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2009年5月31日 (日)

改正薬事法施行 ネット販売の秩序ある拡大を

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 31, 2009)
Consistency key to safe, deregulated drug sales
改正薬事法施行 ネット販売の秩序ある拡大を(5月31日付・読売社説)

The revised Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, which takes effect Monday, is contradictory in many ways as it includes both a relaxation and tightening of regulations.

With the revised law's enforcement, the sales channels of nonprescription drugs are set to change significantly.

Under the new system, nonprescription drugs are organized into one of three categories depending on the necessary degree of caution that should be exercised over their side effects.

Category 1 drugs, which require a high degree of caution, cannot be sold unless pharmacists provide buyers with an explanation of the side effects and other information. However, Category 2 and Category 3 drugs, which are considered relatively safe, can be sold by registered sellers under a new qualification system.

Most cold and gastrointestinal medicines are Category 2 drugs, while vitamins and some other drugs fall under Category 3. Most nonprescription drugs can therefore be sold at convenience stores and other retail outlets.

This all makes the revised legislation sound like a positive step on the road to deregulation.


Unnecessary tightening

The problem is that the new regulations were devised on the assumption that nonprescription drugs would be sold over the counter. As a result, an ordinance issued by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry states that only Category 3 drugs can be ordered by telephone or through the Internet for mail delivery, even if other categories are being sold by pharmacists.

This regulation affects makers of traditional medicines, which ship Chinese herbal medicines to customers in distant locations, as well as operators of online drug stores and customers of both types of businesses.

Such a tightening of the regulations is hard to accept.

The ministry argues that the potential risks of drugs can only be explained properly face to face.

Of course safety should be the top priority with drug sales.

But it seems inconsistent that Category 2 drugs can still be purchased at convenience stores, where pharmacists are not present, when the risk posed by drugs being sold on the Internet, if sold by pharmacists in a responsible manner, likely would be very limited.


Hasty stopgap measure

Bearing in mind the impact of the regulations on users of traditional medicines and online drug stores, the ministry has hastily decided to implement a stopgap measure that will be in place for two years.

Under this move, people who have purchased drugs through mail order services will be able to continue using such services if they are buying the same type of drug and it falls into Category 2.
Those living on remote islands without access to a drug store, meanwhile, also will be allowed to obtain Category 2 drugs through mail order services.

But these moves pose problems.

The ministry says it will confirm whether such services are only being used by categories of users mentioned above, to ensure there is no chipping away at the new regulations. But if it can check whether these users are legitimate, surely it would be possible to monitor all online sales.

Nonprescription drugs could be sold safely and conveniently through the Internet and other channels if a system could be found that bars illegitimate sellers and malicious businesses.

Orderly deregulation should therefore be encouraged.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 31, 2009)
(2009年5月31日01時28分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月30日 (土)


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 29(IHT/Asahi: May 30,2009)
EDITORIAL: A-bomb disease ruling

To this day, the government has refused to acknowledge that it is wrong despite a succession of court rulings against its policy concerning official recognition of atomic bomb-related diseases. Is this an appropriate way for the government of a country ruled by law to respond to group lawsuits filed by people still suffering from the effects of the World War II bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The Tokyo High Court's ruling Thursday marked the 18th consecutive defeat for the government in legal battles over the issue. But Prime Minister Taro Aso, speaking in a session of the Upper House Budget Committee, only said, "We will consider our response, taking the series of judicial decisions into account."

Of the 306 plaintiffs, 68 have already died. The government should accept these court judgments and end the legal battles quickly by offering relief to all plaintiffs.

Under the system for state certification of illnesses caused by the nuclear bombings, survivors, or hibakusha, who have been recognized as suffering from cancer or other specified diseases because of exposure to atomic bomb radiation are entitled to medical treatment at public expense and a monthly health allowance of 137,000 yen.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare decides whether a specific hibakusha should be recognized as an atomic bomb disease sufferer on the basis of opinions of an expert subcommittee of the ministry's certification panel.

Starting in spring 2003, groups of hibakusha whose applications for such recognition were rejected have filed lawsuits with 17 district courts around the country, seeking revocation of the decisions.

The certification standard at that time involved estimating the amount of radiation exposure by using such data as the distance between a survivor and ground zero and then calculating the probability that the survivor had developed the disease because of the exposure.

In April last year, the health ministry changed this formula, which had been criticized by the courts as "too mechanical."

But the new criteria cannot be described as based on an accurate understanding of the reality of the health damage suffered by hibakusha. The criteria effectively limit the scope of certification to five diseases, including cancer and leukemia.

Even after the new criteria were adopted in spring last year, court after court has recognized survivors with illnesses other than the five designated ones as atomic bomb disease sufferers. The plaintiffs demanded a further review of the criteria, but the government only promised to address the issue after the Tokyo High Court handed down its ruling.

The high court also acknowledged applicants rejected under the new criteria as sufferers of diseases caused by the nuclear attacks and declared the criteria inappropriate. The high court also said the government should consider liver disorders and deteriorating thyroid gland functions as illnesses that may have been caused by exposure to radiation from the atomic bombs. The plaintiffs demanded that these two illnesses be added to the list of diseases designated for the recognition system.

The government should now start reviewing the criteria as the court has ordered.

Even if these two illnesses are added to the list, many atomic bomb survivors will still fail to be certified.

They can seek certification based on a comprehensive assessment of their individual circumstances and conditions. But the subcommittee of the health ministry's certification panel includes many members who still support the old "mechanical" formula.

The health minister should replace half of the subcommittee members, as demanded by atomic bomb survivors' groups, and hasten the process of dealing with the certification applications from 7,800 survivors.

The atomic bomb survivors' support law points out that many victims of the nuclear bombings continue to suffer incurable damage and live in constant anxiety.

The law requires the government to take comprehensive measures to support the victims because damage caused by radiation from the atomic bombs is a special public health problem.

The government should take all possible relief measures for the victims in line with the spirit of the law.

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--The Asahi Shimbun, May 29(IHT/Asahi: May 30,2009)
EDITORIAL: Welfare ministry split

A proposal by the Aso administration to divide and reorganize the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has taken a dark turn.

The idea, first raised by Tsuneo Watanabe, chairman of The Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings, was intended to be a draw card for the next Lower House election, which must be called by September.
Watanabe made the proposal at a meeting of Anshin Shakai Jitsugen Kaigi, a government panel set up by the prime minister to carve out a vision for creating a society which can assure people's livelihood.

In response, last week, the prime minister instructed the government to study the idea. He even went so far as to present his own thoughts on the matter, suggesting that the ministry be split into two entities. One would be a social security ministry to deal with pensions, medicine and nursing and the other would be a national life ministry that handles employment affairs and measures to fight the declining birthrate.

Aso apparently wanted to show his willingness to promote reform by putting a knife to the ministry, which invoked public wrath and distrust over its sloppy management of pension records and its reform of the medical system for people aged 75 and older.

However, when the various ministers concerned met to discuss the idea, one after another they called for caution. Some members of the ruling coalition criticized the move as premature. Initial plans to come up with a preliminary draft before the end of the week have been upset and it has even become uncertain whether a full-fledged proposal is still in the offing.

On Thursday night, the prime minister told reporters that he only gave instructions to "examine the way (the organization ought to be) based on the standpoint of security and safety of the people." On the proposed division, he also flatly said, "I don't plan to stick to it at all."

The ministry is currently confronted by a raft of problems. They include public anxiety over pensions and employment and the outbreak of a new strain of swine flu. They are all problems that directly affect the everyday life of citizens. We wonder if the ministry can properly deal with them under its current setup.

It is a matter of course to swiftly and flexibly re-examine administrative organizations to meet changing times.

As far as the administration of health and labor issues is concerned, a panel of intellectuals formed under the Cabinet of Yasuo Fukuda pointed out in March that even though problems to be dealt by the health and labor ministry are growing year by year, it does not have enough personnel and budget commensurate with its responsibilities.

Be that as it may, it is too simplistic to say the ministry should be broken up so that it can overcome those problems. The way the argument abruptly took off was haphazard. A proposal to attach the soon-to-be-inaugurated consumer affairs agency to a national life ministry was made even before legislation to establish the agency passed.

The problem does not only concern the health and labor ministry. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology oversees medical education while public hospitals fall under the jurisdictions of both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and local governments.

These functions should be reorganized and incorporated into a system that will enable smooth and efficient administration.  これらを再編し、行政がスムーズに無駄なく動くような体制を整えてもらいたいとは思う。

A Lower House election will be held within the next few months. Under the circumstances, it is questionable whether a reasonable conclusion can be reached by advancing a makeshift argument.

What the public wants is for government offices to properly do their jobs regardless of how they are organized. This point should not be overlooked.

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補正予算成立 危機対応に必要な与野党協調

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 30, 2009)
Compromise required to overcome crisis
補正予算成立 危機対応に必要な与野党協調(5月30日付・読売社説)

Swiftly implementing stimulus measures is the key to getting the country out of its worst economic crisis in the postwar era. The government should place top priority on bringing forward the enforcement of the supplementary budget, which is linked to the initial budget for the current fiscal year.

The fiscal 2009 supplementary budget, which is worth the largest-ever amount of 13.93 trillion yen, cleared the Diet on Friday. Together with the initial budget, the total budget topped 100 trillion yen for the first time.

The country's gross domestic product plunged an annualized 15.2 percent in the January-March period, marking a record contraction for two consecutive quarters. Although some economic indicators appear to be bottoming out, it is still too early to be optimistic.

What is important now is to implement policies incorporated in the extra budget, including those concerning finance, employment, public works projects, agriculture and child-support programs, as quickly as possible to ensure seamless economic management.


DPJ's flexible stance laudable

The extra budget was submitted to the Diet on April 27 and passed the House of Representatives on May 13. A focus of attention was how the Democratic Party of Japan, led by Yukio Hatoyama, which says it will uphold former President Ichiro Ozawa's policy line, would deal with it during deliberations in the opposition-controlled House of Councillors.

The main opposition party criticized the contents of the extra budget as pork-barrel spending, but did not resort to using tactics to unnecessarily prolong deliberations on it. Amid the global recession, the DPJ apparently judged that delaying the implementation of the economic stimulus package would not gain public understanding. This was encouraging.

The ruling parties and the DPJ largely agreed on four bills related to the extra budget after discussing revisions to them. The DPJ deserves praise for its constructive response.

The four bills likely will be supported by the DPJ and are expected to pass the lower house next week.

The Liberal Democratic Party and the DPJ also agreed Wednesday to include an additional clause in a bill to revise the Development Bank of Japan law that would delay a planned full privatization of the state-backed bank by 3-1/2 years as part of measures to facilitate corporate fund-raising. The additional clause was inserted in consideration of the DPJ, which opposes the DBJ's full privatization.

Bills to create a consumer affairs agency, which were revised jointly by the ruling and opposition parties, became law Friday with a unanimous vote at a plenary session of the upper house.


Divided Diet paralyzes politics

Under the "divided Diet" that emerged after the 2007 upper house election, with the opposition parties enjoying a majority in the upper house, the ruling and opposition parties have often engaged in fruitless confrontation, thus wasting time. Malfunctioning politics damages the interests of people of this country.

To respond effectively to the crisis, the ruling and opposition parties need to adopt a flexible approach in Diet affairs in which they coordinate their policies when necessary to actively seek points of compromise.

In the current Diet session, important bills, including an antipiracy bill and a bill to revise the National Pension Law, will be deliberated at the upper house.

The government and ruling parties plan to extend the session for a long period to ensure the passage of those bills. Even if it intends to oppose the bills, the DPJ should maintain its stance of accepting Diet voting after deliberations have been held for a certain period.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 30, 2009)
(2009年5月30日01時37分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月29日 (金)

社説:党首討論 毎週開いたらどうか

(Mainichi Japan) May 28, 2009
LDP, DPJ leaders should have weekly debates
社説:党首討論 毎週開いたらどうか

Wednesday's debate between Prime Minister Taro Aso, who heads the Liberal Democratic Party, and Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Yukio Hatoyama apparently disappointed a large number of voters. Hatoyama had drawn more attention from the public than Aso as it was the first time since he assumed the post that he had held a debate with the prime minister. However, it was regrettable that the debate did not sufficiently focus on specific issues.

After touching upon North Korea's recent nuclear test at the beginning of the debate, Hatoyama spent much time explaining his slogan, "fraternalism." Hatoyama said, "I want to create a society in which people can feel others' happiness as their own happiness," only to be rebuffed by Aso as being too vague. "The important thing is not ideals or abstract argument, but realistic discussions," Aso countered.

The opposition leader then cited an example of a community school in which volunteers in the neighborhood play an important role in classes at the local elementary school, but it was not specific enough.

Hatoyama apparently attempted to talk about a wide diversity of topics but failed to hold in-depth discussions on each issue. Hatoyama has criticized the Aso administration as being a bureaucrat-dominated administration. If so, he should have focused on the details of the 14 trillion yen fiscal 2009 supplementary budget -- such as a 11.7 billion yen project to build an art facility that displays works including anime and manga, which he sarcastically called an "Anime Hall of Fame" -- as well as the details of retired bureaucrats' practices of landing lucrative jobs in businesses they once supervised.

Prime Minister Aso repeatedly brought up the indictment of a state-paid secretary to Hatoyama's predecessor, Ichiro Ozawa, over a political donation scandal, apparently believing that it was the DPJ's sore point.

Aso did not say whether he will support the DPJ's decision to submit to the Diet a bill that would ban corporate political donations within three years, and said, "The problem is that the current law hasn't been observed. The proposal on a ban on corporate donations is an attempt to sidestep the issue." The prime minister also pointed out that Ozawa has failed to fulfill his accountability for the scandal.

Hatoyama countered by criticizing law enforcers for failing to investigate an LDP legislator allegedly involved in a similar scandal.
He was fully aware that Aso would bring up the scandal involving Ozawa's aide, but Hatoyama's remarks demonstrated that the party has failed to coordinate views among its members over how to respond to the case.

As the next House of Representatives election draws near, debates between the two major party leaders provide voters with opportunities to judge whether the LDP should remain in government or the DPJ should take over the reins of government, and who is more suited to serve as prime minister -- Aso or Hatoyama. Moreover, their discussions will clarify important policy issues during the election campaign. As Aso said in the debate, the two leaders should have bold discussions on defense and social security issues. It is hoped that Hatoyama will express his clear opinions on these issues in the next debate.

The two leaders are urged to hold a policy debate every week until the prime minister dissolves the House of Representatives for a snap general election. If the debate is not long enough to have in-depth discussion, it should be extended.

毎日新聞 2009年5月28日 東京朝刊

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--The Asahi Shimbun, May 28(IHT/Asahi: May 29,2009)
EDITORIAL: Aso-Hatoyama debate

Prime Minister Taro Aso and new Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) President Yukio Hatoyama took part in their first one-on-one debate.

It was the first time for the two candidates for "next prime minister" to go head-to-head in trying to demonstrate their competence as party leaders for the next Lower House election that must be held by September.

When Minshuto was headed by Ichiro Ozawa, one-on-one debates were rarely held. We welcome the fact that a debate was promptly organized with the Minshuto leadership change.

At the start, Hatoyama put great emphasis on advocating his political philosophy of "building a society of friendship and love."

"As opposed to the government of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, which leaves everything up to bureaucrats, we base our starting point on citizens," Hatoyama said. "Instead of centralization, we will give local governments more power. We want to create a horizontally structured society that attaches importance to citizens, instead of the hierarchical one centering on industries."

The term yuai (friendship and love) that Hatoyama frequently cites had a nonsensical and outdated image. But he explained the idea in simple language and stressed that building a society rooted in ties among the people is needed now more than ever when widening income gaps and poverty have become increasingly serious problems.

The prime minister countered by saying, "What is important to the current administration is not philosophies or abstract theories but actual problems, such as the ongoing economic crisis and the threatening situation on the Korean Peninsula."

While Hatoyama stressed philosophies, Aso emphasized the ability to run an administration.

The two also clashed over the "Ozawa problem."

Hatoyama sought the prime minister's support for Minshuto's legislative proposal "to completely ban donations from companies and other organizations in three years, which is based on reflection" of the arrest of Ozawa's state-paid aide.
In response, Aso criticized his opponent, saying: "Companies also have their raison d'etre as members of society. Even though there are suspicions that (the Ozawa camp) has not even observed the existing law, blaming the system is tantamount to sidestepping the argument."

What Aso was apparently trying to say was that Ozawa's failure to provide a proper explanation about the scandal is the problem, and corporate donations are not necessarily bad.

But both sides ended the debate by presenting self-serving arguments over accountability on the Ozawa problem and the fact that some LDP politicians had also received dubious donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co. Most people must have found the exchange unconvincing.

What caught our attention was the following strong statement by Hatoyama: "One side has an aide arrested while the other side is left untouched. Is this what career prosecutors should be doing? We have to put an end to this bureaucracy-led government."

But overstressing this point would blur Minshuto's crucial counterproposal to establish a citizen-led government as opposed to the bureaucrat-led one under the LDP.

The 45-minute debate was quite unsatisfactory to voters seeking clues on how to choose a government. There are many themes we want the party leaders to debate, such as how to finance their policies and their views on security and the Constitution.

Wednesday's debate virtually kicked off the campaign for the next Lower House election. Since both leaders say they will not avoid debates, we urge them to continue exchanging views on a weekly basis.

To delve deeper into issues, why not have the party leaders take turns deciding what topics to debate?

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--The Asahi Shimbun, May 28(IHT/Asahi: May 29,2009)
EDITORIAL: The high suicide rate

The number of people who committed suicide in Japan in 2008 surpassed 30,000 for the 11th consecutive year. In the first four months of this year, more than 11,000 people killed themselves.

In a high-profile case in April, actress Yukiko Shimizu, who had been caring for her dementia-stricken mother, took her own life. It is too painful to think she may have fallen into despair while devoting herself to caring for her mother at the expense of giving up her career. The tragedy was a grim reminder of the weakness of a social safety net.

The death toll from suicides topped 30,000 for the first time in 1998. Following the collapse of Yamaichi Securities Co. and Hokkaido Takushoku Bank in 1997, the 1998 figure surged by 8,000 amid growing gloom over the economic downturn. Our fear is that the current recession will trigger another spike.

In terms of the number of suicides per 100,000 people, Japan ranks second to Russia among the Group of Eight powers. Japan's rate is twice and three times higher than for the United States and Britain, respectively.

The suicide toll remained under 20,000 during the period of high economic growth and then stayed below 30,000 for many years. Why have suicides increased so much in the past decade? It behooves us to pay more attention to social factors behind the trend, instead of attributing suicides to the failure of individuals to cope with life's burdens.

For a decade or so after the collapse of the late 1980s asset-inflated economy, competition in society intensified amid a clamor of calls for structural reform. Social security spending was curbed and the importance of self-responsibility was emphasized.

In South Korea, where former President Roh Moo-hyun recently committed suicide, the national suicide tally started rising sharply at the end of the 1990s following the Asian financial crisis. It seems that radical social changes have triggered despair among a growing number of people in South Korea. The same holds true in Japan.

The situation increasingly is a cause of great concern. The basic suicide prevention law, enacted in 2006, stipulates that the central and local governments, along with employers, have a responsibility to support efforts to reverse the trend by working closely. But even suicide hotlines across the nation face an acute shortage of counselors.

Formerly, efforts to prevent suicide focused mainly on treatments of depression. But suicides are triggered usually by a mix of factors. Effective suicide prevention requires careful analysis of factors and a broad range of steps.

The number of suicides among people in their 30s hit a new high last year, according to the National Police Agency (NPA). Job woes for the "lost generation" appear to be behind the surge. Among reasons for suicides, cases of "multiple debts" have decreased while those of "loss of jobs" and "failure to find a job" have increased. That may suggest that the government's steps to deal with consumer debt problems, such as legal changes to eliminate the so-called "gray zone" exorbitant interest rates, are starting to bear fruit. But policy efforts to assure job security and help the needy are insufficient.

The government should consider adopting measures to provide more opportunities for unemployed people to receive job training while providing sufficient livelihood support as part of its suicide prevention drive.

We hope the NPA will release more detailed data based on regions. For example, are suicide rates in certain regions high among young people or women? What about differences among job categories? Data that answer such questions are crucial for developing effective measures carefully tailored to the special circumstances in specific regions.

Last year, Tokyo's Suginami Ward designated May and September as suicide prevention months. To prevent suicide among younger generations, the municipal government organizes awareness campaigns on the streets that involve the families of suicide victims. It also holds classes at schools on the importance of life and organizes lectures at events like music festivals.

The only way to curtail the suicide rate is through steady efforts to raise the hopes of those who are experiencing hardship.

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原爆症訴訟 認定基準の再見直しが必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 29, 2009)
Review of A-bomb sufferer criteria needed
原爆症訴訟 認定基準の再見直しが必要だ(5月29日付・読売社説)

As atomic bomb survivors grow older, the state should not prolong legal battles with them.

The Tokyo High Court handed down a ruling Thursday regarding the recognition of people suffering from illnesses caused by radiation in the 1945 atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that helps atomic bomb victims on a level that far outstrips the state's criteria for recognition.

Atomic bomb survivors who are not recognized by the state as suffering illnesses due to radiation from the bombings have filed group lawsuits across the nation. Before Thursday, 17 rulings had been handed down by district and high courts, with most of the plaintiffs receiving favorable decisions.

Thursday's ruling by the Tokyo High Court recognized that nine of the 10 plaintiffs, who were not recognized by the state, as suffering from illnesses due to radiation from the bombings.

The ruling strongly urges the state to review the criteria for recognition of atomic bomb disease sufferers. The government needs to take this ruling seriously.


Opening the door wider

Under the Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law, people qualified for recognition as atomic bomb victims are those who were near ground zero in Hiroshima or Nagasaki on the days of the bombings and the two weeks after. These certified survivors are provided with atomic bomb survivor health handbooks and are entitled to free medical treatment. The majority of the survivors receive monthly health care stipends of about 34,000 yen.

If these survivors have diseases that are recognized as due to radiation exposure, they are entitled to receive a special medical allowance of about 140,000 yen per month instead of the monthly health care stipends.

Currently, about 240,000 people have atomic bomb survivor health handbooks. However, strict criteria, such as the distance the atomic bomb survivor was from ground zero, has prevented them from being recognized as suffering illnesses due to radiation, even if they have developed diseases. As a result, until about two years ago, only about 2,000 survivors had been recognized as atomic bomb radiation disease patients.

But the government for its part has not entirely been sitting on its hands. In the summer of 2007, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced an easing in the criteria for recognizing sufferers of atomic bomb-linked disease. The government then began to recognize atomic bomb survivors with five specific diseases, including cancer, as sufferers of atomic bomb-related disease.

Since then, the door has opened wider, with about 3,000 people being newly recognized just in the last fiscal year. With eased criteria, 60 percent of plaintiffs have been recognized by the state as suffering illnesses caused by atomic bomb radiation.


Change must come quickly

However, Thursday's ruling is a message from the judiciary that this has not been enough.

Besides the five specific diseases under the government's recognition criteria, the bar is still set high for victims seeking recognition as sufferers. In a string of lawsuits, those with cirrhosis of the liver and underactive thyroid function--illnesses that are not eligible--have been recognized by the courts as sufferers of atomic bomb diseases.

In addition, nearly 8,000 people have filed applications for government recognition and are waiting for decisions. The government says more than 20,000 people will be recognized within 10 years at this pace. But considering that the average age of survivors is currently about 75, this pace is too slow.

The government should swiftly recognize people as sufferers of atomic bomb-related diseases based on precedents that have been set by courts. Criteria also needs to be further eased by adding to the list of recognized diseases.

A ruling coalition project team has submitted to the government its report seeking a wide review of the recognition framework. The government should work to settle this issue swiftly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 29, 2009)
(2009年5月29日01時42分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月28日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 27(IHT/Asahi: May 28,2009)
EDITORIAL: Actions against N. Korea

In light of North Korea's second nuclear test earlier this week, the eyes of the world are on the United Nations Security Council.

It is now clear that Resolution 1718, adopted in October 2006 in condemnation of Pyongyang's first nuclear test, has effectively failed. This is a serious matter for the Security Council, whose very reason for existence could be called into question. The international community must unite and make its will abundantly clear to North Korea.

An emergency meeting of the Security Council unanimously agreed on drafting a new resolution. U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on the phone. Noting the need for a "strong U.N. resolution," Obama reaffirmed that the United States, Japan and South Korea should keep working together for that end.

The 2006 resolution represented a break from tradition in two ways. For one, it was the first time that the Security Council adopted a resolution against North Korea. Secondly, the resolution provided for sanctions against the reclusive dictatorship, including a freeze on the movement of goods and funds associated with the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately, however, enforcement of the sanctions was left to the discretion of individual nations, and the resolution effectively did not function. There were concerns that North Korea may react irrationally to sudden sanctions. Also, the resolution could not be made too binding if all member countries were to stand together.

In fact, there is considerable variance in what motivates different countries in their relations with North Korea. Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities are a grave threat to Japan, South Korea and the United States, and are certainly not acceptable to China and Russia. There is no doubt that both Beijing and Moscow are hoping North Korea would become a more open nation.

But neither China nor Russia wants to invite any confusion on the Korean Peninsula that might boomerang on themselves. This makes them cautious about applying any strong pressure on North Korea.

Such individual differences among Security Council members were revealed when Pyongyang test-fired a long-range ballistic missile last month. The council members split over whether to issue a resolution condemning Pyongyang or a presidential statement.

But this time, North Korea went one step further in blackmailing the international community with its nuclear test and missiles. The country made its nuclear ambitions amply clear to the world. Now is the time for all Security Council members to set aside their differences and act as one in pressing North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

What sanctions the Security Council will come up with is a matter of much interest. But the most important point is that the resolution must be effective and have the backing of all members.

In that sense, we would like to again point out China's importance. Any further escalation of regional tensions due to North Korea's nuclear program could not be desirable for China. And we also remind China that it is responsible for nuclear nonproliferation and peace as a world power.

Japan is taking part in the drafting of the new resolution, but there are also other things it should be doing. Japan is prepared to normalize relations with North Korea and provide economic assistance if the latter changes its policies, including that on the abduction issue. This is the message Japan must try to convey while forging global solidarity.

We need only to look at the Iranian problem and the difficulties faced by Mideast peace talks to understand that no U.N. resolution can be a panacea. But the Security Council is now being tested on whether it can come up with a truly effective resolution.

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党首討論 肝心な政策論議が足りない

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 28, 2009)
Aso, Hatoyama must openly debate policies
党首討論 肝心な政策論議が足りない(5月28日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Taro Aso and Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama finally faced off in the Diet in a head-to-head debate as ruling and main opposition party leaders Wednesday. However, the first battle between the leaders produced somewhat disappointing results. Future contests should promote in-depth debate, focusing on policy matters.

Wednesday's debate was a prelude to the House of Representatives election that must be held by early September. With the next lower house election apparently firmly in mind, Hatoyama harshly criticized the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget as a waste of money, saying it was "of bureaucrats, by bureaucrats and for bureaucrats."

In response, Aso, president of the Liberal Democratic Party, pressed Hatoyama by saying that former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa failed to give a full account of the situation regarding illegal donations his secretary allegedly received from Nishimatsu Construction Co.

Deriding the DPJ's stated plan to ban donations from companies and other organizations, Aso said, "If the party blames the system for its violations of the law, it's just switching the focus of the argument." The two leaders' debate on the matter was conducted at cross-purposes.


Fraternity vs reality

At the beginning of the debate, Hatoyama spoke about building a fraternal society--his central policy plank--beginning with the original policy in an apparent attempt to dispel any perception he is Ozawa's puppet.

Aso retorted that the most important task facing the administration was to deal with the "reality" the country faces, including the economic crisis, rather than being preoccupied with "abstract theory." As the head of the nation's administration, Aso's comment was understandable and right.

As Aso pointed out, if Hatoyama wants to win public support for his notion of a fraternal society he needs to spell out what he means, and how it fits with the rest of his policy platform.


Funding social security reform

Steering the debate toward which party was best able to hold the reins of government, Aso pointed to problems he said beset the DPJ's social security and national security policies, claiming they would result in "extreme insecurity" in society.

However, Aso did not delve further into the issue of how the DPJ would raise funds to implement its policies, such as providing income guarantees for farming households and increased child benefits, which the DPJ has said can be paid for by eliminating wasteful spending.

Presently, the public are chiefly concerned about social security issues such as the public pension, and health and nursing care.

Time given over to debate was limited, but still, it is simply inexplicable that neither leader brought up the issue of raising the consumption tax rate to fund the social security system.

Meanwhile, Hatoyama stressed that a change of government is necessary to put an end to bureaucrat-led politics, but he presented no concrete measures.

Overall, the debate lacked detailed policy discussion, which, afterall, should be the basis of debate.

The next lower house election should be fought on policies and vision for this country.

The current Diet session is expected to be extended. We hope the leaders of the two parties will clarify points of contention regarding their policies as the next lower house election approaches by holding regular one-on-one debates in the Diet, and conducting thorough discussions on policies regarding social security reform, diplomacy and national security.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 28, 2009)
(2009年5月28日01時30分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月27日 (水)


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26(IHT/Asahi: May 27,2009)
EDITORIAL: Pyongyang's nuke test

North Korea conducted a "successful" underground nuclear test Monday, according to the reclusive dictatorship's official Korean Central News Agency. The blast generated seismic tremors that were detected in various countries.

There are still many unknowns, including the scale of the blast. But one thing is certain: North Korea has again acted in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the country's October 2006 nuclear test.

North Korea's action is quite undesirable not only for Japan's security, but also for global peace and security.

At the request of Japan and other nations, the Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon (local time) to discuss countermeasures. The United Nations and other international organs for nuclear nonproliferation are now being tested for their true worth.

Repeated outrage

"Again?" is our exasperated reaction.

Let us go over what North Korea has been up to since its previous nuclear test of two and a half years ago. The dictatorship has created crises by test-launching ballistic missiles, not to mention the two nuclear tests to date.

Nothing has changed at all in Pyongyang's classic pattern of blackmailing the international community to squeeze out concessions. Its priority has always been to protect and maintain its political system in defiance of common decency in the international community.

In reaction to the 2006 nuclear test, the U.S. administration of George W. Bush made a significant switch in North Korea policy to engage the latter in dialogue. The Bush administration practically bent over backward in negotiations, hoping the concessions it offered would encourage Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs.

Monday's nuclear test was proof of how Pyongyang took advantage of Washington's policy switch after October 2006.

In the days ahead, we may witness a deepening of skepticism about the usefulness of six-party talks that were once hopefully thought to be an important apparatus for getting North Korea to denuclearize itself.

But no matter how grave a threat North Korea has become to the world, it is the solid consensus among the United States, China, Japan and all other nations concerned that it is not realistic to try to resolve the problem by military force. Since this is the case, the international community needs to act with collective wisdom and patience.
This means keeping up every effort, through diplomacy, to induce a fundamental policy change on North Korea's part.

But what exactly was Pyongyang's purpose in going ahead with its second nuclear test on this occasion?

One purpose, we presume, was to beef up its nuclear technology and show off the results to the world in hopes of enhancing the nation's status as a fully fledged nuclear-armed power.

And to finally end the Korean War and start normalizing relations with the United States, it has been North Korea's strategy for years to bring the United States to the negotiating table for nuclear talks.

Grave challenge to NPT regime

Four months have passed since the inauguration of the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama in January. But in Pyongyang's perception, none of the administration's key officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has shown any special zeal for bilateral negotiations.
Concerning nuclear issues, the Obama administration has been devoted to negotiations with Russia and the problems with Iran, while regional conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan are taking up much of Washington's foreign policy efforts. We believe this situation must be frustrating and galling for the North Korean leadership.

Before Monday's nuclear test, Pyongyang outraged the United States, Japan and other members of the international community by test-firing what was believed to be a long-range ballistic missile. The fact that Pyongyang resorted to its habitual brinkmanship twice in less than two months would suggest that something must be going on within the regime.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is obviously not in the best of health, and no optimism is warranted about the future of the "Kim dynasty." Some pundits say that, in order to prepare for a smooth transition of power to his successor, Kim is pursuing hard-line policies to shore up his regime and is at the same time trying to speed up negotiations with Washington.

North Korea's repeated nuclear tests not only threaten the region's security today, but also put the future of the human race at risk. Pyongyang's conduct may well serve to further erode the already shaky framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

On the day of Pyongyang's missile launch in April, Obama called for a nuclear-free world in his historic address in Prague. At that time, it appeared that nuclear nonproliferation was gaining momentum in anticipation of the 2010 NPT review conference.

But Pyongyang has thrown cold water on this global endeavor with its second nuclear test. We cannot condemn this act vehemently enough.

North Korea obviously thinks it can do anything it wants. In mid-April, Pyongyang ordered U.S. nuclear experts and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, who were participating in the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, out of the country.

China and Russia were among the nations that supported the U.N. Security Council's resolution of 2006, which imposed sanctions on North Korea, and demanded that Pyongyang never conduct a nuclear test again. China chairs the six-nation talks on North Korean issues. We are deeply disappointed with China for failing to stop North Korea's reckless deed this time.

Japan must not sit idle

China has its own foreign policy agenda vis-a-vis North Korea. In Beijing's thinking, taking too tough a stand against Pyongyang will drive the country further into isolation, which will not be in the interest of China or the international community from the standpoint of global security.

While we can appreciate this reasoning, we would still like China to play a leading role in negotiations at the U.N. Security Council. China should lead the council to issue a strong message to North Korea by urging the international community to completely implement sanctions under the 2006 resolution and adopting additional measures.

For the Obama administration, Monday's nuclear test was an unwelcome "pre-emptive strike" from Pyongyang before substantive dialogue could begin. In the days ahead, Obama's North Korea policy may come under harsher criticism at home.

But in view of the larger goal of saving the world from the terror of nuclear proliferation and getting a reclusive dictatorship to open up to the rest of the world, North Korea is one of the biggest challenges Obama must tackle successfully. Ultimately, no other country is better positioned than the United States to urge North Korea to change.

China's role is also clear. China must work together with the United States and determine what sort of long-range security setup is best suited for East Asia. With the current unraveling of the global economy, strategic cooperation between the United States and China has grown more important than ever. And what better use could there be for such cooperation than in bringing stability to the Korean Peninsula?

As a victim of nuclear attacks in 1945, Japan is committed to making the world nuclear-free. Japan can only recognize every North Korean nuclear test as a grave threat.

The yet-unsolved abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents are also a lingering problem. Realistically, there is unfortunately little that Tokyo can achieve by negotiating directly with Pyongyang.

But the least Japan can do is to keep encouraging the United States and China to cooperate with each other. At the same time, Japan should work together with South Korea to actively support efforts that will help to secure peace in the region.

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(Mainichi Japan) April 7, 2009
Hiroshima mayor praises Obama's 'anti-nuke weapon' comments

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba held an impromptu press conference on Monday to praise the speech given by U.S. President Barack Obama in Prague in which he indicated his strong commitment to the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The mayor said he plans to request that Obama consider Hiroshima as the site for the international summit meeting on nuclear security that the U.S. president has pledged to hold by next year.

"President Obama said, 'As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act,' defining U.S. responsibility in a historical context." Akiba said of Obama's speech. "The world is gradually turning into one in which denuclearization is possible."

Akiba said he hopes to meet with President Obama when he travels to New York next month to participate in a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Preparatory Committee meeting.

2009年4月6日 21時47分 更新:4月6日 22時2分

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国連安保理 制裁の実効性をどう高めるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 27, 2009)
Tough sanctions needed to halt DPRK's N-efforts
国連安保理 制裁の実効性をどう高めるか(5月27日付・読売社説)

Japan must actively lead discussions at the U.N. Security Council to ensure that a new resolution against North Korea for conducting a nuclear test Monday produces results.

At an emergency meeting Monday, the Security Council agreed to start work on a new resolution after declaring the latest test a "clear violation" of Resolution 1718, passed in the wake of North Korea's first nuclear test in October 2006.

Tokyo plans to prepare a draft resolution, which calls for a beefing up of sanctions against Pyongyang.


Resolution must have teeth

Resolution 1718 obliges all U.N. member states to ban the export to North Korea of arms and materials related to weapons of mass destruction as well as luxury goods. It also requires them to freeze assets held by North Korean companies linked to weapons of mass destruction and requests them to inspect the cargo of vessels traveling to and from North Korea.

Pivotal points in discussing a new resolution are whether the Security Council will be able to expand the scope of the assets freeze, compile a list of luxury goods banned for export and make ship inspections an obligation rather than a request.

Work to select North Korean organizations whose assets are to be frozen was suspended after Pyongyang returned to six-party talks on its nuclear program in 2007, but it was resumed after the North launched a ballistic missile last month.
The number of such organizations currently stands at only three, reflecting the positions of China and Russia, both of which are reluctant to impose sanctions on North Korea.

The Security Council should not make the same mistake in responding to the latest nuclear test. It is important to ensure a new resolution has teeth.

Even if a new resolution is passed, it is possible North Korea will openly defy it by ramping up its nuclear program and test-firing more missiles.

Unless the United States and China make a serious effort to forestall North Korea's nuclear ambitions, it will prove difficult to make Pyongyang abandon its nuclear development program. The United States can resort to financial sanctions, while China, as the biggest provider of energy and other aid to North Korea, can play a crucial role.

Japan is directly threatened by North Korea's possible development of missiles with nuclear warheads. It is therefore essential for Tokyo to vigorously urge Washington and Beijing to apply pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

China has said it is reluctant to strengthen sanctions against North Korea because doing so would make the early resumption of the six-party talks, which it chairs, less likely. Russia, which currently chairs the Security Council, has acted in tandem with China.


6-party talks not top priority

The truth of the matter is that North Korea hitherto used the six-party talks to play for time in its efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

It has been a standard tactic of North Korea to agree to the resumption of six-party talks only in an effort to gain something in return. At this point, prioritizing dialogue with North Korea will only give the country an opportunity to turn the situation to its advantage.

The international community must make the yet-to-be-agreed resolution the cornerstone of an approach that will put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2009)
(2009年5月27日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月26日 (火)

月例経済報告:景気判断、上方修正 3年3カ月ぶり、悪化テンポ緩やかに

(Mainichi Japan) May 26, 2009
Finance minister gives improved assessment of economy
月例経済報告:景気判断、上方修正 3年3カ月ぶり、悪化テンポ緩やかに

Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano submitted an improved assessment of the economy to ministers at a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

In April, the government had assessed the Japanese economy as being in a "severe condition" and "continuing to deteriorate rapidly," while the latest report for May stated that "while the economic situation is still severe, the rate of deterioration has slowed down." Improvements in exports to China and indications that decline in output is leveling off among private corporations as progress is made in inventory correction have been factored into the upward revision, the first such revision in three years and three months.

According to the report, assessment of four categories of exports, production, bankruptcies, and public investments, out of a total of 11 categories, have been revised upward. In April, exports were "declining drastically," and production was "declining very drastically," while the latest report used the expression "ceasing to drop" for both categories.

Meanwhile, employment was revised downward, from an assessment that "conditions are worsening rapidly" in April to "conditions are severe, and are worsening rapidly" in May. While the government has not changed its position that the economy is in serious condition, Yosano said in a press conference on Monday, "The January-March quarter was the worst period, but the situation has been changing since April. We can't be too optimistic because there are still various possible downside risks, but I believe we're past the worst of it."

毎日新聞 2009年5月26日 東京朝刊

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--The Asahi Shimbun, May 25(IHT/Asahi: May 26,2009)
EDITORIAL: Digitization of books

The world's largest Internet search engine service provider, U.S.-based Google Inc., is moving ahead with a database service that will allow nearly instant access to information from a vast array of books around the world.

Google has electronically copied more than 7 million books from university libraries and other facilities in the United States and Europe. Although information available on the web can be hit or miss, information from books generally tends to be of high quality. Using the Google Book Search service, users will be able to read out-of-print books on the Internet.

Google and U.S. organizations representing authors and publishers have reached a settlement in which 63 percent of income Google earns from database service and advertising fees will be distributed to copyright holders. However, the agreement, as it affects Japanese authors, has become contentious.

For example, more than 500 books by Haruki Murakami are on Google's list. There are also many other digitized Japanese books. If Japanese books no longer in circulation are deemed out of print, then in the future, Google could make many of them available to the public.

The copyright holder can ask Google to delete the works from the database, but unless they file opt-out claims, by default it will mean the copyright holder agrees with Google's rules. This one-sided approach caused the Japan Writers' Association to issue a written objection. Google needs to give a full explanation and be more circumspect.

Nevertheless, there is no question that in the future, Google's Book Search will be hugely influential worldwide. If so, will it be in Japan's interest to have Google delete data on Japanese books in a mere attempt to protect copyrights?

What is important is that this process of collecting our heritage of "knowledge" must not be left in the hands of one private company in the United States. We can never know when the company may change its business policy.

It is totally up to Google what search results appear on top, and how the system is operated. It is convenient, but it is also possible that the operation will be unstable or biased. That is why we must create diverse systems to accumulate and search for knowledge.

Last November, the European Union set up a database service, Europeana. It is an online collection of digitized items held by museums, libraries and archives in 27 member states.

Users can search and view books, artworks and audiovisual images. The database holds more than 4 million items, due to reach 10 million next year. Also, in South Korea, the national library is actively digitizing its archives. In contrast, Japan has been slow to pursue a comprehensive approach.

But now, a tailwind is beginning to push things forward.

A bill to revise the Copyright Law is now in the Diet. If it is enacted, the National Diet Library will be able to make digital copies of its archives without obtaining permission from each individual copyright owner.

In the supplementary budget to stimulate the economy, this digitization project was allocated about 12.6 billion yen, a sum that under normal circumstances would cover the budget for the digitization project for 100 years.

If things go according to plan, a quarter of all domestic library data will be digitized by next spring.

A book is a result of an author's ideas and hard work. We should respect that, protect the author's rights, and then work to create new values using digital technologies. Both the public and private sectors must work together to hasten efforts to collect this country's knowledge and transmit it to the world.

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--The Asahi Shimbun, May 25(IHT/Asahi: May 26,2009)
EDITORIAL: Space development plan

The first space exploration plan drafted by the government's Strategic Headquarters for Space Development, headed by Prime Minister Taro Aso, renews concerns that focusing too much on military aspects could blight the long-term prospects of the nation's space program.

The draft plan cites five priority areas of space utilization, including land and sea observation for contributions to disaster prevention in Asia and weather observation, as well as four key research and development areas, such as space science and manned space activity.
The plan calls for policy support to promote projects in these areas under a five-year time frame from a 10-year perspective. It will be formalized at the end of this month.

National security is one of the space utilization areas named by the panel. The Space Basic Law, established in May last year, paved the way for Japan's space exploration for security purposes. One notable component of the basic plan is a research project to develop early warning satellite technology.

The early warning satellite envisioned by the government would be used to support the nation's missile defense system. It would be equipped with a sensor that can warn against a missile launch by detecting infrared radiation from a high-temperature object.

There was much skepticism about the development of such a satellite, which would require a tremendous amount of money, including the cost of developing the necessary data analysis system, and face many formidable technological hurdles.

But North Korea's test-firing of a ballistic missile in April provoked a chorus of calls within the ruling camp for Japan's own intelligence satellites.

The government will debate whether to introduce an early warning satellite when it reviews its National Defense Program Guidelines toward the end of the year. Adequate thought should be given not only to the necessity and expected cost of such a program but also to the question of whether Japan's full-scale military space exploration will increase international tension.

The government should not make a headlong rush into the controversial undertaking in response to the space industry's clamoring for stable public-sector demand.

The proposed space development plan advocates the idea of "dual use" of space technology for both civilian and military purposes. This is an apparent attempt to widen the scope of space use for security objectives.
The plan says, for instance, early warning satellite technology can also be used to detect forest fires.

Indeed, spy satellites and Earth observation satellites are based on the same basic technology. If so, the civilian sector, where there is competition among companies, should play the leading role in the development of satellite technology.

U.S. commercial satellites can distinguish objects of less than 1 meter on the Earth's surface and outstrip Japanese information-gathering satellites in detection capability.

Defense technologies tend to be costlier, and the government's state-secrets claims often hamper technological progress.

If space programs planned with little cost consciousness increase under the pretext of national security, there could be some unwanted effects on civilian-sector space development efforts.

One ominous sign is the ongoing attempt to justify the development of the GX rocket, the next-generation midsize launch vehicle, as an important project for national security. The wisdom of continuing the GX project has been called into question due to delays that have resulted in heavy cost overruns and diminished significance.

The panel's draft plan acknowledges the necessity of broadening the industrial base to promote the nation's space development. That means it is important to ensure an open environment for space development.

A broad international perspective is also essential for space development. Space is an arena where countries compete and cooperate with each other as they explore the unknown by using their original technologies and ideas. How should Japan use its own technologies to play a role in this effort and contribute to the world?

The basic space development plan should offer a convincing strategy for improving Japan's status in space.

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北朝鮮核実験 度重なる暴挙に厳格対処せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 26, 2009)
N. Korea must suffer consequences for N-test
北朝鮮核実験 度重なる暴挙に厳格対処せよ(5月26日付・読売社説)

North Korea went ahead with its second underground nuclear test Monday.

The country just test-launched a long-range ballistic missile on April 5, defying the warnings of the international community. The latest nuclear test, which could improve North Korea's ability to make more compact nuclear bombs, has clarified Pyongyang's wild obsession with perfecting a nuclear missile as soon as possible.

When North Korea pressed ahead with its first nuclear test three years ago, the world entered a dangerous new nuclear age. The country's repeated provocations have further damaged stability and increased tensions in the Northeastern Asian region.


Tougher sanctions by UNSC

The latest test puts Japan in a more serious situation since the country is located within range of Rodong missiles North Korea already has deployed. It was reasonable that the government immediately called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. We must deal severely with Pyongyang's malicious acts.

The latest test is an apparent violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 which was approved unanimously after North Korea's first nuclear test in October 2006. It means that Pyongyang has again trampled on the resolution calling on the country to suspend nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.

Immediately after the Security Council adopted a chairman's statement condemning the country's ballistic missile launch, North Korea last month criticized the Security Council, saying the U.N. rebuke was unfair because the event in question was a peaceful satellite launch. We think Pyongyang merely tried to hide its own violation behind sophistry and euphemism.

In addition, after the Security Council blacklisted three North Korean companies, singling them out for sanctions, Pyongyang threatened to conduct nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests unless the council apologized for criticizing the April 5 missile launch and lifted sanctions on North Korea and other entities concerned.

The conducting of the latest test is seen as an extension of that statement. After the test, North Korea also test-launched three short-range missiles. Will Pyongyang threaten to launch a long-range ballistic missile next time if the Security Council starts discussing sanctions against it?


Defiance must end

How can we stop the nuclear missile development program Pyongyang is defiantly advancing? The international community has to make a levelheaded judgment on this problem and deal with it in a coordinated manner.

One of the options the Security Council has at hand is adoption of a resolution to strengthen sanctions against North Korea. Sanctions laid out in Security Council Resolution 1718 adopted three years ago were not fully implemented because North Korea later returned to the six-party talks, a multinational effort to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program. A few more of those sanctions were implemented after the latest ballistic missile test, but the situation cannot remain as it is now.

Three years ago, Japan, as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council, led adoption of the sanctions resolution against North Korea along with the United States, Britain and France. Likewise, as a nonpermanent member again, the country should lead efforts to have the Security Council adopt a resolution to toughen sanctions against North Korea.

Prime Minister Taro Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak spoke on the telephone after the test and confirmed that Tokyo and Seoul would work together with Washington and should take stringent and resolute action against Pyongyang through the Security Council.


Vital role for China

The government said it would consider additional sanctions of its own against North Korea. However, these alone will have no affect at all on North Korea. It is far more significant to make international cooperative efforts against the North.

At present, the role of China, upon which North Korea is economically dependent, is particularly important in pressuring Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The prime minister should try hard to convince China and Russia, which are expected to maintain cautious attitudes, to agree with stricter sanctions against North Korea.

The six-party talks aim at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear development program through negotiations. But, Pyongyang's second nuclear test has undermined the significance of the talks.

It is apparent that North Korea is trying to destroy the six-party talks. Last month, Pyongyang condemned the Security Council and said that it would never attend the six-party talks again. North Korea's real intention is not to abandon its nuclear weapons program, but to establish its nuclear capability as a fact.

However, this does not mean that denuclearization of North Korea, a common goal shared by Japan, China, South Korea, Russia and the United States, is lost. It is a pressing issue for the five countries not to accept North Korea's ongoing possession of nuclear weapons as a fact and to take effective measures to end it.

In that sense, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, with which North Korea wishes to have direct talks, bears heavy responsibility. We expect the administration to maintain a resolute attitude against North Korea so that Pyongyang will understand normalization of diplomatic ties with the United States is impossible as long as North Korea possesses nuclear weapons and to consider abandoning them.

North Korea also said it has started reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods, suggesting increased production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Pyongyang said that trials would start for two U.S. journalists arrested on suspicion of spying. It also raised tensions with Seoul, announcing the unilateral cancellation of all contracts with South Korea concerning the Kaesong industrial complex.


Succession a factor?

The extreme hardline attitude displayed by Pyongyang might be related to preparations by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, whose health has allegedly been failing since last year, to groom a replacement to succeed him. The danger of nuclear missile development going on under such conditions requires careful attention.

U.S. nuclear deterrence is only one countermeasure for nonnuclear Japan to dissuade North Korea from using nuclear weapons. It is necessary to ensure confidence in the Japan-U.S. alliance so that the so-called nuclear umbrella can be relied on to function without fail.

The government also should improve and expand the missile defense system further. In addition to the steady deployment of interceptor missiles, the effectiveness of the system should be improved through information-sharing and improvement of interoperability with the United States.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 26, 2009)
(2009年5月26日02時10分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月25日 (月)


(Mainichi Japan) May 25, 2009
New portable GPS targets tracks exact position, altitude

Yupiteru Corp. will introduce a portable Global Positioning System (GPS) device that will target fishermen, cyclists and hikers by providing data on their precise location, including altitude.
The "ATLAS ASG-1" shows users their exact location and distances on a liquid crystal screen and the data can be saved, making it easier to find certain difficult points such as favorite fishing spots.
The price of the new device will be 14,800 yen including tax.

 ユピテルは今月末から、現在地の緯度や経度、高度を記録できる全地球測位システム(GPS)受信機「ATLAS ASG-1」を発売する。サイクリングやトレッキングでの移動速度、距離、方位を液晶画面に一括表示。もう一度行くのが難しかった海上の釣りポイントの位置も保存できる。想定価格は税込み1万4800円。

毎日新聞 2009年5月25日 東京朝刊

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--The Asahi Shimbun, May 23(IHT/Asahi: May 25,2009)
EDITORIAL: Eco-points program

As part of the Aso administration's economic stimulus package, the government has introduced a program in which buyers of energy-saving household electronic appliances are given "eco-points" that can be exchanged for gift certificates or other goods.
Under the plan, the government will give the consumer eco-points equal to 5 to 10 percent of the purchase price. On May 16 and 17--the first weekend after the program started--many electronic products shops across the country were crowded with consumers.

However, the supplementary budget bill, which earmarks 295 billion yen for the eco-points program, is still being debated in the Diet. Therefore, the eco-points will become exchangeable in August.

Details of the program, including the creation of a private-sector secretariat to run the program and the list of items to be exchanged for the eco-points, are all still up in the air. The government rushed to start the program for fear of potential buyers postponing their purchases of new items. This is truly a hashed-up program.

For starters, why are only air-conditioners, refrigerators and digital terrestrial TV sets eligible for the eco-points?

According to the government's explanation, these three appliances are the biggest electricity guzzlers in the household, responsible for half of all household carbon dioxide emissions. The government says if the system encourages the public to buy more energy-efficient appliances, then it will help cope with global warming.

In addition, in order to urge the public to switch their TV sets to digital ones before the Japanese terrestrial broadcast system shifts completely to digital broadcasts in July 2011, an extra 5 percent of the price's worth of eco-points is added to TV sets only.

The government says the eco-points program is "one that will kill three birds with one stone," addressing the economy, the environment and the shift to digital broadcasts.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry apparently expects this program to increase demand for home electronic appliances. Until March next year, when the eco-points program ends, the ministry expects sales of 30 million TV sets, air conditioners and refrigerators, 1.5 times the sales numbers before the global financial crisis.

Although increased demand is a good thing, things are not that simple.

For example, a government policy to support a designated industrial sector is a problem in terms of fairness to other sectors.

Even if there is an increase in sales, it could be merely pushing forward the demand that would have eventually emerged anyway. This means there is a risk that once the eco-points program is over, then sales will plummet.

Eligible products must satisfy a certain energy-efficiency standard; so far, almost all of them are Japanese products. Even if this was not the government's intention, other nations could see the program as protectionism.

While the program may be beneficial for consumers, the 295 billion yen necessary for this system is, in the end, a burden of 2,500 yen for each individual citizen. In addition, more government money will be necessary for administrative procedures to exchange the items for points and print huge numbers of catalogs.
This can hardly be called a "wise" way to spend taxpayer money.

If the government argues that the eco-points program is a necessary and extraordinary emergency measure to stimulate consumption and support an industry suffering from rapid sales losses, the least it should do is ensure the program is highly effective in shifting Japan toward an environmentally friendly society.

However, the program seems contrary to that purpose if people are given more eco-points for buying bigger TV sets that use up more electricity.

The government should make further efforts in working out details of the program so that it will produce results worthy of the name "eco-friendly."

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--The Asahi Shimbun, May 23(IHT/Asahi: May 25,2009)
EDITORIAL: Better China-Taiwan ties

One year has passed since the inauguration of the Taiwanese administration of President Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party, who campaigned for the island's rapprochement with mainland China.

Over the past year, relations that once appeared frozen have thawed markedly. We welcome the improvement of ties that has brought stability in the region.

The cross-strait relations started deteriorating in July 1999, when then Taiwanese President Lee Tenghui defined the ties as between "two countries."

Lee's successor, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, who came to power in spring 2000, refused to accept the "one China" principle and leaned strongly toward Taiwanese independence.
Chen's pro-independence posture brought dialogue between Taipei and Beijing to a halt.

Since taking office in May last year, Ma has stuck to his policy of maintaining the status quo without seeking either reunification or independence while aggressively pursuing talks with China as part of efforts to revitalize the Taiwanese economy.

Beijing has responded to Ma's overture by embarking on serious policy dialogue with his administration.

This change has occurred because President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders, aware of concerns about the "threat" posed by China among many Taiwanese, have focused on peaceful development of China-Taiwan ties rather than on efforts to achieve reunification as soon as possible.

Still, the change has been amazing.

Less than 10 days after Ma was sworn in as Taiwanese president, the chairman of the Nationalist Party, Wu Poh-hsiung, and Hu met in Beijing and paved the way for rapprochement. The chiefs of the so-called unofficial negotiating bodies of the two sides have already held three rounds of talks.

In addition to long-overdue direct flights and shipping channels between them, China and Taiwan have agreed to let Chinese tourists visit the island.

Besides people and goods, money will also flow more freely across the Taiwan Strait. Beijing and Taipei have reached basic agreements on allowing financial institutions on both sides to invest and do business in each other's markets while opening Taiwan's economy to investment by Chinese companies.

The improved relations have also set the stage for Taiwan's participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. Taipei has been requesting an observer seat in the assembly since 1997.

Dropping its traditional opposition to Taiwan's presence in any United Nations organization, China has decided to let Taiwan participate in the assembly.

The whole world welcomed Beijing's move amid the global spread of the new swine flu.

Late last year, Hu pledged to deal with issues of Taiwan's participation in international organizations in a reasonable way based on an understanding of the feelings of Taiwanese people.

After Taiwan received an invitation to join the assembly meeting, Ma expressed gratitude for China's "goodwill."

The thaw between China and Taiwan is also affecting other diplomatic relations.

In its relations with the United States and Japan, China has traditionally reacted strongly to issues involving Taiwan. But recently, Beijing rarely brings up diplomatic issues concerning Taiwan.

Yet there is considerable criticism in Taiwan of the Ma administration's policy toward China. On May 17, about 800,000 Taiwanese joined anti-government demonstrations, denouncing the administration's "excessively pro-China" stance, according to organizers.

China has not reduced its 1,050 to 1,150 missiles aimed at Taiwan, according to the U.S. Defense Department. These missiles are causing great anxiety among people in Taiwan.

We hope China will take a further step toward easing tensions by reducing these missiles. Such a move would demonstrate Beijing's flexibility in dealing with Taiwan-related defense issues in addition to economic ones.

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市町村合併 特例法後も息長く取り組め

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 25, 2009)
Municipal mergers should continue
市町村合併 特例法後も息長く取り組め(5月25日付・読売社説)

Strengthening the administrative and fiscal footing of local governments and establishing frameworks to undertake decentralization--these are admirable basic guiding principles for mergers of municipalities. From a mid- to long-term perspective, it is important to continue such efforts.

A draft proposal compiled by the local system research council, an advisory panel to the prime minister, suggested that a merger promotion campaign end when the current law aimed at promoting municipal mergers expires at the end of March. The proposal apparently came out of a judgment that there is a limit to the number of municipal mergers that can be encouraged with measures currently employed.

Through the so-called Heisei-era megamergers, the number of municipalities is to decrease from 3,232 in March 1999 to 1,760 or fewer by March 2010.

But since April 2006, when special bond issuance as a fiscal assistance measure for municipal mergers was abolished, the rate of decrease has slowed, with a mere 61 communities consolidated through mergers since that time. There still are 471 small municipalities whose population is less than 10,000.

Although it is inevitable to put an end, at least for the moment, to the merger facilitation project, each municipality should voluntarily continue seeking mergers. Both the central and prefectural government should support such moves.


Consolidation brings efficiency

In the draft proposal, the panel called for revising systems to allow joint establishment of internal organizations by a number of municipalities to improve local administrative efficiency as an alternative to a full merger.

This idea is based on the assumption that organizational functions of attracting businesses and promoting tourism could be shared. Such wide-ranging cooperation among municipalities may possibly start the ball rolling for future mergers. Positive consideration should be given to the idea.

Municipal mergers are aimed at improving administrative efficiency to cope with a shrinking and aging population coupled with a declining birth rate. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has estimated that such improvement could save as much as 1.8 trillion yen, including a reduction of 540 billion yen in personnel spending, annually in fiscal 2016 and after.

Coupled with reform efforts for decentralization, a plan is being considered to transfer 359 administrative powers under 64 laws from prefectural governments to municipal governments. It is important that transfer of fiscal resources be implemented simultaneously.


Problems remain

Adverse effects, meanwhile, have been pointed out. They include regional confrontations within newly merged municipalities as well as gaps between residents' expectations of improved administrative services and the reality of the actual situations.

In a series of local elections in April, incumbent candidates ran in 39 mayoral races, but were defeated in 17 cities--all of them newly merged. Dissatisfaction among local residents who complained about the focus of their respective municipalities' administrative work on city centers reportedly was a major factor behind the failure of incumbents to win reelection.

It also is said that the dire financial situation faced by local governments resulting from cuts in tax grants from the central government--part of the so-called triple reform of local finances involving cuts in subsidies, a transfer of tax revenue sources and a review of local tax grants--and sluggishness of regional economies, dealt a blow to the candidates.

It is important that newly merged municipalities pay careful attention to regional gaps and implement policy measures to enable residents to feel the benefits of mergers. In some new municipalities, autonomous communal organizations for residents of former towns and villages consolidated through mergers have been set up in an attempt to promote regional development. These kind of efforts should spread more widely.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 25, 2009)
(2009年5月25日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月24日 (日)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:日本人に多い「昇進うつ」 /東京

(Mainichi Japan) May 24, 2009
Level-headed approach best way to avoid 'promotion depression'
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:日本人に多い「昇進うつ」 /東京

I wonder how many of you have heard of the word "promotion depression." Let's say a company employee got promoted, and he and the people around him were very excited. Once he started his new position, however, he could not do his work in the way he had anticipated. He then lost his appetite and could not help sighing. By the time he realized it, he was already in a state of depression. This is a specific example of promotion depression.

Promotion depression is thought to be common especially among Japanese who are serious-minded and who have a strong sense of responsibility.

For example, the sort of person who says during his speech at a party celebrating his promotion something like, "I sincerely appreciate your support, and I am even more prepared to sacrifice myself for ...," could easily fall into depression because he puts too much pressure on himself and wastes his mental energy.

Meanwhile, a self-admirer who explodes with joy after getting promoted rather than realizes his responsibility, like some characters in movies, is believed to be less likely to fall into promotion depression.
 一方、昇進などうれしいことがあると、責任を痛感するよりもまず「ワーオ! オレってすごい!」と自画自賛して喜びを爆発させる、映画に出てくる典型的なアメリカ人のようなタイプは昇進うつにはなりにくい、と考えられていた。

Even in today's Japan, the population of self-centered people has increased, while there have been less promotion depression sufferers.

However, I recently saw new "progression disease" cases. To cite an example, let's look at a person who was promoted from section chief to division chief. I will call him "Mr. P."

Mr. P was happy with his promotion because he thought it was a prize for his efforts and abilities. He knew he would be treated way better in his company once he got a higher position. He felt like all the female employees were admiring him. At meetings, Mr. P confidently discussed with management executives, and sometimes he even argued them down.

Mr. P started to act big as if the whole world was revolving around him. He spoke abusively to his boss and repeatedly harassed his female coworkers with sexual comments.

At this stage, Mr. P was totally in a manic state. He fell not into promotion depression but into "promotion mania."

Fortunately, Mr. P's family noticed his unusual behavior and recommended he go see a doctor as soon as possible. Mr. P managed to start receiving treatment before any major problems occurred at the company. He got better after a while, but he might have ended up quitting the company if he had not recovered.

Thus, you had better not feel too much pressure from your promotion, but it is also dangerous to get overly excited and to flatter yourself. I would say that it is always best to keep yourself level-headed as much as possible. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2009年5月19日 地方版

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ベトナム 「プラス1」超える関係目指せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 24, 2009)
Japan, Vietnam envision strategic relationship
ベトナム 「プラス1」超える関係目指せ(5月24日付・読売社説)

Japan can look forward to cooperating with Vietnam in various business fields, including space development.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has just paid a visit to Japan, following in the footsteps of Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh, who came here in April.

In a joint statement issued after a meeting between Manh and Prime Minister Taro Aso, the two countries vowed to work on developing their bilateral relationship into a "strategic partnership." In his talks with Aso, Dung also agreed to promote bilateral economic cooperation in various fields on the basis of the joint statement.

A large number of Japanese companies have advanced into Vietnam recently in pursuit of the so-called China-plus-one strategy: Having made huge investments in China, taking advantage of its cheap, able workforce, they are seeking to enter another country or region as a second production base in consideration of investment risks in China, including mounting labor costs. Vietnam fits the bill.

The joint statement seeks not only the promotion of investment by Japanese companies in Vietnam, but also the improvement of the investment environment in Vietnam. With the statement, the attractiveness of doing business in Vietnam, which is known for its diligent workforce and low labor costs, will be further enhanced.

In late December, Japan and Vietnam signed an economic partnership agreement. We hope the two countries will quickly ratify the agreement and develop their bilateral economic relationship into one stronger than a relationship based on the China-plus-one strategy.


High-tech cooperation set

In the joint statement, Japan and Vietnam also agreed to expand their cooperation into new areas, including the space, nuclear and aircraft technology sectors.

First of all, the two nations will cooperate to develop small satellites and construct a space technology center in the suburbs of Hanoi. It will be the first time that Japan has provided full-fledged support for another country's space development. It is expected that Japanese companies will build satellites for Vietnam and launch them on Japanese rockets.

Meanwhile, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry agreed with the Vietnamese government in May 2008 on cooperation for the start of nuclear power generation in Vietnam in 2020.

In the field of aircraft technology, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is producing a small passenger jet, dubbed the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, as Japan's second domestically developed plane after the YS-11. Vietnam likely will be a key buyer of the MRJ.

The global space business is expected to grow at a healthy pace due to the increase in demand for satellites in developing countries. The number of orders for nuclear power plants also is sure to increase, mainly in developing countries, amid growing awareness of the importance of environmental protection. As the development of the MRJ will be supported by a wide range of industries, such as parts and materials manufacturers, it is expected that the MRJ development will create a positive ripple effect on the manufacturing industry as a whole.


China expanding influence

If Japanese companies are able to pave the way for expansion overseas using Vietnam as a stepping stone, they can expect to reap big rewards.

China also has been strengthening its economic influence in Southeast Asian countries. As Beijing has taken a lead over Japan in cooperation with these countries--especially in the space development field--Tokyo should make more efforts to realize substantive cooperation in this area.

We hope Japan and Vietnam will strengthen the bilateral relationship so it deserves to be called a strategic partnership.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 24, 2009)
(2009年5月24日01時33分  読売新聞)

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ベトナム 「プラス1」超える関係目指せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 24, 2009)
Japan, Vietnam envision strategic relationship
ベトナム 「プラス1」超える関係目指せ(5月24日付・読売社説)

Japan can look forward to cooperating with Vietnam in various business fields, including space development.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has just paid a visit to Japan, following in the footsteps of Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh, who came here in April.

In a joint statement issued after a meeting between Manh and Prime Minister Taro Aso, the two countries vowed to work on developing their bilateral relationship into a "strategic partnership." In his talks with Aso, Dung also agreed to promote bilateral economic cooperation in various fields on the basis of the joint statement.

A large number of Japanese companies have advanced into Vietnam recently in pursuit of the so-called China-plus-one strategy: Having made huge investments in China, taking advantage of its cheap, able workforce, they are seeking to enter another country or region as a second production base in consideration of investment risks in China, including mounting labor costs. Vietnam fits the bill.

The joint statement seeks not only the promotion of investment by Japanese companies in Vietnam, but also the improvement of the investment environment in Vietnam. With the statement, the attractiveness of doing business in Vietnam, which is known for its diligent workforce and low labor costs, will be further enhanced.

In late December, Japan and Vietnam signed an economic partnership agreement. We hope the two countries will quickly ratify the agreement and develop their bilateral economic relationship into one stronger than a relationship based on the China-plus-one strategy.


High-tech cooperation set

In the joint statement, Japan and Vietnam also agreed to expand their cooperation into new areas, including the space, nuclear and aircraft technology sectors.

First of all, the two nations will cooperate to develop small satellites and construct a space technology center in the suburbs of Hanoi. It will be the first time that Japan has provided full-fledged support for another country's space development. It is expected that Japanese companies will build satellites for Vietnam and launch them on Japanese rockets.

Meanwhile, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry agreed with the Vietnamese government in May 2008 on cooperation for the start of nuclear power generation in Vietnam in 2020.

In the field of aircraft technology, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. is producing a small passenger jet, dubbed the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, as Japan's second domestically developed plane after the YS-11. Vietnam likely will be a key buyer of the MRJ.

The global space business is expected to grow at a healthy pace due to the increase in demand for satellites in developing countries. The number of orders for nuclear power plants also is sure to increase, mainly in developing countries, amid growing awareness of the importance of environmental protection. As the development of the MRJ will be supported by a wide range of industries, such as parts and materials manufacturers, it is expected that the MRJ development will create a positive ripple effect on the manufacturing industry as a whole.


China expanding influence

If Japanese companies are able to pave the way for expansion overseas using Vietnam as a stepping stone, they can expect to reap big rewards.

China also has been strengthening its economic influence in Southeast Asian countries. As Beijing has taken a lead over Japan in cooperation with these countries--especially in the space development field--Tokyo should make more efforts to realize substantive cooperation in this area.

We hope Japan and Vietnam will strengthen the bilateral relationship so it deserves to be called a strategic partnership.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 24, 2009)
(2009年5月24日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月23日 (土)

島サミット 環境協力できずなを深めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 23, 2009)
Japan should cement ties with Pacific isles at forum
島サミット 環境協力できずなを深めたい(5月23日付・読売社説)

Through providing cooperation in the fields of environment and marine development to small island nations in the Pacific Ocean, Japan, which has nearly 7,000 isolated islands, will also enjoy benefits in the form of acquired expertise in those areas.

With the participation of leaders and representatives of the Pacific Islands Forum, which comprises 14 nations and regions in the Pacific as well as Australia and New Zealand, the two-day Japan-Pacific Islands Forum summit meeting began Friday in Hokkaido. The triannual meeting is the fifth since 1997.

At the meeting, Prime Minister Taro Aso proposed the creation of a "Pacific environment community," and the participants agreed to work together in dealing with climate change as partners sharing the Pacific.


EEZ's potential in focus

For small island nations that have been suffering chronic shortages of power and water, the main pillar of the ongoing cooperation is to spread Japan's advanced environmental technology, including solar power generation and seawater desalination.

Japan's solar power generation technology converts solar energy to electricity at a rate among the most efficient in the world. As for seawater desalination technology, Japanese companies have 60 percent of the global market share in the field of reverse osmosis membrane water purification systems.

In Tuvalu and Kiribati, which are in danger of disappearing beneath the waves due to their low elevation, technologies developed as conservation measures for Okinotorishima island may be useful, including coral transplantation and a technology that creates sand by placing active electrodes in seawater.

The provision of cooperation in such fields is expected to yield the side benefit of the transmission of Japan's scientific and technological capabilities to the rest of the world.

Japan and small island nations in the Pacific share common development potential and tasks as they all consist of islands scattered across the ocean and have vast exclusive economic zones.

An EEZ is a sea zone over which a country has economic rights in respect of the exploration and use of underground and marine resources. In recent years, Japan has begun full-fledged work on the development of its EEZ.

However, it is not properly utilizing its about 400 inhabited isolated islands and about 6,400 uninhabited islands, although some of them could serve as hubs for EEZ development.

By advancing technological research on the generation of electricity through the utilization of tidal currents and differences in sea temperatures, and research into offshore fish farming, the government should promote the nation's isolated islands and develop its EEZ. Knowledge acquired through such research will also contribute to providing cooperation for small island nations.


China, Taiwan dangling carrots

China and Taiwan have been rolling out diplomatic initiatives to boost ties with small island nations in the Pacific by offering huge amount of economic assistance. For the purpose of corralling nations with diplomatic ties, they have hosted multicountry meetings similar to the Japan-Pacific Islands Forum summit.

The fact that a field in which Japan is a leader--environmental technology--was picked as the main pillar of the cooperation will highlight the difference between its cooperation and China's assistance diplomacy. We hope respect will be paid to the framework of the Japan-Pacific Islands Forum summit and that cooperation among its members will be strengthened.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 23, 2009)
(2009年5月23日02時05分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月18日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 12(IHT/Asahi: May 13,2009)
EDITORIAL: Ozawa steps down

Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) President Ichiro Ozawa finally announced his resignation on Monday. Had he acted sooner, we believe, his party would have been better able to cut its losses.

During the two months since Ozawa's state-paid aide was arrested in early March in connection with suspected illegal donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co., public opinion demanding Ozawa's resignation grew increasingly severe. This situation even helped raise the approval ratings for the abysmally unpopular Cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Recouping will not be easy

The next Lower House election must take place by September. But with Ozawa staying on as Minshuto leader, the party could suffer a defeat in the election and lose its chance to attain its long-held goal of seizing the reins of government. We believe it was this sense of crisis that ultimately made Ozawa decide to step down.

At his news conference Monday evening, Ozawa said, "In order to bring about a change of government, I am willingly sacrificing myself and resigning from my post." He also said, "By burning my own bridges, I am making absolutely sure that my party will triumph (in the next election)."

Another factor that must have precipitated Ozawa's decision to step down was the recent emergence of moves within Minshuto to force him out. Until then, most party members had remained silent or noncommittal, at least on the surface.

Since his aide's arrest, Ozawa has remained openly defiant of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, vowing to take them on. During Monday's news conference, too, Ozawa stressed that his conscience was "completely clear." It is possible that one reason why Ozawa dug in his heels for as long as two months was that he feared his resignation could be seen as an admission of defeat to the prosecutors.

The prosecutors have not yet declared an end to the investigation, but people's attention is now beginning to turn to the first court hearing of Ozawa's aide, which will be held shortly.

We believe Ozawa is now prepared to use the trial to challenge the manner in which prosecutors investigated the case and arrested his aide. We also expect Ozawa to take issue with prosecutors over the illegality of Nishimatsu's donations.

Minshuto is wasting no time in proceeding with the selection of Ozawa's successor, but it will not be easy for the party to regroup.

Before the Nishimatsu scandal came to light, Minshuto was on a roll and looked as if it was poised to seize power any day. But the party has since stalled. It revealed its inner turmoil in its inability to take a clear-cut position on many of the bills presented to the Diet, including budget bills. As well, the work of preparing its manifesto for the next Lower House election has been put on hold.

Explaining policies to voters

Why did Ozawa keep receiving huge donations from the general contractor for many years? Minshuto has vehemently denounced collusion involving politicians, bureaucrats and businesses in connection with public works projects and promised to radically change the "structure of the nation." Was Ozawa not the very antipode of what the party stood for?

Not only Ozawa, but also the rest of the party failed to address these obvious questions that many voters were asking.

Now the party has to undo all the damage caused by letting voters' mistrust fester and grow.

If Minshuto thinks it can automatically regain the public's trust once a new president is in place, it could not be more mistaken.

The election of the new president ought to take the form of multiple candidates competing on their policies. While the election's effects on Diet deliberations should be kept minimal, the party nevertheless needs to take innovative, proactive steps to take policy debates outside its walls so that the voting public can judge the party's principles and goals.

Another thing the party must do is outgrow its habitual reliance on Ozawa as the "problem fixer" and establish a new party persona under the new leader.

Ozawa was elected president three years ago to get Minshuto out of the mess over the fake e-mail fiasco. Ozawa then went on to prove his competence by leading the party to a historic victory in the 2007 Upper House election that brought the chamber under opposition control.

A former member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a brilliant election strategist, Ozawa is thoroughly familiar with the ins and outs of LDP-style campaigning. And having held a series of key LDP posts, Ozawa has remained one of the biggest names in Japanese politics.

His background and personality have sometimes made a good number of voters and Minshuto members uneasy. Yet for Minshuto, which appeared weak, Ozawa was seen as a potent strongman indispensable in the party's quest for power.

Ozawa was likened to a strong but potentially lethal medicine for Minshuto. And sure enough, he caused some "side effects." For instance, since Ozawa became president, some of the party's signature policies disappeared from the campaign platform. They included a plan to raise the consumption tax to finance social security spending, and a promise to ban political donations from companies awarded contracts for public works projects.

As for Minshuto's policies concerning the introduction of child-support allowance and the elimination of tolls for expressways, the ruling coalition and others attacked them as "lacking in viable funding plans."

In diplomacy, Ozawa made a series of eyebrow-raising comments that deviated from the party's basic position. For example, he caused a stir when he told reporters in February, "The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet is enough to secure the U.S. military presence in the Far East."

LDP also accountable

In 2007, Ozawa tried to pull an arbitrary stunt by negotiating with then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to form a grand coalition with the LDP. The attempt backfired, and Ozawa expressed his intention to resign, which he retracted a couple of days later.
But as this episode illustrated, our impression of Minshuto under Ozawa's leadership was that it was overtly and almost shamelessly ambitious in its quest for the reins of government, and that the party's policies were secondary to political jockeying.

Minshuto must now rush to reshape its foreign and domestic policies.

Should Minshuto succeed in recovering from the mess, it will be the Aso administration's turn to face the public's scrutiny.

Although the Cabinet's approval ratings have risen after plunging to an abysmal 13 percent, opinion polls still show that nearly 60 percent of the respondents do not support the Cabinet. This is certainly not a figure that Aso can take lightly.

Whether the LDP can win the next election under Aso has been a nagging concern among LDP members, and their voices may grow louder in the coming days.

It is now the responsibility of our elected representatives, especially members of the nation's two major political parties--the LDP and Minshuto--to make sure that the next Lower House election will truly enable voters to elect a government of their choice.

Faced with the serious economic downturn and other problems, such as the aging of society, low birthrate and declining population, the nation is undergoing a period of major transition.

In fighting a Lower House election at such a time, the LDP and Minshuto alike must compete on the persuasiveness of their respective policies and the personal appeal of their respective leaders.

Which party will shape up first to gain campaigning advantage? There is not much time left.

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社説:鳩山民主新代表 政権獲得へ骨太な「芯」を

(Mainichi Japan) May 17, 2009
Eyes fixed on Hatoyama's ability to implement his own election pledges
社説:鳩山民主新代表 政権獲得へ骨太な「芯」を

Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama has become the new leader of the largest opposition party by beating opponent Katsuya Okada in the party's leadership election to replace Ichiro Ozawa.

Hatoyama again assumed the top post of the party that he left more than six years ago, and is set to compete with Prime Minister Taro Aso for the top government position in the House of Representatives general election that will called within four months.

Following his victory, Hatoyama called for the party to go on the offensive in a unified bid to take over the reins of government under the slogan "Clean up Japan." However, his hasty election as party leader with the backing of his predecessor Ozawa has given the public the impression that he was elevated to the post in a closed process.

The upcoming Lower House race to choose the next prime minister will be a competition of party leaders' abilities. The DPJ will lose support from voters if it reveals a dual power structure in which Hatoyama leads the party under the clout of Ozawa. Hatoyama must demonstrate his ability as party leader by working out the party's manifesto himself.

Ozawa was instrumental in sweeping Hatoyama to party leadership. Hatoyama beat deputy leader Okada, who opinion polls showed had garnered wider support from the public, by a margin of nearly 30 votes. This demonstrated that he was backed by major intraparty groups, including one led by Ozawa and his own group. Ozawa will thus maintain his influence on party management.

Ozawa's resignation was an opportunity for the DPJ, which had been on the defensive following a political donation scandal involving Ozawa's top aide, to start over. However, the race ended up being an inward-looking struggle between pro- and anti-Ozawa members.

Ozawa was forced to resign even though he had once declared that he would stay on, because the public rejected his old-fashioned approach which raised questions over politics and money. He stepped down without taking responsibility for the indictment of his state-paid secretary over the political donation scandal. If he continues to assume control over the party, it would be viewed as the revival of a dual structure of power in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in which he wielded influence on the ruling party as secretary-general. Whether Hatoyama can appoint top party officials at his own discretion, with or without Ozawa, and repair the crack that has developed within the party will be tested.

The important thing is his ability to demonstrate a new style of politics that he is aiming to build up through a manifesto. His slogan, "politics full of love," is abstract. When his call for love in politics was ridiculed during a debate as being like "soft serve ice cream" that easily melts, he countered by saying it was like an "ice lolly" that has a solid stick in the center. However, his appeal to the public still lacks in drive. In particular, it is doubtful whether he can convince the public that enough funds can be secured to cover social security programs while closing off discussions on a consumption-tax hike. The pledge he made during the leadership election to break down politics dominated by bureaucrats has not been accompanied by specific ways to achieve this goal.

Since the DPJ has elected its new leader, the focus will shift to when Prime Minister Aso will dissolve the Lower House for a snap general election. The ruling coalition is criticizing what it calls a dual power structure in which Hatoyama manages the party under the influence of Ozawa. However, the Aso administration remains unpopular with the public as opinion polls show that the approval rating for his Cabinet is less than 30 percent.

It is true that potential issues during the upcoming general election came to the fore though discussions during the DPJ leadership race. The LDP must also demonstrate its own manifesto to the public at an early date.

毎日新聞 2009年5月17日 東京朝刊

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CO2中期目標 「京都」の二の舞いを避けよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 18, 2009)
Kyoto Protocol overreach must not be repeated
CO2中期目標 「京都」の二の舞いを避けよ(5月18日付・読売社説)

To what extent should the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions be reduced by 2020? As the government is finalizing a mid-term goal on the issue, it is important to set a realistic and achievable numerical target.

Prime Minister Taro Aso is to finalize the nation's mid-term goal in June. As the basis for discussions, a government panel has presented six options whose emission targets range from an increase of 4 percent to a decrease of 25 percent in comparison to the 1990 level.

A mid-term goal would be important since it would directly link to a new international framework on emission cuts that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2013. Numerical targets that the government hammers out likely will become the minimum level that Japan is to take on under the post-Kyoto accord framework, for which talks are set to be completed by the end of this year.

The European Union has declared a mid-term goal of reducing emissions by 20 percent from the 1990 level. The United States hopes to cut its emissions to the 1990 level. Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito has said that Japan also needs to have "an ambitious goal."


Don't set unreachable goal

But setting a goal that is too demanding likely would prove troublesome for the nation, as the Kyoto Protocol has shown.

For Japan, which already has advanced energy-saving systems, it is difficult to achieve the reduction of 6 percent from the 1990 level as stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol. Despite its strained fiscal situation, the nation has set aside about 200 billion yen over the last four years to purchase emission quotas from other nations in order to cover the shortfall in the reduction target.

This kind of foolishness must not be repeated.

Under the post-Kyoto Protocol framework, it would be essential that China and India be required to fulfill their respective responsibilities as large emitters. To get the two nations to join the same framework, advanced nations need to show a willingness to cooperate on emission cuts.

For Japan, however, it is not an easy task to achieve the same level of reduction as the United States and some other nations that still have much to do to cut emissions. How to ensure fairness among advanced nations in this regard is a key concern as well.


Seek realistic target

The six proposed options include one under which a reduction target is set at 25 percent for advanced nations as a whole with those nations being assigned different target rates in accordance with the degree of progress made in their energy-saving efforts. Under this scenario, Japan would have a target of an increase of 1 percent to a decrease of 5 percent from the 1990 level. This seems to be a realistic idea.

Another option sets a target of 7 percent reduction with maximum use of cutting-edge energy-saving technology. This scenario is based on such an assumption that half of new cars sold are next-generation models. It is difficult to determine the feasibility of this option.

Japan has a long-term goal of reducing emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent from the current level by 2050. To achieve that goal it is important to try to establish a society that does not rely on oil and other fossil fuels.

What should be done in the process of setting a mid-term goal is to build the foundations of a society that does not rely on fossil fuels, rather than to compete over levels of emission reduction rates.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 18, 2009)
(2009年5月18日02時02分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月17日 (日)

鳩山民主党 小沢路線踏襲は理解されるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 17, 2009)
DPJ post-Ozawa course must be constructive
鳩山民主党 小沢路線踏襲は理解されるか(5月17日付・読売社説)

Through its choice of Yukio Hatoyama as leader, the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan has chosen not to rethink the course taken by former party leader Ichiro Ozawa, and will instead follow a similar line.

The question now is whether Hatoyama's approach will secure public understanding and support.

On Saturday, DPJ Secretary General Hatoyama was elected the party's new president. Rival Vice President Katsuya Okada closed the gap that early opinion polls suggested existed, but he was unable to prevail.

Hatoyama, 62, was party secretary general for more than 3-1/2 years and established a good relationship with factional groups within the party. He also received much praise from DPJ lawmakers as a safe pair of hands in the position.

The main reason for his victory, though, was that he was able to expand his support base to DPJ lawmakers in the House of Councillors, who hold almost half of the party's Diet seats.

Fifty-five-year-old Okada, meanwhile, was praised by DPJ lawmakers for his clean image, and appeared in opinion polls to have more public support than Hatoyama and came out on top in a survey by DPJ prefectural chapters.

Many DPJ lawmakers in the House of Representatives said they had expected Okada to be the party's "front man" for the next general election.

Saturday's contest came down largely to the issue of how similar the two candidates were to Ozawa.

Hatoyama stated clearly his belief that the party is what it is today because of Ozawa, and emphasized his intention to continue the course mapped out by Ozawa.

Okada, for his part, had praised Ozawa's performance in steering the DPJ to victory in the 2007 upper house election. But he also had distanced himself from Ozawa's policy line, and some of his comments were tinged with criticism.


Weaning party off Ozawa?

For better or worse, the DPJ has relied heavily on Ozawa's strong personality and leadership. Hatoyama intends to appoint Ozawa to an important post in the party's new leadership, meaning Ozawa will still retain influence in the party.

Hatoyama has said he will not allow his regime to be dismissed as a puppet with Ozawa pulling the strings. But ensuring this will require tangible action, including by showing his independence through his management of the party and Diet.

Hatoyama will have to move quickly to establish a unified approach within the party to the next lower house election. He also will be tasked with bolstering a party scarred by a scandal in which one of Ozawa's secretaries was arrested and indicted over the taking and false reporting of illegal donations from a scandal-tainted general contractor.


DPJ platform needs clarity

But doing all this will not be easy.

One place to start would be to flesh out and improve the contents of the party manifesto.


It was reasonable for Okada to state that policies would not be put into practice without adequate financial resources. If the DPJ does not even allow party members to discuss a possible consumption tax rate hike, it can hardly be regarded as a responsible party. The DPJ should not avoid clarifying where the financial resources for policies--including allowances for infants and a program to compensate farmers for income shortfalls--will come from.

It also is necessary for the DPJ to map out comprehensive diplomatic and security policies.

Although the DPJ acknowledges the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance, it emphasizes only that Japan should be up-front with the United States. The DPJ should instead say what it can do to strengthen the alliance and clearly outline what kind of responsibilities Japan should be shouldering in the international community.

In the Diet session this week, attention will be focused on deliberations at the upper house on the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget. Hatoyama indicated the DPJ would not try to delay deliberations and that he would be receptive to debate between himself and Prime Minister Taro Aso.

We hope under its new leadership the DPJ will tackle Diet affairs constructively.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 17, 2009)
(2009年5月17日01時24分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月16日 (土)



srachai from khonkaen, thailand

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社説:鳩山VS岡田 勝敗は政見で決せよ

(Mainichi Japan) May 15, 2009
DPJ leadership candidates should compete on policies
社説:鳩山VS岡田 勝敗は政見で決せよ

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leadership election on Saturday will be a duel between Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama and deputy leader Katsuya Okada. Most legislators close to outgoing leader Ichiro Ozawa are supporting Hatoyama while younger politicians who distance themselves from Ozawa played a key role in fielding Okada. It is virtually a race between pro- and anti-Ozawa politicians within the largest opposition party.

The leadership election will select the party's candidate for prime minister as the next general election for the powerful House of Representatives is to be held before September.
If party members elect their next leader only by whether the candidates are pro- or anti-Ozawa, the race would not be worthy of being called a prelude to the general election that will choose the next government. Even though the campaign period is short, both candidates are obligated to compete on policies to show whether they are capable of taking over the reins of government. The party's ability -- in terms of both its policies and its management -- is being tested in the leadership race.

At their respective news conferences on Thursday, both Hatoyama and Okada declared that they will endeavor to maintain and strengthen the unity of the party following the race.

Hatoyama, backed by members of his own intraparty group and Ozawa's group, is expected to garner more votes than Okada. He pledged to take over Ozawa's policies saying, "The path that leader Ozawa has taken wasn't wrong." He also said if elected party leader, he would ask Ozawa to play an important role in the campaign for the general election.

Hatoyama dismissed concern expressed by some party members that he will lead the party under directions from Ozawa. "Nobody should call me a 'puppet leader.'"

In a recent Mainichi poll, the number of those who said Okada is more suitable to lead the DPJ is almost twice that for Hatoyama, and Okada is aiming to show that he can appeal more to voters during the Lower House race.

Okada has revealed a new slogan, "A political party open to the people." He emphasized he would ensure that all party members will maintain their unity to battle in the general election if he becomes party leader, but stopped short of saying whether he would appoint Ozawa to any important post in the party.

It is regrettable that there was only limited time for open policy debates as DPJ members of both houses of the Diet are scheduled to cast their ballots only five days after Ozawa announced his intention to resign. The public would be disappointed if the DPJ elects its next leader in an inward-looking manner while even the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) holds an open campaign for its presidential elections by holding public debates. DPJ legislators are urged to explain their selection of candidates to party members. The DPJ Okayama prefectural chapter's plan to interview rank-and-file party members and registered supporters on the phone over which candidate should lead the party is one of such efforts.

It is also problematic that there hardly appear to be any differences in basic policies between the two candidates as they have agreed to ban corporate political donations from 2012 -- the key issue in problems involving politics and money. Hatoyama said no discussion should be held on a consumption tax hike for now. Okada has pointed to the possibility that the consumption tax will be used exclusively to finance public pension programs while saying it is difficult for the foreseeable future to raise the indirect tax levied virtually on all goods and services. They should hold in-depth debates on the issue.

The Mainichi poll suggests that 66 percent of the public believes that Ozawa's resignation came too late and that 83 percent believe that Ozawa has not fulfilled his accountability for a political donation scandal involving one of his aides. The DPJ cannot overcome its setback as a result of the scandal and go on the offensive if it misreads the public's critical opinion.

毎日新聞 2009年5月15日 東京朝刊

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北ミサイル報告 「敵基地攻撃」は冷静に議論せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 16, 2009)
Calm debate over having strike capability needed
北ミサイル報告 「敵基地攻撃」は冷静に議論せよ(5月16日付・読売社説)

Study into possessing the capability to strike enemy bases could be significant if it is deemed that missile defense systems are an inadequate form of protection. However, it is important that this issue be discussed in a calm manner.

The Defense Ministry on Friday released a report on North Korea's April missile launch. It said the launch helped Pyongyang extend the range of its Taepodong ballistic missiles, stating that the second and third stages--if North Korea's claim of a third stage is true--apparently flew 3,150 kilometers to 3,200 kilometers from a launch site in Musudan-ri in northeastern North Korea.

The report also pointed out that the test-firing of a long-range missile helps in extending the range of its shorter-range missiles, increasing its warhead capacities and enhancing the accuracy of its missiles.

Indeed, in terms of national security, we should not be as worried about the increased range of Taepodong missiles, which pass over Japan, as we should be about the enhanced ability of Rodong medium-range missiles, which could strike Japan.

The government should steadily promote the deployment of two missile defense systems--one using interceptors launched from Aegis-equipped destroyers and the other using ground-based interceptor missiles.


Options require U.S. support

If a number of ballistic missiles were fired at one time, however, it would be extremely difficult for a missile defense system, no matter its form, to intercept all of them.

Under its strictly defensive defense policy, Japan has its Self-Defense Forces focus on defensive operations while relying on the U.S. forces for retaliatory strikes. Military deterrent can basically be maintained under this current division of roles between the SDF and U.S. forces, as long as the Japan-U.S. security alliance functions as intended.

However, the option to allow the SDF certain strike capabilities to complement the current setup should not be dismissed.

The means to strike enemy bases roughly come in two delivery systems--cruise missile strikes such as by the Tomahawk of the United States, and strikes using bombing aircraft.

It is difficult for cruise missiles to engage Rodong missiles because precise target locations are needed, and Rodongs are launched from mobile platforms.

Bombing aircraft, meanwhile, need to break through an enemy's air defense network to deliver air strikes, requiring air force units comprising support fighters to secure air supremacy, electronic air warfare aircraft with jamming capabilities, air tankers and other assistance.

Either scenario requires close coordination with U.S. forces.


SDF role should be clarified

Detecting a sign of a missile launch and identifying its intended target makes indispensible the cooperation of U.S. forces in providing such information to the SDF. Striking all enemy missile bases solely using the SDF is unrealistic considering the huge costs and time involved.

How and under what conditions, then, could the SDF effectively complement U.S. attack capabilities? We hope a comprehensive study of this matter is made based on realistic unit operation conditions.

To ensure that the Japan-U.S. security alliance functions effectively, it is necessary to enable Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defense, which is currently banned by the government's interpretation of the Constitution. The alliance could be shaken if Japan remains barred under the Constitution from intercepting missiles heading toward the United States.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 16, 2009)
(2009年5月16日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月15日 (金)



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巨額赤字決算 業績立て直しに何が必要か

The Yomiuri Shimbun(May. 15, 2009)
Firms must learn how to weather tough times
巨額赤字決算 業績立て直しに何が必要か(5月15日付・読売社説)

We are witnessing perhaps the worst settlement of financial accounts since the end of World War II.
This is the first time that so many of Japan's leading companies have reported massive losses across the board.

It is now the peak of the earnings season, with many major firms having announced their performances for the business year that ended March 31. The dour financial reports throw the massive impact of the global economic crisis into sharp relief.

Ordinary profits reported by firms listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, excluding banks and certain other businesses, are expected to drop by a total of more than 60 percent from the previous year. In particular, net profits to be incurred in the manufacturing sector as a whole are highly likely to fall into the red.

In addition, many companies predict declines in profits for the current business year ending March 2010, anticipating that it will take some time for the economy to recover.

To weather this harsh business climate, it will be essential for these companies to take steps such as cutting back on wasteful operations, strengthening financial bases and exploring new business fields that show growth potential.


Big players take big hit

Business deterioration has been particularly severe in the auto and electronics industries, which have been rocked by sluggish overseas sales and the stronger yen.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s global vehicle sales in fiscal 2008 dropped by 1.34 million units from the previous year. The firm also took a 760 billion yen hit in profit because of the yen's appreciation against major currencies. As a result, it posted a 461 billion yen operating loss, which gauges profits in a company's core business. The company also projected that its losses for the current business year would likely balloon to 850 billion yen.

To cope with the situation, the automaker will put more low-fuel cars on the market, expand sales networks in emerging economies and try to slash manufacturing costs. One of its tasks will be downsizing the firm's current production scale that currently has the ability to punch out 3 million cars in excess a year.

Hitachi Ltd. reported a group net loss of 787.3 billion yen, the largest reported among Japanese companies. In addition to slumping sales, the firm was forced to dispose of latent losses from its stockholdings and break into deferred tax assets, which had been set aside in anticipation of future tax returns.

With the aim of boosting its corporate strength, Hitachi plans to pare down its businesses and concentrate on certain fields, discarding its reputation as a general electronics manufacturer.

The country's electronics companies are having to address this common theme of "selection and concentration," which is a distinct break from the established follow-the-leader mentality. If all the big electronics firms take this course, it could force a complete realignment of the industry, following similar moves seen in the semiconductor business.


All sectors should be on guard

In the nonmanufacturing sector, the aviation industry has been hit particularly hard. Japan Airlines Corp. is expected to report a net loss for two consecutive years, putting the fate of its business reconstruction efforts into doubt once again. Attention is now focused on how its planned restructuring efforts, including pension reforms and personnel cuts, will unfold.

Domestic demand-led industries, such as railways and telecommunications, have reported relatively light damage from the recession. However, such sectors also should remain on their guard while comprehensively assessing their business strategies in anticipation of a prolonged recession.

Honda Motor Co., which saw brisk overseas sales of motorcycles, and Mitsubishi Electric Corp., which started streamlining and reorganizing its unprofitable businesses earlier than its competitors, both managed to turn profits even in these difficult times.

Companies with unique products and specialties tend to handle recessions better. It is hoped that Japanese companies will take advantage of the economic challenges they are facing today to find new sources capable of generating profits for tomorrow.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 15, 2009)
(2009年5月15日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2009年5月14日 (木)

旅の終りに (家族でラヨーンのメーラムプンビーチへ)



srachai from khonkaen, thailand

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