天皇特例会見 憂慮される安易な「政治利用」

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 13, 2009)
Emperor must never appear to be political tool
天皇特例会見 憂慮される安易な「政治利用」(12月13日付・読売社説)

It is quite understandable that Shingo Haketa, grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, expressed grave concern at a press conference Friday about the decision process that led to an audience with the Emperor being hastily arranged for Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping. Breaking with convention, Haketa said, could lead to political exploitation of the Emperor.

Xi is scheduled to visit Japan from Monday and meet the Emperor a day later.


According to Haketa, the agency received a request from the Chinese government for a meeting with the Emperor through the Foreign Ministry on Nov. 26, which was less than 20 days before Xi's planned visit.

Government regulations state that an application for a meeting with the Emperor by any visiting foreign dignitary must be received at least one month in advance. Therefore, a day after receiving the petition, the agency told Beijing it could not accept the request in accordance with this rule.

However, the matter did not end there.

According to Haketa, he was phoned on two occasions by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, who asked that Xi be exempted from the rule.
The top government spokesman pressed Haketa to accept his request, saying on his second call that he was making it "on the instruction of the prime minister."


Unwelcome precedent set

Because Xi is widely seen as likely to succeed President Hu Jintao, the Chinese government apparently urged Tokyo to arrange the meeting with the Emperor through personal connections, including Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said the government's handling of the matter in no way meant it had used the Emperor for political purposes.
"I was aware of the one-month rule, but I had to consider whether it's right from the viewpoint of international friendship to rigidly stick to it," Hatoyama said.

But breaking the rule once has set a precedent. How would Hatoyama now deal with a similar request were one to come from a nation such as the United States, South Korea or Russia?


Treat all requests equally

According to Haketa, Hirano also said he was making the request "in view of the importance of the Japan-China relationship."

But it is precisely because Japan-China ties are important that Hirano should have explained Japan's Imperial system--which recognizes the Emperor as the symbol of the state--and other matters to Beijing, and gained China's understanding. This approach would promote bilateral friendship in the truest sense.

The Emperor meets foreign guests more than 100 times a year. Meetings with the Emperor, in addition to being subject to the advance-application rule, have been arranged on an equitable basis, regardless of the size of countries and their political importance.
The Emperor has said it is important his official duties be performed on an equitable footing and based on certain criteria.

The one-month rule is intended to allow for the smooth scheduling of the Emperor's many official duties. Since 2003, when the Emperor underwent prostate cancer surgery, the rule has been strictly enforced to ensure the Emperor's health is not adversely affected.

Recently, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada was criticized for a remark he made about the speech the Emperor delivers to mark the opening of the Diet.

Acting in a way that makes it appear the Emperor is being used for political ends must be strictly avoided. The Hatoyama administration does not appear to understand this basic premise.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 13, 2009)
(2009年12月13日01時16分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-12-13 08:25 | 英字新聞

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