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Depend on China at your peril

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 30, 2010)
Depend on China at your peril
対日経済圧力 中国リスク回避へ分散化図れ(9月29日付・読売社説)

China is piling economic pressure on Japan following the collision this month between a Chinese fishing boat and two Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels in Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands.

China effectively has limited exports of rare earth minerals, which are vital for manufacturing hybrid cars, energy-efficient electrical appliances and other products. Some Chinese customhouses have reportedly cranked up inspections of other goods exported to and imported from Japan, resulting in delayed shipments between the two countries.

Officially, the Chinese government has denied ordering this crackdown. However, China is clearly attempting to unsettle Japan. China's actions make a mockery of international economic rules. We think China should immediately retract its retaliatory measures.

Japan imports 90 percent of its rare earths from China. Industries that depend on these minerals are increasingly anxious about the slowdown in customs clearance procedures.

Actions trump words

China has claimed that it has not banned exports of rare earths. However, officials at several Japanese trading houses said the issuance of customs documents needed to approve exports has been halted.

A China ban on exports of rare earths only to Japan would violate World Trade Organization rules. The Japanese government must immediately investigate this worrying situation and demand an explanation from China on why customs clearance procedures have been held up.

At the same time, the government must do more to secure other rare earths production centers to ensure this nation has a stable supply of the minerals, promote research and development of rare earths substitutes and find ways to recycle the minerals.

Many Japanese companies, mainly those in the textile, auto and electrical appliance industries, have shifted their manufacturing bases to China, where labor costs are a fraction of what they are in Japan.

China's 1.3 billion population has increasingly strong purchasing power; it is certainly an attractive market for Japanese companies suffering from lethargic domestic demand due to the declining birthrate and graying population.

Reconsider business model

Nevertheless, Beijing's hard-nosed response to the latest dispute has made it painfully obvious to many Japanese firms that they should not rely too much on China to protect their business and interests.

It is disturbing that allowing Japan's economy to become a "hostage" to China's whims could sway government decisions on foreign and security policies.

Japanese companies should take this opportunity to reconsider their business strategy of concentrating production centers and investment in China, and instead start exploring new markets as the first step to reducing business risks.

Japanese companies have helped China develop technologies in such fields as energy and the environment. Some Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores have opened their doors in China, bringing jobs and a wide range of goods to the Chinese public.

We hope the Chinese government will not overlook the contributions Japanese companies have made to that country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2010)
(2010年9月29日01時52分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-30 06:17 | 英字新聞

Falling rice prices

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 27
EDITORIAL: Falling rice prices

Lower rice prices may spell serious trouble for farmers but are welcome news for consumers.

The government's first response to the prospect of a sharp decline, compared with usual years, in the prices of rice to be harvested this year should be based on the viewpoint and interest of consumers.

The decline in rice prices is a product of an oversupply of the staple food in this nation. In addition to a massive carry-over of unsold rice from last year, when rice prices also dropped, an expected bountiful crop this year is likely to result in a sizable glut.

Even if depressed rice prices cause losses for rice growers, the income support program for farming households introduced this year by the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan will guarantee them a minimum level of income.

But the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (Zenchu), the national organization of local agricultural cooperatives, is lobbying the government to take steps to prevent rice prices from sinking.

Specifically, the organization is demanding that the government buy surplus rice by using, ahead of schedule, the new rice stockpiling system that the farm ministry plans to introduce next fiscal year.

But we find it difficult to support Zenchu's lobbying campaign.

The biggest factor behind declining rice consumption is the shrinking and aging of the nation's population. It is glaringly obvious that the government's policy to maintain rice prices by purchasing surplus rice will reach its limits sooner or later. This approach will not solve any of the structural problems within the Japanese agricultural sector that cause an oversupply of rice.

It should be remembered that the income support program for farming households was created on the assumption that rice prices would be allowed to decline.

For decades after the end of World War II, the government maintained rice prices through the so-called acreage-reduction policy to adjust supply. This system was designed to support the income of rice farmers by forcing consumers to buy rice at prices kept artificially high.

However well intended, this policy has had many undesirable side effects for the agricultural sector. Although the government spent a total of 7 trillion yen ($83 billion) over the years to finance the acreage-reduction policy, Japanese agriculture has remained in a steady decline.
The present serious shortage of young farmers who can become the future backbone of agriculture in this nation and the vast amount of abandoned farmland can be said to be a result of this policy.

Now the government should move in the direction of integrating efforts to aid the agricultural sector through a taxpayer-financed system that will allow rice prices to fall in the domestic market.

Such a move would enhance the international price competitiveness of Japanese rice and thereby make it easier to open Japan's farm market to imports.

This policy shift could bring huge benefits to the Japanese people as a whole by eliminating the biggest obstacle in Japan's trade negotiations with other countries for free trade agreements.

Lower rice prices at home would improve the prospects for Japanese rice exports. Reputed for its safety and taste, Japanese rice has the potential to gain popularity in markets in China and other rice-eating Asian nations.

The current system of propping up the income of farming households is seriously flawed, as it is still married to policies that trim rice production to maintain artificially high prices.

Since the program covers all farmers selling rice, including very small-scale growers, it is hampering consolidation of farmland into the hands of large-scale farmers.

The time has come for new policy efforts to solve these challenges and improve the competitive environment for domestic farmers, so that Japanese agriculture can develop, even if rice prices fall.

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-29 03:46 | 英字新聞

Don't overlook violence by younger students

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 28, 2010)
Don't overlook violence by younger students
「キレる」子ども 暴力の低年齢化にブレーキを(9月27日付・読売社説)

There seems to be no end to the violence being committed by younger students. This serious situation at school is clear from a fiscal 2009 survey conducted by the education ministry.

The number of violent acts by students both at and away from school jumped to a record 61,000 cases, marking an increase for the fourth straight year, according to the survey of primary, middle and high schools across the nation.

Violence by high school students is declining, but that by primary and middle school students has continued to rise. Primary school students in particular racked up a total of 7,100 violent incidents, nearly double the figure recorded three years before. The number of cases in which primary school teachers were treated at hospitals after suffering student violence topped 100.

In the past, specific groups tended to commit violence regularly. But in recent years, there have been conspicuous instances of usually calm students who are suddenly triggered by something to commit violence.


New measures necessary

The situation has thus worsened to the extent that the problem of student violence cannot be solved merely by giving corrective guidance to the leaders of violent student groups. New countermeasures need to be taken after analyzing the current situation.

A common characteristic of children who burst into fits of rage is limited ability to control their emotions and express their feelings in words.

To help such students develop better emotional awareness, one primary school, for example, gives lessons in first- and second-grade classes in which photos of an angry child's face are shown and students are asked, "How does this student feel?"

Many experts say the problem lies with student's families. They say that in some cases students are not well disciplined because their parents tend to neglect them. In other families, overly controlling and education-obsessed parents subject their children to too much stress.

School authorities must make efforts to improve the situation by learning about the family environments of individual students and using that knowledge as the basis for serious dialogue with parents.


Bullying persists

The number of bullying cases recognized by primary, middle and high schools came to 73,000 in fiscal 2009, a decrease of 12,000 from a year before. Compared with 125,000 cases registered in fiscal 2006, the figure for fiscal 2009 shows a drop of more than 40 percent.

But it is premature to conclude that bullying at school is in fact declining. This is because some schools answered there was "no bullying" at their schools without asking students in questionnaires or individual interviews about whether that was actually the case.

A third-year middle school student in Kawasaki who had been bullied by classmates killed himself in June. Such tragedies happen repeatedly. The "decrease in bullying" shown by statistics should not lull those in charge of education into relaxing their efforts.

Bullying could happen to any child. Schools must recognize this anew and take care not to overlook even the small signs of bullying.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 27, 2010)
(2010年9月27日01時12分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-28 05:39 | 英字新聞

Ichiro's 200-hit milestone due to technique, training

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 27, 2010)
Ichiro's 200-hit milestone due to technique, training
イチロー 技と鍛錬が生んだ200安打(9月26日付・読売社説)

The Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki has reached yet another milestone in Major League Baseball history.

On Thursday, Suzuki notched 200 hits for an unprecedented 10th consecutive season, breaking his own major league record of nine straight 200-hit seasons. We'd like to extend our warmest congratulations on this remarkable feat.

Ten years have passed since Suzuki joined the Seattle Mariners after a nine-year stint with the Orix BlueWave (now the Orix Buffaloes) of Japan's Pacific League.

Suzuki has exceeded 200 hits every year since moving to the United States, using his masterful bat control and natural speed on the base paths.

Commenting on his achievement, Suzuki said, "I know better than anyone that it's not easy."

His feat is a great record that can only be achieved through continuous training and good physical conditioning.

The Seattle Mariners have performed poorly in recent seasons, and the team is in last place in the American League West this year. With his team running in low gear, it must be difficult for Suzuki to maintain his concentration.


Pete Rose mark within reach

Former Major League player Pete Rose, who also is widely known in Japan, also had at least 200 hits in 10 seasons but not consecutively.

If Suzuki reaches 200 hits for the 11th consecutive season next year, he also would top Rose for the most 200-hit seasons. We hope he will break this record, too.

On Sept. 18, Suzuki collected his 3,500th hit in his major league and Japanese careers combined. However, since this statistic includes the hits he had during his Japan playing days, it does not necessarily garner much praise in the United States.

For that reason, the significance of the 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons he achieved only in the United States stands out.

Major league players praised Suzuki's achievement as a record that will be unbreakable for the next 100 years. Despite reaching the mark while his team was on the road in Toronto, the fans in attendance gave him a standing ovation.

Suzuki will turn 37 next month. When he is in a slump, some people say his abilities have declined due to age.

However, Suzuki's extraordinary speed has hardly diminished, as this season he reached the 40-steal mark for the first time in two years.


NPB knock-on effect

Suzuki's marquee performances also stimulate Nippon Professional Baseball. Norichika Aoki of the Yakult Swallows and other players who admire Suzuki are studying his technique and banging out the hits.

Japan won the World Baseball Classic championship both times the tournament has been staged, in 2006 and 2009. Japanese baseball will rise to an even higher level if more players follow Suzuki's example and achieve excellence in all three facets of the game--running, hitting and fielding.

Above all, the growing number of children who pick up bats dreaming of becoming baseball players like Suzuki will help spread the game even further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2010)
(2010年9月26日01時11分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-27 07:04 | 英字新聞

Chinese skipper's release a political decision

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 26, 2010)
Chinese skipper's release a political decision
中国人船長釈放 関係修復を優先した政治決着(9月25日付・読売社説)

Prosecutors decided Friday to release a Chinese trawler captain, who was arrested following collisions between his ship and two Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels off the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, without taking further legal action against him for now.

The Naha District Public Prosecutors Office in Okinawa Prefecture, which was investigating the captain, said, "The impact on the people of this nation and the future of Japan-China relations were taken into consideration."

The decision came soon after it was learned that four Japanese nationals had been taken into custody by Chinese authorities for allegedly filming "military targets" in Hebei Province.

"The impact on the people" was mentioned apparently out of concern over the possibility that the detention of the Japanese might be prolonged.

Beijing ties given priority

The prosecutors office explained that authorities were unable to prove the captain's action had been deliberately planned and that the collisions did not result in injury or serious damage.

But this is inconsistent, as investigative authorities cited the malign nature of the incident to explain the arrest and detention of the skipper.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku insisted that the prosecutors office made the decision on its own. But there is no doubt that the issue was settled in a political decision by Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other senior members of the government and the Democratic Party of Japan. It also is said that the decision came because the U.S. government called for an early settlement of the issue.

Since the Japanese government repeatedly said the incident would be handled in line with domestic laws, the decision gave the impression that the Japanese government had given in and failed to stick to its original stance. Many people in this nation likely share this critical view. The government needs to provide the public with a thorough and convincing explanation.

Needless to say, the Senkaku Islands are an inherent part of Japan. The government must assert this point repeatedly both at home and abroad.

Long-term effects

We also cannot disregard the repercussions the latest decision will likely bring about in the future.

It is possible that JCG patrols will no longer have a strong deterrent effect on Chinese trawlers that illegally fish in Japan's territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands. The organizational functions of the JCG and its cooperation with the Maritime Self-Defense Force should be strengthened.

Amid the dispute over the skipper's detention, China blocked exports to Japan of rare earths vital for the production of hybrid car parts and other items. This development serves as a strong reminder that China is a trade partner of unpredictable risk.

Regarding materials that are largely sourced from inside China, it is crucial to secure other sources of such materials.

China acted high-handedly apparently with anti-Japan hard-liners at home in mind. But the series of countermeasures successively taken by China over a short period of time--such as the suspension of youth exchange events and negotiations over a bilateral treaty on joint development of natural gas fields in the East China Sea--were obviously going too far.

Japan should not be simply lured to a "friendship" approach toward China. From the standpoint of seeking "strategic and mutually beneficial relations," Japan must pursue its national interests calmly and realistically regarding China.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 25, 2010)
(2010年9月25日01時24分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-26 07:08 | 英字新聞

Strict action needed to reform prosecutors

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 25, 2010)
Strict action needed to reform prosecutors
大阪地検特捜部 組織的隠蔽の批判は免れない(9月24日付・読売社説)

The latest revelation concerning the alleged tampering of evidence by a prosecutor from the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office may imply an organizationwide attempt to cover up a surefire scandal.

The case in question involves a head prosecutor from the Osaka office's special investigation squad who has been accused of altering potential evidence seized during investigations into a case of alleged postal fraud. It has become known that the investigative unit was informed that its lead prosecutor had possibly falsified data, and that this finding was reported to top officials at the district prosecutors office.

A task force from the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office set up to investigate this scandal has questioned two key figures who supervised the prosecutor in question: a high-ranking prosecutor who headed the investigation unit at the time, and another senior prosecutor who was the team's deputy chief.

It must be clarified why senior officials from the district prosecutors office failed to act when they received information about what may constitute the crime of destruction of evidence. The task force must thoroughly investigate the case to get to the bottom of the scandal, while determining who should take the blame if there was indeed a cover-up.

Sketchy conduct high to low

In February, some officials of the district prosecutors office, including the head of the investigation squad, received reports that the team's lead prosecutor might have rewritten data on a floppy disk confiscated from the home of a former section chief at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

At the time, the prosecutor in question reportedly told a colleague he had planted a "time bomb" on the disk.

However, after the prosecutor told the head of the investigation unit and other senior officials that his alteration of the data "was not deliberate," they seem to have done little to uncover the truth behind his conduct.

Questions also must be raised about how the head of the investigative team described the prosecutor's action when he reported on the alleged data alteration to the Osaka office's chief prosecutor. He reportedly said the prosecutor's conduct would pose "no problem."

We feel the prosecutor's description of his action as a "time bomb" should have been sufficient to arouse suspicion that the falsification was deliberate. If the investigative team leader swallowed the explanation that the alteration "was not deliberate," he should be brought to task for being too lenient with his subordinates and for his lack of skill in dealing with the matter.

It is also questionable why the Osaka office's chief prosecutor had no reservations about the investigation team's report on the affair. It seems to us that as the head of the prosecutors office, his actions lacked urgency. He should have instructed the special investigative unit to further look into the prosecutor's conduct.

Act firmly to restore trust

The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office should investigate the depth to which senior officials at the district prosecutors office were aware of the alleged data tampering. If their action--or inaction, for that matter--is found to violate any laws, the top prosecutors office should deal sternly with them, possibly even pursuing criminal charges.

The latest scandal has prompted some Democratic Party of Japan members to say the prosecutor general--the person in charge of all prosecutors in the country--should step down. They are also seeking to have all interrogations during criminal investigations videotaped.

The scandal could arouse questions about related matters, including the credibility of depositions taken from suspects in other cases handled by the Osaka special investigation squad.

Prosecutors must uncover the truth behind the data-tampering scandal, and fully present their findings to the public. They also must reexamine every aspect of their probe into the alleged abuse of the postal discount system.

Prosecutors must demonstrate they have what it takes to root out corruption among themselves to restore the trust they have lost. Doing so is the only way to resurrect the prosecution as an investigative organization.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 24, 2010)
(2010年9月24日03時01分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-25 06:57 | 英字新聞

Govt should help push up land prices

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 24, 2010)
Govt should help push up land prices
基準地価 下げ止まりの兆しはあるが(9月23日付・読売社説)

At long last signs have emerged of an end to the fall in land prices that began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. two years ago, but it remains uncertain whether the recovery trend will continue.

Changes in land prices lead to fluctuations in people's assets, which can greatly affect personal consumption. Therefore, we think the government should indirectly support land prices through measures such as an extension of the economic stimulus eco-point program for houses.

The government needs to help boost the economy further by expanding tax cuts and tax exemptions for housing and real estate.

According to a survey of land prices in all 47 prefectures released recently by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, the average price of residential land fell 3.4 percent in the year to July 1, while that of commercial land dropped 4.6 percent. In the previous year's survey, the average price of residential land fell 4 percent and that of commercial land decreased 5.9 percent. The latest survey shows the pace of decline has slowed in both categories.

The ministry believes the slower decline has been partly due to factors such as rising demand for land on which to build condominiums in urban areas. Recently, condominiums have become more affordable as prices have fallen sharply. Condominium sales in major cities have been recovering rapidly, bringing a bit of brightness to future land price forecasts.

Metro areas doing better

Trends in land prices in metropolitan areas--a leading indicator of land prices throughout the nation--are worth noting: In the Tokyo metropolitan area, average residential land prices fell 3 percent, while commercial land prices decreased 4.1 percent. The drops in both categories are almost half the figures from a year earlier.

If we look at the trends in more detail, signs of an end to the fall in land prices become more apparent. Take, for instance, land price trends in the first half of the year that ended on July 1 and those in the second half of the year at 15 residential locations in eight wards in central Tokyo.

During the first half of the year, land prices in all locations dropped, but prices rose in two locations, were about the same at four spots and the rate of decline slowed at eight places in the second half of the year. It is apparent that land prices began to turn around this year. A similar development can be seen in major cities such as Osaka and Nagoya.

Land prices in major cities rose markedly about three years ago, during a "mini bubble" caused by factors that included competition for prime locations among brand-name stores. However, in the wake of the so-called Lehman shock, things took a sudden turn for the worse. The latest survey may indicate the tide is about to change for land prices.

Other regions still struggling

However, land price trends in other regions are still poor. The average price of residential land in these regions dropped at a greater rate than during the previous year, while commercial land declined at about the same rate. This was the 18th straight year of decline in residential land prices in these areas, while commercial land values fell for the 19th consecutive year.

Are there any ways to prop up land prices in these regions, which have seen the value of their land fall for so long?

In Hokkaido and Mie Prefecture, some districts have increased land prices by improving their appeal as tourist destinations. Needless to say, we believe it is essential to promote local redevelopment and to encourage businesses to expand into the less urbanized regions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 23, 2010)
(2010年9月23日01時02分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-24 06:57 | 英字新聞

Prosecutors' reputation totally ruined

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 23, 2010)
Prosecutors' reputation totally ruined
押収資料改ざん 地に落ちた特捜検察の威信(9月22日付・読売社説)

The alleged falsification of data by a senior prosecutor is a grave scandal that is shaking the very foundations of Japan's criminal justice system.

The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office arrested the lead prosecutor at the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation squad on suspicion of tampering with evidence in the postal abuse case involving Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry officials. The ministry's former bureau chief, Atsuko Muraki, was arrested and indicted for her alleged involvement in the case but was cleared by the Osaka District Court.

The chief prosecutor is suspected to have altered data on a floppy disk seized as possible evidence from one of Muraki's former subordinates, who was then a unit chief at the ministry's policy planning division, to make it better match the special investigation team's arguments.


Unprecedented scandal

If the allegation is true, it would be an unprecedented instance of a prosecutor, who holds supreme authority in investigations and indictments, being found to have illegally fabricated evidence against a defendant. The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office must bring to light the case's entire picture and strictly punish those involved.

The special investigation squad's probe was based on the scenario that Muraki had instructed the unit chief in early June 2004 to fabricate an official document to allow a group that falsely claimed itself as a body supporting the handicapped to abuse the postal discount system for the handicapped.

However, the supposedly false document, which was found on the seized floppy disk, was last updated at 1:20 a.m. on June 1, 2004.

The chief prosecutor allegedly changed the data to show that the document was last updated at 9:10 p.m. on June 8, 2004. The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office suspects that the prosecutor altered the data because it did not fit the special investigation squad's suppositions.

A lead prosecutor, who takes charge of investigations in a criminal case, is supposed to change the course of the investigation or give up on establishing a case altogether if investigators have found evidence contrary to their case.

Altering a seized document is an inexcusable act that ruins confidence in prosecutors' investigations and makes a mockery of the justice of criminal trials.


Terrifying abuse of power

The chief prosecutor eventually returned the floppy disk in question to the former unit chief without submitting it to the court as evidence. If it had been submitted to the court, it might have been used as material evidence to establish Muraki's guilt. We are terrified at the thought of such supreme authority spinning out of control.

In addition, the prosecutors had drawn up an investigation report with the correct update time on the floppy disk but did not submit it to the court. They disclosed the report upon the request of Muraki's attorneys before her trial started.

Prosecutors must uncover what had been discussed within the special investigation squad and the district public prosecutors office over the handling of evidence and whether any other individuals were involved in altering the data. The Osaka High Public Prosecutors Office and the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office must also be blamed for having failed to fulfill their responsibility to appropriately supervise the district public prosecutors office.

In the postal abuse case, the court refused to accept many depositions by Muraki's alleged accomplices and witnesses submitted by the prosecutors, saying that the prosecutors could have coerced them into making such statements. Given that, we must say that the quality of public prosecutors has seriously deteriorated.

The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office has the responsibility to drive out corruption within the organization by thoroughly investigating the case without being lenient on its colleagues.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 22, 2010)
(2010年9月22日01時26分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-23 04:17 | 英字新聞

Japan-India accord should lead to more EPAs

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 22, 2010)
Japan-India accord should lead to more EPAs
日印EPA 出遅れ挽回の確かな一歩に(9月21日付・読売社説)

An economic partnership agreement with India likely will give Japanese businesses a boost in such industries as automobiles and home electronic appliances in the huge Indian market, which has been growing rapidly.

Japan and India broadly agreed earlier this month to sign an EPA. A formal agreement is expected to be made when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Japan in October.

The agreement is the first of its kind to be made under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government and will make India the 12th nation or region with which this country has an EPA. Coming as it did after four years of difficult negotiations, the broad agreement is of particular significance.

The key point in the agreement is that the two nations will gradually lower tariffs on goods that account for 94 percent of the value of their exports, and eliminate the tariffs in 10 years.

The tariffs imposed by India on Japan's major export items, such as auto parts and steel, range from 7.5 percent to 10 percent. Japan would benefit greatly from their elimination.

Japanese manufacturers with production bases in India also could reduce the procurement costs of parts from Japan and other items.

The EPA also includes an agreement to ease restrictions on investment in India. We hope Japanese companies seize this chance by carefully crafting strategies for the construction of local factories and expanded investment in plants and equipment.

Highly attractive market

The Indian market is particularly appealing. The nation has a population of 1.2 billion people and its economy continues to register 9 percent annual growth. The number of middle-income households who purchase such products as automobiles and home electronic appliances is rapidly growing, and there has been strong demand for social infrastructure such as railroads and electric power.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's administration has expressed its intention to incorporate the vigor of Asia and other regions in its new growth strategy. In line with this policy, the EPA between Japan and India is expected to strengthen Japanese companies' competitiveness and expand infrastructure exports.

But South Korea, which has been aggressively promoting EPAs, already put one with India into effect in January. Under this bilateral agreement, tariffs on many items are set to be abolished in five to eight years, a faster pace for opening up the Indian market than the one established in the Japan-India pact.

The Japan-India EPA will alleviate some of the disadvantages Japanese companies face against their South Korean rivals. But we must keep an eye on the competitiveness of South Korean companies.

Compromise needed

India has asked Japan to accept Indian nurses and other workers, but Japan has resisted making a specific decision on this matter. To deepen economic partnerships between this country and India, Japan should make concessions.

Japan has fallen behind other nations in its EPA strategy. Negotiations with South Korea have been suspended, and talks with Australia have run into difficulty as Japan is resisting opening its agricultural market.

There are no prospects even for the start of negotiations with the United States and the European Union.

To help Japan catch up, the government aims to devise basic guidelines on the EPA by November. We urge the government to include measures to open the agriculture sector, which has always been the bottleneck in negotiations. Without this, there will be no progress.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 21, 2010)
(2010年9月21日01時14分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-22 06:23 | 英字新聞

Japan must map out its own GPS strategy

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 21, 2010)
Japan must map out its own GPS strategy
衛星みちびき 日本版GPSの戦略作り急げ(9月20日付・読売社説)

Japan's first navigation satellite, Michibiki, aimed at improving the global positioning system's coverage of Japan, has been launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The project--undertaken jointly by the industrial, public and academic sectors--calls for technology verification tests and is aimed at reducing the margin of error of GPS devices used in car navigation and other services from the current 10 meters or so to less than one meter.

The market for satellite-based GPS products and services has been expanding globally. We hope that the Michibiki project will bring about results that make Japan more competitive in this area.

Fifty-eight different tests are planned. The success or failure of the project depends on how its high positioning accuracy can be utilized.

One example is a proposed guidance system for unmanned snow removers and farm machinery. Neither snow removal from roads nor soil cultivation in fields can be done if the machines are allowed to drift as much as 10 meters off course. Both can be done only when the margin of error is held to less than one meter.


Diverse applications

GPS has been widely used in a diverse range of fields from rescue operations in alpine accidents to consumer products such as digital cameras. Such cameras are popular because locations where photos are shot are automatically stored for use as travel records.

Improvement of GPS accuracy will stimulate further growth in such existing fields.

A hallmark of Michibiki lies in the orbit it takes. Michibiki flies in an asymmetrical figure-eight course above the western Pacific, including Japan, every 24 hours.

Michibiki's flight above Japan accounts for about eight hours of each orbit. If three satellites like Michibiki were put into orbit, at least one would be above Japan at all times. Because GPS satellites rely on line-of-sight radio wave transmission, this would nearly eliminate the problem of signals being blocked by obstacles such as buildings and mountains.

The GPS currently uses about 30 U.S. satellites to cover the entire globe. Accurate results depend on devices on or near the Earth's surface being able to compare signals from four satellites in the visible sky. The system can fail in urban and mountainous areas where the lower portions of the sky are blocked by mountains or buildings.

Additional transmissions from Michibiki, which will often be nearly overhead in Japan, will enhance positioning accuracy.

The problem is how to secure funding for the satellites that are meant to follow Michibiki. It cost 40 billion yen to build Michibiki. The cost for similar following satellites is estimated at a hefty 35 billion yen each. At least three satellites are necessary to commercialize the enhanced Japanese version of the GPS system. Discussions have begun about how to divide costs between the public and private sectors.


A project team planned

The government says it will establish a project team comprising officials from the ministries and agencies concerned to study how to pay for the satellites that will follow Michibiki by the end of the current fiscal year. In that instance, the government must give due consideration to international trends and Japan's security interests.

The GPS was developed by the United States, originally for military purposes. It remains to be seen whether its use may be restricted in the future. Out of such concern, China, India and European countries are building their own positioning systems. Russia operates its own system for the purpose of ensuring security and defense.

The United States, China and Europe are moving toward cooperation with each other on positioning technology.

Against such a background, Japan must work out a GPS strategy that will take advantage of its technology while maintaining its international voice.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 20, 2010)
(2010年9月20日01時20分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-09-21 04:21 | 英字新聞