国内テロ対策 水際を固めて発生を阻止せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prevent international terrorist attacks by strengthening border controls
国内テロ対策 水際を固めて発生を阻止せよ

It is urgently required to establish a system to gather intelligence on foreign terrorists, and to prevent terrorist attacks in Japan.

Immediately after returning from a summit meeting of the Group of 20 major economies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a meeting of the National Security Council. “I want all of you to implement every possible measure to prevent a terrorist attack from occurring,” Abe told the council.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremist group, which carried out the simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris last week, has named Japan as one of its targets. Given that Japan will host the Ise-Shima summit meeting of Group of Seven nations next year and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the implementation of effective countermeasures cannot be put off any longer.

The targets of the Paris terrorist attacks included a theater and sports stadium where many and unspecified civilians assemble. Such places are often called “soft targets,” and the security measures in place tend to be less rigorous than at government institutions and other facilities.

Japan also has many places that could be considered soft targets. Security measures are needed, such as screening the personal belongings of people entering such places, but it is impossible for every facility to conduct increased security checks.

The important thing is not to allow terrorists to enter Japan. To ensure this, intelligence on individual terrorists and international terrorist organizations will be essential. The success or failure of countermeasures implemented at the nation’s borders will hinge on the extent to which such intelligence can be acquired beforehand.

Time is of the essence

ISIL has murdered two Japanese hostages. In response to these killings, the government decided in May to set up an “international terrorism intelligence-gathering unit” within the Foreign Ministry.

This organization will be led by the Prime Minister’s Office and collect terrorist information to be shared among all relevant branches of the government. The initial plan was to launch the unit in spring 2016, but the government reportedly will consider bringing this date forward.

It has been pointed out that Japan, which does not have an independent foreign intelligence agency, possesses scant intelligence on terrorists and terrorism. Enforcement of the law to protect specially designated state secrets should help rectify this weakness. We hope the intelligence-gathering unit will quickly get into action and strengthen ties with foreign intelligence services.

The number of foreigners visiting Japan for tourism and other reasons is expected to increase in the years ahead. Immigration checks at airports and other points of entry must swiftly detect any suspicious people.

The Justice Ministry plans to create a database of facial images of known terrorists and in the next fiscal year introduce at every international airport in Japan a system that can instantly check each visitor’s face against these photos. Combined with checks of fingerprints taken during entry to Japan, this system must be made to function effectively.

With regard to combating organized crime, there has been debate over the pros and cons of establishing conspiracy as a crime, allowing people to be punished for planning to commit a serious crime. Some observers have also advocated the broader monitoring of communications, which current laws only allow to be conducted within a severely restricted scope.

We hope the government will craft effective policies while giving due consideration to human rights.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 19, 2015)


G20対テロ声明 国境管理の徹底で封じ込めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
G-20 must contain intl terrorists through rigid border controls
G20対テロ声明 国境管理の徹底で封じ込めよ

The solidarity of the international community in the wake of the simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris must lead to effective measures to combat terrorism.

The Group of 20 (G-20) leaders summit ended with the adoption of a joint statement demonstrating their resolve to fight against terrorism.

The statement declared, “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the heinous terrorist attacks” in Paris on Nov. 13 and in Ankara in October.

It also said that the fight against terrorism “is a major priority for all of our countries” and called on the countries to take measures to cut off the financing channels for terrorism and to counter terrorist propaganda.

The statement also urged the countries to enhance cooperation in information sharing concerning an acutely growing flow of foreign terrorist fighters and thorough border controls.

There is nothing new, in particular, in any one of these specific measures. The countries concerned have already taken relevant measures but have so far been unable to prevent large-scale terror. What is needed is for the international community to strengthen its solidarity and enhance these measures’ effectiveness.

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his intention of intensifying a bombing operations in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “It’s only possible to deal with the terror threat by combining the efforts of the entire global community.”

French President Francois Hollande, who was absent from the G-20 summit, emphasized that “France is at war” with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group. The United States and Russia should respond proactively to France’s call for cooperation to eradicate ISIL.

France will shortly submit to the U.N. Security Council a draft resolution aiming at defeating ISIL. It is important for the security council to adopt such a resolution promptly and support the campaign to wipe out ISIL as the collective will of the global community.

Economic hazards

Terrorism impedes the flow of people and goods and adds uncertainty to the world economy.

The G-20 countries should make efforts to raise their economic growth level with the aim of overcoming problems, such as poverty and youth unemployment, that lie behind terrorism.

The key to meeting these challenges is an expansion in infrastructure investment deemed effective in creating jobs and raising the standard of living in newly emerging economies.

It is quite reasonable that the G-20 statement has pointed out that the “top priority is timely and effective implementation of growth strategies” that would create jobs and reduce inequality.

Also on the agenda was the economic slowdown in China and the prospect of a U.S. interest rate hike. Both are issues that could deal a blow to newly emerging economies. It is important, also from the viewpoint of nipping terrorism in the bud, to keep possible adverse effects to a minimum.

Should China’s economy stall, countries exporting oil and other natural resources will be in a predicament. There was a succession of calls from other G-20 countries urging Beijing to make efforts to structural reform that the country would not become a source of trouble for the world economy.

We agree with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said China needs to make efforts to tackle structural problems, including the scrapping of excessive production equipment.

If the United States raises interest rates, the flow of capital out of emerging economies may accelerate. It is considered appropriate that the G-20 leaders’ declaration called for the U.S. to make discreet decisions on its monetary policy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 18, 2015)


対「イスラム国」 米露の主導権争いは不毛だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Leadership struggle between U.S., Russia over Syrian situation futile
対「イスラム国」 米露の主導権争いは不毛だ

A futile U.S.-Russian conflict over the Syrian situation can only benefit the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group, which carried out simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris.

It is vital for the international community to help bring to an end both the civil war that has bogged down in Syria and the exodus of refugees from the country, and for it to take concerted action to fight ISIL.

At a meeting of countries concerned with the Syrian situation, the United States, European nations, Russia and Arab countries agreed on a political road map aimed at starting talks between the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and opposition groups and holding democratic elections within 18 months.

They probably reached the accord because it was widely recognized that the delay in the international community responding to the Syrian civil war allowed ISIL to increase its sphere of influence and led to the latest terrorist attacks in Paris.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, held unofficial talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Turkey and agreed on the need for a ceasefire and a transition to a new administration. The two leaders hailed the road map as “diplomatic progress” on a political transition in Syria.

Washington’s acceptance of the road map worked out under the leadership of Russia, the Assad regime’s ally, can be considered a bitter concession because the United States had to give in prioritizing international solidarity over changing the Assad regime.

Yet the United States and Russia remain at odds over whether to allow the Assad regime to remain in power. Both countries must continue talks to steadily carry out the transition plan and move closer together.

Obama changes policy

In late October, the Obama administration changed its policy of not deploying ground troops to fight ISIL in Syria and decided to dispatch special forces. The shift in U.S. policy is believed to be taken in response to Russia launching a full-scale intervention with airstrikes in Syria.

The U.S. special forces would be fewer than 50 and train and assist rebels and Kurdish forces. They would neither be deployed on the front lines nor used in combat missions against ISIL.

Obama had earlier planned to have rebel fighters trained outside Syria and have them deployed in ground operations. As few Syrians volunteered for this training program and the U.S. plan virtually collapsed, the United States had no other option but to have its own forces prop up rebel groups.

However, there will be no tangible result if only piecemeal measures are taken every time the situation deteriorates.

The United States has criticized that 80 to 90 percent of Russia’s airstrikes have targeted the moderate Syrian opposition. Washington may be wary of Russia building a solid foothold in the Middle East.

The elimination of ISIL should be the common goal of both the United States and Russia.

The crash of a Russian passenger airliner in late October in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has increasingly been seen as caused by a terrorist bomb. ISIL had much earlier declared that it would retaliate for Russian airstrikes in Syria, and an organization under the wing of ISIL later claimed responsibility for downing the Russian plane.

If the crash is confirmed as a terrorist act taken in retaliation for Russia’s airstrikes, the necessity for the United States and Russia to cooperate in the exchange of information and other areas will grow further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 17, 2015)


パリの同時多発テロ 許せぬ自由社会への暴力

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 15
EDITORIAL: World shares France’s grief after heartless attacks in Paris
(社説)パリの同時多発テロ 許せぬ自由社会への暴力

The cruelty of the terrorist attacks in Paris made us shudder. This barbarous act, which took so many lives indiscriminately, was a tragedy not just for France, but for the entire globe.

A Friday night in Paris turned murderous. Random shootings and explosions occurred almost simultaneously at multiple locations in central parts of the city, leaving a tremendous number of people dead or wounded.

All the attacks took place at venues that were bustling with crowds. Guns were fired at random in a hall that was hosting a rock concert packed with young people, as well as at restaurants and a cafe. Bomb blasts, apparently from suicide bombers, rocked a soccer stadium in the suburbs.

Most of the victims were ordinary citizens who had nothing to do with conflicts or extremist thought. The grief of the victims and their families can never be fully fathomed.

This barbarous act of violence on citizens can never be forgiven.

The most important task for the government of France, for the time being, will be to eliminate public anxiety by restoring peace and order. The French government should also move steadily to uncover the facts and background behind the attacks.

The international community should work together to support that effort. France is not the only nation that is bearing the brunt of terrorism. Every citizen should be reminded that his or her country could be facing the same danger tomorrow.


In January, Paris was the site of successive attacks on the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper, and a kosher grocery. Seventeen people, including citizens and police officers, were killed in the serial attacks.

The latest attacks took place at a time when the Charlie Hebdo tragedy was still fresh in many minds, leaving the public seriously shocked.

Anxiety is also spreading across the globe, because later this month Paris will host the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). The terrorists possibly also had that in mind.

Since January, the government of France was supposed to have strengthened security in an all-out effort to prevent a recurrence. But that measure still failed to block the multiple coordinated attacks that once again stained the French capital in blood.

Civil facilities are called “soft targets,” which are not quite like military or other establishments. Even though their vulnerability to attacks is no secret, we are faced with a dilemma, whereby stepping up control over human mobility could erode the principles of a liberalist society.

Terrorist attacks are called challenges to freedom exactly for that reason.

Whatever their direct political motives, terrorist attacks are always intended to incite fear in a peaceful and civilized society and create a divide between people.

As in the case of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January, it has been pointed out that radical Islamists were involved in the latest attacks. But, even if that is true, we should not readily associate the attacks with Muslims at large or with immigrant communities.

It comes across as all too natural that a group of French Muslims has released a statement denouncing the attacks. Similar incidents are often followed by speech and actions that encourage attacks on Muslims or rejection of immigrants.

We should not play into the terrorists’ hands and allow society to become divided, which is what the terrorists want. We should remain level-headed and steady in taking countermeasures without compromising the principles of freedom.


The French government believes the latest attacks were perpetrated by the Islamic State (IS), a group of extremists that has expanded its influence in the Middle East.

Individuals under the influence of IS have carried out terrorist attacks in many parts of the world. French government officials said the latest attacks were planned and organized outside France.

Paris decided to institute military actions in the Middle East from last year. It joined a U.S.-led coalition and began air raids on targets in Iraq, and starting this autumn has also been conducting air strikes in Syria against the IS.

If the latest attacks were intended as retaliation against these actions, that means the world is once again facing a global chain of violence that transcends national and regional borders.

The 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001 were carried out by al-Qaida, a militant Islamist organization that was based in Afghanistan.

The Madrid train bombings of 2004 and the London bombings of 2005 were associated with the Iraq War and other turbulence in the Middle East. The latest attacks also appear highly likely to be repercussions in Europe of the wars being fought in the Middle East over the IS issue.

The civil war in Syria, which has yet to show signs of dissipating, has resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 people and has displaced millions of refugees and evacuees. The chaotic state there is generating serious global problems, including the proliferation of terrorism and an outflow of refugees.

Dilapidation, warfare and poverty in a certain region, no matter what remote corner of the world, are bound to erode the stability of the entire global community in due course of time.

The ravaging consequences of the terrorist attacks should give us opportunities to once again reflect on the pathological state threatening today’s world and reconfirm the will of the international community to take that as a challenge and face it.


After the latest attacks, French President Francois Hollande declared a state of emergency and had the country’s borders closed. The authorities called on the public to stay home and are restricting movement within the capital.

Although those response measures are well-intentioned to ensure safety and carry out investigations, they will inevitably cause a slowdown in civic life. We hope France will manage to get past the current crisis without forgetting its standing as a world-leading advocate of human rights.

Other nations, including Japan, should share the pain and grief of the French people and reaffirm their determination to create a world free of terrorism.


パリ同時テロ 非道な「戦争行為」は許されぬ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Multiple attacks on Paris a brutal ‘act of war,’ must never be condoned
パリ同時テロ 非道な「戦争行為」は許されぬ

The latest gun and bomb attacks at locations across Paris were brutal acts of terrorism indiscriminately targeting ordinary citizens. Whatever the motive, these acts must never be condoned.

The international community must be more firmly united in its renewed efforts to prevent barbarous acts by terrorist organizations.

On Friday night, shootings and explosions occurred nearly simultaneously at a theater, restaurants and elsewhere in Paris, killing more than 120 people. French President Francois Hollande has declared a national state of emergency, describing the events in a TV address to be “terrorist attacks of unprecedented proportions.”

On Saturday, a militant group affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) released an online statement claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks. At a press conference, Hollande affirmed the attacks were “an act of war” committed by the ISIL militant group.

Since September, France has been taking part in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on ISIL in Syria. One likely explanation is that Friday’s attacks were made in retaliation to France’s actions.

A group of attackers used automatic rifles to fire wildly inside the theater, where a rock concert was taking place, killing dozens of people in the audience. There were also what seemed to be suicide bomb attacks near a sports stadium in the suburbs where Hollande was watching a friendly soccer game between France and Germany.

Several people responsible for Friday’s attacks are believed to have been killed. Other attackers may be on the run.

French authorities must strive to normalize the situation and restore public security at an early date while also establishing an overall picture of the attacks.

Bolster security measures

In January, gunmen linked to a militant group separate from ISIL carried out attacks on a weekly political newspaper office and elsewhere in Paris. After the incident, the French authorities strengthened their monitoring of people believed to harbor radical beliefs, with about 10,000 soldiers mobilized to guard the country.

In Europe, young people with Islamic roots that have been radicalized by extremist groups have posed an increasingly serious problem.

There will be a U.N. climate change conference in Paris at the end of this month — officially titled the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). The conference will be attended by top-level leaders from nations around the world, meaning there is a pressing need to reconsider the security precautions taken for the meeting.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Friday’s incident as “an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.” British Prime Minister David Cameron told the French: “We will do whatever we can to help.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has emphasized that Japan will “closely cooperate with France and other members of the international community in striving to prevent acts of terrorism.” It is important for nations around the world to share terrorism-related information and further increase their cooperation on such antiterrorism measures as immigration and emigration controls.

Japan and other pertinent countries should use the Group of 20 summit talks in Turkey as an initial step in renewed antiterrorism cooperation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 15, 2015)


行革公開検証 もんじゅが焦点だ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 10
EDITORIAL: Scrap Monju reactor project and use money to develop renewable energies
(社説)行革公開検証 もんじゅが焦点だ

The annual public review of policy programs by the government to identify wasteful spending ends on Nov. 13. For three days, the government’s administrative reform promotion council has been scouring the budgets of ministries and agencies for savings.

The focus of the budget review this year is the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority recently recommended that the operator of the troubled-plagued experimental reactor, the government-affiliated Japan Atomic Energy Agency, should be replaced.

Certain expenditures related to the Monju project, mainly state subsidies, were examined in the public review. But the council should take this opportunity to scrutinize all aspects of the controversial project instead of evaluating only the subsidies. We are keen to see the panel demonstrate that continuing the project doesn’t make sense and the reactor should be decommissioned from the viewpoint of administrative reforms.

It is already clear that the Monju project is a financial folly.

The construction cost, which was originally estimated at 35 billion yen ($285 million) when the project was in an early planning stage in the 1970s, has ballooned to 1 trillion yen. Although the reactor has been offline for more than 20 years due to a series of accidents and scandals, 20 billion yen is still spent annually, or 50 million yen a day, for maintenance.

The maintenance costs of the reactor under the initial budget for the current fiscal year are almost equivalent to the amount (23.8 billion yen) being shelled out to promote renewable energy projects for local power production and consumption.

The outlays for the Monju project are far larger than the spending on a demonstration project to build a transmission network for wind power generation (10.5 billion yen) or the appropriation to support research for the development of geothermal power sources (8 billion yen).

Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan widened the scope of its energy policy to make greater efforts to develop and promote alternative power sources, including renewable energy.

Instead of spending a huge amount of taxpayer money to keep Monju alive, the government should use the cash to build a new, cleaner energy future for this nation.

Japan is facing a serious fiscal crunch. The government is drowning in a sea of debt as its welfare spending is surging amid the rapid aging of the nation’s population.

The government has no choice but to raise taxes while cutting its expenditures on social security, education and other programs.

It cannot afford the luxury of pouring a hefty sum of money into a questionable nuclear reactor with no prospects for practical operation.

The Monju project has survived for so long despite its troubled history because nobody loses money when the reactor is out of operation.

When a reactor operated by an electric utility is shut down because of an accident or a scandal, the company will immediately face a rise in costs that hurts its financial standing.

In contrast, Monju is treated as a research reactor, and the national program gets funded almost automatically.

Both the industry ministry and the science and technology ministry, which are in charge of the nuclear power policy, have a clear interest in supporting the continuation of the Monju project.

If this project is terminated, these ministries will be forced to make a sweeping review of the entire nuclear fuel recycling program and tackle the formidable challenge of disposing of plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel.

This year’s public budget review is led by Taro Kono, the newly appointed minister in charge of administrative reform who has been a champion of the cause.

We urge Kono to make the decision to scrap the Monju project as a step to press ahead with meaningful administrative reforms.

There is definitely no reason for approving annual spending of 20 billion yen as the cost of postponing this decision.


MRJ初飛行 航空機産業の裾野を広げたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
MRJ’s maiden flight must lead to broader horizons for aircraft industry
MRJ初飛行 航空機産業の裾野を広げたい

Japan’s first domestic-made passenger jet has successfully completed its maiden flight.

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet has been developed by Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. It is the first commercial aircraft to be made in Japan since production of the YS-11 turboprop airliner started about half a century ago.

We hope this will be a golden opportunity to invigorate the domestic aircraft industry.

The MRJ is a small plane built for short-distance flights linking cities. Its main selling points are a lightweight body and a new-type engine that has superb fuel efficiency. These features have made the MRJ about 20 percent more fuel-efficient than similar models produced by its competitors. The first delivery of the MRJ is set for 2017.

The global market for small passenger planes is expected to grow rapidly. In the next 20 years, demand is expected to top 5,000 jets, especially in emerging economies such as nations in Southeast Asia that are experiencing sizzling economic growth. The MRJ aims to capture orders for half of this market.

A string of design changes and other factors resulted in the MRJ’s first flight taking to the skies about four years later than initially scheduled. During this time, the MRJ’s superiority over its rivals has undeniably been eroded.

At present, Bombardier Inc. of Canada and Embraer SA of Brazil dominate the market for regional jets. The key to the MRJ’s success will be how it can break the stranglehold these companies have on the market.

Give companies support

Orders have already been received for more than 400 MRJ planes. Overseas sales promotions by top-ranking government officials will be essential to rake in more orders.

If more orders are locked in, the MRJ can be expected to nurture a core industry that will be a driving force for Japanese economic growth.

Major companies in Japan’s aircraft industry, such as Toray Industries and IHI Corp., have participated in developing passenger jets for Boeing Co. of the United States. They have refined their technologies while supplying carbon fiber parts for main wings and other components. It is vital for the expertise fostered by these large companies to be spread to small and midsize businesses.

In specific terms, we hope the proportion of domestically made parts in the MRJ — which is currently stuck at about 30 percent — will be increased as much as possible. Each MRJ is made from about 1 million parts, which is 30 times the number of parts contained in a car. There is wide scope for expansion in this industry.

It is necessary to encourage small and midsize companies possessing excellent technologies to enter this market, and to bring together the might of Japanese manufacturing.

Aerospace Iida established in the Iida district of Nagano Prefecture is a cluster of small and midsize precision-machinery and processing companies working on the development of parts for cockpits and wings. Some parts produced by them have been used in the MRJ.

“Whether we can provide high-quality parts at low cost will be key,” according to a company in Aichi Prefecture that makes the frame of the MRJ tail.

The government and large companies that are prime contractors will need to work together and support small and midsize firms with proven records in producing car parts and other components, such as by offering technical guidance tailored to the production of aircraft.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 13, 2015)


ミャンマー選挙 経済発展路線の継承が課題だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
After election, keep Myanmar’s economic development on track
ミャンマー選挙 経済発展路線の継承が課題だ

It is important that the economic development course put in motion by the administration of Myanmar President Thein Sein be inherited, and that nation-building efforts there are steadily kept on track.

A general election has been held in Myanmar for the first time since the transition from military rule to democratic government in 2011.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spearheaded the prodemocracy movement in Myanmar, is likely to win more than two-thirds of the seats up for election and not reserved for military representatives. The NLD, which is the largest opposition party, is forecast to secure a majority in the parliament.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was formed by the old military junta, has admitted defeat. The parliament will choose the president in February 2016, and the possibility of a change in administration has increased.

Thein Sein’s administration snapped Myanmar’s excessive dependence on China and achieved high economic growth by improving the investment environment, which has pulled in more capital from overseas.

Despite these achievements, the USDP’s heavy defeat appears to be the result of demands for greater reform from the people who still distrust the military.

In 1990, the military government did not accept the result of a general election in which the NLD recorded a comprehensive victory, and refused to hand over power. The NLD boycotted the 2010 general election in opposition to rules put in place by the military government.

The latest election was conducted without any major disturbances, although there were flaws in the process including some people being unable to register on voter lists. Overall, the election can be applauded as a sign of progress in Myanmar’s democratization.

Suu Kyi’s odd comment

Myanmar’s Constitution contains a clause that prohibits anyone whose spouse or children are foreign citizens from becoming president. Consequently, Suu Kyi, whose sons are British, is disqualified from this position.

It is difficult to understand that, before the election, Suu Kyi said she would take a position “above the president” if the NLD triumphed. Does Suu Kyi intend to set up a puppet government even while she herself has been calling for greater democratization?

During the election campaign, there was no mention of her design for the administration, and no concrete policies have been revealed. Her political skills are questioned.

A pile of difficult issues need to be addressed. Achieving peace with armed groups among Myanmar’s ethnic minorities will not be easy. National reconciliation, including reducing religious conflict, is an urgent task.

The NLD lacks human resources capable of running a government. Even if a change in power does occur, the NLD will sooner or later become unable to keep going without the cooperation of the military and the USDP.

Myanmar has high strategic value due to its vital location linking the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Japan, the United States and other nations with interests in this region must strengthen ties with Myanmar to keep a check on China, whose unilateral maritime advances are heightening tensions in this area.

Japan welcomed the course taken by the administration of Thein Sein and actively supported it through a two-pronged policy of official development assistance and private investment. Political stability in Myanmar is essential for Japanese companies that have entered markets there. The public and private sectors should work closely together and continue to push for reform in Myanmar.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 12, 2015)


衆院閉会中審査 競争力を強めるTPP対策に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
TPP-related measures must build strength of farming, manufacturing
衆院閉会中審査 競争力を強めるTPP対策に

The government must thoroughly explain the significance of a broad agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact and steadily carry out related measures at home.

The House of Representatives’ Budget Committee held a session of the Diet’s adjournment inspection on Tuesday, with the TPP and other issues taken up for deliberation.

Yuichiro Tamaki of the Democratic Party of Japan criticized the TPP accord reached last month, as it runs counter to a Diet resolution adopted in 2013 seeking to maintain tariffs on the “five key categories” of farm products, including rice and wheat.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pointed out that the tariff-free rate on farm goods to be imported to Japan remains at just 81 percent — markedly lower than in other member countries. “We have reached an accord which is consistent with the aims of the Diet resolution,” he emphasized.

In multinational trade talks, negotiating countries, in principle, need to make concessions to each other. Besides, the tariff-free rate on these five key items stands even lower, at 30 percent, and the reductions mainly apply to items for which Japan has only a modest record of imports and those for which alternatives are not available at home. It cannot be said that the accord runs against the Diet resolution.

Tamaki also labeled the automobile-sector negotiations as ones in which Japan “suffered complete defeat by the United States,” as he said it would take 25 years for U.S. tariffs to be eliminated on Japan-made automobiles.

Abe refuted Tamaki’s remark by saying: “What is important for Japan is to eliminate tariffs on auto parts. And we surely won in this regard.”

In light of the expanding local production of Japanese automakers in the United States, the government, during the TPP talks, put more weight on eliminating tariffs on auto parts than on automobiles themselves. As the tariffs on 80 percent of auto part items to be exported to the United States would be abolished immediately after the TPP takes effect, it can be said that a certain tangible result has been achieved.

Takagi must explain more

While expressing his support for Japan’s joining the TPP pact, Yorihisa Matsuno, leader of the Japan Innovation Party, requested that the TPP-related measures the government will draw up within this month not be unduly weighted toward public-works projects.

It is important that the TPP-related measures incorporate ways to expand the nation’s economic growth by focusing on the enhancement of international competitiveness of Japan’s farming and manufacturing sectors, rather than on the protection of farmers.

Meanwhile, Michiyoshi Yunoki of the DPJ questioned reconstruction minister Tsuyoshi Takagi over an allegation that Takagi had given condolence money to voters in his electoral district.

Takagi said, “The condolence money I offered at the funerals where I went myself was wrongly recorded [as having been given by my political organization in my political fund reports].” He then indicated his view that his deeds did not constitute a violation of the Public Offices Election Law.

But Yunoki was not satisfied with Takagi’s explanation and asserted that through his on-the-spot inquiry he had obtained testimony of a party concerned who said, “Takagi didn’t carry condolence money [when visiting the funeral sites].”

Takagi may need to still assume accountability over the allegations, including one over his having paid for “flowers placed at a deceased person’s bedside.”

The government and the ruling coalition parties plan not to convene an extraordinary session of the Diet this autumn. Since 10 members have joined the Abe Cabinet as new ministers through the latest reshuffle, an extra Diet session should be convened in principle. But as the ordinary Diet session was extended by 95 days this year and diplomatic schedules have been tight since October, it is somewhat inevitable for the extra session to be shelved.

We hope they will create occasions for debates as needed in the days ahead.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 11, 2015)


介護職人材難 意欲と経験が報われる職場に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Workers at homes for elderly must be rewarded for skill, experience
介護職人材難 意欲と経験が報われる職場に

A principal goal of the government’s policy of creating a society that enables the dynamic engagement of all citizens is to reduce the number of workers who quit jobs to provide nursing care to zero. Speaking at a meeting of the Yomiuri International Economic Society, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his policy of building additional special nursing homes for the elderly.

But the facilities will be of little use if they do not have enough workers. We want the government panel on creation of a dynamic society to work out practical measures to ensure procurement of such personnel.

The effective opening-to-application ratio for nursing care jobs remains far above 2 to 1. This indicates that the industry faces serious difficulty in securing necessary personnel. Indeed, some operators have been forced to curtail services because of a lack of personnel.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimates 2.53 million nursing care workers — 800,000 more than exist today — will be required in fiscal 2025, when the first postwar generation of baby boomers will all become 75 years or older. There is likely to be a shortage of 380,000 nursing care workers if the number of such workers continues to increase at the current pace.

The main reason people shun nursing care jobs is the low pay, which now stands at about ¥220,000 a month. This is ¥110,000 less than the average for all industries. A manpower shortage causes a heavy work load, thereby making the job even less popular.

In revising the fees for nursing care services in April, the government expanded an added-fee system so that the monthly payment for nursing care workers can be raised by ¥12,000 on average. Administrative checks must be conducted strictly to determine whether pay hikes have been carried out.

Further improvement in conditions for nursing care workers will be indispensable. It is necessary to study measures to secure fiscal resources for that purpose at such forums as the government panel on creation of a dynamic society.

Steps to secure personnel

It is also essential to establish a system in which the wages of nursing care workers can be decided according to their experience and skills.

Highly specialized skills are required for the treatment of elderly people suffering from dementia. To ensure nursing care workers remain highly motivated, operators should set up a personnel and wage system under which training programs can be carried out systematically and the abilities of workers can be evaluated adequately.

Support by the central government and municipalities is also indispensable. The Shizuoka prefectural government, for example, presents nursing care operators with pay-scale models based on experience. Kyoto Prefecture has been encouraging efforts by nursing care home operators by setting up a certification system for operators who proactively foster human resources.

Nursing homes becoming workplaces where workers can see a bright future plan would help prevent the loss of existing workers and make it easier to secure new personnel.

The bill for revision of the Social Welfare Law that was submitted to the previous Diet session called for, among other things, institutionalizing a system that would require nursing care workers to notify administrative authorities if they quit. This is aimed at improving assistance measures by prefectural welfare personnel centers to help them return to work.

There are more than 500,000 nonworking certified care workers across the country. We strongly hope that the reform bill will be passed as soon as possible.

The utilization of a diversified human resources, including senior citizens, should be stressed. There are many supplementary jobs at nursing care homes, such as cleaning and catering. The foundation for securing personnel can be broadened if the division of roles of these jobs and jobs requiring high-level skills is clarified and training and other programs are developed in line with such a division.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 10, 2015)







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