舛添都知事 自らの言葉なぜ語らぬ

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 9
EDITORIAL: Masuzoe must explain spending with own words, not legal babble
(社説)舛添都知事 自らの言葉なぜ語らぬ

Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe is grossly mistaken if he thinks he has offered convincing answers to questions about his qualifications to head the capital’s government and the administration itself. Serious doubts still remain following revelations about his spending of taxpayer money for personal use.
In recent sessions of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, Masuzoe was bombarded with questions about his dubious expenditures on hotels, meals, books and artwork. (過剰英訳です)

Tokyo citizens wanted to hear Masuzoe’s own thoughts concerning his moral responsibility for using public money for personal purposes, not the opinions of the lawyers who have scrutinized his questionable expenditures and drawn up a report on their findings.

Assembly members who questioned the governor repeatedly urged him to speak with his own words.

But Masuzoe only reiterated cookie-cutter comments about his “soul-searching” over the spending. He refused to offer the related details he must have discussed with the lawyers or specific measures to fix the problem.

Still, he dared to say, “I wish to regain public trust by fulfilling my responsibility to explain in this way.” This comment sounds like nothing but an expression of defiance.

Masuzoe liked to say the metropolitan assembly represents the capital’s public. But his remarks in the assembly sessions suggest his disrespect for the assembly.

He appears unable to even recognize what is the real issue.

If he really spent part of his political funds, including public money, for personal purchases, he should at least be accused of betraying the trust of taxpayers.

He has worsened matters by failing to fulfill his responsibility to answer the questions raised, causing confusion and disruptions in the work of the metropolitan government.

After seeing how he has responded to the scandal, most citizens of the capital are naturally unwilling to support his desire to retain his post.

The lawyers announced their report on his spending on June 6, the day before the metropolitan assembly started its session. The report said millions of yen in Masuzoe’s expenditures on hotel stays with his family, meals and artwork were “inappropriate.”

Masuzoe needs to take this judgment seriously.

The report includes some telltale signs of his stance toward political funds. When he was asked about his purchase of a book on making soba (buckwheat noodles), for example, Masuzoe reportedly tried to justify the spending by saying, “I once discussed politics while making soba, and the book has been useful for my political activities.”

As for his purchase of historical novels, he said he had bought it “for studying Edo Period customs,” according to the report.

He made it sound like all aspects of his life were related to politics.

Masuzoe described the report as a “harsh” assessment of his expenditures. But most ordinary citizens don’t share his view.

The report didn’t question the appropriateness of his purchases of many calligraphy works, saying they also served both his hobby and his interests as a politician.

As for a silk Chinese outfit he bought in Shanghai, Masuzoe reportedly claimed he could move his ink brush smoothly in calligraphy when he wears the robe. The lawyers accepted Masuzoe’s explanation as “specific and convincing.”

Does the governor intend to continue such expenditures now that they have judged to be “appropriate?”

What does he think about assembly members’ call for him to make a “painful decision?” Masuzoe needs to offer honest and straightforward answers to these questions.

The metropolitan assembly, for its part, is responsible for making an exhaustive inquiry into the governor’s dubious expenditures.

Members of the assembly’s general affairs committee should rigorously investigate the scandal during an intensive session on the topic expected to be held as early as next week.

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-10 11:38 | 英字新聞

米中戦略対話 南シナ海安定に責任を果たせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Washington must press Beijing to act responsibly in S. China Sea
米中戦略対話 南シナ海安定に責任を果たせ

China has been beefing up its efforts to build artificial islands in the South China Sea for use as military bases while also repeating self-serving actions and remarks over human rights and trade issues.

To maintain peace in Asia and the stability of the global economy, it is crucial for the United States to keep pressing China to abide by international rules and fulfill its responsibilities as a major power.

In the eighth round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, cabinet-level officials discussed a wide range of issues over two days.

Regarding the dispute over the South China Sea, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for maintaining a maritime order based on international laws. “I reiterated America’s fundamental support for negotiations and a peaceful resolution, based on the rule of law, as well as ... our concern about any unilateral steps by any party,” he said.

However, both sides remained far apart on this issue. “China has every right to uphold its territorial sovereignty and lawful and legitimate maritime entitlements,” State Councilor Yang Jiechi said. Chinese President Xi Jinping also emphasized that there are “differences that cannot be resolved for the time being” between the two countries.

The Xi administration is believed to be considering a plan to reclaim land on Scarborough Shoal, which lies close to the Philippines, on top of artificial islands they have already built in the South China Sea. Beijing apparently aims to build a runway and radar installations to pave the way for establishing an air defense identification zone over the area.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to make a decision by the end of this month on a case the Philippines has brought over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, which Manila calls a violation of international laws.

Yang, however, once again said China will ignore the decision. Does this mean that Beijing does not shy away from becoming isolated in the international community? A stance to turn from the rule of law will only give more credence to the idea that China is not like other nations.

Staging cooperation

Kerry expressed his concerns over China’s human rights issues. In April, the Xi administration enacted a law to put foreign nongovernmental organizations providing services in the country under the supervision of security authorities. It cannot be overlooked that Beijing is oppressing human rights under the guise of “domestic affairs.”

One of the concerns in China’s economy is the delay in structural reforms, best exemplified by the overproduction of steel, among other products. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew requested that China reduce production in steel and aluminium, saying, “Excess capacity has a distorting and damaging effect on global markets.”

The latest Group of Seven summit meeting held in the Ise-Shima area of Mie Prefecture also described the overcapacity of steel as a cause for concern in the global economy, as it triggers unfair discount sales. The Xi administration is being held responsible for nipping possible disorder in the bud by making sure it reorganizes state-owned enterprises, among other measures.

The latest U.S.-China dialogue was held as the last session under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. The U.S. side said the two countries were able to produce results as they deepened their cooperation on issues such as climate change and Iran’s nuclear development program through a series of discussions. The dialogue seemed to be effective to some degree in deterring unexpected collisions by facilitating exchanges among military officers.

China did not make any concessions on issues it regards as “core interests.” Wasn’t a show of cooperation put on rather than differences being resolved?

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 8, 2016)

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-09 07:48 | 英字新聞

韓国慰安婦財団 合意履行へ国民の理解求めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
ROK must expand people’s support to implement ‘comfort women’ deal
韓国慰安婦財団 合意履行へ国民の理解求めよ

It can be said that a first step has been taken for implementation of a deal reached by the Japanese and South Korean governments in late December on the so-called comfort women issue. We want to see how the administration of President Park Geun-hye will follow through.

A preparatory committee has been established in South Korea to set up a foundation to support former comfort women based on the bilateral accord.

The Japanese government will provide ¥1 billion for the foundation to be established by the South Korean government. The purpose of the foundation is said to be “to restore the honor and dignity of former comfort women and heal their emotional wounds.” The foundation will be required to embody the aims of the bilateral deal.

Chaired by Kim Tae Hyeon, an honorary professor at Sungshin Women’s University and an expert on women’s issues, the committee consists of 11 members, including former Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan and a scholar on Japanese affairs. The panel will compile assistance programs for the former comfort women, and the foundation is scheduled to be set up as early as this month.

During a recent news conference, Kim stressed a policy of respecting the intentions of former comfort women in carrying out assistance programs, saying, “We’d like to become sympathetic from our hearts to the pains of the victims [former comfort women] and meet their requests.”

It took more than five months before the preparatory committee was established. Behind the delay could be the Park administration’s wish to avoid having the comfort women issue become a point of contention in the general election that was held in April and evade the possibility of a barrage of criticism by opposition parties.

Given the stunning election defeat of her ruling party, the pressure on her administration’s governance has been mounting.

No more time for delay

The Minjoo Party of Korea, a leftist opposition group that is now the biggest force in the National Assembly, has denounced the Japan-South Korea deal on the comfort women issue as making no mention of Japan’s legal responsibility and has called for holding negotiations again on the matter. A South Korean group assisting the former comfort women has been strongly opposing the inauguration of the preparatory committee.

Of concern is that the South Korean people’s understanding of the bilateral accord on the comfort women issue is not sufficient. According to a joint public opinion survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Hankook Ilbo, 73 percent of South Korean respondents did not support the comfort women deal.

The deal was worked out as a result of mutual concessions by Tokyo and Seoul. True, it triggered a chance for the two countries to restore strained bilateral relations. The Park administration has reportedly received an increasing amount of affirmative responses to the deal in interviews with the former comfort women.

Forty-six former comfort women remained alive when the deal was hammered out last December. But four of them have since died. Delay in assistance programs can no longer be allowed.

It is essential for the Park administration to tenaciously seek to obtain the people’s understanding of its accord with Tokyo on the comfort women issue and strive to enable the foundation to function smoothly.

As for a Japanese request for the removal of a statue of a girl installed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, the South Korean government has pledged “to work toward resolving the matter appropriately.”

It should not be forgotten that the matter is gravely related to securing the peace and safety as well as the dignity of the embassy. South Korean organizations, including one that installed the statue, object to its removal, but it is also important for the South Korean government to induce them to remove the statue in line with progress in implementation of what has been agreed upon in the deal.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 7, 2016)

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-08 10:54 | 英字新聞

三菱マテ和解 形を変えた中国の揺さぶりか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Is China exerting new pressure on Japan in a different way via courts?
三菱マテ和解 形を変えた中国の揺さぶりか

It is feared that a new tendency of filing lawsuits against or seeking compensation from Japanese companies may spread in China.

A settlement has been reached regarding some Chinese who said they were forcibly taken to Japan as laborers during World War II and are demanding an apology and compensation from Mitsubishi Materials Corp., formerly Mitsubishi Mining Co.

Mitsubishi Materials has apologized to them, admitting its “historical responsibility” over the issue. The company will pay 100,000 yuan (about ¥1.7 million) to each.

With 3,765 Chinese people having worked at the company, the total scale of the settlement will be one of the largest ever for a Japanese company regarding wartime laborers alleged to have been forcibly taken to Japan.

The company probably opted to settle the issue to avoid the risk of prolonged litigation and paying a huge sum in compensation, and to give priority to expanding its business operations in China.

Japanese lawyers also were involved in the lawsuit on the Chinese side. About 39,000 Chinese people were said to have been forcibly taken to Japan as laborers and 35 Japanese companies were reportedly involved.

If Japanese companies are pressured one after another to bear huge expenses, it is highly likely there will be a further increase in Japanese companies hesitating to make investments in China.

In the Japan-China joint statement signed in 1972 to mark the normalization of bilateral relations, the Chinese government relinquished all reparation demands for damage related to the war. The Japanese government has consistently taken the standpoint that no reparation issue is pending between Japan and China.

But the Chinese government has unilaterally asserted that individual rights to claim damages were not settled by the joint statement.

Top court’s indiscretion

The Supreme Court turned down the Chinese plaintiffs’ claim for individual reparations in 2007, saying, “Under the Japan-China joint statement, individual Chinese cannot file reparation claims for war damage.”

On the other hand, the top court added that “it is hoped efforts would be made toward giving relief to the victims” by the companies concerned and others. This additional comment must be considered indiscreet. It may have affected the decision by Mitsubishi Materials.

The Chinese court, which is under the control of the Chinese Communist Party-led government, initially did not accept claims by individuals. China was believed to have attached importance to relations with Japan, as its economic development was helped by such assistance as yen loans.

A problem arose when a Beijing court accepted in March 2014 a suit filed against Mitsubishi Materials by some former Chinese laborers over forcible mobilization.

The administration of Xi Jinping apparently shifted its policy to intensify pressure on Japan, following such developments as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine. The Chinese government may expect, once again, that it can hold Japan in check over issues of historical perception by tacitly approving the latest settlement.

In South Korea, court battles continue over damages claims filed by former South Korean workers who say they were forcibly mobilized by the Japanese government during the war. The Japanese government should take precautions to ensure that neither China nor South Korea bring up again any issues that have already been settled legally.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 6, 2016)

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-07 12:30 | 英字新聞

日米韓防衛協力 北ミサイル対処に万全を期せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan, U.S., South Korea must act together on North Korean missiles
日米韓防衛協力 北ミサイル対処に万全を期せ

North Korea has repeatedly taken militarily provocative actions. It is essential for Japan, the United States and South Korea to reinforce their framework for jointly dealing with contingencies.

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and South Korean Defense Minister Han Min Koo held talks in Singapore. They strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and confirmed that the three countries will make all-out efforts to share intelligence and conduct surveillance activities.

Since April, North Korea has launched four ballistic missiles believed to be Musudan missiles, which have a range that can reach Guam, a U.S. territory. All the launches appeared to have failed, but some believe North Korea will continue missile launches until it succeeds.

South Korea holds the key to trilateral cooperation. The full participation of South Korea, which directly faces the North Korean military and has its own intelligence, would greatly enhance Japan-U.S. cooperation.

During the talks, the three countries decided to conduct joint missile defense drills off Hawaii late this month. This is an important achievement, together with an agreement reached during Japan-South Korea defense ministerial talks to establish a hot line for emergencies. This may also serve to hold North Korea in check.

Prior to the talks, Carter indicated that he would like to have the most advanced missile defense system deployed shortly at a U.S. military base in South Korea.

Enhanced deterrence

There are cautious voices in South Korea in this regard — apparently in consideration of China — but the deployment of the new missile defense system would enhance deterrence and contribute to the regional stability of Northeast Asia. We hope the United States and South Korea, taking a broad perspective, will reach an agreement soon through talks.

In a speech delivered at the Asia Security Summit, Carter criticized China’s building of military strongholds in the South China Sea as “expansive and unprecedented actions.”

Nakatani said with China in mind, “A unilateral change of the status quo, by saying it is established fact, excessively deviates from maritime order based on principles of international law.”

It is of great significance that Japan and the United States have appealed in unison to the international community concerning the impropriety of China raising regional tensions.

China’s construction of military installations on artificial islands in the sea is reckoned to be in its final phase. It is widely believed that China will also establish an air defense identification zone over the South China Sea, in addition to the one it has already set up over the East China Sea. Continued U.S. involvement is essential to counter China’s attempt to win air and naval supremacy of the South China Sea.

It is important that Japan and the United States cooperate to help the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations enhance their intelligence-gathering and surveillance capabilities.

Establishment of a new international forum, which Japan and the United States have advocated, and an unofficial U.S.-ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting, to be held in September in Hawaii, will also boost the arrangement of the defense cooperation.

It is unreasonable for Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Joint Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, to reject Carter’s criticism of China, saying it was “not based on the facts.”

Carter’s warning that “China could end up erecting a Great Wall of self-isolation” could become reality if the country continues talking and behaving self-righteously.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 5, 2016)Speech

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-06 07:44 | 英字新聞

オバマ岩国演説 自衛隊と米軍の絆が示された

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Obama’s speech at Iwakuni base symbolizes SDF-U.S. forces bond
オバマ岩国演説 自衛隊と米軍の絆が示された

U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech at the Iwakuni base, it can be said, symbolizes the deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance as well as the strong bond between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military.

Prior to his recent visit to Hiroshima, Obama visited the Iwakuni Air Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture, which is jointly used by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Maritime Self-Defense Force. He made a speech before an audience of about 3,000 people, including not only U.S. servicemen stationed there but also about 300 SDF members. This was an exceptional audience for a U.S. presidential address.

Obama stressed the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance, saying, “It’s an indispensable source of stability and a foundation for prosperity in this region and around the world.”

Noting that “this base is a powerful example of the trust and the cooperation and the friendship between the United States and Japan,” Obama expressed gratitude to SDF personnel and local residents, saying “arigato” in Japanese.

We should never forget that the bilateral alliance is sustained not simply by what is defined by treaty but by the accumulation of persistent joint activities of many members of the SDF and U.S. forces.

With the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, compiled in April last year, the effectiveness of joint actions by the SDF and U.S. forces has been enhanced steadily.

In the aftermath of the Kumamoto earthquakes, a Japan-U.S. joint coordination center was set up in Kumamoto Prefecture. U.S. Osprey transport aircraft flying from the Iwakuni base transported water and food supplies from an MSDF destroyer off Yatsushiro port to disaster-hit areas.

Essence of alliance

One family in the prefecture, who received relief goods, is said to be planning to name a baby girl whom it is expecting this month after a female Osprey pilot who led her squadron’s mission to bring humanitarian aid and supplies to those in need, as a token of the family’s respect and gratitude.

Obama introduced the pilot, who was in the audience. He praised her squadron’s mission, saying it is “an incredible story that captures the essence of our alliance.” Indeed, the anecdote can be taken as proof that the new defense cooperation guidelines function properly.

Of concern is that the “free ride argument,” which was once seen, has shown signs of emerging again in the United States. The argument is based on the thinking that U.S. allies benefit unilaterally from the U.S. forces.

Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee in the November presidential election, has called on Japan to bear the entire cost of stationing U.S. forces in Japan and referred even to the possibility of withdrawing U.S. forces.

Japan’s expenditures in fiscal 2015 to host U.S. forces amounted to about ¥725 billion, including funds to help cover personnel costs and to carry out measures for the residents around U.S. bases. Japan’s burden of expenditures once topped 70 percent of the total cost.

Indeed, Japan bears its fair share of the costs. U.S. bases in Japan serve as a core stronghold in the U.S. forces’ forward deployment strategy and thus serve the national interest of the United States, too.

U.S. administrations to date have had such understanding. But it is uncertain to what extent Trump is informed in this regard.

As U.S. military and economic power has declined in relative terms, it may be inevitable for the country to incline increasingly toward “looking inward.” While assuming various developments, Japan must push ahead with proactive international contributions without neglecting efforts to build up its own defense capabilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 4, 2016)

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-05 08:55 | 英字新聞

参院選 論戦スタートへ 語られざる「改憲」を問う

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 3
EDITORIAL: Amending the Constitution is hidden focus of Upper House poll
(社説)参院選 論戦スタートへ 語られざる「改憲」を問う

The focus of attention in the political community has shifted to the July 10 Upper House election as the brouhaha over the consumption tax hike and the possibility of simultaneous Upper and Lower House elections has blown over.
Debate on key policy issues at the Diet was drowned out in the political noise in the final days of this year’s regular session.

What topics will Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other politicians address during their election campaigns?

Abe has cast his economic policy, or Abenomics, as the central issue of the election and expressed his intention to seek a public mandate for his recent decision to postpone the scheduled consumption tax increase.

Voters will naturally consider these issues at the polls. But they don’t have to focus only on the issues played up by the administration.

One important topic requires careful attention by voters although politicians are not eager to discuss it. That is constitutional amendments.

Abe has said his key target for the Upper House election is securing a two-thirds majority for his Liberal Democratic Party, its junior coalition partner, Komeito, and other parties willing to support his initiative to amend the Constitution.

If the target is reached, Abe will have a much better chance of proceeding with his plan to get the Diet to initiate constitutional amendments, through a concurring two-thirds vote of all the members of each chamber, for a national referendum on the proposed changes.

That will, of course, be the first actual attempt to rewrite the postwar Constitution under the formal procedures for amendments.

The question of whether to hand an overwhelming two-thirds majority in both chambers to the Abe administration and its political allies is the biggest issue of the upcoming election, even though it is overshadowed by debate on the economy.

The results of the election could put the nation at a major turning point in its postwar history.


Let us look back on what happened in the Upper House, which is called “the Seat of Common Sense,” eight months ago.

At a Sept. 17 session of the special committee on the new national security legislation, committee members suddenly made a dash for the chairman’s seat, triggering a scuffle amid angry roars. From time to time, ruling camp lawmakers stood with both hands raised in response to cues. People watching the session on TV were clueless to what was occurring.

This ugly scene was how the package of security bills, which effectively revises the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, was actually enacted.

In June last year, three constitutional scholars told the Lower House Commission on the Constitution that the legislation is unconstitutional. Their comments led many lawmakers to subscribe to the view that the legislation violates the Constitution, causing a bitter division among the public.

The bills should have been carried over to the next Diet session for further debate. Instead of resorting to persuasion by reason, however, the Abe administration extended the session and used the power of a majority to engineer the forceful passage of the bills through the Diet in the face of strong opposition due to doubts about their constitutionality.

The July Upper House poll will offer a great opportunity for fresh debate on the legislation.


Since the beginning of this year, Abe has made clear his desire to embark on amending the Constitution after the Upper House election.

In January, he pledged in a Diet session to “create a new Constitution with our own hands.” The initiative “has entered the stage of a realistic possibility where discussions are to be held on which provisions should be amended,” he added.

In the recent one-on-one Diet debate with Katsuya Okada, president of the Democratic Party, Abe challenged the largest opposition bloc to come up with its own draft amendments to the Constitution, saying there could be no meaningful debate on the topic unless the opposition party did so.

Abe spoke as if changing the Constitution was a given.

In contrast, other senior LDP politicians are not eager to pursue constitutional amendments.

The LDP’s headquarters to promote constitutional amendments has yet to start considering which provisions should be revised. The Lower House Commission on the Constitution didn’t begin substantial debate on the question in the latest Diet session.

Behind its reluctance to wade into debate on the issue is the lack of solid public support to the initiative.
In an Asahi Shimbun survey, 55 percent of the respondents said there was no need to change the Constitution.

Toshihiro Nikai, chairman of the LDP’s General Council, pretty much summed up the dominant sentiment within the ruling party when he said a single-minded pursuit of constitutional amendments would make it difficult for the party to win in the election.

In the past two national elections, the Abe administration focused its campaign on economic issues that have a direct bearing on people’s livelihoods. The administration is adopting the same campaign strategy for this poll.

But the administration drastically changed its political posturing after each of the past two elections.

We should not forget the fact that the administration forged ahead with the passage of the state secrets protection law and the security legislation, which both directly concern such basic principles of the Constitution as the people’s right to know and pacifism, after these past elections.


The Constitution, of course, will not be the only element voters will consider when they make their decisions at the polls in July. Policy issues that affect their daily lives are important factors for their choices that need to be weighed carefully.

Let us then examine the economic planks on the parties’ campaign platforms. There aren’t radical differences between the LDP’s vision of a society where 100 million people will play active roles and the Democratic Party’s vision of a “society of symbiosis.” Many parties are proposing more or less similar policies concerning such issues as growth and redistribution, the same wage for same work principle and reducing the number of children on waiting lists for day-care centers.

Given the massive budget deficit and the contraction of the working population, there cannot be wide differences between the ruling and opposition parties in these policies.

On the other hand, the LDP’s constitutional amendment agenda could radically affect certain values we have enjoyed in the postwar era, such as peace and freedom.

The LDP’s draft constitutional amendments are based on views that place the interests of the state before the freedom of individuals. Lurking at the heart of these views is a sentiment that is close to antipathy toward the human rights and individualism espoused by the current Constitution.

In referring to the LDP’s draft constitutional amendments in a June 1 news conference, Abe toned down his usual rhetoric.
“We are not seeking support from two-thirds (of the members of both chambers) for the initiative by promising to make these amendments,” he said.

If he secures an electoral victory, however, Abe may start saying the party has won a public mandate to promote the drafts.
If so, which provisions will he try to change for whatever reasons?

Even if Abe doesn’t talk about these questions, voters should ask, as many times as necessary, vital questions about his real stance toward the Constitution.

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-04 12:00 | 英字新聞

首相の会見 納得できぬ責任転嫁

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 2
EDITORIAL: Abe shifts blame from himself for his decision to delay tax hike
(社説)首相の会見 納得できぬ責任転嫁

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s explanation about why he decided to delay the scheduled consumption tax hike again is far from convincing.
In a June 1 news conference, Abe tried--but failed--to make his case that there is a compelling case to delay the increase in the consumption tax rate to 10 percent, slated for April 2017.

The long and short of what he said at the news conference is this:


Far from being convincing, his call for “revving up the engine of Abenomics as much as possible” raises concerns about heightened risks involved in his expansionary economic policy program.

This will be the second delay in the tax increase. It was originally scheduled for October 2015, but Abe in November 2014 announced the postponement of the step to April 2017.
Since that announcement, Abe had reiterated that he would go ahead with the plan to raise the tax rate to 10 percent unless Japan is hit by serious economic tumult, like the global crisis triggered by the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers or the downturn following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

In the June 1 news conference, Abe admitted that nothing like the “Lehman shock” crisis is taking shape. He also denied that his change of mind had been caused by the series of strong earthquakes that have rocked Kumamoto Prefecture and surrounding areas since mid-April.

On the other hand, Abe contended that Abenomics had produced notable results, pointing to job and income growth.

If that’s his view about the economy, he should raise the consumption tax as planned to cure the government’s fiscal ills and enhance the financial standing of the social security system.

In trying to justify his move, Abe mentioned concerns about the economic health of key emerging countries, including China.

During the recent Ise-Shima summit of the Group of Seven major industrial nations, Abe repeatedly referred to the global recession caused by the failure of Lehman Brothers. But the leaders of Britain and Germany refused to buy his argument.

While Abe admitted that the current situation is not similar to the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ demise, he pointed to overseas economic uncertainties as the reason behind his policy decision. By doing so, he has effectively shifted the responsibility to emerging countries.

As for pushing back the tax increase by two-and-a-half years to October 2019, Abe claimed that is the maximum possible delay that can be made without giving up the government’s target of restoring fiscal health by fiscal 2020.

The fiscal rehabilitation target is an extremely ambitious one that will not be achieved even if the consumption tax is raised as planned and the Japanese economy grows at rates over 3 percent annually.

Reaching the target requires constant efforts to review and reform the budget for substantial spending cuts. But Abe’s approach is totally dependent on revenue growth expected from economic stimulus, which is no more than a shot in the arm. Is this the right way to tackle the formidable challenge?

Abe also said he will seek a public mandate for this policy decision in the upcoming Upper House election.

Few people would welcome a tax hike even if they understand the need for the step.

In a recent Asahi Shimbun poll, 59 percent of the respondents said the tax increase should be postponed, compared with 29 percent who said the step should not be delayed.

Abe’s request for voters to support his decision to delay an unpopular measure is tantamount to pushing the pretext that the public has approved his broken policy promise.

It is actually a scheme to take advantage of public sentiment about the tax hike to shunt his responsibility for the controversial move to the voting public.

Voters need to express their views about the prime minister’s self-centered political maneuver in the Upper House election.

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-03 11:03 | 英字新聞

増税再延期 議論なき決定の異様さ

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 1
EDITORIAL: Abe’s decision to delay tax hike made without proper debate
(社説)増税再延期 議論なき決定の異様さ

Raising the consumption tax rate to 10 percent is a decision that would affect the lives of Japanese people, present and future. A matter of such import must never be left to the discretion of the prime minister alone, nor be settled in the absence of scrutiny by the government and the ruling coalition and thorough Diet deliberations.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced yet another postponement of the tax hike, this time for two-and-a-half years, scrapping the scheduled increase in April next year.

Abe dropped this bombshell just days before the June 1 adjournment of the current Diet session. Throughout the past 150-day session, Abe talked of the planned tax hike as a foregone conclusion, saying it will happen “unless the nation is impacted drastically by something like the ‘Lehman shock’ or a catastrophic earthquake.”

The process leading up to Abe’s decision on the postponement was definitely irregular. Not one debate was held within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party or the government or the Diet to examine Abe’s proposal. Instead, Abe summoned his senior Cabinet ministers and party executives in person and sought their approval.

Finance Minister Taro Aso was practically the only Cabinet member who firmly opposed the postponement, reminding Abe that the last time the tax hike was delayed, the administration had promised that the increase would be effected for certain in April 2017.

But even Aso readily backed off in the end. He was quoted as saying, “If the prime minister says so.”

This whole affair is quite symbolic of the distorted nature of the Abe administration’s power structure. With Abe holding and exercising extraordinary power and authority, all the ruling coalition could do was to endorse whatever policy he decided, with no questions asked.

The Diet adjourns on June 1, having rejected a no-confidence motion against the Abe Cabinet, filed on May 31 by four opposition parties.

Abe's arbitrary decision to postpone the consumption tax hike is such a huge issue that the normal thing to do now is to extend the Diet session for serious discussions among the ruling and opposition camps. Numerous points require scrutiny.

For instance, how appropriate was Abe’s assertion, made abruptly during the Ise-Shima Group of Seven summit, that the global economy is at risk of falling into a crisis?

How will the postponement of the consumption tax hike affect the nation’s social security system and fiscal rehabilitation program, and what countermeasures should be taken? Where should the funding for the countermeasures come from?

Another question that must be raised is whether the postponement is part of the ruling coalition’s campaign strategy for the upcoming Upper House election.

Questions must also be posed to the opposition Democratic Party.

During a debate between party leaders in mid-May, Democratic Party President Katsuya Okada pointed out the inevitability of postponing the tax hike because of anemic consumption. In other words, it was the Democratic Party that opened the doors for the delay.

But let us recall the concept of “integrated reform of tax and social security systems,” initiated four years ago by the then-Democratic Party of Japan administration of Yoshihiko Noda and endorsed by the LDP and Komeito.

The basic purpose of these simultaneous reforms was to raise the consumption tax and use the tax revenue to deal with the nation’s bloating social security costs. This was going to cause pain to the current generation of taxpayers, but the point was to minimize the debt burden of the next generation. We must remember this spirit.

Abe is scheduled to explain the tax hike postponement at a news conference after the conclusion of the current Diet session today.

We also expect a clear explanation from Okada when he and Abe present their arguments during the Upper House election campaign.

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-02 11:00 | 英字新聞

消費増税の再延期 首相はまたも逃げるのか

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 31
EDITORIAL: Abe must stop ducking his responsibilities over tax hike
(社説)消費増税の再延期 首相はまたも逃げるのか

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has told top government and ruling coalition officials that he has decided to postpone the scheduled consumption tax hike again.
The planned raise in the tax rate from 8 percent to 10 percent will be pushed back by two-and-a-half years from April 2017 to October 2019.

This will be the second delay in the tax increase. It was originally slated for October 2015, but Abe put it off to April next year.

But why October 2019?

Here’s an explanation circulating within the ruling camp.
Abe’s term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party will expire in autumn 2018, and he wants to avoid a tax hike during his tenure as prime minister. Moreover, unified local elections and an Upper House poll are scheduled for spring and summer, respectively, in 2019. The unpopular measure to increase the tax burden on the public could badly damage the ruling coalition’s performances in these elections. So the step would be best delayed until after the elections.


The current generation of Japanese depends, to a considerable extent, on government borrowing to finance social security programs that are supporting them. That means shifting the burden to future generations.

This structural debt financing of social security spending has left state finances in tatters, with government debt now surpassing a staggering 1,000 trillion yen ($9.01 trillion).

In 2012, the then ruling Democratic Party of Japan (now the Democratic Party), the LDP and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, reached an agreement on so-called integrated reform of tax and social security systems as a way to solve this structural fiscal problem.

The reform blueprint calls for raising the consumption tax and using all of the revenue from the levy, which is less vulnerable to changes in economic conditions, to fund social security outlays, including debt repayments.
The integrated reform was designed to ensure that the three parties would be solidly committed to implementing the tax increase, which would force the public to shoulder a heavier financial burden to support the safety net while insulating the measure from election battles and power struggles.

Abe’s decision to postpone the step for a second time, apparently motivated by concerns about elections, deserves to be criticized as a petty political maneuver that tramples on the spirit of the integrated reform.

In his November 2014 news conference to announce his first decision to postpone the tax raise, Abe stressed his commitment to fiscal reform.

“I will never back down from my vow to carry out fiscal rehabilitation,” he said. “The Abe Cabinet will never waver in its determination to secure the international community’s confidence in Japan and pass a (sustainable) social security system to the next generation.”

He also said, “I promise that there won’t be another delay (in the consumption tax hike).”

Has he forgotten these promises he made to the people?


As Abe has repeatedly said, any major economic upheaval like the ones that were triggered by the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers or the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake would justify putting off the tax increase.

Indeed, the Japanese economy is not in good shape. Japan’s real economic growth rates in recent quarters have been hovering between minus 2 percent and 2 percent.

But that is not as bad as the 15-percent economic contraction that occurred immediately after the failure of Lehman Brothers or the shrinkage by more than 7 percent following the devastating quake and tsunami in March 2011.

As a plot to clear the way for delaying the tax increase again, Abe, at the recent Ise-Shima Group of Seven summit of major industrial nations, tried to promote the narrative that the world economy is now at risk of falling into a crisis that cannot be seen as an ordinary downward phase of the economic cycle.

Abe probably wants to convince people that economic concerns in other parts of the world, especially in some key emerging countries, argue against a tax hike now even though his economic program, or Abenomics, is working well.

Given objective economic data, however, it is not at all surprising that some of Japan’s G-7 colleagues, such as Germany and Britain, refused to support his argument.

Opposition parties are demanding Abe’s resignation, saying his decision to delay the tax hike again proves that Abenomics has failed.

Before debating whether Abenomics has been successful or not, however, we need to consider afresh whether these policies are an appropriate prescription for Japan’s economic problems.

One important indicator of a nation’s economic health is its potential growth rate. The government has admitted that Japan’s potential growth rate is less than 1 percent.

What kind of policy efforts are needed to increase Japan’s growth potential?

First of all, key social security programs, such as child-care and nursing-care support, should be enhanced.

It is vital to make it easier for people to receive the support they need in these areas through redistribution based on the tax and budget policy.

It is also crucial to improve the working conditions of child-care and nursing-care workers to expand the nation’s ability to provide these services. Expanding and strengthening the social safety net through increased burdens and benefits would help accelerate the flow of money within the economy and create new jobs.

Also important is deregulation to promote investment in promising areas, such as those related to global warming, energy conservation and artificial intelligence.


Since these policy measures are unlikely to quickly produce the expected results, it is necessary to prop up the economy with monetary easing and fiscal expansion. But the government needs to take steps to mitigate the negative side effects of this approach as a basic principle of economic management.

Under Abenomics, the Abe administration has been seeking to raise inflationary expectations among people and businesses through the Bank of Japan’s aggressive “different dimension” credit expansion, or the “first arrow” of Abenomics, as the main incentive for consumer spending and business investment.

As for the second arrow--government spending--the administration has stressed “flexible” fiscal policy management, as embodied by a series of large-scale supplementary budgets.

In the news conference at the end of the G-7 summit, Abe declared, “We will again rev up the engine of Abenomics as much as possible.”

The BOJ keeps purchasing enormous amounts of government bonds under its unprecedented monetary expansion program. This situation could undermine the government’s fiscal discipline.

Extra budgets focused on public works expenditures and measures to stimulate consumer spending may shore up the economy temporarily but would cause further deterioration of the nation’s fiscal health, making the people even more worried about their future.

What Abe should do now is not “rev up” his government’s monetary and fiscal expansion drives. Instead, he should confront the limits and negative effects of Abenomics and correct the course of his economic policies. Then, he should deliver on his promise to carry through the integrated tax and social security reform to allay people’s anxiety about their future.

If the prime minister runs away from implementing a necessary policy measure that requires the people to accept pain before an election, he is effectively running away from his fundamental responsibility as the nation’s leader.

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-06-01 12:42 | 英字新聞