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2012年9月30日 (日)

民・自の新体制 「停滞国会」をもう繰り返すな

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 30, 2012)
New leaders of 2 major parties must not allow Diet to stall again
民・自の新体制 「停滞国会」をもう繰り返すな(9月29日付・読売社説)

The Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party have launched new leadership teams, but the presidential elections of the ruling and largest opposition party have left some emotional divisions among members.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, reelected as DPJ leader, and new LDP President Shinzo Abe will need to put all of their efforts into consolidating support in their respective parties.

We hope the parties will also work to end the futile confrontations between the ruling and opposition camps, and turn the Diet into a place capable of making decisions.

The DPJ formally approved its new executive team Friday at a meeting of party lawmakers from both chambers of the Diet. DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi kept his post, while Environment Minister Goshi Hosono was tapped to lead the party's Policy Research Committee and Kazunori Yamanoi was given the chair of the Diet Affairs Committee.

Expectations are high for Hosono--whose task as policy chief will be to work out the party's election platform--to play a central role in the next House of Representatives election.

With the ruling party expected to face an uphill battle in the election, more DPJ lawmakers appear to be looking to break away from the party, such as by joining a certain newly formed party. The most pressing task for the new DPJ leadership is to quell these revolts.


Mutual trust is essential

However, the DPJ executives should not engage in too much naval-gazing by focusing only on party unity. To break the current political stalemate, the ruling and opposition parties must build a trusting relationship.

During the ordinary Diet session that ended in early September, the DPJ took primitive action over key legislation to reform the lower house electoral system, ramming its bill through the the lower house. Under its new leadership, we hope the DPJ will review how it handles Diet affairs.

The LDP also approved its new leadership lineup Friday. Former LDP policy chief Shigeru Ishiba was appointed secretary general, while former Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari was named chairman of the Policy Research Council. Yasukazu Hamada was promoted from acting chairman to head of the Diet Affairs Committee.

Ishiba won the first round of the LDP presidential election comfortably through support from a majority of local chapters, but lost to Abe in the runoff, in which only party lawmakers could vote. Senior chapter officials voiced frustration with the results, and Ishiba was handed the party's No. 2 post in an apparent effort to placate them.

Relations between Japan and China have deteriorated recently, so it is also possible that Abe appointed Ishiba, considered an expert in security issues, to boost the party's chances in the next lower house election.

With five candidates having vied to lead the LDP, the election has left some rifts in the party and ill feelings have developed between some members. Abe will need to work to unify his party, but the prevalence of recent supporters, old-time allies and aides in his executive lineup is a worrisome sign.


Confirm 3-party alliance

We hope the executives of both major parties will reconfirm the three-party alliance by holding a meeting of the leaders of the DPJ, LDP and New Komeito, and begin preparations for an extraordinary Diet session. The alliance will be tested over a bill to allow issuance of deficit-covering bonds.

During the campaign for LDP president, Ishiba said he would not set the dissolution of the lower house as a condition for the LDP's cooperation in the passage of key bills. He also ruled out the possibility of boycotting Diet deliberations, even though a censure motion was passed at the House of Councillors. We will view it as praiseworthy if the LDP adopts these ideas.

Abe, however, has called on Noda to dissolve the lower house this year, while Ishiba said he would not stick to demanding dissolution at an early date. Abe and Ishiba differ strategically on other issues as well. How they coordinate their positions will likely affect the future course of this nation's politics.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2012)
(2012年9月29日01時32分  読売新聞)

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日韓外相会談 対話継続で未来志向の関係を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 30, 2012)
Govt must continue dialogue with South Korea
日韓外相会談 対話継続で未来志向の関係を(9月29日付・読売社説)

Although discussions on territorial issues have ended without progress, it is significant that both sides reconfirmed the need to improve bilateral relations.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kim Sung Hwan, meeting Thursday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York, agreed on the importance of trying to build "stable, future-oriented" relations between Japan and South Korea. The two sides also agreed to boost bilateral cooperation in such fields as the economy, human and cultural exchanges and security.

After South Korean President Lee Myung Bak made an unprecedented visit on Aug. 10 to Takeshima, the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan, a sequence of overly emotional actions taken by South Korea led to an angry round of finger-pointing between Tokyo and Seoul.

We are pleased to see the two countries at last beginning to move toward repairing bilateral ties from a broader point of view.

Bilateral discord is certain to benefit North Korea in connection with such problems as its nuclear weapons development programs and abductions of Japanese and South Korean nationals.


No progress on Takeshima

As the main ally of both Tokyo and Seoul, the United States has expressed concern over the Japan-South Korea discord and encouraged Tokyo and Seoul to improve their relations.

Stabilization of relations with South Korea is very important for Japan, which has become embroiled in a major row with China over the government purchase of three of the Senkaku Islands from a private Japanese citizen.

However, rapprochement between Japan and South Korea may be limited while South Korean President Lee is in office. For the moment, the Japanese government, by taking into account the inauguration of a new government in South Korea scheduled for February next year, must continue dialogue with Seoul at the foreign ministerial and other levels.

Concerning the islets of Takeshima, Gemba and Kim could do nothing in their talks but reiterate their countries' territorial arguments.

In his speech in the United Nations, Kim stated, "No country should take advantage of international legal procedures for political purposes."

There should be no problem at all, however, for any country to argue its case based on internationally accepted rules.

Because South Korea has rejected Japan's idea of jointly taking the dispute over the islets to the International Court of Justice, Japan must calmly prepare to unilaterally take the case to the U.N. court.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in his U.N. speech emphasized the importance of "the rule of law," declaring Japan's position of "upholding the principle of solving territorial disputes peacefully by complying with international law."

Noda also prodded all member nations of the world body to accept compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ.


China's high-handed diplomacy

Since 1958, Japan has recognized the authority of the ICJ, but a number of countries--including China and South Korea--do not accept the court's jurisdiction.

As long as South Korea argues its claim to Takeshima, known as Dokdo in South Korea, is legitimate, it should hold its head high and fight out the issue at the ICJ.

Japan's appeal to the international community about its position of resolving territorial conflicts based on international law will distinguish it from China, which has been staging one-sided, high-handed diplomacy on the issue of sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands.

In the meeting with Gemba, the South Korean foreign minister raised the issue of so-called comfort women, reportedly calling on Japan to take "measures at state level."

However, the issue between Japan and South Korea of wartime claims for compensation has been "fully and finally resolved" under the 1965 treaty for normalization of bilateral relations.

The government must steadfastly refrain from an easy compromise over this matter.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2012)
(2012年9月29日01時32分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月29日 (土)

日中国交40年 「互恵」再構築へ長期戦略を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 29, 2012)
Long-range strategy a must for Japan-China reciprocity
日中国交40年 「互恵」再構築へ長期戦略を(9月28日付・読売社説)


When diplomatic relations were established between Japan and China in 1972, who could have imagined the relationship would become as strained as it is now?

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of a joint declaration by then Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in Beijing. Despite the importance of the milestone, events celebrating Japan-China ties have been canceled or suspended one after another.

Boycotts of Japanese goods have spread in China, and the bilateral relationship is in an unprecedentedly grave situation. There are no signs that Chinese protests against Japan's decision to nationalize the Senkaku Islands will subside anytime soon.

Rocky relations between the world's No. 2 and No. 3 economies are bound to have an adverse effect on the region as well as the global economy.

How should Japan deal with China? First, it must map out and execute a long-range strategy for normalizing relations.


A political, economic chill

Among the anti-Japan demonstrations that have occurred recently in China, the event that best symbolizes the bleak state of bilateral ties was the attack on a Panasonic Corp. factory by a violent mob.

Panasonic has played a pioneering role among Japanese firms in expanding its operations in China.

A meeting in 1978 between Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of the current Panasonic, and visiting Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping served as a catalyst for expansion by Japanese companies in China. In the meeting, Deng asked Matsushita to support China's development with both technology and business management.

In the wake of the meeting, Japanese firms rushed to establish offices in China, which created many jobs. In addition, the Japanese government continued to loan China yen until fiscal 2007.

There is no doubt the assistance of the Japanese government and companies strengthened China's economic fundamentals and helped China's economy surpass even that of Japan's in terms of gross domestic product.

Japan's cooperation with China, however, is largely unknown to the ordinary people of China.

On the contrary, China in the 1990s strengthened patriotic education in its schools, inculcating anti-Japan sentiment and spreading attitudes downplaying Japan's role among the Chinese public even as the economy developed.

This state of mind appears to be intensifying in China, allowing the current political and economic chill in the bilateral relationship.

Nevertheless, it should never be forgotten that the economies of Japan and China have grown deeply intertwined.

The two countries have established a system of international division of labor in which China imports industrial parts from Japan to assemble into finished products. These are then marketed domestically in China or exported to the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Both sides must not forget this fact.


Strengthen coast guard

The root cause of problems surrounding the Senkaku Islands lies in China's unilateral assertion of a groundless claim to the islets in the 1970s, but only after learning that the area of the East China Sea around the islands might contain rich oil resources.

At a press conference when the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China came into effect in 1978, Deng said, "It does not matter if this question [the dispute over the Senkaku Islands] is shelved for some time," thus proposing leaving the issue to future generations to solve.

However, China in 1992 enacted its Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, which specifies that the islands belong to China. More recently, China has caused friction to flare by repeatedly sending surveillance ships to the waters around the islands.

The recent nationalization of some of the Senkaku Islands is merely a transfer of ownership from a private citizen to the central government. China may have been angered because the purchase took place shortly after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Vladivostok, Russia, but China's ire has been greater than Japan expected.

At a recent meeting between Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in New York, Yang called Japan's nationalization of the islands a "denial" of the outcome of "the anti-fascist war," by which he meant China's victory over Japan in World War II.

We see Yang's attempt to associate the islands with unrelated historical events as extremely far-fetched.

Japan should not stand idly by while China battles for world opinion by vehemently criticizing Japan over nonexistent "faults."

Noda, speaking before the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, said, "Any attempt by a nation to achieve its ideology or claims through the unilateral threat or use of force is absolutely unacceptable." We see this view as eminently reasonable.

China recently launched its first aircraft carrier. The country's policy of expanding its military is sure to continue under its new leadership and will likely be promoted more strongly than ever.

If effective control over the Senkaku Islands were lost, it would be extremely difficult to regain. Therefore, the government must set as its highest priority the strengthening of the Japan Coast Guard's capabilities to counter any infringement on the nation's sovereignty.

Needless to say, a military confrontation must be avoided at all costs. The deployment of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft to the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture is an important part of boosting deterrence toward China.


Achieve prosperity together

Since several years ago, beginning with the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan had held talks with China over the joint development of gas fields in the East China Sea from the standpoint of fostering a "strategically reciprocal relationship" so both nations could live in harmony and prosperity.

However, "reciprocal" ties have been stalled since a Chinese fishing vessel rammed JCG patrol vessels off the Senkaku Islands in 2010.

Thorough preparations are essential to rebuilding the reciprocal relationship. The government must inform China through various channels that it is willing to cooperate, not only in the industrial and tourism sectors and in enhancing agricultural productivity, but also in areas such as energy efficiency and environmental protection.

Close cooperation with the United States is also vital in improving the Japan-China relationship, as is strategic diplomacy by reinforcing ties with neighbors, including India, Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 28, 2012)
(2012年9月28日01時12分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月28日 (金)

安倍自民新総裁 政権奪還への政策力を高めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 28, 2012)
Abe should enhance policymaking capability to retake reins of govt
安倍自民新総裁 政権奪還への政策力を高めよ(9月27日付・読売社説)


Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "retry" comes with a heavy task--retaking the reins of government.

Abe was elected president of the Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday, defeating four contenders, including former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba.

Ishiba won the first round of the race by securing a majority of local chapters' votes, but Abe turned the tables in a runoff in which only Diet members were eligible to vote.

Depending on the results of the next House of Representatives election, it is highly likely that Abe will become prime minister. After winning the presidential election, Abe expressed his resolve, saying: "I'll make all-out efforts to retake the reins of government. I'll make a strong Japan." He needs to devise a strategy and policy to revive the nation starting now.


Senkaku issue changes race

The fact that the runoff was fought by Abe and Ishiba, neither of whom head their own faction, illustrates the changes in LDP presidential elections, which in the past were characterized by alliances of intra-party factions.

Initially, LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara was seen as the likeliest to win the LDP presidency, but Abe and Ishiba expanded their support among local rank-and-file members. This is obviously related to China's high-handed behavior toward Japan over the Senkaku Islands.

During the presidential election campaign, Abe and Ishiba stressed the importance of diplomacy and security policy, saying they will resolutely protect Japan's land and territorial waters.

However, we cannot expect sticking to a hard-line stance to improve Japan's relationship with China.

When he was prime minister, Abe rebuilt the relationship with China, which had deteriorated under the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Abe agreed with Beijing to seek a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests."

Amid growing anti-Japan sentiment in China after the Japanese government's purchase of three of the Senkaku Islands, concrete measures to rebuild the Japan-China relationship are now called for again.

Abe indicated that he will work on strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance by enabling Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and also that he would work to amend the Constitution. In addition, he has a favorable attitude toward reviewing a 1993 statement concerning so-called comfort women, which was issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

These are all reasonable aspirations. We urge Abe to present concrete steps to realize them.

It was unfortunate that there was little in-depth discussion on the challenges Japan currently faces during the party presidential race.


Show clear stance on TPP, energy

Regarding the issue of whether to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, Abe has been wary of clarifying his stance. "We first have to enhance our bargaining power. Then we should consider whether [joining the TPP] would serve the interests of the nation," he said.

A considerable number of LDP members oppose Japan's joining the TPP, so we assume Abe was concerned about the opinion of such lawmakers. However, if Abe really plans to lead the party in regaining power from the Democratic Party of Japan, he must prepare measures to enhance the competitiveness of the nation's agricultural sector and pave the way for the nation to join negotiations for the TPP.

On the energy issue, it was appropriate for him to express negative views on the DPJ-led government's "zero nuclear" policy. However, that is not enough.

Abe should lead discussions within the party over an energy policy capable of securing a stable supply of electricity for the nation--a purpose for which safe nuclear power plants are necessary--and come up with a viable counterproposal.

Six years ago, Abe became the first Japanese born after World War II to assume the post of prime minister. Under the slogan of "departing from the postwar regime," he revised the Fundamental Law of Education and upgraded the Defense Agency to the Defense Ministry. His other achievements include the enactment of the National Referendum Law, which stipulated procedures to amend the Constitution.

However, under his leadership, the LDP suffered a humiliating defeat in the House of Councillors election in July 2007, which divided the Diet as opposition parties took control of the upper house. Soon after the election, Abe resigned from his post.

It is now said that one of the reasons Abe decided to quit was a chronic disease--ulcerative colitis--but the abrupt resignation left a strong impression with the public that Abe had irresponsibly thrown away his administration.

Abe will be tested on whether he can wipe away his negative image of being plagued with health problems and a lack of vigor.

Abe's first task as new LDP president will be to appoint new party executives.

In the first round of the presidential race, Ishiba secured a majority of votes cast by local chapters. At a press conference held after being chosen as the new president, Abe said he will "take this fact seriously." The results showed that Ishiba is highly popular at the local level. It would be reasonable for Abe to give him an important post.

During his time as prime minister, Abe was criticized for appointing too many of his sworn friends and aides to important Cabinet posts. We would like to carefully watch to whom Abe will give senior party posts.


Avoid unproductive confrontations

How Abe will steer the LDP in the next extraordinary Diet session will be important in determining his fate as the new leader.

The ordinary Diet session closed earlier this month after the upper house adopted an opposition-backed censure motion against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. The LDP has said the fact that the upper house has adopted the censure motion will carry over to the next Diet session. However, Abe showed a flexible attitude on the censure motion at the press conference, saying that his party will not necessarily refuse to participate in all Diet deliberations.

It seems that Abe wants to hold Noda to his promise to dissolve the lower house "sometime soon," which the LDP regards as a gentlemen's agreement, in exchange for the LDP's cooperating with the Noda administration on such matters as the passage of a special bill that enables the government to issue deficit-covering bonds in the extraordinary Diet session. We believe this is a constructive approach.

Abe was plagued by a divided Diet when he was the prime minister. It is time to put an end to unproductive confrontations between the ruling and opposition parties, such as opposition parties refusing to participate in Diet deliberations and justifying it with the passage of a censure motion, and political paralysis caused by such confrontations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 27, 2012)
(2012年9月27日01時30分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月27日 (木)

中台の領海侵入 示威行動に動ぜず冷静対処を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 27, 2012)
Japan should not be perturbed by recent territorial intrusions
中台の領海侵入 示威行動に動ぜず冷静対処を(9月26日付・読売社説)

China and Taiwan are stepping up pressure on Japan over the Senkaku Islands. The government must remain unshaken by this, and should seek to calm the situation through levelheaded diplomacy as soon as possible.

A week has passed since China sent about 10 surveillance ships at one time to areas around the Senkaku Islands. China has repeatedly intruded into Japan's territorial waters, making such surveillance activities appear to be routine operations.

On Tuesday, about 40 Taiwan fishing boats and 12 patrol ships entered Japan's territorial waters. The Taiwan vessels departed after Japan Coast Guard patrol ships took measures against the intruders, such as spraying water at fishing boats.

Taiwan and China in succession started claiming territorial rights over the Senkaku Islands during the 1970s. If the government allows Taiwan and China to enter Japan's territorial waters with impunity, the nation's effective control of the islands might be shaken.

The government must address the issue with precautions and countermeasures. To maintain maritime order, surveillance by JCG patrol ships and other means must be strengthened as much as possible.


Enforcement must be firm

With the enforcement of the revised law on navigation of foreign ships, the JCG is now allowed to issue an order for foreign fishing boats operating in Japan's territorial waters to exit without boarding the vessels. It is essential to eliminate illegal actions more quickly and effectively than before and demonstrate the nation's determination to protect its sovereignty.

Since the government placed the Senkaku Islands under state ownership, China has continued making outrageous responses.

China has called off exchange events with Japan in economic, cultural and sports fields one after another. A major memorial event to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, scheduled for Thursday, has been canceled. So has a visit to China by a Japanese business organization. This is an unusual situation.

These unilateral actions will undermine the international reputation of China itself. Further deterioration in Japan-China relations will only leave scars that will be hard to erase, and the situation will become much more difficult to heal.


Clear understanding needed

The fact that Japan has effectively controlled the Senkaku Islands has not been properly conveyed to the Chinese people due to Beijing's control of the media in that nation. We suspect the Chinese people do not understand what Japan's "nationalization" of the islands means.

China is stepping up its diplomatic offensive as well. It has released a white paper to justify its territorial claim to the Senkaku Islands. In doing so, Beijing apparently aims to make its case in the court of world opinion.

Japan, for its part, needs to make other nations properly understand what has happened with the Senkaku Islands and how calmly Japan has dealt with the issue.

Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai has held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, at the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing. The Chinese side reportedly said that Japan "must abandon any illusion, face up to its erroneous actions and correct them with credible steps."

This highlighted Beijing's usual high-handed attitude. But the fact that the two nations agreed to continue talks on the matter can be viewed as positive. The government should find a way to break the deadlock by having a series of talks between foreign ministers as well as between the top leaders of the two nations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2012)
(2012年9月26日01時22分  読売新聞)

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最高人民会議 不透明な「北」の経済立て直し

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 27, 2012)
Outlook for North Korea's economic revival uncertain
最高人民会議 不透明な「北」の経済立て直し(9月26日付・読売社説)

North Korea is seemingly laying the foundation for future development. But it remains to be seen what results Kim Jong Un's reform initiatives will produce.

The Supreme People's Assembly--North Korea's parliament--held a one-day session Tuesday. It was the second assembly session held since Kim Jong Un's regime was inaugurated in April.

In the latest session, the assembly decided to extend the term of compulsory education from the current 11 years to 12 years. The reform is reportedly aimed at bolstering children's education on computer technology and foreign languages in addition to basic knowledge.

North Korea aims to foster human resources who can survive fierce international competition by extending the term of primary and middle school education to the levels of Japan and South Korea. Of course, Pyongyang also will have factored in that this will help that nation's military modernization, such as development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Greater emphasis on education can be taken as one measure by the six-month-old Kim Jong Un regime to lay the foundation for a long-term grip on the country.

But more than that, the most pressing priority for the new regime is economic reconstruction.


Plight deepening

The international community has imposed economic sanctions on North Korea after it charged ahead with nuclear and ballistic missile launch tests in defiance of strong objections. A string of policy blunders plus these self-invited economic sanctions have deepened North Korea's predicament.

Unless North Korea resolves its food shortage so the people have enough to eat and feel their lives have improved, the regime will inevitably collapse from within.

It is no wonder that the Kim Jong Un regime is fretting about how to strengthen ties with China, North Korea's biggest aid donor and traditional ally.

Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, made his diplomatic debut in August when he met with Wan Jiarui, the visiting head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Department.


Track record not encouraging

That same month, Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle-in-law and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, visited China and agreed with the Chinese side to jointly develop a special economic zone on the countries' border. Pyongyang hopes to earn foreign currency by using Chinese investment in the project as leverage.

Speculation is rife that Chinese leaders will pledge additional assistance to North Korea during Kim Jong Un's visit to China, which is expected soon.

To enhance agricultural and industrial productivity, North Korea is reportedly considering introducing a new system that would permit private possession of surplus goods after production quotas have been met.

It seems North Korea is making full-fledged efforts toward rebuilding its economy.

However, Pyongyang has a track record of economic reform failures that have generated confusion. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the country has changed its "military-first politics." If new policies are implemented but prove unsuccessful, serious backlashes and side effects could erupt.

It will be necessary to keep a wary eye on the course Kim Jong Un's regime will take.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2012)
(2012年9月26日01時22分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月26日 (水)

液化天然ガス 官民連携で高値買い是正せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 26, 2012)
Public, private sectors must team up to lower LNG prices
液化天然ガス 官民連携で高値買い是正せよ(9月25日付・読売社説)

Imports of liquefied natural gas to be used as fuel for thermal power plants have skyrocketed, and the price of LNG has been surging. The public and private sectors must cooperate more to ensure LNG can be procured at a lower price.

LNG-consuming nations, including Japan and South Korea, and producing countries, including Qatar, took part in the first LNG Producer-Consumer Conference in Tokyo last week.

Japan is the world's biggest LNG importer and sucks up 30 percent of the total production volume. Since the crisis began at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Japan has increased its reliance on thermal power generation as an alternative to nuclear power.

Before the crisis, Japan's LNG import bill came to about 3 trillion yen a year. This is expected to double to about 6 trillion yen this year.

If generation costs at electric power companies increase and these costs are passed on through higher electricity bills, it will deal a blow to industries and people's daily lives.


Paying a 'Japan premium'

We are concerned that LNG import prices have surged to about six times the price of natural gas in North America.

LNG prices in Asia are linked to crude oil prices; the recent spike in LNG is partly due to higher oil prices. During last week's conference, Japan called for a review of the current crude oil-linked pricing system, but discussions on the matter ended up being carried over to the next conference.

The top LNG importers following Japan are South Korea, Taiwan, China and India. Asian countries and regions import more than 60 percent of total global LNG output.

It is essential for Japan, together with South Korea and other nations, to introduce a new pricing system and lower LNG prices by pressing producing countries.

As for price negotiations with LNG-producers, we hope a method in which not just a single company but many firms, including electricity and gas utilities, can jointly participate will be considered.

With Japan unable to restart idled nuclear reactors and the government laying out a zero nuclear power policy, LNG producers are cashing in by charging a "Japan premium"--forcing Japan to pay a higher price for LNG.

To alleviate this situation, the government should quickly reactivate nuclear reactors once they have been confirmed safe to operate. The government must give consideration to maintaining a balance among power sources, or it could find itself at even more of a disadvantage when negotiating LNG prices.


Shale gas could be savior

In the United States and other countries, new technologies are being used to extract shale gas contained in rocks deep underground. Shale gas reserves are huge, and extracting them will likely relax the supply-demand balance in the market in the future. Some observers have called this the "shale gas revolution."

It is encouraging that Japanese trading and other companies have started moves to obtain concessions to develop shale gas fields in the United States. The government should provide massive development funds and build a framework that will ensure the stable procurement of shale gas.

However, the United States has decided that its LNG can be exported only to nations that are signatories of free trade agreements with Washington.

The U.S. policy on LNG exports under the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement--an expanded version of an FTA--remains unclear. Nevertheless, Japan, to prepare for the future, needs to quickly announce it will participate in the TPP to ensure negotiations on the trade framework are to its advantage.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2012)
(2012年9月25日02時13分  読売新聞)

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いじめ問題 悪質な行為には厳しい処置を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 26, 2012)
Malicious bullying must be sternly punished
いじめ問題 悪質な行為には厳しい処置を(9月25日付・読売社説)

Serious bullying cases have been revealed one after another.

To discover bullying early, it is essential for teachers not to overlook signals given by students.

In Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, a male second-year student at a municipal middle school was critically injured in January when he was beaten unconscious by male classmates. He had been bullied frequently since entering the school.

In Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture, a male second-year student at a prefectural high school committed suicide this month. It was revealed that he had also been bullied by classmates.

The school authorities failed to detect the signs of bullying in either case. It is truly regrettable that adequate measures could not be taken before the lives of the students were threatened.

According to a survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, 70,231 cases of bullying were acknowledged in fiscal 2011 by primary, middle and high schools and other entities across the country. The figure shows a decrease of 7,399 from the previous fiscal year and represents the lowest since the current survey method was introduced in fiscal 2006.


Findings cannot be trusted

But these survey findings cannot be taken at face value because, as in the Kawagoe and Kawanishi cases, school authorities have been shown to be lax in detecting bullying. A typical example is a case in Otsu in which a second-year student at a municipal middle school killed himself.

In dealing with bullying, bullies must be given persistent guidance.

If guidance does not help, school authorities will have to take stern action.

One such action could be suspension.

In the case of pupils and students at public primary and middle schools, suspension is provided for in the School Eduction Law.

The Education Rebuilding Council, a government advisory panel, has recommended the active use of suspension to deal with bullying.

But there were only 11 cases in the past five years in which suspension was applied to stop bullying. There were none in fiscal 2011.


Respect dignity of victims

On the other hand, as many as 353 primary and middle school victims of bullying transferred to other schools in fiscal 2011.

It is problematic that the victims ended up being driven out by the bullies.

Bullying should be reported to police without hesitation.

The education ministry, for its part, has incorporated strengthened cooperation with police in the overall anti-bullying measures it compiled this month.

From an educational standpoint, school authorities still tend to take a passive stance toward cooperating with police in dealing with school bullies.

However, bullying is an illegal act that ignores the dignity of its victims.

Beating and the extortion of money and goods constitute crimes.

It is vital to teach social rules during class hours so that students can understand why bullying cannot be permitted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2012)
(2012年9月25日02時13分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月25日 (火)

輿石幹事長再任 「近いうち」の真意が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 25, 2012)
Koshiishi reappointment casts doubt on DPJ election promise
輿石幹事長再任 「近いうち」の真意が問われる(9月24日付・読売社説)

We wonder if it was such an inward-looking reappointment.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who was reelected Friday as president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, requested DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi to remain in the party's No. 2 post. Koshiishi accepted the reappointment.

The appointment of the secretary general sends a message from the prime minister suggesting a new direction of his administration.

It had been expected that Koshiishi would be replaced to take responsibility for causing the breakup in the DPJ. It is also noteworthy that Koshiishi's policy views are different from the prime minister's, though the secretary general plays an important role in taking care of matters related to national elections and Diet management.

However, Noda apparently considered it appropriate to reappoint Koshiishi as secretary general, who was given the post last autumn as a symbol of intraparty unity, because some DPJ lawmakers, who voted against Noda in the latest DPJ presidential election, are making moves to leave the party.

If about 10 members of the House of Representatives leave the party, the DPJ and its coalition partner, the People's New Party, will be reduced to ruling minorities in the Diet. That will make it nearly impossible for them to manage the government.


Forward vision necessary

If that is the reason, however, the reappointment is far from a "political culture of responsibility" that was pointed out as a necessity for the DPJ during its presidential race.

In addition, we cannot overlook that Koshiishi has maintained a backward-looking stance on a variety of issues during the last ordinary Diet session. These include the integrated reform of the tax and social security systems and the rectification of vote-value disparity in lower house elections. Koshiishi placed too much priority on avoiding a split of the party.

Also, Koshiishi openly made remarks playing down an agreement among leaders of the DPJ, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito to dissolve the lower house and hold a general election "sometime soon."

"We don't have to stick to 'sometime soon,'" Koshiishi said, inviting strong criticism from the LDP and Komeito.

He has been advocating that the lower house election and the House of Councillors election should be held on the same day next summer. A majority of DPJ members believe the lower house election should be deferred because it is expected to be an uphill battle for the DPJ. We are afraid that the agreement to hold an election poll "sometime soon" will be ignored.


Opposition parties offended

A ranking official of the LDP reacted sharply against Koshiishi's reappointment. "I was so furious with the reappointment. It dumbfounded me," he said.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi warned, "The DPJ will end up digging its own grave if it overzealously attempts to avoid dissolution of the lower house."

The DPJ should realize the ruling party has a primary responsibility to move politics forward, even though the Diet is divided with one of the two chambers under opposition control.

If it makes light of the tripartite cooperation for the sake of the intraparty appeasement, the DPJ will not be able to win the collaboration of the opposition parties in the Diet, allowing the "politics incapable of making decisions" continue.

There is no time to waste in the extraordinary Diet session scheduled in autumn to pass bills to allow the government to issue deficit-covering bonds and to rectify the "unconstitutional state" of disparity in the value of votes in lower house elections.

Noda must not only confirm the tripartite agreement on the integrated reform of the tax and social security systems but also set the basic direction of important policy issues at talks with a new LDP president to be elected Wednesday.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 24, 2012)
(2012年9月24日01時20分  読売新聞)

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基準地価 加速する被災地の「二極化」

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 25, 2012)
Polarization in land prices growing in disaster-hit areas
基準地価 加速する被災地の「二極化」(9月24日付・読売社説)

There are signs that land prices are bottoming out, but scars left by the Great East Japan Earthquake remain, leaving the prospects of land prices uncertain.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry recently released data of average residential and commercial land prices as of July 1.

Average residential land prices fell from a year earlier for the 21st straight year, while commercial land prices dropped for the fifth straight year. However, the margin of falls in both residential and commercial land prices narrowed compared with a year earlier.

The margin of decline in land prices in the three major metropolitan areas, including Tokyo, narrowed to the zero percent range for residential and commercial land. The decline has nearly leveled off in these areas.

This has been due to growing housing demand, supported by such government policies as extremely low interest rates and tax breaks for home buyers taking out mortgages.

In some areas, land prices have been buoyed by the opening of large commercial complexes and the accompanying redevelopment of neighboring areas. The opening of Tokyo Skytree this spring is a prime example.


Recovery will take time

Of the 20,000-plus surveyed locations, only 658--just 3 percent--recorded price rises. The recovery in land prices in local areas has lagged that of urban areas.

It will apparently be some time yet until land prices shift into a full-fledged upward trend. The government will need to pay close attention to future movements in land prices.

Worryingly, there is a growing polarization in land prices in areas stricken by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami and crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Land prices declined markedly in coastal areas hit hard by the tsunami and parts of Fukushima Prefecture seriously affected by the nuclear disaster.

On the other hand, areas on higher ground in the disaster-hit region saw land prices rise considerably and across the board, as demand grew among disaster victims hoping to rebuild homes on safer ground.

Among residential areas, the biggest price rise was logged on a section of higher ground in tsunami-hit Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture. The areas that reported the 10 biggest margins of increase in land prices were all in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.


Safety comes first

Soaring land prices could adversely affect the rebuilding of homes for people affected by last year's disaster. If demand for housing is concentrated on limited residential land in their original neighborhood and the uptick in land prices accelerates, local governments will become unable to promptly purchase plots of land needed for their post-disaster reconstruction plans.

In some cases, private business operators have snapped up such land while local governments have dawdled through the purchase process.

The central and local governments need to cooperate and expedite efforts to implement reconstruction projects.

It is also necessary to increase the monitoring of land deals to prevent land from being traded speculatively.

The latest survey on land prices clearly reflected residents' fear of another disaster.

Land prices declined markedly not only in quake-affected areas but also in coastal parts of Wakayama, Kochi and other prefectures. This probably was due to people's concern over expected damage from tsunami in the event of simultaneous major earthquakes along the Nankai Trough.

Lessons learned from last year's catastrophe have also spread to urban areas. Land prices are recovering in areas where highly quake-resistant office buildings are concentrated.

The degree of "safety" has become a new yardstick for assessing real estate across the country. Reinforcing the disaster-prevention functions of regions will lead to the full-scale recovery of land prices.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 24, 2012)
(2012年9月24日01時20分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月24日 (月)

人権委設置法案 理解に苦しむ唐突な閣議決定

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 24, 2012)
Abrupt Cabinet decision on human rights body dubious
人権委設置法案 理解に苦しむ唐突な閣議決定(9月23日付・読売社説)

We find it difficult to fathom why the government so hastily made a Cabinet decision on a bill riddled with problems while the Diet is in recess.

The Cabinet gave the go-ahead Wednesday to a bill for setting up a human rights commission that will create a body dedicated to human rights protection.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the Cabinet decision was to "confirm the bill's content on the premise of submitting it to the next Diet session."

Providing relief to people who have suffered unfair discrimination and abuse is vital. However, the bill has generated deep-rooted fears that ordinary activities conducted under the freedom of speech and expression could become subject to investigations by law-enforcement authorities as "suspected infringements of human rights."

In its election pledges, the Democratic Party of Japan committed to establishing an entity to oversee human rights relief efforts. The abrupt Cabinet decision was probably made to defuse criticism that the party had broken this commitment--and with an eye on the next House of Representatives election.


Definition of violations vague

A bill for creating a body to prevent human rights violations was presented to the Diet during the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002 as a human rights protection bill.

That bill was scrapped after coming under fire for provisions that would punish those who refused to be investigated under the planned legislation, as well as for measures empowering law-enforcement authorities to warn news organizations to suspend coverage of certain topics.

The latest bill gives no coercive powers to probes by the envisioned commission, and includes no provisions that would restrict media activities.

Yet, we still harbor doubts over the planned legislation.

The biggest problem is that the bill's definition of a human rights violation is ambiguous.

The Justice Ministry has come out with a view that human rights violations are "acts that can be deemed illegal in light of the Civil Code and the Penal Code and infringe on the human rights of certain people."

Whether certain deeds and verbal criticism of another person or people should be considered defamation, however, is a highly delicate issue. Court decisions have often been split on this issue.

If the planned commission has the scope to make an arbitrary, extended interpretation of the law's provisions, it could open the door to restrictions on the freedom of expression.

The government intends to designate the envisioned commission as an "Article 3 committee" under the National Government Organization Law. Article 3 committees are entitled to a high degree of independence, so there are concerns that the Diet would find it hard to keep possible excesses by the commission in check.


Boost existing system first

The government is considering making the commission an external organ under the Justice Ministry. This is because the government plans to have the ministry's regional bureaus and district legal affairs bureaus across the country act as local arms of the commission.

But can these organizations deal rigorously with human rights abuses of inmates in prisons, or at immigration offices and other facilities under the ministry's jurisdiction?

Laws are already in place to prevent the abuse of children and the elderly. In addition, the ministry's departments in charge of human rights protection investigate about 20,000 cases a year in response to claims filed by people who say their rights have been violated. In the bulk of these cases, assistance is provided in one form or another.

Rather than establishing the planned commission, the existing human rights protection system should be improved and more effective relief provided to people whose rights have been violated.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 23, 2012)
(2012年9月23日01時13分  読売新聞)

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中国威圧外交 リスク増大で日本の投資減も

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 24, 2012)
Anti-Japan stance may curb investment in China
中国威圧外交 リスク増大で日本の投資減も(9月23日付・読売社説)

Anti-Japan demonstrations in cities around China to protest the Japanese government's purchase of the Senkaku Islands have mostly calmed down.

However, it is a problem that the Chinese government is escalating its overbearing approach in diplomacy.

Chinese authorities banned demonstrations in Beijing after Tuesday, which marked the 81st anniversary of the Liutiaohu bombing incident that prefaced the Manchurian Incident.

The authorities apparently became wary that continuing to allow the demonstrations could threaten social stability because some of them developed into riots.

But we are concerned that Chinese President Hu Jintao and other national leaders have made a series of hard-line statements against Japan. Premier Wen Jiabao said in Brussels, where the China-European Union summit meeting was held, that China "must take strong measures," referring to the Japanese government's purchase of the Senkaku Islands.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who will succeed Hu at the upcoming National Congress of the Communist Party of China, also said some groups in Japan repeated mistakes and "staged the farce" of purchasing the islands.

They apparently were expressing their determination to make no concessions at all to Japan.


Doing business in China risky

However, we believe it was to the Chinese side's disadvantage that the demonstrations have made Japanese companies keenly realize the risks of doing business in China.

Resumption of operations is being delayed at some of the Japanese factories in China attacked by demonstrators. The Chinese side has not shown any willingness to pay compensation for damage caused during the protests. The Japanese nonlife insurance sector estimated that insurance payouts to the damaged companies would reach 10 billion yen in total. That eventually might raise insurance fees of the companies.

It is also a matter of concern that strikes for pay raises are occurring frequently at Japanese-affiliated plants in Guangdong and other provinces in China.

We understand why one Japanese business leader after another is expressing wariness about investment in China, saying they must be cautious.

Japanese firms have placed much value on China as the factory of the world and increased their investment in that country. Such investment reached a total of 6.3 billion dollars last year, up 50 percent from the previous year. This contrasts with U.S. investment in China, which fell 26 percent last year to a mere 3 billion dollars.


Millions work at Japan firms

Such aggressive investment by Japanese companies is sustaining China's employment and economy. It is estimated that several million Chinese work at Japanese-affiliated companies in China.

The violent anti-Japan demonstrations have trampled on cooperative relations between China and Japan that have been nurtured over many years.

It is highly likely that Japanese companies will sharply curb their investment in China and instead increase investment in other Asian countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.

Because the Chinese economy is continuing to slow down due to a decrease in exports and other factors, China's real economic growth rate this year is expected to drop below 8 percent. It is certain that--depending on the investment strategy of Japanese companies--downward pressure could further increase on the Chinese economy, negatively affecting employment there.

China should realize that continuing its hard line against Japan could boomerang to its own disadvantage.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 23, 2012)
(2012年9月23日01時13分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月23日 (日)

野田代表再選 民自公党首会談で連携確認を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 23, 2012)
With Noda reelected, DPJ must reconfirm 3-party pact
野田代表再選 民自公党首会談で連携確認を(9月22日付・読売社説)


By the numbers, it was a landslide victory, but considering the difficulty of the tasks ahead, the win can only be seen as bittersweet.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was reelected as Democratic Party of Japan president on Friday. Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi and the two other challengers only managed to garner about one-third of the votes between them.

At the cost of splitting the ruling party, the prime minister pushed legislation through the Diet to comprehensively revamp the social security and tax systems, reforms that are essential for Japan's revitalization. Noda's reelection is a clear sign that DPJ members endorse the agreement to work together toward reform made between the three major political parties--the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.


Noda's stance endorsed

In a speech after winning the election, Noda called for party unity, telling DPJ members, "I'd like to work with all of you to make a country where smiling faces are everywhere."

We think the party should now unite behind its newly reelected leader.

However, it was disappointing that the DPJ presidential candidates did not conduct a meaningful policy debate.

Noda has been supportive of Japan participating in talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, but he hedged his remarks on the issue during the campaign, only acknowledging that the discussions with other countries are ongoing. He did not address the issue directly around his rivals, who were either against the TPP or had adopted cautious positions.

The prime minister was probably concerned that pushing for TPP participation would cause more DPJ members to bolt. However, the decision should not be put off any longer, and we urge the government to join the TPP negotiations as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Noda supported the goal of eliminating nuclear power in the nation in the 2030s. "I want to unswervingly promote various measures in line with this basic policy," he said, while Haraguchi and the other candidates proposed an even earlier target date.

However, it is worrying that the four candidates hardly touched on the formidable challenges that could arise from reducing the nation's reliance on nuclear power to zero, such as negative impacts on the economy and foreign affairs, as well as how to maintain consistency with already existing policies such as a nuclear fuel-cycle policy.

They appeared enamored with the belief that touting the zero nuclear policy would work to their advantage in an election. As prospective leaders of the ruling party, we see such actions as irresponsible.

The debate over how to buffer low-income earners from the impact of a consumption tax hike also was mostly left alone, although two contenders--Hirotaka Akamatsu and Michihiko Kano, both former agriculture, forestry and fisheries ministers--proposed implementing reduced tax rates on certain items.

We lament that the DPJ missed an opportunity to set the direction for several key issues through its leadership election.


Thornier path ahead

Although he emerged victorious, Noda faces even more difficulties than before the election in steering the ship of state.

A total of 114 ballots were cast against Noda in the party leadership race.

In the debates prior to the election, Kano criticized Noda by calling for a "stronger culture of responsibility in the DPJ," while Haraguchi called for Noda "to take responsibility for causing the party to split more than once."

Seeking any possible advantage in the next House of Representatives election, DPJ members have continued to move away from the party to join the new Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and other emerging political forces.

If around 10 more DPJ lower house lawmakers were to leave, the party would lose its majority in the powerful chamber, even counting the seats held by its coalition partner, the People's New Party. This would leave the ruling camp vulnerable to a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet proposed by the opposition.

In such circumstances, the prime minister walks a tightrope in navigating political issues, and must maintain a precarious balance between preserving party unity and addressing difficult policy tasks.

At this stage, it is vitally important that the tripartite framework between the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito be kept intact.

In the divided Diet, where the opposition controls the House of Councillors, no bill stands a chance without cooperation between the three parties.

The prime minister has said he will make a preliminary decision on a reshuffle of the DPJ leadership by Monday, when he leaves for the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

The focal point in the reshuffle is whether Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi will retain his post. Noda appointed Koshiishi to the No. 2 post last year to help ensure party unity.

Koshiishi, however, has clashed often with the opposition over Diet affairs, including during the deliberations over the social security and tax system reform. Koshiishi's behavior highlighted the differences between his views and Noda's.

We urge Noda in reshuffling his party's executive lineup to place more importance on promoting cooperation between the ruling and opposition camps, instead of sticking only to crafting a strategy relating to dissolving the lower house for a general election.

The prime minister has also expressed an intention to meet with the new leader of the LDP, who will be elected in the largest opposition party's presidential contest Wednesday, to reconfirm the three-party reform accord.

We see a meeting in which the heads of the three main parties can exchange views on key political challenges as highly significant.

We hope the three party chiefs will have a candid discussion over such issues as how to rectify vote disparities in lower house elections, legislation for issuing deficit-covering bonds, and the compilation of a supplementary budget for fiscal 2012.


Start by cutting 5 seats

Concerning reform of the lower house's electoral system, the DPJ caused considerable consternations in the Diet by proposing, over strong objection from the opposition, legislation that included partial adoption of a seat-allocation formula for proportional representation elections that would favor small and midsize parties. The ruling party should not repeat such a sloppy, irresponsible act.

Noda in a news conference showed he is willing to tackle the task of slashing the number of seats in the lower house.

Before anything else, it would be practical to cut five single-seat districts to end the "state of unconstitutionality" in vote disparities. This would pave the way for dissolution of the lower house.

There is a high possibility that any talks between the three party heads would include on the agenda the prime minister's pledge to dissolve the lower house for a general election "sometime soon."

Noda has hinted that a general election should be postponed because "the political situation has changed" after the passage of an opposition-backed censure motion against him in the upper house. However, neither the LDP nor Komeito has backed off their demands for an early lower house dissolution.

Given this, we suspect the prime minister will have a difficult time unilaterally scrapping his pledge to dissolve the lower house.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 22, 2012)
(2012年9月22日01時14分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月22日 (土)

日航再上場 課題も残したスピード再建

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 22, 2012)
JAL's swift turnaround doesn't end aviation industry problems
日航再上場 課題も残したスピード再建(9月21日付・読売社説)

Japan Airlines has returned to the Tokyo Stock Exchange two years and seven months after delisting.

The relisting of JAL after such a short period is unparalleled by any turnaround in the past, but this is just the beginning of the former national flag carrier's true reconstruction.

JAL filed for bankruptcy under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law in January 2010, and its shares were delisted the following month.

The firm's shares on Wednesday, the first day of trading since the delisting, closed at 3,830 yen, more than they were priced at for their initial public offering. It has been smooth sailing for JAL stock transactions so far.

The recovery of the carrier's business performance has been stunning, and far swifter than expected. JAL has been reborn as one of the world's most profitable aviation companies. Investors appear to highly rate its current corporate value.

The government-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan, which held almost all JAL shares, has sold off all of its share holdings, garnering 650 billion yen in proceeds. This means ETIC has successfully recouped the entire 350 billion yen of taxpayer money injected for JAL's resuscitation and also has made a sizable profit on the sale of JAL shares.


Profits due to assistance

We are pleased that JAL did not plunge into a second failure, and that a further financial burden on taxpayers was averted.

A key factor behind JAL's resuscitation in a short period is its success in improving the high-cost management system that was a major pending problem after the carrier's bankruptcy filing.

By pushing ahead with drastic business restructuring programs, such as slashing personnel and withdrawing from unprofitable air routes, JAL posted operating profits of 204.9 billion yen in the business year that ended in March 2012, topping the firm's previous high.

The effect of coercive business improvement steps for JAL through the bankruptcy protection under law was substantial.

In the rehabilitation process, JAL received assistance from both the private and public sectors, including provision of taxpayers' money, tax breaks and debt waivers from creditor banks. JAL should never forget that its colossal profits have been realized thanks to these helping hands.

From now on, JAL must consolidate its management capability for flying solo. Its ability to hammer out a business strategy will be tested amid increasingly severe competition in the aviation industry, including the emergence of new low-cost carriers in Japan.

JAL now aims to grow by expanding its international transportation capacity by 25 percent, boosting routes in Asia and elsewhere.

It may be right for the carrier to shift the focus of its strategy from business restructuring efforts to going on the offensive.

However, if JAL expands routes and purchases new aircraft recklessly, it could repeat the bankruptcy-causing mistakes of the past.


Gaps in terms of competition

Of key significance to the carrier's future growth is its ability to beef up managerial capability and prevent itself from slipping into complacency about its current high profitability.

The reconstruction of JAL presents a question concerning how the government should extend assistance to failed firms.

This is because a gap in business performance has opened up between JAL, which has been revived through generous government assistance, and its longtime rival All Nippon Airways Co. which has continued flying under its own power.

JAL's after-tax profits for last fiscal year, which ended in March 2012, were six times higher than ANA's, and JAL's profits for the current fiscal year are expected to be more than three times higher than ANA's.

In addition, corporate tax breaks for JAL are expected to remain in place for some time.

It is significant that Fair Trade Commission Chairman Kazuhiko Takeshima has told a Diet committee the favorable treatment of JAL "has undoubtedly had a major impact on competition conditions" in the aviation industry.

The government should study ways of securing fair competition among airlines through such means as reasonable allocation of flight slots at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2012)
(2012年9月21日01時40分  読売新聞)

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原子力規制委 安全確認の基準作りを急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 22, 2012)
New N-body must quickly create safety guidelines
原子力規制委 安全確認の基準作りを急げ(9月21日付・読売社説)

It is urgently necessary for the new regulatory body to restore public trust in the administration of nuclear safety, which has been damaged by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was launched Wednesday, and its secretariat organ, the nuclear regulatory agency, bear heavy responsibilities in this regard.

In launching the new authority, regulatory divisions that had been overseen by several ministry and agency bodies have been absorbed into the new entity. The new authority has also been separated from the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and other government bodies that promoted nuclear power generation.

The new authority is an organ set up in line with Article 3 of the National Government Organization Law, and it has a high degree of autonomy from politics.

What is required for the new entity is, first and foremost, to make objective and rigorous judgments on whether the safety of each nuclear power plant can be ensured, based on its technical knowledge and expertise.

The new authority, comprised of chairman Shunichi Tanaka and four commissioners, must hammer out safety guidelines and establish effective inspection protocols as soon as possible.


Idle plants need to be restarted

Except for the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant, where operations were restarted in July, the other 48 nuclear reactors in the nation remain idle.

This situation was caused by the provisional guidelines the government set for restarting suspended operations of nuclear reactors. Taking lessons from the Fukushima crisis, the government imposed emergency safety requirements, such as improved measures to secure power in emergencies, on the nuclear plants.

In addition, the government ordered utility companies to conduct stress tests at nuclear plants. The tests were introduced by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, an advocate of abandoning nuclear power, and have no legal grounds.

Although test results on 30 nuclear reactors have been submitted, most of the results have yet to be examined. These results have been passed on to the new regulatory authority.

It is necessary to correct this half-hearted situation.

Tanaka said at a press conference: "Stress tests are politically motivated. I won't stick to them."

We consider this remark reasonable, given that stress tests are not a condition for restarting nuclear reactors in the United States or Europe.

It is also understandable that he showed an intention to improve disaster prevention systems and look into whether existing safety measures are flawed.


Timing is important

The problem is how much time the new authority will spend in compiling safety guidelines and making safety assessments.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. has expressed serious concerns over whether winter electricity supplies will meet demand without the restart of nuclear reactors. But Tanaka said, "It will probably be difficult [to restart] by year-end." He also said, "I'm not going to take electricity supply and demand into account."

Surely, it is not acceptable to make snap decisions on matters concerning safety measures. But if the new authority postpones making judgments by giving too much weight to thoughtless calls to abandon nuclear power, which likely will have a negative impact on industry and the people's daily lives with blackouts, the role of the authority itself will be put into question.

The new authority is facing a number of tasks, such as establishing measures to ensure safety at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant while its reactors are decommissioned and studying the feasibility of decommissioning reactors after 40 years of operation.

There has been criticism over the fact that Diet approval has yet to be given to the government's appointments of members of the new authority. But nothing is more important for them than steadily fulfilling their duties and producing tangible results.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2012)
(2012年9月21日01時40分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月21日 (金)

オスプレイ配備 抑止力と安全性の両立を図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 21, 2012)
Osprey deployment will promote both deterrence and safety
オスプレイ配備 抑止力と安全性の両立を図れ(9月20日付・読売社説)

It is crucial to attain two goals: strengthening the deterrent power of the U.S. military stationed in Japan and ensuring the safety of military drills conducted here.

The government on Wednesday issued a statement saying the safety of the U.S. Marine Corps' new transport aircraft, the MV-22 Osprey, was "duly confirmed" and approved the aircraft's flights in Japan.

Twelve Ospreys temporarily stationed at the marine corps' Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture will be deployed at the Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture after test flights to be conducted as early as this week. The U.S. Marine Corps plans to start the operation of the aircraft in earnest in mid-October.

The government's safety declaration is based on Japan's own analyses of Osprey crashes in Morocco in April and Florida in June in addition to specific safety measures agreed upon by the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee. We hail the declaration as the fruit of the government's efforts to pursue safety measures involving the Osprey.

The Japan-U.S. agreements include such provisos as conducting low-altitude flight training at least 150 meters off the ground and keeping in-flight shifts between horizontal and vertical rotor operations--the procedure during which the two crashes occurred--to a minimum.


Reasonable compromise by U.S.

Negotiations between Japan and the United States were rocky as the U.S. military initially opposed limits on its unit operations. But the two nations reached a political settlement after the U.S. military compromised in consideration of Japan's domestic situation. It is hoped that the U.S. military will abide by the recent agreements and make efforts to ensure the safety of Osprey flights.

The municipal governments concerned in Okinawa and Yamaguchi prefectures remain opposed to the Osprey deployment in spite of the government's safety declaration. Although there is no need to gain consent from local governments for the deployment, the central government should make efforts to give thorough explanations to local residents to win more understanding so Osprey operations will go smoothly.

In the first place, the notion that the Osprey is an extremely dangerous aircraft is largely based on misunderstanding.

Of course, there can be accidents or trouble, as with any aircraft. But since the Osprey is equipped with the latest safety features, it is not logical to argue that the aircraft is more dangerous than other U.S. military aircraft, including the aging CH-46 transport helicopters.


Stronger defense for Japan

What should not be overlooked is the benefit the Osprey's outstanding performance would bring: It would strengthen the deterrent power of the U.S. military stationed in Japan.

The Osprey's maximum speed is twice that of the CH-46 helicopter, its load capacity is three times greater, and its range is four times longer. The aircraft will allow the marines to greatly improve their mobility and their response capabilities in contingencies.

At a time when friction between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands has heightened--a situation feared to continue in the medium to long term--defense cooperation between Japan and the United States will contribute to defending the Nansei Islands and stability in Northeast Asia.

Osprey flight training is planned at U.S. military and Self-Defense Force bases both inside and outside of Okinawa Prefecture. With the Osprey's long flight range and capability to be refueled mid-air, it is possible that training will be extended beyond Okinawa Prefecture.

Regions outside of Okinawa Prefecture should take on some of the burden of hosting U.S. bases currently shouldered by Okinawa Prefecture. Along these lines, the Osprey training plan should be promoted from the viewpoint of solidifying Japan-U.S. defense cooperation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 20, 2012)
(2012年9月20日01時21分  読売新聞)

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原発ゼロ方針 「戦略」の練り直しが不可欠だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 21, 2012)
Govt must retract zero nuclear target for good of economy
原発ゼロ方針 「戦略」の練り直しが不可欠だ(9月20日付・読売社説)

What was the conclusion of the recent Cabinet meeting on the government's "zero nuclear" target? It is unclear whether the government has decided to review the policy or push it through.

The government should clearly retract the zero nuclear target, which could deal a serious blow to the economy and employment if implemented, and instead come up with a feasible energy strategy.

The Cabinet refrained from approving the government's "innovative energy and environmental strategy," which sets a target of "zero nuclear power plants operating" in the 2030s, at the meeting Wednesday.

Instead, the Cabinet merely approved the government's policy to "conduct responsible discussions with related local governments and the international community based on the strategy" and implement future energy and environmental policies "while making tireless efforts to examine and revise them."

The new energy strategy has drawn angry reactions from the business community as well as local governments that host nuclear power plants. The United States, which concluded a cooperation agreement on nuclear energy with Japan, has also expressed strong concerns over the plan.


Economic losses 'unavoidable'

Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, heads of the nation's top three business organizations--the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Japan Association of Corporate Executives--held a joint emergency press conference Tuesday to demand the government retract the zero nuclear target.

It was unusual for the heads of the three top business organizations to jointly express their dissatisfaction with government policy. The demand reflected their fears that electricity charges may double if the government implements a zero nuclear policy, and unavoidably force companies to relocate production overseas, leading to massive employment losses.

The government has so far failed to work out how to secure viable alternatives to nuclear energy, such as methods to further utilize renewable energy, mainly solar and wind power. The zero nuclear target may threaten the country's ability to secure a stable supply of electricity.

Considering these concerns, it was entirely appropriate for the Cabinet to refrain from quickly approving the new energy strategy.

However, Motohisa Furukawa, state minister in charge of national policy, said at a press conference that the Cabinet meeting "did not change the decisions made regarding the strategy." It was problematic for him to make remarks that can be interpreted as the government maintaining the zero nuclear target.

Without assuaging the deep resentment of the business community, it will be almost impossible for the government to implement its energy strategy smoothly. The government should sincerely listen to the opinions of businesses and improve soured relationships with them soon.


Energy policies not political tool

Energy policies should not be made to please voters in the upcoming general election--far-sighted initiatives concerning the nation's future are necessary.

All candidates of the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential race have carefully avoided expressing opinions in favor of the zero nuclear target. We believe they made appropriate decisions.

Meanwhile, during the election campaign for the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential race, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said: "The public has expressed its resolve [to abolish all nuclear power plants]. Based on the wishes of the people, the government has also made its decision."

However, we doubt whether there is a sufficient number of people who understand the risks of a zero nuclear policy--such as unemployment and poverty--and would be willing to undergo the hardships involved.

The government has a responsibility to choose the best national policy. It is a mistake for the government to pass the responsibility to the public and justify it as the "will of the people."

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 20, 2012)
(2012年9月20日01時21分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月20日 (木)

予算の執行抑制 国民生活への影響を回避せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 20, 2012)
Legislative row over budget threatens people's well-being
予算の執行抑制 国民生活への影響を回避せよ(9月19日付・読売社説)

Doesn't it seem that the ruling and opposition parties are making light of financing for the national budget? They must work to resolve the current extraordinary situation concerning state finances as soon as possible.

The government has started limiting the use of funds for the fiscal 2012 budget. This is because the government will not be able to secure fiscal resources of 38 trillion yen--equivalent to 40 percent of projected state revenue--due to the scrapping of the special bill on issuance of deficit-covering government bonds in the ordinary Diet session that ended earlier this month.

This is the first time in the postwar era that the spending of funds for the national budget has been held back on a full-scale basis.

The bill has been used as a bargaining chip by the ruling and opposition parties over a dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap general election. There is no clear prospect of the bill clearing the Diet.

Postponing the spending of some funds is unavoidable as an emergency measure.

The government plans to hold back the spending of 5 trillion yen over three months from September. The 5 trillion yen includes tax grants allocated to prefectural governments and subsidies for independent administrative entities.

The postponement of local allocation tax grants strengthened upward pressure on short-term interest rates, thereby influencing the financial market. This is because local financial institutions moved to secure funds from the market as they could not obtain the deposits they hoped to gain from the local governments to which tax grants are allocated.


Delay not a solution

The measure adopted this time to restrain budget implementation will only postpone the depletion of state coffers by about one month.

If the bill does not clear the Diet until November, the government may find it difficult to secure necessary funds in December, a month when government spending is usually high. If spending for medical insurance expenses and welfare benefits is delayed by further restraint on the use of funds, it will have a wider impact on people's lives.

A system is in place for the Finance Ministry to issue bonds to make up for a short-term fund shortage. But the issuance of these bonds on the pretext of a shortage of fiscal resources is unprecedented and would violate the public finance law.

If the ruling and opposition parties put off the Diet passage of the bill on the presumption that they can address the issue by issuing Finance Ministry bonds, they are abdicating their responsibilities.

If they continue to receive grants from the government to political parties while turning a blind eye to their own dereliction of duty, it will be impossible to win over the people.


Political football

Some members of the Democratic Party of Japan have sought to delay the dissolution of the lower house as long as possible, citing the delay in passage of the bill as an excuse. But the DPJ must not be allowed to ignore an agreement between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki that the lower house is to be dissolved "sometime soon."

The bill on issuance of deficit-financing government bonds was also used last year as a bargaining chip over the resignation of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Noda said: "If the cabinet resigns or the lower house is dissolved every time the bill is taken hostage annually, no prime minister will be able to stay in office for more than one year." Concerning measures to handle the bill in a divided Diet, where the House of Councillors is controlled by the opposition camp, he expressed his intention to coordinate views with the opposition parties.

His statement is understandable. It is essential to look into the possibility of establishing a system or a precedent to prevent the bill from being used as a political football any longer.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 19, 2012)
(2012年9月19日01時50分  読売新聞)

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反日デモ続く 対中感情の悪化を招くだけだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 20, 2012)
Anti-Japan rallies can only worsen feelings toward China
反日デモ続く 対中感情の悪化を招くだけだ(9月19日付・読売社説)

In the face of days of fierce anti-Japan demonstrations in China, Japan's attitude toward China has continued to deteriorate. We wonder to what extent the Chinese government is aware of the serious effect the protests are having on bilateral relations.

On the 81st anniversary of the Liutiaohu Incident, which triggered the Manchurian Incident, on Tuesday, large-scale anti-Japan demonstrations were held in dozens of places across China. Demonstrations over the Japanese government's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands have been held for the eighth consecutive day.

In Shenyang, Liaoning Province, where the Liutiaohu Incident took place, the windows of the Japanese Consulate General were smashed by rocks thrown by demonstrators. This reckless violence followed vandalism against Japanese-affiliated companies in a number of places in China last weekend.

Although the Chinese government appears to be trying to stem the extreme violence, it still permits the demonstrations. Some Japanese-affiliated companies have been forced to suspend factory operations and close their outlets. Chinese working at Japanese-affiliated companies or Japanese restaurants are also victimized by the acts of destruction.


Income gap also protested

Demonstrators holding portraits of Mao Zedong aloft apparently were also showing their strong discontent over the growing income disparity under the current Chinese administration. This indicates the demonstrations were not simply aimed only at Japan.

If China's pressure on Japan escalates, tensions between the two countries will increase further. To prepare for unpredictable events, the Japanese government should keep in close contact with Japanese citizens and Japanese-affiliated companies in China. It also should strongly press the Chinese government to ensure the safety of Japanese people and companies.

It has been reported that more than 10,000 Chinese fishing vessels set sail in the East China Sea and that about 1,000 vessels are expected to arrive in areas around the Senkaku Islands. In an attempt to wrench the islands from Japan's control, those vessels, escorted by fishery surveillance ships of the Chinese Agriculture Ministry, may enter Japan's territorial waters.

Ships sent by the Chinese authorities entered Japan's territorial waters Friday and Tuesday. The Japan Coast Guard must not relax its vigilance and surveillance activities in the immediate future.


Japan, U.S. should cooperate

In talks in Tokyo on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba agreed the two nations would cooperate to prevent Japan-China relations from being irreparably damaged. Japan and the United States must continue to urge China to handle the matter in a levelheaded manner and resolve the situation as soon as possible.

The Japanese and U.S. governments also have agreed that deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps' new Osprey transport aircraft in Okinawa Prefecture will proceed as planned.

Strengthening the functions of the U.S. forces stationed in Japan will help guide China to act in a restrained manner.

The Chinese government has submitted to the United Nations a nautical chart that identifies the areas around the Senkaku Islands as its "territorial waters." Beijing also has decided to submit an application to move the outer limit of its continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles from the baseline of its territorial waters in the East China Sea. These are steps apparently aimed at strengthening China's territorial claim over the Senkaku Islands.

The Japanese government for its part must make its stance clear to the international community that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's territory.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 19, 2012)
(2012年9月19日01時50分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月19日 (水)

反米デモ 中東の不安定化を憂慮する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 19, 2012)
Anti-U.S. feelings mustn't lead to destabilization of Middle East
反米デモ 中東の不安定化を憂慮する(9月18日付・読売社説)

Anti-U.S. demonstrations have spread in Middle Eastern and Asian countries over a video clip from a U.S. film regarded by Muslims as disparaging the Prophet Mohammed.

In the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, the U.S. ambassador and three staff members were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate. It is strongly believed that armed extremists carried out the terrorist attack by taking advantage of the chaos caused by the anti-U.S. protests.

In Cairo, some protesters stormed into the U.S. Embassy compound. U.S. embassies also were attacked in Sudan and Tunisia. In Yemen, people were killed in clashes between protesters and police.

The wave of protests has spread to Asian countries with Muslim majorities, including Indonesia and Malaysia.

Images from the video clip of the film, which was produced in the United States, spread across the world after it was posted on the Internet. It is not known which individual or group produced the video clip or why it was posted on the Internet, but it has fueled religious hostility. No wonder Muslims are offended.


Violence should be avoided

Even so, acts of violence and sabotage should never be permitted regardless of the anger the film provoked.

U.S. President Barack Obama strongly denounced the attacks on the U.S. ambassador and others, saying "we reject the denigration of any religion...Yet there never is any justification for violence."

We hope the situation will calm down as early as possible.

A major concern is that anti-U.S. sentiment has spread widely among common people in the Middle East, not just Muslim radicals.

This may be because of their distrust in and discontent with U.S. policies vis-a-vis the Middle East.

After taking office in 2009, Obama made an effort to improve relations with the Islamic world, where anti-U.S. sentiment had increased because of the Iraq War. He supported the Arab Spring reform movement against autocratic leaders.

Nevertheless, the demonstrations triggered by a video that has no connection whatsoever with the U.S. administration have spread. This underscores the existence of deep-rooted anti-U.S. feelings in addition to religious issues. Obama's Middle East policies do not seem to be functioning effectively.


Democratization half done

In Egypt and other countries where autocratic rulers were ousted during the Arab Spring movement, democratization is only half carried out. We are worried over how the anti-U.S. protests will affect the internal politics of Middle Eastern countries.

If the Middle East is thrown into chaos, it will have a global impact.

As a "Pacific nation," the United States has attached more importance to Asia. But if Washington changes this policy and deploys a significant number of troops to the Middle East, it may affect Japan's national security.

As Japan relies on the Middle East for slightly more than 80 percent of its crude oil imports, it is essential for this country to support the region's economic development by providing official development assistance and contribute to stabilizing the political situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 18, 2012)
(2012年9月18日01時24分  読売新聞)

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リーマン4年 世界経済の再生へ試練は続く

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 19, 2012)
Challenges lie ahead in revival of global economy
リーマン4年 世界経済の再生へ試練は続く(9月18日付・読売社説)

Sept. 15 marked the fourth anniversary of the so-called Lehman shock, but the global economy remains mired in the doldrums.

Will additional measures recently decided by the U.S. and European central banks open the door to an economic recovery?

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board has introduced a third round of quantitative easing, or QE3, to inject a massive amount of funds into financial markets. This follows the first and second rounds in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Under QE3, the Fed will purchase 40 billion dollars (about 3.1 trillion yen) of mortgage-backed securities per month.

The Fed also decided to extend its virtually zero-interest rate policy, which it previously planned to maintain until late 2014, until mid-2015.

The Fed took this bold step--dubbed by some as a trump card--with the aim of buoying the economy to help increase employment. A strong sense of crisis apparently prompted the Fed to take this step.


U.S. in a tight spot

The deterioration in U.S. economic indicators has been striking in recent months. The growth rate of the real gross domestic product fell to an annualized 1.7 percent in the April-June quarter. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at the 8 percent level.

The U.S. economy briefly picked up due to the all-out implementation of fiscal and monetary policies after the Lehman shock. However, the employment situation remains miserable and the economy has yet to get on a recovery track.

One difference from four years ago is that the U.S. government is saddled with an immense budget deficit, which makes it very difficult to launch fiscal policies now. The United States has no choice but to depend on a monetary policy, but it is uncertain how effective this will be in improving the jobs situation. The U.S. government will face difficult challenges in steering the economy.

Even more disconcerting than the economic situation in the United States is the European sovereign debt crisis, which shows no sign of drawing to a close.

The European Central Bank has finally decided to purchase unlimited amounts of government bonds of Spain and other countries plagued by credit uncertainty due to the deterioration in their state finances.


Eurozone's need for speed

This is one step toward containing the crisis, but Europe, which has been too tardy in dealing with the problem, needs to act speedily.

We urge eurozone nations to quickly and fully activate the European Stability Mechanism, which will buy government bonds of countries affected by credit uneasiness in cooperation with the ECB. Spain should quickly seek assistance, and Germany and France must stand united with their support.

However, assistance from the ECB and the ESM is a mere stopgap measure. It is indispensable that nations such as Spain and Greece, the epicenter of the European financial crisis, embark on economic structural reform such as drastic fiscal reconstruction.

There also has been much hand-wringing over the rapid slowdowns in emerging economies, including China and Brazil, that had served as driving forces of the global economy after the Lehman shock. The superstrong yen is damaging Japan's export industries and the country's economic recovery remains at a standstill. The government must be vigilant against further appreciation of the yen.

The revival of the global economy has only been half completed. Developed and emerging nations must do more to strengthen cooperation to finish the job.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 18, 2012)
(2012年9月18日01時24分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月18日 (火)

日朝宣言10年 原点に返って交渉を立て直せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 18, 2012)
Revive talks with North Korea based on 2002 joint declaration
日朝宣言10年 原点に返って交渉を立て直せ(9月17日付・読売社説)

Monday marks 10 years since Junichiro Koizumi became the first Japanese prime minister to visit North Korea, where he signed the Japan-North Korea Pyongyang Joint Declaration with then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

In the decade since then, however, the problem of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents has not been resolved, and North Korea's missile and nuclear threats to Japan have increased.

Tokyo must confirm the validity of the Pyongyang Declaration--the starting point for resolving bilateral issues--with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, to put intergovernmental negotiations on pending issues on track.

During the 2002 summit talks, Kim Jong Il admitted for the first time that his government had been involved in abducting Japanese, and apologized.

The Pyongyang Declaration stipulated, "North Korea will take appropriate actions to prevent a recurrence of incidents that threaten the lives and safety of Japanese nationals."


Abduction issue far from over

About one month later, five abductees, including Hitomi Soga and Kaoru Hasuike, returned to Japan. Koizumi visited North Korea again in May 2004, a trip that resulted in the abductees' families being allowed to come to Japan--more progress in the right direction.

However, the whole truth of this matter is still nowhere near being revealed. Pyongyang said during its 2008 talks with Tokyo that it would reinvestigate the abduction issue, but it has unilaterally broken this promise and has not lifted a finger on this issue to this day.

We think it is extremely regrettable that North Korea has not sincerely tried to live up to its end of the bargain.

At the end of August, officials from Japan and North Korea, which is under the new regime of Kim Jong Un, held governmental talks for the first time in four years. Both delegations agreed to discuss a "broad range of issues of interest to both sides," with the abduction issue apparently in mind. This agreement seems to indicate a sign of change in North Korea.

North Korea claims other Japanese abduction victims, including Megumi Yokota, have already died. However, Jin Matsubara, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, said it is a fact that he has received a lot of information from various contacts that suggest the abductees are still alive.

We hope the government will engage in talks with the North Korean government after reassembling its strategy to ensure the repatriation of all the abductees to Japan as soon as possible.


Spell out path to normalized ties

As steps toward the normalization of Japan-North Korea diplomatic relations, the Pyongyang Declaration also confirmed international agreements would be observed to solve North Korea's nuclear issue and dialogue promoted among countries concerned over the nuclear, missile and other security issues. Following the declaration, six-party talks among Japan, North Korea, the United States, China, South Korea and Russia were launched.

After the start of these talks that aimed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, however, North Korea ignored repeated warnings by the international community and charged ahead with ballistic missile and nuclear weapon tests. North Korea now proclaims to be a "nuclear power." The six-party talks also have ground to a halt.

North Korea has quite rightly been placed under U.N. economic sanctions, and it also has been slapped with additional sanctions by Japan.

If Pyongyang wants to revive its economy in the future, it will need to depend not just on China's assistance but also to improve its relationship with the international community.

North Korea will be able to normalize diplomatic ties with Japan only after the abduction, nuclear and missile issues are comprehensively resolved. Japan must make Kim Jong Un fully aware of that.

To achieve this goal, domestic political stability in Japan is essential.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 17, 2012)
(2012年9月17日01時20分  読売新聞)

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反日過激デモ 中国政府はなぜ容認するのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 18, 2012)
Why does Beijing permit anti-Japan protests?
反日過激デモ 中国政府はなぜ容認するのか(9月17日付・読売社説)

Anti-Japan protests have been expanding and escalating in China.

This is a serious situation.

Protesters railing against the recent nationalization of three islets of the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, by the central government have taken to the streets of about 100 cities in China.

In Beijing, protesters hurled rocks at the Japanese Embassy, while in other cities they attacked Japanese-affiliated business establishments. Some Japanese citizens have been assaulted in places where there have been no street demonstrations.

It is quite reasonable for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to have lodged a protest with the Chinese government. The Japanese government must continuously press China to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens and businesses and the protection of their property.

The Chinese government should strictly punish those involved in behavior that results in property destruction in accordance with the law.

In parallel with these protests, there have been aggressive acts by the Chinese government itself, which is apparently trying to undermine Japan's control of the Senkaku Islands.


Unprecedented intrusion

In an unprecedented action, six Chinese government maritime surveillance ships intruded into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands on Friday at the same time.

This is the first time that China has raised tensions with Japan to such a stage since bilateral diplomatic relations were normalized in 1972.

China has probably acted out of a heightened sense of crisis that it may lose face if the administration under the Chinese Communist Party is perceived by the people to have conceded to Japan over the Senkaku islets.

In China, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Japan's "wrongful act" (nationalization of the three islets) has been provoking strong righteous indignation in China, showing Beijing's sympathy for the anti-Japan protests. A senior Commerce Ministry official has also implied a boycott of Japanese products would be a natural consequence.

Such developments have fueled the anger of a younger generation that has been immersed in patriotic education, causing an escalation of their actions.

The Chinese government has apparently decided to politically exploit the people's anger against the Japanese government's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands to exert diplomatic pressure on Japan.


Maintain the rule of law

But for the Chinese government to sanction illegal behavior under a slogan that a patriotic act should not be considered a crime would be to deny the rule of law. And boycotting products of a specific country violates the spirit of free trade, which also runs counter to China's interests.

Appeals are being made for people to demonstrate against Japan again on Tuesday, which marks the 81st anniversary of the Liutiaohu Incident that triggered the Manchurian Incident. It is feared the daily activities of Japanese people and businesses in China may be badly affected again.

It is highly likely that a fleet of Chinese fishing boats, escorted by fishing monitoring vessels of the Chinese agriculture ministry, will soon leave ports for the Senkaku Islands shortly and try to intrude into Japanese territorial waters.

The Japanese government, for its part, must make absolutely sure that the Japan Coast Guard protects the territorial waters.

The government must assert to the international community that the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory and that the recent acquisition of the islands is intended to place them under stable government management.

The national leaders of Japan and China should bring the current situation under control so as not to aggravate the conflict of their people's sentiments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 17, 2012)
(2012年9月17日01時20分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月17日 (月)

エネルギー選択 「原発ゼロ」は戦略に値しない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 16, 2012)
Responsible govt should never adopt zero nuclear goal
エネルギー選択 「原発ゼロ」は戦略に値しない(9月15日付・読売社説)


It was extremely irresponsible of the government to set out a "zero nuclear power" policy without illustrating the details of how the nation is supposed to secure a stable supply of electricity.

The government should retract the zero-nuclear policy and instead propose a feasible energy strategy.

The government's Energy and Environment Council adopted an "innovative energy and environmental strategy" with a target of "zero nuclear power plants operating in the 2030s."

Under the strategy, the government will not allow the establishment of any new nuclear power plants and will strictly enforce the rule of decommissioning nuclear reactors after 40 years of operation to achieve the goal, the council said.


At a press conference held Friday, Motohisa Furukawa, state minister for national policy, stressed the importance of the strategy. "We have shown our stance of earnestly tackling the problems associated with nuclear power without shelving them," Furukawa said.

However, Furukawa failed to provide an overall picture of the future composition of the energy supply, which the government has pledged to drastically review in light of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Such a sloppy, immature scheme is totally unworthy of a national energy policy.


Vital details lacking

The strategy stated a goal of increasing the proportion of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, from the current 10 percent to 30 percent by 2030. However, the council postponed revealing measures to achieve the plan until year-end.

The government's decision to achieve zero reliance on nuclear energy in about 20 years without working out the details of how to secure viable alternatives looks slipshod.

Was this the result of a calculated decision that it would help the Democratic Party of Japan if the government clarified its antinuke stance ahead of the next House of Representatives election? It is natural to suspect the government had already reached a conclusion on this matter ahead of discussions.

Another problem of the new strategy is its lack of response to the results of an expert panel tasked with examining this issue, as well as indications from the business community.

It is estimated that vast sums of money would be required to achieve zero reliance on nuclear energy--50 trillion yen to increase the amount of renewable energy and another 100 trillion yen for energy-saving measures.

The nation's gross domestic product would likely fall by 50 trillion yen, and the number of jobless people is expected to increase by 2 million.

However, the new strategy only stated that the government would "devote all necessary resources possible" to deal with the problems, without stating specific measures.

Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), strongly criticized the zero-nuclear policy. "Industrial circles, which have been doing everything possible to maintain the level of employment, can never approve such a policy. It's a total contradiction to the government's growth strategy," Yonekura said.

Yonekura's remark reflects concerns that the zero-nuclear policy could threaten the people's livelihood by causing electricity shortfalls and driving up production costs, which would likely accelerate companies' moves to shift their production bases abroad.


Policy laden with contradictions

Currently, 48 of the nation's 50 reactors remain unable to resume operations in spite of the end of their regular safety checkups.

Fuel costs for thermal power generation have shot up by 3 trillion yen a year compared to their level before the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

If things stay as they are, it will be inevitable for other electricity companies to raise their electricity charges, following TEPCO.

If the ratio of thermal power generation rises in the nation's energy source mix, Japan's dependence on the politically volatile Middle East for much of its energy sources will continue.

The new energy strategy is right in pointing out that the nation should make use of nuclear reactors as important sources of power generation if their safety is guaranteed.

To ensure stable supplies of electricity, the government must redouble efforts to realize the restart of currently idled reactors.

However, the government's trumpeting of its "zero nuclear power" policy makes it all the more difficult to obtain local residents' consent to restart nuclear plants in their areas. The government is at cross-purposes with itself.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, who gave the go-ahead to the reactivation of the Oi nuclear power plant of Kansai Electric Power Co. in his prefecture, has understandably expressed a sense of distrust regarding the government's shifting energy policy.

To pursue the goal of reducing reliance on nuclear energy to zero while at the same time preserving Japan's nuclear fuel recycling program cannot be called anything but an obvious contradiction.

Given this situation, nuclear fuel to be produced through the fuel cycle will not serve any purpose.

In Aomori Prefecture, which has long cooperated with the central government's nuclear fuel recycling program, some are calling for the prefecture to refuse to accept any new spent nuclear fuel. The anger there over the central government's treacherous handling of nuclear policy is quite understandable.

If Aomori Prefecture refuses to take in any more used fuel from nuclear complexes around the nation, there would be no place for storage of spent nuclear fuel, meaning nuclear power plants across the country would sooner or later be forced to halt their operations.

Furthermore, the newly adopted policy would lead to drastic declines in the number of people pursuing careers as nuclear experts, jeopardizing enhancement of the nation's nuclear safety technologies and the future decommissioning of reactors.


Japan-U.S. ties in jeopardy

Britain and France, to which Japan has entrusted the task of spent fuel reprocessing, and the United States, which has put high hopes on nuclear technologies held by Japanese companies, have shown strong anxieties over the government's policy switch.

The United States has acknowledged Japan's reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel as a special right on the basis of the Japan-U.S. Cooperation Agreement on Nuclear Energy.

Japan could lose the reprocessing right on the grounds of its new "zero nuclear power" policy.

There also is concern that the international status of Japan, which the United States has so far deemed as its key partner in pursuing nuclear security policy in the Asian region, may decline.

Should this country break completely away from nuclear power, the stature of China and South Korea, which have both been keen to boost construction of nuclear power plants, would be bolstered in East Asia. Such a development would inevitably damage the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The government must be well aware of the fact that Japan's energy policy cannot be formulated without paying due attention to its implications in the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2012)
(2012年9月15日02時00分  読売新聞)

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自民総裁選告示 日本の針路に責任ある論戦を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 17, 2012)
LDP presidential candidates should thoroughly debate issues
自民総裁選告示 日本の針路に責任ある論戦を(9月16日付・読売社説)


If the Liberal Democratic Party's goal is to regain power, the candidates seeking their party's leadership must reveal concrete measures on how to tackle the vital tasks facing the nation.

The LDP presidential race kicked off Friday, with five members running for the leadership: former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba; former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura; LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara; and Yoshimasa Hayashi, acting chairman of the Policy Research Council. Verbal clashes among the five are heating up ahead of the voting on Sept. 26.

If the LDP wins the next House of Representatives election, the new party president will likely become the prime minister. We are looking forward to scrutinizing the qualities of the candidates as well as their policies through the election race.


The public is watching the campaign to confirm whether the LDP is capable of holding the reins of government. To regain the public's trust of the party, all candidates must clarify how they would deal with issues that have split public opinion.


Show details on collective defense

All five candidates have pledged to amend the Constitution. Furthermore, they have stated in their election pledges that Japan should be allowed to exercise its right to collective self-defense. The five plan to establish a basic law on national security that will enable the nation to exercise this right. This is essential in order to restore the Japan-U.S. alliance after it was eroded during the administrations of Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan.

We commend them on this issue.

However, when the LDP formed a coalition government with New Komeito, the party failed to get the ball rolling on allowing the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense. The candidates must show specific steps to achieve this goal.

The present government recently set out a target of "zero nuclear power plants operating" in the 2030s. Machimura criticized this policy, saying it is "just an expression of hope without specific means to achieve it." The other four candidates have similar opinions on this issue.

We can never approve the government's slipshod decision of announcing its "zero nuclear power" policy without sorting out ways to secure viable alternatives to nuclear power.

What do the presidential candidates of the LDP--which had promoted nuclear power for so long during its administrations--think about the nation's future energy policy? If they say only that it is too early to draw a conclusion, they are evading the issue.

On the issue of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework, all candidates have stated they oppose joining TPP negotiations if the premise is to eliminate tariffs without any "sanctuaries." If so, the candidates should explain their conditions for joining the TPP and how they would go about joining it.

Hasn't the LDP emphasized expanding free trade in its growth strategy? The party should not turn its back to the TPP, which is essential to take advantage of economic growth in neighboring Asian nations.

We believe the candidates are considering the reactions of agricultural organizations such as agricultural cooperatives. However, under the existing circumstances, Japan's agriculture will only continue declining. The candidates must discuss measures to revive domestic agriculture so it can cope with further trade liberalization.


Diplomacy toward Beijing

On the diplomatic front, we want to hear what the aspirants for the top LDP post think about issues affecting Japan's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and how they would rebuild this country's diplomatic ties with China, South Korea and Russia.

The candidates have all agreed on the need to beef up Japan's control of the Senkaku Islands. The tricky part is what measures they would take to achieve this.

Ishihara said, "It's natural for this country to defend its sovereignty, but now is the time for us to keep a cool head."

Anti-Japanese demonstrations have become increasingly boisterous in China. To urge the Chinese government to calm the situation, the government and the ruling and opposition camps should levelheadedly work as one.

Another matter of high significance is which party or parties the LDP should link up with after the next lower house election.

Whatever the outcome of the election, the LDP will still lack a majority in the House of Councillors, even when counting the seats held by New Komeito. This situation will continue until at least next summer's upper house election.

The five candidates are all wary of the idea of forming a grand coalition with the Democratic Party of Japan. Instead, they favor cooperation with the DPJ on a policy-by-policy basis.

Abe, for his part, has hinted at a possible partnership with Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which is led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.

Some of Ishin no Kai's policies neatly fit those of the LDP, such as seeking revisions to the Constitution. However, many policy commitments of the party starkly contrast with those of the LDP, including the former's demand that the number of lower house seats be halved.

The LDP will need to consider these details carefully before forming any full-blooded political alliance.

Regarding comprehensive reform of social security and tax systems jointly undertaken by the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito, all the LDP candidates have committed to adhering with the three-party accord. This is a natural course of action.


New Diet rules required

The DPJ-LDP-Komeito tripartite agreement must be kept intact. The three parties should jointly address such key tasks as working out how to lower the financial burdens low-income earners will face when the consumption tax rate is increased, and enhance efficiency in budget appropriations for ballooning social security expenditures.

Abe said the proposed consumption tax hike "could put a damper on the economy if it's implemented at the wrong time," indicating the possibility he would postpone the first stage of the tax raise in April 2014.

Although due consideration should be paid to national economic conditions before the tax increase, the importance of reconstructing the deficit-ridden government finances--a problem left alone for too long--should never be taken lightly.

Ishiba said the government-sponsored bill for enabling the issuance of deficit-covering bonds "shouldn't be used as a tool in a power struggle" between the parties. We agree entirely.

This bill must not be used as a bargaining chip by the LDP as it pushes for the early dissolution of the lower house for a general election.

In the divided Diet, where the opposition holds a majority in the upper house while the ruling bloc controls the lower house, what can be done so this nation has "politics capable of making decisions"?

Deeper discussions should be held about how to formulate new rules for running Diet affairs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 16, 2012)
(2012年9月16日01時15分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月15日 (土)

大震災1年半 復興の遅れ取り戻したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 15, 2012)
Delays in disaster restoration must be ended immediately
大震災1年半 復興の遅れ取り戻したい(9月14日付・読売社説)

Eighteen months have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck.

However, reconstruction of disaster-ravaged areas has fallen far short of the desired progress.

The central and local governments must step up cooperation to address without a hitch the challenge of helping put disaster victims' lives and local industry back in order.

Still conspicuous in the region stricken by the earthquake and tsunami are huge piles of debris at temporary storage sites in coastal districts. There is no immediate prospect of them being removed.

A mere 25 percent of the debris in the disaster area has been disposed of. If things stay as they are, the government-set goal of completely disposing of the debris by March 2014 can hardly be accomplished.

Construction of temporary incineration facilities in the disaster-hit areas is an urgent matter. Broad-based plans to dispose of debris in prefectures outside the disaster-struck region should also be moved forward quickly.

There have been notable delays as well in plans to build publicly operated housing, or so-called restoration housing, to accommodate disaster victims living in temporary housing.


Collective relocation eyed

About 30,000 housing units are meant to be built under the plans, but appropriate sites, such as publicly owned plots of land, have proven scarce. As a result, sites have been secured for only 10 percent of the planned public housing so far.

Projects for collective relocation of disaster-affected communities to higher ground will soon be launched. More than 200 communities, mainly in the three hard-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, are expected to be covered by the planned relocation.

Every one of such plans will certainly be unprecedentedly large in scale. Voices in prefectural, city, town and village governments are saying that the manpower needed to carry out the projects, such as civil engineers, is seriously lacking.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has pledged to send about 50 technical officials in charge of civil engineering and construction matters to the disaster areas. The central government's Reconstruction Agency must give full play to its role as coordinator for creating a framework of cooperation for stable supplies of personnel to promote the relocation projects.

There are 160,000 Fukushima Prefecture residents who have been evacuated within and outside the prefecture due to the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. A great majority of them are unable to return home in the near future because of radioactive contamination.

The government's policies to help restore Fukushima Prefecture from the disaster include a program to build "temporary towns" designed to entirely relocate the local entities involved. Iwaki in the prefecture is a candidate for such towns with consultations to start this month.


Expedite special zone system

The central government and Fukushima prefectural government should tackle in earnest the task of making the program a reality.

To enable evacuees to return home, it is imperative to resolutely carry out radioactivity decontamination operations. Construction of interim storage facilities for radiation-polluted soil is essential. To ensure such facilities are established, the government must do its utmost to obtain understanding from local governments with candidate sites.

Worthy of special note as a way to help resuscitate local economies is the central government's system for designating special zones for reconstruction in the disaster-stricken areas. In the eight months after the enactment of the law for the system, 20 plans to set up such zones have been approved by the government.

The municipal government of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, has decided to invite a large-scale retail complex to a district that has so far been exclusively for industrial purposes under the Building Standards Law, by easing regulations through the special zone system.

In Sendai, a group of farmers, utilizing a preferential taxation measure on farm produce-related businesses under the system, will launch a food processing and distribution company. Whether the system can be deemed effective overall remains to be seen, however.

Reviews to ascertain if the government's budgets for the March 11, 2011, disaster are being used effectively must be conducted across the board on the basis of how things actually stand in the disaster areas.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 14, 2012)
(2012年9月14日01時24分  読売新聞)

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尖閣国有化 中国の圧力外交は行き過ぎだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 15, 2012)
China should not go too far in its response over Senkakus
尖閣国有化 中国の圧力外交は行き過ぎだ(9月14日付・読売社説)

China is escalating its opposition to the Japanese government's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, over which China claims sovereignty.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that Beijing would never concede, even half a step, on issues concerning what it claims as its sovereign and territorial rights.

The Chinese Defense Ministry said the Chinese government and military would reserve the right to take appropriate measures. They apparently aim to unnerve Japan and force it to cancel the purchase of the islands.

There is no doubt that China's leaders cannot allow themselves to appear weak-kneed toward Japan given domestic circumstances dominated by the Chinese Communist Party's upcoming National Congress, in which the nation's new leadership will be installed.

Will China repeat the reckless measures it took against Japan two years ago, in the wake of the collision incident involving a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels? Beijing at that time imposed stricter restrictions on the export of rare earth minerals. If China wishes to call itself a responsible major power in the international community, it should restrain itself from imposing excessive diplomatic pressures.


No doubt that isles are Japanese

Japan maintains that a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands does not exist. It was a matter of course that Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba firmly refuted China's claim, saying, "The Senkaku Islands are inherent territories of our nation, and this is a fact without doubts in light of international law and in historic terms."

Regarding the nationalization of the islands, the Japanese government has explained that it was "for peaceful and stable maintenance and management" of the islands. It is important that the government persistently make the case to the international community.

The Japanese government must beef up its vigilance over actions taken by China in an attempt to undermine Japan's effective control over the Senkaku Islands. Chinese state media recently reported that two patrol ships of China's State Oceanic Administration had started patrol activities in waters near the islands.

A scenario in which many patrol ships and armored fishing boats enter Japan's territorial waters and take other demonstrative actions cannot be excluded from possibility.


Coast guard must be strengthened

The Japanese government needs to expand and strengthen the Japan Coast Guard's structural functions so that all possible measures can be taken to ensure security in the nation's territorial waters.

Growing anti-Japan sentiment in China also is a cause of concern. With the approach of the Sept. 18 anniversary of the Liutiaohu Incident, which triggered the Manchurian Incident, calls to join anti-Japan protests have been made through the Internet across China.

Japanese communities in China also have been shaken by developments such as the postponement of an athletic meet at a local Japanese school. We urge Chinese authorities to act quickly to calm such situations and ensure the safety of Japanese citizens and companies there.

It is also problematic that a number of exchange programs have been suspended. China told a group of about 30 Japanese lawmakers from different parties to postpone their visit to Beijing to attend events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China diplomatic relations. An increasing number of Chinese tourists have also canceled their plans to visit Japan.

Japan and China have historical ties. For the sake of further development of bilateral relations, China should not unilaterally close the channels of exchange and communications.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 14, 2012)
(2012年9月14日01時24分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月14日 (金)

民主代表選討論 「決める政治」の一歩とせよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 14, 2012)
DPJ should use election to build political decisiveness
民主代表選討論 「決める政治」の一歩とせよ(9月13日付・読売社説)

The Democratic Party of Japan should use its forthcoming presidential election as an opportunity to encourage a new political culture to take root in the party--a culture in which party members comply with decisions reached through vigorous debate according to a set deadline.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and the three other DPJ presidential candidates participated in an open debate Wednesday that was organized by the Japan National Press Club.

Discussing the split in the party over the integrated social security and tax system reform, two of the three challengers--former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu and former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi--blamed Noda for the divide, citing flawed party procedures for obtaining approval for bills.

Noda replied that he feels "a deep responsibility" for the divide but that he made the right decision concerning the reform legislation. "I need to revive the party while engaging in serious self-reflection," he said.


Advance quickly on reforms

It is essential to make progress on the integrated reform, which aims to make the nation's social security system sustainable, without any further waste of time. We cannot fault the DPJ leadership in this respect, as it gave ample time for intraparty debates.

However, the DPJ's tendency to put off difficult political decisions remains problematic. If the ruling party continues in this vein, it will never achieve political decisiveness.

Referring to Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), a regional political group that is highly popular with the public, Noda said it is important for the DPJ "to make a decision at the right time" as an established political party. We agree with the prime minister's sentiment.

The DPJ should try to improve its fundamental nature during the presidential election campaign.

A touchstone issue the party needs to face is whether Japan should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework.

The four candidates are split on the issue--Noda favors promoting participation, Haraguchi is opposed, and Akamatsu and former farm minister Michihiko Kano have taken a cautious stance.

During Wednesday's open debate, Noda went only so far as to say that the country "cannot make a decision without sufficient discussions with the countries involved."


TPP delay undesirable

If Japan delays joining the TPP negotiations, however, it will inevitably lose the opportunity to put forth its viewpoint on new international rules for trade and investment.

We urge the candidates to engage in thorough discussions on the issue during the campaign, including how TPP participation would affect the domestic farming industry.

Regarding methods to ease the burden of a higher consumption tax rate on low-income earners, Akamatsu called for adopting a reduced tax rate for food and other daily necessities, saying, "The plan would be easier for the ruling and opposition parties to agree on." Kano also supported the idea.

Their support apparently comes after New Komeito, a major opposition party, threw its weight behind the idea.

Noda, on the other hand, reiterated his support for an earned income tax credit as the main form of support for the low-income group.

We believe reduced tax rates for certain items would be easy for the public to understand and also effective in achieving its goals, as similar systems have been implemented in Europe. We hope the candidates will hold deeper discussions on the issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 13, 2012)
(2012年9月13日01時36分  読売新聞)

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「日本維新の会」 国政改革への道筋が見えない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 14, 2012)
Hashimoto's new party lacks road map to reform natl politics
「日本維新の会」 国政改革への道筋が見えない(9月13日付・読売社説)

Nippon Ishin no Kai, or the Japan Restoration Party, is poised to become a political force to be reckoned with, but it cannot be denied that its policies and management structure were hastily formulated.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, leader of the regional political group Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), declared the launch of the new party during a fund-raiser in Osaka on Wednesday.

Hashimoto stressed the significance of Osaka Ishin no Kai's foray into national politics. "The nation's systems and laws are barriers we hit when we try to do something," Hashimoto said. "If we carry out Osaka's reform in the true sense, revising the laws is our only choice."

Hashimoto said the new party will aim to win "a majority" of the 480 seats in the next House of Representatives election.

However, it is unnecessary for Hashimoto to advance into national politics if all he wants is to realize his Osaka metropolis plan. His rash eagerness, or big talk, is what makes him stand out. But what does he plan to achieve in national politics, and how? He needs to present a convincing vision.


Platform grandiose but vague

Osaka Ishin no Kai has changed its campaign pledges for the next lower house election, dubbed "Ishin Hassaku" (eight-point policy statement), to the "platform" of the new party. Hashimoto said this is because the listed points represent the new party's sense of values.

Ishin Hassaku contains such phrases as "self-sustaining nation" and "democracy that is capable of making decisions and takes responsibility," but these abstract expressions do not tell what kind of nation the new party will pursue. The ideals should be explained in a more understandable way.

Ishin Hassaku is a mix of slogan-like goals--such as the introduction of a system to elect prime ministers by popular vote, which would require a constitutional amendment, and halving the number of lower house seats--and policies for social security, education and employment. The mid- and long-term tasks and immediate policy challenges must be properly sorted out.

Hashimoto stressed that elections are the only way to solve problems that cannot be solved by bureaucrats and problems that divide public opinion. If that is so, he should present specifically what pledges the new party will make for the next lower house election.


A highly unusual structure

The new party has an extremely peculiar structure. Its headquarters will be in Osaka. Because seven Diet members, including former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yorihisa Matsuno, will join it, the new party will meet a major requirement to be recognized as an official national political party, which must have at least five lawmakers. The party's Diet members and its groups of local assembly members, including Osaka Ishin no Kai, will be on equal terms with each other.

Hashimoto will double as both Osaka mayor and leader of the new party, and has said he will not run in the upcoming lower house election. This is probably because it has been less than one year since Hashimoto transitioned from Osaka governor to Osaka mayor and his commitment to the Osaka metropolis plan, the biggest item on his political agenda, is expected to enter a difficult phase in which he will work on such tasks as dividing cities into special wards and making relevant financial resource arrangements.

There is widespread speculation over the possibility that Hashimoto's new party will make great strides, becoming the force holding the key to cooperation between political parties after the lower house election.

Hashimoto said, "I'll cut down the amount of time I spend for myself, and use it for national politics." However, will it really be possible for Hashimoto, in Osaka, to control rookie lawmakers who lack experience in politics?

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 13, 2012)
(2012年9月13日01時36分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月13日 (木)

原子力規制委 やむを得ぬ首相の委員長任命

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 13, 2012)
Noda's appointment of nuclear watchdog chief inevitable
原子力規制委 やむを得ぬ首相の委員長任命(9月12日付・読売社説)

A nuclear regulatory commission must be established as soon as possible to reconstruct the nation's nuclear safety administration.

At a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, the government decided to establish the commission next Wednesday.

The chairman and four other posts will be appointed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda based on a law that allows for the appointment of the nuclear watchdog's members without obtaining Diet approval.

Personnel appointment without Diet approval is not desirable. But considering that the legal deadline for establishing the agency is Sept. 26, the government will have no choice but to take this exceptional step.

There was no vote held on a personnel plan for the commission during the ordinary Diet session that ended last week because of differences within the Democratic Party of Japan.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi, a candidate in the forthcoming party presidential election, and some other DPJ members called for replacing the proposed personnel with people who do not belong to the so-called nuclear power village.

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan also took a cautious stance toward the personnel plan. It is incredible that the plan was not backed by the ruling party.

Opposition from within the DPJ has little chance of subsiding and it is strongly believed the opposition parties would reject the proposal. It appears the government would not find it easy to obtain approval in the next extraordinary Diet session.


Nuclear experts necessary

The regulatory commission is responsible for ensuring the safety of nuclear power based on specialized knowledge. Hatoyama and other opponents of the plan must understand that the commission is not a forum to decide on nuclear policy.

Under normal circumstances, the commission's main task will be to determine the advisability of restarting and decommissioning nuclear power reactors. In times of emergency, the commission will serve as a control headquarters for dealing with nuclear accidents.

Since the commission is an autonomous entity, which is to say independent from government ministries and agencies, it requires personnel with practical knowledge of nuclear power. The commission will be unable to perform its role if experts are eliminated from it.

For the commission to function properly, a robust personnel arrangement must be realized for the nuclear regulatory agency that will serve as its secretariat. It is essential to harness human resources widely from the private and public sectors.

If the government puts forth a policy to reduce the nation's nuclear dependence to zero, it will become difficult to get the most out of able personnel due to the loss of a bright outlook for the future. The government must consider this point as well.


Rule needs review

The rule requiring Diet approval for personnel appointments must be reviewed by both the ruling and opposition parties.

Above all, it is problematic that personnel plans revealed in the media in advance are not approved in principle. This rule was included in an agreement reached by the chairmen of the Rules and Administration committees of both houses of the Diet, as insisted on by the DPJ when it was an opposition party.

Such a rule represents unjustifiable media control. Using fear of information leaks as an excuse for the government to refrain from consulting ruling and opposition parties on personnel matters could have serious consequences.

The lower house has called for abolishing the agreement but the upper house disagreed, insisting it be partly revised instead.

Liberal Democratic Party members of the upper house might have opposed scrapping the accord to strike back at the DPJ, which the LDP believes used the agreement to attack the LDP-led government.

In any case, irrational rules must be eliminated. It is the reasonable thing to do.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 12, 2012)
(2012年9月12日01時50分  読売新聞)

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自民党総裁選 「野党ぼけ」の克服が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 13, 2012)
LDP must quickly recover from 'opposition slumber'
自民党総裁選 「野党ぼけ」の克服が急務だ(9月12日付・読売社説)

What will the Liberal Democratic Party aim to do if it recaptures power, and how will it achieve these objectives?

We urge the candidates in the party's presidential election to explain their views and policy stances, given that they aspire to grab the reins of this nation.

LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara has announced he will run in the party race. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba have already declared their candidacies. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and LDP Policy Research Council Acting Chairman Yoshimasa Hayashi also expressed their intention to throw their hats in the ring.

The LDP race will choose who might become the prime minister, depending on the outcome of the next House of Representatives election. It is only natural that the race is heating up.

However, we consider it problematic that LDP members are preoccupied with jockeying for position among party factions and figuring out how many party lawmakers support each candidate.

Current LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki piled so much pressure on the two previous prime ministers of the Democratic Party of Japan--Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan--that they stepped down. The LDP won the previous House of Councillors election, a result that created a divided Diet in which the opposition controls the upper house.


Tanigaki frozen out

It was commendable that Tanigaki, as leader of the largest opposition party, joined hands with the DPJ to pass bills on integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, the main pillar of which is a consumption tax rate increase.

In the latest Yomiuri Shimbun opinion survey, 21 percent of respondents--the biggest proportion--said they planned to vote for the LDP in the proportional representation segment of the next lower house election.

Nevertheless, Tanigaki was considered to be lacking something as the party's face for the coming election, and thus decided he had no option but to stay out of the party race. He must feel desperately disappointed to have come this close to guiding the party to its long-sought goal of returning to power.

Tanigaki's fall was in part due to his failure to hammer out policies representative of the LDP, other than the integrated reform. He was unable to attract wide support.

Tanigaki became increasingly isolated when senior LDP figures such as former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Makoto Koga, who heads a party faction, turned their back on him over his handling of party affairs.

Tanigaki led the LDP to support a recent censure motion submitted by several opposition parties against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda--a motion that also criticized the LDP for approving the consumption tax rate increase. The party was accused of "self-condemnation."

The LDP's policy goals and vision for after it returns to power will be scrutinized afresh during the presidential race. Party members should be well aware that revival of the party, which Tanigaki aimed for, has only been half completed.


Take stand on nuclear power

Ishihara said his "mission is to realize policy measures and courses" the party promoted under Tanigaki's leadership. It would be disconcerting if the party, after a change in leadership, forgets about implementing the integrated reform in line with the accord it reached with the DPJ and New Komeito.

The LDP for many years steered an administration that was pro-nuclear energy. Is it right for the party to stand idly by while the DPJ has set out a "zero nuclear power" policy direction? We urge the LDP to propose realistic energy policies.

The LDP is irresponsible for opposing the nation's possible participation in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework if abolishing tariffs "without sanctuary" is a precondition. The party should also debate the matter from the viewpoint of a growth strategy through expanded free trade.

Rebuilding diplomatic relations with China, South Korea and Russia, and the deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps' new Osprey transport aircraft also are pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Considering these issues after it takes power will be too late. During the LDP election, the party urgently needs to awaken from its "opposition slumber" in which it devoted itself only to lobbing criticism around and failed to make its own decisions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 12, 2012)
(2012年9月12日01時50分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月12日 (水)

民主代表選告示 日本再生へ責任ある論争を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 12, 2012)
DPJ presidential candidates must debate revival of Japan
民主代表選告示 日本再生へ責任ある論争を(9月11日付・読売社説)


It is essential that the candidates in the upcoming Democratic Party of Japan presidential election review the DPJ's past three years in power and hold a responsible policy debate to rehabilitate the party and restore public trust.

Official campaigning for the DPJ presidential election began Monday. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda; former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu; former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi; and former farm minister Michihiko Kano have thrown their hats into the ring to begin the war of words.

Noda's lead over the other candidates appears unshakable, making the race a de facto confidence vote. Much focus is being placed on how many anti-Noda votes the other candidates can garner.


Ending deflation urgent

It is important for Noda to win as much support as possible in the party. He needs to restore his political clout, which was weakened after the DPJ split when former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa and his followers left the party, and to build a foundation to tackle new policy challenges.

At a joint press conference of the candidates Monday, Noda stressed his commitment to the agreement between the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito over integrated social security and tax system reform. He said his stance will not change even though LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki has announced he will not run for reelection.

Enacting the reform legislation, the main pillar of which is an increase in the consumption tax rate, has been the Noda administration's historic achievement. It marked a first step away from the "politics incapable of making decisions" under the divided Diet. We commend Noda's stance of maintaining cooperative relations between the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito.

Akamatsu and Kano said they would basically stand by the three-party deal, but Haraguchi said the agreement had been negated by the passing of a censure motion against Noda in the House of Councillors.

Haraguchi hopes to capitalize on his ties to Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), but we strongly doubt he could turn policy into reality without the cooperation of the LDP and Komeito.

As a new policy goal, Noda announced he would draw up and implement an emergency plan to break the grip of deflation within one year and restore the country's competitiveness within two years.

It is understandable that he set a specific deadline for beating deflation to create an environment amenable for raising the consumption tax rate. We hope he will put his policy into shape quickly.


Explain advantages of TPP

The four candidates differ clearly over whether Japan should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework. Noda said he will promote participation in the framework, Akamatsu and Kano have been cautious on the issue, and Haraguchi said Japan should not join.

Japan did not say it would participate in the TPP negotiations at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Russia. However, we believe the nation must join the free-trade framework if it hopes to tap the economic vigor of Asia to further develop the Japanese economy. Noda needs to clearly explain the merits of joining the talks early.

In energy policy, all four candidates agree the nation should eventually end its reliance on nuclear power.

We fear the proposed zero option for nuclear power would have an adverse effect on the economy by increasing production costs and undermining nuclear technology, among other concerns. We suggest the four candidates reconsider the matter and come to a more realistic solution without pandering to antinuclear opinions.

In the joint news conference, Kano and two other candidates blamed Noda for causing the DPJ to split, and said the party needs a "political culture of responsibility." Noda rejected their claims, saying, "I can't resuscitate the party by leaving office halfway through."

What would be more problematic than the breakup of the party is if the DPJ, as a ruling party, continued its internal battles while papering over important policy differences. The party needs a political culture in which members comply with what has been decided through policy debates.

The DPJ should use the forthcoming presidential election as an opportunity for a fresh start by learning from its past blunders in running the government.

The failed attempt last week to field Environment Minister Goshi Hosono in the party presidential election laid bare once again the DPJ's tendency to seek easy-sounding popularity-seeking solutions. In the political drama, Hosono's supporters believed that if a young candidate with good name recognition led the party in the next House of Representatives election, they would not have to be so concerned that the party would have to fight an uphill battle.

In a draft of its manifesto for the next general election, the DPJ advocates the handout policy of increasing child allowances by 50 percent, which is typical of the party's populist inclinations.


Realistic pledges crucial

The DPJ must reexamine the defects of its unrealistic manifesto, which claims it could generate more than 16 trillion yen per year by altering the budget allocation system. The debates of the presidential candidates must lead the party to adopt a convincing campaign platform.

Japan's diplomatic and security policies have followed a sinuous course in recent years, neglecting the Japan-U.S. alliance. Government administrative functions have not worked smoothly due to the DPJ's policy of distancing itself from the bureaucracy in deciding and carrying out policies. The government should also be blamed for haphazardly dealing with the Gtreat East Japan Earthquake and the sebsequent nuclear crisis. Noda has struggled to resolve these negative legacies from the previous two DPJ administrations, led by Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan, but he has yet to finish the job.

The DPJ has attempted to blame the opposition for legislative failures in the divided Diet, in which the House of Councillors is controlled by the opposition camp. But it is clear the DPJ's irresponsible management of Diet business has been a root cause of the indecisive political atmosphere.

The question is whether the DPJ as a whole can recognize its responsibilities as the ruling party during the leadership campaign and make a fresh start.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 11, 2012)
(2012年9月11日01時08分  読売新聞)

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ブックマークというと、よく分からないと言われる方が多いのですが、MSウインドウズ系とアップル系で呼び方が違うのが原因だと思います。MSウインドウズ系では、my favorite (お気に入り)となっていますが、ブックマークと何ら変わるものではありません。






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2012年9月11日 (火)









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出生前診断 「命の選別」助長せぬルールを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 11, 2012)
Medical community must ensure 'embryo screening' doesn't occur
出生前診断 「命の選別」助長せぬルールを(9月9日付・読売社説)

Trial implementation of a new method of prenatal diagnosis that can determine with near certainty whether a fetus will develop Down syndrome is set to begin shortly at about 10 medical institutions nationwide.

The medical community must avoid a situation whereby the latest technology in reproductive medicine encourages "embryo screening."

We urge the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and other organizations to quickly work out guidelines for using the examination so it is not used casually.

Maternal serum marker screenings--another form of prenatal diagnosis--have become commonly used. These tests check a pregnant woman's blood for certain chromosome abnormalities in the fetus.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry issued an opinion saying serum marker screenings should "not be recommended by medical doctors." However, the opinion is nonbinding and nearly 20,000 such tests are conducted each year.

Reportedly, not a few expectant mothers, shocked at the possibility of having a baby with a chromosome abnormality, choose abortion after receiving positive test results.


Situation worrisome

Compared with the conventional methods for predicting Down syndrome that only offer a likelihood, test results using the new method are nearly certain.

We believe it is quite natural for medical specialists to harbor concerns that the new test could encourage the casual use of abortion.

In other countries where the method has already been introduced, it has been met with opposition from groups of concerned families and other organizations, who have released statements opposing it on the grounds that it could cause disabled people to be rejected by society. A case on the issue has even been brought before the International Criminal Court.

Behind the increased use of prenatal diagnoses lies the reality of the tendency of modern women to have children later in life, which generally increases the risk of congenital disease.

Doctors may find it difficult to refuse requests from pregnant women wanting to know if their babies have a genetic disease.


Proper education crucial

It is important that doctors, when asked to conduct prenatal diagnoses, give expectant mothers sufficient knowledge about Down syndrome.

While people with Down syndrome often experience mental disabilities and cardiac disorders, many of them are able to lead normal lives thanks to improved medical and educational support systems.

Improved counseling services are also needed to address the anxieties of pregnant women. The nation needs more such specialists than the current 270.

Meanwhile, experts in the United States succeeded in June in decoding a fetus' genetic information using only a sample of the mother's blood and the father's saliva.

When put into practical use, this method is expected to make it possible to check for most genetic diseases at the fetal stage.

Such a development would pose an even more difficult challenge for those working on the medical front lines. The new test for Down syndrome is merely a sign of what could come in this issue.

The reality is that rules and regulations on the use of prenatal diagnosis have not caught up with technological innovations in reproductive medicine. In drawing up relevant guidelines, we urge those involved to also take a hard look at future technological progress.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 9, 2012)
(2012年9月9日01時26分  読売新聞)

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日露首脳会談 領土交渉への土俵を固めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 11, 2012)
Japan needs solid strategy for territorial talks with Russia
日露首脳会談 領土交渉への土俵を固めよ(9月9日付・読売社説)

Before holding further territorial talks with Russia, Japan must firstly strengthen the base of its negotiation stance.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit meeting in Vladivostok in Far East Russia. The two leaders confirmed talks would continue over the Russian-held northern territories off Hokkaido.

Tokyo and Moscow will deepen talks on the islands at a vice-ministerial meeting scheduled for autumn and when the Japanese prime minister visits Russia in December.

Recent friction with China and South Korea over the Senkaku and Takeshima islands has prompted hard-hitting questions about Japan's stance over its own sovereignty and territory. With Russia also, the government must work persistently to find a solution to the northern territories dispute based on historical facts and documents.

The latest talks between Noda and Putin followed their first meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, in June, where they agreed to "revive" long-stalled talks on the territorial issue.


Quiet, constructive talks needed

During the talks, Noda told Putin "consideration must be paid to public sentiment" in Japan as a condition for the territorial negotiations. He also requested the Russian leader hold discussions "in a quiet and constructive environment."

Noda's remarks apparently were referring to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's provocative landing on Kunashiri--one of the islands in the northern territories--in July. Moscow must not be allowed to "Russianize" the territories by faits accomplis with unilateral development of them, at a time when talks on the islands are poised to resume.

Putin agreed with Noda that the issue should be solved in a quiet atmosphere without stirring up public sentiment. We think Putin should do what he said.

In economic discussions, Noda welcomed Russia's recent entry to the World Trade Organization. He also said Japan will cooperate in the development of Siberia in the Russian Far East if mutual trust is further enhanced.

Putin expressed his expectation for increased investment from Japan. However, we hope Moscow will first improve Russia's investment climate, including the abolition of trade barriers.

After their talks, the two leaders witnessed a signing ceremony of a memorandum on construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal near Vladivostok, a project that Japanese firms and the Russian energy company Gazprom are working on.


Mutual benefits await

Russia is developing natural resources in its Far East region. Japan's demand for LNG has increased since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, so ensuring a stable supply of the fuel for thermal power generation and importing the gas from a wider array of countries have become important issues for Japan. Energy cooperation will have huge merits for Japan and Russia.

Tokyo and Moscow also inked a treaty on measures to control poaching and smuggling of crabs and other marine products in the Okhotsk Sea.

These are not the only fields in which Japan and Russia can jointly work and benefit. Bilateral relations have strategic importance for both countries when it comes to dealing with China, which is expanding both economically and militarily.

We think Japan and Russia should deepen their interdependence because it could lead to a solution to the dispute over the northern territories.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 9, 2012)
(2012年9月9日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月10日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 8
EDITORIAL: Party elections must not undermine commitment to reform

The Diet session has effectively ended, and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party have started gearing up for their respective leadership elections.

Within the DPJ, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono has decided against running in the party presidential election, while Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, former internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi and former farm minister Hirotaka Akamatsu have announced their candidacies.

In the LDP, President Sadakazu Tanigaki and Nobutaka Machimura, former chief Cabinet secretary, have expressed their intention to run. Nobuteru Ishihara, party secretary-general, Shigeru Ishiba, former party policy chief, and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are also showing an interest in joining the contest.

The related moves that have been made so far within these two main parties have shown troubling signs that each leadership race is shaping up to be a popularity contest to choose each party's "poster boy" for the upcoming Lower House election.

That's not good news for the nation.

One of the two new party heads is likely to lead this nation as prime minister after the Lower House poll. The candidates should make clear their political creeds and policy agendas to make sure that the party elections will be contests over qualifications as party leader.

What the candidates should do first is to make a public commitment to follow through with the deal on integrated tax and social security reform struck among the DPJ, the LDP and New Komeito.

Since the enactment of legislation for the integrated reform, relations between the two main parties have become strained, partly because of the passage of a censure motion against Noda through the Upper House, with the support of the LDP.

There is no prospect for the establishment of a new council for social security reform, which, under the agreement among the three parties, is supposed to develop a blueprint for the reform within one year.

Details of the integrated reform have yet to be worked out, and many key issues remain to be tackled. How should the health-care and pension programs be bolstered, and how should policy efforts to support child care be expanded as the aging of the nation's population continues toward peak levels?

The remaining tasks also include developing measures to ease the regressive taxation effects of the scheduled consumption tax hike and to enhance the income and inheritance taxes.

The agreement among the three parties has committed them to shield the social security system from partisan warfare and to work together to secure the long-term financial stability of the system even if power changes hands. That's the long and short of the deal.

This is a formal agreement among political parties. Breaching it would be tantamount to betraying the public, who are facing an increased tax burden due to the consumption tax raise.

Some politicians within the LDP, including Abe, are apparently maneuvering for a policy alliance with Osaka Ishin no Kai, a local party headed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto that is planning to field candidates in the upcoming election, rather than with the DPJ.

Osaka Ishin no Kai has proposed transferring the consumption tax revenue to local governments. If the LDP chooses the Hashimoto group over the DPJ, the three-party deal on the integrated reform could fall apart.

If that happens, the question will be what kind of political framework should be formed to establish a stable and sustainable social security system. The candidates have the political responsibility to offer clear and convincing answers to this question.

There is also a long list of other policy challenges confronting this nation. Japan clearly needs to work out a new energy policy by settling the issue of restarting idled nuclear reactors, further liberalize its trade with key trade partners and repair its soured relations with its neighbors.

Serious disagreements on these issues within both the DPJ and the LDP are hampering the efforts to deal with these challenges.

The two parties should regard their leadership elections as a good opportunity to clarify their platforms and renew their commitments to key policy proposals for their campaigns for the general election.

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2012年9月 9日 (日)

「原発ゼロ」提言 現実を直視できない民主党

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 9, 2012)
DPJ's zero-nuclear energy proposal unrealistic
「原発ゼロ」提言 現実を直視できない民主党(9月8日付・読売社説)

As a ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan is beyond irresponsible in setting a policy course seeking zero nuclear power generation after hasty and inadequate discussion.

The DPJ has drawn up a proposal for future energy measures that will aim for zero reliance on nuclear power in the 2030s.

The proposal does not allow the government to construct new nuclear power stations and requires it to strictly adhere to a new regulation of shutting down reactors after 40 years of operation. However, the proposal lacks specific measures to overcome the possible negative impact on the economy, such as high costs and increased unemployment.

The proposal is full of problems.

The DPJ made a hasty decision to include the 2030s target for achieving zero reliance in the proposal in the final stage of party discussions on the matter.

With an eye to its manifesto for the next House of Representatives election, the DPJ apparently thought stating its position to seek zero reliance would benefit the party in the election. We see this as pure demagoguery.


Enormous costs

According to estimates by the government's Energy and Environment Council, the nation would face enormous costs to completely end its dependence on nuclear power. The council has projected 50 trillion yen would be needed to expand the use of renewable energy sources such as solar power while energy-saving investments would cost the nation 100 trillion yen under the zero percent nuclear power scenario.

As a result, electricity charges would be raised. Regular households would likely see their monthly utility bills jump from the current maximum of 17,000 yen to 32,000 yen. Furthermore, increases in production costs would accelerate the hollowing-out of industry, forcing people out of jobs.

Both the business community and the government are aware of the seriousness of the possible negative impact from zero reliance on nuclear energy.

However, the DPJ appears to have turned a blind eye to such "inconvenient truth." The party failed to work out concrete measures in the proposal. Instead, it has left the task to the government, only saying in the proposal the government "needs to utilize all policy resources" to denuclearize the nation.

There has also been strong concern that setting the timing for achieving zero reliance would cause a decline in the number of young people seeking careers in nuclear-related fields, making it difficult for the nation to nurture capable experts.

If that happens, the government would be unable to fulfill the important tasks of enhancing the safety of nuclear reactors and establishing technologies to shut down reactors in light of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Japan could lose its international credibility.


Realistic strategy needed

The government also would find it more difficult to obtain understanding from local people for restarting nuclear reactors. If Aomori Prefecture, which had accepted spent nuclear fuel from nuclear facilities nationwide under the national nuclear fuel cycle policy, decides to reject spent fuel, restarting reactors across the nation would become more difficult.

Currently, the nation faces an additional cost of more than 3 trillion yen a year for thermal power generation to make up for lost nuclear energy. Unless nuclear reactors are reactivated, utility companies other than Tokyo Electric Power Co. would also be forced to sharply raise electricity rates.

The government plans to decide on its new energy strategy as early as next week. Without being bound by the DPJ's proposal, which apparently looks to the lower house election, the government should present to the public a realistic energy plan that will continue to utilize nuclear energy in the mid- and long term.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2012)
(2012年9月8日01時45分  読売新聞)

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通常国会閉幕 停滞打破へ与野党は知恵絞れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 9, 2012)
Ruling, opposition blocs must rise above politicking
通常国会閉幕 停滞打破へ与野党は知恵絞れ(9月8日付・読売社説)

The ordinary session of the Diet, which has lasted more than seven months, adjourns on Saturday.

Relative to its long duration, the session cannot be considered very productive.

There is an urgent need for both the ruling and opposition blocs to work out reforms of the legislature to break away from "politics incapable of making decisions."

The most important achievement in this Diet session was the enactment of a set of laws for comprehensive reform of the social security and tax systems.
It is significant that the long-overdue task of raising the consumption tax rate has been accomplished through cooperation among the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

In a news conference on Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared, "The stalemate of politics can surely be surmounted only if we politicians have a strong sense of responsibility and resolve, seeing things from a broad perspective."

He is right to say so.

Cooperation among the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito, however, has been limited to a very narrow range, leaving a pile of Diet business unaddressed.


DPJ leadership clumsy

The passage rate of fresh government-sponsored bills during this ordinary session was 66 percent, the second-lowest in the past 20 years. Both the ruling and opposition parties must do serious soul-searching about this.

The impasse cannot be attributed only to the divided state of the Diet, with the opposition controlling the House of Councillors while the ruling camp has a majority in the House of Representatives.

As LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki has pointed out, imbroglios within the DPJ have hampered steering of state affairs.

There were some conspicuous instances of poor management of Diet affairs by the DPJ leadership during the session. For instance, the issue of Diet approval of personnel appointments for a nuclear regulatory commission has been left unrealized due to the DPJ's clumsy handling of the matter.

After the government decided on candidates for the chairman and other members of the commission, one objection after another arose within the DPJ. The party leadership, fearful of internal rebellion, postponed votes on the candidates in both the lower and upper chambers' plenary sessions. The DPJ should be criticized for lacking awareness of its duty to shore up the government.

Delay in launching the nuclear regulatory commission, which is to be in charge of revamping the administration for ensuring nuclear safety, can only raise more obstacles to resuming operations of idled nuclear power plants.

Under the circumstances, Noda has expressed his intention to appoint the commission's chairman and other members without Diet approval, based on a provision of the law for the establishment of the commission.

Such action is inevitable.


Opposition also culpable

Dealing with the problem of the disparity in the weight of votes in lower house elections, which the Supreme Court has ruled as being in a "state of unconstitutionality," has also been put off.

The DPJ's attempt to focus on a bill that it prepared unilaterally without any effort to obtain support from the opposition has only aggravated the problem.

But the opposition, too, should be held heavily responsible for throwing the Diet into confusion.

The opposition bloc passed censure motions against the prime minister and two other Cabinet members, subsequently boycotting Diet deliberations and stalling Diet business for a long period.

What the current opposition has done is much the same as what the DPJ did when it was in opposition. How long will opposition parties continue to engage in such futile showdowns with the government?

The opposition must refrain from using censure motions, which have no binding power, as means of political maneuvering.

The bill for issuing deficit-covering government bonds has been scrapped because of resistance from opposition parties.

As a result, the government has been unable to secure revenue sources for budgetary appropriations and has had to refrain from implementing parts of the budget, including allocation of tax grants to local governments. This is a situation that can adversely affect people's lives.

Both the ruling and opposition camps make a point of engaging in politicking for the sake of their own selfish interests. This must stop.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2012)
(2012年9月8日01時45分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月 8日 (土)

TPP交渉 参加表明の見送りを憂慮する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 8, 2012)
Japan must swiftly overcome its internal deadlock on TPP
TPP交渉 参加表明の見送りを憂慮する(9月7日付・読売社説)

How much longer does the government intend to put off participating in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord? It should hasten a political decision on the matter.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will likely put off expressing Japan's intention to take part in the TPP talks during the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum scheduled to start Saturday in Vladivostok.

At the APEC meeting last November in Hawaii, Noda announced Japan's policy of starting discussions with countries involved toward Japan's participation in the TPP talks. Since then, Japan has held negotiations with the nine other countries, including the United States.

Initially, Noda wanted to express Japan's intention to participate in the talks at the upcoming meeting in Russia. However, as some within the Democratic Party of Japan and agricultural organizations oppose Japan participating in the TPP talks, there has been little progress in reaching a consensus within the government and the ruling DPJ.

Wary that his power base might be shaken if he announced Japan's participation in the TPP talks, Noda has apparently had second thoughts about doing so.


Window of opportunity closing

Considering the required period for giving notice to the U.S. Congress, it is reckoned that Japan must express its intention to participate in the talks no later than this month if it is to start negotiating with the nine other countries this year. Thus, there is no longer any hope that Japan can take part in the talks in 2012. This is a worrisome development.

Meanwhile, it has become certain that Canada and Mexico will join the negotiations, bringing the participating countries to 11 and leaving slow-going Japan further behind.

U.S. President Barack Obama hopes to see the TPP negotiations concluded by the end of the year. Although that appears unlikely, the 11 participating countries are expected to hold talks in September and December, bringing the negotiations into full swing over the next year.

As things stand now, final-stage negotiations over such issues as eliminating or lowering tariffs and working out rules on trade and investment will accelerate without Japan. Should Japan take part in the talks only after the negotiations are settled, it will be unable to complain if it is subjected to unfavorable rules.

With domestic demand expected to contract due to a declining population, Japan needs to tap the vitality of other Asian countries through an expansion of free trade.

To use the TPP as a lever in this effort, it is essential for Japan to get involved in the TPP talks from the stage of formulating rules under the trade accord.


Hollowing-out may worsen

It is only reasonable for the business sector to criticize the government on that score. If the current situation continues, with businesses unable to enjoy the merits of economic partnership with other countries, companies will shift more of their production bases abroad, thus accelerating the hollowing-out of industry at home.

Prospects for the negotiations on a bilateral economic partnership agreement with South Korea and an envisaged Japan-South Korea-China free trade agreement, both of which Japan is aiming to achieve together with the TPP, appear uncertain at best, due chiefly to the latest confrontations over the Senkaku Islands and the Takeshima islands.

Meanwhile, we cannot expect any early realization of larger-scale free trade accords such as an envisioned extensive FTA involving 16 countries--the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, Australia, China, India, New Zealand and South Korea.

Japan must make the TPP free trade accord its top priority. Japan should shift into a proactive mode of quickly joining the talks and, while not giving in to China and South Korea on other issues, it must forge ahead in the bilateral talks with South Korea and in the three-way trade talks.

This is the strategy Japan must stubbornly pursue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2012)
(2012年9月7日01時50分  読売新聞)

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民・自の党首選 「決める政治」への道筋を語れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 8, 2012)
Party presidential candidates must show policy directions
民・自の党首選 「決める政治」への道筋を語れ(9月7日付・読売社説)

Preparations for the presidential elections of both the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party are gathering pace.

The president of the DPJ will be prime minister, but the president of the LDP may also take up the post, depending on the outcome of the next House of Representatives election, which is to be held "sometime soon."

Each party race must be fought over candidates' views on the nation as a state, their basic policies and their qualifications as a leader. There will be heated debates in which candidates need to take into account not only the positions of their rivals within their own party but also the positions of candidates in the other party.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will seek reelection in the DPJ presidential race, while Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, a member of the Noda Cabinet, has hinted at his intention to run, reversing his earlier stance that he would not. It now seems highly likely that the once almost certain prospect of Noda's reelection will be changed.

The LDP presidential race, meanwhile, appears to be a crowded field with the following figures expected to run: current LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara, former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and LDP Policy Research Council Acting Chairman Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Attention has been drawn to factions led by Makoto Koga and Machimura, as they may split over the question of whom to run from these factions.


3-party pacts key issue

One focal point in the two parties' elections is whether to maintain agreements reached by the DPJ, LDP and New Komeito over such issues as integrated reform of the social security and tax systems.

Neither the DPJ nor the LDP can change the divided Diet, where the lower house is controlled by the ruling camp and the House of Councillors is held by the opposition, until the next upper house election takes place.

Whether to cooperate to pass pending bills will be a point of contention. There is a growing number of tasks to be addressed, such as legislation to allow the issuance of deficit-covering bonds and to reform the lower house election system to rectify the disparity in the value of one vote.

In the DPJ, intraparty confrontation over differences in policy directions has eased since former party leader Ichiro Ozawa and others left the DPJ. If Noda is reelected, he will have no choice but to seek cooperation from the LDP and Komeito to form a consensus on policy.

Meanwhile, confrontation within the LDP has been increasingly prominent. Although Tanigaki and Ishihara promoted three-party cooperation with the DPJ and Komeito, Abe hopes to join hands with Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group) rather than the DPJ.

Which political forces to cooperate with is a key issue. Other possible candidates also should clarify their stance in this regard.


Deepen debates

Both parties must deepen their debates on policy issues to tackle the problems they are facing.

It is an urgent task to set the course for the nation's energy policy, which concerns such issues as restarting idled reactors at nuclear power plants. Whether to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework also will be a major issue.

We want to hear candidates' views on issues related to Japan's sovereignty and territories, as exemplified in the cases of the Senkaku Islands, Takeshima islands and northern territories. We also will pay attention to their views on exercising the right to collective self-defense, which is indispensable to deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Rival candidates to Noda and Tanigaki are emerging because their parties need to survive the next lower house election. It cannot be denied that the major focus in the two parties' elections is on who will become the party's face in the lower house election. But it is putting the cart before the horse if policy positions do not serve as the yardstick.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2012)
(2012年9月7日01時50分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月 7日 (金)

WBC出場 選手会の決定を歓迎したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 7, 2012)
Players made right choice on World Baseball Classic
WBC出場 選手会の決定を歓迎したい(9月6日付・読売社説)

The Nippon Professional Baseball Players Association has announced its decision to play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic--a move that will give us an opportunity to cheer for the Samurai Japan team for the third time in its quest for the world championship.

In making the decision, the union dropped its initial resolution to sit out the event, which will be held in March.

We welcome the association's decision.

The nation was energized when Samurai Japan won the inaugural 2006 competition and repeated as champions in 2009. Many baseball fans would be disappointed if they could not enjoy watching exciting games like those seen in the previous competitions.

"We believed our fans would like to watch games played by the national team," NPBPA chief Takahiro Arai of the Hanshin Tigers said of the union's decision. "We'd also like to play games wearing the uniform of the national team."

The WBC is now a rare chance for baseball players to compete on a global stage with their national flag on their uniforms because the sport has been dropped from the Olympics.


Good news all around

It is good to hear that the players association has reached a conclusion that pleases both its members and their fans.

The WBC will be organized by a company jointly set up by Major League Baseball of the United States and the Major League Baseball Players Association. Japan will be among the 28 countries and territories to participate in it.

The NPBPA had argued that it could not agree with a condition under which the Japanese team would not get revenues for carrying its sponsors' names on uniforms and helmets.

Nippon Professional Baseball has negotiated with the WBC organizers and obtained recognition of the right to carry the sponsors' logos as long as they are not used along with the WBC logo during the event period. This decision promoted the NPBPA to change its mind.

It can be said that Japan's participation is indispensable to WBC organizers for promoting the event as it won the first two tournaments.

If Japan had sat out the upcoming WBC, it would surely have left a rift between Japanese and U.S. baseball.

Even though Japanese baseball officials find some fault in the way the WBC is organized, it is wise to participate in the event to boost its influence and its ability to call for improvements from within.


A move toward the Olympics

It is necessary for the WBC participants to work together to make the tournament bigger so that baseball can become even more global. It is important for them to expand the pool of amateur players and improve the level of baseball in each country and region. These efforts will help the sport make a comeback in the Olympics.

Players will be selected to form the Samurai Japan team for the upcoming WBC. We're looking forward to seeing which members the team will consist of.

Making the national team will be a new goal for professional players toward the end of this year's season. During the WBC, we hope that not only members playing in the domestic leagues, but also those who belong to the major leagues will prove themselves by turning in a fascinating performance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 6, 2012)
(2012年9月6日01時33分  読売新聞)

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尖閣国有化へ 安定管理への具体的方策を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 7, 2012)
Govt should work out specifics for stable control of Senkakus
尖閣国有化へ 安定管理への具体的方策を(9月6日付・読売社説)

The government's decision to place the Senkaku Islands under state control is a step toward stably maintaining and controlling the islets.

The government reportedly has agreed with the owner of three of the islands--Uotsurijima, Kita-kojima and Minami-kojima--that it will purchase them. The money to buy them, totaling about 2.05 billion yen, is likely to be procured from a reserve fund.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's proactive steps to jump-start the purchase negotiations with the owner apparently prompted the central government, which had been dragging its feet on the issue, to make such a move. Ishihara has expressed his willingness to accept state control of the islands and hand over to the central government more than 1.4 billion yen that was donated to the Tokyo metropolitan government to buy them.

The central government sold the islands to the private sector 80 years ago, and the ownership has changed hands since then. We highly regard efforts to put the islands back under state control as it will end the current instability connected with private ownership.

The government has leased the three islets from the current owner and placed them under its effective control. It has since conducted minimum administrative work for the islets by restricting entry to government officials and other such parties.


Consideration for China

Such a hesitant stance was taken apparently because the government did not want to provoke China, which also claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands.

However, China's fishery patrol boats have repeatedly engaged in provocative acts near the Senkakus. Public criticism against Japan has also grown in China over the issue.

Japan needs not only to renovate a lighthouse and protect the environment on the islands but also to draw up measures to protect its sovereignty and further tighten its effective control of the islands.

Ishihara and the city government of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, which has jurisdiction over the islands, have called on the central government to build facilities there, such as port facilities that can shelter fishing boats during bad weather and a radio relay station for fishing vessels. The central government should look into the validity of such calls and, if necessary, consider working out the details.

We believe it would be reasonable for the central government to cooperate with the Tokyo metropolitan government, which has the know-how to manage remote islands such as the Ogasawara Islands.


Strengthen sea surveillance

Meanwhile, the nation needs to strengthen the Japan Coast Guard's policing system and its authority to beef up surveillance of the Senkaku Islands. A bill to revise the Japan Coast Guard Law, which was approved during the current Diet session, is part of such efforts.

Previously, when foreigners landed illegally on the Senkakus, police officers had to come all the way from neighboring islets. But under the revised law, JCG officers will be allowed to arrest such intruders.

Also, we must not forget the importance of the U.S. military's deterrence. If the military's new Osprey transport aircraft is deployed in Okinawa Prefecture, the mobility of U.S. marines will be improved, raising hopes of holding China in check.

Anti-Japan activists based in Hong Kong reportedly have vowed to make an unauthorized landing on the Senkakus again in October. If Hong Kong authorities allow them to set out for the islands, the Japan-China relationship would worsen and the move would go against China's own interests.

If Japanese and Chinese leaders hold a summit meeting on the sideline of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit talks this weekend, they should discuss the future bilateral relationship from a broad point of view.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 6, 2012)
(2012年9月6日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月 6日 (木)

二重ローン問題 救済策の活用を加速させたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 6, 2012)
Use financial relief systems to help people with 'double loans'
二重ローン問題 救済策の活用を加速させたい(9月5日付・読売社説)

Helping people saddled with "double loans"--those who borrowed money before the Great East Japan Earthquake and again after the disaster to rebuild their homes or companies--is taking too long.

This is because relief measures, such as repayment exemptions or reductions, have not been extensively used.

The government and the banking industry should step up their efforts to find a solution to the multiple loan problem.

Many disaster sufferers now living in temporary housing are still repaying loans for homes that were swept away by the massive tsunami triggered by the earthquake.

Last year, the government started a new support system for disaster victims who want to make a fresh start after paying off their previous loans. The system is based on the Guidelines for Individual Debtor Out-of-Court Workouts.

Negotiating with financial institutions on a debt exemption or reduction can be a difficult process for an individual. Under the system, the central government provides subsidies for debtors, including those to help cover lawyer's fees, thereby supporting debtors in negotiations with financial institutions and with legal procedures.

A man in Miyagi Prefecture, who owed 27 million yen, repaid 8 million yen by selling his home, which had been rendered unlivable, and was exempted from repaying the remaining 19 million yen to a financial institution. This case shows that the system--when it works smoothly--it can be a huge help to debtors.


Few applicants

But the problem is that this system has not been used widely. In the year since last August, when applications were first accepted, consultations were sought on about 2,500 cases and only 70 of them were resolved. The number of consultations fell far below the government's one-year projection of 10,000.

Businesses have two support systems available--one under the jurisdiction of the Reconstruction Agency, and the other through the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. In both systems, a public entity purchases loan claims from a financial institution and sets a certain grace period for repayment to give reconstruction a nudge in the right direction. However, support has been extended in fewer than 50 cases.

Complicated procedures and strict conditions for approval are suspected to have hampered wide use of these systems. The government must examine closely where problems lie.


Lack of publicity to blame

One reason could be that the details and advantages of the support systems are not well known. The government and organizations concerned should do more to publicize the systems.

Many small and midsize firms are said to have reservations about using the systems out of fear they will become unable to borrow money from financial institutions if they cause trouble on repayment reductions and other matters.

We suggest that financial institutions explain to customers they will not be treated unfavorably even if they apply for these support systems. If disaster sufferers use the systems, it will accelerate the resuscitation of local economies and benefit financial institutions in the long term.

The Law Concerning Temporary Measures to Facilitate Financing for Small and Medium-size Enterprises, which provides a repayment moratorium for unprofitable companies, will expire next March. Given this, small and midsize firms in disaster-affected areas might find it even more difficult to secure funds.

The double loan problem needs to be resolved--urgently.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 5, 2012)
(2012年9月5日01時07分  読売新聞)

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再処理稼働へ 「原発ゼロ」は青森への背信だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 6, 2012)
'Zero nuclear' policy would betray Aomori govt on reprocessing plant
再処理稼働へ 「原発ゼロ」は青森への背信だ(9月5日付・読売社説)

Japan is aiming to achieve a nuclear fuel cycle that can reuse the spent fuel generated from nuclear power plants.

The reprocessing plant being constructed by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, would be an essential part of this policy, and one major challenge for starting operations at the plant has been overcome.

The construction of the plant began in 1993 and has cost more than 2 trillion yen so far.

The process of vitrifying highly radioactive waste to allow for stable storage had been difficult in the final experimental stages, but test operations have finally succeeded and the plant will be finished after the government completes safety checks and other necessary steps have been taken.

The plant is meant to contribute to the efficient use of uranium resources and reduce radioactive waste. We believe it should be put into use as soon as possible.

However, the meandering discussions occurring in the government and ruling Democratic Party of Japan over the shift away from nuclear power are cause for concern. The question of whether the reprocessing plant will ever be started is now up in the air.


Immediate consequences

If the "zero nuclear" policy, currently seen as a leading option in the government's Energy and Environment Council, were adopted, the path to reusing spent nuclear waste would be barred. Operating the reprocessing plant would be meaningless.

The about 3,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel that has already been transferred from nuclear plants around the country to Rokkasho would have no place to go.

The Aomori prefectural government has demanded, in line with a memorandum exchanged with Japan Nuclear Fuel, that if the plant is not made operational, the spent fuel must be taken back by the power companies operating nuclear plants.

If this happened, all of the nation's nuclear plants would be filled to capacity with returned spent fuel, which would leave no room even to bring in new nuclear fuel to run the plants. Under such circumstances, no local government would consent to restarting a suspended nuclear reactor.

This could result in immediate confusion, well ahead of the future goal of "zero nuclear power."

Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura last month submitted a request to the government urging it to show a "realistic and feasible policy course," and questioned the wisdom of the "zero nuclear" option. The governor described the nuclear fuel cycle as "an essential policy to support a nation lacking in natural resources."


Govt owes Aomori answer

The governor's requests were apparently aimed at urging the government and the DPJ not to casually adopt the "zero nuclear" policy. We think the governor was quite right to express such views. The government should respond sincerely.

Reprocessing technology is a right granted to Japan as an exception by the United States, which is sensitive about nuclear proliferation, under the Japan-U.S. Nuclear Energy Agreement. This right would be lost with the "zero nuclear" policy.

Nuclear technologies that have been nurtured would surely wane, and no new human resources in this industry would be developed.

Recycling spent nuclear fuel under strict controls would also be helpful in preventing the fuel from being converted for military use.

China, South Korea and other countries are expanding their use of nuclear power. We believe the "zero nuclear" option would undermine Japan's voice in the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 5, 2012)
(2012年9月5日01時07分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月 5日 (水)

もうじき七五三です 記念写真は結婚写真で評判のスタジオシモムラで!









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大阪維新の会 大衆迎合的な公約が気になる

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 5, 2012)
Osaka Ishin no Kai's populist pledges a cause of concern
大阪維新の会 大衆迎合的な公約が気になる(9月4日付・読売社説)

The question of whether the election pledges of Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group) are feasible cannot be dispelled.

The group recently unveiled the final version of its policy statement for the next House of Representatives election. The policy statement is dubbed "Ishin Hassaku" (eight-point policy platform).

Osaka Ishin no Kai plans to form a new party in the middle of this month with participation of at least five incumbent Diet members. Sixteen percent of respondents to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey said they would vote for Osaka Ishin no Kai in proportional representation contests of the next lower house election, following the largest group--21 percent--who said they would vote for the Liberal Democratic Party. Osaka Ishin no Kai is likely to be at the eye of the storm in the election.

Some points of Osaka Ishin no Kai's election pledges are commendable. For example, it says Japan should join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework.

On the other hand, some pledges that seem to have come off the top of their heads are conspicuous. "Halving the number of seats in the lower house" is one example. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who heads Osaka Ishin no Kai, said it is necessary to make lawmakers think about the country as a whole, including foreign policies and security, by expanding electoral districts through integration of single-seat constituencies.


Seat cuts easier said than done

However, it would be extremely difficult politically to realize this idea under the current divided Diet. In fact, the Democratic Party of Japan still has not been able to fulfill its pledge to eliminate 80 lower house seats allocated under proportional representation. It is understandable if Osaka Ishin no Kai's ideas are mid- and long-term proposals, but it should be cautious about making the ideas campaign pledges.

Making the consumption tax a local tax and abolishing distribution of tax revenues to local governments, which is entailed by the former, are also open to question.

Given the harsh reality of state finances, how could it be possible, if consumption tax revenues are allocated to local governments, to cover social security costs, which are increasing by as much as about 1 trillion yen every year?

Osaka Ishin no Kai also needs to clarify whether it supports laws for integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, which were enacted based on an agreement between the DPJ, the LDP and New Komeito.

Tax revenues allocated to local governments help adjust the disparities among local governments' finances. Hashimoto said how to handle the situation after tax allocations to local governments are abolished will be left to coordination among local governments and a third-party committee. However, it will not be so easy.


Nuclear power stand dubious

As for economic policies, Osaka Ishin no Kai stresses "strengthening competitiveness" and calls for "building a system to end dependence on nuclear power generation." However, if the country moves away from nuclear power, energy costs will surge, and this could accelerate the hollowing-out of domestic industries. It should be explained how a growth strategy and an end to dependence on nuclear power generation can be compatible.

As a basic policy, Osaka Ishin no Kai stipulated in its policy statement the introduction of a system to elect prime ministers by popular vote, which requires a constitutional amendment.

Israel once introduced this system but eventually abolished it after politics were thrown into turmoil. Osaka Ishin no Kai said it will prevent the system from becoming something like a popularity vote, but we doubt whether this is possible.

It is worrisome that Osaka Ishin no Kai, which claims it "will change Japan's system," presents these pledges in a highly populist tone.

In the previous lower house election in 2009, the DPJ set out an array of policies aimed at appealing to the public and pledging that it would be able to squeeze out a hefty 16.8 trillion yen in fiscal resources by rearranging the state budget. This has since caused considerable confusion and should be taken as a lesson.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2012)
(2012年9月4日01時19分  読売新聞)

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漂流がれき 日本は処理に積極的な支援を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 5, 2012)
Japan must help dispose of debris floating across Pacific
漂流がれき 日本は処理に積極的な支援を(9月4日付・読売社説)

Debris swept away by the tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake last year has started washing ashore along the Pacific coast of North America. The amount of debris arriving on this coastline is expected to spike from October.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Monday the government "will devise measures as soon as possible" to dispose of this debris. This is the natural course of action.

Japan must step up efforts to study what assistance it should provide to the United States and Canada to deal with this debris.

The Environment Ministry estimates 5 million tons of wreckage was dragged out to sea from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. Of this, 1.5 million tons is believed to be adrift on the ocean, rather than sinking to the seabed. Much of this is said to be the remnants of destroyed houses.

A soccer ball belonging to a primary school student in Miyagi Prefecture was found on a beach in Alaska. This was among several heartwarming stories reported in connection with debris drifting from northeastern Japan.


Big problem for U.S., Canada

But if debris begins washing ashore in great quantities, disposing of it will certainly become a major headache for U.S. and Canadian states on the Pacific Coast.

Some estimates suggest the debris could keep turning up for several years. The state government of Oregon has already earmarked a budget to deal with it.

There are no international rules stipulating how to dispose of debris that washes ashore after drifting across the sea. Conventionally, getting rid of the debris would be undertaken by the country where it came ashore. So the Japanese government is not officially obliged to get involved in disposing of this debris.

Even so, Japan should not stand aloof. After all, it is the origin of this unprecedentedly huge quantity of debris. Actively helping with debris disposal would be a display of gratitude for the assistance provided by the United States and other nations after the March 11, 2011, disaster.

We think the government should hold frequent consultations with its U.S. and Canadian counterparts on this issue, including talks on sharing disposal costs.


Precise projections crucial

The most pressing task for the time being is to use satellites and other methods to determine as precisely as possible how much debris will come ashore, and when and where this will happen.

Analyzing the data will require more detailed exchanges of information between experts from the countries concerned. This acquired data must be shared by the affected nations to help them work out concrete measures for cleaning up coastal areas.

There are fears washed-up debris could bring various problems.

Authorities must remain vigilant to ensure the debris does not endanger vessels sailing in these waters. There is the possibility that Japanese sea life on the debris could propagate after coming ashore and seriously affect local ecosystems as alien species.

The government must put systems in place that can react promptly to every conceivable eventuality.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2012)
(2012年9月4日01時19分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月 4日 (火)

大学生と就職 学んだ成果も評価する採用に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 4, 2012)
Assess academic results when hiring graduates
大学生と就職 学んだ成果も評価する採用に(9月3日付・読売社説)

Do recent survey findings suggest the title of "university graduate" will no longer assure a recent graduate of a job?

According to a basic survey on schools taken recently by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, 128,000 of those who graduated from universities this spring have not found steady employment.

This means about 20 percent of university graduates--560,000 in all, including 76,000 who went on to graduate school--have either taken a nonregular or part-time job, or have yet to decide on their future.

It is quite natural for the education ministry to be concerned, saying, "This is an extremely serious situation that needs to be rectified."

The job market continues to be dismal amid the prolonged stagnant economy. On the other hand, there is a strong tendency among students to try to secure employment in a well-known company. As a result, there remains the problem of a mismatch between graduating students and the small and midsize companies hoping to hire them.

Many students who apparently failed to secure a position gave up their job-hunting activities halfway through the recruiting season.


Universities must help more

We hope all universities and colleges vigorously continue extending support for and offering advice on job-hunting activities by utilizing counters set up by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in Hello Work job placement offices to help new graduates find jobs.

It should also be kept in mind that universities need to help students acquire skills and competence for the real world during their four-year education.

The Central Council for Education has compiled a report calling for an increase in the number of study hours for students, as part of university reform.

The council has pointed out that university students study for an average of 4.6 hours daily, including class hours. This is only about half of the study hours the education ministry expected.

As long as students attend classes only passively, it will be difficult for them to acquire either the thinking skills to tackle various problems, or the creative skills to develop innovative technology, both of which are necessary in the real world.


Update curricula, methods

It is quite reasonable for the business community, which will hire these graduates, to be skeptical of the current state of university education.

The council also recommends universities increase interactive, discussion-based classes, rather than having one-way lectures in large classrooms, while working on comprehensive syllabus planning to stimulate students' intellectual curiosity.

Universities have to improve their quality of education by carrying out these recommendations.

Universities need to clearly indicate their criteria for scholastic evaluation, and strictly certify students' qualifications and ability to advance to the next grade or graduate.

It is also essential for the business community to make its own efforts.

Presently, many businesses do not give weight to students' academic performance or their specialities when hiring graduates.

If they assess these elements more thoroughly when recruiting, students would probably be more motivated to study hard while in college.

As students often have to spend a lot of time job-hunting and visiting prospective employers, they tend to neglect their studies.

To correct the current situation, it is also necessary to shorten companies' job-hunting period for graduating students.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 3, 2012)
(2012年9月3日01時17分  読売新聞)

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米大統領選 ロムニー氏の再生策は本物か

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 4, 2012)
Is Mitt Romney the answer to U.S. economic, fiscal problems?
米大統領選 ロムニー氏の再生策は本物か(9月3日付・読売社説)

There are just over two months left until the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 6.

The Republican Party, aiming to reclaim the office after a four-year absence, held its national convention in the state of Florida last week and officially nominated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as its president and House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as its vice president.

In his acceptance speech, Romney sharply criticized U.S. President Barack Obama's administration for its mismanagement of the country. He pledged to rebuild the struggling U.S. economy to "restore the promise of America," an apparent dig at Obama.

Romney is a "small government" advocate, a policy line that would attempt to boost the economy with a variety of tax cuts and regulatory easing while drastically cutting back on federal spending, including social security programs.

For instance, he pledged to make the United States energy self-sufficient, expand trade, create 12 million jobs through assistance to small and midsize businesses, slash the nation's huge fiscal deficit, oppose cuts to the defense budget and abolish Obama's reform of the health care system.


Obama under pressure

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party does not see defense spending as untouchable when cutting expenditures to rebuild government finances.

The party has staked out a position that, as much as possible, will not cut federal spending for the underprivileged, including low-income earners and senior citizens, and emphasize correcting income disparities.

However, the U.S. economy has been stuck in slow gear, and reverberations from the debt crisis in Europe have made its future uncertain. The U.S. unemployment rate has never gone below the 7.8 percent mark it stood at when Obama took office. Recently, it has hovered between 8 percent and 8.5 percent.

The U.S. fiscal deficit has exceeded 1 trillion dollars for four straight years. Obama needs effective policies to quickly boost the economy, as well as restore the health of government finances in the medium- and long-term.

Although Romney claims he could do both, simultaneously cutting taxes drastically and reducing the country's huge debt seems incompatible. He needs to clearly state what steps he would take to cut the federal deficit without losing tax revenue. This will undoubtedly be a major issue in the remainder of the campaign.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is scheduled to kick off its national convention in the state of North Carolina on Tuesday, where it is expected to stress party unity during the march toward Obama's reelection.


Parties agree on Asian issues

Recent polls have shown Obama and Romney in a dead heat. The three debates between the presidential candidates to be held in October will be major opportunities to determine the course of this close contest. We hope Obama and Romney have frank and heated discussions on the economy, diplomacy and defense policy.

Both parties call the United States a Pacific nation and value its relations with Asian countries, and both agree the United States should work toward completing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

The two parties also share the view that the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region should be maintained under U.S. leadership. This is an ideal course also for Japan as a U.S. ally.

The result of the U.S. presidential election will affect Japan's domestic and foreign policies. We will keep a close eye on Obama and Romney's battle over policies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 3, 2012)
(2012年9月3日01時17分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月 3日 (月)

これで妻の長年の悩みも解消 黒ずみ・シミ・保湿ケア用の専用ジェル



サイトで偶然発見したのは、黒ずみ・シミ・保湿ケア用の専用ジェル 薬用アットベリー です。


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中国大使車襲撃 容疑者の「英雄」扱いを憂える

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 3, 2012)
China shouldn't treat suspects in car attack like heroes
中国大使車襲撃 容疑者の「英雄」扱いを憂える(9月2日付・読売社説)

We hope the Chinese government will take appropriate actions to prevent the recurrence of an incident that insulted Japan.

An official car carrying Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa was attacked recently in Beijing, and the Japanese national flag on it was stolen. Chinese authorities have identified four suspects, including one woman, but the authorities have just been questioning them without detention.

This incident seems to have been caused by rising anti-Japanese sentiment within China, which was ignited by Hong Kong activists illegally landing on the Senkaku Islands. Stealing the Japanese national flag is nothing but a blatant insult to this country.

Responding to a protest by the Japanese government, Beijing said the incident was extremely regrettable, and it would do its best to prevent similar incidents in the future and take stern actions as required by its laws.


Effects of patriotic education

However, an opinion survey conducted by a Chinese portal site on the Internet showed that 80 percent of respondents supported the attack on the Japanese ambassador's car. It is alarming for Japan that many people praised the attack, calling the suspects "heroes."

There is a slogan in China that a patriotic act should not be considered a crime. However, it is certainly a problem that the destruction of Japanese cars and restaurants by anti-Japan demonstrators is virtually permitted in that nation.

We must point out that the strong effects on young people of the patriotic education by Chinese authorities are behind the radicalization of the opinions they express on the Internet due to anti-Japanese sentiment.

Both Japan and China should understand that they are close neighbors separated only by a narrow strip of water, and that they are very important partners not only economically but also in many other fields. It should be stressed that the latest incident and repeated anti-Japanese demonstrations are simply unproductive.

We also cannot overlook the fact that many friendship events scheduled to be held in China had to be postponed or canceled due to rising tensions over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands.


Mutually beneficial relations

To improve bilateral relations, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda recently sent a personal letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao. Parliamentary Senior Foreign Vice Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi met Friday in Beijing with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo, a political heavyweight in charge of foreign affairs who is close to Hu, and handed Noda's letter to him.

In the letter, Noda stressed that Japan and China should deepen their strategic and mutually beneficial relations. To develop relations further, it is important to have close communications between high-level government officials, the letter also said.

Noda apparently sees improvement of the bilateral relationship as a matter of urgency. How will Hu respond to Noda's letter?

Japan and China will mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of their diplomatic relations at the end of this month. Tokyo and Beijing are considering arranging talks between their leaders on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum scheduled to be held in Vladivostok early this month.

Japanese and Chinese leaders must try to rebuild the relations between their nations by holding numerous discussions from a broader perspective and in a calm manner.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 2, 2012)
(2012年9月2日01時45分  読売新聞)

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認知症急増 在宅ケアの態勢作りが重要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 3, 2012)
Promote at-home care for dementia sufferers
認知症急増 在宅ケアの態勢作りが重要だ(9月2日付・読売社説)

As the number of elderly people suffering from dementia continues to rise rapidly, it is crucial for all sectors of society to create a system that will enable such people to live at home.

According to estimates released on Aug. 24 by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, more than 3 million elderly people across the country suffer from dementia. This is one out of every 10 people aged 65 or older.

The ministry estimates the figure will reach 4.7 million in 2025. The growth in the number of the aged with dementia is alarmingly faster than projected.

The faster pace is due both to the rapid graying of society and to the increased number of people who are examined and diagnosed because of successful programs to raise awareness of the problem.

Advanced dementia can lead to such symptoms as wandering away, incontinence and even violence.

In many cases, family members of people suffering from dementia have become physically and mentally exhausted taking care of them and have opted to put them into mental hospitals. Such hospitalization tends to be long-term, averaging two years and seven months.


Support teams envisaged

The symptoms of people suffering from dementia are often aggravated after hospitalization, apparently due to such causes as changes in living environment and inadequate medication.

It is necessary to shift the priority in supporting elderly dementia patients from hospitals to home care.

Sixty percent of the approximately 52,000 people currently hospitalized with dementia could be discharged if arrangements were put in place to support them, including a system to promote home care.

Those who are hospitalized for dementia must feel frustrated that they cannot be at home, where they accustomed to being.

To help avoid longtime hospitalization of dementia patients, the health ministry plans to implement a new set of measures to promote their care at home, starting in fiscal 2013.

Under the program, the ministry will set up support teams nationwide that will comprise such experts as nurses, public health nurses and rehabilitation therapists for intensive care of people in the early stages of cognitive decline.

The support teams will visit the homes of the elderly to hear from them and their family members, while providing suggestions about how to deal with dementia symptoms at home.

In Britain, where a similar system was introduced in 2009, the number of people hospitalized for dementia has begun to decrease sharply. We hope to see such a favorable effect in this country, too.


Securing personnel urgent

To deal with elderly people with advanced dementia, the ministry plans to designate about 300 medical institutions as dementia centers. To facilitate quick responses to urgent requests from the families of dementia sufferers, the ministry is studying ways to enable doctors to make house calls on short notice.

The biggest obstacle to such measures remains a shortage of personnel. It is a matter of urgency to secure medical doctors, nurses and caregivers who are well versed in caring for patients with dementia.

Securing budgetary appropriations needed to implement the envisioned programs is also difficult.

Although people suffering from senile dementia tend to be viewed as unable to perform everyday activities, in many cases they remain emotionally stable and can engage in a range of activities.

Many people with dementia serve as volunteer workers, hoping to help others in spite of their own problems.

People providing medical and nursing care to those with dementia are urged to pay due attention to them to help them live in a way suited to their needs.

Efforts in local communities to establish frameworks that will facilitate helping the aged are also important.

To this end, some local governments have taken the initiative in enhancing support for the elderly, such as encouraging members of shopping district associations to learn about dementia.

Attention should be paid to such examples.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 2, 2012)
(2012年9月2日01時45分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月 2日 (日)

スマホ特許訴訟 米韓2強対決に影薄い日本勢

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 2, 2012)
Japanese firms pale compared to dueling U.S., ROK giants
スマホ特許訴訟 米韓2強対決に影薄い日本勢(9月1日付・読売社説)

A patent war, the largest of its kind in the world, is being fought between giant U.S. and South Korean smartphone manufacturers.

We refer to the lawsuits U.S. technology titan Apple Inc. has filed against South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co., arguing Samsung has infringed Apple patents involving the technology and designs of its iPhone and other hit products. The California-based technology giant has demanded that provisional injunctions be issued ordering Samsung to pay damages for patent infringement and remove its products from store shelves.

The ruling handed down by the Tokyo District Court on Friday rejected the patent claims Apple made against Samsung, awarding the South Korean maker a victory.

Prior to the Tokyo District Court decision, a U.S. federal district court jury in late August ruled that Samsung had infringed Apple patents and handed down a verdict fully in favor of the latter. The jury's verdict ordered Samsung to pay 1.5 billion dollars (about 82.6 billion yen) in damages to Apple.

The opposing decisions in the Apple-Samsung court battles in the United States and Japan may be partly attributable to differences in the points under dispute in the two countries.


Samsung tops market

The two firms have been fighting patent suits in 10 countries around the world.

A judge in South Korea handed down a split decision, saying Apple and Samsung have both infringed each other's patents, while a German court awarded a victory to Apple. Judicial rulings over patent infringement in the Apple-Samsung global court battle vary considerably in different countries.

Apple initially took the lead in the world's smartphone market, on the strength of the iPhone's high popularity. Samsung subsequently caught up with Apple, rapidly expanding its sales to currently have the most smartphone sales in the world, with Apple ranking second.

Apple plans to market new iPhone models this coming autumn. Samsung will also put new models on the market, most likely adding fuel to the already intense competition between the two.

One focus of attention in the lawsuits is whether the marketing of Samsung products will actually be prohibited in the wake of court decisions favoring Apple in the United States and elsewhere.

Given that both Samsung and Apple are expected to appeal court rulings unfavorable to them, the battles will likely be protracted.

As time passes, the products involved in the litigation will become outdated, and provisional injunctions to stop marketing them will likely have only a limited effect on the firms' business performance.

Samsung smartphones rely on Google Inc.'s Android operating software technology, and it should be noted that the series of court battles between Samsung and Apple can be seen as a "proxy war" between Apple and Google.


Japan firms must take offensive

Apple is poised to lodge legal complaints against companies other than Samsung that use the Android technology, apparently in a bid to check the Android-dependent bloc of firms. This move may become a catalyst that will eventually lead to major changes in the competitive landscape of the world smartphone market.

In the rapidly growing global markets for smartphones and multifunction tablet computers, the presence of Japanese manufacturers is markedly weak.

This is in stark contrast to Apple, the current aggregate value of which has reached a level equivalent to 50 trillion yen, and Samsung, which has also captured the world's No. 1 position in sales of flat screen TVs and other electronic products.

Of key significance to Japanese companies' efforts to regain their international competitiveness and recoup lost ground is effective use of their intellectual property rights, including patents.

It is indispensable for Japanese firms to redouble their efforts to pioneer new markets with high growth potential, by going on the offensive and taking initiative in carving out new business frontiers.

In light of the legal war between the strong U.S. and South Korean firms, Japanese companies should be courageous enough to energize themselves to recast their business strategies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 1, 2012)
(2012年9月1日01時26分  読売新聞)

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日朝予備協議 金正恩体制に「拉致」打開促せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 2, 2012)
Govt should press N. Korea's new leader on abductions
日朝予備協議 金正恩体制に「拉致」打開促せ(9月1日付・読売社説)

Can preliminary talks between Japan and North Korea become a step toward resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea? The government should patiently deepen a dialogue with the country to break the stalemate on the issue.

During division chief-level preliminary consultations in Beijing on Friday, the two countries agreed to discuss a "broad range of issues that interest both sides," and bureau chief-level talks are scheduled to be held in the Chinese capital later this month.

Although the countries did not explicitly agree on it, it stands to reason that the abduction issue, which Japan has called on North Korea to discuss, will be put on the agenda in the higher-level talks.

Such abductions are criminal acts by a state and violate human rights and national sovereignty. North Korea's claim that the abduction issue has already been resolved is totally unacceptable. The government should do everything in its power to enable all the abductees to return home.

In August 2008, North Korea agreed during working-level bilateral talks in Shenyang, China, to launch a committee to reinvestigate the abductions "soon." But Pyongyang unilaterally put off the reinvestigation, and the bilateral talks on the matter were suspended.

However, the issue of repatriating the remains of about 21,600 Japanese who died in North Korea in the closing days of or shortly after World War II prompted the two governments to hold talks for the first time in four years. North Korea has showed a positive attitude toward visits to the graves of such people by their Japanese families.


Kim seen asserting own style

Such developments appear to be partly attributable to North Korea's new regime under Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea. The chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army, regarded as a key mentor to the young leader, was removed from all posts. The move fueled speculation that Kim dismissed him to assert his own style of leadership.

We suspect Kim is trying to persuade Japan and other countries to lift economic sanctions against his nation and provide economic assistance to alleviate its food crisis.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has reportedly obtained various kinds of information on the abductees through unofficial channels.

Jin Matsubara, state minister in charge of the abduction issue, takes North Korea's recent moves positively.

Kenji Fujimoto, who was a chef for late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, reportedly mentioned Megumi Yokota, one of the abductees, and directly asked Kim Jong Un to allow her and other abductees to return home when he visited Pyongyang in July and August at the invitation of the young leader. Matsubara said raising the abduction issue with the leader is very significant.


Develop momentum

The challenge now is how to link such developments to the resolution of issues of concern, such as the abductions and the repatriation of remains.

At the three-day preliminary meeting this week, Japanese and North Korean government officials reportedly touched upon the fact that Sept. 17 will mark the 10th anniversary of summit talks between then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Kim Jong Il.

During the meeting, the late North Korean leader admitted his country had abducted Japanese people and apologized for the first time. And we should not forget that North Korea signed the Pyongyang Declaration in which both sides confirmed they would abide by international agreements related to the nuclear issue.

The government needs to elicit sincere responses from North Korea. To this end, we urge the government to devise a thorough strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 1, 2012)
(2012年9月1日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2012年9月 1日 (土)

火災保険の口コミ情報サイトを検証する 火災共済を選んだ40代男性の声





火災共済の口コミ情報 で予備知識を仕入れました。

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南海トラフ地震 減災対策を着実に進めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 1, 2012)
Disaster-preparedness measures must be steadily pushed forward
南海トラフ地震 減災対策を着実に進めたい(8月31日付・読売社説)

Measures to prepare for and minimize damage from a gigantic earthquake and tsunami must be implemented unwaveringly.

Two Cabinet Office expert panels released damage predictions Wednesday regarding a potential "Nankai Trough Earthquake," a severe tremor caused by multiple concurrent or sequential earthquakes--likely involving what are known as Tokai, Tonankai or Nankai quakes--centered in the Nankai Trough that stretches from off Shizuoka Prefecture down to Shikoku and Kyushu.

If the sea bottom shifts off this wide stretch of shoreline from the Tokai region down to Kyushu, a huge earthquake up to magnitude 9 on the Richter scale could take place. Such a temblor could leave as many as 323,000 people dead, the estimates stated.

The most lethal recorded earthquake in Japan to date was the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which claimed the lives of more than 105,000 people.

Under the expert panels' projections, fatalities from a tsunami caused by a Nankai Trough Earthquake could hit 230,000, accounting for 70 percent of the deaths caused by the disaster. Such colossal fatalities would be due to tsunami more than five meters high on average striking 124 cities, towns and villages in Tokyo and 12 prefectures.


Quick evacuation key

Fatalities from earthquake-related damage such as collapsing buildings could reach a maximum of 82,000, according to the estimates.

Such a situation would be a national crisis.

Based on these projections, the central and relevant local governments must cooperate in planning effective countermeasures, such as securing sufficient evacuation routes and facilities.

The probability of such a megaquake actually occurring is, of course, rather slim.

In the course of the panel discussions, some experts expressed concern that local governments would simply give up on formulating effective countermeasures in the face of the enormous damage estimates associated with the strongest possible earthquake.

However, the most bitter lesson among many drawn from the Great East Japan Earthquake is that past projections of earthquake damage were too mild and disaster preparations were far from sufficient.

Taking this into account, the expert panels released a set of specific steps they recommend be taken to reduce damage from a disaster.

For instance, if all residents of the areas affected by an earthquake begin evacuating within 10 minutes after the tremor hits, the number of fatalities due to tsunami could be reduced by 80 percent, the experts claimed. Their report stressed the importance of quick evacuation in the earliest possible phase of the disaster.

Also, if 100 percent of buildings met the earthquake-resistance requirements under the Building Standards Law instead of the current 76 percent, fatalities from collapsed buildings in the earthquake would also be cut by roughly 80 percent, the expert panels stated.


Industrial complexes in danger

Achieving these two steps would reduce fatalities to 61,000, about one-fifth of the maximum projected 323,000 victims. This figure should serve as a good reference for the national and local entities crafting disaster-preparedness measures.

However, given the severe state of the government's finances, undertaking the large-scale public works projects necessary to prepare for such a disaster, such as building sea walls, will be difficult.

Under the circumstances, we believe priority should be placed on programs that can be implemented immediately, such as designating buildings to be used as shelters and improving disaster drills.

The areas that would be devastated by a megaquake include zones thick with industrial sites. Quick to realize the possible danger, an increasing number of companies have begun taking such steps as moving offices and plants to higher ground and setting up their own disaster shelters.

We urge the government to provide support for small and midsized companies, which tend to be slow in taking action to prepare for disasters.

The government has hammered out plans for a special law that would accelerate construction of facilities needed to reduce disaster-related damage in areas susceptible to large earthquakes.

The government is also reported to have plans in the works to expand areas covered by earthquake-forecasting networks to address a possible Tokai Earthquake.

However, some have criticized these plans, saying there is no way to predict earthquakes. We hope in-depth discussions will be held regarding any legislation to be drafted on the matter, including whether such skepticism over earthquake forecasting is warranted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2012)
(2012年8月31日01時19分  読売新聞)

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韓国提訴拒否 竹島はやはり国際裁判が筋だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 1, 2012)
Take Takeshima row to ICJ despite South Korea's refusal
韓国提訴拒否 竹島はやはり国際裁判が筋だ(8月31日付・読売社説)

It is crucial for the government to persist in its attempt to resolve the dispute with South Korea over the Takeshima islands at the International Court of Justice.

South Korea recently delivered a letter to Japan officially refusing Tokyo's proposal to jointly refer the two nations' territorial dispute over the islands, which are a part of Shimane Prefecture, to the ICJ.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said he was "extremely disappointed" with Seoul's reply. The Japanese government is now moving toward unilaterally filing a suit with the ICJ, and the Foreign Ministry has begun drafting a petition to that end.

The government previously asked South Korea to take the Takeshima dispute to the ICJ in 1954 and 1962, but gave up on the idea after Seoul rejected both requests. If Japan alone files suit with the ICJ, it will be the first time the territorial row is brought before the U.N. court.

Since Japan's requests were made before it normalized diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1965, we presume Japanese governments at the time gave up on taking the dispute to the ICJ because it hoped to keep friction with South Korea from reaching a critical stage.

However, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak went beyond acceptable limits recently by ignoring Japan's requests and visiting the Takeshima islands, a move aimed mainly at boosting his administration's flagging popularity. This act cannot be overlooked, and we see it as entirely appropriate for Japan to take the matter to the ICJ on its own.


South Korea's far-fetched claims

If South Korea believes its territorial claim to the Takeshima islands is sound, it should agree with Japan's request to bring the dispute to the ICJ and state its views openly before the international tribunal.

South Korea had not yet joined the United Nations when Japan made its two previous requests, but the nation is now a key member of the organization, touting itself as "Global Korea." Such a country should not hesitate to use international means of dispute resolution.

In its written reply to Japan's request, the South Korean government stated that the Takeshima islands are "an integral part of the territory of South Korea, a fact that is unequivocal from historical and geographical standpoints, as well as under international law."
The reply also stated that "no territorial dispute exists" over the islands.

Sources close to the matter said South Korean government representatives told their Japanese counterparts that the islands "first fell victim to Japan when the Korean Peninsula was invaded and pillaged as a result of Japanese imperialism."
"[The islands] returned to South Korea through the Cairo Declaration, Potsdam Declaration and Japan's unconditional surrender" in World War II, the South Korean representatives were quoted as saying.

However, Japan's dominion over the Takeshima islands was established by the 17th century when the islands were used for fishing and other purposes. After World War II, the South Korean government asked the United States to grant the islands to South Korea, but the United States refused. South Korea later unilaterally established the Syngman Rhee Line border and illegally occupied the islands.


Show world legitimacy of claim

Even if Japan files suit with the ICJ, a trial will not be held if South Korea continues to refuse to participate. However, the action would have no small impact, as it would be a precious opportunity for Japan to make its case for the legitimacy of its territorial claims before the global community, and history will note South Korea's refusal to allow the matter to be heard by the international court.

It is undeniable that past Japanese administrations, including those when the Liberal Democratic Party was in power, avoided focusing too much on the Takeshima issue, worrying it would sour Japan's relationship with South Korea. We think the Japanese government should make a first step toward rectifying its past weakness by taking the suit to the ICJ.

However, South Korea's position as an important neighbor to Japan will not change. The two countries need to continue to cooperate on various issues, such as North Korea and further economic partnership.

It will probably be difficult to improve the Japan-South Korea relationship before Lee's term expires in February, but we urge the government to make proper efforts to maintain a dialogue with South Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2012)
(2012年8月31日01時19分  読売新聞)

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