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2013年7月31日 (水)

公的研究費 不正使用の徹底防止を図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 31, 2013
All-out efforts needed to stamp out misuse of public research funds
公的研究費 不正使用の徹底防止を図れ(7月30日付・読売社説)

Many questions are being raised about how public research funds that sustain the improvement of science and technology should be spent.

A professor at the University of Tokyo’s Todai Policy Alternatives Research Institute was recently arrested by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of swindling the university and another entity out of 21.8 million yen by reporting fictitious orders placed for research and system development.

This money included subsidies provided by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry for the application of information technology to a medical field. The prosecutors suspect the money was misappropriated for personal use.

The professor has denied the allegations. But if they are proven to be true, the professor’s actions can only be described as a betrayal of the expectations for and confidence placed in university research projects.

We urge the special prosecutors team to make every effort to get to the bottom of what happened.

The illegal use of public research funds has been pointed out as a problem for years.

According to survey results released in April by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, public funds amounting to 361 million yen were confirmed to have been misused by 46 universities and research institutes.

One of the more eye-catching methods for pocketing cash was “money depositing.”

Under this method, researchers pay bills to outside traders for fictitious transactions, entrusting the money to them. The method is used to pool money that researchers can use at their discretion and carry over budgets left unspent within a specified fiscal year to the following fiscal year.

The practice tends to create cozy relationships between traders and researchers because the former offer cooperation with the latter in the hope the transactions will end up being to their benefit.

Many researchers appear to be deeply dissatisfied that public funds should be spent within a specific fiscal year, a condition that limits their flexibility.

Needless to say, research funds come from taxpayers money. Accordingly, misappropriation of this money for an individual researcher’s convenience must never be premitted.

More funds likely on way

The government has made the promotion of science and technology a central tenet of its growth strategy. This produces the possibility that budgets related to science and technology will increase, making it even more necessary to ensure that research funds are used properly.

Government ministries and agencies have toughened punitive measures against researchers caught misusing research funds. This is a natural step to take.

The period of suspension from applying for research funds has been extended from five years to 10 years in the case of fund misuse for personal convenience. Senior researchers who supervise research can be suspended from research fund applications for up to two years under a new punitive provision if they fail to perform their necessary supervisory duties.

Universities’ lenient checking systems are also part of the problem. The education ministry formulated guidelines in 2007 for conducting a thorough audit of public funds to inspect whether goods have been delivered as ordered. But many universities still have yet to do enough in this regard.

Each university must review how they supervise research funds. The education ministry, for its part, needs to examine how the 2007 guidelines have been observed in an effort to stamp out irregularities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 30, 2013)
(2013年7月30日01時39分  読売新聞)

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「多弱」の野党 再編は政策論議から始めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 31, 2013
Opposition parties should focus on policies before realignment talks
「多弱」の野党 再編は政策論議から始めよ(7月30日付・読売社説)

The current political climate is described as consisting of the powerful Liberal Democratic Party and many weak opposition parties. Although opposition parties rivaling the huge ruling party are needed, such a prospect appears remote.

After the recent House of Councillors election, questions were raised over the responsibility of the party leadership of the Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party). But it has been decided the top leaders of these parties will stay on.

There have been talks about realignment involving the two parties and Your Party. But with party leaders who could not form a united front in the upper house election, it will be no easy task for the parties to unite or realign themselves.

The DPJ decided that former party leader Naoto Kan, who openly supported an independent candidate in the upper house poll, be suspended from the party for three months. The punishment was lenient given the initial calls to expel him from the party. There is strong discontent over the continued party leadership of Banri Kaieda, and it remains unclear how the party can reconstruct itself.

Since its foundation, there have been significant differences over basic policies among DPJ party members. This has caused a lack of party unity, which is seen as the DPJ’s weakest point. We strongly doubt Kaieda can exercise the leadership needed to overcome confrontations over policies among party members.

Akihiro Ohata has been chosen for the post of DPJ secretary general. Ohata, who was previously acting party president, had belonged to the former Japan Socialist Party and enjoys the strong support of labor unions. Thus, the DPJ’s reliance on labor unions is likely to increase.

In the proportional representation segment of the upper house election, six of the party’s seven winners were those who ran with organizational support from the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo).

Unified views lacking

Regarding realignment of opposition parties, Kaieda said, “The important thing is that the DPJ plays the leading role.” But we think he does not understand the party’s current position.

Ishin no Kai coleader Toru Hashimoto and some others within the party indeed consider the DPJ’s reliance on labor unions problematic. Ishin no Kai has called for tie-ups with Your Party and conservative DPJ members who are not affiliated with labor unions.

Within Ishin no Kai, Hashimoto expressed his intention to resign as party coleader. But the other party coleader Shintaro Ishihara and others persuaded Hashimoto to stay on. Confrontations between party members in Osaka, where Ishin no Kai is based, and party Diet members in Tokyo likely will continue.

In Your Party, there is discord between party leader Yoshimi Watanabe and Secretary General Kenji Eda. While Eda is eager for the party to take the leading role in opposition realignment, Watanabe is taking a cautious stance, saying, “Hasty realignment will fail, ending with a mere union of convenience.”

The political clout of Ichiro Ozawa, who had long played a central role in political realignments and currently serves as the leader of the People’s Life Party, has significantly waned. Mizuho Fukushima, who led the Social Democratic Party for a decade, has stepped down as party leader.

Political parties are meant to grasp issues both at home and abroad and carry out prescriptive policy measures to address them. Parties should not easily ally or split just for politicians’ convenience, and will not be able to survive without public support.

For any new opposition party, it is essential for there to be a consensus among its members over such policy issues as the Constitution under a leader who can establish intraparty governance.

The next national election will held three years from now at the latest. Each opposition party should start from realistic and steady policy discussions rather than insubstantial talks on realignment.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 30, 2013)
(2013年7月30日01時39分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月30日 (火)

ビッグデータ 宝の情報を適切に活用したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 30, 2013
‘Big data’ must be used carefully to protect privacy of individuals
ビッグデータ 宝の情報を適切に活用したい(7月29日付・読売社説)

Vast amounts of electronic data, or so-called big data, accumulate on the Internet and in the systems of business organizations.

If these data are utilized wisely, they can become a “mountain of treasure.” On the other hand, it is important to clarify the rules set to protect individuals’ private information and create an environment in which business firms and consumers can make use of the data free from anxiety.

Big data is a collective term for various data such as records of mail-order purchases, information contained in postings on social networking sites and smartphone location information.

Advances in information technologies have made it easy to collect and store vast amounts of such data.

Product recommendations

In the mail-order business sector, a prevailing practice is to analyze purchase records of customers and then recommend products based on their tastes and preferences.

In the pharmaceutical industry, business operators analyze postings on the Internet about the prevalence of colds, and after looking at weather forecasts, provide potential customers with estimates about the spread of colds in their areas.

NTT Docomo, Inc. estimates the population distribution by area and time based on location information of cell phones. Such data can be used for urban development and disaster-management measures.

Many firms have become more aware of the value of using big data.

This year’s white paper on information and telecommunications, released by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, estimates that big data could have an economic impact in excess of 7 trillion yen a year in the form of product development and cost reductions.

We hope big data will be more widely utilized in various fields. In this respect, the public and private sectors will have to cooperate in expanding the use of big data in those fields in which information technology is not being fully utilized.

A promising business employing big data analytics is to study the soil on productive farmland and agricultural chemicals used on crops to enhance farming productivity.

Maintaining privacy crucial

Whatever its application, big data should be used only if individuals’ private information is protected.

East Japan Railway Co. has reportedly been selling records of the use of its Suica cards, prepaid e-money cards, at railways and subways to business firms that analyze them for market research. But JR East had sold the data without notifying the cardholders, drawing complaints from some card users.

It has been assumed that such information is anonymous as the names and addresses of individuals are deleted and cannot be identified. Therefore, in principle, the data is not subject to the Personal Information Protection Law, making it unnecessary to gain prior consent of the users when providing such private information to third parties.

But due to the advancement in analytical technology in recent years, in some cases it is possible to identify users by comparing data, even “anonymous” data, with other data such as location information.

Even when information is anonymous, it is essential for business operators to thoroughly explain to those whose information is being used that their data may be provided to a third party.

JR East has decided not to sell data to third parties if card users ask it not to. Those businesses planning to utilize big data should learn a lesson from JR East.

It is also important for business firms to handle such data properly. How to monitor the proper handling of data by firms will also become a big challenge in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 29, 2013)
(2013年7月29日01時16分  読売新聞)

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パレスチナ和平 米国の仲介努力は奏功するか

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 30, 2013
Israeli-Palestinian talks resumption 1st step in U.S. Mideast peace effort
パレスチナ和平 米国の仲介努力は奏功するか(7月29日付・読売社説)

It is imperative to ensure that emerging positive signs in the Middle East result in a resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians after a hiatus of about three years.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has pressured Israel and the Palestinian Authority since March, announced on July 19 that both sides “have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.” Ministerial-level officials from both parties are to meet in the near future to work out the terms and preconditions for the negotiations, according to U.S. government officials.

The Palestinian Authority has set the goal of establishing a Palestinian state, and Japan, the United States and European nations as well as Arab states have thrown their support behind this goal.

Kerry’s endeavors pay off

The long-envisaged establishment of a Palestinian state, however, will not be possible without Israel’s agreement. We strongly hope the Israelis and Palestinians hold direct talks to begin the process of having the two sides live side by side in peace and security.

The broad agreement is the fruit of mediation efforts by Kerry, who, after assuming the post of secretary of state in February, traveled many times to the Middle East.

With upheavals continuing in the wake of the Arab Spring, U.S. policies have been put to the test. While the civil war in Syria has bogged down with no clear end in sight, Egypt, a major power in the Middle East, has been unable to resolve its political problems.

It appears the United States hopes to play a role conducive to stabilizing the Middle East situation by using its diplomatic leverage to bring about peace between Israel and Palestinians.

The basic accord to hold preliminary talks appears partly due to Israel’s adopting more moderate policies after realizing its inflexible hard-line stance in dealing with the Palestinians left it internationally isolated.

In a U.N. General Assembly session last year, a resolution in favor of giving the Palestinian Authority the status of a “nonmember observer state” was adopted by an overwhelming majority vote despite intense opposition from the United States and Israel.

Israel’s sense of crisis increased when the international community, particularly Israel’s biggest trade partner, Europe, intensified criticism of Israel’s continuing construction of settlements in the West Bank.

A freeze in settlement construction would help pave the way for realizing a resumption of dialogue with the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, must resolve the current situation in which its authority is limited only to the West Bank, with the Gaza Strip remaining under the control of the Islamist organization Hamas. This is essential for the Palestinian Authority if it wants to show that it is the proper party to negotiate with the Israelis.

Japan must help out

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida toured the Middle East region last week. In separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he pressed them to resume peace talks.

In addition, Kishida conferred with ministers from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan over ways to utilize an agricultural park to process farm produce. The park is under construction in the West Bank city of Jericho with the support of Japan.

The agreement among Kishida and the others on the project should be rated highly.

Japan must continue to make such diplomatic efforts by extending a helping hand to encourage peace moves by the Israelis and Palestinians.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 29, 2013)
(2013年7月29日01時19分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月29日 (月)

朝鮮休戦60年 平和妨げる北朝鮮の核武装化

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 29, 2013
Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions continue to be impediment to peace
朝鮮休戦60年 平和妨げる北朝鮮の核武装化(7月28日付・読売社説)

The 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice in the Korean War comes as North Korea continues to push ahead with its nuclear programs.

The Korean War began with the North’s invasion of the South in 1950, and claimed the lives of more than 3 million people before the armistice was signed three years later.

Fierce fighting between U.S.-led U.N. Command forces backing South Korea and China, which deployed Chinese People’s Volunteer Army troops because it feared North Korea would collapse, ended with a divided Korean Peninsula in the absence of a peace treaty.

China’s change of mind

The North and South are continuing their military confrontation across the Demilitarized Zone, and there is a danger the situation could explode into an armed conflict.

North Korea, which falsely claims the armistice was a “victory,” celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice on Saturday with a massive military parade in Pyongyang.

The scale of the parade was aimed apparently at flaunting the power of Pyongyang’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, while diverting the people’s increasing discontent over the country’s wrecked economy.

The biggest concern for Japan and other countries is the beefing up of North Korea’s nuclear programs, which Kim has been promoting. Massive throngs of armed soldiers marched in the Pyongyang parade as if trying to impress the rest of the world with the strength of the North’s ability to wage war with missiles and nuclear weapons.

As a matter of course, North Korea has been forced to pay the piper. The U.N. Security Council has imposed economic sanctions on Pyongyang for repeatedly carrying out nuclear tests and test-launching long-range ballistic missiles.

China’s recent change from its conventional stance of fully defending North Korea appears to have made the international coalition against the North more solid.

During the military parade, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao stood alongside Kim on the podium overlooking Pyongyang’s main Kim Il Sung Square. Li reportedly told Kim that Beijing was determined to maintain its policy of pursuing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, working to ensure peace and security on the peninsula and resolving tensions through dialogue and consultations.

This can be taken as a message to Pyongyang to return to the six-nation talks, as Beijing is resolved not to allow North Korea to possess nuclear weapons or engage in military provocations.

China, as the largest donor country and trade partner of North Korea, has a life-or-death influence over the North. Beijing’s stance on seeking North Korea’s denuclearization will now be put to the test.

In regard to North Korea’s call for a direct dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington, the United States has made such a dialogue contingent on the North abandoning its nuclear ambitions. This condition is quite reasonable.

North must heed others

Pyongyang, for its part, must heed the voices of Japan, the United States and South Korea, which are calling on the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The environment surrounding the Korean Peninsula has changed dramatically since the signing of the armistice.

For one thing, South Korea has established diplomatic relations with China, and the value of its trade with Beijing has expanded to such an extent that it has surpassed its combined trade with Japan and the United States.

North Korea has made the choice of becoming a nuclear power, with the result that it cannot normalize diplomatic relations with Japan or the United States. As it has been driven into a corner, Pyongyang has even declared it is ready to “pull out of the deal” concerning the armistice agreement.

Japan, the United States, China and South Korea must remain vigilant to prevent North Korea from conducting new nuclear tests, missile launches or military provocations by firmly maintaining stringent sanctions to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 28, 2013)
(2013年7月28日01時09分  読売新聞)

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新防衛大綱 自衛隊の機動力強化が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 29, 2013
Increased mobility of SDF power must be realized as a top priority
新防衛大綱 自衛隊の機動力強化が急務だ(7月28日付・読売社説)

To ensure Japan’s peace and security, the government must present measures and visions to deal with a variety of challenges, including strengthening the defense of remote islands, enhancing missile defense, dealing with cyber-attacks and working out precautionary and response measures for large-scale disasters.

The Defense Ministry has released an interim report on the new National Defense Program Guidelines to be compiled in late December. On the issue of defending remote islands, the report pointed out that it is essential to maintain air and maritime supremacy and improve the mobility of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s power and amphibious functions along the lines of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Cuts unacceptable

Since the end of the Cold War, the center of gravity in national defense has been shifting “from quantity to quality,” and defense spending has been cut, forcing the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Air Self-Defense Force to reduce the number of destroyers, surveillance aircraft and fighter jets. But such cuts are no longer tolerable.

Chinese military ships recently sailed around the Japanese archipelago, and Chinese military planes were confirmed for the first time to have flown beyond the First Island Chain, the defense line set by the Chinese military that includes Okinawa Island and Miyakojima island. In light of the Chinese military’s recent armaments buildup and intensified activities, the decline in the number of MSDF’s destroyers and ASDF’s fighter jets must be reversed.

To enhance patrol and surveillance capabilities, it is vital to introduce Global Hawk reconnaissance drones ahead of schedule.

The GSDF, for its part, must enhance deterrence by expanding its special units for defense of remote islands and ramping up joint exercises with the U.S. marines.

The interim report did not refer to the Liberal Democratic Party’s earlier proposal to look into the possibility of possessing capabilities to attack enemy bases. The report only said “comprehensive capabilities will be enhanced” to respond to missile attacks.

The reason for this cautious language is that there are arguments within both the Japanese and U.S. governments for and against the Self-Defense Forces’ adoption of cruise missiles, among other military technology.

Some argue that Japan’s possession of such equipment would supplement the U.S. military’s striking power and enhance Japan’s deterrence capability, while others are wary of that approach and consider it advisable to allocate budget appropriations to buy other priority equipment.

The bottom line is that the SDF and U.S. military must reexamine their roles from the standpoint of buttressing the Japan-U.S. alliance. What military capabilities Japan should possess to that end must be studied.

As for measures to deal with cyber-attacks, the interim report called for fostering experts and strengthening cooperation with the United States and private companies.

Lessons from Algeria

In view of the Algerian hostage incident in January in which Japanese citizens were victims, the report proposed increasing the number of defense attaches in Japanese embassies overseas to increase human intelligence capabilities.

All these proposals are crucial and should be put into practice steadily.

One Defense Ministry reform measure mentioned in the report is worrying.

Under study is the radical idea of abolishing the Operational Policy Bureau, an internal office of the ministry, and integrating it under the SDF’s Joint Staff Office. It is irrational for an organization comprising SDF personnel to deal with Diet matters and to liaise with other government offices. This would create confusion and hurt morale.

Reform of the ministry’s organization is not a priority issue now. A prudent approach is called for in this regard.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 28, 2013)
(2013年7月28日01時09分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月28日 (日)

原発汚染水対策 東電だけに任せておけない

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 28, 2013
Govt must help TEPCO handle polluted water at Fukushima
原発汚染水対策 東電だけに任せておけない(7月27日付・読売社説)

Contaminated water was found to be leaking into the sea from the premises of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

However, the amount of radiation that has leaked is small and the detected density is at most about one-thirthieth of the limit set by national standards. The tainted water is said to remain within the port facility of the nuclear plant.

Even so, concern about harmful rumors regarding sea pollution has been spreading, focused on those involved in the fishery industry in Fukushima Prefecture.

TEPCO must make all-out efforts to stem the leakage.

As a countermeasure, the utility is reportedly considering solidifying the ground around the pier with a chemical solution. It also plans to pump out polluted water from a channel in the ground near the pier, which is suspected to be the source of the leakage. Work must be done hurriedly.

Slow response worrying

The series of measures taken by TEPCO in response to the leakage is worrying. Leakage was first suspected in late May, but due to the delay in confirmation measures, it took more than one month for the utility to report the leakage to the organizations concerned and announce it to the public.

A surveillance committee consisting of experts and others, which was established by TEPCO, said Friday the utility is naive about risk management and called for improving technological capabilities. The watchdog’s contention is quite right.

Considering the seriousness of the contaminated water issue at the Fukushima nuclear plant, it is impossible to dispel doubts about whether the matter will be resolved smoothly under the current management system.

The utility has continued pouring cooling water into the reactors, and groundwater is also flowing through damaged sections into the area below the facilities housing the reactors. As a result, the contaminated water continues to increase by 400 tons a day.

Nearly 400,000 tons of tainted water have already been stored in tanks built on the plant’s premises. Additional tanks can be built to create a maximum storage capacity of 800,000 tons. But someday the tanks will be full.

It is essential to reduce the inflow of groundwater and stop the contaminated water from increasing.

TEPCO has decided on a policy of pumping up uncontaminated groundwater before it flows into reactors and discharging it into the sea. But approval for the policy has not yet been obtained from the local people and organizations involved in fisheries.

Cooperation vital

The government must cooperate with TEPCO to win over the local people and organizations concerned.

As a drastic measure to prevent the inflow of groundwater, the utility also plans to build an underground wall to block out water. This will be a key preventive measure.

One hurdle to clear is how to dispose of the large quantities of contaminated water that have accumulated. If the tainted water is purified, it will reduce the risk when it is stored. It will be indispensable to put the water purification equipment now under development into full operation.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has presented the view that even purified water will have to be discharged into the sea eventually. To obtain public understanding of the safety of purified water, the NRA is asked to give explanations from the viewpoint of experts.

Decommissioning reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant will not make headway if short shrift is given to measures to handle polluted water. We suggest that the government strengthen cooperation with TEPCO and provide necessary assistance in terms of funds and technology.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2013)
(2013年7月27日01時26分  読売新聞)

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首相アジア演説 ASEAN重視戦略の表明だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 28, 2013
Abe’s increased focus on ASEAN partnership a strategic move
首相アジア演説 ASEAN重視戦略の表明だ(7月27日付・読売社説)

A speech made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday served as a strong message to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a key economic and security partner of Japan.

During his visit to Southeast Asia, Abe delivered the speech on the Japan-ASEAN relationship in Singapore.

Using an airplane to describe relations between Japan and the rapidly growing region, Abe said, “Japan and ASEAN are like twin engines on the right and left wings.”

The prime minister also said his Abenomics economic measures would benefit ASEAN countries as both Japan’s imports from and exports to ASEAN members have doubled over the past decade. Abe is apparently determined to further bolster Japan-ASEAN ties.

Both Malaysia and Singapore, which Abe visited this week, are participants in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact. Japan will likely seek ways to partner with them when the TPP talks enter the final stage.

Beyond economic alliance

Abe stressed that the nation’s relationship with ASEAN encompasses more than economic matters, saying the ties are “meaningful in ensuring regional security, particularly freedom of navigation at sea.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of Japan-ASEAN friendship and cooperation.

He made such remarks apparently with China in mind, as Beijing has attempted to assume control of the East and South China seas. Especially now, when Japan’s ties with China and South Korea have become strained, it is strategically significant for the government to deepen its partnership with ASEAN.

On Friday, Abe also met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who has been touring Asia. This meeting was seemingly effective in highlighting the Japan-U.S. alliance, which could be conducive to ensuring peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia.

Abe was to meet with Philippine President Benigno Aquino in Manila on Saturday. During the meeting, Abe was expected to express his intention to provide the Philippines with patrol ships through the Official Development Assistance program.

The Philippines has been at loggerheads with China over the sovereignty of the Scarborough Shoal and other territories in the South China Sea. In light of this, helping the Philippines boost its maritime capability could serve as a symbolic aid gesture to benefit the whole ASEAN community.

Look to China allies

This is already Abe’s third visit to Southeast Asia since returning to power. Of the 10 ASEAN member countries, he has visited seven.

Cambodia and Laos, both nations that have close ties to China, are among the ASEAN members. With due consideration for local circumstances in both countries, the prime minister should also visit these nations in a bid to increase their understanding of Japan.

China has apparently attempted to undermine Japan-ASEAN relations due to its alarm over Abe’s aggressive diplomacy in the region.

To prevent military tensions with China from escalating, it is vital for Japan to seek regional stability in line with international regulations and the spirit of the rule of law by working together with the United States and other countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2013)
(2013年7月27日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月27日 (土)

TPP交渉参加 攻守両にらみ戦略で挽回せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 27, 2013
Hammer out effective strategy to redeem lost time in TPP talks
TPP交渉参加 攻守両にらみ戦略で挽回せよ(7月26日付・読売社説)

At last Japan has entered talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade agreement, which have so far been conducted by 11 countries, including the United States.

Regarding Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stressed, “We will make full use of our negotiating power to protect what needs protecting and push for what we want, to seek the best way to serve national interests.”

To ensure that this country can make up for the time lost due to its late entry into the TPP talks, the government must beef up its defensive and offensive strategies.

The latest round of TPP negotiations took place in Malaysia from July 15, and Japan joined the talks as the 12th member for only two and a half days in the final phase of the round that ended Thursday.

By taking part in the talks, Japan received for the first time a pile of texts on the TPP negotiations comprising 29 chapters on such subjects as abolition of tariffs, intellectual property rights and investment.

Talks may be prolonged

It is of great significance that Japan can now grasp the entire picture of issues that have been discussed among TPP members.

The next TPP gathering is scheduled for late August in Brunei, while consultations on the TPP between Japan and the United States will be conducted in parallel with the Brunei round from August on.

The government must waste no time working out how to deal with the increasingly accelerating pace of the TPP talks by making a detailed analysis of the assertions of each participant country.

The United States and some other TPP participants have set a goal of finalizing a basic agreement in the negotiations by October and concluding the talks by the end of the year. The TPP representative of Malaysia said in a news conference on Thursday that his country will energetically engage in discussions to complete them as scheduled.

However, the TPP countries are still at loggerheads regarding the abolition of tariffs, the main point of contention, which has apparently caused the negotiations to stall.

Given the current pace of the talks, it is unlikely they will be concluded by the end of the year. Indications are that the negotiations may continue into next year.

Although Japan, as a late starter, remains in a difficult position in the negotiations, prolonged talks may give Japan more room to make up for lost time.

In its platform for the recent House of Councillors election, the Liberal Democratic Party pledged to “give top priority to securing exemption of five agricultural products,” including rice and wheat, from tariff abolition.

In the upper chamber election, Toshio Yamada of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Zenchu) secured his reelection as one of the highest-ranking winners in the proportional representation contest. Yamada has pledged to press the government to protect national interests without fail in the TPP talks.

Another upper house member, Hidehisa Otsuji, who ran in the Kagoshima prefectural constituency on a platform of opposing the TPP, won an upper house seat for the fifth time.

‘Going on the offensive’

While some LDP legislators remain firmly opposed to the TPP, the government and the LDP must buckle down to swiftly push ahead with concrete measures for improving the competitiveness of the nation’s agriculture, in preparation for further opening of the domestic farm market to foreign competition.

Given that the TPP is aimed at a high degree of trade liberalization, protecting rice and other farm products as exemptions from tariff abolition will not necessarily secure Japan’s national interests.

A well-balanced strategy must be hammered out in this respect.

Of higher importance for Japan is to “go on the offensive” by increasing exports of motor vehicles and electronics through tariff abolition, as well as establishing an environment conducive to business activity through such steps as lifting restrictions on capital investment from abroad.

The envisaged TPP pact will constitute a huge free trade zone accounting for about 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

Japan must utilize the TPP to tap the vigor of other economies in Asia, to spur the nation’s economic growth.

How can Japan play a leading role in crafting trade and investment rules in Asia? How to address this challenge is of crucial significance, and could determine the fate of the growth strategy on which the Abe administration has placed such importance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 26, 2013)
(2013年7月26日01時18分  読売新聞)

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「美白」トラブル 相談情報を軽視していないか

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 27, 2013
Kanebo’s disregard for complaints behind rampant cosmetics harm
「美白」トラブル 相談情報を軽視していないか(7月26日付・読売社説)

A series of cases have been reported in which users of skin whitening products manufactured and sold by Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. suffered white blotches and uneven skin tones.

Such complaints have been filed by more than 6,800 people. Of these, 2,250 users have reportedly experienced relatively serious side effects as they developed white spots in more than three areas.

Kanebo must accept a heavy responsibility for having worsened the scale of harm done. The firm must determine the cause of the problems promptly and take all possible measures to compensate for damage.

The case was brought to light after a dermatologist reported to Kanebo in May that “three patients who used [Kanebo’s] whitening products have developed white blotches on their skin.”

Inadequate response

Kanebo embarked on a fact-finding survey but it took nearly two months for the firm to start recalling its whitening products on a voluntary basis. In the meantime, the company did not provide any warnings to consumers.

It is natural that Hisa Anan, director general of the Consumer Affairs Agency, criticized the firm, saying it “should have made the issue public much sooner.”

The firm’s past response to consumers’ requests for consultations was also inadequate. After reviewing prior consultation cases, the firm found that 39 complaints similar to the recent ones had been made since 2011.

The employees who received such inquiries did not properly log the information as damage caused by products because the staff “attributed [the problems] to the users’ particular physiological characteristics.”

This allegedly occurred because there were no previous incidences of white blotches caused by cosmetics.

Erroneous assessment of initial complaints, it can be said, led to the current extent of affected users.

No system was in place to promptly detect and analyze consumer inquiries and work out countermeasures accordingly.

Reexamine safety measures

The skin whitening products in question contain ingredients developed by Kanebo that it claims are effective in preventing dark spots and freckles.

No instances of white blotches were reported in tests conducted when Kanebo filed for approval of the ingredients with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry as effective quasi-drug substances.

Nevertheless, there is always the possibility that an unforeseen problem could emerge once a product is put on the market and used by many people. We cannot help but judge that Kanebo was naive about safety precautions as a cosmetics maker.

Many consumers use two or more beauty products, including lotions, that contain the same ingredients more than once a day. Unlike drugs, appropriate usage amounts are not clearly mentioned on cosmetic labels.
This could be partly to blame for the escalated number of recent cases.

Amid the rise of the skin whitening trend, sales of whitening products accounted for about 200 billion yen of total cosmetics sales of slightly more than 2 trillion yen.

Makers have been engaged in fierce competition to develop more effective products to meet consumers’ needs.

All cosmetics manufacturers should learn a lesson from the Kanebo incident and reexamine their safety measures and contingency plans.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 26, 2013)
(2013年7月26日01時18分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月26日 (金)

企業の税金逃れ 実効性ある国際課税ルールを

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 26, 2013
Effective international rules needed to control corporate tax evasion
企業の税金逃れ 実効性ある国際課税ルールを(7月25日付・読売社説)

What measures should be taken to prevent aggressive tax evasion by multinational corporations? Viable international rules should be created so that each country can tax such enterprises appropriately.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which comprises 34 advanced countries including Japan, the United States and European states, has compiled an action plan for preventing tax evasion by corporations. The Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting says concrete measures will be devised in 15 categories within one year to two and a half years and recommended to member countries.

The policy was reported at a meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors held last week in Moscow. The G-20 fully endorsed the action plan.

It is a major step forward, for not only advanced countries but also emerging economies such as China and India agreed to cooperate in efforts to create common rules, even though they are not OECD members.

Corporate tax avoidance by multinational companies has become an international issue after the excessive tax saving strategies used by firms such as Apple Inc. and Starbucks Corp. came to light.

Even if their tax-saving measures are legal, it was only natural that such measures be criticized, as they cleverly exploited the rules regarding taxation.

Based on real cases

The action plan lists subjects to be considered based on real cases that have taken place recently.

For instance, there was a case in which a corporation that was headquartered in country A transferred intangible assets such as patents and certain brand names to its subsidiary in country B, where the corporate tax rate is quite low.

The subsidiary then allowed a second-tier subsidiary in country C to use the intangible assets and profited by receiving patent fees, for instance, in return for bestowing the right to use them.

Under this mechanism, neither country A nor C can sufficiently tax the companies. As the tax rate in country B is low, the entire corporate group can save on taxes to a great extent.

Such practices are eroding the tax revenue of countries that cannot properly exercise their right to tax companies. Sound rules must be put in place for each country to properly collect taxes from multinationals.

Another focus of attention is how to handle cross-border electronic commercial transactions. Regulations have not kept up with the reality of online trading in goods and services, which has been growing at a rapid pace.

No consumption tax

When Japanese customers purchase music and movies from foreign companies through the Internet, consumption tax is not imposed as the digital content does not go through customs. Also, the profits of foreign companies that do not have facilities such as subsidiaries in Japan are not subject to corporate tax.

OECD plans to impose corporate tax on foreign capital firms according to the amount of e-commerce sales, or impose sales tax on online distribution of digital content, are worth studying.

The interests of countries tend to conflict, as they are afraid of being at a disadvantage in luring corporations.

We are worried that if countries only exercise loose rules as a result of such fears, there will be a cat-and-mouse game between countries and corporations that do everything they can to aggressively avoid taxes. Advanced and emerging nations must join hands to create strict rules.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2013)
(2013年7月25日02時15分  読売新聞)

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憲法改正 実現への布石を周到に打て

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 26, 2013
Prepare carefully for long, winding road of amending the Constitution
憲法改正 実現への布石を周到に打て(7月25日付・読売社説)

Debate on amending the Constitution has taken concrete form since the recent House of Councillors election. It is imperative that discussions on the issue be developed further.

We urge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration to carefully and throughly take steps to gather momentum to realize the goal of amending the Constitution.

A point of contention during the upper house campaign was whether to change Article 96, which stipulates procedures for constitutional revision. Parties have argued over whether to relax the requirements for amending the Constitution.

Currently, the approval of at least two-thirds of the legislators in both chambers of the Diet is necessary to initiate amendments to the top law. After the upper house election, the parties that actively support amending the Constitution--the Liberal Democratic Party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party--still did not have a two-thirds majority in the chamber. Hurdles remain high for amending the top law.

However, if the seats held by New Komeito--which favors adding new philosophies and provisions to the Constitution without changing the existing ones--are factored in, that would achieve the two-thirds requirement. Komeito’s actions hold the key to constitutional revision.

Komeito should present ideas

According to the party’s pledges for the upper house election, it seeks to discuss a number of issues regarding “adding new elements” to the Constitution: environmental rights, expanding the scope of local autonomy, stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in the top law and how the nation should contribute to the international community.

We urge New Komeito to hold thorough discussions on the issues and specify its ideas in a draft proposal. That would help clarify the similarities and differences between New Komeito and other parties, such as its coalition partner, the LDP, on the issues. It would also help expand discussions on amending the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Your Party has said there are other things to be accomplished before amending the Constitution, including civil service reform. The party has proposed radical ideas for civil service reform, such as eliminating the jobs of 100,000 national government officials and allowing government officials to be laid off as easily as employees at private companies, in exchange for giving them the right to strike.

We can never agree to making such reforms a precondition for amending the Constitution, as the two issues can be dealt with simultaneously.

Start from pending issues

Abe has said he will deal with constitutional revision “without haste, and move forward on the issue with persistence.” The prime minister stressed he will first deal with unresolved issues involving the National Referendum Law, which was enacted during the first Abe administration. We believe Abe’s decision is appropriate, as those issues will lay the basic groundwork for amending the Constitution.

The National Referendum Law stipulates procedures for a national referendum for constitutional amendments. It allows those aged 18 and older to participate in such referendums.

To be consistent, the law’s supplementary provisions require lawmakers to discuss lowering the minimum voting age for elections, which is stipulated in the Public Offices Election Law, and the age of adulthood stipulated in the Civil Code, from the current 20 to 18. The provisions also call for the review of the National Civil Service Law, which limits the political activities of government officials.

All the issues are long overdue. Lawmakers were expected to reach conclusions on the issues before the National Referendum Law was put into force in May 2010.

We urge both the ruling and opposition parties to start discussions on the unresolved issues as soon as possible.

Even if the Diet succeeds in initiating constitutional amendments, it is the public that makes the final decision on revising the Constitution via referendums. A majority of all votes cast in a referendum is needed to amend the Constitution--it would never be an easy task.

LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba has revealed the idea of hosting meetings across the nation aimed at explaining to the public the necessity of amending the Constitution. The meetings would be carried out as easy-to-understand dialogues, according to Ishiba.

To amend the Constitution, efforts to nurture public awareness of the necessity of constitutional amendments are essential. There are three years left, at most, before the next national election. The time should be used strategically for the goal of amending the Constitution.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2013)
(2013年7月25日02時15分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月25日 (木)

夏休みの安全 子どもを犯罪から守りたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 25, 2013
Children deserve to have a safe and crime-free summer vacation
夏休みの安全 子どもを犯罪から守りたい(7月24日付・読売社説)

School is out for summer, and children are free to play outdoors. Yet even at this happy time, measures must be taken to ensure no children fall victim to crimes during their summer vacation.

In late June, a man with a knife injured three first-grade primary school students in front of the gate to a ward primary school in Nerima Ward, Tokyo. The incident took place while the boys were on their way home from school. In mid-July, a fifth-grade primary school student suffered serious injuries when she was beaten by a man on the street in Ryugasaki, Ibaraki Prefecture.

National Police Agency statistics remind us of the disturbing reality that not even children under 13 are safe from criminals. Crimes against them include a significant number of serious offenses, such as sexual assaults and attacks resulting in grave injuries.

Parents should immediately call the police if their children have been spoken to or followed by suspicious persons.

Adults must stay on guard

It is essential for the police to thoroughly investigate such cases, while also providing information about suspicious individuals to local organizations likely to be affected by such incidents, including school authorities and neighborhood associations.

School administrators have taken measures to better protect the safety of their students in recent years. The move was prompted by a stabbing incident that took place in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in 2001 at a primary school affiliated with Osaka Kyoiku University. Eight students at Ikeda Primary School were killed by a knife-wielding man, and many others were injured.

Ikeda Primary School has set up a class called “anzen-ka” (safety course) in which students are encouraged to discuss what they should do if they face such situations as total strangers talking to them on the street. An increasing number of schools are adopting similar safety education programs.

A large number of primary and middle schools have installed security cameras and other protective devices around their buildings and grounds, hoping to detect any suspicious person attempting to intrude.

In other cases, parents accompany their children to and from school, while crime-prevention volunteers from neighborhood associations patrol school-commuting roads. Local communities are making progress in implementing various steps to prevent children from becoming crime victims.

However, defense of children tends to become lax during the summer vacation. Particular attention should be given to the safety of children during certain hours of the day--for instance, when they are playing outdoors, and while they are on their way to and from cram schools and or swimming courses. At such times, it is difficult for grown-ups to keep an eye on children. Given this, it is advisable to make sure children carry crime prevention buzzers with them when they go out, so they can sound an alarm if necessary.

Teach kids to be alert

Most importantly, children should be taught how to escape from crimes targeting them. They need to develop such awareness on a routine basis, when it comes to averting potential danger.

For instance, it is a good idea for both parents and children to confirm whether any hazards exist in their neighborhood, such as a vacant house into which children could be taken or an unlit street. Parents would be well advised to tell their children to stay away from such high-risk places.

In many areas around the nation, shops, private homes and other buildings have been designated as emergency shelters for children. Those in charge of such shelters agree to provide temporary protection for children who encountered danger, and report it to the police. If they have been taught where such facilities are located, children will be able to run to the shelter when they recognize danger.

Other facilities that can play a role in crime prevention include convenience stores that stay open round the clock or till late at night.

It is essential for families and local communities to join hands in making sure children can spend the summer vacation in safety.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2013)
(2013年7月24日01時22分  読売新聞)

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海江田民主党 政策と体質を改革して出直せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 25, 2013
DPJ must start over again, reform its policies, character
海江田民主党 政策と体質を改革して出直せ(7月24日付・読売社説)

An extremely tough road lies ahead for the Democratic Party of Japan to revive itself.
It has no choice but to start over again, by refining its policies and drastically reforming its character.

DPJ Secretary General Goshi Hosono offered to resign from his post to take responsibility for the party’s humiliating defeat in Sunday’s House of Councillors election, and his resignation was ultimately accepted. Hosono will step down in late August after setting a course for the reconstruction of the party.

DPJ President Banri Kaieda announced that he will stay in his post, and no objection has been raised from party leadership.

Isn’t Kaieda’s sense of crisis over the party’s current situation too weak? The party’s character, in which its leader does not take responsibility for failure, has again been revealed. It is questionable whether it is possible for the DPJ to rebuild itself under Kaieda, whose leadership and communication skills are poor.

Party’s decline clear

The DPJ won just 17 of the 44 upper house seats it held before the poll and that were contested in Sunday’s election. Sunday’s results were far below its previous record low of 26 in 2001. The party was defeated in all constituencies with one seat up for reelection and lost its seats in Tokyo, Osaka and Saitama constituencies where multiple seats were up for grabs. The DPJ’s steep decline is evident.

According to Yomiuri Shimbun exit polls, the DPJ was fifth in the number of swing votes captured by political parties in the proportional representation segment of the election. Before it came the Liberal Democratic Party, Your Party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and the Japanese Communist Party.

The DPJ simply criticized the negative side effects of Abenomics, the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, and was unable to present its own growth strategy and economic policy. It was also unable to strengthen local chapters or cooperate with other opposition parties in election campaigns. All these adversely affected its election results.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama recently said it was unavoidable for China to think that Japan had stolen the Senkaku Islands. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan supported an independent candidate who lost her status as the official DPJ candidate, and the DPJ’s official candidate lost. Kan’s behavior symbolizes the party’s political culture, in which members do not abide by the party’s decisions.

Even after the DPJ became an opposition party, its founders caused problems. It is only natural that DPJ executives called for the two former prime ministers to be punished at their meeting on Tuesday.

The DPJ will never be able to make progress in its reform if it cannot decide on strict punishment against them.

Lessons not learned

In February, the DPJ finalized documents that summed up its handling of the government while it was in power and its crushing defeat in last year’s House of Representatives election. The documents pointed out that the party’s governing abilities were immature and the abilities of each lawmaker were not utilized as a team. However, this self-examination was not reflected in the management of the party.

Reviewing its policies is also an urgent task for the DPJ.

The DPJ’s campaign pledges for the upper house election lacked specifics and were abstract on many points.

Without stipulating where the money would come from, the DPJ touted the establishment of a guaranteed minimum pension system that would be funded solely by taxpayers. We believe the party should change it to a plan that is convincing and feasible.

On constitutional amendment issues, the party only used ambiguous expressions in consideration of people in the party who support top law revision and others who are cautious or oppose it. The DPJ needs to come up with its own proposal for revision after thorough discussions on the issue within the party.

The DPJ’s role as the largest opposition party is to keep a stern eye on the big ruling parties and present constructive counterproposals, thereby keeping everyone in national politics on their toes.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 24, 2013)
(2013年7月24日01時22分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月24日 (水)

安倍政権の課題 国力の向上へ経済に集中せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 24, 2013
Abe administration must focus on economy to enhance nation’s power
安倍政権の課題 国力の向上へ経済に集中せよ(7月23日付・読売社説)


The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must make all-out efforts to revitalize the national economy and concentrate on enhancing national power.

The administration has made a new start after the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito scored an overwhelming victory in Sunday’s House of Councillors election.

Abe met with Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi Monday to confirm their policy of strengthening cooperation. It will be necessary for the two parties, which failed to put forth common campaign platforms for the upper house poll, to steadily promote coordination on various policies.


In a news conference on Monday, Abe stressed he would put utmost priority on economic policy, saying, “Ending 15 years of deflation will be a historic undertaking.”

The foundation for social security, diplomacy and security cannot be bolstered unless the country can regain a strong economy and national power. Revitalizing the national economy is a way of meeting the expectations the people expressed in the upper house election.

Sales tax hike key issue

The biggest focal point for the moment is whether the government will decide to raise the consumption tax from 5 percent to 8 percent in April as scheduled.

Abe said he would make a prudent decision by autumn after analyzing such economic data as the real-term gross domestic product for the April-June quarter, which will be released on Aug. 12.

The economy has been picking up steadily due to the effect of Abenomics. But raising the consumption tax before a full-scale business recovery may affect the economy adversely. Some of the prime minister’s economic advisers have come out in favor of postponing a tax increase.

On the other hand, the nation’s fiscal condition is the worst among industrialized countries. Japan has made an international pledge to implement midterm fiscal reconstruction. The adverse effect of postponing a consumption tax increase on the government bond market is also a matter of concern.

In a recent Moscow meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 economies, Finance Miniser Taro Aso said the tax increase would be carried out as scheduled. Abe faces a hard policy decision on how to reach a balance between economic growth and fiscal reconstruction.

Discussions on the consumption tax hike will be also unavoidable from the standpoint of promoting reforms of the social security system. Based on conclusions of the national conference on social security reform to be announced in August, the government needs to set forth policies to curb medical bills and pension benefits, which have been burgeoning due to the graying of society, as well as concrete measures to deal with the declining birthrate.

The government is being put to the test over how to implement a growth strategy, the “third arrow” of Abenomics after bold monetary easing and fiscal stimulation.

Abe regards the autumn extraordinary Diet session as an opportunity to realize his administration’s growth strategy and is aiming for early passage of a bill to boost the competitiveness of the Japanese industry, including an investment tax cut to encourage businesses to make capital investment.

Boosting the vitality of Japanese companies could help realize a virtuous circle of wage hikes and an expansion of job opportunities.

In promoting the growth strategy, however, it is essential to secure a stable supply of electricity.

TPP talks in full swing

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has launched safety checks of nuclear power plants seeking to restart their idled reactors in line with new safety standards. To efficiently implement various kinds of safety checks, the safety examination system of the NRA should be reinforced.

Abe’s leadership is also needed to win the understanding of local governments and communities to resume the operations of nuclear plants.

The government should promote a realistic energy policy, while considering its impact on the economy, employment and the global environment.

Also important are the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, which Japan will join for the first time on Tuesday. Japan should seize the opportunity to promote free trade and bring out the vitality of Asia.

Efforts must also be made to boost the international competitiveness of our agricultural sector in preparation for market liberalization.

On the diplomatic front, the biggest issue is how to improve bilateral relations with China.

Abe said, “The important thing is to have heart-to-heart talks with each other,” emphasizing the importance of dialogue. Also needed are persistent diplomatic efforts by both Japan and China to solve their differences.

China is still behaving provocatively by having its marine surveillance vessels sail around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. It was also recently learned that China is developing a new gas field near the median line between Japan and China in the East China Sea, which is escalating bilateral friction.

With China’s recent aggressive and intimidating actions and its military buildup, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development threats, Japan’s security environment has been deteriorating.

Review collective self-defense

It is only reasonable for the government to review its interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the use of the right to the collective self-defense, a pending issue for many years. Such a review would strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

An expert panel of the government will compile a new report on the issue by mid-October and is expected to propose that Japan should exercise its right to collective self-defense. Based on the proposal, the government should proceed to change its interpretation of the supreme law.

The nation’s security system needs to be strengthened by establishing the Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, promoting the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago and compiling new National Defense Program Outlines.

The next national election is not scheduled for three years. It is crucial for Abe to proceed with diplomatic and security issues step by step, together with his economic policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 23, 2013)
(2013年7月23日01時31分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月23日 (火)

参院選自公圧勝 数に傲らず着実に政策実現を

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 23, 2013
Coalition must not be arrogant but should firmly pursue policy goals
参院選自公圧勝 数に傲らず着実に政策実現を(7月22日付・読売社説)


The ruling coalition parties have scored a resounding electoral victory following their landslide in the December 2012 House of Representatives election.

In Sunday’s House of Councillors election, the Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, garnered a majority in the 242-seat upper chamber, including seats that were uncontested this time.

It is of great significance that the divided Diet, in which the upper house was controlled by opposition parties, has been brought to an end.

There is no national election scheduled for up to three years.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has now acquired an environment that will allow it to buckle down to various policy tasks. Among them are making the nation’s economic recovery compatible with fiscal reconstruction, strengthening the country’s security arrangements and considering the wisdom of revising the Constitution.

However, neither the LDP nor Komeito should be complacent or arrogant about their newly won political power but instead should engage in managing the Diet considerately and respectfully.

Voters favor stability

The divided state of the legislature developed six years ago as a result of the first Abe Cabinet’s suffering a crushing defeat in the 2007 upper house contest. Abe’s triumph this time has avenged that defeat.

When the outcome of the latest upper house race began emerging late Sunday night, Abe said on a TV program his administration was given a “great voice of encouragement from the public, which wants a political process capable of making decisions, achieving a stable government and moving ahead with our economic policies.”

The stagnation and political turmoil caused by the divided Diet were major factors behind the anomaly of a new prime minister every year. Many voters this time favored political stability as pointed out by the prime minister.

The prime minister’s package of economic policies, dubbed Abenomics, was the focus of contention in the upper house election and can be said to have won the public’s confidence, at least for now.

However, Abenomics has not yet produced any conspicuous improvements in the income of ordinary citizens or employment. It remains unclear whether the national economy can really break away from deflation.

To meet the public’s expectations for economic revival, the prime minister must do his utmost to produce tangible results by mobilizing all available resources of the government and the ruling coalition parties.

The resounding win of the LDP, the only party in the latest upper house election that did not call for “reducing nuclear power generation to zero,” can be considered proof that voters favorably evaluated the party’s down-to-earth approach to energy problems.

Moves for realignment

The LDP was strong enough in the upper house race to score 29 wins versus two losses in single-seat prefectural constituencies, while also garnering seats in all multiple-seat constituencies. Komeito also performed well in securing upper house seats.

The LDP’s victory in prefectural constituency contests owed partly to the poor performance of opposition parties, just as in last year’s lower house election, and to the circumstances under which they found themselves scrambling among themselves for upper house seats.

Voter turnout, meanwhile, fell well below the level in the previous upper house election. It seems some voters averse to the LDP might have chosen to abstain from voting.

The DPJ suffered a crushing defeat, the worst since its inauguration, in the upper house election. In many cases, the party was defeated by other opposition parties even in multiple-seat prefectural electoral districts.

There can be no denying that the desire to “punish” the DPJ for a pile of policy blunders while in power remains deeply ingrained among the public.

The election result shows the DPJ, as in the past, lacked solidarity as a party. One such example is that former Prime Minister Naoto Kan openly backed a candidate in the Tokyo constituency who had to run as an independent after the party dropped her from its ticket.

Taking into consideration the DPJ’s dogmatic “out-and-out opposition” in the Diet and its ambiguous stance on such key issues as the Constitution, the DPJ failed to attract the votes of those critical of the Abe administration.

DPJ leader Banri Kaieda expressed his intention to stay on as head of the party. The party leadership has no option but to clarify responsibility and start afresh after reflecting on its crushing defeat in the latest election. If it fails to do so, it may cease to be one of the two major parties in the next lower house election.

Those who bolted from the DPJ also failed miserably in the latest election. People’s Life Party failed to win a seat even in the Iwate constituency, the home base of its leader, Ichiro Ozawa, symbolizing his declining political clout. Green Wind lost its seat in the upper house.

While Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party saw gains in their upper house seats, the parties cannot be considered to have solidified their foothold as the “third major force” in the upper house.

During the election campaign, Ishin no Kai coleader Toru Hashimoto criticized the DPJ for being supported by labor unions of public servants and asserted the need of forming a “new opposition party” that has no affiliation with business organizations and “can rival the LDP.”

The opposition camp is certain to reorganize in a bid to explore a way to create a force that can fight the ruling coalition.

The JCP, which advocated “confrontation with the LDP,” made major gains in the election, as it did in the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election. The low voter turnout must have served as a spur to the highly organized party.

Focus on growth strategy

For the time being, the Abe administration will deal with the tasks of implementing its growth strategy plans, deciding whether to raise the consumption tax rate as planned and reviewing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the right to collective self-defense. It also intends to proceed with the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and the establishment of the Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council.


All of these are important issues that affect the nation’s future.

We hope the administration will realize them by strategically setting priorities.

Abe said, “Now that the divided Diet has come to an end, we can no longer lay the onus on the opposition parties” if the ruling camp fails to handle these tasks adequately. How well the government and the ruling parties can deal with these issues will be tested in the days ahead.

Another focus will be on Komeito’s future actions. During the campaign, the party said it would act as a brake on some of the LDP’s policies.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi has even said the party would “adamantly oppose” a review of the government’s interpretation of the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, as Abe advocates.

Abe needs to consult with Yamaguchi afresh over the tasks facing the ruling coalition. It is vital for both to cooperate by communicating with each other well so they can properly manage the powerful ruling parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 22, 2013)
(2013年7月22日03時38分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月22日 (月)

13参院選 きょう投票 日本の「針路」見据えた選択を

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 22, 2013
Keep Japan’s future in mind when voting in upper house poll
13参院選 きょう投票 日本の「針路」見据えた選択を(7月21日付・読売社説)


Which parties and candidates show that they have solid plans and the competence to tackle the mountain of policy tasks facing the country at home and abroad? We shall cast our valuable ballots after carefully scrutinizing their opinions and track records.

Voting day has arrived for the 23rd House of Councillors election.

We must choose the parties and candidates we believe will guide Japan on the right course amid turbulent times in Asia and the rest of the world.


The vitality of the private sector must be drawn out to put the economy back on a stable recovery track. The nation’s social security system must be redesigned to become sustainable with the declining population. Also, a diplomatic strategy for pursuing this country’s national interests must be mapped out and implemented.

To realize these goals, it is essential that the political sphere be revitalized. The focus of this upper house election is whether the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, can end the divided Diet by securing a majority.

Divided Diet resolution key

Due to the divided Diet, in which the ruling bloc lacks a majority in the upper house, it is difficult to pass important bills without cooperation from opposition parties. We can understand why the ruling coalition has given priority to ending the divided Diet in this election.

“The end of the divided Diet will let the ruling coalition parties run wild,” officials of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan said. It is true that the creation of the divided Diet as a result of the 2010 upper house election prevented the then ruling DPJ-led government from freely exercising its will.

If the divided Diet is resolved in this election, it might be partly due to the fact that voters do not look positively on the brakes that have been put on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government in the upper house by opposition parties, including the DPJ.

The DPJ suffered a series of crushing defeats in the latest House of Representatives and Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections. The upper house vote will presumably decide this party’s fate. However, the DPJ is still caught in a backdraft as a result of policy missteps it made during its reign.

Cooperation among opposition parties in the Diet and the reorganization of the political world in the future will certainly be affected by the rise or fall of smaller parties in the upper house vote, including so-called third force parties Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, as well as the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

In deciding which party or candidate to vote for, voters should first evaluate the achievements of the Abe administration.

Responsible nuclear policy

As a result of monetary easing and fiscal actions taken under the Abe administration’s so-called Abenomics economic policies, the yen’s excessive appreciation has been corrected, stock prices have gone up and business sentiment has improved.

Besides that, the government has decided to participate in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. To what extent Japan’s late entry into the talks can be compensated for will depend on the government’s ability to negotiate.

The DPJ has ramped up its criticism of the adverse effects of Abenomics, such as a rise in prices, while Ishin no Kai and Your Party have expressed support for Abenomics and stressed the need for a drastic easing of regulations.

While the opposition parties make some valid points in their claims, we find it regrettable that they have failed to deepen discussions on specific economic measures.

The dearth of such talks was not limited to economic policy issues.

It is undeniable that the parties shied away from incorporating clear-cut numerical targets and details of budgetary measures for securing revenue sources into their election pledges. This apparently was due to the debacle of the DPJ’s unrealistic platform for the 2009 general election, resulting in lethargic campaigns.

The parties even seem to have failed to place due importance on the content of their election pledges. It was symbolic in this respect that the LDP and Komeito did not coordinate their election pledges in the running of their ruling coalition.

Regarding what is desirable for the nation’s energy policy, empty arguments touting an end to nuclear power generation were rampant in the run-up to the election.

Only the LDP touched the heart of the issue of restarting reactors if their safety is confirmed, stressing that the government will “make the maximum effort” to obtain understanding on the matter from local entities concerned.

The DPJ and Ishin no Kai adopted slogans of reducing to zero the nation’s nuclear power generation “in the 2030s.” The JCP, PLP and the SDP, meanwhile, strongly insisted that a restart of the country’s nuclear reactors should never be permitted.

As long as the parties continue calling for breaking away from nuclear power generation, such arguments should be condemned as irresponsible unless their insistence is coupled with such issues as securing energy alternatives to nuclear power and measures to address the massive increase in fuel costs for thermal power generation.

On the diplomatic front, the Abe administration did much to turn around relations between Japan and the United States by pushing ahead with procedures for relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko district in Nago in the prefecture. The Abe Cabinet, on the other hand, has yet to set up summit meetings with China and South Korea, drawing fire from the opposition camp.

With Japan’s security environment becoming increasingly precarious, voters must decide with a measure of vigilance which party makes the best argument.

Constitutional revision

The issue of revising the Constitution was also a point of contention in the electoral battle.

Among the major issues were the wisdom of easing the requirements for the Diet to initiate Constitutional revisions; clarification of the constitutional status of the Self-Defense Forces; the addition of stipulations concerning new concepts of human rights such as the right to a good living environment; and the advisability of reviewing the structure of the government as a whole, including the introduction of a so-called doshu system for reorganizing prefectures into larger regional government units.

These issues, along with weighing the pros and cons of changes in the government’s interpretation of the Constitution regarding the right to collective self-defense, will undoubtedly be highly significant political tasks after the upper house contest.

The weighing of each party’s vision of a “new, desirable shape of this country” should also help voters decide who they should vote for.

A ban on Internet use for campaigning was lifted ahead of this election. This increased the ability of parties and candidates to convey information to voters, which likely helped generate greater interest in the election among young people.

Voter turnout in the five previous upper house races was just over 55 percent.

Politics can never be changed as long as voters only criticize political parties and politicians. Eligible voters are responsible for exercising their right to vote by going to the polls.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 21, 2013)
(2013年7月21日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月21日 (日)

13参院選 あす投票 参院の意義と役割も考えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 21, 2013
Upper house's meaning, roles must be reconsidered
13参院選 あす投票 参院の意義と役割も考えたい(7月20日付・読売社説)

Voters go to polls for the 23rd House of Councillors election on Sunday.

As the “House of Common Sense,” the upper house is essentially expected to serve as a check and a supplement to the House of Representatives.

In recent years, however, especially under the divided Diet, the ruling and opposition parties have engaged in fierce partisan battles with the upper house becoming a “House of Political Struggle” that stalls and throws national politics into confusion.

Despite this, why are we witnessing almost no debate during election campaigning on what form the upper house should take?

Even if the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito win a combined majority in the upper house and resolve this division, we will still have this problem of an overly powerful upper house that is bestowed with almost equal authority to the lower house.

Azuma Koshiishi, the head of the Democratic Party of Japan caucus in the upper chamber, described what his party saw as the merits of having a powerful upper house during a debate program on NHK. “People say the upper house is the main factor resulting in ‘inindecisive politics,’ but it’s true that it helps us to somehow maintain tension in politics,” Koshiishi said.

But we wonder if the political fighting led by Koshiishi that sank the appointment of the Bank of Japan governor during the ordinary Diet session in 2008 can be considered “political tension.”

Destructive conflict

The last Diet session was also thrown into disarray. The rezoning bill to cut five single-constitutency seats from the lower house was not debated for more than 60 days after being passed by the lower house. The bill was therefore deemed to have been rejected by the upper house in keeping with a constitutional provision, but it was enacted into law after a revote by the lower house.

It was nothing but a suicidal act by the upper house that contradicted its raison d’etre.

The opposition parties passed a censure motion against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the upper house and refused to enter debates on bills, abolishing even bills both ruling and opposition parties had earlier agreed to pass.

When it was in the opposition, the LDP introduced an excessive number of censure motions in the upper house. The LDP should be equally blamed for undermining the upper house’s authority.

There is no doubt that the upper house’s functions should be reviewed. We believe a drastic change to the upper house election system--which is similar to the one adopted by the lower house--will provide momentum to stir up debates on this important issue.

The revised Public Offices Election Law, which reduced four constituency seats from less-populated prefectures and increased four seats for populated prefectures as an emergency measure to rectify the discrepancies in the value of each vote, calls for reaching a conclusion on an overhaul of the upper house election system by the 2016 upper house poll.

Electoral reform needed

Abe proposed the establishment of an independent panel of experts to promote lower house electral reforms. We believe discussion should be held to change the upper house election system as well. It is essential to reform the system so we will be less likely to have a divided Diet, in which the lower house is controlled by the ruling camp and the upper house by the opposition camp.

Upper house reform is a theme both new and old. Prescriptions to rectify problems--such as allowing upper house members to vote as they wish regardless of their party lines so the influence of political parties in the upper chamber will be weakened--have been duly presented. It is also necessary to debate constitutional revisions to deprive the upper house of the authority to nominate the prime minister and boost the lower house’s superiority over the upper house.

We urge the ruling and opposition camps to start consultations on how to overhaul the upper house after Sunday’s election.

(The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 20, 2013)
(2013年7月20日01時02分  読売新聞)

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エジプト情勢 民政復帰への道のりは険しい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 21, 2013
After military coup d'etat, Egypt faces bumpy road to civilian rule
エジプト情勢 民政復帰への道のりは険しい(7月20日付・読売社説)

Egypt’s provisional government has been inaugurated, led by interim President Adly Mansour. Mansour replaced former President Mohammed Morsi, who was dismissed in a de facto military coup d’etat.

In fact, it is a military-led government. Defense Minister Abidel Fattah el-Sissi retains his post and doubles as the first vice premier. Many economic experts have been appointed as Cabinet ministers in light of the people’s discontent over the worsening economic situation and to make a show of the government’s emphasis on economic policy.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and other leaders of secular groups have been given key government posts.

But the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s support base, refused to join the interim government.

Stability cannot be expected

Given that the Islamist elements are not taking part in the government, it is hardly possible to expect the political situation to stabilize.

Since the military took the extralegal step of detaining Morsi, who was elected by popular vote, Brotherhood supporters have continued protests in the streets, demanding Morsi’s reinstatement. Increasingly bloody consequences are feared in the wake of clashes between Brotherhood supporters and government security forces and other incidents.

Mansour has announced a political road map for return to a civilian government, probably with the aim of stabilizing national sentiment.

The road map calls for a committee of experts from legal and other fields to draft a proposal on constitutional revision by October. The proposal will be put to a national referendum by November. A parliamentary election is scheduled to be held by January, and a procedure to elect a president will start after a new parliament is convened.

But will things turn out as planned? A bumpy road lies ahead.

If Islamist forces are eliminated, the process will lack legitimacy. The interim government and the Brotherhood should sit down at a negotiating table as early as possible. Naturally, Morsi’s release is a prerequisite for this.

In addition to restoring public safety and achieving a return to civilian rule, the interim government must strive to overcome an economic crisis. In particular, it is essential to bring back foreign tourists and investments.

Gulf monarchies vow aid

Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies, which are wary of the growing influence of Brotherhood elements in their own countries, have pledged to provide a huge amount of economic assistance for the Egyptian provisional government.

Using such aid as leverage, the interim government must work toward resolving a shortage of foreign exchange reserves and achieving a full-scale economic recovery.

Protracted chaos in Egypt would inevitably destabilize the Middle East as a whole, and spikes in crude oil prices and other destabilizing factors would adversely affect the world economy.

Japan, the United States and European countries have not suspended economic assistance to Egypt despite the coup. This is because they put priority on the stabilization of Egypt. They should cooperate in urging the military and interim government to realize national reconciliation and a return to civilian rule as early as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 20, 2013)
(2013年7月20日01時02分  読売新聞)

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性犯罪の起訴状 被害者匿名が必要な時もある

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 20, 2013
Crime victims’ names should be kept anonymous in some cases
性犯罪の起訴状 被害者匿名が必要な時もある(7月19日付・読売社説)

Should the real names of victims of crimes be mentioned in an indictment? In a rare development, the court and prosecutors involved in a case are locking horns on the matter.

In a bill of indictment for an indecent assault charge, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office left out the name of the victim, who was a minor. The Tokyo District Court disputed the omission and called for the name to be given.

If prosecutors refuse to comply with the court’s request, it is feared that hearings for the case will be canceled following the dismissal of the prosecution.

The minor in the case was assaulted in an indecent manner in a park restroom. In response to a complaint filed by the child’s parents, the prosecutors indicted a man in his 20s. The parents told the prosecutors up front they would “withdraw the complaint if the child’s name were revealed.”

This is probably because they feared the accused might harbor a potentially dangerous grudge against their child, among other concerns.

Law murky on issue

Indecent assault is an offense that can only be prosecuted after a complaint is filed. Therefore, indictment is not possible without a complaint. The prosecutors, it may be said, had no choice but to withhold the victim’s name in the indictment to prevent the family from having to bear the burden of the offense on their own.

The child was presumably selected at random by the accused. Even before the assault, the alleged offender was not aware of the name of his victim. Disclosing the name in the prosecution process could become problematic from the standpoint of protecting victims of crimes.

The district court took issue with the prosecution’s omission out of concern that withholding the victim’s name would undermine the criminal trial system, which is based on the use of real names. Though there is no such specific requirement in the Criminal Procedure Code, in principle the victim’s name is usually mentioned in addition to other information such as the time and date of the crime committed against that person.

Behind this practice is the idea that if the victim’s name, which is an indispensable element in establishing a crime, is not identified, it could disadvantage the accused when the defense is making a rebuttal.

In fact, in trials over molestation and other crimes, lawyers have proved the accused’s innocence by constructing an effective defense based on information gathered through acquaintances of people claiming to be victims.

Still, it should not be assumed that the names of sex crime victims should always be withheld in indictments.

Overly strict stance

In the case in question, the accused has not disputed the facts presented. If the child’s name remains hidden, it should not negatively affect the court hearings. The district court’s request for disclosure of the name seems to be an excessively rigid stance.

The need to protect victims in judicial procedures was highlighted in connection with a stalking and murder case that occurred last autumn in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture.

When police read the victim’s address aloud as written on the arrest warrant, the offender was made aware of the victim’s whereabouts and found the new address after being released from jail. This provoked the final tragedy in which the victim was murdered.

In a trial at the Kobe District Court’s Himeji branch, a victim’s name was written in katakana on an indictment. This is one example showing that trial and error continue on this issue on the judicial front.

The Supreme Court’s Training and Research Institute for Court Officials will soon investigate the issue of anonymity by reviewing cases that have set precedents on the matter. It is essential for the results of such research to be utilized to help judges facing these kinds of decisions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2013)
(2013年7月19日01時49分  読売新聞)

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13参院選 対中国外交 歴史的事実を浸透させたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 20, 2013
Let facts tell more in diplomacy toward China
13参院選 対中国外交 歴史的事実を浸透させたい(7月19日付・読売社説)

How to face up to our neighbor China, which persists with its aggressive behavior over the Senkaku Islands, is the biggest diplomatic challenge facing Japan.

In their pledges for the House of Councillors election, most major parties, bearing the Senkakus issue in mind, have made commitments to “act in defense of the nation’s territory.” All of them, however, have fallen short of providing specific steps that should be taken--and how--to ensure the nation’s territorial sovereignty.

The Chinese government has been lashing out at Japan, asserting that the latter’s decision in September to place the Senkakus under state ownership altered the status quo of the Senkaku situation, which Beijing argues had been “shelved” for many years.

China’s claim contradictory

There can be no room, however, to doubt that the Senkaku Islands are part of Japan’s intrinsic territory, both historically and in the eyes of international law. It is never a territorial problem to be “shelved.”

In fact, while arguing for “shelving” the issue, it is China that attempted to change the status quo, by enacting the Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone of the Republic of China in 1992, which explicitly stipulates China’s sovereignty over the islands.

In addition, it was recently brought to light that China has plans to develop many new gas fields in waters in the vicinity of the Japan-China median line in the East China Sea. These moves are in blatant violation of the Japan-China agreement in 2008 that the two countries will refrain from unilaterally engaging in any developmental projects in the East China Sea.

It is only natural that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has criticized China for continuing to act with only itself in mind.

That said, if the current state of relations between Japan and China goes unchanged, it would certainly be detrimental to both countries. Strenuous diplomatic efforts aimed at improving bilateral relations must be made.

The Democratic Party of Japan, which nationalized the Senkaku Islands in its then capacity as the ruling party, has said little in its election platform on the issue except to call for “making the East China Sea an area of peace, friendship and cooperation,” a reference that makes the Senkakus issue sound like someone else’s problem.

New Komeito and Your Party, in connection with the Senkaku row, have called for the creation of a Japan-China “maritime liaison mechanism” for emergencies that would comprise working-level officials from the two countries. This idea should be realized swiftly to prevent an accidental clash that could lead to a conflict.

The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, meanwhile, have been insisting that the Senkakus should be dealt with as a territorial problem for both Japan and China. Does their insistence not run contrary to this country’s national interest? If Japan were to acknowledge the existence of a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, China would certainly ratchet up its demands, such as pushing for a scheme for placing the islets under joint management by the two countries.

Intertwining histories

We should never ignore the fact that China has mixed the Senkakus problem up with differing perceptions of history and the countries’ wartime past.

The Chinese administration of President Xi Jinping has criticized Japan for “posing a grave challenge to the international order after World War II.”

Which one of the two countries should be blamed for trying to disrupt the international order? Japan must deal with this matter on the basis of international law.

The Liberal Democratic Party has been stressing the need to establish a new study institute regarding territory and problems of perceptions of history to compile an effective rebuttal and disproof against unsound arguments regarding historical facts. Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) also advocates the nation’s dignity must be secured through such a method.

What approach should be considered the best for conveying historical facts throughout the international community in an appropriate manner?

The ruling and opposition parties must cooperate, using their combined ingenuity, to resolve the problem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2013)
(2013年7月19日01時49分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月19日 (金)

東大秋入学構想 問題提起は時期尚早だったか

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 19, 2013
Autumn enrollment at universities must be continuously studied
東大秋入学構想 問題提起は時期尚早だったか(7月18日付・読売社説)

The University of Tokyo has decided to shelve for the time being a plan to switch the enrollment period for new students to autumn, which is the standard in many foreign countries.

It is a major retreat from the idea it initially proposed. Yet we believe discussions toward realizing the autumn enrollment system must continue hereafter.

There is no prospect of various national and other examinations changing their schedules, which are based on the premise of the current spring enrollment and graduation system. In-depth discussions did not take place on such things as how to utilize the “gap term”--the period between spring, when students pass entrance exams, and autumn, when classes begin--and how to lessen the burden on their parents.

As a reason for putting off the autumn enrollment plan, University of Tokyo President Junichi Hamada said, “We concluded it is thoughtless to change our enrollment period alone if society is not ready for it.”

The idea of siding with the University of Tokyo did not spread well. Even within the University of Tokyo, quite a few people expressed caution over the idea, saying it is too early to adopt such a system. These factors seem to have affected the university’s decision.

Behind the idea of the university coming up with the autumn enrollment plan was a sense of crisis that, if the current system is left unchanged, the university will be left behind in the competition with foreign universities, which has been increasingly intensifying.

Low foreigner rates

Compared with major universities in the United States and Europe, the University of Tokyo has lower rates of foreign students and instructors. The university hoped to lure highly capable people from overseas to raise the university’s research levels by changing the enrollment period to the international standard.

Along with the progress of globalization, people with strong language skills and negotiating power who can play important roles in the international arena are required in various fields.

The autumn enrollment system, which enables more Japanese students to study abroad, has the possibility of responding to such a demand, we believe.

Because of such reasons, many supporters of the plan emerged from the business world one after another. The government incorporated in the growth strategy it announced recently a stipulation to create an environment conducive to an autumn enrollment system. The Liberal Democratic Party included the “promotion of autumn enrollment at universities” in one of its campaign pledges for the House of Councillors election.

The momentum built up around the idea should be maintained.

Easier to study abroad

Instead of shifting to autumn enrollment, the University of Tokyo will introduce a quarter system by the end of the 2015 academic year. By increasing the number of terms to four per academic year, the university will make it easier for students to participate in short-term study abroad programs after each terms.

The university chose the measure apparently because it is more likely to work. However, a quarter system has some problems such as a difficulty having a gap term to allow students to have various experiences before entering the university.

It is important for the industry, government and academia to cooperate in solving the problems associated with introducing the autumn enrollment system. For instance, it will be necessary for public offices and private businesses to promote the introduction of a year-round recruitment system to make full use of the experiences of those students who have studied abroad.

It is essential for universities and colleges to carry out education to nurture internationally minded people by improving their curriculums and raising the quality of lessons conducted in English.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 18, 2013)
(2013年7月18日01時18分  読売新聞)

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13参院選 規制改革 成長促す緩和策を見極めよう

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 19, 2013
We should clearly comprehend parties’ deregulatory proposals
13参院選 規制改革 成長促す緩和策を見極めよう(7月18日付・読売社説)

To foster new industries and put the economy on a growth track, it is necessary to remove excessive regulations. We should form a clear view of which political parties advocate realistic and effective regulatory reforms.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been leading his Liberal Democratic Party’s campaign for the House of Councillors election by making regulatory reforms the top priority in the administration’s growth strategy.

One of the most important points of contention is a review of employment regulations.

Many experts have pointed out that many businesses have redundant staff in loss-making divisions. Such surplus workforce strains companies’ business performance, causing the overall economy to stagnate.

As a way to deal with such problems, the government is studying the idea of institutionalizing “limited regular workers,” whose job descriptions, job locations and working hours are limited as stipulated in their job contracts, while easing regulations on the ability of employers to dismiss such workers. Abe has also shown an interest in introducing this system.

For companies, it would become easier to close down unnecessary operations and eliminate obsolete job categories. For the limited regular workers themselves, there would be the merit of greater job stability, compared with the status of nonregular workers, although job insecurity would not be fully eliminated.

Workforce redeployment

Regarding employment issues, the LDP, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party advocate in their respective election platforms that workers should be shifted from declining industries to sectors with higher productivity. New Komeito advocates the expansion of the system concerning “regular workers with shorter work hours,” showing common ground with these three parties when it comes to increasing the diversity of employment patterns.

The Democratic Party of Japan, meanwhile, opposes the idea of easing employment regulations, such as institutionalizing limited regular workers. People’s Life Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party take similar stances.

If low-paid nonregular workers are the only category in which numbers increase, the average income of workers will decline, which will not lead to sustainable economic growth.

How can the smooth transition of workers from one sector to another be realized while protecting employment security? We should listen carefully to what these parties are saying about related issues, including assistance such as vocational training for those who want to change jobs or rejoin the workforce.

Mixed treatment

Regarding the relaxation of regulations in the medical field, the main issue is so-called mixed treatment, meaning the combination of medical treatments that are covered by public health insurance with those that are not. Such combinations are currently allowed only in exceptional cases.

The LDP advocates the expanded application of mixed treatment so that the most advanced drugs and medical equipment can be used promptly. If renegerative medicine or other cutting-edge techniques that are not covered by public health insurance were approved as part of mixed treatment, it would help patients in terms of their other medical expenses that would remain covered by the insurance.

Your Party and Ishin no Kai call for complete approval of mixed treatment, while PLP and the SDP oppose expanding it.

Implementing regulatory reforms would mean addressing a thorny tangle of interests among organizations concerned. Although the political parties make differing assertions on reform, and tend to focus on different aspects, important issues having to do with the future of this nation have been presented.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 18, 2013)
(2013年7月18日01時18分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月18日 (木)

13参院選 日米同盟 関係強化の具体論を聞きたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 18, 2013
Parties should present concrete steps to strengthen Japan-U.S. alliance
13参院選 日米同盟 関係強化の具体論を聞きたい(7月17日付・読売社説)

The Japan-U.S. alliance is becoming increasingly important at a time when the security environment surrounding Japan is deteriorating due to military provocations by China and North Korea.

In their campaign pledges for the upcoming House of Councillors election, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), New Komeito, Your Party and other parties said they consider the Japan-U.S. alliance to be the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy, and will strengthen and deepen this partnership.

With the exceptions of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, which advocate the abolition of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, all the major parties are in step when it comes to attaching great importance to the alliance in view of the reality of today’s world.

Details needed

The key point now is not to waffle in general terms about how to strengthen the alliance, but to provide concrete ideas.

The LDP election pledges stipulate that it will review Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, and set up a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council. The party’s pledges also incorporated the establishment of a fundamental law on national security and a permanent law concerning overseas dispatches of the Self-Defense Forces.

These steps will be of considerable significance in enhancing the deterrent provided by the SDF and U.S. military, which are the backbone of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

In its campaign pledges, the DPJ at least referred to the establishment of a Japanese NSC and implementation of the agreement between Tokyo and Washington on realigning U.S. forces stationed in Japan, but these ideas alone are not specific enough to strengthen the alliance. The party does not seem to have seriously reflected on the fact that it threw the alliance off course over the Futenma relocation issue while it was in power.

Meanwhile, Ishin no Kai advocates a review of Japan’s three principles of weapons exports, and establishing legislation for national security. We think this is a realistic approach.

Your Party insists it will build a relationship with the United States in which Japan stands on an equal footing, and calls for revising the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement and reviewing the so-called sympathy budget, or host-nation support, for U.S. forces in Japan.

“An equal Japan-U.S. relationship” is an expression that goes down well with the general public. The DPJ touted this slogan in its manifesto for the 2009 House of Representatives election, but failed to translate it into action in the face of diplomatic realities after it came to power. Does Your Party want to repeat the same mistake?

More discussions required

One focus of attention is the right to collective self-defense. The LDP, Ishin no Kai and Your Party support the idea of changing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution, under which Japan possesses the right to collective self-defense but cannot exercise it. By contrast, Komeito opposes altering the government’s interpretation of the supreme law.

We think exercising the right to collective self-defense should be allowed also from the viewpoint of strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance. It is problematic that the LDP and Komeito, which are coalition partners, differ in their views on an important security policy. They need to coordinate their policies immediately.

DPJ Secretary General Goshi Hosono expressed support for allowing Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense, saying it is better to end these inconclusive arguments. However, the DPJ’s policy on this issue has yet to be decided. The DPJ’s character remains unchanged; because of diverging opinions over foreign and security policies within the party, it cannot present a unified position.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated that he will work on changing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution based on proposals made by a panel of experts after the upper house election. We urge all parties to have more in-depth discussions on this issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2013)
(2013年7月17日01時19分  読売新聞)

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燃料電池車競争 低価格実現が普及のカギ握る

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 18, 2013
Developing budget fuel cell cars is a key task for automakers
燃料電池車競争 低価格実現が普及のカギ握る(7月17日付・読売社説)

The race among carmakers to develop vehicles powered by fuel cells is heating up. With no direct carbon dioxide emissions, electric automobiles with fuel cells are envisioned as the preeminent next-generation eco-car.

When will the world’s major automakers be able to reduce the price of such a vehicle through mass production? Drivers around the world are keenly watching to see which carmaker will be the first to achieve an affordable fuel cell car.

Honda Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have agreed to jointly develop a fuel cell-powered vehicle. The Japanese and U.S. carmakers hope technical cooperation in such fields as developing the basic system for a fuel cell car will result in a jointly devised system fit for practical use as early as 2020.

Sharing the burden

The Honda-GM tie-up marks a change in their respective strategies for developing fuel cell electric vehicles. The two corporations have been separately working to develop such automobiles in recent years. Their alliance can be seen as an attempt to reduce the otherwise massive financial burden of developing fuel cell cars, while also completing the development project in a shorter period.

The motive behind their decision is a desire not to fall behind alliances formed by their rivals in developing fuel cell vehicles.

Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG have signed an accord on joint development. Nissan Motor Co. has also said it will carry out a similar project with Renault SA, Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co. The Toyota-BMW tie-up aims at mass production in 2020, while the latter group hopes to reach a similar goal in 2017.

All this means the development race will be bitterly fought by carmakers around the world, including South Korean and Chinese competitors and other corporations unrelated to the Japanese, U.S. and European manufacturers.

The fuel cell vehicle is powered by a motor run by electricity generated through a hydrogen-oxygen reaction. It is comparable to an electric vehicle (EV) in that neither automobile emits carbon dioxide.

Another advantage the fuel cell car offers is mileage. A hydrogen refill for a fuel cell vehicle enables a 500-kilometer drive, nearly twice the range of an EV car. Moreover, refueling takes only three minutes.

About 10 years ago, fuel cell cars were priced at a hefty 100 million yen per unit. Although prices have fallen sharply, a fuel cell vehicle still carries a price tag of about 10 million yen today.

Toyota and Honda are seeking to lower the price to 5 million yen or so. An important challenge facing each car manufacturer is reducing the price through technical innovation. This task also must be complemented by efforts to ensure the safety of such vehicles.

Another key task is to expedite efforts to build more hydrogen stations. Companies in the oil and other industries are planning to set up 100 stations nationwide by the end of 2015. However, that would be too few to encourage the spread of fuel cell car use.

Infrastructure needed

The government’s growth strategy includes a plan to reconsider regulations with regard to the installation of hydrogen stations. It is essential for the government to further support the efforts of related businesses to spread such facilities.

As circumstances stand today, hybrid vehicles (HVs) have become a common choice for ecologically friendly vehicles. The race to develop hybrid cars, which combine an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, has been led by Toyota and Honda. The situation contrasts with the slow progress in the spread of EVs, partly due to the short distance covered by such automobiles for each recharge.

We hope Japanese automakers will strive to improve the performance of HVs and EVs while at the same time stepping up efforts to develop fuel cell vehicles, a move that will provide consumers with more choices for an eco-car purchase. If they can lead the development race, it would do much to shore up Japan’s industrial competitiveness in the global market.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 17, 2013)
(2013年7月17日01時19分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月17日 (水)

米中戦略対話 世界の安定に責任を果たせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 17, 2013
China must act responsibly for sake of global stability
米中戦略対話 世界の安定に責任を果たせ(7月16日付・読売社説)

The fifth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue was held recently in Washington, D.C. For the stability of not only the Asia-Pacific region but also the entire world, it is vital that cabinet members of the world’s two largest economic powers hold talks to confirm the need for bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including diplomatic relations, national security and economic matters.

This was the first strategic and economic dialogue for the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping since it was launched earlier this year. Building on summit talks held last month, Washington and Beijing hope to deepen bilateral ties.

Their agreements on drawing up an action plan to fight global warming and starting working-level talks for concluding a bilateral investment accord are positive results of the dialogue.

In step on North Korea

The two countries also shared the recognition that it is important for North Korea to take concrete steps to end its nuclear development program.

We hope China will not only urge Pyongyang to resume six-nation talks on its nuclear program, but also warn North Korea that sanctions against that country will not be eased unless it takes tangible steps to eliminate its existing nuclear weapons.

However, the United States and China found little else on which their positions matched.

They have been at loggerheads over cybertheft. The United States condemned China’s actions of illicitly obtaining information of U.S. companies through cyber-attacks. Although both sides agreed to continue discussing the issue at working-level talks, they remain far apart.

The Chinese side reiterated its previous assertions that it is also has been a victim of hacking. Yet as long as China only tries to avoid dealing with this problem, it does not deserve to be called a “responsible major power.”

Territorial tussles

Territorial and maritime issues have also been a bugbear in U.S.-China relations.

During the dialogue, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressed concern and said the future of “the freedom of navigation” will depend on how China deals with territorial disputes with its neighboring countries.

U.S. President Barack Obama, during his meeting at the White House with Chinese officials who attended the dialogue, also urged China to peacefully handle maritime territorial issues with its neighbors, rather than use threats or coercion.

Chinese surveillance vessels have repeatedly entered Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. In January, a Chinese Navy vessel locked its fire-control radar onto a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer. China’s intimidation of the Philippines and Vietnam over islets in the South China Sea has been escalating.

The Obama administration has attempted to strongly restrain China, which has threatened U.S. allies and their sea lanes, with intolerable acts of provocation.

Not to be outdone, China called on the United States not to meddle in territorial issues in the East China and South China seas. Beijing maintained its stance that it would resolutely defend its territory and that the disputes would be resolved properly through talks with the nations concerned.

As long as the Xi administration continues intimidating neighboring countries with shows of force and unilaterally pursues its “pivotal interests,” there will not be stability in the region.

If China genuinely aims to build “a new type of relationship as major powers,” a relationship of coexistance on an equal footing with the United States, it needs to fulfill the responsibilities commensurate to such a power.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2013)
(2013年7月16日01時37分  読売新聞)

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13参院選 農業政策 競争力向上へ具体策が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 17, 2013
Agriculture policies should aim to improve intl competitiveness
13参院選 農業政策 競争力向上へ具体策が必要だ(7月16日付・読売社説)

To liberalize trade further, it is imperative to revive Japan’s agriculture sector. Arresting its decline and improving international competitiveness is an important issue for the upcoming House of Councillors election.

However, the political parties have made proposals that largely highlight handout policies, apparently to win the support of voters in farming communities, while forgoing efforts to build the farm sector into a growth industry. It is revealing that all parties want to expand farm subsidies.

The Liberal Democratic Party has proposed the creation of a “direct payment system” to support the sector in place of the income compensation system for individual farmers, which was introduced under the previous administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan. The LDP’s envisaged system targets projects that involve not only rice paddies but all farmland, including fields and orchards.

New Komeito also has pledged to expand assistance.

Support large farms

The DPJ not only wants to maintain the current compensation scheme, but to expand it to cover the livestock and dairy industries.

Other parties, such as the Japanese Communist Party, the People’s Life Party and the Social Democratic Party, also advocate income compensation measures.

The average age of farmers is about 66. With the aging of the farming population, the shortage of successors has become a serious problem. Agricultural income has almost halved over the past two decades. In carrying out agricultural reforms, it is essential to take measures to ensure farmers have a stable source of income and to secure agricultural workers.

However, under a uniform support system, consolidation of farmland is unlikely to make headway as small-scale farmers will not give up their farms so they can remain eligible for subsidies. We believe support measures should be made more effective, such as by limiting financial support to large-scale farmers fully engaged in agriculture.

Regarding the nation’s food self-sufficiency ratio, which indicates the proportion of domestic products in consumed food, the LDP and DPJ have called for improvement on a calorific intake basis.

But there are many problems associated with this indicator. Under this measurement, even beef and pork from animals raised in Japan are not considered domestic products if they consumed imported feed. As for vegetables, the ratio of domestic produce is high, but this does not help much in improving the self-sufficiency ratio as their calories are low.

LDP plans unclear

Even though the self-sufficiency ratio does not necessarily represent the actual capacity of the agriculture sector, it has been cited as the reason for putting in place excessive measures for the benefit of rice farmers, with the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and agricultural cooperatives using the data as an indicator that the nation’s self-sufficiency ratio is declining. This attitude should be corrected.

The LDP says it pursues a policy of consolidating abandoned farmland, which has doubled over the past two decades, to enable large-scale farming, so efficient farming systems can be established. With regard to its target of doubling agricultural income and the value of agricultural exports, the party’s road map to achieve this is unclear.

On land improvement projects, the budgets for which were cut by the DPJ-led administration and restored after the LDP returned to power, the LDP has suggested they be further increased. But we fear this may only end up as a lavish spending spree.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party have called for expanding the entry of companies into the agricultural sector, reviewing the rice paddy reduction program and reform of agricultural cooperatives, with the aim of raising productivity in agriculture. We hope the political parties hold in-depth discussions on these matters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 16, 2013)
(2013年7月16日01時42分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月16日 (火)

การบ้าน ของไก่จัง



<กคข 6x-3=?
<กขค 5x+8=?
<กคข 6*11-3=63 degree
<กขค 5*11+8=63 degree
<ขกค 180-63-63=54 degree

BUT the real situation is,

in this case   
<กคข and <กขค
@ACOS(3.5/6.5)*180/@PI = 57.421 degree
@ASIN(3.5/6.5)*180/@PI = 32.579 degree
32.579*2 = 65.158 degree
65.158+57.421+57.421 = 180 degree ok!

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食品ロス削減 消費者の意識改める第一歩に

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 16, 2013
New rule should be used to make society aware of immense food loss
食品ロス削減 消費者の意識改める第一歩に(7月15日付・読売社説)

The amount of food loss, or food that is still edible but is discarded, is increasing. Business corporations, consumers and the government must cooperate with each other to reduce this waste.

Seventeen million tons of food is discarded annually in this country. It is estimated that between 5 million and 8 million tons of the total is food loss. This almost equals the annual domestic rice crop and represents an immense waste.

lst step forward

Under the leadership of the government, which had discussed ways to deal with food loss, about 40 food producers, wholesalers, and retailers such as operators of convenience stores and supermarket chains decided to start reviewing their trade practices concerning the best-before date of processed food. This can be a first step forward in the efforts to reduce food waste.

In the food production and retail industries, there is a trade practice called the “one-third rule.” Under this rule, foodstuff is to be delivered to retailers in the first one-third of the period from the food production date to the best-before date, while in the remaining two-thirds of the period, the food is to be sold by retailers.

Food whose time limit for delivery passes is returned from wholesalers to producers, and most of it is discarded, a leading factor behind the increase in food loss.

Starting next month, the 40 companies will change the one-third rule and extend the time limit for delivery to retailers to one-half of the period from the food production date to the best-before date, if only for a certain type of processed food, such as confectionery and beverages.

This will reduce food inventories, but it may also reduce the amount of food that is discarded.

Trimming the costs needed for returning and discarding products, and for managing inventories can lower the products’ prices, which would also benefit consumers.

Unless the review of the one-third rule spreads through the entire industry, however, the effect of reducing food waste will be limited. Therefore, it is important for the government and related businesses to increase the number of those businesses adopting the new rule.

Business firms also need to make efforts to develop new technologies to improve such things as containers and packaging to extend the best-before date.

It is also necessary to raise consumers’ awareness about food waste, primarily because households account for one-half of food loss. The government must also proactively work to raise consumers’ awareness.

One-third rule deep rooted

The one-third rule has taken root in our society primarily because consumers prefer to buy fresher goods.

The best-before date for processed food is considered to mark the end of the period during which the food tastes its best.
Therefore, even if the food passes its best-before date, there is no need for it to be discarded right away.

The best-before date is different from the expiration date for perishable food, which means one should not consume it for safety reasons beyond that date.

If consumers seek freshness of foodstuffs excessively, food prices are likely to rise, which would be against the interests of the consumer. Although it is important for consumers to take food safety seriously, they should refrain from seeking food freshness too much.

With the global supply-demand situation of foodstuffs tightening, Japan depends on imports for as much as 60 percent of its food. All of society should continue making efforts to reduce food loss.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2013)
(2013年7月15日01時31分  読売新聞)

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国際司法裁判 科学的な調査捕鯨は有益だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 16, 2013
Scientific research whaling performs important function
国際司法裁判 科学的な調査捕鯨は有益だ(7月15日付・読売社説)

It is vitally important for Japan to present a persuasive case to prove that its whaling activities are in accordance with international law.

Australia has filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, demanding that Japan halt research whaling in the Antarctic. Oral arguments by the two countries are now under way before the court, which is likely to hand down a ruling before the end of the year.

This is the first time since the 1945 inauguration of the ICJ that Japan has become directly involved in litigation lodged with the primary judicial branch of the United Nations.

The main point of contention in the lawsuit is whether Japan’s whaling operations should be regarded as “whaling for scientific research purposes,” which is sanctioned under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Wide-ranging studies

Australia has been arguing that Japan’s whaling activities are purely for commercial purposes, with the aim of making profits by selling whale meat. In its counterargument, Japan has asserted that its whaling is for scientific research purposes and has never been in violation of international law.

In 1982, the International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling because of insufficient scientific data on whale populations.

Japan complied with the moratorium by imposing a freeze on its commercial whaling starting from 1987, although it has been carrying out whaling for “scientific studies” since then, as this is permitted by the international pact.

The subjects for study in research whaling are wide-ranging, including distribution of whale stocks, whale population trends and ecology.

Research operations are aimed at obtaining data about whales as marine resources with a view to resuming commercial whaling sometime in the future.

An accumulation of chemical substances has been detected in the skin and internal organs of minke whales examined by Japanese researchers, indicating the extent of seawater contamination in the Antarctic.

The studies also have revealed that the minke whale population has been on the rise year after year and the increasing number of whales are consuming such fish as saury, salmon and Alaska pollack in large quantities, adversely threatening fisheries industries.

Japan’s defense of research whaling before the International Court of Justice is quite reasonable, as it questions whether “all types of whale are on the verge of extinction and therefore sacrosanct.” Japan also says the surge in antiwhaling actions cannot be acceptable legally and scientifically, although it can understand the emotion behind these activities.

For its part, Australia has criticized Japan because “whale meat has been served at restaurants in Japan.” This criticism is wide of the mark, however.

Catches sharply dwindling

The whaling regulation convention has required that whales killed for scientific purposes should be processed as much as practicable. Using whale meat as a byproduct of research activities for food is in line with the spirit of the convention.

Whale catches in recent years are about 4,000 tons per year, incomparably smaller than the catches during the peak period of commercial whaling, which stood at about 220,000 tons a year in the 1960s.

Due partly to sabotage by the radical antiwhaling environmentalist group Sea Shepherd, whale catches recently dwindled further.

Japan strongly advocates the validity of research whaling as it is linked to the problem of determining how to maintain and manage marine resources.

Regarding this problem, attention should also be paid to the need to make preparations to deal with a future world food crisis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2013)
(2013年7月15日01時31分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月15日 (月)

13参院選 憲法改正 新たな国家像の議論を深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 15, 2013
Deepen debate on Constitution to build consensus on revision
13参院選 憲法改正 新たな国家像の議論を深めよ(7月14日付・読売社説)


The supreme law provides the framework of this country, but what form should it take?

Revision of the Constitution is a major issue in the campaign for the July 21 House of Councillors election. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party support revising the Constitution, and New Komeito is considering it.

Depending on results of the upper house election, political conditions allowing the Diet to propose constitutional revisions could be created for the first time since the end of World War II.

Dealing with Article 96

One bone of contention in the election campaign centers on Article 96 of the Constitution, which stipulates procedures to revise the supreme law.

The article says a constitutional revision will be put to a national referendum after the Diet proposes it with a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all members in each chamber. This requirement is said to be much stricter than that of other countries.

The LDP advocates that the requirement for the initiative should be lowered to a simple majority so the public can more easily have “an opportunity to participate in a constitutional judgment” through a national referendum.

Ishin no Kai says that Article 96 should be revised first, and Your Party agrees with relaxation of the requirement. The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Komeito oppose amending this article first, but they do not disagree with the revision itself.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a flexible stance in consideration of the position of Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, suggesting that articles on basic human rights, pacifism and sovereignty of the people would not be subject to the relaxed requirement for revision.

The LDP needs to coordinate its opinions with the other parties to realize revision of the Constitution. The ruling party should take a pragmatic approach through consensus-building with other parties even if it has to revise its own draft.

The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party oppose amending the Constitution, including Article 96, based on “constitutionalism,” the idea that harnessing power of the state and protecting the people are the essence of a constitution.

Abe has hit back at this interpretation of constitutionalism and said it is to rein in an autocratic government. The prime minister pointed out that a constitution will not only harness state power but also show what form a state should be.

Of course, a constitution can restrict state power but it also provides the philosophy and role of a state.

Even if the Diet’s requirement for a constitutional revision is relaxed, there will be no change in the need for a national referendum to revise the Constititution. We can hardly understand why some parties consider it incompatible with constitutionalism.

Some people claim that revision of Article 96 will allow a person in power to revise the Constitution as easily as ordinary laws. Isn’t this rather simplistic?


Article 9 also is a major point of contention.

The LDP’s draft, released last year, for revising the supreme law calls for keeping the war-renouncing principle of Article 9 intact, while deleting its second paragraph, which prohibits this country from possessing any war potential. Instead, it calls for newly including a provision in Article 9 for establishment of a “military force for defense” and the state’s obligations for securing the nation’s territorial integrity in cooperation with the public.

Define status of SDF

Abe has stated, “Although the SDF are regarded by other countries as a military force, in this country they are not,” adding, “It is unreasonable for a large-scale organization of forces to have no status in the eyes of the Constitution.” Abe’s argument is reasonable.

Revision of Article 9 is vitally important to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance as well as to increase Japan’s participation in such international cooperation activities as U.N.-mandated peacekeeping operations.

In this connection, it is a major development that Komeito in its upper house election pledges has said the party’s stand of “reinforcing the postwar Constitution by adding new ideas and articles to the supreme law” does include studies about the wisdom of having the existence of the SDF explicitly stipulated by the Constitution.

Ishin no Kai, for its part, has been advocating the need for constitutional revisions “for the sake of solidly establishing the nation’s own security system on the basis of its right to self-defense.”

Another opposition party, People’s Life Party, insists that the legal basis for the SDF’s participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions must be clearly laid down.

In contrast, the JCP and the SDP have been dead set against any changes to Article 9, arguing that alteration of the article would be tantamount to “turning Japan into a country that could wage war.”

It is undoubtedly irresponsible to affix an extremely negative label to parties favoring constitutional revision without squarely facing up to reality. The aim is to unnecessarily stir voters’ anxieties.

People’s Life Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, JCP Executive Committee Chairman Kazuo Shii and SDP head Mizuho Fukushima have criticized the LDP’s revision draft because it seeks to delete Article 97, which stipulates the inviolability of basic human rights.

It seems they are keen to give the public the impression that the LDP is poised to crack down on basic human rights.

In a rebuttal, Abe has stressed his party has no intention at all to change the fundamental principles of the Constitution, explaining that in the LDP draft Article 11 “absorbs” Article 97. Article 11 contains provisions that have the same effect as Article 97. Therefore, there seems to be no major problem.

Readiness for emergencies

Ishin no Kai, Your Party and other parties that are seeking to drastically reform the government structure through revisions of the Constitution have referred to the advisability of creating a system that allows for election of the prime minister by popular vote.

A plebiscite for choosing the prime minister, however, could end up as a mere popularity contest. Israel introduced a referendum system for electing the prime minister in 1996, but abolished it in 2001 because of the resulting political turmoil.

The LDP, Your Party and People’s Life Party, meanwhile, have proposed that new provisions be incorporated into the Constitution concerning such contingencies as a massive natural disaster and terrorist attacks.

There must be no stinting in drawing up legal preparations to cope with such possible calamities as an epicentral earthquake focused just below the Tokyo metropolitan area and a mega-quake such as a Nankai Trough earthquake.

Revision of the Constitution should also take the possibility of these national crises into account. Constitutional discussions must be deepened from this point of view.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2013)
(2013年7月14日01時56分  読売新聞)

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敦賀原発 活断層認定の再検討が要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 14, 2013
NRA must reexamine active fault assessment at Tsuruga N-plant
敦賀原発 活断層認定の再検討が要る(7月13日付・読売社説)

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has a responsibility to ensure fair and scientific judgment in its dealings with the nuclear power industry.

Japan Atomic Power Co. has submitted a report to the NRA vehemently disputing the authority’s assessment of an active fault below the Tsuruga nuclear power station in Fukui Prefecture.

The nuclear watchdog compiled a report in May saying “a fault just below the No. 2 reactor at the Tsuruga nuclear plant has been judged active.” JAPC countered with its own report based on a subsequent additional survey, which contains new facts that could call into question the foundation of the NRA’s assessment.

Recognizing solid facts and related data is at the core of scientific judgment. The NRA must earnestly reexamine its assessment.

Report counters findings

While conducting its evaluation, the NRA first pointed out a short fault found in a hole dug for inspection on the edge of the plant’s premises. The regulatory body identified the fault as an active one that could trigger an earthquake.

JAPC denied this conclusion based on its own supplemental survey. The JAPC survey reportedly showed that a layer of earth accumulated over the fault had not moved in the past 120,000 to 130,000 years, which is the yardstick used to judge the activity levels of faults under inspection.

The NRA report judged the active fault extended to another found just below the No. 2 reactor building. However, the JAPC document asserts the short fault on the edge of the premises disappears after curving in a different direction away from the reactor, and thus there is no active fault extending from the short one.

In the NRA meeting where the active fault assessment was approved, Kunihiko Shimazaki, NRA deputy chairman and the person responsible for the assessment, said, “We would have come to a different conclusion if [the short fault] had not been found.”

In light of the JAPC report, whether the NRA’s identification of the active fault had sufficient scientific grounding must be called into question.

Give JAPC fair chance

The NRA judged the fault in question as an active one while JAPC was in the process of conducting its own survey. At the time, several people believed the NRA should have waited to make a judgment on the fault until the company had completed its survey. The NRA thus inevitably deserves criticism for jumping to a hasty conclusion.

Shimazaki also chaired a meeting on active fault assessments but did not allow JAPC a sufficient chance to refute the authority’s determination. Even when he gave the firm an opportunity to speak, he continually interrupted and protested its comments. This is hardly a fair stance.

The NRA has ordered JAPC to reassess the safety of spent nuclear fuel stored at the No. 2 reactor on the assumption that an active fault exists right below the reactor. JAPC plans to file a complaint to dispute the order based on the Administrative Appeal Law.

Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa called on the government to set up a third-party organization tasked with ensuring the NRA acts in a just manner.

As long as the NRA maintains its self-righteous stance, distrust of the regulatory body is expected to deepen among the central government, ruling parties, relevant local governments and the electric power industry.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 13, 2013)
(2013年7月13日01時38分  読売新聞)

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薬効データ改竄 医療現場への重大な背信行為

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 14, 2013
Manipulation of clinical trial data serious betrayal of public trust
薬効データ改竄 医療現場への重大な背信行為(7月13日付・読売社説)

The recently revealed falsification of clinical trial data is a matter of grave concern that could shake the public’s trust in pharmaceutical products.

The Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine has announced the results of its investigation, which found that clinical research data on the effects of Diovan, a drug to lower blood pressure, was manipulated in papers written by a former professor and others.

Diovan is frequently used by medical institutions, and has been approved in about 100 countries. Such data alteration can be regarded as a serious betrayal of the patients who use the drug.

The research in question covered about 3,000 patients with high blood pressure. The research papers concluded that Diovan nearly halved the risk of angina and strokes compared with other drugs.

However, the analyzed data was falsified to appear more positive than it did in patients’ medical records. An analysis of the effects of Diovan based on the actual information in the medical records showed little difference from other drugs.

University’s probe insufficient

This is a malicious act in which important data that would help doctors select drugs for their patients was faked.

In this clinical study, a former employee of Novartis Pharma K.K., Diovan’s manufacturer, took part in analyzing the patient data. But the university stopped short of concluding whether the former employee was involved in the data manipulation, as it could not question the employee.

Such a lenient probe is unacceptable. The university should take responsibility for figuring out the whole truth of this case.

Annual sales of Diovan have topped 100 billion yen. There is no question that the pharmaceutical company, which profited from the drug, is accountable for the data alteration.

Meanwhile, the actions of the former professor who led the research cannot be overlooked. He released the papers without making public that the Novartis employee was involved in the data analysis.

Novartis used the papers to promote sales of the drug while donating more than 100 million yen to his research team through the university. Questions have been raised over whether the former professor and the company developed an excessively cozy relationship.

It is vital to secure transparency through such methods as disclosing information on companies’ financial support for researchers.

Strict rules necessary

Behind this incident is a lack of rules concerning clinical research.

For clinical trials for new drugs, proper procedures must be strictly followed to obtain approval, including submitting details of a clinical study and triple checks of data, in line with the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law.

However, no strict rules have been set for clinical research with drugs already available commercially, like Diovan.

Such clinical research needs guidelines regarding matters such as how to proceed with the study.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made medicine one of the pillars of its growth strategy. It is vital for the government to move forward with technological innovation in pharmaceutical products after developing a partnership between the business and academic sectors that will not cause public distrust.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 13, 2013)
(2013年7月13日01時38分  読売新聞)

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13参院選 教育政策 人材育成への具体策を競え

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 13, 2013
Parties must discuss specifics for human resources development
13参院選 教育政策 人材育成への具体策を競え(7月12日付・読売社説)

What must be done to develop outstanding human resources? This is a theme of primary importance when considering the country’s future.

With the House of Councillors election campaigns under way, voters should be vigilant to know the education policies of the various parties.

Ever since its launch at the end of last year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has prioritized revitalizing the nation’s education and reinvigorating the economy.

The Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, a panel reporting directly to the prime minister, has worked out policy recommendations three times so far on such subjects as board of education reform and school bullying.

Only 2 among top 100

The Abe Cabinet has changed the way the national achievement test is conduted by requiring all sixth-grade primary school students and third-year middle school students nationwide to write the test. This move replaced a reduced application of the test based on a sampling formula put in place under the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration.

The government has subsequently come out with a policy of reviewing the current five-day school week system, and is considering revising an Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry ordinance to make it easier for local governments to opt for Saturday classes.

The pros and cons of the education policies put forward by the government in its first half-year in power will be a key issue in the upper house contest.

The Liberal Democratic Party has said that “fostering human resources capable of competing globally” is a pillar of the party’s upper house electoral pledges, advocating improvement of English education and placing emphasis on math and science.

The LDP pledges are built on the idea that efforts to produce people capable of being active in the international arena and able to create new frontiers of science and technology will underpin the growth strategy of the government.

In the World University Rankings, there are only two Japanese universities in the top 100. The LDP, in this respect, has set the goal of increasing the figure to 10 or more within the next decade. The party, however, has fallen short of coming out with specific policies about how to improve the quality of this country’s higher education.

The LDP is in favor of a household income limitation on eligibility for a tuition-free high school system introduced across the board under the DPJ administration.

The LDP and its ruling coalition partner New Komeito, on the other hand, have incorporated into their upper house election pledges a policy of addressing the task of providing early childhood education--education for children aged 3 to 7--for free.

Implementation of this policy, however, is estimated to cost as much as 790 billion yen.

The DPJ and People’s Life Party, for their part, are calling for the current free high school education to remain unchanged.

Clarify revenue sources

Many parties are stressing the need for creating a scholarship system for university students to provide them with stipends that will not be need to be repaid.

To be sure, the ratios of privately funded expenses at kindergartens and univerisities are remarkably high compared to other industrially advanced countries. Alleviation of education expenses in family budgets has become a problem that should be urgently addressed.

The fiscal conditions of the government, however, have been increasingly stringent. If parties are going to propose policies requiring large budget expenditures, they must come up with specific ways to secure the funds for these policies.

After the upper house election, the Education Rebuilding Implementation Council is scheduled to address the task of reforming university entrance exams and reviewing the existing 6-3-3-4 education system. The figures refer to the number of years spent in primary school, middle school, high school and university. Both are major challenges that must be tackled from a medium- and long-range point of view since they will greatly affect the entire education system. All ruling and opposition parties are urged to have in-depth discussions on these education issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2013)
(2013年7月12日01時26分  読売新聞)

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ソウル不当判決 日韓合意に反する賠償命令だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 13, 2013
Seoul court ruling on damages defies 1965 Japan-ROK accord
ソウル不当判決 日韓合意に反する賠償命令だ(7月12日付・読売社説)

A South Korean court has handed down a ruling that could worsen relations with Japan. It was an unjust decision.

In an appellate case sent back from the Supreme Court, which involved four South Koreans seeking compensation for damages from Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., a descendant of the companies they had been forced to work for during wartime, the Seoul High Court ordered payment of 100 million won (about 8.8 million yen) to each of the plaintiffs.

This is the first time that a South Korean court has ordered a Japanese firm to pay damages to former forced laborers.

The ruling is totally unacceptable because it obviously violates the agreement on property claims and economic cooperation that was reached when the two countries concluded a treaty to normalize relations in 1965. The accord clearly stated that the issue of property claims was “resolved completely and finally.”

In its 1976 white paper on funds deriving from property claims, South Korea’s Economic Planning Board listed construction of a steelmaking plant, dams and highways as concrete examples of how $500 million in grants and other funds the country received from Japan in the name of economic cooperation had been used. The white paper clearly stated that “its usefulness cannot be belittled.”

Erroneous judgment

Nevertheless, South Korea’s Supreme Court said in a May 2012 ruling that “claims by individuals have not yet expired.” The current ruling is based on that erroneous judgment.

Some of the plaintiffs filed a similar suit in Japan but their loss was finalized by a Supreme Court decision.

The Seoul High Court’s decision this time demonstrates disregard for the final decision in this country. It is natural that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We cannot accept a decision that doesn’t comport with Japan’s position.”

There are five other similar lawsuits filed against Japanese firms. The latest decision will inevitably have an influence on future court rulings. It is feared that more South Koreans who were once forced laborers will file class action suits, causing new problems between the two countries.

In the first place, the South Korean government itself is obliged to pay compensation for damages suffered by South Koreans during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The $300 million Japan paid in grants to South Korea contained “the funds to resolve the compensation over forcible recruitment.”

Because the South Korean government did not sufficiently pay out this compensation money, dissatisfaction has been smoldering among many South Koreans who were excluded from compensation for individuals.

Moreover, the South Korean government has failed to give sufficient explanations to its own people.

Fostering ill will

As Seoul has intensified antagonism against Tokyo in recent years, over topics such as sovereignty over the Takeshima islets and perceptions of history, unfounded demands against Japan have been flaring up again.

A sudden shift by the South Korean judiciary from its conventional stance is not completely unrelated to the rise of anti-Japan sentiment in the country.

The normalization of bilateral relations opened the way to tremendous progress for South Korea. The financial resolution of damages from the past was determined diplomatically and is fundamentally a matter to be dealt with domestically in that country. It is unreasonable that South Korea persistently continues to point its accusing finger at Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2013)
(2013年7月12日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月12日 (金)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:別れが悲しいのは病気? /東京

July 07, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Is mourning the loss of a loved one an illness?
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:別れが悲しいのは病気? /東京

In May, the American Psychiatric Association's "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," used by psychiatrists around the world as a basis for making diagnoses, received a major revision that has become a large topic of discussion in psychiatric circles.

Among the revisions made, what bothers me is the deletion of "bereavement exclusion" in the section on depressive disorders. In the previous version of the manual, there was an exclusion saying that when people lost a loved one, they shouldn't be diagnosed with depression for the next two months even if they showed symptoms of it. In the new version that exclusion is gone, and the death of loved ones is generally treated the same as other stress or shock factors, with patients to be diagnosed with depression if they show depression symptoms for two weeks.

To be frank, I am doubtful of the correctness of this change. I myself lost my father over two years ago, and I feel that since then my view of the world has greatly changed. I continue to go to work because I can't leave my job unattended, but sometimes I am struck by indescribable feelings of emptiness.

I often see people in my consultation room who complain of sadness and regret after the loss of a spouse or child. I sympathize with them greatly, because considering how much I am affected by the loss of my aged father, the loss of one's child seems like it must be unbearable. Except in extreme cases, I don't feel like labeling these people as "depressed." However, if I send them away with a diagnosis of "completely normal," patients having trouble sleeping can't get prescriptions for sleeping medicine, so with no other choice I diagnose them with "insomnia," or with "psychogenic reaction," a response to temporary but harsh psychological stimuli.

Perhaps before long, I will have to tell a person who comes complaining that, three weeks after a family death, they feel down and without energy, "That's depression. Let's take some antidepressants and get better."

In our lives, we have many sad and hurtful experiences. That is something all people face, and one might even say the ability to mourn deeply and for a long time is a defining characteristic of humanity. A society that labels that without exception as "depression" is both shallow and dull.

The Japanese Society of Mood Disorders has not yet announced how it will react to the revised manual, but I hope that they will say, "Being sad because of a family member's death is not an illness."

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年07月02日 地方版

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熱中症予防 過度に節電せず冷房の活用を

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 12, 2013
Preventing heatstroke more important than saving power
熱中症予防 過度に節電せず冷房の活用を(7月11日付・読売社説)

Every day deadly sweltering heat envelops the Japanese archipelago.

We have to get through the summer, taking great care not to suffer heatstroke.

Wednesday was another “extremely hot day,” a day when the maximum temperature reaches 35 C or higher, in many areas. In Koshu, Yamanashi Prefecture, a temperature of 39.2 C was recorded, the highest in the country so far this year. Entering July, many people were taken by ambulance to hospitals due to heatstroke, with some of them dying from the condition.

The extreme heat these days has been caused by “double high pressure systems” over Japan. A high pressure system called the Pacific anticyclone and one dubbed the “Tibetan high,” pushed from China by westerly winds, overlapped over Japan. The current heat wave will last until the end of this week, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The agency forecast temperatures for this summer will be higher than normal across the country. We cannot let our guard down even after the double high pressure situation is over.

Heatstroke occurs when bodies are unable to regulate temperature in a state of extreme heat and high humidity. Heatstroke victims feel nauseous and listless. As it progresses and becomes more serious, victims may faint.

In 2010, a year with many extremely hot days, more than 1,700 people died from heatstroke.

An important way to prevent heatstroke is to take in fluid and salt frequently. The elderly should be especially careful as they tend to be less sensitive to heat and thirst. People are advised to drink frequently even if they are not thirsty.

Babies, kids at risk

Babies and toddlers whose regulation of body temperature is underdeveloped are also at high risk of heatstroke. When they go out, parents should put them in caps made with water-absorbent material and wipe their necks with a wet towel often. It is important for family members to observe childrens’ conditions very carefully.

Students often suffer heatstroke during school club activities. When they play sports, they should take a break about every 30 minutes. On extremely hot days, students should refrain from heavy exercise. Coaches are urged to keep this point in mind.

We should not drop our guard even indoors. About half of heatstroke cases happen in homes. The risk becomes higher when the room temperature tops 28 C.

It is totally inadvisable for people to endure the sweltering heat by refraining from using air conditioners, saying, “It’s to save power.” Air-conditioning should be wisely utilized to appropriately adjust the room temperature.

Nighttime precautions

We also must be careful about the possibility of getting heatstroke when we are sleeping. As electricity demand drops in the evening, it is unnecessary for us to excessively save power.

Electric power companies have been calling on customers to “save power within a reasonable level.”

Using an electric fan also enhances air-conditioning’s cooling effect. A rise in the room temperature can be held down using sudare bamboo blinds and yoshizu reed screens to cover windows during the day.

Let us adopt various wise measures in our daily life to cope with the summer heat.

The Environment Ministry provides daily information on risks of developing heatstroke region-by-region on a special website every day. We hope people try to prevent heatstroke by utilizing various information such as temperature forecasts in newspapers and TV programs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 11, 2013)
(2013年7月11日01時25分  読売新聞)

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13参院選 TPP交渉 参加出遅れに危機感が乏しい

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 12, 2013
Political parties lack seriousness over Japan’s late entry in TPP talks
13参院選 TPP交渉 参加出遅れに危機感が乏しい(7月11日付・読売社説)

How should Japan deal with negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement?

Each political party is accountable for its stance on the TPP during the ongoing campaign for the House of Councillors election.

The U.S. Congress likely will complete procedures soon over Japan’s entry into TPP negotiations, following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s announcement of Japan’s intent to join the talks. Eleven countries, including the United States and Australia, are scheduled to hold a new round of TPP talks in Malaysia on July 15-25. For several days toward the end of the round, Japan is expected to finally be able to sit at the negotiating table.

With its population shrinking, Japan needs to tap into Asia’s vitality by promoting free trade in an effort to buoy its economic growth.

Japan must catch up

Aiming to reach a broad agreement within the year, the 11 countries are likely to step up TPP negotiations. Japan has lagged behind in the TPP talks, but it must explore ways to catch up with its negotiating partners in creating trade rules.

Although Japan faces these difficult circumstances, the parties’ campaign pledges indicate they do not feel the urgency of the TPP issue. As a result, the TPP has not been a major contentious topic in the campaign.

Regarding the TPP issue, the Liberal Democratic Party has stressed it would seek the best possible path in line with national interests by protecting what needs protecting and pushing for what the nation wants.

In its comprehensive policy package, however, the LDP has called on the government to place priority on ensuring that five key agricultural items, such as rice and wheat, will be exempt from tariff elimination in TPP negotiations. It also calls for the government not to hesitate to pull out from the trade talks if the items are not protected. The LDP’s Hokkaido chapter has taken an even tougher stance, saying it will stand firm and not accept tariff elimination without exceptions.

As the prime minister has vowed to enter TPP negotiations “with the determination to secure national interests,” Japan needs to flex its bargaining muscle.

Along with its coalition partner, New Komeito, the LDP should support the government and reflect national interests in TPP-related policies.

It is also vital for political parties to propose feasible measures to make the nation’s agriculture competitive in preparation for further market liberalization.

Active debate urged

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, both pushing for Japan’s entry into the TPP talks, have called for a review of a measure to reduce rice production, an overhaul of agricultural cooperatives and other reforms. We urge the parties to have a vigorous debate on these issues.

Meanwhile, the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, has pledged in its campaign platform to seek high-level economic partnerships and take the lead in drawing up global trade rules. But at the same time, it has also said, “We will take up the TPP issue without hesitating to withdraw [from the TPP talks].” The party’s proposed measures to beef up the agricultural sector appear vague.

The Japanese Communist Party, the People’s Life Party, the Social Democratic Party and Green Wind all have opposed Japan’s participation in the TPP talks. However, Japan, which thrived as a trading country, is unlikely to be able to develop a vision for the future if it decides to stay away from such a free trade framework in Asia.

The TPP negotiations address not only tariff elimination but also a wide range of other areas, such as rules for investment and intellectual property protection. How can Japan take advantage of the TPP to boost its competitiveness? We urge voters to closely look at each party’s proposal on the TPP.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 11, 2013)
(2013年7月11日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月11日 (木)

防衛白書 中国の「危険行動」を抑止せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 11, 2013
Dangerous military actions of China, North Korea must be contained
防衛白書 中国の「危険行動」を抑止せよ(7月10日付・読売社説)

The need to maintain a guard against provocative acts by China and North Korea has become more acute, and efforts must be increased to deter such conduct.

This year’s white paper on national defense mentions the actions China has taken with regard to its territorial and maritime interests. “China has attempted to change the status quo by force based on its own assertion which is incompatible with the existing order of international law,” according to the paper titled “Defense of Japan 2013.” The white paper adds, “The attempts have been criticized as assertive.”

The white paper’s language is intended to reproach China for its repeated incursions into Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, while also censuring that country over its discord with neighboring countries that have stakes in the South China Sea.

Harsher language justified

The paper also refers to a dispute that arose when Chinese vessels were found to have directed fire-control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer and a helicopter in January. Calling that conduct “dangerous actions” that could cause an emergency, it criticized China for denying use of fire-control radar and providing false explanations about the incident.

The white paper is correct in using harsher language to denounce China’s provocative behavior. Beijing’s self-righteous show of force cannot be overlooked. Japan should cooperate with the United States and other nations in pressing China to abide by international rules.

The document expresses concern about China’s rapid military buildup in recent years, as demonstrated by that country’s commissioning of the Liaoning aircraft carrier and its development of the J-15 carrier-based fighter jet and next-generation J-20 stealth aircraft. The paper also has raised questions about the decline in transparency concerning China’s military. It also states that China’s defense white paper, published in April, did not include any reference to a military budget.

Japan should insist that China increase its military transparency, while also facilitating confidence-building measures between Self-Defense Forces units and their Chinese counterparts through defense exchanges.

Regarding North Korea’s nuclear threat, the white paper says it is likely Pyongyang “has already made considerable progress in its nuclear weapons program” through the nuclear test it conducted in February. The paper concludes that the North Korean threat “simply cannot be tolerated.”

The paper also mentions North Korea’s ballistic missile launch in December. It acknowledges that North Korea has significantly improved its technology to extend the range and the accuracy of ballistic missiles, saying its long-range missiles could reach significant portions of the continental United States.

Getting China and North Korea to restrain their dangerous military actions requires not only increased diplomatic efforts to promote multilevel dialogue aimed at easing tensions. It is also essential for Japan to improve its military power to offset the threat these nations present.

Better protection needed

In recent years, the SDF and U.S. forces have increased their joint exercises and warning and surveillance activities to promote what is called “dynamic defense cooperation,” a task mainly aimed at improving their quick reaction capability.

It is also necessary to ensure that isolated islands in Okinawa Prefecture receive better protection, now that MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft have been deployed at the prefecture’s Futenma Air Station.

Another essential task facing our nation is to expand the number of SDF personnel and equipment in answer to China’s medium- and long-term military buildup. In the current fiscal budget, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has increased defense spending for the first time in 11 years--but by a meager 35.1 billion yen, or a 0.8 percent rise.

China’s defense expenditures have sharply increased. In statistics published by the Chinese government, the growth marks nearly a fourfold rise in the past 10 years and more than a 33-fold increase in 25 years. As circumstances stand today, the figure is about double Japan’s defense spending. If the increase goes unchecked, however, the disparity will likely widen to a more than fivefold gap 10 years from now. The situation is extremely serious.

Japan needs to increase its defense spending from now on.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2013)
(2013年7月10日01時52分  読売新聞)

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13参院選 社会保障 負担増の論議は避けられない

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 11, 2013
Don’t shirk discussions on raising the elderly’s social security burden
13参院選 社会保障 負担増の論議は避けられない(7月10日付・読売社説)

Amid a chronically low birthrate and rapidly aging population, Japan’s spending on social security, including pensions, medical care and nursing care, has been continuously increasing.

How can a sustainable social security system be built? This is an important issue in the upcoming House of Councillors election.

The Liberal Democratic Party has unveiled policies to promote wider use of cheap generic drugs and prevent people from receiving treatment at more than one medical institution for the same disease or sickness. These policies show the LDP has a sense of urgency on this issue.

However, a glance at the campaign pledges of the political parties, including the LDP, reveals that they are hesitant to ask the public to pay more for their social security system.

Elderly should pay more

For example, increasing the proportion of medical expenses that elderly people must pay out of their own pocket is one issue that needs to be addressed.

The Health Insurance Law and others stipulate that people aged 70 to 74 must pay 20 percent of their medical expenses when they are treated at a hospital. Despite this, government administrations since 2008 have capped this figure at 10 percent as a special measure, apparently for fear of sparking a backlash from the elderly if they increase it.

We think this figure should be raised to 20 percent, as set by law, to curtail public spending.

However, the LDP, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan do not mention this issue in their election pledges. The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party oppose raising this figure.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura expressed his intention to review the special measure at a press conference Tuesday, but he did not set any time frame for abolishing it.

How can snowballing medical spending be rolled back? How can financial resources to fund the medical care system be secured? We urge all parties to deepen discussions on these matters.

It is utterly irresponsible of the DPJ, the JCP and the SDP to insist on raising medical fees, which will inflate government spending on medical care, without explaining where the money to cover the cost will come from.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) has proposed benefits for the elderly be reduced to more reasonable levels. The proportion of medical bills people are required to pay at hospitals differs between age groups. Ishin no Kai has proposed that this proportion be set at a uniform rate, so people shoulder medical expenses commensurate with their income.

Ishin no Kai also calls for raising the eligibility age for pension benefits. These issues deserve to be discussed in detail.

Measures to deal with the low birthrate also are important.

Help people have kids

The number of births in Japan fell to a record low of 1.037 million last year. A relentless decline in the number of people in the working generation that supports the elderly will imperil the very foundation of the nation’s social security system.

It is essential to create an environment in which more people can raise their children while continuing their careers. Amid public calls for eliminating the waiting lists for licensed day care centers, political parties are in step when it comes to improving child care services.

The LDP touted that it will ensure child care facilities are capable of accepting 400,000 more children by the end of fiscal 2017. However, many problems need to be solved before this target can be achieved, including how to cooperate with local governments on this matter. The LDP must present specific steps for reaching this goal.

The nation’s budget for measures to deal with the low birthrate is small compared with those of the United States and European countries. It is necessary to correct the current social security benefit setup, which is generous for the elderly, but relatively light for working and child-raising generations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2013)
(2013年7月10日01時52分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月10日 (水)

原発再稼働申請 安全確認は公正で効率的に

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 10, 2013
Nuclear plant safety must be confirmed fairly, efficiently
原発再稼働申請 安全確認は公正で効率的に(7月9日付・読売社説)

The true worth of the Nuclear Regulation Authority is being put to the test.

New regulation standards for nuclear power plants, which had been compiled based on lessons from the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, took effect Monday.

Following the enforcement of these new standards, Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. filed applications with the NRA for 10 of their idled reactors at five plants to undergo safety checks, a procedure to obtain approval for restarting the reactors.

The new guidelines have significantly increased steps to help prevent a serious problem at a nuclear plant from becoming even worse. The assessment of the impact of earthquakes and tsunami has been bolstered.

Each reactor has many components that need to be inspected, so checking just one unit will reportedly take more than six months. Moreover, several reactors will be checked simultaneously, so the nuclear watchdog will need to conduct its work efficiently.

New rules not perfect

The new standards, however, still have some shortcomings.

To prepare for possible difficulties keeping a reactor cool, the new guidelines call for installing a filter-equipped exhaust system to reduce pressure inside the reactor and setting up an emergency measures center. Other steps include building new seawalls and watertight doors.
Some critics say these measures rely too much on safety standards for the plants’ “hardware.” Safety must be checked comprehensively, including such “software” factors as operators’ ability to cope with and respond to an emergency.

A grace period of five years has been set for building some facilities and installing equipment at the plants because improvements have been made in safety arrangements, including the deployment of vehicle-mounted electricity generators. Such a realistic approach will be crucial also in the safety check process.

The assessment of the potential impact of earthquakes and tsunami on the nuclear plants also is likely to face rough going. The NRA has taken a blatantly biased approach in hastily concluding that topographic strains under some facilities are active faults. Its checks must be based on scientific facts.

Moreover, the NRA has often lacked fairness in making decisions, as it did not give utilities a sufficient opportunity to rebut its assessment of the faults. To ensure the safety screening goes smoothly, the NRA must shed its self-righteous mind-set and hold constructive and repeated dialogue with the utilities.

Niigata gov. not bending

Almost all of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been sitting idle for more than one year. Operating thermal power plants to fill the power shortage has cost an additional 4 trillion yen a year. This has led to a series of power rate increases, which has seriously affected the national economy as a whole, including businesses and households.

We believe nuclear reactors must be restarted as early as possible once they have been confirmed safe to operate.

TEPCO did not apply for safety checks on its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture. This is because Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida had strongly opposed the utility’s plan to apply, saying it “disregarded local opinion.”

The utility’s president, Naomi Hirose, met with Izumida, but their talks ended with no agreement. Regrettably, the governor’s opposition revolved around the fact that TEPCO did not consult with the prefecture before announcing its plan to apply for safety checks. It is problematic that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which holds the key to securing a stable electricity supply to the Tokyo metropolitan area, will not be able to undergo even a safety check.

We urge Izumida and the utility to discuss the matter with cool heads and seek an end to the impasse. The government will need to make painstaking efforts to obtain the understanding of Niigata and other local governments that remain cautious about restarting nuclear reactors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2013)
(2013年7月9日01時52分  読売新聞)

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中国とガス田 一方的な開発は認められない

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 10, 2013
China’s unilateral development of gas field cannot be tolerated
中国とガス田 一方的な開発は認められない(7月9日付・読売社説)

The latest development is serious and certain to raise tensions in relations between Japan and China, which are already at loggerheads over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

It was recently learned that China is developing a new gas field near the median line between the two countries in the East China Sea, an area where a common borderline has yet to be defined.

It can be said that China’s hard-line stance under President Xi Jinping has become clear, with his administration trying to expand his country’s maritime interests by force or through a number of faits accomplis.

In June 2008, Japan and China agreed that both countries would jointly develop the Shirakaba gas field (called Chunxiao in China) located near a median line drawn at equal distances from the coastlines of the two nations. Both countries also agreed they would designate specific waters that straddle the median line to jointly develop, while agreeing to continue negotiations over possible joint development in other waters.

China claims wider EEZ

The agreement was made as both countries were unable to close the rift in views concerning the delineation of their respective exclusive economic zones, in which nations have sovereign rights over seabed resources. Japan asserted that a median line should be drawn at equal distances from the coastlines to delineate respective EEZs while China claimed an EEZ that stretches farther east, saying its continental shelf extends to the Okinawa Trough.

The area where China has recently been confirmed to have begun establishing a drilling facility is located about 26 kilometers west, toward China, of the median line favored by Japan. The unilateral act of China’s developing the area without a bilateral accord with Japan is intolerable.

It stands to reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has criticized China by saying, “We want China to abide firmly by the bilateral accord.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also lodged a protest over China’s latest action.

But a spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry said there was nothing for China to be criticized for as the development activity is in Chinese waters. Does this mean China is saying there is nothing wrong with its developing an area closer to China from the median line?

The latest gas field development attests to the Xi administration’s intention of accelerating China’s drive to become a “maritime power,” by promoting natural resource development in the East China Sea, as it is doing in the South China Sea.

China has not only repeatedly had its surveillance ships enter Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands but also had its marine research vessels intrude into Japanese waters recently. The country has also dispatched other survey vessels to an area within Japan’s EEZ, about 85 kilometers north of Okinotorishima island. These developments indicate that China is trying to expand its maritime interests even in the Western Pacific Ocean.

Japan must press for talks

The recent spate of China’s maritime activities is probably the Xi administration’s attempt to raise pressure on the Abe administration. Japan, in the meantime, should press China to resume the bilateral talks on the joint development of the East China Sea in accordance with the 2008 bilateral accords, while remaining unruffled by China’s pressure.

To begin with, it is China that unilaterally discontinued the bilateral talks over an accord on the joint development of a natural gas field in the area in question, following a collision between a Chinese fishing vessel and Japan Coast Guard patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands in 2010. Even since, Beijing has refused to accept Japan’s requests to resume the talks.

As long as China continues to take such a stance, its image of being “a power of a different nature” that easily breaks its promises made in intergovernmental accords will remain fixed in the international arena.

The Xi administration must suspend the gas field development in question and agree to resume the bilateral talks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 9, 2013)
(2013年7月9日01時52分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月 9日 (火)

オリンパス判決 統治機能の欠如が指弾された

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 9, 2013
Lack of corporate governance at Olympus harshly criticized
オリンパス判決 統治機能の欠如が指弾された(7月8日付・読売社説)

In the latest court ruling concernng Olympus Corp., judicial authorities have placed grave responsibility on that company for having shaken, both at home and abroad, investors’ trust in the Japanese market.

The Tokyo District Court found three former Olympus executives, including former chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, guilty of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law in connection with a window-dressing scheme carried out by the world’s leading optical equipment manufacturer.

The court ruled the three had inflated the company’s net assets in its financial statements by up to 117.8 billion yen over five business years up to the term ending in March 2011, to hide massive investment losses the company incurred during the bubble economy.

‘Systematic crime’

The court concluded the window-dressing was a “systematic crime,” slapping the company itself with a fine of 700 million yen, a record fine for violating that law, which shows how seriously the court took the actions of the former top Olympus executives.

The ruling also took seriously the fact that the crime was committed after the penalties under the law against false entries in financial statements had been reinforced with a revision. It is quite reasonable that the court criticized the scheme for having “made light of the purport of the law revision.”

The window-dressing scheme was cleverly contrived, utilizing international financial transactions and using such practices as transferring losses to overseas funds.

The former executives also used funds established in foreign countries, including one known as a tax haven, as well as overseas financial institutions known for their strict confidentiality. The behavior of the former executives was blatantly malicious.

In a related development, former employees of major Japanese securities firms have been indicted on a charge of being accomplices in the scheme for allegedly instructing the executives how to hide the massive losses of the company. They have also been indicted on suspicion of illegally transferring 2 billion-plus yen--believed to be a reward for advising Olympus executives--to bank accounts overseas, in violation of the Anti-Organized Crime Law.

Spotlighted in the latest case was a lack of corporate governance. The ruling noted that key company information was concentrated in the hands of a limited number of senior executives, rendering meaningless the board of directors and the board auditors, which were supposed to oversee the corporate management.

As such malicious window-dressing practices went unchecked for a long time, the very traits of Japanese companies have come to be doubted. We must not forget this.

Outside perspectives

Drawing a lesson from the latest case, companies should establish workable internal management systems. In this connection, an increasing number of listed companies have appointed outside board members. In monitoring corporate management, it would be effective to make use of those outside perspectives.

Another question raised by the latest case is the nature of auditing companies. Two auditing firms for Olympus--KPMG AZSA LLC. and Ernst & Young ShinNihon LLC.--that issued “clean opinion” ratings for Olympus’ window-dressed statements were slapped with a “business improvement administrative order” by the Financial Services Agency last year.

The agency announced new auditing standards in March, calling on auditors to conduct short-notice inspections if there are doubts about a company’s financial statement. It is the auditor’s responsibility to strictly audit client firms and not to overlook any illicit accounting practices.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 8, 2013)
(2013年7月8日01時42分  読売新聞)

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米機密漏洩事件 問われる情報管理のずさんさ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 9, 2013
U.S. information leakage shows sloppiness in managing secrets
米機密漏洩事件 問われる情報管理のずさんさ(7月8日付・読売社説)

A single individual has shaken up the world.

The individual is Edward Snowden, a former systems analyst with the U.S. National Security Agency whom the NSA has accused of illegally gathering and spreading information.

Snowden has asked 26 countries in South America, Europe and other regions for political asylum, but he has been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow’s international airport for as long as two weeks.

In Hong Kong a month ago, the 30-year-old former systems analyst leaked to major U.S. and British newspapers that the NSA, using a surveillance and monitoring system it built in strict secrecy, was gathering a large amount of information from e-mails, Internet phone conversations and online video sites.

Veil of secrecy

Regarding his motivation for revealing NSA’s global monitoring activities, Snowden, who was not a regular NSA official but an employee with one of its contractors, told the media his conscience did not allow him to remain idle while the privacy of a huge number of individuals was being infringed upon.

The NSA is an intelligence organization shrouded in secrecy. It has facilities around the world, including Japan.

Even so, we cannot help but feel astounded that the U.S. government’s confidential information can be divulged by an individual in the private sector so nonchalantly.

For the purpose of processing the immense amount of information they have collected, U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly entrusted the task to an increasing number of private-sector IT companies. As a result, the number of people in the private sector who have access to top U.S. government secrets is said to be about 500,000.

Only three years ago, a U.S. Army private first class leaked a large amount of U.S. diplomatic information to the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing site. More than 250,000 pieces of information were leaked.

The sloppiness of the U.S. government’s information management must be questioned.

The administration of President Barack Obama has charged Snowden on a number of counts, including violation of the anti-espionage law, calling for countries concerned to cooperate in handing him over to the United States. This action shows how grave the impact the Snowden case has had on the U.S. government. Washington is apparently doing its best to prevent further confidential information from being divulged.

As this is the age of Internet, gigantic amounts of electronic information travel around the world. The Internet traffic has mostly been through the servers of major U.S. telecommunication firms.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, U.S. efforts for beefing up Internet surveillance activities with cooperation from telecommunication firms with the aim of preventing terrorist activities has been an open secret.

Protect whistle-blowers

The question is whether the widespread monitoring operations are conducted legally.

Obama recently went on record as saying the surveillance activities, with the cooperation of telecommunications companies, are “completely legal” and are necessary to protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

The NSA chief stressed the usefulness of the surveillance activities by saying in congressional testimony that the agency has successfully thwarted “more than 50 cases” of terrorist attacks in more than 20 countries.

However justifiable the purpose for surveillance may be, information-gathering operations lacking appropriate constraints could lead to the abuse of power.

Snowden failed to abide by procedures stipulated for in-house whistle-blowing. He may or may not have feared that he could be ignored and arrested.

To stem the divulgence of information, it is also important to protect whistle-blowers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 8, 2013)
(2013年7月8日01時42分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月 8日 (月)

13参院選 エネルギー政策 電力安定で経済再生に弾みを

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 8, 2013
Stable supply of power essential for reinvigorating the economy
13参院選 エネルギー政策 電力安定で経済再生に弾みを(7月7日付・読売社説)


Electricity, the “blood” of the economy, must be cheaply and stably secured to revive the Japanese economy.

There are 50 nuclear reactors in Japan, but only two of them, at the Oi nuclear power station of Kansai Electric Power Co., are operating. The nation’s supply and demand of electricity are as shaky as a tightrope now.

Nuclear reactors whose safety is confirmed must be restarted one by one to eliminate the power shortage.


All the parties except the ruling Liberal Democratic Party state in their policy platform for the upcoming House of Councillors election that nuclear power generation should be terminated in the future. But none of them have presented an effective plan to secure power. They should face up to the harmful effects on business, employment and the global environment that denuclearization would cause and discuss more realistic energy policies.

The LDP stipulates in its election pledges that the state should make utmost efforts to obtain the consent for reactivation from local governments hosting nuclear power plants. This is an appropriate pledge as a responsible government party.

Check N-plants quickly

New safety standards for nuclear power plants become effective on Monday. Based on the new standards, electric power companies will ask the Nuclear Regulation Authority to check the safety of their nuclear reactors for reactivation.

The authority should carry out safety inspections without delay.

A worrying factor is the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. in Niigata Prefecture. Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida has presented difficult demands for restarting the reactors. If the reactors are not restarted, power supply in TEPCO’s service area will not become stable, and this could cause TEPCO to post an ordinary loss for the third straight year, resulting in a management crisis.

After the House of Councillors election, the LDP and the government must jointly do their best to obtain the consent of local governments hosting nuclear power plants.

In its policy platform, the LDP has also presented a policy of increasing official assistance for exports of Japanese technologies related to infrastructure, including nuclear power generation. It is important to accelerate exports of infrastructure as a pillar of the government’s growth strategy.

The LDP also needs to coordinate policies with its coalition partner, New Komeito. In its policy platform, Komeito has not rejected restarting nuclear reactors, but it stipulates that the party aims to stop the use of nuclear power generation as soon as possible.

We expect the LDP and Komeito to explain to voters in an easy-to-understand manner to what degree the two parties differ in their perceptions concerning nuclear power generation.

DPJ policy unrealistic

Among the opposition parties, the Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party approve the restart of nuclear reactors at present, but they also stipulate they would aim to terminate the use of nuclear power in the future.

The DPJ’s electoral pledge of “reducing to zero the nuclear power generation in the 2030s” is in line with the energy policy adopted by the administration led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, which ended in December.

The content of the policy, worked out in the autumn of last year, was unrealistic, so the Cabinet did not adopt the policy because of adverse reactions from various quarters, including the business world and the Aomori prefectural government, which has taken the approach of expediting a nuclear power policy, and even the United States.

The Japanese Communist Party and People’s Life Party, for their part, even oppose reactivation of nuclear power plants that have been idled.

The facile argument seeking to break away from nuclear power generation seems to be pandering to the voters. It appears to be aimed at ramping up public support for the parties making the argument by exploiting people’s insecurities caused by the March 11, 2011, accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Although no major power blackout has taken place since the Fukushima accident, it is Pollyannaish to assume the nation’s electricity demand can be met without nuclear power. Due attention must be paid to the current stringent supply-demand situation of electricity in which thermal power stations, including superannuated ones, have been run at full blast.

Additional fuel costs of utilities to make up for power shortages because of the stoppage of their nuclear power stations stand at nearly 4 trillion yen a year. As a result, a colossal amount of the nation’s wealth has been flowing abroad to import fuel for thermal power generation, while electricity charges have continued to rise.

TEPCO, KEPCO and Kyushu Electric Power Co. have already raised power rates, while three other utilities, including Hokkaido Electric Power Co., have applied to the government to boost charges.

According to one estimate, electricity charges could double from the current level in the event of “zero nuclear power generation.”

Various assertions are being made to defend the wisdom of abolishing nuclear power, such as the claims that hikes in electricity charges can be curbed by reforming the current power supply system and that the nation can attain economic growth without nuclear power generation through investment in renewable energy projects such as solar power. These arguments, however, are mostly cases of wishful thinking and lack convincing grounds.

The parties advocating abolition of nuclear power must produce credible measures regarding how to avoid the negative impact on the national economy and people’s livelihood that would result from denuclearization.

Instead of the futile dichotomous debate over the use of nuclear power versus zero nuclear power, a cool-headed discussion should be conducted in a way that suits the reality of Japan’s energy circumstances.

Renewable energy sources have a number of shortcomings, including the fact that the amount of electricity they produce can erratically fluctuate due to climate conditions. Renewables cannot replace nuclear power generation, at least in the near future.

Thermal overload

Currently, about 90 percent of the nation’s power generation depends on thermal power generation, an extremely precarious situation from the viewpoint of energy security. Under the circumstances, greenhouse gas emissions have been sharply rising.

With a view to concurrently addressing many challenges such as enhancing the safety of nuclear power generation, realizing economic growth and conserving the environment, such options as replacing old thermal power stations with ones of the latest design should be considered.

After the Fukushima nuclear plant accident, enrollments of students in faculties and courses related to nuclear energy have fallen below quotas at undergraduate and postgraduate schools.

If nuclear power generation technologies are not handed down to younger generations, Japan may become unable to solve on its own such problems as settling the Fukushima nuclear accident and decommissioning the plant’s reactors and realizing the final disposal of nuclear waste, still less maintaining and managing existing nuclear facilities.

Yet another problem is the possibility of this country losing its special status as a nuclear strategy partner of the United States.

In the upcoming upper house election, the electorate should determine which parties have been seriously pondering how to effectively cope with the mountain of problems confronting this country.

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

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2013年7月 7日 (日)

13参院選 領土・主権 対外発信力高める戦略が要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 7, 2013
Govt needs strategy to spread territorial assertions abroad
13参院選 領土・主権 対外発信力高める戦略が要る(7月6日付・読売社説)

The sovereignty, territories and territorial waters of our nation have continually been threatened by our neighbors.

Both ruling and opposition parties surely agree that this nation needs to make its stances widely known to the international community.

It is hoped the political parties will discuss diplomacy from this perspective during the campaigning for the July 21 House of Councillors election.

As one of its campaign pledges, the Liberal Democratic Party vowed it would strengthen the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard to defend Japan’s territories and territorial waters and would wage publicity campaigns to make the nation’s position, which is based on law and facts, known at home and abroad.

DPJ on the same page

The Democratic Party of Japan, too, pledged it would staunchly protect the nation’s sovereignty and proactively convey Japan’s assertions abroad.

These assertions correspond to a report compiled by the government’s expert panel on propagation of information on territory and sovereignty at home and abroad.

The report sounded an alarm bell about the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture, saying the volume of information spread to other countries is minuscule, falling far short of what can be regarded as adequate.

The report also recommended the nation drastically improve its capacity to spread information in English, urging it to establish an effective publicity strategy and an appropriate system to realize this.

The delay in waging a publicity battle over the Senkaku Islands can be partly attributed to Japan’s longstanding position that “there is no territorial dispute” over the islands. As it effectively controls the islands, Japan does not see the issue as a territorial dispute as China claims.

Of course, that stance should be maintained, but Japan should not lose any more time in its efforts to spread its assertions overseas.

With its wealth of funds and human resources, China is dispatching government officials and experts who assert China’s stance at symposiums abroad, including the United States and European nations. Last autumn, one of China’s English-language newspapers placed advertorials in U.S. and European media, asserting the Senkakus belong to China.

South Korea is also keenly engaging in a propaganda campaign over the Takeshima islands.

Battle for world opinion

Both China and South Korea are trying to win international opinion to their sides by making assertions not only in English but in various other languages.

To counter their moves, Japan should strategically and wholeheartedly put an overseas publicity campaign in place.

Rather than merely repeating its official stance, Japan needs to rack its brains to effectively build a logical argument to win recognition of its ownership.

Furthermore, Japan should not be seen as divided in opinion over these issues.

During his recent visit to China, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama commented, “It can’t be helped if people thought [Japan stole the islands from China].” His behavior is deplorable for someone who served as prime minister. Such a comment will fall prey to China’s public relations strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2013)
(2013年7月6日01時29分  読売新聞)

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エジプト政変 大統領の失政が招いた軍介入

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 7, 2013
Egypt’s leaders must quickly come to terms to guard regional stability
エジプト政変 大統領の失政が招いた軍介入(7月6日付・読売社説)

Mohammed Morsi, who became Egypt’s first democratically elected president one year ago, has been outsted in a de facto coup by the military.

The country’s transition to democratic rule, which was championed in the wake of a dictatorship, is now facing a critical test. Tensions between the military and Morsi supporters have been rising, inciting concern that a wave of clashes between the two forces could aggravate the turmoil.

The military deposed Morsi as president and placed him under arrest, claiming the country was on the verge of a security crisis. Adly Mansour, the supreme justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, has been sworn in as interim president until a new leader is elected.

The military has suspended the Islamist-drafted Constitution and announced a plan to call a presidential election in the near future, but there has been no indication the chaos will subside.

The coup was triggered by a string of massive demonstrations calling for Morsi’s resignation on the anniversary of his first year in office. Since then, the square in central Cairo has been swamped with protesters every day. The scale of demonstrations is reminiscent of those that led to the toppling of the long-standing regime led by President Hosni Mubarak.

Repeated clashes beween pro- and anti-Morsi elements have claimed lives in various parts of the country.

Policy gaffes sparked crisis

The leading factor behind the rebellion was a series of policy blunders by Morsi.

Morsi was elected with a campaign pledge to improve Egyptians’ livelihoods, but food prices have been skyrocketing and fuel shortages have reached a dire level.

Additionally, public safety has deteriorated due to an increase in heinous crimes. The number of international tourists and the amount of foreign investment have dropped with no sign of recovery.

Morsi unilaterally issued a decree to bolster the power and authority of the president. He pushed through the enactment of a heavily Islamic Constitution in line with the policy of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails. His political stance has drawn a backlash from secular and liberal forces.

Widespread political unrest and a rapid expansion of anti- government movements, it may be said, gave the military a pretense for political intervention.

The military-led interim government will be challenged over its ability to restore stability and resume a democratically oriented process for reconstuction of the country.

Calm reconciliation needed

The military has been trying to quell protests by force, including detaining many leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, for its part, has called for supporters to hold rallies across the nation. It is feared such a defiant stance could further aggravate the situation.

Europe, the United States and Japan, which have backed the democratization of Egypt, expressed concern about the military’s dismissal of Morsi while avoiding direct criticism of the armed forces and calling for a prompt return to civilian control.

To move forward, the military and the Brotherhood must come to the negotiating table and realize national reconciliation as soon as possible.

In Tunisia and Libya, which are both Egypt’s neighbors, the road to democracy was rocky following the collapse of despotic rule. Syria is still suffering from a civil war.

To ensure regional stability, it is indispensable for Egypt, a major power in the area, to swiftly resolve the internal chaos and continue on the path toward democracy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 6, 2013)
(2013年7月6日01時29分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月 6日 (土)

参院選公示 政治の「復権」へ論争を深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 6, 2013
Deepen debate on issues to revitalize political system
参院選公示 政治の「復権」へ論争を深めよ(7月5日付・読売社説)


Can Japan restore its national strength? We have come to a critical time, when we have an opportunity to make a choice with the future course of this country at stake. Voters must listen seriously to what political parties and candidates advocate, to get the measure of their policies and competence.

Official campaigning for the 23rd election of the House of Councillors began Thursday.

Japan is now confronted with many grave, difficult-to-solve problems:

How does it break away from decades of a deflation-plagued economy to make compatible its two goals of economic growth and rebuilding its deficit-ridden government? What steps must be taken to create a solidly sustainable social welfare system in the face of the rapidly aging society with a low birthrate? What should this country do to reconstruct its diplomacy amid the increasingly volatile global and Asian situations to ensure Japan’s national interest?

None of these tasks can be accomplished easily.

End sense of stagnation

Furthermore, an abnormal state of affairs has continued in which the prime minister changed every year since 2006.

Because the prime minister and cabinet members changed so frequently up until the House of Representatives election last year, the central govenment’s bureaucratic machinery tended to go on the defensive, leaving the nation unable to build relationships of trust with foreign leaders and conduct full-fledged diplomatic activities.

Because of the divided Diet, in which the opposition controls the upper house, bills of key importance have frequently failed to pass the legislature. As stagnant politics has become commonplace, the public has been enveloped in a sense of stagnation as well.

Whether it is possible to end this situation is the biggest focus of attention in the upper house election.

In his first campaign speech for the upper house contest Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared, “We keenly hope to eliminate the divided Diet, and we ask you, the electorate, to throw your strong support behind us,” stressing his goal of garnering a majority in the upper chamber through the combined strength of the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner, New Komeito.

To be sure, his government will find it difficult to fully address big policy tasks without stabilizing its power base.

Banri Kaieda, leader of the No. 1 opposition Democratic Party of Japan, emphasized the same day, “We must confront the administration of Prime Minister Abe, which is going to disrupt the livelihood of the people.”

The opposition camp is determined to stop the ruling coaliton from gaining a majority in the upper house, arguing the importance of the opposition’s role of holding the ruling coalition in check to prevent it from going astray.

Rating the Abe Cabinet

While a House of Representatives election is a contest in which voters decide which party or parties should take power, an upper house election is an interim evaluation of the ruling parties by voters.

In the upper house races in 2007 and 2010, the electorate handed down harsh verdicts against the government in what seemed like a backlash in reaction to the ruling coalition’s unexpectedly hefty victories in the previous lower house elections. This created the divided Diet.

If the Abe administration can reverse these precedents and put an end to the divided Diet, the administration will be able to establish a decision-making framework to decide on key policy matters swiftly and boldly by the next Diet election. It is likely this will lead to the revitalization of the nation’s political system.

What voters should bear in mind in making their choice is how to evaluate the achievements of the Abe administration and weigh them against the policies being touted by each political party and candidate in the upper house race.

Concerning the current administration’s Abenomics economic policies, the LDP has included in its campaign platform an economic growth target of about 3 percent in nominal terms and a policy of tax incentives for investment and drastic corporation tax cuts.

It is laudable that the Abe government has brought about such results as the correction of the yen’s strength and higher stock prices, and achieved Japan’s participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

On the other hand, some have said the benefits of Abenomics have only been enjoyed by some of the public.

Criticizing Abenomics as having caused such side effects as price hikes and radical fluctuations in interest rates, the DPJ asserts that it will seek to expand the income of ordinary citizens and middle-class people.

However, the party’s growth strategy lacks concrete measures. It leaves something to be desired for a party that has been teetering on the brink after its crushing setback in the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) calls for bolstering competitiveness and cuts in income and corporation taxes. Your Party aims to attain a nominal growth rate of 4 percent or more by pushing drastic regulatory reforms.

No matter how attractive policies are, they will have no persuasive power unless accompanied by fiscal resources and a roadmap for their achievement. We ask the parties to deepen their debate on economic policies.

In regard to nuclear policy, the LDP takes a positive view of restarting nuclear reactors after they are judged safe and promoting exports of nuclear power plants. This is consistent with the party’s emphasis on economic growth.

The opposition parties are all in favor of immediately or eventually eliminating all nuclear reactors, including the DPJ’s call for “ending nuclear power generation in the 2030s.” But their stances are vague concerning measures to secure substitute energy sources and in harmonizing their antinuclear positions with measures for economic growth.

Probably because of the DPJ’s failure to carry out the policies it presented in its unrealistic campaign platform for the 2009 lower house election, all the parties’ campaign pledges are more like slogans and their abstractness is obvious. They must discuss more concrete measures regarding social security reform and diplomatic and security issues.

Constitution at issue

The Constitution is also an important bone of contention.

The LDP, Ishin no Kai and Your Party call for easing the Diet requirements stipulated in Article 96 of the national charter for initiating constitutional revisions. New Komeito asserts it will discuss the requirement issue along with specific revisions, while the DPJ opposes revising the article ahead of other articles. But their positions leave room to approve easing the requirements.

Whether constitutional revision will become realistic depends on the results of the upper house poll.

The parties and their candidates are urged to hold an active debate on how to define the Self-Defense Forces in the Constitution, as well as on such issues as the bicameral system and decentralization of power to find a new desirable governance system for the nation.

Elections, which are the bedrock of democracy, are a joint endeavor by parties, their candidates and voters. It is voters’ vital responsibility to closely examine the assertions of parties and their candidates before casting their valuable votes, without being affected by the mood of the moment.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 5, 2013)
(2013年7月5日01時35分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月 5日 (金)


会社を退職したら横浜の一戸建て を購入したいという人々は意外と多いですね。

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9党首討論会 アベノミクスに対案はあるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 5, 2013
Can opposition present any clear alternatives to Abenomics?
9党首討論会 アベノミクスに対案はあるか(7月4日付・読売社説)

Political parties’ differing views were recently brought to light in an open debate among the ruling and opposition parties over Abenomics, the set of economic policies adopted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration. Abenomics has become the main point of contention in the upcoming House of Councillors election.

During the debate among leaders of nine political parties, held prior to the official start of the election campaign period at the Japan National Press Club on Wednesday, Abe stressed the positive effects of his economic policies. As the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, he said, “Our policies have boosted the nation’s economic fundamentals while improving the employment situation.”

Natsuo Yamaguchi, president of New Komeito, the LDP’s ruling coalition partner, said that by securing a majority in the upper house, “We would strive to end the divided Diet and gain enough power to carry out our growth strategy.”

It is true that the excessive appreciation of the yen has been corrected to a certain extent and stock prices have risen. The “three arrows” of Abenomics--bold monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and a growth strategy--have so far proved largely on target.

Need to win over the public

Still, the real measure of the growth strategy, the third arrow, has only just begun to be tested. Undoubtedly the high approval ratings the Abe administration has recorded until now have been achieved due to the public’s high expectations for the Abe government.

In addition to promising the people his administration will steadily implement Abenomics, the prime minister must continue making efforts to win the public’s understanding of his economic policies.

Toru Hashimoto, coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), and Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe indicated their support of the path charted by Abenomics, while calling on the administration to implement thorough deregulatory initiatives.

Both Hashimoto and Watanabe oppose the envisaged rise in the consumption tax rate next spring. They believe if a price increase induced by monetary easing occurs in conjunction with the tax hike, economic recovery will be hindered.

Speaking about the consumption tax increase, Abe said, “If the tax hike negatively affects the overall economy, leading to a decline in cumulative tax revenues, it will become meaningless.” His comments indicated the administration will prudently assess the economic situation before implementing the hike.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the five other parties present at the meeting reiterated their strong skepticism regarding the outcome of Abenomics. Banri Kaieda, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, harshly criticized the policies, saying Abenomics “may destroy people’s lives.”

DPJ’s proposal unconvincing

How, then, would the opposition DPJ help spur economic growth? When Abe raised this question, the DPJ leader said, “Driving an increase in workers’ take-home pay would lead to a boost in personal consumption, which would eventually bring about sustainable economic growth.” He also referred to child-rearing allowances and tuition-free education at public high schools, both programs the DPJ advocated when in power.

Nevertheless, Kaieda’s assertions lack solid backing and are less convincing than the LDP’s. They can hardly be considered counterproposals to Abenomics. Is the DPJ leader still adhering to the party’s handout policies?

The policy differences between the LDP and Komeito are no small matter either.

While Abe supports reviewing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution on the right to collective self-defense, Yamaguchi has said his party upholds the current interpretation. Yamaguchi has further made it clear that changing the government’s interpretation would require a convincing call for action, and such a call would need to be backed by a consensus between the two parties.

The LDP and Komeito also differ in their views on constitutional amendments and policies concerning nuclear power plants. Both parties need to have thorough discussions with each other within the administration over key policy issues and coordinate their stances. It is worrisome that they have still not made sufficient efforts to this end in preparation for the upper house election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,  July 4, 2013)
(2013年7月4日01時36分  読売新聞)

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ARF閣僚会議 国際的に孤立が極まる北朝鮮

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 5, 2013
North Korea must adjust stance in face of heightened isolation
ARF閣僚会議 国際的に孤立が極まる北朝鮮(7月4日付・読売社説)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the country’s Workers’ Party of Korea, must soberly accept the reality that his country’s isolation under the sanctions of the international community has intensified and shift to a policy of abandoning Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

A ministerial meeting of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum, attended by foreign ministers from 26 countries including Japan, the United States and China, as well as the European Union, was held in Brunei and adopted a chairman’s statement.

The statement stipulates that most ministers urge North Korea to comply with its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions and that most ministers call on North Korea to abide by its commitments under the September 2005 six-party joint statement. The chairman’s statement thus urges North Korea to take action toward abandonment of its nuclear program.

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun made a rebuttal to the ARF statement, saying among other things that the deterioration of the situation on the Korean Peninsula stems from the United States’ deep-rooted policy of hostility toward North Korea.

No supporters

However, none of North Korea’s comments were included in the statement. This has significant meaning, as it symbolizes the fact that not a single country stands with North Korea.

The statement is part of a series of international measures to pressure the reclusive country following the U.S.-China summit talks and the Group of Eight summit meeting, both held in June.

Since last year, North Korea has launched a long-range ballistic missile and conducted a third nuclear test despite international warnings. Each time, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to strengthen sanctions against the country.

The ARF statement also stipulates that most ministers reconfirmed their nations would “fully implement” UNSC sanction resolutions on North Korea. This can be regarded as a declaration of the participating nations’ determination not to loosen restrictions on Pyongyang.

North Korea’s recent shift to a policy of dialogue, away from its brinkmanship strategy of creating crises through provocative remarks and actions, must be proof of its struggle to find a way to escape from its current situation, in which it can barely prop up the economy due to the pressure of sanctions.

Take concrete action

North Korea has been asking the United States to accept its proposal for dialogue without preconditions.

If the United States accepted that by willingly overlooking North Korea’s selfish actions of repeating nuclear tests and missile launches, it would simply be repeating the past. In that sense, it is quite appropriate for Japan, the United States and South Korea to demand North Korea take concrete action toward denuclearization of the country.

North Korea’s Pak resorted to deception over the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents, saying that the issue “has been completely resolved.” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida flatly rejected Pak’s statement as “in contradiction of the facts,” based on the past sequence of events, including North Korea’s promise to reinvestigate the matter. Kishida further called for concerted action by the international community, claiming other countries than Japan have had people abducted. His actions were quite appropriate.

The chairman’s statement also touches upon the importance of addressing international humanitarian concerns. This indirectly reflects Japan’s strong demand for resolution of the abduction issue.

There must be no normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea without a comprehensive solution of the latter’s nuclear and missile development programs and the abduction issue. The government needs to firmly maintain this stance and persuade Kim Jong Un to move things forward on the abduction issue, while tightening the noose around North Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,  July 4, 2013)
(2013年7月4日01時36分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月 4日 (木)

米温暖化対策 シェールガス革命が追い風に

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 4, 2013
Will shale gas revolution help combat global warming?
米温暖化対策 シェールガス革命が追い風に(7月3日付・読売社説)

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced an action plan to increase efforts to combat global warming.

The sweeping plan is aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, while also leading greater international efforts to combat climate change, particularly through cooperation with China and India, both major carbon dioxide emitters.

The world is witnessing a continuous increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Obama’s plan indicates the United States, the world’s second-worst greenhouse gas polluter after China, plans to seriously tackle global warming. This should significantly help international efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

However, Obama will be tested whether he will be able to demonstrate leadership in fighting global warming and what he can actually do to achieve his goal.

U.S. plan affirms target

The latest action plan reconfirms an earlier U.S. target for curtailing domestic greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent by the end of 2020, compared with 2005 levels. Measures include a plan to impose new and more rigorous emission regulations on existing and envisaged power plants.

The action program also calls for switching to natural gases, an energy source that generates a smaller amount of carbon dioxide than coal and oil.

Obama’s plan incorporates the doubling of such renewable energy resources as hydroelectric and solar power. It also includes a plan to maintain and promote nuclear power generation through, for example, the development of small modular reactors with a generating capacity of less than 300,000 kilowatts per unit.

The outlook for Obama’s action plan is far from promising. In fact, U.S. electric power companies are already alarmed by the possible impact of his program. They fear that tightening the regulations may force them to close coal-fired power plants, which constitute the mainstay of their electricity business. The action plan is also opposed by Republicans and local governments that could be affected by the planned measures. They are concerned that the program would lead to a loss of many jobs. Many twists and turns are foreseen in a tug-of-war over how carbon dioxide emissions should be regulated at power plants.

A factor behind Obama’s decision to announce new anti-global warming measures is his desire to address the strong concerns of Americans about the increase in natural disasters due to abnormal weather in recent years, including violent storms and massive tornadoes. The action plan lays out specific measures to be implemented to enable local communities to deal more effectively with the impact of such disasters.

Another significant reason behind the president’s latest move is the fact that the recent increase in natural gas production due to the ongoing shale gas revolution is aiding his battle to reduce greenhouse gases. The U.S. carbon dioxide reduction goal seems to be increasingly realistic due to that country’s drive to shift from coal to natural gas. This is certain to shore up the U.S. position in global negotiations over reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The post-Kyoto Protocol framework is scheduled to take effect in 2020. The primary task facing participants is to ensure that their battle against global warming functions in a manner in which all major carbon dioxide emitters fulfill their share of responsibility in achieving their goals.

Japan role important

The Obama administration will likely seek to lay down a set of loosely defined rules by which each country will set its own reduction target and strive to curtail its carbon dioxide emissions, according to observers. This approach can be regarded as a persuasive method to get newly emerging nations to join the new framework, as they are opposed to reduction obligations that would be imposed on them.

Japan should play an active role in this respect.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has said it will scrap an unrealistic carbon dioxide reduction target abruptly announced by then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in 2009. Hatoyama’s plan required this country to achieve a 25 percent reduction from 1990 levels in carbon dioxide emissions by the end of 2020.

It is essential for the Abe administration to replace the 2009 reduction plan with a practical reduction target that would take the nation’s economic activities into consideration, a task that must be complemented by efforts to gain support from other nations for the prime minister’s initiative.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2013)
(2013年7月3日01時53分  読売新聞)

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ネット選挙解禁 「違法」の境目をわかりやすく

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 4, 2013
Clear-cut rules necessary for use of Internet in election campaigns
ネット選挙解禁 「違法」の境目をわかりやすく(7月3日付・読売社説)

What will be allowed, and what will not, regarding the use of the Internet in election campaigns? To ensure fairness in elections, clear lines should be drawn and efforts should be swiftly taken to ensure the system allowing the use of the Internet in election campaigns is thoroughly understood by the public.

A ban on election campaigns using the Internet will be lifted in the House of Councillors election, the official campaign period for which starts Thursday. We hope the use of the Internet will help voters--especially young people--take more interest in elections.

During election campaigns, political parties and candidates will be allowed to post their opinions, speech schedules, and video and photos of their street speeches to websites. Their ability to convey information will be considerably enhanced.

Voters will be able to compare policies of political parties and candidates on their websites.

Social networking services, including Twitter, Facebook and LINE, can also be used. Such services have great advantages, including allowing voters, parties and candidates to engage in two-way communication.

In preparation for the upper house election, the ruling and opposition parties in late April drew up guidelines for the use of the Internet in election campaigns. The rules provide specific examples of prohibited actions and expressions.

Rules confusing

For example, printing materials such as election flyers and policy pamphlets that are carried on election campaign websites is allowed, but distributing them to a third person is illegal. This is because the Public Offices Election Law strictly restricts the use of printed materials for election campaigns.

Regarding e-mail, permitted contents differ for political parties and candidates, and voters. For instance, voters are not allowed to ask other voters by e-mail to vote for a candidate or forward campaign-related e-mail they received. People who break these rules could face a fine or imprisonment for violating the Public Offices Election Law. Their civil rights can also be suspended in some cases.

Careful consideration should be given in allowing the use of e-mail for election campaigns, as it can easily be abused, by such means as spoofing, in which a sender poses as a candidate. The purpose of the restriction is understandable.

However, many restrictions are difficult for voters to understand. We do not think the government has provided thorough explanations regarding revisions to the Public Offices Election Law. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and local election administration commissions should make efforts to raise public awareness of the use of the Internet in election campaigns to prevent confusion.

Monitoring needs boost

Another major problem is how to deal with malicious acts such as slander and spoofing that are aimed at causing a specific candidate to lose in an election.

The National Police Agency has already strengthened measures to crack down on such acts. Internet service providers and political parties must enhance their monitoring capability.

The upcoming upper house election will be the first case in which the Internet is used in an election campaign. Unforeseen problems could emerge.

The use of the Internet will be gradually allowed in local elections in the future. Its merits and demerits must be thoroughly examined after the upper house election, and the government should work on revising the Public Offices Election Law again and improve the utilization of the system that allows Internet use in election campaigns.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2013)
(2013年7月3日01時53分  読売新聞)

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日銀短観プラス 企業心理好転を成長の弾みに

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 3, 2013
The favorable turn in corporate investment must lead to growth
日銀短観プラス 企業心理好転を成長の弾みに(7月2日付・読売社説)

Corporate business sentiment has obviously been picking up.

How can the private sector be invigorated to bring about a full-fledged business recovery? The government’s growth strategy is being put to the test in this regard.

According to the Bank of Japan’s short-term Tankan survey of corporate sentiment in June, the diffusion index for large manufacturers improved to plus 4, a huge improvement from minus 8 in the March survey, marking the first time in one year and nine months that the index has turned positive.

The index, which is calculated by subtracting the percentage of firms with a negative outlook from that of those with positive expectations, rose by six points to stand at plus 12 for major nonmanufacturers--recording a high figure for the first time in five years.

Exports have been recovering since the yen’s super-high strength was corrected. Business sentiment has improved across a wide range of industrial sectors as public investments envisioned in the government’s emergency economic package were received favorably.

2 arrows on target

It may be said that drastic monetary easing and flexible fiscal management, which are two of the “three arrows” of the Abenomics economic policies pursued by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have brought about successful results.

Next, to turn the favorable corporate sentiment into growth led by the private sector, it will be essential to steadily carry out a growth strategy, the third arrow of Abenomics.

According to the Tankan report, plant and equipment investments planned by major enterprises for the current fiscal year jumped 2 percent over the previous fiscal year. It is encouraging that a corporate desire to expand investment has emerged.

The government’s growth strategy calls for boosting the private sector’s annual capital investment from 63 trillion yen to 70 trillion yen in three years.

It will be important for the government to add assistance measures to promote replacement of superannuated facilities and stimulate corporate willingness to expand new business projects. The government plans to put forth a second package of growth strategy measures as early as autumn, highlighting tax incentives for investment. This could be a reasonable response.

Lower corporate tax rate

It is important for the government to implement effective measures on a priority basis to live up to the expectations of the private sector.

Serious consideration must be given to lowering the corporation tax rate, which is higher than those in other major countries.

Cutting the tax rate would not only reduce the tax burdens on domestic companies but also encourage more foreign companies to set up operations in Japan, thereby bolstering the foundation for national economic growth.

It is worrying that the recovery of business sentiment among small and midsize companies lags that for major firms. These companies sustain the Japanese economy, as they employ 70 percent of the nation’s salaried workers.

Efforts must be made to realize a virtuous circle in which small and midsize firms will be invigorated, boosting employment and income and further enhancing corporate perfomance.

Not a few midsize and small companies have settled for the status of subcontractors despite their possession of high technology, thereby missing a chance for business expansion.

We urge the government to steadily implement measures to support effective reform of their management.

A big challenge ahead will be to boost the national economy as a whole by achieving economic recovery not only in major urban districts but also in regional areas.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 2, 2013)
(2013年7月2日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月 3日 (水)


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日韓外相会談 関係再構築へ双方が歩み寄れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 3, 2013
Japan, S. Korea should compromise to reconstruct vital relationship
日韓外相会談 関係再構築へ双方が歩み寄れ(7月2日付・読売社説)

At a time when the situation in East Asia has become increasingly unstable, cooperation between Japan and South Korea is becoming even more important. Both sides should step closer to each other to put bilateral relations back on a more normal footing.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se recently held talks in Brunei and agreed to stably develop a “future-oriented” bilateral relationship.

These were the first such talks between Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers in about nine months. It was extraordinary that the neighoring nations had not held any summit or foreign ministerial meetings since the administration of South Korean President Park Geun Hye was launched in February.

There are many issues that Japan and South Korea should jointly address, such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs and China’s rise in the military and economic spheres. The stalemate over economic issues, as exemplified by the prolonged suspension of talks for a bilateral free trade agreement, also cannot be overlooked.

China playing hardball

Meanwhile, the United States has been indirectly trying to improve Japan-South Korea ties apparently because it believes the deterioration in the bilateral relationship would undermine peace and prosperity in East Asia.

China has reportedly stated that it will only hold a Japan-China summit meeting on the condition that Tokyo acknowledges a territorial dispute exists over the Senkaku Islands. Once again, a meeting between the foreign ministers of Japan and China was not held this time. Given the possibility that high-ranking officials of Tokyo and Beijing cannot hold talks for an extended period, the necessity of rebuilding Japan-South Korea relations takes on even greater importance.

Japan and South Korea have been trading jabs over territorial and historical perception issues involving the Takeshima islands and so-called wartime comfort women. The South Korean foreign minister told his Japanese counterpart that if Japan “fails to carefully deal with the history issue, it will hurt the soul of the [Korean] people.”

But we believe that an intrinsic role of diplomacy in this context is to ensure both nations have substantive cooperation over North Korea and other issues while keeping their differences to the absolute minimum.

Lee started the chill

The current chilly state of relations between Japan and South Korea was originally caused by a visit by former South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to the Takeshima islands and his demand for “an apology” from the Emperor last summer.

South Korea should resist the temptation to bring up issues regarding differences over historical perception with Japan at such occasions as summit talks with U.S. and Chinese leaders. Japan, for its part, should give some consideration to the impact of visits by Cabinet ministers to Yasukuni Shrine. It is essential that both sides tenaciously engage in dialogue and make efforts in areas in which they disagree and search for common ground.

We urge both nations to make the latest Japan-South Korea foreign ministerial meeting a stepping stone that can expedite coordinations to realize a bilateral summit meeting later this year.

At a trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea, which was held prior to the Kishida-Yun talks, the three top diplomats confirmed they would not accept the possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea and would urge it to take concrete actions toward denuclearization.

North Korea recently has shown a greater willingness to hold dialogues with other nations that have a stake in the nuclear issue. However, more important than resuming six-nation talks and other channels of dialogue is having North Korea take tangible steps to abandon its nuclear weapons.

Japan, the United States and South Korea must hold a series of consultations and maintain their current solidarity to keep pressuring North Korea through Chinese channels to make Pyongyang take substantive actions toward its denuclearization.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 2, 2013)
(2013年7月2日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月 2日 (火)

節電スタート 省エネ頼みでは停電が心配だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 2, 2013
Reliance only on energy saving won’t stop power outage fears
節電スタート 省エネ頼みでは停電が心配だ(7月1日付・読売社説)

The government-designated summer electricity-saving period began Monday.

Idled nuclear power plants have not been reactivated in time for summer, and the nation’s power supply-demand situation remains shaky at best.

Both businesses and households should devote reasonable efforts to conserve electricity to get through the summer heat.

The risk of a sudden, extensive blackout heightens in summer when power consumption rises sharply with increased use of such appliances as air conditioners because of the onslaught of scorching heat. It is extremely important to ensure there is a power supply surplus by refraining from wasting electricity.

Last summer, a power-saving target of a maximum of 15 percent was set for the service areas of seven electric power companies in Kansai, Kyushu and other regions.

Nuclear plants indispensable

This summer, no electricity-saving target has been set because electric power companies have managed to augment their power supplies by making full use of old-fashioned thermal power stations. Power-saving efforts that have taken root in businesses and households have contributed to this.

It is overly optimistic, however, to assume that the nation’s electricity demand can be met only by means of power-saving efforts.

For instance, Kansai Electric Power Co.’s supply reserve ratio, or the percentage of surplus power supplies in excess of assumed maximum power demand, is barely above 3 percent, the lowest possible ratio that would preclude a power outage, even taking into account reactors Nos. 3 and 4 of the utility’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, the only ones operating in the country.

If the Oi plant’s reactors are halted, KEPCO’s supply reserve ratio will drop to no more than 1 percent. In that event, the utility would find it inevitable to set a power-saving target and take other measures.

The government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is reported to be in favor of permitting the Oi plant’s two reactors to operate until September, when they are scheduled to undergo a routine safety check. The NRA’s policy in this respect is reasonable.

Other utilities must not let their guard down, as an increasing number of thermal power stations have failed to operate properly because they have been running at full blast.

After suffering a succession of emergency stoppages of its thermal power plants late last month, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. narrowly avoided a serious situation by securing electricity from Tohoku Electric Power Co. to make up for the shortfall. Sufficient precautionary steps must be taken to ensure no major blackout takes place due to trouble occurring at more than one power plant as electricity demand soars during summer.

The immense economic losses from stopping nuclear power plants must not be overlooked. The cost of fuel to cover power shortages due to idled nuclear power plants through thermal power generation is expected to reach nearly 4 trillion yen this fiscal year. This means a colossal amount of the nation’s wealth has been flowing out into resources-rich countries, exacerbating the huge trade deficits.

All power utilities have been naturally keen to procure fuels such as liquefied natural gas at lower costs, but they are in disadvantageous positions in price negotiations as they have no other alternative but to depend on thermal power generation.

Drops in jobs, income

If this situation remains unchanged, electricity rates are certain to rise further, placing a greater burden on both family budgets and businesses. Besides this, there is a danger that the hollowing-out of industries will increase, possibly leading to a decline in employment and wages.

To avoid the double whammy of a rise in the financial burden and a shrinkage of income, it is imperative to put nuclear power plants back into operation once their safety is confirmed, thereby securing the power generation necessary for this country. This should be the final summer that the threat of power shortages hovers over us.

A set of new safety standards for nuclear power plants is scheduled to be put into force soon. The NRA should proceed to screen the safety of nuclear power plants without delay.

The government, for its part, must do its utmost to obtain the understanding of local entities hosting nuclear power plants about the wisdom of reactivating those plants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2013)
(2013年7月1日01時35分  読売新聞)

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中国金融リスク 「影の銀行」を野放しにするな

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 2, 2013
Chinese authorities must control nation’s shadow banking sector
中国金融リスク 「影の銀行」を野放しにするな(7月1日付・読売社説)

The volume of transactions in China’s shadow banking sector, in which financial transactions are handled outside the traditional commercial banks, is growing fast. The potential ill effects of this explosive supply of opaque money in the market are immense. We must remain on the lookout for possible disarray in the Chinese economy.

The Shanghai Composite Index plunged last week, falling below the 2,000 benchmark for the first time in about half a year. On June 24, it recorded the steepest single-day drop in four years.

The decline was triggered when the short-term interbank offered rate suddenly spiked to an all-time high, causing concerns over the worsening cash flow of banks and prompting the sell-off of stocks.

Despite the decline, the People’s Bank of China, the country’s equivalent of a central bank, did not expand its injection of cash into the market, an unusual case of not helping to lower the interbank offered rate.

Bubbles forming

For the time being, the bank will apparently allow some increase in the rate, an attempt to apply de facto monetary tightening.

Behind the bank’s reaction is the spread of various forms of shadow banking, causing economic bubbles in some sectors.

For instance, investment firms affiliated with municipal governments have been expanding their real estate development and public works projects by using a massive amount of funds borrowed at high interest rates outside the traditional banking institutions.

Many of those municipal governments are burdened with huge amounts of debt. Their inability to repay their debts could spark repercussions in the management of businesses that have extended loans to them.

It is also problematic that loans extended to such entities as local governments are refinanced by bundling them and repackaging them as “small-lot wealth management products,” by offering a much higher rate of return than bank deposits.These products have been massively sold to private business firms and individuals by nonbank institutions. In such cases, there is a risk of a loss of principle.

The current situation resembles the so-called subprime loan crisis that occurred in the United States, sending the world economy into disarray.

The size of the shadow banking sector is estimated at 30 trillion yuan (about 480 trillion yen). But the real scale of off-balance sheet financial transactions of the sector is hardly known. Even the Chinese authorities may not be able to grasp the reality.

A senior official at the People’s Bank of China said, “Imps must be punished,” suggesting the shadow banking sectors must be dealt with strictly. We can understand the authorities’ policy of curbing excessive growth of the money supply and accelerating moves to stamp out the economic bubble.

Slowdown continues

If the shadow banking sectors are left uncontrolled, the bubble will eventually burst, raising fears of major havoc triggered by China spreading the world over.

Meanwhile, the country’s real economic growth has fallen below 8 percent, and its economic slowdown continues. But it would be a mistake for the authorities to cause the country’s economy to further lose momentum by too rapidly curbing the shadow banking system.

It is indeed a difficult situation. The Chinese authorities must be very careful in steering the economy.

It would also be serious if the Japanese economic recovery were stalled by such factors as a decline in its exports to China. This is not someone else’s problem. We need to be watchful for any abnormality in China’s economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2013)
(2013年7月1日01時35分  読売新聞)

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2013年7月 1日 (月)

幹事長討論会 安易な「原発ゼロ」は無責任だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 1, 2013
Simply calling for end of nuclear power is irresponsible
幹事長討論会 安易な「原発ゼロ」は無責任だ(6月30日付・読売社説)

Full-fledged debates for the House of Councillors election have kicked off before its official campaign period starts on July 4.

In Osaka, the Kansai Press Club hosted a meeting on politics with the secretaries general and their equivalents of nine ruling and opposition parties.

At the meeting, there were striking divergences in opinions on nuclear power plants. Asked if they aim to end the use of nuclear power generation, every attending party except the ruling Liberal Democratic Party replied yes.

To reduce the nation's use of nuclear power to zero, the proportion of electricity generated by alternative sources such as thermal power generation and renewable energy sources such as solar power must be increased drastically. This will require increased imports of fuel for thermal power plants, which will inevitably hollow out domestic industries due to higher production costs.

There also are concerns about the increased carbon dioxide emissions produced by thermal power plants. Japan will be tested on how to overcome global issues, including nuclear nonproliferation, if it chooses the zero nuclear power generation option.

Balance of sources important

Referring to those issues, LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said at the meeting, “A responsible political party must not consider reducing the nation’s dependence on nuclear power generation without thinking about the balance of its power sources.” We think his view is quite reasonable.

The LDP stipulated in its election pledges that the state should take responsibility for trying to obtain the consent of local governments hosting nuclear power plants, which have been checked and judged safe, so they can be reactivated.

We applaud the LDP on this point, but the party also should clarify the prospects for its medium- to long-term nuclear policies.

Details on specific steps to deal with nuclear fuel recycling and nuclear waste disposal also need to be discussed.

At the meeting, no party supporting the abolition of nuclear power generation gave a detailed and convincing explanation on the denuclearization process. How can Japan, a nation with few natural resources, end its use of nuclear power generation? Parties supporting zero nuclear power generation must answer this question properly.

Exports of nuclear plants

Goshi Hosono, secretary general of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, criticized efforts led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to promote exports of Japanese nuclear reactors to other countries. “It makes me feel uncomfortable,” Hosono said.

However, exports of infrastructure, including nuclear reactors, are a pillar of the government’s growth strategy and require partnership between the government and private sectors. What does the DPJ think about the high expectations other nations have for Japanese technology?

In Tokyo, party leaders held a meeting Friday to discuss issues related to the upper house election.

In their discussions, Abe’s remarks on relations between Japan and China, which have been at loggerheads over the Senkaku Islands, attracted considerable attention. “The Chinese side told us it would not agree to have a bilateral summit meeting unless Tokyo accepts a certain condition,” the prime minister revealed.

Of course, there is no need to hold a summit meeting with Beijing if it comes at the expense of Japan’s national interest. However, it is also true that both Japan and China will lose out if they do not improve bilateral ties.

We expect all political parties to also have constructive discussions on diplomatic and national security strategies, and on measures to handle territorial issues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,   June 30, 2013)
(2013年6月30日01時29分  読売新聞)

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参院選へ 「ねじれ」に終止符打てるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun June 30, 2013
Can Abe put an end to divided Diet in coming upper house poll?
参院選へ 「ねじれ」に終止符打てるか(6月29日付・読売社説)


How will voters judge the performance of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration over the past six months?

The government has formally decided to hold a House of Councillors election on July 21, with official campaigning to start Thursday.

The number of constituencies in which one upper house seat is up for grabs has increased by two to 31 following the implementation of a measure to narrow vote-value disparities. The results of the battles in these constituencies are likely to determine the outcome of the whole election. The upcoming poll will also be closely watched as the nation’s first national election in which the use of the Internet will be allowed for campaigns.

Abe to face a test

The key focus of the election is expected to be whether the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito will be able to secure a majority of seats in the upper house and thus put an end to the current divided Diet.

If the ruling camp achieves this goal, the Abe administration will be on firmer footing, making the nation’s politics more stable. After the July upper house race, a national election will not be held for as long as three years. This would help create an environment in which the Abe administration can tackle issues thoroughly without worrying about elections.

Abe was in office when the Diet became divided after his LDP lost in the upper house election held six years ago. Abe said the divided Diet has thrown politics into confusion, significantly weakening Japan’s national power. “We must put an end to the divided Diet,” he said.

In the meantime, the ruling and opposition parties have repeatedly confronted each other. In light of this, deliberations on bills were often stalled, particularly in the upper house, including when the LDP itself was an opposition party.

On Wednesday, the closing day of the ordinary Diet session, the opposition-controlled upper house passed a censure motion against the prime minister. Four key government-sponsored bills, including one to revise the Electricity Business Law, were scrapped as a result. This is a prime example.

The nature and purpose of the upper house should be also addressed in the upcoming election, as the chamber has turned into a stage for political maneuvering.

For the Democratic Party of Japan, the election is likely to be a battle in which its very existence is at stake. The DPJ is likely to face a test of voter sentiment on efforts by President Banri Kaieda and its other leaders to rebuild the party, as well as on its handling of Diet affairs as the largest opposition party.

Opposition comeback?

The House of Representatives election last December boosted the presence of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) in the Diet, but the party has since lost strength for reasons such as the controversial remarks on so-called comfort women by its coleader Toru Hashimoto. In the July election, Hashimoto and fellow coleader Shintaro Ishihara will be tested on their ability to solidify its position in the upper house.

Meanwhile, both Your Party and the Japanese Communist Party significantly increased their seats in the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election. They now aim to expand their public support in a national election.

The parties likely will clash over Abenomics, a set of economic measures promoted by the Abe administration.

To get the national economy out of deflation and achieve growth, Abe has emphasized that there is no alternative to carrying out his so-called three-arrow policy package of drastic monetary easing, flexible fiscal measures and a growth strategy.

However, as Abe has acknowledged, the people have yet to feel an economic recovery. So to win public understanding it is necessary to explain to them in detail about the aims and effects of the economic revitalization to be brought on by the full implementation of Abenomics.

The DPJ, on the other hand, has criticized the government’s economic measures, saying they have caused “strong side effects” such as price hikes amid no raise in wages and an increase in housing loan interest rates.

How would the DPJ reconstruct the economy, then? Its argument will lack persuasive power unless it presents concrete measures. The party said it would “take good care of workers, boost income and enrich and expand the middle class.” But such abstract imagery falls short of explanations.

In its campaign platform, the DPJ points to hikes in electricity and gas rates as “a rash of price increases” under the Abe administration. But these were largely caused by a sharp increase in fuel imports for the operation of thermal power plants that substituted for the nation’s nuclear power plants, most of which had their operations suspended under the DPJ-led administration.

The DPJ’s criticism of price hikes must be questioned in terms of its consistency with its policy to end reliance on nuclear power generation.

Worth watching in the upcoming upper house election will be whether the LDP, Nippon Ishin no Kai and Your Party, which show a keen interest in revising the Constitution, will be able to secure two-thirds or more of the seats. If this threshold is cleared, it will create a political environment in which initiating constitutional revision will be possible for the first time under the current national charter.

Debate in concrete terms

Concerning Article 96, which sets out procedures for constitutional amendments, the LDP, Ishin no Kai and Your Party call for easing the requirements to initiate such revisions. The DPJ, Komeito and People’s Life Party either wish to maintain the article or oppose its revision ahead of other articles.

Issues regarding the the Constitution are wide-ranging.

In its draft for constitutional revision, the LDP proposes revising Article 9 to call for the establishment of a national defense force while retaining the article’s spirit of pacifism, and to oblige the state to secure Japan’s territorial integrity.

Among constitutional provisions, the current Article 9 is the most distant from reality. The existence of the Self-Defense Forces should be clarified. Komeito, which aims to add new provisions to the current Constitution, has said it will study how to recognize the SDF in the national charter. This is a laudable move.

Ishin no Kai calls for merging the two chambers of the Diet into one and adopting a system to elect a prime minister by popular vote. Your Party proposes a provision on states of emergency. The JCP and Social Democratic Party stress their stance of maintaining the Constitution as it is.

This is the first time that concrete points of constitutional revision will become bones of contention in an upper house poll. Discussing the national charter is tantamount to thinking about the national security environment, the system of government and the status of human rights.

The parties will be asked to deepen debate on the matter during a campaign period.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 29, 2013)
(2013年6月29日01時28分  読売新聞)

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