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首相国連演説

2008-09-30 12:31:47 | 英字速報
(Mainichi Japan) September 29, 2008
Prime Minister Aso needs to consider the weight of his words
社説:麻生外交 発言の重みを自覚すべきだ

Prime Minister Taro Aso delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. He is the first Japanese prime minister to address that body in three years.
 麻生太郎首相が25日(日本時間26日)、ニューヨークでの国連総会で演説した。日本の首相の国連総会出席は3年ぶりのことだ。

There is a reason that Prime Minister Aso chose the U.N. Headquarters as the venue for his first official act as prime minster. The leaders of U.N. member countries deliver speeches there annually around this time of year, but during the past two years, Japan's two previous prime ministers, Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda, stayed away because the timing conflicted with the launch of their own administrations.
 就任したばかりの麻生首相が初仕事の場として国連本部を選んだのにはわけがある。国連では毎年この時期に加盟各国の首脳クラスが一般討論演説を行うが、日本の首相は昨年も一昨年も出席を見合わせた。安倍、福田両政権の発足と時期が重なったためだ。

If Japan's prime minister had missed this opportunity to address the U.N. for three years in a row, even though Japan attaches great importance to that organization, it would have had repercussions for Japan's international stature. This thought probably occurred to Prime Minister Aso, so although it is unusual for a prime minister to address the U.N. before delivering his own policy speech to the Diet, his decision to give priority to the U.N. by working this trip into his schedule was a good one.
 「国連重視」を掲げながら3年続けての首相欠席となれば日本の国際信用にかかわる。麻生首相もそう思ったのだろう。国会での所信表明演説の前に国連で演説するのは異例だが、強行日程をおして国連総会を優先したことは是としたい。

The prime minister gave his speech an Aso color by stating that Japan is committed to growing its own economy in order to contribute to the stability of the global economy.
 演説で麻生首相は、世界経済の安定に向け日本は経済を成長させることによって貢献していきたいとの考えを表明した。麻生カラーを出した部分だ。

He explained that Japan has carried out refueling operations in the Indian Ocean in cooperation with the campaign against terrorism and as part of the effort to assist in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and said that Japan will "continue to proactively participate in unison with the international community in the fight against terrorism."
 テロ対策への協力では、アフガニスタン復興支援の一環としてインド洋での給油活動を行ってきたことを説明し、「今後とも国際社会と一体となりテロとの闘いに積極参画していく」と述べた。

His speech could be interpreted as signaling his resolve to continue the refueling operations. Given that the House of Representatives is expected to be dissolved soon, and that the outcome of the general election is uncertain, there is a possibility that the refueling operations may not be sustained. But even if that were to be the case, the prime minister has made an international pledge to "proactively participate" in the war against terrorism. Japan will have to pursue a policy that takes sufficient account of the importance of this pledge.
 給油活動継続への決意を示したものと受け取れる。早期に予想される衆院解散・総選挙の結果次第で給油継続が不可能になる可能性があるが、そうなっても首相が表明したテロ対策への「積極参画」は国際公約として残る。その重要性を十分に認識して対応していく必要がある。

One thing should be said with regard to the weight that the prime minister's words carry. After his speech, Prime Minister Aso stated, in reference to the Constitution's prohibition against the exercise of the right of collective defense, that it "basically should be changed." He might have thought that he was simply voicing his personal views in response to a question from the press, but this is probably not a topic that should be handled so casually.
 首相発言の重みに関し、ひとこと言っておきたい。麻生首相は演説後、集団的自衛権の行使を禁じた憲法解釈について「基本的に変えるべきものだ」と述べた。記者団に質問されたから持論を述べただけ、と思っているのかもしれないが、それほど軽々しく扱うべき話ではないだろう。

A committee of wisemen inaugurated by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had issued a report on this topic that called for a change in the interpretation of the Constitution, but former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda shelved the report. And even Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has stated politicians "need to settle into their seats to talk over the issue." An issue that affects the foundation of Japan's national security policy needs to be debated in a calm environment.
 この問題では安倍晋三元首相が発足させた政府の有識者会議が憲法解釈の変更を求める報告書を出したが、福田康夫前首相が棚上げにした経緯がある。浜田靖一防衛相も「腰を落ち着けてゆっくり話した方がいい」と言っている。国の安全保障政策の根幹にかかわる問題は冷静な環境のもとで議論されるべきである。

In regard to Japan's diplomacy with its neighbors, Aso said that Japan would make an effort to strengthen its relations with its important partners China and South Korea. We hope that he treats Japan's relations with China and South Korea, which have gotten on track again, with great care and revives the summit diplomacy that involves alternating visits by the leaders of these countries.
 近隣外交について麻生首相は演説で、中国と韓国を重要なパートナーと位置づけ「関係強化に努める」と述べた。首脳往来が復活するなど軌道に乗り出した対中韓関係を大事にしてもらいたい。

Beijing in particular is alarmed by the "arc of freedom and prosperity" policy that Aso set forth while foreign minister, which it sees as a policy intended to contain China. Aso did not touch on this policy in his speech, but he asserted his belief in pursuing a "values diplomacy" that places a priority on building solidarity with countries that share the same basic values. He will need to provide a careful explanation of this point in order to avoid leaving the international community with a mistaken impression.
 首相が外相時代に新機軸として打ち出した「自由と繁栄の弧」構想には、特に中国が「対中包囲網だ」と警戒心を抱いている。演説ではこの構想には触れなかったが、基本的価値を共有する諸国との連帯を重視し、価値観外交を進める考えを表明した。この点については国際社会に誤解を与えないよう、ていねいな説明が必要になる。

毎日新聞 2008年9月27日 0時28分
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所信表明演説

2008-09-30 08:58:38 | 英字新聞
(Sep. 30, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Will Ozawa rise to Aso's challenge?
所信表明演説 小沢民主党代表はどう応じる(9月30日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Taro Aso's first policy speech at the Diet on Monday was unusual in that he deliberately tried to provoke the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest force in the House of Councillors, by asking questions and making requests to it.
 参院第1党の民主党に質問したり要請したり、挑戦的で、異色の所信表明演説である。

Aso demanded the DPJ be prepared to provide answers to the questions he posed when it tries to grill him in the interpellation session. By doing so, Aso apparently aimed to address issues likely to be in the spotlight in the run-up to the anticipated dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election.
 麻生首相は、就任後初の演説で、民主党に対し、自分の「質問」への「答え」を用意して代表質問するよう求めた。衆院解散・総選挙をにらみ、予想される争点について、布石を打つ狙いがあるのだろう。

Aso's speech thus appeared as a challenge to the DPJ that Ichiro Ozawa, the party's president will be unable to completely ignore. Close attention should be paid on how Ozawa will respond.
 まるで、「果たし状」のようだが、小沢代表も、申し入れを全く無視するわけにはいくまい。代表質問で、これにどう応じるのかを注目したい。

Aso first asked whether the DPJ is prepared to establish rules on consensus building.
 首相がまず、ただしたのは、衆参ねじれ状況下の国会で、民主党に合意形成のルールを打ち立てる「用意はあるのか」だった。

In the divided Diet, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda continued to be shaken by the DPJ during the last ordinary session despite showing a cooperative attitude toward the opposition camp.
 福田前首相は、通常国会で、野党との協調姿勢を前面に出しながら、民主党に翻弄(ほんろう)され続けた。

Aso obviously wants to avoid falling into the same trap as Fukuda.
 麻生首相は、前政権の二の舞いは御免、ということだろう。

===

Going on the offensive

Saying that the passage of a supplementary budget and its related bills are an urgent need, Aso pressed the DPJ hard to declare its position on the issue and clarify its stance on the government's plan to create a consumers affairs agency. Aso also suggested that ruling and opposition parties hold talks to coordinate policy.
 「成立は焦眉(しょうび)の急」として、補正予算案とその関連法案に対する賛否や、消費者庁創設への対応を明確化するよう求めた。同時に、与野党協議も呼びかけた。

Regarding the nation's foreign policy and security issues, Aso raised two key questions.
 外交・安全保障分野でも、次の2点を質問した。

First, he asked which the DPJ considers a higher priority: the Japan-U.S. alliance or the United Nations.
 一つは、民主党は日米同盟と国連のどちらを「優先劣後」させようとしているのか、である。

Ozawa has been taking the U.N.-centered approach for a long time. Aso underlined that the nation's top diplomatic priority should be strengthening of the Japan-U.S. security alliance. He also said the nation could not realistically leave its fate entirely up to the United Nations.
 小沢代表は、かねて「国連中心主義」の考え方に立っている。首相は、日本外交が最重視すべきは「日米同盟の強化」であり、「国運をそのまま委ねられない」のが国連の現実だ、と指摘した。

Second, Aso took up the issue of passing a bill to revise the new Antiterrorism Law to continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. Aso pressed the DPJ, asking whether it considers it appropriate for the nation to avoid engaging in activities that are required by the international community.
 その二は、海上自衛隊によるインド洋での給油活動を継続する新テロ対策特別措置法改正案の扱いだ。国際社会で果たすべき活動から逃れて「民主党はそれでもいいと考えているのか」と迫った。

===

Chance of course change

There is the possibility of major policy changes regarding both issues if the DPJ takes power. Ozawa needs to wipe out that concern.
 いずれも、仮に民主党が政権を取った場合、懸念されている問題だ。小沢代表は、これを払拭(ふっしょく)する必要があろう。

Aso referred in the policy speech to the reconstruction of the nation's economy as an issue to be urgently tackled. He said that top priority for the time being should be given to measures to boost the flagging economy. This stance has apparently been announced as a lower house election is in sight.
 演説で首相は、緊急課題として「日本経済の立て直し」を挙げ、当面は、景気対策に最優先で取り組む考えを表明した。衆院選を強く意識したものだ。

On the promised review of the health insurance system for those aged 75 or older, which some observers say is an effort to win votes in the upcoming election, Aso ended up merely saying that he would consider reviewing the system within a year or so. It is quite unclear how the system would be reviewed and what changes would be considered.
 だが、選挙対策との指摘もある後期高齢者医療制度の見直しについては、「1年をめどに必要な見直しを検討する」と述べただけで終わった。これでは、何をどう見直していくのか、全く不明のままではないか。

Since Aso delivered the speech in an unusual manner by asking the opposition's stance on a number of issues, he must answer sincerely during the upcoming interpellation session without dodging the opposition's questions.
 首相は、野党の見解をただすという異例の演説をした以上、代表質問に対しては、野党の追及をかわすことなく、誠実に答弁しなければならない。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2008)
(2008年9月30日02時18分 読売新聞)
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原子力空母配備

2008-09-29 12:54:32 | 英字速報
(Mainichi Japan) September 27, 2008
Japan, U.S. must adopt impeccable safety measures for nuclear carrier deployment
社説:原子力空母配備 「安全」に日米政府は万全策を

The U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington has arrived at its new home port of Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture, the first U.S. nuclear carrier to be deployed to a home port outside the U.S.
 米国の原子力空母ジョージ・ワシントン(GW)が25日、神奈川県の米軍横須賀基地に配備された。原子力空母が米国外を母港とするのは初めてである。

The Navy published a 200-page comic book on the George Washington in April this year, aimed at assuaging the concerns of local residents. The comic book provides descriptions of the interior of the George Washington, its training regimen, and daily life on the aircraft carrier as it cruises from the U.S. to Yokosuka, and its hero is a Japanese-American sailor.
 在日米海軍はGWを紹介する200ページの漫画を作成、地元で配布した。発行は今年4月。日系米国人の新兵を主人公にし、米国から横須賀に向かうGW艦内や訓練の様子、日常生活を描いたもので、原子力空母の配備に対する地元住民の不安を和らげるのが目的のようだ。

In one scene, the hero helps to extinguish a fire on board. The ship did in fact experience a fire off the coast of South America as it was bound for Japan -- but while the comic-book version of the fire had no effect on the vessel's operations, the real George Washington suffered 37 injuries to crew and was forced to undergo repairs, delaying its arrival at Yokosuka for over a month. The cause of the comic-book fire was an overheating washer-dryer, but the cause of the actual fire was more insidious -- a discarded cigarette.
 漫画には、航行中のGWで火災が発生、主人公が消火に活躍する場面もある。
本物のGWは、日本に向けて南米沖を航行中の5月に実際に火災が発生し、37人がけがをした。漫画では航行に影響はなかったが、本物は修理のため横須賀到着が予定より1カ月以上遅れる事態となった。原因も、漫画では洗濯乾燥機の過熱だったが、現実の火災はたばこの投げ捨てという悪質なものだった。

Since small problems and accidents on nuclear-powered vessels can potentially escalate into major crises involving local residents, it's only natural that the fire should have prompted the Japanese and U.S. governments to adopt a framework for preventing and responding to accidents.
 原子力艦船は、小さなトラブルや事故が周辺住民を巻き込む重大事態に発展する可能性がある。火災事故を踏まえ、日米両政府が事故防止と発生に備えた十分な体制をとるのは当然だ。

In laying the groundwork for the deployment of the George Washington, the U.S. presented a fact sheet to the Japanese government in 2006 regarding the safety of nuclear-powered vessels. This document states repeatedly that accident scenarios including leaks of radioactive material are improbable, and adheres to the position that accidents will not happen. It also stresses that past port calls in Japan have never triggered spikes in radiation levels in the environment.
 米国はGW配備を控え、06年に原子力軍艦の安全性に関する「ファクトシート」を日本政府に提示した。この文書は放射性物質の放出などの「事故が起こるシナリオは極めて非現実的」などと繰り返し、事故は起きないという立場に貫かれている。日本への過去の寄港で、環境中の「放射能の増加をまったく引き起こしていない」とも強調している。

But such statements are viewed with a strong dose of skepticism. In May 1968, when the nuclear submarine USS Swordfish called at the port of Sasebo in Nagasaki, a Japanese radiation monitoring boat detected radiation near the submarine 10 to 20 times above normal levels; and after the nuclear submarine USS Honolulu departed from Yokosuka Naval Base in September 2006, cobalt-58 and cobalt-60 were detected in the seas nearby.
 しかし、これを疑問視する声は強い。68年5月、原潜ソードフィッシュが長崎・佐世保港に入港時、日本の放射能監視艇が原潜周辺で通常の10~20倍の放射能を測定した。06年9月には、原潜ホノルルが横須賀基地を出港後、周辺海域でコバルト58とコバルト60が検出された。

In both cases, the U.S. denied that the radiation had any connection to the nuclear submarines, and efforts to get at the truth have been sidetracked. Last month, it was learned that the nuclear submarine USS Houston had also leaked radioactive coolant water when it was docked off White Beach in Okinawa, and when it visited Sasebo Port between June 2006 and July 2008.
いずれも、米国側は原潜との関係を否定し、真相の究明はうやむやになっている。先月には、沖縄・ホワイトビーチ沖に停泊し、佐世保港に寄港した原潜ヒューストンで、06年6月から今年7月にかけて放射性物質を含む冷却水が漏れていたことも判明した。

The Japanese response has been muffled by the U.S. military's wall of secrecy. When a nuclear submarine visited Japan for the first time in 1964, the U.S. government issued a statement declaring that it "would not provide technological information," and not allow "boarding of the submarine for the purpose of acquiring technological information." Japan's Foreign Ministry had no alternative but to rely on U.S. statements when providing information on leaks from the Houston.
 日本側の対応を制約しているのが、米軍の軍事機密の壁である。原潜が初めて日本に寄港した64年、米政府は声明で「技術上の情報を提供しない」し、「技術情報入手の目的で乗船するのを許可しない」と宣言している。ヒューストンの放射能漏れに関する情報も、外務省は米側の連絡をそのまま発表する以外に手だてはなかった。

But in the event of an accident, or if there is suspicion that an accident has occurred, it would be inadequate to simply rely on notices from the U.S. military. The Japanese government should discuss sufficient responses with the U.S. government including boarding of the vessels. Otherwise, the concerns of local residents cannot be sufficiently addressed.
 事故が発生したり、その疑いがある場合には、米軍からの通報だけに頼るのでは不十分である。日本政府は、「立ち入り」を含めた十分な対応を米政府と取り決めるべきだ。そうでなければ、住民の不安に応えることはできない。

毎日新聞 2008年9月26日 0時06分

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中山国交相辞任

2008-09-29 09:58:49 | 英字新聞
(Sep. 29, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nakayama's remarks immoderate, costly
中山国交相辞任 節度を欠いた発言だった(9月29日付・読売社説)

Too much water drowns the miller. Even when expounding one's opinions as a politician, one must not forget one's position as a cabinet member and keep on making remarks beyond the limits of reasonableness.
 過ぎたるはなお及ばざるがごとし、ということだろう。政治家として持論を展開するにしても、閣僚としての立場を忘れて、矩(のり)をこえた発言を連発してはなるまい。

Construction and Transport Minister Nariaki Nakayama resigned Sunday to take responsibility of a series of verbal gaffes, including his description of those who have engaged in years of struggle against the expansion of Narita Airport as "squeaky wheels."
 中山成彬国土交通相が28日、成田空港拡張への反対を「ごね得」などとした一連の発言の責任をとって辞任した。

Nakayama retracted parts of his remarks, but he reiterated, "I've been thinking the Japan Teachers Union should be disbanded."
 中山氏はいったん発言を部分的に撤回した後も、「日教組はぶっ壊す」などと繰り返していた。

The first Diet debates under the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso will start Monday. The opposition parties were unanimous demanding Nakayama's resignation or dismissal. Nakayama's resignation seems to be aimed at minimizing any ill effects on the extraordinary Diet session and the planned House of Representatives election.
 麻生新内閣として初の国会論戦が29日から始まる。野党は辞任や罷免を要求していた。国交相辞任は、国会や衆院選への影響を最小限にとどめるためだろう。

As for a delay in Narita Airport development, Nakayama said: "More or less squeaky wheels, or I believe they are [the product] of bad postwar education. It is very regrettable that the airport has not been able to expand in a milieu in which people lack the spirit of sacrificing themselves to a degree for the sake of the public good and think it good if they care only about themselves."
 中山氏は、成田空港整備の遅れについて、「ごね得というか、戦後教育が悪かった。公のためにはある程度自分を犠牲にしてでも、というのがなくて、自分さえよければという風潮の中で、空港拡張もできなかった」と述べた。

===

Accurate, but undiplomatic

In general, the climate Nakayama described seems to exist. In the case of the Narita Airport issue, there is no denying that opposition to the project has harmed the public interest--to construct and maintain an airport that is safe and equipped with sufficient landing capacity.
 一般的に、中山氏の言うような「風潮」は、なくはないだろう。成田空港の場合、反対派の運動がこれまで、安全で十分な発着能力をもつ空港を整備するという「公共の利益」を損ねてきたことも、また、否定できない。

However, describing them as "squeaky wheels" is questionable. As the person responsible for the nation's airport administration that requires dialogue with local residents, it was an inappropriate remark.
 だが、「ごね得」というのはいかがか。地元との対話が必要な空港行政の責任者としては、不適切な発言だろう。

As for the recent bribery scandal involving education board officials and teachers in Oita Prefecture, Nakayama said: "The children of Japan Teachers Union [members] can become teachers even if their grades are bad. That's why scholastic ability in Oita Prefecture is low."
Also, he said: "One of the reasons I have proposed to conduct the nationwide academic achievement examination [for primary sixth-graders and middle school third-graders] was that I thought academic ability could be poor in areas where the teachers union has strong influence. Therefore, I think that the role of conducting the nationwide academic achievement examinations has come to an end."
 中山氏は、大分県教育委員会の汚職事件に関して、「日教組の子どもは成績が悪くても先生になる。だから大分県の学力は低い」「私が全国学力テストを提唱したのも、日教組の強いところは学力が低いと思ったからだ。だから学力テストを実施する役目は終わったと思う」と語った。

Nakayama has criticized the Japan Teachers Union, saying that they do not teach students about the national flag and the national anthem, and oppose moral education.
 中山氏は「国旗・国歌も教えない」「道徳教育に反対している」などとして日教組を批判した。

===

Beyond his authority

Even if his remarks may have a point, the educational issue is not under the jurisdiction of the construction and transport minister.
的を射ている点もあるとしても、教育にかかわる問題は、国交相の所管外のことだろう。

By saying that the role of the nationwide academic achievement examination has come to an end, Nakayama especially cannot avoid being blamed for his imprudence.
 とくに、全国学力テストは役割を終えたというのは、軽率のそしりを免れない。

The examination, now in its second year since the Education, Science and Technology Ministry resumed administering it in 2007, has now reached the stage at which its results, at last, are about to be used to improve students' academic performances.
 今年2回目が実施された学力テストは、ようやく、そのデータを学力向上に本格活用していく段階にあるからだ。

As for the government's tourism policy, Nakayama blurted out an apparent factual error, saying, "Japan is very introverted, or what may be called ethnically homogenous, or rather it tends to be inward-looking."
 観光政策に関して、「日本は随分内向きな、単一民族」と口を滑らせた。明らかな事実誤認だ。

The Aso administration's record has been marred by the scandal of the Cabinet minister's resignation only five days after its launch.
 内閣発足5日目にして、閣僚辞任という不祥事で、新政権は出端(ではな)をくじかれた形だ。

Aso must immediately seek to tighten discipline and manage the political situation.
 麻生首相は、早急にタガを締め直し、政局運営にあたることが求められる。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2008)
(2008年9月29日01時54分 読売新聞)

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中山国交相辞任か?

2008-09-28 10:14:19 | 英字速報
中山国交相の失言に関する報道はめずらしく各社で足並みが揃っていない。
最初は27日の朝日社説、それから28日の日経社説と毎日英語版で記事をみかけた。
最初にこの朝日社説の日本語版を読むと、その下の毎日英語版の記事が理解しやすいと思います。(スラチャイ)

朝日社説:

中山国交相―首相の門出にこの放言 晴れの大臣就任で、つい口が滑らかになりすぎたのか。中山成彬国土交通相が、就任2日目の報道機関のインタビューで驚くべき発言を連発した。

 成田空港の整備の遅れにどう対応するかを問われ、中山氏はこう答えた。

 「ごね得というか戦後教育が悪かったと思うが、公のためにはある程度自分を犠牲にしてでもというのがなくて、自分さえよければという風潮のなかで空港拡張もできなかった」

 整備が遅れた理由に住民らの反対運動があるのはその通りだ。だが、その背景に、住民らに十分な説明をしないまま機動隊を使って強制的に土地収用を繰り返した政府の重い失政があったことを、いまは政府も認めている。

 そんな政界の常識さえ身につけていないことにあきれる。しかも中山氏は空港行政の最高責任者だ。

 大分県教委の汚職事件については、こう言い放った。「日教組の子供は成績悪くても先生になる。だから大分県の学力は低いんだよ。私がなぜ全国学力テストを提唱したかといえば、日教組の強いところは学力低いんじゃないかと思ったから。現にそうだよ」

 中山氏は文部科学相当時、全国学力調査を導入する旗を振った。その目的を「競い合う心を育てるため」などと説明してきたが、どうやらそれはごまかしだったようだ。

 それにしても、毎年ざっと60億円もの費用がかかる全国学力調査を日教組憎しで導入したというのだから、自民党政権というのは豪儀なものである。

 外国人旅行者をどう増やすかの質問に関連しては、こんな発言もあった。「日本はずいぶん内向きな、単一民族といいますか……」

 わずか3カ月前、アイヌ民族を日本の先住民族として認めるべきだという歴史的な国会決議が全会一致で採択された。国会の総意として、先住民族の名誉と尊厳を守っていこうと誓ったのだが、中山氏は反対だったのか。

 中山氏はこれらの発言を「誤解を招いた」と撤回した。だが、どれも閣僚としてという前に、国会議員としての資質を疑わせる発言である。

 中山氏は文科相時代にも「歴史教科書から従軍慰安婦や強制連行という言葉が減ってきたのは本当によかった」「そもそも従軍慰安婦という言葉はなかった」などの発言を連発した。

 そんな中山氏を閣僚に任命した麻生首相自身、数々の失言で物議をかもした過去を持つ。総裁選の際「いつも寸止めで踏みとどまってきた」と冗談交じりに語ったが、寸止めならいいということではあるまい。

 堂本暁子千葉県知事をはじめ、きのうの国交省は抗議ラッシュの様相だった。内閣支持率は48%。首相が国連で外交デビューを飾ったその日にこの体たらくでは、先が思いやられる。

毎日英語版:

(Mainichi Japan) September 28, 2008

Nakayama's foot-in-mouth antics already casting doubt on Aso's Cabinet
Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Nariaki Nakayama remarked that some residents near Narita Airport refused to sell their land for the airport construction because they thought there would be more gain by holding out. He later retracted and apologized for his remarks, but it's not enough to settle the controversy he sparked.

His misconceptions and lack of proper understanding of the role of the ministry he supervises has raised questions as to whether he is qualified to serve as a Cabinet minister, and over the insight of Prime Minister Taro Aso, who appointed him.

Regarding Narita Airport, Nakayama remarked: "When I came home in 1978, I landed at the airport. Since then, there had been only one lane (runway) for many years, and it's a pity for Japan. Many held out, expecting more gain. I think it's one of the problems of post-war education. They lack public-mindedness. They have no desire to make a certain self-sacrifice for the benefit of the public, and think only of their own benefit, making it hard to expand the airport. It's a real shame."

Local residents opposing the Narita Airport construction project, which began in 1960s, were in bitter conflict with the national government from the start. Through negotiations with local residents at round-table talks and other places, the government admitted in 1995 that it was at fault for attempting to force the project through, and offered an apology.

In the apology, the government admitted its responsibility for the problem, and local residents have no reason to be criticized for holding out for more.

He failed to probe relations between the lack of public-mindedness and problems involving post-war education, and the dispute over the airport, and apparently made the remarks based on his groundless impressions -- and which could damage the mutual trust that local residents and the ministry have nurtured for many years through their efforts.

Nakayama then trained his sights on the Japan Teachers Union (JTU), and said: "The children of JTU members can become teachers even if their grades (in recruitment exams) are poor. Therefore, academic ability in Oita Prefecture is low," in an apparent reference to a bribery scandal involving recruitment of public school teachers in the prefecture.

"I proposed a nationwide academic aptitude test because I thought academic levels in areas where the JTU hold sway are low. Now I know it's true, so there's no longer any point in conducting such tests," he continued.

Nakayama proposed the test during his tenure as education, culture, sports, science and technology minister in the Cabinet of Junichiro Koizumi. Such an examination should be aimed at improving the academic levels of schoolchildren as a whole. However, he wanted to use it to prove a correlation between the JTU and low academic levels; which he failed to do. Claiming that "there is no longer any point in conducting such tests" -- as the minister who introduced the scheme, costing the government billions of yen a year -- is incredibly imprudent and irresponsible.

Regarding tourism policy, his remark that Japan is an ethnically homogeneous country has also been criticized for being a misconception.

This is not the first time that Nakayama's remarks have stirred controversy. One cannot help but wonder whether, Prime Minister Aso thought carefully about the selection of his Cabinet members and whether he really placed the right people in the right posts, as he said when he announced his Cabinet lineup.

This latest string of gaffes has raised doubts among a disappointed public. The government is faced with many outstanding issues, and Cabinet members are required to do their best to fulfill their duties, regardless of whether a general election will be called in the near future.

With the revolving-door nature of the top ministry posts in recent years, the Cabinet's trustworthiness as the top body of the executive branch of the government has been called into question.

The prime minister should instruct Cabinet ministers to properly understand policy issues they are supposed to tackle, and take a resolute action against any problem like the recent gaffe.
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