The Yomiuri Shimbun
G-7 cooperation key to spurring stable growth of global economy
サミット開幕 安定成長促す協調が問われる

To ensure sustainable global economic growth, it is essential for the Group of Seven major countries to join hands and lead the way.

In a session of discussions about the world economy, regarded as the focal point of the G-7 Ise-Shima summit meeting, which opened Thursday, participating leaders shared the view that there are major risks due to such factors as a slowdown in emerging economies.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as chair of the summit, said the current situation resembles the circumstances before the 2008 global financial crisis caused by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers. Abe cited concrete data indicating a slackening of investment and gross domestic product in emerging economies.

He noted, “There are risks that, if we make an error in policy response, the situation will go beyond an ordinary business cycle and enter a crisis.”

Some of the G-7 leaders raised doubts about using the term “crisis” but agreed to “push resolutely for a flexible fiscal strategy and structural reform policy” in accordance with the conditions in G-7 nations.

Abe might have gone so far as referring to the global financial shock in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy because he wanted to lay the foundation for postponing the hike in the consumption tax rate to 10 percent that is scheduled for next April.

Abe defined financial policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reform as a G-7 version of his “three arrows” policy package. His proposal to implement all possible policy measures was approved by other G-7 leaders.

It is an accomplishment that the G-7 leaders have agreed to implement policies according to circumstances as preemptive steps to deal with any emerging crisis.

Boosting growth potential

The G-7 nations face the common plight of a lack of demand, which stems from individuals and businesses refraining from consumption and investment amid concern over potentially prolonged stagnation.

It is essential to boost growth potential through deregulation and other measures, thereby encouraging private-sector investment.

However, it will take a certain period of time before private demand rises on its own. It would be meaningful if governments flexibly and swiftly implement fiscal stimulus policy in their efforts to create demand.

Participating leaders pointed out, one after another, that slackening growth and the expanding income gap are factors behind the emergence of populism in the political world.

During the first-day session, the leaders agreed that establishing a society in which the middle class can have hopes for the future will require investments in “high-quality infrastructure” and fields such as education, science and technology. Steady policy implementation is called for.

Regarding the promotion of free trade, the leaders confirmed anew the need for early effectuation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, in which Japan, the United States, Canada and nine other countries are participants, and steady negotiations between Japan and the European Union over an economic partnership agreement.

With a presidential election set for autumn in the United States, voices in favor of protecting domestic industries have been gathering strength in that country. As this could threaten free trade, it cannot be brushed aside.

We want the G-7 leaders to display leadership in moving ahead with domestic procedures, including approval of the TPP by relevant legislatures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2016) Speech
2016/05/28(土) 08:55 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26
EDITORIAL: Are G-7 leaders still up to task of making world a better place?
(社説)持続する世界 G7の決意が問われる

Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations gathering for the Ise-Shima Summit have a broad range of topics on their agenda that are not limited to short-term questions like how to respond to the weakening of the global economy.

The ultimate question confronting them is devising ways to overcome widespread famine and poverty in the world to create a global community where people everywhere can live in peace and quiet and pass this legacy to future generations.

The United Nations has adopted a set of goals to end poverty and ensure a sustainable future for the human race by 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were unanimously adopted by the member countries during a U.N. summit last September. This marks the first year to start trying to achieve those goals.

This will require economic growth, technological innovation and infrastructure development. It is also crucial to redress economic disparities, realize gender equality, promote public health and welfare, expand and upgrade education and respond to climate change. The SDGs include 169 specific targets in 17 areas.

Given the wide scope of the goals involved, this ambitious initiative could simply fizzle out.

It requires united efforts among all countries, from major economic powers to developing countries and poorest nations. The agenda will test the international community’s commitment and ability to take the necessary actions.

In particular, the G-7 nations, which led international development with their economic might, will have to play the central role in the quest.

Solving serious global problems created by market capitalism, such as inequality and decay, will help ensure stable economic growth.

The G-7 leaders are expected to address these development goals, focusing on targets related to public health and women. Japan, which is hosting the summit, has set up a government task force to support the efforts to accomplish these goals and decided to provide funds for measures to promote stability in the Middle East and public health in the world.

It is vital to make steady, long-term efforts to achieve the targets under specific plans.

The G-7 nations should announce their solid commitment to the agenda, develop plausible plans to raise the necessary funds and take actions according to the plans.

It would be desirable if the G-7 nations steadily increased their official development assistance. But all these nations are facing a fiscal crunch.

Germany and France have long proposed the introduction of a financial transaction tax, a low-rate levy imposed on a wide range of financial transactions like share sales. But the proposal has been put on ice due partly to economic stagnation in Europe.

The efforts to raise funds for the U.N. initiative should first be focused on cracking down on tax avoidance by multinationals and rich people around the world.

This approach would help narrow income gaps and at the same time secure money needed to achieve the development goals.

From this point of view, the G-7 needs to tackle the problem of tax havens used by people and companies all over the world to evade or reduce their tax payments in response to revelations in the Panama Papers.

Even if the development of specific measures to deal with this problem may be left to entities like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the G-7 should still take the leadership in establishing an effective global network for monitoring and preventing tax avoidance while securing cooperation from major emerging countries like China, Russia and India.
2016/05/27(金) 10:24 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
April 3, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope: Parents need a refuge, too
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 親の相談機関も足りない /東京

According to the National Police Agency (NPA), police nationwide reported 37,020 children as suspected of being abused to child consultation centers last year. It was the worst figure on record.

What's striking about the data is that the types of abuse on the rise are different from those that were common in the past. There was a 41 percent increase in verbal abuse and other forms of emotional abuse -- the most noteworthy of which were cases in which children witnessed parents and other family members being violent toward each other.

Some may argue that it's not such a big problem if children are just seeing the violence and are not being targeted by it, but that's hardly the case. Children suffer deep emotional wounds when they see their father hit their mother, or their parents hit a sibling. Not only do they wonder if they might be next, they blame themselves for not being able to help the ones who are being abused.

One person I know told me that as a child, they had watched their younger sister always being hit by their father. When I said, "You're lucky you were never hit," the person shook their head. "I should've been the one to be hit. My sister did nothing wrong. I'm a really cruel person for having pretended to see nothing."

The person managed to graduate from school and find work, but even when they found someone they liked, they couldn't think about dating or marriage. The person was convinced that someone who could not save their sister did not deserve to be happy.

"You did nothing wrong. You were still a young child, so it's no surprise that you weren't able to protect your sister from the violence," I said. It took a long time for that person's sense of guilt to subside.

Getting food on the table and bringing up children is difficult nowadays, and no matter how much love you have for your children, it's not hard to suddenly get the urge to hit them or blurt out that you wish they'd never been born. What, then, can be done to prevent parents from having such emotional outbursts?

Blaming them for their violence is actually counterproductive. First, we as a society must create refuges where parents can escape to for help. Sure, there is a huge lack of daycare centers. But we also lack places where parents who are barely keeping their head above the water making a living and raising children can seek help. It is important to get insurance to cover fertility treatments. But just as pressing is the creation of a societal framework in which both parents and their children can live happily.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
2016/05/26(木) 10:50 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 24
EDITORIAL: Okinawa leader Onaga is right: SOFA needs a sweeping review
(社説)日米地位協定 今度こそ抜本見直しを

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on May 23 urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to initiate a fundamental review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a symbol of deep resentment about the heavy U.S. military presence in Okinawa Prefecture.
“We will be told that Japan’s independence is a myth if the current Status of Forces Agreement remains unchanged,” Onaga said in his meeting with Abe over the recent slaying of a Japanese woman in Okinawa Prefecture.

Onaga referred to the famous remark made in a 1963 speech by then American High Commissioner Paul Caraway, who said the idea of self-government in Okinawa under U.S. military rule was nothing more than a “myth.”

The governor met with Abe at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo following the arrest of an American civilian worker at a U.S. base in Okinawa Prefecture on May 19 on suspicion of abandoning the body of the victim.
The incident has sparked outbursts of anger among people in Okinawa, and a growing chorus there is calling for the removal of all U.S. bases from the prefecture.

To prevent additional crimes or accidents involving U.S. military personnel and related workers, U.S. bases in the prefecture should be consolidated and curtailed quickly.

Onaga’s demand for a revision to SOFA reflects the fact that this agreement, which grants U.S. forces stationed in Japan various privileges, has been a major factor behind the failure to stop crimes involving American soldiers and members of the “civilian component.”

Every time a base-related crime or accident took place, provisions of SOFA that restrict Japan’s criminal investigations and jurisdiction concerning such cases were roundly criticized.

In the latest case, the suspect, a former U.S. serviceman, was arrested by prefectural police on suspicion of committing a crime while off-duty, so no SOFA-related issue has arisen.

If the U.S. military had detained the suspect first, however, the transfer of his custody to Japanese authorities could have been delayed or even refused.

In the 1995 rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by three off-duty U.S. servicemen in Okinawa, the United States detained the suspects and initially refused Okinawa prefectural police’s request for their handover.

In response to the huge wave of anger among Okinawan people triggered by the incident, Washington later agreed to an improvement in the implementation of SOFA, requiring the United States to “give sympathetic consideration” to Japanese requests for the handover of suspects before indictment in cases of vicious crimes.

This rule has since been applied to all types of crimes. But Japanese investigations into crimes involving U.S. military personnel could still be affected by discretionary decisions by the United States.

Despite the improvement, SOFA still needs a sweeping review. While the prefectural government has been demanding reform for many years, the Japanese government has refused to propose a fundamental review of the agreement for a possible revision to the United States.

Onaga also asked Abe to arrange a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to Japan.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga voiced a dim view of Onaga’s request, saying, “As a matter of course, issues in the fields of diplomacy and security will be discussed between national governments.”

Onaga is seeking an opportunity to hold direct talks with Obama because the central government has done nothing to solve this problem.

Both South Korea and Germany have achieved revisions to their own status of forces agreements with the United States. Why is the Japanese government unwilling to even ask the United States to consider a revision to the unfair agreement?

Later this week, Obama will come to Japan to attend this year’s summit of the Group of Seven industrial nations in Mie Prefecture.

Abe should, of course, call on Obama to take steps to prevent a recurrence and strengthen discipline on U.S. personnel and related workers. But Abe should also make specific proposals concerning a reduction in the U.S. bases in Okinawa and a revision to the agreement.
2016/05/25(水) 10:40 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 22
EDITORIAL: There is simply no reason to continue Monju reactor program
(社説)もんじゅ やはり廃炉にすべきだ

An expert council on the Monju fast-breeder reactor program started debate last week on a draft report it will submit to the science and technology ministry.

The panel’s work is a response to the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s recommendation last year that the operator of the troubled experimental reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, should be replaced.
After a series of revelations about omitted safety inspections and other problems, the NRA in November urged science and technology minister Hiroshi Hase to find a new entity to replace the government-backed Japan Atomic Energy Agency as the reactor’s operator.

But the council’s draft report, released on May 20, doesn’t name a candidate for the mission. It only mentions a set of conditions the new operator should fulfill, which are nothing new and all part of conventional wisdom.
It says, for instance, the new operator should have “the ability to develop and implement operation and maintenance plans based on the characteristics of the reactor that is still in the experimental stage.” It also says the new operator should be able to respond appropriately to the interests and needs of society.

The draft report also points to the failure of a series of reforms that have been carried out to save the trouble-plagued program. It offers no reason to believe this time is different and the proposed replacement of the operator will bring about sufficient improvements in the management of the Monju.

The fast-breeder reactor requires as much as 20 billion yen ($182 million) in annual maintenance costs. In addition, there is not even an estimate of the certainly huge costs for necessary safety measures.
All these facts make a compelling case for decommissioning the reactor.

The biggest problem, as some members of the ministry panel have noted, is the lack of serious debate on the cost-effectiveness of the Monju program.

Who needs this program and how strong is the need? How much more money is the government ready to spend to develop and operate the reactor? These and other key questions about whether the program makes economic sense have been left unaddressed.

The Monju is now in a precarious position even in the government’s nuclear energy policy.

The reactor was once touted as the core facility for the government’s plan to establish a nuclear fuel recycling system in which plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel is burned in a fast-breeder reactor.

For more than two decades since a sodium coolant leak accident in 1995, however, the Monju has remained mostly idle.
Over the period, the need for a nuclear fuel recycling system has kept diminishing. There are now few people in the private sector calling for the development of a fast-breeder reactor.

When it drew up a research plan using the Monju three years ago, the science and technology ministry had to focus on the topic of nuclear waste disposal rather than fast-breeder reactor technology itself.

Still, the government has refused to pull the plug on the Monju program because it is concerned about possible repercussions on its nuclear fuel recycling policy as a whole.

But this vision is now almost a fantasy. If the government admits this fact, however, the issue of how to dispose of the large amounts of spent nuclear fuel stored at nuclear power plants across the nation will no doubt come under the spotlight.

Continuing the Monju program simply to gloss over this grim reality would be too foolish.

A small experimental reactor is enough and more efficient for use in research in nuclear waste disposal, which is still in a rudimentary stage. The need for such research offers no rationale for keeping the Monju program alive.
2016/05/24(火) 10:28 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
The Yomiuri Shimbun
G-7 leaders should follow up Sendai finance meeting with deeper cooperation
G7財務相会議 サミットで協調さらに深めよ

It is important for the major advanced nations to boost cooperation to lead the global economy toward stable growth despite persistent economic uncertainty.

The meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven major developed countries reaffirmed in Sendai that they will mobilize all three policy measures to play the leading roles in putting the world economy on track for sustainable growth: monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms.

The participating countries shared an understanding that the global market has become more stable compared to a while ago, but it faces increasing uncertainty caused by, among other factors, Britain’s possible exit from the European Union.

China and other emerging economies still suffer from a slowdown. It is natural for the G-7 to show determination to fulfill its responsibilities to play a leading role to boost growth.

When it came to flexible fiscal stimulus, one of the key topics at the meeting, Japan and the United States, which are positive toward such action, failed to fully bridge the gap with Germany and Britain, which place emphasis on fiscal discipline. Many of the participating countries reportedly said that perhaps it is quality that matters most in implementing fiscal stimulus measures.

How can each country facilitate “high-quality investment” in accordance with the respective conditions to help each economy grow? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should lead deeper discussions when he chairs the Ise-Shima summit meeting later this week.

Rift over yen intervention

Meanwhile, it is worrisome that Finance Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew were unable to resolve their rift over foreign exchange rates when they held talks on the sidelines of the Sendai gathering.

During a press conference, Aso once again showed he would not refrain from intervening in the currency market against excessive yen rises. “[Exchange rates for the yen] over the past several weeks cannot be described as orderly,” he said.

Lew, on the other hand, issued a warning against Tokyo’s possible intervention, saying, “It’s a pretty high bar to have disorderly [currency] conditions.”

Increased disagreement between Japan and the United States could encourage speculators to take advantage of the situation, thus inviting violent fluctuations in currency markets. It is important for Tokyo and Washington to communicate in detail with each other while placing their top priority on stabilizing the financial market.

In the meeting of finance ministers, the G-7 nations also agreed to step up measures against international tax evasion, following the release of the so-called Panama Papers that have revealed partially how tax havens are used. The participants also agreed to urge many other countries to join an international scheme that will allow their tax authorities to share bank account information, among other measures.

Tax avoidance cannot immediately be deemed illegal, but can undermine confidence in the tax system. The summit meeting should look into rules to ensure fair international taxation.

The Sendai gathering also compiled an action plan on combating the financing of terrorism. Measures include enhanced information exchange among the G-7 countries and lowering the maximum amount of cash individuals can bring into another country without reporting the sum to customs.

Cross-border financial transactions have to be cut off to stop terrorist organizations. The G-7 should urge other countries to also work together on this issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 22, 2016)
2016/05/23(月) 10:46 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 21
EDITORIAL: Taiwan’s Tsai set right tone for endorsing status quo with China
(社説)台湾新総統 民意に沿う現状維持

The relationship between China and Taiwan is one of the primary factors for peace and stability in Asia.

Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen, aired her thoughts about the island’s ties with China in her inaugural speech May 20.

Speaking in the subtropical sunlight in front of the Presidential Office building in Taipei, Tsai pledged to promote “stable and peaceful development” of Taiwan’s relations with China through diplomatic efforts based on “existing realities and political foundations.” This is effectively an endorsement of the status quo that has defined bilateral ties. We welcome her moderate stance toward the touchy issue.

The delicate and complicated cross-strait relationship requires careful and cautions handling.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must unify with the mainland eventually. This is what is known as the "One China" principle.

Of Taiwan’s two major political parties, the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, accepts the “One China” principle, but with China meaning the Republic of China, not the People’s Republic of China.

Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party, in contrast, rejects this principle and claims that Taiwan and China are different countries.

Alarmed by Tsai’s ascent to power, Beijing has urged the new Taiwanese president to endorse the so-called 92 consensus, or an agreement allegedly reached in 1992 between Chinese and Taiwanese negotiators that both sides would accept the “One China” principle while interpreting the term China independently according to their respective positions.

In her speech, Tsai didn’t mention the term “92 consensus,” but acknowledged, as a “historical fact,” that the two sides “arrived at various joint acknowledgements and understandings” in 1992.

The way Tsai referred to this topic may not be quite satisfactory for China. But she also refrained from mentioning her party’s position supporting Taiwan’s independence. China should appreciate her rhetoric on the issue as the strongest possible political gesture of compromise she could make.

A majority of people in Taiwan value their identity as Taiwanese while putting much importance on exchanges with China.

As a result, they believe that maintaining the status quo is the best realistic option for Taiwan, subscribing to the view that the choice of either unification or independence is best left to the distant future.

Tsai’s speech faithfully echoes the public’s well-balanced sensibility.

The maintenance of the status quo of the China-Taiwan relationship is also reassuring for other countries in the region.

Taiwan is located close to Okinawa and the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and maintains effective control over the largest natural island in the disputed Spratly island chain in the South China Sea.

Taiwan is a vital player in efforts to maintain stability in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, and its related actions have direct bearings on Japan’s security.

Touching on the territorial disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea in her address, Tsai called for a cool-headed attitude on the part of all the parties involved, proposing “setting aside disputes so as to enable joint development.”

China should take her call seriously. It is China that is seeking to change the status quo in the region by enhancing its naval power and reclaiming reefs in disputed areas.

During the previous Taiwanese administration of Ma Ying-jeou, Japan and Taiwan scored some notable diplomatic achievements, including bilateral agreements on investment, taxation and fishing.

Japan and Taiwan have highly complementary economic relations as well as various common policy challenges, such as the aging of society, frequent natural disasters and problems related to nuclear power generation.

Let us hope that cooperation between Tokyo and Taipei will make further progress under the Tsai administration.
2016/05/22(日) 08:46 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 20
EDITORIAL: Rigorous probe needed to study Tokyo Olympics bid payments
(社説)五輪招致疑惑 厳正に実態の解明を

Dark clouds of suspicion are gathering over Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

Allegations have emerged that Japan made dubious cash payments to win the right to hold the world’s largest sports event in its capital.

The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) has decided to form a special task force to investigate the allegations, which will include at least one independent lawyer.

As the host of the Summer Games in 2020, Japan is responsible for rigorously confronting and responding to the allegations.

The government, which strongly supported Tokyo’s bid, should actively cooperate in the investigation to help establish the truth.

The suspicion of bribery came to light when French prosecutors said earlier this month that they had launched a probe into dubious cash transfers from a bank in Japan to the account in Singapore of a company with an unsavory reputation. The focus of the inquiry is on the JOC’s payments of some 230 million yen ($2.09 million) to the consulting firm in the months immediately prior to and after Tokyo was awarded the Games in 2013.

The company, Black Tidings, is believed to have close ties with the son of Lamine Diack, the now disgraced former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations and member of the International Olympic Committee. Diack is suspected of having played a role in covering up a Russian doping case.

The company disappeared in 2014 after Tokyo was chosen in September 2013 as the 2020 host, beating Madrid and Istanbul in an IOC vote in Buenos Aires.

People involved in Tokyo’s winning bid have denied any wrongdoing in their campaign, claiming the funds were paid as legitimate consulting fees.

But no specifics about the services provided by the company have been offered.

The people involved say they cannot reveal the details because of a confidentiality agreement with the firm.
But the appropriateness of paying more than 200 million yen in consulting fees should be examined.

Serious efforts should also be made to determine how the company spent the money.

During a recent Diet session, Tsunekazu Takeda, one of the leaders of Tokyo’s Olympics bid, faced questions about whether the consulting firm had been selected in an aboveboard manner.

It has been reported that a person working for the company approached the JOC for a contract to provide consulting services for Tokyo’s bid. Before deciding to hire the company, the JOC sought input from Dentsu Inc., the leading ad agency contracted for the JOC’s marketing and advertising activities. Dentsu reportedly told the JOC that the individual merited receiving the consulting contract.

Dentsu should cooperate with the efforts to investigate the allegations. What were the grounds on which the ad agency judged the person to be worthy of the costly contract? Dentsu should assist in the investigation even if all it can disclose is information about the person’s business track record.

The influence of big money has grown over the years, not just in regard to the Olympics, but in the international sports community as a whole. Rumors of various forms of backdoor deals have haunted many powerful international sports organizations.

International consultants have been suspected to have played roles in some deals, but little is known about their actual operations.

The world sports community has been hit by a string of financial scandals in recent years. FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, has been engulfed by claims of widespread corruption, while money has emerged as a major factor behind alleged state-sponsored doping by dozens of top Russian athletes.

The leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial nations are expected to discuss the issue of corruption in sports in their meeting in Mie Prefecture on May 26-27.

As the country hosting this year’s G-7 summit, Japan should demonstrate a firm commitment to leading international efforts to eliminate the rot in sporting events and organizations and restore public trust in them.
2016/05/21(土) 09:50 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 19
EDITORIAL: Abe’s plan to stoke economic growth still lacks vital specifics
(社説)1億総活躍 具体化への道筋示せ

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has cobbled together a package for its key policy of creating a “society where 100 million people play active roles.”

The package, announced on May 18, is designed to revive Japan’s economic growth by pumping up consumer spending. The government has pledged to achieve the policy goal by taking steps to heighten the livelihood security of people, mainly in the social security area, so that they will feel safe about spending. This is a recipe for “a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution,” the Abe administration says.

While the package contains a broad array of measures, its focus is on labor and child and nursing care.

The goals set for this policy agenda include: realizing the “same pay for same work” principle and a minimum wage of 1,000 yen ($9.20) per hour to improve the fortunes of nonregular workers; cutting long working hours; and raising the wages of child-care and nursing-care workers to ease labor shortages in these sectors.

These are all important policy issues the government has been tackling for many years without much success. Clearly, the government should accelerate its efforts to achieve these goals.
But none of them is easy to accomplish, and there is no clear and specific road map to the goals.

With an Upper House election drawing near, the policy package will certainly be criticized as a mere attempt to garner votes if the Abe administration fails to make serious efforts to achieve the ambitious goals it has announced.

The initiative will serve as an acid test of Abe’s commitment to the policy goals and ability to deliver on his promises.

The administration has pledged to revise the related laws to ensure “same pay for same work.” But it needs to first offer a clear definition for what constitutes unreasonable disparities in pay.

The “same pay” principle should not mean that the generally low wages of nonregular workers will become the standard. This creed should lead to a general rise in wage levels.

Long working hours have been cited as a stumbling block in Japanese people’s efforts to continue working while rearing children or caring for aged parents.
The administration says it will assign a labor ministry council to the task of deciding whether the related regulations should be changed.

But the administration, for its part, should first lay down basic principles for the reform, such as the introduction of ceilings on working hours.

Increasing the number of day-care centers and nursing-care homes would be meaningless unless they can attract workers.

The government has taken a step in the right direction by deciding on wage hikes for child-care and nursing-care workers in the next fiscal year.
But it has postponed the vital decision on how to finance the step, estimated to cost 200 billion yen, until the year-end season for formulating the budget for fiscal 2017.

As for the education area, the administration has stopped short of proposing a scholarship program that doesn’t require repayment, an idea that has been attracting much public attention. Again due to financing problems, the administration has only promised to consider the idea.

Some policymakers are calling for using the increase in tax revenue from the effects of Abe’s expansionary economic policy, known as Abenomics. But this is far from stable financial resources for vital policy measures.

It would also be wrongheaded to cut spending on other important policy programs to secure funds for these measures.

The government has long promised to expand child-care support as part of its “integrated tax and social security reform.”

But the initiative will face a fund shortfall of 300 billion yen even if the consumption tax rate is raised to 10 percent as planned. The government has yet to devise a plausible plan to fund measures to carry out its promises, such as increasing child-care workers.

The government should raise the consumption tax rate to 10 percent as scheduled as the first step in tackling this challenge. It should also confront the reality that the tax hike will not be enough to secure necessary funds to expand child-care support.
If it is really committed to dealing with this policy challenge in a responsible manner, the government should steadily implement the proposed measures while showing taxpayers a convincing financing plan.
2016/05/20(金) 09:06 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 18
EDITORIAL: China needs to act maturely with new Taiwan administration
(社説)台湾政権交代 中国は大人の対応を

As an expression of China’s earnest hope for its unification with Taiwan, the Xi Jinping administration refers to Taiwanese citizens as “compatriots.”

However, the administration is treating them as anything but. Beijing is restricting the traffic of tourists to Taiwan and increasingly staying away from economic and academic conferences held in Taiwan.

With a change of government coming up in Taiwan on May 20 following the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) landslide election victory over the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the Xi administration is putting the squeeze on Taiwan. A Beijing official in charge of China-Taiwan relations recently warned his Taiwanese counterpart to the effect that they could not talk candidly like “real brothers.”

Beijing’s overbearing attitude is hardly likely to help build a future-oriented China-Taiwan relationship. The people of Taiwan have voted for a new administration of their choice, and Beijing ought to humbly accept the results.

The KMT was in power for the last eight years. Originally a Chinese political party, the KMT deepened Taiwan’s ties with China in keeping with the “one China” concept.

On the other hand, the DPP’s stance is that Taiwan and China are separate sovereign states, even though the party attaches importance to ties with Beijing. But Beijing has been applying all sorts of pressure on the DPP to retract its basic principle.

There was also a development regarding Taiwan’s planned participation as an observer in this year’s World Health Assembly, which will be held next week in Switzerland.

Not only did Taiwan receive its invitation late this year, but the invitation also spelled out that it was being sent on the understanding that there is only “one China.” Taipei believes it is being “tested” by China through the WHO.

In Kenya, 45 Taiwanese were arrested on suspicion of remittance fraud. But the suspects were extradited to China, not to Taiwan. Taiwanese authorities are objecting vehemently to Beijing, claiming the latter interfered with the Kenyan government in the extradition procedure.

The Xi administration may well be thinking that letting Taiwan’s new DPP administration go unchecked is tantamount to accepting the split with Taiwan. But China’s high-handedness, which barely conceals its intent to pull rank on Taiwan, will only raise questions in the international community about China’s Taiwan policy.

Economic ties have certainly strengthened between China and Taiwan, but the Taiwanese people have become less interested in unification.

This is not only because it has been 67 years since the split. In Taiwan’s view, the problem is that China has not abandoned the option of using military force to realize the unification, nor has it shown any real signs of democratization.

It will be difficult for the Xi administration to win the hearts of the people of Taiwan by simply pressuring them into accepting the “one China” concept.

We urge Beijing to quietly watch the start of Taiwan’s democratically elected new administration, and then strive to start new dialogue in earnest. It is this sort of “maturity” that we expect of Beijing.
2016/05/19(木) 10:40 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 17
EDITORIAL: Okinawa has yet to gain equality in 44 years since return to Japan
(社説)沖縄復帰44年 道遠い「本土」との平等

May 15 marked the 44th anniversary of Okinawa’s return to Japan following nearly three decades under the control of the U.S. military, which seized the island prefecture in the closing days of World War II.

But we still have to question whether Okinawa has really been fully integrated into Japan.

A 42-year-old man from Osaka who took part for the first time in the annual “5.15 Peace March,” which brings together members of labor unions and citizen groups, went to see Camp Schwab the previous day. Camp Schwab is a U.S. Marine Corps base in the Henoko district of Nago, which has been designated as the site of a new military base to replace the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma currently located in the crowded city of Ginowan in the prefecture.

While he was on a boat inspecting areas that will be reclaimed for construction of the new base, he was warned against approaching off-limits areas by a patrol boat of the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

But the patrol boat said nothing to U.S. military personnel paddling canoes nearby. The man felt as if he were in an area that was not part of Japanese territory.

In the 1950s, U.S. Marines were stationed in Yamanashi and Gifu prefectures. As public opposition to the presence of U.S. bases on the mainland grew, the Marines were transferred to Okinawa, which was under U.S. administrative control. Camp Schwab is one of the bases built in Okinawa in those days.

Immediately after its reversion to Japan in 1972, Okinawa Prefecture, which comprises 0.6 percent of the nation’s land mass, was home to 59 percent of U.S. military facilities in Japan. The ratio is now nearly 75 percent.

While U.S. bases on the mainland have diminished sharply over the decades, the U.S. military presence is Okinawa remains heavy.

There have been some positive developments. The U.S. aerial refueling tankers stationed at the Futenma base, for instance, were moved to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 2014.
But no plan to relocate a U.S. base out of Okinawa has been implemented.

In 2010, the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan floated the idea of moving the Futenma air base to Tokunoshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture. In 2015, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed to transfer Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft stationed at the Futenma base to Saga airport on a provisional basis.
Both plans, however, were abandoned amid strong opposition from the local communities concerned.

There have also been signs of inequality between the mainland and Okinawa in the government’s policy responses to issues related to U.S. military bases.

When U.S. forces’ live-fire drills were transferred from Okinawa to five areas on the mainland in 1997, the former Defense Facilities Administration Agency (now the Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency) created a program to subsidize the costs of noise insulation work at affected houses.

This program, however, had long remained unknown in Okinawa.

The city of Nago, home to Camp Schwab, is now distrustful of the government for failing to apply the program to Okinawa.

The government has shown no intention to reconsider its plan to relocate the Futenma base to Henoko despite strong opposition among the public in Okinawa.

The reclamation work in Henoko has been suspended since the central and prefectural governments reached a settlement in their court battle over the relocation plan.
A new legal battle will likely erupt between the two sides, however, unless the central government changes its stance toward the issue.

The Abe administration should liberate itself from the rigid idea that the only choices are to either maintain the Futenma base in Ginowan or move it to Henoko. It should start exploring other options, including relocation out of the prefecture.

People in Okinawa have long been yearning to see their island prefecture freed from the heavy burden of hosting so many U.S. military bases. But they see little hope of their wish being answered after more than four decades since Okinawa was reverted to Japan.

For many people in the prefecture, it is difficult to take a first step toward Okinawa’s true integration into Japan because they do not feel they are being treated equally with the rest of the nation by the government.

This is a situation that raises many serious questions also for local governments and people on the mainland.
2016/05/18(水) 10:51 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt too late in disclosing radiation data from H-bomb tests at Bikini Atoll
ビキニ被曝提訴 国の情報開示があまりに遅い

Can a recent lawsuit help uncover the damage caused by U.S. hydrogen bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll, which are still surrounded by so many mysteries?

The tests were conducted in the Bikini Atoll of the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific in 1954. A group of 45 people — including former crew members of fishing boats that were operating in waters around the test site and members of the families of deceased former fishermen — have filed the suit with the Kochi District Court to seek compensation from the state.

There were more than 270 cases in which fishing boats from Kochi Prefecture alone were operating in waters near the site when they were exposed to radiation from the six hydrogen bomb tests conducted from March to May that year. The government conducted surveys of the damage but did not disclose the results.

The plaintiffs claim that the government’s reluctance to disclose these records deprived them of the opportunity to seek compensation, and are demanding ¥2 million per person.

It is widely known that 23 crew members of the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, a tuna fishing boat from Shizuoka Prefecture, were exposed to radiation through one of the hydrogen bomb tests at the Bikini Atoll. One of the crew died half a year later.

However, the actual damage to other Japanese fishing boats remains unclear.

Regarding the Fukuryu Maru No. 5, the Japanese and U.S. governments reached a political settlement in January 1955, in which the United States agreed to pay $2 million in compensation to Japan, regardless of Washington’s legal responsibility.

Explain convincingly

The plaintiffs accuse the Japanese government of releasing the U.S. government from legal liability through the settlement. However, Japan reached the agreement very soon after regaining independence and the deal certainly reflected a high level of political judgement. There are elements of this settlement that do not allow us to judge it casually.

The problem is that the government did not disclose the records of its investigations for decades. It only made them public in September 2014 following a request for disclosure from a support group for the plaintiffs and other parties concerned. We can only describe the disclosure as too late.

The government’s documents, which were used by the plaintiffs as evidence of the harm they suffered, detail the investigations into 556 cases of the radiation exposure of fishing boats and their crew members.

It cannot be overlooked that the government had long denied the existence of those documents, most notably when it said these records “cannot be found” in response to a question posed in the Diet in 1986.

Asked why their whereabouts were suddenly known, the government said it discovered them “at a repository following an exhaustive search.”

The government cannot help but be suspected to have intentionally concealed the documents. It is understandable that former fishermen and bereaved relatives of deceased former crew members feel that way, because they could not even know whether they were exposed to radiation.

Most of the former crew members who have joined the lawsuit are now over 80 years old, and many of them say their health is deteriorating. More people could claim they were harmed as more details are discovered about radiation exposure from the hydrogen bomb tests.

According to the government’s documents, the doses of radiation experienced by former crew members and others from the hydrogen bomb tests were much lower than the permissible level set for accidents by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. Even so, the government has a responsibility to provide convincing explanations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 15, 2016)
2016/05/17(火) 11:09 英字新聞 記事URL COM(0)










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15 申し出・依頼を断るとき
16 許可を求めるとき
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21 急いでもらいたいとき
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