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徳田議員辞職 政界去っても説明責任は残る

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 26, 2014
Resignation is a start, but Tokuda is still accountable for an explanation
徳田議員辞職 政界去っても説明責任は残る(2月26日付・読売社説)

It is only reasonable that lawmaker Takeshi Tokuda has chosen to resign from the Diet, given the seriousness of the recent scandal concerning his relatives’ alleged involvement in massive election irregularities. We feel that his decision comes too late.

On Monday, House of Representatives member Tokuda submitted a letter of resignation in connection with the scandal over violations of the Public Offices Election Law by people tied to the Tokushukai hospital group. His move comes after he left the Liberal Democratic Party in November.

Since the scandal came to light last autumn, Tokuda has been frequently absent from plenary sessions of the lower house and committee meetings of the chamber. In this respect, he should be criticized as an extremely irresponsible Diet member.

Shortly after tendering his resignation as a lawmaker, Tokuda gave a press conference in which he issued an apology for the first time in the ongoing scandal. However, he should have sought accountability when investigators first delved into suspicions surrounding individuals involved in his election campaign.

The Tokushukai group is believed to have put more than ¥200 million to use bribing election campaigners and in efforts aimed at securing Tokuda’s win in the December 2012 lower house election.

Prosecutors arrested and indicted his mother, two of his sisters and some other figures in connection with the case, though his father, Tokushukai founder Torao Tokuda, has not yet been charged due to his suffering from an intractable illness. The elder Tokuda formerly served as a lower house member as well.

The sentencing session in the trial of one of Takeshi Tokuda’s sisters is scheduled for Wednesday. During the prosecution’s probe into the case, the sister, the family’s second daughter, acknowledged her involvement in the alleged electoral irregularities.

Tokuda’s resignation comes just as he was set to be stripped of his seat on the basis of the election law’s guilt-by-association provisions. It is believed that the legislator timed his resignation announcement in consideration of the hearing of his sister’s trial.

Tokuda’s selfish hopes

During Monday’s press conference, Tokuda said, “I’d appreciate it if [the judicial authorities] acted with leniency [in passing judgment on the case].” The remark apparently reflected a desire on Tokuda’s part that his voluntary resignation from the Diet would encourage authorities to consider extenuating circumstances surrounding his relatives and other indicted figures in their sentencing decisions. We find this an extremely self-serving attitude.

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is investigating the case of the questionable transfer of ¥50 million in cash from Tokuda to former Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose. The focus of the probe, led by the prosecution’s special investigation squad, is whether the cash was intended to help finance Inose’s campaign for the Tokyo governorship in late 2012.

If the money was offered to Inose to fund his election campaign, he and his election staff could be accused of neglecting to write the fund into a report on income and expenditures incurred through his electoral bid.

At the press conference, Tokuda declined to comment on the purpose for which the cash was intended, despite having admitted that he and Inose discussed the gubernatorial election when they dined together. “I cannot talk [about the nature of the money],” he said.

Tokuda also declined to speak about the details of his conversation with Inose. He defended his refusal to comment, saying the scandal is under investigation. However, Inose’s acceptance of ¥50 million in cash from Tokuda is already known to the public. Given this, Tokuda, as a key figure in the case, should provide an appropriate explanation of the nature of the money transfer.

The press conference also brought to light discrepancies in the explanations given by Tokuda and Inose about the funds. When asked whether Inose had asked him for the loan, Tokuda said, “I think so.”

However, Inose has asserted that Tokuda himself made the offer to loan the money.

Once again, we want Tokuda to explain his position on issues relevant to the scandal, including the Tokushukai group’s failed attempt to buy a hospital owned by the struggling Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Tokuda’s resignation will mandate a by-election for his lower house seat in Kagoshima Constituency No. 2 in April. We hope the lessons learned from this scandal will be put into practice in how the election is conducted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 26, 2014)
(2014年2月26日01時31分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-28 07:18 | 英字新聞

ウクライナ政変 安定回復へ欧露の責任は重い

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 25, 2014
EU, Russia have grave responsibility to help Ukraine regain stability
ウクライナ政変 安定回復へ欧露の責任は重い(2月25日付・読売社説)

International cooperation is needed to help Ukraine regain its stability, a country beset by the rival influences of the European Union and Russia.

The administration of President Viktor Yanukovych has effectively collapsed, and Yanukovych was forced to leave Kiev in the face of fierce antigovernment protests.

The parliament has approved opposition leader Oleksandr Turchinov as acting head of state and decided to hold a presidential election in May. Yet, how the current chaotic situation will unfold remains uncertain.

Yanukovych’s downfall was triggered when he reneged on plans to sign an agreement with the EU in November, centering on a free-trade pact.

Wary of seeing Ukraine move closer to the EU, Russia is believed to have made blatant approaches to the country by promising large-scale economic assistance in return for postponing conclusion of the EU accord.

The opposition and its supporters strongly protested and launched antigovernment demonstrations. Fighting between the opposition and security forces, which left more than 80 people dead this month, doomed the administration.

Historically, Ukraine’s western region has been strongly influenced by the West, while the eastern region looks toward Moscow. Ever since its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, pro-Russian groups have attached great importance to the country’s ties with Russia, while pro-EU factions have been trying to bring the country closer to the EU. The rivalry between the two groups resulted in repeated changes in administration.

Shift to West likely

Yanukovych, seen as pro-Russian, was forced from power by pro-EU groups, and these groups, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been imprisoned, seized power. Ukraine is likely to shift further toward the EU.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hopes to use the success of the Sochi Olympics to move forward with the economic reintegration of the former Soviet bloc, probably feels as if he has been doused with cold water.

If Putin, in an attempt to influence Ukraine, takes such hard-line measures as restricting supplies of natural gas to Ukraine, as Russia has in the past, the current turmoil will only worsen. We hope Russia will be prudent.

The EU should coordinate its views with Russia to prevent the situation in Ukraine from deteriorating. We highly appreciate German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s telephone conversation with Putin in which they agreed that Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be upheld. They also concurred that splitting Ukraine into eastern and western regions should be avoided.

With its massive external debt, Ukraine is said to be in danger of default. Assistance from the international community, including the EU, is the key to the country regaining stability.

Ukraine, which experienced the devastating Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, has inked an accord with Japan on nuclear issues, exchanging information and experts. We should keep a keen eye on how developments will turn out in the days ahead.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 25, 2014)
(2014年2月25日01時24分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-27 06:14 | 英字新聞

G20共同声明 世界成長2%底上げへ結束を


The Yomiuri Shimbun February 24, 2014
G-20 economies must stand together to attain 2% global growth target
G20共同声明 世界成長2%底上げへ結束を(2月24日付・読売社説)

Amid such concerns as the declining values of currencies of emerging economies, Japan, the United States and Europe should strengthen their cooperation with such emerging economies as China and Brazil to help accelerate the growth of the global economy.

With both industrially advanced nations and emerging market economies taking part, the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors adopted a joint communique at the close of a two-day meeting in Sydney on Sunday.

The communique said, “Despite these recent improvements [in such countries as the United States, Britain and Japan], the global economy remains far from achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth.”

It went on to declare a new target for raising global growth “with the aim to lift our collective GDP by more than 2 percent...over the coming five years,” a potent message for the future of the world economy.

The G-20 meeting confirmed that each of its member economies will work out an action plan in time for a G-20 summit scheduled to be held in Brisbane, Australia, in November.

This is the first time the G-20 has set a numerical target for global growth.

The establishment of this target comes as not all is well with the global economy, although there are some bright signs. It seems the participants in the meeting agreed on the need to demonstrate their resolve to work together for sustainable growth by laying down a numerical goal.

The International Monetary Fund has released its global economic outlook, forecasting a year-on-year global growth of 3.7 percent in real terms for 2014 and 3.9 percent for 2015.

Fears over ‘Fragile Five’

The U.S. economy is clearly on its way to recovery, while business activities in the eurozone have become positive at last. Japan’s economy, too, is continuing to gradually recover.

What is worrying is that the slowdown of emerging economies, which replaced the industrial economies in propping up the global economy after the 2008 world financial crisis, has become increasingly conspicuous.

With the U.S. Federal Reserve Board having launched its “exit strategy” by tapering its quantitative monetary easing, the value of the currencies of the so-called Fragile Five emerging economies, including Turkey and India, are under increasing downward pressure.

The depreciation of these currencies has been caused by the fact that the massive amounts of cash, which flowed into from abroad while the Fed’s extraordinary monetary easing policy was in place, are now flowing out of them. It is essential to stem the vicious cycle of the global market being pummeled by erratic situations in emerging economies and slides in their currencies.

Apparently focusing on emerging economies affected by the weakening of their currencies, the G-20 communique this time has rightly noted the need to “further strengthen...macroeconomic, structural and financial policy frameworks.” We hope to see them step up efforts to address such challenges as swelling current account deficits and runaway inflation.

Also incorporated in the communique is a passage to the effect that the United States should consider the effects of the handling of its financial policy on the global economy.

In tapering its monetary easing policy, the Fed should exercise ingenuity in its “dialogue with the market” by noting changes in emerging economies.

High expectations are placed on Japan’s role in accelerating the pace of global growth.

No time should be wasted in beefing up the third pillar of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy—growth strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 24, 2014)
(2014年2月24日01時27分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-26 07:38 | 英字新聞

竹島の日 内外に訴えよ韓国の不法占拠

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 23, 2014
Japan should present case abroad, at home on Takeshima occupation
竹島の日 内外に訴えよ韓国の不法占拠(2月23日付・読売社説)

The Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture are an inherent part of Japanese territory, but South Korea has been illegally occupying them. It is important that many more Japanese people share this understanding.

The Shimane prefectural government has held its ninth “Takeshima Day” ceremony. Yoshitami Kameoka, parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office, represented the government at the ceremony and said in a speech, “The government will do its best to solve the Takeshima issue rationally and peacefully.”

Feb. 22 is the day that Japan incorporated the Takeshima islands into Shimane Prefecture in 1905. The prefecture enacted the “Takeshima Day” ordinance in 2005 and has been organizing the ceremony on the day every year since 2006. It is highly praiseworthy that the prefecture has steadily continued its Takeshima awareness campaign.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government last year sent the parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office to the ceremony for the first time. Of course, resolving the territorial dispute is not easy and will take a long time, but the persistence of such awareness activities is important.

In the past, Japan used Takeshima as a transit point of maritime traffic and a fishing base, and established sovereignty over the islands in the mid-17th century. After the end of World War II, South Korea demanded the United States include Takeshima among territories Japan should give up, but Washington refused.

However, Seoul unilaterally established the “Syngman Rhee Line” in 1952 to demarcate the limits of its waters, including the Takeshima islands within its extended territory. It then illegally occupied the islands. South Korea has refused Tokyo’s proposal to settle the dispute at the International Court of Justice.

Raise awareness on islands

Results of a Cabinet Office survey released in August showed that 63 percent of Japanese polled knew that South Korea has illegally occupied the islands, and 61 percent realized they were an inherent part of Japanese territory. It is regrettable to say that these figures are not necessarily high. The government must make a greater effort to spread the correct understanding of the issue among the public.

In January, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry revised instruction manuals for its course of study for middle and high schools to stipulate for the first time that the Takeshima and Senkaku islands are inherent territories of Japan. This should help improve the public’s awareness of the government’s views on the Takeshima and Senkaku islands.

It is also important to disseminate Japan’s views on the territorial issues among other countries in the world. The Foreign Ministry last year uploaded to its website video footage explaining the government views on the territories in 12 languages, which attracted more than 1 million hits.

South Korea objected to the observance of “Takeshima Day” and demanded Tokyo stop sending a parliamentary secretary to the ceremony. However, its claim lacks legitimacy and is nothing but intervention in internal affairs.

Tokyo decided not to organize a government ceremony to mark the day as the Liberal Democratic Party had stipulated in its policy pledges for the last House of Representatives elections. It also did not send the prime minister or other ministers to the ceremony, though Shimane Prefecture invited them. We think these are appropriate diplomatic considerations made with the South Korean government in mind.

There are many other issues Japan and South Korea should work on together, such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord. The foreign ministries of both countries should carefully handle the dispute over the Takeshima islands so it does not become a major factor to hinder improvement of their bilateral relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 23, 2014)
(2014年2月23日01時41分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-25 07:49 | 英字新聞

河野談話 慰安婦証言を検証・公開せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 22, 2014
Govt should publicize comfort women testimony cited in Kono statement
河野談話 慰安婦証言を検証・公開せよ(2月22日付・読売社説)

The government should thoroughly get to the bottom of the manner in which a 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on so-called comfort women came to be.

At a Thursday meeting of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, current Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he would study whether a government team should be established to examine the process of preparing the Kono statement.

The Kono statement expressed “apologies and remorse” to former comfort women. However, it has become clear that testimony by 16 former comfort women from South Korea—on which the statement was based—was not backed up by documents or other evidence.

Suga also said it was desirable to study the issue from academic points of view. It would thus be necessary to make public the transcripts of the former comfort women’s testimony—which are now classified—so historians and other experts can examine their contents.

Thursday’s meeting was also attended by Nobuo Ishihara, deputy chief cabinet secretary when the statement was issued in 1993.

Ishihara, serving as an unsworn witness, said the government conducted interviews with the former comfort women at the urging of South Korea. “The atmosphere would not allow us to demand investigations to back up their testimony,” Ishihara told the committee.

As the statement was issued without solid evidence, the Imperial Japanese Army has been viewed by the world as having forced young women to serve as comfort women.

Statement spawns problems

It is undeniable that the Kono statement has spawned many problems.

For example, a group of Americans with South Korean roots spearheaded a campaign to erect a statute of a girl symbolizing comfort women last year in Glendale, Calif.
An inscription beside the statue says, “In memory of more than 200,000 Asian and Dutch women who were removed from their homes...to be coerced into sexual slavery...” Such a campaign has started spreading across the United States.

Japan has been unable to wage effective counterarguments against South Korean campaigns, as the Kono statement included expressions that can be construed as acknowledgment by Japan of the forcible recruitment of women.

As a questioner at the committee meeting, Hiroshi Yamada, a lawmaker from Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restration Party), asked Ishihara to clarify whether the government at that time coordinated the wording of the statement with South Korea while preparing it.

“It can naturally be assumed that the wording was coordinated,” Ishihara said, though he said he did not personally confirm it. It is extremely problematic if the core part of the statement—saying that “at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments”—reflected the wishes of the South Korean side.

The South Korean government, which had not raised comfort women issues for a while after the Kono statement was released, has brought them up again and again in recent years. South Korean President Park Geun-hye is seeking new solutions from the Japanese government.

The government issued the Kono statement to show “good will” toward South Korea in the interest of building a forward-looking relationship between Japan and South Korea. However, it became clear that its intention was never understood. The government must expedite work to examine the Kono statement and correct errors as soon as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 22, 2014)
(2014年2月22日01時22分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-24 06:49 | 英字新聞

集団的自衛権 憲法解釈の変更に問題はない

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 21, 2014
Constitutional reinterpretation of collective defense right not problematic
集団的自衛権 憲法解釈の変更に問題はない(2月21日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his willingness to review the government’s current constitutional interpretation to enable the country to exercise its right of collective self-defense.

The envisaged reinterpretation is undoubtedly necessary to ensure peace and security for the nation, and we throw our support afresh behind the prime minister’s thinking.

In Thursday’s House of Representatives Budget Committee session, Abe indicated his intention to seek Cabinet approval of a new constitutional interpretation of the right of collective self-defense after holding discussions with the ruling camp. The discussions will follow a government feasibility study of the reinterpretation focusing on the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and releasing a report by a government-appointed expert panel in April, he said. Abe also told the committee that his administration will subsequently address such tasks as revising the Self-Defense Forces Law.

Given such developments as advances in military technology and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the time has come when it is difficult for the country to fully ensure the integrity of its land and territorial waters single-handedly.

In light of such realities as China’s military buildup and maritime expansionism as well as the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles, it is urgent and essential that Japan beef up its alliance with the United States, as well as other aspects of international cooperation, through changes to the government’s interpretation of the Constitution.

In response to an interpellation in a Budget Committee session last week, Abe said: “I am the one who is ultimately responsible [for a Cabinet decision on constitutional reinterpretation]. I, not the head of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, am also the one who will be evaluated by the people [regarding the reinterpretation issue] in an election.” His remarks, however, elicited objections even from some members of his own Liberal Democratic Party.

Since the government’s interpretation of the supreme law is statutorily up to the judgment of the cabinet as a whole based on advice from the Legislation Bureau, the prime minister’s statement is not wrong. It is regrettable, however, that his remarks seem to have created the misunderstanding that the prime minister can change the constitutional interpretation on his own as long as he can win an electoral victory. The prime minister is urged to be more scrupulous about providing convincing explanations.

Examining constitutionality

On the other hand, some parties including the Democratic Party of Japan are far off the mark in lambasting Abe’s acknowledgement of the exercise of Japan’s right of collective self-defense through a constitutional reinterpretation as being tantamount to violating “constitutionalism.”

Constitutionalism comprises two key elements: the guarantee of basic human rights and the separation of the three powers of state—executive, legislative and judicial. It places importance on governance in accordance with a constitution. Though a constitution places the government under constraints, it should not be considered the only thing that may be said about the top law.

The process through which the cabinet comes up with a new interpretation of the Constitution, the Diet approves legislation endorsing the reinterpretation and the judiciary adjudicates the legislation’s constitutionality explicitly conforms to constitutionalism.

What the government is now considering is a change of constitutional interpretation for the sake of maintaining the nation’s peace and prosperity in the face of a fast-changing security environment by ensuring a degree of logical consistency with the past government views on the matter.

Yusuke Yokobatake, deputy director general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, who has been said to be wary of altering constitutional interpretation, has said, “If the conclusion is reached that a reinterpretation of the Constitution should be deemed just and proper, it can no longer be said that no changes of interpretation are ever permissible.”

Changes of constitutional interpretation, as a matter of course, must not be allowed without limits. Should there be a danger of crossing such bounds, it would be more appropriate to revise the Constitution itself rather than its interpretation.

New Komeito, which has so far been reluctant to acknowledge exercise of the right of collective self-defense, has recently begun to indicate readiness to engage in discussions on the reinterpretation of the top law. Komeito Secretary General Yoshihisa Inoue has said on the record that his party does not “entirely oppose” discussing the issue.

To increase public understanding on the matter, the prime minister should advocate the Constitution’s reinterpretation as important and necessary with his head held high.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 21, 2014)
(2014年2月21日01時33分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-23 09:00 | 英字新聞

オバマ外交 アジア重視へ日米韓の連携を

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 20, 2014
Ties between Japan, U.S., ROK essential for Obama’s diplomacy
オバマ外交 アジア重視へ日米韓の連携を(2月20日付・読売社説)

To maintain peace and stability in Asia, the United States and its allies, including Japan and South Korea, must deepen their cooperative relations.

U.S. President Barack Obama has started to reshape his administration’s “pivot to Asia” diplomacy in an effort to restructure the currently shaken cooperative relationship among Japan, the United States and South Korea.

Earlier this month, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington, he visited South Korea, China and Indonesia. In late April, Obama is scheduled to make a tour of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Within Asia, China has made such conspicuous moves toward expansionism as the declaration of an air defense identification zone. The ongoing instability in North Korea has only heightened the nuclear threat. We believe Obama must have concluded that he ought to place greater emphasis on U.S. engagement with Asia.

In a meeting with Kerry, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his desire to shape a “new type of major country relationship” with the United States. While the United States would like to discourage China from going too far militarily, the two countries’ relationship of mutual economic dependence has served to further increase China’s importance.

With complicated interests at stake, how can the two countries shape a “major country relationship”? It is indeed a difficult issue.

In light of such circumstances, it is all the more indispensable for the United States to beef up cooperative ties with its allies.

Crisis felt by U.S.

Kerry has strongly urged the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers to improve their nations’ relationship. The U.S. administration must have felt a heightened sense of crisis over the deterioration of unity among Japan, South Korea and the United States, a cornerstone of its Asia strategy, due to Japan-South Korea confrontations over historical and other issues.

At a joint press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, Kerry said, “We urge both of them [Japan and South Korea] to work with us together” to find a solution. His statement is regarded as an announcement that the United States will serve as a mediator between Japan and South Korea.

However, remedying the situation will not be easy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wishes to hold a summit meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye with no preconditions. However, Park has put forth various conditions, including that Japan yield to South Korea over the so-called wartime comfort women issue.

We are also concerned that the Japan-U.S. relationship has been on the rocks since the United States announced its “disappointment” over Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine in late December.

On the Yasukuni issue, Kerry said at the press conference, “I don’t think we need to dwell on it now.” However, the tone of some U.S. media outlets suggests distrust toward Japan.

The Japanese side has also expressed dissatisfaction. On a video sharing site, Seiichi Eto, a special adviser to the prime minister, made a public statement criticizing the United States, saying, “It was we who were disappointed that the United States said it was disappointed.” Although he later deleted the upload, his actions caused controversy.

Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae made a local plea for the U.S. government to clarify its stance. “We also want to see the United States make clear” who its friends and allies are, and who the troublemakers are, he said.

We ask Obama, who is strengthening his administration’s commitment to Asia, to adopt an attitude that recognizes afresh the importance of the Japan-U.S. relationship.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 20, 2014)
(2014年2月20日01時37分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-22 08:22 | 英字新聞

国連人権委報告 認定された北朝鮮「国家犯罪」

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 19, 2014
U.N. inquiry finds systematic state-sponsored crimes by N. Korea
国連人権委報告 認定された北朝鮮「国家犯罪」(2月19日付・読売社説)

The United Nations has issued a stern accusation of state crimes committed by North Korea, including abductions of Japanese nationals. The organization’s condemnation is likely to stoke strong international pressure on North Korea, and it will be important to use this international pressure as leverage to bring a resolution to the abduction issue.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has issued its report on the state of human rights in North Korea.

The report acknowledges “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” and concludes that these behaviors are “based on state policies.” The report finds that the violations constitute “crimes against humanity,” and the investigation panel recommends that the U.N. Security Council refer the domestic situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court for action.

The investigation panel was established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March last year, the product of a unanimous vote. The panel’s denunciation of state-sponsored crimes by North Korea is of great significance. The international community should not stand as an impassive observer, watching historic and ongoing human rights violations in North Korea.

The report is based on a massive quantity of testimonies made by many protected victims, witnesses and government officials in various countries. The document provided the entire picture of human rights violations in the country in a comprehensive manner.

It details the chilling reality of human rights violations including prison camps, arbitrary detention, torture, public executions, starvation as a policy implement, suppression of freedom and discrimination. The report points out, quite persuasively: “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

In particular, the report states unambiguously that abductions of foreign nationals including Japanese “were approved at the level of the Supreme Leader” under the three-generation dynastic regime of “Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un.” Michael Kirby, the inquiry panel’s chair, spoke of the possibility of examining the responsibility of Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korea’s ruling party.

Seeking end to abduction issue

North Korea provided no cooperation at all to the inquiry panel. It reacted strongly against the report, saying that the country “categorically and totally rejects the report.” However, North Korea cannot expect improved relations with the international community, indispensable to the rebuilding of its economy, unless it reverses the current woeful state of human rights in the country.

North Korea must, for example, take very seriously the report’s recommendations calling for the disclosure of complete information on abduction victims and the immediate return of surviving abductees to their home countries.

The report demonstrated that the abduction issue is a problem not only for Japan, but also a matter of grave concern for the international community as a whole. The panel’s findings can also be seen as one fruit of the diplomatic policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who proactively engaged in the establishment of the inquiry panel.

We hope the government will seize the opportunity presented by heightened international concern over North Korea’s human rights situation. It must urge North Korea to resume bilateral talks and do its best to realize the immediate return of all abduction victims, the hand-over of the perpetrators of the abductions and the uncovering of the full truth behind the abductions.

There is no end of defectors from North Korea who have been forcibly returned to the country after entering China, and there have been cases in which defectors living in China were abducted by North Korean agents as well.

As a major power with influence over North Korea, China has a responsibility of its own to cooperate with the international community to improve the human rights situation in North Korea, including helping to resolve the abduction issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 19, 2014)
(2014年2月19日01時39分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-21 07:22 | 英字新聞

米債務上限問題 不毛な対立の棚上げは前進だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 16, 2014
U.S. Congress takes step forward by shelving showdown over borrowing
米債務上限問題 不毛な対立の棚上げは前進だ(2月16日付・読売社説)

With the turmoil in the U.S. Congress over government finances having been settled at last, the danger of President Barack Obama’s administration plunging into a debt default—the inability to service government bonds—has been averted, at least for the time being.

The ruling Democratic Party and the opposition Republican Party have repeatedly clashed over the debt cap issue, and the resolution for now of the thorny problem that has shackled the U.S. political system can be called a step forward. We welcome the congressional agreement.

The House of Representatives approved by a majority vote last Tuesday and the Senate approved by a majority vote Wednesday an increase in the federal debt limit, with no conditions attached, on the statutory ceiling on government borrowing through March 15, 2015. The ceiling is currently set at about $17.2 trillion.

Congressional approval was made possible by major concessions from the Republican Party at the initiative of senior Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, that were in line with the assertions of Obama and his Democratic Party.

In October last year, a Democrat-Republican standoff prevented the enactment of the federal budget for fiscal 2014, leading to a partial shutdown of government organizations. Government liabilities subsequently reached the maximum allowed, threatening to cause the United States to default on its debts. Republicans came under particularly heavy fire from the public for continuing to take a hard-line attitude.

The ruling and opposition parties later agreed to temporarily nullify the debt ceiling up until Feb. 7 this year, but they failed to reach an accord to raise the ceiling in time for the deadline.

The congressional impasse came against Republican conservatives’ insistence that any increase in the debt ceiling should be met by spending cuts equivalent to the rise in the limit.

Republicans under fire

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned that the government, even if making the best of budgetary handling, would default on its debts as early as toward the end of February. It seems that renewed turmoil over the debt ceiling would likely intensify public criticism against Republicans.

Midterm elections will take place in November. Taking public opinion into account, the Republican Party may have found it advisable to lay down its arms at this stage.

Toward the end of last year, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to set the budget for policy implementation at $1 trillion each in the coming two fiscal years, thus averting the risk of another government shutdown due to failure to pass budget legislation.

The settlement of these two issues, which should help stabilize stock and other financial markets, should serve as a tailwind for the U.S. economy, for which signs of recovery have been becoming brighter.

Arguments of the ruling and opposition parties, however, have remained wide apart over how the government should steer its fiscal policy. There are said to be people in the Republican Party who still criticize Boehner for being “weak-kneed” toward Democrats.

As a result, partisan confrontation may intensify all the more toward the midterm elections and the 2016 presidential election.

Conservatives in the Republican Party, holding up the goal of “small government,” have remained steadfastly opposed to Obama’s health care programs for the elderly and poor.

We hope to see Democrats and Republicans constructively engaging in policy discussions over a wide range of issues, including measures to the benefit of middle-income families and steps for rectifying economic disparities in the United States.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 16, 2014)
(2014年2月16日00時04分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-20 07:33 | 英字新聞

保険金不払い 顧客軽視の悪弊を断ち切れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun February 17, 2014
Irresponsible practices of insurance firms must be thoroughly addressed
保険金不払い 顧客軽視の悪弊を断ち切れ(2月17日付・読売社説)

It is a problem if practices of making light of customers still remain in corporate culture in a leading nonlife insurer.

It came to light recently that Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. had failed to partially pay out automobile insurance benefits that policyholders were entitled to over a period of more than 10 years.

The unpaid cases concerned special benefits in auto insurance to cover extra costs, such as consolatory money to be paid to victims injured in accidents or otherwise. According to the insurer, there may be more than 100,000 special benefit policies left unpaid.

Through an inspection of the life and nonlife insurance sectors led by the Financial Services Agency in 2005, nonpayment cases were discovered on an alarmingly large scale. The agency imposed a series of administrative punishments, resulting in a wave of corporate manager resignations.

With costly lessons learned, the insurance companies involved have taken measures to prevent a recurrence of nonpayments in the future.

However, it is a problem that Tokio Marine has decided to exclude the special benefits contracts when the company conducted internal inspections in 2005 and 2006.

Claiming that the company had applied the corporate rules of paying out the special benefits only if claims were made, Tokio Marine has still insisted that the company’s previous actions did not constitute nonpayment. However, this argument suggests that the company places the logic within its own circles rather than interests of its customers.

Some policyholders unfamiliar with insurance contracts failed to claim special benefits, which are in themselves quite diverse.

Insurers must explain

Responsibility lies with an insurance company to clearly explain the contract to policyholders, ensuring they do not fail to make their claims when they are most likely to be in a state of confusion after being involved in an accident.

Tokio Marine said the company changed its policy in July 2003 so that it would pay insurance benefits even if claims are not made. But the company failed to brief policyholders with the change in rules, at a time when they should have solved the nonpayment cases retrospectively.

At a press conference, Tsuyoshi Nagano, president of Tokio Marine, said, “We did all we could at the time,” justifying the company’s actions in the past. It is not surprising that the policyholders who were unable to claim their insurance benefits may be left unconvinced with such an explanation.

Many of them are just as skeptical about the stance of the Financial Services Agency, which considers the insurer’s actions as “not being a problem.”

Consumers may grow more distrustful of insurers that, while they have people sign insurance contracts by capitalizing on various kinds of special benefits, are unwilling to pay insurance benefits when accidents occur. To prevent such feelings, expectations are rising for Tokio Marine to explain itself and sincerely respond to policyholders.

Nagano has said that the company will flexibly deal with benefit payouts if claims are made from now on. But uncertainty hangs in the air because the company stores relevant data for nine years, meaning most of the data related to the unpaid special benefits have already been destroyed.

Tokio Marine should do all in its power to remedy the situation by consolidating what details can be gleaned from memory of its employees and examining any remaining copies of relevant documents with great care.

Other nonlife insurance companies would do well to heed Tokio Marine’s case not just as “someone else’s misfortune” but as a wake-up call to look out for and address any outstanding nonpayment cases.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 17, 2014)
(2014年2月17日00時04分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2014-02-19 07:10 | 英字新聞