ODA大綱改定 平和構築へ戦略性を高めよ

2014-06-30 09:37:19 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Peace-building efforts should be strategic priority of ODA
ODA大綱改定 平和構築へ戦略性を高めよ

Japan should make active use of its official development assistance programs to help crystallize the goal of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in transforming the country into a “proactive contributor to peace.”

On Thursday, a Foreign Ministry panel of experts presented a report to Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida after wrapping up discussions on a review of Japan’s ODA Charter, a set of principles governing the country’s overseas development aid. The government is set to give Cabinet approval to a new ODA Charter by the end of the year, completing the first major review in 11 years.

The report cites the “pursuit of international peace through nonmilitary activities” as one of the guiding principles of ODA funding.

Conventionally, the government has banned assisting foreign military forces with Japan’s ODA. The report by the panel, however, recommends that aid to foreign militaries be permitted on a case-by-case basis, asserting that support for armed forces activities concerning nonmilitary objectives such as stabilizing citizens’ livelihoods and disaster relief “should not be excluded uniformly” simply because they are military-related.

A number of potential projects would be included in the envisioned uses of ODA funding, including improvement of ports, harbors and airports for joint military and civilian use and inviting military personnel from abroad for disaster relief training and other nonmilitary operations.

Many countries have been utilizing military forces in peace-building, the enhancement of people’s living standards and other objectives. ODA disbursements are an important diplomatic policy resource for Japan, and utilizing those funds for such purposes is commendable and in keeping with the philosophy of “proactive contribution to peace.”

Coordination with U.N.

Regarding ODA funding for the purpose of peace-building, the government has decided to provide the Philippines with 10 patrol boats using yen loans. A provision of patrol boats to Vietnam is also being considered.

China has been maneuvering to make maritime advances by force in the South China Sea. Helping the Philippines and Vietnam beef up their maritime security capabilities will help to ensure the safety of key sea lanes vital to maritime transport of trade and energy for Japan. Such strategic use of ODA must be expanded.

The report also proposes advocating strengthened coordination between Japan’s ODA and U.N. peacekeeping activities. This suggestion is based on the National Security Strategy approved by the Cabinet last December, which calls for a similar roadmap.

Under the strategy, Self-Defense Forces members participating in U.N. peacekeeping activities will engage in projects such as building roads and facilities, while the Japan International Cooperation Agency helps ODA-recipient countries expedite their nation-building endeavors. Every possible effort must be made to ensure optimal synergy between SDF activities and JICA operations.

Japan’s ODA missions are marking their 60th anniversary this year. The government’s budgetary appropriations for ODA projects peaked in fiscal 1997 at about ¥1.17 trillion, and have been on the decline, standing at about ¥550 billion for the current fiscal year, less than half the peak level. Now is the time to put the brakes on the downward trend in ODA outlays.

The report also stresses the significance of increasing the roles played by private-sector funds in developmental cooperation fields.

It is estimated that private-sector funds flowing from industrially advanced countries into developing countries total around 2.5 times as much capital as the aggregate of all global ODA.

Improving infrastructure in developing nations though an organic linking of government ODA with the business activities of Japanese companies should run parallel to Japan’s growth strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 27, 2014)


首相沖縄訪問 米軍基地負担を着実に減らせ

2014-06-27 08:43:57 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Government must work to reduce Okinawa U.S. base-hosting burdens
首相沖縄訪問 米軍基地負担を着実に減らせ

The government must make utmost efforts to steadily ease the burden that hosting U.S. military bases places on Okinawa Prefecture.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a memorial service on Monday for those killed in the war commemorating the 69 years since the end of the Battle of Okinawa, which raged just before the Pacific War came to an end in 1945.

In a speech at the ceremony, Abe said: “We will give consideration to the feelings of the people of Okinawa and will do our best to reduce their burden for hosting the bases, while assuming a stance of carrying out what we can do as much as possible.”

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima last December approved a reclamation project necessary to transfer the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to the Henoko coastal district in Nago. Nakaima had previously called for “relocation to a place outside Okinawa” in a peace declaration at the ceremony for three consecutive years, 2011-13. This year, however, he changed his wording to shift away from insistence on a plan for relocation outside of Okinawa.

His difficult about-face on the matter came as strong calls persist among prefectural residents for relocation outside of Okinawa. To show good faith in supporting Nakaima after his wrenching decision, the government must implement various measures to reduce the prefecture’s burden in hosting U.S. military bases.

The Futenma issue is expected to be a major topic of contention in November’s gubernatorial election, as Nakaima’s term in office ends. Nakaima remains uncommitted on whether he will run for a third term. At the same time, the conservative mayor of Naha, an opponent of the Henoko relocation plan, has been seeking to run in the election.

To minimize the impact of the gubernatorial election results on the relocation plan, it is imperative to take every possible measure.

Advance return of Futenma

The central government reportedly plans to begin boring as part of soil investigations at the planned reclamation site in July and to advance construction work on replacement facilities ahead of schedule as much as possible. It is imperative that the planned return of Futenma Air Station and associated land to Japan, targeted for fiscal 2022 and onward, be advanced as much as possible by speeding design and construction.

Tokyo and Washington agreed last week to restrict entry into the area scheduled for land reclamation and the surrounding waters at all times.

This may be an inevitable step to preclude obstruction by opponents and avoid unexpected confusion. To help promote the work, not only the Defense Ministry but also the National Police Agency, as well as the Japan Coast Guard and other relevant organizations, must join hands in taking all possible measures.

The government is also looking into the possibility of drastically pushing forward the return of Camp Kinser in Makiminato, which has been targeted for return to Japan in 2024-25 or later.

Japan and the United States have also been negotiating to conclude a new agreement under which environmental surveys for U.S. bases to be returned to Japan would be conducted in advance. This could amount to a de facto revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. If such a change were to be realized, it would have a great significance.

As for training involving the U.S. military’s MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft deployed at the Futenma base, efforts must be made to move more training to areas outside of Okinawa Prefecture. It is essential that the prefecture’s heavy burden be shared broadly across the whole of Japan.

Moving forward with the realignment of U.S. bases in Okinawa, while maintaining deterrence capabilities of U.S. troops, and completing this work in conjunction with regional development, will be an important part of reinforcing trust between the Abe administration and the local governments and residents of Okinawa.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2014)


被災地の防潮堤 地域に応じた見直しが必要だ

2014-06-25 05:23:47 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Seawall plans should be amended to suit the needs of local people
被災地の防潮堤 地域に応じた見直しが必要だ

Plans to build huge seawalls along the coastal areas hit hardest by the Great East Japan Earthquake have been met with staunch opposition from local residents one after another. We urge the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectural governments to calmly reexamine their seawall plans and alter them as necessary.

In the 2011 earthquake, 60 percent of seawalls with a total length of about 300 kilometers in the three prefectures were either seriously damaged or destroyed. The central and three prefectural governments are currently pushing a project to build 390 kilometers of new seawalls with ¥800 billion from state coffers.

To prepare for tsunami, adequately sized seawalls must be constructed. The problem is that many communities are opposed to the project as local residents consider the proposed walls “too high.”
“[The seawalls] will leave less land available along the coasts, adversely affecting fisheries” and “They will block ocean views” are two of the opinions expressed by local residents.

Miyagi Prefecture has yet to win approval for the project from 40 of 276 communities where the construction of new seawalls is planned.

Compared to the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which struck mainly urban areas, the disaster-hit regions in the three Tohoku prefectures are mostly depopulated. If the fishery and tourism industries on which local residents depend decline, their livelihood would be severely affected.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, is among those who have questioned the advisability of building such high seawalls, saying, “I’m not sure that reconstruction should be carried out in such a way that it will block ocean views.” We completely understand their concerns.

Study cost-effectiveness

The higher the seawall is the more effective it will be as a safeguard against tsunami. But on the other hand, higher seawalls are more expensive to construct, ruin scenic views and take a toll on the environment. Such seawalls also entail higher maintenance costs. Moreover, the life of concrete seawalls is roughly 50 years, which makes rebuilding them inevitable at some point in the future.

Also from the viewpoint of cost-effectiveness, the project should be carefully studied.

Each of the three prefectures has decided on the height of the seawalls based on guidelines compiled by an examination committee of experts at the Central Disaster Management Council. The standard of seawalls in the guidelines is to protect the lives and property of local residents in the event of a huge tsunami, which can occur once in a few decades or more than a century.

Under its plan, Miyagi Prefecture will raise the height of its seawalls from the pre-disaster average of four meters to 7.5 meters. That height, however, will be insufficient to block gigantic tsunami equivalent to those in the Great East Japan Earthquake, which are said to occur once in a millennium.

Instead, the purpose of building seawalls should be to reduce the force of tsunami, thereby securing more time for residents to flee the area. It is important to ensure the construction of seawalls is a part of comprehensive measures to minimize damage from a disaster that also include the establishment of evacuation centers and routes.

Some communities have lowered the planned height of seawalls, while taking such measures as transferring houses to higher ground and building seawalls in locations further inland.

If the prefectural governments insist on keeping the planned heights and invite a backlash from local residents as a result, it will further delay work to implement disaster management measures and scuttle efforts to rebuild communities, and placing roadblocks in the path of reconstructing people’s lives.

Bearing this in mind, the prefectural governments must listen to what local residents have to say.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 201


河野談話検証 外交的配慮が事実に優先した

2014-06-24 05:10:41 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Diplomatic consideration outweighed historical facts in Kono statement
河野談話検証 外交的配慮が事実に優先した

Once again a flaw in the 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on so-called comfort women has come to the fore.

A team of experts set up by the government has compiled a report examining the process of drafting the Kono statement, which was issued in August 1993 and expressed apologies and remorse to former comfort women.

South Korea demanded changes in certain expressions in the initial draft, saying The documents must be evaluated favorably by the South Korean people. The report shed light on the close coordination about the statement’s wording between the Japanese and South Korean governments.

Regarding whether coerciveness was involved in the recruitment of comfort women, a focal point of this issue, the 1993 statement said, “They were recruited generally against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc.”

In explaining why the statement used such expressions, the report clearly said, “...the question of how ‘coerciveness’ of the recruitment of the comfort women would be expressed and worded in the statement constituted the main issue of contention in the communication” with the South Korean side and “Coordination took place until the last moment.”

As for the Japanese military’s involvement in the establishment of comfort stations, the South Korean side insisted on using the expression “instruction,” which was rejected by Japan, the report said. Both sides eventually settled on the word “request” instead.

At the request of the South Korean government, the Japanese government interviewed 16 former comfort women, but the statement was drafted within the Japanese government before all the interviews were concluded.

Problem-plagued statement

It is clear that the government gave priority to making political compromises and paying diplomatic consideration over historical facts. It is a problem-plagued statement made jointly by Japan and South Korea.

Until this time, the Japanese government had avoided in-depth discussions to ascertain the facts regarding the issue of comfort women and the Kono statement.

Examining in detail the process of drafting the statement and releasing the results are meaningful in resolving misunderstanding in the international community about the issue of comfort women.

According to the report, the statement did not say the authorities were “forcefully taking away” women, as the Japanese government was not able to confirm it based on its investigations.

But at a press conference during which the statement was released, Kono responded to a question about whether women were forcefully taken away by saying, “We accept that to be the case.” Kono committed a serious transgression by further spreading wrong conceptions about the issue.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear that the government will not review the statement, a decision he probably made from the broader political perspective of seeking an improvement in relations between Japan and South Korea. Seoul, however, refuted Japan’s verification of the statement, saying the move could “impair the credibility of the statement.”

Since the Kono statement, there has been widespread misunderstanding in the world that Japan forcibly took away comfort women.

In the U.S. city of Glendale, Calif., Korean-Americans with strong ties with South Korea engaged in anti-Japanese activity by setting up a statue of a comfort woman.

The government has not launched effective counterarguments because of the Kono statement.

We believe it will eventually be unavoidable to change the statement.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 21, 2014)



2014-06-23 11:32:35 | 英字新聞

June 19, 2014
EDITORIAL: Ishihara’s remark about interim storage facility adds insult to injury

No doubt about it. Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara’s insensitive remark about the problem of selecting a site to temporarily store radiation-contaminated soil reflected a slice of the grim reality of the terrible mess caused by the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“In the end, it will come down to money,” Ishihara said, giving the impression that giving wads of cash to residents in Fukushima Prefecture was the only way to resolve the problem.

Indeed, there are a slew of issues in areas affected by the nuclear catastrophe that cannot be solved without payments of money. A huge amount of funds will be needed to pay compensation to victims, complete decontamination work of affected areas and rebuild disaster-hit areas. There is also the question of returning local residents to their homes and providing support for evacuees who are living in new areas.

But it is not money people in the affected areas in Fukushima really want.

What they really crave is a return to the good old days when they didn’t have to worry about radiation while working their rice and vegetable fields or spending their leisure time on the beach laughing with their children and grandchildren.

They know full well that they can’t get that life back. That is what makes their current situation all the more wretched.

It is the central government, not residents in areas around the Fukushima nuclear plant, that wants to solve all the problems with money.

Money is certainly a convenient tool. It seems to be a panacea for issues involving compensation.

Since the triple meltdown in 2011, however, money has been undermining the affected communities in Fukushima.

Some people in these communities have received payouts, while others haven’t. Some have received what was seen as “too much” compensation, while others felt the payments to them were “insufficient.”

Despite appearing to be neutral and impartial, the money has aggressively intruded into local communities, families and relationships between friends in a divisive manner.

Over the past three years, people in Fukushima have had enough painful experiences to make them aware of how money can create contradictions and emptiness. During the period, they have also had to fight the perception that they are pursuing money as their ultimate goal.

Given these circumstances, they have been struggling to pull themselves together, rebuild their relations with people around them and figure out how to live. It is people in Fukushima, not the central government, who have been addressing these weighty problems.

The same can be said about the proposed facility for interim storage of radioactive soil. The residents, quite naturally, do not want such a facility in their hometowns. But there can be no progress in the efforts to rebuild Fukushima unless contaminated soil can be stored somewhere.

Some people probably attended explanatory meetings for local residents as a way to escape from their anxieties and find answers for the way forward.

Ishihara’s remark broke the hearts of those people.

The government’s promise to dispose of the soil outside the prefecture within 30 years can now only sound hollow.

Which community outside the prefecture would be willing to accept a huge amount of contaminated soil?

The grossly irresponsible way the government has been making empty promises concerning the issue seems to be reflected in the callous attitude of the minister, who bluntly said that it is after all a question of money.

Since the controversial remark, Ishihara has been busy explaining what he meant and offering apologies.

The negotiations over the storage site have already been difficult and arduous.

It will be a formidable task to repair the government’s relations with the local communities that have been badly damaged by Ishihara’s gaffe.

Ishihara, the minister responsible for the issue of the storage site, didn’t attend any of the explanatory meetings held over a period of about two weeks.

Ishihara should visit the communities and listen to what their residents say.

Doing so would help him realize the grave implications of what he said and the seriousness of the damage it caused to the communities.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 19