NSC法成立 意義深い与野党の幅広い合意

2013-11-30 05:33:46 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 29, 2013
Passage of NSC bill vital development in safeguarding nation’s peace, security
NSC法成立 意義深い与野党の幅広い合意(11月28日付・読売社説)

We welcome the passage of a bill designed to establish an organ to play a key role in issuing directives related to our country’s diplomatic relations and national security. This legislation will soon launch a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, with the aim of ensuring the nation’s peace and security and defending its national interests.

On Wednesday, the Diet enacted the NSC establishment law. Our country’s NSC will be inaugurated in early December. The first task of the soon-to-be-launched command center will be drafting a comprehensive national security strategy, the first of its kind for Japan, while also writing a new version of the National Defense Program Guidelines. This will likely be followed by the launch in January of a national security secretariat that will serve as the NSC’s executive office.

The NSC establishment law was endorsed by the governing coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, as well as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party. National security policies should be formulated based on suprapartisan consensus. Given this, it is highly significant that more than 90 percent of lawmakers in both Diet chambers united to pass the NSC bill into law.

The envisaged NSC’s central pillar will be a meeting of the prime minister and three key cabinet members—the chief cabinet secretary, the foreign minister and the defense minister. As a general rule, the meeting is to be held once every two weeks, also attended by the deputy prime minister.

It is most significant that a new system will be set up, by which the prime minister and relevant cabinet members will meet periodically to discuss important issues related to our country’s security and develop a common view on such matters. Themes will include situations related to China and North Korea, the ongoing realignment of U.S. armed forces in this country and issues related to our territory.

The NSC scheme will make it possible for top officials at the Prime Minister’s Office to afford a certain amount of time and energy to address diplomatic and security matters even at a time when the government is confronted by a number of tasks to be tackled at home. This task will be supported by the NSC executive office, which will comprise personnel with professional expertise, including senior Self-Defense Forces members.

We hope all these arrangements will do much to ensure that diplomatic and security policies are given higher priority and are better formulated.

Ensuring PM takes the lead

It will be necessary to ensure the Prime Minister’s Office takes the lead in determining the direction of security policy, a task that requires eliminating a lack of coordination among pertinent ministries and agencies.

This can be exemplified by such immediate tasks as responding to China’s recent move to set up an expanded air defense identification zone and the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture. Seeking solutions to both problems requires cooperative relations among several government ministries and agencies. The NSC will be tested over its ability to coordinate and adjust cooperation among these government offices.

Making appropriate decisions about security issues requires improving the ability of all government organs to gather and analyze information.

The NSC establishment law states that relevant ministries and agencies are required to supply the new organ with information related to its function. Information to be managed by the NSC will include government secrets whose confidentiality would be tightly guarded under an envisaged law seeking to stiffen penalties on public servants who leak such information.

With this in mind, relevant cabinet members must give their ministry personnel instructions necessary for facilitating a smooth information supply.

It is also essential that the Diet does not fail to pass the bill designed to prevent the leakage of specified government secrets. The government should also make progress in reforming the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, although it has not done so in connection with the NSC scheme.

Some duties of the NSC and the intelligence and research office may overlap, including analyzing the overseas state of affairs and intelligence regarding acts of international terrorism. The two organizations should promote effective cooperation between them.

The Diet has also adopted a resolution supplementary to the NSC establishment law that will require the government to consider producing the minutes of NSC ministerial meetings. This resulted from negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties.

Admittedly, it is necessary to create a system for compiling records regarding how decisions are made about important policy issues, so that each decision-making process could be verified in the future. Nonetheless, whether to produce the minutes of NSC meetings and disclose related information must be considered by putting all relevant government meetings into perspective, including cabinet meetings and conferences attended by cabinet ministers related to the NSC scheme.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 28, 2013)
(2013年11月28日01時34分  読売新聞)


秘密保護法案 指定対象絞り「原則公開」確実に

2013-11-29 05:19:29 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 28, 2013
Scope of secrecy must be narrowed; more Diet discussions needed
秘密保護法案 指定対象絞り「原則公開」確実に(11月27日付・読売社説)


The House of Representatives’ passage of a bill to tighten the confidentiality of specified government information can be regarded as a clear indication that many legislators believe this country needs such legislation comparable to what has already been enacted in other advanced nations.

The bill is designed to tighten penalties on public servants and others who leak classified information related to national security. On Tuesday, the legislation was laid before a plenary session of the lower house, which approved it with the endorsement of a significant 70 percent of lawmakers in that chamber—those from the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, as well as Your Party and some other legislators. The bill was then forwarded to the House of Councillors for further discussions.

Members of the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) left the chamber before the bill was put to a vote, despite its earlier agreement to support the legislation if some modifications were incorporated into it. Ishin no Kai was antagonized by the governing coalition’s decision to vote on the bill Tuesday instead of going along with its calls for more discussions.

Although Ishin no Kai regrettably refused to vote in favor of the bill, we find it commendable that the legislation passed the lower house with the backing of many lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties.

Japan NSC comes into play

Still, debates on revisions to the initial bill—an amendment drafted by the ruling parties, Your Party and Ishin no Kai—were far from sufficient. It is also a stretch to say that public anxiety about the nature of the bill has been laid to rest, as shown by the widespread fear that the legislation could restrict the people’s right to know.

The government and the ruling parties should carefully explain how the envisaged law would be applied in actuality during upper house debates on it, with the aim of gaining broad support for it.

Japan’s security environment has become even more difficult in recent years due to such factors as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and China’s growing military build-up.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had every reason to tell a session of the lower house Special Committee on National Security that “information gathering is critical for defending the safety of the people.”

The Abe administration intends to establish a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council that would play a central role in issuing directives related to Japan’s diplomatic relations and national security. Every nation needs to refine its legal framework to ensure none of its secrets are leaked. This is essential for promoting efforts to exchange and share critical information among allies and friendly powers.

Given this, the envisaged NSC and legislation for preserving the secrecy of crucial information are inseparable when it comes to the government’s strategic decision-making function.

The most contentious issue debated in connection with the bill was how the government would actually apply the envisaged law. During debates in the lower house, legislators said it would be impossible to dispel the anxiety that the government could arbitrarily expand the scope of information to be designated under the legislation, thus making it possible to keep concealing such secrets.

The prime minister brushed off that assertion as a mistaken notion about the bill. He insisted that the legislation would be used as a multilayered system by which the government would be prevented from making arbitrary decisions about designating information as secret. Steps to be taken for that purpose include limiting the scope of designation to items stated in a table attached to the bill, and setting standards for secrecy designation based on the opinions of experts.

Information to be classified under the legislation would be removed—as a general rule—from the list of secrets 30 years after its designation. The modified bill stipulates the term of designation for each secret could be renewed by consent of the cabinet, but that the ultimate period would not exceed 60 years, except for areas of critical importance, including secret codes used by the government and sources of confidential information.

The prime minister told the lower house that information whose designation period could be extended beyond 30 years would be limited, as a general rule, to these seven areas.

Debates on the bill in the lower house certainly did much to clarify the government’s thinking about how to apply the law, and also imposed tighter limits on the duration of secrecy designation.

Fend off arbitrary judgment

Nonetheless, bureaucratic organizations, with their ingrained principle of not rocking the boat, are expected to broaden the range of documents subject to protection as specifically designated secrets and become more cautious about declassifying them.

Presently, the government possesses about 420,000 documents containing specially managed secrets. Ninety percent of these documents are said to be related to Japan’s information-gathering satellites. The government should narrow down the range of classified information to be protected when it transfers documents into the category of specifically designated secrets.

If the number of specifically designated secrets grows too large, it would be physically difficult to check every piece of classified information and to declassify them should “the heads of administrative organizations” be replaced through a change of government or a cabinet reshuffle. It is important to work out a structure that prevents bureaucrats from hanging on to specifically designated secrets for too long.

During a Diet session, Abe went so far as to say the government should establish a “third-party body” that would examine the appropriateness of the designation of documents branded as secret. He referred to such organizations as the Information Security Oversight Office within the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

It would be unreasonable for specifically designated secrets to be examined by people outside the organization. It would also give rise to the danger of information leaks. If a third-party organization is to be set up, it would be proper to have an internal unit within an administrative organization do the job, modeled on the setup in the United States.

According to the modified bill, all secret documents that have been declassified “are to be made public, in principle” after a certain period. This modification is an improvement that will enable future generations to examine these documents.

How such documents should be made public, stored or destroyed are major issues to be resolved. The Democratic Party of Japan asserted that certain rules should be established on information disclosure so that courts will be able to look at specific documents when handling a lawsuit that involves classified information. We think this proposal has some merit.

As to the Diet’s involvement in specifically designated secrets, the ruling and opposition parties should stipulate such matters as the management of closed meetings through lawmaker-initiated legislation.

Protecting ‘right to know’

The bill also clearly gave some consideration to the freedom of news gathering and reporting. We welcome the fact that news gathering activity by people in the media will not be considered a crime unless it is conducted illegally or extremely improperly.

Some opposition parties have been up in arms and claimed this bill “will cover the people’s eyes and ears and muzzle their mouths” and “control the state’s information and silence any criticism of the Japan-U.S. alliance.” But such fears are off the mark.

That being said, there is a danger that public servants will become so afraid of leaks that they will reject requests for interviews, making it harder for the media to share necessary information with the public.

How should the protection of classified information for national security be balanced with the people’s “right to know”? This topic also needs in-depth discussion in the upper house.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 27, 2013)
(2013年11月27日02時13分  読売新聞)


法人税減税 競争力強化へ具体策を詰めよ

2013-11-28 04:59:13 | 英字新聞




The Yomiuri Shimbun November 27, 2013
Tax changes should boost companies’ competitiveness to promote growth
法人税減税 競争力強化へ具体策を詰めよ(11月26日付・読売社説)

Reducing the corporate tax rate is an effective way to enhance the competitiveness of Japanese companies and reinforce the foundations for national economic growth.

At the instruction of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, tax system talks on further reducing corporate tax have gotten into full swing between the government and the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

Their commitment to a growth strategy will be tested by how far they go in presenting a specific course of action.

In Tokyo, the effective corporate tax rate, when national and local taxes are combined, stands at about 38 percent. Even if the special reconstruction corporate tax—temporarily imposed on companies to finance post-disaster reconstruction projects—is excluded, companies still face corporate tax up to about 36 percent, which is much higher than the rates in European and other Asian countries, where it is mostly in the 20 percent range.

As long as the corporate tax remains high, not only will much of the vitality of Japanese companies be lost, but the hollowing out of industry—companies moving production overseas to avoid the high cost of operating in Japan— may accelerate. The high tax will also have an adverse impact on employment and wages. Furthermore, to attract investment from abroad, a further reduction in the corporate tax rate is urgently needed.

Abe’s intention of improving the competitive environment for companies and adding impetus to the growth of the national economy is quite appropriate.

More than a few ruling party members take a cautious view about having ordinary households bear a heavier burden due to the consumption tax increase set for next spring, while reducing the corporate tax at the same time.

But it would be more beneficial to create a virtuous circle in which the invigoration of companies would have a ripple effect that would benefit households through wage hikes and other improvements.

Seek new revenue sources

A cut of even one percentage point in the corporate tax rate is projected to reduce government revenue by about ¥400 billion. Therefore, one significant remaining hurdle is finding a tax revenue source to make up for the shortfall.

As the fiscal situation is harsh, the tax base must be broadened so as to collect taxes from a wider range of companies.

Special policy measures to reduce corporate taxes on specific sectors of industry have a worth totaling about ¥7 trillion. As these measures vest interests in certain companies and industries, many criticize them as unfair. It is also argued that the policy effects of these steps are uncertain.

The government and the ruling parties should consider abolishing the special tax-cut measures deemed to have outlived their intended purpose, and cutting the scale of measures whose effect has been lessened.

The fact that more than 70 percent of domestic companies do not pay corporate taxes is also problematic.

One possible idea is to review the system of carrying forward net operating losses, under which companies can reduce their tax expense by applying net operating losses from the past several years to the current year’s profit. With this option it would be possible to have more companies pay their fair share of taxes.

The abolition of the special corporate tax for post-disaster reconstruction one year earlier than initially planned, as worked out by the government, is also an important topic for talks by the ruling parties.

The one-year difference will cut tax revenues by ¥900 billion, lessening the burden on companies.

However, a shortage of funds needed for reconstruction projects because of this measure must be avoided. The government and ruling parties have to clearly state an alternative revenue source and win the understanding of the people so as not to hinder the rebuilding effort.

Also needed is for companies to use their accumulated internal reserves to make their own efforts. We hope to see the reinforcement of a strategy in which surplus funds at companies are used effectively and help rejuvenate the national economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 26, 2013)
(2013年11月26日01時45分  読売新聞)


COP19閉幕 国際協調で温暖化対策を前へ

2013-11-27 04:46:41 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 26, 2013
Push ahead measures to tackle climate change with international cooperation
COP19閉幕 国際協調で温暖化対策を前へ(11月25日付・読売社説)

Due to the conflicting interests of developed and developing countries, including emerging economies, the just-concluded discussions on climate change made hardly any progress. The latest U.N. talks on the issue vividly demonstrated the difficulties facing the international effort to tackle global warming.

The 19th Conference on Climate Change (COP19) has ended in Warsaw. The participants extended the meeting by one day, managing to prevent it from breaking down.

A new greenhouse gas reduction framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol is to be implemented in 2020. By when should the participating countries submit their voluntary greenhouse gas emission targets for the years beyond 2020? As to this major point of contention, the participants agreed on a final draft of their joint communique that encourages their governments to present their targets in 2015.

While advanced countries had tried to put a specific process in motion to build a new framework, developing countries opposed specifying the timing. It can be said that both sides went as far as they could in reaching the agreement. The negotiations on a new framework have a tough road ahead.

Recent spates of climate catastrophes such as the occurrence of super typhoons are said to be caused by global warming. When the delegation from the Philippines, which was hit hard by Typhoon No. 30, appealed for an immediate increase in efforts to tackle global warming, the appeal won the sympathy of other countries.

Developing nations want help

While sharing a sense of crisis over global warming, developing countries repeatedly asserted that advanced countries should proactively support them because of their weak financial position. They did so because they believe the advanced countries are responsible for global warming, as they have emitted a massive amount of greenhouse gas with their industrial production.

Indeed, it will be necessary to extend a certain amount of support to developing countries that cannot afford to take measures to deal with environmental issues on their own.

On the other hand, we should not forget the reality that the total amount of emissions from developing countries as a whole has topped the total amount for advanced countries now. It was quite reasonable for advanced countries, including Japan, to call on developing countries to adopt the stance of reducing emissions on their own initiative.

In particular, such emerging economies as China—the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gas—need to assume their fair share of responsibility for reducing the emissions.

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara emphasized at the COP19 conference that the new framework should be fair and effective and be applied to all countries. It is vital to firmly maintain this course of action.

At the conference, the Japanese government expressed its new goal of “reducing its domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 3.8 percent from the fiscal 2005 level by the end of fiscal 2020,” a target that drew criticism from other countries as being too low.

Yet the 3.8 percent cut is a numerical value set at a time when none of the nation’s nuclear power stations, which do not emit any carbon dioxide when generating electricity, are operating.

The government should expedite its efforts to work out a basic energy plan that specifies a future ratio of nuclear power generation. It is important for the government to raise the emissions reduction target by the end of 2020 based on such a basic plan and to make steady progress in setting a realistic target for the years beyond 2020.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 25, 2013)
(2013年11月25日01時17分  読売新聞)


猪瀬氏に5000万 「個人の借り入れ」は通らない

2013-11-26 04:40:36 | 英字新聞


The Yomiuri Shimbun November 25, 2013
Inose's explanation of why he took Tokushukai funds defies common sense
猪瀬氏に5000万 「個人の借り入れ」は通らない(11月24日付・読売社説)

In a development that left many scratching their heads, Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose was found to have received ¥50 million from the Tokushukai medical group—under investigation by prosecutors for suspected election law violations—just before the December Tokyo gubernatorial race, in which he was elected to the post for the first time.

According to his accounts, Inose visited Torao Tokuda, a former House of Representatives member and the founder of Tokushukai, in November last year to solicit support for his election bid, shortly after which the hospital group offered to provide funds to Inose. He received the ¥50 million directly from Takeshi Tokuda, the second son of Torao and a lower house member, at the Diet members’ building.

What was the purpose of the funds?

If they were meant for election campaigning, Inose was required to declare the ¥50 million in a campaign funds report, in accordance with the Public Offices Election Law. But there was no mention of the funds from Tokushukai in Inose’s report.

At a press conference, the governor said, “I personally borrowed the funds because I worried my savings would be wiped out due to election campaigning.” He is apparently claiming that because the funds from Tokushukai were not for his election campaign, his conduct did not violate the election law.

It is, however, only natural to assume he received the cash with the view of possibly using it for election campaigning as it was just before the start of official campaigning for the Tokyo race when he asked Tokuda to support his candidacy.

Inose said he gave an IOU to Tokuda, but what exactly he scribbled down on the note is unknown, although he claimed the money was a no-interest, no-collateral loan. It was nonetheless a monetary transaction that is far from the social norm.

Disclosure came late

Even if it was a personal loan, as Inose claims, there is a problem. Although a metropolitan government ordinance requires the governor to report any loans, if any, in an asset disclosure statement, Inose did not do so. He revised the statement only after the scandal came to light Friday.

The timing of his returning the money also stokes suspicion. The governor returned the money in full in late September right after the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office searched Tokushukai’s Tokyo headquarters and other locations, suspecting violations of the election law.

“I told them I would return the money in January or February, but I never got around to it,” Inose explained. But it is hard not to suspect he returned the money hastily as the investigation unfolded.

The metropolitan and prefectural governors have the authority to grant permission to open hospitals and supervise them after they open.  都道府県知事は病院などの開設を許可する権限を持つ。開設後も指導監督する立場にある。

There are a number of hospitals and nursing homes for the elderly run by Tokushukai in Tokyo, but Inose denied providing any quid pro quos to the medical group for receiving the money—an act, in the first place, showing his lack of consciousness about social norms.

The governor is playing a central role in preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. We regret that this scandal has poured cold water on the festive mood of hosting the sports extravaganza.

If the scandal is prolonged, it could have negative ramifications on his management of the Tokyo metropolitan government. He must urgently give every possible explanation to convince doubters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 24, 2013)
(2013年11月24日01時49分  読売新聞)