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

サミット開幕 安定成長促す協調が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun
G-7 cooperation key to spurring stable growth of global economy
サミット開幕 安定成長促す協調が問われる

To ensure sustainable global economic growth, it is essential for the Group of Seven major countries to join hands and lead the way.

In a session of discussions about the world economy, regarded as the focal point of the G-7 Ise-Shima summit meeting, which opened Thursday, participating leaders shared the view that there are major risks due to such factors as a slowdown in emerging economies.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as chair of the summit, said the current situation resembles the circumstances before the 2008 global financial crisis caused by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers. Abe cited concrete data indicating a slackening of investment and gross domestic product in emerging economies.

He noted, “There are risks that, if we make an error in policy response, the situation will go beyond an ordinary business cycle and enter a crisis.”

Some of the G-7 leaders raised doubts about using the term “crisis” but agreed to “push resolutely for a flexible fiscal strategy and structural reform policy” in accordance with the conditions in G-7 nations.

Abe might have gone so far as referring to the global financial shock in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy because he wanted to lay the foundation for postponing the hike in the consumption tax rate to 10 percent that is scheduled for next April.

Abe defined financial policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reform as a G-7 version of his “three arrows” policy package. His proposal to implement all possible policy measures was approved by other G-7 leaders.

It is an accomplishment that the G-7 leaders have agreed to implement policies according to circumstances as preemptive steps to deal with any emerging crisis.

Boosting growth potential

The G-7 nations face the common plight of a lack of demand, which stems from individuals and businesses refraining from consumption and investment amid concern over potentially prolonged stagnation.

It is essential to boost growth potential through deregulation and other measures, thereby encouraging private-sector investment.

However, it will take a certain period of time before private demand rises on its own. It would be meaningful if governments flexibly and swiftly implement fiscal stimulus policy in their efforts to create demand.

Participating leaders pointed out, one after another, that slackening growth and the expanding income gap are factors behind the emergence of populism in the political world.

During the first-day session, the leaders agreed that establishing a society in which the middle class can have hopes for the future will require investments in “high-quality infrastructure” and fields such as education, science and technology. Steady policy implementation is called for.

Regarding the promotion of free trade, the leaders confirmed anew the need for early effectuation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, in which Japan, the United States, Canada and nine other countries are participants, and steady negotiations between Japan and the European Union over an economic partnership agreement.

With a presidential election set for autumn in the United States, voices in favor of protecting domestic industries have been gathering strength in that country. As this could threaten free trade, it cannot be brushed aside.

We want the G-7 leaders to display leadership in moving ahead with domestic procedures, including approval of the TPP by relevant legislatures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2016) Speech

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-05-28 08:58 | 英字新聞

持続する世界 G7の決意が問われる

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26
EDITORIAL: Are G-7 leaders still up to task of making world a better place?
(社説)持続する世界 G7の決意が問われる

Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations gathering for the Ise-Shima Summit have a broad range of topics on their agenda that are not limited to short-term questions like how to respond to the weakening of the global economy.

The ultimate question confronting them is devising ways to overcome widespread famine and poverty in the world to create a global community where people everywhere can live in peace and quiet and pass this legacy to future generations.

The United Nations has adopted a set of goals to end poverty and ensure a sustainable future for the human race by 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were unanimously adopted by the member countries during a U.N. summit last September. This marks the first year to start trying to achieve those goals.

This will require economic growth, technological innovation and infrastructure development. It is also crucial to redress economic disparities, realize gender equality, promote public health and welfare, expand and upgrade education and respond to climate change. The SDGs include 169 specific targets in 17 areas.

Given the wide scope of the goals involved, this ambitious initiative could simply fizzle out.

It requires united efforts among all countries, from major economic powers to developing countries and poorest nations. The agenda will test the international community’s commitment and ability to take the necessary actions.

In particular, the G-7 nations, which led international development with their economic might, will have to play the central role in the quest.

Solving serious global problems created by market capitalism, such as inequality and decay, will help ensure stable economic growth.

The G-7 leaders are expected to address these development goals, focusing on targets related to public health and women. Japan, which is hosting the summit, has set up a government task force to support the efforts to accomplish these goals and decided to provide funds for measures to promote stability in the Middle East and public health in the world.

It is vital to make steady, long-term efforts to achieve the targets under specific plans.

The G-7 nations should announce their solid commitment to the agenda, develop plausible plans to raise the necessary funds and take actions according to the plans.

It would be desirable if the G-7 nations steadily increased their official development assistance. But all these nations are facing a fiscal crunch.

Germany and France have long proposed the introduction of a financial transaction tax, a low-rate levy imposed on a wide range of financial transactions like share sales. But the proposal has been put on ice due partly to economic stagnation in Europe.

The efforts to raise funds for the U.N. initiative should first be focused on cracking down on tax avoidance by multinationals and rich people around the world.

This approach would help narrow income gaps and at the same time secure money needed to achieve the development goals.

From this point of view, the G-7 needs to tackle the problem of tax havens used by people and companies all over the world to evade or reduce their tax payments in response to revelations in the Panama Papers.

Even if the development of specific measures to deal with this problem may be left to entities like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the G-7 should still take the leadership in establishing an effective global network for monitoring and preventing tax avoidance while securing cooperation from major emerging countries like China, Russia and India.

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-05-27 10:27 | 英字新聞

香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 親の相談機関も足りない /東京

April 3, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope: Parents need a refuge, too
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 親の相談機関も足りない /東京

According to the National Police Agency (NPA), police nationwide reported 37,020 children as suspected of being abused to child consultation centers last year. It was the worst figure on record.

What's striking about the data is that the types of abuse on the rise are different from those that were common in the past. There was a 41 percent increase in verbal abuse and other forms of emotional abuse -- the most noteworthy of which were cases in which children witnessed parents and other family members being violent toward each other.

Some may argue that it's not such a big problem if children are just seeing the violence and are not being targeted by it, but that's hardly the case. Children suffer deep emotional wounds when they see their father hit their mother, or their parents hit a sibling. Not only do they wonder if they might be next, they blame themselves for not being able to help the ones who are being abused.

One person I know told me that as a child, they had watched their younger sister always being hit by their father. When I said, "You're lucky you were never hit," the person shook their head. "I should've been the one to be hit. My sister did nothing wrong. I'm a really cruel person for having pretended to see nothing."

The person managed to graduate from school and find work, but even when they found someone they liked, they couldn't think about dating or marriage. The person was convinced that someone who could not save their sister did not deserve to be happy.

"You did nothing wrong. You were still a young child, so it's no surprise that you weren't able to protect your sister from the violence," I said. It took a long time for that person's sense of guilt to subside.

Getting food on the table and bringing up children is difficult nowadays, and no matter how much love you have for your children, it's not hard to suddenly get the urge to hit them or blurt out that you wish they'd never been born. What, then, can be done to prevent parents from having such emotional outbursts?

Blaming them for their violence is actually counterproductive. First, we as a society must create refuges where parents can escape to for help. Sure, there is a huge lack of daycare centers. But we also lack places where parents who are barely keeping their head above the water making a living and raising children can seek help. It is important to get insurance to cover fertility treatments. But just as pressing is the creation of a societal framework in which both parents and their children can live happily.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-05-26 10:53 | 英字新聞

日米地位協定 今度こそ抜本見直しを

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 24
EDITORIAL: Okinawa leader Onaga is right: SOFA needs a sweeping review
(社説)日米地位協定 今度こそ抜本見直しを

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga on May 23 urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to initiate a fundamental review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a symbol of deep resentment about the heavy U.S. military presence in Okinawa Prefecture.
“We will be told that Japan’s independence is a myth if the current Status of Forces Agreement remains unchanged,” Onaga said in his meeting with Abe over the recent slaying of a Japanese woman in Okinawa Prefecture.

Onaga referred to the famous remark made in a 1963 speech by then American High Commissioner Paul Caraway, who said the idea of self-government in Okinawa under U.S. military rule was nothing more than a “myth.”

The governor met with Abe at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo following the arrest of an American civilian worker at a U.S. base in Okinawa Prefecture on May 19 on suspicion of abandoning the body of the victim.
The incident has sparked outbursts of anger among people in Okinawa, and a growing chorus there is calling for the removal of all U.S. bases from the prefecture.

To prevent additional crimes or accidents involving U.S. military personnel and related workers, U.S. bases in the prefecture should be consolidated and curtailed quickly.

Onaga’s demand for a revision to SOFA reflects the fact that this agreement, which grants U.S. forces stationed in Japan various privileges, has been a major factor behind the failure to stop crimes involving American soldiers and members of the “civilian component.”

Every time a base-related crime or accident took place, provisions of SOFA that restrict Japan’s criminal investigations and jurisdiction concerning such cases were roundly criticized.

In the latest case, the suspect, a former U.S. serviceman, was arrested by prefectural police on suspicion of committing a crime while off-duty, so no SOFA-related issue has arisen.

If the U.S. military had detained the suspect first, however, the transfer of his custody to Japanese authorities could have been delayed or even refused.

In the 1995 rape of a Japanese schoolgirl by three off-duty U.S. servicemen in Okinawa, the United States detained the suspects and initially refused Okinawa prefectural police’s request for their handover.

In response to the huge wave of anger among Okinawan people triggered by the incident, Washington later agreed to an improvement in the implementation of SOFA, requiring the United States to “give sympathetic consideration” to Japanese requests for the handover of suspects before indictment in cases of vicious crimes.

This rule has since been applied to all types of crimes. But Japanese investigations into crimes involving U.S. military personnel could still be affected by discretionary decisions by the United States.

Despite the improvement, SOFA still needs a sweeping review. While the prefectural government has been demanding reform for many years, the Japanese government has refused to propose a fundamental review of the agreement for a possible revision to the United States.

Onaga also asked Abe to arrange a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit to Japan.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga voiced a dim view of Onaga’s request, saying, “As a matter of course, issues in the fields of diplomacy and security will be discussed between national governments.”

Onaga is seeking an opportunity to hold direct talks with Obama because the central government has done nothing to solve this problem.

Both South Korea and Germany have achieved revisions to their own status of forces agreements with the United States. Why is the Japanese government unwilling to even ask the United States to consider a revision to the unfair agreement?

Later this week, Obama will come to Japan to attend this year’s summit of the Group of Seven industrial nations in Mie Prefecture.

Abe should, of course, call on Obama to take steps to prevent a recurrence and strengthen discipline on U.S. personnel and related workers. But Abe should also make specific proposals concerning a reduction in the U.S. bases in Okinawa and a revision to the agreement.

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-05-25 10:48 | 英字新聞

もんじゅ やはり廃炉にすべきだ

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 22
EDITORIAL: There is simply no reason to continue Monju reactor program
(社説)もんじゅ やはり廃炉にすべきだ

An expert council on the Monju fast-breeder reactor program started debate last week on a draft report it will submit to the science and technology ministry.

The panel’s work is a response to the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s recommendation last year that the operator of the troubled experimental reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, should be replaced.
After a series of revelations about omitted safety inspections and other problems, the NRA in November urged science and technology minister Hiroshi Hase to find a new entity to replace the government-backed Japan Atomic Energy Agency as the reactor’s operator.

But the council’s draft report, released on May 20, doesn’t name a candidate for the mission. It only mentions a set of conditions the new operator should fulfill, which are nothing new and all part of conventional wisdom.
It says, for instance, the new operator should have “the ability to develop and implement operation and maintenance plans based on the characteristics of the reactor that is still in the experimental stage.” It also says the new operator should be able to respond appropriately to the interests and needs of society.

The draft report also points to the failure of a series of reforms that have been carried out to save the trouble-plagued program. It offers no reason to believe this time is different and the proposed replacement of the operator will bring about sufficient improvements in the management of the Monju.

The fast-breeder reactor requires as much as 20 billion yen ($182 million) in annual maintenance costs. In addition, there is not even an estimate of the certainly huge costs for necessary safety measures.
All these facts make a compelling case for decommissioning the reactor.

The biggest problem, as some members of the ministry panel have noted, is the lack of serious debate on the cost-effectiveness of the Monju program.

Who needs this program and how strong is the need? How much more money is the government ready to spend to develop and operate the reactor? These and other key questions about whether the program makes economic sense have been left unaddressed.

The Monju is now in a precarious position even in the government’s nuclear energy policy.

The reactor was once touted as the core facility for the government’s plan to establish a nuclear fuel recycling system in which plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel is burned in a fast-breeder reactor.

For more than two decades since a sodium coolant leak accident in 1995, however, the Monju has remained mostly idle.
Over the period, the need for a nuclear fuel recycling system has kept diminishing. There are now few people in the private sector calling for the development of a fast-breeder reactor.

When it drew up a research plan using the Monju three years ago, the science and technology ministry had to focus on the topic of nuclear waste disposal rather than fast-breeder reactor technology itself.

Still, the government has refused to pull the plug on the Monju program because it is concerned about possible repercussions on its nuclear fuel recycling policy as a whole.

But this vision is now almost a fantasy. If the government admits this fact, however, the issue of how to dispose of the large amounts of spent nuclear fuel stored at nuclear power plants across the nation will no doubt come under the spotlight.

Continuing the Monju program simply to gloss over this grim reality would be too foolish.

A small experimental reactor is enough and more efficient for use in research in nuclear waste disposal, which is still in a rudimentary stage. The need for such research offers no rationale for keeping the Monju program alive.

# by kiyoshimat | 2016-05-24 10:31 | 英字新聞