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2013年4月29日 (月)

再生医療推進法 産学官の連携強化を図りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 29, 2013
Closer govt-industry-academia ties needed on regenerative medicine
再生医療推進法 産学官の連携強化を図りたい(4月28日付・読売社説)

The fruits of research and development into regenerative medicine that can repair organs damaged by disease or injury should be swiftly utilized for therapeutic purposes. A new law is the first step toward establishing a system for this end.

A bill promoting regenerative medicine unanimously passed the House of Councillors in a plenary session Friday to become law. With the aim of helping regenerative treatments including those using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells come into practical use, the law sets the goal of enabling this country to "provide the public with opportunities to benefit from regenerative medicine ahead of the rest of the world."

Pillar of growth strategy

Under the law, the government is responsible for mapping out basic policies regarding regenerative medicine R&D projects and extending support to cutting-edge, promising research programs at universities and other institutions.

The government has made regenerative medicine development a major pillar of its economic growth strategy. We welcome the fact that the legal foundation for facilitating this has been put in place through legislation sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Regenerative medicine basically works by using the cells or tissues of patients themselves. There is no danger of rejection by the patient, unlike organ transplants.

Riken, one of Japan's largest research institutions, has already applied to the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry for permission to conduct clinical studies using iPS cells for treating age-related macular degeneration, a currently intractable eye disease.

Applications involving iPS cells have also been envisioned for a wide spectrum of therapies, such as treatment of heart disease and spiral cord injuries resulting from traffic accidents.

Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, the creator of iPS cells, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. This illustrates how Japan is a leading nation in basic research of regenerative medicine.

However, the problem is that many impediments still block research results from being used for actual clinical treatments.

Clinical trials that examine the effectiveness of these therapies are extremely expensive and time-consuming. Under the circumstances, enthusiasm could flag among startups and other businesses trying to enter regenerative medicine fields.

Taking this into account, the new law calls for speedy government authorization of regenerative medicine products and prompt screening of such products. The law stipulates the government should "take preferential taxation steps when necessary" to encourage businesses to enter the sector.

Currently, this screening primarily covers pharmaceutical products that are foreign substances to the human body. New screening standards will need to be set for regenerative medicine products, which are produced from human cells.

Safety, bioethics imperative

Competition between Japanese researchers and research organizations and businesses overseas is intense. The government must urgently study detailed measures that will prevent Japan from lagging in terms of yielding practical applications of regenerative medicine technologies.

We hope the new law's enactment will spur greater cooperation between the government, industry and academia.

By the same token, the new law rightly notes the need for due consideration of bioethics and ensuring regenerative medicine is safe to use. Arrangements must be taken to enable the public to receive regenerative medicine treatment with peace of mind.

During the current Diet session, the health ministry plans to submit a bill on regulations for regenerative medicine. A proper balance between the accelerator of the regenerative medicine promotion law and the brake of the ministry-envisioned regulatory law will be crucial.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 28, 2013)
(2013年4月28日01時31分  読売新聞)

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中国の尖閣発言 「核心的利益」とはお門違いだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 29, 2013
China's 'core interests' comment over Senkaku Islands uncalled for
中国の尖閣発言 「核心的利益」とはお門違いだ(4月28日付・読売社説)

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping should refrain from dangerous behavior that could escalate tensions around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

At a recent press conference of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, a spokeswoman said the Senkaku issue pertains to China's territorial sovereignty. "They are certainly part of China's core interests," she added.

It was the first time a senior Chinese government official has made a clear remark that the Senkaku Islands are considered a "core interest."

China uses this term to describe matters of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and other national interests over which it will never make compromises.

Beijing has used the expression in reference to Taiwan, Tibet and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region before, but in recent years it has been using the term when referring to the South China Sea.

The Senkaku Islands were deemed a core interest by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, in January last year. However, the Chinese government never used the expression in its public statements.

A show of maritime might

The latest press officer's remark can be seen as proof that Xi's administration has placed high priority on the islets as it aims to propel China's development as a maritime power.

Beijing has been obsessed of late with extending its purported territory and maritime rights and interests, by unilaterally applying the core interest designation to new areas. Such a stance is nothing but self-righteous expansionism.

This behavior is totally unacceptable. The Japanese government should continually inform the international community about China's transgressions.

Beijing is likely to dispatch an increasing number of surveillance vessels from its State Oceanic Administration to intrude into waters around the Senkaku Islands. Japan should prepare countermeasures by assuming every possible contingency.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endorsed the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy during a Cabinet meeting last week. The plan stipulates bolstering the defense system and maximizing surveillance activities in waters around the Nansei Islands, which include the Senkakus. It is crucial that cooperation be reinforced between the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces, among other measures.

It cannot be forgotten that the Chinese military has been increasingly involved in activities in waters around the islands. In January, a Chinese Navy vessel locked its fire-control radar onto a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer north of the islets.

The situation in these waters remains tense as a standoff between Chinese Navy and MSDF vessels continues.

Military standoff alarming

China, backed by a strong military, seems to be signaling it may use force to knock Japan off balance and erode Tokyo's effective control of the islands.

Beijing has claimed it will never pursue hegemony in the Asian region. However, its actions have only been viewed as an increasing threat to neighboring countries.

Abe has expressed his own concerns, saying: "The military balance between Japan and China will totally break down within two years."

China has adopted a hard-line stance by putting its military might at the fore. Such an attitude is extremely perilous as it could provoke an unexpected conflict.

Japanese and Chinese defense officials have resumed talks on creating a maritime communication system to prevent unintended clashes between the two countries' ships and aircraft. Tokyo and Beijing should aim to reach an agreement on this front as soon as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 28, 2013)
(2013年4月28日01時31分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月28日 (日)

節電目標見送り それでも電力不足は深刻だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 28, 2013
Potential power shortages remain despite govt decision not to set targets
節電目標見送り それでも電力不足は深刻だ(4月27日付・読売社説)

The government has decided not to set numerical targets for companies and households to save energy this summer.

The decision came after government projections showed that utilities nationwide could have an average supply surplus of about 6 percent even if the nation is hit by scorching heat and demand for electricity peaks in August. The estimates also showed that even areas served by Kansai Electric Power Co.--which is expected to have the lowest excess capacity among the utilities--would have a 3 percent surplus.

Last summer, the government forced companies and households to bear the burden by setting energy-saving targets of 5 percent to 15 percent in areas served by seven utilities. We applaud the fact that the government was able to avoid imposing such targets this summer by boosting supply capacity and energy saving efforts. We hope we will manage to get through this summer with reasonable energy conservation efforts.

Walking on a tightrope

However, the current state of the national power supply is like walking on a tightrope, as the nation currently has only two reactors at KEPCO's Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture in operation. The government and utilities must make every effort to secure a stable power supply to avert massive blackouts and other problems.

It is too optimistic to think the national power supply could not be shaken at a time when most reactors are not operating.

Currently, the nation has barely made up for power shortages caused by the shutdown of nuclear reactors, by reactivating thermal power plants. The operation of some of the plants had been suspended for a long time due to the aging of the facilities.

To maintain necessary power generation, utilities have pushed themselves hard and taken actions such as reducing inspections at their thermal power plants. Such actions further raise the risk of malfunction and danger at the plants.

If operations are forced to stop at multiple plants due to emergencies, the nation could experience a power crisis.

Concerns are especially strong in areas served by KEPCO. If the operation of the Oi reactors, the anchor of KEPCO's power supply, is suspended, the utilities' service areas would face a power shortage of about 12 percent, a significant worsening compared with the currently estimated 3 percent surplus. Even if electricity is transferred from other utilities, KEPCO could secure a mere 0.6 percent supply surplus. KEPCO is dangerously close to a potential massive blackout.

Negative impact on economy

Power shortages weigh heavily on the Japanese economy.

Additional fuel costs for thermal power generation to make up for power shortfalls due to the suspension of nuclear reactors are estimated to rise to 3.8 trillion yen in fiscal 2013 from 3.1 trillion yen in fiscal 2012. The increases are due to soaring import prices of liquefied natural gas and other energy sources caused mainly by the weaker yen.

If the national reliance on thermal power generation is prolonged, massive amounts of national wealth will continue to flow out to resource-rich countries, making it difficult to stave off expansion of domestic trade deficits. In such a situation, the nation would be unable to avert additional utility rate hikes, and companies would see their production costs rise. As a result, the firms would relocate their production overseas, accelerating the hollowing-out of industry.

Power shortages could also hamper Abenomics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic measures. It is therefore vital to steadily restart reactors after their safety is confirmed and secure the electricity needed for the nation's economic growth.

With new regulatory standards to be devised in July, the Nuclear Regulation Authority should examine the safety of reactors without delay.

We also urge the government to make further efforts to explain to the public the need to restart reactors, to obtain the understanding of local governments hosting nuclear facilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 27, 2013)
(2013年4月27日01時15分  読売新聞)

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体罰緊急調査 再発防止へ問題意識高めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 28, 2013
Strong awareness needed to solve problem of corporal punishment
体罰緊急調査 再発防止へ問題意識高めよ(4月27日付・読売社説)

The reality that corporal punishment is deep-rooted in schools has been confirmed.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry on Friday released the results of its emergency survey on corporal punishment, which covered public primary, middle and high schools around the country. The survey was conducted in response to the suicide of a student at Osaka municipal Sakuranomiya High School, who was physically punished by a teacher supervising his basketball club.

According to the survey, 752 schools reported that they confirmed the existence of corporal punishment from April last year to January this year. During that period, 1,890 pupils and students were physically punished by a total of 840 teachers.

Under what kind of circumstances did teachers use corporal punishment? Education boards must carefully examine how and why corporal punishment was meted out and prevent it from recurring.

The survey found that physical punishment is particularly common during classes (31 percent) and club activities (28 percent). In many cases, teachers struck students with their bare hands, but there were also cases in which they use such things as sticks.

Students suffered such injuries as broken bones, damage to their eardrums and bruises in nearly 30 percent of all cases of corporal punishment.

The School Education Law specifically bans corporal punishment. Physical punishment that injures pupils and students is a malicious act, and teachers who mete out such punishment deserve to be charged with assault or injurious assault.

Punish the perpetrators

Education boards should not only strictly punish teachers who use corporal punishment but also discuss disclosing the names of their schools.

The number of public school teachers identified as having used physical punishment had previously hovered around 400 a year. The number of reported cases jumped in the recent survey because schools uncovered more cases as they raised awareness of corporal punishment following the incident at Sakuranomiya High School.

Some teachers do not fully understand the difference between corporal punishment and strict student guidance. Last month, the ministry conveyed concrete examples to schools to make a clear distinction between the two.

For example, having a student stand during a class is within the range of guidance, but slapping a disobedient student in the face is corporal punishment.

Using violence against students should never be allowed in any circumstances whatsoever. All teachers must engrave this on their hearts.

Guide through words

There is an education board that compiled training materials for teachers summarizing how they should deal with students, citing actual examples of corporal punishment. We hope this kind of approach will be widely adopted.

The most important thing is that each teacher has the self-awareness to provide students with guidance that does not rely on violence.

Teachers need to learn how to provide good guidance to students by controlling their own emotions and reprimanding students with words, not violence.

Some parents think corporal punishment by teachers can be allowed as long as a relationship of trust exists between teachers and students.

However, physical punishment hurts children's character and can make them feel humiliated. Parents should recognize that corporal punishment never has educational effects, and is harmful instead.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 27, 2013)
(2013年4月27日01時15分  読売新聞)

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B787再開へ 安全最優先で世界の空を飛べ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 27, 2013
Boeing 787s should get airborne once more, with priority on safety
B787再開へ 安全最優先で世界の空を飛べ(4月26日付・読売社説)

Boeing Co.'s newest and most technologically advanced 787s, which were grounded because of a battery fire and other problems, are expected to soon be back in the skies around the world.

The highest priority is the safety of the planes. It is critical to regain public trust in the 787s, which was shaken by the problems.

U.S. civil aviation authorities have lifted a grounding order and Japan's Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Industry is also ready to bring the aircraft back into service.

In the wake of this, both All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are scheduled to resume commercial flights of 787 Dreamliners on both domestic and international routes as early as June.

1st order in 34 years

In January, a battery caught fire on a JAL 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport. Later the same month, smoke poured out of a battery on an ANA 787, forcing it to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu airport in Kagawa Prefecture.

Given the severity of the incidents, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered the entire fleet of Dreamliners grounded. This was the first such order in 34 years to be issued for every plane in a fleet. It is extraordinary that about 50 787s, in use by eight airlines in seven countries, have all remained grounded for safety reasons.

The aviation authorities' approval of the resumption of Dreamliner flights for the first time in about 3-1/2 months is based on Boeing's efforts to change the design of the batteries.

In addition to enhancing the heat resistance of the battery's eight cells, Boeing has given each cell additional insulation to ensure that if a cell were to overheat, it would not affect the adjoining cells. Additionally, the entire revamped battery system is now in an oxygen-free environment, Boeing has said.

Thanks to the multilayered fire-prevention measures, the safety of the planes has been verified in test flights, likely leading the aviation authorities to the make the judgment in favor of getting the planes back in the air at least provisionally.

Investigations aimed at finding the root cause of the problem conducted by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and others, however, have yet to identify the technological problems with the battery system.

There is reportedly a view among some within NTSB that the FAA might have failed to do its best to uncover the battery problems, but this view has not been substantiated.

Japan's land and infrastructure ministry as well as ANA and JAL must do their utmost to ensure safety by taking countermeasures on their own initiative, such as the introduction of a surveillance system to monitor irregularities of in-flight 787 battery voltage and send the data to the ground.

Such efforts will help alleviate Dreamliner passenger concerns.

Prepare for future problems

The 787, which was built with cutting-edge technologies, is a highly fuel-efficient, energy-saving midsized aircraft. The plane was jointly developed by not only U.S. and European manufacturers, but also Japanese companies, which produced 35 percent of the fuselage, so that the 787 can safely be said to be a "quasi-made-in-Japan" plane.

Given that the 787 is a high-tech plane produced using the latest current technologies, there can be no denying that there are other possibilities for 787s to have malfunctions in the future that have not been seen in conventional aircraft.

By taking lessons from the 787 battery problems, manufacturers involved in the production of aircraft, airlines and aviation regulators in Japan, Europe and the United States should work together closely to create a system to swiftly cope with potential aircraft problems.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2013)
(2013年4月26日01時40分  読売新聞)

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非核化拒む「北」 警戒も制裁も緩めてはならぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 27, 2013
International community mustn't lower guard, sanctions against North Korea
非核化拒む「北」 警戒も制裁も緩めてはならぬ(4月26日付・読売社説)

North Korea's Chief of General Staff Hyon Yong Chol pledged at the 81st anniversary of the inauguration of the Korean People's Army to mass-produce precise miniaturized nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery.

His remark reflects the order to develop more powerful nuclear weapons that was given by North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un at a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in March.

Pyongyang apparently intends to accelerate development of nuclear warheads. We must stay alert for additional nuclear tests and test-launches of ballistic missiles by the country.

Members of the international community need to unite to strictly carry out U.N. Security Council resolutions on sanctions against North Korea. They should thoroughly inspect cargo suspected of containing embargoed goods such as those related to nuclear weapons and missiles. They should also tighten monitoring of North Korea's financial transactions.

Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army of China, has said North Korea might go ahead with its fourth nuclear test and that he resolutely opposes it.

China's responsibility

China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, is the biggest aid donor and trade partner for North Korea. Beijing should be aware of its responsibility regarding North Korea and deal with Pyongyang strictly.

North Korea is still poised to fire ballistic missiles. Its strategic rocket units maintain the highest level of attack readiness.

Japan must cooperate with the United States to stay on alert and maintain surveillance for a Pyongyang missile launch.

U.S.-South Korea joint military drills are scheduled to conclude at the end of April. Last week, North Korea responded to U.S. calls for dialogue and presented conditions for the resumption of talks. This might be a strategic move toward starting negotiations with Washington.

However, North Korea's National Defense Commission said in a statement that retraction of the U.N. Security Council's sanction resolutions, termination of U.S.-South Korea military drills and withdrawal of U.S. tools for a nuclear war, such as strategic bombers, were necessary to resume any talks with Seoul or Washington.

Denuclearization of N. Korea

The demand for the retraction of U.N. sanctions is too much. Pyongyang implies it would hold talks with Seoul or Washington if they recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, but such a stance cannot be tolerated.

It is a matter of course that Japan, the United States and South Korea have flatly rejected these conditions, saying the only aim of resuming talks is to denuclearize North Korea.

Recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Japan, China and South Korea. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se traveled to China and South Korean President Park Geun Hye is scheduled to visit the United States next month for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.

More active diplomatic talks among countries concerned would provide valuable opportunities for them to seek a common strategy in dealing with North Korea.

The nuclearization of North Korea is a grave threat to the safety of Japan. The government must do its best in diplomatic talks with countries concerned to enhance national security.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 26, 2013)
(2013年4月26日01時40分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月26日 (金)

危険運転厳罰化 重大事故の撲滅につなげたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 26, 2013
Tougher penalties needed to curb deadly drivers
危険運転厳罰化 重大事故の撲滅につなげたい(4月25日付・読売社説)

Horrific accidents caused by drunk driving, unlicensed driving and other reckless driving seem to occur unceasingly. Planned harsher punishment of such practices must serve to prevent accidents.

The government has submitted a bill to the Diet to toughen penalties in cases of reckless driving. The bill is designed to take elements relating to reckless driving from the Penal Code, such as definitions of dangerous driving resulting in death or injury, and include them in a new law.

The heart of the bill is the creation of new provisions on what may be called the offense of "quasi-dangerous driving."

One requirement for applying the charge of dangerous driving resulting in death or injury is a "state in which it is difficult for a person to conduct normal driving." For example, the subject of the offense must be a person who caused an accident while driving a vehicle at uncontrollable speeds or in a state of extreme intoxication from alcoholic beverages or drugs. The maximum punishment is 20 years in prison.

However, it is quite difficult to accurately determine the exact driving speed or precise degree of intoxication at the time of an accident. For this reason, there have been many cases in which investigation authorities had to build their cases on suspicion of "negligent" rather than "dangerous" driving resulting in deaths or injuries. The maximum penalty for this offense is seven years in prison.

A great gap

The gap between the punishments for dangerous driving resulting in death or injury and for negligent driving resulting in death or injury is too large.

In consideration of the feelings of bereaved families, who have demanded tougher punishments, it is understandable that the government intends to create regulations enabling a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

The major problem with the new rules is ambiguity. If a driver was "in a state in which significant obstacles to normal driving might occur," the person can be accused of the offense. However, the standards for defining the situations in which "significant obstacles to normal driving might occur" are not clear.

The government needs to make the standards for applying the new rules easy for everyone to understand through Diet deliberations.

Under the bill, accidents caused by the effects of medical conditions are designated as dangerous driving acts. The bill targets illnesses and symptoms that may disrupt consciousness, such as epilepsy, in response to a 2011 accident in Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture, in which the driver of a crane truck suffered an epileptic seizure behind the wheel and killed six primary school students.

Epilepsy and other patients' organizations strongly oppose the bill, saying it will invite discrimination against people with certain conditions. It is important for the government to carefully explain to such groups the intent of the bill, which is to prevent accidents.

Patients are also asked to voluntarily refrain from driving if they know they may suffer seizures.

The bill also includes a provision to put a heavier penalty on driving without a license. This was prompted by an accident a year ago in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, in which 10 people including primary school students were injured or killed by a car driven by an unlicensed driver.

Frustrating explanation

The teenage boy arrested over this incident was found to have repeatedly driven a car without a license. Investigative authorities thus did not apply the dangerous driving charge, due to the judgment that "his driving technique was not underdeveloped."

Yet even in the latest bill, the government did not include driving without a license as it judged it is insufficient to establish dangerous driving charges. Having no driving license cannot, by itself, prove the element of "difficulty of normal driving," according to the government.

There must be many people who are frustrated with such an explanation. How to deal with reckless unlicensed drivers is a subject that demands further discussion.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 25, 2013)
(2013年4月25日01時45分  読売新聞)

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尖閣諸島 海も空も中国への警戒強めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 26, 2013
Air and marine patrols must increase vigilance to defend against China
尖閣諸島 海も空も中国への警戒強めよ(4月25日付・読売社説)

The need to reinforce patrol and monitoring activities on the water and in the air around the Senkaku Islands to respond to China's perilously provocative acts has grown.

Eight Chinese maritime surveillance ships entered the territorial waters off the Senkakus in Okinawa Prefecture on Tuesday and remained in the vicinity for about 12 hours.

Since the Japanese government purchased part of the Senkakus in September, Chinese government vessels have intruded into Japanese waters on 40 occasions, often using multiple ships for a total of about 130 intrusions. Tuesday's intrusion marked the largest simultaneous entry.

In its attempt to justify its actions, China claimed they were engaging in "law enforcement" against the "trespassing" of Japanese fishing vessels in the waters. Such an assertion is totally unacceptable.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly cautioned China by saying, "The reasonable response is for us to respond physically [to intruding vessels], with a strong determination to prevent them from landing on any of the islands."

Possible countermeasures

Abe hinted at the possibility of taking such countermeasures as stationing public servants on the islands if Chinese vessels continue such intrusions into Japan's territorial waters.

The Chinese government last month unified, under the State Oceanic Administration, maritime surveillance duties, which were performed by various institutions, including the agriculture and public security ministries.

This time, together with the maritime surveillance ships that intruded into Japanese waters, two fishery surveillance ships sailed in the contiguous zone in the vicinity, indicating unified management of surveillance.

It is expected a large number of China's surveillance ships will intrude into the territorial waters again in the days ahead, staying there for longer periods than before.

The Japan Coast Guard needs to improve its capability to deal with such intrusive acts, while cooperating closely with the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Air intrusions also occurring

The tense situation has not been limited to the sea.

The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets to intercept Chinese aircraft intruding into Japan's airspace a record 306 times in fiscal 2012, almost double the number of the previous year. It also marked the first time such flights outpaced those against Russian aircraft.

The scrambles mostly targeted Chinese Air Force aircraft, including fighter jets, flying north of the Senkakus.

As long as the Chinese government maintains its hard-line stance on securing its purported territorial and maritime rights and interests, the Japanese government must make a strenuous effort to take necessary measures and prepare for the tense situation to last into the middle- or long-term.

The government will review the National Defense Program Guidelines at the end of this year. In the review, it must prioritize its efforts in reinforcing the "dynamic defense capability," which emphasizes force mobility, and in boosting the capabilities of the ships and aircraft in the Okinawa area, as well as increasing the number of SDF personnel there.

It is also necessary to introduce the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle earlier than planned.

On the other hand, Japan should avoid unnecessarily raising tensions with China. It is important to continue mapping out rules to prevent incidents like the one that occurred when a Chinese frigate locked its weapons-control radar on an MSDF vessel in January.

The defense authorities of both countries in June last year reached a basic accord on creating a maritime communication system. It is designed to have information hotlines between the countries' respective defense forces, with the two countries' vessels or aircraft communicating on a common radio frequency when approaching each other. However, the idea has not been implemented.

It is important, first of all, for both countries to put this accord into action, and build a trusting relationship between their respective defense forces.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 25, 2013)
(2013年4月25日01時45分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月25日 (木)

郵便局の国際キャッシュカード 消費者金融いつでもドットコム




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待機児童解消 「横浜方式」をどう生かすか

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 25, 2013
Abe to face test in using 'Yokohama method' to reduce child care waiting list
待機児童解消 「横浜方式」をどう生かすか(4月24日付・読売社説)

Having set better utilization of women in the workforce as a central pillar of his growth strategy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to find it necessary to come up with a measure that can be promptly implemented.

Abe has unveiled a plan to reduce the number of children on waiting lists for certified day care centers to zero by fiscal 2017, when demand for such services is expected to peak. He said his government has pushed forward the previously set deadline by two years to secure day care centers capable of accepting 400,000 more children.

In striving for a society where women can continue to work after having children, it is essential to reduce the number of children who are unable to enter day care centers because their parents cannot find places for them. We urge the government to pursue this issue further, in line with Abe's plan.

Currently, about 25,000 children are on waiting lists for day care centers nationwide. In recent years, more day care facilities have been built, but the number of parents seeking such services for their children has also increased at a rate that new facilities cannot keep up with. The rapid rise in the number of children on waiting lists is a serious problem, especially in major urban areas.

Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi's avid efforts on this issue have drawn national attention. In fiscal 2010, 1,552 children could not be enrolled in day care centers in the city, the nation's highest. However, Hayashi managed to significantly lower the figure to 179 two years later.

Given such notable results, the prime minister said he intends to implement the so-called Yokohama method across the nation.

Innovation, flexibility key

In each of the past two years, the Yokohama city government raised the budget for tackling the problem of children unable to enter day care centers by 10 percent. With the higher budget, the city increased the number of certified day care centers by 71 accommodate about 5,000 additional children. Yokohama also has been active in mediating between entities, including companies, that want to open day care facilities and landowners or others who can provide sites.

In addition, the city government has created the post of "day care concierge" to provide information, such as on small private facilities and child care nursery services at kindergartens, to parents seeking day care services for their children.

Yokohama's measures are expected to serve as a useful guide for other municipalities.

Setting up about 150 "Yokohama nursery rooms" certified by the city is also a key feature of the city's steps to tackle the problem. Fees for the service are nearly the same as those for certified day care centers. They have become a good way of accommodating children on waiting lists.

Future of uncertified facilities

Yokohama nursery rooms do not meet the standards for certified day care centers set under a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry ordinance. The rooms have fewer certified day care workers than certified day care centers.

However, the current demand for day care services cannot be met by certified day care centers alone. How should uncertified facilities like the Yokohama nursery rooms be regarded by the central government? This is expected to be a key future issue to be addressed by the government in tackling the day care shortage problem.

In line with three laws enacted last year to provide child-care support for children and their guardians, a new aid program will be launched when the consumption tax rate is raised to 10 percent in 2015. The government plans to finance the program with 700 billion yen from consumption tax revenue.

We hope the central and local governments will work together to effectively use the fund to resolve the problem of children unable to enter day care centers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 24, 2013)
(2013年4月24日01時38分  読売新聞)

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閣僚の靖国参拝 外交問題化は避けるべきだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 25, 2013
Don't let ministers' Yasukuni visits become thorn in diplomatic relations
閣僚の靖国参拝 外交問題化は避けるべきだ(4月24日付・読売社説)

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se's response must have been unexpected for the Japanese government.

Yun canceled a trip to Japan that was scheduled for Friday and Saturday. This was a protest against visits by three Cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The South Korean Foreign Ministry says the Shinto shrine "glorifies Japan's wars of aggression."

A trilateral meeting between leaders from Japan, China and South Korea, which was originally scheduled for late May, will likely be postponed due to China's unwillingness to participate. South Korea, chair of the meeting, intended for Yun's visit to help create an environment conducive to holding the talks.

Yun's visit also was expected to provide a golden opportunity for Japan and South Korea to continue their close cooperation in dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile issues, over which tensions have recently risen. It was also designed to improve the bilateral relationship under South Korean President Park Geun Hye, after ties became strained due to such factors as former President Lee Myung Bak's visit to the Takeshima islands last year.

All this makes the cancellation of Yun's visit to Japan very regrettable.

Nagging questions remain about South Korea's diplomatic approach. Although then South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun canceled a visit to Japan in protest after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine, Seoul has never made Yasukuni visits by Cabinet ministers a diplomatic issue to such a serious degree before.

A matter for Japanese to decide

On issues concerning the perception of history, the Japanese government said: "Each country has its own stance on different issues. We should not let these matters affect diplomatic relations." We agree entirely.

How Japanese mourn the war dead is not something that other countries can give orders on. Both Japan and South Korea must make efforts not to let differences in their position on this issue affect overall diplomatic relations.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said visits to Yasukuni Shrine are "a matter of the heart." Suga indicated that the government does not particularly regard Yasukuni visits by Cabinet ministers, including Aso, as a problem.

Ties have been harmed

However, it cannot be denied that the Yasukuni visits by Aso and other ministers have adversely affected Tokyo-Seoul relations. In politics and diplomacy, results are always important and "a matter of the heart" should not be trotted out as an excuse. Shouldn't Aso have been more careful about visiting the shrine while he is deputy prime minister, a key Cabinet post?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was "extremely regrettable" that he could not visit the shrine during the tenure of his first Cabinet several years ago. We hope Abe will handle government affairs with the utmost care so historical issues will not negatively affect diplomatic ties.

Amid the tense relationship between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, improving Japan-South Korea ties must be the top priority for Abe's diplomacy.

The crux of the problem over Yasukuni visits is the fact that "Class-A war criminals," including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who was executed following his conviction by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Tribunal, are enshrined along with Japan's war dead. There has been severe criticism of the Japanese leaders who led the nation to war, not only from South Korea and China but also from Japan.

The government should resume discussions on the construction of a new national facility where everybody can pay homage to the war dead without resentment or awkwardness.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 24, 2013)
(2013年4月24日01時38分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月24日 (水)

社会保障会議 「節度ある医療」へ議論深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 24, 2013
Panel should deepen discussions for cost-effective medical system
社会保障会議 「節度ある医療」へ議論深めよ(4月23日付・読売社説)

With Japan facing a so-called super-aged society, the government must arrest sharply increasing expenses of medical and nursing care services and establish a reliable social security system.

The National Council on Social Security System Reform, a government panel discussing this issue, has compiled a number of points regarding reform of medical and nursing care services.

The panel described medical facilities and staff, which are not unlimited, as "assets of the people," and underlined the importance of their proper use. We consider the panel's views reasonable for building sustainable medical and nursing care systems.

The point the panel made was that medical services should be altered to allow patients to "receive proper treatment when needed at a proper place and at a minimum cost."

'Free access' to hospitals

At present, Japan's medical services allow patients to have "free access," meaning that a patient can visit any medical institution at any time without worrying too much about payments.

This system has brought about a situation that can be described as chaotic, as patients even visit university hospitals when they have a slight cold. As a result, many doctors are overworked.

To rectify the situation, the panel proposed that patients be charged about 10,000 yen if they seek treatment at major hospitals without a referral letter, in addition to regular charges for treatment they receive. The extra charge would not be covered by health insurance.

This would sharply increase the financial burden patients would have to shoulder. We consider it well worth considering.

Among items discussed, the panel said wider use of generic drugs should be realized as soon as possible, as they are cheaper than their original versions.

In the United States, Britain and Germany, generic products account for 60 percent to 70 percent of all prescribed drugs. In Japan, the figure is about 40 percent.

The low usage of generic drugs in this country can be ascribed to deep-seated doubts doctors have of their efficacy, although their quality has improved.

Generic drugs are priced at 20 percent to 70 percent of the original products. If generic drugs are used more widely, medical spending will be reduced.

Regarding prescriptions, which are currently left to the discretion of medical institutions, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry should consider a system in which generic drugs are the main types of medication prescribed.

Treatment at home

The panel also called for an improvement in health and nursing care services at home by suggesting that patients be cured and supported in local communities, rather than relying on hospitals to provide medical treatment.

The panel said prefectural governments should take over the national health insurance program, which deals mainly with self-employed people and is currently operated by municipal governments. This position is reasonable as the panel took into account a number of municipalities in which insurance premiums have sharply risen as fiscal conditions have worsened.

However, it is necessary to discuss these issues from various angles to realize the envisaged measures. The panel is expected to wrap up its discussions by August, as stipulated in a law on integrated reform of social security and tax systems. It is vital for the panel to determine priorities and reach viable conclusions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 23, 2013)
(2013年4月23日01時26分  読売新聞)

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観光立国推進 もっと高めたい日本ブランド

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 24, 2013
Make Japan a tourism magnet to boost economy, national image
観光立国推進 もっと高めたい日本ブランド(4月23日付・読売社説)

Increasing the number of foreign visitors and turning this into economic growth--this goal of making Japan a tourism-oriented nation will require combined efforts by the public and private sectors.

The government is pouring considerable effort into steps to make Japan a tourism magnet. A ministerial conference chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been established for that purpose. The government plans to study comprehensive tourism policies that cross ministerial borders and formulate an action program by summer.

If more tourists and businesspeople visit Japan, it will invigorate consumption and create jobs, thereby promoting the development of regions as tourist spots. We fully support the government's initiative of realizing a tourism-oriented country.

Long way to go

But we must point out that the government has failed to achieve adequate results despite implementing various programs, including the "Visit Japan Campaign," since 2003.

Sustained by the overseas travel boom among middle-class people in Asian nations with spectacular economic growth, 8.37 million foreigners visited Japan in 2012. This figure has almost recovered the level recorded before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, and is 60 percent higher than the number of visitors in 2003.

Nevertheless, it is a far cry from the target of 18 million visitors the government hoped to reach by 2016.

Japan ranked 39th in the world as a destination for foreign visitors in 2011, trailing far behind China (third), Malaysia (ninth), Thailand (15th) and South Korea (25th). Although the earthquake and tsunami disaster must be factored into the equation, the figures are sobering.

Japan's main Asian rivals are pulling out all the stops to lure foreign visitors because tourism is a component of a strategy to enhance their national image.

Tourism encompasses a wide range of fields, including transportation, accommodation, food services and distribution. Government ministries and agencies need to put aside their turf battles, revamp promotion project content and step up cooperation with the private sector. The Tourism Agency must be more active in leading the formation of such a strategy.

Japan is famous for its culture of hospitality and is blessed with many regional treasures such as the natural beauty of its four seasons. However, these have yet to be reflected fully in a strategy to attract tourists.

Providing items and experiences that incorporate traditional local values and tap private-sector wisdom would be more effective than safe tourism campaigns led by administrative offices and designed to please everyone.

Make foreigners comfortable

In recent years, more foreign visitors have been traveling individually, rather than in groups. Collecting information through personal computers or mobile phones has become common practice.

The tourism industry must improve its capability to disseminate information on expenses, facilities and services, and increase the number of places where Internet service is accessible free of charge, thereby improving the environment for foreign tourists to travel easily and comfortably.

Inviting international conferences that have huge knock-on effects and promoting medical tourism for people who want to receive health checkups and treatments are also promising ways to invigorate the tourism industry.

To lift the standard of Japan's tourist trade, the nation also urgently needs to develop industries that are currently relatively unproductive, such as some hotel businesses.

Tourism creates opportunities for encounters that transcend national and regional borders. It can enhance Japan's brand as a nation and is an important barometer of the degree of globalization in Japanese society.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 23, 2013)
(2013年4月23日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月23日 (火)

有機性ヨードでがんを防止したい 私はがんの家系です






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コンビニの隆盛 地域と共存目指す成長戦略を

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 23, 2013
Convenience stores should reach out to local communities
コンビニの隆盛 地域と共存目指す成長戦略を(4月22日付・読売社説)

Boosted by the positive effects of Abenomics, the package of economic policies under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, expectations are rising for an economic recovery.

We hope the convenience store industry helps reinvigorate the economy in its own way by creating more demand.

The three leading convenience store chain operators--Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Lawson, Inc. and FamilyMart Co.--posted record operating profits for the business year ending in February.

Convenience stores debuted in Japan in 1974 with the opening of a store in central Tokyo. There are now about 50,000 throughout the country.

Combined convenience store sales exceed 9 trillion yen, greatly surpassing the 6 trillion yen in sales logged by department stores. Convenience stores are visited by about 15 billion customers annually, which can be construed as saying that every Japanese shops at the stores more than 100 times a year.

Vanguard of retail industry

These figures show that convenience stores, now deeply rooted in our daily lives, are in the vanguard of the retail industry, while the operators of department stores and supermarkets have been suffering from sluggish sales over the long term.

The secret of convenience stores' strength lies in their flexibility to expand operations by detecting changing consumption trends earlier than other retailers.

Their rapid growth is supported by a product mix and stock management that attaches great importance to hot-selling items, and by their just-in-time delivery system.

The product lineup, which used to center around onigiri rice balls and bento box meals, has expanded to include such items as fresh food, prepared dishes, freshly made coffee and pharmaceutical products, as they test the waters for new lines of business.

They also market low-priced private brand products one after another, attracting such people as housewives and senior citizens, who earlier shied away from visiting the stores.

The stores also have extended their lines of services beyond sales of merchandise to include the handling of utility bill payments, package delivery, ATM services and ticket sales.

However, there is a view that the number of stores operating in Japan has reached the saturation point. Competition with department stores and supermarkets, which are trying to reinvigorate themselves, and Internet mail-order retailers will intensify, making the business environment for convenience store operators harsher.

Convenience stores face a crucial period ahead.

In aggressively opening their outlets, convenience store chains have placed priority on opening stores in urban areas. Business operations in rural areas are likely to become a future challenge.

Many convenience stores are trying to demonstrate their uniqueness by selling products associated with a particular locality. But they will be tested over whether they can provide the goods and services consumers need, and run their businesses in harmony with local communities.

Role during disasters

With smaller retail stores disappearing from neighborhoods, a large number of shoppers found themselves handicapped because they do not have the means to travel farther afield. Convenience store operators should contribute to local communities, rather than merely pursue their own profits.

Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, convenience stores assumed a major role in helping victims recover their daily lives in disaster-affected regions, proving to the general public just how truly convenient they are.

Convenience store chains have made efforts to emphasize efficient and rational operations through prompt and flexible actions in opening temporary outlets and the use of sales vans.

It is essential for them to further improve their capabilities to function as a reliable means of social infrastructure at all times, such as by procuring goods and helping people unable to get home during disasters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2013)
(2013年4月22日01時45分  読売新聞)

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中国国防白書 危険過ぎる習政権の強軍路線

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 23, 2013
Xi administration's 'strong army' policy ramps up Chinese threat
中国国防白書 危険過ぎる習政権の強軍路線(4月22日付・読売社説)

The Chinese administration of Xi Jinping has reiterated its intention to push ahead with a "strong army" policy. This policy centers on building China into a maritime power.

In its biennial defense white paper released last week, Beijing declared: "It is an essential national development strategy to exploit, utilize and protect the seas and oceans, and build China into a maritime power. It is an important duty for the PLA (People's Liberation Army) to resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests."

The white paper also emphasized China has developed a policy of bolstering cooperation between its navy and the State Oceanic Administration's surveillance vessels and others.

Senkakus remark disturbing

The white paper says China's first aircraft carrier, which was commissioned into the navy last year, has a "profound impact on building a strong People's Liberation Army's Navy and safeguarding maritime security."

There is no doubt China will accelerate efforts to augment its naval capabilities through such projects as building new aircraft carriers.

In Japan's eyes, China's expansion of its maritime strength is truly alarming.

What cannot be overlooked is the white paper's reference to the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The report denounces Japan by name for "making trouble over the issue of the Diaoyu Islands," the Chinese name for the Senkakus. It opted not to mention such countries as Vietnam and the Philippines that have their own sovereignty issues with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Singling out Japan for condemnation is presumably designed to beef up China's military pressure with the aim of eroding Japan's effective control of the Senkakus.

The Japanese government naturally lodged a protest with China, saying this country "can never accept any words and deeds based solely on China's own assertions."

Waters surrounding the Senkakus have already seen stepped-up muscle-flexing by Chinese naval vessels. On Wednesday, the day after the white paper was released, a Chinese destroyer and a frigate sailed in the vicinity of the Senkakus.

Fears are rising that provocations involving Chinese naval vessels and surveillance ships could escalate.

Japan, for its part, must increase its vigilance through cooperation with the United States while deepening collaboration between the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces.

Xi, who is general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, has said, "The great dream of the restoration of the nation of China is the dream of a country with a mighty military."

In January, a Chinese frigate locked its weapons-control radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel. Xi's hard-line posture might invite the Chinese military to take further extreme actions.

On April 9, Xi inspected China's latest amphibious assault ship at a naval base on Hainan Island, southern China, and issued an order to the troops to "take to heart the goal of strengthening the army, and devote efforts to realize this goal." We find this remark deeply disturbing.

Transparency still lacking

China tooted its own horn over the white paper, saying it had disclosed a breakdown of China's ground, naval and air forces. The paper, however, included not one iota of information about personnel in charge of strategic missile operations with nuclear capabilities, or the scale of China's armed police.

The report has far fewer pages than a defense white paper published two years ago. Breakdowns of defense expenditures, such as living expenses of military members and equipment outlays, have been omitted this time.

Although China's swelling defense budget intimidates the international community, the white paper gives no indication that China itself is aware of that.

Instead of concealing information, China has an obligation as a major power to enhance transparency of its military.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2013)
(2013年4月22日01時45分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月22日 (月)

G20共同声明 円安だけに頼れぬデフレ脱却

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 22, 2013
Japan should not rely solely on yen's depreciation to escape deflation
G20共同声明 円安だけに頼れぬデフレ脱却(4月21日付・読売社説)

Japan's ability to gain the understanding of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies that Tokyo's bold monetary easing policy is not intended to induce a weaker yen was significant.

The government and the Bank of Japan have assumed a greater responsibility in overcoming deflation and putting the country on a path toward a steady economic recovery.

Finance ministers and central bank heads from the G-20 countries--which include Japan, the United States, some European nations, China and Russia--adopted a communique Friday at the end of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The statement first mentioned Japan, whose recent monetary moves were seen as a major issue during the meeting.

"Japan's recent policy actions are intended to stop deflation and support domestic demand," the joint statement said, referring to the quantitative and qualitative monetary easing policy that newly appointed Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has forged.

The rapid pace of the yen's depreciation is a result of what some call "another level" of monetary easing policy, which has prompted criticism from South Korea and other countries.

However, the policy is aimed at pulling the nation out of deflation, not intentionally weakening the yen to boost exports. It is commendable that Japan was able to gain some degree of understanding concerning its stance from other G-20 members.

More pressing global concerns

The joint statement expressed a grim view on the global economy, saying, "Global growth has continued to be too weak" mainly because of fears that Europe's credit unrest may stir once again as the continent has marked a negative growth rate.

The G-20 members accepted Japan's stance apparently because they share a sense of crisis over the global economy and agree that the nation's efforts to boost growth may have positive international repercussions.

It was also significant that G-20 officials reaffirmed they will "refrain from competitive devaluation," in which currencies are guided lower, which was also discussed at the last meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank heads in February.

The nation has successfully averted criticism over the weakening yen from emerging economies and other G-20 members, at least for now. However, similar criticism may reemerge if Japan constrains its focus to the monetary easing policy and depreciation of the yen as measures to improve the economy.

Japan will need to continue seeking other countries' understanding concerning its revitalization strategies and produce results in its efforts to vanquish deflation as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled the first package of measures for his growth strategy, the "third arrow" of Abenomics following monetary easing and fiscal policy. The measures aim to maximize opportunities for young people, create more jobs for women and expand the nation's medical industry.

We hope Abe will take the results of the G-20 meeting as an opening to compile additional measures.

Avoid shortsighted tactics

However, the G-20's communique also said, "We will be mindful of unintended negative side effects" stemming from the monetary easing policies of Japan, the United States and Europe. This declaration should be taken to heart.

Some emerging countries have complained that speculative funds, which have posted huge gains recently due to the monetary easing policies of the developed countries, have been overheating their financial markets. Japan should work with the United States, Europe and other parties to monitor any additional side effects that their policies could cause.

It was natural that the joint statement took aim at Japan by saying it "should define a credible medium-term fiscal plan."

Japan has the worst fiscal situation of all developed countries. Fiscal stimulus measures may be acceptable for an immediate economic boost, but the nation must be careful not to lose international confidence due to efforts that are remiss in addressing fiscal reconstruction over the medium term.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 21, 2013)
(2013年4月21日01時13分  読売新聞)

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尼崎事件検証 「民事不介入」の意識を改めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 22, 2013
Police must do away with mind-set of nonintervention in civil disputes
尼崎事件検証 「民事不介入」の意識を改めよ(4月21日付・読売社説)

If only there was no chain of negligence by police authorities, a string of murders could have been prevented from cascading into the worst possible outcome.

We cannot help but believe this, given that the police responded to these heinous crimes with abyssal sloppiness.

The Kagawa prefectural police announced Friday results of follow-up investigations into the killings of four members of a Takamatsu family in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, acknowledging that the cases were handled "inappropriately."

Miyoko Sumida, the prime suspect in the slayings, hanged herself in her cell in December at age 64. Sumida and her alleged accomplices had wormed their way into the victims' homes from February 2003.

Vast negligence

Since that time, a male family member and 16 of his relatives and acquaintances sent reports to and sought help from the prefectural police headquarters and five police stations as many as 36 times, according to the announcement.

However, those pieces of information were not shared among prefectural police authorities. In fact, the police viewed the reports and complaints as concerning separate domestic incidents. As a result, they failed to question Sumida and the others involved even on a voluntary basis.

It is only natural for the prefectural police to apologize to survivors of the deceased and others concerned over a string of blunders in the murder cases.

That the police refused to accept a damage report that the male member of the victimized family tried to file is also troubling. According to the announcement, the police failed to act on the reports of violence and harm because they "contained no exact dates or locations, and so could not be investigated as criminal cases."

The police showed outright negligence in the course of their duties. They need to keep in mind the need to adequately assess and respond whenever there arises the possibility that citizens' lives may be in danger or at risk of physical harm.

The way the Hyogo prefectural police handled the series of murders suspected to have been masterminded by Sumida must never be overlooked.

When the first daughter of the man of the victimized family was taken to Amagasaki from Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, an acquaintance of the family who witnessed the abduction by a group led by Sumida turned to the police for help. However, they did nothing to resolve the matter, on the grounds that the incident was considered "domestic trouble." The daughter subsequently is believed to have been killed by Sumida and her cohorts.

Underlying the behavior of the two prefectural police headquarters must be the idea of "noninterference by police in civil matters." This mind-set that disputes between individuals should be settled either by the parties involved or by the courts has firmly taken root among police officers.

Certainly, the police can hardly be expected to respond to every little civil disturbance due to limited manpower. If police wielded their power arbitrarily, they would run the risk of aggravating such disputes.

However, lessons from the past must not be forgotten in this connection.

The murder of a woman by her stalker in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture, in 1999 took place primarily as a result of the police's failure to launch an investigation on the basis of "nonintervention in civil matters."

Change modus operandi

In the wake of this case, a council on police reform set up by the National Public Security Commission compiled an emergency proposal calling for eliminating "a misconceived notion of noninterference in civil matters." Unfortunately, this mode of thinking has persisted among police officers, who hold the key to change.

Not only stalking cases but also those involving domestic violence and disputes between neighbors have been on the rise. The number of cases in which people seek police assistance over disputes has also been increasing.

The police force as a whole must change its ingrained mode of thinking that is based on noninterference in civil matters to nip potentially criminal cases in the bud.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 21, 2013)
(2013年4月21日01時13分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月21日 (日)

邦人陸送法案 自衛隊の活動拡充を着実に

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 21, 2013
Govt should steadily expand scope of SDF's authorized activities
邦人陸送法案 自衛隊の活動拡充を着実に(4月20日付・読売社説)

To ensure competent crisis management, the government must plan for a variety of emergencies and prepare a legal framework that will allow the Self-Defense Forces to properly respond to such situations.

The government has submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the SDF law that would enable the SDF to provide ground transportation for Japanese nationals in the event of emergencies abroad. Under the current law, the SDF can only use aircraft and ships to transport citizens; the use of vehicles is not permitted.

The Algerian hostage crisis in January broke out at a location about 50 kilometers from an international airport. In this case, the Algerian government transported Japanese citizens to the airport, but such arrangements may not be available in every country.

In light of the situation, a government task force proposed in a report that the government consider allowing ground transportation by the SDF. A working group of the ruling parties has also called for such legal revisions.

Draft revisions encouraging

The draft revisions call for adding overland transportation of Japanese nationals abroad to the scope of SDF missions. With the revisions, eligibility for such SDF protection will extend beyond Japanese expatriates to their families in Japan, who will want to reach them as soon as possible in case of emergencies, as well as company employees and others accompanying such family members, and Foreign Ministry officials. These changes are encouraging.

As it is the government's duty to help secure the safety of Japanese abroad, it should strive to swiftly enact the bill.

In April 2004, a series of kidnappings of foreigners took place in Iraq. At one point, Ground Self-Defense Force members took journalists who were covering their base in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah to a nearby airport. The SDF later had to explain the action, which was technically not allowed by law, saying the ground transportation was a public relations activity.

The current legal framework that forces the SDF to make such excuses to perform its duties needs to be improved. It is also essential for the GSDF to have the ability to conduct necessary training and research on emergency ground transportation if such rescues are considered part of its official mission.

Use of force still up in air

Still other challenges remain that must be addressed.

The legal revisions do not address the current restriction on the use of force by SDF personnel. The current law allows SDF members to use weapons only for limited purposes such as self-defense. Without a looming physical threat, they cannot use weapons. This means the SDF would also be subject to this restriction during overland transport of Japanese nationals. SDF members would not be able to even fire a warning shot if their vehicle is obstructed during the course of a mission.

SDF overseas missions must be sanctioned by their host countries. Therefore, the use of force by members cannot be expanded haphazardly.

However, the current legal framework that forbids SDF members from providing aid despite local residents' requests for help has caused many problems.

In December 2002, a GSDF unit that was participating in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in East Timor was asked by a Japanese restaurant owner to rescue Japanese nationals caught in a riot in Dili. The unit managed to transport 17 Japanese citizens to its base in the name of securing the safety of its off-duty members.

Although the government and ruling parties have chosen to postpone a decision on this matter, they should seriously consider expanding the authorized use of force by the SDF in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2013)
(2013年4月20日01時36分  読売新聞)

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就活期間短縮 「抜け駆け」で骨抜きにするな

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 21, 2013
Ensure that new job-hunting rules for students are not meaningless
就活期間短縮 「抜け駆け」で骨抜きにするな(4月20日付・読売社説)

Creating an environment for university students in which they can concentrate on their schoolwork will contribute to fostering talented human resources. It is therefore appropriate to shorten the job-hunting period for university students.

The start of job-hunting activities, which are currently banned until December of university students' third year, will be delayed until March of their third year under new rules. Also, the start of screenings by companies, including job interviews, will be delayed until August of their fourth year, four months later than now.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday asked leaders of three economic organizations, including Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), to observe the new rules. The business leaders agreed to do so.

The new rules are expected to be applied when companies hire graduates now in their second year.

Students skipping classes

Keidanren stipulates job-hunting rules in its charter on ethical recruitment, a gentleman's agreement among member companies. Currently, when the ban on job hunting ends in December, third-year students become busy preparing statements of reasons for wanting to join companies and going to orientation meetings organized by companies for prospective employees. In the process, they often skip classes. It is only natural that universities are highly dissatisfied with the current situation, which is hindering students' studies.

Screenings such as job interviews currently start for fourth-year students in spring. However, many universities abroad offer classes until summer. For fear of starting job hunting too late, many students decide not to study abroad.

If the start of the screening process is delayed until August, university students will be able to focus on their studies longer, and it will be easier for them to study abroad as well. This would also benefit companies seeking internationally oriented human resources.

The fact that Keidanren's charter is nonbinding and has no penalties for violators is problematic. Furthermore, only 830 companies among about 1,300 member companies have endorsed the charter. We cannot dispel concerns that foreign companies and others not parties to the charter will rush to corral students before the ban on job hunting ends.

A similar employment agreement in the past was abolished after it became toothless because of the practice of "aotagai" (green harvest), which refers to starting recruiting activities earlier than the agreed date. To avoid the same mistake, Keidanren needs to make the charter fully understood and make efforts to increase the number of member companies that endorse it. Companies, for their part, should willingly abide by the charter rather than only deploring a decline in students' academic ability.

Examinations for career-track positions for national civil servants are held from April to June. This schedule must be reviewed so that the government does not recruit new employees before companies do.

Concerns over shorter season

Students are concerned that it may become difficult for them to receive an unofficial job offer due to a shorter job-hunting season. And small and midsize companies are worried it will become even more difficult to acquire human resources as only big companies may attract students.

Even if small and midsize companies with good business results try to hire more graduates, there are not many students willing to work in such firms. The government, companies, universities and others need to strengthen cooperation to solve this mismatch.

We also want students to change their mind-set. In a trend that has become conspicuous, many students randomly seek jobs at big companies, probably partly because they can easily submit statements of reasons for application to companies via the Internet. This is worrisome.

We want students to find a job suitable for them through job hunting in the original sense of the phrase that focuses on a job they want, not "company hunting," in which they look for any famous company to join.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2013)
(2013年4月20日01時36分  読売新聞)

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ネット選挙へ 「悪意」の発信をどう防ぐか

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 20, 2013
Steps must be taken to prevent malicious online campaign messages
ネット選挙へ 「悪意」の発信をどう防ぐか(4月19日付・読売社説)

The go-ahead has been given at long last in Japan to lift a ban on electoral campaigning over the Internet. The end of the online campaigning ban is expected to encourage political participation by young voters.

A bill for revising the Public Offices Election Law for online political campaigning was unanimously approved in a special committee of the House of Councillors Thursday. The bill was set to be passed into law today [Friday], and will be applicable from this summer's upper house election.

The law is aimed at enabling campaigning on websites, including blogs and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, after the announcement of an election.

Most industrially advanced countries already allow Internet-based campaigning.

In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Barack Obama drew fully upon the strength of the Net in getting information out and engaging in dialogue with the public, garnering support from a large number of young voters. Obama's winning campaign was referred to as an "election revolution."

Boost in turnout hoped for

Japan has lagged behind in introducing online political campaigning, but the new system should be utilized to help voters make informed decisions and boost voter turnout.

Under the new system, political parties and candidates can no longer depend solely on the conventional style of electioneering such as repeatedly shouting their names from campaign vehicles and distributing leaflets and fliers.

It has become necessary for them to appeal to voters via the Internet in detail about things that can hardly be conveyed through brief stumping on the street, such as economic and national security policies.

Voters, for their part, will have the advantage of being able to learn about the arguments of parties and candidates in detail. It will also become possible for voters to have dialogues with candidates over the Net and to call on their fellow citizens to support a candidate by sharing information with a wide spectrum of the public through social media such as Twitter.

Campaigning via e-mail, however, is permitted only to parties and candidates, since e-mail is considered prone to be abused in campaigning. The bill's circumspect avoidance of completely lifting restrictions on Internet campaigning shows proper judgment.

The ruling and opposition parties are now working out specific arrangements for how to conduct their online political campaigns. The new electioneering methods should be made universally known to the public to prevent confusion on the part of either candidates or voters.

One important task facing the Net campaign system is how to prevent people from engaging in slander and libel to defeat candidates, or posing as candidates to make fake statements.

The worst such cases will lead to charges of defamation or false representation under the Public Offices Election Law, but it will be extremely difficult to delete false or erroneous information from the Net, as it can spread very promptly.

Watchdog may be needed

The bill makes it mandatory to indicate e-mail addresses or other contact information about message senders when campaigning is conducted using websites or e-mail.

Internet service providers will be allowed to delete messages that fail to include such information. This will help curb the spread of malicious messages to some degree.

Responsibility for monitoring information on the Net and blocking illicit messages is left up to political parties and candidates under the legislation. Whether a public organ should be set up for this purpose has yet to be discussed.

In last year's South Korean presidential election, the Central Election Administration Commission's "cyber election campaign irregularities surveillance team" reportedly deleted more than 7,000 questionable messages online.

It may become necessary in Japan, too, to create a similar surveillance body, depending on how the Internet-based campaigning develops.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 19, 2013)
(2013年4月19日01時17分  読売新聞)

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スー・チー来日 官民連携で国造りを支えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 20, 2013
Myanmar nation building must be supported by govt, private sector
スー・チー来日 官民連携で国造りを支えたい(4月19日付・読売社説)

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar's largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has visited Japan at the invitation of the government and had successive meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and others.

This is her first visit in 27 years. She was a guest researcher at Kyoto University in the mid-1980s before getting involved in the democracy movement in her home country.

Suu Kyi confronted the junta and was placed under house arrest for a total of about 15 years. Her Japan visit symbolizes Myanmar's democratization, which has been promoted by the administration of President Thein Sein since the country changed to civilian rule two years ago.

The Japanese government has welcomed the Thein Sein administration's reform efforts and has been proactively supporting the country through such actions as restarting official development assistance projects, including yen loans, ahead of the United States or European countries.

NLD and democratization

The government is trying to strengthen its relationship with the NLD on the thinking that growth of a sound opposition party in the national assembly could lead to further democratization of the country and stability of society. It is also thought that the NLD is likely to further gain strength in a general election to be held in 2015.

Abe told Suu Kyi during their talks, "We'd like to support your country so that reform can progress further." He then explained to her the government's policy of supporting Myanmar's nation building through ODA and private investment.

Suu Kyi responded that she hopes Japan will cooperate with Myanmar in the country's development. She asked for Japan's assistance for her country in vocational and agricultural education, among other fields.

Concrete achievements

Since she was elected in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Assembly of the Union, in spring last year, she has been trying to transform from a pro-democracy leader outside the government into a pragmatic politician. To respond to supporters' expectations, she needs concrete achievements such as an improvement in the country's standard of living.

There is a rough road ahead for Myanmar's nation building. As Suu Kyi insists, the Constitution must be revised for further democratization, including the abolishment of guaranteed seats for the military in the assembly, which are stipulated in the Constitution to secure the military's political influence.

Efforts of the Myanmar government to improve relations with ethnic minorities who have confronted it have seen rough going, meaning national reconciliation is not in sight. Also, worsening public security may pour cold water onto Japanese companies' passion for investment in the country.

Of all countries, Japan is providing the most economic assistance to Myanmar. It is important for Japan that the public and private sectors cooperate in development assistance to Myanmar, which contributes to the stabilization of society, such as raising the standard of living for ethnic minorities and improvement in roads and electricity.

The strategic value of Myanmar, which is situated in an important location between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, has been ever increasing. Myanmar has turned away from its exclusively pro-China diplomacy under military rule and has been strengthening relations with such countries as Japan, India and the United States.

To keep China, which has been increasing its influence through military and economic expansion, in check, it is important for Japan to deepen relations with Myanmar.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 19, 2013)
(2013年4月19日01時17分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月19日 (金)

党首討論 手詰まり感漂う海江田民主党

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 19, 2013
Don't Kaieda and DPJ know how to say anything other than 'No'?
党首討論 手詰まり感漂う海江田民主党(4月18日付・読売社説)

There was a stark contrast between Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and Democratic Party of Japan President Banri Kaieda during their debate in the Diet. Backed by the recent surge of stock prices and a high public approval rate, Abe looked confident--even relaxed--while Kaieda's attacks on him made no impact.

As long as the leader of the largest opposition party continues such a lackluster performance, Diet debates will have no vigor.

On Wednesday, Abe and opposition party leaders had their first debate under the second Abe Cabinet.

Kaieda emphasized the projected side-effects of Abenomics. He said the Abe administration's massive monetary easing would hurt people, especially those living on pensions, by raising the cost of living. He also expressed concern about the government's ongoing discussions on deregulation that could pave the way to increased job cuts at companies.

Abe responded by saying that the amount of pension benefits will go up as commodity prices rise, and stressed that inflation will eventually lead to wage increases.

"We have created 40,000 jobs in the past three months, something the DPJ-led administrations never achieved," Abe said.

Present counterproposals

Since the launch of the Abe administration, the excessive appreciation of the yen has been rectified, and stock prices have been hovering at high levels.

If Kaieda does nothing more than harp on his concerns about Abenomics, we can never expect constructive Diet debates. We expect the DPJ president to express his own views on how to end deflation and spur growth. In other words, Kaieda should present concrete counterproposals.

It was Abe who brought up the issue of the bill to rezone electoral districts in the House of Representatives by eliminating five single-seat constituencies without adding any. It seemed the prime minister was trying to take the upper hand in debating the topic. Abe, who is seeking to pass the bill ahead of other electoral reform measures, asked for Kaieda's cooperation.
Abe said: "The public has been demanding that we rectify disparities in the value of votes. As members of the legislature, don't we have the responsibility to meet this demand?"

Kaieda refused to go along, saying that the main promise [between the DPJ and the LDP] on electoral system reforms was to slash the number of seats. However, we have to say his remarks totally miss the point.

In November, a lower house electoral reform bill to eliminate five single-seat constituencies was enacted, and we have to remind Kaieda that the DPJ agreed on passing it. However, now the party opposes the rezoning bill, which would prepare an environment for the realization of the first bill, insisting that more drastic reform is necessary. It is apparent that the ruling parties would never agree to such an unreasonable demand from the DPJ.

The DPJ, saying that eliminating five single-seat constituencies is insufficient to rectify vote-value disparities, has submitted a bill to cut lower house seats by 30 in single-seat constituencies and 50 in proportional representation blocs. However, other opposition parties refused to go along with the DPJ's proposal.

Parties' divergent interests

The ruling parties have submitted the rezoning bill to a related lower house special committee. However, in protest of the move, the DPJ, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Your Party, the People's Life Party and the Social Democratic Party refused to participate in Diet deliberations on Wednesday.

Such actions cannot be expected to work, and only give the impression to the public that the opposition parties are putting party interests before all else and ignoring the issue of rectifying vote-value disparities.

During Wednesday's debate, Ishin no Kai coleader Shintaro Ishihara emphasized the necessity of amending the Constitution and asked Abe not to make concessions on food safety when the government joins Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks.

After praising Abe's decision to join TPP talks, Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe urged the prime minister to proceed with civil service reforms.

The stance of the two parties is clearly different from that of the DPJ, which is obsessed with confronting the ruling parties. Wednesday's debate clarified the political distance between the ruling parties and each opposition party.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 18, 2013)
(2013年4月18日02時04分  読売新聞)

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ボストン・テロ 市街地イベント警備の点検を

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 19, 2013
Thorough checks needed for major events in urban areas
ボストン・テロ 市街地イベント警備の点検を(4月18日付・読売社説)

The recent bombing at the Boston Marathon in the United States was an act of indiscriminate terrorism that targeted a traditional event familiar even to Japanese people. We can never forgive this despicable, atrocious crime that killed and injured many people.

Two bombs exploded successively on a road along the route near the finish line as runners streamed past about four hours after the start of the race. At least three people, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed, while more than 170 others were injured in the horrible incident, some of them seriously.

About 23,000 people, including more than 200 Japanese runners, participated in the race, with relatives, friends, Boston residents and many others cheering the participants on.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the attack, saying, "Anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terrorism." Obama expressed his determination to make every effort to arrest those responsible and determine the details of the crime.

It was the first terrorist bombing in the United States since the simultaneous terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States placed top priority on reinforcing antiterrorism measures and prevented many incidents from actually taking place. It discovered the hideout of the mastermind of 9/11 and killed him.

These achievements make the impact of the latest twin bombing particularly strong in the United States. The incident has made the U.S. government and its people keenly aware that terrorism still exists as a real threat in everyday life.

It is still unknown whether the bombing was committed by a terrorist organization or a single culprit. We hope U.S. authorities will conduct a thorough investigation based on material evidence and information.

Bombs simple yet deadly

The Federal Bureau of Investigation suspects the bombs were made from pressure cookers packed with explosives and other materials. The FBI now strongly believes they were placed in a black nylon bag or backpack.

Similar bombs are often used in terror attacks in countries such as Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. They are easily made but highly lethal as nails and other metal objects are mixed with explosives.

It has been reported that the security arrangements for the Boston Marathon were thorough. However, it is difficult to employ baggage inspections and metal detectors over a wide scale to achieve complete security control in outdoor events in urban areas. The culprit focused on this vulnerability in the security arrangements.

Japan must be prepared

This terrorist attack is not an event of the other side of the ocean for Japan, as large marathons for ordinary people have already become common here. The Tokyo Marathon in February was a huge sporting event that drew about 37,000 runners. About 1.7 million people watched and cheered them along the route.

Japan also needs to implement measures against terrorist attacks to guard marathons and other major events.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government will do its best to ensure safety. "Police are now doing everything they can to ensure security and safety at important facilities and places where many people gather," Abe said.

Even if security checks become stricter, citizens' cooperation with antiterrorism efforts is indispensable.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 18, 2013)
(2013年4月18日02時04分  読売新聞)

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憲法96条改正 首相は参院選へ議論主導せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 18, 2013
Abe should lead debate on top law revision ahead of upper house poll
憲法96条改正 首相は参院選へ議論主導せよ(4月17日付・読売社説)

Japan's current Constitution has not been revised even once since its establishment.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is laying the groundwork to ask voters whether the hurdles to constitutional amendment should be lowered. We applaud Abe's willingness to amend the Constitution to respond to changes in Japan and the international community.

During an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe said he wants to make the issue of revising Article 96 of the Constitution, which stipulates conditions for proposing amendments, a central plank of the Liberal Democratic Party's pledges for this summer's House of Councillors election.

Article 96 stipulates that a revision must be initiated by the Diet through an affirmative vote by two-thirds or more of all members of each chamber, followed by a national referendum in which a majority of the public must support the change.

To make it easier to propose constitutional revisions, the LDP plans to lower the threshold of "two-thirds or more" to "a simple majority."

Komeito still cautious

Abe has met with Toru Hashimoto, coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), and they have already agreed on this point. Abe is trying to pave the way for constitutional revision by first reviewing Article 96, a process that some other parties support. We think his idea is realistic.

For Abe, coordination with the LDP's coalition partner New Komeito will be crucial if constitutional revision is to become a reality. Komeito remains cautious about amending Article 96, saying the time is not ripe to do so.

However, leaders of the LDP and Komeito will reportedly hold regular meetings to discuss this matter. We hope Komeito will deepen its deliberations on revising the nation's supreme law.

The Democratic Party of Japan insists that discussions on concrete details of the revisions, rather than tweaking Article 96 itself, are necessary. But it is the DPJ that should be discussing the content of possible revisions. The LDP has already compiled a draft of constitutional revisions in which the existence of the Self-Defense Forces would be spelled out in Article 9.

There might be resistance to changing Article 96. This is because the United States and Germany still require an affirmative vote of "two-thirds or more" in their legislatures as a condition for revisions, although they do not hold national referendums on proposed changes to their constitutions. These countries have altered their top laws many times. Why has Japan been unable to do the same?

Systemic obstacles

After World War II, the Japan Socialist Party, which championed the principle of unarmed neutrality, and other political parties held a degree of power in the Diet. They trumpeted that militarism would be revived if the Constitution was revised. The LDP, for its part, promoted policies that put the economy first and shied away from making an active commitment to revise the Constitution.

The electoral system also has hindered constitutional revision. Since the multiple-seat constituency system was introduced, no ruling party has held two-thirds or more of the seats in both Diet chambers. Under the current system, in which proportional representation elections that give consideration to small parties were introduced in parts of both houses, it became difficult for ruling parties to secure at least two-thirds of the seats in either chamber--until the House of Representatives election in December.

July's upper house election could, depending on the results, create conditions in which constitutional revision will become realistically possible for the first time. The upcoming election is extremely important because it will also affect Japan's future course.

There are a wide array of points to be discussed regarding the Constitution, including Article 96, the preamble, national security, the bicameral system, local autonomy and environmental rights. Each party should actively debate these matters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 17, 2013)
(2013年4月17日01時21分  読売新聞)

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水俣病認定判決 争いの終結はなお見えない

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 18, 2013
Top court ruling indicates no end in sight for Minamata disease issue
水俣病認定判決 争いの終結はなお見えない(4月17日付・読売社説)

The Supreme Court has recognized a woman as a victim of Minamata disease after her application for such recognition was rejected under criteria set by the central government.

The ruling means the administration and the judiciary have different criteria in recognizing the disease, and such double standards are likely to continue for sometime to come. With sufferers of the disease aging, it is extremely serious that no solution is in sight in the battle over Minamata disease.

Bereaved families of two women whose applications for recognition as victims of the illness were turned down by the Kumamoto prefectural government filed lawsuits to reverse this decision. The prefectural government has been appointed by the state as an administrative body to certify Minamata disease victims.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday supported a Fukuoka High Court ruling that recognized one of the women as a victim of Minamata disease. In the other woman's case, it annulled an Osaka High Court decision rejecting her claim as a victim of the disease and sent it back to the high court for further deliberation.

Judiciary more flexible

The most interesting point in the top court ruling is that it called for recognition of victims of the disease to be decided from a more diversified and comprehensive perspective. This appeared to be an indirect criticism of government-set criteria, which some people regard as too rigid.

The criteria, introduced in 1977, requires a combination of such symptoms as a sensory disorder, inability to coordinate muscular movements, constriction of the visual field for patients to be recognized as Minamata disease patients eligible for assistance.

However, the Supreme Court ruled that even if a combination of such symptoms is not apparent, the screening of applications on a case-by-case basis should not be rejected out of hand.

The judicial branch of government shows it is more flexible than the administration in examining the symptoms and residential history of each applicant and recognizing Minamata disease victims.

However, the top court's decision could lead to a chaotic situation as patients might rush to file lawsuits seeking recognition and more compensation as Minamata disease victims.

Officially recognized Minamata disease patients are eligible to receive compensation, including payments of 16 million yen to 18 million yen, from Chisso Corp., which was responsible for the mercury poisoning that caused the disease. But the number of recognized victims stands at only 3,000.

In 1995, the central government implemented assistance measures for uncertified Minamata disease sufferers, such as by paying them a lump sum of 2.6 million yen.

Victims discouraged

In 2009, the Minamata Disease Victims Relief Law was enacted to aid uncertified sufferers under existing redress programs. Such people became entitled to a lump sum payment of 2.1 million yen.

About 65,000 people have applied for the relief aid, but many victims have been discouraged by the government response. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, the Environment Ministry, which has taken the initiative in helping Minamata disease victims, is expected to face increasing problems.

The previous relief measures focused on drawing a line between patients regarded as eligible or ineligible for legal aid, resulting in many applicants feeling they were being treated unfairly. The Minamata disease issue has underscored the importance of victims receiving relief more promptly and on a wider scale. This is the main lesson to be learned from the issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 17, 2013)
(2013年4月17日01時21分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月17日 (水)

教育委員会改革 機能の立て直しをどう図るか

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 17, 2013
Functions of boards of education must be rebuilt in stable manner
教育委員会改革 機能の立て直しをどう図るか(4月16日付・読売社説)

The Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, which works directly under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has submitted to Abe its second set of proposals calling for drastic reform of the education board system.

In the proposals, the council clearly states that the superintendent of a board of education, who is appointed by the head of a local government with the consent of a local assembly, is responsible for educational administration. The head of the local government also has the right to dismiss the superintendent under the proposals.

The proposals are aimed at transforming the education board system. Currently, board members and other experts make decisions without any input from the head of a local government.

It has come to light that local boards of education around the country have failed to function properly in dealing with such incidents as one involving an Otsu middle school boy who committed suicide in 2011, apparently due to bullying at school.

Prompt action essential

The government's Central Council for Education plans to study the proposals further.

We hope the panel's assessment of the proposals will lead to rebuilding the educational administration at the local level.

Under the current system, local boards of education have a chairperson representing the board and a superintendent in charge of administrative work. This has raised questions about who is responsible for educational administration.

Except for the superintendent, board members are appointed on a nonregular basis, and they hold meetings only a few times a month. The board's deliberations, therefore, tend to be a mere formality.

It has recently become apparent that they often fail to take prompt action when serious incidents occur, such as bullying and corporal punishment.

The proposals are aimed at correcting these shortcomings and enhancing the board's maneuverability in implementing educational administration with the responsibility and power centering on the superintendent.
However, under the proposals, the authority for the personnel management of teachers and school officials and the selection of textbooks will be the responsibility of the superintendent.
Certain checks and balances are needed to prevent the superintendent from adopting biased policies.

In light of this, the proposals are calling for the maintenance of the education board system, rather than abolishing it. When the superintendent decides on basic policies and other key issues, the proposals call for these issues to be discussed by the entire board.

The method of appointing board members also holds the key for the new boards of education to monitor educational administration.

Political neutrality

The political neutrality of educational administration is essential, as the head of a local government would be empowered with the right to dismiss the superintendent. It is obvious the intentions of the head of a local government will be reflected, more than ever, in educational administration.

Will the head of a local government appoint someone who exercises little discretion in educational administration merely because he or she shares the same political beliefs?

Should the educational targets and policies change significantly every time a new head of a local government is elected, it would cause great confusion among teachers at local schools.

Even if the makeup of an education board changes, it is important to maintain the stability and continuity of educational administration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2013)
(2013年4月16日01時05分  読売新聞)

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ケリー長官来日 対中朝で日米連携を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 17, 2013
Japan, U.S. should cooperate closely to address China, North Korea issues
ケリー長官来日 対中朝で日米連携を強化せよ(4月16日付・読売社説)

To effectively address North Korea's brinkmanship tactics and China's overbearing diplomacy, it is essential for Japan and the United States to step up cooperation further.

Visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held separate talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. They agreed to press North Korea to exercise self-restraint on ballistic missile launches. They also agreed not to allow the country to possess nuclear arms and to urge the country to undertake concrete steps toward denuclearization.

It is a typical tactic of North Korea to intentionally heighten a crisis to try to gain economic assistance through later negotiations. We think Abe rightly pointed out, "It's necessary to make North Korea understand its repeated provocations will not bring about any benefits."

Japan and the United States must not neglect missile defense and other military preparations. At the same time, the two nations must continue dealing with the issue in a coolheaded and resolute manner, through such means as steady implementation of sanctions against North Korea, without excessively responding to its intimidating actions.

Multilateral cooperation

It also is important that Japan and the United States urge China, which wields a certain amount of influence over North Korea, to fulfill its responsibilities in a proactive manner.

Kerry emphatically said in a speech, "The United States remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization."

It is not an easy task to make Pyongyang abandon its nuclear development. But the international community should continue pursuing this goal. North Korea may eventually return to a dialogue-based approach, such as the six-party talks.

In such a scenario, economic assistance must not be provided to North Korea unless that country takes concrete actions. It is necessary for Japan, the United States, China and South Korea to carefully hammer out a workable plan so North Korea will not benefit from its diplomacy of threats.

Territorial, troop issues

In talks with the Japanese foreign minister, Kerry touched on the Senkaku Islands, saying, "We oppose any unilateral or coercive action that would somehow aim at changing the status quo."

Similar to remarks made by his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, in January, it is significant that Kerry flatly rejected China's apparent attempts to alter Japan's effective control of the islands by force. We consider this the fruit of prior arrangements made by the Japanese side.

China should not be allowed to employ such tactics as blatantly dispatching government ships and others with an eye toward expanding its territorial rights and maritime interests. It is vitally important for Japan to persistently stress that having China abide by international law and rules is a challenge faced by the entire international community.

In the foreign ministerial talks, the third of their kind since Kerry assumed the post in February, Kishida and Kerry also confirmed the two nations would steadily move ahead in the process for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. This includes the planned relocation of Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, and the transfer of some U.S. marines from the prefecture to Guam. They also confirmed they would steadily work toward Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

On enhancing Japan-U.S. cooperation in policies toward North Korea and China, Tokyo and Washington are expected to make progress on underlying bilateral issues through frequent dialogues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2013)
(2013年4月16日01時05分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月16日 (火)

インフル特措法 「新型」流行への備えを万全に

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 16, 2013
Meticulous preparations needed to curb spread of new types of flu
インフル特措法 「新型」流行への備えを万全に(4月14日付・読売社説)

A law concerning special measures to counter new strains of influenza that could trigger an epidemic has been put into force. It requires the central and local governments to meticulously prepare to prevent the spread of the new types of flu.

A new flu virus found in birds and pigs has mutated genetically and is thought to be capable of spreading from person to person.

As nobody is immune to the new strain of virus, it could spread explosively and possibly claim many lives.

Some people have been infected with the new strain of bird flu virus in Shanghai, its environs and even in Beijing. But so far there have been no confirmed cases of person-to-person infection. At this moment, the latest type of flu is not among the strains stipulated by the new law.

Remain on guard

The nation must not let its guard down. The government has appropriately put the new law into force earlier than originally planned in order to put relevant systems into place promptly.

When a new type of flu broke out in 2009, prefectural and municipal governments dealt differently with planned public events, causing confusion.

The law concerning special measures has been established based on the lessons learned from that incident. It obliges the central and local governments to map out action plans.

If a large number of casualties are predicted with an outbreak of a new type of flu, the prime minister would declare a state of emergency, with the central and local governments taking measures based on their action plans.
One key point is that prefectural governors are authorized under the new law to close local schools and kindergartens. They are also authorized to instruct such venues as theaters, museums, and department stores to limit their hours or suspend operations. Should they fail to follow the instruction, the governor can make their names public.

This is understandable because such infections tend to spread instantly when many people gather at one place. While such emergency suspensions could restrict some economic activities, they may be inevitable.

Should such measures be prolonged, however, they would adversely affect corporate business activities and the overall economy. Therefore, such restrictions should be minimized, which makes it important for the authorities to accurately determine the virulence of a virus.

Stable supply of goods

To ensure a stable supply of such necessities as medicines and foods, the central and local governments are also empowered under the new law to oblige private businesses to deliver goods. This step could be considered analogous to dealing with such disasters as a major earthquake.

The new law also calls for efficient vaccination, with priority given to medical personnel and workers in the railways, electricity and gas services. This is necessary to allow people to carry on with their daily activities.

Nevertheless, a vaccine cannot prevent people from being infected with the virus. It can only reduce the number of people who develop symptoms or reduce the severity of symptoms that do develop.

First of all, the government must remind people to take such preventive measures as washing their hands regularly and refraining from going out unnecessarily if they have symptoms of being infected.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 14, 2013)
(2013年4月14日01時37分  読売新聞)

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衆院選挙制度 「格差」と定数削減は別問題だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 16, 2013
Don't lump 'vote value disparity' issue with planned cuts in lawmakers
衆院選挙制度 「格差」と定数削減は別問題だ(4月14日付・読売社説)

Both the ruling and opposition camps must place top priority on resolving what the judiciary has described as a "state of unconstitutionality" in the House of Representatives electoral system, and do everything possible to enact a bill that will alleviate the problem.

The government has presented to the lower house a bill that would change the demarcation of the chamber's single-seat constituencies by revising the Public Offices Election Law, with the aim of trimming the number of first-past-the-post districts by five to 295 from the current 300.

The bill would revamp 42 single-seat districts of 17 prefectures, including Tokyo, based on recommendations submitted in March to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by an expert panel tasked with rezoning lower house constituencies.

If the bill becomes law, disparities in the weight of each vote on the basis of the 2010 national census will fall below 2:1 between the most and least populated districts, the ratio the Supreme Court has ruled as "being within the bounds of reasonableness."

No consensus on reform

In 17 administrative lawsuits filed over vote value disparity in the previous lower house election in December, high courts have handed down rulings of "unconstitutionality" in 15 of them. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue as early as this autumn.

Given that this will have a bearing on its makeup, it is only natural that the the Diet should rectify state of unconstitutionality.

However, most opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan, are poised to oppose the bill.

They say the bill would not abolish the system under which each of the 47 prefectures is automatically allocated one single-seat constituency, and the remainder of seats is apportioned among them, according to their populations. A 2011 Supreme Court ruling said this system should be scrapped because it was a major cause of vote value disparities.

DPJ Secretary General Goshi Hosono insists the government-submitted bill for eliminating five single-seat districts "doesn't go far enough to eliminate the state of unconstitutionality." He has called for consultations between the ruling and opposition blocs on drastically reforming the lower house electoral system, including slashing the large number of seats in the chamber.

It should be remembered, however, the DPJ agreed in November to a bill that would establish a framework for pruning five single-seat constituencies from the chamber. The party's latest tactic smacks of opportunism.

The parties remain far apart in their thinking on how the electoral system should be reformed. Given the slim chances of forming a consensus on this issue, it is the minimum responsibility of the legislature to pass into law as quickly as possible the bill to erase five seats.

Fundamentally, the arguments by many parties for advocating reforms by linking them with the issue of reducing lower house seats are not reasonable.

In an apparent bid to justify its position, the DPJ insists Diet members should be willing to put themselves on the line to obtain public support for higher burdens the people will face due to looming increases in the consumption tax rate. The DPJ assertion, however, is completely unrelated to the issue of rectifying vote value gaps.

Revote may be inevitable

We have doubts about the debates among the parties that are seemingly vying over the number of seats to be cut. This seems little more than a populist tactic to garner support as the House of Councillors election draws near.

Japan has relatively few legislators per head of population compared with other developed nations. The legislature must ensure it functions to properly oversee the actions of the administration by representing the opinions of a wide spectrum of the public.

The ruling parties have floated an idea to make the bill, if it is voted down or is not put to a vote in the upper house due to a failure to agree on terms with the opposition, passed into law through a revote in the lower house in accordance with Article 59 of the Constitution.

Time is running out, as the current Diet session will be adjourned in June. The Diet must not let the "unconstitutionality" issue go unaddressed any longer. Under the circumstances, the government may have no option but to take a revote to legislate the bill as an emergency step.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 14, 2013)
(2013年4月14日01時37分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月14日 (日)

「北」瀬戸際外交 予測不能な言動に警戒強めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 14, 2013
World must step up vigilance against North Korea's unpredictable actions
「北」瀬戸際外交 予測不能な言動に警戒強めよ(4月13日付・読売社説)

The international community, including Japan, must unite and deal strictly with North Korea, which is trying to strengthen its nuclear arsenal. We must tighten sanctions against Pyongyang if it launches a ballistic missile.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations on Thursday adopted a communique urging North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and agreed to tighten sanctions if the country fires a missile. The move is a strong warning to North Korea.

The international community is now being tested over how it can effectively thwart North Korea's drive to go nuclear.

North Korea has threatened Japan, the United States and South Korea by name, saying they are potential targets of its preemptive nuclear strike, and declared that it will reactivate its nuclear facilities. The country appears to be preparing to launch one or more ballistic missiles.

Missile threat

There is a possibility that North Korea may fire missiles capable of reaching the U.S. Pacific island of Guam, Japan and South Korea from mobile launch pads.

To prepare for a case in which a missile falls on Japan, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera ordered the Self-Defense Forces to shoot down any missile from North Korea using the missile defense system. The government should take all possible measures to intercept North Korea's missiles.

Repeating threatening words and actions, Pyongyang is seeking nuclear armaments that will menace global peace and security. This is intolerable.

North Korea has continued provocative words and actions, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said "have reached a level at which they are difficult to tolerate." It is only natural that U.S. President Barack Obama took a firm stance, saying the United States will "take all necessary steps" unless North Korea changes its belligerent attitude.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to South Korea, China and Japan, which started Friday, has a significant meaning. It is essential for Japan, the United States, South Korea and China to coordinate thoroughly in dealing with North Korea.

It is problematic that Kim Jong Un, North Korea's supreme leader, does not have strong connections with Chinese leaders and therefore it is unclear how well he understands the international situation.

U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said Kim seems "impetuous."

Constant concern hangs over his unpredictable words and actions.

During a ceremony to celebrate the first anniversary of Kim's promotion to first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea on Thursday, a nuclear test and the firing of a long-range ballistic missile were praised as his great achievements.

Menacing weaponry

At a plenary meeting of the party's Central Committee held late last month, Kim gave the order to mass-produce "precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery" and actively develop "more powerful nuclear weapons."

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Defense, reportedly compiled an analysis that concludes that North Korea has developed a nuclear weapon that can be mounted on a missile.

The international community should make efforts to grasp the actual situation of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development and further strengthen vigilance and measures against the country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,  April 13, 2013)
(2013年4月13日01時14分  読売新聞)

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日米協議決着 TPP交渉の勝負はこれから

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 14, 2013
With entry to TPP talks imminent, negotiating challenges await Japan
日米協議決着 TPP交渉の勝負はこれから(4月13日付・読売社説)

How can Japan make up for its late entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations? The government must make all-out efforts in the talks.

Japan announced Friday it has completed its bilateral preliminary consultations with the United States, which are viewed as the most crucial step for Japan to enter the TPP talks.

The U.S. administration is now set to notify Congress of its intent to accept Japan's entry into the TPP negotiations. It is expected to obtain formal approval this summer after a 90-day period for congressional procedures.

Japan's entry needs to be approved by all 11 countries currently taking part in the TPP talks.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which have yet to endorse Japan's participation, are likely to give the green light soon, finally opening the way for the nation to join the talks. We welcome the prospect that Japan likely will go to the negotiating table as early as July.

Japan makes concessions to U.S.

Among the highlights of the bilateral accord between Japan and the United States, the two countries agreed that U.S. tariffs on imports of Japanese passenger cars and trucks will be phased out over the longest period possible. This is an apparent effort to ease the U.S. auto industry's concerns over expected increases in Japanese auto imports.

The two countries also agreed that Japan will refrain from approving new products of Japan Post Insurance Co., the life insurance unit of Japan Post Holdings Co. This agreement addressed a concern among the U.S. insurance sector that business expansion of Japan Post, which is partially funded by the government, would impede fair competition.

In the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers had begun coordinating with the U.S. auto and insurance sectors and other entities to put the brakes on Japan's entry into TPP talks. We think it inevitable for Tokyo to place top priority on early entry into the TPP talks even if that results in making concessions to Washington in the bilateral consultations.

The 11 countries are aiming to conclude the TPP negotiations by the end of this year. There is not much time left for Japan. The nation will lose room to maneuver in making trade rules in the TPP framework if its participation is delayed further.

Meanwhile, Japan and the United States also confirmed in their bilateral consultations that Japan has certain trade sensitivities regarding agricultural products.

The Liberal Democratic Party has called on the government to treat five agricultural items, including rice and wheat, as exceptions to the tariff elimination being sought under the TPP framework. However, calls for trade liberalization have been strong from participating countries. Japan will be tested on the extent to which it can take advantage of its bilateral agreement with the United States to push for its stance in the negotiations.

Tough strategy needed

Japan should be wary of Australia and other countries taking up the call to postpone lowering tariffs on Japanese auto imports. This could hamper growth of Japan's exports.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting of key ministers Friday: "We'll face a real challenge to realize our national interests from now on. We'll participate in the negotiations as soon as possible and aim to take the lead in the talks."

We hope the government will enter the negotiations with a tough strategy. Above all, Japan should boost its growth by expanding free trade and taking advantage of the vitality of Asia and other regions.

In parallel with the TPP negotiations, Japan needs to accelerate efforts to beef up its agricultural sector to prepare for global competition that will come after opening markets further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 13, 2013)
(2013年4月13日01時14分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月13日 (土)

BSE対策 自治体は全頭検査を打ち切れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 13, 2013
EDITORIAL / Local govts should eliminate blanket testing of cattle for mad cow disease
BSE対策 自治体は全頭検査を打ち切れ(4月12日付・読売社説)

The inspection standard for testing domestic cattle for mad cow disease, which the central government has tasked to the local governments, are expected to be eased as early as July.

An expert panel of the Cabinet Office's Food Safety Commission approved Wednesday a draft report to raise the age limit for domestic cattle subject to testing for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, from the current "31 months old or older" to "more than 48 months old."

The panel concluded that the risk posed to humans of easing the inspection standard would be "negligible," based on data showing that the majority of cows in Japan and other countries confirmed to have BSE were older than 48 months.

BSE on decline worldwide

We believe the panel's conclusion is appropriate, as it is based on scientific knowledge and the latest situation regarding mad cow disease.

In Europe, where mad cow disease was once rampant, cattle younger than 72 months old are exempted from BSE test, far more relaxed than Japan's planned inspection standard. Moreover, it is being discussed with a view toward further easing the regulation.

About 1.2 million cattle are slaughtered a year for meat consumption in this country, most of which range from 20 months old to less than 40 months. When the proposed age limit for cattle is introduced, most cows will become exempt from the inspections.

Since the first case of BSE in Japan was reported in September 2001, incidence of the disease has drastically declined worldwide thanks to regulations that ban the use of ruminant feed mixed with meat-and-bone meal.

No BSE-infected cow has been found in Japan since the last, a cow born in January 2002.

An international watchdog on the incidence of BSE, the World Organization for Animal Health, is expected to designate Japan as having "negligible risk" of mad cow disease.

Under these circumstances, the nation's domestic BSE problem can be said to have almost been brought to an end.

However, a related problem is the blanket testing of beef from domestic cattle that local governments have continued to impose.

Even after the central government has gradually eased the testing criteria, prefectures, including Tokyo and Hokkaido, and other municipalities in charge of meat inspections, continue to test cattle, including young cows with no risk of BSE, at their discretion. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry still doles out about 500 million yen a year in subsidies for the tests.

Many local governments say the testing is necessary to "secure consumers' sense of safety."

However, the local governments are presumably reluctant to terminate the blanket inspections prior to other municipalities because they are concerned that the spread of unfounded fears could lead to sagging sales of locally produced beef.

Fears of negative rumors

Japan is the only country in the world that has kept blanket cattle inspections in place to mitigate the spread of BSE.

However, if such inspections continue, they could end up backfiring, leading to a misperception abroad that Japanese beef may not be safe.

It has already been shown that there is no need to stick to blanket testing of domestic cattle at the expense of precious budgetary appropriations and human resources. We believe local governments should end their blanket testing as soon as possible.

The ministry, for its part, must provide full explanations to consumers that terminating the blanket inspections poses no significant risk to human health. Subsidies the ministry has been providing for local governments to do the testing at their own judgment must also be done away with.

The central government, which in February eased import restrictions on foreign beef, should consider further easing based on the scientific risk evaluation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 12, 2013)
(2013年4月12日01時42分  読売新聞)

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老いる大都市圏 介護の担い手をどう確保する

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 13, 2013
EDITORIAL / Secure nursing care staffers as major urban areas go gray
老いる大都市圏 介護の担い手をどう確保する(4月12日付・読売社説)

How to respond to the need for medical and nursing care in major urban areas, which will sharply rise in coming years, is a grave theme in social security policy.

In the 30 years from 2010, Tokyo and the prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba and Aichi, among others, will see huge jumps in the number of residents aged 65 or older. This was revealed in a recent survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research on population projections for specific regions.

In Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures, the number of residents who are 75 or older--a group with higher need for medical and nursing care services--will double during the period.

Urban areas will gray as generations who moved there from regional areas during the period of rapid economic growth become senior citizens. Rural society is already graying as depopulation has steadily continued in farming village areas, and the trend will spread to major urban areas.

In such a situation, it is indispensable to improve facilities for the aged, including special nursing care homes for the elderly. Such facilities have the advantage of being able to take care of many elderly people with a limited number of nursing care staff.

However, it is not easy to construct new facilities in urban areas, where land prices are high. The lack of facilities for the aged will worsen in the future.

We hope each local government will wisely prepare facilities for the aged by, for instance, utilizing the buildings of schools that are no longer in use.

Home care needed

It is also important to create an environment in which people can receive sufficient medical and nursing care at their homes. Expectations are running high for the 24-hour home-visit nursing care service that the government launched last year. Nurses or nursing care staff visit the homes of aged people several times a day, and can also respond to emergency calls.

However, this service has not been used widely: Less than 10 percent of local governments in the nation have introduced it so far.
Nursing care service providers are hesitant to adopt the service due to such burdens as responding to midnight calls. Difficulty securing nurses, a condition for entering the market, is said to be another cause.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry must study measures to improve the situation, such as easing conditions for participating in the market.

It is also important to secure nursing care staff. Even people who have experience in this area often stop working due to marriage and childbirth. An environment has to be created in which such people can continue to work in nursing care while rearing their children, by solving the problem of the long waiting list to enroll children in licensed day care centers, among other things.

It is also necessary to improve salaries in this business sector, which are lower than in other industries.

Single men face isolation

The number of elderly men living alone in urban areas will sharply increase in the future, much more than single elderly women. This is going to be a big problem.
A major reason is that the percentage of unmarried men currently in their 30s and 40s is rising due to such factors as the increase in non-regular employees, who are paid less than regular full-time workers.

Single people cannot expect family members to provide nursing care when they become old. They tend to have tenuous connections to their neighbors and become alienated.

The urban graying problem must be discussed, including such factors as employment, salaries and an appropriate way for the public to bear the burdens. We hope the government's National Council on Social Security System Reform will deepen its discussions on these issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 12, 2013)
(2013年4月12日01時42分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月12日 (金)

原発新規制基準 ゼロリスクにとらわれるな

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 12, 2013
NRA should not get caught up in myth of completely 'risk-free' reactors
原発新規制基準 ゼロリスクにとらわれるな(4月11日付・読売社説)

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the final draft of new safety standards to be applied to the nation's nuclear power plants.

Taking lessons from the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the new standards will require operators of nuclear power plants to prepare for earthquakes and tsunami larger than those they had estimated prior to March 11, 2011.
Measures to prevent critical accidents, such as meltdowns of nuclear reactors, were also incorporated in the new standards, including energy supplies from multiple power sources and reinforcing reactor cooling systems.

It is indeed necessary to correct the weaknesses of the old safety standards in place before the nuclear crisis. However, although many people--including those inside the NRA--complained during the deliberation process that the nuclear regulatory body was going too far in seeking to reducing the risk from nuclear power plants to zero, their views were hardly reflected in the final draft.

New standards overly strict

It is clear that the final draft has a number of flaws.

One of them is the requirements on active faults found under nuclear power plants. In the previous safety standards, faults that were confirmed to have moved within 130,000 years were judged as active faults. However, the final draft will require operators to expand the scope of investigation significantly--movements within the past 400,000 years will be subject to investigation.

The nuclear regulatory body has already adopted the new criteria for researching active faults at idle nuclear power plants. While conducting the research, Acting NRA Chairman Kunihiko Shimazaki has repeatedly called on power companies to prove that they are "100 percent sure" that there are no active faults. A clause reflecting Shimazaki's requirements is expected to be included in the new safety standards.

However, it is obvious that Shimazaki's demands are extremely unscientific. Power companies should pursue approaches based on engineering, such as reinforcing the safety equipment at nuclear power plants so the power plants will be able to withstand seismic activity.

Some experts have raised concerns about other measures laid out in the final draft, pointing out their "excessiveness." One example is the requirement of filtered vents, which would help release pressure from nuclear reactors in the case of a serious accident.

The new safety standards will obligate all of the nation's nuclear power plants to install filtered vents. However, last month, the United States concluded it is unnecessary to install the filtered vents in its nuclear reactors for the time being, after hearing expert opinion. It is understandable that a senior official of the U.S. Energy Department raised concerns that Japan's strict standards may affect nuclear power plants in other countries.

After collecting public opinion on the final draft, the nuclear regulatory body plans to put the new standards into effect in July, or earlier if possible. Based on the new standards, the NRA will check whether the nation's idled nuclear reactors are suitable for restart.

Restart of N-plants urgent

What is important is to improve the efficiency of inspections. According to the NRA, it will only be able to check three nuclear power plants at a time due to a shortage of officials possessing sufficient expertise. The nuclear regulatory body must reinforce its inspection framework by taking such steps as recruiting talented people.

Flexibility is also crucial. Measures should be introduced in accordance with the specific conditions of each nuclear power plant. It is not realistic to demand all nuclear power plants have the same amount of fire extinguishing equipment, for example.

To pass inspections, nuclear power plants will be required to introduce retrofits reflecting the latest safety measures for nuclear reactors. Improving safety is important, but we are concerned that the plan would lead to higher costs, forcing power companies to shut down some reactors.

The nation's power supply faces a tough situation. The price of electricity has gone up after the price hike for fuel for thermal power plants. It is urgent to restart power plants once their safety is confirmed.

We ask the NRA to judge whether nuclear power plants are eligible for restart, without being swayed by the current public desire for the absolute safety of nuclear power plants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 11, 2013)
(2013年4月11日01時30分  読売新聞)

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日台漁業協定 戦略的外交で「尖閣」を守れ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 12, 2013
Japan-Taiwan fisheries pact strategic diplomacy tool to protect Senkakus
日台漁業協定 戦略的外交で「尖閣」を守れ(4月11日付・読売社説)

The Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement will have a significant impact on preserving Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

It also demonstrates the direction of the diplomacy being pursued by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reinforce strategic relations with China's neighbors to keep the country in check.

Japan and Taiwan reopened official negotiations for the first time in four years over fishing activities in waters near the Senkaku Islands and signed a bilateral agreement on private fishing activities.

The pillar of the agreement is the establishment of a zone exempt from the fishing-related laws of both Japan and Taiwan within Japan's exclusive economic zone, set outside Japan's territorial waters. This will allow Taiwan fishermen to operate in the zone, in addition to another special cooperative operational zone specified in the agreement.

The agreement does not allow Taiwan fishing boats to operate in Japanese territorial waters.

Concerning the Senkaku Islands, both China and Taiwan have claimed territorial rights on the islets. In September last year, many Taiwan fishing boats entered the Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus. China had called on Taiwan's cooperation in confronting Japan.

The latest agreement is aimed at blocking such cooperation between China and Taiwan. The Chinese side immediately expressed "grave concern" over the agreement as it must have felt displeasure over the Japan-Taiwan cooperation.

Negotiations over fishing have been held intermittently between Japan and Taiwan since 1996, but a compromise could not be reached as the two sides butted heads over operational zones and rules, for example.

The Japanese government asked Taipei to reopen the negotiations in autumn last year, immediately after the Japanese government nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands.

Priority on islands' sovereignty

The call to reopen the talks was based on Japan's diplomatic strategy. Negotiations were led by the Prime Minister's Office. It was a major compromise for Japan on fishing rights as it prioritized protecting the Senkaku Islands. As Taiwan gains practical benefits in expanding its fishing area, the pact thus provides advantages for both sides.

Yet, the problem is whether the terms of the agreement will be smoothly carried out in the actual fishing areas. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima was vocal in his protest against the Japanese government.
"It is extremely regrettable a major compromise was made. We'll face fierce competition and the shrinkage of quality fishing areas," Nakaima said.

In spring, fishing activities pick up and the waters around the Senkaku Islands are good for catching Pacific bluefin tuna and flame snapper, in addition to other fish. The number of fishing boats to work in the zones and the catches must be coordinated to prevent overfishing.

Japan and Taiwan will establish a joint fisheries committee to put the finishing touches on the agreement.

To appropriately control fisheries resources, which are common assets for coastal nations, both sides need to proceed with the talks while keeping a broad perspective.

Improvement in relations

Fundamentally, Taiwan has been taking a pro-Japanese stance. At the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Taiwan provided huge donations. Abe has been taking into consideration the improvement in relations with Taiwan. For instance, at a ceremony to commemorate the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, a place for an official representing Taiwan was prepared alongside seats for the representatives of foreign countries.

The latest fisheries agreement will consequently result in reinforcement of the entire scope of Japan-Taiwan relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 11, 2013)
(2013年4月11日01時30分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月11日 (木)

福島原発汚染水 漏出対策に知恵を結集せよ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 11, 2013
Combined wisdom needed to deal with leakages of contaminated water
福島原発汚染水 漏出対策に知恵を結集せよ(4月10日付・読売社説)

Leakages of water contaminated with radioactive substances have recently been discovered in rapid succession at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

TEPCO must make every effort to quickly resolve the problem.

The leaks were initially found in two of the seven underground storage pools on the plant's premises. In response, TEPCO attempted to transfer the contaminated water from the two pools to another pool, which was also later found to be leaking radioactive water.

The amount of leaked contaminated water is believed to have greatly exceeded 100 tons, making it the largest radioactive leakage since the government declared the plant's damaged reactors had entered a state of cold shutdown in December 2011.

The Fukushima No. 1 plant produces about 400 tons of contaminated water daily. This is because a large amount of groundwater seeping into damaged sections of reactor buildings mixes with water used to cool the reactors.

Act swiftly

First and foremost, it is important to prevent the leakages from spreading. TEPCO must quickly secure water storage pools or tanks to replace pools where polluted water is leaking.

At the same time, TEPCO also needs to discern the cause of the leakages.

The storage pools are lined with a three-layered waterproof sheet to prevent such leakages. TEPCO said it had tested the pools by filling them with water before storing contaminated water. Did TEPCO design, construct and inspect the storage pools appropriately? The utility must quickly review these points.

The rainy season is approaching, meaning the volume of groundwater will substantially increase. There is no time to waste in strengthening measures to deal with the leakages.

It is apparent that there has been a recent decline in the level of urgency among workers at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, as a series of blackouts have also occurred. TEPCO should brace itself.

However, TEPCO's finances and human resources are limited. The government and the industrial world should combine their wisdom and discuss ways to actively support TEPCO in reducing the amount of contaminated water and dealing with the leaks.

However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority's attitude is problematic.

Pointing to doubts regarding the strength of a water purification system to clean contaminated water, the NRA spent more than six months on a safety review of the system. TEPCO's request that the NRA finish the review early was ignored, and the system only began operating on a trial basis in March.

Purification system a priority

TEPCO had originally planned to store purified water in the storage pools. However, it had no choice but to store contaminated water because the safety review of the purification system was delayed.

Given that the amount of contaminated water continues to increase, a fully operational purification system is urgently needed. The NRA must not make the mistake of failing to prioritize the safety review.

A long-term vision is essential in devising measure to deal with contaminated water. Space to set up storage tanks and pools at the plant is limited--sooner or later, it will run out.

Releasing contaminated water into the sea in accordance with safety standards once it has been purified should also be discussed. The government has a major role to play in obtaining public understanding on this matter.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 10, 2013)
(2013年4月10日02時00分  読売新聞)

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サッチャー死去 今なお生きる国家再生の教訓

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 11, 2013
EDITORIAL / Thatcher leaves indelible lesson on how to revitalize a nation
サッチャー死去 今なお生きる国家再生の教訓(4月10日付・読売社説)

Margaret Thatcher was a female politician who not only revitalized a sinking Britain but changed the world by playing a key role in ending the Cold War.

Thatcher, who served as British prime minister for 11 years from 1979, died Monday at the age of 87.

In expressing his condolences, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said she was "a great leader who demonstrated a force of will and was a respected politician who devoted herself to her country and people."

Even today, Japan can learn many lessons from Thatcher. Her greatest achievement was carrying out drastic reforms known as Thatcherism.

She stood firm against the "British disease"--a reference to the country's recession and financial woes--by promoting a small government. She embraced privatization and took a series of deregulation steps, including the "Big Bang" that transformed financial markets. She also boldly pushed through unpopular measures such as reducing generous welfare services and streamlining the coal mine sector.

However, as her economic policy focused mainly on the financial sector, Britain's manufacturing industry waned, widening the rich-poor gap. Despite the negative impact, her reforms are regarded to have laid the groundwork for the country's economic growth from the 1990s.

Impact on Japan

In the wake of Thatcherism, the state-owned Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation and Japanese National Railways were privatized under the administration of then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, and Japan's version of the "Big Bang" financial reforms were carried out under the administration of then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Along with Reaganomics, the economic policies promoted by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Thatcher managed the remarkable achievement of resuscitating the global economy.

Currently, Japan is trying to turn its economy around under Abenomics. Abe must exert his leadership to implement the necessary measures.

Thatcher's educational reforms have also influenced Abe. In a book, the Japanese prime minister praised her commitment to boosting Britain's educational levels by correcting a "self-deprecating" view of history in education.

Thatcher's role in international politics is also unforgettable.

When the United States and European countries were divided over U.S. plans to deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe and other issues, Thatcher stressed the need to counter the Soviet Union militarily. She played a pivotal role in unifying the West and ending the Cold War.

Maintaining rule of law

The world's spotlight was directed on Thatcher in April 1982 when Argentine forces invaded the British territory of Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. She did not hesitate to send a naval fleet to retake them.

In his recent policy speech, Abe quoted Thatcher who, on reflecting on the Falklands War, said Britain was defending the principle that international law should take precedence over the use of force.

She strongly advocated the protection of territories and sovereignty while abiding by international law. Japan should adopt this kind of firm attitude.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 10, 2013)
(2013年4月10日02時00分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月10日 (水)

食物アレルギー 給食の事故防止を徹底したい

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 10, 2013
Strong measures needed to prevent food allergy cases occurring at schools
食物アレルギー 給食の事故防止を徹底したい(4月9日付・読売社説)

How can we prevent children with food allergies from experiencing allergic reactions during a pleasant lunch at school?

As a new term has begun at schools, school administrators are asked to do their utmost to ensure their safety measures for school lunches are flawless.

Those with food allergies can develop such symptoms as eczema and respiratory difficulties if they eat certain foods, such as eggs, milk, wheat, peanuts, shrimp or crab.

There are also life-threatening allergic reactions, such as a sudden drop in blood pressure or impairment of consciousness.

According to a survey taken by the education ministry, 2.6 percent of students in the country suffer from food allergies. This means almost one student in every class has a food allergy.

There has been an increase in cases of students mistakenly eating food containing an allergen and requiring medical treatment. In fiscal 2011, such cases topped 300. Thoroughly implementing countermeasures is an urgent matter.

Allergic reactions can be fatal

At a municipality-run primary school in Chofu, western Tokyo, a fifth-grade girl died in December last year after consuming dairy products she was allergic to.

A report compiled last month by a local board of education examination committee pointed out a series of mistakes on the part of the school.

On the day of the incident, the school provided her with a special meal without cheese, to which she was allergic. When she asked for seconds, her teacher mistakenly gave her an ordinary portion containing cheese. The teacher should have checked the list of those foods she was not supposed to eat.

When the student complained about feeling sick, neither her teacher nor a nurse gave her an injection, which could have mitigated her allergic reaction.

At the same school, another student had an allergic reaction during lunch three months earlier. Later the school conducted an instructional program on food allergies for teachers and other school officials. It is quite regrettable that the lesson was not learned.

To prevent such tragic incidents from recurring, it is important for schools to cooperate with students' parents and doctors and to have accurate knowledge of possible allergy symptoms of food-allergic children and take careful steps.

With regard to measures to be taken for food-allergic students, a guideline was worked out in 2008 under the supervision of the education ministry. However, the reality is that schools differ from one another in how they deal with food allergies.

Schools must be vigilant

It is important for every school to thoroughly take such fundamental measures as distributing in advance lists of school lunch ingredients to parents, while arranging special meals for students with food allergies.

Parents also need to always remind their food-allergic children of those foods that they should not eat.

When a child suffers an allergic reaction to food, the initial response is crucial. Teachers and other school staff need to be trained so that they can administer an injection properly to someone having an allergic reaction.

The education ministry will examine how schools across the country are coping with food allergy issues. We hope any problems can be cleared up to help to prevent further accidents from occurring.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 9, 2013)
(2013年4月9日01時12分  読売新聞)

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日メキシコ会談 TPP外交に本腰を入れよ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 10, 2013
Proactive diplomatic approach needed to realize entry into TPP talks
日メキシコ会談 TPP外交に本腰を入れよ(4月9日付・読売社説)

Diplomacy must be put into full gear for the nation to successfully enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with visiting Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Monday. It was the first time since Abe announced Japan's intention to join the multilateral free trade negotiations that he has held a summit meeting with a leader of one of the countries participating in the talks.

The Mexican president expressed his support for Japan's joining the negotiations. Mexico entered the talks in December. It was significant that the two leaders agreed to promote free trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

At a press conference after the meeting, Abe called the talks with the Mexican leader "the first step for my administration toward developing full-fledged Asia-Pacific diplomacy."

Leaders urge more dialogue

Mexico was the first nation with which Japan signed an economic partnership agreement. After the accord was signed in 2005, many Japanese-affiliated companies, mainly in the auto industry, advanced into the Mexican market. Trade volume increased by about 50 percent in what was seen as an exemplary success.

In a joint statement, the Japanese and Mexican leaders called for further expansion in economic cooperation, saying the two nations would increase dialogue to improve their business environments and boost trade and investment opportunities.

Mexico ranks 14th in the world in terms of gross domestic product. There are high hopes that nation will successfully achieve economic development in the footsteps of such emerging nations as China and India. Mexico is a strategic production base for Japan's auto industry. Harnessing Mexico's vitality is indispensable for Japan's economic growth as well.

Cooperation between the two nations in the TPP talks, to which both are latecomers, will generate positive effects when each tries to have its positions reflected in free trade rules. Cooperation between the two nations, which are already deepening ties, on issues of common interest will help them bargain with other nations such as the United States.

The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have yet to clarify their positions on Tokyo's bid to join the TPP negotiations. Japan has had a series of preliminary working-level talks with all those nations.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is considering visiting Peru and other TPP negotiating nations during the Golden Week holidays that start from late this month. It also is necessary to accelerate bilateral EPA negotiations with Australia. We hope the government will pursue multifaceted diplomacy to serve Japan's national interests.

Common strategic vital

The government last week set up a headquarters for TPP affairs at the Cabinet Secretariat, headed by Akira Amari, minister in charge of TPP negotiations.

Placed under a council of key cabinet ministers dealing with TPP issues, Deputy Foreign Minister Koji Tsuruoka has been tasked with leading negotiations with other participating nations. Toyonari Sasaki, former assistant deputy chief cabinet secretary, has been put in charge of domestic coordination. The headquarters' secretariat is expected to soon be staffed with 100 members.

It is vital that members of the headquarters work out common strategies and stand together by eliminating sectionalism among ministries and other government bodies concerned. This will enhance the nation's negotiation capability.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 9, 2013)
(2013年4月9日01時12分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月 9日 (火)

日本船警備法案 海賊対策強化へ早期成立を

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 9, 2013
Enact antipiracy law soon to protect nation's access to vital sea lanes
日本船警備法案 海賊対策強化へ早期成立を(4月8日付・読売社説)

It is vitally important for Japan, a trading nation, to secure the safety of sea lanes stretching all the way from the Middle East, the main artery for the transportation of energy resources to this country.

The government has submitted to the Diet a bill concerning special measures that would allow armed security guards from the private sector to board Japanese tankers and other types of vessels to protect them from pirates off Somalia.

Pirates have expanded their sphere of activity in recent years, and the areas where pirates' attacks have been reported have spread to the Arabian Sea and the northern Indian Ocean.

The use of private-sector security guards is an effective tool to cover those areas, where the Maritime Self-Defense Force cannot escort ships. Therefore, it is necessary to get the bill passed into law as quickly as possible.

The bill enables private-sector security guards armed with rifles to board Japanese flag carriers though in limited waters such as the Arabian Sea, a hot spot for piracy.

If enacted, the law would require maritime shipping companies that own the vessels to draw up a security plan in advance and have it approved by the transport minister.

Major countries already have armed security guards aboard their ships. But private-sector security guards cannot carry firearms aboard Japanese flag carriers, which are subject to the Firearms and Sword Control Law.

Firearms would be controlled

According to the bill, the ship's captain would normally keep the firearms under his management and hand them over to the security guards if the ship is pursued by a suspicious vessel, thus enabling them to fire warning shots or fire at the vessel's body.

The bill assumes as an example that a team of four security guards working for a British security company boards a ship off Saudi Arabia or Oman, and gets off the ship off Sri Lanka after completing its mission. Shipping companies would bear the cost of hiring the guards.

Such an arrangement would be appropriate as it would be compatible with the Firearms and Swords Control Law, by not allowing firearms to be brought into Japanese territory.

The number of reported incidents of piracy off Somalia surpassed the 200 mark every year from 2009 to 2011, but it dropped to 75 last year and totaled four as of the end of last month for this year.

The sharp decline is believed to have much to do with the self-defense measures taken by ships themselves and the patrolling activities of the naval forces of the countries concerned.

Efforts highly regarded

Japan's MSDF vessels have escorted more than 2,900 vessels, including foreign ones, providing escorts on about 450 occasions since 2009 in the Gulf of Aden. Meanwhile, P3C patrol planes have provided Japanese and foreign vessels with information on suspicious vessels in at least 7,600 cases through about 870 flights.

The MSDF has accounted for about 60 percent of the total number of patrol flights and assumed a leading role in anti-piracy measures taken by the international community, winning high regard for its efforts. We hope the MSDF continues to steadily fulfill its mission.

For truly effective antipiracy measures, however, it is essential for Somalia to enhance its law-enforcement capabilities and for those coastal states of the Gulf of Aden, including Yemen, to improve their maritime security capabilities.

Japan, through international organizations, has offered financial assistance and technical guidance to improve public safety in Somalia and establish a maritime security training center in Djibouti.

It is important for Japan to continue its assistance to these nations, in cooperation with countries concerned.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 8, 2013)
(2013年4月8日01時14分  読売新聞)

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消費税転嫁 中小企業の泣き寝入りを防げ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 9, 2013
Don't let small firms get pushed around over consumption tax hike
消費税転嫁 中小企業の泣き寝入りを防げ(4月8日付・読売社説)

To ensure the consumption tax rate increase is smoothly implemented in April 2014 as scheduled, it is essential that small and midsize companies and other entities add the additional amount to their prices.

The government has submitted a bill to the Diet for special legislation that would make it easier for businesses to absorb the higher consumption tax by raising prices.

We urge ruling and opposition parties to cooperate to pass the bill swiftly to create an environment conducive to implementing the tax hike as planned.

When the tax rate is raised, the markup should be passed on through the purchase prices retailers pay, and then eventually paid by consumers.

There are concerns, however, that major retailers such as supermarket chains might exploit their dominant positions in price negotiations and refuse requests to pay the increase in prices at which they buy goods from small and midsize suppliers.

Ban unfair practices

The bill aims to prohibit major companies from abusing their superior positions to refuse higher purchasing prices, and also such illicit practices as agreeing to pay these higher prices only if companies down the chain buy other goods from the larger firms in return.

The legislation would empower the Fair Trade Commission to warn violators to urge them to pass the higher tax on prices. The FTC could make these companies' names public.

The bill would allow smaller companies to form a "price cartel" through which they can in concert pass the tax hike on through their prices to level the playing field in negotiations with large firms.

It is hoped the legislation will prevent companies in weak positions from being forced to silently bend to pressure applied by large firms. The bill rightly includes a range of measures to meet this objective.

According to a Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey, when the consumption tax rate was increased from 3 percent to 5 percent in 1997, two-thirds of businesses with annual sales of 15 million yen or less said they could not pass the tax hike on in their prices.

Intensifying price-cutting competition amid the prolonged period of economic deflation has generated huge pressure on small and midsize companies to keep prices down. If they cannot soak up the higher consumption tax through increased prices, their business conditions may deteriorate all the more.

The tax increase in April next year will be followed by another in October 2015. The bill allows prices of goods and services to be displayed separately from the amount of tax levied on them. This would be handy for smaller companies because they could skip some cumbersome procedures involved in changing their pricing.

Stay out of ad campaigns

One possible shortcoming of the bill is that it would ban retailers from conducting "consumption tax discount sales" and similar advertising campaigns in which prices are lowered by a margin equivalent to the consumption tax.

The government claims the ban will prevent large companies from unfairly squeezing suppliers to cut prices. However, we think the government should not meddle excessively in businesses' advertising campaigns, which should be left to the ingenuity of private firms.

The government will start working out details of how prices should be labeled after the tax is bumped up. Care must be taken to avoid confusion among retailers.

The government should be more concerned about vigilantly monitoring major companies that might refuse to pass the increased tax on through their prices, and to clamp down on illegal practices relating to it.

Ministries and agencies will reportedly set up consultation services with local governments and others at which businesses and consumers can ask about consumption tax issues. They also plan to write reports on compliance with the planned law.

Small and midsize firms, however, are more worried about keeping good relations with business partners than reporting any dishonest practices by their customers. There are fears that losses incurred by smaller firms will stay hidden in the dark.

The consumption tax hike will kick in less than a year from now, and price negotiations are getting into full swing. The government must not overlook any "bullying of subcontractors" by major companies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 8, 2013)
(2013年4月8日01時14分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月 8日 (月)

裁判員制度 国民の信頼高める見直しを

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 8, 2013
EDITORIAL / Improve lay judge system's reliability by conducting a thorough review
裁判員制度 国民の信頼高める見直しを(4月7日付・読売社説)

A panel of academics, legal professionals and other experts tasked by the Justice Ministry with reviewing the lay judge system has produced a draft report of its proposals. They include ways to reduce the burden of citizens named to serve as lay judges.

The Citizen Judge System Law, which came into effect in 2009, calls for the law to be reviewed, if deemed necessary, three years after its implementation.

The draft report by the panel will be used as a basis for discussions about the advisability of revising the law. The report should be effectively utilized to improve the lay judge system.

One of the report's proposals is to discuss making it obligatory for courts to ensure the privacy of victims of sex crimes. Specifically, the draft calls for courts to ensure that lay judge candidates are not given access to names, addresses or other relevant information about sex offense victims during the selection process.

Keep system's purpose intact

The draft also calls for a revision of the the lay judge law that would excuse citizens living in areas stricken by such natural disasters as the Great East Japan Earthquake from serving.

We consider these suggestions reasonable from the viewpoint of enhancing the system's reliability.

But one proposal in the draft report is questionable. It seeks to exclude lay judges from serving in lengthy trials and suggests a new arrangement in which such trials would be handled only by professional judges.

If trials are protracted, the burden on citizen judges will naturally become heavier.

It is noteworthy, however, that the lay judge system was introduced to reflect the common sense of ordinary citizens in trials involving cases with a major social impact such as homicide.

In two separate trials at the Saitama District Court and the Tottori District Court last year, the lay judges served as long as 100 days and 75 days, respectively.

Some lay judges said after the rulings were handed down that the lengthy process allowed them to thoroughly discuss the case.

When the panel made this proposal, its members were apparently thinking about trials that can take a year or more to conclude. But wouldn't this logic result in excluding cases of high interest to the public from the lay judge system?

Reduce burden on lay judges

It is important indeed to make efforts to reduce the burden of lay judges, but a step that could contravene the intent and purpose of the lay judge system would be a step backward.

Sorting out evidentiary issues in pretrial discussions and being as flexible as possible about excusing lay judge candidates from serving are key to the effective operation of the system.

Yet another task that should be addressed is how to deal with the confidentiality requirement that has been statutorily imposed on lay judges.

The law stipulates that lay judges must keep information they obtain during trials confidential for the rest of their lives. The draft report did not address this issue.

It should be noted, however, that it would be most helpful for ordinary citizens, who can be called at any time to serve as lay judges, to hear what such duty is like directly from those who have served.

Discussions among lay and professional judges about such matters as determining punishment must remain subject to mandatory confidentiality, but the issue of whether there may be room for reviewing the scope of confidentiality and its duration should be studied.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 7, 2013)
(2013年4月7日01時32分  読売新聞)

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中国鳥インフル 感染実態を迅速に開示せよ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 8, 2013
EDITORIAL / Chinese govt must promptly disclose full details of new bird flu virus
中国鳥インフル 感染実態を迅速に開示せよ(4月7日付・読売社説)

It has been confirmed for the first time that humans have been infected with a new type of avian influenza, the H7N9 virus, in Shanghai, Jiangsu Province, and neighboring areas in China.

The infection is spreading, and has caused several deaths. An epidemic of this flu might erupt not only in other parts of China, but also on a global scale.

To contain the spread of this disease, it is important for the Chinese government to beef up countermeasures and make sure all necessary information is properly disclosed.

It remains unknown how the victims became infected. Some reportedly were engaged in selling pork or processing chicken meat. The H7N9 virus has been detected in pigeons and chickens at Shanghai's wholesale market.

The Chinese government must confirm the true extent of the spread of this new strain as quickly as possible.

A major problem is that the Chinese government has failed to promptly provide enough information thus far. It first announced H7N9 infections about one month after the first known human death from the strain.

Media controls a concern

When China was gripped by the SARS epidemic in 2003, its government initially concealed the truth, which caused the disease to spread and triggered widespread social turmoil.

The Chinese government is apparently more willing to share information this time, but its control over media coverage is still a cause of concern.

Although China has become the world's second-largest economy, its supervisory systems to ensure food safety and hygiene remain inadequate.

In March, thousands of pig carcasses were dumped in a river that flows through Shanghai. China should implement stricter safety control measures.

China is not the only one whose response to the new flu strain is in the spotlight.

According to analysis by the World Health Organization and other bodies, the H7N9 virus is completely different to the H1N1 and other new strains that affected many parts of the world in the past 10 to 20 years, and it also spreads in different ways.

Japan should be prepared

The H7N9 strain is believed to have a cocktail of genes of the three types of avian flu that became epidemics in China, South Korea and other areas. The virus seems to have become potent enough to infect humans due to genetic mutations that occurred while it was transmitted repeatedly among birds and other animals.

The H7N9 strain is remarkable in that infected birds and animals do not show any symptoms. There are fears that more people could become infected while abnormal situations--such as mass bird deaths--do not occur.

It is crucial that researchers from around the world work together in assessing and analyzing the new bird flu.

We hope the Japanese government also will take every possible step to combat the new strain. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has quite rightly told the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry to gather information related to this outbreak.

Under a law for dealing with new types of influenza that comes into effect later this month, the central and local governments, in accordance with action plans they will compile, can urge the public to stay indoors to help contain the spread of the disease. This law should play the central role in this nation's response to the disease.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 7, 2013)
(2013年4月7日01時32分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月 7日 (日)

北朝鮮ミサイル 「不意打ち」への備えは万全か

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 7, 2013
EDITORIAL / Make thorough preparations for N. Korean surprise missile launch
北朝鮮ミサイル 「不意打ち」への備えは万全か(4月6日付・読売社説)

North Korea's threatening words and actions have escalated even further recently.

We're no longer at a stage where Pyongyang's rhetoric and behavior can be considered mere provocations. Japan needs to make preparations to swiftly address any contingency by strengthening cooperation with the United States and South Korea.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin said Thursday that North Korea has moved a medium-range ballistic missile to the Sea of Japan coast. This missile is a Musudan type that has a range of more than 3,000 kilometers, capable of reaching the U.S. Pacific island of Guam.

The United States has since dispatched a sea-based high-performance X-band radar, which has early warning capability, and two Aegis-equipped destroyers to the western Pacific and areas near the Korean Peninsula. Washington also decided to deploy a state-of-the-art missile defense system to Guam to be ready within weeks.

'Real and clear danger'

The United States has apparently taken seriously the enhancement of North Korea's nuclear attack capability, described by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as a "real and clear danger," as a threat to itself and its allies, Japan and South Korea.

Late last month, Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, approved a plan to attack the U.S. mainland, Hawaii and Guam if the United States attacks the country. The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea's ruling party, listed U.S. military bases in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture; Misawa, Aomori Prefecture; and Okinawa Prefecture as potential attack targets.

By flaunting North Korea's strike capability at home and abroad, Kim probably also aims to bolster his authority. However, any moves that raise tensions in Northeast Asia should not be taken lightly.

Japan is within the reach of North Korea's Rodong medium-range ballistic missiles, which have already been deployed in a war scenario. Japan must ratchet up its vigilance and surveillance activities another notch.

Unlike North Korea's test-firing of long-range ballistic missiles in 2009 and 2012, which it announced in advance as a satellite launch, it is highly likely the country would launch a missile without prior notice about the timing and where the missile is expected to fall.

The government must assume various possible contingencies and take all possible measures to prepare for a North Korean missile launch.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed the deputy chief cabinet secretary for crisis management to take action on three points: thoroughly collecting and analyzing information on North Korea's moves; quickly and accurately providing information to the public; and ensuring people's safety and security. We think these measures are appropriate.

Defenders must be on guard

In preparation for a possible missile launch by North Korea, the government has begun discussions toward issuing an order that would authorize the Self-Defense Forces to intercept a missile with a missile defense system. Preparations should also be made without delay for the J-Alert system to be used to warn of a possible missile launch.

Taking on a policy of strengthening its nuclear arsenal capability, North Korea also announced that it will restart all mothballed facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

To prepare for contingencies on the Korean Peninsula, the Japanese government must discuss measures in close consultation with the South Korean government, with the protection of Japanese nationals in South Korea also in mind.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 6, 2013)
(2013年4月6日01時24分  読売新聞)

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米軍施設返還案 普天間移設と好循環を目指せ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 7, 2013
EDITORIAL / Japan must seek 'virtuous cycle' in plan for Futenma relocation
米軍施設返還案 普天間移設と好循環を目指せ(4月6日付・読売社説)

The newly unveiled plan on the return of land used by U.S. military forces in Okinawa Prefecture is highly significant as it reduces the excessive burden imposed on the prefecture.

On Friday, the Japanese and U.S. governments announced their plan to return six U.S. military facilities and areas in southern Okinawa Prefecture to Japan.

The plan stipulates that the land used by the U.S. Futenma Air Station can be returned in fiscal 2022 or later on condition that the Futenma facility is relocated to the Henoko district in Nago in the prefecture. It also calls for the return of the Makiminato Service Area in Urasoe, which local residents have strongly requested, as early as fiscal 2025.

The two governments will aim to complete the return of land covering the other four facilities, such as Camp Zukeran and part of the Naha Port area, from fiscal 2022 to 2028.

The land used by the six U.S. military facilities totals more than 1,000 hectares. It is significant that the plan includes a time frame and procedures for returning such a large amount of land in populous southern areas.

Conditions must be met

Various regional developments will be possible through effective use of the returned land. The Makiminato Service Area, in particular, occupies a prime location near Naha.

It is vital for the central government to win the trust of the Okinawa prefectural government and municipalities concerned through constructive discussions on how the returned land should be used.

However, the return of the land is premised on the construction of replacement facilities and relocation of U.S. marines to Guam.

In the case of the Naha Port facilities used by the U.S. military, for example, Japan and the United States agreed on their return in 1974. However, this has been delayed because little progress had been made in relocating U.S. military functions there to Urasoe.

To implement the announced plan as scheduled, the Japanese and U.S. governments should cooperate more closely with local governments as well as make strenuous efforts to meet conditions concerning the return of the land, which include building replacement facilities.

The Japanese government apparently hopes that drawing up the plan will help obtain Okinawa Prefecture's approval of land reclamation necessary for the relocation of Futenma functions to Henoko.

Last spring, Tokyo and Washington agreed to handle the Futenma relocation and the transfer of Okinawa Prefecture-based U.S. marines to Guam separately. This was seen as an inevitable step to prevent a vicious cycle in which a stalemate over the Futenma relocation could delay the transfer of U.S. forces to Guam.

Mention of the timing of the return of the land was apparently possible because the United States responded favorably to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's filing of an application for land reclamation and his eagerness to carry out the Futenma relocation. Progress on the Futenma issue appears to pave the way for the return of U.S. military facilities, which is part of the U.S. forces realignment.

U.S. deterrence important

It is vital for the Japanese and U.S. governments to appropriately coordinate and cooperate with local governments to create a "virtuous cycle" of three issues--the Futenma relocation, the transfer of U.S. marines and the return of facilities and land used by the U.S. military.

The deterrent effect of the U.S. military in Okinawa Prefecture has taken on increasing importance following North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and China's provocations near the Senkaku Islands. Japan needs to strike a balance when working on the two issues of reducing Okinawa's burden of hosting U.S. bases and maintaining the deterrent effect of the U.S. military.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 6, 2013)
(2013年4月6日01時24分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月 6日 (土)


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 5
EDITORIAL: BOJ needs self-control in implementing bold easy money policy

The Bank of Japan under new Governor Haruhiko Kuroda on April 4 decided on a new monetary-easing policy as part of efforts to "do everything possible" to achieve a 2-percent annual inflation target in two years.

The BOJ has changed its policy indicator from an uncollateralized overnight call money rate to a monetary base, or the total amount of cash in circulation and commercial banks' reserves with the BOJ.
The central bank said "it will enter a new phase of monetary easing both in terms of quantity and quality."

By buying larger quantities of government bonds and other commodities, it plans to bolster the monetary base by 60 trillion yen to 70 trillion yen a year. By the end of 2014, the amount is expected to reach 270 trillion yen, nearly double the balance at the end of last year.

To achieve that goal, the BOJ removed some long-standing rules.

For example, long-term government bonds that it could buy were limited to those that would mature in three years or less. But that restriction has been lifted.

Moreover, the asset purchase program for monetary easing purposes will be absorbed into its bond purchases for ordinary monetary control operations. In addition, the BOJ decided to temporarily suspend the "banknote principle," a rule that sets the upper limit on the outstanding amount of government bonds it holds to the outstanding balance of banknotes issued.
As a result, the BOJ can now purchase an unlimited amount of government bonds.

It is true that in some respects, the past rules left the impression that the BOJ is passive about monetary relaxation.

However, the measures that were in place played a significant role in showing the central bank's policy of preventing government bond prices from nosediving by removing any suspicion that it was trying to finance government budget deficits.

This helped to prevent problems in everyday monetary control, which could consequently lead to wild fluctuations of long-term interest rates. Such a situation could easily arise if the BOJ makes excessive purchases of long-term government bonds.

We fear that the BOJ under Kuroda's leadership doesn't have any intention of coming up with new measures to prevent it from crossing the line.

The BOJ also has a responsibility to show how it will deal with difficulties that may arise in the future, such as rising interest rates.

In the past, however, even when the monetary base increased, deflation continued. This is because capital needs do not grow in the private sector unless there are attractive investment destinations.

Given such circumstances, excessive dependence on monetary easing alone could give rise to a distorted situation such as an asset price bubble and “bad inflation” caused by the weak yen that pushes up import prices.

The government has an important role to play by implementing drastic regulatory reform to improve the real economy. Wage increases and expanded employment will help achieve this goal.

As for Kuroda, he needs to prod the government and the private sector to make all-out efforts to secure fiscal discipline and forge ahead with reforms. Only then will the central bank's bold monetary-easing policy become the effective tool that it is intended to be.

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黒田日銀緩和策 デフレ脱却に向けた第一歩だ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 6, 2013
EDITORIAL / BOJ's bold fiscal package marks 1st step toward busting deflation
黒田日銀緩和策 デフレ脱却に向けた第一歩だ(4月5日付・読売社説)

In an effort to raise the national economy out of protracted deflation, newly appointed Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has forged a new package of quantitative and qualitative monetary easing steps.

It is only right that the central bank's new leadership has taken such bold action so soon after taking control.

The government and the bank must deepen their cooperation to steadily guide the nation onto a favorable course.

The bank's newest monetary easing measures are designed to achieve its 2 percent inflation target in two years, primarily by means of doubling the bank's holdings of long-term government bonds and nongovernment assets such as ETFs, or exchange-traded funds.

In addition, the bank has shifted the focus of its monetary measures from interest rate adjustment to the monetary base--the amount of cash it pumps into the economy--and is determined to nearly double the amount of money in circulation to 270 trillion yen by the end of 2014.

A 'different level of policy'

In a news conference after the central bank's policy meeting Thursday, Kuroda said the bank took "all the available and necessary steps we could think of, instead of an approach that implements remedies one by one."

Kuroda's statement can be seen to signal a drastic transformation in the bank's way of thinking that takes into account the failure of its conventional monetary policy for combating deflation, which until now has consisted of incremental steps.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who appointed Kuroda to the top post, highly praised the bank's latest decision, saying, "Mr. Kuroda is just the person to usher in a different level of monetary policy," adding that the governor has "lived up splendidly to expectations."

The Nikkei 225 index in the Tokyo market climbed sharply Thursday, while the pace of the yen's depreciation was spurred rapidly.

It seems the market has reacted favorably, at least for the present, to the implementation of bold monetary easing, which is referred to as the "first arrow" in the quiver of the Abe's administration's economic policy, dubbed Abenomics.

It is also significant that the central bank under Kuroda has specified a time in which it hopes to realize the concrete inflation target at which its policy is aimed. The bank has elucidated the reasoning behind its quantitative easing steps, making it easy for the public to understand the direction in which it intends to head.

We hope to see the central bank under Kuroda's leadership use ingenuity to enrich its dialogue with the market to ensure that the desired effects of its policy percolate through to the farthest reaches of the market.

The central bank has temporarily suspended its self-imposed rule of capping its holdings of government bonds at the equivalent value of bank notes currently in circulation. This measure should be understood as having been undertaken with the aim of preventing the rule from constraining the bank's ability to boldly push forward with the envisioned quantitative easing.

There has been concern in the market and elsewhere, however, that the bank's purchases of government bonds could spin out of control, a situation in which such purchases would be used to cover deficits in the government's finances.

Monetary easing not enough

It is necessary for the government to demonstrate in a tangible way its resolve to exercise fiscal discipline by such means as cutting back on wasteful fiscal spending to prevent the development of mistrust in government bonds.

Although the first faint glimmers of a silver lining around the economy can be seen, the lingering dearth of demand means that ongoing efforts against deflation remain in shackles.

It can hardly be possible to achieve the 2 percent inflation target in two years solely by means of monetary easing.

To materialize a "favorable boost in prices," accompanied by improvements in business activities and employment, it is imperative for the government to push ahead with a growth strategy through such measures as helping nurture new, promising kinds of industry and working to foster external demand in Asia and elsewhere.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 5, 2013)
(2013年4月5日01時49分  読売新聞)

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イレッサ訴訟 重い教訓を薬事行政に生かせ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 6, 2013
イレッサ訴訟 重い教訓を薬事行政に生かせ(4月5日付・読売社説)
EDITORIAL / Govt must use lessons in Iressa suit?to make drug administration sound

The government should consider the problems that became clear in the Iressa case as bitter lessons. It now faces a test as to whether it can effectively utilize those lessons in its administration of pharmaceutical affairs hereafter.

Claiming that patients died from side effects of the lung cancer drug Iressa, bereaved family members filed a damages lawsuit against the government and AstraZeneca K.K., the importer and seller of the drug. It is clear now the suit will end in a total defeat for the plaintiffs.

The Supreme Court has decided to dismiss an appeal by the plaintiffs against the state. The decision confirmed the ruling by the Tokyo High Court in not holding the government liable for damages for the deaths. The court is also expected to render a decision in favor of AstraZeneca shortly. The case, which has lasted about eight years, raises questions about how the government should administer pharmaceutical affairs.

Iressa is an orally administered tablet, which was approved by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in July 2002, before its approval in other countries. It was an unusually quick process, with approval coming just five months after the application was filed. The reputation of the drug being easy to swallow with few side effects was widespread and its usage spread quickly.

However, many patients began dying one after another after undertaking Iressa treatment. The number of deaths suspected to have been caused by Iressa side effects, such as interstitial pneumonia, has reached about 860.

A major bone of contention in the trial was whether AstraZeneca's provision of information on Iressa's side effects to medical institutions was sufficient. Another issue was whether the health ministry had given appropriate instructions to the pharmaceutical firm.

Many problems must be solved

With the decision, we can say the Supreme Court has found no fault requiring compensation by either the firm or the state. However, the case highlighted mounting problems that the company and government must reflect upon.

During clinical tests, Iressa's side effects were already known. Despite this, AstraZeneca emphasized the efficacy of the drug in its advertising. The question remains whether this attitude may have exacerbated the problem.

Although the correlation between the consumption of Iressa and the deaths was not clear, it took three months after approval for the health ministry to issue instructions to the drug firm to issue emergency information advising doctors to carefully administer the drug.

Another problem is that the risks of side effects were not thoroughly made clear to doctors, creating a situation in which sufficient explanations were not provided to patients.

The health ministry must use this trial as a signal to its pharmaceutical affairs administration, which consequently did not respond seriously enough to the side effects of the drug.

Speedy approval still necessary

However, on the other hand, the ministry should not be excessively cautious in approving medicines. Accelerated approval of drugs suits the current times.

In cases where patients have severe diseases, such as terminal cancer, many of them want to take new drugs, even being keenly aware of possible side effects. Regarding Iressa, last year about 7,500 patients began taking the drug.

The health ministry must create a situation in which drugs are available to patients as quickly as possible. For their part, pharmaceutical firms need to ensure doctors thoroughly understand all information on new drugs, including the negative factors such as side effects. It is important for the government to thoroughly observe these basics of pharmaceutical administration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 5, 2013)
(2013年4月5日01時49分  読売新聞)

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海洋基本計画 資源開発へ産官学の連携図れ

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 5, 2013
Industry, govt, academia cooperation needed on resource development
海洋基本計画 資源開発へ産官学の連携図れ(4月4日付・読売社説)

The development of marine energy resources in the seas around Japan needs to be accelerated through cooperation between the industry, government and academic sectors to secure a stable energy supply for the nation's future.

The government has unveiled a draft of its "basic maritime plan," which will serve as the nation's marine policy for the next five years.

The Cabinet under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to decide on the policy within the month, making the development of Japan's marine resources a pillar of its growth strategies by considering it "an innovation to bring about new potential."

With the aim of commercializing resources such as rare earths and methane hydrate, known as "burnable ice," which contains methane gas, the draft lays out the government's plan to improve the system to develop these resources together with the private sector.

It is entirely appropriate for Japan, which lacks abundant domestic natural resources on land, to make genuine efforts to develop its marine resources.

Securing an advantage

To this end, the government succeeded last month in its experimental extraction of methane hydrate from the seabed off the coast of Aichi and Mie prefectures.

The seas near Japan are thought to hold enough methane hydrate to supply it with natural gas for 100 years at current domestic consumption levels.

Almost all of the nation's nuclear power plants have stopped operating, pushing up the cost of electricity generation.

Securing a new domestic energy source would give the nation an advantage when negotiating the price of liquefied natural gas, which continues to hover at high levels, and that of shale gas, which is expected to be imported from North America and elsewhere.

Yet these marine resources lie under the deep seafloor, and little is known about their topographical distribution. It is therefore vital to develop technologies to probe for and extract these valuable resources in a stable and economically feasible manner.

With regard to methane hydrate, the draft sets the goal of "enhancing the relevant technologies so as to commercialize methane hydrate by fiscal 2018."

It is thus seen as vital to make use of the private sector's technology and knowledge.

It will probably take a very long time for the resources to be developed on a commercial basis, and the development costs are likely to be sizable. Close cooperation between industry, government and academia is crucial.

Having attached great importance to the development of their own marine resources, China and South Korea are also making efforts through public-private sector cooperation. The further escalation of international rivalry in this field is inevitable.

Legal infrastructure needed

The draft has pointed out that to implement all relevant measures, it is necessary to create laws to support Japan's resource development activities within its exclusive economic zone.

The development of legal foundations for dealing with various issues related to marine resource development, such as the coordination of issues related to fishing rights, are also called for in the draft.

Japan is the sixth-largest country in the world in terms of the total area of its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. For Japan to demonstrate to other countries its basic stance on marine resource development, legislative improvements are needed.

In light of China's claim to the Senkaku Islands, demonstrated by the repeated incursions of its vessels in waters near them, the draft also lists measures to protect Japan's territorial land and waters.

An upgrade to the current arrangements of the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces is urgently needed to reflect these changing realities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 4, 2013)
(2013年4月4日01時25分  読売新聞)

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電力改革方針 性急では成長戦略に反する

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 4, 2013
Hasty electric power system reform could hinder economic growth
電力改革方針 性急では成長戦略に反する(4月3日付・読売社説)

Will the government's reform to the electric power system spur economic growth? There is good reason to doubt it.

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a basic policy for electric power system reform. It proposed full liberalization of retail sales of electricity, including that for households, in 2016.

The policy also calls for separating the power generation from the power transmission and distribution businesses in five to seven years by requiring power companies to set up separate group firms for such businesses.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regards electric power reform as a central pillar of its overall growth strategy. It probably expects such reform will lower electricity rates through increased competition and spur growth in related industries.

However, if the cheap, stable supply of electricity is disrupted as a result of the hasty reform, economic growth will not result, and it will only deal a blow to the country's economy.

We believe the positive effects, as well as the side effects, of the electric power system reform must be properly assessed.

Reform with caution

In particular, pushing through the reform while the power supply situation remains on a tightrope must be avoided. The Liberal Democratic Party has called on the government to make efforts to ensure a stable electricity supply. This request is appropriate.

Top priority should be given to resolving the serious power shortage situation by reactivating idled reactors once their safety has been confirmed.

The concern is that the separation of power generation and transmission, which is the centerpiece of the reform, could disrupt the stable supply of power. Finely tuned responses allowed under the current integrated supply system, such as adjustments to the amount of power generated according to such factors as weather temperature, could become difficult if power generation and transmission are handled by different companies.

Indeed, in the United States and South Korea, a lack of cooperation due to the separation of power generation and power transmission have caused massive blackouts. To avoid similar problems in this country, great care must be taken in mapping out a new electric power system.

Rates could increase

Following an electricity rate hike by Tokyo Electric Power Co. in September, Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. also will raise their rates for households starting in May.

People's frustration with a "regional monopoly system" that does not allow them to choose a power company freely will likely grow. We expect the liberalization of retail sales of electric power will at least bring fresh air into the monopoly system.

The liberalization, however, will not necessarily lead to substantially lower electricity rates, as seen in telecommunications charges. In fact, if the current power supply shortage remains unchanged, rates are likely to increase.

Also, it would be difficult to promote entry into the market by new electric power suppliers and realize active price competition. Large-lot electricity sales to companies have been gradually liberalized since more than 10 years ago, yet the market share held by new entrants is only at about the 3 percent level.

If the electric power market is further liberalized while power companies maintain their overwhelming influence, an unregulated monopoly could damage consumers' interests.

The government's approval system for household electricity rates has the effect of preventing rates from surging, as seen in recent cases where power company rate hikes were limited by government screenings. Careful judgment must be exercised in deciding whether to abolish the approval system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 3, 2013)
(2013年4月3日01時19分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月 5日 (金)

新・歌舞伎座 花形役者が拓く新たな時代

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 4, 2013
New Kabukiza provides great stage for rising generation of kabuki stars
新・歌舞伎座 花形役者が拓く新たな時代(4月3日付・読売社説)

The opening of the new Kabukiza theater has raised the curtain on a new era for the performing art. We look forward to watching traditional and creative performances at the new theater.

The Kabukiza, a center of traditional entertainment, reopened Tuesday in Tokyo's Ginza district after three years of construction.

On the first day, living national treasure Sakata Tojuro and other well-known kabuki actors performed celebratory dances. Many fans had been eagerly counting down the days until this moment.

The current Kabukiza is the fifth incarnation of the building first constructed on the same site in the Meiji era (1868-1912). The new theater has inherited much of its former exterior and interior designed in the Momoyama style.

The new Kabukiza offers unobstructed views of the hanamichi platform, which runs from the back of the theater to the stage, even from lower-priced seats on the third floor. The audience has small personal monitors that provide information such as lines of the plays.

It is typical of the Kabukiza to absorb sophisticated ideas while protecting its traditional style.

A Japanese-style garden on the theater's roof is open to the public for free. The adjacent Kabukiza tower affords a view of both the theater's splendid roof tiles and the garden. It is indeed "zekkei kana" (what a superb view!)--a famous line from a kabuki drama.

A new landmark

The Kabukiza likely will become a new landmark that will be fondly visited not only by elderly kabuki fans but also young people and foreign tourists.

Last December, Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, a popular kabuki actor who led the Heisei Nakamura-za troupe, died. Ichikawa Danjuro XII, another kabuki icon, died suddenly in February.

The deaths of these leading stars were great losses to the kabuki world. But the younger stars, including Kanzaburo's sons, Nakamura Kankuro and Shichinosuke, and Danjuro's son Ichikawa Ebizo, who have inherited performing styles and techniques from their fathers, have improved their performing skills.

Ahead of the theater's reopening, a parade of kabuki actors was held on Ginza's main street. Many spectators cheered for the young kabuki stars, on whose shoulders the future of kabuki rests. These scenes hinted at the generation change coming to the kabuki world.

We hope both eminent and young kabuki actors will cherish the wishes of Danjuro and Kanzaburo and improve their skills by learning from each other to enthrall spectators at the refurbished Kabukiza.

Seeking new in old form

Kabuki originated in the Edo period (1603-1867) as entertainment for commoners. The term kabuki is believed to have derived from the old word "kabuku," which refers to showy outfits and bold and rambunctious acts.

"Super Kabuki" plays initiated by then Ichikawa Ennosuke III, who has since been renamed Eno, successfully incorporated many innovative features. These plays, such as "Yamato Takeru," fit snugly with the idea of "kabuku."

Now all eyes are the kabuki actors in the current Heisei era as they grace a new stage.

Kabuki has been designated as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. In recent years, kabuki has been acclaimed internationally after successful performances in Europe and the United States.

We hope the performing art will evolve further from its base in the Kabukiza.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 3, 2013)
(2013年4月3日01時19分  読売新聞)

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資金力不足の人でも優勝のチャンス FXトレードコンテスト






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2013年4月 4日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 2
EDITORIAL: Textbook screening provision is testament to Japan’s maturity

How should sensitive issues concerning modern and contemporary history and territorial disputes be taught at school? This question is debated almost annually at this time of the year, when the results of the education ministry’s screening of school textbooks are announced.

The question is particularly relevant this year because it was the first textbook screening since the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power. During its campaign for the December Lower House election, the LDP promised to review a provision requiring the government to pay consideration to Japan’s past relations with neighboring countries when screening school textbooks.

The stipulation is part of the screening standards. It calls for “necessary consideration from the viewpoint of international understanding and cooperation” in dealing with topics concerning Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbors in modern and contemporary history.

Critics argue that this regulation makes it easier for foreign countries to interfere with the content of Japanese school textbooks and helps create textbooks with “self-deprecating and biased” content.

Indeed, we inevitably feel uncomfortable when our own school textbooks are criticized by other countries.

But there is no denying the importance of teaching children both light and dark sides of history and thereby helping them develop respect for other countries, not just in Asia but all over the world.

Rather than as part of the screening standards, the stipulation in question has been serving as a declaration of our country’s commitment to seeking international cooperation and teaching history in an objective manner without lapsing into self-righteousness.

This stipulation reflects Japan’s soul-searching about its militarist education before and during World War II. Abolishing this proviso would send neighboring countries the message that we will stop considering their feelings.

In addition, it is hard to claim that Japanese school textbooks are written in a way dictated by other countries because of this stipulation.

This year, for instance, a passage saying that the Senkaku Islands, the source of a bitter territorial dispute between Japan and China, belong to Okinawa Prefecture was added to descriptions in a textbook after the education ministry urged the publisher to make it clear that the islands are Japanese territory.

In recent years, both China and South Korea have repeatedly protested descriptions concerning territorial issues in Japanese textbooks. But the education ministry has not sought changes in the criticized descriptions in response to their protests.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology says that, to the best of its knowledge, the last time it issued a screening instruction based on the provision was in fiscal 1991, and there has since not been a single case to this day.

The stipulation was established more than three decades ago after China filed a protest against a reported revision to textbook descriptions concerning Japan’s war with China during the screening in fiscal 1981.
At that time, many Japanese media, including The Asahi Shimbun, reported that Japan’s “invasion of north China” had been changed to Japan’s “advance to north China.”

Behind the argument for reviewing the provision are the views that there was actually no such change and that the rule was born out of a misunderstanding of fact.

News media should regret their false reports. But the ministry has acknowledged that there were actually cases in which the word “invasion” in textbook descriptions of Japan’s wartime acts was changed to “inroads” or “advance” as a result of screening in that and other years.

It would be unfair to say the decision to establish the provision was based on a mistaken judgment.

If misguided protests are made over Japanese textbooks, the government can simply dismiss them by providing detailed explanations based on accepted academic theories.

If Japan acts as a calm and mature nation, Japanese children will grow to be proud of their country in due course.

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--The Asahi Shimbun, April 1
EDITORIAL: Japan losing competitiveness in science sector

Since science represents humanity's collective intelligence, it has no national borders. As such, it does quite fine without contributions from researchers in some countries.

But those countries will have to accept the inconvenience of having to part with some of their collective wealth in exchange for importing goods that require high-level scientific knowledge and technology to produce.

With the distance between science and industry shrinking, competition has become severe in the world of science. But Japan appears to be lagging behind, according to the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, which analyzed the databases of science and technology papers published around the world.

The institute, affiliated with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, found that the volume of papers and monographs, authored or co-authored by scientists at Japanese universities, research organs and private corporations, has not increased much in and after the 2000s.

Globally, the output of science and technology papers and monographs has risen by 48 percent in the last decade. But in Japan, the increase was a paltry 3 percent.

China and South Korea have registered phenomenal growths of 360 percent and 192 percent, respectively. The corresponding figures were 20 to 30 percent for the United States and European nations. In global rankings, Japan tumbled from second place to fifth place, having fallen behind China, Germany and Britain. Japan's share fell from 9.5 percent to 6.6 percent.

Similar trends are seen in the rankings and shares of Japanese papers and monographs that are frequently quoted around the world.

One of the reasons for this decline is that Japanese scientists have been slow to participate in international joint studies, whereas their European counterparts have made a point to actively engage in multinational research undertakings. In the case of Chinese scientists, who have become the most frequent co-authors of American scientists, many have studied in the United States and have continued to collaborate with U.S. scientists after returning to China.

Another reason for Japan's decline is its weak ties to "hot" areas of research that are rapidly emerging from increased interdisciplinary pursuits. One such field is so-called complex network science, which spans the disciplines of mathematics, engineering, biochemistry and infectious disease medicine.

We suspect departmental turfs at Japanese universities are too rigidly defined. It is vital that universities become more open and try to keep abreast of global trends.

As for research and development expenditures by university departments around the world, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics and others show that the real growth rate in Japan was 5 percent in the 2000s, compared with 30 to 60 percent in the United States and Europe, a whopping 335 percent in China and 134 percent in South Korea. The numbers correspond almost exactly to the growth in the volume of published papers and monographs.

Also, in the amounts spent on research and development in terms of ratios against gross domestic product, Japan fell behind the United States, Britain and Germany.

Unlike in most developed nations of the world, about half the research and development costs in Japan are borne by household budgets--university students or their families. At private universities, the costs are almost entirely covered by tuition.

The central and local governments invest little on research at universities. At 0.8 percent of GDP including scholarship funds, which is below the OECD average of 1.4 percent, Japan ranks among the lowest in the world. Public investments in universities are growing not only in China and South Korea, but in the United States and Europe as well.

Deciding where to position scientific research under the current fiscal restraints is a matter that needs to be seen from a long-term perspective.

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2013年4月 3日 (水)

長嶋氏と松井氏 師弟の国民栄誉賞を祝いたい

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 3, 2013
Editorial / Awards for 2 baseball legends a cause for celebration
長嶋氏と松井氏 師弟の国民栄誉賞を祝いたい(4月2日付・読売社説)

"Mr. Pro Baseball" and "Godzilla" will simultaneously be given an award. This is glad tidings for spring, the start of the professional baseball season.

The government decided Monday to grant the People's Honor Award to Shigeo Nagashima, the Yomiuri Giants' honorary lifetime manager, and Hideki Matsui, a former slugger for the Giants and New York Yankees.

Both players have made shining achievements and contributed greatly to the development of Japanese pro baseball. Both are widely loved in Japan. Everyone would surely agree they deserve this award for these reasons.

We congratulate both men on being selected for this prestigious accolade.

Sadaharu Oh and Sachio Kinugasa are the only other pro baseball players who have won this award. The names of Oh and Nagashima--Yomiuri teammates whose feats formed the cornerstone of pro Japanese baseball--will now sit alongside each other in the records of the award.

'Mr. Baseball' the mentor...

Nagashima has of course made a remarkable contribution to the development of pro baseball as a national sport. Nagashima spell-bound fans with a number of memorable performances, including a game-ending home run in 1959 at the first game attended by the Emperor.

Many children began playing baseball after being inspired by Nagashima and his uniform with the number "3" on the back.
Nagashima's constant cheerfulness also greatly contributed to his tremendous popularity.

During his retirement ceremony following his final game in 1974, Nagashima told the crowd, "My Giants are eternally indestructible." Old-time baseball fans still speak of this moment.

During his managerial career at the Giants from 1974 to 1980 and from 1992 until 2001, his team won the Central League pennant five times and the Japan Series twice.

Nagashima suffered a stroke in 2004 and is still doing intensive rehabilitation exercises. After the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, Nagashima said, "Compared with the hardships people in disaster-affected areas are going through, my illness is a trivial matter." His invariably positive attitude must have encouraged many people.

...and 'Godzilla' the mentee

Matsui has looked up to Nagashima as a mentor throughout his career.

During his time with the Giants, Matsui led the Central League in home runs and RBI three times, and was the league's leading hitter once. His prodigious hitting made him the face of Japanese professional baseball.

Matsui's sincere dedication to improving his skills has been quite impressive.

In 2003, Matsui moved to the Yankees, and in the 2009 World Series, he unleashed some spectacular performances that made him the first Japanese to become the Most Valuable Player in a series. Matsui's achievements undoubtedly helped Japanese baseball win higher recognition in the United States.

We hope Matsui, who has retired from active competition, helps foster younger players as a coach by handing down his superb hitting technique.

The award for Nagashima and Matsui will also be a source of pride for Japanese professional baseball, which has just started this season's pennant race. We hope the award adds some extra spark to baseball, which has become firmly entrenched as Japan's national sport.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 2, 2013)
(2013年4月2日01時21分  読売新聞)

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北朝鮮威嚇外交 「核攻撃」予告は度が過ぎる

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 3, 2013
Editorial / North Korea will gain nothing from its nuclear intimidation
北朝鮮威嚇外交 「核攻撃」予告は度が過ぎる(4月2日付・読売社説)

North Korea's decision to boost its nuclear capability is a blatant provocation made in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution, which prohibits Pyongyang from conducting further nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches.

The international community needs to answer this provocation by strengthening sanctions against North Korea.

At a general meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, the party's first secretary, Kim Jong Un, unveiled a new strategic policy aimed at boosting its nuclear capability both in quality and quantity, along with economic reconstruction. He also indicated Pyongyang would continue test-firing de facto long-range ballistic missiles.

The decision to strengthen both its economy and its nuclear arsenal was approved by the Supreme People's Assembly on Monday.

China loses face

Kim's decision made China lose face. China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, supported the U.N. resolution imposing sanctions on Pyongyang.

China is North Korea's largest trading partner and aid donor. It also is a major supplier of energy.

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping is duty-bound to implement the sanctions resolution and apply pressure on North Korea by all available means. This would mean strengthening restrictions and monitoring the flow of money, goods and people, as well as halting the supply of crude oil and other steps.

There also is concern that North Korea's rhetoric and actions aimed at intimidating the international community have become excessive, going far beyond conventional norms.

North Korea has torn up the armistice that halted the Korean War, and the country's supreme military command has said it will put its armed forces on the highest level of alert to ensure they are combat ready. The nation therefore has placed itself on a war footing, with Kim himself touring the front lines.

Boasting of its nuclear weapons, Pyongyang even mentioned making preemptive nuclear strikes not only on South Korea but also on the U.S. mainland and Japan. By playing around with its nuclear arsenal, Pyongyang is acting extremely dangerously.

The United States' unusual announcement on the participation of B-52 strategic bombers and its most advanced B-2 stealth bombers in joint military exercises with South Korea was meant to rein in North Korea.

Japan and other nations concerned must keep a close eye on North Korea's behavior and make preparations to deal with any contingency.

Kim solidifying power

Behind North Korea's moves is Kim's apparent desire to solidify his power base as it has been a year since he was formally named successor to his late father, Kim Jong Il.

Only 30 years old, the inexperienced North Korean leader has trumpeted the nation's most recent nuclear test and missile launch as proud achievements. Little progress has been seen in reconstructing the country's failed economy. He probably has no choice but to strengthen his influence and authority as the top leader by pursuing a military-first policy through such means as further nuclear armament.

As a result, sanctions against North Korea have been strengthened, further isolating the country in the international community. Its efforts to diversify trade and invite investment are hardly likely to meet with success.

Kim should be keenly aware that the pursuits of nuclear armament and economic reconstruction are incompatible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 2, 2013)
(2013年4月2日01時21分  読売新聞)

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2013年4月 2日 (火)

4・28記念式典 「主権」の大切さ考える日に

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 2, 2013
A pertinent occasion to ponder the preciousness of 'sovereignty'
4・28記念式典 「主権」の大切さ考える日に(4月1日付・読売社説)


After Japan's defeat in the Showa War--a series of wars dating back to the 1931 Manchurian Incident that was followed by the Sino-Japanese War and World War II--the nation rejoined the international community as an independent state when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into force on April 28, 1952.

On that day, this country was freed from the occupation by the Allied Powers that lasted about six years and eight months.

In a Cabinet meeting in March, the government decided to sponsor the first-ever ceremony on the 28th of this month to commemorate Japan's regaining of its sovereignty and return to the international community.

The ceremony, to be held at Kensei-kinenkan (Memorial Hall of Constitutional Politics) near the Diet Building, will be attended by representatives from a wide spectrum of fields, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Emperor and Empress also will be in attendance.

Looking back on history, we should regard this event as an opportunity to once again consider the significance of the existence of a sovereign state and living in peace.

Censorship wide-reaching

As stipulated in Article 1 of the peace treaty, the state of belligerency between Japan and the Allied Powers under international law was brought to an end that day.

April 28, 1952, can therefore be regarded as the "day the war ended" in a true sense.

Regarding Japan's postwar democratization processes, there is a strong tendency to consider that such democratic principles as "people's sovereignty" and "freedom of speech" became firmly established when the existing Constitution came into force on May 3, 1947.

During the occupation by the U.S.-led General Headquarters of the Allied Powers, however, directives issued by GHQ were absolute imperatives.

Voices critical of the fact that the Constitution was written under the GHQ's initiative were rigorously muzzled.

Soon after the Constitution took effect, three members of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, including Finance Minister Tanzan Ishibashi, were among public servants purged for failing to comply with GHQ directives.

Censorship by GHQ was wide-reaching, from criticism against occupation policies to references to international situations. When a U.S. soldier was involved in a criminal incident, Japanese media had no option but to use such euphemisms as "large man" instead of identifying the soldier by name.

Photos taken just after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were shown to the public only after the Occupation ended.

The Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead sponsored by the government was first held on May 2, 1952, shortly after Japan regained independence.

Memories of the days when this country had been stripped of its sovereignty seem to be gradually fading from the minds of the Japanese people. It is crucial under the circumstances to ask again why this country lost its sovereignty and independence, in the context of Japan's history before the war.

Disapproval in Okinawa

In Okinawa Prefecture, the upcoming commemoration ceremony has been met with a chorus of disapproval.

This is primarily because the prefecture, along with the Amami Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture and the Ogasawara Islands, which are administered by Tokyo, was separated from the rest of Japan on April 28 61 years ago, and placed under the administration of U.S. forces. Tracts of land were seized and U.S. bases were built one after another.

While the movement to have Okinawa returned to the homeland grew rapidly in the 1960s, Okinawa residents even started calling April 28 "the day of humiliation."

The Amami Islands were handed back to Japan in 1953 and the Ogasawara Islands in 1968. But it was 1972--20 years after Japan recovered its independence--when the Okinawa Islands were returned to Japan.

A national assembly to commemorate the recovery of sovereignty was held by the Liberal Democratic Party and others at LDP headquarters on April 28 last year. Former Deputy Okinawa Gov. Noriaki Kakazu was invited as a guest. In his address, Kakazu referred to the turbulent history of Okinawa, which went from a bloody battlefield to an occupied territory, and called for Japan to become "a nation that shares both joy and sorrow together," and for April 28 to be "a day when the people make that resolution afresh."


In its campaign pledges for the recent House of Representatives election, the LDP created a stir by spelling out its intention to hold a ceremony to celebrate "the day of the return of national sovereignty."
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima has been lukewarm about the planned ceremony. "It would be difficult to attend if it was meant to be a celebration," he said.

No such ceremony can be held without understanding the mixed feelings of Okinawa residents.

Security situation severe

Abe has called for the ceremony "to renew our resolution to carve out a future for our country, including Amami, Ogasawara and Okinawa." His remarks clearly took into consideration the sentiments of residents of Okinawa.

The security situation surrounding Japan is severe. Our sovereignty has been jeopardized almost daily.

In waters near the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture, China, which belatedly started claiming sovereignty over the islands, has repeatedly sent patrol vessels to the area, intruding into Japan's territorial waters.

Meanwhile, the Takeshima islets of Shimane Prefecture remain illegally occupied by South Korea. Under the San Francisco Treaty, the islets were excluded from the areas that Japan had to relinquish. But just before the treaty came into force, South Korea unilaterally established the Syngman Rhee Line, a boundary established by the then South Korean president, and declared it possessed the islets.

Russia has tightened its effective control over the northern territories off Hokkaido, even though 56 years have passed since Tokyo and Moscow restored diplomatic relations in 1956.

There is also the issue of sovereignty infringements by North Korea, with dozens of Japanese, including Megumi Yokota, being abducted by Pyongyang agents.

These pending issues remain unresolved probably because Japanese people as a whole are scarcely aware of the nation's sovereign rights.

Japan is now one of the world's wealthiest countries. As a responsible, sovereign state, it must continue its efforts to maintain peace, prosperity and freedom.

The Japanese people should deepen their understanding of sovereignty issues and see them in a new light. We hope the ceremony to commemorate the return of this nation's sovereignty will become an opportunity to do just this.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 1, 2013)
(2013年4月1日01時17分  読売新聞)

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3Gだったら24時間どこでもネット接続^^ Wi-Fiは経済的で便利ではありますが






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私もそうしました 住宅ローン借り換えローンを活用


1) 金利が高い
2) 繰り上げローン返済ができない(まとまったお金が貯まったときにまとめて返済)

で、低利で利用できる消費者金融 から融資を受けようかと考えていました。


便利な時代になりました。 かしこく利用いたしましょう。

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2013年4月 1日 (月)

維新党大会 自民の対抗勢力になり得るか

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 1, 2013
Can Ishin no Kai boost its strength to eventually take on LDP?
維新党大会 自民の対抗勢力になり得るか(3月31日付・読売社説)

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) has clear aspirations to revise the Constitution.

Is there any prospect of Ishin no Kai becoming a conservative party large enough to be a formidable rival to the Liberal Democratic Party?

On Saturday, Ishin no Kai held the first convention in Osaka since its inauguration last September, adopting a party platform and endorsing an action policy for 2013.

The platform says the existing Constitution is an "occupation constitution forced on [Japan by the United States] to make the Japanese people believe in the unrealistic idea of absolute pacifism, thereby thrusting the nation into isolation and making it the object of disdain [in the eyes of the international community]."

It pledged to drastically revise the Constitution "to help resuscitate the country."

At the convention, party coleader Toru Hashimoto, who also serves as mayor of Osaka, emphasized the significance of revising the Constitution by saying, "Japan must rise to the important challenge of remolding the Constitution with its own hands."

Constitutional revision

Hashimoto said Ishin no Kai would seek as many seats as possible in the House of Councillors election this summer to ensure that the party, the LDP and minor opposition Your Party have a combined two-thirds majority, so they would be able to initiate constitutional amendments.

Depending on the outcome of the upper house election, a political landscape may emerge allowing the Constitution to be revised for the first time since its promulgation.

Hashimoto's speech can be interpreted as indicating his party would work with the LDP under these circumstances.

One of the major issues in the upper house race will be whether to revise the Constitution.

Apparently based on some soul-searching after its failure to increase its House of Representatives seats as initially expected in the general election in December, Ishin no Kai has taken steps to cooperate in the upper house election with Your Party, which also wants to revise the supreme law. How many seats the two parties can win in the upper chamber will hinge on the effectiveness of their cooperation in the specifics of their electoral campaigns.

In his speech, Hashimoto said his party would support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture and negotiations for Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade talks.

On the other hand, Hashimoto stressed his goal of preventing the LDP and New Komeito from taking a majority of seats in the upper house. He argued that Ishin no Kai was the only party that could rise to the political challenges of eliminating vested interests and reorganizing the nation's government machinery.

With some critics saying Ishin no Kai is no better than "an LDP auxiliary force," what can it do to prove it is different from the LDP as a party dedicated to reform?
According to a survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun, the support rate for Ishin no Kai, which stood at the same level as the Democratic Party of Japan at 8 percent immediately after the inauguration of the Abe Cabinet, has now plunged to as low as 2 percent.

Difference in views

Among its problems, Ishin no Kai has to grapple with the disparate views between Hashimoto and his party's Diet members in Tokyo on such issues as a desirable future electoral system and how the party should deal with Diet affairs in connection with the Bank of Japan's executive appointments requiring the consent of the legislature.

Coordination between the party headquarters in Osaka and the Tokyo-based group of Ishin no Kai legislators has begun through such means as teleconferences. To become a party with a sense of unity, it is imperative for Ishin no Kai to end the schism between the two.

The other coleader of the party, former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, meanwhile, was absent from the convention because of a "slight stroke." He took part in the gathering via an online live broadcast from Tokyo. Hashimoto did not respond to Ishihara's suggestion that he run in the upcoming upper house election.

Whether Hashimoto will decide to run in the election seems to depend on whether the party can ramp up its strength.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 31, 2013)
(2013年3月31日01時43分  読売新聞)

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安倍外交 モンゴルと戦略関係の強化を

[The Yomiuri Shimbun] April 1, 2013
Japan should fortify strategic partnership with Mongolia
安倍外交 モンゴルと戦略関係の強化を(3月31日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Mongolia became an opportunity for Tokyo to strengthen its strategic partnership with an Asian country friendly to Japan.

On Saturday, Abe held separate meetings with Mongolian Prime Minister Norov Altankhuyag and President Tsakhia Elbegdorj.

During the meeting with Altankhuyag, both leaders agreed Japan and Mongolia will start vice foreign minister-level talks to discuss diplomatic and security issues. Moreover, they agreed to hold a policy dialogue with the United States.

Abe's trumpeted principles for his administration's Asian diplomacy include calls for a free and open market economy and respect for democracy and other universal values.

Japan's diplomatic strategy also will benefit if Mongolia, which sits between Russia and China, becomes even more democratic and develops a market economy. It could act as a check against China, which has been threatening the sovereignty of neighboring nations through diplomatic intimidation.

Abe asked for Mongolia's cooperation on North Korea issues, particularly Pyongyang's abduction of Japanese. His Mongolian counterpart expressed support for and understanding of Tokyo's position.

Resources wait to be tapped

Mongolia was a North Korean ally during the Cold War and still maintains high-level exchanges with that country.

Thanks to Mongolia's cooperation, Japan and North Korea were able to hold talks in Ulan Bator in November 2012.

The government should take maximum advantage of its ties with Mongolia to resolve the abduction issue, which has been deadlocked for years.

Partnership with Mongolia will be valuable also in the field of energy security, as Japan lacks natural resources.

Mongolia possesses abundant high-quality natural resources, such as coal and minor metals. It recorded sizzling economic growth of an annualized 17 percent in 2011, mainly thanks to the development of its mines.

At Abe's meeting with Altankhuyag, the leaders discussed joint development of Tavan Tolgoi, the world's largest coalfield, in the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia. "We'd like to provide Japan with a stable supply of coal over the long term," Altankhuyag reportedly said.

In Mongolia, there is a plan to ship coal to ports in Russia and China, which would then be exported to Japan and South Korea. To achieve this, it is essential to build railways to transport Mongolia's resources to the coasts.

Sumo stars just the start

However, Mongolia needs to improve its investment climate so Japanese companies can start doing business there to develop natural resources and social infrastructure. The Japanese and Mongolian governments should discuss this issue.

During his meeting with the president, Abe mentioned the superb performances of yokozuna Hakuho and other sumo wrestlers from Mongolia. Japanese have become more interested in Mongolia thanks to these wrestlers, while many Mongolians reportedly regard Japan as their "third neighboring country" after China and Russia.

We hope both countries will boost exchanges not only in politics and economics, but also in culture and sports.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 31, 2013)
(2013年3月31日01時43分  読売新聞)

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