東アジア共同体 経済連携の強化で環境整備を

2009-09-30 10:14:19 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 30, 2009)
Economic cooperation path to community
東アジア共同体 経済連携の強化で環境整備を(9月30日付・読売社説)

Even talk of an "East Asian community" may be getting too far ahead of the reality of the situation.

It is important first to improve the environment for its creation and proceed with the substantiation of the concept through steady efforts to strengthen economic partnerships in the region.

The foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea, at their meeting in Shanghai on Monday, agreed to strengthen their cooperation to create an East Asian community.

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada stressed the necessity of promoting regional economic partnerships and building cooperation in individual sectors, such as energy and environmental efforts, under the principle of "open regionalism." Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who puts an East Asian community at the center of his diplomatic strategies based on the spirit of yu-ai or "fraternity," expressed the same view in a speech at the United Nations during his visit to the United States last week.

"Open regionalism" is based on a concept of regional cooperation that does not exclude specific countries, including the United States. It has been a policy of the Japanese government since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi touted the creation of an East Asian community in 2002. The Hatoyama administration seems to be following in Koizumi's footsteps.


Motives questioned

Nevertheless, there still are some in the United States who wonder about Hatoyama's real intention. There is little doubt that such questions are linked to Hatoyama's recent op-ed piece in a U.S. newspaper that criticized U.S.-led globalization and touched on the issue of creating a common Asian currency.

It would be self-defeating for Japan to take on an active leadership role in promoting the concept of an East Asian community if it negatively influences the Japan-U.S. alliance. Hatoyama and Okada should assuage U.S. worries by sufficiently explaining the intent of the effort.

Discussing the idea of an East Asian community at a summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in New York last week, Hatoyama cited the example of energy cooperation between Germany and France leading to a wave of integration in Europe.

However, it is unreasonable to model an East Asian community after the European Union. East Asia is composed of various types of countries whose political frameworks differ from each other. Due to the threat of North Korean nuclear missile attacks and China's mounting military build-up, the security environment in East Asia is not as stable as that of Europe in the post-Cold War era.


First step

To eventually create an East Asian community, it is appropriate to begin by strengthening regional economic cooperation.

But among Japan, China and South Korea, discussion of free trade agreements and investment treaties have not made progress. South Korea has maintained a cautious stance on an FTA out of concern it might increase its trade deficit with Japan, while China also is hesitant about signing an investment treaty for fear of being forced to liberalize its investment regulations.

Japan's FTA negotiations with India and Australia also have stagnated. South Korea and India, which, along with China, has shown significant economic growth, signed an FTA in August. Japan's delayed start cannot be denied.

In October, a summit meeting among the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea and an East Asia Summit meeting are planned. Hatoyama and Okada should deepen discussions on strengthening economic cooperation in the region in a concrete manner.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2009)
(2009年9月30日01時08分 読売新聞)

谷垣自民党総裁 解党的出直しの先頭に立て

2009-09-29 09:48:55 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 29, 2009)
Tanigaki must initiate LDP's transformation
谷垣自民党総裁 解党的出直しの先頭に立て(9月29日付・読売社説)

Former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has been picked as the new president of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

The new LDP leader's eventual goal is to regain control of the government. To do so, the LDP must first carry out root-and-branch reform of the party so it can start from the beginning again.

At the same time, the LDP should adopt a cooperative stance by working with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on important policies concerning matters of national interest and make efforts to realize them, not merely criticize the DPJ-led administration from the standpoint of an opposition party.

Voting and vote-counting for the LDP presidential election were held Monday. Veteran lawmaker Tanigaki beat his two younger contenders--former Senior Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono and former Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.

Tanigaki faces a heavy responsibility in bringing about the rebirth of the LDP after its crushing defeat in the recent House of Representatives election.

Tanigaki's victory likely came as a result of the fact that both LDP Diet lawmakers and rank-and-file party members highly evaluate his experience in important cabinet and party posts, the sense of stability he projects and his mild-mannered personality.

Tanigaki asserted that the LDP should take a whole-party approach that he described as "a baseball team determined to win by employing all the players' strengths in a unified manner." Kono dismissed Tanigaki's analogy, severely criticizing the party's factional politics, but his harsh approach--demanding the expulsion of faction leaders--won little understanding.


LDP should take fight to DPJ

The Diet is the main battlefield of an opposition party.

Tanigaki has stressed that the LDP must ensure the ruling parties fulfill their responsibilities, and that it must come up with well-conceived policies and not lose heart. At the same time, he said the LDP will have no future if it merely finds fault with the ruling parties.

Tanigaki is right. The LDP should trade verbal blows toe-to-toe with the ruling parties on tax and financial issues, including on the issues of a hike in the consumption tax and national security. The party should also highlight contradictions in the DPJ's policies and present responsible counterproposals.

If LDP lawmakers, young and old alike, question ruling party members in Diet deliberations from such a point of view, the party will recover its vitality. Tanigaki himself should take the lead in setting a good example in Diet deliberations, including party leader debates with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Reconstructing the party will be no easy task. Personnel management and national elections, including the House of Councillors election to be held next summer, will be the first hurdles for Tanigaki.


Winning urban vote key

The fact that Kono and Nishimura, who both asserted the necessity for a generational change in the presidential election, gained a measure of support may signify a desire within the party for a drastic change in the system of allocating party executive posts. To give the party's top echelon a makeover, young and middle-aged lawmakers should be appointed to senior posts.

In the next upper house election, the LDP must entrust the party leadership with decision-making power and rethink its strategies, including on candidate selection.

As for the LDP's election strategy, if the party focuses on the rural vote, its prospects will remain dim. The important thing is for it to come up with policies that strike a chord with urban residents in the prime of life. It is indispensable for the LDP to present a clear vision to counter the DPJ's, such as its own growth strategy and a new model for the ideal shape of the nation.

Convincing voters that the LDP has changed would be a step toward a return to power.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2009)
(2009年9月29日01時04分 読売新聞)

敬老の日 安心できる超高齢社会に

2009-09-21 06:57:06 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 21, 2009)
Assuage people's fears over hyper-aging society
敬老の日 安心できる超高齢社会に(9月21日付・読売社説)

Respect-for-the-Aged Day falls Monday, a few days after the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama took office.

This nation is aging faster than any other in the world.

In 1966, when Respect-for-the-Aged Day became a national holiday, the average life span of Japanese males was 68 and that of females 73. Currently, men live an average of 79 years and women 86 years, and life spans are bound to continue to lengthen. We live in an era in which about 1.3 million, or one in 100, of the nation's population are aged 90 or older.

Of course, graying itself is not something to feel anxious about. It is gratifying that many people live long.

Nevertheless, our hyper-aging society tends to be described in gloomy terms, no doubt due to concern that the social security system is unsustainable.

To dispel such anxieties, the new administration faces a mountain of tasks related to reconstructing and maintaining the pension system and medical and nursing care services, all of which are vital to support elderly people's lives.


DPJ must make right decision

The first daunting challenge facing the new administration is overhauling the medical insurance system for elderly people.

At a press conference he gave after assuming his post, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma reiterated that the medical insurance system for those aged 75 and older would be abolished. He did not say when the current system would be scrapped. As for a system that would replace the existing one, Nagatsuma said it would be designed to reflect realities. This was a pragmatic choice.

The medical insurance system for those aged 75 and over was crafted to resolve the severe strain that the health insurance system for elderly people had come under. It clarified the burden that working generations must shoulder to pay the medical expenses of those aged 75 and older. It also removed the disparities in premiums that existed within individual prefectures by setting up prefectural-run insurers.

Although it is true that the current system is flawed and was never explained properly, the emotional backlash over its name--its reference to elderly people aged 75 and older as koki koreisha (late-stage elderly people)--and other elements predominated during discussions over the new system, with the result that it was never discussed in a calm manner.

When the DPJ was an opposition party, it was all right to press the government on the system's defects and parrot the slogan "Abolish the new system immediately and reinstate the old medical insurance system for the elderly."
But since it has become the ruling party and taken over the reins of government, it will not be forgiven if it makes a decision that could invite confusion.


Have sales tax fund welfare

Weighing up the merits and demerits of the medical insurance system for those aged 75 and older and then reconstructing it would not mean breaking the DPJ's election campaign pledge to abolish the existing system.
We hope the DPJ formulates a blueprint for the medical insurance system for the elderly calmly and constructively.

In doing so, if increases in health insurance premiums and over-the-counter payments by patients are seen to have reached their limit, there is no option but to increase the injection of public money. That is true not only in the case of medical services, but also for pension and nursing care insurance systems.

But can the DPJ fund measures for elderly people without increasing taxes at a time when securing financial resources for other new policies, such as the monthly child-rearing allowance, is in question?

If the consumption tax is transformed into a social security tax so that financial resources can be properly secured, the government will have more choices in formulating policies for this hyper-aging society. The new administration should make a decision on the medical insurance system for elderly people without delay.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2009)
(2009年9月21日01時12分 読売新聞)


2009-09-20 13:05:29 | アドセンス


鳩山外交始動 日米同盟基軸を行動で示せ

2009-09-20 09:10:54 | 英字新聞
Words alone not enough for Japan-U.S. alliance
The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 20, 2009)
鳩山外交始動 日米同盟基軸を行動で示せ(9月20日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will leave for the United States on Monday, where he plans to attend a series of international conferences that will discuss such important global issues as climate change, nuclear arms reduction, nuclear nonproliferation, the world economy and international finance.

Hatoyama also is scheduled to hold summit meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama as well the leaders of countries including Britain, China, France, India, Russia and South Korea.

These planned meetings indicate the keen interest that world leaders have in the diplomatic stance of Hatoyama, who has effected a change in government.

During the campaign for last month's House of Representatives election, Hatoyama stressed that "continuity is important for diplomacy." During his U.S. visit, we hope he will assert to the world that there will be no fundamental changes in this country's foreign policies following the recent change in power. This means maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance, respecting the principle of international cooperation and promoting the free trade system.


No room for misinterpretation

It is particularly important for Hatoyama to convey clearly to the United States that the Japan-U.S. alliance will continue to be the axis of this nation's foreign policy.

A Hatoyama op-ed article carried on the Web site of a U.S. newspaper late last month was seen to criticize U.S.-led globalism, and was thus construed as being "anti-U.S.," stirring controversy in Washington.

Hatoyama later said his true opinions were not conveyed accurately.

It is important for the prime minister to dispel such concern during his U.S. visit by giving a full account of his stance in his own words.

To this end, Hatoyama also must show that actions speak louder than words. He should, for example, clarify the kind of assistance Japan plans to provide to Afghanistan--a country at the forefront of the "war against terror."

If Afghanistan once again becomes a haunt for international terrorist organizations, global peace and security could be quickly destabilized.

During a phone conversation earlier this month, Obama's asked Hatoyama for Japan's help in sweeping militants out of Afghanistan--apparently prompted by the U.S. president's recognition of the dire situation in the war-torn country.

If Japan suspends the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean--as the Democratic Party of Japan pledged to do during campaigning for the recent election--the United States would conclude that Japan was withdrawing from the fight against terrorism. This could cause a serious rift in the Japan-U.S. relationship.

As an alternative measure, Hatoyama has said he would reinforce civilian activities in Afghanistan. However, Japan has been engaging in a range of activities in the country, including the provision of agricultural assistance and the construction of schools.

Is Hatoyama's plan really a feasible alternative? We believe he should explore the possibility of continuing the refueling mission.


Clarify nuclear stance

The prime minister has stressed his intention to realize a unified Asian currency and build an East Asia community. This has given rise to concerns in the United States that the new Japanese government's diplomatic policy is based on "independence from the United States and better regional relations in Asia."

Up until now Japan's basic stance has been to offer cooperation in specific fields within a given region--such as liberalization of trade and investment and help with environmental measures--but has not engaged in regional cooperation that has excluded certain countries.

The prime minister has indicated that he favors this tack. We believe Hatoyama does not want his policy stance to be taken to mean that he undervalues the Japan-U.S. alliance. He should thus make a point of carefully explaining that he has no intention of trying to distance Japan from the United States.

Regarding the issues of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, Obama has called for a world free of nuclear weapons.

How can the international community pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear development program? What steps can be taken to persuade China to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons and disclose information on its military might, such as how many nuclear warheads it presently holds?

One of the DPJ's manifesto pledges was to realize a nuclear-free Northeast Asia. However, if concrete measures are not thrashed out to tackle this issue, the plan is mere pie in the sky.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada is scheduled to accompany the prime minister to the United States. During a press conference held after he had taken up his new post, Okada reiterated his desire for the United States to renounce the preemptive use of nuclear arms.

The United States' nuclear umbrella is the only protection Japan has in the face of the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear missiles. In this regard, we believe the idea of renouncing preemptive nuclear attacks neglects the regional security environment, and could seriously harm this nation's peace and security.

Preaching one's own philosophy is fine if you are a member of the opposition bloc. However, as Okada is now this country's foreign minister, stating a view that differs from that of the prime minister creates an impression of confusion within the government and ruins Japan's credibility overseas.

We urge Hatoyama and Okada to bear in mind Japan's diplomatic policies and discuss carefully--prior to their departure for the United States--the positions they intend to take during the talks with world leaders.


Climate pledge conditional

On the climate change issue, Hatoyama has announced that Japan will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

European countries hold this pledge in high esteem, but this likely is because they want to make Japan stick to its promises. As such, we should not take their enthusiasm purely at face value.

Hatoyama also has said that other major countries must agree to make "ambitious" reduction targets as a "precondition" for Japan's emissions-cut goal. The pledge to reduce emissions by 25 percent should not be allowed to take on a life of its own. The prime minister should stress the conditional elements of his pledge at the U.N. summit on climate change in New York.

International conferences and summit meetings are the arenas in which world leaders strike bargains while keeping a strong eye on their own national interests. Our new prime minister and foreign minister should stay focused during these occasions, and be careful about making promises or remarks before the international community that could harm this nation's interests.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 20, 2009)
(2009年9月20日01時19分 読売新聞)