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2013年12月31日 (火)

みずほ追加処分 経営の刷新で一から出直せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 30, 2014
Mizuho banking group must revamp corporate management, compliance
みずほ追加処分 経営の刷新で一から出直せ(12月30日付・読売社説)

Mizuho Financial Group Inc. will be unable to refurbish its tarnished public image unless it thoroughly reforms its erratic corporate structure and revamps its method of conducting business.

Because the megabank’s top management failed to address problematic loans extended to gangsters from its lending affiliate, the Financial Services Agency has ordered a second round of punitive actions for Mizuho Bank and Mizuho Financial Group, the bank’s holding company.

In addressing the loans to gangsters, the financial watchdog ordered the nation’s second-largest banking group to suspend loans through the affiliate for a month, called for clarification of management responsibility and demanded the strengthening of corporate governance. The FSA’s order came only three months after it issued its first round of business improvement instructions to Mizuho in September.

Mizuho Bank initially claimed its top management was unaware of the loan irregularities, saying the matter had been left to directors in charge. It was later revealed, however, executives of the bank, including the president, actually were in a position to know about the loans, as they had received reports from subordinates.

It is highly unusual for the FSA to mete out administrative punishments twice against a financial institution in such a short period of time. The agency’s action appears aimed at pressuring Mizuho to terminate irresponsible actions by its management.

Mizuho Bank is scheduled to submit a business improvement plan to the FSA by Jan. 17. To ensure that transactions with gangsters do not recur, the bank must come up with effective preventive measures.

Mizuho’s response to the administrative punishments, however, has been problematic. Although Takashi Tsukamoto, chairman of Mizuho Financial Group, will step down at the end of March to take responsibility for the loan scandal, Mizuho Bank President Yasuhiro Sato will remain in office, while concurrently holding on to the post of president of Mizuho Financial Group.

End vertical segmentation

At a press conference Thursday, Sato said, “My responsibility is to put into place a corporate governance structure that global markets can trust.”

In citing reasons for taking punitive steps this time, the FSA lambasted Mizuho, pointing out that the bank’s board of directors had “failed to engage in substantial discussions and had fallen short of functioning properly.” Can Mizuho drastically reform its management structure while keeping the “Sato regime” in place?

Ever since its launch in 2000 through the merger of Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Fuji Bank and Industrial Bank of Japan, Mizuho has faced a number of serious problems, including large-scale computer system failures.

The sequence of irregularities can be attributed mainly to the banking group’s failure to earnestly address the task of eliminating the prevailing “vertical segmentation,” as there has been insufficient collaboration between leaders hailing from the three merged banks, a problem noted by analysts in the past.

Breaking down the old, home-centered mind-set of Mizuho is essential. The balancing act of allocating posts of its top management personnel affairs among those from the three former banks and the bad habit of avoiding interfering with each other must be brought to an end.

In line with the FSA’s instructions, Mizuho will introduce a management supervisory committee, the first to be set up in a megabank, and beef up management oversight by external directors. What is at stake is whether Mizuho can sweep away its stuffy management structure by introducing fresh faces from outside.

The Mizuho problem also shone the spotlight on the FSA’s methods of inspecting banking institutions. This is mainly because the watchdog’s regulators in the first round of inspections blindly accepted Mizuho’s explanations on the loans to gangsters, incurring criticism for their sloppy inspection methods.

To regain public trust, the FSA should improve its inspection techniques significantly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 30, 2013)
(2013年12月30日01時25分  読売新聞)

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2013回顧・世界 災害への同情と中国への不安

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 30, 2014
Natural disasters, China’s behavior catch public’s attention in 2013
2013回顧・世界 災害への同情と中国への不安(12月30日付・読売社説)

The top 10 international news items selected by Yomiuri Shimbun readers for 2013 indicate that many people are deeply concerned about natural disasters that occurred overseas this year and feel sympathy for their victims. This stands to reason, as this nation is still struggling to rehabilitate areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

A powerful typhoon that struck parts of the Philippines in November took first place on the list of this year’s 10 major world news reports. Typhoon Haiyan wrecked Leyte Island and other areas, leaving about 8,000 people dead or missing.

Ranked third was the meteorite that streaked across the sky above Russia’s Ural Mountains in February before fragments of the meteor fell to the ground. Video footage of the meteor’s speeding through the atmosphere was broadcast on TV, and many Yomiuri readers apparently were impressed with the ferocity of this extraordinary natural phenomenon.

China’s rise to international prominence has been evident in the number of important news items related to that country in 2013. The past year has generated even more news reports about China than in the past.

Xi Jinping’s elevation to the Chinese presidency in March was awarded fourth place. Backed by its own military muscle, the Chinese leadership has been high-handed in dealing with Japan. All this contributes to the even greater distrust felt by many Japanese toward that nation.

Today, China is confronted with a host of distortions that have accompanied its rapid economic growth, including widening disparities between the rich and the poor and deteriorating environmental conditions.

China’s worsening air pollution due to a high density of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) came in fifth place, indicating that many readers are deeply worried that China’s atmospheric pollution could affect this country.

December brought a stunning report that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been purged as vice chairman of the country’s top military body, the National Defense Commission. This was followed by the astounding news that Jang, long considered the No. 2 power in Kim’s regime, had been executed. The incident was added as an extra to the top 10 list.

A purge and a prince

North Korea will remain an element of regional instability, given that the reclusive state seeks to set up an even stronger dictatorship through a reign of terror and continues to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.

The start of U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term in January took ninth place. However, Obama has not made much administrative progress this year, as shown by the numerous difficulties he experienced in dealing with external and domestic affairs.

The disclosures by Edward Snowden, a former employee of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, ranked eighth. Snowden, now a suspect in intelligence leakage and other cases, exposed a wide range of wiretapping activities by U.S. intelligence services both at home and overseas. Cited by him as the target of U.S. eavesdropping, some European countries have expressed strong anger at the U.S. administration.

The affair has also drawn condemnation from Americans, and Obama is under pressure to reexamine the methods used by his country’s intelligence services to gather information.

In early October, the U.S. government staggered into a partial shutdown due to a deadlock between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-controlled Senate over the federal budget, an incident that came in 13th.

One of the top 10 news items warmed people’s hearts: In July, Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate, welcomed a son they named George. The birth of the royal couple’s first son was awarded second place.

In seventh place was the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in April at the age of 87. Thatcher deserves credit for her successful efforts to revitalize her country’s battered economy during her 11 years in office. In December came news of the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, an antiapartheid icon who dedicated himself to achieving unity among all races in his country. The achievements of these two political leaders continue to inspire and influence people around the world today.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 30, 2013)
(2013年12月30日01時25分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月30日 (月)

2013回顧・日本 「五輪」「富士山」に希望がわいた

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 29, 2013
Successful Olympics bid, Mt. Fuji designation bright spots in 2013
2013回顧・日本 「五輪」「富士山」に希望がわいた(12月29日付・読売社説)

Apparently indicating the high hopes many people have for Olympic Games seven years ahead, readers of The Yomiuri Shimbun awarded first place on the list of “Japan’s top 10 news stories” this year to Tokyo winning the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

This means 56 years will have elapsed since Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964.

The 1964 Olympiad served as a key factor behind the nation’s high economic growth. The coming Games are expected to act as a catalyst for this country’s reinvigoration. Every possible effort should be made to ensure that the Summer Games and Paralympics are successful.

With Naoki Inose being forced to resign as governor of Tokyo over his receipt of a dubious ¥50 million loan—16th on the domestic news list—personnel affairs concerning the organizing committee of the Games and progress on relevant matters have been left up in the air. It is extremely important for all quarters concerned to carry out concerted efforts to make the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics successful.

The initial design for the new National Athletic Stadium, the main venue of the Games’ competitions, is scheduled to be scaled down after the original plan came under criticism for being extravagant. It is essential to construct new facilities and refurbish existing ones for the Games without wasteful spending.

Second on the list of top 10 news items was UNESCO recognition of Mt. Fuji as a cultural World Heritage site. All components of cultural heritage relating to Mt. Fuji, including the Miho no Matsubara coastline in Shizuoka Prefecture, have been certified as “treasures of the world.”

The beauty of Mt. Fuji and its environs must be left intact for posterity. Regulations were tightened in summer this year on car traffic in the Mt. Fuji area and a fee was experimentally levied on people who wanted to climb the sacred peak. Further endeavors should be made for the environmental conservation of the country’s loftiest mountain and its vicinity.

Many challenges ahead

In pro baseball, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles’ victory in the Japan Series for the first time placed fourth in the list, while the unbroken winning streak by Rakuten pitcher Masahiro Tanaka ranked eighth.

The triumph of Rakuten gave a great deal of encouragement to victims in the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, as its home ground is in Sendai. Tanaka, who was the major driving force of Rakuten capturing the highest accolade in Japan’s pro baseball world, is just entering negotiations on moving to a U.S. Major League Baseball team. We hope to see Tanaka performing brilliantly in the United States.

The news that baseball legends Shigeo Nagashima and Hideki Matsui received the People’s Honor Award from the government ranked fifth on the list.

Nagashima has made great contributions to developing professional baseball into Japan’s national sport. Matsui, a former slugger for the Yomiuri Giants and the New York Yankees, thrilled baseball fans with his huge home runs.

The scene of Nagashima and his disciple Matsui in Giants’ uniforms performing in an opening pitch ceremony in celebration of their winning of the People’s Honor Award must have engraved itself deeply in people’s memories.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s success in ending the divided Diet after the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito garnered a majority of seats in the House of Councillors election in July placed third on the top 10 list. This achievement was conducive to increasing the Abe Cabinet’s stability.

On the other hand, Japan faces many challenges.

The decision to raise the consumption tax to 8 percent, which will be put into force in April, placed seventh. Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade liberalization, ranked ninth, are destined to continue next year after failing to be concluded this year.

It is imperative for the government to ensure that the signs of business pickup thanks to the Abe administration’s Abenomics package of economic policies will lead to full-fledged recovery of the nation’s business activities. We strongly hope 2014 will prove to be a year when we can really feel the economy rejuvenating.

A number of natural calamities occurred this year, such as mudslides on Izu-Oshima Island, sixth on the list.

We must keep up our guard against disasters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 29, 2013)
(2013年12月29日01時22分  読売新聞)

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参院1票の格差 国会に抜本改革迫る高裁判決

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 29, 2013
High court rulings demand drastic reform of nation’s election system
参院1票の格差 国会に抜本改革迫る高裁判決(12月29日付・読売社説)

Thurday’s ruling at the Akia branch of the Sendai High Court marked the last in a series of 16 lawsuits filed around the country by two groups of lawyers seeking to invalidate the results of the House of Councillors election in July, which had a maximum vote-value disparity of 4.77-1. We think most of the high courts and their branches made reasonable judgments on the issue.

The courts and their branches ruled in 13 of the suits that the upper house election was “in a state of unconstitutionality” and in three cases that the election was unconstitutional. But only the Hiroshima High Court’s Okayama branch, in a case challenging results in the Okayama prefectural constituencies, irresponsibly ruled the election results should be nullified.

In November, the Supreme Court ruled that the House of Representatives election last year was in a state of unconstitutionality but stressed that not only how long the vote-value disparity was left unaddressed but also what measures would be needed to correct it should be comprehensively considered in handing down a ruling.

Of course, the situations of the upper and lower houses are different, but the recent series of rulings by the high courts that the upper house election was in a state of unconstitutionality are apparently based on the Supreme Court’s view.

Many high courts have recognized it takes some time to drastically review the upper house election system and concluded that the time needed to correct the vote-value disparity has not yet run out. This is a pragmatic judgment that duly considered the discretion of the legislative body.

Some high courts gave certain credit to a measure taken by the Diet before the upper house election to add four seats in densely populated constituencies and cut four seats in less populated constituencies.

The high court rulings on the lower house election last year were much tougher. High courts said in two cases that the lower house election was in a state of unconstituionality and that in 14 cases it was unconstitutional.

The ratio of “in a state of constitutionality” to “unconstitutional” is almost the opposite this time because the courts have apparently taken into consideration higher hurdles at the upper house for reapportionment. As half of the seats in the upper house are up for reelection every three years, at least two seats must be allotted to every constituency. It also would not be easy to rezone constituencies since prefectures are currently used as constituency units.

Additional clause is key

Many recent high court rulings have emphasized an additional clause in the revised Public Offices Election Law that stipulates the addition of four seats and reduction of four seats. The additional clause stipulates that results of the drastic reform must be achieved by the next upper house election in 2016. The rulings demand realization of this stipulation.

The Diet must keep this in mind. In appeal hearings, the Supreme Court is highly likely to emphasize the additional clause.

Parties with members in the upper house have already begun discussions on electoral system reform, aiming to hold the next upper house election under a new system.

For instance, Takeo Nishioka, former president of the upper house, had proposed dividing the nation into nine proportional representation blocs but revised this later to nine multiple-seat large constituencies.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan once proposed merging neighboring prefectures with small populations into one constituency. Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party voiced support for the idea.

Both ideas have advantages for correcting the vote-value disparity easily. The Diet should work on the electoral system reform based on the these ideas. In the process, it should be remembered that the system must not lead to creation of too many parties and must also be able to consolidate the voters’ opinions.

If there are too many parties in the upper house, a ruling party that won a lower house election—a poll in which voters choose which party will take office—will have difficulties winning a majority in the upper house. We must avoid an election system that is likely to create division of the Diet, which would make an administration unstable.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 29, 2013)
(2013年12月29日01時22分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月29日 (日)

辺野古移設承認 日米同盟強化へ重要な前進だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 28, 2013
Nakaima’s approval on Henoko to reinforce Japan-U.S. alliance
辺野古移設承認 日米同盟強化へ重要な前進だ(12月28日付・読売社説)


It was an important advance toward solving the issue of relocating the functions of Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, which has faced various twists and turns since Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 on the return of the air station’s site to Japan.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima has approved the central government’s request to carry out a land reclamation project in publicly owned waters off the Henoko district in Nago in the prefecture, a necessary step for ultimately relocating the air station to the district.

The Futenma issue has been the biggest pending issue between the two countries for the last 17 years. A huge amount of time and energy has been devoted to it. The problem can be likened to a difficult simultaneous equation, in which many parties such as the Japanese and U.S. governments, Okinawa Prefecture, the city of Nago and the U.S. military have complicated circumstances.

Resolving this difficult issue without nullifying the past laborious efforts will have the highly significant effect of making the bilateral alliance stronger and more sustainable at a time when Japan’s security environment has been worsening.

Okinawa Gov.’s determination

It seems Nakaima finally decided to bite the bullet.

At first he conditionally supported the Henoko relocation, but he had to raise “relocation outside the prefecture” as an election campaign pledge when running for a second term since Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan inflamed prefectural citizens’ expectations in an irresponsible manner during his 2009-10 administration, calling for “relocation at least outside the prefecture.”

However, it is crystal clear that the dangerous situation of Futenma Air Station, located in a densely populated area, would persist for a long time if the reclamation request was not approved.

During a press conference Friday, Nakaima said he judged that the government’s measures, including those to preserve the environment, “meet the standards [under the law]” for reasons of his approval. But he also emphasized, “My view that relocation of the air station outside the prefecture would be faster has not changed.”

The issue of bases in Okinawa Prefecture always involves conflicting approaches—whether to aim at drastic removal of bases or to promote a gradual reduction of base-hosting burdens. We praise Nakaima’s decision as a practical choice, giving top priority to steady reduction of the burden.

The Henoko relocation plan itself is significant, as it will remove a huge airfield from the densely populated area to a sparsely populated district. In addition, it will have the secondary effect of promoting the transfer of U.S. marines stationed in the prefecture to Guam. The relocation will consequently result in a major reduction in the base-hosting burden for the entire prefecture, leading to economic development of the prefecture as well.

The prefectural governor’s brave decision has been criticized by those opposing the Henoko relocation plan, but we are sure even such people will highly evaluate his decision in the future.

Abe takes a risk

We also praise the efforts of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which created conditions to facilitate Nakaima’s decision.

It listed a number of measures to ease Okinawa Prefecture’s burden in hosting many U.S. bases. These included advancing the deadline for returning land used by Futenma Air Station and the Makiminato Service Area to the prefecture, the transfer of military training activities to various locations outside the prefecture and the start of negotiations on a new Japan-U.S. agreement concerning on-site environmental surveys by Japanese authorities on the U.S. bases.

The planned return of Futenma Air Station, targeted for fiscal 2022 at the earliest, was the result of arduous negotiations between Japan and the United States. It will not be easy to advance this timetable as requested by the governor, but Tokyo and Washington should make utmost efforts to do so.

Concerning the issue of moving the training areas for MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft outside Okinawa Prefecture, the local governments concerned are urged to offer cooperation proactively to share the burdens now heavily shouldered by the prefecture.

Washington had been wary about revising the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, but agreed to enter negotiations on a new agreement that would supplement the SOFA. Environmental surveys of U.S. bases ahead of their return are expected to aid the eventual utilization of their sites. Efforts must be made to work out an agreement under which surveys can be started as early as possible.

As measures to promote the development of Okinawa Prefecture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to secure a budget of the ¥300 billion level annually up until fiscal 2021, in addition to making an additional allocation in the fiscal 2014 budget, thus showing maximum consideration to the prefecture. For promotion of the prefecture’s northern areas, ¥5 billion will be earmarked every year.

With state finances in dire straits, these funds represent exceptionally preferential treatment for the prefecture. But it is an unavoidable step to break the stalemate on the Futenma relocation issue. If the DPJ-led government had not put the issue on such a serpentine path, the people of the nation would not have to bear such a huge expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

The Abe administration was able to obtain the prefecture’s approval on the Futenma relocation plan largely because it consistently worked toward building a relationship of trust with Nakaima even at the political risk of the prefecture’s disapproval. That is why the governor became willing to face criticism from the local people.

Abe must make all-out efforts to secure the continuing deterrent effect of the U.S. military presence in Japan while also reducing burdens on Okinawa and continuing to nurture the relationship of trust with the governor.

Secure local support

There is another hurdle to clear before the transfer of Futenma to the Henoko district in Nago can be realized.

A Nago mayoral election, set for Jan. 19, is likely to be a one-on-one competition between the incumbent opposing the relocation plan and a former prefectural assemblyman approving it.

A former mayor has withdrawn his candidacy, leaving the former assemblyman the only candidate representing the camp approving the relocation plan. But it remains to be seen which side will emerge victorious.

A scenario in which a local election influences the future course of national security must be avoided. In this sense, too, it was appropriate that Nakaima announced his approval of the relocation plan before the end of the year and ahead of the election date.

The Nago mayor is not authorized to cancel the relocation plan. But naturally it is desirable to secure the mayor’s cooperation if projects to construct substitute facilities are to be implemented more smoothly.

The government and ruling parties must make continued efforts to obtain understanding on the relocation plan from a wider spectrum of local people while explaining the significance and benefits of the relocation to Henoko in minute detail.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 28, 2013)
(2013年12月28日01時32分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月28日 (土)



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making rice



White Champaka





Coccinia grandis (Cucurbitaceae)



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首相靖国参拝 外交立て直しに全力を挙げよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 27, 2013
Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine must be followed by diplomatic rebuilding
首相靖国参拝 外交立て直しに全力を挙げよ (12月27日付・読売社説)


In what could be called a “lightning shrine visit,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a surprise visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday, raising the question of why he took such an action at this particular point in time. A number of other questions should also be asked, including what resolve and preparations were in his mind in making this visit to the shrine.

Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Thursday morning, on the first anniversary of the launch of the current Abe administration. It was his first visit since he assumed the top post of the government and the first visit to the war-related shrine by a sitting prime minister since then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi went there on Aug. 15, 2006.

Regarding his inability to visit Yasukuni during the first Abe Cabinet in 2006-07, Abe is repeatedly on record as saying, “It was a matter of deepest regret.” Thursday’s visit can be said to be the fulfillment of a personal, long-cherished desire of the prime minister.

U.S. ‘disappointed’

Abe refrained from visiting the shrine earlier this year on Aug. 15, the day marking the end of World War II, and during the shrine’s spring and autumn festivals. Instead, he only sent offerings of masakaki sacred tree stands and made monetary offerings called tamagushi-ryo.

His decisions on those occasions may have been based on a broad perspective that a visit to Yasukuni would worsen Japan’s already strained relations with China and South Korea, which see Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s militarism, a step inadvisable from a diplomatic point of view.

The United States was also concerned that a visit to the shrine by the prime minister could heighten Tokyo’s tensions with Beijing and Seoul.

On their trip to Japan in October, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel laid flowers at Tokyo’s Chidorigafuchi cemetery for the remains of unidentified Japanese who died overseas during World War II. This is believed to have been an attempt to dissuade Abe from making a Yasukuni visit.

We are especially concerned that the United States, in the wake of Abe’s visit to the shrine, has released an extraordinary statement saying that Washington “is disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors.”

Was this a miscalculation by Abe, who has placed top priority on the United States in his diplomatic policies?

China has unilaterally declared an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, heightening tension in the relations between Japan and China. China may beef up its offensive stance over the territorial sovereignty issue of the Senkaku Islands.

Japan, in tandem with its ally the United States, must continue acting resolutely in defense of the integrity of the nation’s territorial land and sea.

We cannot help but wonder whether Abe, at this highly sensitive time, has personally created a destabilizing factor for his administration by visiting Yasukuni Shrine.

Some of the prime minister’s close aides reportedly prodded Abe to make a Yasukuni visit, saying China and South Korea have criticized Japan even though Abe had not gone there. The situation would remain unchanged even if the prime minister visited Yasukuni, they reportedly told him.

If Abe came to that conclusion as a result of his failure to find a way to improve relations with China and South Korea, we cannot help but feel that is regrettable.

New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi opposed the visit when Abe phoned him immediately before his visit to the shrine, saying bluntly, “I cannot support that.” After Abe’s visit, Yamaguchi said, “As the prime minister presumably acted knowing there would be adverse reactions from both China and South Korea, the prime minister should personally make efforts to ameliorate the situation.”

Abe must do his utmost to rebuild the nation’s diplomacy, which has been marred because of his visit to Yasukuni.

Abuse by China, ROK

Regarding his Yasukuni visit, Abe said he chose that day “to report the progress of the first year of my administration and convey my resolve to build an era in which the people will never again suffer the ravages of war.” In regard to China and South Korea, Abe said, “I would like to explain this feeling of mine to them directly.”

Rather than lending an ear to Abe’s statement, China and South Korea have begun to use his Yasukuni visit as material to back their claim that Japan is drifting to the right.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement that Abe’s visit “infringed on the national sentiment of war-victimized countries and defied the justice of history.” The South Korean government also criticized the visit, saying it was “an anachronistic act that would harm the stability and cooperation of Northeast Asia from its very foundation.”

Their misunderstanding and distortions are excessive.

Japan has pursued the path of a pacifist nation in the postwar period while upholding the principles of freedom and democracy. It is missing the mark for these two countries to ignore this point and criticize Abe’s Yasukuni visit.

In the first place, China and South Korea should be blamed for worsening relations with Japan by linking the issue of perceptions of history with political and diplomatic affairs.

Aside from the propriety of Abe’s Yasukuni visit, how the prime minister of one nation mourns its war dead is not a matter for interference from other nations.

Build nonreligious site

The predecessor of Yasukuni Shrine is Tokyo Shokonsha Shrine, which was built in 1869 to console the souls of soldiers from anti-Tokugawa Shogunate domains who died in civil wars to achieve the so-called Meiji Restoration. Samurai warriors in the late Tokugawa period, the war dead from the Sino-Japanese, Russo-Japanese and Showa wars are enshrined together at Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine, however, is not dedicated only to the war dead.

Behind the fact that worshipping at Yasukuni Shrine has become a political issue is the enshrinement there of former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and other so-called Class A war criminals who were sentenced to death at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, or Tokyo Trials.

Yasukuni Shrine has argued that it is impossible from a religious viewpoint to transfer enshrined souls elsewhere. But criticism of Class A criminals who led Japan into the Showa War is deep-seated, and there are still calls to move their souls to another place.

Abe stressed that he also visited Chinreisha Shrine, which is located on the premises of Yasukuni Shrine. Chinreisha is dedicated to the war dead killed worldwide—not only Japanese but also people of other countries—who are not enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine. If he gave such consideration, we believe he should have rather worshipped at Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery.

It is difficult even for the Emperor and foreign dignitaries to worship at Yasukuni Shrine as long as it stays in its current status. Measures must be studied to make it possible for everyone to worship without any reserve, centering on a plan to build a national memorial site with no religious affiliation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 27, 2013)
(2013年12月27日01時43分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月27日 (金)



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PKO弾薬提供 武器輸出の新原則策定を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 26, 2013
In intl crisis, govt must lay down new weapons-export principles
PKO弾薬提供 武器輸出の新原則策定を急げ(12月26日付・読売社説)

A country working to support nation-building efforts in Africa under rigorous conditions has every reason to help another country engaged in the same task, a duty that has been taken for granted internationally.

The Ground Self-Defense Force, now participating in a U.N. mission in South Sudan—officially called the U.N. Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS)—has provided South Korean forces with 10,000 bullets for rifles without asking for payment in exchange. The bullets were given via the UNMISS authorities. The GSDF’s bullet offer was the first of its kind to occur overseas.

Amid a rapid decline in the African country’s security situation, South Korean forces were working to protect the safety of about 15,000 refugees in their assigned area, surrounded by armed rebel groups.

It is clear the Japanese government had no option but to supply bullets to the South Korean forces. The action was needed from the standpoint of humanity and urgency, given that the lives of South Korean soldiers and local refugees were at risk.
Supplying the bullets was essential for supporting the global significance of U.N. peacekeeping operations. No participants in the UNMISS mission except the GSDF were carrying bullets that could be used for rifles carried by South Korean soldiers.

South Korean forces telephoned the GSDF unit and expressed their gratitude for the bullets.

There may be cases in which the GSDF asks other nations to support its forces or come to its rescue. Making steady efforts to extend assistance comparable to the recent case of supplying bullets and increasing cooperation with foreign forces will ensure the security of GSDF personnel operating overseas.

Regarding the U.N. Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law, which was the subject of questions during Diet sessions, the government has long said it does not expect requests from other nations to provide weapons and ammunition, and that if such a request were to be filed, it would reject the request. This line of reasoning apparently reflects the fact that it is extremely unusual for Japan to be asked by any other country to supply weapons and ammunition, even if it is a request that could affect the survival of the requesting nation’s forces.

Civilian control effective

In deciding on the bullet offer, the government held a meeting of four relevant Cabinet members under the National Security Council and a Cabinet conference. In these meetings, the government concluded the bullet supply would be treated as an exception to its three rules on arms exports and its official interpretation of the peace cooperation law.

Given the lack of procedural defects in the latest decision, it is safe to say our nation’s principle of civilian control has fulfilled its purpose.

In 2011, the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda relaxed the principles regarding arms exports, thus making it possible to offer weapons for peace-building and international cooperation purposes. However, the offer of arms was limited to foreign governments, meaning such institutions as the UNMISS authorities were not included in the list of organs to which our country would supply arms.

The government is currently considering fundamentally reexamining the three principles. Taking the recent bullet supply into consideration, the government should lay down a new set of flexible and realistic principles as quickly as possible.

With the deterioration of the South Sudanese situation in mind, the U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution to shore up the UNMISS mission to better protect the safety of local residents. About 6,000 staff will be sent to South Sudan, where they will be united with about 7,500 military and police personnel already deployed there.

It is imperative the U.N. resolution be implemented as promptly as possible, to resolve the South Sudanese situation.

About 30 months after its independence, South Sudan is on the brink of a civil war, as a conflict between its president and former vice president has grown into a tribal conflict. International engagement is essential for preventing the conflict from degenerating into civil war.

The United States has begun to intermediate between the warring parties with the aim of seeking a solution to the problem through dialogue.

Japan should contribute to the international peace initiative in South Sudan, a task that should be carried out with close attention to the safety of GSDF personnel operating in that country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 26, 2013)
(2013年12月26日01時32分  読売新聞)

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徳洲会事件起訴 徳田議員に問われる説明責任

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 26, 2013
Lawmaker Tokuda needs to explain the provision of ¥50 mil. to Inose
徳洲会事件起訴 徳田議員に問われる説明責任(12月26日付・読売社説)

One chapter in the investigation into allegations of election fraud involving the Tokushukai hospital group has come to an end. Yet suspicions over the group’s provision of ¥50 million in cash to former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose have not yet been cleared up.

A thorough elucidation of this matter is necessary.

In connection with the alleged election irregularities by Toku-shukai, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad has indicted six people—including the mother and a sister of House of Representatives member Takeshi Tokuda and senior officials of Tokushukai—over allegations of violating the Public Offices Election Law.

The six allegedly gave money to senior officials of Tokushukai and others for the purpose of securing votes for Tokuda in the lower house election last December. The funds are believed to have gone to senior election campaign members in Kagoshima Constituency No. 2, Tokuda’s electoral district.

Tokushukai is said to have spent more than ¥200 million to buy votes in this fraud. It is quite surprising that such a large-scale illegality went unchallenged.

The special squad suspects that the unlawful act was led by Torao Tokuda, a former lower house member and Takeshi Tokuda’s father, whom the prosecutors did not indict because of his serious illness.

Tokushukai cannot help but be suspected of perpetrating election fraud in its entire organization from the time when its group founder Torao was a lawmaker.

Diet seat at risk

Takeshi’s second oldest sister has admitted to allegations that the Tokuda family was at the center of the election irregularities. Takeshi has reportedly denied involvement in the election fraud during questioning by the special squad, but due to the guilt-by-complicity system in the election law, he is increasingly likely to lose his Diet seat.

Under the guilt-by-complicity system, an elected official may lose his or her seat if family members or campaign managers are found to have broken the law, when a sentence of imprisonment or a financial penalty is finalized by the court.

The focus of the investigation is now expected to shift to the provision of the ¥50 million.

Although Inose has said he received the ¥50 million as a “personal loan” from Tokushukai, his words were not convincing and he was eventually driven to resign.

Takeshi, who reportedly handed the money over to Inose, has seldom appeared in public since he left the Liberal Democratic Party last month.

Takeshi has to fulfill his responsibility to explain to the voters, as a concerned party, about whether the ¥50 million was intended as election campaign funds for Inose.

Deepening the suspicions in connection with the relationship between Tokushukai and Inose is the issue of a hospital in Tokyo run by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

When Inose visited Torao at the hospital to ask for his campaign support last November, shortly before the Tokyo gubernatorial election, the topic of selling off TEPCO’s hospital reportedly came up.

Tokushukai participated in competitive bidding to take over the hospital but withdrew its bid after it became subject to an investigation by the special squad in September.

How much did Takeshi know about the sell-off of the TEPCO hospital? The special squad has to elucidate the whole matter by going ahead with its questioning of Inose, while also questioning Takeshi over the issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 26, 2013)
(2013年12月26日01時32分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月26日 (木)



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天皇陛下80歳 公務の負担軽減を検討したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 23, 2013
As Emperor turns 80, it’s time to consider trimming his duties
天皇陛下80歳 公務の負担軽減を検討したい(12月23日付・読売社説)

The Emperor has marked his 80th birthday.

On this occasion, we express our heartfelt congratulations to the Emperor for reaching this milestone while being hale and hearty.

In February last year, the Emperor underwent coronary artery bypass surgery. His recovery has gone as scheduled. The Emperor currently performs official duties at the same pace as he did before the operation.

The day before his 80th birthday on Monday, the Emperor said at a news conference in the Imperial Palace, “While coming to terms with certain constraints due to my advancing age, I would like to continue playing my role as much as possible.”

Referring to his official duties, he said, “I wish to maintain my current pace, at least for a while.” This suggests he is rather negative about any move to reduce his official duties on health grounds.

This is presumably because the Emperor, with his best wishes for the happiness of the people, still feels a strong sense of responsibility to continue moving forward with the populace.

Accompanied by the Empress, the Emperor visited such places this year as areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and Minamata, the city in Kumamoto Prefecture that has become known for the mercury-poisoning disease with the same name. The Imperial couple also followed a tight schedule on their recent official visit to India.

Many people want the Emperor to be able to continue to engage in his official duties in good health. For this very reason, however, we believe the burden placed on the Emperor should not be excessive.

The Imperial Household Agency should examine how to reduce the load shouldered by the Emperor, perhaps by handing some of his duties to Imperial family members including Crown Prince Naruhito and his younger brother, Prince Akishino.

Adhering to Constitution

The Emperor’s stance of always giving consideration to the people is also represented by his views on his funeral and mausoleum.

In November, the Imperial Household Agency announced that the Emperor plans to be cremated, rather than be buried as has been tradition for emperors since the Edo period, and scale down his mausoleum compared to those of the Emperor’s predecessors.

These plans fit snugly with the wishes of the Emperor and Empress not to impose an onerous burden on the people in regard to the construction of their mausoleums and their funerals. These decisions can be said to reflect the desire of the Emperor, who has been committed to ensuring the Imperial family can meet the changes of the times while keeping the essence of royal tradition intact.

During the news conference, a question was asked about the relationship between the Imperial family and politics.

Some media outlets were outraged that Princess Hisako of Takamado attended the general session of the International Olympic Committee in September that chose Tokyo as host city of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games.

In reply to the question, the Emperor said when he faces a thorny question, “I have made it a rule to seek the opinions of the Imperial Household Agency director general and the agency’s councillors.”

This statement was intended to emphasize afresh his position of adhering closely to Article 4 of the Constitution, which stipulates the Emperor “shall not have powers related to government.”

At the IOC session, Princess Hisako only expressed Japan’s gratitude for such things as support extended from many nations after the Great East Japan Earthquake. She refrained from making any direct reference to Tokyo’s Games bid. Some media said her speech amounted to “using the Imperial family for political purposes.” It was nothing of the sort.

This issue must not be allowed to bother the Emperor any further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 23, 2013)
(2013年12月23日01時25分  読売新聞)

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14年度予算案 景気重視で消費増税乗り切れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 25, 2013
Fiscal 2014 budget must be utilized to weather consumption tax hike
14年度予算案 景気重視で消費増税乗り切れ(12月25日付・読売社説)

The government must do its utmost to strengthen economic growth to prevent the economy from stalling when the consumption tax rate is increased to 8 percent in April.

On Tuesday, the government adopted a budget for fiscal 2014. The general-account budget, which will be spent in most policy fields and for interest payments on government bonds, has swollen to a record ¥95.9 trillion, up 3.5 percent from the initial budget for fiscal 2013.

Regarding the fiscal 2014 budget and the ¥5.5 trillion supplementary budget for fiscal 2013 as a seamless 15-month budget, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “We’d like to have the economic recovery spread throughout the country, leading to vigorous economic growth.”

Social security reform urged

Thanks to the positive effects of Abenomics, the economic policy championed by the Abe administration, economic recovery has become more apparent. However, we cannot be overly optimistic about the future. It is therefore appropriate for the government to have compiled a large-scale budget emphasizing stimulation of the economy.

Due to the consumption tax hike and economic pickup, the government has projected tax revenues will increase by about ¥7 trillion to ¥50 trillion, allowing it to relax fiscal discipline. As a result, the government has not bothered to drastically review the rigid expenditure structure.

It appears that the difficulty of both realizing economic rejuvenation and restoring fiscal health, which Abe is aiming at, has been brought to the fore once again.

Symbolic of this is social security spending—the largest outlay—which has topped the ¥30 trillion mark for the first time.

Natural increases in health care and nursing care expenses alone have reached more than ¥600 billion. Obviously, spending cuts were woefully inadequate.

In line with the aging society, social security expenses are projected to continue to increase by about ¥1 trillion annually. To allay public anxiety about the future, it is necessary to expedite reform to create a sustainable social security system.

It also will be necessary for the government to study the possibility of lowering pension benefits, while at the same time making efforts to hold down health care expenses through the promotion of inexpensive generic drugs and other measures.

Spending on public works totals a little less than ¥6 trillion, up 2 percent in real terms. But when it is combined with the ¥1 trillion outlay included as advance spending in the 2013 supplementary budget, the expenditure represents a significant year-on-year increase.

There has been an increase in cases in which bidding for public works projects has failed, primarily because of soaring material prices and a shortage of manpower. Some experts have said the effect of such projects on stimulating the overall economy has become weaker.

The government should reduce the list of public works projects and concentrate on those most urgently needed, thereby smoothly implementing such projects and increasing their effectiveness.

The government has incorporated in the 2014 budget a ¥1.9 trillion outlay earmarked as a “budget to promote priority issues,” including measures to promote science and technology, as part of its efforts to strengthen the foundation of the nation’s economic growth.

We hope the government will tackle projects deemed highly effective, thus accelerating its growth strategy, together with the promotion of regulatory reforms.

The new budget also entails large funding for projects related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Spending includes a sharp increase in sports-related appropriations, as well as expenditures for improving highways and other transportation networks in Tokyo and neighboring areas.

However, measures must be taken to prevent wasteful spending, such as in the form of appropriations for massive construction plans for athletic facilities.

Large defense outlay

The budget incorporates a second consecutive yearly increase in defense spending, largely in consideration of China’s increased maritime activities and North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats in recent years. Given the deterioration in Japan’s current national security environment, the government has every reason to increase expenditures to improve vigilance and surveillance activities by the Self-Defense Forces.

Another feature of the budget is unusual growth in appropriations for policies and projects designed to facilitate economic and other forms of advancement in Okinawa Prefecture. In finalizing the budget, the government has approved increases in excess of the amount requested by the Okinawa prefectural government. The government’s decision is apparently intended to create an environment to encourage the local government to approve an offshore reclamation project in the Henoko area of Nago. The prefectural government’s approval is essential to ensure progress in relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to Nago.

The budget will also increase funding for projects aimed at resolving problems arising from the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant. It is reasonable for the national government to play a proactive role in carrying out tasks needed to overcome the problems, including the decontamination of disaster-affected areas, a task that must be fulfilled by bearing its fair share of costs.

In making appropriations for agriculture-related policies, the new budget will do little to ensure funds are allotted where truly necessary and curtailed where possible.

Undoubtedly, the government has good reason for its reduction of subsidies to farming households that agree to curtail rice production. The move is intended to complement a government plan to scrap its rice production adjustment program based on acreage reductions five years later. This policy will target table-grade rice.

Meanwhile, though, the budget incorporates new measures comparable to previous grants-in-aid for farmers, including a subsidy system that the government has said will aim to preserve farmland and the environment. However, it should be noted that giving generous subsidies to all farming households will result in failure to improve agricultural productivity.

The budget entails the issuance of new government bonds worth ¥41.3 trillion, meaning the government will take on that amount of new debt next fiscal year. The figure represents a decrease of ¥1.6 trillion from the current fiscal year, reflecting an anticipated tax revenue hike.

This means that the degree of dependence on the sale of government bonds—namely, the ratio of government bond sales to total revenue—will likely decline to 43 percent from 46 percent in the current fiscal year.

Reliance on debt too great

The primary balance shortfall is expected to decline by about ¥5 trillion under the next budget, meaning that funding for government policies covered tax and other revenue will decline by that amount.

The government deserves credit for making some progress in achieving its target of halving the shortfalls by the end of fiscal 2015, compared with fiscal 2010.

However, the government’s reliance on debt for more than 40 percent of its revenue must be deemed to be extraordinary. Despite a drop in the value of new government bonds to be issued under the next budget, the total amount of government bond issuance will reach a record ¥182 trillion, including bonds previously issued to raise funds necessary for redeeming such bonds.

If prices continue to rise as a result of the economic recovery, it will likely lead to a rise in interest rates sooner or later, thus resulting in a sharp increase in interest payments on government bonds. It is imperative that the government realize that it must continue to walk a tightrope in fiscal management.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 25, 2013)
(2013年12月25日01時19分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月25日 (水)

虚偽表示対策 「食」の信頼回復につなげたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 24, 2013
Steps to prevent false food labeling should lead to recovery of trust
虚偽表示対策 「食」の信頼回復につなげたい(12月24日付・読売社説)

We hope the government’s latest step will help recover public trust in food products.

The government has compiled a series of measures to deal with a spate of false food descriptions and mislabeling recently found on restaurant menus at several well-known hotels and food sold at department stores.

The government will submit to the ordinary Diet session next year a bill to revise the Law for the Prevention of Unreasonable Premiums and Misrepresentation concerning Products and Services.

The main pillar of the revision is reinforcement of the food display monitoring system. Relevant ministries, including the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, will be authorized to investigate alleged breaches of the system. This change is necessary because there is a limit to how far the Consumer Affairs Agency can investigate since it has no local outposts.

Utilizing about 1,300 “food display investigators” of the agriculture ministry stationed across the country, it will be possible to efficiently monitor and detect any false labeling regarding a product’s place of origin.

Meanwhile, prefectural governments, which currently have the authority only to investigate and issue instructions to violators, will be empowered to issue orders to violators and impose penalties on them. Business operators that do not abide by these orders can be fined up to ¥300 million.

We hope the beefed-up system will deter operators from falsely describing their products.

Under the revision, business operators are obliged to stipulate who is in charge of food descriptions on their menus. We think it is appropriate that the revision aims to encourage operators to change their way of thinking by clarifying who is responsible for food descriptions.

The government will reportedly consider introducing a system under which violators pay penalties. Yet some observers have suggested that calculating these fines will be complex and time-consuming. Many skeptics doubt such stringent measures are necessary. Prudent discussion is required on this issue.

Many industries affected

After inaccurate food descriptions on restaurant menus at hotels operated by Hankyu-Hanshin Hotels Co., based in Osaka, came to light in October, such misrepresentations were also found to be widespread among other industries, such as department store operators and sake brewers.

According to the Consumer Affairs Agency, 307 business operators have admitted to the government that they falsely described some of their products.

The agency has ordered three companies, including Hankyu-Hanshin Hotels, to work out corrective measures concerning food product misrepresentation.

The widespread falsifications stem from a lack of morals on the part of business operators and their apparent lack of understanding of the law.

The agency will soon draw up guidelines showing specific examples of false displays and other infractions. Utilizing these guidelines, the relevant ministries must spare no effort to ensure business operators under their jurisdiction know how to properly label products.

Business operators that betray consumers’ trust will be subject to public criticism and punished socially through falling sales and a tarnished brand image. This was the main lesson to be learned from the latest series of false food descriptions.

Hotels and department stores have started to exercise more care regarding accurate food labeling at their own initiative, such as by reinforcing checks on food descriptions on their menus and holding lectures on the law concerning food product displays.

Over the New Year’s holidays, many people buy more food and eat out at restaurants more often than usual. We urge business operators to once again check whether any inappropriate food descriptions might have slipped through the cracks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2013)
(2013年12月24日01時42分  読売新聞)

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国の権限移譲 地方の意志と能力も試される

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 24, 2013
Local governments’ will, capabilities tested in transfer of state authority
国の権限移譲 地方の意志と能力も試される(12月24日付・読売社説)

It is essential to revitalize regional areas by eliminating the waste caused by dual administration of central and local governments and work out innovative measures to utilize the individuality and characteristics of each region.

The government has decided to transfer 48 types of clerical work and authority, including the expansion and management of national roads and first-class rivers under its direct control, to prefectures. It also plans to reexamine 18 clerical items, including provision of HelloWork’s job information.

It will submit related bills to the ordinary Diet session convening early next year to realize these goals.

The transfer of authority on national roads and rivers has been left pending since the Council for Decentralization Reform, an advisory panel of the Cabinet Office, recommended this action in 2008. However, the Democratic Party of Japan-led government then came up with a wild scheme of “abolishing in principle” local agencies of the central government, thereby adding a serpentine dimension to discussions on decentralization. But the issue was eventually resolved with realistic measures worked out by the Liberal Democratic Party-led administration.

Administration of some sections of national roads and first-class rivers has already been transferred to prefectures. It is unreasonable to assert that administration can only be carried out by the central government. Coherent town building may be possible by integrated expansion and administration of national roads and connected local roads.

It was appropriate for the government to work out measures to secure fiscal resources, including one allocating local tax grants to finance maintenance and management costs incurred by prefectural governments. Decentralization will not make much headway without securing such fiscal resources.

2-way shift possible

It also will be possible depending on the situation to transfer authority over roads and rivers under the control of local governments to the central government.

Recent years have seen flood damage caused by heavy rain in various parts of the country. In some of these disasters, small municipalities found it difficult to take adequate crisis-management measures for rivers. The central government’s role in times of disaster was recognized anew following the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accompanying huge task of reconstruction.

Transferring authority in this manner is reasonable, rather than calling for the uniform transfer of authority to local governments.

Noteworthy is a system for handling registration and clerical work to audit nonprofit organizations that will provide paid-for transport services to replace taxis and buses in underpopulated areas.

Clerical work will be transferred to municipalities that apply for the system. If they are reluctant to do this, such work will be transferred to prefectures willing to do so.

Thus, municipalities will be asked whether they want to undertake new clerical work or are capable of doing so and to make decisions on their own initiative. This formula can be applied to the transfer of other kinds of clerical work and authority to local governments.

It also has been decided to move 29 types of clerical work and authority, including a decision on standards for the composition of primary and middle school classes, to government-designated major cities. These cities will be required to bear the financial burden of paying schoolteachers and administrative personnel, but they will be able to exercise a wider range of discretionary powers, including whether to form small classes.

It is indispensable for the government, prefectures and municipalities to continue studying how to divide the various roles to promote practical decentralization.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2013)
(2013年12月24日01時42分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月24日 (火)



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line up
old (man)

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2013年12月22日 (日)

NHK新会長 偏りなき番組で責任を果たせ



The Yomiuri Shimbun December 21, 2013
New NHK president must promote impartiality, fairness in broadcasts
NHK新会長 偏りなき番組で責任を果たせ(12月21日付・読売社説)

We want NHK’s new president to fulfill his responsibility as the head of the public broadcasting corporation by promoting production of fair and neutral programs.

NHK’s Board of Governors has appointed Katsuto Momii to succeed Masayuki Matsumoto as the public broadcaster’s president. After serving as a vice president of Mitsui & Co., Momii has worked in various positions in the business world, including the post of president of Nihon Unisys Ltd., a major player in IT solutions services.

Momii is the third NHK president in a row from the private sector. He should effectively reform the public broadcaster by using the management abilities he cultivated when he worked with private companies.

Matsumoto can be credited with such reforms as lowering viewers’ fees and reducing wages for NHK employees.

However, compared with private broadcasters, NHK must do more to cut manpower and production costs. Momii should bring cost-consciousness home to all NHK employees to overhaul the bloated organization.

Viewers’ fees account for more than 90 percent of NHK’s revenue, but nearly 30 percent of viewers do not pay the fees.

Raising the fee collection rate will be necessary to help alleviate the people’s sense of unfairness.

Legal compliance is also an important challenge for the new president. NHK’s Science and Technology Research Laboratories was hit by a scandal concerning fictitious orders this autumn. Serious irregularities such as insider trading have been rife in NHK.

Enhance awareness

It is essential to enhance employees’ awareness and work toward preventing the recurrence of such incidents.

The political and business worlds have increasingly criticized NHK’s programs and reporting as biased, arguing that they took a negative stance in reporting on the maintenance and restart of nuclear power plants and the deployment of new U.S. Osprey military transport aircraft. This could also be a factor behind Matsumoto’s exit from the post of NHK president.

Also, in regard to reporting on the law on protecting specially-designated state secrets, it seems that NHK failed to present a diverse range of views, inviting mostly experts with negative views of the law as guest commentators on the matter.

Momii, who will assume the post to take ultimate responsibility for production of programs, should constantly take care to ensure program contents are impartial while attaching importance to presenting views in a balanced manner when the programs take up subjects on which opinion is divided.

NHK’s political neutrality is a major principle stipulated in the Broadcast Law. The relationship of trust with viewers and listeners should be built by providing unbiased programs.

Expanding and improving broadcasting for people overseas is also an urgent task. It will serve the national interest to actively broadcast programs about Japanese policies, culture and tourism resources overseas.

Momii will be pressed to craft an effective strategy to expand business in such fields as sales of programs to foreign cable television companies. High expectations will be placed on him in this regard because of his personal connections and the experience he accumulated working with a major trading house.

Focusing on technological innovations such as development of next-generation high-definition broadcasting, dubbed “8K,” and simultaneous provision of programs on the Internet is another mission facing the new president.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 21, 2013)
(2013年12月21日01時33分  読売新聞)

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診療報酬改定 制度維持へ実質下げは妥当だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 21, 2013
Govt acted reasonably in cutting medical treatment fees for FY14
診療報酬改定 制度維持へ実質下げは妥当だ(12月21日付・読売社説)

To maintain the social security system, it is indispensable to hold down medical expenses, which have continued to increase.

The government has thus decided to substantially decrease medical treatment fees, which go to medical institutions as income, by 1.26 percent for next fiscal year. This is the first reduction of such costs in six years.

When medical treatment costs increase, health insurance premiums and payments at medical institutions also rise. When coupled with next spring’s increase in the consumption tax rate, the increases in medical treatment costs will put a double strain on household finances.

Although the extent of the cut is not sufficient, we believe the government has acted reasonably in having settled the matter by substantially decreasing the medical treatment fees. The cut will likely curb negative effects on spending and business sentiment.

In terms of the medical fee structure, the main portion that includes a doctor’s technical fee was raised by 0.1 percent, while the “charge for medicine” category was lowered by 1.36 percent. The latter move reflected the actual trading prices of medicine.

Private hospitals last year posted a ¥76 million surplus on average, up from the previous year. Salaries of doctors working at hospitals have also increased. The government must have judged that it is increasingly unnecessary to raise medical treatment fees.

However, costs including the fee charged for a patient’s first visit were raised to supplement the greater financial burden medical institutions are expected to face due to the scheduled increase in the consumption tax rate. As a result, the medical treatment fee was raised by 0.1 percent in this main category, which should be considered inevitable.

Various efforts needed

The Liberal Democratic Party proposed increasing the medical treatment fees at the request of parties concerned, including the Japan Medical Association, which has called for improving labor conditions of doctors and mitigating the shortage of doctors. However, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry, both of which aim at keeping medical costs from rising, largely brushed off the request.

Indeed, labor conditions of doctors working at hospitals remain serious. At many hospitals, doctors routinely work long hours, including overnight, and conduct surgeries after their night duties.

However, the main cause of the lack of doctors is the uneven distribution of doctors, depending on treatment department and region. A major improvement in labor conditions of doctors cannot be expected by simply increasing the total amount of medical treatment fees.

The Central Social Insurance Medical Council, an advisory panel to the health minister, will discuss how to distribute medical treatment fees among various fields in the New Year.

It is important to intensively distribute health care reimbursements to the busiest departments, such as emergency medical service, pediatrics, obstetrics and surgery. It is also necessary to enhance treatment fees at hospitals, which face a more serious doctor shortage, rather than at small clinics.

Efforts must also be taken to cut wasteful medical expenses. There is a large margin for cuts in drug costs in particular.

Regarding drugs prescribed by doctors, the percentage of lower-priced generic medicine has been kept at about 40 percent. The use of generic drugs should be further promoted.

Also, the compounding fee for drugs available at pharmacies outside medical institutions is higher than that of the same drugs available at in-hospital pharmacies. This is one reason for the increase in the cost of prescription drugs. We hope this point is also swiftly addressed.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 21, 2013)
(2013年12月21日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月21日 (土)

「首都直下地震」 人命と国の中枢をどう守るか

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 20, 2013
Act to protect lives and govt center from major earthquake damage
「首都直下地震」 人命と国の中枢をどう守るか(12月20日付・読売社説)

Paralysis of the nation’s nerve center in a major earthquake is a worst-case scenario that must be prevented.

A panel of the government’s Central Disaster Management Council, which has been studying measures to deal with the aftermath of a major quake whose focus is directly below Tokyo, has compiled a report on the scale of a predicted temblor and the damage likely to be caused.

The predictions were made based on the assumption of a magnitude-7.3 earthquake occurring with its focus in southern central Tokyo. The panel has adopted this scenario because among the various quakes that might happen in Tokyo and its vicinity, there is a 70-percent possibility that a magnitude-7.3 quake will occur within 30 years and it would strike a direct blow to the nation’s nerve center.

The anticipated earthquake would cause shaking at an intensity of upper 6 on the Japanese scale of seven in central Tokyo, even reaching 7 in some areas. In the worst case, 610,000 buildings and houses are predicted to collapse and be destroyed by fire, causing about 23,000 deaths.

This reflects the fragility of a gigantic and overpopulated city. Countermeasures must be taken urgently.

Above all, fires are of serious concern. Fires are anticipated to break out in various places simultaneously and spread for about two days. It is feared that disaster victims will not be able to escape and will be engulfed by fire.

Streets will be swamped with people who have lost their homes or are unable to return home. Major roads will become unusable due to the debris while railways and other transport networks will be disrupted.

Losses of power, water and telephone connections may continue for about a week.

Disruption of official functions

Of special concern is that the Diet, the Prime Minister’s Office and government offices will cease to function. If central coordination and control are lost, the damage will be compounded.

Moreover, if the nerve center for economic activities is destroyed, production and distribution will stagnate, with a major impact across the nation. Economic damage is estimated to total about ¥95 trillion.


If the percentage of buildings in Tokyo equipped with earthquake resistance measures is enhanced from the current 87 percent to 94 percent, the death toll would be halved, according to calculations by the panel.

Regarding fires, if earthquake-sensing breakers, which stop power supply immediately upon sensing a temblor, were installed in every household to reduce the likelihood of fire, it is said that the fire death toll would drop by 90 percent.

The public and private sectors must cooperate in strengthening such immediately needed countermeasures.

The Cabinet Office, under which the disaster panel exists, has drafted a program to preserve government functions in the aftermath of a disaster, taking into account the panel’s compilation of disaster damage predictions.

The program calls for quickly grasping the damage situation to begin rescue and relief activities. It also points out the need to disseminate accurate information both at home and abroad and make all-out efforts to carry out emergency measures on such priority issues as financial stability and public safety. It will be necessary to clarify the roles to be played by the government ministries and agencies concerned so that measures can be implemented without fail.

A special law was enacted last month to accelerate countermeasures against an earthquake centered directly below Tokyo. Areas will be designated based on the law to accelerate the reinforcement of sewerage and other infrastructure systems with the joint efforts of the central and local governments. Projects must be promoted steadily on a priority basis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 20, 2013)
(2013年12月20日01時36分  読売新聞)

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猪瀬都知事辞職 東電病院問題にまで幕引くな

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 20, 2013
Inose’s resignation must not blur TEPCO hospital sell-off problem
猪瀬都知事辞職 東電病院問題にまで幕引くな(12月20日付・読売社説)

Naoki Inose’s announcement that he was stepping down as governor of Tokyo was inevitable, as the administration of the nation’s capital could not be run with a person at the helm who is mired in such enormous problems.

Inose expressed on Thursday his intention to resign as head of the Tokyo metropolitan government over his acceptance of ¥50 million from scandal-hit Tokushukai, the operator of a major chain of medical facilities.

In a news conference that day, Inose reiterated his assertion that the ¥50 million in question was a personal loan.

However, it is hard to reconcile this with the fact that the cash handover took place just ahead of Tokyo’s gubernatorial election in December 2012. The governor has the authority to approve the opening of new Tokushukai-run facilities, including hospitals, and can wield such powers as directing and supervising management.

It was clear from the start that Inose’s assertion would not hold up. He gave the impression of being driven into a corner by his haphazard string of excuses.

His statements about his actions the day he received the cash and where it was kept thereafter were inconsistent.

Shortly before the announcement of his intention to resign, suspicions emerged that he may have lied during a session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly about the sell-off of a hospital run by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

It is on record that Inose pressed TEPCO to sell the Tokyo hospital in question at a general meeting of the utility’s shareholders in June last year, while serving as vice governor of Tokyo. The metropolitan government is TEPCO’s largest shareholder.

Pile of unresolved problems

Tokushukai participated in competitive bidding to take over the hospital, but had to withdraw its bid after it became subject to an investigation by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad over election irregularities.

Ahead of his declaration that he would run in the Tokyo gubernatorial contest in 2012, Inose met with former House of Representatives member Torao Tokuda, Tokushukai’s founder.

In response to a question posed during the Dec. 6 metropolitan assembly session, Inose said he and Tokuda “did not say anything about the sell-off” of the TEPCO hospital. However, it subsequently emerged through the statements of people concerned that the two did exchange words about the sell-off.

Are we to believe that the delivery of cash two weeks after the Inose-Tokuda talks was unrelated to the sale of the TEPCO hospital?

Some of the documents about the hospital bid that the metropolitan government submitted to the metropolitan assembly at its request were entirely blacked out.

We should emphasize that none of the suspected irregularities involving Inose has been resolved. He would be gravely mistaken if he believes that his accountability has been fulfilled simply by quitting the top post of the Tokyo government.

The special investigators of the Tokyo public prosecutors office must pull out all the stops to uncover the details of the ¥50 million cash handover from Tokushukai to Inose, in addition to the office’s investigations into the hospital chain’s alleged violations of the Public Offices Election Law.

After winning the Tokyo gubernatorial election with 4.34 million votes, a record high for a Tokyo governor, Inose’s methods of steering the metropolitan government became high-handed and self-centered, as shown by such acts as suddenly announcing new policies at news conferences without prior explanations to the metropolitan assembly.

The way he placed a lopsidedly high priority on transmitting his own views via the Internet and other media, while being neglectful of building a relationship of mutual trust with the metropolitan assembly, which should have been of the greatest significance to him, diminished his character as a politician. This was made blatantly clear by his self-righteous responses to interpellations in the assembly over the dubious ¥50 million.

The top post of the nation’s capital requires a person who can properly run a range of related organizations. This should be a key consideration in electing Inose’s successor.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 20, 2013)
(2013年12月20日01時36分  読売新聞)

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原子力規制委 独善性を排する改革が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 19, 2013
NRA must urgently reform itself to eliminate self-righteous tendencies
原子力規制委 独善性を排する改革が急務だ(12月19日付・読売社説)

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is now being tested as to whether it is qualified to make fair, scientific judgments on the safety of nuclear facilities.

Japan’s nuclear regulatory panel has at long last started considering the creation of expert bodies as required under the NRA establishment law: a nuclear reactor safety examination committee, a nuclear fuel safety examination committee and a radiation council. These bodies are indispensable to making professional judgments.

The regulatory panel had put off creating the three bodies. However, it has finally stirred itself to move after the Liberal Democratic Party criticized the NRA for disregarding the law. We urge the NRA to swiftly formalize the groups.

The authority is now concentrating its energy on safety inspections of idle nuclear reactors. However, among the five members of the NRA—Chairman Shunichi Tanaka and four commissioners—there is only one person with professional knowledge of nuclear reactors. Discussions on safety inspections have not been thoroughly carried out in an expert manner.

It is not unusual during discussions of the regulatory panel for members to say such things as, “I’m unversed regarding this problem,” or, “I’ll leave this to the commissioner, who has professional expertise.” Therefore, the opinions of whichever specific commissioner is in charge of a certain issue will be considerably reflected in the NRA’s final decisions.

A LDP task force for nuclear regulation has expressed concerns regarding the current situation. “Deliberations, which have to be conducted through discussions, are not being held,” one task force member said. Another said, “The safety examinations are not legally proper.”

Their opinions are quite reasonable.

Will expert organs function?

The law to establish the NRA was enacted in the form of a bill sponsored by lawmakers, led by the LDP, when the Democratic Party of Japan was at the helm of the government. The Japanese regulatory commission is modeled after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the United States, the country with the most nuclear power plants in the world.

The Secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority and the three expert bodies will conduct technical examinations of reactors. Based on the results of their examinations, the authority will make final judgments from a comprehensive viewpoint. This must have been the original assumption about what would happen.

Although the regulation authority has started to move toward establishing the professional bodies, we cannot help but doubt Chairman Tanaka’s stance. He has said, for example, “I don’t want [the bodies] to discuss safety standards,” expressing his intent that they will be barred from the authority’s basic functions.

Can the expert bodies function properly in such a situation? Concerned voices have also been raised within the LDP over the fact that the selection of the members of the three expert bodies will probably take place in line with Tanaka’s wishes.

The regulatory commission’s independence is guaranteed under the NRA establishment law. However, it should not be self-righteous or dogmatic.

The LDP has proposed establishing a board of advisers within the government as a watchdog to prevent the NRA from being dogmatic. Plans have also surfaced to establish a committee in each Diet chamber to check the activities of the NRA.

The LDP, which compiled the bill on the NRA establishment law, has a responsibility to revise the current status of the NRA through deliberations at the Diet, among other measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2013)
(2013年12月19日01時33分  読売新聞)

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イタイイタイ病 「全面解決」までの長い道のり

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 19, 2013
The long road to full settelment of itai-itai pollution disease cases
イタイイタイ病 「全面解決」までの長い道のり(12月19日付・読売社説)

As 45 years have passed since itai-itai disease was recognized by the state as a pollution-related disease, it was indeed a long journey for the issue to have been “fully resolved.”

The case of itai-itai disease, an affliction caused by pollution in areas along the Jinzugawa river in Toyama Prefecture, reached its resolution when Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co.—the company that caused the pollution—and a victims group signed a compensation agreement on Tuesday. The company has also made a formal apology to the victims for the first time.

The victims have grown old and many victims have died. It appears that the victims and the company responsible for the pollution have mutually conceded and reached a full settlement.

The main pillar of the agreement is that Mitsui Mining will pay a lump sum of ¥600,000 per person to those victims of the disease who were not recognized under the Environment Ministry’s criteria as victims of itai-itai disease and so were not eligible for compensation.

Yet those victims recognized as sufferers by the state were entitled to receive ¥10 million per person.

For victims who had sought to have their cases settled early, accepting the compensation proposal must have been a bitter decision.

Eligible for the lump sum compensation will be those who meet certain criteria, including a degree of kidney dysfunction that is a symptom developed at a stage leading to itai-itai disease. Nearly 1,000 people are believed to be eligible to receive the payments.

Mitsui Mining must compensate as many victims as possible.

Recognition difficult

Itai-itai disease is considered to be one of Japan’s four major pollution-related diseases, along with Minamata disease in Kumamoto Prefecture, Minamata disease in Niigata Prefecture, and Yokkaichi asthma in Mie Prefecture.

As nephropathy patients suffered from brittle bones, they moaned in pain, crying “Itai, itai (It hurts, it hurts),” which is what gave the disease its name. It was recognized by the state as the country’s first pollution-related disease in 1968.

The disease was caused by cadmium, a heavy metal, discharged from the Kamioka mine in Gifu Prefecture. The pollutant spread through the consumption of rice and other things contaminated by cadmium in the river and harvested in the affected areas.

Mitsui Mining has cleaned up the polluted soil, in addition to paying compensation to those recognized as victims. The cleanup of soil in the polluted farm land was completed last year.

Once pollution has been set off, it takes the polluter many years and hefty sums to provide relief measures to the victims and restore the environment—one lesson to be learned from itai-itai disease.

It can be said the criteria for officially recognizing sufferers of pollution-related diseases, set by the ministry, has blocked many sufferers from receiving compensation in a timely manner. As many sufferers of itai-itai disease were not recognized as sufferers until their cases became so serious that they developed the bone-softening disorder osteomalacia, those with relatively milder cases were left neglected.

Minamata disease is similar to itai-itai disease in that the ministry’s criteria for officially recognizing sufferers is rigid.

In April, the Supreme Court backed a lower court ruling that recognized a sufferer who was not recognized under the ministry’s criteria as a victim of Minamata disease. Lawsuits with sufferers of the disease seeking relief measures are still continuing in the country.

It is highly important, first and foremost, for sufferers of Minamata disease and others concerned with it to compromise.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2013)
(2013年12月19日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月19日 (木)









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国家安保戦略 日本守り抜く体制を構築せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 18, 2013
Build defensive system with clear policies under ‘proactive pacifism’
国家安保戦略 日本守り抜く体制を構築せよ(12月18日付・読売社説)


Japan’s security environment situation has rapidly become precarious in recent years. It is therefore significant that the government laid down, for the first time, comprehensive and systematic guiding principles for maintaining peace and security in the East Asian region.

The government has decided on its national security strategy, a historic set of guidelines that replaces the nation’s Basic Policy for National Defense adopted in 1957.

The strategy was drawn up by the National Security Council—a Japanese version of the NSC of the United States—launched earlier this month.

It is historic that the government has put into process a motion to defend the national interest by marshaling the collective strength of the country, not only its defense capability but also its diplomatic, economic and technological capabilities.

The strategy touts “proactive pacifism” as its principle, under which Japan will actively contribute to the peace and stability of the Asia and the broader international community.

Defend national interests

North Korea has repeatedly taken provocative military actions by advancing its nuclear and missile development programs. Meanwhile, China has rapidly built up and modernized its own military capability, while attempting to change the status quo by force in areas near the Senkaku Islands by announcing a new air defense identification zone. We must also remain vigilant against international terrorism and cyber-attack threats.

It is difficult to singlehandedly maintain the security of our nation. By contributing to peace in the region and the global community, the situation in areas surrounding Japan will improve, and cooperation with other countries concerned, including the United States, will be strengthened. Such contributions will prove valuable for enhancing Japan’s security.

As long as Japan holds the position of a major player in the international community, it will have a say in drawing up various international rules, concerning, for instance, maritime activities and free trade.

To this end, the promotion of the proactive pacifism will be key.

The strategy defines the peace and further prosperity of Japan as its national interests, while citing such challenges as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the rapid rise of China. It also defines strategic defense approaches, such as the formulation of the overall defense system and the reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

It is critical that the NSC swiftly takes charge and reflects this strategy appropriately in concrete policies. Efforts must also be made to create a cycle in which the strategy can be changed in accord with fresh developments, enhancing and improving its content.

We are gratified that the strategy has referred to a policy of fostering respect for other countries and their people, in addition to love for this country and region.

Regarding new diplomatic and foreign policies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will clearly present them to the world and to its people.

It is important for Japan to give detailed explanations both at home and abroad to distinguish its diplomatic methods from the self-righteous methods of China.

Integrated defense capability

The new version of the National Defense Program Guidelines, which the Cabinet has adopted along with the national security strategy, embraces a concept termed “dynamic joint defense force.” The idea is derived from “dynamic defense power,” a concept framed in the current basic defense program, which was enforced in 2010. The new concept attaches great importance to managing the three arms of the Self-Defense Forces in a flexible and integrated manner.

The government has good reason to rework its basic defense framework to shore up our nation’s preparedness to deal with “gray-zone situations” that fall between peace and an emergency, a task that must be complemented by efforts to secure both a qualitative and quantitative improvement in the country’s defense capability.

Japan is witnessing new threats today, even though the end of the Cold War virtually eliminated the danger of foreign armed forces invading the nation. New dangers include the possibility of remote Japanese islands being occupied by other countries, as well as ballistic missile attacks and acts of terrorism. Improving Japan’s defense capacity not only qualitatively but quantitatively is essential to reinforce surveillance efforts aimed at maintaining command of its territorial waters and airspace.

It is reasonable that the new defense program guidelines call for an increase in SDF destroyers and fighter planes, after a continuous decline in numbers over the years. The government should quickly introduce Global Hawk surveillance drones while also increasing the number of SDF early-warning aircraft.

The latest defense framework emphasizes the need to better defend the territorial integrity of isolated islands. It entails the addition of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to the lineup of Ground Self-Defense Force equipment and creation of an amphibious rapid deployment brigade.

To defend remote islands, the SDF must improve its ability to swiftly mobilize troops. It is essential for the SDF to carry out joint exercises with the U.S. forces under various scenarios, while also reexamining the appropriateness of current restrictions on the use of weapons by SDF personnel in gray-zone situations.

However, it is questionable whether the number of GSDF personnel should be increased by 5,000 from the current 154,000 as laid out in the new defense program guidelines.

With the fiscal situation in dire straits, it is impossible to expect a large increase in defense budget appropriations. The nation’s defense capabilities should be improved in a manner that will allot funds where they are truly necessary and curtail appropriations where possible.  厳しい国家財政の下、防衛予算の大幅な伸びは期待できず、防衛力整備のメリハリが不可欠だ。

The new defense policy outline is correct in reducing the number of SDF tanks and firearms. Similar cuts should have been sought in areas of lower priority.

We feel that maintaining the current level of GSDF personnel in Hokkaido may be intended to help alleviate problems arising from the prefecture’s increasing depopulation.

Right to collective self-defense

The new defense program guidelines state that the government will continue to study the advisability of possessing the capability to attack enemy ballistic missile bases and other facilities.

It is imperative for the government to hold in-depth discussions about what kind of ability this country should develop to complement the Japan-U.S. alliance, instead of unilaterally carrying out such a strike.

Another task that must be fulfilled is reconsidering the government’s current stance on the interpretation of the right to collective self-defense under the Constitution.

The government’s official view on the issue must be reversed to make it possible for the nation to exercise that right in the event of an armed attack, when it comes to carrying out what the new basic defense framework terms as “proactive contribution to peace” and shoring up the bilateral alliance.

To arrive at a conclusion on the matter after next year’s ordinary Diet session ends, the Abe administration should start coordinating its opinions in discussions with key players who are cautious about Japan exercising the right, namely New Komeito—the junior partner in the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition—and the Cabinet Legislation Bureau.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 18, 2013)
(2013年12月18日01時36分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月18日 (水)

張成沢氏処刑 失政への不満封じる恐怖政治

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 17, 2013
North Korea’s reign of terror aimed at containing people’s frustrations
張成沢氏処刑 失政への不満封じる恐怖政治(12月17日付・読売社説)

The latest developments in North Korea indicate that the country has become even more unstable since former leader Kim Jong Il died two years ago.

Jang Song Thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission who was regarded as the No. 2 man in the Kim Jong Un regime, was sentenced to death for allegedly trying to take power by staging a military coup. He was executed the same day, just four days after he was ousted from all his posts and expelled from the Workers’ Party of Korea.

These developments illustrate the coldhearted nature of Kim—the ruling party’s first secretary—who is trying to strengthen his dictatorship through a reign of terror that included liquidating his uncle, in the apparent belief that without doing so he would not be able to maintain control of the country.

North Korea’s state-run media reported the sentence, handed down at a special military court of the State Security Department—the country’s secret police—accusing Jang of attempting to bring about the collapse of the country’s economy and people’s livelihoods. It also said that if the state was driven to the verge of collapse, Jang believed he could grab the reins of power.

Jang was accused in court of a diverse range of crimes, including an act of treason by cheaply selling off the country’s land with a 50-year lease to a foreign country—land in a special economic and trade zone in Rason near its borders with China and Russia—and triggering tremendous economic confusion with the redenomination of the currency four years ago.

To what extent these accusations are true is not known. But the issuance of this statement itself is tantamount to North Korea admitting there are cracks in the regime and economic maladministration. Kim’s regime may be trying to lay all the responsibility on Jang to justify its legitimacy.

North Korea, which is reinforcing its state control at home, may adopt a policy of external provocations.

There are strong fears that the country may flaunt its nuclear deterrent by conducting its fourth nuclear test and fire yet another missile under the guise of launching an artificial satellite.

Nuclear missile development

In this respect, it has been learned through analyses of satellite photos that North Korea has restarted a plutonium reactor, while moving ahead with improving nuclear test and missile launch sites. The international community must pay close attention to such developments and cooperate to deal with them.

Now that Jang has been removed from the scene, Kim apparently intends to carry out economic activities under the Cabinet-led leadership.

There are no signs of the country changing its policy of pursuing, in parallel, both economic reconstruction and the strengthening of its nuclear capability.

As long as North Korea continues to pursue nuclear and missile development, international economic sanctions against the country will not be relaxed. The country will not be successful in wooing any foreign investment or foreign tourists.

The North Korean people’s frustration will grow as economic hardships continue. The danger of the country collapsing from within is growing.

In its efforts to develop the northeastern part of China by helping stabilize North Korea, Beijing has been urging Pyongyang to carry out reforms and open its market. The execution of Jang, who had assumed the pivotal role in this scheme, is probably a major blow to China’s influence.

The destabilization of a despotic state developing nuclear weapons could lead to the outbreak of domestic turmoil. This is an important phase when Japan should prepare itself for any emergency by firmly maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance and reinforcing its defense capability.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 17, 2013)
(2013年12月17日01時35分  読売新聞)

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猪瀬氏と5000万 説明と規範意識が足りない

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 17, 2013
Inose’s explanations of Tokushukai cash lack coherence, common sense
猪瀬氏と5000万 説明と規範意識が足りない(12月17日付・読売社説)

How long will Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose repeat his totally unconvincing explanations? Distrust in him has been growing steadily.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly resumed intensive deliberations Monday on the issue of Inose’s acceptance of ¥50 million from the scandal-tainted medical group Tokushukai.

The assembly was closed last week, but suspicions swirling around him have increased as he answered interpellations while the assembly was in session. Given this, the assembly’s resumption of intensive deliberations on the matter was inevitable.

At issue in Monday’s session was how the ¥50 million in cash had been kept. Inose had claimed he “kept it in a rented safe-deposit box and never touched it,” but he changed his explanations during the session, saying the cash was transferred in May from the box in Tokyo’s Minato Ward to a rental safe-deposit box in Machida, western Tokyo, near his home.

Inose explained that he had transferred the cash in a bid “to return the money promptly.” But his explanations are unconvincing. Why didn’t he say this from the very beginning?

He had consistently asserted that the money was “borrowed for personal use.” He stressed that he told only his wife about the money “because it was for personal use.”

On the other hand, he changed his earlier explanations that he went straight home after receiving the cash from House of Representatives member Takeshi Tokuda at a lower house members office building. It has since been revealed, however, that in fact he briefly visited his office before going home.

Did he keep his secretaries at the office in the dark about the receipt of the ¥50 million?

Governance affected

It was also disclosed that when Inose’s special secretary returned the cash to the Tokushukai group in September, he used a metropolitan government-owned vehicle. The use of such a car obviously runs counter to Inose’s stance of stressing the importance for differentiating between private and public matters.

Inose’s campaign office for last year’s Tokyo gubernatorial election is suspected to have included inadequate records in its report on expenses for campaigning. In answer to a question by an assemblyman, Inose said the matter “should be referred to the secretary.” This answer will not convince voters.

Delays in implementing metropolitan government policies due to this matter are a cause of concern.

Inose had mentioned that the president of the organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympics would be “decided by the end of this year.” But because he has been busy answering questions on his money scandal in the assembly, his meeting on the matter with Olympics minister Hakubun Shimomura has yet to happen.

The governor’s assessment of the metropolitan budget for the new fiscal year is scheduled for early next year. Despite this, Inose could not set aside time to hear explanations on budget plans from key metropolitan government officials.

Assembly members from all groups, with the exception of those belonging to the Liberal Democratic Party—the largest group in the assembly—have called for Inose to resign.

If Inose insists on staying at the helm of the metropolitan government, he must fulfill his responsibility to explicitly explain the issue of the ¥50 million.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 17, 2013)
(2013年12月17日01時35分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月17日 (火)

福島汚染水対策 浄化後の海洋放出は不可避だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 16, 2013
Release of water into sea inevitable after purification at Fukushima plant
福島汚染水対策 浄化後の海洋放出は不可避だ(12月16日付・読売社説)

It is imperative to speed up efforts to contain contaminated water at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

A government panel on measures to dispose of contaminated water at the crippled nuclear complex has compiled a set of additional steps aimed at reducing radioactive water collecting there and preventing the water from leaking into the environment.

The source of the contaminated water is groundwater entering the crippled reactor buildings.

According to an analysis by the panel, the groundwater stems from the precipitation of rainwater in the compound of the nuclear plant that sinks into the ground.

To prevent this, the panel proposed paving the compound with asphalt. This would likely result in significantly reducing the volume of contaminated water, which is said to amount to an estimated 400 tons a day.

The government has been in lockstep with TEPCO in a project to create as early as possible “frozen-soil underground water shields” to surround the damaged reactor buildings to prevent groundwater from entering the buildings. Given that the project has never been attempted anywhere else, the risk of the project encountering difficulties cannot be ruled out. Besides the additional measures, it is essential to take many other steps to prepare for unforeseen eventualities.

The government panel report has also recommended improving the safety of tanks storing contaminated water in the plant’s compound, such as by doubling the tanks’ walls.

The tanks’ major weakness is their bolted joints. In one incident, contaminated water leaked through the joints and there is possibility of the water having flowed to some extent into the sea along trenches in the basements of the reactor buildings.

Tritium no danger

Although little radioactivity has been detected in seawater in the vicinity of the Fukushima plant, the additional measures worked out by the panel must be steadily put into practice to help alleviate local residents’ uneasiness.

The problem, however, is that these measures, even if fully implemented, will not be able to reduce the generation of contaminated water to zero.

The volume of contaminated water currently stored already amounts to nearly 400,000 tons. There are about 1,000 tanks, and the Fukushima plant could run out of space for building new tanks in two or three years.

Should the tanks be destroyed because of a calamity such as a strong earthquake, there is a danger that a large quantity of contaminated water could spill from them, like the collapse of a dam.

Many experts at home and abroad have called for purifying contaminated water before it is released into the sea. The government panel, however, has described the release of water after purification as a “task to be addressed from now on,” stopping short of saying anything of substance, but it did suggest that the task should be discussed by a separate group of experts.

Postponement of this problem is the same as leaving it unaddressed.

The upgraded water treatment machine operated by TEPCO could remove most of the radioactive isotopes. Tritium, a hydrogen isotope, is the exception.

Tritium is generated during nuclear reactor operations. Other Japanese nuclear plants, as well as those in other countries utilizing nuclear power, including South Korea, have released tritium into the sea.

This is because tritium, with a property similar to hydrogen, is diffused immediately after the release, with no fear of it accumulating in fish and other living things.

Since the risk of tritium is not high, the European Union has yet to set safety standards concerning tritium emissions.

As Japan has established a certain level of emission concentration standards, there seems to be no problem with releasing tritium based on these standards.

There should be in-depth exchanges of views on resolving the contaminated water problem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 16, 2013)
(2013年12月16日01時22分  読売新聞)

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武器輸出新原則 防衛産業維持にも目を向けよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 16, 2013
Govt must consider how to maintain defense industry, production base
武器輸出新原則 防衛産業維持にも目を向けよ(12月16日付・読売社説)

Japan should reinforce its international cooperation in the area of defense equipment and maintain its defense technology and production base as national security priorities.

The government and ruling parties have started drastically reviewing the three principles on arms exports and drawing up new rules on arms exports.

The three principles, confirmed in 1967 by the administration of then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, prohibit Japan from exporting arms to countries in the Communist bloc, countries to which arms exports are banned by U.N. resolutions and countries involved in conflict.

In 1976, the administration under then Prime Minister Takeo Miki went so far as to effectively ban all such exports, saying the nation must refrain from exporting arms to even countries not subject to the three principles.

Since 1983, however, the government had made one exception after another to the principles, as confirmed in informal remarks made by chief cabinet secretaries, providing the United States with weapons technology, exporting mine detectors and patrol vessels for peace-building efforts and jointly developing and producing missile defense equipment with other countries.

As a result, the whole system has become extremely complex and hard to understand.

This time, the administration under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to end the total ban and to narrow the list of countries subject to export restrictions, while at the same time making the whole system more consistent. Such efforts to meet the needs of the times are appropriate.

Enhance national security

The important thing is to create a standard that will enhance Japan’s national security.

In light of the recent military developments in China and North Korea, the international situation surrounding Japan has become ever harsher.

Expanding cooperation in the area of defense equipment with such countries as the United States, an ally of Japan, European countries and Australia will stimulate the improvement of Japan’s defense technology and the reinforcement of international cooperation, thus contributing to the peace and security of Japan.

It is important to expand international cooperation by making it possible for Japan to export finished products, and parts and components of arms, in addition to joint development and production of arms with other countries.

It is also necessary to establish procedures appropriately to prevent the arms from being transferred to a third country and to tighten export controls on general-purpose parts that can be used either militarily or commercially.

The government and ruling parties must discuss these issues properly and work out a conclusion soon.

It must be kept in mind that because the government’s defense budgets were cut back for 10 years in a row up to fiscal 2012, Japan’s defense technology and domestic production base has been undermined.

In the past 10 years, nearly 90 private companies have pulled out of the defense industry, making it hard in some areas to secure technicians with specific skills.

As tanks, destroyers and fighter planes become ever more technologically advanced, the unit price of the equipment rises. Repair and maintenance costs for the equipment have also been rising. As a result, the government has no choice but to reduce the amount of such equipment procured, putting a strain on the management of companies in the defense industry.

The decline in the nation’s defense technology and its production base will directly lead to the decline in the nation’s overall defense capability. The government needs to discuss ways to maintain and foster the nation’s defense industry in earnest under the constraint of limited defense spending.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 16, 2013)
(2013年12月16日01時22分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月16日 (月)

教育委員会改革 首長の暴走食い止められるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 15, 2013
Board of education reform could lead to abuse of power by local govt heads
教育委員会改革 首長の暴走食い止められるか(12月15日付・読売社説)

In a move that could lead to far-reaching changes in education administration by local entities, the Central Council for Education, an advisory panel, has submitted recommendations to Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura.

The most conspicuous among the recommendations is that the panel favors transferring final authority on educational matters to local government heads from boards of education, while redefining the status of school superintendents, to be appointed by municipal heads to serve as their subordinates, as chief officials in charge of administrative work.

The proposed revamping of education administration comes in the wake of increasing criticism that the existing board of education system, under which decision-making is made through mutual consent among board members—part-time officials selected from among experts in local entities—fails to determine where the responsibility for decisions lies.

It also has been claimed that boards of education often fail to act swiftly when confronted by a serious situation, such as the case of a middle school boy in Otsu who committed suicide in 2011 because of bullying.

The panel’s recommendations are timely as they are intended to improve the ability of local entities to cope with various problems occurring at schools by giving municipality heads and full-time school superintendents both the authority and responsibility.

If the recommendations are put into practice, boards of education, which are currently independent, will be placed under the direction of local government heads, so board members can engage in discussions about broad education policies laid down by those local government heads.

At present, boards of education are spending far too much time doing perfunctory jobs such as dealing with education personnel affairs by holding meetings two or more times a month.

Advisories nonbinding

If the subjects of discussion are narrowed down to such key matters as leading education principles, boards of education will be able to hold in-depth deliberations about what local entities should pursue.

However, there is a danger that the powers wielded by municipal heads could become too strong, jeopardizing the principle of political neutrality of education administration.

During discussions by the advisory panel, a number of members warned of this risk.

To prevent municipal heads from acting arbitrarily on their own authority, the council’s recommendations have limited the scope of directions from local government heads to school superintendents to special circumstances requiring urgent action, such as dealing with serious cases of bullying.

Boards of education to be created in line with the recommendations would be in charge of checking and evaluating the enforcement of education administration by local government heads and school superintendents, and issue advisories when necessary.

The panel’s recommendations, however, fall short of giving the advisories any binding power. For example, in the event of a local government head arbitrarily setting education measures that have not been scrupulously studied, in an irresponsible attempt to secure reelection, it is questionable whether a board of education would be able to stop this.

Should educational goals and a policy of adopting certain school textbooks be changed every time a new local government head is elected, there is a risk of school education being plunged into total confusion.

Having received the panel’s recommendations, the education ministry is scheduled to submit a bill for the revision of the Local Education Administration Law to the ordinary Diet session to be convened next month.

New Komeito, the coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is wary of strengthening the powers of local government heads.

Many tasks need further study, such as how to create a new framework to ensure stability and continuity of education administration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2013)
(2013年12月15日01時25分  読売新聞)

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日・ASEAN 海と空で対中連携が強まった

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 15, 2013
Japan, ASEAN strengthen ties in bid to counter China in air and at sea
日・ASEAN 海と空で対中連携が強まった(12月15日付・読売社説)

In a success in his Southeast Asian diplomacy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saw a summit meeting of Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agree to jointly urge China to abide by international rules.

At a special summit meeting among Japan and 10 ASEAN nations held in Tokyo, the leaders adopted a joint statement saying it is important to ensure the safety of seas and the freedom of navigation as well as to resolve conflicts in accordance with the “universally recognized principles of international laws.”

The statement clearly stated the nations will cooperate to ensure the “freedom of overflight” and “civil aviation safety” in air zones over the high seas—with China’s air defense identification zone in mind, although it did not specifically refer to China.

Some Southeast Asian nations, such as Cambodia and Laos, have close ties with China. Nonetheless, it was significant that Japan and the ASEAN member nations issued the joint statement with the aim of holding China in check, which has heightened tensions not only on the seas but also in the air.

Without consulting with its neighbors, China unilaterally set its ADIZ over the East China Sea and threatened to adopt “emergency defensive measures” by the Chinese military against any aircraft that refuses to obey its instructions. It also hinted at setting another ADIZ over the South China Sea.

“Without free ocean and air [navigation], we can’t expect to have active trade,” Abe stressed at a press conference.

‘Proactive pacifism’

During his separate meetings with the ASEAN leaders and during the summit sessions, Abe said Japan will contribute to regional stability based on “proactive pacifism” and proposed holding a meeting of defense ministers from Japan and the ASEAN members.

It is imperative for Japan to deepen cooperative security ties with the ASEAN countries to deal with China and North Korea.

ASEAN and China are considering setting legally binding codes of conduct in the South China Sea, where they have prolonged territorial disputes, but Beijing is reluctant to accept such codes. Japan should cooperate with the United States in backing ASEAN efforts to conclude an early agreement on codes of conduct with China.

During the special summit meeting, participants also made progress in the area of economic cooperation. They broadly agreed in the two fields of investment and service in negotiations for a Japan-ASEAN economic partnership agreement.

Abe expressed Japan’s support for an economic community ASEAN aims to create by the end of 2015 and pledged to actively provide official development assistance to the body.

Absorbing the vigor of rapidly growing Southeast Asia will provide a springboard for Japan’s economic growth.

The leaders also formulated a mid- and long-term plan for cooperation not only in political and economic fields but also in the area of antidisaster measures. They also plan to have more active exchanges in culture, arts, tourism and sports.

Japan and ASEAN have just observed the 40th anniversary of their friendship this year. It is hoped that they will strengthen their strategic ties even further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2013)
(2013年12月15日01時25分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月15日 (日)

与党税制大綱 家計と景気への目配り十分か

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 13, 2013
Reduced consumption rate system must be at same time as hike to 10%
与党税制大綱 家計と景気への目配り十分か(12月13日付・読売社説)


We are concerned that increasing the consumption tax rate to 8 percent from April may dampen personal spending. The latest tax policy agreement between the ruling coalition parties has left unresolved problems regarding measures to shore up business activities.

The Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner New Komeito decided Thursday on an outline for tax system revisions for fiscal 2014. The decision signifies the ruling parties’ endorsement of a government budget draft for next fiscal year and a set of tax revision bills to be presented to the Diet early next year.

The LDP-Komeito agreement has fallen short of deciding on a specific date to introduce a reduced consumption tax rate system to curb the tax rate on food and other daily necessities to benefit low-income people. The agreement also has incorporated such items as income and residential tax levies on salaried workers. Steps to impose heavier tax burdens on households are conspicuous in the accord.

Specific timing ambiguous

The biggest focus in the tax revision discussions was whether a reduced tax rate system should be introduced at the same time as an increase in the sales tax to 10 percent scheduled for October 2015.

In January, the ruling coalition reached an agreement to “make efforts to introduce” a tax break on necessities when the planned hike to 10 percent occurs.

The ruling parties' accord, this time, however, said a reduced tax rate system “will be introduced at a time when the consumption tax rate is 10 percent, after necessary financial resources and understanding from the public, including businesses, are secured.” It added that the ruling camp will “reach a conclusion on the matter by December 2014.”

The proviso added to the ruling coalition’s accord, such as “understanding from the public,” will weigh heavily on future discussions on a reduced tax rate, since the wording in the accord can be interpreted as either “at the same time as the hike to 10 percent” or “sometime after” the hike.

This is the product of compromise between the LDP, which has remained wary of implementing a reduced tax rate, and Komeito, which has strongly insisted the proposed tax break on such items as food and newspapers be introduced when the rate is raised to 10 percent.

A reduced tax rate system would mitigate tax burdens on all taxpayers, including lower-income people, helping shore up a broad spectrum of household budgets.

It is also problematic that the tax system revision outline this time has come short of discussing specifics, such as which items would be eligible for a lower tax rate.

Decisions on specific items to be covered and plans to put the reduced rate system into practice must not be postponed unnecessarily. A decision should be made quickly to introduce a reduced tax rate at the same time the rate is increased to 10 percent.

During the ruling camp’s tax discussions, the LDP’s Tax System Research Commission and the Finance Ministry pointed out the introduction of the reduced tax rate system would make it necessary to employ an invoice system to log the tax rates and amounts item by item, leading to complicated clerical work for businesses.

Given that business deals free from the consumption tax, including land transactions, and those subject to the tax have been in place even under the existing tax system, Komeito refuted that argument in the discussions, noting a reduced tax rate system could be realized without an invoice system. The LDP tax panel and the Finance Ministry should have more aggressively addressed resolving impediments to employing a reduced tax rate.

The tax system revision outline also includes steps to reduce the income tax breaks for company employees and other salaried workers, and raising their income and residential taxes. People whose annual income exceeds ¥12 million will be subject to heavier taxes from 2016, and those whose annual income is more than ¥10 million will be subject to them from 2017.

According to a trial calculation by the Finance Ministry, people with an annual income of ¥15 million are estimated to have an additional tax burden of ¥70,000 to ¥110,000 a year. There are fears this will dampen their motivation to spend in anticipation of an increase in the burden on household budgets.

As the planned consumption tax hike is expected to increase the perceived burden on low-income earners, the ruling parties seem to have tried to alleviate the sense of unfairness by imposing increased tax burdens on high-income earners.

Fast and sloppy

However, full-scale discussions on the reexamination of tax deductions were conducted for merely a week. It cannot be helped if the ruling parties are criticized for targeting company employees, whose income can be easily ascertained, unlike that of the self-employed, to ensure tax revenue.

Quite a few people are increasingly dissatisfied over the fact that the ruling parties quickly decided on a tax hike for salaried workers while not presenting a time frame for introducing the reduced consumption tax rates.

In the case of taxation on automobiles, the tax hike for light motor vehicles was incorporated into the outline of tax system revisions as a measure to secure fiscal resources needed to phase out the automobile acquisition tax from next fiscal year.

The tax on light vehicles is less than that on compact cars. As long as light vehicles also impose burdens on roads and the environment, it is unavoidable for the light vehicle tax to be raised in line with the beneficiary-to-pay principle.

In regard to lowering the corporate tax, which was regarded as a centerpiece of the government’s growth strategy, the outline said merely that the matter will “continue to be studied.” Discussions on concrete measures such as the timing and margin for a tax cut have not deepened.

Japan’s corporate tax rates—even if excluding the special corporate tax for reconstruction from the 2011 disaster, which is planned to be abolished at the end of fiscal 2013, one year ahead of schedule as an economic measure—are higher than those in Europe and many other Asian countries.

Cut corporate tax urgently

To stem the hollowing out of industry and lure investments from overseas, it will be indispensable to lower corporate tax rates further. The matter must be studied at a faster pace.

Companies that will benefit from the early abolition of the special corporate tax for reconstruction should use improved profits for wage hikes and employment expansion, thereby spreading benefits to households.

The outline has also put forth a policy of approving up to 50 percent of entertainment expenses used by big businesses to entertain business partners and clients as necessary expenses with no tax levied.

It is understandable that the outline aims to expand the tax exemption system, which has been applied to part of the entertainment expenses of small and midsize companies as impairment costs, to big businesses. We hope sales for drinking and eating establishments will increase by making it easier for firms to increase entertainment expenses and that this will prove effective in curbing the adverse effects of the consumption tax hike.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 13, 2013)
(2013年12月13日01時39分  読売新聞)

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エネルギー計画 原発の中長期的活用は妥当だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 14, 2013
New plan a break from no-nuke goal, move toward realistic energy policy
エネルギー計画 原発の中長期的活用は妥当だ(12月14日付・読売社説)

A basic energy plan drafted by an industry ministry panel is a major step that signals a clear shift from the policy of phasing out nuclear power generation set by the previous Democratic Party of Japan-led government. We highly praise the current government’s stance of pushing for a realistic energy policy to secure a stable power supply for the nation.

An Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry committee of experts drew up the draft plan, which will serve as guidelines for the nation’s mid- and long-term energy policy.

Calling nuclear power “a fundamental and important base energy source,” the draft plan urged the nation to continue using nuclear power as long as its safety is ensured.

The draft plan called on the government to reduce the nation’s dependence on nuclear power as much as possible, while proposing that nuclear power generation be maintained to the extent needed.

Currently, all 50 of the nation’s nuclear reactors are idled, which has caused a serious power shortage. For resource-poor Japan, nuclear power is an essential energy source that can be obtained in a stable manner and at relatively low costs. We thus favorably regard the draft plan.

The government seeks to have the plan approved by the Cabinet in January. It should use the plan to implement a realistic energy policy.

To make up for the shortfall in the nation’s power supply, domestic thermal power plants have been in full operation. With additional fuel costs amounting to ¥3.6 trillion a year, a spike in fuel imports has drained a large amount of national wealth from Japan. Electricity charges have risen by 20 percent from the level before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. Greenhouse gas emissions have also rapidly increased. The negative impact of not using nuclear power is significant.

Japan should restart nuclear reactors once their safety is confirmed and speed up work to establish a supply structure with a diversified energy mix, in which nuclear power, thermal power and renewable energy sources such as solar power can complement each other.

However, the draft plan did not give numerical targets for the energy mix. We are aware that safety inspections of nuclear power facilities have been delayed, but the government should present a target rate for electricity generated by nuclear power as soon as possible.

Key issues remain

We also question why the draft plan took a non-judgmental stance on whether the nation should build new reactors.

If the existing reactors are decommissioned after 40 years of operation without adding new reactors, the nation will have no reactors in 2049. To continue using nuclear energy in the medium- and long-term, it is necessary to build new reactors. We believe switching old reactors to new ones early on would enhance nuclear energy safety and the nurturing of capable professionals in the field.

The draft plan also appropriately urged the government to take the initiative in proceeding with the final disposal of highly radioactive waste. The government should promote a sustainable nuclear policy featuring a nuclear fuel cycle and other approaches, and must take charge of such actions.

The draft plan prodded the government to accelerate its efforts to increase the use of renewable energy sources, but stopped short of proposing specific measures. Renewable power generation has many downsides, including fluctuating output depending on weather conditions. Increased use of renewable energy sources would thus be insufficient as an alternative to nuclear power.

The current government scheme that obliges utilities to purchase electricity generated by renewable energy sources, aimed at spreading the use of such energy, puts a financial burden on households and companies. The government should swiftly review this policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2013)
(2013年12月14日01時56分  読売新聞)

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元女性実父認定 最高裁に行き過ぎはないのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 14, 2013
Doubt remains about top court ruling on transgender paternity
元女性実父認定 最高裁に行き過ぎはないのか(12月14日付・読売社説)

How can the gap be filled between the progress of reproductive medicine and the existent legal system? A recent controversial decision by the Supreme Court highlighted this question.

In a case involving a child conceived by the wife of a transgender man through artificial insemination using donated semen, the top court ruled the child was born in wedlock. In other words, the man was determined to be the child’s father.

In the Civil Code, the so-called presumption rule stipulates that “a child conceived by a wife during marriage shall be presumed to be the husband’s child.”

The special law on gender change by people suffering from gender identity disorder went into effect in 2004, stipulating that transgender persons shall be legally regarded as persons with changed genders under the Civil Code. The stipulation allows a transgender man to marry as a husband.

The top court judged that “it is inappropriate to reject the application of the presumption rule while at the same time upholding his marriage.”

However, it is doubtful whether the presumption rule can be applied to a transgender man to determine that a child is his. A transgender man has no reproductive capability. Given this hard fact, it is impossible to dispel doubts about the top court’s ruling that the transgender man is the child’s real father.

Two of the five justices at the top court’s Petty Bench argued against the transgender man’s petition to be recorded as the father of the child in question, saying the father-child presumption rule cannot be applied to the case because the rule is premised on the possibility of a wife becoming pregnant by her husband.

A convincing argument

This minority argued that if the child in the case is considered to be born in wedlock as claimed by a majority of the five-justice bench, it “goes beyond the framework of the Civil Code.” This is a convincing opinion.

The child will know someday that he has no blood relationship with his putative father. Some experts say consideration must be given to the emotional pain felt by the child at that time. This opinion is worth paying attention to.

In ruling on a case of surrogate birth in 2007, on the other hand, the Supreme Court denied the parent-child relationship. The case involved TV personality Aki Mukai and her husband, who asked a surrogate mother to deliver a child with the use of Mukai’s eggs.

Unlike the case in which the father-child relationship was recognized, the court did not admit the mother-child relationship although they had a biological relationship, saying the woman who becomes pregnant and delivers “can be regarded as the mother under the Civil Code.”

With the progress of reproductive medicine, various forms of parent-child relationships that are not presumed by law have emerged one after another. When legal arrangements have not caught up with reality, there is no alternative but to leave the matter up to judicial judgment.

The number of infertile couples has been increasing partly due to the trend toward late marriage, and there are certain to be more cases in which such couples rely on reproductive medicine in the years to come. To help prevent confusion, discussions must be accelerated to prepare legal arrangements.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2013)
(2013年12月14日01時56分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月13日 (金)


私が生まれて初めてハーレーダビッドソン という、大型でかっこいバイクを見かけたのは映画の中でした。



細身のフォルム、快適なハンドリングなどがもたらす軽快な乗り味で躍動感に満ちたSPORTSTER FAMILYオートバイHARLEY DAVIDSON XL883Rをクリスマススペシャルプレゼント


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それでは、優れた整理力 を身につけることは難しいのかと言えば、答えはノーです。
このビジネス書で一番私が気に入っている部分なんですが、それは、第9章 書類・机・情報の整理術なんです。


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これは驚きました お値段なんと1万円の高級ふりかけなんです

高級ふりかけ通販 で簡単に入手出来ます。


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「探偵学」でスキルアップ!探偵になりたい方!会社のリスクマネジメントに! 20%OFF開校キャンペーン開始! 一般社団法人 日本調査業適正協議会

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職場の中に一人は必ず居るのが仕事が速い人なんです その秘密は?

私は入社当初こそ「仕事が遅い 人」の烙印を押されていましたが、仕事(プロジェクト)にパソコンが導入されるようになってからは、「仕事が速い人」に分類されるようになりました。
単行本、「仕事が速い人」と「仕事が遅い人」の習慣 (アスカビジネス)で、その秘密が解き明かされています。


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成長戦略の課題 政府は具体策の実行を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 12, 2013
Swiftly implement growth strategy to revitalize Japanese economy
成長戦略の課題 政府は具体策の実行を急げ(12月12日付・読売社説)

The success of Abenomics, the economic policy of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, hinges on its growth strategy. The government must implement concrete measures swiftly, so the strategy will not end up as an empty slogan.

During the extraordinary Diet session, which Abe has dubbed the “Diet session to implement the growth strategy,” two important laws were enacted: the law on national strategic special zones and the industrial competitiveness enhancement law. During a press conference earlier this week, Abe said his administration will decide on an action plan for the strategy early in the new year.

Japan is now at a critical stage as to whether it can beat deflation and achieve stable growth.

At such a juncture, it is most important to steadily implement the measures stipulated in the laws and action plan.

The aim in creating national strategic special zones is to authorize deregulation measures in six fields, including medicine, urban revitalization and education, promote entry into various businesses and bring in foreign capital.

The government intends to create an advisory council of relevant ministers on the national strategic special zones and select three to five districts, including major urban areas, as such zones in January at the earliest.

The government must strive to make such zones attractive and efficient by fully utilizing the minds and resourcefulness of corporations and local people.

However, the deregulation measures to be introduced in the special zones were considerably watered down due to the resistance of various ministries. It is problematic that the administration was unable to boldly break down the tough, bedrock-like regulations related to employment and agriculture.

Exert strong leadership

We urge the administration to make efforts to add measures to the deregulation menu by using the advisory council as a command center.

To slash away vested interests and conquer the vertically segmented structure among ministries and agencies, we would like the prime minister, who will serve as the head of the advisory council, to demonstrate strong leadership.

We praise the policy direction of the government and ruling parties to expand preferential measures—including tax cuts for capital investment—in tax reforms for fiscal 2014 to boost the special zones.

Major reduction in the effective corporate tax rate in the special zones is also a subject to be studied.

We hope the government will devise appropriate measures to create a “growth center” that will promote the advancement of domestic and foreign firms into the special zones and rev up the Japanese economy.

The industrial competitiveness enhancement law will launch a so-called special system for corporate field tests, which will ease regulations for companies entering new business fields, and measures to prompt industries hampered by excessive competition to reorganize their businesses, such as preferential taxation. These things must be utilized to revitalize various industries.

The major problem is that many private companies, which should play the main role, are cautious about new investment and expansion of their businesses. Can they fully utilize the industrial competitiveness enhancement law as a good chance to shift to “offensive management”? Each company will be tested as to their aggressive management strategy.

The Abe administration must fully mobilize various policy tools, such as taxation, fiscal policy and policy-based loans, and seamlessly come up with effective policy measures to revitalize the Japanese economy by accelerating the growth strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 12, 2013)
(2013年12月12日01時27分  読売新聞)

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マンデラ氏死去 今こそ継承したい寛容の精神

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 12, 2013
World must learn from, carry on Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness
マンデラ氏死去 今こそ継承したい寛容の精神(12月12日付・読売社説)

About 100 heads of state and other world leaders mourned the death of Nelson Mandela at a memorial service for the former South African president in Johannesburg on Tuesday, showing how Mandela was revered all around the world.

Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate honored for his strenuous fight against apartheid and eventual success in ending his country’s system of racial segregation, died last Thursday. He was 95.

The global dignitaries at the national memorial service held for Mandela at a stadium in South Africa’s largest city included Crown Prince Naruhito and former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. In a memorial address, U.S. President Barack Obama praised the anti-apartheid icon’s achievements, describing him as “a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice and in the process moved billions around the world.”

During the second half of the 20th century, Afrikaner whites, the South African minority that ruled the country, repressed the black majority under legislation based on the apartheid policy. Black members of the population did not possess the right to vote and were even restricted in where they could live.

A lawyer, Mandela fought racial discrimination in his country after joining the anti-apartheid activities of the African National Congress, then a political party struggling for the freedom of black South Africans. Mandela’s adherence to his cause despite 27 years in prison for treason provokes amazement.

The true worth of Mandela’s political leadership was demonstrated when and after he was asked by his nation’s white government to help end apartheid. By that time, the South African government could no longer endure the international sanctions imposed on the country.

The power of forgiveness

Mandela ended the ANC’s pursuit of an armed struggle and negotiated with the white government, which resulted in an end to apartheid and a national election open to all races. This enabled the ANC to take the reins of government, with Mandela becoming South Africa’s first black president. However, he urged the black majority not to retaliate against whites.

In his inaugural address as South African president in 1994, Mandela pledged to “build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts.” In fact, the position of vice president was assumed by Mandela’s predecessor, a white president.

Mandela’s spirit of tolerance—with which he sought to transform South Africa into a nation in which all ethnic groups could live in harmony—deeply affected people around the world.

In 1995, South Africa hosted the rugby World Cup. Mandela cheered for his country’s national team, which comprised mostly white players—an episode that helped create a sense of unity among South Africans. The story was later made into an American film that became known to many people around the world.

Mandela’s achievements also included his successful post-apartheid economic policies, which included efforts to skillfully utilize the vitality of white industrialists instead of depriving them of management rights. He did not persist in his own view that his country’s mines should be placed under state control. All this contributed to economic growth.

However, today South Africa seems to be experiencing what may be regarded as the adverse effects of the ANC’s prolonged rule, including corruption within its administration and abuse of privilege. Little progress has been made in narrowing economic disparities between the white minority and the black majority.

Ethnic conflicts and bloodshed attributable to religious differences continue to rage in many parts of the world. Not only South Africans but also people around the world must remind themselves of the precious lessons taught by Mandela.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 12, 2013)
(2013年12月12日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月12日 (木)

北朝鮮No.2粛清 金正恩体制揺るがす権力闘争

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 10, 2013
Vigilance required as power struggle shakes Kim Jong Un regime
北朝鮮No.2粛清 金正恩体制揺るがす権力闘争(12月10日付・読売社説)

The latest development in North Korea probably was the result of a power struggle behind the scenes.

A close watch must be kept on how the latest housecleaning in North Korea will affect the future course of the reclusive country, which will soon mark the second anniversary of the death of former supreme leader Kim Jong Il.

In North Korea, Jang Song Thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and an apparent mentor for the current leader Kim Jong Un, has been ousted from all his posts.

Jang was a member of the ruling Workers’ Party Politburo—together with Kim Kyong Hui, Jang’s wife and a sister of Kim Jong Il—and made his presence felt as the No. 2 man in the young Kim’s regime.

Jang had also been in the vanguard of Pyongyang’s economic diplomacy. Last summer, for instance, he visited China and proposed to leaders there, including then President Hu Jintao, the joint development of trade zones in North Korea near its border with China.

At an expanded meeting of the Politburo on Sunday, Jang was denounced as a leader of “antiparty, antirevolutionary factional activities,” dismissed from all his posts, deprived of all his titles and expelled from the party. North Korean TV broadcast an image of Jang being taken from the meeting venue by uniformed guards.

Jang was charged with such criminal acts as having immensely hindered the improvement of the country’s economic activity and people’s livelihoods, and committing treason by cheaply selling off the country’s precious resources. He was also accused of corrupt and illicit behavior, including improper relations with women, using narcotics and squandering foreign currency.

Jang shown no mercy

The purge of a high-ranking government official is not rare in a country under despotic rule, but the harshness of the punishments in Jang’s case is striking. Two of his close aides were reportedly publicly executed.

Kim Jong Un may have felt it was necessary to show no leniency even to a relative over disobedience to his orders and illicit enrichment. The latest purge may reflect Kim’s sense of alarm over the rife corruption among North Korea’s leaders.

In accordance with Kim’s grand command to build a strong and prosperous nation, organs related to the North Korean Cabinet, the party and military are competing with each other to take credit for earning foreign currency by developing mining resources and wooing foreign investment.

As long as North Korea continues pursuing nuclear weapons development and economic construction in parallel, there is no way the international community will ease its sanctions on the country.

If North Korea is serious about pursuing honest economic activity, the only option is to abandon its nuclear and missile development.

With the abrupt downfall of Jang, Choe Ryong Hae, director of the Korean People’s Army General Political Bureau, who was seen as a rival of Jang, will gain more clout.

Some observers in Japan had held expectations that Jang could be a go-between with direct ties to Kim over the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents. Now that Jang has been ousted, it is essential that Japan carefully analyze the internal situation in North Korea.

There are fears the Kim regime may resort to such acts as a nuclear test to deflect and suppress unrest within the country. Japan must remain vigilant.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 10, 2013)
(2013年12月10日01時45分  読売新聞)

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TPP交渉 日米対立が招いた合意先送り

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 11, 2013
Final TPP accord postponed due to conflict between Japan, U.S.
TPP交渉 日米対立が招いた合意先送り(12月11日付・読売社説)

As participating countries failed to reconcile a variety of conflicts, including one between Japan and the United States, an accord on creating a new free trade zone in Asia and the Pacific region has been postponed till next year. A rough road lies ahead for the negotiations.

A ministerial meeting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks ended in Singapore on Tuesday.

Japan, the United States, Australia and nine other nations in the talks abandoned their goal of reaching an accord by the end of this year, which they originally hoped for. The countries will continue intensive discussions and hold a ministerial meeting again in January, they said in a joint statement issued after the meeting.

As the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama had given the highest priority to reaching a final accord within this year, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman continued pressing Japan and emerging countries on tariff elimination and market liberalization.

But it is difficult to settle negotiations on issues on which the participants’ interests are complexly tangled. It can be said the latest talks highlighted the reality that the talks will not proceed as Washington hoped.

In particular, the conflict between Japanese and U.S. interests became clear. There is no denying that the conflict between the two countries may have held up negotiations as a whole.

Sticking points

The Liberal Democratic Party has been asserting that rice, wheat and barley, and three other sensitive agricultural products should be regarded as “sanctuaries” exempt from tariff elimination. Bearing this in mind, Japan rejected the U.S. call for full tariff elimination, with no exceptions.

Instead, Japan reportedly proposed, as a concession, to the U.S. side that it would raise its liberalization rate—the percentage of trade items that will be tariff-free—to about 95 percent. But the United States reportedly rejected the proposal.

On the other hand, Washington, which aims at expanding sales of U.S. automobiles in Japan, called on Tokyo to ease regulations on vehicle safety and environmental standards. But Japan steadily refused.

With midterm elections slated for next November, the Obama administration, which wants to showcase a final TPP accord as its achievement, is not in a position to make easy compromises.

Yet Japan needs to proactively tap into the vitality of fast-growing Asian economies and fuel its own growth, rather than merely maintaining a defensive stance.

While trying to reinforce the international competitiveness of agriculture, a sector Japan has been called on to liberalize further, the government must make a strategic plan to promote free trade, centering around the TPP.

Fierce conflicts between the United States and such emerging economies as Malaysia and Vietnam over the protection of intellectual property rights and competition policies can also be cited as reasons why the participating countries gave up on the final accord in Singapore.

The conflicts among the 12 countries are deep-rooted, so there is little cause for optimism that they will be able to reach an accord at next month’s ministerial meeting. The major focus will be how flexibly the United States can respond to other countries’ assertions.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s next moves deserve close attention, as that country has made clear its intention to participate in the TPP.

For South Korea to join the negotiations, it needs to win the approval of the 12 participating countries. That could happen as early as the spring. Before that happens, Japan needs to take the lead in formulating the trade rules and aim to reach an early accord to best take advantage of having already been a member.

Japan must demonstrate tough bargaining power in pursuit of its national interests.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2013)
(2013年12月11日01時43分  読売新聞)

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韓国防空識別圏 拡大は地域緊張高めぬように

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 11, 2013
Expanded South Korean ADIZ should not heighten tensions
韓国防空識別圏 拡大は地域緊張高めぬように(12月11日付・読売社説)

The South Korean government has announced it will expand its air defense identification zone effective Sunday to include a disputed submerged rock, over which both Seoul and Beijing claim jurisdiction, in a protest to China’s unilateral creation of an ADIZ that includes the rock.

The ADIZ to be established by South Korea partially overlaps that of Japan, and all three nations’ ADIZs overlap the rock.

South Korea’s move concerns air zone over the East China Sea, over which tension has already escalated as a result of China’s outrageous creation of its ADIZ. It is hoped South Korea will exercise prudence and self-control in operating its expanded ADIZ, to prevent unwanted friction or an emergency.

South Korea made a point of giving prior notice to Japan, the United States and others of the expansion of its ADIZ. It also has made it clear that it would hold talks separately with Japan and China to prevent accidental clashes that might occur as a result of overlapping ADIZs.

The expanded zone falls under the Incheon Flight Information Region, a zone in which South Korea controls commercial airline traffic. There will thus be no change: Airlines will not need to resubmit their flight plans after the expanded zone takes effect.

South Korea’s move must not hamper cooperation among Tokyo, Washington and Seoul, which have taken concerted actions to reject China’s ADIZ. Hindering cooperation would play right into China’s hands.

It was unavoidable that Japan and the United States made a political decision to condone South Korea’s ADIZ.

Disregarding international norms, China has threatened to take an emergency, armed response to any airplane that passes through its ADIZ without obeying instructions.

It is hard to dismiss concerns about a possible accidental clash with Chinese military aircraft when Self-Defense Force and South Korean military planes come dangerously close to them after being scrambled and sent into the overlapping air zone.

ADIZ is not airspace

Japan and South Korea already report to each other prior to SDF and South Korean military planes entering each other’s ADIZ. A mechanism must be set up to ensure the safety of such airplanes flying through overlapping air zone.

An active exchange of information over security matters between the two nations will contribute to stability in the region.

In South Korea, initial discussions over expanding its air zone were heated because the issue was linked to control of the submerged rock and airspace above small islands. Such a stance is seen on a par with that of China’s handling of its ADIZ, as if it were airspace.

We must be clear on this matter: An ADIZ is not airspace. It is established outside airspace as an alert zone, so the nation concerned can deal with aircraft that threaten to violate its airspace by monitoring aircraft passing through the ADIZ.

As an ADIZ has nothing to do with territorial rights, Japan’s ADIZ does not include airspace over the Takeshima islands and the northern territories. The same goes for the Ogasawara Islands, which were reverted from U.S. control in 1968.

It is imperative that Japan and South Korea closely cooperate in operating the overlapping air zone.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2013)
(2013年12月11日01時43分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月11日 (水)

みんなの党分裂 「江田新党」は野党再編序章か

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 10, 2013
Eda’s split from Your Party may trigger political realignment
みんなの党分裂 「江田新党」は野党再編序章か(12月10日付・読売社説)

Four years and four months after its inception, Your Party has split. This event has the potential of leading to a realignment of opposition parties.

Former Secretary General Kenji Eda and 13 other members of the party have submitted letters of resignation to the party and announced plans to establish a new party before the end of the year. The 14 defectors—eight from the House of Representatives and six from the House of Councillors—account for 40 percent of the party’s 35 lawmakers. Mito Kakizawa, an independent in the lower house, will join the planned new party.

The primary reason for the split was a feud between party leader Yoshimi Watanabe and Eda over the party’s future course.

Watanabe has insisted on cooperating with other parties in one political bloc, while maintaining the independence of Your Party. Eda, on the other hand, does not hesitate to run the risk of dissolving the party to help realign opposition forces. Watanabe scorned Eda’s move as an “antiparty action.”

Watanabe removed Eda from the post of party secretary general in August and forced Eda’s close follower, Kakizawa, to leave the party later that month.

The situation was brought to a head over the party leadership’s handling of the government-proposed legislation on protecting specially designated state secrets.

Eda vehemently criticized Watanabe’s role in working out an agreement to amend the bill through talks with the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, as “wooing the LDP.”

Attention will be focused on whether Eda’s action will evolve into interparty tie-ups or a realignment of opposition parties involving the Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party).

After submitting his letter of resignation to the party Monday, Eda said at a news conference that political forces should work together to compete with the LDP. This probably means he wants his new party to act as the foundation for future realignment of opposition parties.

Fighting a behemoth

Given that the current political map is dominated by the LDP, leaving small and weak parties far in its wake, the unity of opposition parties is being put to the test. It is understandable that the opposition parties will try to rally their forces to increase their voice against the behemoth ruling party.

But the question remains whether they can agree on political ideals and policies. Ishin no Kai’s acting secretary general, Yorihisa Matsuno, plans to form a parliamentary group with Eda’s new party. This is a realistic option.

Ishin no Kai, which was founded before the lower house election in December last year, is not a monolithic party either, as policy differences have emerged between its Osaka-based members, led by party coleader Toru Hashimoto, and a group of lawmakers in Tokyo.

If a unified parliamentary group can be realized by Eda’s party and Ishin no Kai, it will surpass the DPJ in strength in the lower house to become the second political force after the LDP. As the biggest parliamentary group of the opposition camp, it will have the strongest voice among opposition groups in the Diet.

Your Party, under Watanabe’s leadership, is expected to increase its cooperation with the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Watanabe will reportedly offer advice to the Abe Cabinet in its reexamination of the constitutional interpretation of the right to collective self-defense.

DPJ President Banri Kaieda cannot sit back and calmly watch the split of Your Party without taking action. Quite a few DPJ members also lean toward a realignment of the opposition parties. Unless something is done to change the status quo, the DPJ’s leadership will see its power further wane.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 10, 2013)
(2013年12月10日01時45分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月10日 (火)

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婚外子格差撤廃 配偶者の権利も尊重したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 9, 2013
Spouse’s rights must be respected despite change on inheritance rights
婚外子格差撤廃 配偶者の権利も尊重したい(12月8日付・読売社説)

The Diet has approved a bill to revise the Civil Code that will delete an article that discriminates against the inheritance rights of children born to unmarried parents.

For now, we can only praise the Diet’s swift action following a ruling by the Supreme Court’s Grand Bench that said the article “runs counter to the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law.”

The revision will delete the article limiting the inheritance an out-of-wedlock child receives to half that of a child born in wedlock. Among major advanced nations, Japan was the only country that maintained such a discriminatory regulation.

In its ruling in September, the Supreme Court stressed, “Children born out of wedlock should not be at a disadvantage as a result of their parents not being married, a situation the children had no control over.”

The number of so-called de facto marriages and single mothers has increased, and the narrow social view of perceiving children born out of wedlock as different has declined considerably. The court’s decision is in line with changing public awareness.

At the same time, the court’s ruling does not diminish respect for de jure marriages, in which couples follow all legal procedures.

We should bear in mind that there is no change in this way of thinking under the revised Civil Code.

During discussions on the revision, strong concerns were voiced within the Liberal Democratic Party that the family system based on legal marriage could be undermined and that adultery could be encouraged.

Even if a spouse of a deceased person has no previous acquaintance with an out-of-wedlock biological child, that child is still entitled to receive the same inheritance as the spouse’s child.

If the only asset is a house, some people have said there may be an increase in cases of a spouse selling the house to pay a portion of the inheritance to an out-of-wedlock child.

Importance of family ties

We can understand to some extent the concern expressed by the LDP and other parties that the deletion of the article could undermine the rights of a spouse—who had lived with his or her spouse for many years before that spouse died, built up their family and accumulated wealth together—and those of the spouse’s child.

To deal with these problems and to maintain the family system founded on legal marriage, other measures must be taken, besides those concerning discriminatory inheritance between in-wedlock and out-of-wedlock children.

The government and the LDP have decided to study what form the legal system for inheritance should take, particularly in regard to spouses, in an effort to protect family bonds, and to come up with a conclusion one year from now.

Granting a higher share of inheritance to a spouse than under the current system is a good option.

The family will remain the foundation of society. During and after the Great East Japan Earthquake, people once again recognized the importance of the family ties.

We should deepen our discussion on family ties now that the Civil Code has been revised.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 8, 2013)
(2013年12月8日01時23分  読売新聞)

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臨時国会閉幕 与野党は不毛な対立解消せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 10, 2013
Both ruling, opposition blocs must stop engaging in unfruitful debate
臨時国会閉幕 与野党は不毛な対立解消せよ(12月8日付・読売社説)

With the latest Diet session now adjourned, there can be no denying that a streak of futile showdowns between the ruling and opposition blocs made what could have been constructive policy discussions recede into the background.

The extraordinary Diet session was virtually brought to a close Friday before the end of the session, which was extended to Sunday.

As a law for establishing a Japanese equivalent to the U.S. National Security Council that will oversee foreign diplomacy and national security policies and one for the protection of specially designated state secrets have been enacted, the foundation for crafting national strategies has been significantly bolstered.

In addition, bills ensuring mainstays of the growth strategy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, such as one to ramp up the nation’s industrial competitiveness and another to create national strategy special zones, have become law.
Other important bills, including those related to social welfare reform and revisions of the public livelihood assistance law, have also passed the legislature.

The Diet can be said to have produced a degree of achievement within this short period of its sitting. This is due mainly to the fact that the state of a divided Diet was brought to an end as a result of the House of Councillors election in July.

The face-off between the ruling and opposition parties over the bill on specially designated state secrets near the close of the Diet session, however, took on the appearance of a mudslinging contest. Indications are that something must be done to address the task of fixing the soured ruling-opposition relations to pave the way for the ordinary Diet session to be convened early next year.

What we believe should be brought into question is the attitude adopted by the Democratic Party of Japan toward the end of the Diet session, as if it had become a party entirely for out-and-out opposition.

The DPJ presented a no-confidence motion to the House of Representatives against the Abe Cabinet on Friday night, protesting that the Cabinet was rushing relentlessly to enact the state secrecy law.

Opposition camp in disarray

Under the circumstances, it was quite reasonable that Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) opposed the DPJ move on the grounds that the act of submitting a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet as a way of steering the Diet agenda “should be ruled out as pointless.” The difference in views between the two parties brought to the fore the failure of the opposition camp’s attempt to act as one in fighting the coalition government.

When it came time to vote on the state secrecy law in an upper house plenary session, the DPJ lawmakers at one point walked out. They, however, ended up taking a detour, eventually returning to the floor due to a spate of objections against the walkout from among party members, casting dissenting votes against the legislation.

Though Ishin no Kai and fellow opposition Your Party were in favor of cooperating with the ruling camp regarding amendments to the law, both parties fell into internal disarray, resulting in a walkout just before the vote to protest the speed with which the ruling bloc handled the legislation.

There were schisms before the voting within both parties, but the intraparty rifts seemed to have been aggravated over pros and cons regarding the state secrey law. This will likely have some implications for moves to realign opposition parties.

The way the ruling parties ran the Diet agenda was forceful and clumsy.

Up until the voting on the state secrecy law at the upper house’s special committee, it cannot be denied that the parties in power incurred unnecessarily adverse reactions from the opposition through such actions as the unilateral setting of the committee’s deliberation schedules at its chairman’s discretion, abruptly halting interpellations on the issue and holding a lopsided public hearing on the divisive legislation.

Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba likened demonstrations against the state secrecy bill around the Diet building and elsewhere to “terrorism,” a comment that he had to rescind later.

The demonstrations were carried out using loudspeakers, creating a possibility of infringing on the law requiring maintenance of peace in the vicinity of the Diet building. The remark by Ishiba, however, resulted in providing the opposition with ammunition for attack.

Given the Diet’s current configuration of power, which can be characterized as “a single dominant party with all others hot on its heels,” the LDP should never be arrogant about its the numerical advantage, instead bearing in mind the importance of running Diet affairs humbly and politely.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 8, 2013)
(2013年12月8日01時23分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月 8日 (日)

秘密保護法成立 国家安保戦略の深化につなげよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 8, 2013
Make use of intelligence protection law to strengthen national security strategy
秘密保護法成立 国家安保戦略の深化につなげよ(12月7日付・読売社説)


A law to protect state secrets, comparable to those in other advanced countries, has finally been enacted in Japan.

The government must use the law to strengthen diplomatic and national security policies. At the same time, it should pay special attention in applying the law, so the general public does not feel as if its right to know will be limited.

The specially designated intelligence protection law, which strengthens punishments of public employees who leak classified information concerning national security, was enacted after a bill on the law passed a House of Councillors plenary session late Friday, with a majority of votes by the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

With the ruling and opposition parties in fierce confrontation over the bill, members of Your Party—which agreed to passage of the bill in the House of Representatives—walked out of the plenary session, criticizing the ruling camp’s way of managing Diet business as “high-handed.” We regret that this extremely important law was born in such unusual circumstances.

Unified rules clarified

As epitomized by China’s recent declaration of an air defense identification zone, the national security environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe.

Japan needs to obtain important intelligence on the matter from the United States and other countries and must strengthen its cooperation with them. To do so, it is indispensable to enhance the credibility of its efforts to protect secret information.

Japan already had rules in place to protect state secrets, including obligations for public officials to protect secrets under the National Civil Service Law, rules for special defense secrets in line with the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement of 1954, and another set of rules for defense secrets under the Self-Defense Forces Law revised in 2001.

However, these rules have not adequately protected important intelligence, and it has been pointed out that intelligence is easily leaked in Japan. With the new law, unified and full-fledged rules covering the entire government have been put in place to protect state secrets concerning defense, diplomacy and anti-espionage and antiterrorism activities.

The Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council was launched Wednesday. To enhance the council’s intelligence gathering and analysis abilities, the new law is indispensable.

However, the legislative intent of the law, which is to protect the Japanese people, has been made light of by some people.

We were surprised that during Diet deliberations on the bill some opposition party members criticized the legislation, even comparing it to the prewar public order maintenance law, which was used to clamp down on ideological criminals. That is an extremely irrational opinion that ignores Japan’s postwar history as a democratic nation as well as changes in the political system and media coverage.

In answer to a question during Diet deliberations on the bill, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: “The general public won’t have access to specially designated secrets, so prosecution of citizens under the law won’t be possible.” As he said, ordinary citizens will not be subject to the law.

Yet, it cannot be denied that the people’s distrust of the government increased through the deliberations of the bill. The government must explain the intent of the secret intelligence protection law carefully to the people and seek their understanding.

Through discussions between the ruling parties and the opposition parties Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, the range of subjects that can be designated as special secrets was narrowed further, and the principles for disclosing them after they are declassified was made clear. This is praiseworthy.

Concern over right to know

The biggest point of contention in the upper house deliberations was whether bureaucrats would arbitrarily expand the range of secrecy.

Abe pledged to establish a third-party surveillance committee to check the validity of confidentiality designations. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also mentioned that an information oversight office with about 20 members will be established in the Cabinet Office. These appear to be the results of concessions made by the government thus far.

It is essential that the proposed third-party organ be equipped with functional capabilities. Due heed must especially be taken of the public’s strong concern about secrets handled by such organizations as the National Police Agency and the Public Security Investigation Agency, which are involved in dealing with terrorism and espionage activities.

The Democratic Party of Japan has maintained that a third-party body, if established within the government, would be unable to perform its functions. However, it is doubtful whether a third-party committee comprising experts nominated by both the ruling and opposition parties, as proposed by the DPJ, would be able to adequately judge the secrecy of information.

High-level judgments on how to handle highly confidential state secrets can be made only in light of government policy and national strategy. We thus believe an oversight body established within the government is desirable in view of the high risk of an information leak.

The biggest concern is whether government employees will become apprehensive about answering questions from the media out of fear of severe punishment, namely up to 10 years in prison imposed on people who violate the secrecy law. They also might use the law as an excuse to hide information.

Due to such overreaction to the Personal Information Protection Law, it is already difficult to share even information that needs to be shared for the good of society. This trend should not be accelerated.

Concrete steps needed

The law calls for highly confidential state secrets to be disclosed in principle after 30 years of secrecy designation. An extension of up to 60 years will be allowed, with a few exceptions. Concrete measures, such as how to disclose or destroy documents after the secrecy period ends, have been left up in the air.

There are also problems related to the freedom of information system that is supposed to be linked with the protection of secrets. The current system makes it difficult for people to access information because of the narrow range of disclosure.

Unless the system is changed to allow judges to see relevant documents in the event of a lawsuit filed over highly confidential secrets, the courts will be unable to fulfill their roles.

The Diet’s role also needs to be discussed. The ruling and opposition parties must deepen discussions on how to steer closed-door meetings in which highly confidential state secrets are provided, and how to relate such meetings to parliamentary rights to investigate state affairs.

The law will take effect within a year after its promulgation. We urge the ruling and opposition camps to hold consultations to improve the legal system regarding secrets.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 7, 2013)
(2013年12月7日01時42分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月 7日 (土)

経済対策5兆円 消費増税後の景気失速を防げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 7, 2013
Govt must take steps to prevent slowdown after tax hike in April
経済対策5兆円 消費増税後の景気失速を防げ(12月6日付・読売社説)

The government must take every step it can regarding economic management to prevent the national economy from losing steam due to the consumption tax increase set for April.

The government has decided on a package of economic measures in preparation for the tax hike from 5 percent to 8 percent, calling for fiscal spending of about ¥5.5 trillion. If expenditures by local governments and other entities are included, spending will amount to ¥18.6 trillion.

Backed by tailwinds from the Abenomics economic policy promoted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration and the weaker yen, the national economy has been picking up but has not yet achieved strong growth led by the private sector. The nation’s exit from deflation is still ongoing as well.

A last-minute surge in demand for durable consumer goods is anticipated ahead of the tax hike, but consumption and investment are expected to turn sluggish in reaction to the tax raise.

According to projections by private institutions, annualized growth in the gross domestic product for the April-June quarter of 2014 is widely anticipated to drop by five percentage points from the previous quarter. It is proper that the government will take steps to prevent the economy from slowing down.

One of the core measures is to utilize corporate vigor.

The special corporate tax for reconstruction will be abolished at the end of fiscal 2013, one year ahead of schedule, to reduce the corporate tax burden by about ¥800 billion, and the financing system to support the operation of small and midsize companies will be expanded. The government will support businesses, as it expects them to be a driving force behind growth.

Companies have roles to play

For their part, companies are urged to actively expand investment and projects. It is hoped that their improved profits will be used to raise wages and expand employment, spreading the benefits to household finances.

The second pillar of the economic measures is implementation of public works projects. The projects will center on safety and anti-disaster measures such as strengthening school buildings’ earthquake resistance and renewal of superannuated roads and bridges.

However, it is worrying that many tenders on public works projects have recently ended unsuccessfully due to a labor shortage and surges in material prices. Smooth implementation of the projects is needed to ensure stimulus measures are effective. It is also indispensable to closely scrutinize the projects to determine which are nonessential and which are nonurgent.

Enhancing the policy to sustain personal consumption will also be necessary to ease the adverse effects of the tax increase. This is because the planned cash handouts to low-income earners, which have been incorporated in the government’s economic steps, are expected to have only a limited effect.

It would be more beneficial to adopt reduced tax rates for such items as food so that benefits can be offered to a wider range of consumers in a lasting manner.

If the consumption tax is to be raised further to 10 percent in October 2015 as scheduled, it will be indispensable to adopt reduced tax rates. The ruling parties need to decide on the introduction as early as possible.

To put the economy on a path to full-scale recovery, it is essential to steadily realize a growth strategy in addition to the economic measures. Deregulation and other reform measures that would lead to expanding new business opportunities must be carried out urgently.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 6, 2013)
(2013年12月6日01時26分  読売新聞)

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中国防空識別圏 習主席は日米の懸念に応えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 7, 2013
President Xi must pay heed to Japan, U.S. concerns over ADIZ
中国防空識別圏 習主席は日米の懸念に応えよ(12月6日付・読売社説)

China must take seriously the explicit declarations by Japan and the United States of their intentions regarding Beijing’s announcement of its new air defense identification zone.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in Beijing, declaring that the United States does not recognize or accept the ADIZ recently established by China over the East China Sea, expressing Washington’s “significant apprehension.”

In the talks, Biden reportedly called for Beijing to take measures to reduce tensions with countries concerned, prodding the Chinese leadership to exercise self-restraint to prevent a crisis over the zone.

Both of Biden’s calls were in line with what was confirmed in his talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the previous day.

It was especially significant that Biden conveyed directly to Xi the strong sense of apprehension both Japan and the United States have over the way China declared the ADIZ and the rules of its implementation, which both Tokyo and Washington said deviate from international norms.

In declaring the ADIZ, which changes the status quo in the East China Sea, China failed to consult with countries concerned beforehand. Rather, it unilaterally implemented the zone and abruptly announced it.

The means by which China implemented the new ADIZ strays from implementation protocol for air defense identification zones of other countries.

In the ADIZs of countries other than China, including Japan, only aircraft found to be heading toward the countries’ territorial airspace are subject to alert. China, however, made it mandatory for all aircraft passing through its new ADIZ to report flight plans to Chinese authorities. Also, Beijing has warned it will make planes that fail to comply with its ADIZ rules subject to unspecified “defensive emergency measures.”

Dangerous mind-set

Although most of the ADIZ is set above high seas, China’s warning is tantamount to treating the zone as part of its own airspace. We believe this is an illegitimate and dangerous mode of thinking.

In reply to calls from Biden, Xi was cited as reiterating China’s “principled stance” that its new ADIZ was established “in accord with international law and practice.” Does China intend to continue treating its air zone in its own fashion?

As long as China takes such an attitude, it will never win the understanding of countries concerned, including Japan and the United States. First, Beijing should do away with its hard-line stance, which could invite the risk of an accidental military conflict.

In his talks with Xi, Biden was also quoted as calling for China to create a crisis management mechanism in cooperation with Japan, with which China has an ongoing sovereignty row over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and other countries surrounding the new air zone.

It is crucial to expedite the opening up of communication channels among the countries concerned. The Chinese government has made an overture to the Japanese government to hold consultations with the aim of “securing safe flights” in the airspace where the two countries’ ADIZs overlap.

We worry, however, that in the process of such consultations, China will insist that Japan acknowledge China’s ADIZ, including airspace over the Senkakus, as if it were a fait accompli.

Even if such consultations take place, Japan must not give up its stance of refusing to recognize China’s declaration of the air defense identification zone.

In dealing with the ADIZ, it is important that Japan work closely with the United States in taking strategic measures against China.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 6, 2013)
(2013年12月6日01時26分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月 6日 (金)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:母と娘、複雑で面白い関係 /東京

December 01, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Untangling complicated mother-daughter relationships
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:母と娘、複雑で面白い関係 /東京

So many of my patients come to see me about family issues. In many cases, they have problems with their parents, saying, "I can't open up to them," or, "They've hurt me."

Daughters, in particular, seem to have difficulties dealing with their mothers. Their ages vary widely, from teenagers to women in their 50s and 60s. In fact, I met a woman in her 70s who told me that she had been rejected by her mother ever since she was young. The mother, if I remember correctly, was in her late 90s.

The other day, I was reading a magazine that mainly targets male white-collar workers, and came across an article in which male athletes and scholars talked about their mothers. These men said their mothers had always been proud of them and had given them all the love they could provide. Even when they became successful in their professions, their mothers always cared for them.
This may sound blunt, but I was impressed by how simple a mother-son relationship is.

Mother-daughter relationships, on the other hand, are complicated. Many women who come to my clinic because they have problem with their mothers don't actually hate them.

I asked one patient who had rocky relationship with her mother (because the mother once told her that she couldn't do anything right) about her plans for the weekend and she said she was going to see a musical with her mother.

She explained that although she couldn't seem to forgive her mother, they shared the same pastimes now, and she didn't mind spending time with her mother if they were enjoying what they both liked.

"I can't stand her, but I can't help caring about her" -- this might be how daughters feel toward their mothers. Women are constantly asking themselves, "Do I or do I not like my mother?" "Do I want to spend time with her?" Unable to answer these questions, they become stressed out.
 わだかまりはあるけれど、気になる存在。許せないけれど、わかりすぎるくらい通じ合ってもいる。だからこそ、「私は母が好きなの? 嫌いなの? 一緒にいたいの? いたくないの?」と自分でも分からなくなり、余計に娘たちはイライラするのかもしれない。

The Japanese novel "Showa no Inu" (A Dog in the Showa Era) by Kaoruko Himeno tells the story of a woman who grows up never really getting along with her parents. Her father always yells at her and her mother is never sympathetic toward her daughter. When the father dies, however, the mother's personality transforms completely and she becomes a cheerful person. The mother eventually becomes ill and has to be admitted to a local rest home, but the daughter comes to see her mother from Tokyo every weekend.

Although they never settle their differences, the daughter and the mother even talk about their past, and the daughter starts to feel that she has been blessed to be raised in her family.

Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated, but at the same time, they're intriguing.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2013年11月26日 地方版

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秘密保護法案 「監視委」の実効性が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 6, 2013
Surveillance panel on state secrets must have sufficient efficacy
秘密保護法案 「監視委」の実効性が問われる(12月5日付・読売社説)

We praise the recent move concerning a bill on protecting specially designated state secrets as a certain degree of advancement in terms of protecting people’s “right to know.”

During deliberations on the bill in the Diet, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the government will establish a secrecy preservation surveillance panel to verify the appropriateness of the designation of state secrets within the Cabinet Secretariat before enforcement of the proposed law.

Abe said that together with an “advisory council on information preservation,” an expert council to offer opinions when the government compiles enforcement rules for designating state secrets; and independent public document and archive management officials, posts to be newly created, the government will conduct “triple checks” on secrets.

To strike a good balance between the preservation of state secrets concerning national security and such things as the freedom of the press, it is indispensable to have a mechanism to prevent the subjects of secret designations from being easily expanded. We hope the surveillance panel and the council will put the brakes on arbitrary designations of secrets by government ministries and agencies.

The most important thing is to secure the efficacy of the organizations and the new posts.

The surveillance panel reportedly will include the chief cabinet secretary, deputy chief cabinet secretaries and administrative vice ministers from relevant ministries and agencies.

The Democratic Party of Japan has proposed the surveillance panel be independent from the government. However, that proposal is impossible to realize, as it would put the task of judging whether the designation of secrets is appropriate in the hands of outsiders. Therefore, it is reasonable to keep the panel within the government.

Yet, it is necessary to prevent the panel from becoming an organization to merely approve secret designations by various ministries and agencies.

It is important for the government to enhance the functions of the secretariat of the surveillance panel. At the same time, it should nurture people with expertise concerning the preservation of state secrets and information disclosure.

Main topic for leaders’ debate

The bill on the protection of specially designated secrets was the main theme during Wednesday’s debate between Abe and leaders from other parties.

“At present, there are no rules for designating state secrets and declassifying them,” Abe said, emphasizing the significance of clarifying the criteria and rules for preserving important information.

DPJ President Banri Kaieda dubbed the bill a “faulty product” since it does not contain stipulations for the surveillance panel, for instance. He criticized it as a “bill to hide information of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats and for the bureaucrats.”

Regarding the panel to verify the appropriateness of designations of secrets, the stipulation that the establishment of a verification organization will be examined was added to the bill’s supplementary provisions as a result of discussions on the bill’s amendment between the ruling parties, Your Party and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party). There is nothing wrong with a government-sponsored bill having its content improved during a Diet session.

Ishin no Kai coleader Shintaro Ishihara praised the bill as “very important legislation to meet the needs of the times.” Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe said deliberations on the bill in the House of Councillors were conducted “with an iron fist,” and demanded the current Diet session be extended.

To sweep away such an extreme opinion that the bill will threaten citizens’ lives, the government must double its efforts to explain the content of the bill in detail and in an understandable manner.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 5, 2013)
(2013年12月5日01時50分  読売新聞)

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男性の育児休業 働く母親支える環境作りを

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 6, 2013
Encouraging men to take child-care leave would benefit society
男性の育児休業 働く母親支える環境作りを(12月5日付・読売社説)

Increasing the amount of child-care leave taken by men will help create a social environment more conducive to child-rearing.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has started discussions highly likely to result in raising the child-care benefits paid through employment insurance.

The anticipated change is designed to increase the number of working men who take child-care leave. Fewer than 2 percent do so now.

The ministry plans to submit a bill to revise the Employment Insurance Law to the ordinary Diet session next year.

Under the current system, a working couple is able to take child-care leave, in principle, until their baby is 14 months old if the leave is taken by only one parent at a time. A parent taking leave is entitled to receive benefits worth 50 percent of the wages earned before taking the leave.

The government is likely to raise the child-care leave benefit to 67 percent of wages for at least the first six-month period for each parent.

For example, if a new mother takes two months of maternity leave after giving birth, followed by child-care leave for six months, and then her husband takes child-care leave for the next six months, the couple would be assured of a full year of child-care benefits worth 67 percent of the wages of whichever parent was taking leave at the time.

The government hopes that by boosting such economic assistance, the child-care leave taken by men will increase.

Companies must help

Yet there is also a sense of unwillingness in business circles.

While the central government pays for a little under 7 percent of the child-care leave benefit, the rest is to be covered by insurance for which employers and employees pay equally. Therefore, the increase in the benefit is likely to raise the financial burden on both labor and management.

It is also unlikely that a hike in child-care leave benefits alone will be sufficient to increase the amount of child-care leave taken by men.

An opinion survey taken by the ministry found that men most often cited “workplace atmosphere” as a reason for not taking child-care leave.

If more working men were to take child-care leave, even for a very short period, it would give mental support to working women. We think it important for businesses to understand this well and to start creating environments in which men feel it is easier to take their child-care leave.

At leading consumer products maker Kao Corp., winner of the grand prize of the “Ikumen Company Award 2013,” the rate of men taking child-rearing leave has been hovering in the 35-40 percent range in recent years. (“Ikumen” is a recently coined word for fathers who actively take part in raising children.)

The company has established a system of giving its male employees fully paid child-care leave for up to five days. It encourages them to take the leave more actively by holding seminars. Although the average period of child-care leave taken by male employees is only 11 days, the company said its employees’ attitudes have been changing.

Since earlier this year, the Tokyo Stock Exchange has selected listed companies that excel at utilizing women, calling these companies “Nadeshiko issues” and recommending their stock to potential investors. The rate of male workers taking child-care leave is one yardstick for the TSE’s selection.

Hiroshima Prefecture Gov. Hidehiko Yuzaki provided another positive example with his announcement that he was taking child-care leave himself, apparently pushing up the rate of men taking such leave at companies in the prefecture to 7 percent.

Measures to deal with the low birth rate are a matter of urgency.

Both the public and private sectors need to consider ways to broadly support child-rearing, including the child-care leave taken by men.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 5, 2013)
(2013年12月5日01時50分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月 5日 (木)

全国学力テスト 結果公表を教育改善に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 2, 2013
Use disclosure of natl achievement test results to improve education
全国学力テスト 結果公表を教育改善に生かせ(12月1日付・読売社説)

Boards of education, teachers and parents should share results of the nationwide achievement test for schoolchildren as much as possible. This will lead to better understanding and cooperation in society concerning school management.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry recently revised implementation procedures for the achievement test for primary school sixth-graders and middle school third-graders. Under the revised procedures, municipal boards of education will be able to release school-by-school results of the test, starting next fiscal year. Prefectural boards of education will also be able to disclose results of the test by municipality and school.

The education ministry had prohibited announcing results of the test by municipality and school to avoid creating excessive competition among schools, and to prevent schools from being ranked according to the results.

However, results of the test, which costs more than ¥5 billion from state coffers to administer, provide valuable information for ascertaining the current education situation. It is appropriate to disclose the results to the public and not allow education boards to monopolize the information.

Many parents want to know the academic standards at schools their children attend and in the communities they live in. Some municipalities want to announce the test results to fulfill their accountability to their residents.

It is important for each board of education to reveal results of the test with an eye to improving teaching methods.

We understand the education ministry’s stipulation in the revised implementation procedures that data regarding the test, such as the average rate of correct answers, should be revealed together with analyses of test results and measures to improve teaching.

For instance, it is important to clarify what kind of questions students tend to get wrong. After clarifying issues raised by test results, each board of education will be required to present remedial measures such as teaching methods to overcome students’ weak points and the assignment of more teachers.

Discuss how to reveal results

If year-on-year changes in test results are studied and the measures taken to improve education at schools that have achieved noticeable improvements are announced, not only will other schools be able to learn from them but the motivation of teachers in general will be improved.

So far, prefecture-by-prefecture data on the test have been revealed. This has helped prefectures with lower test results learn teaching methods from those with higher test results and improve their performance. A moderate level of competition through the test is expected to vitalize education.

It is also important for boards of education and schools to sufficiently discuss how to reveal test results.

In September, Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu revealed names of principals at schools with students recording higher test results without advance agreement with the other parties concerned.

We believe that a unilateral action like this will only cause confusion in schools. Boards of education and teachers at each school must share a common goal in announcing test results. This will also increase the educational effects of the announcement.

It is impossible to gauge every aspect of children’s academic abilities with the achievement test alone. Their parents and residents in their communities must understand this and accept the announcement of test results.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 1, 2013)
(2013年12月1日02時14分  読売新聞)

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タクシー減車法 顧客重視の競争を忘れずに

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 3, 2013
Law to reduce taxis must not hamper competition, services
タクシー減車法 顧客重視の競争を忘れずに(12月2日付・読売社説)

The toughening of regulatory measures for the taxi industry could hinder fair competition among operators and adversely affect services for users. We are concerned about the negative impact that may result from a revision of the law regulating the industry.

A bill, jointly sponsored by the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan and aimed at “normalizing and reinvigorating the taxi industry,” was recently enacted. The revised law is aimed at designating “special areas,” such as central Tokyo and the downtown areas of other major cities, that will be subject to mandatory taxi reductions because the number of cabs is regarded as excessive.

New entries into the taxi industry and fleet expansions will be prohibited for a certain period under the law in the special areas.

A council comprising taxicab operators, the municipal government concerned and other entities in each special area is to formulate plans aimed at reducing taxi fleets and restricting business hours. The legislation empowers the government to issue orders to carriers, including owner-driver taxis, that fail to comply with these plans.

The revised law also has introduced a system to set permissible ranges of fares by areas, enabling the government to order noncompliant carriers to change their fares.

The tough restrictions on competition and setting the bar high for new entrants into the taxi business appear to be in response to appeals from existing taxicab companies.

The taxi industry was liberalized in 2002 to allow new entries in the field, but a law enacted in 2009 called on taxi operators to voluntarily reduce their fleets on the ground that the soaring number of taxis had resulted in excessive competition. Some companies, however, failed to reduce their fleets as the law had no binding power.

Self-help efforts essential

The LDP, Komeito and DPJ argued that unless fleets were reduced drastically, cutthroat competition among taxi firms would intensify, leading to a drop in income for taxi drivers because they work on a commission basis and a continuation of long work hours.
Improving working conditions of taxi drivers should be urgently addressed, as their work hours are significantly longer and their wages lower compared to workers in other industries.

Working conditions could be improved primarily through taxi companies’ efforts to boost profits through cost-cutting measures.

We fear the tougher regulations in the revised law will not lead to a reduction in taxi fares, and the possibility of a deterioration in services could produce an adverse reaction from users.

If the taxi industry became solely dependent on the regulatory measures and became less competitive, potential passengers may be inclined to shy away from using taxis, aggravating the business performance of taxi operators even further.

In putting the law into practice, the government should bear in mind the need to handle matters carefully through such means as reducing the list of competition-restricting “special areas.”

It is also extremely important to carefully determine whether taxi fleets are excessively competing in certain areas.

By laying down objective and intelligible criteria, the government must ensure taxi fleets’ impartiality and transparency.

Taxi operators have started using smartphones so they can dispatch taxis located nearest to a prospective passenger. In addition, an increasing number of operators are equipping their taxis with rails and other means to allow aged users to get into and out of the vehicles more easily.

It is important for taxi operators to make full use of their ingenuity and redouble competitive efforts to attract passengers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 2, 2013)
(2013年12月2日02時06分  読売新聞)

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消費税転嫁 混乱を防ぐ手立てが必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 4, 2013
Steps needed to avert confusion over prices when consumption tax hiked
消費税転嫁 混乱を防ぐ手立てが必要だ(12月3日付・読売社説)

Businesses are required to smoothly pass along increases in the costs of products and services resulting from the three-percentage-point consumption tax hike, which goes into effect next April.

When the rate is raised from the current 5 percent to 8 percent, the price increase will be passed on through retail prices and assumed by consumers.

Developments that must be avoided are confusing consumers over whether the retail price includes the effects of tax hike, and large companies’ rejection of requests from small and midsize suppliers of goods and services to pass the effects of tax increase on to the prices of their products.

East Japan Railway Co. and Tokyo Metro Co. plan to include the higher tax in units of ¥1 if passengers use prepaid IC cards at automated ticket gates. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is prepared to accept the plan.

With ticket machines, however, the fare system remains unchanged, and tax will be added to tickets in units of ¥10. As a result, there will be a “two-tier fare” system in which fares differ depending on whether IC cards or cash is used.

Central Japan Railway Co. and West Japan Railway Co. are unlikely to pass the tax increase on to passengers using IC cards in units of ¥1.

The government and the mass transit system operators must fully explain to passengers the different methods being used by operators in passing on the tax hike.

When buying railway tickets, there is a possibility passengers may pay more than the total amount of the tax hike. Transit system operators must not be allowed to gain such a windfall by collecting money in excess of the consumption tax increase.

Cartels approved

The government has put into force special measures to ensure the consumption tax hike is passed on through prices. These include allowing suppliers to form a cartel for the purpose of passing the price increase on through their prices, an exception to the Antimonopoly Law.

Soon after the special measures were put into force, the soft drink and other industries applied to establish a cartel. With vending machines, it is difficult to change prices in units of ¥1. Therefore, it is deemed appropriate for industries to divide products into two categories—one in which the tax hike is to be passed on in units of ¥10 and the other in which the prices will remain unchanged—while setting the average price increase margin at about three percentage points. The special measures also allow retailers to display prices that exclude the consumption tax.

Up to now, retailers have been required by law to display the total price, including the consumption tax, which is easy for customers to grasp.

Although this measure is designed to lessen the burden of retailers as they can avoid changing price tags when the tax hike goes into effect, it will lead to a situation in which marked prices differ among retailers, confusing customers. Retailers need to come up with ideas so consumers can easily understand which method retailers are using in displaying their prices.

The government also forbids large companies—due to their clout—to refuse to accept the price increases made by their suppliers that would allow the tax hike to be tacked on to their prices. We must give credit to such government efforts as reinforcing the system at the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency and the Fair Trade Commission by having about 600 inspectors tasked with ensuring the tax hike is passed on.

The government should make absolutely sure that everything is aboveboard where actual deals are made. Some businesses may be reluctant to provide information concerning the improper actions of their trading partners to the relevant authorities. The government should spare no effort to publicize the special measures to create an environment in which smaller businesses are not compelled to accept what their stronger business partners want.

It is also difficult to tell the difference between unfair actions of a purchaser and a price reduction made through a corporate effort. Suppliers also need to keep detailed data of price negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2013)
(2013年12月3日01時34分  読売新聞)

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国際学力調査 「脱ゆとり」が生んだV字回復

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 5, 2013
Departure from cram-free education key behind higher academic ability
国際学力調査 「脱ゆとり」が生んだV字回復(12月4日付・読売社説)

The education ministry’s departure from its previous cram-free education policy has apparently resulted in a sharp recovery in the academic ability of Japanese children. The results of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s latest academic achievement test can be regarded as an indication that the ministry’s effort to change its education program has accomplished what it set out to do.

On Tuesday, the OECD unveiled the results of its Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) worldwide survey for 2012. The PISA survey covers 15-year-old students, an age group at the end of compulsory education.

Japan was ranked fourth among 65 nations and territories in reading performance and scientific applied skills, and seventh in mathematical applied skills.

Since it debuted in 2000, the PISA survey has been carried out every three years. Japan achieved favorable results in the inaugural PISA assessment. However, the nation’s ranking in reading performance plunged to 14th in 2003 and 15th in 2006. Japan’s ranking improved slightly in the 2009 survey. The outcome of the latest PISA assessment points to an improvement in both the average scores and rankings of Japanese students in all three categories.

A probable factor behind the improved performance of Japanese students is an attempt by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to shift the focus of its policy from pressure-free education in 2008. In revising its official teaching guidelines that year, the ministry increased the volume of study content and the number of class hours.

The ministry’s new policy attached greater importance to providing lessons aimed at improving the ability of primary and middle school students to think and express themselves through such activities as debates and report writing. Since 2007, the ministry has also conducted nationwide academic achievement tests in the hope of encouraging teachers and school administrators to examine and improve their teaching methods.

It is important that steady progress be made in these efforts to help students fully assimilate what they have learned and further improve their academic skills.

What was noteworthy about the latest PISA results was an increase in the percentage of high achievers in mathematics, reading and science among Japanese students, combined with a decline in the percentage of low-achieving children in these subjects.

Key factor behind success

The education ministry believes the nationwide use of a method aimed at teaching students according to their level of proficiency was a key factor behind raising the overall level of Japanese students’ academic ability.

However, in a survey covering the attitude of students, taken alongside the PISA assessment, it appeared that Japanese students have less interest in mathematics than their counterparts overseas.

This was evident from a questionnaire about whether respondents were interested in what they learned in mathematics. The percentage of Japanese students who answered positively was the fourth-lowest.

Japanese students also fared poorly in the percentage of children who found it worthwhile to learn mathematics as a means of expanding the scope of possibilities in their future jobs. Those who agreed it would help them ranked second from the bottom in the survey.

This attitude was also noticeable in the results of a Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study conducted in 2011.

These results are worrisome as the country seeks to prosper on the strength of its ability to create new technology.

We hope educators will use their imagination to teach mathematics and science in a manner that will help students recognize that learning these subjects is an enjoyable experience while also letting them know that knowledge gained from studying these areas is extremely useful when they start out in the world. By doing so, educators should stimulate their intellectual curiosity. All these measures will help produce future workers who will achieve great things in the field of science and technology.

It is also important to improve the skills of educators by enhancing the quality of teacher training courses at colleges and universities and training programs for people already teaching students on a daily basis.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 4, 2013)
(2013年12月4日01時50分  読売新聞)

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バイデン氏来日 対中国で日米同盟強める時だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 5, 2013
Japan, U.S. must reinforce alliance to deal with China’s forceful methods
バイデン氏来日 対中国で日米同盟強める時だ(12月4日付・読売社説)

We heartily applaud the clear political message sent from a high diplomatic level that Japan and the United States will not tolerate any self-righteous step taken by China.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday held talks in Tokyo. They agreed both countries would not recognize China’s newly established air defense identification zone, which they called an “attempt by China to change status quo unilaterally by force,” and would cooperate closely on the issue.

They also confirmed they “will not condone any action that could threaten [the] safety of civilian aircraft.”

Biden is expected to present the opinions of Japan and the United States when he holds talks Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Allowing China’s latest move to go unchallenged could set a bad precedent, as China is using strong-arm methods to back up its own assertions. This would send a message that China might misconstrue.

To halt Chinese diplomatic moves that deviate from existing international rules and threaten the regional peace and stability of Asia, it is vital that Japan and the United States reinforce their alliance and calibrate their diplomatic policies.

The Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, which is to be launched Wednesday, should assume a pivotal role in this task.

It is also important to seek support on this issue not only with South Korea, whose air defense zone overlaps with the one China is claiming, but also with countries in Southeast Asia and Europe. A broad consensus must be built, based on the conviction that ensuring China abides by international rules is a common challenge for the global community.

Move Futenma issue forward

During their talks, Abe and Biden confirmed they would “push forward with a strong resolve” the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.

The Futenma issue has been like a splinter stuck in the Japan-U.S. alliance since 1996. If Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima approves land reclamation necessary for the relocation off the Henoko district, the issue will take a great step forward. The issue is at a crucial juncture.

Making the relocation to Henoko a reality will eliminate the possibility of the Futenma base remaining where it is for years and years, and also accelerate the planned transfer of U.S. marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam.

Biden also emphasized that Washington would cooperate with Japan so the Futenma base can be moved soon.

To create conditions in which Nakaima would find it easier to approve the reclamation, both Tokyo and Washington must do more to quickly alleviate Okinawa Prefecture’s burden of hosting U.S. military bases. Steps for this could include agreeing to allow prior on-site inspections of U.S. bases planned to be returned to the prefecture, and partially lifting restrictions in waters U.S. forces use for training exercises.

Abe and Biden agreed both countries would continue cooperating on a process to conclude Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord negotiations by the end of the year.

However, Japan is poised to refuse the total scrapping of tariffs on items in five key categories of rice, wheat and other farm products, leaving the talks between Japan and the United States with nowhere to go.

It is important for Japan to aim at concluding the TPP talks by reminding itself from a broader perspective that, while maintaining tariffs that are vital for Japan, reaching an agreement as a whole would serve the common interests of the 12 participating countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 4, 2013)
(2013年12月4日01時50分  読売新聞)

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年金制度改革 課税の見直しも議論したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 4, 2013
Review of taxation must also be discussed in pension system reform
年金制度改革 課税の見直しも議論したい(12月3日付・読売社説)

Finding ways to alleviate the sense of unfairness regarding financial burdens to be shared by pensioners and working generations is a crucial challenge for the nation that must be tackled to maintain the pension system with limited fiscal resources.

A bill that will set the procedures for a package of social security system reform programs is likely to pass the current session of the Diet. But the bill only says that pension system reform is necessary. The government must step up efforts to study ways to create a solid system and a timetable for its implementation.

In its August report, the National Council on Social Security System Reform, which laid the foundation for the bill, pointed out that “even the elderly must be asked to sustain the system in accordance with their burden-sharing ability.”

Pension payments amount to about ¥52 trillion, which is about half of social welfare spending. Welfare expenses are anticipated to increase year after year as the population ages. To ensure the system remains stable, pension benefits and payment burdens must be reexamined.

One concrete reform step would be to bolster pension taxation on high-income earners.

For example, in the case of single people aged 65 or older who receive public pensions, at least ¥1.2 million is deducted when their tax payment is calculated. No income tax is imposed on a married couple when their annual income is no more than about ¥2.05 million.

In the case of salaried workers, however, total tax deductions from their income amounts to ¥650,000, and the minimum taxable income is set as low as about ¥1.57 million.

Unfair taxation

Many people, including low-income irregular workers who pay taxes while supporting their families, apparently consider the current situation, in which no tax is levied on pensioners even with the same amount of income as theirs, as unfair.

Various measures for low-income earners are applied to pension-receiving households. For households with no resident tax imposed, their nursing care insurance premiums are reduced. In addition, a lower financial ceiling is set on treatment expenses they must pay to medical institutions.

However, many senior citizens possess a large amount of assets even if their income is low. It would not be proper to regard tax-exempt pensioners in the same way as the socially vulnerable.

Half of the basic pension is financed by state coffers. Even so, pension financing will remain difficult unless something is done. It is unavoidable to bolster taxation on pensioners to a certain extent so as not to impose an excessive burden on working generations.

Raising the age for beginning to receive pension payments is also a major challenge.

The age of people entitled to receive corporate employees pension benefits will be raised, in phases, to 65.
The United States, Britain and Germany have already decided to raise the entitlement age to 67 or 68.

However, the population is aging faster in Japan than in these three countries. Raising the starting age for pension payments, therefore, is an inevitable course of action that Japan must take.

The next national election will be held almost three years from now at the latest. The ruling and opposition parties should work tenaciously and earnestly toward building a consensus on pension system reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 3, 2013)
(2013年12月3日01時34分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月 4日 (水)

脱法ドラッグ 規制強化で若者への蔓延防げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 3, 2013
Apply new law effectively to curb use of quasi-legal drugs by young people
脱法ドラッグ 規制強化で若者への蔓延防げ(12月2日付・読売社説)

The use of so-called quasi-legal drugs must be checked from spreading further among young people.

A bill to revise the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law designed to ban the possession, use and purchase of these hazardous substances has passed through the House of Representatives.

The bill provides for imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to ¥3 million for violations. It should be passed into law as soon as possible so its provisions can be enforced.

Quasi-legal drugs are not subject to laws and regulations, despite the fact that people who use them hallucinate or develop other symptoms similar to those caused by narcotics or stimulant drugs.

The drugs can cause serious health problems such as disturbed consciousness and breathing difficulty. There have been a spate of fatal cases. Last year, 209 people were taken to the hospital by ambulance in Tokyo alone after using the drugs, a marked increase from the 11 such cases in the previous year.

In some cases, drivers who had used the drugs struck and killed pedestrians. In one case, a man who had used them intruded into the premises of a primary school and chased students around. The use of the drugs should be considered a threat to public safety.

Also worrisome is the fact that the use of such substances has spread among minors.

According to a survey of about 50,000 middle school students, 120 said they have taken quasi-legal drugs. Sixty percent of the users said they also took stimulant drugs.

This shows quasi-legal drugs may be “gateway drugs,” as people who casually take them face a risk of eventually using narcotics and stimulant drugs.

Measures urgently needed

To prevent young people from being trapped in a vicious circle of drug abuse and addiction, measures must be urgently taken.

These substances are sold almost openly under such names of “legal herbs” and “legal aroma” in entertainment areas and on the Internet. Many of them can be bought for several thousand yen.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry categorizes quasi-legal drugs as “designated items” based on the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law. Currently, however, the drugs are regulated only for their production, import and sales.

Probably behind the abuse of such substances is the ease of their use, which so far has not been legally penalized. Punishing both sellers and users is appropriate. Penalties under the revised law are nearly as severe as those for violations of the Stimulant Drugs Control Law and the Narcotics Control Law.

It is important to properly teach young people, both at home and at school, the danger and illegality of quasi-legal drugs.

Some illegal substances whose chemical structures have been slightly changed to avoid being categorized as illicit drugs have been put on the market one after another, frustrating authorities.

This spring, the ministry imposed a comprehensive ban on substances that do not have the exact chemical structures as substances subject to punishment but share their primary components. The ban makes it possible for narcotics officers to apprehend violators.

If the revised bill is passed into law, the overall framework of regulations will have been changed to make it possible for related measures to be implemented steadily.

The reinforcement of regulation is also considered an effective way to contain crime syndicates, which use drug trafficking as a source of funds.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 2, 2013)
(2013年12月2日02時06分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月 3日 (火)

危険運転処罰法 悲惨な事故減らす「抑止力」に

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 2, 2013
Stronger penalties against dangerous driving must help deter road tragedies
危険運転処罰法 悲惨な事故減らす「抑止力」に(12月1日付・読売社説)

A new law—the law on penalties for injury or death inflicted by motor vehicle operators—has been enacted to make punishments stiffer against such reckless, serious driving offenses as drunk driving.

The law, which will take effect in May 2014, should serve as a turning point in reducing the number of victims in traffic accidents caused by dangerous driving.

The enactment of the law means the revamping of the judicial system regarding dangerous driving. Stipulations in the Penal Code regarding “penalties against dangerous driving resulting in injury or death” have been separated in the new law and the sphere of application has been expanded significantly.

Under the Penal Code, a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment for injury or death due to dangerous driving, such as under the influence of alcohol or drugs, was handed down only when it could be substantiated that the driver was “in a state in which the ability to safely operate a vehicle is seriously impeded” at the time of an accident.

Judging whether a driver’s ability was “seriously impeded” was extremely difficult for law-enforcement authorities, and dangerous driving cases under the Penal Code were strictly limited to offenses when the driver was totally inebriated.

This resulted in drivers—regardless of the grave accidents they caused—facing the lesser charge of “negligence resulting in injury or death,” the maximum penalty for which is seven years in prison.
Many victims and bereaved families understandably criticized the law as far too lenient.

The new law will make it possible to expand the definition of dangerous driving when an accident is caused by a person behind the wheel whose “ability to drive normally is impeded.” Driving offenses in this category are subject to prison sentences up to 15 years.

The creation of a penalty falling between seven and 20 years’ imprisonment can be called a step forward.

Stop hit-and-run deceptions

The Justice Ministry believes the new stipulations can be applied to an accident caused by a person driving who is slightly drunk. It is important to ensure the new law is publicized widely to deter dangerous driving.

A new punishment of up to 12 years in prison has been created under the law in an effort to stop drivers from fleeing the scene of an accident and turning themselves into police later when indications of drunkenness have worn off. Allowing such hit-and-run drunk drivers to turn themselves in later after sobering up would deprive the new law of the effectiveness of the tougher penalties. Police must clamp down on such offenses.

Also characteristic of the new law is that drivers with “certain ailments” are now subject to penalties for dangerous driving resulting in injury or death.

This stipulation was inserted in the new law after the driver of a crane truck suffered epileptic seizures in Tochigi Prefecture in 2011, killing six children.

A list of specific ailments subject to the punishment is expected to be worked out by government ordinance. In compiling the list, sufficient consideration must be paid to patients’ groups and others who fear prejudices toward certain conditions might be aggravated because of the planned ordinance.

The law also includes heavier penalties against accidents caused by anyone driving without a license.

In 2012, a boy driving a minivan killed or injured 10 people in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture. It was later learned that the boy had frequently driven without a license.

In this case, the prosecution failed to apply charges of dangerous driving resulting in injury or death because the boy could not be considered “lacking in driving skills.”

Public criticism subsequently mounted against the prosecution for failing to punish him severely in spite of his driving without a license.

Even under the new law, however, cases similar to the one in Kameoka cannot be covered by the penalty against dangerous driving resulting in injury or death unless a driver is drunk or high on drugs.

Even after the implementation of the new law, there should be further discussions about what penalties are considered adequate for driving without a license.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 1, 2013)
(2013年12月1日02時14分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月 2日 (月)

猪瀬氏の5000万 「借用証」でも疑念は消えない

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 1, 2013
Suspicions haunt Tokyo Gov. Inose over borrowing from Tokushukai
猪瀬氏の5000万 「借用証」でも疑念は消えない(11月30日付・読売社説)

Why did Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose borrow a huge amount of money? Even one week after his first press conference on the scandal, suspicions have not been diminished.

Concerning the ¥50 million he received from the Tokushukai medical group, which faced a compulsory investigation over a suspected violation of the election law, Inose stressed in his general policy speech at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on Friday that he “borrowed the money for personal use.”

His explanation, which went no further than his earlier explanations, drew boos and jeers from the floor. It was natural that various groups of assembly members expressed anger at his explanations, denouncing them as insufficient.

In his press conference Tuesday, he displayed an IOU he wrote when he received the money, which he said he had kept in a safe-deposit box.

The IOU contained only the lender’s name, House of Representatives member Tsuyoshi Tokuda; the date; the amount of money and the governor’s name. There was no mention of a repayment date or an interest rate.

Even if the IOU is authentic, it is not enough to prove that the money “was not for election campaigning” as claimed by Inose.

Inose dined with Tokuda six days before he received the money on Nov. 29 last year, before the campaign for a Tokyo gubernatorial election kicked off. During the meeting, there was reportedly talk to the effect that elections are costly. Inose revealed in the news conference that Tokuda proposed lending him money, quoting him as saying, “If you can’t prepare enough money, I’m ready to lend you some.”

Money for electioneering?

Taking this conversation into consideration, it would be natural to assume the cash was provided for financing Inose’s election campaign.

The Public Offices Election Law makes it mandatory for a candidate’s campaign funds manager to record revenues and expenses in election campaign financial reports. Writing financial records, if done without awareness of falsehood, does not constitute an illegal act.

There was no mention of the ¥50 million in Inose’s campaign financial report. He stressed he had not told his funds manager that he had received the money, probably out of consideration of the law’s stipulation.

Inose needs to give sufficient explanations to dispel suspicions still surrounding him.

He said he “didn’t know” the Tokushukai group operated a hospital and a nursing care and health facility in Tokyo when he received the controversial money.

The group received about ¥850 million in subsidies from the metropolitan government over the past five years. Having served as a vice governor of Tokyo since 2007 to 2012, Inose cannot escape the charge of dereliction of duty.

General employees of the metropolitan government face punishment if they borrow money from outsiders related to their duties. Naturally, a stricter code of conduct is necessary for a governor and a vice governor, whose authority extends over all metropolitan administrative matters.

Next week, the metropolitan assembly is scheduled to hold question-and-answer sessions involving representatives and rank-and-file members from various groups of assembly members. The groups must play a major role in digging into the facts of the scandal.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 30, 2013)
(2013年11月30日01時43分  読売新聞)

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2013年12月 1日 (日)

自民県連転換 辺野古移設へ環境整備を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 30, 2013
Step up efforts to pave way for Futenma base relocation plan
自民県連転換 辺野古移設へ環境整備を急げ(11月29日付・読売社説)

An important step has been taken to resolve the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, which was left pending for a long time.

The step was a decision by a group of Liberal Democratic Party members of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly to approve the station’s relocation to the Henoko district in Nago after reversing its stance of pushing for relocation outside the prefecture. Five LDP Diet members belonging to the prefectural party chapter had earlier shifted their stance to back the Henoko relocation plan. The chapter will soon make a formal decision on its relocation approval policy.

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is scheduled to decide in December whether to approve a request made by the central government for a land reclamation project in public waters necessary to achieve the Henoko relocation plan.

If the plan falls through, it is highly likely to solidify the status quo, in which the danger posed by the Futenma base being located in a residential area will continue for a long period. Behind the prefectural chapter’s about-face could be its realistic judgment to avoid the worst-case scenario.

The policy shift by the LDP’s prefectural chapter, which backs the governor as the ruling party in the prefectural assembly, is expected to push the governor to make a proactive decision on the relocation issue.

The government and ruling parties must continue such efforts as urging New Komeito’s Okinawa prefectural headquarters to reverse its stance of opposing the Henoko relocation plan as they try to obtain approval from a wider spectrum of local people.

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine has submitted a letter of opinions to the Okinawa prefectural government, in which he argues against the reclamation plan, saying environment conservation measures are insufficient.

In addition to Inamine, two other politicians who both endorse the Futenma relocation plan have announced their candidacy for the Nago mayoral election set for January. Like the past four mayoral elections, the biggest issue is likely to be the relocation.

Security a matter of state

In the first place, national security should not be influenced by the outcome of a local election. Although it is necessary to give due consideration to the will of local residents, the central government should be primarily responsible for security policies based on a comprehensive view.

The mayor is not authorized to refuse the relocation plan, but to promote the plan smoothly, it is desirable to obtain the mayor’s approval. The LDP should step up efforts to make the two pro-relocation candidates to form an alliance and have just one run.

The government, for its part, needs to make all-out efforts to have Nakaima give reclamation the green light before the election.

It is essential to accelerate the efforts to decrease the prefecture’s burden for hosting the U.S. military.

The Japanese and U.S. governments will soon lift a ban on partial fishing operations in the waters used by the U.S. military for training. It is also important to steadily expand training areas for the new U.S. Osprey transport aircraft outside Okinawa Prefecture.

If the Futenma relocation plan gets moving, it will give momentum to the transfer of U.S. marines in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam and the return of U.S. military facilities to Japan.

Efforts must also be made to promote prefectural development.

The Cabinet Office has asked for a budgetary allocation of ¥340.8 billion for fiscal 2014, up 13 percent over the current fiscal year. The government should think hard to work out more effective local revitalization policies, such as establishing national strategy special zones and effective utilization of U.S. base sites.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 29, 2013)
(2013年11月29日01時32分  読売新聞)

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