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2016年9月30日 (金)

New Tech Tools Might Help Americans Choose a President

2016-09-30 from VOA
New Tech Tools Might Help Americans Choose a President

Six weeks remain until elections in the United States. Yet many Americans say they still do not know who they want as president.

Now, there are some new tech tools that might help them decide. Startup businesses are creating products that try to change behavior and increase political activity.

Brigade is one of those startups. The California-based company runs a social media site and mobile app. It did not even exist in 2012, when the U.S. held its last presidential election.

Brigade is a platform for debating and deciding political positions. Users can follow the political issues that interest them, such as gun rights, immigration or the environment.

Matt Mahan was a creator of Brigade and now serves as its chief executive officer. He says a few problems need to be solved to increase American civic involvement.

“We need to give people easy access to the information they need to make decisions, but we also need to embed that within their social lives, we need to make it part of the conversations they’re having with friends, and we need to create cultural norms around participating."

Brigade lets users debate issues and try to influence other people online. Users can also see how their opinions compare with other users as well as political candidates.

"I think that's kind of the point of democracy -- is to create this public square where people can discuss and debate their values, and their perspectives on issues and, ultimately, create trade-offs and come to a conclusion about what's the best way to move forward to kind of create the greatest good for the most people."

Crowdpac is another politically-minded technology company. It also did not exist at the time of the 2012 presidential election.

Gisel Kordestani is Crowdpac’s chief operations officer. The company is, in her words, “using technology to try to help the average citizen to connect and engage in politics.”

The Crowdpac website describes itself as the first crowdfunding site designed for politics. It provides information about individuals seeking public office. It also helps users find and support the candidates who share their opinions. And, it helps those running for office raise money. It does this through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is the activity of raising money through small donations from a lot of people. Generally, crowdfunding takes place on the Internet.

Kordestani said technology companies are changing how Americans take part in politics by creating new ways for political participation. That is why, she thinks, politicians should look to Silicon Valley, America’s technology center.

“This region has just grown over the last four decades, has grown into not a powerhouse just in the U.S. but globally, in setting the technology, the platforms and the rules of engagement of society, for work, for the environment, globally.”

Kordestani said many tech companies in Silicon Valley also recognize the importance of working with politicians and the government to create positive changes.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Elizabeth Lee reported on this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

startup – n. a new business

mobile – adj. able to move from one place to another

access – n. a way of getting at or close to something or someone

embed – v. to set or place firmly in something else

conversation – n. a talk or discussion

participate – v. to be involved with others in doing something

crowdfunding – n. the act of seeking donations from a large number of people, especially on social media or through a website

globally – adj. of or related to the whole world

platform – n. a structure where people or machines do work

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2016年9月29日 (木)

David Titcomb: Transforming Classical Music at New York Orchestra

2016-09-29 from VOA
David Titcomb: Transforming Classical Music at New York Orchestra

That music is Symphony No. 2, known as the Resurrection Symphony. Austrian Gustav Mahler composed the piece in the late 1800s.

Classical musician David Titcomb feels strongly about the composer and his work.

“Mahler is just… It’s so evocative. It’s so emotional and maybe those are cheap thrills, but to me they are deep emotional works especially the Resurrection Symyphony.”

Music has filled Titcomb’s life from almost the start. An inspiring music teacher handed young David a trombone to play in elementary school. He could barely make a sound at that time. But, he stuck with it.

Titcomb studied music at the State University of New York, Purchase. He went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts degree at Yale University School of Music.

David Titcomb played the trombone professionally for more than thirty years. He says it was a difficult decision to stop playing and to do something else.

“When I had to decide to stop my career as a player and move on to just the organizing of an orchestra, it was my heart and soul to play in orchestras and after a 30 year career I think I had done my part and wanted to move aside, now I’m semi-retired I only play the trombone in my wife’s rock and roll band now, but for 30 years I was a member of the New York City Opera Orchestra and I also played very often with the Metropolitan Opera and various other freelance organizations and the New York City Ballet as well.”

Now, Titcomb is the Managing Director for the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York (PONY). The organization held its first performance last March. It hopes to bring new audiences to classical music. It aims to make performances higher tech and more affordable.

Titcomb praises the more than eighty orchestra musicians, describing them as among New York’s finest.

“The Philharmonia Orchestra of New York its comprised of many musicians who I have worked with over the last 30 years and many of them continue to work in the major companies at Lincoln Center including Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet, New York City Opera and we came together shortly after the nuclear disaster and tsunami in Japan.”

Mahler Symphony No. 2 music is reflective of a project dear to David Titcomb’s heart.

David Titcomb has worked effortlessly along with PONY Principal Conductor Maestro Atsushi Yamada on bringing the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York and more than 100 choral students from Japan together to perform. The program is called Project Hand-in-Hand.

Project Hand in Hand aims to use performance to support disaster relief, cultural exchange, and education.

David Titcomb says it is a collaboration.

“With our good friend Atsushi Yamada whose our conductor who we worked with at New York City Opera back in the early 2000s and we started as the friends of Japan orchestra we played a concert actually it was Resurrection symphonies about a year after the disaster in northern Japan and we brought over 100 kids just to kind of show them that we were still paying attention and we wanted to give them some inspiration to continue to deal with their troubles and manage.”

The joint performance with the PONY musicians and Japanese high school choir also includes students from American universities.

Titcomb says the collaboration makes him happy.

“Bringing the kids over to play at Lincoln Center a lot of these kids have never been out of there prefecture let alone been on a jet into New York to perform at Lincoln Center. So seeing an orchestra of 90 players on the stage and making music together with a chorus of 200 that what makes me smile.”

Hand in Hand was created in response to the earthquake and tsumani in Japan. Earlier this year, Japan marked the 5th anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country in 2011. More than 18,000 people died or disappeared. The 9.0 magnitude quake struck offshore, creating a huge, powerful surge of water that rushed inland. Whole towns were destroyed in moments. And, the tsunami caused a major failure at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The result was the worst nuclear disaster the world had ever seen.

More than 150,000 people were forced to leave their homes. Many have not been able to return because of radiation danger.

David says just like the Resurrection Symphony No. 2 by Mahler the music starts dark and has feelings of loss and by the end of the symphony, it is a triumph resurrection and things are reborn. This is the hope David Titcomb and PONY have for the victims of the 2011 disaster in Japan.

I’m Marsha James.

Marsha James wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Try this video quiz to test your understanding of the story.

Words In This Story

evocative adj. bringing thoughts, memories or feelings into the mind

thrill – n. a feeling of great excitement or happiness

resurrection – n. the act of causing something that had ended or been forgotten or lost to exist again

symphony – n. a long piece of music that is usually in four large, separate sections and that is performed by an orchestra

semi-retired – adj. working only part time at a career or job because you have reached the age at which you no longer need to work full-time

freelance – adj. working for different companies at different times rather than being permanently employed by one company

comprise – v. to be made up of something

triumph – n. a great or important victory

reborn – adj. brought back to life

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2016年9月28日 (水)

American College Students Know Little of World Events

September 27, 2016 from VOA   
American College Students Know Little of World Events

Young people in the United States do not have a strong understanding of the world and their place in it.

Two U.S.-based groups, the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Geographic Society, commissioned an online survey earlier this year. They wanted to know what young people educated in American colleges knew about geography, U.S. foreign policy, recent international events, and economics.

In general, the results were not very good.

The bad news

The survey was given to over 1,200 Americans between the ages of 18 and 26 years. All of them currently attend, or formerly attended, a 2- or 4-year college or university.

The average test score, out of 75 total possible answers, was 55 percent.

The study identifies a few important questions that American students did not know about their own country.

For example, less than 30 percent knew that a treaty requires the United States to protect Japan if it is attacked. Only 30 percent knew that the only part of the U.S. government that can declare war is Congress.

The online survey produced findings that are similar to the findings of other recent studies.

The Internet

Part of the problem, say the organizers of the survey, is the Internet. They say it is becoming harder to get good information about what is happening in the world today.

Susan Goldberg is with the National Geographic Society. She says people never have to see anything that differs from their understanding of the world; many get their news from a newsfeed.

Forty-three percent of those questioned said they read about national and international news on Facebook.

Another problem is that classes do not require students to learn about international issues. That is the opinion of Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"The problem is schools do not require that students take these courses to graduate," he said. "There is a fundamental difference between offering a course and requiring it."

If such information is not required, Haass said, then the United States could have leaders like Gary Johnson. Johnson is the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party. He did not know about the Syrian city of Aleppo when a reporter asked him about it.

The good news

The survey results were not all bad. The young people who were questioned demonstrated a good understanding of climate change and renewable energy.

Even if the young people failed to understand many of the questions, the majority of them said that international issues were becoming more important to them.

Only two percent said that knowledge of foreign or non-U.S. cultures was not important. One percent said knowledge of world events was not important.

Haass says these findings suggest the need to find ways to get good information to students, both in school and online. To help, the Council on Foreign Relations is creating a new program called CFR Campus, designed to help build knowledge about global issues.

I’m John Russell.

Kevin Enochs wrote this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


Words in This Story

survey – n. an activity in which many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to gather information about what most people do or think about something

commission – v. to order or request (something) to be made or done

newsfeed – n. An electronic transmission of news, as from a broadcaster or an Internet newsgroup

online – adj. connected to a computer or the internet

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2016年9月27日 (火)


堀江貴文さんの大学の一部である、物販グループが企画、 販売しているソフトスーツケース「Carryco with me」が話題になっています。


話題のソフトスーツケース「Carryco with me」 誕生秘話が満載です。
これからは、ハードタイプのスーツケースよりも、ソフトスーツケース「Carryco with me」が主流となるのではないでしょうか。

堀江貴文イノベーション大学校の物販グループが企画、 販売しているソフトスーツケース「Carryco with me」の製作秘話が公開!!


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Pマーク 取得は、まさに、先手必勝ということができます。

ユーピーエフ 「助成金を活用しプライバシーマークを費用をかけずに取得するノウハウセミナー」を開催 名古屋・福岡・仙台で


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Health Experts Warn of Overuse of Antimicrobials

Health Experts Warn of Overuse of Antimicrobials

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

For today’s report, we talk about the dangers, not of an illness, but of medicines -- antimicrobial medicines. Health experts are more and more concerned about the overuse of antimicrobials. A growing number of bacteria and other disease-causing organisms are developing resistance to these drugs.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says the growing resistance is a threat to people and animals alike.

The FAO recently noted an "increased use and abuse of antimicrobial medicines in both human and animal healthcare." It said their use and abuse has led to a growing number of disease-causing microbes that are resistant to traditional medicines.

FAO officials say this can be seen, for example, in multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. The problem is so serious that U.N. officials called a high-level meeting to consider the dangers of antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance is also called AMR.

But just how widespread is antimicrobial use?

“We don't really know how much of the antimicrobials, including antibiotics, are being used in food and agriculture.”

Juan Lubroth is an expert on animal health. He serves as the Chief Veterinary Officer for the FAO. He says there are many unanswered questions about the manufacturing and marketing of antimicrobial drugs.

“In fact, we don't really know how much is being made. Who is buying? Who is selling? How much is the international traffic, either as drugs ready to be used or the active ingredient inside a drug that is then formulated someplace else?”

Doctor Lubroth says the overuse of antibiotics involves everything: humans, animals and agriculture get caught in what he calls a cycle of disease transmission.

“We can get sick. They can get sick. They can die. They need the antibiotics to be given in a proper way so they can recover. So, it's not only about food and agriculture. It's also about our dogs and cats, our mascots.”

Misuse of antimicrobials includes failing to follow directions and possibly taking someone else’s medicine. Lubroth admits that even he has misused antibiotics.

“Even I'm guilty. My physician may have given me antibiotics to take for the course of a week, seven days, and I stopped at day six. Well, that's bad. That's not good. That's a misuse of the antibiotics.”

Failure to follow directions when taking medicine is one way germs can develop a resistance to a drug.

The FAO says that antimicrobial medicines are critical in the treatment of farm animals and plants. "Their use," it says, "is essential to food security, human well-being and animal welfare."

Lubroth says the Food and Agriculture Organization has developed a four-part action plan for antimicrobial resistance.

“One is to create the awareness among the general public of the issue. Two would be to have the evidence. Have the surveillance in place that I can monitor when the antimicrobial resistance appears, and I report it in a timely fashion...”

The action plan calls for strengthening governmental agencies that deal with public health, food and agriculture. It also calls for sharing of information with each other and with medical experts.

Another part of the plan is to provide support for good practices in food and agricultural systems and the effective use of antimicrobials. Such drugs are often used in small amounts in animal feed to support growth. Once in farm animals, they become part of the food chain.

“I think that the consumers should be empowered to really push their governments or their food providers that they want safe food -- wholesome food. I think we can all agree on that. We may disagree on some of the specifics of how to get there, but I think that the consumer and the voice of the consumer has to be heard.”

Lubroth says "the long-term consequences of not being able to use an antimicrobials because of resistance” would be terrible. He adds that the medicines bring a "global public good to the planet."

I’m Anna Matteo.

Joe DeCapua wrote this report for VOANews.com. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

mascot – n. a person, animal, or object used as a symbol to represent a group (such as a sports team) and to bring good luck

consequence – n. something that happens as a result of a particular action or set of conditions

food chain – n. a series of types of living things in which each one uses the next lower member of the series as a source of food

empowered – v. to give power to (someone)

veterinary – adj. relating to the medical care and treatment of animals

ingredient – n. one of the things that are used to make a food, product, etc.

formulate to create, invent, or produce (something) by careful thought and effort

cycle – n. a recurring series of events: as

transmission – n. the act or process by which something is spread or passed from one person or thing to another

awareness – n. the state of knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists

surveillance – medical n. close and continuous observation or testing

fashion – n. manner or way of doing something

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2016年9月26日 (月)

シリア危機 露には停戦実現の責任がある

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Russia responsible for prevailing on Syrian govt to honor ceasefire
シリア危機 露には停戦実現の責任がある

A ceasefire in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s administration and rebel forces is on the brink of collapse just one week after the agreement, mediated by the United States and Russia, took effect. This is a serious situation.

The Assad administration, which is supported by Russia, unilaterally announced the end of the truce and resumed an offensive, claiming that its foes did not observe the agreement. The announcement was apparently prompted in part by suspicions that the United States had bombed Syrian government forces by mistake following the ceasefire.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that a convoy carrying food and medicine was attacked from the air on the outskirts of Aleppo, northern Syria. The attack forced the United Nations to suspend aid shipments.

Roads leading to some sections of Aleppo remain sealed off as government forces besiege them, and hundreds of thousands of residents are isolated and facing air raids and starvation. Didn’t the United States and Russia hurry to reach a ceasefire so as to deliver aid supplies safely and avert a humanitarian crisis?

The United Nations and other parties concerned naturally condemned the airstrike, describing it as a “flagrant violation” of international law. The United States and Russia have engaged in a mud-slinging battle, with Washington claiming the attack was carried out by Russian or Syrian government aircraft and calling for the perpetrators to be held responsible, while Moscow denied culpability.

The two countries also played a leading role in bringing about a truce in February, which lasted only a few months. The Assad administration and rebel groups were supposed to hold peace talks to establish a transitional government by August, but the plan fell through.

Don’t maintain status quo

The United States aims at ousting the Assad administration as quickly as possible and forming a new government. Ending the Syrian civil war, which has continued for five years, would allow the international community to focus on defeating the Islamic State of the Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militant group. It also would serve to help resolve the refugee crisis. We consider this a reasonable approach.

However, Russia’s stance poses a problem.

It places top priority on maintaining the Assad administration, which has been said to have used chemical weapons, and seizing the initiative on the Syrian situation from the United States. Moscow intervened militarily in Syria a year ago on the pretext of eradicating ISIL, and it has carried out airstrikes and other attacks to help government forces come from behind and take the offensive.

Russia has the responsibility and influence to press government forces to observe the ceasefire. It is not acceptable for Moscow to try to maintain the status quo by exploiting the fact that U.S. President Barack Obama has only four months left before leaving office.

Syria faces an increasingly complex situation in its civil war. Neighboring Turkey has sent tanks across the common border in an effort to prevent the forces of the Kurdish minority, which Ankara regards as a foe, from expanding the areas it controls. An Iranian contingent, meanwhile, is also helping government forces in the civil war. These countries should exercise self-restraint.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan would provide about $1.13 billion in aid for residents in Syria and its neighbors. We hope that Japan will continue its efforts to establish conditions to resolve the Syria crisis by making nonmilitary contributions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2016)

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2016年9月25日 (日)

難民と世界 もっと支援に本腰を

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 23
EDITORIAL: Japan must step up commitment to assisting the world’s refugees
(社説)難民と世界 もっと支援に本腰を

Imagine that half of all Japanese were driven from their homes--that comparison could be one way to help envisage the sheer extent of the crisis.

The number of forcibly displaced people around the world has reached 65 million, a record high after World War II.

Apart from refugees fleeing from persecution and war, there is also a rapid spread in the flow of migrants moving to other countries in quest of better lives.

A summit was held recently at the United Nations to seek international cooperation on measures to deal with this urgent issue.

The outflow of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries, which are embroiled in civil wars with no end in sight, is particularly serious. The global community must strengthen their efforts to achieve cease-fires and, at the same time, turn their attention before anything else to nations adjacent to those countries, which are suffering under the burden of hosting the refugees.

Lebanon has accepted more than 1 million Syrian refugees, whereas 2.5 million people have taken shelter in Turkey. These and other countries are giving out silent screams saying that they cannot sustain more.

It stands to reason that a declaration, which was unanimously adopted at the summit, referred explicitly to a “more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility.” In this age, wherein people migrate on a global scale, the issue of refugees and migrants has direct consequences for politics and the economy of the world. The burden should be shared by the entire international community, irrespective of the distance from conflict zones.

How, then, should respective countries share it? The fact that no specific figures or deadlines were included in the declaration has left a major task unfinished.

In the backdrop of the indecisive attitude is a rise in exclusionary sentiment, which is derived from a fear of terrorism and anxiety about jobs being snatched away. Politicians and political parties that make similar arguments are gaining momentum in recent years in Western countries.

But that sort of exclusionist reproach is often an act of shifting the blame on others by exploiting the anger of the public toward a broad array of social problems, including wealth disparity. In the long run, refugees and migrants have brought no small benefit and vitality to their host countries.

Representatives of managers’ and workers’ groups said during the summit conference that accepting migrants and refugees in an orderly manner invigorates the economy. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has also pointed out that doing so has a positive long-term impact on the economy. National governments should properly explain to their respective public about that positive aspect of accepting refugees and migrants.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during the summit that Japan will provide about 280 billion yen ($2.8 billion) in a package to assist host countries and accept 150 Syrian students.

But there is no change in the fact that Japan is accepting significantly fewer refugees than many other countries, a reality that is drawing international criticism.

A growing number of businesses are hiring refugees, and an increasing number of individuals are making donations to groups assisting refugees, in Japan in recent years.

The government of Japan should also broaden its range of actions and open its doors more boldly to the rest of the world in aspiring to be a country that sufficiently fulfills its responsibilities.

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2016年9月24日 (土)

日米国連演説 連携して対北制裁を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan, U.S. must join forces to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea
日米国連演説 連携して対北制裁を強化せよ

What should be done about the North Korean threat, which has entered a new phase? Japan and the United States should cooperate closely and utilize the United Nations effectively.

Addressing a U.N. General Assembly session, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, saying: “The threat has now reached a dimension altogether different from what has transpired until now. We must thwart North Korea’s plans.”

North Korea has carried out two nuclear tests and launched more than 20 ballistic missiles so far this year. Some of them landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

“It is purely a matter of good fortune that no commercial aircraft or ships suffered any damage during this incident,” Abe said. This comment is right on the money.

Pyongyang has repeatedly disregarded the sanctions resolutions adopted against it by the U.N. Security Council. Abe stressed, “The raison d’etre of the United Nations is now truly being tested.” To force North Korea to abandon its ambition of possessing nuclear weapons, imposing tougher sanctions is indispensable.

Abe exchanged views with U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Theresa May — leaders of two of the five permanent members of the Security Council — among others. It is of no small significance that Abe has won the cooperation of leaders of these countries to work toward adopting a new resolution on sanctions against North Korea.

The key to adopting a new resolution and ensuring the effectiveness of sanctions is how China, which is passive about additional sanctions, will respond. It is important for Japan, together with the United States and other countries, to press Beijing to join the effort to constrain North Korea.

Pressure on China key

The 60th anniversary of Japan’s U.N. membership is in December. Japan is currently serving as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council for the 11th time, more than any other U.N. member. Japan’s financial contributions to the United Nations exceed $20 billion.

Japan must fulfill its role in tackling the latest North Korean action also from the viewpoint of realizing Security Council reforms and becoming, along with others, a permanent member of that body.

In his final U.N. address as U.S. president, Obama also emphasized the need for applying pressure on Pyongyang, saying: “When North Korea tests a bomb that endangers all of us.”

We cannot overlook the fact that four of five North Korean nuclear tests were conducted while Obama was president of the United States. It is painfully regrettable that his administration failed to apply sufficient pressure on Beijing to rigorously impose sanctions. This eventually led to North Korea making progress in its nuclear and missile development program.

With China’s self-serving expansion of its maritime activities and Russia’s intervention into the affairs of Ukraine in mind, Obama expressed a sense of alarm, saying: “Powerful nations contest the constraints placed on them by international law.”

Reflecting on the war in Iraq waged by the previous Bush administration, Obama’s diplomacy has attached more importance to international collaboration. The Obama administration has achieved results by reinforcing its alliance with two Asian allies — Japan and South Korea. But its influence in the Middle East and vis-a-vis China and Russia has undeniably declined.

While the United States has given up its conventional role as the “world’s policeman,” in which it actively intervened in international disputes, moves to change the status quo by force have intensified. This, in one respect, has led to the emergence of extremist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Doesn’t Obama feel regret about such a development?

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 23, 2016)

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2016年9月23日 (金)

黒田日銀の転換 あの約束は何だったか

September 22, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: BOJ' new policy phase highlights failure of monetary easing experiment
黒田日銀の転換 あの約束は何だったか

The Bank of Japan (BOJ) comprehensively reviewed its large-scale monetary easing policy, which it carried out under the leadership of Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda, and announced a new framework for its bond-buying program to keep the yield of the bellwether 10-year Japanese government debt at around zero percent.

Roughly 3 1/2 years have passed since the BOJ began quantitative and qualitative easing of its monetary grip as the "first arrow" of the Abenomics economic policy mix promoted by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, the fact that the BOJ has been forced to review the policy and change its framework clearly demonstrates that the policy has reached a deadlock.

At a news conference, the BOJ would not admit that its policy has failed. Gov. Kuroda categorically denied that the central bank had been forced to change the policy framework due to limits of its monetary policy.


The BOJ even praised the achievements it has made through its monetary easing policy saying, "Over that period (when the policy was implemented), the situation surrounding Japan's economy and consumer prices greatly improved, and Japan has overcome deflation in that consumer prices no longer keep declining."

The central bank claimed that Japan's failure to achieve its target of an annual inflation rate of 2 percent over the space of about two years is attributable to a sharp drop in crude oil prices, a consumption tax increase from 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014, the slowdown of emerging countries' economies, and Japanese people's unique views on consumer prices. The BOJ thus denied that the failure was a result of problems involving the central bank's ultra-easy money policy.

When the BOJ announced at a news conference on April 4, 2013 that it would launch an ultra-easy money policy, Gov. Kuroda showed off panels bearing "2 percent," and "2 years," and appeared confident of the credit easing policy it had just approved.  時計の針を2013年4月4日に戻してみよう。

Kuroda emphasized that the central bank's new policy was different from its past policies on three points. Firstly, the BOJ stated a target year for achieving 2 percent inflation. Secondly, the central bank not only verbally promised to achieve the goal but also took unprecedented action to purchase a massive amount of government bonds in an attempt to convince the public that consumer prices would rise. Thirdly, the BOJ pledged to avoid implementing small-scale additional measures bit by bit.

The central bank governor declared at the time, "We've adopted all measures that are necessary now to achieve the goal of a 2 percent annual inflation within two years."

Deputy Gov. Kikuo Iwata, who joined the central bank simultaneously with Kuroda, even stated that he would step down if the central bank failed to achieve the inflation target within two years. He later retracted his statement saying, "I meant that I must place priority on fulfilling my accountability."

The BOJ had initially stated that the 2 percent target could be achieved if the central bank drastically increased the volume of money it supplied to the market. Yet the target has not been reached.

The BOJ postponed the target date for achieving an inflation rate of 2 percent whenever it announced its outlook for consumer prices in each quarter. In October 2014, the central bank drastically increased the amount of money it supplied, but remained far from being able to achieve the inflation target.

In reviewing its policy, the BOJ cited the effects of the consumption tax increase in 2014 and the slowdown of other countries' economies as the reasons why the target had not been achieved. But BOJ executives are experts in monetary policy. They cannot make excuses by saying these factors were beyond the scope of their assumptions.

True, crude oil prices plummeted more sharply than had been widely predicted. In reviewing its policy, the BOJ said that Japanese people's predictions of future consumer prices are largely affected by the actual fluctuation in consumer prices that is going on. The central bank pointed out that prolonged deflation as well as labor-management negotiations on pay raises during the so-called spring labor offensive, which are unique to Japan, have made the Japanese economy more susceptible to short-term consumer price declines. However, these are nothing but excuses and attempts to shift the blame.

The BOJ's new framework and its dumping of the two-year deadline for achieving its target represents a great transformation in its policies, from one placing emphasis on the amount of money supplied to the market to one that places more importance on interest rates.

The BOJ has also been forced to modify its negative interest policy, which it introduced in February this year, because critics have pointed out numerous problems, such as a decrease in financial institutions' profits, and difficulties that public pension funds and others face in investing money over the long term to gain stable yields.


Under the previous framework, market players expected the BOJ to further relax its monetary grip whenever it became certain the central bank would postpone the target year for achieving a 2 percent inflation rate. The central bank's monetary policy thus became a major matter of concern for market players. The framework change will likely rectify the situation.

Still, questions remain as to whether the BOJ can control not only short-term interest rates but also long-term interest rates governing yields on 10-year government bonds to attain levels which the central bank regards as desirable. Long-term interest rates should be determined by the market. The rates can sound an alarm over the government's irresponsible use of taxpayers' money. Monetary policy that restricts such a function of long-term interest rates deserves criticism as excessive market intervention by the central bank.

Needless to say, what now must be brought up is the question of responsibility for failure of the experiment, which the BOJ began on its promise to achieve a 2 percent inflation rate within about two years.

The BOJ has amassed over 450 trillion yen worth of assets. This includes government bonds whose prices could plummet in the future and investment trust funds. And the amount is expected to increase. It is a matter that could affect the credibility of the yen.

How to normalize the bond market, which has been distorted because it has relied on the BOJ's massive purchase of government bonds, will pose a serious challenge. If the annual inflation rate is stabilized at over 2 percent, the BOJ will need to decrease the amount of government bonds it buys on a step-by-step basis.

However, if the BOJ hints at its intention to withdraw from the bond market as a major buyer, it could cause market prices of government bonds to sharply decrease and long-term interest rates to spike.

To prevent such a situation, the central bank would have to keep buying government bonds, even though this could generate an economic bubble or cause the economy to overheat.

As such, the central bank will face difficulty in seeking a way out of the policy of buying a massive volume of government bonds.

The BOJ is not solely to blame for the ultra-easy money policy that has left serious problems for Japan's future.

The responsibility of the government, which relied on the "first arrow" of Abenomics, should also be called into question.

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2016年9月22日 (木)

温暖化対策 取り組みを加速せよ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 20
EDITORIAL: Japan should speed efforts to join fight against global warming
(社説)温暖化対策 取り組みを加速せよ

The world’s fight against global warming is picking up steam.

Japan should respond and ramp up its own efforts in both the public and private sectors to help tackle the challenge.

First of all, Japan should ratify the Paris Agreement, a landmark international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2020.

The new climate accord is now on track to become operational as early as by the end of the year.

Early this month, the United States and China, the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, announced they will ratify the Paris Agreement. Their actions have greatly improved the prospect of the agreement taking effect quickly.

Even after the new climate deal was adopted during the United Nations conference on climate change in December, the Japanese government has shown little enthusiasm for revitalizing its faltering efforts to stem climate change.

Betting that the pact would take effect around 2018, the government apparently opted to wait and see the moves of big emitters before deciding on its response.

The Kyoto Protocol, an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions negotiated in 1997 with Japan playing a pivotal role, required only industrialized nations to achieve their emissions targets and put no limits on the amount of gas that China, a developing country, can spew into the atmosphere. The United States later withdrew from the agreement.

The Japanese business community criticized the Kyoto Protocol as unfair. The March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami has further blunted public interest in measures to stem global warming in Japan.

However, the international community has become increasingly concerned about the expected consequences of rising global temperatures. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that the United States and China have abandoned their previous reluctance and made a solid commitment to tackling the challenge.

That’s because it has become even clearer that human activities are the principal causes of the warming of this planet, which is believed by many scientists to be causing an increasing number of extreme weather events such as severe heat waves and destructive torrential rains.

Japan has submitted to the United Nations its own emissions target in relation to the Paris Agreement. It has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from fiscal 2013 levels by fiscal 2030.

In the Ise-Shima Group of Seven summit held in May in Japan, the leaders of the seven major countries committed themselves to developing before 2020 long-term strategies for achieving economic growth while curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

But debate on such a strategy has just started at a government council.

The panel needs to consider a range of new ideas and proposals that would significantly affect society and industry. They include carbon pricing, which means charging for carbon emissions by businesses offering products and services so that the costs of dealing with the problem are reflected in the price tags.
Another potentially effective approach is using land under plans integrating environmental, economic and local development factors.

Nuclear power generation, which emits less greenhouse gases during operations than thermal power production burning fossil fuels, is often cited as an effective means to cut emissions.

However, given the enormous cost and difficulty of disposing of radioactive waste and the vast damage caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, relying on nuclear power generation should not be an option.

To reduce its carbon footprint, Japan needs to expand the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power and geothermal energy, while making all-out efforts to curb energy consumption. It will also help to use the heat generated from plants and buildings for supplying air conditioning and hot water in the local communities.

Such efforts toward higher energy self-efficiency and energy recycling will also contribute to the nation’s security, promote technological innovations and suit urban development projects.

The challenge facing the government is to map out an innovative strategy to ensure the implementation of effective policy measures to combat global warming while encouraging businesses, local governments and citizens to make long-term efforts to secure the health of the planet.

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2016年9月21日 (水)

尖閣諸島警備 海保の増強で中国の侵入防げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Beef up JCG to deter China’s entry into waters around Senkaku Islands
尖閣諸島警備 海保の増強で中国の侵入防げ

China’s self-serving maritime expansion should not become a fait accompli. It is imperative to strategically reinforce the Japan Coast Guard’s surveillance posture.

Intrusions by China Coast Guard vessels into Japanese territorial waters and the contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands have continued. Despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s call for self-restraint during a Sept. 5 bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, four Chinese government vessels entered Japanese territorial waters on Sept. 11.

This is regarded by some people as a spiteful response to Japan’s demand that Beijing abide by international law in resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea. If this is the case, China’s actions must be regarded as totally misdirected and cannot be ignored.

Navigation by Chinese government vessels through the contiguous zone has become routine since Japan’s nationalization of the Senkakus in September 2012. In August this year, up to 15 government vessels and 200 to 300 fishing boats appeared in the zone at one time. Since December last year, the number of vessels equipped with what appeared to be machine guns has increased.

Crew members from Chinese government vessels have repeatedly been confirmed to have boarded Chinese fishing boats in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. This indicates that on-the-spot inspections of the fishing boats, among other activities, were carried out by the Chinese authorities based on Chinese law.

Chinese fishing boats are permitted to operate in Japan’s EEZ under the Japan-China fishery agreement. But the Chinese government is not empowered under international law to exercise its jurisdiction in regard to fishing in this zone.

Constant vigilance vital

To prevent such actions from becoming faits accomplis, JCG patrol boats must monitor the moves of Chinese government vessels constantly and issue immediate and adequate warnings.

To prevent accidental clashes and illegal landings by fishermen and other Chinese, it is essential that the JCG ensures numerical superiority in the number of its patrol boats compared to its Chinese counterpart.

As things stand now, the JCG’s capabilities are not necessarily sufficient.

This spring, the JCG established a full-time surveillance system involving 12 patrol boats to safeguard the waters around the Senkakus. This was based on the assumption that they would only have to keep an eye on about five Chinese government vessels. In the event that there are more Chinese government vessels, the JCG receives help from patrol boats dispatched from around Japan.

The China Coast Guard has tripled the number of its large patrol boats to 120 in the past three years. The number will be reached to 135 in 2019.

The number of large JCG patrol boats totals only 62. The government appropriated ¥39 billion in the second supplementary budget for fiscal 2016 to build three new patrol boats. This number needs to be increased systematically.

It is essential to increase JCG personnel. At present it has a workforce of 13,500, an increase of about 800 since the nationalization of the Senkakus. Reemployment of former JCG personnel has made progress. It takes several years to train coast guard crew members. Necessary steps must be taken as soon as possible to improve the situation in the future.

To avert an emergency, it is also important to establish a communication channel with the Chinese authorities concerned.

Last year, the JCG and its Chinese counterpart established a contact point in each other’s organization, but this function is not being used. It is necessary to hold talks between the two organizations tenaciously.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 20, 2016)Speech

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2016年9月20日 (火)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡 「親のせい」で片付かない /東京

September 4, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The sins of the son are not the sins of the mom
香山リカのココロの万華鏡  「親のせい」で片付かない /東京

Recently, a 22-year-old actor was arrested on suspicion of rape. The victim was apparently badly injured in the assault. This incident is, in a word, unforgiveable.

This young actor has a famous actress for a mother, who appears frequently in drama series and on variety shows. The suspected rapist was often referred to as "that actress' son" in his professional life. In that way, you could say that he was not entirely separate from his mother, and so perhaps it's unavoidable that some people would wonder what she would do after her son's arrest for such a terrible crime.

What she did was hold a news conference, bow very, very low before the assembled reporters, and apologize.

Obviously shocked and despairing, she appeared thin and haggard as she faced the glare of the cameras. It was painful to watch. And then came the questions, quick and sharp as arrows, demanding to know about how she had raised her son.

"I intended to do the very best that I could in my own way, but I think now that the way I raised him didn't go well," she said. I suspect that a lot of people saw this and wondered how far a parent's responsibility extends when it comes to the problems of their children.

Parents naturally have an idea of what kind of people they want their children to be, and convey to them the ideas and rules of the household. However, no matter how much a parent thinks of their daughter or son as "my child," they are in fact separate human beings. It's impossible for any parent to completely control the thoughts and emotions of their child. It's also not something a parent should try to do. What's more, it's impossible for parents to police their kids' actions at every moment.

Occasionally, parents with children who have developed serious problems come to my practice for help. In cases where the child is still quite young, up to about junior high school age, I often counsel that aspects of children's behavior change depending on how parents deal with them, and help the parents with that. For parents of kids in high school or beyond, however, I tell them, "It's difficult to help unless your child comes here in person." Behind this insistence is my belief that once a child reaches the latter half of their teens, their individual character, ideas and opinions should be respected.

Of course, parents and children will always be family, so it's not out of the question for a mother to stand before the public and apologize for the alleged deeds of a son who is now detained and incapable of doing so himself. However, I think it is wrong to demand she admit responsibility, based in the way she raised and supervised her now adult child.

It's a beautiful thing to see parents and children pooling their efforts and helping each other out. However, for people to immediately point the finger at parents and say "It's their fault" as soon as someone causes a problem is good for no one, parent or child. In this recent case, too, I would like to see the man who committed the crime be judged and punished severely. And I'd like to see his mother continue her acting career in much the same way it was before all this happened.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist) (精神科医)

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2016年9月19日 (月)

辺野古判決 それでも対話しかない

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 17
EDITORIAL: Tokyo’s hollow court victory will not end base issue in Okinawa
(社説)辺野古判決 それでも対話しかない
The high court ruling in a lawsuit over land reclamation work to relocate a U.S. military base in Okinawa Prefecture was a total victory for the central government’s argument.

Even so, the government must make determined efforts to win back the trust of Okinawa or it will never be able to find a real solution to the problem.

The Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court issued its ruling Sept. 16 on Tokyo’s dispute with the southernmost prefecture over a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the crowded city of Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago.

The ruling contended that a replacement base in Henoko is the only way to remove the damage caused by the Futenma air base. This is a highly questionable assertion.

This is a delicate and complicated issue that has a long history of controversy. Experts at home and abroad are widely divided over how the problem should be resolved.

But Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga was the only witness the court permitted to testify on behalf of the prefecture. The court rejected the prefectural government’s requests to call witnesses and concluded the trial after only two sessions.

How could the court reach its surprisingly clear and decisive conclusion on this complex question through such a perfunctory trial? Or why did it have to, in the first place? Setting aside the question of whether the ruling is reasonable or not, the manner in which the court handled the case will undoubtedly provoke controversy.

Since this spring, the central and prefectural governments held a series of talks over the Futenma relocation issue. But no substantial discussions on key topics had taken place in the talks when the central government, immediately after the July Upper House election, filed the suit against Onaga.

The ruling stressed the importance of “the spirit of mutual concessions” and pointed out that there should be “a relationship of equality and cooperation” between the central and prefectural governments.
Nevertheless, it effectively supported the central government’s hard-line, high-handed approach toward the Futenma issue.

In a series of recent elections, people in Okinawa have made clear their opposition to the relocation plan.

During a news conference after the ruling was handed down, Onaga said he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. He pledged to accept whatever decision is handed down by the top court.
The governor, however, said, “I myself will continue the fight to block the construction of a new base in Henoko with a firm determination.”

Onaga intends to use his various powers as governor to block implementation of the relocation project. He has the power to refuse the central government’s requests for permission for changes in land reclamation plans.

Both sides apparently share the desire to remove the danger posed by the Futenma base, located in the middle of a densely populated area, as soon as possible.

The quickest way to resolve the problem is to make continuous efforts to reach an agreement through dialogue instead of fighting a head-on battle.

However, the series of strong-arm measures the central government has taken against Okinawa since the Upper House election have made people in the prefecture even more distrustful of the government.

The government has resumed work to build helipads for the U.S. military around the Takae district of Higashi in northern Okinawa, while deploying a massive squad of riot police to block protesters. The administration has also deployed Self-Defense Forces helicopters to transport construction vehicles to the site.

Commenting on budget requests for next fiscal year, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and other government officials indicated that government expenditures to promote the local economy in Okinawa are linked to the base issue.

The reality the government should confront is that it is difficult to push through the Futenma relocation plan without winning support from the people in Okinawa. The lack of support from the local communities will also make it impossible to ensure stable operations of military bases in the prefecture.

If the central government maintains its recalcitrant attitude toward this challenge without making serious efforts to respond sincerely to the voices of local residents, the prospects for a solution will only become even bleaker.

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2016年9月18日 (日)

日米防衛相会談 北の脅威に共同対処を強めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bolster Japan-U.S. joint actions to cope with North Korean threats
日米防衛相会談 北の脅威に共同対処を強めよ

It is essential for Tokyo and Washington to establish a closer cooperation system for conducting joint operations flexibly and expeditiously amid the increasingly severe security environment around Japan.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada met with her U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter in Washington to discuss security issues. Regarding North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, Inada and Carter agreed they pose “grave threats to the national security of both Japan and the United States.”

North Korea has been pushing its nuclear weapons program with the aim of completing and deploying missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. It is necessary to seriously recognize that North Korea’s nuclear miniaturization technology and missile firing accuracy have improved considerably after the repeated tests and launches.

Carter reaffirmed the United States’ nuclear deterrence for the defense of Japan. This can be regarded as enhancing the deterrence against Pyongyang’s provocations.

It is imperative for the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military to steadily expand their range of information sharing and joint warning and surveillance activities. We suggest the encirclement around North Korea be strengthened by making greater efforts to conduct multilateral military exercises and promote defense cooperation with countries including South Korea, Australia and India, in addition to Japan and the United States.

With regard to the frequent intrusion of Chinese government vessels into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, Inada said it amounted to an “infringement of Japan’s sovereignty,” so “is absolutely intolerable.”

Carter reaffirmed that the Senkakus fall under Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and expressed opposition to China’s unilateral action. This is very significant.

Strengthen encirclement

Regarding China’s militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea, Inada and Carter shared the view that it amounts to an act that heightens regional tensions and is a matter of concern for the international community.

Beijing has not changed its stance of disregarding an arbitration court ruling in July that invalidated Chinese sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. Any attempt to change the status quo by force and to make it a fait accompli cannot be allowed. Both Japan and the United States should continue assisting coastal nations of the South China Sea to enhance their maritime security capabilities through the provision of patrol boats and fostering personnel.

At a lecture in Washington, Inada strongly endorsed the patrol activities of U.S. military vessels around the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea. She also mentioned a plan for Japan to increase its engagement there, including through joint naval exercises with the U.S. military.

To prompt China to exercise self-restraint in expanding its maritime advances backed by military force, it is imperative for not only the United States but also Japan and other relevant countries to work together actively and apply pressure on China.

Concerning the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station, Inada reassured Carter the Japanese government’s position that “the relocation to the Henoko district is the only solution” is unchanged. She called for U.S. cooperation in tackling the issue of moving Osprey transport aircraft training sites outside Okinawa Prefecture. Carter took a forward-looking stance toward her request.

To ensure the continued and smooth stationing of U.S. troops in Japan — the bedrock of the bilateral alliance — the two countries must make greater efforts to reduce the burden on Okinawa.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 17, 2016)

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2016年9月17日 (土)

(社説)もんじゅ 政府は廃炉を決断せよ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 15
EDITORIAL: Monju has run its course and should now be scrapped
(社説)もんじゅ 政府は廃炉を決断せよ
The government is assessing what to do about the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor, with one option being to decommission the trouble-prone facility.

It should decide swiftly to scrap the experimental reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.

Monju has remained mostly idle for the past two decades or so. Restarting it would be hugely expensive. Putting the necessary safety measures in place would require an outlay of hundreds of billions of yen. The obvious solution is staring the government in the face.

Monju was designed to underpin a nuclear fuel recycling program in which plutonium extracted from reprocessed spent nuclear fuel is burned in a fast-breeder reactor. The ability to generate more fissile material than is consumed was regarded as “dream” technology.

But Monju has been mostly offline since a sodium coolant leak accident in 1995.

In 2012, it was revealed that safety maintenance checks had missed about 10,000 pieces of equipment. In response, the Nuclear Regulation Authority halted preparations to bring the reactor back online. It urged the science and technology minister last November to find a new operator for the reactor in place of the government-backed Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

The science and technology ministry has apparently been weighing plans to separate the Monju-related section from the agency and put the unit in charge of maintenance and management of the reactor.
But that would do nothing but change the name of the operator. No wonder this idea has been met with skepticism and criticism within the government.

No one in the electric power industry, which would be the primary beneficiary of the fast-breeder reactor if it ever went into practical use, is calling for early development of the technology.

That’s not surprising, given that producing the necessary fuel and developing the technology to use sodium would require a huge investment in time and money.

The power industry, meanwhile, has been pushing to restart ordinary nuclear reactors, partly because uranium is now easily available and cheap.

With liberalization of the power market making their business environment much harsher, the private-sector companies have every reason to be reluctant to cheer for the Monju program.

The ministry appears to be trying to persuade the electric utilities and related manufacturers to become part of the new Monju operator. But it has been a hard sell.

More than 1 trillion yen ($9.7 billion) has been poured into the development and operation of Monju.

The power industry and other private-sector players provided around 140 billion yen to cover a portion of the construction costs. But the rest of the funding for the beleaguered program has come from the pockets of taxpayers.

The fast-breeder reactor requires 20 billion yen in annual maintenance costs. The government can hardly expect to win public support for such a massive drain in taxpayer money when there is little prospect of the technology coming into practical use.

Research on fast reactor technology and radioactive waste can be accomplished--as long as safety is ensured--by using other existing facilities like the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture.

It is difficult to secure sufficient human resources for a plan that doesn’t seem to have a viable future. There are also concerns about technology and information management and accident prevention efforts for Monju.

The troubled history of Monju clearly argues against keeping the program alive.

The establishment of a nuclear fuel recycling program itself is becoming a dead letter, and the government needs to reconsider this policy goal from scratch.

As for Monju, there is no doubt that decommissioning the reactor is the only rational choice.

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もんじゅ 政府は廃炉を決断せよ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 15
EDITORIAL: Monju has run its course and should now be scrapped
(社説)もんじゅ 政府は廃炉を決断せよ
The government is assessing what to do about the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor, with one option being to decommission the trouble-prone facility.

It should decide swiftly to scrap the experimental reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.

Monju has remained mostly idle for the past two decades or so. Restarting it would be hugely expensive. Putting the necessary safety measures in place would require an outlay of hundreds of billions of yen. The obvious solution is staring the government in the face.

Monju was designed to underpin a nuclear fuel recycling program in which plutonium extracted from reprocessed spent nuclear fuel is burned in a fast-breeder reactor. The ability to generate more fissile material than is consumed was regarded as “dream” technology.

But Monju has been mostly offline since a sodium coolant leak accident in 1995.

In 2012, it was revealed that safety maintenance checks had missed about 10,000 pieces of equipment. In response, the Nuclear Regulation Authority halted preparations to bring the reactor back online. It urged the science and technology minister last November to find a new operator for the reactor in place of the government-backed Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

The science and technology ministry has apparently been weighing plans to separate the Monju-related section from the agency and put the unit in charge of maintenance and management of the reactor.
But that would do nothing but change the name of the operator. No wonder this idea has been met with skepticism and criticism within the government.

No one in the electric power industry, which would be the primary beneficiary of the fast-breeder reactor if it ever went into practical use, is calling for early development of the technology.

That’s not surprising, given that producing the necessary fuel and developing the technology to use sodium would require a huge investment in time and money.

The power industry, meanwhile, has been pushing to restart ordinary nuclear reactors, partly because uranium is now easily available and cheap.

With liberalization of the power market making their business environment much harsher, the private-sector companies have every reason to be reluctant to cheer for the Monju program.

The ministry appears to be trying to persuade the electric utilities and related manufacturers to become part of the new Monju operator. But it has been a hard sell.

More than 1 trillion yen ($9.7 billion) has been poured into the development and operation of Monju.

The power industry and other private-sector players provided around 140 billion yen to cover a portion of the construction costs. But the rest of the funding for the beleaguered program has come from the pockets of taxpayers.

The fast-breeder reactor requires 20 billion yen in annual maintenance costs. The government can hardly expect to win public support for such a massive drain in taxpayer money when there is little prospect of the technology coming into practical use.

Research on fast reactor technology and radioactive waste can be accomplished--as long as safety is ensured--by using other existing facilities like the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture.

It is difficult to secure sufficient human resources for a plan that doesn’t seem to have a viable future. There are also concerns about technology and information management and accident prevention efforts for Monju.

The troubled history of Monju clearly argues against keeping the program alive.

The establishment of a nuclear fuel recycling program itself is becoming a dead letter, and the government needs to reconsider this policy goal from scratch.

As for Monju, there is no doubt that decommissioning the reactor is the only rational choice.

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2016年9月16日 (金)

北ミサイル対策 敵基地攻撃能力も検討したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
To cope with North Korean missiles, discuss SDF’s strike capabilities
北ミサイル対策 敵基地攻撃能力も検討したい

The threat of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and missiles has entered a new dimension. Japan needs to build up its defense system commensurate with the increased threat.

Committees of both houses of the Diet adopted resolutions denouncing the latest nuclear test by North Korea as a “direct threat to the safety of this country.”

North Korea has rapidly been improving its nuclear and missile technologies, conducting two nuclear tests and firing more than 20 ballistic missiles this year alone. It is necessary to prepare for such a contingency as Pyongyang’s deploying missiles mounted with nuclear warheads.

Japan’s missile defense system comprises two tiers of preparedness: Standard Missile 3 (SM3) interceptors carried by four Aegis vessels and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC3) surface-to-air guided missiles. The government plans to increase the number of Aegis vessels to eight, while also introducing next-generation interceptor missiles.

Reinforcement of the missile defense structure is important. However, if Japan were attacked by a large number of missiles simultaneously, it would be impossible to bring down all the missiles.

To secure its safety, Japan should not rule out the option of the Self-Defense Forces acquiring the capability to attack enemy bases. Under the Constitution, attacks on enemy bases are allowed as self-defense measures if there is an imminent danger of a missile launch.

U.S. cooperation essential

Presently, the SDF serves as a “shield,” engaged only in defense, while U.S. forces serve as a “pike” for retaliatory attacks. U.S. forces, including the U.S. 7th Fleet, maintain a large number of missiles capable of directly attacking North Korea. The SDF supplementing part of the U.S. military’s striking power would enhance the deterrence power of the Japan-U.S. alliance.

In 2013, the government discussed the possibility of acquiring the capability to attack enemy bases. The new National Defense Program Guidelines stipulate that the government will continue to study “a potential form of response capability” to deal with ballistic missiles.

Envisaged means of attack include a cruise missile system guided with the Global Positioning System to strike targets and F-35 stealth fighter jets.

Cruise missiles attacking enemy bases from a distance are considered to entail little human risk and low cost. On the other hand, targets must be inputted in advance to guide missiles, making it difficult for the cruise missile system to strike Rodong and other missiles that can be launched from mobile launching pads.

F-35s that would enter enemy airspace are capable of attacking such mobile targets. But because this would entail the risks of breaking through the enemy’s air defense system, it is vital to have an air force unit that includes support fighter jets, electronic warfare planes and airborne refueling aircraft. This would entail a sizable expense.

It is important to discuss optimal measures by studying both the strong and weak points of each means of attack and considering the cost-effectiveness of each.

Needless to say, it is unrealistic for the SDF to attack enemy bases single-handedly. The cooperation of the U.S. military for such activities as intelligence gathering and detecting potential targets is essential. The important thing is to reexamine the roles to be shared by the SDF and the U.S. military, based strictly on the assumption of close cooperation between Japan and the United States.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2016)

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2016年9月15日 (木)

蓮舫氏の台湾籍 「二重国籍」への認識が甘い

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Renho’s lack of awareness regarding ‘dual nationality’ problematic
蓮舫氏の台湾籍 「二重国籍」への認識が甘い

It is nothing but a sorry state of affairs that a Diet member failed to correctly understand her own nationality.

Renho, acting leader of the opposition Democratic Party, admitted at a press conference Tuesday that she retains Taiwan citizenship. Taiwan is her father’s birthplace.

Until that day, Renho had explained that she had renounced her Taiwan citizenship when she obtained Japanese citizenship in January 1985. After she filed her candidacy for the DP leadership election, it was pointed out that she may have dual citizenship. She then reportedly had the Taiwan side check whether she still possessed Taiwan citizenship, and it turned out she did.

It has transpired that Renho let this abnormal state of affairs go uncorrected for more than 30 years. “I have caused various sorts of confusion because of my inaccurate memory,” she said in apology. Renho said she would retake the procedures to renounce her Taiwan citizenship. This response, however, came too late.

The Japanese government does not allow “dual nationality.” The Nationality Law stipulates that a Japanese national with dual nationality must choose one, in principle, before they reach 22 years of age.

Although there is no provision excluding people with a foreign nationality from becoming a Diet member, they are prohibited from being appointed as diplomatic officials. It is out of the question for a legislator — who is supposed to serve the interests of the nation, including in foreign affairs and national security — to leave their own nationality obscure.

Renho said that at 17 she undertook procedures to renounce her Taiwan citizenship at Taiwan’s de facto embassy, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan. She failed to confirm that the procedures were completed. Renho, who also failed to confirm this when she ran in the 2004 House of Councillors election, has such little understanding of what it means to be a politician that her quality as one will be put into question.

Flip-flopping explanations

Although Taiwan is friendly toward Japan, it is in conflict with the Japanese standpoint regarding some issues, for instance, its ownership claims on the Senkaku Islands. If Renho retains her Taiwan citizenship, she could become the target of undesirable suspicions regarding her relations with Taiwan.

That Renho’s explanations have been inconsistent is not to be overlooked.

Initially, she asserted that she “had renounced Taiwan citizenship.” She even showed displeasure, saying: “It is very sad that the rumors are making their rounds.” Later, however, the age she said she took the procedures changed from 18 to 17. An interview carried in a magazine about 20 years ago came to light in which she referred to possessing Taiwan citizenship.

Some have also pointed out that the description she made on an official list of the details of electoral candidates for the upper house election ran counter to the Public Offices Election Law. Her description said she “became naturalized from Taiwan citizenship.”

Saying that “there is no illegality,” Renho emphasized that she will not withdraw her candidacy in the DP leadership election. She must further clarify all the facts and be accountable.

DP leader Katsuya Okada said, “It would be extremely unsound if the recent commotion partly stems from such a way of thinking as, it is inappropriate because her father is from Taiwan.”

That such a twisted interpretation can be heard within the party, whereby criticism toward Renho could be taken as a form of racial discrimination, is hard to understand. What is being considered as problematic lies absolutely with the fact that Renho failed to take necessary procedures in accordance with the law.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 14, 2016)

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2016年9月14日 (水)

香港議会選 習氏の圧力が「反中派」生んだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Xi’s increasing pressure spawns ‘anti-China forces’ in Hong Kong
香港議会選 習氏の圧力が「反中派」生んだ

The heavy-handed posture of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration appears to have led to the rise of “anti-China” forces in Hong Kong.

Continuing progress in democratization and political reforms is essential to maintaining Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, rather than reinforcing a clampdown.

In the recent elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, newly emerging, anti-Beijing forces making such radical calls as “independence” from China have made headway.

For the 70-member legislature, 35 candidates are directly elected by voters, while the remainder are chosen through functional constituencies, mainly those representing particular professions or trades.

The newly emerging forces, which made a strong showing in direct voting, and the pro-democracy camp won a combined total of 30 seats, more than one-third of the seats needed to vote down important bills. The pro-Beijing camp managed to retain a majority, but won fewer seats than in previous elections.

In 2014, student-led demonstrators calling for democracy staged sit-ins on roads. It can be said the latest elections indicate that the Hong Kong people are increasing their watchfulness against China’s ever-growing influence, even after the demonstrations were resolved peacefully.

The newly emerging groups are led by young people, including a former student leader of the demonstration, and those “localists” who, in opposition to China’s political interference, put Hong Kong’s interests first as they consider the territory their “motherland.” Among localists, some even approve of the use of violence.

China has granted Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” formula. The problem is that autonomy has increasingly become a mere formality.

Anxieties will increase

The Electoral Affairs Commission of Hong Kong took such high-handed measures as pressing candidates to sign a declaration that they agree to the principle that “Hong Kong is part of China” and disqualifying some localists from running.

When five Hong Kong booksellers and other people dealing with publications critical of the Chinese Communist Party disappeared one after another, it was regarded as an instance of “rule by force.” Deep suspicions remain that the Chinese authorities had removed them from Hong Kong, where they had no right to investigate, and detained them in China.

Without a convincing explanation, it is inevitable for Hong Kong people to grow more anxious about their future.

In June last year, a bill designed to elect the next chief executive of Hong Kong through “universal suffrage” was rejected by a majority of pro-democracy lawmakers. Although the bill was aimed at directly electing the chief executive through a one-man, one-vote formula, it was a system under which only pro-Beijing candidates could declare candidacy. This proposed method was naturally rejected as “phony universal suffrage.”

Regarding the outcome of the latest elections, the Xi administration released a statement saying that Beijing would “resolutely oppose any form of Hong Kong independence activities inside or outside the legislature.” It appears that the Xi administration intends to drive a wedge between the pro-democracy camp and newly emerging forces, and stop them from joining hands.

It would not be implausible for localists and other groups to become offended by Beijing’s hard-line posture and become increasingly antagonistic to Hong Kong authorities.

What Xi should do is respect Hong Kong’s autonomy and win the trust of the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 13, 2016)

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2016年9月 9日 (金)

日比首脳会談 中国の海洋権益拡大に警戒を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan, Philippines must stay watchful over China’s maritime expansion
日比首脳会談 中国の海洋権益拡大に警戒を

Countries concerned should take concerted action and strengthen their cooperation over how to handle China’s continuing self-serving maritime advances.

In Laos, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has held his first talks with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and unveiled a plan to provide two 90-meter patrol vessels to Manila. The vessels will be constructed in Japan, financed through yen loans totaling up to about ¥16.4 billion and delivered to the Philippine Coast Guard.

The poor maritime security capabilities of nations facing the South China Sea have allowed China to unilaterally establish a military foothold in the region. Duterte expressed gratitude for the new ships, saying they would enable the Philippines to strengthen its patrols and boost its presence in the area.

Japan also is providing 10 40-meter patrol boats to the Philippines. Combined with these larger vessels, which are capable of traveling long distances, they should be effective in keeping China in check to a certain extent.

During the Abe-Duterte talks, Japan formally decided to lend up to five of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s TC-90 training aircraft to the Philippines. Japan will also help train the flight crews and maintain the aircraft, which will be useful in disaster relief operations and transporting supplies. We hope this support will be expanded in the future.

During the meeting, Duterte said the ruling handed down by an arbitration court that rejected China’s claims over the South China Sea should be respected. However, Duterte also said he was willing to have talks with China.

Scarborough Shoal a concern

It is said that China has refused to recognize the ruling and wants to bring about an advantageous agreement through bilateral negotiations with the Philippines. If Manila easily yields concessions on this issue, China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, and the militarization of those islands, could become an accomplished fact.

Establishing the rule of law in the South China Sea will benefit the entire international community. The Philippines needs to work closely with Japan, the United States and other nations with a stake in this issue.

It is worrying that China has dispatched dredging vessels and other equipment near Scarborough Shoal, which is close to the Philippines. There are fears China might start reclamation work around the shoal and construct an artificial island.

If China installs radar installations and builds a runway on the shoal, the range of its fighter jets would grow to cover the entire South China Sea. It also could lead to the establishment of an air defense identification zone.

It was regrettable that a bilateral meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Duterte was canceled after Duterte insulted Obama with an offensive remark.

Strained U.S.-Philippine ties will only benefit China. We hope they quickly normalize relations.

Duterte’s foreign policies have yet to become clear, and a new administration will soon take office in the United States. It appears China is aiming to expand its maritime interests during this period.

The Obama administration has warned China that it will take unprecedentedly tough steps if China starts building an artificial island at Scarborough Shoal. To more effectively urge China to exercise self-restraint, it is important that the international community — not just the United States — shows unity and speaks up about this issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2016)

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2016年9月 8日 (木)

日中首脳会談 関係改善には緊張緩和が要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun
First ease tension to start improving bilateral ties between Japan and China
日中首脳会談 関係改善には緊張緩和が要る

For all the differences in what both sides assert, it is essential for Japan and China to make efforts to build trust through constructive dialogue.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Hangzhou, China, on Monday and both agreed to work to improve ties between the two countries. It was their third bilateral talk and the first since April 2015.

Abe and Xi also agreed that the two countries will accelerate discussions on soon putting into operation a “maritime and air liaison mechanism” aimed at preventing accidental clashes between the Self-Defense Forces and Chinese forces in the East China Sea.

Included among the mechanism’s main pillars are establishing a hotline between the Japanese and Chinese defense authorities, and enabling naval vessels and aircraft of both countries to communicate directly on site if they get close to each other.

There was a series of incidents around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture in June, in which Chinese military vessels sailed in the contiguous zone around the islands and its military aircraft flew close by.

To avoid any untoward incident, the defense authorities of both countries should put the finishing touches on the talks so as to hurry the launch of the mechanism’s operations.

Regarding such incidents as Chinese government vessels entering Japan’s territorial waters, Abe said they would be construed as “actions that will unilaterally escalate tension,” rightly calling on China to improve the situation.

Take concrete action

Xi responded by saying that the two countries should “properly handle the issue via dialogue and consultation.” But it would only be reasonable for China to first restrain itself in terms of deeds. To fully mend the bilateral relations between Japan and China, it is vital to ease tension.

During the talks, Abe and Xi also agreed that the two countries will hold discussions on resuming negotiations on the joint development of gas fields in the East China Sea.

China has been developing the fields unilaterally, reneging on a 2008 bilateral accord. The accord must be carried out sincerely.

Referring to China’s moves to militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea, Abe urged China to abide by the international law and make efforts to dispel concern among neighboring countries.

It is unacceptable that Xi hit back against Abe’s call by saying, “Japan should exercise prudence in its words and deeds.” Ensuring the safety of sea lanes is a common benefit to the international community.

During the talks, Abe brought up the issue of North Korea firing three ballistic missiles into waters off the coast of Hokkaido. He called on Xi to cooperate in “taking concrete steps against North Korea’s repeated provocations.”

China, which is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has a certain amount of influence on North Korea. China fulfilling its responsibilities could constitute a step forward in the bilateral cooperation between Japan and China.

China has suffered a series of diplomatic setbacks in its foreign policy lately: a ruling by the court of arbitration categorically dismissed Beijing’s claim of sovereignty in the South China Sea; and its relations with South Korea have deteriorated.

The success of the summit of the Group of 20 major economies, which Xi chaired, was a challenge vital for China to recover its own prestige.

Some believe that after the end of the G-20 summit talks, China will take a more hard-line stance in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea. Wouldn’t it be to China’s advantage to contribute to the stability of Asia, rather than intensify friction with its neighboring countries?

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2016)

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2016年9月 7日 (水)

G20首脳宣言 中国の「有言実行」が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China being tested over whether it will actually live up to G-20 accords
G20首脳宣言 中国の「有言実行」が問われる

It is essential to raise the growth potential of the global economy by steadily promoting structural reform and free trade, thereby putting the global economy on a sustainable recovery path.

The Group of 20 major economies wrapped up its summit meeting Monday after holding a two-day session in Hangzhou, China.

In a communique issued after the summit, the G-20 leaders warn that global growth is weaker than anticipated and that downside risks exist. The communique also mentions that all three policy tools of monetary and fiscal policies, and structural reform must be used separately or collectively.

Given Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and the decline in the prices of resources, both advanced and emerging economies lack the power to serve as an engine for global economic growth.

The G-20 communique adhered to the agreements reached at the Ise-Shima Summit of the Group of Seven advanced nations hosted by Japan in May. It is highly significant that the G-20 economies, including emerging and oil-producing countries with different economic powers, have shared common views on the global economy.

The crucial point is for all G-20 countries to play their role.

During the G-20 summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was important for all the countries to demonstrate their commitment through concrete action. It was natural for him to make such a statement.

The key to reinvigorating the global economy is likely to be promotion of structural reforms to enhance productivity and boost growth.

Japan has announced plans to reform ways of working, including correcting long working practices and realizing equal pay for equal work. Fulfillment of the Abenomics economic policy package will lead to realization of the G-20 agreements.

Key structural issue

The communique took up excessive production of steel and other products as a serious structural problem for the first time.

The overproduction issue was triggered by China, which has kept protecting loss-making state-owned companies. There have been rampant increases in the number of these so-called zombie firms, which have actually gone bankrupt but have continued to be supported by the Chinese authorities, posing a risk to the global economy.

It was agreed during the summit to set up an international framework to promote information-sharing in a bid to resolve the overproduction issue. Because China served as the host nation to work out the agreement, China will be required to carry out its commitments in deed.

As for free trade, which is indispensable to economic expansion, the G-20 agreed to reject all forms of protectionism.

In the United States, both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees have expressed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework. In emerging economies, import restrictions to protect their domestic industries have been invoked one after another.

Signatories to the TPP agreement, including Japan and the United States, must promote early ratification of the accord while emerging economies must exercise self-restraint on excessive import restrictions. Each G-20 nation must work toward advancing free trade.

A questionable point is that China guided G-20 discussions into concentrating on economic issues in a bid to avoid discussions over the South China Sea, where it has been building military strongholds. If China remains indifferent to regional stability, it is doubtful whether the country will fulfill its commitment to economic cooperation, too.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 6, 2016)

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2016年9月 6日 (火)

米中首脳会談 アジア安定に心残りはないか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Do Obama, Xi regret their summit talks didn’t do much for Asian stability?
米中首脳会談 アジア安定に心残りはないか

Given that both sides seemingly went to pains to give the appearance of getting along while putting aside pending questions over China’s high-handed maritime advances, this cannot be described as a relationship between responsible major powers.

U.S. President Barack Obama has held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Group of 20 major and emerging economies.

This was the first time Obama and Xi have met since a ruling by an arbitration court completely rejected China’s territorial claims over much of the South China Sea. Obama stressed that the “principles of international law” must be upheld and called on China to abide by the court’s ruling.

It is unacceptable that Xi insisted China would “firmly continue to protect its sovereignty and maritime rights” in the South China Sea. Beijing has called on Washington to play a “constructive role” in dealing with this issue, but it is China that is raising tensions in the region and challenging the U.S.-led order there.

It was unfortunate that this last chance for Obama to draw out a compromise from China before his term ends in January 2017 failed to produce a positive result.

Obama has avoided a sharp split in U.S.-China ties and has pushed a conciliatory approach that placed emphasis on expanding cooperation. This strategy was dependent on a positive change from China, but we think Obama ended up being viewed by Xi as merely an “opponent who is easily taken advantage of.”

U.S. must stand up to China

Xi has broken a promise he made last year that China had no intention of boosting the militarization of manmade islands in the South China Sea, and has accelerated the building of runways and radar installations on the islands. The prospect of China establishing an air defense identification zone is becoming a reality.

China probably intends to complete the creation of this military foothold while the Obama administration is still in office. Among the nations affected by these developments, there is growing dissatisfaction that the U.S. response has always been a step behind.

The United States must stand at the forefront of efforts to maintain stability in the South China Sea and strengthen the pressure being applied on China. It is essential that patrol activities conducted by U.S. military vessels and aircraft are stepped up around the manmade islands.

Xi’s announcement that he opposes the planned deployment of the United States’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea also cannot be overlooked.

North Korea is continuing its dangerous provocations, including testing a submarine-launched ballistic missile. Deploying THAAD is an urgent task. China must adopt a tougher stance toward North Korea and ensure sanctions against Pyongyang are thoroughly enforced.

Before the Obama-Xi talks, the leaders announced both nations had ratified the Paris Agreement, the international framework for measures to combat global warming from 2020. This collaboration by the world’s two largest emitters is a significant step toward the agreement coming into force before the end of this year.

There was no change in Xi’s assertions on human rights issues and Chinese cyber-attacks on U.S. companies and other entities, two issues of concern for the United States.

It seems progress can be expected only in fields where it will be to China’s advantage.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 5, 2016)

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2016年9月 5日 (月)

日露首脳会談 大統領来日で「領土」は動くか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Can Putin’s visit to Japan help move N. territories issue forward?
日露首脳会談 大統領来日で「領土」は動くか

Will Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan serve as the first step in moving forward with the northern territories issue, which has remained unsettled for as long as the 71 years since World War II ended?

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, and the two leaders officially agreed to meet in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Dec. 15. They also agreed to hold talks in Peru in November on the sidelines of an international conference.

“I was able to find a specific approach to move the negotiations forward,” Abe said following the talks with Putin. “I sensed a solid response.” Having held talks as many as 14 times so far, the two leaders have obviously built a certain relationship of trust.

There is strong opposition in Russia to the return of the four northern islands. The waters around them hold military significance as part of the Pacific route, and Russian forces have increased the number of soldiers stationed there. Therefore, we cannot have an optimistic view about the territorial negotiations.

We believe that no one but Putin, the most powerful figure in Russia, can make such a significant decision as returning the territories. It is understandable that Abe aims to settle the issue using a top-down approach while holding frequent talks with his Russian counterpart.

The prime minister apparently had a similar aim when he delivered a speech in Vladivostok calling for talks with Putin to be held once a year.

Leading up to Putin’s visit to Japan, the government should make every effort in the preliminary negotiations so this precious opportunity — the first visit by a Russian president in about six years — can give momentum to the northern territories issue.

During the latest talks, Abe and Putin reconfirmed that their countries will hold territorial negotiations using a “new approach,” without sticking to conventional ideas. Japan’s basic strategy is that it will look for clues to settle the issue while improving bilateral cooperation in various fields to move Japan-Russia relations forward as a whole and from a future-oriented standpoint.

Don’t be hasty

Abe also discussed the current situation in the eight areas of economic cooperation Japan has presented, including energy and development in Russia’s Far Eastern region. The prime minister said that Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko has been named to concurrently serve as minister for economic cooperation with Russia, and a council comprising of government and private-sector entities will also be established.

Russia has great hopes for Japan because it has been suffering a sluggish economy hit by falling oil prices and other factors. We believe Japan also can enjoy advantages, such as securing natural resources and gaining profits from investment in Russia, depending on the extent to which bilateral cooperation develops.

However, Japan should never be hasty, because the history of bilateral relations shows that the northern territories issue has always been left behind while only bilateral economic cooperation was put forward. The government should scrutinize what is included in projects when promoting cooperation with Russia.

It is also important for the two countries to work together in the security field. The Japanese and Russian foreign ministries held talks on the issue in early July. We hope they make sure to continue strategic dialogues.

A serious rift remains, with Russia on one side and the United States and European countries on the other, over Russia’s activities in Ukraine and Syria. Japan should refrain from disrupting cooperation among the Group of Seven major powers in terms of economic sanctions against Russia.

The U.S. government is taking a calm stance regarding Putin’s visit to Japan, saying it is “not concerned or worried.” Japan should continue its efforts to provide the United States and European countries with extensive explanations on its relations with Russia to seek their understanding.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2016)

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2016年9月 3日 (土)

JOC報告書 納得にはほど遠い

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 3
EDITORIAL: Report on probe into Tokyo’s Olympic bid far from convincing
(社説)JOC報告書 納得にはほど遠い

The Japanese Olympic Committee obviously faced some tough challenges in its investigation into the Tokyo Olympic bid committee’s dubious cash payments to a consulting company. But that doesn’t justify the JOC’s failure to produce a convincing report on the matter.
The JOC’s investigative team on Sept. 1 published a report on its probe into the bid committee’s payments totaling 230 million yen ($2,2 million) to a Singapore-based consulting firm.
It said the cash payments were not illegal and that the bid committee had no intention of resorting to bribery or other illegal acts.

But the report failed to make clear how the money paid by the bid committee was actually used. The investigative team contacted a number of foreign figures suspected to be linked to the consulting company. They included Lamine Diack, a former International Association of Athletics Federation president who was then a member of the International Olympic Committee. Diak was in a position to influence the vote to decide the host.
His son Papa Massata Diack, who had close ties with the consulting firm, is also under the spotlight. But neither of them offered to cooperate with the JOC for the investigation, according to the report.

The conclusion of the inquiry team was based almost entirely on remarks made by Japanese officials involved. It is far from a clear and complete picture of what transpired.

Since French prosecutors have also been looking into the matter, new developments could arise.

The probe has shed some light on the opaque nature of people who work as "consultants" in the international sports arena as well as on the bid committee’s slipshod approach to selecting consultants it hires.

Senior officials of the bid committee had no independent information about the Singapore-based firm. The committee paid a large amount of money to the company it knew little or nothing about based on the advice of Dentsu Inc., Japan’s leading ad agency, which has been involved in marketing operations in the international sports community.

The bid committee for the 2020 Olympics hired 11 consulting companies, including the Singapore-based one. The committee that represented Tokyo’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Summer Games, which were granted to Rio de Janeiro, struck deals with some 30 consulting businesses.

There are no market rates for fees to be paid to such companies, and deals are often done at the prices asked by the firms. The Japanese bid committee for the 2020 Games paid more than 1.1 billion yen in consulting fees.

Only a small number of senior officials of the committee were aware of what roles the consultancies were playing and the kind of work in which they were engaged.

The ways bidding cities contact with IOC members are limited, which make it virtually impossible for a city to host Olympics without the help of consultants. Even so, senior officials of the bid committee are at least responsible for making careful and conscientious decisions on whether the service offered by a specific consultancy is worth the cost.

As a first step in the reform of bids for Olympics, the IOC, starting with the 2024 Games, will require bidding cities to register the consultants they hire and disclose the information about the consultants working for the cities. In addition, the IOC has also decided to require consultants to declare they will abide by the rules concerning Olympic bids.

Many questions have been raised about the huge costs involved in trying to host the Olympics and actually holding the events.

Still, there’s high level of social interest in the Olympics, with people around the world eagerly awaiting these events.

Currently, the race to host the Olympics is determined to a large extent by people working behind the scenes.

If this situation continues, the Olympics will eventually lose their luster.

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2016年9月 2日 (金)

予算概算要求 危機感の乏しさを憂う

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 31
EDITORIAL: Government still ignoring Japan's fiscal woes at budget time
(社説)予算概算要求 危機感の乏しさを憂う

In early August, the government set its basic policy concerning budget requests from government ministries and agencies, based on which the nation's fiscal 2017 budget will be compiled.
"We will thoroughly review policy priorities, do everything to eliminate wasteful spending and boldly focus on the substance of the budget," the government declared.

But for all these brave words, we are appalled by the government's apparent lack of awareness of the dire, unprecedented fiscal straits confronting the nation.

Aug. 31 is the final day for government ministries and agencies to make their fiscal 2017 budget requests.
For the third consecutive year, their total budget requests topped 100 trillion yen ($970.57 billion).

This can be attributed largely to the government's decision not to set a ceiling on budget requests and allow some budget requests to exceed the initial fiscal 2016 budget figures by nearly 20 percent.

Obviously, not all requests are going to be met. They will be screened and trimmed by the Finance Ministry.

Still, given the nation's serious fiscal problems, all budget requests should have been made in keeping with the government's basic policy, which went to the effect that every government ministry and agency "must thoroughly review and evaluate the performance results, efficiency and efficacy of its existing projects before submitting its budget request."

But how did individual ministries and agencies proceed?

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism requested more than 6 trillion-plus yen for public works projects, up 16 percent from the initial fiscal 2016 budget.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's request topped 1.4 trillion yen, including a special account budget, up 9 percent from fiscal 2016.

But the Reconstruction Agency, whose reconstruction projects in areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 have already peaked, requested a smaller budget than for fiscal 2016.
Still, most government ministries and agencies seem intent on maximizing their chances of securing as much funding as possible by requesting as much as they could.

Against this backdrop, what attracted our attention was the budget sought by the Cabinet Office for promoting Okinawa's development. The requested amount of 321 billion yen was 14 billion yen less than in the initial fiscal 2016 budget.

Some people claim this reduction is meant to "restrain" Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, with whom the central government has been at odds over the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district in Nago.

Dismissing this allegation out of hand, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stressed, "When compiling a budget, it is only natural to make constant efforts to ensure the implementation of effective policies by reviewing various expenditures as needed. And the budget for Okinawa's development is no exception."

If we are to take Suga's words at face value, then we must ask: Have all government ministries and agencies made such "constant efforts" in regard to their budget requests?

Before the government started accepting budget requests for fiscal 2017, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year. With the additional issuance of construction bonds worth upwards of 2.7 trillion yen to fund more public works projects, the total came close to 3.3 trillion yen.

This is the same old pattern of using supplementary budgets as a "loophole" for spending more on items similar to those in the initial budget and letting the expenditures bloat.

One thing is certain. So long as the government continues with this sort of fiscal management, the nation's fiscal health faces a long battle for recovery.

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2016年9月 1日 (木)


内野株式会社 が開発に成功した驚異の繊維マシュマロガーゼ で、子供たちから高齢者に至るまで、熟睡にいざなってくれます。




ブログで口コミプロモーションならレビューブログ   レビューブログからの情報です

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サバ漁国際規制 資源が枯渇してからでは遅い

The Yomiuri Shimbun
It will be too late to take steps after key fishery resources are depleted
サバ漁国際規制 資源が枯渇してからでは遅い

Even familiar fish could become luxury foods beyond the reach of ordinary people if their stocks are depleted. Japan must take a leading role in international management of fishery resources.

The North Pacific Fisheries Commission, whose six members include Japan, China and South Korea, has reached an agreement on a recommendation not to increase the number of mackerel vessels on the high seas in the northern Pacific Ocean.

It is the first international agreement on the protection of mackerel resources. Controlling the number of fishing boats was left to voluntary efforts of each country and region. The Japanese government considers the agreement to be equivalent to “standing at the minimum starting line.” Ensuring that the decision will be effective is a challenge.

The domestic catch of mackerel exceeded 1.6 million tons in 1978, but dramatically decreased to 250,000 tons in 1991. After that, the mackerel catch was restricted with the aim of protecting stocks. Currently, the fish haul remains at about 500,000 tons a year, mainly in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The number of Chinese mackerel boats operating in international waters adjacent to the EEZ is rapidly increasing. This number increased from 20 in 2014 to at least 80 in 2015, based on reports. The 2015 fish haul increased five times to more than 130,000 tons compared with that of the previous year.

At the commission meeting held in Tokyo this time, Japan urged the other members to make it mandatory to limit the number of fishing vessels out of a sense of urgency that if the number of Chinese boats continues to increase at its recent rate, the fishery resources could be depleted again.

Resource survey essential

However, China rejected Japan’s request, saying that the restriction should not be strengthened because it is unclear if the quantity of the resources is decreasing. In the end, the meeting did not adopt a mandatory restriction.

To have China recognize the significance of the restriction, it is important for Japan to play a central role in swiftly proceeding with a fact-finding survey on the volume of stocks, which the participants in the meeting agreed to conduct, and provide scientific data.

Against the background of diversifying dietary behaviors and the development of fisheries in China and other countries, there is a growing threat to the sustainability of fishery resources consumed mainly by Japan.

The commission, launched under the leadership of Japan last year, made it mandatory not to increase the number of sanma saury fishing boats.

Concerning Pacific bluefin tuna, additional restrictive measures to be taken in case immature fish rapidly decrease are an immediate challenge. The catch of immature fish has already been restricted. An international conference is being held in Fukuoka to discuss concrete rules on the issue and conditions for implementing restrictions.

Japan, as a major fishery country, has the responsibility to conduct sustainable fishing by taking such actions as first determining the volume of stocks and then protecting against overfishing of immature fish. It is vital to maintain a balance between the protection of various resources and the promotion of fisheries.

Large-scale fishing methods, such as trawling and longline fishing, which collaterally catch species on top of the targeted ones, also are considered problematic. We hope Japan will take a leading role in changing these fishing methods to ones that will minimize the adverse influence on the ecosystem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2016)

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