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17日 (土)

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 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8月26日 (金)

日中韓会談 協力の重み自覚して

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 25
EDITORIAL: Despite tussles, Japan, S. Korea, China must learn to cooperate
(社説)日中韓会談 協力の重み自覚して

Although the current mood among Japan, China and South Korea is not totally positive, the foreign ministers of the three countries held talks in Tokyo on Aug. 24.

Such meetings among the top diplomats of the three countries should play a vital role in stability and development in Northeast Asia.
We welcome the fact that this important meeting took place again this year following the one held last year.

Disputes tend to immediately strain relations between two countries. But the two countries locked in a diplomatic row may feel comfortable attending a meeting involving a third nation.
This smart formula should be used effectively for three-way relationships. A meeting among the leaders of the three countries should also be held by the end of the year.

Unlike last year, when perceptions about history took center stage, tensions this year have grown over national security issues.

One security issue straining relations between Japan and China are the disputes over islands in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

The number of Chinese government vessels entering areas around the Senkaku Islands has increased sharply this month. China has continued sending ships into Japanese waters around the islands despite Tokyo’s repeated protests.
China’s actions run counter to a bilateral agreement struck in 2014 to “prevent the deterioration of the situation through dialogue.”

Another security issue creating tensions in the region lies between China and South Korea.

In response to the decision by Seoul and U.S. forces stationed in South Korea to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in the country, China has taken steps that appear to be reprisals, such as canceling some cultural exchange events.

Behind all these issues are internal political factors that make it hard for the countries to make concessions. The tussles also reflect the intensifying tug of war between the United States and China in the Asia-Pacific region.

The factors creating friction among Japan, China and South Korea will continue rocking their diplomatic relations. That makes it all the more important for the three countries to hold regular meetings of their leaders and ministers.

Despite their disagreements over certain issues, the three countries face a raft of challenges they should tackle in a cooperative manner.

The biggest challenge is the security threat posed by North Korea. The country fired a missile from a submarine on Aug. 24 that reached Japan’s air defense identification zone.

In a natural response to the missile firing, the foreign ministers of the three countries agreed to demand that North Korea stop such provocative acts.

In particular, China, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council with close ties to North Korea, should use its influence to put pressure on Pyongyang.

It is also a pity there has been little progress in creating a framework for economic cooperation among the three countries, such as a trilateral free trade agreement.

Given the combined economic weight of the three countries, which together account for 20 percent of the world economy, they should do more to find a formula to expand their economic cooperation.

Earlier this month, a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel rescued crew members of a Chinese fishing boat that sank after a collision with a Greek freighter off the Senkaku Islands.

The episode drove home the reality that situations requiring cooperation from the two neighboring countries facing the same sea can arise at any time.

The three countries are bound by the undeniable need for cooperation over not only rescue operations at sea but also environmental problems and disaster responses.
They should continue steady efforts to expand and enhance their cooperative relationships.

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2016年8月21日 (日)

核先制不使用 首相はオバマ氏に力を

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 19
EDITORIAL: Abe should be backing Obama’s ‘no first use’ nuclear proposal
(社説)核先制不使用 首相はオバマ氏に力を

The nuclear “no first use” principle means a country will not use nuclear weapons unless it is first attacked by an enemy using nuclear arms.

U.S. President Barack Obama is said to be considering adopting this policy. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has conveyed his opposition to such a move to Adm. Harry Harris Jr., head of the U.S. Pacific Command, according to a recent report by The Washington Post.

The report said Abe expressed concerns that if Obama declares a “no first use” policy, deterrence against North Korea will suffer and the risks of conflict will rise.

The Japanese government has made no official comment on the report, and it is not clear if Abe really made these remarks.

The Japanese government’s traditional position has been that it cannot support the “no first use” policy because it would undermine deterrence of the nuclear umbrella.

Talking to The Asahi Shimbun about the report, a senior Foreign Ministry official said: “If the U.S. administration declares no first use of nuclear weapons, there can be no extended deterrence provided by the United States to protect Japan. That’s not going to happen.”

For Japan, which once suffered nuclear devastation, this stance is too backward-looking to take.

There can be no winner or loser in a nuclear war.

And the risk of nuclear warfare cannot be eliminated as long as nations depend on nuclear deterrence for their security.

A major nuclear power’s attempt to reduce the role of nuclear arms in national security is a boost to efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation.

A harsh assessment of the security environment is necessary. But many experts argue that conventional weapons of the U.S. military offer sufficient deterrence against North Korea and other countries.

In his speech in Hiroshima three months ago, Obama said, “We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them (nuclear weapons).”

Abe, who stood beside Obama in Hiroshima, should cooperate actively with the president in his bid to promote the policy of “no first use.”

In addition to Japan, South Korea, which is also protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and two nuclear powers--Britain and France--have communicated their concerns about the change in the U.S. nuclear-weapons policy, according to The Washington Post.

On the other hand, a group of former government officials of Asia-Pacific countries, including former Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, recently released a joint statement calling on the Obama administration to pledge never to be the first to use nuclear weapons and urging Japan and other U.S. allies to support the policy.

Japan, which has first-hand experiences of the ravages of nuclear attacks, should never take action that hinders any global trend toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Japan’s foreign policy should be focused on efforts to realize a security system not dependent on the nuclear umbrella. Tokyo should declare its will to pursue that goal and hold serious negotiations with Washington to achieve it.

Such efforts would enhance Japan’s moral position and contribute to stability and peace in the region.

In Hiroshima, Abe pledged to “continue to make efforts” to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

Abe needs to offer a clear vision and take concrete actions to deliver on his promise.

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2016年8月13日 (土)

北朝鮮の挑発 周辺国は対立に陥るな

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 12
EDITORIAL: Rift among neighboring countries only benefits N. Korea
(社説)北朝鮮の挑発 周辺国は対立に陥るな
North Korea has continued firing missiles, including a intermediate-range ballistic missile without warning last week.
The missile, believed to have been a Rodong, landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Fortunately, the missile caused no damage. But it was an extremely dangerous act that cannot be overlooked.

North Korea clearly violates resolutions of the United Nations Security Council whenever it fires a ballistic missile. The Security Council discussed how to respond to the latest in a series of missile launches but failed to issue a statement condemning Pyongyang.

Japan, the United States and South Korea lobbied for a fresh statement that strongly denounces North Korea’s action.

But China effectively blocked the attempt apparently because of the decision by Washington and Seoul in July to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to U.S. forces in South Korea. Beijing has bitterly criticized the move because it fears the high-performance radars for the anti-missile system could be used to gather sensitive information within China.

North Korea has repeatedly ignored warnings from the U.N. Security Council. But it is still important for the international community to clearly show that it will never tolerate Pyongyang’s nuclear or missile programs.

The U.N. Security Council, however, has been unable to issue any statement to condemn North Korea’s missile firings since Washington and Seoul announced the deployment of the THAAD system. This can only be called an abnormal situation.

The relationship between China, under President Xi Jinping, and South Korea, under President Park Geun-hye, was once described as being at its best state in history. But the bilateral ties have since become seriously strained.

The souring of relations has already started hurting economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries. China has stopped issuing business visas to South Koreans, for instance.

South Korean media reports have argued that China is making reprisals for Seoul’s decision to allow the U.S. military to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea.
Despite the shaky state of the relationship between China and North Korea, Beijing is still Pyongyang’s biggest ally.

North Korea is undoubtedly gloating over the end of the China-South Korea honeymoon.

Regarding the responses to North Korea’s reckless actions, a rift is widening not just between China and South Korea but also between two groups of countries: the alliance of Tokyo, Washington and Seoul against China and Russia.

The United States and South Korea think the escalation of North Korea’s actions is forcing them to take necessary countermeasures. But China and Russia believe the two countries are using Pyongyang’s behavior as a pretext to beef up their military capabilities.

If the two groups become increasingly alienated from each other, North Korea would be even more willing to take provocative actions.

All these nations should be committed to preventing Pyongyang and its dangerous acts from destabilizing the entire East Asia.

It is vital for the countries involved to act in a cool-headed manner. In particular, China should realize that North Korea is the country it should put pressure on.

The unpredictable behavior of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is forcing the United States and South Korea to ramp up their missile defense.

Washington and Seoul should seek more dialogue with China and Russia to nip seeds of misunderstandings in the bud.

Discord among the countries concerned would only be a boon to North Korea.

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