張成沢氏処刑 失政への不満封じる恐怖政治

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 17, 2013
North Korea’s reign of terror aimed at containing people’s frustrations
張成沢氏処刑 失政への不満封じる恐怖政治(12月17日付・読売社説)

The latest developments in North Korea indicate that the country has become even more unstable since former leader Kim Jong Il died two years ago.

Jang Song Thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission who was regarded as the No. 2 man in the Kim Jong Un regime, was sentenced to death for allegedly trying to take power by staging a military coup. He was executed the same day, just four days after he was ousted from all his posts and expelled from the Workers’ Party of Korea.

These developments illustrate the coldhearted nature of Kim—the ruling party’s first secretary—who is trying to strengthen his dictatorship through a reign of terror that included liquidating his uncle, in the apparent belief that without doing so he would not be able to maintain control of the country.

North Korea’s state-run media reported the sentence, handed down at a special military court of the State Security Department—the country’s secret police—accusing Jang of attempting to bring about the collapse of the country’s economy and people’s livelihoods. It also said that if the state was driven to the verge of collapse, Jang believed he could grab the reins of power.

Jang was accused in court of a diverse range of crimes, including an act of treason by cheaply selling off the country’s land with a 50-year lease to a foreign country—land in a special economic and trade zone in Rason near its borders with China and Russia—and triggering tremendous economic confusion with the redenomination of the currency four years ago.

To what extent these accusations are true is not known. But the issuance of this statement itself is tantamount to North Korea admitting there are cracks in the regime and economic maladministration. Kim’s regime may be trying to lay all the responsibility on Jang to justify its legitimacy.

North Korea, which is reinforcing its state control at home, may adopt a policy of external provocations.

There are strong fears that the country may flaunt its nuclear deterrent by conducting its fourth nuclear test and fire yet another missile under the guise of launching an artificial satellite.

Nuclear missile development

In this respect, it has been learned through analyses of satellite photos that North Korea has restarted a plutonium reactor, while moving ahead with improving nuclear test and missile launch sites. The international community must pay close attention to such developments and cooperate to deal with them.

Now that Jang has been removed from the scene, Kim apparently intends to carry out economic activities under the Cabinet-led leadership.

There are no signs of the country changing its policy of pursuing, in parallel, both economic reconstruction and the strengthening of its nuclear capability.

As long as North Korea continues to pursue nuclear and missile development, international economic sanctions against the country will not be relaxed. The country will not be successful in wooing any foreign investment or foreign tourists.

The North Korean people’s frustration will grow as economic hardships continue. The danger of the country collapsing from within is growing.

In its efforts to develop the northeastern part of China by helping stabilize North Korea, Beijing has been urging Pyongyang to carry out reforms and open its market. The execution of Jang, who had assumed the pivotal role in this scheme, is probably a major blow to China’s influence.

The destabilization of a despotic state developing nuclear weapons could lead to the outbreak of domestic turmoil. This is an important phase when Japan should prepare itself for any emergency by firmly maintaining the Japan-U.S. alliance and reinforcing its defense capability.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 17, 2013)
(2013年12月17日01時35分  読売新聞)

武器輸出新原則 防衛産業維持にも目を向けよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 16, 2013
Govt must consider how to maintain defense industry, production base
武器輸出新原則 防衛産業維持にも目を向けよ(12月16日付・読売社説)

Japan should reinforce its international cooperation in the area of defense equipment and maintain its defense technology and production base as national security priorities.

The government and ruling parties have started drastically reviewing the three principles on arms exports and drawing up new rules on arms exports.

The three principles, confirmed in 1967 by the administration of then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, prohibit Japan from exporting arms to countries in the Communist bloc, countries to which arms exports are banned by U.N. resolutions and countries involved in conflict.

In 1976, the administration under then Prime Minister Takeo Miki went so far as to effectively ban all such exports, saying the nation must refrain from exporting arms to even countries not subject to the three principles.

Since 1983, however, the government had made one exception after another to the principles, as confirmed in informal remarks made by chief cabinet secretaries, providing the United States with weapons technology, exporting mine detectors and patrol vessels for peace-building efforts and jointly developing and producing missile defense equipment with other countries.

As a result, the whole system has become extremely complex and hard to understand.

This time, the administration under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to end the total ban and to narrow the list of countries subject to export restrictions, while at the same time making the whole system more consistent. Such efforts to meet the needs of the times are appropriate.

Enhance national security

The important thing is to create a standard that will enhance Japan’s national security.

In light of the recent military developments in China and North Korea, the international situation surrounding Japan has become ever harsher.

Expanding cooperation in the area of defense equipment with such countries as the United States, an ally of Japan, European countries and Australia will stimulate the improvement of Japan’s defense technology and the reinforcement of international cooperation, thus contributing to the peace and security of Japan.

It is important to expand international cooperation by making it possible for Japan to export finished products, and parts and components of arms, in addition to joint development and production of arms with other countries.

It is also necessary to establish procedures appropriately to prevent the arms from being transferred to a third country and to tighten export controls on general-purpose parts that can be used either militarily or commercially.

The government and ruling parties must discuss these issues properly and work out a conclusion soon.

It must be kept in mind that because the government’s defense budgets were cut back for 10 years in a row up to fiscal 2012, Japan’s defense technology and domestic production base has been undermined.

In the past 10 years, nearly 90 private companies have pulled out of the defense industry, making it hard in some areas to secure technicians with specific skills.

As tanks, destroyers and fighter planes become ever more technologically advanced, the unit price of the equipment rises. Repair and maintenance costs for the equipment have also been rising. As a result, the government has no choice but to reduce the amount of such equipment procured, putting a strain on the management of companies in the defense industry.

The decline in the nation’s defense technology and its production base will directly lead to the decline in the nation’s overall defense capability. The government needs to discuss ways to maintain and foster the nation’s defense industry in earnest under the constraint of limited defense spending.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 16, 2013)
(2013年12月16日01時22分  読売新聞)

日・ASEAN 海と空で対中連携が強まった

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 15, 2013
Japan, ASEAN strengthen ties in bid to counter China in air and at sea
日・ASEAN 海と空で対中連携が強まった(12月15日付・読売社説)

In a success in his Southeast Asian diplomacy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saw a summit meeting of Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agree to jointly urge China to abide by international rules.

At a special summit meeting among Japan and 10 ASEAN nations held in Tokyo, the leaders adopted a joint statement saying it is important to ensure the safety of seas and the freedom of navigation as well as to resolve conflicts in accordance with the “universally recognized principles of international laws.”

The statement clearly stated the nations will cooperate to ensure the “freedom of overflight” and “civil aviation safety” in air zones over the high seas—with China’s air defense identification zone in mind, although it did not specifically refer to China.

Some Southeast Asian nations, such as Cambodia and Laos, have close ties with China. Nonetheless, it was significant that Japan and the ASEAN member nations issued the joint statement with the aim of holding China in check, which has heightened tensions not only on the seas but also in the air.

Without consulting with its neighbors, China unilaterally set its ADIZ over the East China Sea and threatened to adopt “emergency defensive measures” by the Chinese military against any aircraft that refuses to obey its instructions. It also hinted at setting another ADIZ over the South China Sea.

“Without free ocean and air [navigation], we can’t expect to have active trade,” Abe stressed at a press conference.

‘Proactive pacifism’

During his separate meetings with the ASEAN leaders and during the summit sessions, Abe said Japan will contribute to regional stability based on “proactive pacifism” and proposed holding a meeting of defense ministers from Japan and the ASEAN members.

It is imperative for Japan to deepen cooperative security ties with the ASEAN countries to deal with China and North Korea.

ASEAN and China are considering setting legally binding codes of conduct in the South China Sea, where they have prolonged territorial disputes, but Beijing is reluctant to accept such codes. Japan should cooperate with the United States in backing ASEAN efforts to conclude an early agreement on codes of conduct with China.

During the special summit meeting, participants also made progress in the area of economic cooperation. They broadly agreed in the two fields of investment and service in negotiations for a Japan-ASEAN economic partnership agreement.

Abe expressed Japan’s support for an economic community ASEAN aims to create by the end of 2015 and pledged to actively provide official development assistance to the body.

Absorbing the vigor of rapidly growing Southeast Asia will provide a springboard for Japan’s economic growth.

The leaders also formulated a mid- and long-term plan for cooperation not only in political and economic fields but also in the area of antidisaster measures. They also plan to have more active exchanges in culture, arts, tourism and sports.

Japan and ASEAN have just observed the 40th anniversary of their friendship this year. It is hoped that they will strengthen their strategic ties even further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2013)
(2013年12月15日01時25分  読売新聞)

与党税制大綱 家計と景気への目配り十分か

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 13, 2013
Reduced consumption rate system must be at same time as hike to 10%
与党税制大綱 家計と景気への目配り十分か(12月13日付・読売社説)


We are concerned that increasing the consumption tax rate to 8 percent from April may dampen personal spending. The latest tax policy agreement between the ruling coalition parties has left unresolved problems regarding measures to shore up business activities.

The Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner New Komeito decided Thursday on an outline for tax system revisions for fiscal 2014. The decision signifies the ruling parties’ endorsement of a government budget draft for next fiscal year and a set of tax revision bills to be presented to the Diet early next year.

The LDP-Komeito agreement has fallen short of deciding on a specific date to introduce a reduced consumption tax rate system to curb the tax rate on food and other daily necessities to benefit low-income people. The agreement also has incorporated such items as income and residential tax levies on salaried workers. Steps to impose heavier tax burdens on households are conspicuous in the accord.

Specific timing ambiguous

The biggest focus in the tax revision discussions was whether a reduced tax rate system should be introduced at the same time as an increase in the sales tax to 10 percent scheduled for October 2015.

In January, the ruling coalition reached an agreement to “make efforts to introduce” a tax break on necessities when the planned hike to 10 percent occurs.

The ruling parties' accord, this time, however, said a reduced tax rate system “will be introduced at a time when the consumption tax rate is 10 percent, after necessary financial resources and understanding from the public, including businesses, are secured.” It added that the ruling camp will “reach a conclusion on the matter by December 2014.”

The proviso added to the ruling coalition’s accord, such as “understanding from the public,” will weigh heavily on future discussions on a reduced tax rate, since the wording in the accord can be interpreted as either “at the same time as the hike to 10 percent” or “sometime after” the hike.

This is the product of compromise between the LDP, which has remained wary of implementing a reduced tax rate, and Komeito, which has strongly insisted the proposed tax break on such items as food and newspapers be introduced when the rate is raised to 10 percent.

A reduced tax rate system would mitigate tax burdens on all taxpayers, including lower-income people, helping shore up a broad spectrum of household budgets.

It is also problematic that the tax system revision outline this time has come short of discussing specifics, such as which items would be eligible for a lower tax rate.

Decisions on specific items to be covered and plans to put the reduced rate system into practice must not be postponed unnecessarily. A decision should be made quickly to introduce a reduced tax rate at the same time the rate is increased to 10 percent.

During the ruling camp’s tax discussions, the LDP’s Tax System Research Commission and the Finance Ministry pointed out the introduction of the reduced tax rate system would make it necessary to employ an invoice system to log the tax rates and amounts item by item, leading to complicated clerical work for businesses.

Given that business deals free from the consumption tax, including land transactions, and those subject to the tax have been in place even under the existing tax system, Komeito refuted that argument in the discussions, noting a reduced tax rate system could be realized without an invoice system. The LDP tax panel and the Finance Ministry should have more aggressively addressed resolving impediments to employing a reduced tax rate.

The tax system revision outline also includes steps to reduce the income tax breaks for company employees and other salaried workers, and raising their income and residential taxes. People whose annual income exceeds ¥12 million will be subject to heavier taxes from 2016, and those whose annual income is more than ¥10 million will be subject to them from 2017.

According to a trial calculation by the Finance Ministry, people with an annual income of ¥15 million are estimated to have an additional tax burden of ¥70,000 to ¥110,000 a year. There are fears this will dampen their motivation to spend in anticipation of an increase in the burden on household budgets.

As the planned consumption tax hike is expected to increase the perceived burden on low-income earners, the ruling parties seem to have tried to alleviate the sense of unfairness by imposing increased tax burdens on high-income earners.

Fast and sloppy

However, full-scale discussions on the reexamination of tax deductions were conducted for merely a week. It cannot be helped if the ruling parties are criticized for targeting company employees, whose income can be easily ascertained, unlike that of the self-employed, to ensure tax revenue.

Quite a few people are increasingly dissatisfied over the fact that the ruling parties quickly decided on a tax hike for salaried workers while not presenting a time frame for introducing the reduced consumption tax rates.

In the case of taxation on automobiles, the tax hike for light motor vehicles was incorporated into the outline of tax system revisions as a measure to secure fiscal resources needed to phase out the automobile acquisition tax from next fiscal year.

The tax on light vehicles is less than that on compact cars. As long as light vehicles also impose burdens on roads and the environment, it is unavoidable for the light vehicle tax to be raised in line with the beneficiary-to-pay principle.

In regard to lowering the corporate tax, which was regarded as a centerpiece of the government’s growth strategy, the outline said merely that the matter will “continue to be studied.” Discussions on concrete measures such as the timing and margin for a tax cut have not deepened.

Japan’s corporate tax rates—even if excluding the special corporate tax for reconstruction from the 2011 disaster, which is planned to be abolished at the end of fiscal 2013, one year ahead of schedule as an economic measure—are higher than those in Europe and many other Asian countries.

Cut corporate tax urgently

To stem the hollowing out of industry and lure investments from overseas, it will be indispensable to lower corporate tax rates further. The matter must be studied at a faster pace.

Companies that will benefit from the early abolition of the special corporate tax for reconstruction should use improved profits for wage hikes and employment expansion, thereby spreading benefits to households.

The outline has also put forth a policy of approving up to 50 percent of entertainment expenses used by big businesses to entertain business partners and clients as necessary expenses with no tax levied.

It is understandable that the outline aims to expand the tax exemption system, which has been applied to part of the entertainment expenses of small and midsize companies as impairment costs, to big businesses. We hope sales for drinking and eating establishments will increase by making it easier for firms to increase entertainment expenses and that this will prove effective in curbing the adverse effects of the consumption tax hike.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 13, 2013)
(2013年12月13日01時39分  読売新聞)

マンデラ氏死去 今こそ継承したい寛容の精神

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 12, 2013
World must learn from, carry on Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness
マンデラ氏死去 今こそ継承したい寛容の精神(12月12日付・読売社説)

About 100 heads of state and other world leaders mourned the death of Nelson Mandela at a memorial service for the former South African president in Johannesburg on Tuesday, showing how Mandela was revered all around the world.

Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate honored for his strenuous fight against apartheid and eventual success in ending his country’s system of racial segregation, died last Thursday. He was 95.

The global dignitaries at the national memorial service held for Mandela at a stadium in South Africa’s largest city included Crown Prince Naruhito and former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. In a memorial address, U.S. President Barack Obama praised the anti-apartheid icon’s achievements, describing him as “a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice and in the process moved billions around the world.”

During the second half of the 20th century, Afrikaner whites, the South African minority that ruled the country, repressed the black majority under legislation based on the apartheid policy. Black members of the population did not possess the right to vote and were even restricted in where they could live.

A lawyer, Mandela fought racial discrimination in his country after joining the anti-apartheid activities of the African National Congress, then a political party struggling for the freedom of black South Africans. Mandela’s adherence to his cause despite 27 years in prison for treason provokes amazement.

The true worth of Mandela’s political leadership was demonstrated when and after he was asked by his nation’s white government to help end apartheid. By that time, the South African government could no longer endure the international sanctions imposed on the country.

The power of forgiveness

Mandela ended the ANC’s pursuit of an armed struggle and negotiated with the white government, which resulted in an end to apartheid and a national election open to all races. This enabled the ANC to take the reins of government, with Mandela becoming South Africa’s first black president. However, he urged the black majority not to retaliate against whites.

In his inaugural address as South African president in 1994, Mandela pledged to “build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts.” In fact, the position of vice president was assumed by Mandela’s predecessor, a white president.

Mandela’s spirit of tolerance—with which he sought to transform South Africa into a nation in which all ethnic groups could live in harmony—deeply affected people around the world.

In 1995, South Africa hosted the rugby World Cup. Mandela cheered for his country’s national team, which comprised mostly white players—an episode that helped create a sense of unity among South Africans. The story was later made into an American film that became known to many people around the world.

Mandela’s achievements also included his successful post-apartheid economic policies, which included efforts to skillfully utilize the vitality of white industrialists instead of depriving them of management rights. He did not persist in his own view that his country’s mines should be placed under state control. All this contributed to economic growth.

However, today South Africa seems to be experiencing what may be regarded as the adverse effects of the ANC’s prolonged rule, including corruption within its administration and abuse of privilege. Little progress has been made in narrowing economic disparities between the white minority and the black majority.

Ethnic conflicts and bloodshed attributable to religious differences continue to rage in many parts of the world. Not only South Africans but also people around the world must remind themselves of the precious lessons taught by Mandela.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 12, 2013)
(2013年12月12日01時27分  読売新聞)

TPP交渉 日米対立が招いた合意先送り

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 11, 2013
Final TPP accord postponed due to conflict between Japan, U.S.
TPP交渉 日米対立が招いた合意先送り(12月11日付・読売社説)

As participating countries failed to reconcile a variety of conflicts, including one between Japan and the United States, an accord on creating a new free trade zone in Asia and the Pacific region has been postponed till next year. A rough road lies ahead for the negotiations.

A ministerial meeting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks ended in Singapore on Tuesday.

Japan, the United States, Australia and nine other nations in the talks abandoned their goal of reaching an accord by the end of this year, which they originally hoped for. The countries will continue intensive discussions and hold a ministerial meeting again in January, they said in a joint statement issued after the meeting.

As the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama had given the highest priority to reaching a final accord within this year, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman continued pressing Japan and emerging countries on tariff elimination and market liberalization.

But it is difficult to settle negotiations on issues on which the participants’ interests are complexly tangled. It can be said the latest talks highlighted the reality that the talks will not proceed as Washington hoped.

In particular, the conflict between Japanese and U.S. interests became clear. There is no denying that the conflict between the two countries may have held up negotiations as a whole.

Sticking points

The Liberal Democratic Party has been asserting that rice, wheat and barley, and three other sensitive agricultural products should be regarded as “sanctuaries” exempt from tariff elimination. Bearing this in mind, Japan rejected the U.S. call for full tariff elimination, with no exceptions.

Instead, Japan reportedly proposed, as a concession, to the U.S. side that it would raise its liberalization rate—the percentage of trade items that will be tariff-free—to about 95 percent. But the United States reportedly rejected the proposal.

On the other hand, Washington, which aims at expanding sales of U.S. automobiles in Japan, called on Tokyo to ease regulations on vehicle safety and environmental standards. But Japan steadily refused.

With midterm elections slated for next November, the Obama administration, which wants to showcase a final TPP accord as its achievement, is not in a position to make easy compromises.

Yet Japan needs to proactively tap into the vitality of fast-growing Asian economies and fuel its own growth, rather than merely maintaining a defensive stance.

While trying to reinforce the international competitiveness of agriculture, a sector Japan has been called on to liberalize further, the government must make a strategic plan to promote free trade, centering around the TPP.

Fierce conflicts between the United States and such emerging economies as Malaysia and Vietnam over the protection of intellectual property rights and competition policies can also be cited as reasons why the participating countries gave up on the final accord in Singapore.

The conflicts among the 12 countries are deep-rooted, so there is little cause for optimism that they will be able to reach an accord at next month’s ministerial meeting. The major focus will be how flexibly the United States can respond to other countries’ assertions.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s next moves deserve close attention, as that country has made clear its intention to participate in the TPP.

For South Korea to join the negotiations, it needs to win the approval of the 12 participating countries. That could happen as early as the spring. Before that happens, Japan needs to take the lead in formulating the trade rules and aim to reach an early accord to best take advantage of having already been a member.

Japan must demonstrate tough bargaining power in pursuit of its national interests.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2013)
(2013年12月11日01時43分  読売新聞)

みんなの党分裂 「江田新党」は野党再編序章か

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 10, 2013
Eda’s split from Your Party may trigger political realignment
みんなの党分裂 「江田新党」は野党再編序章か(12月10日付・読売社説)

Four years and four months after its inception, Your Party has split. This event has the potential of leading to a realignment of opposition parties.

Former Secretary General Kenji Eda and 13 other members of the party have submitted letters of resignation to the party and announced plans to establish a new party before the end of the year. The 14 defectors—eight from the House of Representatives and six from the House of Councillors—account for 40 percent of the party’s 35 lawmakers. Mito Kakizawa, an independent in the lower house, will join the planned new party.

The primary reason for the split was a feud between party leader Yoshimi Watanabe and Eda over the party’s future course.

Watanabe has insisted on cooperating with other parties in one political bloc, while maintaining the independence of Your Party. Eda, on the other hand, does not hesitate to run the risk of dissolving the party to help realign opposition forces. Watanabe scorned Eda’s move as an “antiparty action.”

Watanabe removed Eda from the post of party secretary general in August and forced Eda’s close follower, Kakizawa, to leave the party later that month.

The situation was brought to a head over the party leadership’s handling of the government-proposed legislation on protecting specially designated state secrets.

Eda vehemently criticized Watanabe’s role in working out an agreement to amend the bill through talks with the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, as “wooing the LDP.”

Attention will be focused on whether Eda’s action will evolve into interparty tie-ups or a realignment of opposition parties involving the Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party).

After submitting his letter of resignation to the party Monday, Eda said at a news conference that political forces should work together to compete with the LDP. This probably means he wants his new party to act as the foundation for future realignment of opposition parties.

Fighting a behemoth

Given that the current political map is dominated by the LDP, leaving small and weak parties far in its wake, the unity of opposition parties is being put to the test. It is understandable that the opposition parties will try to rally their forces to increase their voice against the behemoth ruling party.

But the question remains whether they can agree on political ideals and policies. Ishin no Kai’s acting secretary general, Yorihisa Matsuno, plans to form a parliamentary group with Eda’s new party. This is a realistic option.

Ishin no Kai, which was founded before the lower house election in December last year, is not a monolithic party either, as policy differences have emerged between its Osaka-based members, led by party coleader Toru Hashimoto, and a group of lawmakers in Tokyo.

If a unified parliamentary group can be realized by Eda’s party and Ishin no Kai, it will surpass the DPJ in strength in the lower house to become the second political force after the LDP. As the biggest parliamentary group of the opposition camp, it will have the strongest voice among opposition groups in the Diet.

Your Party, under Watanabe’s leadership, is expected to increase its cooperation with the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Watanabe will reportedly offer advice to the Abe Cabinet in its reexamination of the constitutional interpretation of the right to collective self-defense.

DPJ President Banri Kaieda cannot sit back and calmly watch the split of Your Party without taking action. Quite a few DPJ members also lean toward a realignment of the opposition parties. Unless something is done to change the status quo, the DPJ’s leadership will see its power further wane.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 10, 2013)
(2013年12月10日01時45分  読売新聞)

婚外子格差撤廃 配偶者の権利も尊重したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 9, 2013
Spouse’s rights must be respected despite change on inheritance rights
婚外子格差撤廃 配偶者の権利も尊重したい(12月8日付・読売社説)

The Diet has approved a bill to revise the Civil Code that will delete an article that discriminates against the inheritance rights of children born to unmarried parents.

For now, we can only praise the Diet’s swift action following a ruling by the Supreme Court’s Grand Bench that said the article “runs counter to the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law.”

The revision will delete the article limiting the inheritance an out-of-wedlock child receives to half that of a child born in wedlock. Among major advanced nations, Japan was the only country that maintained such a discriminatory regulation.

In its ruling in September, the Supreme Court stressed, “Children born out of wedlock should not be at a disadvantage as a result of their parents not being married, a situation the children had no control over.”

The number of so-called de facto marriages and single mothers has increased, and the narrow social view of perceiving children born out of wedlock as different has declined considerably. The court’s decision is in line with changing public awareness.

At the same time, the court’s ruling does not diminish respect for de jure marriages, in which couples follow all legal procedures.

We should bear in mind that there is no change in this way of thinking under the revised Civil Code.

During discussions on the revision, strong concerns were voiced within the Liberal Democratic Party that the family system based on legal marriage could be undermined and that adultery could be encouraged.

Even if a spouse of a deceased person has no previous acquaintance with an out-of-wedlock biological child, that child is still entitled to receive the same inheritance as the spouse’s child.

If the only asset is a house, some people have said there may be an increase in cases of a spouse selling the house to pay a portion of the inheritance to an out-of-wedlock child.

Importance of family ties

We can understand to some extent the concern expressed by the LDP and other parties that the deletion of the article could undermine the rights of a spouse—who had lived with his or her spouse for many years before that spouse died, built up their family and accumulated wealth together—and those of the spouse’s child.

To deal with these problems and to maintain the family system founded on legal marriage, other measures must be taken, besides those concerning discriminatory inheritance between in-wedlock and out-of-wedlock children.

The government and the LDP have decided to study what form the legal system for inheritance should take, particularly in regard to spouses, in an effort to protect family bonds, and to come up with a conclusion one year from now.

Granting a higher share of inheritance to a spouse than under the current system is a good option.

The family will remain the foundation of society. During and after the Great East Japan Earthquake, people once again recognized the importance of the family ties.

We should deepen our discussion on family ties now that the Civil Code has been revised.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 8, 2013)
(2013年12月8日01時23分  読売新聞)

秘密保護法成立 国家安保戦略の深化につなげよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 8, 2013
Make use of intelligence protection law to strengthen national security strategy
秘密保護法成立 国家安保戦略の深化につなげよ(12月7日付・読売社説)


A law to protect state secrets, comparable to those in other advanced countries, has finally been enacted in Japan.

The government must use the law to strengthen diplomatic and national security policies. At the same time, it should pay special attention in applying the law, so the general public does not feel as if its right to know will be limited.

The specially designated intelligence protection law, which strengthens punishments of public employees who leak classified information concerning national security, was enacted after a bill on the law passed a House of Councillors plenary session late Friday, with a majority of votes by the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

With the ruling and opposition parties in fierce confrontation over the bill, members of Your Party—which agreed to passage of the bill in the House of Representatives—walked out of the plenary session, criticizing the ruling camp’s way of managing Diet business as “high-handed.” We regret that this extremely important law was born in such unusual circumstances.

Unified rules clarified

As epitomized by China’s recent declaration of an air defense identification zone, the national security environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe.

Japan needs to obtain important intelligence on the matter from the United States and other countries and must strengthen its cooperation with them. To do so, it is indispensable to enhance the credibility of its efforts to protect secret information.

Japan already had rules in place to protect state secrets, including obligations for public officials to protect secrets under the National Civil Service Law, rules for special defense secrets in line with the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement of 1954, and another set of rules for defense secrets under the Self-Defense Forces Law revised in 2001.

However, these rules have not adequately protected important intelligence, and it has been pointed out that intelligence is easily leaked in Japan. With the new law, unified and full-fledged rules covering the entire government have been put in place to protect state secrets concerning defense, diplomacy and anti-espionage and antiterrorism activities.

The Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council was launched Wednesday. To enhance the council’s intelligence gathering and analysis abilities, the new law is indispensable.

However, the legislative intent of the law, which is to protect the Japanese people, has been made light of by some people.

We were surprised that during Diet deliberations on the bill some opposition party members criticized the legislation, even comparing it to the prewar public order maintenance law, which was used to clamp down on ideological criminals. That is an extremely irrational opinion that ignores Japan’s postwar history as a democratic nation as well as changes in the political system and media coverage.

In answer to a question during Diet deliberations on the bill, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: “The general public won’t have access to specially designated secrets, so prosecution of citizens under the law won’t be possible.” As he said, ordinary citizens will not be subject to the law.

Yet, it cannot be denied that the people’s distrust of the government increased through the deliberations of the bill. The government must explain the intent of the secret intelligence protection law carefully to the people and seek their understanding.

Through discussions between the ruling parties and the opposition parties Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, the range of subjects that can be designated as special secrets was narrowed further, and the principles for disclosing them after they are declassified was made clear. This is praiseworthy.

Concern over right to know

The biggest point of contention in the upper house deliberations was whether bureaucrats would arbitrarily expand the range of secrecy.

Abe pledged to establish a third-party surveillance committee to check the validity of confidentiality designations. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also mentioned that an information oversight office with about 20 members will be established in the Cabinet Office. These appear to be the results of concessions made by the government thus far.

It is essential that the proposed third-party organ be equipped with functional capabilities. Due heed must especially be taken of the public’s strong concern about secrets handled by such organizations as the National Police Agency and the Public Security Investigation Agency, which are involved in dealing with terrorism and espionage activities.

The Democratic Party of Japan has maintained that a third-party body, if established within the government, would be unable to perform its functions. However, it is doubtful whether a third-party committee comprising experts nominated by both the ruling and opposition parties, as proposed by the DPJ, would be able to adequately judge the secrecy of information.

High-level judgments on how to handle highly confidential state secrets can be made only in light of government policy and national strategy. We thus believe an oversight body established within the government is desirable in view of the high risk of an information leak.

The biggest concern is whether government employees will become apprehensive about answering questions from the media out of fear of severe punishment, namely up to 10 years in prison imposed on people who violate the secrecy law. They also might use the law as an excuse to hide information.

Due to such overreaction to the Personal Information Protection Law, it is already difficult to share even information that needs to be shared for the good of society. This trend should not be accelerated.

Concrete steps needed

The law calls for highly confidential state secrets to be disclosed in principle after 30 years of secrecy designation. An extension of up to 60 years will be allowed, with a few exceptions. Concrete measures, such as how to disclose or destroy documents after the secrecy period ends, have been left up in the air.

There are also problems related to the freedom of information system that is supposed to be linked with the protection of secrets. The current system makes it difficult for people to access information because of the narrow range of disclosure.

Unless the system is changed to allow judges to see relevant documents in the event of a lawsuit filed over highly confidential secrets, the courts will be unable to fulfill their roles.

The Diet’s role also needs to be discussed. The ruling and opposition parties must deepen discussions on how to steer closed-door meetings in which highly confidential state secrets are provided, and how to relate such meetings to parliamentary rights to investigate state affairs.

The law will take effect within a year after its promulgation. We urge the ruling and opposition camps to hold consultations to improve the legal system regarding secrets.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 7, 2013)
(2013年12月7日01時42分  読売新聞)

中国防空識別圏 習主席は日米の懸念に応えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 7, 2013
President Xi must pay heed to Japan, U.S. concerns over ADIZ
中国防空識別圏 習主席は日米の懸念に応えよ(12月6日付・読売社説)

China must take seriously the explicit declarations by Japan and the United States of their intentions regarding Beijing’s announcement of its new air defense identification zone.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in Beijing, declaring that the United States does not recognize or accept the ADIZ recently established by China over the East China Sea, expressing Washington’s “significant apprehension.”

In the talks, Biden reportedly called for Beijing to take measures to reduce tensions with countries concerned, prodding the Chinese leadership to exercise self-restraint to prevent a crisis over the zone.

Both of Biden’s calls were in line with what was confirmed in his talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the previous day.

It was especially significant that Biden conveyed directly to Xi the strong sense of apprehension both Japan and the United States have over the way China declared the ADIZ and the rules of its implementation, which both Tokyo and Washington said deviate from international norms.

In declaring the ADIZ, which changes the status quo in the East China Sea, China failed to consult with countries concerned beforehand. Rather, it unilaterally implemented the zone and abruptly announced it.

The means by which China implemented the new ADIZ strays from implementation protocol for air defense identification zones of other countries.

In the ADIZs of countries other than China, including Japan, only aircraft found to be heading toward the countries’ territorial airspace are subject to alert. China, however, made it mandatory for all aircraft passing through its new ADIZ to report flight plans to Chinese authorities. Also, Beijing has warned it will make planes that fail to comply with its ADIZ rules subject to unspecified “defensive emergency measures.”

Dangerous mind-set

Although most of the ADIZ is set above high seas, China’s warning is tantamount to treating the zone as part of its own airspace. We believe this is an illegitimate and dangerous mode of thinking.

In reply to calls from Biden, Xi was cited as reiterating China’s “principled stance” that its new ADIZ was established “in accord with international law and practice.” Does China intend to continue treating its air zone in its own fashion?

As long as China takes such an attitude, it will never win the understanding of countries concerned, including Japan and the United States. First, Beijing should do away with its hard-line stance, which could invite the risk of an accidental military conflict.

In his talks with Xi, Biden was also quoted as calling for China to create a crisis management mechanism in cooperation with Japan, with which China has an ongoing sovereignty row over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and other countries surrounding the new air zone.

It is crucial to expedite the opening up of communication channels among the countries concerned. The Chinese government has made an overture to the Japanese government to hold consultations with the aim of “securing safe flights” in the airspace where the two countries’ ADIZs overlap.

We worry, however, that in the process of such consultations, China will insist that Japan acknowledge China’s ADIZ, including airspace over the Senkakus, as if it were a fait accompli.

Even if such consultations take place, Japan must not give up its stance of refusing to recognize China’s declaration of the air defense identification zone.

In dealing with the ADIZ, it is important that Japan work closely with the United States in taking strategic measures against China.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 6, 2013)
(2013年12月6日01時26分  読売新聞)







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15 申し出・依頼を断るとき
16 許可を求めるとき
17 説明してもらうとき
18 確認を求めるとき
19 状況を知りたいとき
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