朴大統領就任 日韓関係の改善を期待したい

2013-02-28 04:53:41 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 27, 2013)
Can Park open the door to better Japan-S. Korea ties?
朴大統領就任 日韓関係の改善を期待したい(2月26日付・読売社説)

We hope the chilled relationship between Tokyo and Seoul will thaw under the new South Korean administration.

On Monday, Park Geun Hye took office as the first female president of South Korea, a country currently facing plenty of challenges. Park's father is the late former President Park Chung Hee, and this is the first time an offspring of a former South Korean president has assumed the top post.

The new president held talks with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who attended Park's inauguration ceremony. It is praiseworthy that the two agreed on the necessity of cooperating closely and building a future-oriented relationship between the two countries.

However, the current state of Japan-South Korea relations is severe. It deteriorated rapidly after Lee Myung Bak, Park's predecessor, visited the Takeshima islands last year and demanded the Emperor apologize for the wartime past. Seoul recently lodged a complaint with Tokyo over the attendance of a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary at a commemoration ceremony on Takeshima Day, an event hosted by the Shimane prefectural government.


Learn from past mistakes

Previous South Korean administrations also have trumpeted future-oriented relationships. However, in the end, they have derailed these diplomatic efforts through their actions on territorial issues and historical perceptions. Park's leadership will be tested over whether she can prevent her administration from repeating the mistakes of her predecessors.

Dark clouds are hovering over South Korea's economy, which had been performing solidly for years. That country's growth rate dropped to the 2 percent level last year, and its export-led economy has been buffeted by a headwind caused by the won's appreciation. South Korea's chaebol conglomerates have developed rapidly by riding the tide of globalization, but this has not led to the creation of jobs.

With a declining birthrate and aging population, South Korea needs to improve its pension and health insurance systems to dispel public anxiety over what life holds for them in old age.

Park pledged to tackle such problems in her inauguration speech. She referred to the "miracle on the Han River," the dramatic economic development achieved under her father's administration, and stressed she would bring about a "second miracle on the Han River."

It will be crucial for her to materialize her plan to expand domestic demand and employment by reinforcing the competitiveness of small and midsize South Korean companies and nurturing venture firms.


Cooperate more with allies

Regarding diplomacy and national security, Park demanded North Korea "abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay." She also showed willingness to hold talks with Pyongyang by saying, "I will move forward step-by-step on the basis of credible deterrence to build trust between the South and the North."

South Korea has recently accelerated the reinforcement of its defense capability, such as by extending the range of its ballistic missiles, as the security threat posed by North Korea grows. According to an opinion poll, more than 60 percent of respondents supported South Korea acquiring nuclear weapons.

It will be essential for countries neighboring North Korea to cooperate more closely to deal with heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Park was quite right to mention she will work to strengthen trust with countries including "the United States, China, Japan and Russia" to ease tensions and conflicts in Asia and promote peace and cooperation in the region.

China has a dominant presence in South Korea. South Korea's trade with China exceeds that with the United States and Japan combined. The annual flow of people between China and South Korea exceeds that between Japan and South Korea by more than 1 million.

All eyes are closely watching whether South Korea will cozy up more to China as it boosts its presence on the peninsula, as this issue certainly has security implications for Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 26, 2013)
(2013年2月26日01時21分  読売新聞)


原発風評被害 放射能の基準から考え直せ

2013-02-27 05:05:12 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 26, 2013)
Time to overhaul radiation safety criteria
原発風評被害 放射能の基準から考え直せ(2月25日付・読売社説)

The government should make a sweeping review of safety standards for radioactivity. The recent change of administration offers a golden opportunity to do this.

The Consumer Affairs Agency will reinforce efforts to deal with damage caused by radiation rumors since the crisis began at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Masako Mori, state minister for consumer affairs, said, "The Democratic Party of Japan-led administration increased consumers' anxieties." She has issued an order to study concrete measures to alleviate these fears.

Agricultural products harvested in Fukushima Prefecture are shipped after they have been confirmed safe to eat, but they do not sell well unless their prices are set lower than other products. Their distribution volume is barely expanding.

Mori hit the nail on the head when she said a reason for this is that consumers harbor "doubts and concerns about the safety standards."

The administration of former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda adopted stricter standards for radiation contained in food than those in place overseas. The Radiation Council, a government advisory panel, had warned about possible adverse effects this might cause, but then Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoko Komiyama pushed through the new criteria.

This resulted in more food containing radiation that exceeded the restricted levels. Shipments of wild mushrooms were even halted when a check detected a radioactive substance that could only have been caused by past nuclear tests.


Stricter threshold set

The problem is that the Noda government set the yearly radiation exposure of one millisievert as the threshold between safe and dangerous. The one millisievert a year level, which is nothing but a management standard legally set for facilities that handle radioactive substances, was adopted for food safety standards.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) also considers it advisable to set the permissible annual radiation dose at no more than one millisievert. But the difference between the ICRP's position and that of the Noda administration is that the former does not consider it dangerous immediately even if radiation exposure exceeds the threshold.

The international commission believes health effects cannot be detected clearly if the total radiation exposure is held to 100 millisieverts. Thus, the one millisievert a year considered by the ICRP is a ceiling deemed far lower than its safety standard, and comes with the condition that the exposure target can be achieved reasonably.

Some places in the world are exposed to radiation of 10 millisieverts a year that comes from the ground, among other sources. A radiological examination at a hospital exposes the patient to about seven millisieverts.

The one-millisievert threshold also has become a factor delaying the return of nearly 160,000 evacuees from the nuclear crisis to their hometowns.


Gap with international standards

The commission considers that a radiation dose of up to 20 millisieverts a year is permissible when affected areas are in the reconstruction stage, and efforts must be made as much as possible to reduce the annual exposure to less than one millisievert.

Then Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, however, stressed the importance of achieving the decontamination target of one millisievert or less. Unlike the ICRP's thinking that equally emphasizes protecting affected residents' daily lives and decontamination, the DPJ-led government gave too much weight to decontamination efforts.

A mistaken political message also was given by Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida. He condemned the disposal by the prefecture's Kashiwazaki and Sanjo cities of disaster debris from Iwate Prefecture as general waste as a "criminal act."

But radiation levels of debris from Iwate Prefecture are the same as trash collected within Niigata Prefecture. We urge Izumida, the head of a local government, not to exacerbate damage caused by nasty radiation rumors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 25, 2013)
(2013年2月25日01時19分  読売新聞)


日米首脳会談 アジア安定へ同盟を強化せよ

2013-02-26 04:34:47 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 25, 2013)
Strengthen Japan-U.S. alliance to boost Asia stability
日米首脳会談 アジア安定へ同盟を強化せよ(2月24日付・読売社説)


The high expectations the U.S. government holds for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became clear during his visit to Washington. To live up to the U.S. trust placed in him, the prime minister should restore the vitality of Japan's politics and economy.

Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama held their first talks at the White House and agreed to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

"The U.S.-Japan alliance is the central foundation for our regional security, and so much of what we do in the [Asia-]Pacific region," Obama said.

Abe replied that he wants to declare the strong bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance has been restored completely.


Cooperation on energy

Asia has many destabilizing factors, such as China and North Korea. To maintain peace and prosperity in this part of the world, Japan and the United States must properly play their respective roles based on the robust, stable bilateral alliance that is "public property" of the region.

Japan-U.S. ties became disoriented while Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations held power for more than three years. Seemingly going hand-in-hand with this, Japan's relations with China and South Korea also deteriorated.

The Obama administration apparently believes that restoring U.S. relations with Japan under the Abe administration would bring greater stability to the entire Asian region and benefit its own strategy that gives greater priority to Asia.

The two leaders issued a joint statement on Japan's possible participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement negotiations. Abe and Obama confirmed "it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations," though they maintained the basic principle that all goods would be subject to the negotiations.

Before his visit to the United States, Abe reiterated he would uphold his Liberal Democratic Party's election pledge that the party opposes joining the TPP talks as long as it mandates all tariffs must be eliminated without exception.

The latest Japan-U.S. agreement, which allows Abe to maintain his pledge and join the TPP talks, carries great significance.

TPP participation, which will enable Japan to harness the vitality of emerging Asian economies, is expected to become a major pillar for the growth strategy of the Abe administration's "Abenomics" economic policy and help the recovery of the nation's economy.

However, some LDP members and agricultural organizations remain strongly opposed to the TPP. Abe must exercise leadership and carefully explain the aims of the trade pact to calibrate opinions within the country as soon as possible to make Japan's participation in the agreement a reality.

The participation of Japan, the world's third-largest economy, in the TPP will have advantages for the United States, too. Formation of a free trade area featuring the Japan-U.S. partnership will have the effect of putting pressure on emerging China.

During their meeting, Abe asked Obama to promptly approve U.S. exports of shale gas to Japan. The president replied that his government always takes the importance of Japan as its ally into consideration.

Some observers said restrictions on shale gas exports could be lifted as early as March, opening a way for Japan to procure cheap natural gas.

Abe also stressed that he would review the policy set under the DPJ-led government to shut down all of Japan's nuclear reactors by the end of the 2030s.

It is important that Japan and the United States cooperate extensively on economic issues, including energy and nuclear policies.


Increase pressure on N. Korea

In the security field, Abe explained that he would proactively tackle such issues as a revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines, clarifying whether the nation can exercise its right to collective self-defense, and reviewing the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation.

All of these issues are essential for reinforcing the substance of the Japan-U.S. alliance. We hope the government gives priority to these issues and steadily achieves tangible results.

The two leaders agreed to proceed with a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station from Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko district in Nago, also in the prefecture, based on an agreement reached by the Japanese and U.S. governments.

Although the Okinawa prefectural government insists the air station should be relocated outside the prefecture, the Henoko plan is the shortest way to reduce the burdens of communities that currently host the base. The government must steadfastly persuade people involved in this matter to support this option.

As for North Korea's recent nuclear test, Abe and Obama confirmed such provocations cannot be tolerated, and that North Korea should not be rewarded for these actions.

While both leaders agreed to seek the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing additional sanctions on Pyongyang, they also agreed to consider sanctions independently enforced by such parties as Japan and the United States.

After North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006, the administration of then U.S. President George W. Bush cut a deal in which Pyongyang said it would abandon its nuclear facilities and Washington removed North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. North Korea should not receive any such benefit for conducting its third nuclear test this year.


Form intl tie-up on Senkakus

Although the Security Council should adopt an effective sanctions resolution, China has shown a cautious stance. It is important that ways to apply "pressure," other than a Security Council resolution, be considered under the initiative of Tokyo, Washington and Seoul.

During a bilateral foreign ministerial meeting held after the Abe-Obama meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in reference to Japan-China relations, expressed a view that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and fall under the scope of U.S. defense obligations to Japan.

We welcome Kerry's adherence to the stance of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.

Japan, for its part, should calmly address this issue without being rattled by such provocations as the use of fire-control radar by Chinese forces. At the same time, Japan should strengthen the warning and surveillance operations conducted by the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard. To urge China to exercise self-restraint in its saber-rattling, Japan must deepen cooperation with the United States and other nations concerned.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 24, 2013)
(2013年2月24日01時42分  読売新聞)


北方領土交渉 「仕切り直し」へ戦略練り直せ

2013-02-25 05:17:05 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 24, 2013)
New strategy needed to resume talks over northern territories
北方領土交渉 「仕切り直し」へ戦略練り直せ(2月23日付・読売社説)

The government's aim of smoothing the way for future talks between Japanese and Russian leaders has been achieved. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now faces a test on whether it can devise a specific diplomatic strategy to make progress in negotiations to solve the dispute over the northern territories.

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori met recently with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow.

During the meeting, Putin said it is abnormal that the two countries have yet to conclude a peace treaty due to the obstacle of the territorial issue.

Drawing a picture of a judo competition area on paper, Putin stated his intention to make a fresh start in the negotiations. He said Japan and Russia cannot compete because both countries stay at the edge of the competition area, and that they should be pulled to the center to start over.

Putin's predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev, visited Kunashiri Island, one of the four islands in the northern territories, while he was Russian president. During the visit, Medvedev took a hard-line stance on the issue, saying: "This is our native land. We will not give away an inch."


Figure out Russia's real intent

Abe must appropriately interpret Putin's positive signal on the territorial issue. We hope the Abe administration will negotiate with Russia patiently while trying to figure out what Moscow really has in mind.

During the talks, Mori asked Putin to clarify his remarks in March last year that he would seek "hikiwake"--a judo term meaning a draw--to solve the issue. Putin reportedly said it was meant to be a solution that creates neither a winner nor a loser, but he did not elaborate.

Putin apparently regards the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration as a starting point for negotiations on the territorial row. The declaration stipulates the Habomai islets and Shikotan Island should be returned to Japan after the two countries sign a peace treaty. In recent years, Russia has allocated funding for developing infrastructure in the northern territories to steadily "Russianize" them, especially on the other two islands of Kunashiri and Etrofu.

On a TV program last month, Mori mentioned the possible option of Russia first returning three of the islets--with the exception of Etrofu Island--not all four at once. He made such remarks apparently in the belief that the nation should quickly aim for a realistic solution.

When he was foreign minister, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso floated the idea of dividing the four islands equally in terms of size.

However, bilateral negotiations between the Abe and Putin administrations have yet to take place. If Tokyo takes a concessional approach before the talks start, Moscow may take further advantage of it. In the same way as previously, Japan should aim for the return of all four islands in the negotiations.


Expanded cooperation key

At the meeting with Mori, Putin also expressed his hopes of expanded bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, such as in oil and natural gas. He also said his country wants to take advantage of Japan's agricultural technology in developing its vast Far East region.

Japan's economic strength and technology would be attractive to Russia, which has increased its focus on development of the Far East and Siberia. If the territorial dispute is resolved, Japan and Russia will be able to cooperate in more areas beneficial to both countries. Such expanded bilateral cooperation also could put a brake on China, a growing economic and military power.

It is vital for both Japan and Russia to increase their shared awareness that bilateral cooperation is strategically important. This could pave the way to solving the territorial issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 23, 2013)
(2013年2月23日01時27分  読売新聞)


3人死刑執行 凶悪犯罪の抑止につなげたい

2013-02-24 04:49:37 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 23, 2013)
Execution of death-row inmates must serve as deterrent to crime
3人死刑執行 凶悪犯罪の抑止につなげたい(2月22日付・読売社説)

Three death-row inmates were executed Thursday. They were the first executions carried out under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration, which was launched in December.

Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, who ordered the executions just two months after he was appointed to his post, told a press conference after the executions, "The spirit of the law shouldn't be disregarded." His statement shows he attaches grave importance to the Criminal Procedure Code, which stipulates that death sentences should be implemented within six months of being finalized.

The statement also indicates his stance to carry out in a somber manner the duties of the justice minister, who bears a heavy responsibility.


134 people now on death row

Under the Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations, few executions were carried out. There was even a period of about 20 months in which there were no executions, due to the successive appointments of justice ministers who were critical of the death penalty. As a result, the number of inmates whose death sentences had been finalized increased to 137, including the three most recently executed, the largest figure in the postwar period.

Internationally, countries that have abolished or suspended capital punishment outnumber those who maintain the system.

In Japan, on the other hand, 85 percent of the public approves of the death penalty, according to an opinion poll by the Cabinet Office.

"At the moment it's unnecessary to review the system," Tanigaki said, taking into consideration this public sentiment.

Death sentences have been given in lay judge trials, in which ordinary citizens participate in the trial process, and the sentences for three inmates under that system have been already finalized.

Considering these circumstances, we urge justice ministers to implement the death penalty system in a strict manner, after closely examining finalized death sentences.

The three inmates whose sentences were carried out most recently include a man who kidnapped and killed a young girl in Nara Prefecture in 2004, and a man who killed or injured nine people near JR Arakawaoki Station on the Joban Line and at another location, both in Ibaraki Prefecture, in 2008.

All three cases were contemptible, cruel crimes that horrified society. The victims and their bereaved family members suffered grievous harm. The bereaved families want the culprits to be harshly punished.

In the case of kidnapping and murder in Nara Prefecture, the perpetrator abducted a first-grade primary school student who was on her way home from school in order to sexually molest her. He even sent an e-mail with a picture of the girl's dead body to her mother's cellphone. The case was extremely malicious.


Prevention of repeat offenses

This is the case that clarified the trend toward toughening the penalties in murder cases so that people who commit atrocious sexual crimes will face capital punishment even if they have only killed one person.

The Nara Prefecture case spurred the government to study measures to prevent the recurrence of sexual offenses, as the perpetrator had a criminal record of sex offenses.

The Justice Ministry now provides the National Police Agency with information on where people with criminal records of sexual offenses involving children live after their release from prison. Sex offenders in prison are required to attend programs to prevent repeat offenses, in which they are taught ways to control their emotions.

However, there is no sign of a significant decline in the number of sex offenses. We should think again about the fact that one purpose of implementing death sentences is to deter atrocious crimes.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 22, 2013)
(2013年2月22日01時14分  読売新聞)