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May 08, 2014
EDITORIAL: Momii’s behavior undermining NHK’s credibility

As a public and nonprofit entity, Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) should operate solely for the well-being of the public and outside the realm of government control. That is why NHK’s operations are financed by viewing fees paid by the public.

The job of the president is to supervise and manage its operations. But the current president, Katsuto Momii, has been behaving in a way that raises serious questions about NHK’s credibility.

Momii triggered renewed controversy April 30 during a meeting of the NHK Executive Board, which he used to criticize a news program on the concerns of elderly citizens over the April 1 rise in the consumption tax rate.
“It is not news if you only say that a tax hike caused anxiety,” he said, arguing that the program should also refer to discussions among policymakers on measures to ease the added financial burden on low-income earners.

Efforts by the media to present different views about issues in their reports should be welcomed. The Broadcast Law stipulates that programs aired by NHK or any other broadcasters should be “politically fair.” The law also says that when dealing with contentious issues, broadcasters should try to “clarify disputed points from as many different angles as possible.”

But the widely accepted legal interpretation of these provisions is that whether news coverage of contentious issues is balanced should be judged on the basis of all related programs aired by a broadcaster, not on each single program.

Even though the board members stressed they are trying hard to report different viewpoints through various programs, Momii would not be convinced.

As the person responsible for NHK’s programs, its president may sometimes find it necessary to get involved in debate over the content of specific programs.

In his inaugural news conference in January, however, Momii made remarks that indicated his support of the government’s policies.

He later retracted the comments, saying he had expressed his “personal views” in public. He also tried to reassure viewers by promising that NHK’s programs would not be based on his opinions. But he has yet to admit that his ideas are inappropriate, given his position as the top official of a public broadcaster.

Imagine what would happen if such a person started meddling in news programs on the government’s policies. This prospect raises concerns that NHK may not be able to properly perform its journalistic role of monitoring and checking government behavior. This would give rise to suspicions that NHK finds it difficult to broadcast programs that are critical of the government because of concerns about ruffling Momii’s feathers.

Momii has also resorted to strong-arm tactics in personnel affairs.

Soon after he took the top job at NHK, he forced all members of the Executive Board to submit undated letters of resignation.

In the personnel reshuffle of executive board members in late April, Momii urged two general managing directors, who had just been reappointed in February, to resign for no specific reasons.

When seeking consent for personnel changes from the Board of Governors, the upper-ranked decision-making body, Momii also refrained from disclosing his plan until the last moment on grounds the information could be leaked.

When a governor asked the president to explain his decision for changing the responsibilities of some managing directors, Momii just simply said these were matters that are the “sole prerogative of the president.”

We cannot help wondering how much consideration he gives to the feelings of people who pay viewing fees to NHK in the belief that a public broadcaster is necessary for the good of society.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 8
posted by srachai at 07:46| Comment(0) | 朝日英字


(社説)リニア新幹線 早めにブレーキを

May 07, 2014
EDITORIAL: Maglev Shinkansen project not something to be rushed
(社説)リニア新幹線 早めにブレーキを

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) on April 23 submitted its final assessment report to the government on the environmental impact of the new maglev bullet train service, scheduled to start in 2027 between Tokyo's Shinagawa and Nagoya.

The report was compiled with unprecedented speed. It was drawn up less than a month after the governors of seven prefectures along the new Chuo Shinkansen Line gave their feedback on JR Tokai's draft report issued last September.

Why the great haste?

"We did not act in haste," insisted JR Tokai President Koei Tsuge.
Be that as it may, the final report leaves too many questions unanswered.

For instance, it gives effectively no consideration to the huge volume of displaced dirt that will result from the civil engineering work, other than to perfunctorily note that JR Tokai will "repurpose part of the dirt."

And with regard to concerns voiced by the Shizuoka prefectural government about a possible landslide at the proposed dirt dumping ground, the report dismisses the threat and refuses to accommodate the latter's request for changes in the plan.

The report also rejects the Nagano prefectural government's request that the tracks through Oshika village be laid through a tunnel rather than on a bridge for safety reasons.
JR Tokai's reason for rejecting the change was that it would "delay the project's completion and also produce more displaced dirt."

The report does, however, show some improvement over last year's draft report. For instance, JR Tokai promises further studies on the impact on local wildlife.
Also, for the first time, it came up with estimates of greenhouse gas emission increases at the time the service starts. This should have been discussed in the draft report. Anyway, better late than never.

Under Japan's environmental assessment system, local governments are no longer in a position now to formally voice their opinions to JR Tokai. This makes the responsibility that much greater for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the Ministry of Environment, both of which will examine the report. We expect meticulous work from them.

Tsuge said he wants construction to begin as early as this autumn to ensure that operations start on schedule in 2027. Expectation has been voiced that an early start of this service will stimulate the nation's economy. And since JR Tokai is footing the entire bill, which is in excess of 9 trillion yen ($88.6 billion), the company obviously wants to avoid any added expenditures or delays.

But unlike the Tokaido Shinkansen project that needed to be completed in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, there is no social justification for setting 2027 as the target year for the completion of the new maglev Shinkansen project. Moreover, winning the understanding of residents along the service route, who will be affected in varying degrees, is indispensable to the project's success. JR Tokai must not be stingy with the time this will require.

The project will involve digging really deep under central Tokyo and building unprecedentedly long tunnels through the high-altitude Akaishi mountain range, known as the Southern Alps. There may well be unforeseen developments requiring JR Tokai to rework its plans.

We recommend that the company not be obsessed with the target year and be always aware of the importance of applying the brakes early, so to speak, and re-examining the project plan.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has been strongly in favor of extending the service route beyond Nagoya to Osaka right from the start, has come up with a proposal to fast-track the project by getting the government to extend an interest-free loan of 3.6 trillion yen to help JR Tokai cover the construction costs for the extended section. But considering the time needed just for the assessment of environmental impacts of the Nagoya-Osaka stretch, we doubt that fast-tracking will be technically feasible.

The bigger the project, the more thorough the planning must be. Getting JR Tokai to understand this is the responsibility of politicians.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 5
posted by srachai at 08:27| Comment(0) | 朝日英字



May 06, 2014
EDITORIAL: Hakamada case reinforces arguments against death penalty

The Japanese government can legally end a person’s life as punishment for a crime.

The Shizuoka District Court’s recent decision to order a retrial for a long-time death-row inmate reminded us afresh of the grave problems inherent in this capital punishment system.

Iwao Hakamada was sentenced to death over a 1966 quadruple murder. If his sentence had been carried out, the state would have committed a dreadful and irreparable mistake.

When he was released in late March after spending 48 years behind bars, Hakamada showed signs of mental illness. His condition highlighted the cruelties of living under the constant fear of being executed.


Five years have passed since the “saibanin” lay judge system was introduced in Japan. Under the system, randomly selected ordinary citizens are tasked to decide whether the accused should be given a death sentence.

More than 80 percent of citizens support the death penalty, according to a government survey.

But it can hardly be said that sufficient national debate has been held on the various issues concerning capital punishment.

Tough penalties should certainly be meted out for the unpardonable crime of murder. But is the death penalty the only possible option for such cases?

This is a question that all people living in a society that has adopted capital punishment should ask themselves.

Hakamada is certainly not the only victim of false accusations.

During the 1980s, four death-row inmates, including Sakae Menda, were acquitted in retrials. Since 2010, four prisoners serving life sentences have been acquitted in retrials, including Toshikazu Sugaya, who was wrongfully convicted of murdering a 4-year-old girl in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, in 1990.

These cases cannot be simply regarded as the regrettable results of sloppy criminal investigations in the old days. Just two years ago, four people were wrongfully arrested over online threats posted through their computers, which had been remotely manipulated. The four were later found innocent, but two of them had “confessed” to the crime.

Some people may think that innocent people would never confess to a crime. But those suspects were held for days after their arrest. They eventually succumbed to pressure from investigators who used leading questions and coercive tactics in the interrogations.

Humans prosecute and judge others under the criminal justice system, so it must be assumed that false accusations and wrongful convictions can occur.


Since the second half of the 20th century, many nations, mainly in Europe, have abolished capital punishment.

Among industrialized nations today, only Japan and some U.S. states still execute criminals. South Korea and Russia stopped conducting executions in the 1990s, effectively abolishing the death penalty.

Punishments against crimes are based on each country’s social culture, and simply following the global trend may not be the best answer.

Heinous crimes and people demanding severe punishments exist in any country. But many countries have chosen something other than capital punishment as the maximum penalty. Japan would probably be better off learning from their views and opinions.

Under another widely adopted approach, executions are suspended temporarily to allow a public consensus to emerge on the issue through in-depth debate.

In the Japanese government’s poll on the issue, more than half of the respondents who supported the death penalty cited concerns that abolishing capital punishment would lead to an increase in vicious crimes. But there is no clear proof that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime.

Many respondents also supported the notion that people who have committed heinous crimes should pay with their lives.

Although atrocious crimes spark broad and strong public demands for heavy punishments, death sentences are not handed down in all of these cases. The difficulty in dealing with the issue lies in the fact that a criminal penalty should not be regarded as merely the price for a crime.

The suffering is immeasurable among people who have lost family members and loved ones due to criminal activities. Their demands for severe penalties against the culprits are understandable.

But some bereaved families want the offenders to live out their lives making amends for the crimes they have committed.

It is impossible to punish criminals in a way that can satisfy all the diverse feelings of the victims and their families. What is important is to ensure that society provides support for crime victims and bereaved families.

In some abhorrent cases, families can no longer live in their homes where crimes have taken the lives of family members, and the perpetrators refuse to offer apologies let alone compensation for the suffering they caused.

Systems have been established in recent years to allow crime victims to take part in the trials of the suspects and to receive information on how the sentences have been carried out.

But much more needs to be done to ensure that crime victims can receive sufficient financial support and psychological care.

The government should consider long-term support to help crime victims deal with various difficulties.


Japan had 132 inmates on death row at the end of April.

Until seven years ago, the Justice Ministry didn’t publish the names of executed inmates or the locations where the executions were conducted. The ministry showed execution sites to Diet members and journalists, but such efforts for information disclosure proved temporary.

The government has been keeping strict control on information concerning executions. Such a show of public authority has serious implications. There is no denying that the government’s reluctance to disclose information about executions has hampered healthy public debate on capital punishment.

Another issue is whether hanging is an appropriate execution method. Nearly six decades have passed since the Supreme Court ruled that death by hanging did not violate the constitutional ban on cruel penalties. Even some experts who support capital punishment are calling for a review of this method.

A multipartisan group of lawmakers against the death penalty once considered proposing life imprisonment without parole as an alternative to capital punishment.

It has long been pointed out that the gap is too large between capital punishment and a life sentence, which is actually an “indefinite” prison term with the possibility of parole that may lead to the offender’s return to society.

The government has been avoiding asking citizens what they think of life imprisonment without parole as an alternative to the death penalty. But this is a question that the government itself should face head-on.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 6
posted by srachai at 08:23| Comment(0) | 朝日英字


(社説)中国新疆テロ 民族政策の失敗だろう

May 05, 2014
EDITORIAL: Xinjiang bombing reflects China’s flawed policy toward minorities
(社説)中国新疆テロ 民族政策の失敗だろう

China has been hit by a string of violent incidents linked to problems concerning ethnic minorities in the country.

Last week, a bombing incident in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, caused many casualties. The two suspects, who both died, were reportedly Uighur men.

The attack came at the conclusion of a four-day visit to Xinjiang by President Xi Jinping. During his inspection tour in the region, Xi urged local officials to make every possible effort to ensure public safety.

The timing and location of the attack appear to signal a bold challenge to the Xi administration.

It is infuriating that the attack, carried out in front of a train station, a public place, caused casualties among innocent citizens who happened to be there at the time. Such indiscriminate terrorism, whatever the purpose may be, is absolutely unpardonable.

Having said that, we want to pose a question to the Chinese government. Why do incidents of violence related to Uighurs keep occurring so frequently even though successive governments in Beijing have pledged to respect the rights of ethnic minorities as their policy?

In another incident last autumn that is still fresh in our memories, a car with three members of a Uighur family inside plowed into Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Since then, reported incidents related to Uighurs have taken place at a rate of about one a month.

These gloomy episodes indicate a failure of the policy toward ethnic minorities adopted by the Communist Party administration, which is composed mainly of Han Chinese, who constitute 90 percent of the country’s population.

Every time such an incident happens, the Chinese government describes the culprits as “violent elements seeking to break up China while acting in concert with an organization based overseas.”

By issuing such statements, Chinese leaders are effectively claiming that the government is making ardent efforts to promote economic development of Xinjiang, and that its policy toward Uighurs is working. Beijing is trying to characterize the perpetrators of these incidents as heretics isolated in society.

Indeed, there has been a movement for political independence among Uighurs. There is also an organization to promote the movement outside China.

But these facts do not necessarily support the argument that all these incidents were politically motivated.

Many of the reported incidents were apparently triggered by troubles concerning the daily lives of Uighur people.

Last summer, for example, a standoff between locals and police turned violent in Hotan, a city in Xinjiang. The Chinese government described that incident as rioting by an armed group. But it was actually a disturbance triggered by the move of local authorities to shut down a mosque used by Uighurs.

The family that carried out the Tiananmen Square attack last autumn is said to have repeatedly filed complaints with the local authorities over a certain problem.

It seems there is deep distrust between authorities and Uighurs stemming from administrative problems.

The distrust will only grow if, under these circumstances, the Chinese government tramples on the social and religious customs of Uighurs under the pretext of anti-terrorist measures.

The situation cannot improve as long as this cycle of terrorism and suppression continues.

What China, as a multiracial nation, needs now to ensure social stability is not the use of force but a wise and effective policy to bring about reconciliation.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 4
posted by srachai at 08:05| Comment(0) | 朝日英字


首相欧州歴訪 防衛装備協力で連携強化せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 4:00 am, May 05, 2014
Japan, European countries should strengthen ties in defense equipment
首相欧州歴訪 防衛装備協力で連携強化せよ

Japan and Europe are partners that give priority to keeping international order and promoting free trade. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to six European countries should give momentum to further solidifying strategic relations with Europe.

During their meeting, Abe and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to launch so-called two-plus-two talks between their foreign and defense ministers at an early date and promote joint development of defense equipment and technology. Technology for protective clothing against chemicals was among their immediate joint development projects.

The agreement was made by applying the new “three principles on transferring defense equipment” that the Cabinet approved last month to replace the previous three principles on arms exports.

Abe is scheduled to hold talks with French President Francois Hollande on Monday, during which they are expected to agree on joint development of such defense equipment as unmanned underwater vehicles.

The government has already agreed with Australia to make vessel fluid dynamics a subject for their joint research.

Such bilateral cooperation in the field of defense equipment will not only improve defense technology, but also curb development costs. The efforts are likely to embody a “proactive contribution to peace,” a diplomatic policy pursued by the Abe administration.

The administration should therefore collect intelligence in earnest and carry out the necessary discussions to determine what defense equipment and technology should be developed to maximize the benefits for both parties in an agreement.

Sending a message to China

In separate meetings, Abe confirmed with Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel the importance of obeying international law in connection with the East Asian situation. Moreover, a joint statement by Abe and Cameron clearly stated that the two nations confirmed their commitment to the freedom of navigation and overflight.

These actions were all made in light of China’s attempts to change the status quo by force through such actions as establishing an air defense identification zone. Japan should use every opportunity to gain international solidarity in urging China to abide by international rules.

On another issue, it was significant that Abe concurred with the British and German leaders on the necessity of working toward concluding the thorny talks on an economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union next year.

The EU is somewhat behind in its talks with Japan compared with the talks between Tokyo and Washington, which made significant progress toward sealing a final accord on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework.

Issues including the EU’s removal of high tariffs on automobiles and TVs are at the center of the Japan-EU negotiations. Taking advantage of the current momentum, both sides should expedite talks to find common ground.

At a lecture in London, Abe urged businesses to invest in Japan.

Referring to the nation’s regulatory barriers as solid bedrock, Abe stressed that “the drill bit is spinning at the fastest possible speed” to break through that bedrock. He also indicated his willingness to lower the effective corporate tax, saying, “We’re going to improve our corporate taxation still further.”

That Abe made international pledges carries weight. The prime minister should exercise leadership in realizing regulatory reform as well as fixing corporate taxation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 4, 2014)
posted by srachai at 08:28| Comment(0) | 読売英字



May 03, 2014
EDITORIAL: Abe taking pacifist Constitution away from the people

Japan’s Constitution cannot be revised with a simple majority vote in the Diet.

Any constitutional amendment must first be initiated through a vote of two-thirds or more of all members of each house in the Diet and then approved by the public with a majority vote in a special referendum. This procedure is stipulated in Article 96 of the Constitution.

Last spring, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began a political campaign to make it easier to rewrite the Constitution by easing this procedure, but later gave up the idea.

Abe’s attempt was foiled by opposition expressed by many Japanese who became aware of its dangerous implications. They realized that if the government is allowed to change the Constitution at will, the all-important principles of constitutionalism, which restrict the power of government, would be violated.

Abe is now seeking to tamper with the supreme law in a different way.

Instead of pursuing a change in a constitutional provision, the prime minister is working to enable Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense through a Cabinet decision to change the government’s interpretation of the Constitution regarding the issue. The government’s traditional position has been that Japan has the right to collective self-defense, but is banned by the Constitution from exercising that right.

This way, even a Diet vote is not needed to make the policy change, which raises some serious constitutional questions.

What would be the consequences of that step? The pacifist ideal of the Constitution would lose its spirit even if it remains alive in form.


Some policymakers within the government have proposed to make it clear that Japan’s exercise of its right to collective self-defense would be limited to the minimum necessary--only in areas surrounding Japan and in situations where it is needed to ensure the nation’s existence.

They argue that the 1959 Supreme Court ruling over the so-called Sunagawa Incident, which concerned the constitutionality of the presence of U.S. forces in Japan, didn’t ban Japan from using its right to collective self-defense. The ruling actually said, “It is indisputable that, as an act of exercising its proper powers as a nation, Japan is allowed to take self-defense measures that are necessary for maintaining its own peace and security and ensuring its existence.”

These policymakers are making the case for allowing Japan limited use of its right to collective self-defense.

One example often cited in this argument is a situation in which a U.S. warship comes under attack in waters near Japan. Abe and other proponents of the proposal ask whether it is acceptable that the Self-Defense Forces are not allowed to come to rescue when a U.S. naval vessel operating to defend Japan comes under attack. They warn that the SDF’s failure to help a U.S. ship in such a situation would mean an end to Japan’s security alliance with the United States.

But many people in and outside the government believe the SDF can respond to such cases as part of Japan’s exercise of its right to individual self-defense or its police authority.

In other words, this problem can be solved without treating it as the constitutional issue of collective self-defense. There is no need to use a distorted interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling over the Sunagawa Incident, which only acknowledged Japan’s right to individual self-defense, as a tool to promote the case for collective self-defense.

A decision to allow Japan to use its right to collective self-defense, even if the use is limited to the minimum necessary, would amount to a total about-face on the traditional security policy.

Collective self-defense, by nature, involves the defense of other countries. But a small leak can eventually sink a great ship.

It is difficult to impose an effective restriction on Japan’s use of its military power that is clearer than the current rule that Japan can only use armed force when it is directly attacked.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s draft proposal to revise the Constitution calls for making the SDF full-fledged national defense forces that can take part in collective self-defense operations.

What the Abe administration is trying to achieve is realizing this proposal without making an amendment to the Constitution through the established formal procedure.

The administration is making an outrageous attempt to push through an effective constitutional amendment based on a government proposal merely through discussions within the ruling camp.

Why is the Abe administration getting away with such unacceptable behavior?


The most obvious factor behind this distressing political landscape is the inability of the Diet to do its job properly. It is failing to perform its role of clarifying important policy issues through discussions in order to provoke meaningful public debate.

Abe has been making little effort to offer serious answers to questions from opposition parties in the Diet, and the wretchedly weakened opposition has been letting him get away with it.

Some LDP lawmakers who initially voiced skepticism about Abe’s initiative have quickly become extremely quiet, apparently after the prime minister started signaling the possibility of a Cabinet and party leadership reshuffle.

The nation’s legislature is totally impotent to monitor and check the behavior of the administration in any effective way to prevent its dangerous moves.

What would happen if, to top it all, the constitutional restriction on Japan’s use of its military capabilities is removed?

Japan has been following U.S. military policy. It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to foresee the scope of SDF operations expanding beyond the “minimum necessary” under pressure from Washington.

In 2003, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi supported U.S. President George W. Bush’s decision to declare war on Iraq and, in response to a U.S. request, sent SDF troops to the Middle East to support reconstruction efforts.

Koizumi justified his decisions simply by repeating that supporting the United States was in Japan’s best interest. The Koizumi administration showed no signs of making objective, cool-headed assessments of the situation.

Abe has established the National Security Council. But the minutes of its meetings have not been published, and the newly enacted state secrets protection law is likely to allow the government to keep the public in the dark about the process of making policy decisions to mobilize the SDF.

Under these circumstances, would the government be able to make the right decision should it be asked to send SDF troops to battlefields of another U.S.-led war? Would the Diet and the public be able to stop such a deployment of the SDF?


Some administration officials are saying the government should try to win the support of as many members of the public as possible for the initiative, which would allow the government to mobilize SDF troops for participation in collective self-defense operations.

If the government insists on making it possible for Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense, there is only one path it should take.

It should present a draft amendment to the Constitution to take the step and follow the formal procedure--initiating the amendment through a vote of a two-thirds majority in each house of the Diet and then getting it approved by the people with a majority vote at a special referendum.

To be fair, the security situation in East Asia is certainly becoming dangerous due to North Korea’s development of nuclear arms and China’s aggressive military buildup. We can understand that the government is pursuing this initiative out of a desire to ensure Japan’s security.

If so, the government should first start debate on legislative moves needed to deal with specific issues, instead of immediately touching the Constitution.

Even if the government’s proposal is reasonable from the viewpoints of policy and military needs, that doesn’t justify distorting key constitutional principles through a change in the government’s interpretation of them.

The way the Abe administration is pursuing this controversial initiative is totally inconsistent with the prime minister’s pledge to put the Constitution back in the hands of the people. Instead, it is tantamount to taking the Constitution away from the public.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 3
posted by srachai at 08:15| Comment(0) | 朝日英字



May 02, 2014
EDITORIAL: On a mission to stop growing trend toward intolerance

May 3, Constitution Day, is a date that is etched into our memory. On this day 27 years ago, a man wielding a shotgun stormed The Asahi Shimbun’s Hanshin Bureau in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and opened fire, killing 29-year-old reporter Tomohiro Kojiri and seriously injuring another reporter.

In a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, the assailant, who called himself a member of “Sekihotai,” said the “anti-Japanese Asahi must return to its former self 50 years ago.”

In an editorial published immediately after the attack, we pledged to “defend a democratic society where diverse values of members are respected and remain committed to freedom of speech.”

To our deep regret, the 15-year statute of limitations on the case expired in 2002 with no culprit apprehended. Still, our determination has remained unshakable.

With that said, our democratic society, where people should respect the values of others, even when they differ, appears to be under threat. The disturbing fact is that there is a growing trend toward refusing to accept people with different ideas and attacking them.

People who are intolerant toward others with differing views often like to use the phrase “anti-Japanese” when launching verbal attacks. The term, which was often used by those individuals attempting to demonize The Asahi Shimbun, is now part of the wider narrative.

Claiming Korean residents in Japan enjoy unfair “privileges,” some people repeatedly take to the streets to stage what can only be described as hate-speech protests. In Shikoku, known for its popular Buddhist pilgrimage route that covers 88 temples, signs saying, “Let’s protect our pilgrimage course from the hands of Koreans,” were discovered.

Books intended to incite hatred against South Korea and China are gaining popularity, and headlines seemingly designed to promote racial discord appear in certain media almost daily.

In a lawsuit filed in Kyoto against an anti-Korean organization that held hate-speech protests, the group has tried to defend its actions and the language it used claiming a constitutional right to freedom of expression. But, should speech designed to ostracize and hurt other members of society be respected? For all the arguments and efforts we have made championing free speech and expression, we cannot help but feel compelled to say no to that question.

Since the 1987 murder of our colleague, we have received strong support and encouragement from many of our readers. And with the support of those voices, we are always striving to protect freedom of the press.

In particular, we believe we have made every effort to fight against any attempt by the powers that be to restrict people’s freedom. We did just that, for instance, during Diet deliberations on the state secrets protection bill. These efforts have been based in part on a lot of painful soul-searching that has taken place as a result of our news organization’s regrettable cooperation with the government before and during World War II.

We cannot help but wonder if we could have done more to prevent this proliferation of hateful language plaguing our society today.

Needless to say, we are committed to stand up for the victims of unwarranted attacks. We are also determined to pay close and serious attention to the backgrounds of those hatemongers who use and promote abusive language and those who support them so that we can help heal the widening rift in our society.

We don’t just want to promote the slogan “freedom of expression and speech,” we want to help create a society where everybody can live with dignity and live a life free of anxiety.

On the anniversary of the day our colleague was slain, we remember afresh our principal mission as a news organization.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 2


米のアジア重視 対中牽制に同盟諸国を生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:06 pm, April 30, 2014
Obama’s reinforcement of Asian ties sends strong message to China
米のアジア重視 対中牽制に同盟諸国を生かせ

As U.S. President Barack Obama−known for his “Asia pivot” policy−reconfirms his nation’s unity with its Asian allies, the significance of his moves should not be underestimated.

Obama recently finished his Asian tour, leaving his footprints in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The U.S. president has made his country’s presence felt in the Asia-Pacific region during the trip, stressing his unyielding stance against China’s expansion into Asia-Pacific waters where Beijing is unilaterally attempting to change the status quo, as well as his stand against North Korea’s nuclear development program. We welcome these moves.

One of the highlights of Obama’s Asian trip was the signing of a military pact between the United States and the Philippines, which paves the way for the re-stationing of U.S. troops in the Southeast Asian nation. Manila is currently engaged in territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will give U.S. forces access to Philippine military bases. The pact will also enable the temporary rotation of U.S. troops through the country, and the deployment of fighter jets and warships.

The Philippines was once a strategic foothold of the United States. However, the island country refused to extend the stationing of the U.S. forces after the end of the Cold War, and U.S. troops withdrew from the country by the end of 1992.

After the U.S. withdrawal, China began reinforcing its influence in the South China Sea as if the country were aiming to fill the power vacuum. For example, Beijing has extended its control of a shoal over which the Philippines claims sovereignty. More recently, China has obliged fishing boats operating in the South China sea to obtain a license from the Chinese government, further raising tensions in the area.

U.S. as stabilizer

The U.S.-Philippine pact will serve as a great opportunity to restore the influence of U.S. forces in the South China Sea. If U.S. forces enhance their cooperation with the forces of Asian allies, through efforts such as joint military exercises, this can be expected to work as a deterrent to China’s activities in the area. It is understandable that Obama said the purpose of the pact is “to promote regional stability such as in the South China Sea.”

In the Japan-U.S. joint statement issued during Obama’s trip to Japan, Obama reaffirmed that the Senkaku Islands, which are located in the East China Sea, are within the scope of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. It is very meaningful that Obama expressed his intention not to condone China’s moves to seek hegemony also in the South China Sea through the U.S.-Philippines pact.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, Obama agreed with South Korean President Park Geun-hye to reinforce the two countries’ cooperation to prevent further provocations by North Korea, which continues its nuclear development activities. “We will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life,” Obama said during a speech at a U.S. military base in the nation.

Specifically, Obama has stated that the United States will continue to have the right of command over U.S.-South Korea coalition troops during contingencies for the time being. We believe it was appropriate for the United States to show that it will maintain responsibility in deterring North Korea’s movements.

Park has recently been increasing her inclination toward China. However, in a written reply to questions from a South Korean newspaper, Obama said that Seoul’s alliance with the United States serves as the foundation of South Korea’s security and prosperity, an apparent message urging to the nation to shift its focus onto cooperation with the United States and Japan.

It is unlikely that the tensions in the Asia-Pacific region will end anytime soon. It will be essential for the United States and its allies to join hands and accumulate specific actions one by one.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 30, 2014)
posted by srachai at 08:20| Comment(0) | 読売英字


(社説)原発ゼロの夏 内向きの経営脱する時

April 29, 2014
EDITORIAL: Utilities should start plotting nuclear-free future for themselves
(社説)原発ゼロの夏 内向きの経営脱する時

Electric utilities are still warning that a lack of nuclear power generation will cause power shortages and rises in electricity bills. It’s time for them to stop emphasizing such concerns in their attempts to win public support for restarting idled nuclear reactors.

Prospects are bleak for bringing reactors back online by summer, so the utilities have worked out plans to avoid a summer power crunch without using nuclear energy. If these plans are carried out, this summer will be the first without nuclear power generation since the Fukushima nuclear disaster unfolded in March 2011.

Some utilities, however, will have to walk a tightrope. Kansai Electric Power Co., which was excessively dependent on nuclear power generation, will have only a 3-percent reserve capacity during the summer peak-demand period. That means efforts to reduce power consumption should not be relaxed.

But the company’s power supply plan for the summer indicates an amazing change in society. It was only two years ago that Kansai Electric Power restarted reactors at its Oi nuclear power plant, claiming that an absence of nuclear power would force it to carry out a rolling blackout, which could seriously affect corporate activities and operations of medical institutions.

The great change has been powered by larger-than-expected cuts in power consumption achieved through efforts by society as a whole.

In that summer, the power saving in the region served by Kansai Electric, which then relied on the Oi plant, was three times larger than expected. As it turned out, theoretically, there would not have been a power shortage in the region even if all nuclear plants had been offline.

The summer last year was among the hottest in history, but there were no signs that power-saving efforts slackened.

Based on its experiences during the past two summers, Kansai Electric has estimated that the amount of electricity to be saved this summer will be equivalent to the total power output from two and a half nuclear reactors. Ardent power-saving efforts by consumers made as a serious response to the disastrous nuclear accident have effectively created a huge power surplus.

In contrast, utilities have failed to make serious efforts to ensure a power supply without nuclear plants.

They have kept arguing that nuclear power generation is indispensable for a stable power supply, and they have applied for permission to restart reactors, including even risky ones close to densely populated areas.

Meanwhile, they have been dragging their feet on establishing a system that makes it easier for them to buy surplus power from other utilities serving different regions. To prevent a power crunch, Kansai Electric plans to buy electricity from Tokyo Electric Power Co. for the first time this summer. The amount of power traded between the nation’s eastern and western regions, which run at different frequencies, has increased by only 20 percent since the Fukushima disaster.

Most utilities have remained dependent on old thermal power plants with low energy efficiency. They have kept saying these thermal plants could break down at any time and force them to raise electricity charges to cover growing fuel costs. It was only very recently that utilities began to move toward building state-of-the-art, energy efficient thermal power plants.

The Diet is now considering a bill to further deregulate the power market. The nation is heading into a new era when consumers including households as well as businesses can freely choose their power suppliers. The market has already been liberalized for large consumers like local governments. A growing number of them are switching to newly created power suppliers that offer cheaper electricity.

Unless they change their way of thinking, large established utilities, which have long held regional monopolies, will find it increasingly hard to secure their long-term viability.

People who are making power-saving efforts want to see the establishment of a system that ensures a safe and stable supply of electricity at the lowest possible cost. It is vital to expand the use of renewable energy sources and build up a reliable program for mutual supplies of surplus power for more efficient use of limited resources.

The accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has revealed huge potential risks lurking in nuclear power generation. From this point of view, the efforts of utilities to restart their nuclear power plants, driven by the fact that they have poured huge amounts of money into the facilities, appear to reflect a ruefully inward-looking attitude.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 28
posted by srachai at 08:09| Comment(0) | 朝日英字