<   2013年 02月 ( 29 )   > この月の画像一覧

朴大統領就任 日韓関係の改善を期待したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 27, 2013)
Can Park open the door to better Japan-S. Korea ties?
朴大統領就任 日韓関係の改善を期待したい(2月26日付・読売社説)

We hope the chilled relationship between Tokyo and Seoul will thaw under the new South Korean administration.

On Monday, Park Geun Hye took office as the first female president of South Korea, a country currently facing plenty of challenges. Park's father is the late former President Park Chung Hee, and this is the first time an offspring of a former South Korean president has assumed the top post.

The new president held talks with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who attended Park's inauguration ceremony. It is praiseworthy that the two agreed on the necessity of cooperating closely and building a future-oriented relationship between the two countries.

However, the current state of Japan-South Korea relations is severe. It deteriorated rapidly after Lee Myung Bak, Park's predecessor, visited the Takeshima islands last year and demanded the Emperor apologize for the wartime past. Seoul recently lodged a complaint with Tokyo over the attendance of a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary at a commemoration ceremony on Takeshima Day, an event hosted by the Shimane prefectural government.


Learn from past mistakes

Previous South Korean administrations also have trumpeted future-oriented relationships. However, in the end, they have derailed these diplomatic efforts through their actions on territorial issues and historical perceptions. Park's leadership will be tested over whether she can prevent her administration from repeating the mistakes of her predecessors.

Dark clouds are hovering over South Korea's economy, which had been performing solidly for years. That country's growth rate dropped to the 2 percent level last year, and its export-led economy has been buffeted by a headwind caused by the won's appreciation. South Korea's chaebol conglomerates have developed rapidly by riding the tide of globalization, but this has not led to the creation of jobs.

With a declining birthrate and aging population, South Korea needs to improve its pension and health insurance systems to dispel public anxiety over what life holds for them in old age.

Park pledged to tackle such problems in her inauguration speech. She referred to the "miracle on the Han River," the dramatic economic development achieved under her father's administration, and stressed she would bring about a "second miracle on the Han River."

It will be crucial for her to materialize her plan to expand domestic demand and employment by reinforcing the competitiveness of small and midsize South Korean companies and nurturing venture firms.


Cooperate more with allies

Regarding diplomacy and national security, Park demanded North Korea "abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay." She also showed willingness to hold talks with Pyongyang by saying, "I will move forward step-by-step on the basis of credible deterrence to build trust between the South and the North."

South Korea has recently accelerated the reinforcement of its defense capability, such as by extending the range of its ballistic missiles, as the security threat posed by North Korea grows. According to an opinion poll, more than 60 percent of respondents supported South Korea acquiring nuclear weapons.

It will be essential for countries neighboring North Korea to cooperate more closely to deal with heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Park was quite right to mention she will work to strengthen trust with countries including "the United States, China, Japan and Russia" to ease tensions and conflicts in Asia and promote peace and cooperation in the region.

China has a dominant presence in South Korea. South Korea's trade with China exceeds that with the United States and Japan combined. The annual flow of people between China and South Korea exceeds that between Japan and South Korea by more than 1 million.

All eyes are closely watching whether South Korea will cozy up more to China as it boosts its presence on the peninsula, as this issue certainly has security implications for Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 26, 2013)
(2013年2月26日01時21分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-28 07:02 | 英字新聞

原発風評被害 放射能の基準から考え直せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 26, 2013)
Time to overhaul radiation safety criteria
原発風評被害 放射能の基準から考え直せ(2月25日付・読売社説)

The government should make a sweeping review of safety standards for radioactivity. The recent change of administration offers a golden opportunity to do this.

The Consumer Affairs Agency will reinforce efforts to deal with damage caused by radiation rumors since the crisis began at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Masako Mori, state minister for consumer affairs, said, "The Democratic Party of Japan-led administration increased consumers' anxieties." She has issued an order to study concrete measures to alleviate these fears.

Agricultural products harvested in Fukushima Prefecture are shipped after they have been confirmed safe to eat, but they do not sell well unless their prices are set lower than other products. Their distribution volume is barely expanding.

Mori hit the nail on the head when she said a reason for this is that consumers harbor "doubts and concerns about the safety standards."

The administration of former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda adopted stricter standards for radiation contained in food than those in place overseas. The Radiation Council, a government advisory panel, had warned about possible adverse effects this might cause, but then Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoko Komiyama pushed through the new criteria.

This resulted in more food containing radiation that exceeded the restricted levels. Shipments of wild mushrooms were even halted when a check detected a radioactive substance that could only have been caused by past nuclear tests.


Stricter threshold set

The problem is that the Noda government set the yearly radiation exposure of one millisievert as the threshold between safe and dangerous. The one millisievert a year level, which is nothing but a management standard legally set for facilities that handle radioactive substances, was adopted for food safety standards.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) also considers it advisable to set the permissible annual radiation dose at no more than one millisievert. But the difference between the ICRP's position and that of the Noda administration is that the former does not consider it dangerous immediately even if radiation exposure exceeds the threshold.

The international commission believes health effects cannot be detected clearly if the total radiation exposure is held to 100 millisieverts. Thus, the one millisievert a year considered by the ICRP is a ceiling deemed far lower than its safety standard, and comes with the condition that the exposure target can be achieved reasonably.

Some places in the world are exposed to radiation of 10 millisieverts a year that comes from the ground, among other sources. A radiological examination at a hospital exposes the patient to about seven millisieverts.

The one-millisievert threshold also has become a factor delaying the return of nearly 160,000 evacuees from the nuclear crisis to their hometowns.


Gap with international standards

The commission considers that a radiation dose of up to 20 millisieverts a year is permissible when affected areas are in the reconstruction stage, and efforts must be made as much as possible to reduce the annual exposure to less than one millisievert.

Then Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, however, stressed the importance of achieving the decontamination target of one millisievert or less. Unlike the ICRP's thinking that equally emphasizes protecting affected residents' daily lives and decontamination, the DPJ-led government gave too much weight to decontamination efforts.

A mistaken political message also was given by Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida. He condemned the disposal by the prefecture's Kashiwazaki and Sanjo cities of disaster debris from Iwate Prefecture as general waste as a "criminal act."

But radiation levels of debris from Iwate Prefecture are the same as trash collected within Niigata Prefecture. We urge Izumida, the head of a local government, not to exacerbate damage caused by nasty radiation rumors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 25, 2013)
(2013年2月25日01時19分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-27 07:09 | 英字新聞

日米首脳会談 アジア安定へ同盟を強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 25, 2013)
Strengthen Japan-U.S. alliance to boost Asia stability
日米首脳会談 アジア安定へ同盟を強化せよ(2月24日付・読売社説)


The high expectations the U.S. government holds for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became clear during his visit to Washington. To live up to the U.S. trust placed in him, the prime minister should restore the vitality of Japan's politics and economy.

Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama held their first talks at the White House and agreed to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

"The U.S.-Japan alliance is the central foundation for our regional security, and so much of what we do in the [Asia-]Pacific region," Obama said.

Abe replied that he wants to declare the strong bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance has been restored completely.


Cooperation on energy

Asia has many destabilizing factors, such as China and North Korea. To maintain peace and prosperity in this part of the world, Japan and the United States must properly play their respective roles based on the robust, stable bilateral alliance that is "public property" of the region.

Japan-U.S. ties became disoriented while Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations held power for more than three years. Seemingly going hand-in-hand with this, Japan's relations with China and South Korea also deteriorated.

The Obama administration apparently believes that restoring U.S. relations with Japan under the Abe administration would bring greater stability to the entire Asian region and benefit its own strategy that gives greater priority to Asia.

The two leaders issued a joint statement on Japan's possible participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement negotiations. Abe and Obama confirmed "it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations," though they maintained the basic principle that all goods would be subject to the negotiations.

Before his visit to the United States, Abe reiterated he would uphold his Liberal Democratic Party's election pledge that the party opposes joining the TPP talks as long as it mandates all tariffs must be eliminated without exception.

The latest Japan-U.S. agreement, which allows Abe to maintain his pledge and join the TPP talks, carries great significance.

TPP participation, which will enable Japan to harness the vitality of emerging Asian economies, is expected to become a major pillar for the growth strategy of the Abe administration's "Abenomics" economic policy and help the recovery of the nation's economy.

However, some LDP members and agricultural organizations remain strongly opposed to the TPP. Abe must exercise leadership and carefully explain the aims of the trade pact to calibrate opinions within the country as soon as possible to make Japan's participation in the agreement a reality.

The participation of Japan, the world's third-largest economy, in the TPP will have advantages for the United States, too. Formation of a free trade area featuring the Japan-U.S. partnership will have the effect of putting pressure on emerging China.

During their meeting, Abe asked Obama to promptly approve U.S. exports of shale gas to Japan. The president replied that his government always takes the importance of Japan as its ally into consideration.

Some observers said restrictions on shale gas exports could be lifted as early as March, opening a way for Japan to procure cheap natural gas.

Abe also stressed that he would review the policy set under the DPJ-led government to shut down all of Japan's nuclear reactors by the end of the 2030s.

It is important that Japan and the United States cooperate extensively on economic issues, including energy and nuclear policies.


Increase pressure on N. Korea

In the security field, Abe explained that he would proactively tackle such issues as a revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines, clarifying whether the nation can exercise its right to collective self-defense, and reviewing the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation.

All of these issues are essential for reinforcing the substance of the Japan-U.S. alliance. We hope the government gives priority to these issues and steadily achieves tangible results.

The two leaders agreed to proceed with a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station from Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko district in Nago, also in the prefecture, based on an agreement reached by the Japanese and U.S. governments.

Although the Okinawa prefectural government insists the air station should be relocated outside the prefecture, the Henoko plan is the shortest way to reduce the burdens of communities that currently host the base. The government must steadfastly persuade people involved in this matter to support this option.

As for North Korea's recent nuclear test, Abe and Obama confirmed such provocations cannot be tolerated, and that North Korea should not be rewarded for these actions.

While both leaders agreed to seek the adoption of a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing additional sanctions on Pyongyang, they also agreed to consider sanctions independently enforced by such parties as Japan and the United States.

After North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006, the administration of then U.S. President George W. Bush cut a deal in which Pyongyang said it would abandon its nuclear facilities and Washington removed North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. North Korea should not receive any such benefit for conducting its third nuclear test this year.


Form intl tie-up on Senkakus

Although the Security Council should adopt an effective sanctions resolution, China has shown a cautious stance. It is important that ways to apply "pressure," other than a Security Council resolution, be considered under the initiative of Tokyo, Washington and Seoul.

During a bilateral foreign ministerial meeting held after the Abe-Obama meeting, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in reference to Japan-China relations, expressed a view that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and fall under the scope of U.S. defense obligations to Japan.

We welcome Kerry's adherence to the stance of his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.

Japan, for its part, should calmly address this issue without being rattled by such provocations as the use of fire-control radar by Chinese forces. At the same time, Japan should strengthen the warning and surveillance operations conducted by the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard. To urge China to exercise self-restraint in its saber-rattling, Japan must deepen cooperation with the United States and other nations concerned.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 24, 2013)
(2013年2月24日01時42分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-26 06:39 | 英字新聞

北方領土交渉 「仕切り直し」へ戦略練り直せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 24, 2013)
New strategy needed to resume talks over northern territories
北方領土交渉 「仕切り直し」へ戦略練り直せ(2月23日付・読売社説)

The government's aim of smoothing the way for future talks between Japanese and Russian leaders has been achieved. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now faces a test on whether it can devise a specific diplomatic strategy to make progress in negotiations to solve the dispute over the northern territories.

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori met recently with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow.

During the meeting, Putin said it is abnormal that the two countries have yet to conclude a peace treaty due to the obstacle of the territorial issue.

Drawing a picture of a judo competition area on paper, Putin stated his intention to make a fresh start in the negotiations. He said Japan and Russia cannot compete because both countries stay at the edge of the competition area, and that they should be pulled to the center to start over.

Putin's predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev, visited Kunashiri Island, one of the four islands in the northern territories, while he was Russian president. During the visit, Medvedev took a hard-line stance on the issue, saying: "This is our native land. We will not give away an inch."


Figure out Russia's real intent

Abe must appropriately interpret Putin's positive signal on the territorial issue. We hope the Abe administration will negotiate with Russia patiently while trying to figure out what Moscow really has in mind.

During the talks, Mori asked Putin to clarify his remarks in March last year that he would seek "hikiwake"--a judo term meaning a draw--to solve the issue. Putin reportedly said it was meant to be a solution that creates neither a winner nor a loser, but he did not elaborate.

Putin apparently regards the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration as a starting point for negotiations on the territorial row. The declaration stipulates the Habomai islets and Shikotan Island should be returned to Japan after the two countries sign a peace treaty. In recent years, Russia has allocated funding for developing infrastructure in the northern territories to steadily "Russianize" them, especially on the other two islands of Kunashiri and Etrofu.

On a TV program last month, Mori mentioned the possible option of Russia first returning three of the islets--with the exception of Etrofu Island--not all four at once. He made such remarks apparently in the belief that the nation should quickly aim for a realistic solution.

When he was foreign minister, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso floated the idea of dividing the four islands equally in terms of size.

However, bilateral negotiations between the Abe and Putin administrations have yet to take place. If Tokyo takes a concessional approach before the talks start, Moscow may take further advantage of it. In the same way as previously, Japan should aim for the return of all four islands in the negotiations.


Expanded cooperation key

At the meeting with Mori, Putin also expressed his hopes of expanded bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, such as in oil and natural gas. He also said his country wants to take advantage of Japan's agricultural technology in developing its vast Far East region.

Japan's economic strength and technology would be attractive to Russia, which has increased its focus on development of the Far East and Siberia. If the territorial dispute is resolved, Japan and Russia will be able to cooperate in more areas beneficial to both countries. Such expanded bilateral cooperation also could put a brake on China, a growing economic and military power.

It is vital for both Japan and Russia to increase their shared awareness that bilateral cooperation is strategically important. This could pave the way to solving the territorial issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 23, 2013)
(2013年2月23日01時27分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-25 07:20 | 英字新聞

3人死刑執行 凶悪犯罪の抑止につなげたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 23, 2013)
Execution of death-row inmates must serve as deterrent to crime
3人死刑執行 凶悪犯罪の抑止につなげたい(2月22日付・読売社説)

Three death-row inmates were executed Thursday. They were the first executions carried out under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration, which was launched in December.

Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, who ordered the executions just two months after he was appointed to his post, told a press conference after the executions, "The spirit of the law shouldn't be disregarded." His statement shows he attaches grave importance to the Criminal Procedure Code, which stipulates that death sentences should be implemented within six months of being finalized.

The statement also indicates his stance to carry out in a somber manner the duties of the justice minister, who bears a heavy responsibility.


134 people now on death row

Under the Democratic Party of Japan-led administrations, few executions were carried out. There was even a period of about 20 months in which there were no executions, due to the successive appointments of justice ministers who were critical of the death penalty. As a result, the number of inmates whose death sentences had been finalized increased to 137, including the three most recently executed, the largest figure in the postwar period.

Internationally, countries that have abolished or suspended capital punishment outnumber those who maintain the system.

In Japan, on the other hand, 85 percent of the public approves of the death penalty, according to an opinion poll by the Cabinet Office.

"At the moment it's unnecessary to review the system," Tanigaki said, taking into consideration this public sentiment.

Death sentences have been given in lay judge trials, in which ordinary citizens participate in the trial process, and the sentences for three inmates under that system have been already finalized.

Considering these circumstances, we urge justice ministers to implement the death penalty system in a strict manner, after closely examining finalized death sentences.

The three inmates whose sentences were carried out most recently include a man who kidnapped and killed a young girl in Nara Prefecture in 2004, and a man who killed or injured nine people near JR Arakawaoki Station on the Joban Line and at another location, both in Ibaraki Prefecture, in 2008.

All three cases were contemptible, cruel crimes that horrified society. The victims and their bereaved family members suffered grievous harm. The bereaved families want the culprits to be harshly punished.

In the case of kidnapping and murder in Nara Prefecture, the perpetrator abducted a first-grade primary school student who was on her way home from school in order to sexually molest her. He even sent an e-mail with a picture of the girl's dead body to her mother's cellphone. The case was extremely malicious.


Prevention of repeat offenses

This is the case that clarified the trend toward toughening the penalties in murder cases so that people who commit atrocious sexual crimes will face capital punishment even if they have only killed one person.

The Nara Prefecture case spurred the government to study measures to prevent the recurrence of sexual offenses, as the perpetrator had a criminal record of sex offenses.

The Justice Ministry now provides the National Police Agency with information on where people with criminal records of sexual offenses involving children live after their release from prison. Sex offenders in prison are required to attend programs to prevent repeat offenses, in which they are taught ways to control their emotions.

However, there is no sign of a significant decline in the number of sex offenses. We should think again about the fact that one purpose of implementing death sentences is to deter atrocious crimes.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 22, 2013)
(2013年2月22日01時14分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-24 06:54 | 英字新聞

民主衆院選総括 自己批判を再建に生かせるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 22, 2013)
Self-criticism not enough; DPJ must learn from the past
民主衆院選総括 自己批判を再建に生かせるか(2月21日付・読売社説)

Self-critical phrases were found throughout a Democratic Party of Japan report reviewing the Dec. 16 House of Representatives election. The report was quite unusual for an official document of a political party, but the real issue is whether the DPJ can use it to rebuild itself.

The report on the party's humiliating defeat and its handling of the government for about three years and three months was approved Wednesday at a general meeting of the secretaries general of local DPJ chapters. Dubbed a "plan to reform and recreate the DPJ," the report will be officially approved at a party convention scheduled for Sunday.

In the report, the party carefully avoided pointing fingers at anyone as a direct cause of the defeat. However, it did point out a "chain of errors committed by party heads," including those of three prime ministers--Yukio Hatoyama's haphazard handling of the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, Naoto Kan's remarks suggesting a consumption tax hike and Yoshihiko Noda's failure to properly set the date for a lower house dissolution.

The report also admitted that the secession of party members, notably former party President Ichiro Ozawa and his followers, dealt a huge blow to the DPJ's image. This made the public feel "it was inappropriate to entrust the helm of government to a group unable to govern itself," the report said.


Responsibility of 'troika' leaders

Those analyses all have a point. We believe Hatoyama, Kan and Ozawa--once dubbed the troika of the DPJ--are especially responsible for the defeat. If the DPJ really wants to rally from the historical defeat and once again become a rival of the Liberal Democratic Party, it is essential to wholeheartedly examine past mistakes and thoroughly learn from them.

In addition to the faults of the party leadership, we should not overlook the DPJ's lack of governance--a chronic problem for the entire party. Failure to communicate with bureaucrats, party management that lacks unity, members' lack of awareness that they should uphold the party's decisions--all the things pointed out in the report were on the mark.

However, the problem is that all those problems had already been pointed out during the time the DPJ held the reins of government. Instead of taking effective measures to deal with them, the party spent all its energy on intraparty conflicts, such as the battle between the pro- and anti-Ozawa groups.

Based on its review of the general election defeat, the reform plan made seven proposals for the DPJ.

They include suggestions such as "carry the flag of a reformist party and march toward the realization of our reform goals," and "listen to the wide array of public opinions, utilize the knowledge of experts and reinforce our ability to convey our messages to the public."


Proposals too abstract

Frankly speaking, we were disappointed with the abstractness of the proposals. The proposals were supposed to be the centerpiece of the report to help the party fight in the House of Councillors election scheduled for this summer. However, they seem far from serving this aim.

The party needs to promptly decide on institutional reforms, such as how the party's decision-making system should be shaped and the status of its Policy Research Committee. The DPJ has been struggling with such reforms since it took power.

The reform proposal said the DPJ "will offer counterproposals to ruling parties' policies, to fulfill the role of an opposition party capable of creating new values." Having said that, it will be important for the party to utilize the experience of holding the reins of government and tenaciously stick offer viable alternatives to the government's policies.

Currently, the Diet is divided with the DPJ holding the most seats in the upper house. Thus the party shares the responsibility to move politics forward. If the party examines the policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration appropriately and gives constructive criticism as a responsible opposition party, it will lend a disciplined atmosphere to the national administration.

At the same time, it will be important for the DPJ not to hesitate in cooperating with the ruling parties to realize policies that serve the national interest, as such an attitude could be an important step in restoring the public's trust.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 21, 2013)
(2013年2月21日02時00分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-23 06:55 | 英字新聞

石炭火力発電 技術開発テコに活用続けたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 21, 2013)
Govt must continue pushing coal thermal power generation
石炭火力発電 技術開発テコに活用続けたい(2月20日付・読売社説)

As a nation that relies on foreign energy resources, Japan needs to secure a stable supply of cheap electricity.

In the wake of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, almost all nuclear reactors in the nation have been idled. Thermal power generation using coal, which is cheaper and more readily available than oil and other fossil fuels, is worth taking another look at.

As part of its management reconstruction, TEPCO aims to procure electricity from new coal-fired thermal power plants to be built by other companies.

Within the government, however, opinion on whether to promote the plan is divided. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is in favor of the plan, while Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara appears to be against it. Under such circumstances, private businesses will be unable to freely undertake construction projects for coal-fired thermal plants without worry.

Considering how difficult it will be to build new nuclear power plants given the current situation, the government must put forth a policy to push forward with the continued use of coal-fired thermal power.


Ways to overcome drawbacks

The biggest advantage of coal-fired thermal power generation is its low cost. According to estimations by a government expert panel, thermal power generation using coal costs 9.5 yen per kilowatt-hour, lower than the 10.7 yen per kWh for liquefied natural gas and 22.1 yen for oil.

However, one major drawback of relying on coal is that it creates a relatively large amount of greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants are about twice that from LNG-fired plants.

Technological progress has been made in curbing CO2 emissions at coal-fired plants, but more ways to make up for such drawbacks must be found.

The Environment Ministry has put the brakes on constructing new coal-fired thermal plants based on its environmental assessment, a measure it considers necessary to deal with global warming.

Orix Corp. and Toshiba Corp. were forced to reexamine and scrap their coal-fired thermal plant projects in 2006, as coal was deemed to create too much carbon dioxide. The same happened to Nippon Kasei Chemical Co. in 2010. In fact, no new coal-fired thermal plant construction project has been approved in the past decade.

There are no definite standards set on permissible CO2 emission levels. Some observers have noted it is problematic that the Environment Ministry has arbitrarily discouraged the construction of new coal-fired plants.


Regulatory reform needed

Last week, the government's advisory panel on regulatory reform announced it would study easing and clarifying the requirements for constructing new coal-fired plants. This is a reasonable step. Regulations that have effectively hampered construction must be urgently reexamined.

Japan faces the task of securing a stable power supply while simultaneously implementing measures against global warming. Achieving this became more difficult after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant. It is important to maintain diversified electricity sources, including coal firing, in addition to restarting nuclear reactors once their safety has been confirmed.

Many coal-fired plants in emerging countries, such as China and India, are inefficient. If these nations are to utilize Japan's high-performance equipment, however, it can act as a favorable contribution toward dealing with a global environmental issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 20, 2013)
(2013年2月20日01時38分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-22 07:02 | 英字新聞

米航空大手合併 世界の空を競う新時代の到来

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 20, 2013)
American-US Airways merger marks new era of global rivalry
米航空大手合併 世界の空を競う新時代の到来(2月19日付・読売社説)

The U.S. airline industry has reached the end of more than 10 years of mergers and acquisitions among major carriers. This indicates the dawn of a new era in which the three big U.S. carriers will take the lead in the global airline industry, as well as in Asia.

American Airlines and US Airways, the world's fourth and 11th-largest carriers, respectively, have agreed to merge this autumn. Under the deal, the new airline will surpass United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the current No. 1 and No. 2 carriers, as the largest in the world.

It can be said that the latest development is the result of American and US Airways' shared intention to survive global competition by streamlining operations and expanding their customer base.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, major U.S. carriers fell like dominoes due to economic slowdowns, soaring fuel prices and aggressive sales drives by low-cost carriers.

Later, these collapsed carriers consolidated after restructuring under bankruptcy protection. For instance, Delta merged with Northwest, while United absorbed Continental.


U.S. carriers to take leading role

The latest merger is also a move for airlines to find ways to survive through the same formula for recovery.

American entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection proceedings in autumn 2011 following delays in cost-cutting efforts and other factors. The airline still faces many challenges, as it has been unable to single-handedly put itself back on the corporate reconstruction track.

On the other hand, US Airways, which first entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002 and again in 2004, is smaller than American in terms of passenger traffic, but has recently been performing relatively steadily.

The carrier is apparently aiming to shed its excessive dependence on domestic flight services and hoped to mutually complement each other with the merger with American, which has a solid network of international flights.

The focal point in the months ahead will be how quickly the two airlines can demonstrate the cost-reducing effect of the merger.

The new company plans to capture fast-growing markets, including those in Asia. It is certain that global competition in the airline industry will intensify further, with the three major U.S. carriers taking a pivotal role.

Currently, there are three global airline alliance networks that allow partner carriers to have codeshare flights and share mileage reward systems.


ANA, JAL must act quickly

The American-US Airways merger, in which both carriers belong to different alliances, may trigger a global realignment that goes beyond existing alliance networks.

The two major Japanese airlines--All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, both of which run relatively small-scale operations--must raise their sense of urgency. We hope the two carriers will enhance their competitiveness by making further cost-cutting efforts and improving their services.

Yet the Boeing 787, which both consider their leading, next-generation aircraft, has been forced to suspend operations due to mechanical troubles. This negative effect is a matter of concern.

Hindered by its complicated electronic system and joint development through Japanese, U.S. and European manufacturers, there has been little progress in investigating the cause of recent incidents involving Boeing 787s, leaving no prospect for resuming operations even though a month has already passed since the planes were suspended.

If the suspension is extended, both Japanese airlines must review their business management plans centering on the 787s.

We hope both Japanese and U.S. authorities expedite their cooperative efforts to shed light on the cause of the incidents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 19, 2013)
(2013年2月19日01時22分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-21 06:17 | 英字新聞

通貨安競争 対立の火種を残したG20声明

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 19, 2013)
G-20 meeting failed to resolve cause of conflict
通貨安競争 対立の火種を残したG20声明(2月18日付・読売社説)

Industrialized nations--including Japan, the United States and European countries--and China and other emerging nations have agreed to avoid "currency competition" in which currencies are guided lower.

It is laudable that the Group of 20 meeting in Moscow avoided naming Japan in connection with recent weakening of the yen, but it did not quench the underlying fire that could blaze up again into a new confrontation.

The meeting was attended by finance ministers and central bank chiefs from 20 principal economies.

Since its inauguration in December, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has adopted an economic policy dubbed "Abenomics" that combines drastic monetary easing with flexible fiscal measures, but which has led to the rapid weakening of the yen. This was a focus of G-20 discussions because emerging and some other member countries suspect Japan intentionally induced a weakening of the yen.

The joint statement adopted by the G-20 economies stated they would refrain from "competitive devaluation" and "will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes." No reference was made to Japan in this regard although it was a matter of concern.

Finance Minister Taro Aso, who also serves as deputy prime minister, denied Japan intentionally weakened the yen and explained that the government's aim was to lift Japan out of deflation. It seems his explanation won a certain degree of understanding.


Oblique warning to Japan

Concerning monetary policy, the statement said it should be "directed only at price stability and economic recovery" and adverse impacts would be monitored closely and minimized. This could be interpreted as a warning to Japan that its economic policy should not adversely affect exchange and other markets.

Brazil, Mexico and other emerging economies are vigilantly watching excessive capital inflows and the strengthening of their currencies, which could follow the monetary easing measures of Japan, European countries and the United States. Their vexation may strengthen if the yen depreciates further.

For this reason, the government and the Bank of Japan need to exercise care as they carry out Abenomics to lead Japan out of deflation.


Promote growth strategy

The government should not rely only on the yen's weakness. Instead, it must step up efforts to put together concrete measures for the growth strategy that it lists as one of its "three arrows." The other "arrows" are monetary easing and fiscal stimulation.

There is a growing belief in industrial circles that the recent weakening of the yen represents nothing more than a slight correction of its exchange rates that rose to historically high levels and that the currency remains relatively strong.

It is essential for the government and the central bank to call on other countries to understand Japan's situation. But at the same time, Cabinet ministers and special advisers to the Cabinet must refrain from making comments on exchange rates that could affect the markets.

Bright signs have emerged for the world economy as the worst of the protracted European financial crisis appears to be over and the United States has avoided falling off its so-called fiscal cliff.

But the G-20 statement acknowledges that global economic growth is still too weak. This observation is quite natural. The G-20 economies face the heavy challenges of achieving growth and fiscal reconstruction at the same time.

Japan will have to expedite efforts to break away from deflation and achieve economic revitalization, thereby contributing further to the stabilization of the world economy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 18, 2013)
(2013年2月18日01時26分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-20 06:44 | 英字新聞

自賠責保険 合理化努力を値上げの前提に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 18, 2013)
Streamline car insurance program before price hikes
自賠責保険 合理化努力を値上げの前提に(2月17日付・読売社説)

If drivers are going to be required to shoulder a greater financial burden, the government must shed light on every problem in the compulsory automobile liability insurance program and reform it into a more transparent, rational system.

Premiums for the compulsory auto insurance that every car owner must take out will be increased by an average of 13.5 percent from April. This is the second significant increase following the 11.7 percent hike in fiscal 2011.

The planned increase is attributed to the deteriorating financial condition of the insurance program. Its accumulated deficits will exceed 500 billion yen at the end of fiscal 2012.

Revenues decreased after premiums for the insurance were drastically lowered in fiscal 2008, while insurance payouts for deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents have increased.

The purpose of the compulsory auto insurance program is to help victims of traffic accidents. Since the program cannot be sustained unless its financial conditions are improved, we think premium hikes cannot be avoided.

However, we are concerned that insurance payouts have remained high even though the number of traffic accidents and the number of people killed or injured in them have been declining.

Behind it may be an increase in claims made for mild injuries, which are not included in traffic accident statistics, and assessments of damage by nonlife insurance companies, which tend to be more lenient than those for voluntary auto liability insurance.


Check payments

Private nonlife insurance companies manage the compulsory insurance program. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, the Financial Services Agency and other government offices should work together to develop a system to check whether insurance money is paid appropriately.

Returns from the insurance premiums are accumulated in reserve funds to use for various projects, including one to help people who suffered permanent damage in traffic accidents. But how the reserve funds are used is problematic, too.

The ministry manages the funds in its special account. To alleviate fiscal difficulties, however, about 1 trillion yen from the reserve funds was transferred to the general accounts in fiscal 1994 and fiscal 1995.

The repayment deadline has been extended repeatedly, so about 600 billion yen has not been returned yet.

With the account balance down to 200 billion yen, the principal of the reserve funds has been used and shrunk because returns from the funds alone no longer cover the costs of running the projects.

Diverting the reserve funds to help traffic accident victims is not the purpose of the compulsory auto insurance. We expect the Finance Ministry and the transport ministry to swiftly carry out their pledge to restore the full amount by fiscal 2018.


In line with the times

Projects to help traffic accident victims and prevent accidents, which are run by the government, nonlife insurance companies and JA Kyosai (Zenkyoren or National Mutual Insurance Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives) with returns from the funds, should also be checked.

Projects to help victims of traffic accidents are important, but it is worth noting that the three organizations' activities often overlap, as with a project to distribute helicopters carrying doctors. Many should be financed by the government's general account or be conducted by nonlife insurance firms as their contribution to society. It is important to scrutinize the necessity and efficiency of the projects.

The government will need to plan a new insurance program in line with the times, such as one with discount premiums for highly safe vehicles equipped with automatic braking systems to prevent accidents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 17, 2013)
(2013年2月17日01時26分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-02-19 06:06 | 英字新聞