米ASEAN 南シナ海での狼藉に警告した

The Yomiuri Shimbun
U.S., ASEAN warn Beijing over outrageous actions in S. China Sea
米ASEAN 南シナ海での狼藉に警告した

A message has been sent to China, which is attempting to turn the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea into military strongholds, warning that its self-serving actions are unacceptable.

U.S. President Barack Obama invited leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations for the first U.S.-ASEAN summit to be held in the United States.

With the South China Sea in mind, a joint statement by the leaders set forth the importance of maintaining maritime security and safety by ensuring the right to the freedom of navigation, nonmilitarization and self-restraint. It avoided making pointed references to China but implicitly issued a warning regarding China’s outrageous behavior.

One of the artificial islands China has built in the Spratly Islands reportedly contains a 3,000-meter-class runway and hangars for fighter jets.

Test flights were conducted on the island at the beginning of this year, and full-fledged operations of the runway are expected to start shortly.

China has also reportedly deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system and a radar system on an island it effectively controls in the Paracel Islands.

Viewing the United States as an “extra-regional state” in the South China Sea, China refuses to accept U.S. intervention in the region. China may be making too light of the situation, thinking that once it excludes U.S. influence from the region, it can make its maritime interests a fait accompli.

Yet the safety of sea lanes is a common good for the international community, including Japan.

It was natural for Obama and ASEAN leaders to have announced in the joint statement the significance of “an international order where international rules and norms and the rights of all nations are upheld.”

Regular sailings needed

Last October and in January this year, U.S. Navy vessels sailed close to disputed islands in the South China Sea, conducting patrols to concretely demonstrate the right to the freedom of navigation.

At a press conference, Obama said the United States would “continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” clarifying again that the United States would continue its activities in the region. To deter China from taking provocative steps, it is essential for U.S. warships to sail there regularly.

The noticeable difference among ASEAN countries’ enthusiasm for holding China in check is a matter of concern. Such countries as Laos, the current ASEAN chair, and Cambodia have close economic ties with China. A situation in which ASEAN members become further divided in their positions, weakening the pressure they put on China, must be avoided.

The United States is being called on to promote its rebalancing policy, which focuses on Asia, and to exercise strong leadership. Obama’s planned visit to Vietnam in May is part of such efforts.

Obama and ASEAN leaders at the summit also discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord, participated in by 12 countries, including Japan and the United States.

Obama welcomed the participation of four ASEAN members, including Singapore, while expressing support for the remaining six, including Indonesia and Thailand, to join.

An expanded membership in the TPP accord, which strictly regulates trade and investment, would help restrain China, which is taking hegemonic actions in economic fields as well. Greater participation in the TPP by ASEAN member countries would also help vitalize Japan’s trade.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 18, 2016)


朝鮮半島緊張 「北」の軍事挑発に警戒怠るな

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Vigilance must be increased over North Korean military provocation
朝鮮半島緊張 「北」の軍事挑発に警戒怠るな

Ignoring repeated calls for self-restraint from the international community, North Korea continues taking provocative actions. Pyongyang should quickly recognize that such actions will only deepen its isolation and aggravate its plight.

The Korean Central News Agency reported Monday that Kim Jong Un, the first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, called for more satellite launches in the future. This suggests that the country will launch long-range ballistic missiles again.

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani pointed out Tuesday, “We cannot rule out the possibility of North Korea’s repeatedly launching missiles on the pretext of launching satellites.”

It is important for Japan to cooperate with other countries concerned, including the United States and South Korea, and increase its vigilance.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in a parliamentary address, “If time passes like this with no change, Kim Jong Un’s regime, on a reckless run without brakes, will deploy nuclear missiles.” It was reasonable for Park to have warned the nation of the danger of an increasing North Korean threat in light of advances in the North’s military technologies.

In imposing sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear test last month and the latest launch of a long-range ballistic missile, South Korea suspended all operations at Kaesong industrial park, a jointly run cooperation project in North Korea.

Problematic is that North Korea has unilaterally declared the Kaesong complex a military control zone and shut down cross-border telecommunications hot lines for both military forces.

North Korea has taken these steps apparently because it was upset by Seoul’s aiming to cut financial resources of the Kim regime.

Concerted trilateral moves

Since the Kaesong industrial complex started operations in 2004, North Korea has earned a total of $560 million (or about ¥63.4 billion) in foreign currency, including workers’ wages. Seventy percent of the money paid in wages and for other things is said to have gone to the Workers’ Party, which funneled it toward its nuclear and missile development programs or to purchase luxury goods.

There were also news reports saying that the chief of staff of the North Korean Army was recently executed. First Secretary Kim may have become unable to maintain his regime without resorting to a reign of terror by purging one aide after another among senior officials of the military or the ruling party.

It is inevitable for the tensions between the two Koreas to increase. The U.S. forces will deploy a nuclear-powered attack submarine and F-22 stealth fighter planes in and around South Korea. The United States and South Korea should cooperate and deter North Korea from engaging in military provocations.

In her address, Park emphasized that her country is advancing the buildup of defense capabilities of the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

Park’s new policy of negotiating with Washington over the deployment of a state-of-the-art U.S. missile defense system in her country, which she had been wary about, is also part of the defense buildup.

In South Korea, senior officials of the ruling party, a leading newspaper and others have begun to publicly refer to the idea of arming the country with nuclear weapons. Park’s parliamentary remarks may also be aimed at cooling off such a move.

Park has highly rated Japan’s imposition of unilateral sanctions on North Korea, saying it has demonstrated Japan’s strong will not to overlook its behavior.

It is vitally important to make use of the momentum of concerted moves by Japan, the United States and South Korea toward tough sanctions against North Korea so as to realize the adoption of a resolution by the U.N. Security Council.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 17, 2016)


丸川環境相 撤回しても残る「軽さ」

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 16
(社説)丸川環境相 撤回しても残る「軽さ」
EDITORIAL: Marukawa’s gaffe about Fukushima heightens doubts about Cabinet's aptitude

Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa caused a stir by claiming the government had no scientific grounds for its radiation decontamination target around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Her comment came in a Feb. 7 speech on the government’s long-term goal of reducing radiation levels near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to an annual dose of 1 millisievert or less.

“There are people who worry about radiation no matter how much the levels have been lowered, people who might well be described, appropriately or not, as an ‘anti-radiation camp,’” Marukawa said. “While such people were making noise, the environment minister at that time decided (on the target) without any scientific grounds.”

Her remarks were reported the following day by The Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, a local newspaper.

Decontaminating areas polluted with radioactive materials and curbing additional exposure to radiation is one of the top policy priorities for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.

Nearly five years since the nuclear disaster unfolded, decontamination efforts alone appear unlikely to achieve the long-term target in some areas. Residents from these areas have no hope of returning to home soon.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government set the long-term decontamination goal based on recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection. The panel recommended annual doses in the range of “1 to 20 millisievert” as a yardstick for recovery from the accident.

The government’s decision to adopt the stricter end of the recommended range for the decontamination target reflected strong demand for absolute safety and security among communities in the affected areas.

Responding to residents’ desire to return home as soon as possible while pursuing the tough long-term goal has proved a formidable challenge.

The goal, determined after considering a complicated mix of factors, has forced the government to continue making strenuous efforts while learning from mistakes.

If Marukawa didn’t know this background, she should be accused of failing to do her homework. Or did she know all these facts and was simply trying to demean the previous DPJ-led government?

Even more troubling is how she flip-flopped in replying to questions about her remark.

The environment minister initially responded to questions posed at the Diet and from reporters by repeatedly saying she had “no recollection of using such wording” in the speech.

On the morning of Feb. 12, however, she changed her account and admitted having made the comments. She retracted the remarks in the evening that day.

Did she really forget making the remarks? Or did she bet that people would eventually forget the matter if she kept saying she had no memory of saying such things?

In any case, Marukawa’s remarks raise serious questions about her aptitude for her job.

However, Marukawa is not the only Cabinet member who has made a verbal blunder indicating a disturbing carelessness in speech.

In a Feb. 9 news conference, Aiko Shimajiri, the state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs, could not read the kanji characters for the Habomai group of islets, and asked her secretary how the characters should be read. The Habomai islets are part of the Northern Territories, a chain of islands claimed by Japan but occupied by Russia.

Abe himself recently made an embarrassing verbal error.
In an Internet program of his Liberal Democratic Party, Abe misnamed the 2014 Stockholm agreement in which North Korea promised a fresh investigation into the fates of Japanese citizens it had abducted decades earlier. Abe mistakenly called it the Oslo Agreement, a 1993 peace accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Nobody is free from slips of the tongue or misunderstandings.

But the above-mentioned errors are serious because dealing with the nuclear disaster, tackling the territorial dispute with Russia and resolving the North Korea abduction issue are important challenges placed high on the Abe Cabinet’s policy agenda.

These gaffes could call into question not only the ministers’ qualifications for their jobs but also the Cabinet’s stances toward the issues.


拉致再調査中止 「北」の揺さぶりに冷静対処を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt needs to calmly deal with N. Korea’s halt to abduction probe
拉致再調査中止 「北」の揺さぶりに冷静対処を

North Korea’s latest act is a despicable attempt to pressure our nation. The Japanese government should not be upset by this, and must make persistent efforts to resolve the issue of the Japanese nationals abducted by that country.

North Korea has announced it will completely halt a renewed investigation it launched regarding the fate of Japanese abductees and others in July 2014. It also said it would dissolve the Special Investigation Committee.

According to an announcement by North Korea, the latest move has been taken as a response to the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s strengthening its unilateral sanctions on the country. In the same announcement, North Korea also threatened Japan that it will “continue strong countermeasures to Japan’s provocative acts of hostility.”

North Korea also asserts that Japan’s move to strengthen its sanctions was tantamount to “nullifying” the Stockholm agreement reached in May 2014 to reinvestigate. Japan’s position is that it has no intention to abrogate the accord.

Under the agreement, Japan lifted part of the sanctions it imposed on North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang’s renewed investigation into the fate of the Japanese nationals in question. They include the 12 people who have been acknowledged by the Japanese government as abductees, but have not yet returned to Japan, as well as other Japanese missing and thought have been abducted by North Korean agents.

Japan’s action to reinforce sanctions was in response to North Korea’s recent move to conduct a nuclear test and launch a ballistic missile, thereby threatening regional security. North Korea’s accusations against our nation are absurd.

It should be noted, first of all, that North Korea has put off reporting the pertinent findings of its probe for more than 1½ years, including what has become of those who were abducted. Although North Korea told Japan that it “has set up four subcommittees” on the committee, it is doubtful whether the country has actually seriously renewed its investigations into the abductions.

World must step up pressure

North Korea’s conduct has been particularly hard on the abductees’ families, who had pinned their hopes on the renewed probe.

Shutting its eyes to its own atrocities, Pyongyang has blamed the whole problem on Japan. Its assertions are totally unacceptable.

The Japanese government has lodged a protest with North Korea through diplomatic channels. Katsunobu Kato, the minister in charge of the abduction issue, has emphasized that he wants to “do [his] utmost to get North Korea to take specific actions, through dialogue and pressure and under the principle of action for action.” He had every reason to strongly demand Pyongyang continue its reinvestigation into the abduction issue.

North Korea has sought to gain greater rewards for fewer concessions by providing various pieces of scattered information. This approach is the country’s usual ploy. The Japanese government should never be cajoled into following North Korea’s lead on bilateral negotiations.

North Korea’s announcement on its suspension of the renewed probe may also be viewed as an attempt to disrupt Japan’s cooperative ties with the United States and South Korea by focusing on a problem unique to our nation.

Japan’s basic policy is to seek a comprehensive solution to both the abduction issue and North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile development. This is the time for Japan to cooperate with the international community to step up pressure on North Korea to rein in its dangerous acts of provocation.

South Korea has imposed a unilateral sanction on the North by shutting down operations at the Kaesong industrial complex, an inter-Korea cooperative project. The United States is also set to strengthen its economic sanctions on North Korea.

As in the past, it is important for Japan, the United States and South Korea to closely cooperate with each other. The emphasis should be put on ensuring that the U.N. Security Council soon adopts additional stern sanctions on North Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 14, 2016)


衆院選制度改革 自民党案で合意形成できるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Can consensus be achieved through LDP’s lower house electoral reform plan?
衆院選制度改革 自民党案で合意形成できるか

The electoral system is the foundation of democracy. It is desirable that the system is reformed based on a broad consensus among the ruling and opposition parties. However, a draft plan proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party looks unlikely to win the understanding of other parties.

According to the draft plan on reforming the House of Representatives electoral system compiled by the LDP, only demarcation of single-seat constituencies would be reviewed based on simplified censuses conducted in 2015, while the number of seats allocated to prefectures would be maintained, to reduce vote-value disparities to less than 2 to 1.

The LDP draft plan also says the reduction of lower house seats and the review of their allocation to prefectures would be postponed until after full censuses are conducted in 2020. The LDP proposes eliminating six seats in single-seat constituencies and four in proportional representation blocs, but details on how to allocate the number of seats to prefectures — which is the most important point — are still unclear.

The LDP claims its draft plan is based on a report submitted by a research panel of experts on lower house electoral system reform, but the party seems to lack sincerity.

The panel says in its report that the Adams’ method should be used to reallocate lower house seats to prefectures. According to the report, this would increase the number of seats allocated to Tokyo and four prefectures by seven in total, while 13 prefectures would lose one seat each. Even if population changes in the future are taken into consideration, the vote-value disparity is expected to be less than 2 to 1 for a while.

Compared to other major allocation methods, the Adams’ method is said to be advantageous to less-populated prefectures. The LDP is critical of the panel’s report for being harsh on provincial regions. However, it certainly pays due consideration to them.

In the report, redrawing electoral districts at the time of simplified censuses is considered merely a supplementary measure for the correction of the number of lower house seats to be done every 10 years.

Respect panel’s report

The LDP’s draft plan, which would change demarcation of constituencies first, cannot help but give the impression that the party has employed only parts of the report for its own convenience. Doesn’t the LDP, in its heart of hearts, only want to avoid opposition from incumbent lawmakers whose constituencies are in prefectures where lower house seats might be reduced?

A major problem with the LDP’s draft plan is that electoral districts would have to be redrawn widely twice — this time, and five years from now.

If demarcation of constituencies is changed often, it could damage the stability of the electoral system. It would also weaken relations between voters and lawmakers or candidates.

Since the LDP failed to reach an agreement on an electoral reform plan in its negotiations with the other parties in the first place, didn’t the party decide to let experts discuss the issue and pledge to respect their report?

Of course, as the report expresses doubt about the necessity to reduce the number of lower house seats, there is some room for discussion on that point. However, it is unreasonable not to accept the Adams’ method, a basic part of the report, and postpone fundamental reform for as long as five years.

Some members of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan have already voiced criticism about the LDP plan, calling it “out of the question.”

Transition to a new electoral system will require revision of the Public Offices Election Law and other relevant laws, and reviewing the demarcation of electoral districts.

The LDP, which is far more powerful than any of the other parties in the lower house, bears the grave responsibility of leading discussions on electoral system reform. The party must refine its draft plan, rising above party interests and strategy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 13, 2016)


「重力波」初観測 宇宙への新しい窓が開いた

The Yomiuri Shimbun
1st detection of gravitational waves opens new window to universe
「重力波」初観測 宇宙への新しい窓が開いた

It is highly significant that a new observation method has been acquired to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

A research team that includes the California Institute of Technology has announced it detected gravitational waves from the universe.

Albert Einstein hypothesized the existence of gravitational waves a century ago based on his theory of general relativity.

According to Einstein’s theory, celestial bodies like black holes, which have a huge mass, would warp space-time around them. If such bodies collided, the warp would spread like ripples.

The research team believes the gravitational waves it detected were generated 1.3 billion light years from Earth when two black holes merged.

Celestial bodies with a large mass could not be observed directly by the electromagnetic waves — such as light, radio waves and X-rays — that have been conventionally used in astronomy.

The mass and internal conditions of stars can be inferred by observing gravitational waves. The findings may lead to elucidating such mysteries as how black holes whose nature has not been fully understood are created and how they inflate.

Gravitational waves are said to have been generated in the huge expansion of space that occurred right after the Big Bang, which created the cosmos, and the same ripples are said to still exist in space even today. The detection of such ripples may become reality.

Hopes for KAGRA project

The U.S. team’s landmark discovery has been supported by high-precision observation equipment.

The coherence of laser beams was used to measure the warps. Laser beams were sent through two pipes, each measuring four kilometers long, to detect warps of space-time caused by gravitational waves.

The measured warps were only one-ten quadrillionth of a millimeter. Vibration control equipment was installed to prevent the observation from being affected by vibrations caused by wind, sea waves and road traffic. The team has reportedly looked into all other possibilities to confirm that the observed data represented gravitational waves.

Similar observations have been attempted in Japan and Europe. A gravitational wave telescope named KAGRA, now under construction at the site of a mine in Hida, Gifu Prefecure, will start test operations this spring.

Leading the KAGRA project is Takaaki Kajita, a 2015 Nobel Prize laureate in Physics and the director of the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo. Kajita expressed willingness to join international efforts in space observation, saying, “With the participation of KAGRA, the accuracy of observations will improve.”

The U.S. team was able to obtain its results soon after it started observations. Expectations are mounting regarding what discoveries KAGRA will make.

Japan has a long tradition in the field of astrophysics, and has contributed to the observation of neutrinos, thereby developing the science of astronomy.

We also want to see next-generation researchers mature in the field of gravitational wave astronomy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 13, 2016)


米大統領選 政治不信が招く非主流派躍進

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Outsider candidates dominate U.S. presidential race amid public distrust
米大統領選 政治不信が招く非主流派躍進

Candidates outside the mainstream who are rebelling against the establishment have been gaining ground in the race for the Democratic and Republican nominations for president of the United States. The final election will be held in November.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a strongly left-wing, self-described “democratic socialist,” won the Democratic Party’s primary in New Hampshire over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This marked a difficult start for Clinton, the favored candidate for the party’s nomination, despite her narrow win in the Iowa caucuses.

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who has no prior political career, emerged victorious in the Republican Party’s primary in New Hampshire. In Iowa, Trump placed second behind Ted Cruz, a nonmainstream conservative hard-liner.

Indecisive politics continue due to partisan confrontation in Washington. The decline of American influence in the international community is evident. The emergence of these nonmainstream candidates, it may be said, reflects the people’s distrust of and discontent with such developments.

If candidates prevail in early-stage primaries that draw significant media attention, they will be able to gather more campaign funds and support due to the psychological effect of jumping on the bandwagon. The whirlwind set off by the candidates who are standing outside the center of politics will not cease for some time.

Conservatives and liberals have become further polarized under the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama. No national consensus can be found regarding the reform of the medical insurance system, the strengthening of gun control and the process for accepting immigrants.

National consensus illusive

The standard of living for middle- and low-income earners has not improved as their job opportunities decreased due to the transfer of factories to China and other countries, as well as the inflow of immigrants. A sense of unfairness toward the rich has spread among the people.

Of concern is the emergence of a populism that serves to incite amid such a deadlock.

Trump has called for “making America great again” and openly expressed his hostile feelings toward China and Mexico, among other countries. He has even gone so far as to argue for forcible deportation of illegal immigrants and an entry ban on Muslims. Trump is also opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework and is calling for huge tax cuts.

Sanders, a champion of “antiestablishment” policies whose signature campaign promise is the correction of economic inequality, has obtained overwhelming support from the young and other voters by proposing to make tuition free at public universities, and dissolve major financial institutions.

But the campaign promises of Trump and Sanders are nothing but extreme arguments with little chance of being realized.

It is hard to understand why Clinton, who had pushed for the TPP pact as a member of the Obama administration, has changed tack to oppose it. Even if it is a temporary strategy for the campaign, we are left with the undeniable impression that she has been drawn into a swirl of populism.

If the candidates only deny the existing political and economic systems and compete to make radical and inward-looking arguments, neither national reconciliation nor the recovery of America’s credibility can be realized. We want to see constructive debate that will contribute to repairing social rifts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 12, 2016)


対「北」独自制裁 厳格な安保理決議の先駆けに

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan should lead push for tough UNSC resolution on North Korea
対「北」独自制裁 厳格な安保理決議の先駆けに

It is important not to ignore the reckless actions repeatedly taken by North Korea and to swiftly implement tough sanctions against that country. Japan should play a leading role in a concerted effort by the international community.

The government held a meeting of the National Security Council on Wednesday, attended by its four ministers, and decided to revive and strengthen its unilateral sanctions against North Korea.

Nuclear tests and the launch of long-range ballistic missiles by North Korea pose direct threats to Japan. It is a matter of course for Japan to have promptly taken harsh measures.

These measures include a ban on the reentry of senior officials of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) who have returned home to North Korea, and a ban on entry into Japanese ports by all vessels of North Korean registry, including those on humanitarian missions. All these measures were lifted when Pyongyang began in July 2014 its reinvestigation of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea or suspected to have been abducted.

Added to the reentry ban are engineers related to nuclear and missile technologies. The government has also gone so far as to ban, in principle, remittances to North Korea.

North Korea has postponed presenting to Japan the results of its reinvestigation into Japanese citizens abducted to that country or suspected to have been abducted. As long as Pyongyang continues making such insincere responses, it is reasonable for Japan to decide to revive and strengthen unilateral sanctions on North Korea, in line with the principle of “action for action.”

Don’t close doors

Actions taken by the North Korean regime under Kim Jong Un have become ever more uncertain.

The Foreign Ministry, the National Police Agency and other government organizations must cooperate closely to ensure the effectiveness of the sanctions. At the same time, the government needs to respond flexibly to North Korea, by not cutting off openings for dialogue, for instance.

The government must adhere to its policy of comprehensively resolving the issues of the Japanese abductees and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, and deal with them tenaciously.

Needless to say, Japan’s unilateral sanctions alone will only have a limited effect. It is necessary to hasten the establishment of an international coalition network committed to containing North Korea.

South Korea announced Wednesday that it would suspend operations at the joint industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea, as a unilateral sanction. The move is aimed at reducing the foreign currency earned by Pyongyang, but suspending operations could risk losing a channel for dialogue with North Korea.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held separate phone talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. They agreed to cooperate toward the early adoption of a resolution by the U.N. Security Council.

The biggest stumbling block for the UNSC resolution is China’s reluctant posture.

China has been asserting that sanctions on North Korea should be limited to measures related to its nuclear and missile developments, and opposes sanctions that would affect the lives of the public.

Yet this conciliatory stance taken for many years by China has bolstered North Korea, letting Pyongyang conduct nuclear tests and missile launches repeatedly. This time, it is vital to strengthen real pressure on North Korea.

It is important for Japan, the United States and South Korea to unite to urge China to modify its stance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 11, 2016)


長期金利低下 マイナスに潜む不安

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 10
EDITORIAL: BOJ's negative interest rate policy positively ineffective
(社説)長期金利低下 マイナスに潜む不安

The benchmark 10-year Japanese government bond yield on Feb. 9 fell below zero percent on the market for the first time. Is this good news or bad? Many people probably don’t know, but they certainly must be feeling anxious.

In normal transactions, the idea of negative interest rates is absurd.

Just think about it: You lend money to someone and you have to pay interest to the borrower? That’s ridiculous. You are obviously better off not lending to anyone because you at least won’t lose any money.

The ridiculous situation surrounding Japanese government bonds was caused by the Bank of Japan’s negative interest rate policy announced on Jan. 29.

BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda stressed that adding this negative interest rate policy to his already substantial monetary easing policy “should make for probably the most effective framework in the history of the central bank.”

In a sense, the outcome has surpassed Kuroda’s expectations. Mortgage rates, which were already historically low, have come down further, and the near-nonexistent interest rates on time deposits have shrunk even more. Financial institutions have stopped selling low-yield fund products.

But will these developments improve the Japanese economy? We believe the opposite will be the case.

Even if lending rates drop further, it is unlikely that businesses will suddenly start investing more amid sluggish domestic demand. And even if banks further lower interest rates on savings and move on to negative rates, consumers probably will not start spending more so long as their future remains uncertain.

Switzerland and Sweden have already implemented negative interest rate policies, but their economy-pumping effects have been marginal at best. In fact, there are growing fears of “side effects,” such as people keeping their money under the proverbial mattress and banks losing their earnings.

It will soon be three years since Kuroda went ahead with a “new phase” of quantitative and qualitative monetary easing in keeping with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” theory that drastic monetary easing should jump-start the anemic economy.

Although Abenomics has raised stock prices and devalued the yen against the dollar, it has brought no significant changes to the nation’s economic growth rate and consumer prices. Because of this disappointing outcome, the Bank of Japan adopted the negative interest rate policy last month.

On Feb. 9, the Nikkei 225 index fell by more than 900 points, and the yen-dollar exchange rate closed in the lower 114-yen level for the first time in 15 months. These market reactions were the opposite of what all past monetary easing policies brought, and the central bank obviously did not expect this highly irregular outcome.

If this situation continues, the Japanese economy may well become trapped in a vicious cycle of having to rely on further extreme monetary easing, with no relief in sight. An urgent review of the central bank policy is called for.


北方領土問題 首脳会談で打開の糸口を探れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Abe should find way forward on Northern Territories in talks with Putin
北方領土問題 首脳会談で打開の糸口を探れ

Russia maintains a tough, inflexible position regarding the territorial issue over the northern islands it occupies off Hokkaido. We hope the stalemate will be broken as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds more talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking at a national meeting to demand the return of the four islands on Northern Territories Day on Sunday, Abe said, “Negotiations will be conducted tenaciously to work out a final solution through a dialogue of top leaders.”

Arrangements are being made for Abe to meet with Putin in the southern Russian city of Sochi during the extended holiday period from late April to early May. Tokyo and Moscow will also attempt to determine the most appropriate time for Putin to visit Japan.

Putin’s decision on the matter is indispensable to resolving the territorial issue. Abe’s desire to seek a solution by visiting Russia is therefore understandable.

But opposition can be expected from the United States and some European countries, which are at odds with Russia over the Ukrainian situation. To realize Abe’s visit to Russia ahead of the Ise-Shima summit of the Group of Seven major powers, which will be chaired by Abe, it is essential to secure the understanding of the other G-7 leaders.

Last month, the government established a new representative post on bilateral issues with Russia and appointed Chikahito Harada, former ambassador to Russia. Harada will represent Japan at vice-ministerial meetings with Russia instead of a deputy minister for foreign affairs. The appointment is believed to be aimed at more intensively tackling the territorial issue by establishing a task force for that purpose.

Abe apparently wants to bolster security relations with Russia, thereby checking China’s increased maritime advancement and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

No ‘token of goodwill’

Russia is also wary over China’s emergence. Due to the drop in crude oil prices and the weakness of the ruble, Russia’s economy has continued to deteriorate, with its gross domestic product falling to less than one-fourth of China’s. Some people have expressed concern about the widening gap in strength between the two countries.

Whether Moscow concurs with Tokyo about the importance of improving bilateral relations in Russia’s rivalry with Beijing could be a factor in making progress on the territorial issue.

A statement made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a news conference in late January cannot be overlooked. “Conclusion of a peace treaty is not a synonym for resolution of the territorial issue,” he said bluntly.

Concerning the return of the Habomai group of islets and Shikokan Island, based on the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956, Lavrov said these islands “would be handed over as a token of goodwill, not returned.”

But since the 1993 Tokyo Declaration on Japan-Russia Relations, both governments have confirmed repeatedly that they would try “to resolve the sovereignty issue over the four islands and conclude a peace treaty.” Thus resolution of the territorial issue and conclusion of a peace treaty are inseparable.

There is no mention of “a token of goodwill” in the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration. Lavrov’s self-serving interpretation cannot be accepted.

While attempting to explore the real intention behind Putin’s reference to resolving the territorial dispute “in a draw,” the government must proceed with negotiations prudently and strategically.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 9, 2016)







[ 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.

[ English Newspapers ]
Japan Times
Washington Post
Newyork Times
Bangkok Post
The Nations
Phuket Gazette

[ 英字新聞の英和対訳学習 ]

[ スラチャイ編集の辞書 ]

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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
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07 果物王国タイランド
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