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Suu Kyi's determination to peacefully defy dictatorship remains unchanged

I'm moved to tear several times while editing this column in the morning.
This is also one of the finest columns I've ever read in my life, being edited by an editor with Mainichi Shimbun.
I'm deeply moved.

(Mainichi Japan) February 24, 2011
Suu Kyi's determination to peacefully defy dictatorship remains unchanged

The Mainichi Shimbun resumed Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's column, "Letter from Burma," this year after a 13-year break. I flew to Myanmar where press restrains were in force late last year and visited Suu Kyi's residence prior to the publication of the first part of the column on New Year's Day.

Suu Kyi had been under house arrest there on and off over a 15-year period from 1989 to November last year. I stood by one of the windows of her residence, and thought about how firm her determination must be to spend her life resisting Myanmar's military dictatorship.

The military dictatorship has been in power in Myanmar for nearly half a century since the 1962 coup. Suu Kyi founded the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 1988 in a bid to democratize the country, and the party secured 82 percent of the seats in Parliament in a 1990 general election. Nevertheless, the military regime refused to hand over power to the NLD and suppressed pro-democracy movements.
The military regime has continued a reign of terror, detaining and torturing NLD members and supporters. Last autumn, the regime called a general election and released Suu Kyi from house arrest. However, the shift to civilian rule was a mirage and the military is still ruling the country.

Suu Kyi's residence is situated in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar. Since its gate is higher than an adult's average height, it is impossible to look into her home from the street. There is no other house nearby, and since security forces are surrounding her home round the clock, ordinary citizens are reluctant to approach her house out of fear that security authorities might suspect they have ties to Suu Kyi.

Her house is a western-style two-story building with white walls, and security authorities set up a fence with barbed wire behind her home facing a lake. When I saw a scene at the lakeside while waiting for her to return home, I could hardly believe my eyes. There, dozens of couples were dating while people with children were taking a walk. A promenade leads to an amusement park and a Ferris wheel towers over trees.

A place isolated from the outside world and a place where citizens lead their daily lives coexist there -- a ruthless reality.

Suu Kyi, who was separated from her family because of her house arrest, has never lost courage even though she regularly sees citizens nearby who appear happy, and instead tolerates her solitary life. She has reasons for having to do so.

Suu Kyi lost her husband, who had been battling cancer in Britain, in 1999 while she was under house arrest. Feeling that he was close to the end of his life, he applied for a visa to visit Myanmar to meet his wife, only to be rejected. The military regime hoped that Suu Kyi would leave for Britain to meet with her ailing husband. However, she chose to stay home because there was no guarantee that she would be allowed to come back to Myanmar once she left the country. She chose to prioritize her pro-democracy movement rather than stay with her dying husband. Her determination is undoubtedly attributable to the existence of fellow freedom fighters imprisoned as political prisoners.

In December 1995, shortly after she started the column in the Mainichi Shimbun, Suu Kyi told the world political prisoners were barred from meeting their children for over two years and that their family members were being interrogated and harassed.

Her message that she was not the only Myanmar woman detained for her political thoughts appears to reflect a kind of guilty feeling she harbors toward other people who were being suppressed by the military regime.

There is a special reason why Suu Kyi evaded being tortured or imprisoned even though she is the leader of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement. Her father played a leading role in winning Myanmar's independence and she is well-known to the world as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The military regime cannot simply take her away from society.

In other words, Suu Kyi is a pro-democracy activist whose safety is guaranteed. Therefore, she is obviously determined to share the pain imposed on her fellow pro-democracy activists. In the second letter of the current series that ran on Feb. 6, she confessed that she made a habit of having breakfast quite late during her house arrest "so that in my hunger I would not forget our comrades who were incarcerated not in their own homes but in prisons, often in places far distant from where their families live."

I have met various people as a journalist, but I clearly remember I felt tense when I first met Suu Kyi. The feeling derived from my sense of reverence -- similar to a feeling I harbored toward citizens who repeatedly staged a sit-in protest in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, to express opposition to the relocation of a U.S. base to the area and those who were involved in a signature-collecting campaign against a so-called plutonium-thermal power generation project. They are determined to confront political power without resorting to violence.

I asked Suu Kyi, a Japanophile who studied at Kyoto University in the 1980s, what she expects Japan to do for the democratization of Myanmar. Instead of answering my question, she asked me whether I, as a Japanese national, have urged the Japanese government to pressure Myanmar's military regime to release all political prisoners. I couldn't nod with confidence to Suu Kyi, who shot a questioning glance at me. (By Pak Chong-chu, Foreign News Department)

毎日新聞 2011年2月24日 0時12分
posted by srachai at 08:11| Comment(0) | 毎日英字





Is 'butterfly flapping wings' in Federal Reserve linked to revolution in Cairo?

The unexpected has struck, and for unexpected reasons.

In Japan, the roots of the revolutions now taking hold in many nations in the Middle East could be described with the expression, "If the wind blows, the bucket-makers prosper," meaning that events can bring about effects in unforeseen ways.

One might also turn to the "butterfly effect," a term from chaos theory used to describe how small changes in a complex environment can result in major consequences elsewhere.
The term "butterfly effect" is taken from perhaps the most famous illustration of chaos theory in action: the butterfly that flaps its wings in the Amazon, triggering a series of small but crucial atmospheric events that result in a tornado in Texas.

In the case of the Middle Eastern revolutionary movements, the "butterfly" could be the easing of monetary policy in the United States.

The revolutionary winds -- which have blown down dictatorial regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, and are now gusting in Libya, Bahrain and Iran -- have shown no sign of slowing down.

The U.S. aim of loosening domestic monetary policy was certainly not to inspire democratic uprisings in the Middle East.

The only goal the Federal Reserve had was to juice up the U.S. economy by boosting the money supply.

Central banks in Japan and Europe are also doing similar things.

However, the currencies of the rich, industrialized countries flow all over the world, and have spurred price spikes in basic commodities like food and oil felt particularly keenly by the people of less wealthy nations.

World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick recently stated that average global food prices have reached dangerously high levels, and one of the issues that have brought people onto Middle Eastern streets by their hundreds of thousands is undoubtedly the impact these high prices are having on the daily lives of ordinary citizens in the region.

The power of money on the global stage is increasing, and as it bounces from one corner of the world to another in the blink of an eye -- or, more accurately, trader's keystroke -- it leaves trouble in its wake.

This is what "globalism" is, apparently.

However, just how far-reaching its effects will be is impossible to see.

The meeting of G20 finance ministers which recently wrapped up in Paris tried to put together ideas on exactly what monetary globalism is and how to manage it -- and failed, it would seem.

According to expert opinion, the anxiety felt by G20 finance ministers relates not only to what is happening in the Islamic world but also to inflation in China.

As the engine of world growth, if the Chinese economy goes off the rails, it will take the global economy with it -- and U.S. consumers are a major source of fuel for the Chinese engine.

And so the eyes of the world turn to the thunder of the U.S. money presses; a butterfly flaps its wings in the Federal Reserve, and a revolutionary tornado strikes Tunis, Cairo, Tripoli and beyond. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)

(Mainichi Japan) February 21, 2011
毎日新聞 2011年2月21日 0時21分
posted by srachai at 07:25| Comment(0) | 毎日英字


民主党内紛 会派離脱は筋が通らぬ

(Mainichi Japan) February 18, 2011
Pro-Ozawa lawmakers' attempt to split from parliamentary alliance lacks sense
社説:民主党内紛 会派離脱は筋が通らぬ

Only recently former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stirred up a political storm by labeling his reference to the deterrent role of the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa as an "expedient" to rationalize relocation of Air Station Futenma within Okinawa Prefecture.
Now, another commotion has erupted within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) over an attempt by 16 party members close to scandal-tainted party heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa to break away from the DPJ-led parliamentary alliance in the House of Representatives.

Indeed, the latest move deals a blow to Prime Minister Naoto Kan and underscores the deadlock that his administration has reached. But as long as internal strife continues within the party, public distrust of the DPJ will only increase.

The actions of the 16 party members -- who are attempting to leave the parliamentary alliance in the lower house while remaining in the party -- cannot simply be described as a surprise move; it is a tactic that cannot be permitted.

Parliamentary groups are constituents of the Diet that play a part in deciding the number of seats on committees and the allocation of questioning time. It is not unusual for a particular party to form an alliance with independent Diet members or for several parties to form a single alliance, but the party remains a key factor in forming the alliance.

If one political party were to split up into several parliamentary alliances and their decisions were divided on important decisions such as the naming of the prime minister and the passing of important bills, then the very foundations of party politics or parliamentary business would be shaken.

In order for politicians to leave a parliamentary alliance, the representative of the alliance must submit notification to the chairman. In other words, they must submit to procedures determined by the party.

It is only natural for DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada to announce that he does not plan to allow the members to leave the alliance.

In a declaration, the 16 lawmakers heavily criticized the Kan administration, saying it had discarded its election manifesto along with its promises to the public. However, the members told a news conference that it would be meaningless for them to leave the party.

The 16 are probably of the position that their party should return to the roots of its manifesto.

But if that's the case, the members should be working to achieve their goals. They will not win understanding from the public by leaving their parliamentary alliance because their arguments are not getting through, or shaking the political situation by taking a different line in the Diet -- they would be better to leave the party altogether.

Of course, this would not be of any benefit when the party is trying to pass next fiscal year's budget and related bills quickly.

The Liberal Democratic Party and other opposition parties have demanded major revisions or the withdrawal of the DPJ's manifesto, and it is clear that returning to the line of the manifesto at this stage would not lead to smooth operations in the Diet.

But at the same time, one could not be blamed for thinking that the 16 lawmakers are actually upset about moves by the DPJ leadership to suspend Ozawa's qualifications as a party member, and are trying to topple Kan to secure new leadership and a review of any punishment of Ozawa.

Kan and Okada cannot get away with leaving the situation as it is.

They have to take firm action against the move to split from the party alliance.

The party is dreaming if it thinks it can take part in discussions with the opposition parties when the prime minister can't bring his own party under control.

There is now no option but for Kan to be prepared for a split within the DPJ.

毎日新聞 2011年2月18日 2時32分
posted by srachai at 09:21| Comment(0) | 毎日英字


Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

(Mainichi Japan) February 13, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: To those worried about their elderly parents living far away
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:遠距離介護に悩む人へ /東京

I am occasionally interviewed about "long-distance care," perhaps because my parents live in Hokkaido while I work and live in far off Tokyo.

One thing I can say about my own experiences is that, as my parents have entered old age, all kinds of problems I couldn't have even imagined when I was young have popped up, from how to go about treating illnesses to how to deal with daily events like shopping and cleaning.

If I lived nearby, I could stop by my parents' house on my way back from work. However, since I don't live nearby, I can't very well hop on an airplane and fly across the country every time a light bulb needs changing.

I admit, while saying to my parents, "I'm sorry I can't do anything to help," part of me is secretly relieved that I can get out of the situation without having to do anything. I take advantage of my physical distance as a means to avoid caring for or helping out my parents.

However, patients who come to see me at my office are more dutiful. Some even complain of mental and physical stress caused by worrying about their parents. "If my mother calls me and says she's not feeling so well, my heart starts to race," they may tell me. Some of these people fall more and more into negative thinking, and even come out with things like, "I knew it was a mistake to come to Tokyo for work. I should have stayed in my hometown."

Although I admire these patients' kindness and love for their parents, I don't think it is right for them to blame themselves.

I say to these patients, "Maybe your parents act needier now, but in the past, didn't they say how happy they were that you had made your own way in Tokyo?"

When I tell them this, even patients who initially respond, "No, all my parents ever say is that they had wanted me to live nearby," start to gradually remember. "Now that you mention it, I seem to recall my mother bragging to the neighbors about how hard I was working in Tokyo. I made her stop it because I was embarrassed."

For any parent, the goal of raising a child is not to bring up someone who will take care of them in their old age, rather it is to bring up someone who will stand on their own two feet in the world. People living far from their hometowns have fulfilled their parents' dreams by making their own, independent lives. Those parents surely feel proud of their far-away children and feel satisfied for having raised them in that manner.

Those people caring for parents from afar, don't attack yourself or feel ashamed. Do not feel you have failed as a child. Have confidence. It's sufficient to do what you realistically can to help your parents. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2011年2月8日 地方版
posted by srachai at 06:40| Comment(0) | 毎日英字


日米外相会談 同盟立て直しの一歩に

(Mainichi Japan) January 8, 2011
Japan-U.S. foreign ministerial meeting a chance to rebuild bilateral alliance
社説:日米外相会談 同盟立て直しの一歩に

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed in their recent talks in Washington to set new common strategic goals, which will serve as guidelines for bilateral security cooperation.  前原誠司外相とクリントン米国務長官が、安全保障分野での日米協力の指針となる新たな「共通戦略目標」を策定することで合意した。

They also agreed on the need to step up bilateral consultations aimed at strengthening ties in case of any emergency situation such as an armed conflict in and around Japan.

Their agreement is appropriate in that it is based on recent changes in the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, such as rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula and China's increased activities at sea.

Setting new common goals on Japan-U.S. security cooperation, which the two countries have not sufficiently discussed so far, is of great significance as it will help improve bilateral relations which were strained under the administration of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The current common strategic goals were worked out in the so-called two-plus-two talks by foreign and defense ministers of the two countries in February 2005 when the Liberal Democratic Party was in power.
The goals declare that the Japan-U.S. alliance will continue to play an essentially vital role in ensuring peace and stability in the region and the entire world, and call on both countries to continue to consider the roles, missions and capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and U.S. forces.

However, Japan was unable to hold in-depth discussions on the roles of U.S. forces and the SDF under the Hatoyama administration because bilateral ties were strained over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.

A joint declaration on the deepening of the bilateral alliance, which Maehara and Clinton confirmed that the two countries will announce when Prime Minister Naoto Kan visits the United States this coming spring, will likely be based on the new common strategic goals.

The new National Defense Program Outline, which Japan adopted in December last year, describes China as a concern for the region and the whole world, and declares that Japan will strengthen its defense capabilities on the Nansei Islands in southwestern Japan that include Okinawa.

China, which has been continuing its military buildup without ensuring transparency and increasing its activities aimed at expanding its interests in surrounding seas, is undoubtedly a major destabilizing factor for Japan and other neighboring countries.

However, Japan needs to work out a comprehensive strategy in not only the field of politics but also other fields including economy and culture in order to ensure that China will be a responsible member of the international community.

Foreign Minister Maehara told Clinton that Japan-China relations are getting on track to improvement. Japan should step up its efforts to ensure that move.

In their discussions, Maehara and Clinton shared the view that the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program should be resumed if North Korea takes concrete action to abandon the agenda.

The two countries should exercise prudence in deciding whether to resume such talks in order not to repeat past mistakes.

Regarding the Futenma relocation, Maehara and Clinton also agreed to discuss specific measures to lessen Okinawa's burden of hosting U.S. bases in Japan.

There is no prospect for a breakthrough in the deadlocked relocation. However, Tokyo and Washington should exercise prudence in responding to the issue to prevent the matter from hampering consultations on the strengthening of the bilateral alliance.

毎日新聞 2011年1月8日 2時30分
posted by srachai at 15:37| Comment(0) | 毎日英字


China to be No. 1 in the world


(Mainichi Japan) January 7, 2011
China's rise may provide new model of growth, success for Japan

China has surpassed Japan as the world's second largest economy, but that in itself is old news. These days, people are watching and waiting to see if China will overtake the United States in the number one spot.

And speaking of the gravitational pull China exerts on global trends, what about language? Some private observers predict that Chinese will become the most used language on the Internet within five years -- a prognostication that has become the focus of a lot of discussion of late.

There are about 450 million Internet users in China today -- and the number continues to rise by the tens of millions every year. With so many Chinese speakers colonizing cyberspace, some say that the day Chinese surpasses English as the global language is close at hand.

As might be expected, people in the U.S. are already gearing up to succeed in a Chinese-speaking world.

Instead of "violin," "Chinese" is now the watchword among American parents with kids in gifted programs.  今アメリカで、英才教育に熱心な親の合言葉は「バイオリンではなく中国語を」だそうだ。

Moreover, the number of both public and private schools offering Chinese courses is rising, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

This is beginning to show up statistically as well.

The number of high school and university students taking classes in a foreign language rose 6.6 percent from 2006 to 2009, while the number of those studying Chinese saw an 18.2 percent rise.

You might suspect that the study of Japanese doesn't even enter the picture, but you'd be wrong. The number of students taking Japanese classes rose 10.3 percent over the same period, and in fact more people are studying Japanese than Chinese.

The number of students taking Japanese classes did decline for a time, but a rising China appears to have translated in many people's minds into a rising Asia, and study of Japanese is along for the ride.

There might be a hint for Japan's survival in all this.

Instead of looking askance at China's growing success, Japan could strategically seek out a share of the benefits. 卑屈な心じゃなく戦略として、中国の勢いのおこぼれをしっかりゲットすること。

In areas where China looks likely to see big strides, such as language education, tourism and business, Japan could appeal to the world to give this country a look as well.

The world's affection will not always be so passionately focused on China.

At times when other countries grow weary at China's pretentions to superpower status, they may turn their attention to its island neighbor, and Japan will benefit from the comparison. Japan's stock will rise.

As a particularly relevant example, consider the U.S.'s northern neighbor, Canada. It's not in such a bad position, is it?

毎日新聞 2011年1月7日 0時18分
posted by srachai at 08:21| Comment(0) | 毎日英字




(Mainichi Japan) January 5, 2011
Japan can't avoid fiscal crisis without reform of social security programs

In the eyes of young people, those aged above 60 may appear to be colluding to demand that the government avoid a fiscal crisis without implementing reforms.

"I don't want the government to make major changes to the current policy over the next decade or two. Newspapers say Japan is in a state of deflation, but pensioners are worried about whether they can get by. I welcome deflation because it allows us to buy more goods using my pension," one senior citizen could say.

Others could comment: "It's been said the state finances and social security services will collapse without tax hikes, but obviously, the government still has some hidden reserve funds. I don't want the government to do any unnecessary things (like tax hikes)."

"Japan has so far managed to overcome crises. I believe that the government can do the same this time, too. Judging from the average lifespan, I'll die in 10 to 20 years. Japan will certainly survive until then. So let me get over the current crisis (without tax hikes)," yet another might say.

These may be common views among senior citizens even though these are somewhat generalized.

It's true that there are elderly people who are struggling to make a living, and quite a few of them are aware of the need for reforms.

However, most elderly people are apparently pressuring politicians not to obstruct any policy change so that a potential crisis and any additional financial burden can be avoided.

However, is it possible to avoid a potential crisis without making policy changes in the first place? That appears quite difficult.

The government has issued massive numbers of state bonds to make up for a tax revenue shortfall, but almost all of these bonds have been purchased domestically. Therefore, Japan has avoided going under like Greece. However, baby-boomers are expected to begin sometime around next year to withdraw large amounts of money from their savings. Some experts have estimated that Japan's saving ratio will turn downward in 2014. In other words, the foundations for government bonds to be purchased in Japan will likely collapse.

In a recently released book titled, "Japan's economy has three years to survive: Thorough discussion on how to overcome fiscal crisis," four economists -- Heizo Takenaka, Nobuo Ikeda, Takero Doi and Wataru Suzuki -- exchanged their views on the current economic and fiscal situation in Japan. They then concluded that Japan's economy has only three years before collapse. In other words, Japan cannot avoid fiscal crisis without major policy changes.

This view is largely shared by government officials, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku saying that the government can manage to compile a state budget by using superficial tricks for no more than two years.

I belong to the next generation after baby-boomers, and am in a more advantageous position than young people in terms of social security services. Still, I fear that if elderly generations take advantage of their numbers to prevent disparity in the levels of social security services between generations from being rectified, it would put the nation's future in jeopardy.

If younger generations are entitled to pension benefits tens of millions of yen less than those of older generations, it will discourage younger people from working hard. Pension reform is an urgent task.

Moreover, 1000 trillion yen out of 1400 trillion yen in individual financial assets in Japan are held by elderly people and remain deposited with banks without being consumed. It is necessary to make it easier for younger generations to make effective use of such financial assets through tax system reform and other measures.

As the proverb goes: "He who gives to the poor, lends to the Lord." We will lose everything if the country collapses. (By Michio Ushioda, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2011年1月5日 東京朝刊
posted by srachai at 07:42| Comment(0) | 毎日英字




Masaaki Tanabe's works eloquently re-create the lives of those lost to the bomb

The best book I have read this year is "Genbaku ga Keshita Hiroshima" (Hiroshima that was annihilated by the atomic bomb), published by Bungei Shunju. I was attracted by the title, which uses an old character for "Hiroshima" and invokes the life of this town, which once flourished at the mouth of rivers flowing into the Seto Inland Sea.

The author of the book, Masaaki Tanabe, 73, is a renowned filmmaker. He has re-created the town that was at ground zero in his films, using state-of-the-art technology. This year, he completed a documentary film that elaborately re-enacted the Nakajima district located in the heart of Hiroshima, which was the city's leading entertainment quarter and, reduced to ashes, now hosts the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Tanabe was born in what was then Sarugakucho, near where the Atomic Bomb Dome stands now. It was the end of 1937, when the Sino-Japanese War was turning into a quagmire. When Tanabe was a second-grade elementary school student, he lost his mother and brother to the atomic bomb, as well as his home, which was located at ground zero. When Tanabe returned home with his grandmother from an evacuation location in the countryside, he saw the aftermath of the bomb and was exposed to residual radiation. His father, who was a serviceman, became weak from radiation from the bomb and died on Aug. 15 in despair -- on the day Japan lost the war.

Tanabe worked his way through college to study filmmaking, and after graduation he started working for a newspaper company, where he was in charge of news films. He always stayed away from the A-bomb issues, even after he left the newspaper company and started working on his own.

However, an unexpected turning point came when he was 60. Some high school girls who seemed to be on a school trip to Hiroshima asked Tanabe to take their pictures in front of the A-bomb Dome.

While he looked through the finder of the camera -- and the high school girls gave peace signs and yelled cheerfully for the shot -- he noticed the site where the kitchen of his childhood home used to be, where his mother and brother supposedly died.

Those girls don't know what happened here, he thought, but he didn't blame them for that. The experience, however, led him to decide that he shouldn't run away from A-bomb issues any more. Re-creating what ground zero looked like before the bomb was his mission, he felt.

We have seen a number of films that portray the catastrophe that the A-bomb brought to the streets and people of Hiroshima. However, what are re-enacted in Tanabe's films are the ordinary lives of people in the town, filled with their various day-to-day emotions, as well the town's rhythm and atmosphere.

Tanabe visited people across the country that have affiliations with ground zero, traced their memories, and collected their photographs they had taken from before the atomic bombing. Many of the pictures are carried in the book, and they surely portray just the same innocent smiles as those of the high school girls who posed in front of the A-bomb Dome.

An interesting story that Tanabe gives is that a recreation of the town at ground zero made based on the recollections of former residents turned out to actually be twice as big as the real town, showing that human beings tend to remember the things they cherish as being larger and greater than they really were. Tanabe determined the actual width of each house's front based on the intervals between electricity poles taken in pictures from those days.

"I wanted to bring to film the lives of ordinary citizens up until just before the dropping of the atomic bomb," Tanabe writes in his book. I believe the description of the ordinary lives that were lost can tell the tale of terror of destruction and deprivation more eloquently than anything else.

This year saw a number of foreign dignitaries visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I hope the U.S. president will follow suit next year. When he visits Hiroshima, in addition to the casualty records, I also hope he will see what the old Hiroshima was like before its annihilation and compare it to the streets and people back in his home country. (By Kenji Tamaki, Expert Senior Writer)

(Mainichi Japan) December 30, 2010

posted by srachai at 07:51| Comment(0) | 毎日英字


小沢元代表:政倫審出席 離党圧力で方針転換

(Mainichi Japan) December 29, 2010
Under pressure to leave DPJ, Ozawa agrees to testify over scandal -- with conditions
小沢元代表:政倫審出席 離党圧力で方針転換

Ichiro Ozawa, former secretary-general and a political kingpin of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), has finally agreed to testify to a Diet ethics committee over a political funding scandal after mounting pressure to leave the party if he didn't, but he has shrewdly taken advantage of the situation to seek removal of a political opponent.
On Dec. 27, Prime Minister Naoto Kan made it clear that the DPJ would ask Ozawa to leave the party if he refused to appear before the ethics committee. Kan's statement forced Ozawa, who is facing indictment as early as the beginning of next year over the scandal, to move towards testifying.

However, Ozawa took the opportunity to make a counter-attack, demanding that Kan dismiss Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku as a precondition for Ozawa's appearing at the committee. Kan has been under pressure from opposition parties to sack Sengoku after the opposition-controlled House of Councillors adopted a censure motion against the chief cabinet secretary.

The move by Ozawa takes advantage of indications by the prime minister that he would reshuffle his Cabinet -- even though that reshuffling was intended to accompany the addition of the Sunrise Party to a DPJ-led coalition administration, a deal which fell through.

On the afternoon of Dec. 28, just before making the announcement that he would testify at the committee, Ozawa visited former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and stressed the need to sack Sengoku.
"For the Diet, the censure motion against Sengoku is the more serious problem, so the prime minister should respond properly to it," Ozawa was quoted as saying to Hatoyama, who agreed with him.

Ozawa and Hatoyama, both outside of the mainstream of the party, agreed that they will demand that the prime minister replace Sengoku with a pro-Ozawa legislator, saying it will be for the benefit of party unity.

Azuma Koshiishi, head of the DPJ's caucus in the House of Councillors and close ally of Ozawa, is in step with the two. "If the prime minister wants to restore public trust in his administration, he should reshuffle the Cabinet," he told reporters.


A point of contention is the timing of the testimony. Ozawa says he will only attend the ethics council if it is convened after the regular Diet session opens in January -- in other words, after Kan has made the decision of whether to sack Sengoku.

Kan, however, fearing that if he complied it would give the public the impression that he had bowed to pressure from Ozawa, strongly demanded on Dec. 28 that Ozawa attend the ethics council before the next Diet session convenes.

On the night of Dec. 28, pro-Ozawa legislators, including Koshiishi, former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koji Matsui, and former DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Shinji Tarutoko met in Tokyo and were reportedly in agreement on using Ozawa's testimony to the ethics council as a bargaining chip to demand a reshuffling of the Cabinet. (By Takashi Sudo, Political News Department)

毎日新聞 2010年12月29日 9時17分
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(Mainichi Japan) December 24, 2010
China's boycott diplomacy ugly but effective

Mainichi Shimbun staff writer Mayumi Otani, who covered the Nobel Prize award ceremony this year, angrily said, "The Chinese government's behavior was ugly." She refers to pressure China applied to its allies to boycott the ceremony because the Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to Chinese anti-government activist Liu Xiaobo, and 17 countries refused to send representatives to the ceremony. (Mainichi Shimbun Dec. 20 morning edition -- from Norway)

Like Otani, I remember most Japanese journalists and newspapers criticized China's action as arrogant with the only exception being Bangkok-based journalist Makoto Suzuki. (The Sankei Shimbun Dec. 15 morning edition) He analyzed China's boycott diplomacy from the viewpoint of Southeast Asia.

Suzuki pointed out that of the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand was the only country that sent a representative to the award ceremony as far as he confirmed. However, a minister at the Thai Embassy attended it on behalf of the ambassador, who the embassy said was staying in his home country.

The Indonesian ambassador was also absent from the ceremony for the same reason, while the Philippine ambassador also failed to be present because the ceremony did not fit his schedule. Even Vietnam, which is in dispute with China over sovereignty issues in the South China Sea, criticized presenting the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu on the grounds that the prize should not be used for political purposes. However, it is too naive to insist that Japan should join hands with ASEAN in an attempt to counter China.

Regardless of whether its behavior was ugly, China did score diplomatic points through its boycott diplomacy. This is the reality of Asia.

It raises the question why does China have such strong diplomatic power? This is apparently because the free trade agreement (FTA) between China and ASEAN came into effect on Jan. 1, 2010. China and ASEAN have been integrated into a single market and the amounts of goods and services traded in these areas sharply increased, improving the economic conditions of Southeast Asia.

As their economic relations have become closer, China and ASEAN tend to avoid political conflicts. Philippine news organizations criticized the ambassador's absence from the ceremony, but politicians in ASEAN member countries share the view that they will gain nothing if they anger China.

Shortly before the award ceremony, a high-ranking Philippine military officer visited China and held talks on the purchase of Chinese-made weapons. ASEAN member countries fear anti-government guerrillas within their respective territories more than the threat posed by China.

The United States is now pressing forward with a plan to form the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in a bid to counter the China-ASEAN FTA. Washington is now trying to increase its presence in the Asian market, but struggling to make up for its late start.

In the South China Sea where China is steadily increasing its military presence, the United States is soliciting ASEAN to build up a framework to counter the threat posed by China, but ASEAN is unlikely to comply. China's boycott diplomacy was certainly ugly. However, the brass-knuckles aggressiveness of its diplomacy should not be underestimated. (By Hidetoshi Kaneko, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2010年12月23日 東京朝刊
posted by srachai at 07:04| Comment(0) | 毎日英字