<   2013年 08月 ( 28 )   > この月の画像一覧

シリア内戦 化学兵器疑惑の徹底解明を

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 29, 2013
Uncover the full truth about alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria
シリア内戦 化学兵器疑惑の徹底解明を(8月28日付・読売社説)

The death toll in the Syrian civil war has already exceeded 100,000. With last week’s alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces in mind, it is all the more imperative that the country’s bloodshed be stopped without further delay.

President Bashar Assad’s regime forces fired rockets loaded with chemical gas on the suburbs of Damascus last Wednesday, killing and injuring a large number of civilians, according to the opposition Syrian National Coalition. Video footage of children injured in the attack has also been released on the Internet.

The Assad government adamantly denies using chemical weapons, and insists the attack in question was perpetrated by rebel forces.

Using chemical weapons is a clear violation of international law. If it is established that regime forces used chemical weapons, the Assad government must be sternly brought to task.

A U.N. investigation team in Syria has started trying to confirm whether chemical weapons were used. However, the U.N. team is experiencing difficulties in probing the incident. One of the mission’s vehicles was fired on by unidentified snipers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a visit to Kuwait, had every reason to say, “I hope the U.N. investigating commission’s on-site probe will be conducted without disruption, and that all the facts will be established at an early date.”

Results of the investigation will likely be referred to a session of the U.N. Security Council. The council should implement necessary measures toward Syria after establishing the facts about the alleged use of chemical weapons, based on the U.N. team’s findings.

Military response looming

The United States has started discussions with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, including Britain and France, regarding whether to launch a military strike on Syrian government targets. Washington has concluded that Assad regime forces used chemical weapons during last week’s attack. Its talks with NATO allies over possible military action came before the U.N. team produces its report.

U.S. President Barack Obama had initially been cautious about becoming directly involved in the Syrian civil war. However, he is shifting to a hard-line approach.

This is presumably because the alleged chemical weapons attack took place despite his repeated warnings to the Assad government that the use of deadly gases would cross “a red line.” Overlooking the latest incident would tarnish the national prestige of the United States. It could also encourage the use of chemical weapons in other parts of the world.

However, it should be noted that the U.S. State Department has emphasized the importance of seeking “a political solution” to the Syrian problem. Needless to say, further diplomatic efforts must be made to resolve the armed conflict before the United States and NATO nations possibly decide to launch a military operation.

Another important task that must complement efforts to uncover the truth about the alleged chemical weapons use is to renew efforts to end the Syrian civil war, a challenge that will require shoring up international pressure on the Assad regime, which has relentlessly attacked the people of its own country.

This year’s Group of Eight summit meeting in June agreed that the Syrian government, rebel forces and nations with a stake in the problem would hold an international conference aimed at ending the civil war. Such a meeting would ideally be convened as early as possible.

We will be closely watching how the United Nations and the international community handle the Syrian situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2013)
(2013年8月28日02時13分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-31 07:36 | 英字新聞

潘国連事務総長 資質問われる偏向「介入」発言

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 29, 2013
Ban’s bias on history issues incompatible with U.N. post
潘国連事務総長 資質問われる偏向「介入」発言(8月28日付・読売社説)

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s recent remarks are unbelievable.

“I think Japanese political leaders need to profoundly reflect on how to perceive history to maintain good-neighborly relations in a future-oriented way, and a vision to look ahead into the global future,” Ban said at a press conference at the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Monday.

He made the remarks in response to a question from a South Korean reporter who asked about the United Nations’ view and his own view as U.N. secretary general with regard to the confrontation between Japan and China and South Korea on the perception of history and territorial issues as well as Japan’s moves to revise the Constitution.

Ban is a veteran diplomat who served as foreign minister under the administration of former South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun. However, as U.N. secretary general, he is obliged to remain neutral and fair, refraining from siding with any particular country.

He did not refer to South Korean and Chinese politicians. By restricting his remarks to Japanese politicians, people around the world may believe Japan is the cause of frictions in Northeast Asia. It is obvious his remarks were one-sided and problematic.

Customarily, a U.N. secretary general speaks at a press conference in English or French, two of the United Nations’ official languages, but Ban spoke in Korean throughout most of the press conference. This is extremely unusual.

Ban implicitly demanded that Japan correct its view of history, saying a country only can earn respect and trust from other nations through a correct recognition of history.

Parroting Seoul’s stance

His remarks echo what South Korea has been saying. Seoul has relentlessly demanded that Japan face up to its prewar history by saying it should “have a correct recognition of history.” Ban’s comment therefore supports South Korea. The secretary general, who is supposed to mediate international disputes and conflicts, should not openly fan confrontation.

History cannot be neatly packaged under the term “correct recognition.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshi-hide Suga said, “I strongly wonder whether Secretary General Ban made the remarks while considering Japan’s position.” He cited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remark, “It’s necessary for leaders to exchange opinions to maintain regional peace and stability.” It was natural for him to raise objections.

The Japanese government needs to confirm Ban’s real intentions and to actively convey Japan’s position at such places as the United Nations so that its stance will not be misunderstood around the world.

For nearly 70 years since the end of World War II, Japan has consistently made efforts to promote world peace and prosperity. How does Ban evaluate Japan’s postwar history?

The Japan-South Korea Basic Relations Treaty of 1965 is an established international agreement that defines the bilateral relationship between the two countries after World War II. Even though the issue of compensation rights has been resolved, South Korea keeps raking over the issue of reparations for former forced laborers and on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Ban, as an official of the international organization, should inform Seoul that South Korea’s common sense is irrational in other parts of the world.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2013)
(2013年8月28日02時13分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-30 07:20 | 英字新聞

NISA 投資活性化の呼び水にしたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 28, 2013
Use NISA system as pump-priming step water to reinvigorate investment
NISA 投資活性化の呼び水にしたい(8月27日付・読売社説)

We hope the Nippon Individual Savings Account system, or NISA, will help move individual financial assets held in the form of cash and deposits into investment and revitalize the nation’s economy.

NISA, a new tax system that offers tax exemptions on capital gains and dividend income from stocks and other investments of up to ¥1 million a year, will be introduced in January next year.

Financial institutions, including securities companies and banks, have already put their efforts to win new customers into full gear.

We applaud that stock markets will be reinvigorated due to competition over services among financial institutions, but they should refrain from forceful solicitation.

It is essential to carefully foster NISA by listening to investors so that the new system will become a pump-priming measure to help individual investment take root in this country.

People aged 20 or older and living in Japan can open a NISA account at a financial institutions. The tax exemption period is five years and if ¥1 million is invested every year, the capital gains and dividends on ¥5 million worth of investments will be tax exempt.

The total amount of individual financial assets in Japan is estimated at a massive ¥1.6 quadrillion. However, more than half of those are in cash and deposits. The ratio of stocks and other investments used to fund corporate activity is only about 8 percent, which is far lower than the 34 percent in the United States and 15 percent in Europe.

If individual assets, encouraged by NISA, flow into stock markets, it would be beneficial to corporate growth. The spread of long-term investment by individuals for the purpose of asset building will help stabilize stock prices.

Under Britain’s Individual Savings Account system, which NISA is modeled after, 40 percent of the population opened an ISA account.

Careful explanation essential

To promote wide use of NISA in Japan, it is indispensable for financial institutions to give detailed explanations about the new system to their customers.

Rather than placing priority on sales quota or simply stressing NISA’s merits, they must explain risks associated with investments as well as the system’s flaws.

For example, if losses are incurred due to a drop in the value of stocks and investment trusts, investors are not eligible for tax exemptions. Another problem is that if investors open a NISA account at a financial institution that only handles investment trusts, they cannot invest in particular stocks.

We urge people considering a NISA account to think carefully about selecting the financial institution where they will open their NISA account.

One person can only open one NISA account in principle and in the first four years, the individual must keep investing at the same financial institution. This is inconvenient for investors and is believed to be one reason financial institutions are desperately trying to attract and keep customers.

It is said that the Financial Services Agency plans to change this regulation so people can switch their NISA accounts to a different financial institution every year. The government should discuss changes to NISA to encourage its use by more people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2013)
(2013年8月27日02時03分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-29 06:28 | 英字新聞

首相中東訪問 資源確保へ戦略的協力深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 27, 2013
Deepen strategic ties with nations of GCC to ensure energy security
首相中東訪問 資源確保へ戦略的協力深めよ(8月26日付・読売社説)

To ensure stable supplies of energy resources to this country, it is crucial to deepen strategic cooperation with the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Bahrain, the chair of the GCC, and had talks with Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

The two leaders agreed to hold strategic ministerial dialogues between Japan and the GCC, while setting up a framework for working-level security talks. Signs are that the strategic dialogues may begin as early as September.

The GCC, a regional organization comprising six Middle East nations facing the Persian Gulf, groups Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

Abe, who visited Saudi Arabia and the UAE in spring this year, will also visit Qatar and Kuwait on the current trip.

Japan depends on GCC members for more than 70 percent of its annual crude oil imports amid the country’s stringent energy supply-demand situation caused by delays in the resumption of nuclear power plant operations after the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake.

The Persian Gulf’s maritime shipping lanes for transporting crude oil and other resources are vitally important to the Japanese economy. Continual consultations must be held on such issues as securing the sea lanes and preparing antipiracy countermeasures as part of the strategic Japan-GCC dialogues.

In January, Japanese nationals were taken hostage in Algeria. As part of the Japan-GCC dialogues, information about terrorist activities by extremists in the Middle East and Africa must be shared.

Conducive to ME peace

As chances of having summit talks with China and South Korea in the near future appear slim, Abe has focused his diplomatic efforts on the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Expediting efforts to strengthen ties with these regions’ mid-level countries will most likely earn Japan a precious diplomatic asset from the mid- and long-term points of view.

In the Mideast, the situations in Egypt and Syria have been deteriorating alarmingly amid discussions on the problems of Iran’s nuclear development programs and Middle East peace negotiations. Building up strategic relations between Japan and the GCC nations may indirectly help stabilize the Middle East as a whole.

In Saturday’s talks, Japan and Bahrain agreed to resume talks on a Japan-GCC free trade agreement and expand cooperation in such fields as agriculture, railways and medical services.

In the current tour of Middle East countries, Abe is accompanied by an economic mission comprising about 50 people, who represent mostly private-sector businesses. This is because a number of large-scale infrastructure development projects have been planned in the GCC countries, including some in Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament.

Economic cooperation between the two sides should be encouraged in a way reciprocally beneficial to Japan and the GCC.

The prime minister will visit Djibouti on Tuesday to encourage Maritime Self-Defense Force members engaged in antipiracy activities in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. The MSDF has been enhancing its presence in the region by dispatching destroyers and P-3C surveillance aircraft.

Abe’s words of encouragement will be sure to help improve the morale of the MSDF personnel. The prime minister has often expressed his appreciation of the roles of the Self-Defense Forces, frequently visiting SDF troops in various places. We hope the prime minister will continue this practice.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2013)
(2013年8月26日01時17分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-28 06:28 | 英字新聞

「はだしのゲン」 教育上の配慮をどう考えるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 26, 2013
Should ‘Barefoot Gen’ be stricted from educational point of view?
「はだしのゲン」 教育上の配慮をどう考えるか(8月25日付・読売社説)

The ripples are spreading after the Matsue Municipal Board of Education requested that the city’s public primary and middle schools restrict student access to “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), the signature work by late manga author Keiji Nakazawa that depicts the horror of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Students in the capital of Shimane Prefecture are now unable to read freely this 10-volume manga series at most school libraries unless they get special permission from their teachers.

The education board judged that the manga’s graphic depictions of the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath were not a problem. However, it decided that some descriptions of actions involving Imperial Japanese Army soldiers in other Asian nations were extreme and inappropriate.

The problematic scenes in “Barefoot Gen” included beheadings of non-Japanese Asians just for fun, slicing open the abdomen of a pregnant woman to pull out her baby, and the brutal killing of other women.

The municipal board of education apparently limited access to the manga in consideration of the nature of libraries at primary and middle schools, where children become familiar with books as they grow up.

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, and states, “No censorship shall be maintained.”

Restricting access to books available at an ordinary public library open to citizens can never be permissible in light of the spirit of the Constitution.

However, it may not be fair to treat libraries at primary and middle schools in the same way as ordinary libraries. The possible impact books can have on children must be taken into account. There may be cases in which meticulous care must be taken in accordance with the stages of children’s physical and mental development.

Doubtful claims

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura said the board’s decision “should be considered as representing one way of thinking.” He added that “due consideration should be paid from an educational point of view” on the matter. We think his view is reasonable.

“Barefoot Gen” is based on Nakazawa’s own experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The story’s protagonist, Gen, is a boy who bravely overcomes a number of hardships in spite of losing relatives in the bombing.

The manga series started in 1973 in the Shukan Shonen Jump comic weekly and was carried in several magazines during a run that lasted more than 10 years. When published as an independent book, “Barefoot Gen” became a best seller. The story has been translated into about 20 languages and published in many countries.

Initially, some of the scenes depicting Hiroshima just after the atomic bombing were criticized as being excessively graphic, but there can be no doubt such descriptions conveyed the appalling reality of the bombing.

Given that survivors of the nuclear bombing are aging and passing on memories of the war has become a pressing task, “Barefoot Gen” is definitely a valuable work of literature.

On the other hand, the closing stages also make assertions apparently designed to favor a particular political standpoint, making flimsy claims including that the former Imperial Japanese Army “brutally killed more than 30 million people in other Asian countries such as China and Korea in the name of the Emperor.”

While it is, of course, essential to respect freedom of expression, due attention should be paid at the same time to the manga’s impact on children’s education.

The decision by the Matsue board of education has brought to the fore the question of where schools should draw the line in exposing children to items of literature as part of their education.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2013)
(2013年8月25日01時25分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-27 08:07 | 英字新聞

中国海洋強国化 地域の緊張高める覇権主義

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 25, 2013
China’s hegemonic ambition heightening regional tension
中国海洋強国化 地域の緊張高める覇権主義(8月24日付・読売社説)

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which has been stepping up efforts to make the country a great maritime power, seems to have more fully revealed its hard-line stance through a recent statement by the Chinese defense chief in the United States.

In a joint news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held after their meeting, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan warned that nobody should have the idea that China would ever relinquish its core interests.

This was a peremptory statement, as he clearly had in mind the confrontation with Japan over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and friction with Vietnam and the Philippines over sovereignty in the South China Sea. Chang went on to say that China’s determination to defend its territory, sovereignty and maritime interests should not be underestimated.

His statement echoes Xi’s remarks at a key conference in late July that “core interests cannot be sacrificed” and his resolve to build a “strong maritime state.”

Chang’s warning could be intended as a check on the Asia-focused military strategy of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. It was also likely meant to put pressure on Japan prior to the first anniversary of the Japanese government’s nationalization of the Senkakus in September.

On Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Chinese military conducted live-fire drills and other training with the aircraft carrier Liaoning. These might be intended as threats to Japan.

Xi has said that China will never seek to reign supreme. But backed by its strong military power, China has been trying to forcibly impound the sea, a common resource, thereby achieving hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region.

Accidental clashes feared

In light of the January incident in which Chinese Navy ships locked weapons-targeting radar onto a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel near the Senkakus, the Xi administration’s hard-line stance may provoke Chinese troops to engage in radical and provocative actions in the field.

Japan must tighten its guard around the Senkakus.

To prevent accidental military clashes involving ships and aircraft, it is necessary to accelerate the building of a “maritime communications mechanism” between Japanese and Chinese military authorties. The Xi administration must proceed with talks on the matter as long as it claims to seek “peaceful development.”

The situation is no less serious in the South China Sea. China last year took control of the Scarborough Shoal, over which the Philippines also claims sovereignty, and has its government ships patrol around the shoal.

The United States and the Philippines entered into negotiations in the middle of this month to conclude a new agreement that would increase the frequency and expand the scale of U.S. military patrols. This is a concrete step to push the new Asia-centered U.S. strategy and a laudable strengthening of deterrence against China.

Japan will provide 10 patrol boats to the Philippines. These ships will help improve the country’s maritime security capabilities. Cooperation must also be deepened in terms of personnel development.

It is crucial for Japan to emphasize the unjustness of China’s provocations in international forums, including the expanded defense ministerial conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held later this month.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2013)
(2013年8月24日01時11分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-26 06:56 | 英字新聞

TPP交渉 米国のペースに惑わされるな

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 24, 2013
Japan must proceed with TPP talks without being chafed by U.S. intent
TPP交渉 米国のペースに惑わされるな(8月23日付・読売社説)

The current round of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is the first in which Japan has taken full part. How will Japan demonstrate its presence to proceed with talks to its advantage? An aggressive stance is called for.

Japan and the 11 other countries that are participating in negotiations on the TPP free trade agreement, including the United States, Australia and Canada, kicked off two days of ministerial talks in Brunei on Thursday. A ministerial statement was scheduled to be announced Friday to confirm that the talks will be accelerated to conclude an agreement before the end of this year.

In line with this commitmment, working-level officials will hold negotiations by the end of the month.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who chairs the ministerial talks, has said that reaching an agreement this year is a top priority for President Barack Obama. With a TPP accord as a leverage, Obama seeks to expand U.S. exports and boost job opportunities.

The United States probably wants to reconfirm with other countries the policy of concluding the talks this year during the current round of negotiations in Brunei and use it as momentum to reach a broad accord in October.

But if the talks proceed in line with the U.S. scenario, there are fears Japan will not be able to secure sufficient time for negotiations because the country was only able to take part in the TPP talks from the latter half of the previous round of talks.

Secure chances for assertions

It is necessary to avoid a situation in which Japan will be deprived of opportunities to present its case if the negotiations are cut off early in line with the schedule as planned by the United States. We urge Japan’s negotiators to hold talks separately with other TPP nations in an effort to increase the number of member nations that support Japan’s stance.

Prior to the Brunei round of talks, Japan worked out proposals on tariff abolition and presented them to other participating nations to sound out their responses.

The proposals called for abolishing tariffs on about 80 percent of trade items and left pending five categories of farming products, including rice, wheat and dairy products, that the Liberal Democratic Party wants handled as exceptions.

This was based on the fact that Japan’s degree of trade liberalization has been held to 84 percent to 88 percent in the economic partnership agreements it has concluded with 13 countries and territories. Rice and other items were exempted from free trade.

In the case of TPP talks, the government opted to set lower liberalization targets in the first place, possibly in preparation for bargaining that is expected to become tougher.

Froman has said that Washington is aiming for a more ambitious agreement, so the United States is likely to call on Japan to carry out greater liberalization and further market opening.

Each participating country has crucial fields that they want to protect with high tariffs, including sugar for the United States and dairy products for Canada.

For Japan, protecting all of the five farming product categories would not necessarily serve its national interests.

The government needs to expedite coordination of domestic opinions by focusing discussions on which fields Japan should concede and on which it should win concessions. Concerning the formation of rules on intellectual property rights and investment, Japan should actively present its assertions.

In conjunction with such efforts, the government must earnestly study measures to boost the competitiveness of the agricultural field, as well as to assist sectors that are expected to suffer as a result of opening their markets.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2013)
(2013年8月23日01時31分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-25 07:29 | 英字新聞

社会保障工程案 持続可能な制度へ必要な道筋

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 23, 2013
Social security reform bill must show path for sustainable system
社会保障工程案 持続可能な制度へ必要な道筋(8月22日付・読売社説)

Reforms to make the nation’s social security system sustainable must cover a wide variety of areas. It is important for the government to prioritize each area to steadily carry out reform measures.

The government has approved in a Cabinet meeting the gist of a bill on social security system reform measures, which outlines a schedule for reforms. The government will submit the bill to an extraordinary Diet session in autumn.

Based on a report compiled by the National Council on Social Security System Reform, the bill indicates plans and timetables for the reform of medical care, nursing care, the pension system and measures to deal with the low birthrate.

The main focus of the reforms is to change the current social security system, in which the younger, working generation bears most of the burden of supporting the elderly, to one in which all generations proportionately share the burden.

Given that the burden of the working generation will become heavier and heavier along with the low birthrate, it is unavoidable to ask elderly and high-income earners to bear more of the burden than they do now in order to maintain the social security system. In this sense we praise the stance of the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to tackle reform measures the previous administrations avoided.

One such measure is to raise the share of medical expenses paid by people aged 70 to 74. Law revisions made in 2008 stipulate that people in this age group pay 20 percent of medical costs, but the then administration of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito kept it at 10 percent as a special measure. The share has remained at 10 percent since then.

However, the gist of the bill gives a great deal of latitude over the timing of raising the percentage to the legally stipulated level: sometime between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2017. The measure should be reviewed as early as possible, taking into consideration that ¥200 billion of tax money is spent annually on the special measure.

Regarding the nursing care insurance program, the current across-the-board self-pay rate of paying 10 percent for nursing care services will be raised for high-income earners from fiscal 2015. On the other hand, the premiums for low-income elderly will be reduced.

Fairness among the elderly

There is a large disparity in incomes among the elderly. It is appropriate to increase the burden on high-income earners and reduce that of low-income earners as a way to seek fairness among the elderly.

Concerning pension reform, the bill lists some reform measures requiring further study, but only says, “Necessary measures will be carried out after studying these measures.” The government did not make clear when it will carry out pension reform, probably because it will take time to design concrete reform measures.

The report of the national council made clear the direction of social security reform, such as increasing tax on pensioners with high incomes and introducing a mechanism to hold down pension benefits in response to changes in wage levels even in a deflationary period.

People who live on pensions are subject to large tax deductions and can receive greater net incomes than salaried workers receiving the same gross income. To lessen young generations’ sense of being imposed on, it is necessary to impose a heavier tax on high-income earners.

It is indispensable to hold down the payments pensioners receive to stabilize the pension system.

If the government cannot even say when to carry out such important reform, we doubt the sustainability of the pension system.

To formulate concrete pension reform measures, the government must quickly study when to carry out pension reform.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2013)
(2013年8月22日01時22分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-24 07:10 | 英字新聞

社説:靖国参拝 首相は見送り継続を

August 16, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: PM must steer clear of Yasukuni Shrine
社説:靖国参拝 首相は見送り継続を

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refrained from visiting Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined along with Japan's war dead, on the Aug. 15 war-end anniversary. Instead, in his role as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Abe contributed money to the shrine through the purchase of a branch of the sacred sakaki tree.

Visits to the shrine by the prime minister and Cabinet members can become major diplomatic stumbling blocks in Japan's relation with its Asian neighbors. As such, we commend Abe's decision to take the broad view and abandon visiting the controversial shrine on Aug. 15 this year.

The money for the sakaki branch was sent by an LDP legislator and special assistant to the party president on behalf of "Shinzo Abe, president of the Liberal Democratic Party." Since Abe used his own money to purchase the branch from the shrine, the donation will not stir controversy over whether it constitutes a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
玉串料は私費で、自民党総裁特別補佐の国会議員が代理で納め、「自民党総裁 安倍晋三」と記帳したという。私費であれば政教分離上の問題は生じない。

Abe made the donation out of apparent consideration for his conservative backers. These supporters are holding out hope the prime minister will visit Yasukuni Shrine in his official capacity, as Abe has stated that failing to visit during his previous one-year term in office in 2006-07 was "a matter of the greatest regret." We share their sense of gratitude and respect toward the war dead.

Many years have passed since visits by the prime minister and Cabinet members to Yasukuni became major diplomatic issues. Such visits have drawn fire from not only China and South Korea, victims of Japanese aggression and colonial rule, but United States officials have also expressed grave concerns over the potential for aggravating Tokyo's already strained ties with Beijing and Seoul.

Japan's postwar history began when the San Francisco Peace Treaty -- under which Japan accepted the results of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in which Class A war criminals were sentenced to death -- came into force in 1952. In the eyes of China, visits by the prime minister to Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined, would represent Japan's justification of its wartime actions. The U.S. could view such visits as a challenge to the San Francisco peace framework that was created on the initiative of Washington.

Yasukuni has become a highly complicated diplomatic problem as successive Japanese administrations failed to do anything to deal with the matter. As such, the government should exercise prudence in addressing the issue. In particular, Japan-China diplomatic relations are already deadlocked because of an intensifying dispute over sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and there is no prospect that a bilateral summit meeting will be held in the foreseeable future. Japan's relations with South Korea have also deteriorated to new lows over the interpretation of history, although the two countries share many of the same social and political values. In this sense, it is only natural that Prime Minister Abe abandoned visiting the shrine this summer.

The question is whether the prime minister will continue to forgo visiting the shrine. He will need to decide whether to pay a visit to the shrine during its autumn and spring festivals, as well as on the war-end anniversary on Aug. 15, 2014. He should make a clear decision if he hopes to stay in power for a long period.

Various measures to address the issue have been proposed. One such plan calls for separating the Class A war criminals from the war dead enshrined at Yasukuni, an idea that has been discussed since the government of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in the 1980s. There are testimonials stating that Emperor Hirohito, posthumously named Emperor Showa, eventually refrained from visiting Yasukuni because Class A war criminals were enshrined there. Some conservatives support the idea of separating such war criminals. During the tenure of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a plan to build a non-religious cenotaph for the war dead was considered.

What is the Yasukuni issue about in the first place? How did the enshrinement of Class A war criminals emerge as a point of contention between Japan and its Asian neighbors? Is there any solution to the problem? It is a good idea to set up a panel of experts to consider these matters, and the prime minister should refrain from visiting the shrine until after that panel proposes solutions.

China and South Korea should also watch over the Abe government's response to the issue from a long-term perspective. Japan and these neighbors should avoid intensifying their conflicts with narrow-minded nationalism.

毎日新聞 2013年08月16日 02時31分

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-23 07:35 | 英字新聞


The Asahi Shimbun, August 20, 2013
EDITORIAL: All children should have free access to ‘Hadashi no Gen’

The Matsue municipal board of education has instructed public elementary and junior high schools in the city not to make a famous manga about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima freely available to children in school libraries. The board’s move to restrict children’s access to “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen) has drawn criticism from all over the nation.

In the final parts of the book, some atrocities committed by the former Japanese army, such as beheading Asian people, are depicted. In December last year, the municipal education board decided that these descriptions are “extreme expressions” and asked principals to make sure that students cannot read the manga in the libraries without obtaining permission from the schools. It has also been withdrawn from circulation.

“Hadashi no Gen” was created by manga artist Keiji Nakazawa, who died in December last year. In addition to the devastation of Hiroshima and people’s sufferings after the war, both of which he experienced himself, Nakazawa described, in shocking detail, various battlefield scenes he learned from historical records and materials. Due to its vivid descriptions of the frightful spectacles of war, the manga drew an immense response.

Many children became interested in the nuclear attacks against Japan in the closing days of World War II for the first time when they read “Hadashi no Gen,” one of the few manga books among the school library collection.

The education board’s decision could deprive children of a good opportunity to learn about the tragedy. Moreover, the board didn’t follow the rule that it must make any important decision in an open meeting of board members. The decision was made in an opaque manner by the secretariat of the board. The education board should immediately withdraw its directive concerning “Hadashi no Gen.”

The board’s move was made after a man submitted a written petition to the Matsue municipal assembly in August last year. The petition called for the removal of “Hadashi no Gen” from schools, claiming it described fictitious acts of barbarity by Japanese soldiers and had a harmful effect on the minds of children.

Although the man’s demands were not accepted, some assembly members argued that the manga should be designated as a “bad book” and asked the education board to take appropriate action. The request led to the board’s move to restrict access to the manga in school libraries.

Soon after Nakazawa started the manga series in the Weekly Shonen Jump comic magazine in 1973, his descriptions of the war were criticized as “brutal.” Nakazawa once said he had agonized over how to depict the war. Because it bitterly denounces the acts of the army and holds Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, responsible for the war, conservatives criticize the manga as “biased” and “anti-Japanese.”

Still, “Hadashi no Gen” has been widely accepted because Nakazawa’s anti-war message has obtained a favorable response from children. By using all of his skills as an artist to describe the cruelty of war he witnessed, Nakazawa tried to tell children that war must never be allowed to happen again.

Teachers, who generally had a negative stance toward manga, also embraced “Hadashi no Gen” and allocated part of the limited school library budget to add the manga to the library’s collection because of its power to send its anti-war message.

There are still various views and opinions about the wartime acts of the former Japanese army and Emperor Hirohito’s responsibility for the war. Nakazawa’s historical views about the war as expressed in the work are also open to criticism.

“Hadashi no Gen” is exactly the type of material that can be used for discussions among adults and children on these and other issues concerning the war. There is no need to keep children from accessing this material.

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-22 06:03 | 英字新聞