河野談話 「負の遺産」の見直しは当然だ

2012-08-31 05:22:14 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 30, 2012)
Kono's 'comfort women' statement must be reviewed
河野談話 「負の遺産」の見直しは当然だ(8月29日付・読売社説)

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's recent visit to the Takeshima islands has reignited the so-called comfort women issue.

It is undeniable that a 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono is the root cause of the controversy. The government should review this statement, prepare a new concept concerning the issue and convey it to the public and the international community.

At a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said his administration would adhere to the Kono statement. However, Noda added that the government "was not able to confirm the forcible recruitment [of comfort women] from documents, so the [Kono] statement was based on interviews with comfort women."

Jin Matsubara, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, proposed that ministers should debate the comfort women issue from the standpoint of reviewing the Kono statement.

The 1993 statement said: "The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to a request from the military.

"In many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, and so on, and that, at times, administrative and military personnel directly took part in the recruitments."


No verification

However, the government could find no documents proving the military or other government authorities forcibly recruited comfort women. The Kono statement was based solely on the statements of former comfort women and there were no investigations to verify their remarks.

At the time, several South Korean women identified themselves as former comfort women and demanded an apology from the Japanese government. We assume the government took into account Japan's diplomatic relations with South Korea when it issued the Kono statement.

However, as a result of the statement, the international community came to believe things that were not true, such as the Imperial Japanese Army systematically and forcibly recruiting women to make them "sex slaves."

The U.S. House of Representatives and the European Parliament adopted resolutions condemning Japan on the comfort women issue, and called on the Japanese government to apologize.

Up to now, however, no evidence proving the forcible recruitment of comfort women has been found.

When the U.S. House of Representatives was discussing the comfort women issue in March 2007, the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a written reply to a question posed by a Diet member on the issue. The reply said "descriptions directly indicating forcible recruitments by the military and other government authorities had not been found in documents" unearthed by the government.

The response clarified the government's stance that documents supporting the Kono statement did not exist, although at the same time it adhered to the statement.


'Negative legacy' of LDP

However, if the situation is left unchanged, it will be difficult to dispel the international community's misunderstandings on the comfort women issue.

It was reasonable for Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to call on the government to review the contents of the Kono statement after saying the statement--which was not authorized by the Cabinet--and the 2007 written reply contradict each other. He also said the statement was the "main cause" of Japan-South Korea friction.

The government must take measures to prevent misunderstandings on the comfort women issue from spreading further.

As there is no conclusive evidence that the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly recruited comfort women, the Noda Cabinet should review the Kono statement--a "negative legacy" of Liberal Democratic Party administrations--and explain the government's stance on the issue to the public and the world in a manner easy to understand.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2012)
(2012年8月29日01時18分  読売新聞)


与野党の対立 衆院選改革の放置にあきれる

2012-08-30 05:08:33 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 29, 2012)
Failure to address election system reform deplorable
与野党の対立 衆院選改革の放置にあきれる(8月28日付・読売社説)

The current ordinary Diet session closes in less than two weeks and many legislative issues are still pending. Both the ruling and opposition camps must work tirelessly to reach accords on them until the last minute.

The biggest concern is that the Diet has yet to realize the House of Representatives' electoral system reform, although the Supreme Court has ruled the current disparity in the weight of votes between the most- and least- represented constituencies is "in a state of unconstitutionality."

The Democratic Party of Japan voted on a DPJ-sponsored election system reform bill in a special lower house committee on Monday in the absence of opposition parties. The DPJ is poised to pass the bill in a plenary session of the lower house on Tuesday.

The opposition bloc, as a matter of course, has opposed the DPJ's actions.

Given that the DPJ will be unable to obtain approval from the opposition that controls the House of Councillors, it is certain the bill will be scrapped when it fails in the upper house. This will leave the state of unconstitutionality unresolved.


DPJ out to put off election

Having the bill hastily approved by the committee is presumably motivated by a desire to shift the blame for failing to achieve electoral reform to the opposition.

DPJ Acting Secretary General Shinji Tarutoko has lambasted the opposition parties for "taking a stand even against rectifying the gap in the weight of votes."

The DPJ, however, has persistently spurned the idea of cutting five single-seat electoral districts before other election system issues. This is the only option the DPJ and the major opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, agreed to on the election reform issue. The DPJ should be held responsible for stalling this reform.

In light of the irresponsibility of the DPJ, the party is not qualified to criticize the opposition. The DPJ has employed the tactic of delaying the legislation in a bid to postpone the lower house dissolution and a general election.

The DPJ-sponsored bill entails not only a five single-seat constituency cut, but also the reduction of 40 proportional representation seats. It also includes the partial adoption of a seat allocation formula in proportional representation contests favorable to small and midsize parties, which Komeito has demanded.

Electoral system reform based on such a hodgepodge of arguments backed by different parties is unintelligible to the public. Introduction of a seat allocation formula designed to give disproportionately preferential treatment to small and midsize parties may be a constitutional violation, according to some analysts.


Opposition equally at fault

The LDP is set to submit a censure motion in the upper house against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda as early as Wednesday.

The censure motion will likely pass the upper house by an opposition majority. If the opposition boycotts all Diet deliberations after that, the current session could end with many issues unaddressed.

Citing reasons to censure the prime minister, LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki claims Noda's ability to tackle the problems facing the country "has reached its limit."

However, the opposition is just as responsible for the turmoil in the nation's politics.

A case in point is a government plan for a bill to issue deficit-covering government bonds.

Should the bill fail to pass, it would become impossible, at some point, to implement the state budget. The opposition parties have continued to assert they will not cooperate unless the DPJ commits to an exact date for the dissolution of the lower house.

Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada has said, "There is a possibility of a power change [in the next general election] and the opposition should stop these maneuvers."

While Okada is right, the DPJ should remember that, when it sat in opposition, it also used budget-related bills, including one to issue deficit-covering bonds, as bargaining chips.

If the censure motion is passed by the LDP, Komeito and other opposition parties, the relationship of trust between the DPJ and the two major opposition parties would almost certainly collapse.

A censure motion, which has no binding power, must never be exploited in a power struggle.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2012)
(2012年8月28日01時45分  読売新聞)


北極海開発 日本の発言権をどう確保する

2012-08-29 04:50:17 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 28, 2012)
Japan needs to gain voice in Arctic Ocean development
北極海開発 日本の発言権をどう確保する(8月27日付・読売社説)

Countries such as Russia and Canada are maneuvering more actively to stake out advantageous positions in using the Arctic Ocean for shipping routes and in developing natural resources there. Japan also should become actively engaged in drafting rules on developing the Arctic Ocean.

Though long covered with thick ice, the Arctic Ocean recently has attracted attention as its ice is rapidly melting due to global warming.

The ocean's shipping routes, possible only in summer, have elicited interest as they are the shortest way to link Asian countries--the world's growth center--and Europe. Not only oil and natural gas but also gold, copper, nickel and other minerals are believed to be in abundance below the Arctic seabed.

The Antarctic Treaty has frozen territorial claims in the Antarctic continent and surrounding seas and prohibits military use of the area, but there is no such treaty for the Arctic Ocean.

Due to the lack of an international treaty, eight countries--the United States, Russia and other coastal nations--and indigenous minorities make up the Arctic Council, a forum to discuss rules on use of the Arctic Ocean.


Blatant moves by China

Meanwhile, China's moves are a cause of concern. Like Japan, China does not border the Arctic Ocean. Nonetheless, China considers shipping routes and natural resources there among its maritime interests and is trying to increase its influence over the ocean as a national strategy.

China's large icebreaker Xuelong has been on a research voyage in the ocean since early July. It took a shipping route north of Russia and in mid-August became the first Chinese ship to traverse the Arctic Ocean.

Beijing is also actively undertaking summit diplomacy with member nations of the council. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Sweden, which currently chairs the council, and Iceland in April, while President Hu Jintao visited Denmark in June. They were able to reach agreements with leaders of those countries to enhance bilateral relations.

However, the efforts by China, which has a massive military force, to promote its maritime interests in the ocean are so blatant that other countries have become vigilant.

Utilization of the Arctic Ocean also is essential for the growth of the Japanese economy. Nonetheless, it is apparent Japan has started out late in the game.


Join Arctic Council

Three years ago, the Japanese government applied to the Arctic Council to obtain observer status. China and South Korea completed such applications ahead of this country.

How much a country contributes to the council's activities is said to determine approval as an observer. We think the government first should join the council as an observer and then enhance its information gathering activities to secure a voice there. The nation must accelerate its preparations to deal with issues concerning the Arctic Ocean.

The government also must promote summit diplomacy to strengthen Japan's relations with Russia and northern European countries. Japan also needs to undertake full-fledged research activities in the ocean.

It is unavoidable that the Chinese and Russian navies will become more active in seas north of Japan. The government will need to discuss with the United States how to build up Japan's defenses against them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2012)
(2012年8月27日01時27分  読売新聞)


エネルギー選択 「意識調査」はあくまで参考に

2012-08-28 03:23:42 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 27, 2012)
Don't take results of nuclear power surveys too seriously
エネルギー選択 「意識調査」はあくまで参考に(8月26日付・読売社説)

It is problematic to decide the nation's energy strategy, which affects the fate of Japan, through an approach that resembles a popularity contest.

Since the outbreak of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, a considerable number of people are demanding the nation break away from its dependence on nuclear energy.

Securing the safety of nuclear power plants is of course important. However, factors such as economic efficiency and a stable energy supply are also important in deciding the nation's energy policy. As a country poor in natural resources, Japan needs to have various sources of electricity, including nuclear power plants, to ensure a stable power supply.

Thus the government should promote a realistic energy policy of utilizing nuclear power plants from a mid- and long-term standpoint.

The government recently released the results of multiple surveys that asked the public to choose from three scenarios on the percentage of nuclear power generation in 2030: zero percent of all power generation, 15 percent, and 20 percent to 25 percent.

The government conducted 11 public hearings, solicited public comments and held a deliberative opinion poll. In all three methods, those who chose the zero percent scenario outnumbered those who selected the other two.


Avoid slipping into populism

However, it is too early to conclude that the results truly reflect public opinion on the nation's nuclear energy policy.

Many people who participate in public hearings and submit comments are eager to express their opinions on the nuclear power plant issue. They tend to prefer a nuclear-free future.

A random telephone survey was conducted in the first stage of the deliberative opinion poll, and respondents were asked if they wished to participate in the following discussion stage. Only about 300 people participated in the second stage.

It is important for politicians to listen to the voices of the people. However, there is a risk that politicians may slip into populism, depending on how much they rely on public opinion.

A member of an expert panel tasked with analyzing the results of the surveys said, "We don't need politics if opinion polls decide everything."

The results of the surveys should be used as one element in discussing the nation's nuclear policy. The government should avoid having the results directly influence its energy policy.


Risks of zero percent scenario

Meanwhile, the surveys also highlighted a problem the government has to tackle. In the deliberative opinion poll, 41 percent of respondents supported the zero percent scenario before the discussion, but the figure increased to 47 percent after the discussion.

At the same time, the percentage of people who gave top priority to "securing safety" in the nation's energy policy increased after the discussion to about 80 percent. This change seems to be the reason why the number of people who chose the zero percent scenario increased.

However, everyone is highly concerned about the safety of the energy supply. We assume that was the reason only a low percentage of respondents chose "stable energy supply" and "prevention of global warming."

If all nuclear power plants were abolished in the nation, it would slow down the economy, resulting in higher unemployment and poverty. Ordinary citizens would be hit hardest, but strangely, understanding of this fact has yet to spread among the public.

Along with beefing up its efforts to enhance the safety of nuclear power plants, the government must provide information to citizens that helps them choose appropriate scenarios for the nation's future energy policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2012)
(2012年8月26日01時28分  読売新聞)


首相「領土」会見 国際社会へ反転攻勢の一歩に

2012-08-27 05:06:23 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 26, 2012)
Govt must stress sovereignty over isles to intl community
首相「領土」会見 国際社会へ反転攻勢の一歩に(8月25日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda held a press conference Friday on the dispute involving the Takeshima islands and other territorial issues. This occasion should pave the way for Japan to take the offensive in seeking understanding of the issues both at home and abroad.

Noda said at the press conference, "We'll deal with the issues calmly but uncompromisingly with unwavering determination."

"They're Japanese territory both historically and under international law," he said, referring to the Takeshima islands. "In keeping with international law and justice, the proper path is to hold debates and settle the matter at the International Court of Justice."

We consider it highly significant that the prime minister stated explicitly that his government will protect the nation's sovereignty over the islets.

South Korea has reinforced its illegal occupation of the Takeshima islands through such actions as building a structure there. Japan protested the actions, but it is hard to say that Tokyo has taken effective countermeasures.


Take advantage of legal action

It is vital for Japan to make the legitimacy of its territorial claim and the reasoning behind it widely known to the international community by taking the dispute to the international court. The government also needs to make efforts to help as many people as possible properly understand the Takeshima issue by explaining it thoroughly.

Noda also spoke about the recent illegal landing on the Senkaku Islands by Hong Kong activists. "The government will make every effort to strengthen the nation's information-gathering ability and take all possible measures to improve its policing and surveillance capabilities in the surrounding waters" to prevent such incidents in the future, he said.

To maintain and stably manage the Senkaku Islands, which are under Japan's effective control, the government faces the urgent task of nationalizing the islets. To that end, it is important to closely cooperate with the Tokyo metropolitan government, which plans to purchase the islands.

The government must not fail to strengthen the abilities of the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self-Defense Force to swiftly respond to illegal landings on the islands and intrusions into Japan's territorial waters by foreign countries.


Noda letter not re-sent

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has decided not to resend the personal letter from Noda to South Korean President Lee Myung Bak that South Korea rejected and returned to the ministry by mail.

Returning a personal letter from a national leader is unusual and considered disrespectful. However, we can understand the decision by Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and other government officials to accept the returned letter, considering "the dignity" of Japanese diplomacy. The decision was based on the logic that Noda's message, which calls Lee's visit to Takeshima regrettable, has been conveyed to Seoul.

The House of Representatives on Friday adopted a resolution condemning Lee's visit to Takeshima and his remarks seeking the Emperor's apology to Koreans who died while fighting for Korea's independence. The resolution demands that South Korea halt its illegal occupation of the islands and Lee withdraw the remarks about the Emperor. The remarks have sparked criticism not only in Japan but also in South Korea. Seeking the withdrawal is reasonable.

We view the resolution as well-balanced because, among other things, it calls South Korea a vital neighboring country of Japan. However, it is disappointing that the resolution was not approved unanimously as the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and others opposed it.

Japan and South Korea share common security interests on such issues as North Korea's nuclear program. We urge Seoul to handle the territorial issue with a cool head without losing sight of the broader significance of the two countries' relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2012)
(2012年8月25日01時29分  読売新聞)