郵貯限度額上げ 自民党提言の「含意」はどこに

The Yomiuri Shimbun
What are implications of LDP move to raise limit on Japan Post deposits?
郵貯限度額上げ 自民党提言の「含意」はどこに

Is there any convincing reason for hastening an increase in the deposit limit at the state-owned Japan Post Bank Co.? The wisdom of raising the ceiling is extremely questionable.

The Liberal Democratic Party has worked out a set of proposals that would increase the per-person deposit ceiling for postal savings from the current ¥10 million to ¥30 million in stages.

The LDP has also set out a policy seeking to boost the maximum amount of life insurance coverage at Japan Post Insurance Co. to ¥20 million from the present ¥13 million. The party is calling for the government to put the proposals into force by the end of September this year.

The proposals say the current limit on postal savings is excessively low when taking into consideration such factors as convenience for depositors. However, the additional Diet resolution that accompanied the April 2012 enactment of the revision of the Postal Service Privatization Law stated explicitly that the deposit cap will “not be raised at least for the time being.”

This move by the LDP is clearly running counter to the spirit of the additional Diet resolution.

Japan Post Group is a state-owned, privately run enterprise with the government holding 100 percent of its paid-in capital. Should Japan Post Bank scramble to increase its total deposits on the strength of an implicit government guarantee, there could be a drain on deposits at private-sector regional financial institutions that compete with the postal bank.

It is only natural that the banking world is strongly concerned that an increase in the postal bank deposit cap would squeeze private businesses in the financial sector.

The proposed deposit cap increase is also inconsistent with the business strategy of Japan Post Bank, which aims to facilitate collaboration with regional financial institutions through such means as formulating business ties with them. The government should carefully consider the advisability of the LDP proposals.

Japan Post Group is scheduled to list the stocks of three companies, Japan Post Holdings Co. and two units under its umbrella — Japan Post Bank Co. and Japan Post Insurance Co. — at the same time this coming autumn or later.

Post offices’ vote-drawing power

The pace at which the three companies’ stocks will be put on the market remains unclear, however. Fully privatizing Japan Post Bank and the others by selling all their stocks is just a nonbinding goal to strive for.

Preparations for raising the deposit limit should be launched only after the specific path toward full privatization of the Japan Post Group firms is clarified, after the sale of their shares to the public gets on track.

The outstanding deposits at Japan Post Bank are estimated at ¥180 trillion, nearly double the figure for any one of the nation’s private mega-banks.

Its huge sum of government bond holdings, which account for more than half the assets of the postal bank, has excessively low interest rates, making it difficult for the postal bank to secure profits from holding them.

If the postal bank continues increasing its savings without any promising outlook for using them, it will become even harder for it to manage its deposits.

Japan Post Co. President Taizo Nishimuro said at a news conference in April that although he believes the deposit cap should eventually be eliminated, he wondered whether abolishing the ceiling “would really be a move in the right direction when viewed from the perspective of the financial world as a whole.”

However, the National Association of Postmasters (Zentoku), the nationwide organization of local post office chiefs, has been seeking a higher cap on the deposits, because raising the cap will increase commission revenues for individual post offices.

In the 2013 House of Councillors election, a candidate from Zentoku ran in the proportional representation contest on an LDP ticket and won with the largest number of votes of any LDP candidate.

The ruling party subsequently included a review of the postal bank deposit cap in the electoral platform in last year’s House of Representatives election.

The LDP may be eager to see post offices give full play to their vote-gathering abilities in next year’s upper house election as well.

The party’s recent proposals may have been designed to serve such a purpose.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 29, 2015)


日露電話会談 G7合意踏まえた対話が重要

idioms and words in this news,
leave no stone unturned  八方手をつくす.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Vital for Japan to continue dialogue with Russia, based on G-7 agreement
日露電話会談 G7合意踏まえた対話が重要

It is vital that Japan continues to hold dialogue with Russia, and to firmly criticize it over the current situation in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone. Abe again invited Putin to visit Japan this year, and both leaders agreed to continue bilateral dialogue.

Abe called on Putin to play a constructive role toward the complete implementation of a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine. It is quite natural that Japan is in step with other members of the Group of Seven advanced nations in refusing to accept Russia’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in Ukraine.

This was the first conversation between Abe and Putin since they met in Beijing in November 2014. During their talks, the two leaders agreed Putin would visit Japan “at an appropriate time” before the end of this year.

The government will soon dispatch Shotaro Yachi, chief of the National Security Council’s secretariat, to Russia to help coordinate arrangements regarding the schedule for Putin’s visit and summit talks between Abe and Putin in third nations this autumn. A visit to Russia by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is also under consideration. We hope these opportunities for constructive exchanges of opinion at various levels will continue.

Abe has been navigating a tortuous path as he seeks to make progress in Japan-Russia relations in a bid to resolve the northern territories issue. Western nations have imposed a travel ban on Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of Russia’s lower house. But when Naryshkin visited Japan in May, Abe boldly pushed for a meeting and showed his stance of attaching great importance to improving Tokyo-Moscow ties.

In an interview with heads of foreign news agencies in mid-June, Putin said it is possible to resolve any problem and showed his willingness to hold a summit meeting with Abe.

Fishing ban a poke at Japan?

At a time when Russia’s economy is increasingly feeling the pinch due to economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European nations, taking steps that could invite deterioration in relations with Japan is not a smart policy for Putin.

It is unfortunate that both houses of the Russian Federal Assembly passed a bill that will ban drift-net fishing for salmon and trout from January within Russia’s exclusive economic zone, which extends for 200 nautical miles from that nation’s coast.

This ban will come into force if Putin signs it. If this happens, Japanese fishing boats will, in effect, become unable to operate in waters off the Chishima islands and some other areas.

It has been estimated that if this ban comes into effect, the economic impact on industries in eastern Hokkaido could reach up to ¥25 billion annually.  その場合、北海道東部の経済への影響額が年250億円に上るとの試算もある。

The government will need to leave no stone unturned as it devises countermeasures to minimize the impact of this blow.

Russia has justified the bill by saying it is intended to protect marine resources. However, the Japanese government has argued there are sufficient resources in these waters.

During his phone conversation with Putin, Abe called on the Russian side to give consideration “to what is a very alarming situation for fishermen in the region.” About four hours after this request, the bill was passed.

It is regrettable that Japan’s plea was not accepted.

Russia has extended for one year its ban on imports of agricultural products from the United States, the European Union and elsewhere, which it launched in response to sanctions that have been slapped on Moscow.

It seems to us that Russia might, under the guise of resource protection, be trying to shake Japan’s sanctions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 28, 2015)


米大統領交渉権 TPPの早期妥結につなげよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
U.S. legislation on fast-track authority must lead to early TPP trade accord
米大統領交渉権 TPPの早期妥結につなげよ

The conditions are finally in place to significantly push forward negotiations regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

Japan, the United States and 10 other participating countries should speed up negotiations to seal a multilateral trade deal as early as possible.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a Trade Promotion Authority bill that will grant President Barack Obama fast-track authority on trade deals. The bill was earlier approved by the House of Representatives and will become law after Obama signs it.

There was concern that if a trade deal was reached without Obama being given TPA, any accord agreed to by the United States would be nullified due to U.S. congressional opposition. This prevented other participating nations from rallying the momentum to reach a broad TPP agreement.

With the TPA legislation, the participating countries will aim to hammer out a broad accord at a ministerial meeting in July. For now, we welcome the TPP negotiations’ entry into a new phase.

TPP is an ambitious vision for creating a high-level free trade zone in the Asia-Pacific region. If realized, it will contribute greatly to the development and stability of the region. But tough negotiations lie ahead for all the participating countries because they are confronted with domestic opponents calling for protection of their domestic industries.

The Obama administration’s stance is to promote the TPP deal. But the Democratic Party, which is supposed to support Obama, takes a strongly cautious view of the deal because the party is backed by labor unions. In contrast, most lawmakers from the Republican Party are in favor of pushing the TPP deal.

Overall perspective vital

Due to the differences in opinion between the president and the Democratic Party, the TPA bill was in limbo for more than two years.

The lack of leadership by Obama, who is passive about winning over the opposing legislators, is undeniably to blame for exacerbating the turmoil surrounding the matter.

Now that the battle in Congress has been settled, the focus has shifted to the fate of the TPP negotiations themselves. But it cannot be predicted how the talks will unfold.

Japan and the United States have made progress in their bilateral negotiations on such matters as tariff cuts on beef and pork imports. The issues left unresolved include expansion of U.S. rice imports by Japan, on which Tokyo is reluctant to concede, and the timetable and range of U.S. tariff cuts on automobile parts imported from Japan.

Tough battles have continued between the United States and emerging countries in negotiations related to intellectual property rights, including the protection period and range for newly developed medicines.

Top priority must be given to preventing the negotiations from drifting off course. As the countries to lead the TPP talks, Japan and the United States must cooperate to work out a final agreement as early as possible from a comprehensive standpoint.

The significance of TPP is not limited to economic benefits accruing from the expansion of trade and investment. The TPP framework is also expected to serve as a check on China, which has been increasing its presence in both the economic and security spheres.

China has been making steady progress in pushing for such plans as establishment of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank while expanding its aggressive maritime activities in the East and South China seas. If the TPP plan breaks apart in midair, it will help China become more aggressive and assertive. The participating countries should share this concern.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 26, 2015)


米中戦略対話 「責任ある競争相手」に程遠い

The Yomiuri Shimbun
After high-level talks with U.S., China still far from ‘responsible stakeholder’
米中戦略対話 「責任ある競争相手」に程遠い

The United States found a stage to deliver a stern reminder to China, which is continuing its high-handed behavior in maritime areas and in cyberspace, that it needs to follow the rules and fulfill its responsibilities as a major power.
The seventh round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue has been held in Washington. Over two days, high-level officials from both nations held discussions on a wide spectrum of issues ranging from national security to economic matters.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on China to halt its land reclamation around reefs and military facility construction in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. “We do have a strong national interest in freedom of navigation and overflight,” Kerry said.

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi hit back, saying China has a “firm determination to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.” China is attempting to unilaterally enclose the South China Sea as “its own sea.” We think this approach, which has no basis under international law, is completely unacceptable.

In mid-June, the Chinese government announced some of its land reclamation work will be completed soon. This was probably intended to temporarily ease antagonism with Washington ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States in September.

However, what some observers have termed “a Great Wall of sand” has already been built due to China’s land reclamation. There appears to be no change in China’s plan to push on with preparing military facilities and a 3,000-meter runway. If this situation continues, distrust of China will only grow.

Some progress made

In the economic field, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew issued a sterner-than-usual criticism of China on cyber issues. “We remain deeply concerned about Chinese government-sponsored cyber-enabled theft of confidential business information and proprietary technology from U.S. companies,” Lew said.

Yang said Beijing supports the principle of developing an “international code of conduct for cyber information-sharing,” but a bilateral working group on cyber issues remains suspended. It would be a stretch to say China provided a sincere response on this issue.

U.S. President Barack Obama also expressed “ongoing U.S. concerns” about China’s cyber and maritime behavior, and he urged China to take “concrete steps” on these issues. It is hugely significant that the president directly called on China to deal with these matters appropriately.

With China seeking to build a “new type of major-power relationship” with the United States, it said both sides should “respect and accommodate each other’s core interests.” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden reportedly urged China to be a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system.

If China genuinely wants to realize a “major-power relationship,” in which it stands on an equal footing with the United States, it should start by fulfilling the responsibilities commensurate with such a position.

There was progress made elsewhere, as the United States and China reached agreement on a raft of issues including climate change and people-to-people exchanges. They also agreed to expand technological cooperation as a countermeasure to combat climate change. China is scheduled to announce this month its reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States and China are the world’s two largest emitters of these gases. They must steadily make progress in reducing their emissions. The key question will be whether they can produce actual results, not just stage a show of cooperative ties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 26, 2015)


骨太方針素案 財政再建への踏み込みが甘い

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt must present clear measures to cut spending in fiscal reform plan
骨太方針素案 財政再建への踏み込みが甘い

The basic idea to seek both economic growth and fiscal reconstruction is appropriate, but strong enthusiasm for reducing government spending cannot be felt.
The government has compiled the draft outline of its Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform.

The government, in the draft outline, sets a medium-term target of cutting the deficit in fiscal 2018 to about 1 percent of gross domestic product as a step toward achieving the government goal of turning the primary balance of the central and local governments into a surplus by fiscal 2020.

The central government designated the three years until fiscal 2018 as a period for intensive reform and showed a “criterion” of limiting rises in general account spending, excluding redemptions of government bonds and certain other items, to about ¥1.6 trillion for the three years to March 2019. The draft outline calls on the government to limit growth in social security costs, which are expected to increase by ¥1 trillion each year, to ¥1.5 trillion for the three years.

Akira Amari, economic revitalization minister, and others were reluctant to put a ceiling on government spending. But without the ceiling, there is a fear that tax revenue increases as a result of economic growth could be used for an expansion of expenditures in an unregulated manner. It is significant that the draft outline put a certain brake on increases in government spending in line with the opinions of Finance Minister Taro Aso and others.

It is worrisome that the draft outline is lacking in concrete measures to curtail government spending in the future as planned.

The target amount of an increase in general account spending, excluding redemptions of government bonds and certain other items, was determined based on past performance in fiscal 2013 to 2015. With the aging population, there is no guarantee that the government could curtail spending in the future as much as it did in that period. Ceaseless efforts for spending reform are indispensable.

Face the pain

However, the draft outline seldom mentioned important issues, such as hikes in out-of-pocket payments for medical fees for high-income senior citizens, or heavier taxation on their pension money.

The draft outline also did not clear a concrete target date to realize an increase in the use of generic medicine to more than 80 percent, which is a essential to controlling medical costs. In consideration of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which is cautious about setting the target date, the draft outline said only in an ambiguous manner that the realization should be made “at the earliest date possible in [the period from] fiscal 2018 to the end of fiscal 2020.”

Since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the government has introduced a system to add extra amounts of money to tax grants from the central government to local governments. The draft outline postponed the abolition of the system, instead only mentioning “trying to make efforts to change the system to the status quo ante.”

We have to say that the government got cold feet in fear of the refutation of the ministries and local governments opposing various expenditure cuts.

Japan’s debt has topped ¥1 quadrillion, already the worst fiscal condition among advanced countries. Looking toward fiscal 2025 and later, when the baby boomers pass the age of 75, it is necessary to start painful reforms earlier.

From the start, the fiscal reconstruction measures this time are determined based on the assumption of real economic growth of 2 percent. If growth remains at 1 percent, the deficit in the primary balance would increase by ¥7 trillion. The harsh reality should not be forgotten.

The government should beef up concrete measures for spending reform to steadily realize the goal of turning the primary balance of the central and local governments into a surplus by fiscal 2020 and laying the foundation for future fiscal consolidation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2015)


首相沖縄訪問 現実的な基地負担軽減を図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Realistic approach needed to reduce burden of U.S. bases in Okinawa Pref.
首相沖縄訪問 現実的な基地負担軽減を図れ

One of two important tasks is to maintain the deterrent capability of the Japan-U.S. alliance to preserve our national security. The other is to reduce the excessive burden shouldered by Okinawa due to the presence of U.S. bases there. Political leaders are obliged to come up with realistic measures to ensure the two goals are compatible, and make steady progress in achieving these objectives.
On Tuesday, a ceremony was held in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, to commemorate those killed in the prefecture during World War II. It is believed that organized combat in the Battle of Okinawa ended on June 23, 1945.

In his address during the ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said with emphasis, “We have earnestly walked the path of peace in abhorrence of war over the past 70 years.”

“We must also continue making tireless efforts toward achieving international peace,” the prime minister said. Abe also reiterated his intention to do his utmost to reduce the burden shouldered by local residents because of the U.S. bases in the prefecture.

In his peace declaration, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga called for halting a project to transfer functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station to the Henoko area. “People [in the prefecture] expressed their opposition [to the relocation project] in [last year’s] election, and it is therefore difficult [to build a new base at Henoko],” he said.

Onaga also said, “The suggestion that Okinawa should present an alternative plan [for the transfer of the Futenma functions to Henoko] cannot be condoned.”

The governor devoted nearly half his speech to making references to the Futenma issue.

We believe Onaga was out of order for advancing his political views during this opportunity to pay tribute to the war victims and renew a pledge to pursue peace. Solely emphasizing his confrontational stance against the central government will do nothing to resolve the complex and difficult Futenma base issue.

Constructive dialogue vital

It was decided not to arrange a formal meeting between Abe and Onaga on the sidelines of Tuesday’s ceremony. One of the factors behind this decision may have been the improbability that any progress would result. Still, the decision is disappointing. We hope the prime minister and the governor will use every opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue.

The Futenma base, used by the U.S. forces since the war ended in 1945, lies in the central part of Ginowan. There is a possibility of serious accidents if the installation remains there. At the same time, it has long hindered the city’s development.

The only practical solution to overcoming this situation is relocating the Futenma facility to Henoko.

The Futenma Air Station symbolizes the U.S. military presence in the prefecture. If the relocation project is translated into action, it would represent a significant achievement after many years of great efforts by the central government and local entities to promote the realignment of U.S. forces.

Questions must be raised about the latest action taken by the Social Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and other forces that constitute the mainstay of the Onaga-led prefectural government. They have submitted to the prefectural assembly a proposal for the creation of an ordinance that would impose restrictions on bringing earth, sand and stone into the prefecture from outside of the prefecture, citing the need to implement environmental protection measures. Such materials are used for land reclamation work.

If the proposed ordinance is adopted, it could cause delays not only in the Futenma-to-Henoko transfer plan but in the ongoing construction of a second runway at Naha Airport. The new runway project is aimed at invigorating the prefecture’s economy while also resolving overcrowded flight schedules at the airport. The project was started in response to the strong desire by local residents for a new runway. Business circles in the prefecture also are worried about the proposed ordinance.

We find it difficult to understand what kind of environmental benefit can be gained through restrictions on earth and sand being brought into the prefecture from other parts of the country. We regard the submission of the proposed ordinance as opportunistic. Doing so will only deepen the schism between the central government and local residents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2015)


日韓50年式典 関係改善への転機にできるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Can both countries use this occasion as a turning point to improve ties?
日韓50年式典 関係改善への転機にできるか

Can Japan and South Korea take this opportunity as a turning point to improve their chilled bilateral relations? The will and efforts of both countries will be closely watched.
The governments of both countries on Monday held ceremonies in Seoul and Tokyo to commemorate the 50th anniversary of normalizing diplomatic relations.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized, “Let us build a new era for our two countries together, while looking back at the 50 years of history of friendship and looking forward at the next 50 years.”

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in Seoul, “It is important to lay down the heavy burden of history issues ... As we seek to do so, our two countries can make a fresh start.”

Japan and South Korea have been recently in fierce conflict with each other over historical perceptions, including on the issue of so-called comfort women, and over the Takeshima islands. This spring, both countries were far from celebrating the 50th anniversary of normalizing bilateral ties.

Around the time when South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se’s visit to Japan was decided last week, momentum grew for both countries to compromise.

With the attendance of both Abe and Park, who did not initially plan to attend these ceremonies, both countries were able to call for mending bilateral ties and to transmit constructive messages both at home and abroad.

Park has set solving the comfort women issue as the condition for holding summit talks with Abe. She has also engaged in “tale-telling diplomacy,” criticizing Japan’s historic perception in third countries.

Yet her adherence to history issues has only escalated anti-South Korean sentiment in Japan, while bringing about no positive results in the diplomacy of her country.

Ball in Park’s court

It is quite reasonable that calls for Park to change her policy have grown even within South Korea, besides those coming from the United States.

Taking advantage of the 50th anniversary to unload “the heavy burden of history issues,” Park should review her unyielding stance of pressing Japan alone to compromise unilaterally. Such a move on her part will benefit both countries.

Prior to attending the ceremony, Abe held talks with Yun in Tokyo. During the talks, Abe told Yun: “We have various issues to tackle because we’re neighbors. It is important to hold candid talks with each other.” He thus showed his willingness to hold talks with Park.

Meanwhile, Park held talks with former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga in Seoul, telling him that the two countries “must pursue trust in diplomacy while healing the wounds of the past.” She also said she will closely watch Abe’s statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Diplomatic authorities in both countries are discussing a plan to hold the first summit talks between Abe and Park, following the announcement of Abe’s statement in August, on the occasion of summit talks involving Japan, China and South Korea scheduled to be held this autumn in Seoul.

There are now many outstanding matters between Japan and South Korea, in addition to history and territorial issues. Included in the issues are a conclusion of an agreement on general security of military information, negotiations on a free trade accord, and South Korea’s import restrictions on Japan’s fishery products.

Needless to say, a single instance of summit talks cannot dramatically improve the bilateral ties. But through a series of dialogues, the leaders of both countries will come up with ideas to advance diverse challenges. This is the role a national leader has to assume.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 23, 2015)


日韓国交50年 「歴史」克服して未来に進もう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan, S. Korea should proceed toward future by surmounting history problems
日韓国交50年 「歴史」克服して未来に進もう


June 22 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-Republic of Korea Basic Relations Treaty that normalized the bilateral diplomatic ties. In light of the paths the two countries have taken during the half century, efforts should be redoubled to address the task of rebuilding the bilateral relationship that has stagnated over the past few years.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se visited Japan for the first time for talks with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida. Regarding the so-called comfort women, no specific accord was reached except for an agreement to continue consultations between Tokyo and Seoul.

Concerning Japan’s bid to gain World Cultural Heritage status for Meiji-era (1868-1912) industrial revolution sites, over which South Korea has raised objections, Kishida and Yun concurred that the two countries should go hand in hand in moving forward with Japan supporting South Korea’s efforts to have historic sites from the ancient kingdom of Baekje put on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Politicization of World Heritage registration should have been avoided, and the matter placed in the hands of experts on the cultural values of the properties in question.

Park urged to end bigotry

In the 1965 Agreement Between Japan and the Republic of Korea Concerning the Settlement of Problems in Regard to Property and Claims and Economic Cooperation, Japan pledged to provide South Korea with economic assistance worth $500 million in grants and government loans. The accord also explicitly stated that all compensation issues were settled “completely and finally.”

In addition to the funds available under the 1965 agreement, the subsequent investments and technological transfers from Japan to South Korea contributed greatly to South Korea’s dramatic economic growth that has been referred to as the “miracle of Hangan.”

The 1998 Japan-South Korea Joint Declaration by then South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi marked the advent of a new era between the two nations. While Obuchi in the landmark declaration offered a forthright apology for “damage and suffering” inflicted on the Korean people because of Japan’s colonial rule, Kim expressed a desire for developing “future-oriented relationship” between the two countries.

Following the Obuchi-Kim talks, the South Korean president allowed by stages the entry of Japanese popular culture into his country. Cultural exchanges between Japan and South Korea gained momentum, later leading to the emergence in Japan of a Korean pop culture boom.

South Korea now ranks seventh in the list of the world’s biggest exporting countries and is a member of the Group of 20 major economies. Joint undertakings by Japanese and South Korean enterprises have been on the rise and a relationship of interdependence has deepened between the two countries.

A trip, however, in August 2012 by then South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to the Takeshima islands, and his remarks calling for an apology by the Emperor soured bilateral ties. President Park Geun-hye, who took office in February 2013, has made the holding of a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe contingent on resolving the comfort women issue, and she has stubbornly refused to meet with the prime minister.

In reference to the speech Abe delivered in the U.S. Congress in April this year, Park criticized the prime minister for “failing to take advantage of the opportunity to make a sincere apology ... and strengthen trust with neighboring countries.”

Resolve ‘comfort women’

Fundamentally, the compensation problem involving the comfort women has been legally resolved under the 1965 agreement. The Asian Women’s Fund that was established by the Japanese government, however, made payments of “atonement money” to 61 former South Korean comfort women, accompanied by letters of apology by the then Japanese prime minister.

As long as Park ignores these facts and does not change her stance of pressing the Abe administration for unilateral concessions, it will be difficult for the Japanese side to compromise.

Behind South Korea’s tough stance on Japan are the country’s growing anti-Japan nationalism, which could be said an adverse by-product of the country’s democratization, and the government’s populist policy.

With regard to comfort women, a private organization in support of former comfort women is in the forefront of public opinion.

A statue of a girl symbolizing comfort women that this organization erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul contravenes the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which stipulates that a host country must protect a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy. To repair diplomatic relations, the statue must first be removed.

Park’s pressure on Japan to have a “correct perception of history,” apparently going along with anti-Japan opinion in the country, intensifies anti-South Korean sentiment in Japan, leading to a vicious circle.

We think that even if there are differences in views on territorial issues or historic perception between Japan and South Korea, the primary task of diplomacy is to minimize the negative impact of such differences on the overall relationship between the two countries.

We also cannot overlook the fact that South Korea’s judiciary authorities in recent years have shaken the foundation of the 1965 agreement on property claims.

The South Korean Constitutional Court has issued a ruling that called for the government to negotiate with the Japanese government over comfort women.

Meanwhile, South Korean courts have handed down one ruling after another ordering Japanese companies to pay damages to South Koreans who were forced to work in wartimes.

South Korea’s unlawful occupation of the Takeshima islands is also an issue that must be dealt with under international law and therefore needs to be settled at the International Court of Justice.

After the war, Japan, as a pacifist nation, has contributed to the development of South Korea. Good examples of such development are the Pohang integrated steel mill, for which engineers, including those of Nippon Steel Corp., cooperated in the construction of the facilities in the city, and the development of a subway system in Seoul.

School textbooks and local mass media in South Korea seldom refer to such assistance. This is one of the factors behind anti-Japan sentiment among South Koreans.

Worries over China, N. Korea

Deteriorating relations between Japan and South Korea have also become a cause for worry for U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration in its Asian rebalancing policy. To pressure the North Korean regime, led by Kim Jong Un, to abandon its nuclear development, it is vital for Japan, the United States and South Korea to reinforce their cooperation.

It is also a cause for worry that Park, attaching importance to strengthening ties with China, has shown signs of forming a unified front with China against Japan over historical issues.

One goal is to press for restraint by China, which is aiming to change the regional status quo by force, as seen by its extensive maritime advance. Another goal that must be pursued is to realize the peace and prosperity of East Asia over the mid- and long term. This is the time for both Japan and South Korea to share such strategic goals.

Following the conclusion of the treaty normalizing relations with Japan, then South Korean President Park Chung Hee said in the National Assembly that his country must not take the wrong path in the present and the future by adhering too much and solely to the past.

This is a sentiment that we hope his daughter, the current president, will take to heart.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 22, 2015)


農地集積バンク 利用促進の努力が足りない

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Farmland accumulation banks must do more to consolidate farming plots
農地集積バンク 利用促進の努力が足りない

The farmlands intermediary administration institute system, also known as the farmland accumulation bank, that was created in each of the nation’s 47 prefectures as part of the government’s growth strategy has been performing poorly.
The thinking behind the system is to borrow plots of farmland from small-plot farmers and others and then rent them out in bulk. High expectations have been placed on the system as a promising means of increasing the area of farmland per farming unit.

The area of farmland leased during the first fiscal year of the leasing facilitation program, however, was no more than 24,000 hectares nationwide, compared to the government-set target of 150,000 hectares, so the achievement rate stood at a mere 16 percent. The percentage was 1 percent or less in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, meaning the program was hardly utilized, indicating a lack of effort on the part of the intermediary administration institutes.

If measures to make good use of the institutes are taken with the aim of aggregating parcels of farmland to large-plot farmers or companies operating farming businesses, Japan’s agricultural productivity will be enhanced and its international competitiveness strengthened. The leasing scheme can also be conducive to reducing abandoned farmland and reinvigorating regional economies.

The central and local governments must try to find the causes of the poor performance of the farmland leasing system and work out measures to improve the situation and expedite its utilization.

To facilitate farmland consolidation via the intermediary institutes, the government has brought about an institutional change to enable leasing and borrowing of farmland without the permission of a relevant agricultural committee.

The area of farmland that farming companies and others said they wanted to borrow totaled 230,000 hectares, but plots of farmland available for leasing contracts were no more than 29,000 hectares. Sufficient results could not be achieved.

A major factor behind the dearth of prospective lenders of farmland is that many farmers tend to shy away from leasing their plots, as they often consider them precious property handed down by ancestors for generations.

Boosting understanding

In addition, there are many instances of misunderstanding that farming plots, once leased, will not be returned to them. It is actually possible to have the contracts end after the agreed-upon period, such as 10 years.

In Toyama Prefecture, where the achievement rate was the highest in the country at 99 percent, 70,000 copies of a booklet explaining the leasing system through manga were distributed to alleviate farmers’ anxieties.

Reportedly, farmers typically said they “feel at ease,” as they easily understood how the system works. This can be used as a good reference for other local entities.

Many local areas with high achievement rates used their own initiatives even before the leasing intermediary institutes were launched, such as listening to the intentions of companies and others wishing to enter the farming sector, while engaging in such activities as finding farming plots suitable for leasing contracts.

In finding prospective lenders, it is necessary to grasp the circumstances of individual farming households, such as whether they have successors. Boosting the institutes’ cooperation with city, town and village governments is also important.

There also are many farmers who opt to hold on to their farms, even if they are not being used, because they hope to profit on future sales in the event of the farmland being converted for residential or commercial purposes. Low tax rates on farmland are fueling this tendency.

The government’s Regulatory Reform Council recently came up with a set of proposals calling for such steps as raising tax rates on abandoned farmland and alleviation of tax burdens on the part of those farmers who lease their plots. These proposals should be positively considered.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s suggestion that preferential treatment in budgetary and other matters be offered to prefectures achieving good performances in the leasing facilitation program, however, is questionable. We fear such measures would lead to wasteful use of taxpayers’ money.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 21, 2015)


派遣法改正案 処遇向上の実効性を高めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bill should ensure better treatment of temporary employees at firms
派遣法改正案 処遇向上の実効性を高めたい

A bill to revise the Worker Dispatch Law, over which the ruling and opposition parties confronted each other, passed the House of Representatives on Friday.
The House of Councillors, to which the bill has been sent, must deepen constructive discussions on it to improve treatment of temporary workers and stabilize their employment.

If enacted, the bill will virtually abolish the limit on the length of time that companies can use dispatched workers. On the other hand, staffing agencies will be obliged to take measures to support temps in career enhancement, such as training programs, and to stabilize their employment by asking companies where they work to hire them directly.

The current law mainly aims to prevent companies from replacing regular employees in some jobs with temps.

Therefore, the law makes three years the maximum length of time for companies to use dispatched workers except in some specialized jobs. On the other hand, the law does not have enough regulations to protect jobs and the working conditions of temps.

As there is a wider variety in ways to work in our society, the bill seeks to move the legal emphasis from protection of regular employees at companies where temps work to protection of temporary employees. We think this concept of the bill is reasonable.

However, the Democratic Party of Japan and some other parties oppose the bill because they say it will only increase the number of temps. They also criticize a measure stipulated in the bill to support them in career enhancement as “not viable.”

Enhanced govt supervision

However, the bill will put all the staffing companies under a license system and strengthen government supervision of them. If it functions effectively, this system will contribute to the betterment of employment conditions for temps.

The Japan Innovation Party helped the bill pass in the lower house. Though it opposed the bill, the JIP made a deal with the ruling parties and participated in a vote on the bill. The JIP and the ruling parties agreed with each other to work for the enactment of a separate bill proposed by the JIP and others to promote the principle of equal pay for equal work after making some revisions of it.

The initial bill would have required companies to pay the same wages for temps and regular workers doing the same job.

But the phrase “balanced treatment” was added to the revised bill to allow companies to change employment conditions for regular and temporary workers after considering whether they can work overtime or be transferred to different workplaces. We think the revision is pragmatic, considering the reality of the corporate sector in Japan, where traditional practices such as lifetime employment and seniority-based remuneration are still strongly rooted.

Deliberations on the bill to revise the Worker Dispatch Law took a total of 30 hours in the lower house. We praise the JIP for making concessions to the ruling parties without stringing out deliberations unnecessarily.

What disappointed us is the behavior of the DPJ. The party opposed efforts by the ruling parties to end deliberations on the bill at the lower house Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare and used force to prevent its chairman from entering the conference room. That caused an injury to the neck of the chairman, which will take two weeks to heal completely.

Akira Nagatsuma, acting president of the DPJ, defended the obstruction of deliberations, saying, “It would not be in line with Japan’s national interests if the opposition sat quietly and let the bill pass.”

However, this exceeded the role of an opposition party in resisting the ruling camp. The DPJ must be criticized more severely than ever.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 20, 2015)









[ はじめに ]

[ 名前 ]
松井 清 (スラチャイ)

[ 略歴 ]
・99/10 タイ全土を旅行
・00/10 タイに移住
・03/07 カイちゃん誕生
・07/06 シーファーちゃん誕生

[ 座右の銘 ]
Slow and steady wins the race.

[ 学習の手引き ]
・Think in English.

seesaa100 英字新聞s HPs





01 あいさつ
02 別れのあいさつ
03 声をかけるとき
04 感謝の言葉と答え方
05 謝罪の言葉と答え方
06 聞き直すとき
07 相手の言うことがわからないとき
08 うまく言えないとき
09 一般的なあいづち
10 よくわからないときの返事
11 強めのあいづち
12 自分について述べるとき
13 相手のことを尋ねるとき
14 頼みごとをするとき
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
20 値段の尋ね方と断り方
21 急いでもらいたいとき
22 待ってもらいたいとき
23 日時・場所・天候を尋ねるとき
24 その他

01 あいさつ
02 別れのあいさつ
03 声をかけるとき
04 感謝の言葉と答え方
05 謝罪の言葉と答え方
06 聞き直すとき
07 相手の言うことがわからないとき
08 うまく言えないとき
09 一般的なあいづち
10 よくわからないときの返事
11 強めのあいづち
12 自分について述べるとき
13 相手のことを尋ねるとき
14 頼みごとをするとき
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
20 値段の尋ね方と断り方
21 急いでもらいたいとき
22 待ってもらいたいとき
23 日時・場所・天候を尋ねるとき
24 その他

01 雨の日にも傘をささないタイ人
02 勉強熱心なタイ人女性たち
03 タイ人は敬謙な仏教徒
04 タイの市場
05 タイの食堂
06 タイ人は外食が大好き
07 果物王国タイランド
08 タイ人の誕生日
09 タイの電話代は高い
10 微笑みの国タイランド



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