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(Mainichi Japan) September 29, 2008
Prime Minister Aso needs to consider the weight of his words
社説:麻生外交 発言の重みを自覚すべきだ

Prime Minister Taro Aso delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. He is the first Japanese prime minister to address that body in three years.

There is a reason that Prime Minister Aso chose the U.N. Headquarters as the venue for his first official act as prime minster. The leaders of U.N. member countries deliver speeches there annually around this time of year, but during the past two years, Japan's two previous prime ministers, Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda, stayed away because the timing conflicted with the launch of their own administrations.

If Japan's prime minister had missed this opportunity to address the U.N. for three years in a row, even though Japan attaches great importance to that organization, it would have had repercussions for Japan's international stature. This thought probably occurred to Prime Minister Aso, so although it is unusual for a prime minister to address the U.N. before delivering his own policy speech to the Diet, his decision to give priority to the U.N. by working this trip into his schedule was a good one.

The prime minister gave his speech an Aso color by stating that Japan is committed to growing its own economy in order to contribute to the stability of the global economy.

He explained that Japan has carried out refueling operations in the Indian Ocean in cooperation with the campaign against terrorism and as part of the effort to assist in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and said that Japan will "continue to proactively participate in unison with the international community in the fight against terrorism."

His speech could be interpreted as signaling his resolve to continue the refueling operations. Given that the House of Representatives is expected to be dissolved soon, and that the outcome of the general election is uncertain, there is a possibility that the refueling operations may not be sustained. But even if that were to be the case, the prime minister has made an international pledge to "proactively participate" in the war against terrorism. Japan will have to pursue a policy that takes sufficient account of the importance of this pledge.

One thing should be said with regard to the weight that the prime minister's words carry. After his speech, Prime Minister Aso stated, in reference to the Constitution's prohibition against the exercise of the right of collective defense, that it "basically should be changed." He might have thought that he was simply voicing his personal views in response to a question from the press, but this is probably not a topic that should be handled so casually.

A committee of wisemen inaugurated by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had issued a report on this topic that called for a change in the interpretation of the Constitution, but former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda shelved the report. And even Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has stated politicians "need to settle into their seats to talk over the issue." An issue that affects the foundation of Japan's national security policy needs to be debated in a calm environment.

In regard to Japan's diplomacy with its neighbors, Aso said that Japan would make an effort to strengthen its relations with its important partners China and South Korea. We hope that he treats Japan's relations with China and South Korea, which have gotten on track again, with great care and revives the summit diplomacy that involves alternating visits by the leaders of these countries.

Beijing in particular is alarmed by the "arc of freedom and prosperity" policy that Aso set forth while foreign minister, which it sees as a policy intended to contain China. Aso did not touch on this policy in his speech, but he asserted his belief in pursuing a "values diplomacy" that places a priority on building solidarity with countries that share the same basic values. He will need to provide a careful explanation of this point in order to avoid leaving the international community with a mistaken impression.

毎日新聞 2008年9月27日 0時28分

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-30 12:39 | 英字速報


(Sep. 30, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Will Ozawa rise to Aso's challenge?
所信表明演説 小沢民主党代表はどう応じる(9月30日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Taro Aso's first policy speech at the Diet on Monday was unusual in that he deliberately tried to provoke the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest force in the House of Councillors, by asking questions and making requests to it.

Aso demanded the DPJ be prepared to provide answers to the questions he posed when it tries to grill him in the interpellation session. By doing so, Aso apparently aimed to address issues likely to be in the spotlight in the run-up to the anticipated dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election.

Aso's speech thus appeared as a challenge to the DPJ that Ichiro Ozawa, the party's president will be unable to completely ignore. Close attention should be paid on how Ozawa will respond.

Aso first asked whether the DPJ is prepared to establish rules on consensus building.

In the divided Diet, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda continued to be shaken by the DPJ during the last ordinary session despite showing a cooperative attitude toward the opposition camp.

Aso obviously wants to avoid falling into the same trap as Fukuda.


Going on the offensive

Saying that the passage of a supplementary budget and its related bills are an urgent need, Aso pressed the DPJ hard to declare its position on the issue and clarify its stance on the government's plan to create a consumers affairs agency. Aso also suggested that ruling and opposition parties hold talks to coordinate policy.

Regarding the nation's foreign policy and security issues, Aso raised two key questions.

First, he asked which the DPJ considers a higher priority: the Japan-U.S. alliance or the United Nations.

Ozawa has been taking the U.N.-centered approach for a long time. Aso underlined that the nation's top diplomatic priority should be strengthening of the Japan-U.S. security alliance. He also said the nation could not realistically leave its fate entirely up to the United Nations.

Second, Aso took up the issue of passing a bill to revise the new Antiterrorism Law to continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. Aso pressed the DPJ, asking whether it considers it appropriate for the nation to avoid engaging in activities that are required by the international community.


Chance of course change

There is the possibility of major policy changes regarding both issues if the DPJ takes power. Ozawa needs to wipe out that concern.

Aso referred in the policy speech to the reconstruction of the nation's economy as an issue to be urgently tackled. He said that top priority for the time being should be given to measures to boost the flagging economy. This stance has apparently been announced as a lower house election is in sight.

On the promised review of the health insurance system for those aged 75 or older, which some observers say is an effort to win votes in the upcoming election, Aso ended up merely saying that he would consider reviewing the system within a year or so. It is quite unclear how the system would be reviewed and what changes would be considered.

Since Aso delivered the speech in an unusual manner by asking the opposition's stance on a number of issues, he must answer sincerely during the upcoming interpellation session without dodging the opposition's questions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2008)
(2008年9月30日02時18分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-30 09:04 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) September 27, 2008
Japan, U.S. must adopt impeccable safety measures for nuclear carrier deployment
社説:原子力空母配備 「安全」に日米政府は万全策を

The U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington has arrived at its new home port of Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture, the first U.S. nuclear carrier to be deployed to a home port outside the U.S.

The Navy published a 200-page comic book on the George Washington in April this year, aimed at assuaging the concerns of local residents. The comic book provides descriptions of the interior of the George Washington, its training regimen, and daily life on the aircraft carrier as it cruises from the U.S. to Yokosuka, and its hero is a Japanese-American sailor.

In one scene, the hero helps to extinguish a fire on board. The ship did in fact experience a fire off the coast of South America as it was bound for Japan -- but while the comic-book version of the fire had no effect on the vessel's operations, the real George Washington suffered 37 injuries to crew and was forced to undergo repairs, delaying its arrival at Yokosuka for over a month. The cause of the comic-book fire was an overheating washer-dryer, but the cause of the actual fire was more insidious -- a discarded cigarette.

Since small problems and accidents on nuclear-powered vessels can potentially escalate into major crises involving local residents, it's only natural that the fire should have prompted the Japanese and U.S. governments to adopt a framework for preventing and responding to accidents.

In laying the groundwork for the deployment of the George Washington, the U.S. presented a fact sheet to the Japanese government in 2006 regarding the safety of nuclear-powered vessels. This document states repeatedly that accident scenarios including leaks of radioactive material are improbable, and adheres to the position that accidents will not happen. It also stresses that past port calls in Japan have never triggered spikes in radiation levels in the environment.

But such statements are viewed with a strong dose of skepticism. In May 1968, when the nuclear submarine USS Swordfish called at the port of Sasebo in Nagasaki, a Japanese radiation monitoring boat detected radiation near the submarine 10 to 20 times above normal levels; and after the nuclear submarine USS Honolulu departed from Yokosuka Naval Base in September 2006, cobalt-58 and cobalt-60 were detected in the seas nearby.

In both cases, the U.S. denied that the radiation had any connection to the nuclear submarines, and efforts to get at the truth have been sidetracked. Last month, it was learned that the nuclear submarine USS Houston had also leaked radioactive coolant water when it was docked off White Beach in Okinawa, and when it visited Sasebo Port between June 2006 and July 2008.

The Japanese response has been muffled by the U.S. military's wall of secrecy. When a nuclear submarine visited Japan for the first time in 1964, the U.S. government issued a statement declaring that it "would not provide technological information," and not allow "boarding of the submarine for the purpose of acquiring technological information." Japan's Foreign Ministry had no alternative but to rely on U.S. statements when providing information on leaks from the Houston.

But in the event of an accident, or if there is suspicion that an accident has occurred, it would be inadequate to simply rely on notices from the U.S. military. The Japanese government should discuss sufficient responses with the U.S. government including boarding of the vessels. Otherwise, the concerns of local residents cannot be sufficiently addressed.

毎日新聞 2008年9月26日 0時06分

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-29 13:01 | 英字速報


(Sep. 29, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nakayama's remarks immoderate, costly
中山国交相辞任 節度を欠いた発言だった(9月29日付・読売社説)

Too much water drowns the miller. Even when expounding one's opinions as a politician, one must not forget one's position as a cabinet member and keep on making remarks beyond the limits of reasonableness.

Construction and Transport Minister Nariaki Nakayama resigned Sunday to take responsibility of a series of verbal gaffes, including his description of those who have engaged in years of struggle against the expansion of Narita Airport as "squeaky wheels."

Nakayama retracted parts of his remarks, but he reiterated, "I've been thinking the Japan Teachers Union should be disbanded."

The first Diet debates under the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso will start Monday. The opposition parties were unanimous demanding Nakayama's resignation or dismissal. Nakayama's resignation seems to be aimed at minimizing any ill effects on the extraordinary Diet session and the planned House of Representatives election.

As for a delay in Narita Airport development, Nakayama said: "More or less squeaky wheels, or I believe they are [the product] of bad postwar education. It is very regrettable that the airport has not been able to expand in a milieu in which people lack the spirit of sacrificing themselves to a degree for the sake of the public good and think it good if they care only about themselves."


Accurate, but undiplomatic

In general, the climate Nakayama described seems to exist. In the case of the Narita Airport issue, there is no denying that opposition to the project has harmed the public interest--to construct and maintain an airport that is safe and equipped with sufficient landing capacity.

However, describing them as "squeaky wheels" is questionable. As the person responsible for the nation's airport administration that requires dialogue with local residents, it was an inappropriate remark.

As for the recent bribery scandal involving education board officials and teachers in Oita Prefecture, Nakayama said: "The children of Japan Teachers Union [members] can become teachers even if their grades are bad. That's why scholastic ability in Oita Prefecture is low."
Also, he said: "One of the reasons I have proposed to conduct the nationwide academic achievement examination [for primary sixth-graders and middle school third-graders] was that I thought academic ability could be poor in areas where the teachers union has strong influence. Therefore, I think that the role of conducting the nationwide academic achievement examinations has come to an end."

Nakayama has criticized the Japan Teachers Union, saying that they do not teach students about the national flag and the national anthem, and oppose moral education.


Beyond his authority

Even if his remarks may have a point, the educational issue is not under the jurisdiction of the construction and transport minister.

By saying that the role of the nationwide academic achievement examination has come to an end, Nakayama especially cannot avoid being blamed for his imprudence.

The examination, now in its second year since the Education, Science and Technology Ministry resumed administering it in 2007, has now reached the stage at which its results, at last, are about to be used to improve students' academic performances.

As for the government's tourism policy, Nakayama blurted out an apparent factual error, saying, "Japan is very introverted, or what may be called ethnically homogenous, or rather it tends to be inward-looking."

The Aso administration's record has been marred by the scandal of the Cabinet minister's resignation only five days after its launch.

Aso must immediately seek to tighten discipline and manage the political situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2008)
(2008年9月29日01時54分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-29 10:12 | 英字新聞




中山国交相―首相の門出にこの放言 晴れの大臣就任で、つい口が滑らかになりすぎたのか。中山成彬国土交通相が、就任2日目の報道機関のインタビューで驚くべき発言を連発した。















(Mainichi Japan) September 28, 2008

Nakayama's foot-in-mouth antics already casting doubt on Aso's Cabinet
Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Nariaki Nakayama remarked that some residents near Narita Airport refused to sell their land for the airport construction because they thought there would be more gain by holding out. He later retracted and apologized for his remarks, but it's not enough to settle the controversy he sparked.

His misconceptions and lack of proper understanding of the role of the ministry he supervises has raised questions as to whether he is qualified to serve as a Cabinet minister, and over the insight of Prime Minister Taro Aso, who appointed him.

Regarding Narita Airport, Nakayama remarked: "When I came home in 1978, I landed at the airport. Since then, there had been only one lane (runway) for many years, and it's a pity for Japan. Many held out, expecting more gain. I think it's one of the problems of post-war education. They lack public-mindedness. They have no desire to make a certain self-sacrifice for the benefit of the public, and think only of their own benefit, making it hard to expand the airport. It's a real shame."

Local residents opposing the Narita Airport construction project, which began in 1960s, were in bitter conflict with the national government from the start. Through negotiations with local residents at round-table talks and other places, the government admitted in 1995 that it was at fault for attempting to force the project through, and offered an apology.

In the apology, the government admitted its responsibility for the problem, and local residents have no reason to be criticized for holding out for more.

He failed to probe relations between the lack of public-mindedness and problems involving post-war education, and the dispute over the airport, and apparently made the remarks based on his groundless impressions -- and which could damage the mutual trust that local residents and the ministry have nurtured for many years through their efforts.

Nakayama then trained his sights on the Japan Teachers Union (JTU), and said: "The children of JTU members can become teachers even if their grades (in recruitment exams) are poor. Therefore, academic ability in Oita Prefecture is low," in an apparent reference to a bribery scandal involving recruitment of public school teachers in the prefecture.

"I proposed a nationwide academic aptitude test because I thought academic levels in areas where the JTU hold sway are low. Now I know it's true, so there's no longer any point in conducting such tests," he continued.

Nakayama proposed the test during his tenure as education, culture, sports, science and technology minister in the Cabinet of Junichiro Koizumi. Such an examination should be aimed at improving the academic levels of schoolchildren as a whole. However, he wanted to use it to prove a correlation between the JTU and low academic levels; which he failed to do. Claiming that "there is no longer any point in conducting such tests" -- as the minister who introduced the scheme, costing the government billions of yen a year -- is incredibly imprudent and irresponsible.

Regarding tourism policy, his remark that Japan is an ethnically homogeneous country has also been criticized for being a misconception.

This is not the first time that Nakayama's remarks have stirred controversy. One cannot help but wonder whether, Prime Minister Aso thought carefully about the selection of his Cabinet members and whether he really placed the right people in the right posts, as he said when he announced his Cabinet lineup.

This latest string of gaffes has raised doubts among a disappointed public. The government is faced with many outstanding issues, and Cabinet members are required to do their best to fulfill their duties, regardless of whether a general election will be called in the near future.

With the revolving-door nature of the top ministry posts in recent years, the Cabinet's trustworthiness as the top body of the executive branch of the government has been called into question.

The prime minister should instruct Cabinet ministers to properly understand policy issues they are supposed to tackle, and take a resolute action against any problem like the recent gaffe.

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-28 10:18 | 英字速報


(Sep. 28, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Unclear what Masuzoe means by 'drastic review'
後期高齢者医療 意味不明な「抜本的見直し」(9月28日付・読売社説)

The government and ruling parties have been blowing hot and cold over the new medical insurance system for those aged 75 and older.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe proposed a drastic review of the system, and Prime Minister Taro Aso backed the idea. However, it is not clear what such a "review" would mean in effect, and some lawmakers even within the ruling parties oppose the move.

The Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito referred to the system in their latest agreement to maintain the coalition government, saying they would try to improve the system by taking into consideration elderly people's feelings about it.

It goes without saying that governments should strive to improve every policy and system. But this is different from drastically reviewing them.


Proposal ill thought out

Masuzoe said his proposal focuses on three principles: not distinguishing those insured only by their age; changing the current system of mandatorily deducting insurance premium payments from participants' pension accounts to a voluntary system; and ensuring that any changes to be made do not exacerbate feelings of inequity between working people and retirees receiving insurance premium payments.

The first point may be the most important. The current system was intended to create a united medical insurance system for those aged 75 and older, whose medical fees have increased steeply in recent years, and to support aged people equally, notwithstanding the fact that working generations subscribe to various corporate health insurance plans.

If the government and ruling parties decide to do away with the new system's age-bracket provisions because they worry overly that elderly people aged 75 and older have loudly protested against being described as koki koreisha (late-stage elderly people)--as the system refers to them--they will have to rebuild the system from scratch.

If those who continue to work regardless of their age are allowed to subscribe to corporate health insurance plans as members of the working generations, the government and ruling parties will merely have broadened the options of such people. This does not go beyond the framework of system improvement.

It is difficult to describe the first of the three points of Masuzoe's proposal--not distinguishing between those insured in regard to their age bracket--as a "drastic review" because an "improvement" is not the same as a "drastic review."


Alternative plan needed

The third point--aiming at a system that will not worsen feelings of inequity between working people and retirees--also is unclear. After all, the health insurance system for elderly people that lasted until fiscal 2007 hit a wall due to ambiguous rules on sharing burdens between working people and retirees.

Masuzoe said he intends to ask an expert panel to discuss the makeup of an ideal new system from square one. But there are too many ambiguous points of contention.

In a Yomiuri Shimbun poll held immediately after the launch of the Aso Cabinet, 67.5 percent of respondents said they highly evaluated the agreement between the LDP and New Komeito to review the new medical insurance system for those aged 75 and older. This figure reflects people's dissatisfaction with the current situation.

But merely parroting the vague slogan "review" without offering a clear future vision can only be seen as a vote-catching gambit ahead of the forthcoming general election. Under the current situation, the government and ruling parties are in no position to criticize the opposition parties, which have demanded the abolition of the current system without putting forward an alternative plan.

A long-range outlook is needed for reform of the social security system, including medical care for elderly people. If the government and ruling parties run about in confusion every time an election approaches, public anxiety and dissatisfaction will accumulate.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 28, 2008)
(2008年9月28日01時42分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-28 08:14 | 英字新聞


(Sep. 27, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan's message should be clearly transmitted
首相国連演説 日本の「言葉」を発信せよ(9月27日付・読売社説)

Taro Aso has made his diplomatic debut as prime minister. We hope he will play a leading role in sending a clear message to domestic and foreign audiences concerning what Japan attaches importance to and what it will try to accomplish in the international community.

Aso delivered a speech at the 63rd U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, becoming the first Japanese prime minister to address the meeting since 2005.

"Peace and happiness are most certainly within our grasp through the pursuit of economic prosperity and democracy," Aso said. "I am determined to work in solidarity with countries holding fundamental values in common and to share Japan's experiences with nations strongly needing such support."

Aso's remarks reflect the basic stance of Japan's diplomacy: The country will actively support the growth of developing countries' economies and institutions, and contribute to rooting out poverty and terrorism.

The fact that it is the world's second-largest economy enables Japan to have its voice heard in the international community. But the country slipped to fifth place among official development assistance donors in 2007, mainly due to its deteriorating fiscal condition. If Aso is to strengthen foreign aid, as he has said he wants to do, it is indispensable to ensure Japan's economic growth first.


Reform of UNSC needed

As foreign minister under the administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Aso spelled out his diplomatic policy, which upholds universal values, including freedom, democracy and human rights, and supports the economic development and democratization of Eastern Europe and central Asia.

Imposing one's values on another country is bound to draw opposition from that country. Diplomacy needs width and depth.

But Aso's willingness to spell out Japan's diplomatic philosophy is important.

Reform of the U.N. Security Council, including Japan's bid to gain permanent membership, is important for the national interest. Fresh intergovernmental negotiations on expanding the Security Council will start by the end of February. Japan urgently needs to evolve a strategy centering on "an expansion of both permanent and nonpermanent membership," which Aso stressed in his speech.
1 〈論理・意見・計画などを〉徐々に発展[展開]させる;〈結論・法則などを〉導き出す
~ a new plan from a casual remark  ふとした発言から新計画を発展させる.
2 〈におい・蒸気などを〉発する,放出する.
3 〔生〕…を進化させる.
━ 昿[Ⅰ(慱)]
1 発展[進化]する;〈作品の筋が〉進展する
The balloon ~d into the airship. [=The airship ~d from [out of] the balloon.]  気球が発展して飛行船ができた.
2 〔生〕進化する.
語源 ラテン語Ivolvere (I-外に+volvere回転する=回転して解く→展開する)

If Japan is elected as one of the 10 new nonpermanent members of the Security Council in October, it would serve a two-year term, starting from January.


Refueling job must continue

Aso also declared in his speech, "Japan will continue into the future to stand side by side with the international community and participate proactively in the fight against terrorism."

To conduct its active U.N. diplomacy, Japan should continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. Japan must shoulder a fair burden if it is to contribute to international peace cooperation activities and maintain the Japan-U.S. security alliance, which Aso clarified in his speech as an "unchangeable cornerstone" of Japan's diplomacy.

Referring to the government's interpretation of the Constitution, which bans the country from exercising the right of the collective self-defense, Aso told reporters in New York on Thursday, "Basically, it should be changed."

In June, a panel of experts discussing the right of the collective self-defense, which was set up by Abe, submitted a proposal to then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda calling for a change in the government's current interpretation. The government should tackle this issue seriously.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 27, 2008)
(2008年9月27日01時52分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-27 10:27 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) September 25, 2008
Which politician will be the next cartoon hero?

Former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida was looking for the house of an acquaintance while visiting Kamakura when a child playing baseball on a vacant lot saw him, and shouted, "The prime minister's here!"

One of his playmates, not taking him seriously, shouted back, "Why would the prime minister come here?" But the child who had seen Yoshida said, "But he looks just like the cartoon character." Yoshida himself was fond of retelling this story.

Indeed, Yoshida was caricatured in countless cartoons, and when he retired, one cartoonist came out with a cartoon in which cartoonists express their gratitude to the prime minister.

His grandson, Liberal Democratic Party President and Prime Minister Taro Aso, who is himself a cartoon fan, has finally acquired the throne that allows him to become the hero of a political cartoon. In a crowded field of five, Aso won two-thirds of the votes cast in the LDP presidential election, and cruised to a landslide victory.

Aso takes the helm of a party that has been peering over the precipice because its two previous leaders abandoned the reins of government. But the new prime minister's plans for opposing Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa, who on the previous day had unveiled his own platform, are falling into place. Without a doubt, the LDP is reading from a playbook that calls for the selection of a new party president to jumpstart the party's sagging approval ratings, and the pumping up of the new leader's popularity as he heads into the general election.

But in the interim, the U.S. financial crisis and the tainted rice scandal have snowballed. Holding the party presidential election in the midst of these events left people with the impression that Japanese politics was incapable of mustering a response.

Shigeru Yoshida hated election campaigns. When his campaign strategists urged him to deliver speeches on the street, he refused, saying, "How can I speak on affairs of state where there is constant horse and car traffic!" But today, the LDP's popularity depends on the constant traffic of new party presidents. It just so happens that Ozawa's father, Saeki Ozawa, a masterful politician, was a close associate of Yoshida's. So of these two party leaders with a connection to Yoshida, who will survive to become the hero of a political cartoon? ("Yoroku," a front page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-26 13:30 | 英字速報


(Sep. 26, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aircraft carrier to aid stability in Asia
米原子力空母 アジア安定に役立つ日本配備(9月26日付・読売社説)

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrived Thursday at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, a deployment expected to contribute not only to the defense of Japan but also to peace and stability in the entire Asia-Pacific region.

The carrier replaces the conventional aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, which was deployed at the base in 1998, but is to be decommissioned due to its age. Its replacement marks the first U.S. nuclear-powered military vessel deployed to Japan.

Commissioned in 1992, the George Washington is the fourth youngest of the U.S. Navy's 11 aircraft carriers. The ship has 75 planes on board and about 6,000 crew members, including pilots.

It is capable of engaging in military operations longer than conventional carriers as its power is generated by nuclear reactors. Its acceleration when setting sail also is much faster than that of conventional carriers.


A powerful deterrent

The deployment in Japan of an aircraft carrier with better capabilities strengthens the deterrent potential of the U.S. military. The presence of the U.S. military in Japan is a cornerstone of the Japan-U.S. security alliance, and an aircraft carrier plays a pivotal role.

When a presidential election was held in Taiwan in March, the Kitty Hawk and another U.S. aircraft carrier conducted an exercise in waters east of Taiwan as a show of force. The drill was believed to be aimed at preventing China from taking any action similar to a missile drill it conducted in the Taiwan Strait in 1996 to demonstrate its power when Taiwan held its first presidential election.

Meanwhile, it is necessary to ensure safety regarding the nuclear-powered vessel.

In May, unauthorized smoking by a crew member aboard the George Washington sparked a fire, which resulted in the demotions of the captain and the executive officer. Due to necessary repair work, the carrier's deployment to Yokosuka was delayed by more than a month. Though the nuclear reactors were not damaged, it shows that an accident can be caused by simple misdeeds.


Easing public concerns

It was revealed in August that the nuclear-powered submarine USS Houston had leaked small amounts of radioactive substances from a water valve for more than two years, during which the submarine made Japanese port calls on 11 occasions.

The concentration of leaked radioactive substance was said to be about the same as what exists naturally in the ocean. The total amount of radiation leaked during the Japanese port calls is said to be far less than the amount released during one X-ray of the chest.

Even if this is so, the Japanese government must continue to urge the United States to take the utmost care in safety management of the aircraft carrier if it wants to dispel the anxieties of local residents and other people concerned. It also should proactively respond to requests to disclose information about accidents and other matters of public interest.

The Yokosuka city government approved in June 2006 the deployment of a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier and later signed a memorandum on disaster management with the U.S. military stationed in Japan. Last November, Japan and the United States conducted a joint disaster management drill.

A high-ranking U.S. Navy officer says that the navy's philosophy is to swiftly deal with any matter while it is still small to prevent it from developing into a major problem. To accomplish this, the two nations should make further efforts to establish a relationship of trust through joint drills and candid exchanges of opinions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2008)
(2008年9月26日01時45分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-26 09:12 | 英字新聞


(Mainichi Japan) September 25, 2008
Poor political reportage promotes poor politics and politicians

Taro Aso, who was elected prime minister on Wednesday, shares his deep feelings with a close friend: "I don't think ordinary people understand the anguish of extremely rich people."

Even though Aso occasionally assumes a persona where he "pretends" to be a bad guy, it appears that this is actually his true nature.

The way he considers himself to be someone born to a special fate, and his confidence that he has experienced hardships that nobody else knows reveal a deep psychological condition.
How he will control the government appears likely to depend on this warped self-confidence.

I talk about such a thing because I wondered why Yasuo Fukuda, who resigned as prime minister on Wednesday, had decided to dump his government in an irresponsible manner and later acted selfishly. It all leads to the conclusion that he was not qualified to be prime minister. Many political reporters realized this fact, but did they clearly report it?

After Fukuda announced his decision to resign, the Mainichi Shimbun reported that as early as April he was tired of being prime minister. Nevertheless, the Mainichi Shimbun at the same time carried other articles saying that the prime minister was enthusiastic about his work.
Even though Fukuda displayed a mixture of aggressive and feeble attitudes, I cannot help but admit that these reports were incorrect. This is because the reporters failed to get to the bottom of Fukuda's real intentions and simply believed what his aides said.

Since Junichiro Koizumi was in office, brief interviews with the prime ministers at their office, which were limited to twice a day, had continued for seven years. This set a bad precedent for political reporters who have now come to believe that such brief interviews are enough to write articles.
Reporters were criticized for failing to ask tough questions during the news conference at which Fukuda announced his decision to resign because they were asking questions as if the news conference was just another one of the brief interviews at the prime minister's office.
People often talk about the political crisis, but it's largely because of the crisis of political news coverage. (By Tomonaga Ito, Political News Writer, Mainichi Shimbun)

毎日新聞 2008年9月24日 東京朝刊

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-25 14:09 | 英字速報