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2014年1月31日 (金)

NHK会長発言 中立・公正な報道で信頼築け

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 30, 2014
NHK president must build viewer trust through neutral, fair news coverage
NHK会長発言 中立・公正な報道で信頼築け(1月30日付・読売社説)

The new president of NHK should build a relationship of trust with viewers and fulfill his responsibilities as the head of a public broadcaster by continuing its neutral and fair news coverage and program production.

Remarks made by Katsuto Momii, the new president of NHK, during his inaugural press conference have brought on public criticism.

When asked his opinion on the issue of so-called comfort women, Momii said, “It was evil according to today’s moral principles.” However, he added, “Every country at war in the past had such a system” and named Germany and France as examples. He even asked in return why there are still red-light districts in the Netherlands.

It was seen as inappropriate for him to have gone so far as to cite the name of specific countries and to refer to licensed prostitution and the act of prostitution in the present day.

Momii said he made his remarks on the issue “as an individual,” in response to a reporter’s persistent questioning. Nevertheless, it is inevitable that his remarks would be considered thoughtless. Momii’s expression of his personal opinions at a press conference for the new head of a public broadcaster has created confusion.

Yet some of his remarks do not necessarily deserve strong criticism.

“South Korea’s claims that it was only Japan that carried off [such women] by force makes matters more complicated,” he said.

Momii also said: “Internationally speaking, the issue [of compensation for damages during wartime] was resolved completely with the conclusion of the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and South Korea [signed in 1965]. Why has the issue been taken up again and again?”

Compensation settled in ’65

The issue of compensation for former comfort women was resolved at least legally with the conclusion of the bilateral agreement on property claims and economic cooperation in 1965. The Japanese side has implemented further measures for relief, including distributing compensation to former comfort women via the Japanese government-created Asian Women’s Fund. Despite such measures, however, the South Korean side has refused to accept such compensation, with some exceptions.

With regards to NHK’s international broadcasting services, which transmit the network’s programs overseas, Momii said, “We cannot say the opposite of what the government says.” This remark has also drawn criticism that NHK would be playing up the government’s plans.

Yet it is more reasonable than not for NHK’s international broadcasting service, which draws on taxpayers’ money, to transmit the views of the government and to seek understanding abroad.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Momii made his recent remarks “as an individual” and that the government would not investigate them further.

The Board of Governors responsible for overseeing NHK has also decided not to consider potentially asking Momii to resign, but has instead issued a stern warning, saying, “We cannot help but say that Mr. Momii took the position as head of the public broadcaster lightly.” They have probably concluded that there is still space for Momii to recover the public’s faith.

Political and business circles have recently pointed toward bias in NHK’s news coverage, for instance, on the restart of the nation’s idled nuclear power plants, the deployment of U.S. forces’ Osprey transport aircraft and the law concerning the protection of state secrets.

Momii said, “If we continue to follow the principles of the Broadcast Law, we will not simply always do what the government tells us to.”

We hope NHK will pursue the production of programs that meet viewer expectations and hold fast to its neutrality as a public broadcaster.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 30, 2014)
(2014年1月30日01時35分  読売新聞)

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オバマ氏演説 そっけなかった「アジア重視」

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 30, 2014
Obama makes only brief reference to Asia in State of Union address
オバマ氏演説 そっけなかった「アジア重視」(1月30日付・読売社説)

U.S. President Barack Obama stressed on Tuesday night that he would put priority on supporting middle-class Americans, and promised to create more jobs and alleviate income disparities between rich and poor. It was apparently a speech aimed at restoring his floundering approval rate ahead of midterm elections in November.

In his annual State of the Union address, a policy speech for the year, Obama expressed his strong determination to make 2014 “a year of action.”

Obama last year had a harsh confrontation with the Republican Party, which controls the House of Representatives, which resulted in a partial shutdown of government functions. He had a series of failures in both domestic and foreign affairs that temporarily sunk his approval rate to its lowest level since his inauguration.

If his Democratic Party slips to a minority in both houses of Congress in this year’s mid-term elections, the Obama administration is certain to be rendered ineffectual for the remainder of its term. The question is what strategy he will use to recoup the lost ground.

Obama stressed in the speech what he has accomplished regarding the recovery of the U.S. economy after the financial crisis. He then proposed minimum wage hikes in consideration of low-income earners who have not yet benefited from the economic recovery. He also referred to the expansion of job opportunities with the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and immigration reform.

All of these are policies that would help cement the support base for Democrats.

Confrontation with GOP

It is noteworthy that Obama said he would use executive orders if his bills are not passed in Congress. Even if Republicans refuse to raise minimum wages, Obama stressed he would issue an executive order to raise the wages of some federal contract workers.

This illustrates a point of conflict between his party and Republicans. But the GOP has reacted sharply against Obama, criticizing him for disrespecting Congress. There is concern that confrontation between the two parties will intensify.

Obama made relatively fewer references to foreign and security policies, as compared to domestic issues, as this is an election year. The president stressed U.S. combat troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this year and the U.S. war against terrorism “will finally be over.” But we hope Obama will maintain all possible measures against terrorism even after U.S. forces leave the country.

Apparently with the so-called shale gas revolution in mind, the president also stressed “America is closer to energy independence.” But it would be a problem if this makes the United States less interested in Middle East affairs.

Obama also said: “We will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies [and] shape a future of greater security and prosperity.” The president clearly said he maintains a foreign policy with emphasis on Asia, but his reference to the region remained brief and dry.

For the second straight year, Obama did not attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit meeting. We wonder how he will realize the United States’ “focus” on the region.

With the rise of China, closer unity among the United States and its Asian allies, including Japan, is now needed more than ever before.

Obama should demonstrate his leadership more clearly during his tour of Asian countries scheduled for this spring.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 30, 2014)
(2014年1月30日01時35分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月30日 (木)

衆院代表質問 「責任野党」の中身が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 29, 2014
Opposition parties should prove their policies are not empty theories
衆院代表質問 「責任野党」の中身が問われる(1月29日付・読売社説)

One party decides on policies based on issues, while another sticks to attacks on the government. The opposition parties’ distance from one another on their course of action is becoming clear.

Diet interpellations on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy speech began Tuesday.

Yorihisa Matsuno, acting secretary general of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), said: “As a responsible opposition party, we are willing to cooperate [with the ruling parties] on diplomacy and national security, as well as constitutional amendments. However at the same time, we will make our differences [with the ruling parties] clear on other domestic issues and debate them thoroughly.”

Matsuno’s remarks were an apparent reply to Abe’s policy speech—the prime minister pledged the ruling parties will have “sincere policy talks with responsible opposition parties that work to make their policies real.”

Abe has already agreed with Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe to have “strategic dialogue” on issues such as national security and economic stimulation.

Ishin no Kai and Your Party have agreed with the ruling parties on revising a bill on protecting specially designated secrets, which was then enacted at an extraordinary Diet session last month. It is also the duty of opposition parties to polish bills through discussions with ruling parties.

It will also be important for the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito to build good relations with opposition parties. In particular, the issue of revising the government’s interpretation of the Constitution as prohibiting Japan from exercising the right to collective self-defense would be a touchstone for the ruling parties.

Matsuno expressed his party’s willingness to discuss the issue, saying that the interpretation should be revised “in line with changes in international circumstances.” We expect a constructive debate from the ruling and opposition parties on the issue.

A sad naysayer

Meanwhile, during the interpellation, Democratic Party of Japan President Banri Kaieda clarified the party’s stance of vying with the ruling parties. Kaieda said he is ready for a “head-on fight with Prime Minister Abe.”

He went on to say, “Does the prime minister suggest that opposition parties that pander to the government are good opposition, while those that criticize are bad opposition?”

We assume Kaieda had Your Party in mind when making the remark. However, it will be difficult for the DPJ to form a solid opposition coalition if he maintains such a poor outlook.

Kaieda has criticized the Abe administration for its “policies that neglect the lives of people.”
Although he has pledged the DPJ will make counterproposals to Abe’s policies, his words have yet to be put into practice.

Kaieda criticizes Abenomics as the prime minister’s economic policies have “begun squeezing the lives of people by causing a surge in fuel expenses and raw material expenses.” However, does the DPJ have a good proposal for conquering deflation?

The DPJ president said the right track for economic growth is to boost consumption by stabilizing employment. We ask him to reveal concrete proposals in achieving this idea.

Regarding the nuclear power plant issue, Kaieda criticized the Abe administration’s energy policy for its ambiguity.
“Do you have plans to seek the abolition of nuclear power plants in the future? Please clarify,” he said during the interpellation.

Abe replied, “I cannot jump to conclusions on abolishing nuclear power plants that easily.” We believe Abe’s comments are the more reasonable.

The DPJ should realize it has the burden of showing a realistic energy policy to the public, taking into account the importance of securing a cheap and stable energy supply. It should also reflect the economic and environmental impact of abolishing nuclear power plants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 29, 2014)
(2014年1月29日01時50分  読売新聞)

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学習指導解説書 「尖閣」「竹島」の明記を起点に

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 29, 2014
Manuals should help educate students about Senkakus, Takeshima
学習指導解説書 「尖閣」「竹島」の明記を起点に(1月29日付・読売社説)

It is essential for children in this country to be encouraged to acquire an accurate knowledge about Japanese territory, given that they will become a pillar of our future.

The education ministry has revised instruction manuals for its course of study for middle and high schools to state that the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima islets constitute “inherent parts of our nation’s territory.” The reference is the first of its kind to be included in the teaching manuals devised by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

The new manuals also reiterate our nation’s stance on the Senkaku Islands, which this country has placed, in effect, under state control. Students “need to understand there exists no territorial issue to be resolved,” the manuals say.

Despite an increasing number of school textbooks that refer to the Senkakus and Takeshima, some textbooks still do not mention these islands.

Though the ministry’s instruction manuals are not legally binding unlike its course of study, the former serves as a guide for publishing houses as they edit textbooks, as well as for teachers when they give lessons. We hope the latest revision of the manuals will ensure all textbooks include appropriate references to the Senkakus and Takeshima.

The education ministry has every reason to improve the quality of teaching programs on the nation’s territorial integrity, based on the government’s official views on relevant issues. Doing so is also significant for producing people capable of presenting our nation’s position in the international community.

The previous instruction manuals stated that the group of Takeshima islets should be included as part of geographic learning in middle school social studies classes. In doing so, however, the manuals avoided using such a direct phrase as “inherent [part of our] territory.” Such an evasive approach was also evident in the manuals for high school geography.

The latter manuals only stated that the study of Takeshima should “be based on middle school studies.”

Neither the previous manuals for middle school studies nor those for high schools included any reference to the Senkakus.

Misleading notion

There is no denying that the manuals gave schoolteachers and administrators a misleading notion about territorial issues facing this country, prompting them to think that such problems should not necessarily be given importance.

Our nation established its claim over Takeshima no later than the mid-17th century—during the early Edo period (1603-1867). In 1905, Takeshima was annexed to Shimane Prefecture, based on a decision made to that effect by the Cabinet.

However, a turnaround came in 1952, when South Korea unilaterally drew the so-called Syngman Rhee Line, which contained the Takeshima islets. That country has since unlawfully occupied the islets.

In January 1895, Japan incorporated the Senkaku Islands into its territory after establishing that areas under China’s control did not include them. The event preceded the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.

In the 1970s and later, China laid claim to the Senkakus. The Chinese assertion came after it had been found that there were oil deposits in waters around the islands.

Japanese students need to be properly taught that their government’s views on the Senkakus and Takeshima have legitimate grounds reflecting these historical developments, seen from the standpoint of international law.

The South Korean government has issued a statement demanding the Japanese government to “immediately retract” the latest revisions to the instruction manuals. The Chinese government has also become more strongly antagonistic by the Japanese action.

What kind of education should a nation give its children with regard to its territory, which is part and parcel of its sovereignty? That is an internal matter of that country. No other nation should interfere over such an issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 29, 2014)
(2014年1月29日01時50分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月29日 (水)

春闘スタート 「好循環」を占う賃上げの行方

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 28, 2014
Labor-management wage talks key to spurring virtuous circle
春闘スタート 「好循環」を占う賃上げの行方(1月28日付・読売社説)

Can wage increases act as a driving force to the Abe administration’s efforts at achieving a virtuous circle through a package of economic measures referred to as Abenomics?

This year’s annual spring labor offensive will serve as a touchstone for this.

Top officials of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) held an open forum Monday, effectively kicking off this year’s annual labor offensive for wage hikes.

Corporate performance has improved as the yen weakens. It is important for corporate profits to lead to pay hikes, thereby recovering consumption to further shore up the economy.

Rengo President Nobuaki Koga said at the open forum that the nation’s biggest trade union will “seek to raise the wage standards for all workers.” He stressed he would seek a regular pay hike of about 2 percent and a pay scale hike of more than 1 percent.

In its basic policy for this year’s labor-management negotiations on wage hikes, Keidanren has said that “high-flying businesses will use their expanded profits to raise the pay of their employees.” The nation’s largest business group will approve a pay scale hike for the first time in six years.

In a series of tripartite meetings last year with representatives from the labor and management sectors, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for pay hikes while offering corporate assistance measures such as reducing the corporate tax and promoting deregulation. It is encouraging to see that such efforts have led to heightening the momentum for pay increases.

Of course, wages are set through the labor-management negotiations of each firm. But we have to seriously face the fact that the average salary of workers has declined by about 13 percent over the past 15 years.

Pay scale hike vital

Consumer prices have been turning upward, and the consumption tax rate will rise from 5 percent to 8 percent in April. If households’ financial burdens increase without wages being raised, consumption could decline, thereby causing the economy to lose steam.

In this year’s labor-management talks, pay scale increases must be discussed proactively centering on big businesses with robust corporate records.

Many companies are wary of pay scale increases that would push up wages permanently. As things stand, there are few alternatives but to reward improvements in corporate performance primarily through bonuses and overtime payments.

It will be essential to move forward with pay hikes and to move from big businesses to small and midsize companies and from regular employees to irregular workers.

Businesses should aggressively pursue profits by investing surplus funds proactively for further growth. It will require cooperation from the labor side to implement measures to improve productivity, including a shift to sectors in which high growth can be expected and a review of employment conditions for the purpose of acquiring outstanding personnel.

Raising the income and stabilizing the employment of irregular workers, who account for 40 percent of the total workforce, are tasks to be tackled jointly by the labor and management sectors.

In-depth discussions are needed on the employment system to come up with such measures as expanding the door for capable and highly motivated part-time workers to be promoted as regular workers.

How to utilize a wide variety of human resources, including women and the elderly, as valuable workers also is a matter to be discussed during the annual labor-management negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2014)
(2014年1月28日01時11分  読売新聞)

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日本史必修化 自国の軌跡を深く学びたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 28, 2014
High school students should receive better education in Japanese history
日本史必修化 自国の軌跡を深く学びたい(1月28日付・読売社説)

To cultivate their identity as Japanese, students should receive an adequate education in Japanese history.

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura announced that his ministry will study the possibility of making Japanese history a compulsory subject at high schools. By referring the idea to the Central Council for Education for deliberation, the minister hopes to realize the idea in five or six years’ time.

For mapping out the future of Japan, it is essential for young people to study Japanese history. It is also important for them to be able to exhibit pride in the history of their own country. Making Japanese history compulsory at high schools is reasonable.

As globalization advances, there will be more opportunities for Japanese to talk about their country’s culture and other things abroad.

The idea of making the subject compulsory at high schools indicates a sense of crisis over the lack of education required to produce internationally minded people.

When school teaching guidelines were revised in 1989, social studies at high schools were divided into “geography and history” and “civics.” When studying “geography and history,” world history is compulsory. In addition, a student has to choose either Japanese history or geography as an elective subject.

As a result, 30 percent to 40 percent of high school students in Japan are believed to graduate from high school without a sufficient grounding in Japanese history.

Although students are supposed to have studied the basics of Japanese history in primary and middle schools, it is problematic that many students have no opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Japanese history in high school.

Many problems remain

Making Japanese history a compulsory high school subject has been urged by local governments and other entities. The Tokyo metropolitan government and Kanagawa prefectural government have prepared textbooks, so that students have to learn Japanese history at the high schools they operate.

However, many issues need to be discussed.

By making Japanese history a compulsory subject in place of world history, students may have few opportunities to learn about the history of foreign countries at primary, middle and high schools.

It may be necessary to review the curriculum, including compulsory education subjects, by adopting elements of world history at middle schools, for instance.

If both world history and Japanese history became required subjects, more high school students would not study geography. Some people have suggested the establishment of a general course of geography and history that would be made compulsory.

There is also room to review the conventional way history is taught, which gives too much weight to memorization. It is natural for high school students to dislike studying history if they are forced to memorize a vast amount of terms.

It is desirable for educators and schools to tax their ingenuity to come up with educational content that stimulates the intellectual curiosity of students, for instance, by having them delve more deeply into historical events.

It is also necessary to improve education in regard to modern and contemporary history. Such efforts will certainly cultivate students’ understanding of the current complex international situation, by correctly understanding the history between Japan and other Asian countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2014)
(2014年1月28日01時11分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月28日 (火)

農薬混入事件 「食の安全」揺るがす内部犯行

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 27, 2014
Sense of food safety badly shaken by in-company poisoning of food
農薬混入事件 「食の安全」揺るがす内部犯行(1月27日付・読売社説)

The latest food poisoning case has shaken Japan’s sense of food safety and increased people’s distrust of food makers. Investigators must expedite their efforts to elucidate the facts in this case.

A 49-year-old contract worker at the plant where frozen food was laced with the agricultural chemical malathion has been arrested by the Gunma prefectural police on suspicion of obstructing business. The suspect worked at the Gunma plant of Aqli Foods Corp., a subsidiary of leading food maker Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc.

The man is suspected of lacing frozen food produced at the plant with malathion on four occasions in October.

About 2,800 people across the country have complained of feeling ill after eating pizza and other frozen food produced at the plant.

During questioning, the man reportedly told police, “I don’t remember,” and his motive remains unclear.

We hope the Gunma prefectural police will probe the matter thoroughly to find out how the food was laced with the chemical and clarify the context of the inside job.

The presidents of Maruha Nichiro Holdings and Aqli Foods have announced they will resign at the end of March to take responsibility for the latest incident.

The companies failed to respond promptly, taking 1½ months to launch a self-imposed recall of products after receiving a complaint in November of an odd odor from pizza manufactured at the plant. As both companies have lost their credibility with consumers, their resignation is natural.

85% of frozen food recalled

The recall rate of frozen food produced since October at the Gunma plant remains at about 85 percent. Maruha Nichiro must continue calling on consumers to return the products in question.

A mindset of “food defense” to prevent food from being contaminated intentionally with foreign substances has prevailed in the food industry since pesticide-laced gyoza produced at a Chinese plant was imported into Japan in 2008.

At the Gunma plant, workers are required to wear uniforms without pockets, while monitors to keep an eye on other workers have been placed on production lines.

Yet there is no inspection of workers’ belongings when they enter the plant. Some workers said chemicals could be brought into the plant if they were hidden inside the lower sleeve of the uniform.

The present state of quality control, including the system for food safety control, of the entire Maruha group needs to be examined for possible defects, as does the system for educating employees.

The latest incident has also sounded an alarm bell for the entire food industry.

Although it can be difficult for companies to take the view that human nature is inherently bad, it is essential to prevent workers with ill intentions from doing bad things. Companies must improve their in-house systems, including boosting monitoring of employees to make such illicit acts difficult.

Maruha Nichiro has revised downward its earnings forecast for the business term ending this March, primarily due to suspended production at the Gunma plant and its sluggish sales.

Companies in the food industry must understand it is difficult for a company that has lost consumers’ trust to recover it.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 27, 2014)
(2014年1月27日01時32分  読売新聞)

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日印首脳会談 潜在的な可能性を引き出せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 27, 2014
Japan must work closely with India to tap the country’s great potential
日印首脳会談 潜在的な可能性を引き出せ(1月27日付・読売社説)

It is extremely important for Japan to improve security and economic cooperation with India, which is enjoying remarkable growth.

On his visit to India, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on Saturday.

In their talks, Singh described Japan as India’s “key partner” for regional peace and stability and in his country’s economic development. In reply, Abe stressed that relations between Japan and India “have the greatest potential of any bilateral relationship anywhere in the world.”

This is Abe’s second trip to India. He visited the country in 2007 during his previous term as prime minister. For last weekend’s visit, he was invited to be chief guest at India’s annual Republic Day parade in New Delhi. It was the first time this honor has been extended to a Japanese prime minister and underscores the deepening ties between the two countries.

On diplomacy and security, Abe was quoted as saying that Japan was resolved to make further contributions to the international community, elaborating on his policy of making a “proactive contribution to peace.” In a joint statement issued after the talks, the Indian prime minister said he “appreciated Japan’s efforts to contribute to peace and stability of the region and the world.”

During their meeting, the two leaders agreed to hold regular consultations between Shotaro Yachi, secretary general of National Security Secretariat of Japan’s newly created National Security Council, and India’s national security adviser.

Abe and Singh also agreed to continue joint maritime exercises between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy, while continuing talks aimed at exporting the MSDF’s US2 amphibious maritime rescue aircraft to India.

Holding China in check

Bolstering cooperation on bilateral security is a prerequisite for Japan to ensure the security of its sea lanes, particularly routes used to transport such goods as crude oil.

With Japan and India sharing concerns over China’s expanding military might, the Abe-Singh agreements are aimed at keeping China in check.

The joint statement explicitly referred to the importance of “freedom of overflights and civil aviation safety” in connection with bilateral security cooperation. This reference has obviously been included in light of the high-handed, aggressive advances by China both at sea and in the air.

Abe also has announced a yen loan worth more than ¥200 billion for infrastructure improvement projects in India, including the Delhi Metro subway system. Abe and Singh also agreed that the two countries will work together to expedite plans for a high-speed railway linking Mumbai and Ahmadabad in western India, as Japan hopes to see its Shinkansen technology sold abroad.

India, which has the world’s second-largest population, is an extremely attractive market for Japan. However, two-way trade and investment between Japan and India is significantly lower than that between Japan and China, meaning there is considerable potential to expand Japan-India economic relations.

On his three-day visit to India, Abe was accompanied by a delegation of prominent business leaders. The Japanese government and private-sector businesses should work as one in boosting Japan’s economic ties with India.

The Japanese and Indian leaders also have agreed to accelerate negotiations to conclude as early as possible a civil nuclear pact that will enable Japan to export nuclear power generation technology and related equipment to India.

Some are skeptical of the wisdom of concluding such an agreement with India, a nuclear state that has not joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

While taking this seriously into account, the government should accelerate the pace of negotiations for a Japan-India nuclear cooperation agreement.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 27, 2014)
(2014年1月27日01時34分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月27日 (月)

敦賀原発活断層 規制委は科学的判断に徹せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 26, 2014
NRA must base N-plant safety on purely scientific assessments
敦賀原発活断層 規制委は科学的判断に徹せよ(1月26日付・読売社説)

The Nuclear Regulation Authority will be tested as to whether it can make a swift, impartial judgment on the safety of Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The NRA finished a two-day follow-up investigation into a fault beneath the compound of the nuclear power plant.

In May last year, the NRA compiled a safety evaluation report that concluded a D-1 fault, a zone containing rock fragments that runs just beneath reactor No. 2 of the nuclear complex, was an active fault, increasing the likelihood that the reactor would not be restarted. Construction of a nuclear plant immediately above an active fault is banned by law.

However, Japan Atomic Power came up with a set of new data in July on the situation in an effort to have the NRA reassess its original conclusion, leading after much delay to the Jan. 20-21 follow-up investigation.

Based on the new investigation, the NRA is scheduled to hold a meeting of the panel of experts that compiled the report in May to sift through the new set of data. Fair and objective discussions by the experts must take place.

Japan Atomic Power has insisted that on the basis of its own investigation the fault was formed “in the distant past,” indicating that the fault is unlikely to become active in the future.

The NRA believes the D-1 fault could move in conjunction with a confirmed active fault at the northern extremity of the D-1. According to the company, however, an additional trenching survey it conducted determined that the two faults were not connected.

The key element of the NRA evaluation report has therefore been called into question, with a number of experts supporting the plant operator’s argument.

Self-righteous attitude

Although Japan Atomic Power called on the NRA not to release its evaluation report before completing the operator’s own investigation, NRA Acting Chairman Kunihiko Shimazaki forged ahead, saying, “We consider it fortunate that no accident has occurred yet.” We cannot help but consider his conclusion to be a result of muddled thinking.

As the NRA wasted about six months before undertaking the new investigation, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa took the NRA to task and said it should take responsibility for the delay.

The NRA must proceed with the reassessment promptly, and it should listen to all opinions, even those critical of the authority.

The furor over the Tsuruga plant’s fault seems to be a result of the clumsy way the NRA is operated, as pointed out by a Liberal Democratic Party study team in a set of proposals presented toward the end of last year to the government and the NRA.

The NRA is a collegial body comprising the chairman and four members. As far as earthquake hazards are concerned, however, Shimazaki, a seismological expert, has the decisive say. All seismological experts in charge of assessing nuclear power plant safety in the past have been excluded from the current body.

In the safety assessment process to determine whether to allow reactivation of idled reactors across the country, the NRA has called on power utilities to make safety assessments by taking it for granted that an active fault can move in conjunction with another fault adjoining it. In addition, the NRA has taken the position of refusing to accept any data from utilities if they point out the possibility of a fault not being in conjunction with another fault.

The NRA faces mounting criticism that it lacks impartiality and tends to have a self-righteous attitude.

We wonder if the safety assessment process has been protracted longer than initially expected due in part to such a posture.

Measures based on unbiased, scientific discussions are essential to enhance the safety of nuclear plant operations. The NRA is urgently in need of reorganization.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 26, 2014)
(2014年1月26日01時11分  読売新聞)

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日本版NIH 医療の競争力強化の司令塔に

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 26, 2014
Japanese NIH expected to enhance nation’s medical competitiveness
日本版NIH 医療の競争力強化の司令塔に(1月26日付・読売社説)

Excellent results in medical research must lead to the development of new drugs and remedies. A “headquarters for medicine” to be established soon is expected to play a significant role in enhancing Japan’s competitiveness in this field.

The government has decided to create an independent administrative entity tentatively called the Japan medical research and development agency to promote research and development in the medical field. With creation of the agency, the government aims to unify various systems at different ministries and agencies to support the research and development of medicine.

The agency is called the Japanese version of the U.S. National Institutes of Health because it is being modeled on the U.S. organization, which leads the world in medical research and the creation of new drugs. The government plans to submit related bills to the current ordinary Diet session and to launch the new agency in April 2015.

The medical field is expected to be a pillar of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategy. The government must not let the agency become an empty letter but make it a viable organization with power to drive the nation’s growth.

The new agency is tasked with managing research and development funds from various ministries and agencies in an integrated fashion, and with distributing them to universities and other research institutes. The agency will give priority to promising fields and provide constant support to them, from basic research to commercialization of products.

As the development of induced pluripotent stem cells by Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka shows, the level of basic research in the medical field is very high in Japan.

End sectionalism

Nonetheless, Japan lags behind the United States and European countries in the practical application of medical technology. For instance, imports of medicine and medical equipment exceed exports by about ¥3 trillion. It is problematic that a gap between basic research and clinical application has prevented companies from converting research results at universities and elsewhere into commercial realities.

Government support for research and development is sometimes not well coordinated.

For example, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is in charge of supporting basic research; the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is in charge of clinical application; and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is in charge of industrialization. The ministries often compete with each other to win budget appropriations for similar research.

To help the new agency function appropriately, it is essential to end sectionalism among ministries and agencies, and to make their support for research and development more efficient.

The new agency will be staffed by medical and pharmaceutical experts from the private sector, but it will not be easy to secure such people.

They will have to exercise good judgment in selecting research subjects with potential, and in connecting research institutes and companies to realize their product development.

There is a mountain of issues to be tackled jointly by the industrial, government and academic sectors. The creation of the Japanese version of the NIH is just a start.

While seeking to change the mindset of university researchers, who tend to overemphasize basic research, the government also should help accelerate the nurturing of start-ups that tackle the development of innovative technology with a high risk of failure.

We expect the government to build a system together with all the related sectors in Japan to increase the nation’s international competitiveness in the medical field by developing the Japanese version of NIH into a major, solid organization.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 26, 2014)
(2014年1月26日01時11分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月26日 (日)

施政方針演説 不屈の精神で懸案解決に挑め

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 26, 2014
Prime minister must act decisively to ensure his goals for nation are met
施政方針演説 不屈の精神で懸案解決に挑め(1月25日付・読売社説)

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe referred to this comment by late South African President Nelson Mandela at the onset of his policy speech to the Diet on Friday, to underscore his resolve to tackle with an unbending spirit the myriad of thorny problems faced by Japan.

The ball is now in Abe’s court to focus his efforts toward producing tangible results.

The speech was delivered at the ordinary Diet session convened on the same day.

As the prime minister called it a Diet session in which to “realize a virtuous economic circle,” it is essential, first and foremost, for the government to pull the economy out of deflation through the Abenomics economic policies. It must minimize adverse effects from the increase in the consumption tax rate in April.

On the diplomatic front, Abe said he will push “top-level, strategic diplomacy while observing the world as a whole, as if looking at a globe.” He stressed that “a dialogue between the leaders of states will move things forward regardless of what challenges they may face [between the nations].”

But Japan’s relations with China and South Korea remain icy. Cooperation from China and South Korea is essential if Japan wants to see progress on issues over the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea and its nuclear and missile programs. Improving its relations with the two neighbors is therefore pivotal for the Abe administration.

Considering China’s drastic military buildup, Japan should employ active diplomatic and security policies.

One of the pillars of his speech was a “proactive contribution to peace,” which is based on the principle of international cooperation. We support Abe’s notion that playing an active role for world peace and stability by working hand-in-hand with the United States will lead to the protection of Japan’s security.

Prepare for secrets law

To have the National Security Council—launched late last year—fulfill its potential, it is indispensable to accelerate preparations to enforce the law on protecting specially designated state secrets, which has been enacted to enable Japan to share confidential information with the United States and others.

The next challenge Japan must tackle is reviewing the government’s constitutional interpretation that prohibits the nation from exercising the right to collective self-defense.

Abe has indicated the government would consider what position it should take on this issue after receiving a report from a panel of experts this spring. It is hoped that Abe will exercise leadership in settling the issue, which has long been considered difficult in the face of resistance from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and others.

If Tokyo wants to strengthen the alliance between Japan and the United States, it is of great importance for Japan to rectify as much as possible the one-sided relationship in which Japan must remain idle when U.S. forces come under attack even though the U.S. military is protecting Japan.

Meanwhile, the Okinawa governor approved a project last month to reclaim the publicly owned offshore areas in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, at long last putting in motion the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the district. Further government efforts—including persuading local residents to accept the relocation—are essential to realizing the return of the Futenma facility.

The prime minister said he would sincerely talk to “responsible opposition parties” that want to see their policies realized. Momentum is gathering among some opposition parties to decide whether to support the government on an issue-by-issue basis instead of putting up resistance to everything the government does.

We hope the ruling and opposition parties will carry out constructive discussions on such issues as Diet reform, electoral system reform and constitutional revisions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 25, 2014)
(2014年1月25日01時45分  読売新聞)

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東京五輪組織委 オールジャパンで祭典準備を

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 26, 2014
Efforts of entire nation necessary to prepare for successful 2020 Games
東京五輪組織委 オールジャパンで祭典準備を(1月25日付・読売社説)

The organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was launched Friday, will promote preparations in coordination with the International Olympic Committee.

The efforts of the entire nation will be needed to make the Games successful, involving the government, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Japanese Olympic Committee and business circles.

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was named head of the organizing committee. Mori, who also serves as head of the Japan Sports Association and Japan Rugby Football Union, has a wide range of personal connections in the sports world. He must take full advantage of these connections to facilitate communication within the organizing committee.

The committee will be tasked with working out basic organizing plans by February next year and will take the lead in implementing those plans. It will also undertake public relations activities.

To secure the ¥300 billion in management funds needed to pay for the Olympics and Paralympics up through their conclusion six years from now, it is necessary to seek sponsorship fees and donations from as many companies as possible. Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, who has been informally appointed as vice head of the organizing committee, will have to display his ability in this regard.

Toshiro Muto, a former administrative vice finance minister, has assumed the post of secretary general in charge of supervising the practical business aspects of the Games. It will be vital for him to keep in mind the need to use the limited fiscal resources effectively.

Effective use of funds vital

The construction costs for the new National Stadium, which will be built with an injection of funds from state coffers, were initially estimated at ¥130 billion. But it was later found that the cost would balloon to ¥300 billion if the stadium was constructed based on the chosen design. Faced with criticism that this was excessive, the amount was reduced to ¥170 billion by adopting such measures as downsizing the total floor space.

If such over-optimistic estimations occur again, people may come to distrust the entire organizing plan.

In line with a contract signed with the IOC, it was decided to launch the organizing committee by early February.

The committee’s inauguration came just days before the deadline. It was delayed until Friday due to the scandal involving former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose. The governor was supposed to participate in discussions on selecting the organizing committee’s chief, but the choice was made without him as a result of his unexpected resignation.

A Tokyo governor bears a heavy responsibility in the organizing committee. The new governor to be elected in voting on Feb. 9 will serve as a member of the coordination conference along with Mori, Olympic minister Hakubun Shimomura and JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda, among others, to coordinate important matters.

The new governor also needs to take responsibility over the use of ¥400 billion in funds held by the metropolitan government for construction of athletic facilities. In preparation for the Paralympics, it will also be necessary to build more barrier-free facilities in central Tokyo.

To ensure the smooth management of events, seeking to secure a stable supply of cheap electric power is also a major task for the governor as head of the host city.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 25, 2014)
(2014年1月25日01時45分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月25日 (土)

homework for siifaachan 2014-01-25

arrive late
ask for permission

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homework for siifaachan 2014-01-25

rose apple

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シリア国際会議 和平への道筋は見えてくるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 24, 2014
Will international efforts bring hope of achieving peace in war-torn Syria?
シリア国際会議 和平への道筋は見えてくるか(1月24日付・読売社説)

Will prospects emerge of stopping the bloodshed in Syria?

An international, ministerial-level conference on ending the civil war in Syria was held Wednesday and Thursday in Montreux, Switzerland.

After nearly three years of bloodshed, the conference brought representatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s administration and antiregime forces to the negotiating table for the first time. This must be used as a chance to work toward realizing peace.

The conference was held under the auspices of the United Nations, with representatives attending from more than 40 countries, including Japan and the United States, and international organizations. Based on the agreement hammered out by the countries involved in the 2012 Geneva talks, the participants discussed the establishment of a transitional government that would include antiregime forces.

But the ministerial conference saw the differing views of representatives from the Assad administration and the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as they criticized each other while dragging in other participants. This may underscore the grim prospects ahead.

Branding the civil war as a “battle against terrorism,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem aggressively criticized the opposition forces. One factor behind his hard-line stance could be the strengthening of the country’s diplomatic position due to its cooperation in relinquishing chemical weapons and the fact that government forces have been maintaining superiority on the battlefield. Russia supported the position of the Assad government.

Split over Assad exit

The president of the National Coalition, on the other hand, called for the exit of Assad and the establishment of a transitional government afterward. However, the coalition has not been able to bring together the antiregime forces, with groups under its umbrella leaving one after another. The international community’s confidence in the coalition is limited.

The United States sided with the Syrian National Coalition. This came against a backdrop of many countries, including Britain and Japan, endorsing a plan to establish a transitional government including the coalition, but not explicitly calling for the ouster of Assad.

The death toll from the Syrian civil war has topped 120,000, and about 9 million people have been forced to flee outside the country or become internally displaced. The relevant countries must do more to end the hostilities as early as possible.

Taking advantage of the turmoil, radical Islam groups related to the Al-Qaida international terrorist organization have been ramping up their influence, complicating the situation further.

The Assad administration and the National Coalition are scheduled to hold direct negotiations in Geneva, following the just-ended ministerial conference in Switzerland.

Of note is the fact that the foreign ministers of the United States and Russia have proposed a ceasefire limited to Syria’s northern province of Aleppo. The United Nations will work on the two warring groups to accept the proposal in their direct talks.

The negotiations are certain to face rough going. But if at least a partial ceasefire can be realized, it will become possible for humanitarian assistance to be delivered to inhabitants in the regions where the conflict is taking place. Full efforts must be made to build a consensus on the matter.

In the ministerial conference, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida talked about Japan’s efforts to bolster assistance to refugees, and Japan announced humanitarian aid of $400 million (about ¥42 billion). Japan’s contribution toward the stabilization of Syria will continue to be called for.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 24, 2014)
(2014年1月24日01時27分  読売新聞)

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都知事選告示 東京の課題を幅広く論じよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 24, 2014
Tokyo gubernatorial candidates must debate wide range of policies
都知事選告示 東京の課題を幅広く論じよ(1月24日付・読売社説)

Campaigning has officially started for the Tokyo gubernatorial election. The capital faces a mountain of challenges, and candidates in the election are urged to actively engage in policy debates up to the polling day, Feb. 9.

Among the major candidates in the Tokyo race are former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe, supported by the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito; former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa; former Japan Federation of Bar Associations President Kenji Utsunomiya, who is recommended by the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party; and former Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Toshio Tamogami.

The issue of nuclear power plants has emerged as a key focal point in the Tokyo contest. Hosokawa, whose decision to run was spurred by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s encouragement, has drawn a great deal of attention, as he is committed to pursuing an immediate end to the use of nuclear power together with Koizumi. Utsunomiya has likewise made the elimination of nuclear power generation one of his major campaign promises.

Masuzoe, for his part, has pledged to build a society that is not dependent on nuclear energy on a mid- and long-term basis.

It may be meaningful, at least to some degree, that energy problems are being taken up as a subject of discussion in Tokyo, an area known as a mammoth consumer of power.

A proposal calling for a move away from nuclear power, however, should be deemed unrealistic and irresponsible if it fails to be accompanied by specific, convincing measures to ensure a stable, low-cost supply of electricity. We hope to see what the candidates favoring elimination of nuclear power generation have to say about the adverse impact of such a policy on the national economy, household budgets and the environment, due to a sharp rise in thermal power generation.

Given that the decision on the abolition or continuation of the country’s nuclear power plants is beyond the authority of the Tokyo governor, we wonder how the anti-nuclear power candidates specifically plan to push ahead with their policies of doing away with nuclear power generation.

Clarify policy specifics

As the upcoming Tokyo gubernatorial election follows the resignation of Naoki Inose as governor last month over his dubious receipt of ¥50 million in cash from scandal-tainted hospital operator Tokushukai, the candidates may inevitably find themselves unable to shy away from problems of money and politics.

Hosokawa, who resigned as prime minister 20 years ago to take responsibility for secretly borrowing ¥100 million from Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin, a major trucking company, has been stressing that he has finished repaying the loan. However, it seems he should be required to offer a more detailed explanation of what the money was for.

The new Tokyo governor will undertake the responsibility of smoothly preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Hosokawa earlier insisted that Tokyo should have bowed out of hosting the Games, but has changed his position. He is now calling for a review of “excessive construction plans.” Masuzoe, in contrast, says he wants to make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics one of the greatest events in history.

How to address the problem of Tokyo’s aging population and persistently low birth rate is another important issue. In 2020, about one of every four metropolitan residents is projected to be aged 65 or older, and Tokyo’s total fertility rate is one of the lowest among all regions of the country.

Masuzoe has promised to enhance the quality of Tokyo’s social welfare systems by leveraging his experience as health, labor and welfare minister.

How should Tokyo’s limited revenue sources be used to improve medical and nursing care services and boost child-rearing support measures? Every candidate in the Tokyo race must exercise his ingenuity in a battle of ideas.

Regarding safety precautions for a massive earthquake, namely what is called an epicentral temblor with its focus just below the metropolis, the candidates are urged to come up with realistic, concrete measures. Boosting fire-resistance in areas densely packed with wooden houses is an especially urgent challenge that Tokyo must face.

Voters must carefully consider which candidates are competent enough to steadily implement policies by building a relationship of trust with the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 24, 2014)
(2014年1月24日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月24日 (金)

米情報機関改革 「盗聴」で問われた監視体制

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 23, 2014
U.S. surveillance system questioned as a result of widespread wiretapping
米情報機関改革 「盗聴」で問われた監視体制(1月23日付・読売社説)

How should national security and privacy protection be made compatible with each other? The effectiveness of the U.S. intelligence and surveillance system is being questioned.

U.S. President Barack Obama has recently announced a reform plan for his country’s intelligence gathering activities by the National Security Agency.

The plan includes policies of reinforcing oversight of intelligence collection, enhancing the transparency of such activities, and of not wiretapping, in principle, the phones of leaders of nations that are U.S. allies and friends.

The NSA’s primary duties are to monitor telecommunication data. As a result of classified U.S. documents being taken by a former Central Intelligence Agency employee, however, the NSA was revealed to be involved in widespread bugging and the collection of a vast amount of phone and Internet data. This has drawn strong criticism both at home and abroad.

The revelations of the collection of phone and e-mail data from leaders of foreign countries, including U.S. allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have developed into a diplomatic issue.

The latest reforms spelled out by Obama are reasonable for Washington to recover the trust of the international community.

Needless to say, the discontinuation of U.S. intelligence collection from foreign leaders does not mean they will no longer be monitored by foreign intelligence. Allied nations are required to establish their own counterespionage system.

The vast amount of phone data collected within the United States and kept by the NSA included records of telephone numbers and the dates of phone conversations. Lawsuits have already been filed by people who claim the U.S. intelligence program collecting phone data from U.S. citizens was excessive.

Wiretapping to continue

It was reasonable of Obama to unveil a policy of not having phone conversation data kept within the government and instead commissioning it to an outside organization to prevent the collected data from being abused.

On the other hand, Obama has made clear that wiretapping activities will continue as part of the NSA’s intelligence activities.

It cannot be denied that wiretapping has become more important in preventing terrorism and cyberattacks since the terror attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Obama should be praised for making clear his determination to continue U.S. intelligence activities, if only with certain rules established for privacy protection.

The massive data collected by the U.S. intelligence organizations also contributes to the national security of foreign countries.

The future task for U.S. intelligence organizations, such as the NSA, could be the prevention of such incidents as the leakage of classified documents by the former CIA employee, which prompted the Obama administration to reform the intelligence program in the first place.

Some people in the United States say the former CIA employee should be treated as a whistle-blower, rather than a criminal. It should be reviewed whether there are weaknesses in the U.S. intelligence and security system itself.

Japan, which exchanges information with U.S. intelligence organizations, also needs to protect top secret data. The development of a relevant framework under the special state secret protection law should be the first step forward to that end.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 23, 2014)
(2014年1月23日01時52分  読売新聞)

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ノロウイルス 入念な手洗いで感染を防ごう

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 23, 2014
Washing hands critical to prevent spread of norovirus infection
ノロウイルス 入念な手洗いで感染を防ごう(1月23日付・読売社説)

Noroviruses are raging throughout the country. There seems to be no end to the number of mass food poisoning cases caused by the nationwide epidemic. Everyone should be urged to wash their hands regularly, a habit necessary to prevent the further spread of norovirus infection.

The mass norovirus-related food poisoning cases include one in Hamamatsu this month. After consuming bread served as part of the school lunch, more than 1,000 primary school students and others complained of such symptoms as nausea and diarrhea. The incident has forced a number of local schools to close temporarily.

Meanwhile, about 100 patients and others at a Kyoto hospital suffered similar symptoms. Four of them have died. Noroviruses have been detected in some of these patients.

Norovirus infection can result in violent nausea, diarrhea and stomachache. In most cases, adults can recover from such symptoms in a few days. However, those with lower resistance to norovirus-related diseases, such as infants and the elderly, are susceptible to more serious effects. In a number of cases, elderly people have died after choking on their own vomit.

There were about 1,700 norovirus-infected patients nationwide in December, according to a preliminary estimate released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The figure was lower than in 2006, when the spread of norovirus-related diseases was rampant. However, the number of patients has been steadily increasing since the start of the new year. The ongoing epidemic has been predicted to continue into February. Caution must be exercised at all times.

People should be encouraged to better recognize the importance of taking precautions everywhere, whether at home, school or the workplace.

Noroviruses lurk in feces and vomit from infected patients, insufficiently cooked bivalve shellfish and elsewhere. Their most distinctive feature is that they are highly contagious. Even the transmission of a small amount of norovirus could cause infection.

Precautions to take

For instance, if your hands touch a doorknob with noroviruses on it, you could wind up being infected orally. Norovirus transmission could also take place if a floor soiled by vomit from a patient was insufficiently disinfected. In such cases, noroviruses from the floor can be carried elsewhere once they are dry.

If a member of your family develops symptoms, you are advised to stop sharing towels among your family and use paper towels instead. The infected person’s clothes should be washed separately from those of family members. Such precautions can go a long way toward preventing norovirus infection.

Medical institutions and nursing care facilities must take meticulous care to prevent mass infection within their buildings. Healthcare facilities must pay close attention to any changes in the physical condition of their inpatients. Such care should also be given to those admitted to nursing care facilities.

It is disturbing to realize that anyone infected with noroviruses could unknowingly be contagious if he or she shows no obvious symptoms. This is evident in the Hamamatsu case. Noroviruses were detected in four employees of a commercial bakery that supplied school lunch bread. However, none of them had complained of symptoms.

The company in question had instructed its employees to wear masks and gloves during work, but this failed to prevent infection in Hamamatsu schools.

Food companies should not only encourage their employees to wash their hands after using the lavatory and before handling ingredients, but their cooking utensils should also be thoroughly disinfected.

Alcohol is ineffective for sterilizing anything contaminated by noroviruses. A workable alternative is to soak clothes in water as hot as 85 C or higher for more than a minute. Cooking utensils should be sterilized through the use of a chlorinated disinfectant.

There are no vaccines or cures for norovirus-related illnesses. This is why thorough precautions must be taken to prevent infection.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 23, 2014)
(2014年1月23日01時52分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月23日 (木)

モンスターの感情を色で読み取れる 『みっくすりとる』がモンスターの感情を探知できる「りとたん」をプレゼント


あの『みっくすりとる』がモンスターの感情を探知できる「りとたん 」をプレゼントしてくれます。




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ZETA Security Auth (ゼタセキュリティ・オース)というのがあるんです。




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オリジナルパーカー&スウェット新春SALE  というサイトを覗いてみてください。




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「ギョーザ」判決 中国産食品の信頼確保が課題

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 22, 2014
After poisoning sentence, confidence in China's food exports must be ensured
「ギョーザ」判決 中国産食品の信頼確保が課題(1月22日付・読売社説)

How can the safety of the inexpensive Chinese food products that are eaten in Japan be ensured? This remains an important task facing both nations.

A Chinese defendant in the case involving the poisoning of frozen gyoza dumplings, which came to light in 2008, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The defendant, then a temporary worker at a manufacturer of frozen gyoza, snuck into a freezing room at a factory in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, and injected organic phosphate insecticide into packages of gyoza, according to the ruling handed down by a court in the city Monday. The man wanted to cause a stir through the act, the sentence said, and through it push for better working conditions.

Ten people in three families in Chiba and Hyogo prefectures developed symptoms of poisoning after eating imported gyoza that had been poisoned. One became temporarily unconscious. Several victims in China suffered similar symptoms as well.

The Shijiazhuang court had every reason to conclude the defendant’s behavior constituted a serious premeditated crime that damaged the health of a number of people.

In the initial stages of the incident, the Chinese government attempted to blame the whole matter on the Japanese side, insisting it was “extremely unlikely pesticide was put [into the gyoza] in our country.”

Japan refuted this, basing its conclusions on evidence that included the results of scientific tests on the pesticide injected into the gyoza. The matter developed into a diplomatic row between the two nations.

However, an extensive investigation by China found the poisoning had in fact resulted from the deliberate injection of a toxic substance into the gyoza at the Chinese factory.

Tainted image

The case greatly tarnished China’s image in Japan, contributing to a worsening of the bilateral relationship. Though the case can be described as an extraordinary crime committed by a single employee, the incident catalyzed distrust among Japanese over the safety of Chinese food products in general.

The poisoned gyoza incident was followed by a number of similar cases in China. Incidents that have come to light include the distribution of powdered milk mixed with a toxic chemical and cadmium-contaminated rice. All of this has contributed to rising concerns over the safety of Chinese food products.

The poisoned gyoza case spurred Japanese companies to tighten quality controls on Chinese food products. Measures taken by the many manufacturers that operate in China and trading houses that market Chinese food for Japanese consumption include more stringent tests on the amounts of agricultural chemicals used at Chinese farms and on the quality of processing materials used at Chinese factories.

Some Japanese companies have adopted measures to prevent toxic and other dangerous substances from contaminating their products by, for example, setting up security cameras at their factories in China and requiring workers to wear pocketless uniforms.

In fiscal 2012, the percentage of safety violations involving food imports from China fell below the overall average for all imported foods, according to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry statistics released last year.

This has accompanied a recent rise in the volume of food imports from China. Though imports declined sharply after the poisoned gyoza case, the figure has almost returned to levels recorded prior to the incident.

It is difficult to imagine eliminating Chinese food products from our household menus, as they can be produced at lower costs. Further efforts must be made to thoroughly ensure the safety of Chinese food, by manufacturers and all other entities involved in both nations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 22, 2014)
(2014年1月22日01時33分  読売新聞)

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JR北海道 安全重視への体質改善を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 22, 2014
JR Hokkaido should go back to basics of ‘safety first’
JR北海道 安全重視への体質改善を急げ(1月22日付・読売社説)

Hokkaido Railway Co. must take to heart the recent orders issued by the transport ministry over a series of scandals involving the company, which included the falsification of track inspection data. It is essential that the railway overcome its habit of undervaluing safety.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry issued a supervision order based on the JR companies law regarding the incidents to JR Hokkaido on Tuesday. The ministry also ordered the company to improve its operations based on the Railway Business Law, and demanded that Makoto Toyota, chief of the railway’s operations headquarters, be removed as safety management chief.

The transport ministry has never before issued a supervision order to a railway company. It was also the first time the ministry has ordered a railway to dismiss a safety management chief.

In addition, no other company has received two operation improvement orders. JR Hokkaido received its first order over a derailment and fire involving a limited express train in 2011.

The top priority of railway companies should be passenger safety. JR Hokkaido, which operates in an area with difficult climate conditions, needs to pursue this goal with meticulous care. We believe the transport ministry had no choice but to issue these unprecedented orders to reform an organization with such slipshod safety measures.

The transport ministry is also considering bringing criminal charges against JR Hokkaido over the falsification of track inspection data. We believe such action is necessary to uncover exactly what happened in the incident.

JR Hokkaido President Makoto Nojima said at a press conference that the company is in a “critical situation.”
“We will make utmost efforts to rebuild a safe railway system,” Nojima said.

We urge JR Hokkaido to undertake these reforms with a determination to start over from scratch.

Passengers betrayed

The transport ministry’s orders came out of its special safety inspection. During the probe, many workers at sections where data falsification was confirmed said falsification had become the norm. In many cases the practice was passed down from predecessors. Some said they were told to do so by superiors.

According to an in-house investigation by JR Hokkaido, data falsification was found at 33 of the 44 sections in charge of track inspections. In total, 75 employees, including top officials, were reprimanded, including a disciplinary dismissal. The extent of the malpractice is appalling.

Regarding a freight train derailment in September last year, falsified data was even reported to the Japan Transport Safety Board, a government organ that investigates the cause of accidents. If an accident’s true cause remains unknown, it is difficult to prevent similar accidents. The data falsification by JR Hokkaido is a clear and unforgivable betrayal of its passengers and other users.

In its orders, the transport ministry pointed out problematic habits at JR Hokkaido, such as a lack of safety awareness. It also indicated a lack of interest at JR Hokkaido’s main office about what was happening on the front lines of day-to-day train operations.

It is essential that JR Hokkaido rebuilds its safety control system so it encompasses all departments and sections, from management and administrative sections to those working on the ground. The company must also review its employee training system.

The transport ministry, which is charged with supervising the company, should also take part in reforming the railway company in a responsible manner.

The labor unions of JR Hokkaido are powerful, and observers have pointed out that this is part of the reason for the distance between the people working on the front lines and those in managerial positions. Although the ministry did not mention the labor union problem in its recent orders, we believe the ministry needs to continue studying this problem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 22, 2014)
(2014年1月22日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月22日 (水)

安重根記念館 韓国の反日工作は執拗すぎる

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 21, 2014
South Korea’s anti-Japan diplomatic maneuvering goes too far
安重根記念館 韓国の反日工作は執拗すぎる(1月21日付・読売社説)

China and South Korea have intensified their cooperation in attempting to pressure Japan over historical issues. This is a worrisome situation.

A memorial hall for Ahn Jung Geun has opened at Harbin Railway Station in China’s Heilongjiang Province. Ahn, a Korean independence activist, assassinated Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first governor general of Korea. In South Korea, Ahn is seen as a hero for resisting Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

In June, South Korean President Park Guen-hye asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to erect a monument at the railway station, the site of the assassination. China acceded and constructed the memorial hall.

Park’s intent appears to have been to join forces with China over historical issues concerning Japan.

The South Korean Foreign Affairs Ministry has welcomed the opening of the hall, emphasizing that Ahn “is respected by the people of South Korea and China.”

Yet we feel the memorial hall—built with no regard for Japan’s position or its national sentiments—is absolutely unacceptable.

The Japanese government has repeatedly conveyed to both countries its concerns over the monument’s construction. It is only reasonable that the government has protested the opening of the hall to both the South Korean and Chinese governments through diplomatic channels.

Calling Ahn “a terrorist who killed our country’s first prime minister and was sentenced to death,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the cooperation between China and South Korea over this issue “will not contribute to regional peace and to building cooperative relationships.”

China’s decision to build the memorial hall in response to Park’s proposal is also questionable.

China is a multiethnic nation, and praising Ahn risks stirring up ethnic consciousness among the ethnic Koreans living within its borders.

China driving a wedge

Yet it appears that anti-Japan sentiments prodded China to open the memorial hall, probably out of a desire to curry favor with South Korea diplomatically. China seems to be attempting to drive a wedge into the diplomatic and security arrangements among Japan, the United States and South Korea.

Meanwhile, apart from the issues surrounding the Ahn memorial, South Korea has intensified its one-sided assertions regarding its historical perceptions. We cannot overlook the fact that such assertions undermine Japan’s position in international institutions and in the eyes of other countries.

The government of South Korea has begun preparations for registering testimonies by former “comfort women” with UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.

South Korea has also decided to display works of art that are based on the comfort women issue at an international comic book festival in France.

In the United States, a group affiliated with South Korea is lobbying for public school textbooks to refer the waters between Japan and South Korea the “East Sea,” as is called in South Korea, in addition to the “Sea of Japan.”

The Japanese government must counter South Korea’s persistent diplomatic maneuvering by thoroughly and tenaciously presenting correct facts to the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 21, 2014)
(2014年1月21日01時14分  読売新聞)

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マイナー自衛権 円滑な危機対処法制を整えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 21, 2014
Urgent need to establish legal framework for minor self-defense rights
マイナー自衛権 円滑な危機対処法制を整えよ(1月21日付・読売社説)

With the deteriorating security environment around Japan, establishing a legal framework that would enable the nation to deal with a variety of crises promptly and effectively is an urgent need.

The government is studying plans for legal arrangements and responses that fall under what have been called minor self-defense rights, which cover contingencies that stop short of full-scale military attacks.

Possible scenarios in which such defense rights would be exercised include the occupation of a remote island by armed special forces of an unknown nationality or disguised as fishermen, and intrusions into Japanese territorial waters by foreign submarines that continue underwater operations in defiance of requests to exit the area.

Last year, Chinese military vessels directed fire-control radar at Japanese vessels and the country unilaterally established an air defense identification zone. China’s intrusions into waters around the Senkaku Islands have become constant.

Rather than being an unrealistic scenario, the occupation of a remote island is a “clear and present danger.”

There have been very few cases in contemporary warfare in which one country has launched an armed attack along with a large-scale invasion following a declaration of war. It is more likely that a small crisis would accidentally develop into a serious situation.

We are pleased that the new National Defense Program Guidelines highlight the importance of coping with events that fall into “gray areas” between peace and overt hostilities. Countermeasures must be implemented flexibly and seamlessly based on the situation from the first signs of an emergency.

Weapon usage

The focal point is how to expand the Self-Defense Forces’ right to use weapons.

Currently, the SDF has only slightly more discretion to use force than the police do, even when patrolling the seas. There is a large difference between what is currently permitted and allowing the defense forces to be mobilized based on the right of self-defense, with the discretion to use all weaponry at their disposal. Thus, the current rules cannot be considered sufficient to deal with a heavily armed group that has occupied a remote island.

Ordering an SDF mobilization must meet three requirements: “an imminent and illegal incursion against this country,” “the lack of appropriate alternative measures” and “using the minimum amount of military force.” These are high hurdles to clear, and going through necessary procedures takes time.

Filling the legal gaps in the Self-Defense Forces Law, which sets these three conditions, could enable smooth crisis management and help strengthen Japan’s deterrent force.

One option could be, for example, revising the SDF law to establish new fields of duty, including territorial security, and giving the SDF discretion to use force accordingly.

However, there is concern that if the requirements are set too strictly, the SDF could not effectively perform their new duties. It is essential to adopt a system that would enable the flexible mobilization of defense forces.

Minor self-defense rights fall within the range of individual self-defense rights. Discussions on the matter must be promoted along with the government’s revision of constitutional interpretation of the right of collective self-defense, which is indispensable for strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and furthering international cooperation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 21, 2014)
(2014年1月21日01時14分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月21日 (火)

自民党大会 政府と一体で経済を再生せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 20, 2014
LDP, govt must work closely together to ensure nation’s economic recovery
自民党大会 政府と一体で経済を再生せよ(1月20日付・読売社説)

“We have been successful in blowing away the thick, black clouds that were covering Japan,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in praise of Abenomics.

Yet at all costs the Abe administration must not relax its guard. The true value of Abenomics is yet to be tested.

The Liberal Democratic Party held its regular convention in Tokyo on Sunday. During the convention, Abe said emphatically, “It’s our responsibility to bring the economic recovery to the whole of Japan this year.”

Economic indicators have indeed shown signs of an economic upturn. Yet a hike in the consumption tax rate is scheduled for April. The LDP must support the government so the economy can overcome this hurdle without stalling again.

The negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free-trade accord, which holds the key to the fate of the Abe administration’s growth strategy, will also soon enter their final stage. The LDP is calling for maintaining tariffs on five key agricultural items, including rice, wheat and barley. Yet the important thing is to promote the nation’s interests to the maximum. The party must take a broad perspective in deciding what should be protected and what should be conceded.

The action plan the party adopted for this year clearly stated, “The government and ruling parties must make unified efforts in overcoming deflation and achieving economic recovery.” The action plan also says the party will work to persuade local governments hosting nuclear power plants to approve the restart of the plants. We hope the party will steadily proceed with these efforts.

The action plan also stated clearly that the party would proactively tackle constitutional revisions, including a plan to hold discussion meetings to gain public support of the party’s draft of the constitutional revisions.

Constitutional revision slow

Since the House of Councillors election in July, the move toward realizing the constitutional revision has been slow. The party should make further efforts.

Party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, in reference to management of the party, appealed to party members to create an LDP that is “humble, polite, honest and kind [to the people],” by remembering the hard days when the party was in the opposition camp.

At an extraordinary Diet session last autumn, deliberations were thrown into turmoil over the bill to protect special state secrets, turning the session into a mudslinging match between the ruling and opposition parties. The turmoil has been partly due to the ruling parties’ high-handed management of Diet business. The LDP should not strut about because of its “force of numbers.”

It is also important for the LDP to build a consensus on each policy with opposition parties, including the Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party.

New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, who attended the LDP’s convention as a guest, said his party “would like to meet the people’s expectations by pooling the distinctive qualities” of both Komeito and the LDP, indicating his intention of rallying the strength of the ruling coalition of the two parties.

Komeito has not relaxed its cautious stance over Abe’s conservative policies, as indicated, for instance, by his recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine. The LDP may also need to further take heed of its relations with Komeito.

A case in point, for example, is the issue of reviewing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution, which Abe plans to tackle from this spring. The review is expected to make it possible for the country to exercise its right to collective self-defense.

Yamaguchi once went so far as to say that his party would “firmly oppose this position.” Abe will need to lay the groundwork by thoroughly explaining to Komeito the significance and the necessity of changing the constitutional interpretation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 20, 2014)
(2014年1月20日01時29分  読売新聞)

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名護市長再選 普天間移設は着実に進めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 20, 2014
Futenma relocation must go ahead despite outcome of Nago mayoral race
名護市長再選 普天間移設は着実に進めたい(1月20日付・読売社説)

Despite the outcome of Sunday’s mayoral election in Nago, the government should push ahead steadily with the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture to the city’s Henoko coastal district.

Incumbent Mayor Susumu Inamine, an adamant opponent of the relocation, secured a second term by defeating first-time candidate Bunshin Suematsu, a former Okinawa Prefectural Assembly member who supported the move.

In Nago’s five mayoral contests since 1998, candidates in favor of the relocation plan were victorious in the first three. Inamine won the other two.

The outcomes of the last two elections presumably were the result of the Democratic Party of Japan irresponsibly calling for the Futenma facility to be moved outside Okinawa Prefecture when it was in power, whipping up the expectations of residents of the prefecture. This helped lend ammunition to their arguments against the relocation of Futenma’s functions to Henoko, even among those voters who held conservative views.

Although New Komeito’s headquarters threw its support behind the relocation plan, the party allowed its members to freely cast their ballots in the mayoral race, while the party’s Okinawa prefectural chapter remained committed to having the facility relocated outside Okinawa Prefecture.

It was problematic for the party’s headquarters to give tacit approval to the prefectural chapter’s anti-relocation stance while supporting the relocation plan as a ruling party.

In his campaign, Suematsu promised to promote the local economy of Nago by strengthening cooperation with the central and Okinawa prefectural governments.

Suematsu was hampered in his efforts to make headway against Inamine by the delay in getting a former Nago mayor who supported the relocation to give up his plan to run, thereby unifying the pro-relocation camp.

As Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima gave the green light toward the end of 2013 for the central government’s application to carry out a land reclamation project at Henoko, the basic direction of advancing the Henoko relocation plan has effectively been irreversibly settled.

Delays must be avoided

The task of keeping intact the important functions of Futenma Air Station, which is responsible for transporting U.S. marines stationed in the prefecture, is of key significance to the Japan-U.S. alliance and Japan’s national security. This must not be affected by the outcome of a single local election.

Nakaima’s decision to approve the land reclamation prior to the mayoral election was appropriate from the standpoint of averting untoward developments.

The mayor of Nago has the licensing authority on such matters as approval of building construction material depots necessary to construct the new Futenma facility, so he would be able to delay construction to a certain degree. The mayor’s power, however, is not strong enough to bring the Henoko relocation plan to a halt.

Taking into account the weight of the votes garnered by Suematsu, Inamine should not use his authority to block the landfill work.

The government, for its part, should make further efforts to enhance close cooperation with Okinawa Prefecture by speeding up the landfill project with the aim of making the deterrence of the U.S. forces in Japan compatible with the goal of alleviating the burden on Okinawa Prefecture residents in hosting U.S. military installations.

The slower the pace of construction, the longer the perilous situation of Futenma Air Station will remain, as it is located in a densely populated area of a city.

Under the circumstances, schedules to implement other measures to alleviate the prefecture’s burdens, such as transferring U.S. marines to Guam and the return of U.S. military bases in the southern part of the prefecture to Japan, would also be delayed.

The cooperation of local communities is indispensable to ensure smooth progress and shorten the time needed to carry out such tasks as land reclamation work, which has been sought by Nakaima and other prefectural leaders.

The government must continue its endeavors to obtain the understanding of the people about the importance of the Henoko relocation plan by providing thorough explanations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 20, 2014)
(2014年1月20日01時29分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月20日 (月)

国会改革 党首討論をもっと活用せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 19, 2014
Reform Diet with more debate among party leaders, electoral system review
国会改革 党首討論をもっと活用せよ(1月19日付・読売社説)


The Diet must respond appropriately to changes in and outside Japan and deal quickly with the issues it faces. To realize this, it is essential to reform the nation’s political decision-making system, which is often trapped in the old mold.

The ordinary session of the Diet is to be convened Friday, and parliamentary reforms must be carried out as quickly as possible.

Reduce PM’s burden

Under the current system, the prime minister and other cabinet ministers are tied up in Diet deliberations far longer than their counterparts in Britain and Germany. It is important for the government to be completely accountable. But, if it prevents the ministers from working on domestic and foreign affairs, it is like putting the cart before the horse.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, last month proposed a review of Diet management.

The proposal calls for debates among party leaders in the Diet, which were held only twice last year, to be held once a month, although the prime minister is required only to attend plenary sessions of the Diet and budget committee meetings to answer basic questions. If cabinet ministers have to skip deliberations to attend international conferences or to deal with disasters, vice ministers or parliamentary secretaries should fill in for them, it says.

We think the proposal’s basic direction is appropriate.

“The proposal will give the prime minister and cabinet ministers an excuse to avoid Diet deliberations,” the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan said.
This objection is far from convincing because, when it was in office, the party proposed flexible management of the Diet “from the viewpoints of national interests and foreign policy.”

After a change in government, a ruling party becomes an opposition party. Both the ruling and opposition parties should work together to constructively make new rules.

The substance of Diet deliberations must be enriched and the Diet’s management streamlined. A battle of words between the ruling and opposition parties tends to be nothing more than a tug-of-war about Diet schedules, with the ruling parties trying to pass bills as quickly as possible and the opposition parties attempting to scrap bills by drawing out the deliberations so they cannot be passed before the end of a Diet session. A typical example of that is the process to enact a bill to protect special state secrets.

In Japan, the cabinet submits most bills to the Diet. To make the Diet more functional as a legislature, more bills should be sponsored by Diet members.

Since the state of the divided Diet in which the opposition controlled the House of Councillors has ended, the Diet must make preparations for a similar situation to occur in the future. For instance, it is necessary to review the system of a joint committee of both houses that is formed when different decisions are made by the two Diet chambers.

In practice, members of the committee, 10 each from the upper and lower houses, are all selected from the majority party at each chamber. This practice has robbed the committee of its substance and made it a place where 10 supporters and 10 opponents to a certain bill meet but can never reach an agreement, except to confirm that negotiations failed.

We expect Diet members to come up with ideas to help the committee reach agreement, such as by changing the number and composition of its members, for instance.

It is also necessary to come up with a decision on what to do about Yui no To, a party formed near the end of last year by defectors from Your Party, as it has been prevented from forming a new parliamentary group in the Diet.

Resolve Yui no To issue

Yui no To, which comprises 15 lawmakers, submitted on Jan. 7 an application to the secretariats of both houses of the legislature for registration as a parliamentary group, but the secretariats turned it down.

As Your Party rejected the defections of 13 of the 15 lawmakers, who won Diet seats in proportional representation contests, the application was blocked due to the Diet practice of leaving the authority for filing an application allowing certain members of a parliamentary group to secede up to the group’s top leader.

The result is that Yui no To has neither a waiting room nor has an interpellation slot been allotted to it. It also is ineligible to receive funds to cover legislative investigative activities that are paid from the state coffers to parliamentary groups. Under the circumstances, the party has difficulty in engaging in Diet activities.

Your Party has demanded that the defectors who obtained Diet seats on the strength of ballots that were garnered in the name of the party in the proportional representation segments of the Diet elections should resign as legislators and return their seats to Your Party.

Your Party’s argument is reasonable, considering they were elected to the Diet solely on the strength of votes cast for the party in the proportional representation contest. It is also understandable, however, that the LDP has said the insistence of Your Party seeking to make Yui no To members remain in Your Party’s parliamentary group “in spite of their disagreements with Yui no To should be deemed unnatural.”]

At a meeting of directors of the lower house’s Rules and Administration Committee, it was agreed that “the will of individual house members should be respected regarding their withdrawal from a parliamentary group.”

There have been a number of cases in which lawmakers who won seats through proportional representation and later broke away from their parties to be subsequently acknowledged as withdrawing from parliamentary groups.

Participation of such a lawmaker who defects to a new party is allowed under the Public Offices Election Law. Preventing lawmakers from seceding from one parliamentary group to join another will hamper political realignment moves.

If there are no prospects of resolving conflicts involving a parliamentary group, the speaker of the lower house or the president of the upper house should mediate to resolve the problem.

A problem like that between Your Party and Yui no To can recur at any time. It is desirable to establish a set of rules governing the formation of a new parliamentary group and procedures concerning secession from an existing one.

Also problematic in this connection is that there has been little progress in reforming the electoral systems of both houses.

Regarding the disparity in the value of votes in the lower house election in December 2012, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that it was in a “state of unconstitutionality.” In lawsuits concerning the upper house poll in July last year, 13 high courts in various parts of the country ruled the election to be “in a state of unconstitutionality,” while three others bluntly called the election “unconstitutional.”

Don’t stick to seat cuts

The courts all called for the legislature to tackle the task of drastically reforming the election system to rectify vote value disparities between the most and least represented constituencies.

Both the ruling and opposition camps in the lower and upper houses must realize the seriousness of the current state of affairs, which the judiciary refuses to call “constitutional.”

The main factor hindering an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties on electoral system reform is the difference in views concerning the reduction of lawmakers.

The parties should redouble efforts to come up with truly desirable and feasible electoral systems, by setting aside trimming the number of Diet seats, which has been influenced by opportunistic party interests intended to pander to the public.

If the ruling and opposition parties remain unable to craft specific reforms because of their partisan maneuvering, there is no other option than to leave the matter up to deliberations by an expert third-party organ, an idea proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 19, 2014)
(2014年1月19日01時29分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月19日 (日)

センター試験 改革に功罪の検証は不可欠だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 18, 2014
Merits, demerits of natl center test must be examined to promote reform
センター試験 改革に功罪の検証は不可欠だ(1月18日付・読売社説)

The two-day test organized by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, which begins Saturday, involves 560,000 students applying to enter 843 universities and junior colleges nationwide.

Many students no doubt studied hard day and night in preparation for the tests. We hope they can fully display their abilities.

The center and officials concerned at each university need to focus their minds to prevent a recurrence of such trouble as the erroneous distribution of test question papers that happened two years ago.

The National Center Test for University Admissions was introduced in 1990 as a replacement for the standard preliminary test, opening the door for participation by private universities. Currently, about 90 percent of private universities and colleges participate.

Some universities use the center test together with the system to hold exams for candidates recommended by high schools and conduct interviews through their admissions offices.

It may be said that the center test has become established as the uniform test to determine whether examinees have acquired basic scholastic abilities needed for advancing to universities.

Test questions, which take about two years to compile, are created by university teaching faculty members and others.

The questions are regarded as reasonable because they do not include unfairly difficult or tricky problems.

The number of test items, on the other hand, has increased to 29 areas in six subjects, as high school curricula became subdivided. Each university and college can freely choose sub-subjects, and the number of them, in an a la carte approach. From the standpoint of examinees, however, the system may be too complicated.

Pressure on examinees

Furthermore, examinees are undeniably forced to face excessive mental stress given that results of the national center test, held only once a year, largely determine whether they succeed or fail to gain entrance into their desired universities.

Some observers have pointed out that it has become difficult to maintain the nationwide test under the current formula, in which more than 500,000 examinees sit for exams all at once at test venues across the country.

Discussions on reform of the national center test have been held at the Central Council for Education, in response to recommendations by the Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, a governmental advisory body, that propose the establishment of a new test method to assess achievement levels as the pillar of reform.

The recommendations call for holding a basic test to measure basic achievement levels for high school students and establishing a development-level test to be utilized for general university exams. The panel also proposes allowing students to take each test more than once. The realization of these measures will significantly change the university entrance exam system.

We believe students should be given more opportunities to take tests.

The question is how to deal with the selection of sub-subjects for the achievement level test. The many other issues to be studied include which organization will organize the test.

Reform of the university entrance exam system will have a great impact on examinees and educational institutions.

Foremost, close examination is needed of the merits and demerits of the national center test before in-depth discussions are held.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 18, 2014)
(2014年1月18日01時27分  読売新聞)

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東京都知事選 五輪返上論はどこまで本気か

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 18, 2014
Is Hosokawa serious about his call for Tokyo to decline hosting Olympics?
東京都知事選 五輪返上論はどこまで本気か(1月18日付・読売社説)

It is meaningful to discuss the issue of nuclear energy in Tokyo, which consumes a massive amount of electricity, but it is unreasonable to exploit an election for the denuclearization movement.

Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, who has expressed his intention to run in the upcoming Tokyo gubernatorial election, is drawing public attention.

Hosokawa has made an antinuclear agenda his main campaign pledge, saying, “I’m concerned that the issue of nuclear power determines the nation’s fate.” He is backed by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who advocates immediately breaking with nuclear power.

Both Hosokawa and Koizumi enjoyed high cabinet approval ratings as prime minister. They are adopting election tactics that seek to make the most of the wide public popularity they once enjoyed.

The Tokyo metropolitan government is certainly a major shareholder of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Yet, 50.1 percent of TEPCO shares are owned by the government’s Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, which aims to resume operation of the nation’s unclear power stations. It would be irresponsible of Hosokawa to argue that he would be able to stop the restart of nuclear reactors.

What must not be overlooked is how Koizumi has positioned the gubernatorial election. He said the election will be a “war between the group that says Japan can grow with zero nuclear power plants and the group that says it cannot.”

He should not simplify the issue of nuclear energy into a choice between two options—zero nuclear power and nuclear promotion—making light of such complicated factors as the possible effect on industries and household finances, measures to cope with global warming and energy security.

Simplistic ideas not enough

Hosokawa has postponed his official press conference on his candidacy twice already, apparently because he has been unable to prepare his election pledges. This illustrates the fact that simplistic ideas do not prepare a person to cope with the variety of problems the Tokyo metropolitan government is facing.

When Tokyo won its bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics last year, Hosokawa called for Tokyo to renounce its selection as host, saying, “Tokyo should have declined to accept the decision because we still have the nuclear problem.” We wonder how serious he is.

The upcoming gubernatorial election will be held because former Gov. Naoki Inose resigned over his suspicious borrowing of ¥50 million in cash from hospital operator Tokushukai. Therefore, we believe Hosokawa should explain his borrowing of ¥100 million from the Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin parcel company, which led to his resignation as prime minister.

Meanwhile, former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe, another leading candidate, expressed his determination to pursue the “best Olympics in history,” antidisaster measures, improved medical and nursing care services, and employment measures. We would like Masuzoe to clearly state during the election campaign what concrete measures he plans.

As for nuclear energy, Masuzoe said he will aim to create a society that does not depend on nuclear power generation, instead of immediately reducing nuclear energy use to zero. He also said he would promote energy-saving measures in Tokyo, making efforts to expand the use of renewable energy.

The main question in the race to choose the face of the metropolis is which candidate has a clear vision of Tokyo’s future. Candidates must deepen their discussions through debate and other opportunities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 18, 2014)
(2014年1月18日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月18日 (土)

オウム公判再開 裁判員は事件をどう裁くか

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 17, 2014
How will lay judges deal with latest trial involving Aum cult?
オウム公判再開 裁判員は事件をどう裁くか(1月17日付・読売社説)

A former Aum Supreme Truth member is on trial facing charges in three cases in which lay judges will for the first time pass judgment on crimes allegedly committed by the cult that shocked society. We will closely watch how the trial unfolds.

The trial of Makoto Hirata, who was arrested when he gave himself up at a police station after 17 years on the run, got under way at the Tokyo District Court on Thursday.

A series of Aum trials was concluded in 2011, with the death sentences of cult guru Chizuo Matsumoto and 12 of his followers finalized. The start of Hirata’s trial marks a resumption of trials on Aum-related incidents.

Hirata was indicted on charges of kidnapping and imprisoning Kiyoshi Kariya, chief of the Meguro notary public office in Tokyo, and planting a bomb at a Tokyo condominium. Both incidents happened just prior to the cult’s sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995.

In the first hearing, Hirata apologized to Kariya, who died in the aftermath of the kidnapping, and his bereaved family, but denied some of the charges. To what extent can the trial unravel the real picture behind a cult that repeatedly committed crimes as it evolved into a terrorist group?

Attention will center on what former cult leaders currently on death row will say as witnesses in Hirata’s trial.

Prosecutors plan to interrogate Yoshihiro Inoue, who served as leader at the two crime scenes, and two other death-row inmates to establish the background to the crimes. As the death-row inmates reportedly expressed their intention to comply with requests to testify as witnesses, new facts could emerge during the hearings.

It is extremely unusual for a death-row inmate to be questioned in a public court hearing.

In preparation for this event, the court will install a bulletproof acrylic panel in front of the gallery. To help the death-row convicts compose themselves when they testify, the court will erect a barrier around the witness stand.

Steps to lighten pressure

The court must take all possible measures to prevent the hearings from being disrupted.

A relative of Kariya, who died after being injected with a large amount of drugs, will participate in the court hearings by taking advantage of the system that allows crime victims or their family members to take part in trials. Under the system, introduced in 2008, crime victims or their family members can question defendants directly in hearings.

Kariya’s family hopes the truth will emerge in court hearings. In the first hearing, Hirata said he had “only served as a lookout and had no awareness of committing a kidnapping.”

Attention is being focused on how the lay judges will determine the facts of the case.

Hearings will be held three to four times a week, with a ruling scheduled for early March. Such a lengthy trial, lasting about two months, will no doubt impose a burden on the lay judges.

Furthermore, the trial involves a cult that committed heinous terrorist attacks. The district court initially chose 400 persons as lay judge candidates, but many of them declined to serve. This may be because they were concerned about the consequences of participating in the trial.

As the trial will impose significant pressure on the lay judges, the presiding judge must provide them with utmost support, paying due heed to their health.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 17, 2014)
(2014年1月17日01時24分  読売新聞)

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認知症対策 生活習慣の改善も予防になる

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 17, 2014
Govt must promote healthy lifestyle from young age to ward off dementia
認知症対策 生活習慣の改善も予防になる(1月17日付・読売社説)

The number of elderly Japanese people suffering from dementia is increasing much faster than predicted. The government must devise measures to prevent and treat the condition as quickly as possible.

According to an estimate by a research team of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of elderly people diagnosed with dementia has reached 4.62 million. Research results by Kyushu University indicate the number is six times the level 20 years ago.

It must be noted that an increase in people suffering from diabetes, along with the quickly aging population, has boosted the number of dementia patients.

Domestic and overseas research has found that diabetics are about twice as likely as those without diabetes to develop Alzheimer’s-type dementia.

Alzheimer’s-type dementia develops as a result of the accumulation of abnormal protein in the brain. People are more likely to develop this type of dementia if they become diabetic and a large amount of insulin is produced in their bodies, because insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels, also interrupts the dissolution of the protein and thus promotes its accumulation.

Major causes for diabetes are overeating and obesity resulting from insufficient exercise. According to some data, people who pay attention to their lifestyles by exercising regularly and eating Japanese and other healthy foods are less likely to develop diabetes or dementia.

The health ministry should publicize such information, which could help people prevent these health problems by paying attention to their lifestyles from a young age.

As many as 4 million people are said to suffer from “mild cognitive impairment,” believed to be a stage before dementia. Symptoms include impaired memory and judgment. If treated at an early stage, however, it can likely be prevented from progressing to dementia, doctors say. We hope measures to prevent the condition will be established as soon as possible.

Dementia could be controlled

It is still important to diagnose dementia as early as possible, even if a patient has already developed symptoms. If treated properly, dementia patients could recover in cases where the formation of a hematoma in the brain due to a blow to the head caused it, for instance.

However, the conditions of many patients deteriorate if left undiagnosed. It is necessary to develop a system that can render an accurate diagnosis by increasing expert-staffed outpatient “forgetful” clinics around the country.

If diagnosed early, it might be possible for people with dementia to continue their family life and jobs longer with the understanding and cooperation of their families and people around them.

Developing measures to deal with dementia is a common concern among advanced countries, whose populations are aging quickly.

Japan, the United States and six other advanced countries held the first G-8 Dementia Summit last month in London. They agreed to drastically increase research funds for dementia and share research data with the aim of establishing treatment methods by 2025.

International cooperation is essential to study dementia, which still has many unexplained elements. We think Japan, whose population is aging the fastest in the world, should lead the research. The government should play a leading role and mobilize all Japanese researchers in this field to tackle the issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 17, 2014)
(2014年1月17日01時24分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月17日 (金)

東電新事業計画 今度こそ再建を軌道に乗せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 16, 2014
TEPCO must realize business plan to end N-crisis, speed reconstruction
東電新事業計画 今度こそ再建を軌道に乗せよ(1月16日付・読売社説)

To end the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and accelerate reconstruction efforts of the areas hit by the 2011 disaster, TEPCO’s revised business rehabilitation plan must not end up as “pie in the sky.”

The government has approved TEPCO’s new comprehensive special business plan, by which the utility aims to rebuild its business.

TEPCO was forced to drastically revise its original revenue and expenditure plan and add more streamlining programs, because prospects were low for the restart of idle reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture. Their restart was assumed in the initial special plan of May 2012.

The new comprehensive special business plan is based on the premise that four of the seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant will be reactivated during fiscal 2014. Reactivation of one nuclear power reactor can cut the fuel costs of a thermal power station by more than ¥100 billion. A surplus of about ¥100 billion is expected to be secured for a year, according to the projection.

The government decided at the end of last year to share in the cost for decontamination as an additional measure to support the utility, which is also a positive factor for TEPCO.

When TEPCO’s business operations are put on the right track, the government plans to sell all the TEPCO shares it holds by the end of the early 2030s and use proceeds from the sale to supplement decontamination work.

However, we cannot help but fear that the new comprehensive special business plan will stumble from the start.

This is largely because Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida still opposes the restart of reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, making such comments as, “The Fukushima No. 1 plant crisis should be thoroughly investigated [before reactivation of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant].”

The Nuclear Regulation Authority must conduct safety inspections of idle reactors without delay, ultimately based on the government’s safety regulation standards.

To implement the special business plan, it is indispensable to steadily restart nuclear reactors that the regulatory committee has confirmed to be safe.

Local govt heads’ position

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is an important power source that supplies electricity to the Tokyo metropolitan area. The Tokyo governor and other heads of local governments around Tokyo, which consume the electricity supplied by TEPCO, need to be keenly aware they are in a position to insist that Izumida and other relevant parties show understanding to the restarting of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
Such action is necessary to ensure the stability of local economies and residents’ daily lives.

In that sense, it is extremely irresponsible for anyone scheduled to run in the Tokyo gubernatorial election to advocate a zero nuclear power generation policy without proposing practical alternative sources of electricity.

TEPCO has increased its goal for cost cutting over the next 10 years from ¥3.4 trillion in the initial plan to ¥4.8 trillion in the revised plan. It will ask 2,000 or more of its employees to voluntarily retire. Managerial-level staffers aged 50 or older, who numbered 500 at the time of the March 11, 2011, disaster, will be removed from their posts and specially assigned to the Fukushima plant and related jobs to handle compensation demands and other related tasks.

It is important for TEPCO to carry out such restructuring programs to improve its earning capacity. However, if the morale of employees declines because of the programs, it will hinder work to decommission the crippled reactors and handle compensation requests—key tasks the company should steadily proceed with.

The revised special business plan also stipulates a policy of transforming TEPCO into a holding company system beginning in fiscal 2016.

The intent to make each business field into a separate corporation to clarify the responsibilities of each business sector is a reasonable one.

However, it is questionable to establish separate companies while dealing with such important issues as restoring a stable supply of electricity and devising countermeasures for radioactive contaminated water from the Fukushima plant.

For the time being, TEPCO must maintain its current management arrangement, in which it is easier to put the right people in the right jobs.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 16, 2014)
(2014年1月16日01時36分  読売新聞)

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タイ反政府デモ 選挙実現へ混乱収拾が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 16, 2014
Urgent steps must be taken to unsnarl chaos disrupting Thailand election
タイ反政府デモ 選挙実現へ混乱収拾が急務だ(1月16日付・読売社説)

Disorder in Thailand has become protracted as the factional conflict intensifies. It is desirable to explore a way to unsnarl the chaos so the general election can be held.

Protests against the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra—a sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra—have been occurring frequently over the past two months in Bangkok, with demonstrators calling for Yingluck’s resignation.

Since Monday, antigovernment protesters have occupied the key intersections of Bangkok and roads in front of government offices, partially paralyzing the functions of the capital city. The Yingluck administration has refrained from removing them by force, apparently for fear of a clash between the police and the protesters.

The latest wave of protests was triggered as the ruling Pheu Thai Party, in support of Thaksin, made a failed bid to push an amnesty bill through parliament that would have allowed Thaksin, who is in self-imposed exile to avoid jail time for a corruption conviction, to return to Thailand.

This high-handed approach of the ruling party has brought about angry responses from anti-Thaksin forces, including the main opposition Democrat Party.

In a bid to calm the political crisis, Yingluck dissolved the lower house and called for a general election slated for Feb. 2. Then the anti-Thaksin forces vowed to boycott the vote, while calling for Yingluck to step down and for a transition to an interim government comprised of nonelected representatives from various sectors to oversee political and electoral reforms before any new polls.

Undermining democracy

The pro-Thaksin party has paid particular attention to the poor, who make up a large part of the population, and enjoys overwhelming support among the poor and in rural areas. In recent general elections, the party has continuously been the victor. The anti-Thaksin forces have apparently concluded that there is no way for them to win in an election.

Boycotting the vote and disturbing public order to make others accept their claim, primarily on the pretext of the opposition having little chance of winning an election, is just a self-serving stance in total disregard of democratic procedures. The right thing to do is for them to approve the holding of the election.

Yet it now appears to be difficult to hold the election as planned.

Due to the obstruction by anti-Thaksin forces, there are many electoral districts that are devoid of candidates. Even if the election was forcibly carried out, there wouldn’t be enough members to fulfill the constitutional provisions for convening the lower house.

Accordingly, the Election Committee has called for Yingluck to delay the election schedule.

There are some within the anti-Thaksin forces who want military intervention. Even if the government was toppled with such means, it would only invite retaliation from pro-Thaksin forces.

The current turmoil is set to affect the economy.

Some Japanese companies have taken measures such as shutting down the buildings of their local affiliates. It has also been reported that the government’s procedures for approving large-scale investment projects have been suspended.

Thailand, which has achieved its economic growth through foreign capital investments from countries such as Japan, has been called “an honor student among the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.” Such global confidence accredited to the country has begun to be undermined.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 16, 2014)
(2014年1月16日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月16日 (木)

経団連次期会長 産業再生の実現へ責任は重い

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 15, 2014
New Keidanren head should work to revitalize business sector
経団連次期会長 産業再生の実現へ責任は重い(1月15日付・読売社説)

The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) chairman has a heavy responsibility to fulfill as the top figure of the business community.

The Keidanren chief’s obligation is to firmly lead business corporations that comprise the mainstay of the Japanese economy, a task essential for contributing to full-scale economic growth.

Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of Toray Industries, Inc., has been informally designated as the successor to Hiromasa Yonekura, the incumbent at the nation’s largest business organization. Sakakibara, who previously served as vice chairman of Keidanren, is to be inaugurated as its new chairman in June.

Sakakibara’s informal appointment as Keidanren leader comes after the laborious and stalled process of picking Yonekura’s successor. Sakakibara will be the first chairman to be chosen from among former Keidanren executives.

Yonekura has described Sakakibara as “a business leader who attaches the greatest importance to technological innovation and is worthy of becoming the next chairman.” Sakakibara’s informal designation as Keidanren chief seems to strongly reflect Yonekura’s desire to ensure his successor is chosen from the manufacturing sector.

Sakakibara told a press corps that “I’ll do my utmost to revitalize the Japanese economy.” We hope he will spearhead efforts to invigorate the domestic industry, as it has remained on the defensive.

During his time as Toray president, Sakakibara earned his corporation’s carbon fiber business a predominant share of the international market. This transformed Toray into a global manufacturer of new materials, including carbon fiber used to produce aircraft and other products.

However, there is no denying that Toray is a minor player in the domestic industry when comparing its business size with that of some corporations that have seen their top officials named Keidanren chairman several times, such as Toshiba Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.

The next Keidanren chairman should strive to manage the business community in a manner that considers the interests of all corporations, a task that requires paying close attention to various sectors of the broadly based domestic industry.

Improving proposals

Sakakibara is a private-sector member of the Industrial Competitiveness Council, a research and deliberative organ run by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He is known as an outspoken business leader who has actively advanced proposals for technological innovation and other aspects of business activity. One important task he will face is improving the quality of Keidanren’s policy proposals.

In the initial stages of Abe’s current administration, relations between Keidanren and the government were strained, as Yonekura made critical comments about the prime minister’s economic policies. Sakakibara needs to mend ties between Keidanren and the government through his working relationship with Abe.

Given its scarcity of natural resources, Japan should continue to use its export drive as an engine of economic growth. However, the fact remains that the relative importance of manufacturing corporations in the domestic economy is declining.

The key to success in achieving sustainable growth will be whether the productivity of information communications, services and other domestic demand-led industries can be improved. It also will be important to ensure the growth of businesses that can accommodate the needs arising from the advent of an aging society and a declining birthrate, including medical and nursing care services.

A major task facing the Abe administration’s growth strategy is to reconsider regulations and tax treatments that benefit already-established industries. We hope Keidanren will cooperate with the government and play a proactive role in nurturing new businesses.

Keidanren must shed its old skin as an organization long charged with attaining industrial development, among other tasks, in the manufacturing sector. Failure to do so would puts its raison d’etre seriously into question.

For many years, Sakakibara led Toray’s business operations, emphasizing to its employees the importance of having a sense of urgency about their company’s fate and changing their attitude accordingly. Sakakibara’s next task will be to demonstrate his leadership with which to revamp the business community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 15, 2014)
(2014年1月15日01時33分  読売新聞)

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アフリカ外交 「日本らしさ」を互恵に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 15, 2014
Japanese drive to help Africa offers benefits for both sides
アフリカ外交 「日本らしさ」を互恵に生かせ(1月15日付・読売社説)

The world has its eyes on Africa, a growing market blessed with rich natural resources. Japan, for its part, should strengthen relations with African countries, a move that will surely help revitalize the Japanese economy.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has just wrapped up a visit to three African countries: Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ethiopia. The trip marked the first visit to sub-Saharan Africa by a Japanese prime minister since Junichiro Koizumi toured the region in 2006.

Cote d’Ivoire is a key logistical hub for West Africa, and Mozambique boasts a wealth of natural gas and other resources. Ethiopia, home to the headquarters of the African Union, is regarded as a political center of the continent. Abe’s choice to visit these three countries shows Japan’s consideration extends to the whole of Africa.

In June last year, the Abe administration invited African leaders from 51 nations or their deputies to the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 5). Abe’s recent visit to the three nations was partly aimed at reinforcing a relationship of trust with African leaders.

Abe delivered a policy address in Ethiopia stressing the need to build mutually beneficial ties between Japan and African countries.

The speech drew attention to Japanese companies operating in Africa and their efforts to train local workers while valuing the ingenuity of each individual. Strengthening the relationship between companies like these and the peoples of Africa will foster a win-win relationship, benefiting both Japan and African nations, he underscored.

Creating mutual benefits

Abe announced Japanese government policies focusing on youth and women, aimed at developing human resources by promoting vocational training and welcoming African students to Japan, as well as providing support for childbirth and child rearing.

In recent years, China has drastically expanded its presence in Africa with investments and loans. But the country has been criticized for unilaterally diverting resources and profits from Africa to itself. Many Chinese companies import workers from China to work in Africa—a practice that does not help in increasing local employment.

It is clear that Abe’s approach is to stress “Japaneseness” and to differentiate the country from China. Arriving in Africa accompanied by a delegation from the corporate sector was part of the effort to strengthen economic ties with Africa. Enhancing its presence in Africa is crucial for Japan.

Also of great importance is improving the environment for Japanese companies to help them make inroads into Africa. It will be necessary to make use of Japanese ODA in improving public infrastructure, such as roads and power plants.

Sadly, more than a few regions in Africa are still plagued by terrorist attacks and shaken by political instability. South Sudan, for example, is on the verge of slipping into civil war. Japan should help restore stability in these areas by making stronger contributions in the realm of public safety.

Abe has expressed a desire to make repeated visits to Africa. Japan must invest in joint endeavors through the public and private sectors to strengthen its ties with African countries from both mid- and long-term perspectives.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 15, 2014)
(2014年1月15日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月15日 (水)

日本経済再生 効果的な成長戦略に練り直せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 14, 2014
Govt must reshape growth strategy to bring about effective outcome
日本経済再生 効果的な成長戦略に練り直せ(1月14日付・読売社説)


Business has been steadily picking up on the tailwind of the economic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The question now is how to maintain sustainable growth. It is essential to end the deflationary spiral that has continued for nearly 20 years.

The government must accelerate the implementation of an effective growth strategy with a view to achieving self-sustaining growth led by the private sector.

The Nikkei Stock Average currently is hovering around 16,000 at the Tokyo Stock Exchange after soaring by about 60 percent in the past year. The stronger yen that plagued the national economy has weakened significantly and remains low in relation to other currencies.

Bold monetary easing and fiscal stimulus measures pushed by the Abe administration plus the business recovery of the United States have helped the Japanese economy. It is to ensure that the move toward improvement does not end up as a “false dawn.”

Tax hike biggest hurdle

The biggest hurdle to this goal is the consumption tax hike set for April.

The tax burden on the nation’s households will increase by ¥6 trillion a year after the rate is raised from the current 5 percent to 8 percent. It is feared that consumption—which accounts for 60 percent of the gross domestic product—will cool off, causing a business slowdown.

Relying only on fiscal stimulus to prop up the economy will lead to the worsening of state finances. To attain economic revitalization and fiscal reconstruction together, it is indispensable to invigorate the economy through implementation of a radical growth strategy.

In connection with the law on enhancement of industrial competitiveness enacted in December and other growth strategy-related bills, the government will shortly work out implementation plans that include timetables and designation of Cabinet ministers in charge of implementation. The government should steadily carry out measures and assess their effectiveness.

It is problematic, however, that the growth strategy is lackluster.

Deregulation steps insufficient

A deregulation plan to establish special national strategy zones under the slogan “to provide the world’s most favorable business environment” fails to do away with regulations that are as hard as bedrock in such fields as employment, medical treatment and agriculture.

Deregulation of working hours, which has been strongly requested by business circles, has been postponed. So has expansion of a mixed medical treatment system under which treatment covered and not covered by health insurance could be provided together.

In his New Year’s press conference, Abe revealed a plan to reexamine the growth strategy in the middle of this year. Half-baked revision would make no sense. To ensure the success of deregulation, the prime minister must lead the way in containing the resistance of government ministries and agencies as well as their related organizations trying to protect their vested interests.

Another challenge for the growth strategy is lowering the effective corporate tax rate, which is higher than those in major countries in Europe and other parts of Asia.

The government must aim at reinforcing the international competitiveness of Japanese companies by realizing the tax cut as soon as possible, while at the same time revitalizing the Japanese market by promoting the inflow of foreign capital.

The recovery of a cheap and stable power supply is the basis of economic growth. It is vital to steadily restart nuclear power reactors whose safety has been confirmed.

Yet we cannot expect much from the growth strategy as long as the companies, who are to play the leading role under the strategy, “have not danced though we have piped unto them.”

It is worrisome that many companies have not shaken free of their defensive stance. This is partly because their business performances were sluggish for a protracted period due to the deflationary trend and the strong yen.

Japanese companies hold a total of at least ¥200 trillion in cash and money on deposit. This shows they have refrained from investing in plant and equipment and manpower in order to set aside cash reserves for emergencies.

Although they have bailed themselves out of the plight caused by the superstrong yen, Japanese manufacturers have been fiercely competing abroad with their rivals from emerging economies. This comes at a time when the domestic market is expected to shrink, due to the declining population.

‘Aggressive stance’ needed

Unless they rack their brains and boldly shift to a stance of conducting business aggressively, it will be difficult for companies to survive the harsh business environment.

Manufacturers will have to enhance their manufacturing power to win against their global rivals.

Meanwhile, nonmanufacturers must urgently work to overcome their low productivity, which has long been considered their main challenge.

If companies increase their profits by aggressively implementing their corporate strategies and raise their workers’ pay in line with increased profits, consumption will rise and business will improve further. We hope companies will contribute to a “virtuous circle” of growth.

For Japan to sustain economic growth, it is necessary to further promote free trade and exploit demand in growing markets such as that in other parts of Asia.

The negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade accord, with 12 countries, including Japan and the United States, taking part, are the key to this goal.

As the conflicts between Japan and the United States deepened over demands for the elimination of tariffs on five sensitive agricultural products—including rice, wheat and barley—participating countries postponed a broad agreement on the creation of a new free trade zone, which they had hoped to realize by the end of last year. Concerning the delay, Japan and the United States, leaders of the negotiations, are much to blame.

An accord over the TPP trade talks would likely give a boost to talks on other economic partnerships between Japan and the European Union and the one among Japan, China and South Korea.

What must Japan protect and how far should it compromise in maximizing its national interests? The government must negotiate tenaciously and try to break the deadlock.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 14, 2014)
(2014年1月14日01時37分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月14日 (火)



新春オリジナルパーカー&スウェットSALE という通販サイトで簡単に購入できます。


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成人の日 堅実さと柔軟な発想求めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 14, 2014
New adults should combine realism with flexibility and entrepreneurship
成人の日 堅実さと柔軟な発想求めたい(1月13日付・読売社説)

Today is Coming-of-Age Day. We would like to celebrate the birth of 1.21 million new adults in Japan.

We hope they will step forward strongly with keen awareness as adults.

They were born in 1993, when the Liberal Democratic Party-led government, which had held power since the merger of conservative parties in 1955, was replaced with a coalition government of non-LDP parties. Crown Prince and Princess Masako also married that year.

The years in which these young people grew up almost overlap the “two lost decades” when the Japanese economy faltered after the collapse of the asset-inflated bubble economy. There are concerns about a decline in their academic abilities because they received “cram-free education” from primary school to high school.

They are also a generation that mastered the skills needed in the age of information technology when they were still small, as the Internet and mobile phones have been available as long as they can remember.

Seiko Holdings Corp., which has conducted questionnaire surveys among new adults every year, says this year’s new adults tend to pursue a down-to-earth lifestyle.

Asked what they place importance on, the largest number replied money. The largest number also said they want to spend more time studying. Of course, it is important to be down-to-earth like them, but we also hope they will have flexible mindsets and embrace challenges.

Young entrepreneurs needed

Aya Ozeki, now 21, used ¥300,000 that she saved to start a business to establish a fashion company in Tokyo when she was still in her second year of high school.

“I wanted to start a business when I could still capitalize on my youthful sensitivities,” she said.

Ozeki had a huge hit with her invention of a women’s necktie for businesswomen working actively in society, which nobody had conceived. She also developed a unique leather tie for men that is very easy to put on.

The government is developing a system to help young people start companies through subsidies and other means. We hope many young entrepreneurs like Ozeki will emerge from among the new adults.

Japanese companies are facing fiercer-than-ever competition with both domestic and foreign rivals. If they are company employees, the new adults should clearly express their own ideas with the strong spirit to lead their companies.

Whether they are members of the working world or still students, we hope they will set a rock-steady goal and improve themselves toward achieving it.

By the time the new adults are 50, Japan is predicted to have transformed into a “piggyback” type of society, which means one working person will support one elderly person in a country with more elderly people and fewer children.

However, it is the power of young people that will overcome the raging waves of the times, build a wealthy Japan and sustain the country’s future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2014)
(2014年1月13日01時31分  読売新聞)

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東京都知事選 「脱原発」訴える場に適するか

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 13, 2014
Tokyo gubernatorial race incongruous for blowing 'denuclearization' trumpet
東京都知事選 「脱原発」訴える場に適するか(1月13日付・読売社説)

There are indications the upcoming Tokyo gubernatorial election may adversely affect the conduct of state affairs.

This is because former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa has made clear his intention to run in the election, upsetting the widely expected scenario that former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe would be the key figure in the Tokyo poll, as his bid is likely to be supported by the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito.

Hosokawa apparently is poised to run on a campaign pledge to eliminate nuclear power plants and plans to seek the backing of another former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who has called for “reducing the nation’s nuclear plants to zero.”

Kenji Utsunomiya, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, who has already declared his intention to run in the Tokyo race with the support of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, also argues that the nation should “break away from nuclear power generation.”

What should be taken into consideration in this connection is that nuclear power generation is crucial to the central government’s overall energy policy. Any attempt to make the elimination of nuclear plants a major campaign issue in the Tokyo gubernatorial race is highly questionable.

Apparently in a move to prevent nuclear power from becoming a major issue in the Tokyo contest, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is set to put off a decision, which was scheduled by the end of the month, on the government’s basic energy plan, a set of guidelines charting midterm and long-range energy policies. This means the Tokyo election has already begun to affect state affairs.

Should candidates spouting slogans to eliminate nuclear power generation garner large numbers of votes in the Tokyo poll, a mammoth power-consumption area, the prospects for reactivating some of the idled reactors would be adversely affected. The prime minister’s Abenomics business growth policy package, and the effort to rebuild the national economy, could be hampered.

Both LDP, DPJ disappointing

Developments over possible candidates in the Tokyo election also have begun to cast a shadow over the stability of the Abe Cabinet. There are signs in the ruling camp of a group distancing itself from the prime minister in the selection of a candidate for the Tokyo contest despite the current Diet situation that is referred to as “a single overwhelmingly strong party versus a host of weak ones.”

As former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori put it: “There are those who are considering winning the election on the strength of support from Mr. Koizumi. I think this is a bit sneaky.” Mori’s remark indicates a strong sense of caution over the probable cooperation between Hosokawa and Koizumi, both of whom were popular as prime ministers.

Hosokawa’s intention of running for governor also has caused the opposition bloc to sit up and take notice.

Some observers have pointed to the possibility of the Hosokawa-Koizumi alliance developing into a realignment of opposition parties with the aim of rallying anti-LDP political forces under the banner of ending Japan’s reliance on nuclear power generation.

What we find disappointing is the stance the ruling and opposition camps have taken toward the Tokyo election. Neither the LDP nor the Democratic Party of Japan are fielding candidates on their own initiatives.

The LDP is set to throw its support behind Masuzoe. It should be noted that Masuzoe was expelled from the LDP after he criticized the party leadership when the LDP was out of power a few years ago. Understandably, there is a body of opinion within the LDP that is averse to Masuzoe, but he has won support from the ruling party because he is widely considered to emerge victorious.

The DPJ, for its part, was initially inclined to back Masuzoe, but is now set to switch to Hosokawa. DPJ’s vacillation makes us wonder what the party really believes in.

The Tokyo gubernatorial election will be officially announced on Jan. 23 and voting and ballot counting will be held on Feb. 9.

A wide range of questions must be taken up in the campaign, including how to address the challenges leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the problem of the rapidly graying population and what measures should be taken if Tokyo is struck by an epicentral earthquake with its focus just below the metropolis.

The issue of eliminating nuclear power generation must not be the sole focus of attention in the Tokyo election campaign.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 13, 2014)
(2014年1月13日01時31分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月13日 (月)

国立文化施設 質の高い企画をもっと見たい

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 12, 2014
State-run museums should redouble efforts to improve exhibition quality
国立文化施設 質の高い企画をもっと見たい(1月12日付・読売社説)

Viewing master paintings and other cultural properties at museums and other places displaying fine art refreshes our hearts and minds.

As the new year starts, Tokyo National Museum is holding a special exhibition of such masterpieces as an Edo period folding screen designated as a national treasure.

Kyushu National Museum in Fukuoka Prefecture, which has been open since the first of the year, was reportedly thronged with people having just paid their first visit of the year to nearby Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine.

We hope such facilities will continue to exercise their creative ingenuity in planning and managing a variety of events that will provide people with memorable experiences.

State-run cultural establishments have been earnestly working to attract larger numbers of visitors mainly in response to the launching in 2001 of the system of independent administrative institutions (IAIs), sometimes referred to in English as “incorporated administrative agencies.” Because of the adoption of the new system, the responsibility of managing the establishments was shifted from the central government to respective IAIs.

Up until the end of fiscal 2006, if the Finance Ministry recognized an IAI as having operated profitably due to its own managerial efforts, the IAI was allowed to spend its profits at its discretion to expand operations. This was thought to have greatly enhanced the willingness of the managers of the establishments to exert further efforts to draw spectators.

Three culture-related IAIs—the National Museum of Art, the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage and the Japan Art Council, all under the jurisdiction of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry’s Cultural Affairs Agency—were provided with operating subsidies from the government, so that museums, art museums and theaters under the IAIs’ umbrellas would tackle newsworthy programs in collaboration with newspapers and other organizations.

Since fiscal 2007 on, however, the Finance Ministry has prohibited the three IAIs from spending at their own discretion even if they have operated profitably, making it obligatory for them to put any profits into the national coffers.

Expand discretion of IAIs

Although the ministry took the measure because of the stringent conditions of government finances, there can be no denying that the step put the brakes on highly proactive projects of the culture-related establishments.

Furthermore, when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power, the government decided to “abolish in principle” IAIs, and the Cabinet decided to integrate the three IAIs into a single entity.

Government policies toward state-owned cultural establishments, however, have been changing significantly recently.

As part of the changes, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided toward the end of last year to ensure the three culture-related IAIs continue to operate as before.

The current government basic stand of “implementing measures to abolish and integrate IAIs if and when doing so is considered truly useful in order to strengthen related policy enforcement functions, instead of making organizational changes solely to reduce their numbers” stands to reason.

In addition, the government, paying scrupulous attention to characteristics peculiar to the great variety of IAIs, has incorporated into its basic policy a plan to further encourage IAIs to expand the sphere of management of their activities at their own initiative. This is expected to expand the room for IAIs to use their profits at their own discretion.

One of the roles of the National Museum of Art, which is in charge of managing five state-owned art museums, is to help people nurture and enrich their cultural sensibility. The National Institutes for Cultural Heritage, which is tasked with running state-owned museums, must carry out the mission of preserving cultural properties to hand them down to posterity. The Japan Arts Council is charged with managing such facilities relating to Japan’s performing arts as the National Theater and National Noh Theater both in Tokyo.

Expectations will certainly surge for the three IAIs more strongly than ever to effectively execute their operations to promote the nation’s traditional culture by giving full play to their respective individuality.

Given the three are public establishments, they are urged to pursue not only the goal of attracting more visitors but also the task of upgrading the quality of their exhibitions and public performances.

They also should work out projects for using part of their profits for such things as building up their capabilities to conduct research and studies as well as collect cultural properties for preservation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 12, 2014)
(2014年1月12日01時15分  読売新聞)

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道徳の教科化 規範意識の涵養につながるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 12, 2014
Moral education classes could enhance social norms of kids
道徳の教科化 規範意識の涵養につながるか(1月12日付・読売社説)

It is important to cultivate from childhood the awareness to abide by the rules of society and show consideration to others. Therefore, it is crucial to improve moral education.

A report, compiled by an experts’ panel on moral education set up by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, calls for moral education, which is not a regular subject at primary and middle school levels, to be treated as a “special subject” to improve the teaching of such classes.

The experts’ panel examined the issue after the Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, which works directly under the prime minister, proposed in February that moral education should be made a regular subject as part of measures to prevent bullying at schools.

It is reasonable that the government aims to call on schools to realize how important moral education is by giving it the status of a regular subject, thus improving teaching methods.

Less value has been attached to moral education since the end of World War II in reaction to the moral education in prewar years that was propagated by nationalistic elements.

Currently, one moral education class is offered per week. However, it is up to teachers to decide how to conduct such classes because there is no official textbook. There are differences among schools and teachers in regard to moral education classes.

Some people have pointed out that moral education has lost substance, as some schools use slots designed for moral education to hold supplementary classes in other subjects.

However, many problems must be worked out before moral education can be made a regular subject.

For instance, what kind of teaching materials should be used for moral education classes? The panel’s report called for the introduction of textbooks approved by the official screening system to provide teaching materials for such classes.

Forcing values on children

Strong criticism has been voiced about making moral education a regular subject, with some people saying it could lead to the government forcing certain values on children. The panel apparently aimed to dispel these concerns by proposing that private-sector companies should compile textbooks for moral education.

Innovative efforts by publishers on creating textbooks for moral education should be respected. However, to what extent should their products be approved if they are based on biased values or peculiar ideas?

When working out standards for screening textbooks for moral education, education authorities should have in-depth discussions by coming up with various scenarios.

Moral education classes are supposed to be handled by homeroom teachers. This means that teacher-training programs at the university level and those for teachers offered by boards of education also should be reviewed. Teachers should be given access to appropriate methods for these classes.

Providing academic assessments for children’s achievements in moral education classes is difficult, as they focus on students’ psychological development.

It is understandable that the report proposed that children’s performances in moral education classes should be evaluated in written form, rather than numerical evaluations like Japanese, mathematics and other subjects.

Education authorities are encouraged to come up with an evaluation method under which teachers can make detailed records on each student’s efforts and development during moral education classes, rather than deciding who performs better than others.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 12, 2014)
(2014年1月12日01時15分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月12日 (日)

4月の消費増税 景気の腰折れ回避に万全期せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 10, 2014
Take firm measures to avoid severe downturn after consumption tax hike
4月の消費増税 景気の腰折れ回避に万全期せ(1月10日付・読売社説)


The consumption tax is set to be raised to 8 percent from the current 5 percent, effective April 1.

The government must make every possible effort to make the tax hike the first step toward achieving fiscal stability, while working with the private sector to prevent the business recovery from losing momentum further down the road.

As a result of the Abenomics economic policy mix of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, there have been clearer signs that business activities have embarked on a recovery path. Thanks to a rush in demand ahead of the tax increase, sales in such areas as durable goods have been doing well.

The challenge of defeating deflation, however, is only half over, as the national economy has yet to be put on a sustainable growth track led by the private sector.

The possibility cannot be ruled out that consumer spending will stagnate in the wake of the upcoming tax hike, giving rise to fears that the economy could rapidly plunge into a severe downturn.

It is only natural for the prime minister to have stressed that “should the economy lose the power to grow, everything could go wrong.”

Burden on households

With a view to mitigating the negative impacts of the tax hike, the government is set to submit to an ordinary Diet session, to be convened late this month, a ¥5.5 trillion supplementary budget for fiscal 2013, as well as an initial state budget for fiscal 2014, of which the general account expenditures will run up to ¥95.9 trillion, an all-time high.

The main pillars of both budgets will be disbursements for public works projects to stimulate business activities, but there has been a conspicuous number of cases in which no tender bids have been concluded, due to such reasons as labor shortages at construction sites and sharp rises in the cost of construction materials.

Under the circumstances, the government must make both budgets become law as early as possible to implement them smoothly, giving priority to public works projects that are particularly necessary and will be highly effective in stimulating the economy.

The government plans to provide businesses with generous measures, including the abolition in late March, a month earlier than scheduled, of special corporate tax levies to help resuscitate areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It will also introduce tax code revisions including tax cuts for corporate capital investment.

What is worrisome is that the government can hardly be said to have paid adequate attention to household budgets.

After the tax hike takes effect, the burden on households will increase by more than ¥6 trillion a year, according to a Cabinet Office estimate. There are fears that the higher tax will damper consumers’ impetus to spend, possibly throwing cold water over prospects for a business pickup.

With raw material prices soaring and a progressively weakening yen, markups have been continuing in one area after another, such as electricity bills and foodstuffs. If the consumption tax hike is accompanied by a vicious circle of price increases mainly due to rising costs, consumer sentiment may be dealt an even heavier blow.

The government is urged to materialize a virtuous economic circle in which businesses that are achieving improved profitability initiate wage hikes, which will lead to expanded consumer spending on the strength of higher household income, which in turn will further increase corporate profits.

The prime minister has been calling for businesses to raise wages on such occasions as meetings since late late year between the government and representatives from large employers and trade unions, including the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) and the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo).

In his New Year’s press conference, Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura said the nation’s most powerful business lobby has been asking member companies to raise salaries for their employees.

Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), another major employers’ organization, has said, “The time is ripe for businesses to consider raising wages when a situation emerges in which prices are on the rise.”

Annual spring wage negotiations between labor and management will kick off late this month. It is an encouraging sign that business circles are showing an increasing appreciation of the need for wage hikes.

But no similar awareness has yet permeated small and midsize businesses that still have not seen the benefits of the business recovery. Expanding pay increases to include small and midsize companies in addition to big businesses is a part of the challenge ahead.

Smooth price shift vital

As Japan seeks to put the national economy on a steady path of growth, while at the same time dealing with the coming impact of the planned consumption tax hike, the management capability of individual firms will be tested as they are forced to make corporate decisions.

Enabling businesses to pass on incremental costs that will be incurred with the April tax increase will be indispensable to a smooth transition in prices.

In 1997, when the sales tax rate was lifted from 3 percent to 5 percent, the pleas of micro enterprises and small and midsize businesses to raise prices for their big business customers fell on deaf ears, leaving the smaller firms with no alternative but to hold prices steady.

Last fall saw the government enforce a law on special measures to ensure a smooth and appropriate price pass-through, banning big enterprises from leveraging their positions of power to reject price shifts.

However, it is difficult to discover this sort of irregularity in actual commercial transactions.

We can expect suppliers to be hesitant to provide information to the government, for fear of being suspended from transactions by their customers, even if the suppliers have had their requests for price shifts rejected.

We urge the government to make it known to all concerned that this type of retaliatory action is banned under the law on special measures and to encourage all affected small and midsize companies to report these illegal acts.

Abe is expected to decide, possibly before the end of the year, on whether to further increase the sales tax to 10 percent in October 2015 as currently planned.

Abe must choose prudently after a close examination of the impacts of the April tax increase.

Reduced rate system a priority

If the rate is to be raised to 10 percent, a reduced tax rate system must be introduced simultaneously to keep taxes down on daily necessities.

The government plans to provide cash benefits to low-income earners as part of economic measures to accompany the upcoming jump to 8 percent.

But the effect of such a temporary provision of benefits is limited.

The adoption of a reduced rate system would be more effective because its benefits will be permanently extended to everyone, including low-income consumers.

In their tax system reform guidelines compiled late last year, the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito did not propose a clear date for adoption of the reduced tax rate system.

They must set its introduction to coincide with the introduction of the 10 percent tax rate, and they must also accelerate work on the design of the system, including determination of the reduced tax rates and the items to which these rates will apply.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 10, 2014)
(2014年1月10日01時23分  読売新聞)

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核燃料サイクル 公正な審査で前に進めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 11, 2014
Nuclear fuel recycling must be used to help supply nation with electricity
核燃料サイクル 公正な審査で前に進めたい(1月11日付・読売社説)

A plant to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and three related facilities in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, are of the utmost importance to Japan’s energy security. It is essential to advance works to check the safety of the facilities both scientifically and fairly.

Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. has filed for regulatory safety screenings of the Rokkasho facilities with the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is the core facility in nuclear fuel recycling. It is a massive chemical plant that discomposes spent nuclear fuel and extracts uranium and plutonium to use as fuel.

There is little equipment at the facilities that is subject to high temperatures and pressures. Therefore, the risk of an accident, in which the situation suddenly deteriorates during operations and large volumes of radioactive substances are emitted, is believed to be lower than that of nuclear power plants.

The facilities, on the other hand, could trigger tremendous damage in the event of major fires and other accidents, impairing their ability to contain massive volumes of the radioactive substances they store.

It is essential for the NRA to conduct safety screening based on the characteristics of the Rokkasho facilities.

Based on what happened in the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan Nuclear Fuel strengthened anti-quake measures and now has a far bigger earthquake in its disaster scenario. It also plans to improve ventilation equipment at the facilities. It is hoped that the NRA, as a regulatory body, will closely examine if these facilities are sufficiently prepared for natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

Nuclear power is necessary

Nuclear power plants have a major role to play in the resource-scarce Japan. The country must utilize a certain portion of nuclear power to secure a stable supply of electricity.

For this, recycling nuclear fuel is a meaningful policy. Rather than discarding spent nuclear fuel, recycling will lead to the effective use of uranium resources and reduce the volume of radioactive waste.

Having begun research on nuclear fuel recycling in the 1960s, Japan has a good pool of technology it has developed. It is the only nonnuclear power that has been internationally sanctioned to use plutonium.

Making light of these achievements, the previous administrations of the Democratic Party of Japan considered abolishing the Rokkasho plant, only to decide to allow its continuation in the face of opposition from the Aomori prefectural government and other parties, which had cooperated with the government’s goal of introducing nuclear fuel recycling.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear the government will go ahead with nuclear fuel recycling.
“Our nation has a high level of technology by international standards,” Abe said at a meeting of the House of Councillors’ Budget Committee in May last year. “We will tackle [nuclear fuel recycling] in cooperation with other nations.”

The government should clearly define the nation’s nuclear power policies, including nuclear fuel recycling, in a basic energy program it plans to compile shortly and advance such policies accordingly.

Unless a certain number of nuclear power reactors go into operation again, there will be no use for recycled fuel. And if the nation stores a considerable amount of plutonium that can be used for nuclear weapons, it could come under criticism from the international community.

The NRA, for its part, should accelerate its safety screening of nuclear power reactors, which are considerably lagging behind.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 11, 2014)
(2014年1月11日01時39分  読売新聞)

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薬効データ改竄 捜査で真相は解明できるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 11, 2014
Prosecutors must find truth behind drug data manipulation
薬効データ改竄 捜査で真相は解明できるか(1月11日付・読売社説)

Public confidence in the effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs has been badly damaged by the revelation of alleged manipulation of clinical research data.

Legal action against the company involved could be considered appropriate.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has filed a criminal complaint with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office against Novartis Pharma K.K. for allegedly using falsified clinical research data in its advertisements for the hypertension drug Diovan, in violation of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law.

Who illegally manipulated the data? The key point in the alleged data fabrication has yet to be unraveled. We hope to see a full picture of what happened through investigations by the prosecutors office.

Clinical studies were conducted at five universities to monitor the effectiveness of Diovan. Research at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine and the Jikei University School of Medicine concluded that Diovan is effective in reducing the risk of stroke and other symptoms.

However, it was later found that essential data such as the number of patients and blood pressure counts had been fabricated.

The key Novartis employee, now retired, who analyzed the data denied the alleged manipulation in investigations by the universities and the health ministry’s study team. This demonstrates the limit of investigations with no binding power.

Novartis advertised Diovan by utilizing papers from Jikei and other universities in medical journals and lecture meetings for doctors. Diovan posted annual sales of ¥100 billion in the total hypotensive drug market, where sales were about ¥900 billion a year.

Heavy responsibility

The firm’s responsibility for advertising the drug based on groundless data is extremely heavy.

There are apparently many doctors who prescribed Diovan instead of lower-priced conventional drugs, taking for granted the truth of the advertisements. Drug costs are covered by health insurance premiums and money from state coffers. The alleged data manipulation therefore is believed to have had an adverse effect on medical insurance finances.

The universities that conducted the clinical research on Diovan are not subject to the criminal complaint, but they will have to take responsibility for publicizing papers based on the manipulated data. This is because they did not have their own experts on statistical analysis and left the data analysis entirely in the hands of the former Novartis employee.

The pharmaceutical company has donated more than ¥1.1 billion to research laboratories of the five universities. A thorough probe must be conducted to find whether this led to distorting research results.

There are also many problems regarding medical societies.

Despite the criticism against Jikei University’s papers that “the data is not trustworthy because the research program is liable to be regarded as overestimating Diovan’s effectiveness,” the Japanese Society of Hypertension adopted the papers as guidelines for treating hypertension.

Among those who compiled medical treatment guidelines and serve as executive members of medical societies are doctors who received a huge amount of donations from the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.

Universities and related institutes need to tie up with businesses for drug research. But unless researchers can ensure a fair and impartial approach, such a tie-up amounts to nothing but collusion.

Medical societies need to enhance the transparency of research expenses by fully disclosing the names of companies from which they have received financial donations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 11, 2014)
(2014年1月11日01時39分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月10日 (金)

米オバマ外交 問われる超大国の積極的関与

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 9, 2014
U.S. engagement essential for bringing peace, stability to global hot spots
米オバマ外交 問われる超大国の積極的関与(1月9日付・読売社説)


Stability in the international order is facing challenges in various regions, such as the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East. To maintain peace and stability, a policy of forward engagement in these regions by the United States, the only superpower, is still essential.

However, U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to focus more on Asia—a strategic pivot of U.S. diplomacy and security policy more toward the Asia-Pacific region—has moved by fits and starts while the Obama administration is preoccupied with handling Middle East affairs.

With his weak domestic political foundation, can Obama reshape his foreign policy? Various difficult issues await him ahead of his trip to several Asian countries scheduled for April.

Stumbling in Syria policy

The Obama administration’s diplomatic limbo is epitomized by his Syria policy.

The civil war in Syria has killed at least 100,000 people. Last summer, Obama announced a plan to launch a military strike against Syria, on the grounds that the administration of President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons. At the same time, he took the extremely unusual step of asking Congress to approve the military strike. His decision to have Congress share the burden of launching an attack on Syria gave his presidential prestige a black eye.

However, the U.S. pressure did produce a result. Before Congress was to vote on a resolution to approve the military attack, the Assad administration announced it would abandon its chemical weapons arsenal. The military strike was averted, and Assad was allowed to stay in power.

Neighboring countries of Syria that oppose the Assad administration, and antigovernment forces in Syria upbraided Obama over this “change of heart,” feeding distrust of the Obama administration. Obama himself probably thinks he made a miscalculation on this issue.

On the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, Obama took the bold step of holding direct dialogue with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The United States has since started negotiations with Iran, together with several other countries concerned, on the Iran nuclear issue. However, the future direction of these negotiations remains unclear because strong opposition to them remains within the U.S. Congress.

Most of the U.S. troops dispatched to Afghanistan are scheduled to withdraw from that country by the end of this year. As U.S. forces have already pulled out of Iraq, the United States is expected to put a tentative end to its war on terrorism, which has lasted for more than a decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

War fatigue in U.S. society has generated a tendency among the public to dislike U.S. intervention and engagement in other countries’ affairs. This tendency to focus on domestic issues has also negatively affected Obama’s foreign policy.

Democrats vs Republicans

Obama is being forced to pay careful consideration to Congress, since his administration cannot make policy decisions as it would like because the ruling Democratic Party maintains a majority in the Senate but the Republican Party controls the House of Representatives.

The Republican Party has continuously been on the offensive against the administration. Last year, the party thoroughly blocked the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, which Obama put into effect during his first term in office, resisting it even to the point of causing a partial shutdown of government functions in October.

Obama’s public approval rating briefly fell below 40 percent, his lowest ever.

With a congressional midterm election set for November, it is certain that the Republicans will intensify their confrontational stance even further. Congressional management will be made more difficult for Obama. One cause for concern is that Obama’s diplomatic courses of action may be narrowed down.

Yet tension is only escalating in the Asia-Pacific region as China attempts to change the status quo by force. The situation in North Korea is also becoming ever more uncertain. We hope Obama will seriously tackle his diplomatic policy with emphasis placed on Asia.

Deterrence with allies

The challenges the United States must tackle are obvious.

One, in cooperation with its friends and allies in the region, is to hold back China’s expansionism, which deviates from international norms, as seen in its unilateral announcement of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.

The Obama administration has already worked out plans for boosting its navy ships in the Asia-Pacific region from the current 50 percent of the total U.S. fleet to 60 percent by 2020. The administration also plans to newly dispatch an additional 800 army troops to South Korea to boost its forces stationed there.

In the economic field, negotiations on the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord, which will create a new free trade zone in the Asia-Pacific region with the United States and Japan taking the central roles, have entered the final stage.

If the military plans or the trade accord, or both, become reality, they will have a strong restraining effect on China’s moves to seek hegemony in the region.

On the other hand, China’s President Xi Jinping told Obama, “The vast Pacific Ocean has enough space for two large countries like the United States and China,” calling for forging a new type of great-power relationship.

Xi’s remarks, made during their summit talks in June, are thought to indicate a scheme for dividing the Asia-Pacific region in two, and having the United States effectively approve the expansion of China’s sphere of influence in the western Pacific.

It is worrisome that certain voices within the U.S. government seem to call for the country to side with China’s scheme of forging a new type of relationship between the two. Such calls are probably made in consideration of the two countries’ mutual economic dependence.

Few countries—let alone U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines—would be willing to accept a new international order led by China in place of the United States.

We hope Washington makes a cautious response.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 9, 2014)
(2014年1月9日01時57分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月 9日 (木)

homework 2014-01-09

pay respect
breast cloth

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社会保障改革 消費増税を制度安定の契機に

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 8, 2014
Editorial / Consumption tax hike must support stable social security
社会保障改革 消費増税を制度安定の契機に(1月8日付・読売社説)


In April, Japan’s consumption tax rate will be raised from 5 percent to 8 percent. The tax hike is placed as the main pillar of the nation’s integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, and the increase in tax revenues will be used exclusively for social security purposes.

We believe this is an opportunity to make 2014 the starting point to achieve the goal of building stable social security systems.

The rapid graying of society and the decrease in the working population have made our social security systems fragile.

About a half century ago, about 10 working-age people supported each elderly person through our social security model. Now, just 2.4 working-age people shoulder the cost of supporting one elderly person. The scale of the human pyramid is expected to narrow even further by around 2050—when each elderly person will have to ride on the shoulders of one working-age person.

Don’t let our children pay

The nation is highly dependent on debt, chiefly government bonds, to cover the ballooning cost of pensions, medical care and nursing care. This has become the main source of the government’s deteriorating fiscal condition. We should no longer neglect the problem by simply passing down the current burden to future generations.

The consumption tax hike will enable the government—at least for a while—to finance social security costs such as basic public pensions. It will increase the sustainability of our social security systems, a step toward the goal of achieving the systems’ long-term stability.

The increase in consumption tax revenues will also be used in building a system in which medical care and nursing care services join hands in supporting the lives of elderly people who choose to continue living at home. The money will also be used to reduce national health insurance premiums.

The government’s social security reform measures will be implemented under the assumption that the consumption tax rate will be further be raised to 10 percent in October 2015. It will be an important task for the government to steadily realize the second hike to solidify our social security systems. To do so, the government needs to carefully scrutinize how the nation’s economy reacts after the April hike.

However, it is impossible to fully cover ballooning social security costs through consumption tax hikes, even after the second hike goes into effect.

To realize the goal of achieving stable social security systems and putting the nation’s finances on a healthy footing, we cannot afford to put off trimming spending in the three fields of medical care, elderly care and pensions.

The surge in medical care costs in particular is causing a headache. The government has decided to, in effect, decrease medical treatment fees paid from the national health insurance system to medical institutions for fiscal 2014, and we believe this judgment was appropriate.

It is also essential to improve efficiency and cut waste in medical services.

Currently, many elderly patients who have several diseases receive treatment at multiple medical institutions. As a result, the patients undergo unnecessary medical examinations and are administered drugs they do not need.

Not only is this is a waste of medical resources paid for by the government, but a considerable number of patients end up suffering from side effects of drugs excessively prescribed to them.

Health insurance societies and other organizations that provide health insurance services should encourage subscribers not to seek unnecessary medical consultations. The medical expense statements of patients should be thoroughly examined, a possibility since record-keeping has improved through the use of computers.

In carrying out this plan, it will be advisable to take advantage of the “my number” system that will go into effect in 2016. The system will enable government offices in charge of three types of administrative duties and services—taxation, social security and disaster response—to manage the personal information of all individuals through 12-digit numbers.

After it goes into force, the system will for some time be used to carry out procedures for tax and social security benefit payments. If the scope of its use is expanded to include records of medical services received by individuals, it would do much to prevent them from seeking needless treatment and medication.

To relax the financial burdens shouldered by corporate and other workers, it also will be inevitable to require well-off elderly people to share burdens commensurate with their financial means in receiving medical services.

Excessive burden

In April, there will be a rise in the percentage of medical fees paid by elderly people. The figure for those aged 70 to 74 will increase to 20 percent, as initially set in the revised Health Insurance Law of 2008. Despite this revision, the government has kept the ratio at 10 percent as an exceptional measure, fearing possible angry reactions from elderly people.

This means the government has had to dip into the national coffers to make up for massive losses since 2008. Therefore, it is reasonable for the government to raise the ratio of medical fees to be paid by those in that age bracket.

A similar measure will also be taken in regard to government-administered nursing care insurance services. The share of expenses covered by high-income recipients will be raised from 10 percent to 20 percent. This is essential if the state-run nursing care insurance system is to be maintained.

What should be done to halt the drop in the number of workers, which form the backbone of the social security systems? The entire matter must be explored from this point of view, when it comes to sustaining the systems in future.

The nation’s total fertility rate (TFR)—the number of babies born to a woman during her lifetime—stands at only 1.41. The number of newborn babies was at an all-time low last year. The total population declined by a record 244,000 in 2013, an indication that the reduction will likely accelerate further in future. Efforts should be made to encourage young people to marry, while also assisting parents in raising their children.

We hope the government will take a broad range of steps to address problems arising from the low birthrate. Measures should be taken to ensure no children are on waiting lists for day care centers. This would enable parents to raise their children while continuing to work outside their homes.

The growth in the number of nonregular employees is another cause for worry. In most cases, they earn so little that they pay low taxes and social insurance premiums. Measures should be taken to improve their employment conditions.

There is a mountain of tasks to be carried out in resolving problems related to social security systems. However, political leaders have been slow to reform these systems.

Push 3-way discussions

This is evident in the fate of a three-party reform plan adopted in 2012, under an administration led by the then ruling Democratic Party of Japan. The DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed to reform the social security and tax systems in an integrated manner, mainly featuring an increase in the consumption tax rate.

However, the DPJ withdrew from three-party negotiations in August 2013 after the government’s National Council on Social Security System Reform put together a final report detailing its recommendations. The DPJ defended its move by saying its recommendations had not been reflected in the report.

Though the DPJ said it would return to the three-party talks later, little progress has been made in facilitating discussions on the issue. It should cooperate in the talks, given its earlier initiative in forming the three-party accord.

Social security reform is an important task that must be tackled by whatever political party is in power.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 8, 2014)
(2014年1月8日01時27分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月 8日 (水)

homework 2014-01-08


in the closet
daughter in law
new year

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ロシア連続テロ ソチ五輪の安全確保が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 7, 2014
Ensuring security for Sochi Games essential in light of recent bombings
ロシア連続テロ ソチ五輪の安全確保が急務だ(1月7日付・読売社説)

The Russian government is urged to absolutely ensure the security of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, which are set to open in one month.

Late last month, suicide bombings that targeted a railway station and a trolleybus occurred two days in a row, killing more than 30 people, in Volgograd, a major city about 700 kilometers northeast of Sochi on the Black Sea coast.

In the Dagestan Republic in the North Caucasus region, adjacent to Sochi, terrorist attacks have occurred one after another, killing several people.

The recent series of indiscriminate terrorist attacks are believed to be the acts of Islamic extremists and may have been committed by an armed group, which has announced its intention to obstruct the Sochi Games through terror attacks, while calling for the independence of the North Caucasus, which has a large population of Muslims, and the establishment of an Islamic state there.

This is a worrisome situation. Whatever purposes these attacks may have, terrorism must not be tolerated.

Yet there is no denying that the high-handed political stance of Russian President Vladimir Putin has exacerbated the opposition among Muslims, as he has repressed minorities, media and political forces that do not agree with his administration.

It is deemed inevitable the leaders of such countries as the United States, Germany and France have decided not to attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, on the grounds of human-rights issues in Russia.

At least for now, it is a matter of urgency to prevent terrorist attacks at the Winter Games, where athletes, senior officials of foreign governments and spectators will gather from around the world.

Areas in and around Sochi have already been put under tight security, with the police and military forces mobilized. But even tighter security is needed.

Other targets possible

Other cities and areas, such as Moscow, may also become a target of terrorism. We hope the Russian government will be on alert against terrorism nationwide.

Following the deadly attacks in Volgograd, Putin said, “We'll fiercely and consistently continue the fight against terrorists until their complete annihilation.” He may also intend to show regional stability both at home and abroad by hosting a successful Winter Games, set to be held near the unstable region of the North Caucasus.

The Russian authorities have said that last year they killed 260 members of extremist groups in the North Caucasus region and elsewhere. It is certain that they will continue to vigorously carry out cleanup operations.

Yet it is difficult for force alone to end terrorism and solve the fundamental problem.

The Putin administration has used force to bring an armed Islamic force under control in Chechnya in the same region. However, rebels who escaped the offensives by Russian forces have continued to operate in Dagestan and elsewhere.

To bring about lasting regional stability, it is essential to help enhance the poverty-stricken people’s livelihood in the region so as to keep the area from becoming a hotbed of terrorism.

In Sochi, a Group of Eight summit meeting will also be held in June. It can be said the credibility of the Putin administration is at stake over its ability to maintain public peace.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 7, 2014)
(2014年1月7日01時32分  読売新聞)

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首相年頭会見 「好循環」を看板倒れにするな

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 7, 2014
Abe mustn’t allow ‘virtuous circle’ to end up as a mere empty slogan
首相年頭会見 「好循環」を看板倒れにするな(1月7日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be tested this year on whether the government will be able to overcome the impact of the consumption tax hike scheduled for April and revitalize the economy.

In a New Year’s news conference in Ise, Mie Prefecture, on Monday, Abe expressed his firm resolve to place top priority on ending deflation, saying the government will work toward “ensuring the economic recovery is felt by the people in the form of an increase in their income.”

To prevent business from being adversely affected because of the consumption tax increase and to conquer deflation, it is indispensable to realize a virtuous business circle in which pay raises by high-flying firms help boost personal consumption and lead to an increase in corporate profits.

The prime minister has said the ordinary Diet session to be convened later this month should “realize a virtuous circle.” This must not end up as a mere empty slogan.

First and foremost, it is necessary to realize early Diet passage of the supplementary budget for fiscal 2013, including a stimulus package totaling about ¥5.5 trillion, a large-scale budget for fiscal 2014, starting in April, and tax system reform-related bills.

Abe also expressed his intention to push forward regulatory reform centering on employment, human resources, agriculture, medical treatment and nursing care as the government aims to revise its growth strategy in the middle of 2014.

The growth strategy, the third arrow to the Abenomics quiver of economic policies, is lackluster. We hope the government will break through the regulation wall, which is as hard as bedrock, thereby giving momentum to economic growth.

Array of challenges

In regard to the Liberal Democratic Party’s demand for tariffs on rice, wheat and three other items to be treated exceptionally in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations on a multinational free trade agreement, Abe said the government “will try to come up with various ideas before deciding where to make a final landing from a comprehensive viewpoint.”

Due to the wide gap between Tokyo and Washington, the target to reach an agreement on the TPP before the end of last year was postponed. The government must explore ways to break the logjam.

Concerning nuclear reactors that have been idled, Abe said the government “will judge whether to restart them after they pass strict new safety standards.” His statement means his administration will press ahead on restarting reactors pending confirmation of their safety.

Utility rates have soared due to the rise in fuel costs for thermal power generation, which is substituting for nuclear power. This has adversely affected corporate activities and households. Abe must give detailed explanations on the need to restart reactors when he seeks the understanding of local governments and residents concerned.

China and South Korea have been increasingly protesting Abe’s recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine, and Washington has expressed “disappointment” at his visit. In this connection, Abe only said, “I would like to explain my real intentions directly [to Beijing and Seoul].”

Abe should take steps to ensure the Japan-U.S. alliance remains firm, while exploring ways to improve relations with China and South Korea.

He also said he planned nationwide discussions in preparation for changing the constitutional interpretation of the country’s right to collective self-defense and revising the Constitution. It is essential to steadily move ahead with these matters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 7, 2014)
(2014年1月7日01時32分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月 7日 (火)

安倍外交と安保 日米で対中国戦略を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 6, 2014
Japan, U.S. must bolster strategy for coping effectively with China
安倍外交と安保 日米で対中国戦略を強化せよ(1月6日付・読売社説)


The international situation surrounding Japan remains opaque.

To maintain our nation’s peace and prosperity, it is imperative to map out and implement diplomatic and security policies more actively and strategically than ever before.

The most important task in addressing this challenge is to beef up Japan’s alliance with the United States.

In particular, North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development programs and China’s arms buildup and maritime advances have been destabilizing the whole Asia-Pacific region.

Under the circumstances, it is crucial to enhance the deterrent power of the Japan-U.S. alliance, which has been rated highly by many countries in the region as an “international public good.”

Beef up defense guidelines

Toward the end of last year, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe created the Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council and mapped out the National Security Strategy.

The Abe administration has also won approval from the Okinawa prefectural government for land reclamation required to relocate the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in the prefecture to the Henoko district on the prefecture’s northeastern coast.

Both the establishment of the NSC and the progress on the Futenma relocation are highly conducive to solidifying the alliance.

As its top priority this year, the government should conduct a long-overdue review of the conventional interpretation of the Constitution regarding this country’s right to collective self-defense.

Under the current interpretation, the Self-Defense Forces are not allowed to retaliate even if a nearby U.S. military vessel is attacked, having no choice but to turn a blind eye to the situation. This could cause the Japan-U.S. alliance to crumble at its foundation.

Changing the existing constitutional interpretation that this country “has the right to collective self-defense but cannot exercise it,” thereby making exercise of the right possible, would represent a major step toward rectifying the asymmetry in the bilateral alliance, in which the United States has “an obligation to defend Japan, but Japan has no obligation to defend the United States.”

It is crucial for the government to iron out differences between its views and those of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and New Komeito, which either oppose altering the current constitutional interpretation or are wary of such a change. Abe should lead the way in calibrating these views.

Also high on the agenda is yet another revision to the guidelines for defense cooperation between Japan and the United States scheduled for late this year.

The current guidelines resulted from the revision in 1997 of earlier ones. The current guidelines primarily take into account a possible crisis on the Korean Peninsula, providing specifics about the SDF’s logistic support for U.S. forces. A law was passed in 1999 concerning SDF operations to assist U.S. military forces during an emergency in areas surrounding Japan, but as yet the government has had no occasion to recognize such an emergency as stipulated by the law.

To make it possible for the SDF to deal promptly with such crises as the seizure of a remote island in Japan’s territory by Chinese agents pretending to be fishermen, the forthcoming Japan-U.S. security guidelines should specify a new framework for close cooperation between the SDF and U.S. forces even in “gray areas” between peacetime and emergencies.

Another essential task is to ramp up the SDF’s patrol and surveillance capabilities as well as rapid response preparedness based on the new National Defense Program Outline drawn up toward the end of 2013.

Some argue that strengthening Japan’s defense capabilities would stir up adverse reactions from neighboring countries, thus worsening the nation’s security environment.

It should be noted, however, that China continued its large-scale arms buildup even as Japan’s defense expenditures shrank for 10 consecutive years.

Diplomacy and military affairs are closely connected. Unless both are reinforced, Japan cannot defend its territory and our national interests.

The issue of how to face China, which has gained power militarily and economically and does not mind changing the international order by force, is a concern not only for Japan but also for the international community.

Recover lost ground

There is no denying that Abe’s recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine has given China an excuse to criticize Japan and has weakened Japan's partnership with other friendly countries.

Before Abe’s visit to the shrine, it was China’s self-righteous behavior, including its unilateral establishment of an air defense identification zone, that drew criticism from the international community. But Japan, too, may be held responsible for worsening the regional situation. The government should not make light of the fact that the United States, Japan’s ally, expressed “disappointment” with Abe’s visit to the shrine.

It is important that Abe, first of all, hold close talks with the U.S. side and explain the true intention of his visit, while at the same time working out Japan’s mid- and long-term strategies toward China.

In cooperation with South Korea, Australia and Southeast Asian countries, Japan must persistently urge China to comply with international standards and “act responsibly.”

Since the government nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands in September 2012, Japan-China relations have plunged to what is said to be their worst level in postwar history, and no summit talks have been held since the nationalization. Japan must assume this situation may last for a protracted period.

Needless to say, Japan must not make any concessions whatsoever over territorial issues.

But closing the door on bilateral dialogue and cooperation in such fields as economic and environmental issues would be detrimental to both countries.

To explore ways to cooperate on these practical issues may help both countries take a step forward toward returning to the “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.”

Foreign visits important

Advocating “proactive contributions to peace,” Abe went abroad on 13 occasions last year, visiting 25 countries, including all the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He will visit India, Ethiopia and four other countries this month.

Diplomacy is a hardheaded game in which a country has to do its utmost to gain more friends and expand its national interests to the maximum. Strategically building amicable relations with as many countries as possible will become an asset for Japan’s diplomacy.

In recent years, prime ministers were replaced almost annually, making it difficult for Japan to pursue head-of-state diplomacy. Visits to foreign countries by Abe, who can expect a long-term administration, can be utilized as an important diplomatic card.

It is essential for Japan to enhance its presence internationally by proactively becoming involved in crafting international security rules, such as those on maritime activities and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in addition to pursuing its economic diplomacy in such fields as exports of infra-structure-related technology, energy and free trade agreements.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 6, 2014)
(2014年1月6日01時31分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月 6日 (月)




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朝鮮半島の変動 警戒すべき中韓の「反日」接近

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 5, 2014
Vigilance must be maintained over China-ROK ‘anti-Japan’ ties
朝鮮半島の変動 警戒すべき中韓の「反日」接近(1月5日付・読売社説)


There has been a seismic change on the Korean Peninsula, where the Cold War structure remains, as South Korea, with Japan and the United States in the background, is in a military face-off with North Korea, which is supported by China.

China, the world’s second-largest economic power, and South Korea are becoming rapidly closer to each other, indicating they are set to strengthen ties through their mutually shared anti-Japan sentiment. How will this affect the course of Northeast Asia, coupled with uncertain prospects over North Korea?

Japan should remain coolheaded in assessing this development so it can decide on appropriate countermeasures.

Working on history issues

South Korean President Park Geun Hye, whose administration will enter its second year next month, apparently regards China as an important partner, while at the same time stepping up criticism against Japan.

Last year, China became the second country for Park to visit as South Korean president following the United States. This was not just because China is her country’s biggest trading partner. Apparently, she aimed to showcase close ties with her Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to check North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has not visited China since the inauguration of his regime.

Park’s visit also caused speculation that she plans to form a united front with China against Japan over the perception of history and territorial issues.

China and South Korea took advantage of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine at the end of last year to justify their anti-Japan stance, calling the visit proof of the revival of Japan’s militarism and its drift to the right.

If China and South Korea form a united front against Japan, it could lead to weakening cooperation among Tokyo, Washington and Seoul, which is centered on the Japan-U.S. and U.S.-South Korea alliances.

Park even criticized Japan during her talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel when he visited South Korea in September. The president countered Hagel when he referred to the importance of security cooperation among the three countries, saying, “Trust has not been established due to the [Japanese] leadership, which has repeatedly made regressive remarks on historical and territorial issues.”

It is highly questionable for a country’s leader to criticize Japan during a meeting with a senior official from a third country. In particular, it is hard to accept her self-centered opinions that blame Japan for the failure to maintain security cooperation between the two countries.

South Korea postponed the signing of the General Security of Military Information Agreement in 2012 just before it was to be concluded between Tokyo and Seoul. The agreement is crucial for sharing confidential information on North Korea.

Last month, the Ground Self-Defense Force, now participating in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, provided South Korean forces with 10,000 rounds of ammunition for assault rifles without asking for payment. This development highlighted how important it is for the two countries to regularly build cooperation so that they can provide military materials and share duties with each other.

For China, which has been trying to change the status quo by force in the East and South China seas, closer ties with South Korea mean it can exercise more influence over the Yellow Sea and the Korean Peninsula.

There are indications Xi could visit South Korea, possibly even this year. Could his trip add momentum to South Korea’s tilt toward China regarding security affairs, too? Given that closer Beijing-Seoul relations could weaken the alliance between the United States and South Korea, the outcome of the possible China-South Korea summit talks must be watched closely.

Keep framework intact

Chilled relations between Japan and South Korea have prevented Abe and Park from meeting for talks. The relationship could be irrevocably damaged depending on a ruling South Korea’s Supreme Court is expected to hand down, possibly in January, over damage compensation litigation filed against Japanese companies that forced Koreans to labor for them during World War II.

Should a decision by the top court against the Japanese firms be finalized, and should the South Korean government acknowledge this ruling, the foundation of the framework formed by the 1965 basic bilateral treaty to normalize bilateral diplomatic ties could crumble.

The South Korean government, which signed an agreement attached to the 1965 pact that states problems regarding property and claims between the two countries “have been settled completely and finally,” should declare that the Japanese companies have no obligation to pay any compensation. This would be the obvious duty in the international community of a nation governed by the rule of law.

The situation in North Korea remains worrisome. The power base of supreme leader Kim Jong Un, two years after taking over power from his father, can hardly be said to have solidified. Attesting to this is the dismissal and execution in December of Jang Sung Taek, vice chairman of Pyongyang’s National Defense Commission.

Because of the instability of the power structure upholding this regime of terror, Kim will likely become more reliant on the military and push ahead with strengthening his country’s nuclear weapons capability. The political setup that places top priority on military affairs, however, is bound only to hamper alleviation of international economic sanctions against Pyongyang. Under the circumstances, the North’s policy of rebuilding its dwindling economy is doomed to fail.

Concerns are rising that the Kim regime, in a bid to divert swelling popular discontent in the country, may resort to yet another military provocation. Vigilance must be paid to the possibility of Pyongyang charging ahead with a new nuclear test or firing a long-range ballistic missile under the guise of “a satellite launch.”

Kim regime raises risks

It cannot be ruled out that North Korea might resort to an armed attack on South Korea, like its shelling of the island of Yeonpyeong in November 2010. If such an event were to happen again, South Korea has declared it is prepared to strike back ferociously. The risk of military conflict between the North and South should never be underestimated.

Cooperation between Japan, the United States, China, South Korea and Russia has never been as necessary as it is now, given the urgent need to rein in North Korea’s wild behavior and prepare for a sudden crisis there such as a political coup. It is especially important to strengthen strategic cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea on the basis of the alliance ties Tokyo and Seoul have with Washington.

Japan is seeking comprehensive solutions to North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues as well as the abductions of Japanese nationals by Pyongyang. It will need the assistance of China and South Korea to find these solutions. But in light of the difficulty Japan faces in receiving such cooperation under the current circumstances, it should view the role of its alliance with the United States as having even greater significance in ensuring the security of the region.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 5, 2014)
(2014年1月5日01時33分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月 5日 (日)

安倍政権2年目 数に傲らず幅広い合意形成を

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 4, 2014
Ruling coalition should build wide consensus with opposition parties
安倍政権2年目 数に傲らず幅広い合意形成を(1月4日付・読売社説)


The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears determined to make all-out efforts to revitalize the Japanese economy and resolve long-pending issues such as the right to collective self-defense.

To make effective use of limited time, it is imperative that the Abe administration devise a well-prepared strategy to implement measures and manage the government in a humble manner to avoid unnecessary criticism.

The second Abe administration has made it this far without collapsing apparently because of a well-functioning “Team Abe,” comprising Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, in whom Abe has deep trust, as well as Finance Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, and Akira Amari, minister in charge of economic revitalization, both Abe’s political allies.

Coordination key

It is also worth mentioning that members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, such as Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, have provided significant support to the government. Close cooperation with the ruling coalition helped the government decide to join negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and win the Okinawa prefectural government’s approval of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station.

New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, has also played a significant role.

During the last extraordinary Diet session, a bill to protect specially designated state secrets was revised with consideration given to the public’s right to know and freedom of the press after Komeito called for such consideration. Without this revision, Diet deliberations on the bill could have been even more difficult.

Komeito also strongly sought the introduction of a reduced tax rate system on daily necessities and other items to ease the impact of the upcoming consumption tax rate increase. The LDP and Komeito then reached an agreement to introduce such a system “when the consumption tax is 10 percent.” We applaud Komeito for this contribution.

However, the LDP and Komeito do not necessarily take the same stance on issues like amending the Constitution and nuclear policy. Abe and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi have been deeply divided over issues related to politicians’ visits to Yasukuni Shrine and the interpretations of history, such as a 1993 statement on so-called comfort women during World War II issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, as well as a review of the government’s constitutional interpretation aimed at allowing the nation to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

The more Abe attempts to push his pet policies, the more strongly Komeito will oppose and resist them. How the two parties deal with such challenges will bear directly on the stability of national politics.

Regarding the Jan. 19 mayoral election in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, Komeito’s Okinawa chapter has yet to decide whether it will support a conservative candidate who would give the green light to the government’s plan on the Futenma relocation. The issue will serve as a test of whether the LDP and Komeito can coordinate their views.

The ruling coalition must build a consensus with the opposition camp without relying on its dominant number of Diet seats.

Above all, social security and national security systems should not be too transformed no matter what party takes office. The next election is as much as 2.5 years away. The ruling and opposition parties should take this as an opportunity to tackle these issues in earnest.

Partial coalition must be sought

The LDP, Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan have established a working-level conference on social security policies. We urge them to use this forum to deepen their discussions.

In the security field, a step forward was marked when the bill to establish a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council cleared the extraordinary Diet session in late November with the approval of the DPJ, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, as well as the LDP and Komeito.

Regarding the bill to protect specially designated states secrets, Ishin no Kai and Your Party accepted the modifications to the bill but boycotted voting in the plenary session of the House of Councillors, in a show of criticism of the ruling parties over their management of Diet business.

The ruling coalition must rebuild its relationship with Ishin no Kai and Your Party.

Ishin no Kai coleader Shintaro Ishihara has expressed his intention to cooperate with Abe in dealing with such issues as constitutional revision.

Meanwhile, Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe has proposed what he called a regular “strategic dialogue” with Abe on such key issues as deregulation and reviewing the constitutional interpretation of the nation’s collective self-defense right.

How will the government and ruling parties form a partial coalition with Ishin no Kai and Your Party? The answer could affect the future course of parliamentary and electoral system reforms.

DPJ in need of reform

The DPJ’s handling of parliamentary matters gives us the impression the party has returned to its former role as a resistant opposition party, despite its experience of serving as a ruling party. It has yet to form a joint struggle with other opposition parties.

In the aftermath of the upper house election in July, DPJ members, particularly those who lost elections, have defected from the party one after another for such reasons as discontent with the party leadership. This undeniably indicates that Banri Kaieda’s leadership as party president has been waning.

To regain voters’ confidence, Kaieda needs to form an intraparty consensus on basic policies on the Constitution and national security and strengthen the party’s local organizations. He is urged to demonstrate his leadership in reconstructing his party.

The DPJ must hold discussions this year with other opposition parties on campaign strategies for unified local elections set for the spring of 2015. Such talks will lead to prompting moves for a realignment of opposition parties.

It has also become a focus of attention whether the Yui no To party, led by Kenji Eda, a defector from Your Party, will be able to work closely with some members of the DPJ and Ishin no Kai.

Eda has formed a suprapartisan study group with Goshi Hosono, a former secretary general of the DPJ, and Yorihisa Matsuno, secretary general of Ishin no Kai’s group of Diet members. To what extent can the study group’s members firmly unite on policies and ideals?

We would like to see a unified opposition party that is capable of presenting constructive policies without taking a stance of always criticizing the government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 4, 2014)
(2014年1月4日01時40分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月 4日 (土)

上向く世界経済 本格再生へ「分水嶺」の1年だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 3, 2014
Steady leadership needed as world economy at crossroads
上向く世界経済 本格再生へ「分水嶺」の1年だ(1月3日付・読売社説)


Signs of a bright future for the global economy seem to have begun twinkling, with advanced economies picking up gradually after managing to break out of monetary and fiscal crises.

Uncertainties remain, however, concerning the policy handling of the United States and European countries. Caution is also needed regarding a slowdown of emerging market economies such as China.

This year will most likely mark a watershed regarding whether the world economy can realize sufficiently robust growth to get onto a full-fledged recovery path.

In its report last autumn, the International Monetary Fund forecast the 2014 world economy would log 3.6 percent growth after inflation. It is noteworthy that the growth of the world economy this year is expected to expand a little on the strength of advanced economies’ pickup, compared to 2013’s growth, which the IMF estimates at 2.9 percent.

U.S. debt ceiling accord a key

The world financial woes triggered by the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in the autumn of 2008 embroiled Greece, developing into a crisis for all European economies.

What made it possible for the global economy to begin finding a way out of a chain of negative occurrences at long last was, first of all, indications of a solid business recovery in the United States, the epicenter of the global financial hardships. The European economies, after experiencing a series of business downturns, have now returned to positive growth, signifying a breakaway from the worst phase of their economic conditions.

Symbolic of the signs of uptrend is the decision late last year by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board to modify its extraordinary easy money policy in response to improvements in U.S. unemployment rates and other key economic indicators.

Starting this month, the Fed is scheduled to embark on an “exit strategy” designed to scale down bit by bit Phase Three of its quantitative monetary easing, or QE3, in which the U.S. central bank has been purchasing a huge amount of U.S. treasury bonds and other financial assets every month.

It seems the world’s market players have been reassured to see the Fed spearheading a move in favor of an exit strategy, amid large-scale monetary easing policies in place in Japan, the United States and Europe. Consequently, stock prices are on the rise in New York and other markets.

The Fed reportedly intends to continue tapering its QE3 asset purchases, with a view to terminating the easy money policy as early as the end of the year. Next year and afterward, the Fed is seen probing timing for an end to its zero-interest rate policy while looking for an opportune time to raise rates.

Due attention should be paid to the adverse impact of colossal money supplies worldwide that have so far been in place, as they could lead to rekindling of economic bubbles in the United States, emerging market countries and elsewhere.

Implementation of the exit strategy, however, will require a considerably long period of time. The ability of incoming Fed chair Janet Yellen, who is to take the place of Chairman Ben Bernanke toward the end of January, will certainly be tested through her efforts to ensure that no danger arises of the world economy and markets plunging into turmoil in the process of the implementation of the Fed’s exit strategy.

How things evolve regarding U.S. congressional discussions on fiscal measures is also of key significance.

It is a highly welcome development that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have reached common ground on a federal budget deal, successfully averting a recurrence of a partial shutdown of government functions.

Should the two parties fail to strike an agreement on raising the federal government’s debt ceiling in time for the Feb. 7 deadline, however, there would be a high risk of U.S. treasury bonds going into default. If U.S. treasury bonds actually went into default, there would be serious damage to not only the United States but also the rest of the world economy.

Therefore, it was reasonable for U.S. President Barack Obama to ask Republican Party members in Congress to unconditionally approve raising the debt ceiling. The confrontation between the Democrats and Republicans is expected to continue ahead of midterm elections in November, but an early agreement on the matter is needed.

The European Central Bank carried out an additional interest rate cut in November despite having been able to stem the business slowdown because it was wary about prices hovering at low levels.

Europe must avoid deflation

The growth rate in consumer prices has been held to less than 1 percent, lower than the 2 percent targeted by the ECB. There is concern that Europe will fall into deflation like Japan.

If Europe’s favorable economic turn should prove to be a “false dawn,” it will hobble the world economy again.

The ECB should not hesitate to take the next steps, including an additional interest rate cut. Deflation must be avoided while keeping a close watch on price and business trends at the same time.

ECB stress tests on eurozone banks will start shortly ahead of its integrated supervision of the banks starting this autumn.

It is indispensable to promote the strengthening of the financial underpinnings of banks with capital shortages to prevent financial uncertainty from flaring up again.

The pace of growth has been slowing down across the board in emerging economies. Difficult economic management is expected to continue in China, and the country is likely to see a growth rate of about 7.5 percent this year, unlike the double-digit growth it once marked.

In China, nonbanks and other financial institutions have collected funds from individuals by selling high-interest financial products. These funds have been used to promote public works projects and real estate development in regional areas. It is problematic that the real situation of such shadow banking remains unknown.

Shadow banking problematic

Investment firms under the umbrella of Chinese local governments have a huge amount of debts. It is vital to prevent a situation in which the Chinese financial system is shaken by deferred debt repayment.

How can China break away from an investment-dependent economy and achieve a soft landing for stable growth? Correcting economic disparities is also a tough challenge. China should accelerate reform.

Due to the U.S. “exit strategy” of scaling down quantitative monetary easing, investment money has been withdrawn from Brazil and India among other countries, and there is now a real possibility of a vicious circle in which the weakening of their currencies leads to the stagnation of their real economies.

As it has become an urgent task to rein in high prices, central banks of various countries have been tightening their money supply.

To broaden the vision of the world economy, now lighted by a faint hope, advanced and emerging economies must overcome their own challenges and promote policy coordination.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 3, 2014)
(2014年1月3日01時38分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月 3日 (金)

漫画家を目指したことがある人たちの登竜門は4コマ漫画です 「4KOMA PARTY(4コマパーティー)」


たくさんサイトがありますが、私のおすすめは「4KOMA PARTY(4コマパーティー)」 というサイトなんです。

「4KOMA PARTY(4コマパーティー)」のリリースに関するお知らせ


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モンスター育成無料ゲーム、みっくすりとる なんですが、いい大人がこれにはまっています。
バーチャルでも、ここまで面白いモンスター育成無料ゲーム、みっくすりとる を試してください。



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オレンジタグスの充実のラインナップをみてください 導入は企業でも個人サイトでも




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毎回アンケートに答えるだけで抽選でプレゼントがもらえる!「AWESOMEモニター会員」募集開始に関するお知らせ 株式会社AWESOME JAPAN

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コミッショナー NPBの体制強化を最優先に

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 2, 2014
New commissioner must place top priority on strengthening NPB
コミッショナー NPBの体制強化を最優先に(12月31日付・読売社説)

We hope the new commissioner of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization will throw his energy into making Japan’s professional baseball even more loved.

Lawyer Katsuhiko Kumazaki, former chief of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office’s special investigation squad, will become NPB’s new commissioner as of Wednesday.

“I want to make the most of my abilities to make Japanese pro baseball more vigorous so it can contribute to society,” Kumazaki said at a press conference.

Kumazaki has been in charge of compliance issues as an adviser to NPB’s commissioner since 2005. Expectations are high that he will exercise leadership to work out the problems that Japan’s professional baseball is currently saddled with by utilizing that experience.

What Kumazaki must work on first is to carry out reform in NPB after it lost the trust of baseball fans due to a problem concerning the introduction of unified ball.

Ryozo Kato, former NPB commissioner, said he did not know the unified ball’s coefficient of restitution had been increased. Reforming NPB, in which such important information does not reach the head of the organization, is an urgent task.

Kumazaki said he needs a full-time assistant who will meticulously keep watch on things in NPB. It is necessary to establish governance functions that enable the commissioner to make appropriate decisions.

A decisive moment

The status of professional baseball remains severe. Although the number of spectators increased this season both in the Central League and the Pacific League compared to last season, four teams saw their spectators decrease. The number of professional baseball games aired on terrestrial broadcasting also fell.

We urge the new commissioner to cooperate with the 12 teams and do his utmost to improve various services for baseball fans.

In particular, Kumazaki must devise a strategy to enhance the appeal of Japan’s national team—called Samurai Japan, which has been formed on a permanent basis—to help increase NPB’s earnings. His ability will be tested, for example, in setting up international games that will please baseball fans.

Meanwhile, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have recently allowed ace Masahiro Tanaka to move to the major leagues.

A professional baseball player’s dream to take on the challenge of playing in the major leagues and make a leap forward deserves respect.

However, the fact is that Japan’s professional baseball will inevitably decline if star players continue to flow out to the major leagues.

The posting system used when a Japanese player moves to the major leagues has significantly changed. Under the revised system, a Japanese team that allows a player to go to the major leagues sets a posting fee of up to $20 million, or ¥2 billion.

The revision apparently reflects the major leagues’ wish to hold down the money the clubs pay to acquire Japanese players, which previously had no limit.

For baseball to further develop around the world, it is indispensable for the Japanese and U.S. professional baseball worlds, the two axes of the sport, to ensure coexistence and mutual prosperity.

Formulating fair rules between Japan and the United States on the acquisition of Japanese players is also an important task that the new commissioner must work on.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 31, 2013)
(2013年12月31日02時07分  読売新聞)

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独大連立政権 欧州経済の再生に責任は重い

The Yomiuri Shimbun January 2, 2014
Germany should bolster efforts to lift eurozone out of crisis
独大連立政権 欧州経済の再生に責任は重い(12月31日付・読売社説)

We expect German Chancellor Angela Merkel to exercise leadership to overcome the European fiscal and financial crisis now that she has secured a stable political foundation.

The third Merkel Cabinet was launched in Europe’s biggest economic power through the formation of a grand coalition between Germany’s two major political parties—her center-right Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD)—for the first time in four years.

As the German Bundestag, or lower house, has members elected basically by proportional representation, it is difficult for even a major party to secure a majority on its own. Negotiations to form a coalition government are thus inevitable.

The CDU/CSU secured a stunning victory in the September general election, after which it negotiated with the SPD, the largest opposition party, to form the grand coalition.

However, it took more than 80 days to launch the new coalition because the SPD adamantly demanded that the coalition government realize SPD’s campaign pledges, including the introduction of a nationwide minimum wage system, when formulating an accord to form the coalition. It cannot be denied that this created a political vacuum in Germany and stalled debates in the European Union to address the financial crisis.

The coalition agreement signed by the two parties called for fiscal rehabilitation and structural reform by eurozone countries. Their accord opposed initiatives that could increase the burden on Germany, saying that the measures, including a proposal to issue common euro-area bonds to procure funds based on the credibility of the eurozone, could foster laxity among indebted nations.

That is what the Merkel administration has been asserting, but it nonetheless demonstrated again its basic stance in overcoming the European crisis.

Danger of deflation

Greece and other south European nations are plagued with aggravated unemployment, prompting some observers to point out the risk of the eurozone plunging into deflation.

Germany, which achieved the world’s largest current account surplus in 2012, is essentially the only economically sound nation in Europe. Germany should consider policies to facilitate economic recovery in Europe, including increasing imports from other eurozone nations by boosting its domestic consumption.

The coalition agreement reconfirmed the existing “nuclear phaseout” stance to reduce the number of nuclear power plants to zero by the end of 2022.

But it said the coalition government will overhaul the nation’s feed-in tariff system, which requires utility companies to buy renewable energy—expected by many to be an alternative energy source for nuclear energy—at a high rate for certain number of years.

The grand coalition plans to make it a fundamental principle to trade renewable energy generated at newly established facilities in the market and introduce other measures to ensure a competitive environment in this field.

The feed-in tariff system was introduced in 2000 as a pillar of a program to promote the proliferation of renewable energy use. Since then, the electricity rate for households has continuously increased to its present figure, which is double the 2000 level. We believe the move to overhaul the system is appropriate, considering the widespread public criticism of it.

Japan’s feed-in tariff system was modeled after the German system. Japan should also review this system by closely paying attention to Germany’s moves in this regard.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 31, 2013)
(2013年12月31日02時07分  読売新聞)

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2014年1月 2日 (木)

homework 2014-01-02

star apple

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homework 2014-01-02

due to

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2014年1月 1日 (水)


The Yomiuri Shimbun January 1, 2014
Deal with economy, China to ensure Japan can rise again


This nation must be saved from drowning in the sea of deflation, a challenge essential for putting its economy onto an upward trend.

Doing so will definitely require success in achieving the targets set in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy line, known as Abenomics, through efforts to ensure his administration is kept running even more stably.

With this in mind, the government should place priority on economic growth over fiscal reconstruction for the time being, a task necessary to revitalize the economy and increase tax revenue.

This must be accompanied by efforts to disburse financial resources in such fields as pensions, medical and other forms of social security, along with national security, crisis management and energy. Success in that endeavor is indispensable for boosting Japan’s national strength from the mid- and long-term standpoints.

In promoting good external relations, the government needs to ensure stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

China has been escalating its high-handed behavior in the East China Sea and in the sky above the area in recent months. Few eyebrows would be raised if an accidental conflict erupted between Japan and China at any time. This situation will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

Perceived military tensions in this region must be relaxed through repeated dialogue between Japanese and Chinese diplomatic and defense authorities, coupled with efforts to improve the functions of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The economy and China will likely be the two major focuses of government policy this year. Failure to squarely confront the two tasks—one domestic, the other external—will render useless any attempt by Japan to start rising to prominence, economically or otherwise.

Crunch time for Abenomics

One year has passed since Abe inaugurated his second Cabinet. The prime minister was at the forefront of his ruling coalition’s victory in the House of Councillors election last summer, a triumph that sealed an end to the divided Diet. This has enabled the Liberal Democratic Party to emerge as the sole dominant power in the political arena, reducing all other parties to lesser forces.

His Cabinet has consistently enjoyed a high popular support rating. Despite a drop in the rating due to turmoil arising from the enactment of the state secrets protection law during an extraordinary Diet session last year, the figure still stands in the 50 percent range.

This should be solely attributed to Abe’s focused efforts on economic recovery, a task that comes first in the list of his policy priorities.

The prime minister’s pursuit of his Abenomics policy is accomplishing a certain degree of success. This is evident in the fact, for example, that two of the three pillars stipulated in his policy—bold monetary relaxation and flexible fiscal stimulus—have apparently caused the economy to pick up. This has been accompanied by realizing higher stock prices and a decline in the value of the yen. There is no doubt that the current situation has helped make Japan’s presence felt more strongly in the international community.

However, it is still uncertain whether—and how, for that matter—the Bank of Japan will be able to bring the annual price increase rate to 2 percent, a target set by the central bank to overcome protracted deflation. Furthermore, there is a limit to how long the benefits of the fiscal measures taken by the government to underpin the economy will endure. The Abe Cabinet’s high support rating is primarily because the public expect he will be able to recharge the economy. His high popularity does not mean people actually feel their living conditions are improving under the current administration.

Given this, the Abenomics policy will be tested over whether it can truly achieve its purpose this year.

The prime minister’s decision in October to implement a consumption tax rate hike, as initially planned, means the rate will rise from 5 percent to 8 percent in April.

The economy will likely remain more or less upbeat until the end of March, partly due to last-minute rise in demand for such commodities as consumer durables. In April and beyond, however, the economy could take a downturn due to dampened consumer appetite in reaction to the tax rate increase.

To minimize the effect of the tax hike on consumption, the government put together an economic stimulus package worth about ¥5.5 trillion at government expense, the main pillars of which include financial and other support for business corporations and public works projects. With a similar purpose in mind, the government has devised a bloated budget for fiscal 2014.

However, we think the package is less than satisfactory when it comes to supporting ordinary household finances. It includes a one-shot financial support for low-income households, or what the government calls “simple benefit payment.” Meanwhile, the government decided not to introduce a lower tax rate for such essential goods as foodstuffs and newspapers. We hope the government and the ruling parties will prepare to introduce a mitigated tax rate system covering such necessities when a planned rate hike from 8 percent to 10 percent is implemented.

Abe must lead from front

The third pillar of Abenomics calls for translating a growth strategy into action. Success in ensuring the government’s growth strategy fulfills its aim is essential for accomplishing a sustainable economic growth led by the private sector, aided by job creation and higher wages that could be made possible through Abenomics.

However, it is uncertain whether the growth strategy will accomplish its goal. This was underlined by the large cut in the number of deregulatory steps to be implemented in what are called national strategy special zones, due to objections from various government offices and organizations that would be affected by this deregulation.

The prime minister should play a leadership role in encouraging the private sector to inject its vitality, economic or otherwise, into growth markets, thus accelerating the effects of the third pillar of Abenomics.

A recent rise in consumer prices cannot be considered a favorable trend triggered by increased demand, given that a surge in the prices of imported goods and higher electricity bills are major factors behind the situation. A favorable cycle—in which private corporations buoyed by improved business performance raise wages for their employees, which in turn improves family budgets and leads to increased consumption—must be created.

Success—or the lack thereof—of this policy depends on whether a stable supply of inexpensive electricity will be secured.

Operations at all 50 reactors at nuclear power plants in Japan remain suspended. As things stand, the nation must shoulder a hefty ¥10 billion in additional costs for imported fuel for power generation such as liquefied natural gas each day. The additional burden is to operate thermal power plants to their fullest, thus making up for an electric power shortage while nuclear power reactors remain idled. This is an extra drain of national wealth to energy resource exporting countries.

Nuclear power stations must be steadily brought back online once they have been confirmed safe to operate.

One worrisome factor is the delay in the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety checks that must be conducted before nuclear reactors can be brought back online. Given the time needed to obtain consent from local governments concerned and other necessary procedures, the reactors now being screened will be able to resume operations in summer at the earliest.

With its low energy self-sufficiency rate, how Japan ensures a stable supply of electricity will be directly linked with its national strategy.

The Abe administration plans to position nuclear energy as an “important basic energy source” in its basic plan on energy to be adopted by the Cabinet in January. We support the administration’s decision to drop the Democratic Party of Japan’s irresponsible “zero nuclear power” policy, leaving open the possibility of building new nuclear power plants or reactors.

Japan possesses some of the world’s most sophisticated nuclear technologies. Constructing safe, next-generation nuclear power stations is also necessary from the viewpoint of maintaining and nurturing human resources in this field. The nation also needs to expand exports of nuclear power infrastructure to boost economic growth.

In addition, the government must accelerate discussions on preparing an optimal combination of nuclear power, thermal power, solar power and other renewable energy sources.

Accidental clashes

China is attempting to change the status quo in the Asia-Pacific region by force, intensifying friction with its neighbors.

Touting a policy of increasing wealth and military power it has labeled the “Chinese dream,” the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping is increasingly conducting naval and airspace drills with its fleet and aircraft in the West Pacific, and strengthening its effective control of the South China Sea. China’s anti-access area-denial strategy against the United States is poised to bear fruit.

As for Japan, Chinese state vessels are stationed almost around-the-clock around the Senkaku Islands and repeatedly intrude into Japanese waters. Its unmanned aircraft fly over Japanese waters. Furthermore, it unilaterally declared an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea that included the Senkaku Islands.

China has demanded that all aircraft flying within the ADIZ submit flight plans in advance, and threatened to adopt “emergency defensive measures” by the Chinese military against any plane that refuses to obey its instructions. We think it is extremely problematic that China treats the ADIZ like its territorial airspace.

If this situation remains in place, Japan could become entangled in a military clash. The two countries urgently need to set up a liaison mechanism to help prevent an unexpected situation from erupting between the Self-Defense Forces and the Chinese military.

China must not use Abe’s recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine as an excuse to refuse dialogue with Japan.

It will also be important to hold China in check by deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The United States maintains the position that the Senkaku Islands fall within the scope of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which stipulates U.S. defense obligations to Japan. To ensure this article functions without fail, Japan will need to boost the roles it can play with the United States.

It is timely that the Abe administration will review the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines at the end of this year.

The new guidelines should stipulate what additional assistance the SDF can provide to U.S. forces and the U.S. forces’ expanded involvement in the defense of Japan’s remote islands such as the Senkakus so Tokyo and Washington can jointly operate smoothly and handle any crisis as it escalates from a time of peace to a contingency.

It will also be unavoidable for the government to change its interpretation of the Constitution to enable Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense.

The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are considering a new interpretation under which exercising the right to collective self-defense will be part of the “minimum necessary” exercise of force for self-defense. Given the worsening security environment surrounding the country, expanding the scope of what constitutes the “minimum necessary” exercise of force is quite understandable.

Along with the right to collective self-defense, it will also be necessary to deepen discussions on the right to individual self-defense. For instance, if intruders disguised as fishermen unlawfully occupy a remote island, a development that does not reach a military attack, how would the SDF respond? It will be necessary to spell out rules on the possible use of weapons in a scenario like this that could be described as the exercise of “the minor right to self-defense.”

Contribute to regional stability

The relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture recently saw a development. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima has approved the central government’s request to carry out a land reclamation project in waters off the Henoko district in Nago in the prefecture, a necessary step for ultimately relocating the air station to the district. His decision has cleared the path for an issue that has remained unresolved between Japan and the United States since 1996.

Relocating the air base to Henoko would significantly reduce the burden Okinawa Prefecture shoulders by hosting U.S. bases, and enhance the deterrent provided by U.S. forces.

In December, the government decided on its first National Security Strategy. It urges China to play responsible and constructive roles for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. It also stipulates that Japan will continue to respond firmly but calmly against China’s attempts to forcibly change the present situation.

With its birthrate declining and population aging, China’s working and manufacturing populations have started to decline. Under these circumstances, will China’s economic growth slow? How long will the United States place priority on the Asian region? How will such changes affect Japan’s security and economy?

Unlocking the answers to such questions will require analyzing information and drawing up strategic policies toward China.

In the mid- and long-term, it is crucial for Japan to continue to contribute to the region’s security. In cooperation with the United States and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan must continuously persuade China to be aware of its responsibilities as a member of the international community, and to act accordingly. That is a key duty of Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 1, 2014)
(2014年1月1日00時57分  読売新聞)

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