社説:辺野古環境委 公正に監視できるのか

2015-10-22 06:53:51 | 英字新聞

October 21, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Company donations put fairness of Okinawa environmental watchdog in doubt
社説:辺野古環境委 公正に監視できるのか

Three members of an expert panel tasked with monitoring the environmental impact of construction work off the Henoko district of Nago for the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma received donations from contractors involved in the project.
Of the 13 members on the panel, Yokohama National University graduate school professor and panel chair Yoshiyuki Nakamura, along with two others, were found to have accepted donations between 500,000 yen and 8 million yen each following their appointments to the body.

The donations were given by contractors for the relocation project and an environmental consulting firm, the latter of which now runs the day-to-day office functions of the panel.

The previous Okinawa governor, Hirokazu Nakaima, requested the formation of the expert panel in December 2013 as a condition for approving landfill work off Henoko. The Defense Ministry then established the environmental oversight committee in April the following year. The panel is tasked with providing scientific and technical advice to the Defense Ministry on environmental protection, and is responsible for environmental reviews of a drilling survey at the Henoko site -- a preliminary step to the land reclamation work -- all the way through a post-construction survey.

When the Okinawa Prefectural Government pointed to the possibility that large concrete blocks that the Defense Ministry sank into the waters off the Henoko coast for a seabed survey had destroyed coral reefs, and demanded a halt to the work this past spring, the expert panel stated that the impact of the seabed survey on the reefs was "minimal." The committee played an important role as a source of expert opinion.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said that the government sees no problem in the three panel members receiving donations from companies involved in the base relocation work, insisting, "The panel is being managed in a fair and just manner." The panel members also claim that the donations have not affected the body's discussions and judgment.

Even if the truth is as Suga and the committee members have claimed, however, the situation has unfolded in the midst of the controversial U.S. base relocation plan, which has developed into a very public clash between the central and Okinawa governments. Members of the expert panel should not have accepted money that could have been seen as suspicious in any way. As an old Chinese proverb says, "If you don't want to be mistaken as stealing a plum, you should not adjust your crown under a plum tree," i.e. don't leave any room for scandal or doubt.

University of the Ryukyus professor emeritus Seiji Azuma, vice chairman of the expert committee, told the Mainichi Shimbun that most of the panel members from mainland Japan have no experience in environmental research in Okinawa.

"I'm dubious of their ability to conduct environmental monitoring in Okinawa. The central government is probably looking to go ahead and build the new base with a green light from the panel," Azuma added, casting doubt on the purpose of the committee itself.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga revoked his predecessor's approval for the land reclamation work off Henoko last week. However, the central government is trying high-handedly to push ahead with the landfill work, and the conflict between the two sides has heightened. If the committee remains a group tailor-made to endorse the central government's plans, it will fail to fulfill its stated role as an environmental watchdog.

The Defense Ministry should disclose all minutes from the panel meetings.

Not accepting money or goods from interested parties is the least that can be expected, morally speaking, from members of an expert panel like the environmental monitoring committee in question. The Nuclear Regulation Authority, for example, checks whether outside experts have received remuneration of 500,000 yen a year or more from nuclear business-related organizations in the previous three years when asking their opinions.

The Defense Ministry should consider introducing such a system for the environmental monitoring committee in Okinawa.

毎日新聞 2015年10月21日 東京朝刊


アフガン情勢 米軍駐留延長で治安取り戻せ

2015-10-21 06:44:48 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Afghanistan’s security must be regained with extension of U.S. troop presence
アフガン情勢 米軍駐留延長で治安取り戻せ

The international community has sacrificed a lot and spent a vast amount of money and time to bring stability to Afghanistan. We must not let the country slide back into a hotbed of terrorism.

U.S. President Barack Obama has dropped the goal of completing the withdrawal of about 9,800 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year. Instead, he will keep about 5,500 American troops in that country in 2017 and later. This is an appropriate decision.

Following the simultaneous terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001, the U.S. forces toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and established its presence in the country. At its peak, as many as 100,000 U.S. troops were sent to the country, mainly engaged in maintaining security, in cooperation with forces from other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In recent years, however, U.S. troops have mainly focused on training Afghanistan’s security forces.

U.S. troops have fought in Afghanistan for 14 years — it is the United States’ longest war — because the importance Washington places on its antiterrorism strategy remains.

Since the U.S. presidential election in 2008, Obama has consistently advocated, in campaign pledges, that he would end the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan and withdraw troops from both countries. The war-weariness of Americans was seen behind these pledges.

Since the U.S. and other troops ended combat missions in 2014, however, Afghanistan’s security situation has deteriorated.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had strongly called for an extended presence of U.S. troops, while U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said, “The narrative that we’re leaving Afghanistan is self-defeating.”

Obama was forced to go back on his official pledges, apparently because his reading of the Afghan situation was too optimistic.

Some lawmakers in the U.S. Republican Party say the presence of 5,500 U.S. troops is insufficient.

Avoid same mistakes

Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist group gained power. To avoid making the same mistake, the United States has to expedite efforts to rebuild its strategy.

For the first time in Afghanistan’s history, power was transferred in September last year through an election with the support of the international community. In July, the first official peace talks were held between the Ghani administration and the Taliban leadership.

However, the Taliban’s leadership later fell into disarray following the government’s disclosure that Mullah Omar, the supreme leader of the Taliban movement, had died, leaving no prospect for peace talks to resume anytime soon.

Also worrisome is Taliban’s recent increase in its attacks. Late last month, Taliban rebels briefly captured most of the northern town of Kunduz. Terrorist attacks by the ISIL, which is hostile to the Taliban, are becoming more serious.

Self-help efforts by Afghanistan are essential. The present state of affairs, where governing functions are declining due to rivalry between Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, should not be left to fester. The solidarity of the country’s leadership will serve as the first step toward stability.

Reinforcement of security forces is an urgent task. It is important that U.S. and other NATO forces, in cooperation with the Afghan government, secure sufficient military strength and equipment, and at the same time continue to train Afghan forces systematically.

Since 2001, Japan has extended assistance worth about ¥700 billion in such areas as disarmament, infrastructure development, police training, education and medicine. Japan should continue doing all it can to make nonmilitary contributions to the country in the days ahead.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 20, 2015)


マレー機撃墜 ロシアは事件捜査に協力せよ

2015-10-20 06:59:52 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Russia must cooperate in investigating downing of Malaysian jet over Ukraine
マレー機撃墜 ロシアは事件捜査に協力せよ

Even though more than one year has passed since the tragic event that killed nearly 300 people, there has been no prospect of prosecuting the perpetrators of the crime. This is an extremely grave situation.

The safety board of the Netherlands has released its final report on the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight over eastern Ukraine in July last year. The largest number of victims were Dutch.

After a detailed analysis of the downing of the plane as fighting continued between Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian armed separatists group, the report concluded that the plane was shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile.

The report said the missile was probably launched somewhere in an area covering about 320 square kilometers in eastern Ukraine. This suggests the involvement of the armed rebels that controlled most of the area.

The United States, European countries and the Ukrainian government say that, after analyzing records of communications and radar reports, the armed separatist group fired a missile on the Malaysian aircraft, mistakenly believing it was a Ukrainian Air Force plane.

Yet the final report did not go so far as to identify the perpetrator. Although the safety board does not have the authority to apportion blame, we can understand the growing anger among bereaved families of the victims.

A criminal investigation, aimed at identifying the perpetrators, will be put into the hands of a joint team comprising officials from such countries as the Netherlands, Malaysia, Ukraine, the United States and Russia.

A number of suspected perpetrators have apparently already emerged. Making full use of the findings of the safety board, the joint team has to apportion blame for the barbaric action.

Obstacle to probe

An obstacle to the criminal investigation is that both Russia and the armed separatist group have consistently denied involvement. Both have asserted that there is a possibility the Ukrainian forces, which possess Buk missiles, shot down the plane. We think neither of them is cooperative with the investigation.

Shortly after the crash, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration tacitly agreed that the pro-Russian separatists should block access of an international investigation team to the crash site.

In July, Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft resolution that would have set up an international tribunal to prosecute those suspected of downing the airliner, leading to the draft resolution being rejected.

The actions taken by Russia will only increase distrust toward that country.

To identify the site where the missile was launched from and to prosecute those suspected of downing the airliner, the provision of relevant information from Russia is essential. It is important for the international community to support the joint investigation team and press Russia to cooperate.

In determining what happened, it is urgently needed to stabilize the local situation in eastern Ukraine.

Although the fighting has been in a lull since last month, the withdrawal of heavy weapons of both the Ukrainian government forces and the separatists has made little progress, delaying the implementation of a ceasefire accord.

To avoid the conflict from continuing for a protracted period, the United States, European countries and Japan should cooperate with each other and continue urging the parties involved to abide by the ceasefire accord.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 19, 2015)


米韓首脳会談 対中傾斜で同盟を揺るがすな

2015-10-19 06:08:06 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
South Korea should not shake alliance with U.S. by favoring China too much
米韓首脳会談 対中傾斜で同盟を揺るがすな

It is vital that the United States and South Korea maintain their solid alliance, for the deterrence of North Korea’s military provocations and the regional stability of Asia. South Korea should not weaken these ties by getting too close to China.

U.S. President Barack Obama held talks with his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye in Washington and they adopted a joint statement focusing on their cooperation to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

The statement warns that additional sanctions will be imposed on Pyongyang should the country push through with launching a ballistic missile or conducting a nuclear test in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Since this summer, North Korea has heightened military tensions between South and North Korea, while also hinting at the possibility of its conducting nuclear tests.

It is significant that Obama confirmed the need to strengthen the U.S.-South Korea alliance during a joint press conference, saying, “The commitment of the United States to the defense and security of the Republic of Korea will never waver.”

Yet it cannot be denied that the “close alliance” between the United States and South Korea has been in large part choreographed, because the heightened distrust within the United States regarding South Korea’s inclination toward China needed to be denied.

Park decided on South Korea’s participation in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and attended the military parade China held to mark the anniversary of its “victory over Japan” in World War II.

‘Natural partner’

“I believe that we [South Korea and the United States] make natural partners,” Park said at the press conference regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, in which member countries such as Japan and the United States recently reached a broad agreement. This statement indicated Seoul’s intention to join the TPP, and was probably aimed at mitigating U.S. concern.

Obama said at the press conference that if China fails to abide by international rules, “We expect the Republic of Korea to speak out on that,” driving home the point.

Obama’s remark was apparently made in consideration of China’s self-serving maritime advances in the East and South China seas. But Park made no reference to this.

It remains unclear whether South Korea will modify its diplomatic stance toward China.

The amount of bilateral trade between China and South Korea exceeds the sum of its trade with the United States and Japan. We can understand Seoul attaching importance to China in the economic field, but shifting its priorities from Washington to Beijing in the realm of security could destabilize the region.

During a speech made earlier in Washington, Park said she intends to hold her first full-fledged talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the occasion of the trilateral summit among Japan, China and South Korea in early November.

Since she took office, Park made it a condition that she would hold summit talks with Japan if progress was made on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Park appears to have agreed at last to Washington’s repeated urging to improve the bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea.

However, Park emphasized, “The summit can have substantial meaning if we see some progress on the issue of comfort women.”

Unless Park changes her diplomatic posture of giving too much weight to issues related to historical perception, it will be difficult for Japan and South Korea to effectively deal with the mountain of pending issues. It will be impossible to realize the close trilateral cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea that Washington hopes to see.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2015)


非常任理事国 国際平和協力に弾みつけたい

2015-10-18 08:31:25 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan should boost contribution to peace as UNSC nonpermanent member
非常任理事国 国際平和協力に弾みつけたい

Becoming a member of the U.N. Security Council is a significant step forward to enhance Japan’s engagement in the peace and stability of the international community and secure its national interests. The government should take full advantage of this opportunity.

Japan was elected a nonpermanent member of the Security Council, gaining a seat for the 11th time, the most among the 193 member countries of the United Nations. Its term will last for two years beginning next January.

U.N. diplomacy is a major pillar of Japan’s foreign policy, along with the Japan-U.S. alliance. Coordination with the United Nations is also essential to embody the “proactive contribution to peace” advocated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration. It is the right time for Japan to return to the Security Council after its last service as a nonpermanent member, which ended in 2010.

How can the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria be resolved? How should the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militant group be dealt with? Security Council members can adopt resolutions that bind all the U.N. member nations, and take other actions after holding unofficial talks among them.

The five permanent members of the Security Council with veto power are strong, but so are the power of information and the voices held by the 10 nonpermanent members. Nonpermanent members can quickly ascertain changing international situations and exercise influence over discussions on resolutions.

For instance, when Pyongyang carried out a nuclear-weapon test in 2009, Japan led the adoption of resolutions, including sanctions, against North Korea in cooperation with the United States and other countries. Japan was a nonpermament member of the Security Council at that time.

To protect own safety

Japan should proactively engage in discussions and the decision-making process at the Security Council to protect its own safety.

It must also actively tackle human rights issues, in a bid to resolve the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has helped developing countries overcome various problems such as poverty and disease. It has consistently participated in U.N. peacekeeping operations. We expect the nation to propose its own ideas and solutions for peace building, and broaden understanding of these ideas among concerned countries.

Discussions on the Security Council reform have shifted into high gear this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

The Group of Four countries — Japan, Germany, India and Brazil — aim to implement a reform plan to increase the permanent members of the Security Council to 11, and the nonpermanent members to 14 or 15.

A nonpermanent member of the Security Council cannot be reelected consecutively, and a country has to win support from more than two-thirds of all U.N. member countries each time it is elected.

Japan pays the largest contributions to the world body following the United States, equivalent to over 10 percent of the U.N. budget. To secure influence matching that amount, Japan should keep trying to become a permanent member of the Security Council.

The G-4 submitted a Security Council reform plan to the United Nations in 2005, but it was not adopted due to opposition from both the United States and China, and unsuccessful coordination with African countries.

U.N. reform is difficult, because it represents an historic attempt to change the international order based on the outcome of WWII.

Learning from the failed attempt in 2005, the G-4 must consolidate forces that are positive about Security Council reform while rebuilding its cooperative relations with the United States and African countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 17, 2015)