreme law.

In other words, the Abe government carefully laid the groundwork to drastically change Japan's security policy while carefully preventing the topic from being a key issue during elections.

These are the issues that require thorough explanation as they could split public opinion. The Abe government appears to have used the economic policy mix as a cover to change Japan's security policy and achieve other of the prime minister's most cherished aims.


Prime Minister Abe's ultimate political goal is undoubtedly to revise the pacifist postwar Constitution. Nevertheless, the prime minister has failed to clarify specifically which clauses he wants to change and how. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is reluctant to make the issue a point of contention during the upper house election campaign.

Still, if the ruling LDP-Komeito coalition plus other parties in favor of constitutional amendment -- such as the Osaka Ishin no Kai (Initiatives from Osaka) -- won a combined two-thirds of the seats in the upper chamber, the prime minister would certainly speed up moves to change the Constitution. Constitutional revisions can be proposed only if supported by two-thirds of all members of both Diet chambers. Voters should keep this in mind.


Prime Minister Abe's claim at the June 1 news conference that the government would only postpone the consumption tax hike because the world economy is on the brink of crisis, while Abenomics is producing steady results here in Japan, is far from convincing.

It is apparently not the prime minister's style to admit his own failures. This appears related to his tendency not to listen to different opinions.

Abe has occasionally shown himself to be a realist, such as when he signed the Japan-South Korea agreement late last year on the comfort women issue, over which Tokyo compromised to a certain extent. He was able to make that compromise because his government has a strong power base.

However, he has certainly made light of Diet discussions, as was shown when he jeered at an opposition party legislator during Diet deliberations, saying, "Ask your question quickly." Intraparty discussions among those who have diverse opinions within the LDP have disappeared.

The prime minister also tends to simplistic divisions between friend and foe. Since the inauguration of the Abe government, there have been moves within his Cabinet that look designed to intervene in TV news coverage critical of the prime minister.

The minimum voting age will be lowered from 20 to 18 in time for the upper house election. In preparation, supplementary teaching material on democratic politics, compiled jointly by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, have been distributed to all high school students across the country.

The material says democratic politics means politics through discussion, and that a final decision is generally made by a majority.

At the same time, it goes on to say, "To make good use of decisions by a majority, diverse opinions should be expressed and if minority opinions are right, they should be utilized as much as possible. Policy measures can be more effective if people are convinced by the decisions."

This is the basics of democratic politics. Needless to say, opposition parties cannot win support from voters if they only voice stiff opposition to government policies. Specific policy discussions should be held during the upper house election campaign.


尖閣沖中国軍艦 危険増した挑発に警戒せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Beware of China’s increasingly dangerous provocation in E. China Sea
尖閣沖中国軍艦 危険増した挑発に警戒せよ

How far does China intend to escalate tensions with Japan? China’s latest behavior around Japanese territorial waters cannot be overlooked.

A Chinese Navy frigate sailed for about 2 hours and 20 minutes in the contiguous zone just outside Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture before dawn Thursday. The Chinese warship navigated the contiguous zone in defiance of a warning by the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

China’s intrusions into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus have been made repeatedly by its coast guard vessels. This is the first time a Chinese naval vessel has entered the contiguous zone. It can be said that China’s provocative actions have entered a new phase.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denounced China’s action, saying, “It was an action that unilaterally heightens tensions, and we are deeply concerned about it.” Suga emphasized Japan’s sovereignty over the islands by saying, “The Senkaku Islands are an inherent territory of Japan both historically and under international law.” Immediately after the incident, Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki summoned Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua to the Foreign Ministry and lodged a stern protest against the Chinese action. Saiki’s action was natural.

Three Russian Navy vessels also sailed in the contiguous zone around the same time as the Chinese warship. An MSDF destroyer shadowed the Russian vessels. It has been said the Chinese side may have taken advantage of this.

Foreign naval vessels are permitted to sail in a contiguous zone under international law. Japan took necessary precautions against Russia, but the intentions behind having military vessels enter the contiguous zone need to be analyzed.

The Japanese government has decided on a policy to order the Self-Defense Forces to engage in maritime security operations and dispatch MSDF vessels in the event of a Chinese naval vessel entering territorial waters around the Senkakus.

Prepare for contingencies

In close cooperation with the United States and other countries concerned, Japan must take all necessary steps in its patrol and surveillance activities. It is also imperative to deal with so-called gray-zone contingencies, which stop short of a military attack, such as an armed fishing boat approaching the Senkakus.

China’s Defense Ministry defended its ship’s entry into the contiguous zone, insisting that “it is legal for its military vessels to sail in waters under its jurisdiction and other countries have no right to complain about it.” This is a totally unreasonable argument.

Two days ago, a Chinese fighter jet engaged in an “unsafe excessive rate of closure” on a U.S. reconnaissance plane on a routine patrol in international airspace over the East China Sea.

On such occasions as the recent Ise-Shima summit of the Group of Seven major countries and the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, Tokyo and Washington called for “freedom of navigation,” thereby ramping up pressure on China. China is strongly opposed to this and is believed to have issued “warnings” to the two countries through its provocative actions.

In the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly election on June 5, political parties opposing the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to Henoko in Nago in the prefecture increased their seats. This undeniably provided China with an opportunity to take provocative action.

Behind the Xi Jinping administration’s dispatch of the naval ship into waters around the Senkakus lies the state’s intention to establish naval and air supremacy in the East China Sea with an eye to expanding its maritime activity to the western Pacific Ocean. Excessive provocations could lead to a physical confrontation, heightening the international community’s distrust of China.

To prevent an accidental clash between Japan and China, the Xi administration must accelerate efforts to conclude an agreement with Japan on the establishment of a bilateral “maritime liaison mechanism.”

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 10, 2016)


舛添都知事 自らの言葉なぜ語らぬ

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 9
EDITORIAL: Masuzoe must explain spending with own words, not legal babble
(社説)舛添都知事 自らの言葉なぜ語らぬ

Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe is grossly mistaken if he thinks he has offered convincing answers to questions about his qualifications to head the capital’s government and the administration itself. Serious doubts still remain following revelations about his spending of taxpayer money for personal use.
In recent sessions of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, Masuzoe was bombarded with questions about his dubious expenditures on hotels, meals, books and artwork. (過剰英訳です)

Tokyo citizens wanted to hear Masuzoe’s own thoughts concerning his moral responsibility for using public money for personal purposes, not the opinions of the lawyers who have scrutinized his questionable expenditures and drawn up a report on their findings.

Assembly members who questioned the governor repeatedly urged him to speak with his own words.

But Masuzoe only reiterated cookie-cutter comments about his “soul-searching” over the spending. He refused to offer the related details he must have discussed with the lawyers or specific measures to fix the problem.

Still, he dared to say, “I wish to regain public trust by fulfilling my responsibility to explain in this way.” This comment sounds like nothing but an expression of defiance.

Masuzoe liked to say the metropolitan assembly represents the capital’s public. But his remarks in the assembly sessions suggest his disrespect for the assembly.

He appears unable to even recognize what is the real issue.

If he really spent part of his political funds, including public money, for personal purchases, he should at least be accused of betraying the trust of taxpayers.

He has worsened matters by failing to fulfill his responsibility to answer the questions raised, causing confusion and disruptions in the work of the metropolitan government.

After seeing how he has responded to the scandal, most citizens of the capital are naturally unwilling to support his desire to retain his post.

The lawyers announced their report on his spending on June 6, the day before the metropolitan assembly started its session. The report said millions of yen in Masuzoe’s expenditures on hotel stays with his family, meals and artwork were “inappropriate.”

Masuzoe needs to take this judgment seriously.

The report includes some telltale signs of his stance toward political funds. When he was asked about his purchase of a book on making soba (buckwheat noodles), for example, Masuzoe reportedly tried to justify the spending by saying, “I once discussed politics while making soba, and the book has been useful for my political activities.”

As for his purchase of historical novels, he said he had bought it “for studying Edo Period customs,” according to the report.

He made it sound like all aspects of his life were related to politics.

Masuzoe described the report as a “harsh” assessment of his expenditures. But most ordinary citizens don’t share his view.

The report didn’t question the appropriateness of his purchases of many calligraphy works, saying they also served both his hobby and his interests as a politician.

As for a silk Chinese outfit he bought in Shanghai, Masuzoe reportedly claimed he could move his ink brush smoothly in calligraphy when he wears the robe. The lawyers accepted Masuzoe’s explanation as “specific and convincing.”

Does the governor intend to continue such expenditures now that they have judged to be “appropriate?”

What does he think about assembly members’ call for him to make a “painful decision?” Masuzoe needs to offer honest and straightforward answers to these questions.

The metropolitan assembly, for its part, is responsible for making an exhaustive inquiry into the governor’s dubious expenditures.

Members of the assembly’s general affairs committee should rigorously investigate the scandal during an intensive session on the topic expected to be held as early as next week.


米中戦略対話 南シナ海安定に責任を果たせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Washington must press Beijing to act responsibly in S. China Sea
米中戦略対話 南シナ海安定に責任を果たせ

China has been beefing up its efforts to build artificial islands in the South China Sea for use as military bases while also repeating self-serving actions and remarks over human rights and trade issues.

To maintain peace in Asia and the stability of the global economy, it is crucial for the United States to keep pressing China to abide by international rules and fulfill its responsibilities as a major power.

In the eighth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, cabinet-level officials discussed a wide range of issues over two days.

Regarding the dispute over the South China Sea, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for maintaining a maritime order based on international laws. “I reiterated America’s fundamental support for negotiations and a peaceful resolution, based on the rule of law, as well as ... our concern about any unilateral steps by any party,” he said.

However, both sides remained far apart on this issue. “China has every right to uphold its territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime entitlements,” State Councilor Yang Jiechi said. Chinese President Xi Jinping also emphasized that there are “differences that cannot be resolved for the time being” between the two countries.

The Xi administration is believed to be considering a plan to reclaim land on Scarborough Shoal, which lies close to the Philippines, on top of artificial islands they have already built in the South China Sea. Beijing apparently aims to build a runway and radar installations to pave the way for establishing an air defense identification zone over the area.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to make a decision by the end of this month on a case the Philippines has brought over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, which Manila calls a violation of international laws.

Yang, however, once again said China will ignore the decision. Does this mean that Beijing does not shy away from becoming isolated in the international community? A stance to turn from the rule of law will only give more credence to the idea that China is not like other nations.

Staging cooperation

Kerry expressed his concerns over China’s human rights issues. In April, the Xi administration enacted a law to put foreign nongovernmental organizations providing services in the country under the supervision of security authorities. It cannot be overlooked that Beijing is oppressing human rights under the guise of “domestic affairs.”

One of the concerns in China’s economy is the delay in structural reforms, best exemplified by the overproduction of steel, among other products. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew requested that China reduce production in steel and aluminium, saying, “Excess capacity has a distorting and damaging effect on global markets.”

The latest Group of Seven summit meeting held in the Ise-Shima area of Mie Prefecture also described the overcapacity of steel as a cause for concern in the global economy, as it triggers unfair discount sales. The Xi administration is being held responsible for nipping possible disorder in the bud by making sure it reorganizes state-owned enterprises, among other measures.

The latest U.S.-China dialogue was held as the last session under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. The U.S. side said the two countries were able to produce results as they deepened their cooperation on issues such as climate change and Iran’s nuclear development program through a series of discussions. The dialogue seemed to be effective to some degree in deterring unexpected collisions by facilitating exchanges among military officers.

China did not make any concessions on issues it regards as “core interests.” Wasn’t a show of cooperation put on rather than differences being resolved?

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 8, 2016)


韓国慰安婦財団 合意履行へ国民の理解求めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
ROK must expand people’s support to implement ‘comfort women’ deal
韓国慰安婦財団 合意履行へ国民の理解求めよ

It can be said that a first step has been taken for implementation of a deal reached by the Japanese and South Korean governments in late December on the so-called comfort women issue. We want to see how the administration of President Park Geun-hye will follow through.

A preparatory committee has been established in South Korea to set up a foundation to support former comfort women based on the bilateral accord.

The Japanese government will provide ¥1 billion for the foundation to be established by the South Korean government. The purpose of the foundation is said to be “to restore the honor and dignity of former comfort women and heal their emotional wounds.” The foundation will be required to embody the aims of the bilateral deal.

Chaired by Kim Tae Hyeon, an honorary professor at Sungshin Women’s University and an expert on women’s issues, the committee consists of 11 members, including former Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan and a scholar on Japanese affairs. The panel will compile assistance programs for the former comfort women, and the foundation is scheduled to be set up as early as this month.

During a recent news conference, Kim stressed a policy of respecting the intentions of former comfort women in carrying out assistance programs, saying, “We’d like to become sympathetic from our hearts to the pains of the victims [former comfort women] and meet their requests.”

It took more than five months before the preparatory committee was established. Behind the delay could be the Park administration’s wish to avoid having the comfort women issue become a point of contention in the general election that was held in April and evade the possibility of a barrage of criticism by opposition parties.

Given the stunning election defeat of her ruling party, the pressure on her administration’s governance has been mounting.

No more time for delay

The Minjoo Party of Korea, a leftist opposition group that is now the biggest force in the National Assembly, has denounced the Japan-South Korea deal on the comfort women issue as making no mention of Japan’s legal responsibility and has called for holding negotiations again on the matter. A South Korean group assisting the former comfort women has been strongly opposing the inauguration of the preparatory committee.

Of concern is that the South Korean people’s understanding of the bilateral accord on the comfort women issue is not sufficient. According to a joint public opinion survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Hankook Ilbo, 73 percent of South Korean respondents did not support the comfort women deal.

The deal was worked out as a result of mutual concessions by Tokyo and Seoul. True, it triggered a chance for the two countries to restore strained bilateral relations. The Park administration has reportedly received an increasing amount of affirmative responses to the deal in interviews with the former comfort women.

Forty-six former comfort women remained alive when the deal was hammered out last December. But four of them have since died. Delay in assistance programs can no longer be allowed.

It is essential for the Park administration to tenaciously seek to obtain the people’s understanding of its accord with Tokyo on the comfort women issue and strive to enable the foundation to function smoothly.

As for a Japanese request for the removal of a statue of a girl installed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, the South Korean government has pledged “to work toward resolving the matter appropriately.”

It should not be forgotten that the matter is gravely related to securing the peace and safety as well as the dignity of the embassy. South Korean organizations, including one that installed the statue, object to its removal, but it is also important for the South Korean government to induce them to remove the statue in line with progress in implementation of what has been agreed upon in the deal.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 7, 2016)