Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 09/04/08

Published: Thu 4 Sep 2008 08:14 AM
DE RUEHKO #2428/01 2480814
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E.O. 12958: N/A
(1) Poll on Fukuda's resignation, political parties, post-Fukuda
premiership (Asahi)
(2) Reinvestigation into abduction cases in limbo due to prime
minister's resignation announcement (Mainichi)
(3) Continuation of refueling mission requires convincing
explanation (Yomiuri)
(4) Ozawa to map out policy platform: Decentralization reform to
include total scrapping of tied subsidies (Mainichi)
(5) Editorial: U.S. House Speaker's visit to Hiroshima atomic bomb
memorial a significant step (Asahi)
(6) Kazamidori (Weathervane) column: "Koizumi disarmament" irritates
U.S. (Nikkei)
(1) Poll on Fukuda's resignation, political parties, post-Fukuda
ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
September 4, 2008
Questions & Answers
(Figures shown in percentage, rounded off. Figures in parentheses
denote the results of the last survey conducted Aug. 30-31.)
Q: Prime Minister Fukuda has now announced his resignation. Do you
think it's good that Mr. Fukuda will resign?
Yes 46
No 34
Q: Do you think it's irresponsible of Prime Minister Fukuda to have
announced his resignation at this point?
Yes 66
No 25
Q: Mr. Fukuda's predecessor, Mr. Abe, resigned suddenly within one
year after becoming prime minister. This time, Mr. Fukuda will also
step down suddenly within one year after becoming prime minister.
What's your impression of the Liberal Democratic Party now?
Worsened 51
Unchanged 44
Q: What's your overall rating for Prime Minister Fukuda's
performance over the past year? (One choice only)
Appreciate very much 1
Appreciate somewhat 29
Don't appreciate very much 47
Don't appreciate at all 21
Q: Who would you like to see become the next prime minister. Pick
only one from among Diet members. (Free choice)
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Taro Aso 30
Ichiro Ozawa 8
Junichiro Koizumi 4
Yuriko Koike 3
Yoichi Masuzoe 1
Nobuteru Ishihara 1
Katsuya Okada 1
Seiko Noda 1
Other politicians 4
No answer (N/A) + don't know (D/K) 47
Q: Which political party do you support now?
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 29 (26)
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) 21 (20)
New Komeito (NK) 3 (3)
Japanese Communist Party (JCP) 1 (3)
Social Democratic Party (SDP or Shaminto) 2 (1)
People's New Party (PNP or Kokumin Shinto) 0 (0)
New Party Nippon (NPN or Shinto Nippon) 0 (0)
Other political parties 0 (0)
None 37 (40)
N/A+D/K 7 (7)
Q: Do you think the House of Representatives should be dissolved as
early as possible for a general election?
Yes 56 (43)
No 33 (45)
Q: If you were to vote now in a general election for the House of
Representatives, which political party would you like to vote for in
your proportional representation bloc?
LDP 28 (27)
DPJ 32 (31)
NK 4 (3)
JCP 3 (4)
SDP 2 (2)
PNP 1 (0)
NPN 0 (0)
Other political parties 0 (1)
N/A+D/K 30 (32)
Q: Would you like the current LDP-led coalition government to
continue, or would you otherwise like it to be replaced with a
DPJ-led coalition government?
LDP-led coalition 32
DPJ-led coalition 41
Polling methodology: The survey was conducted from the evening of
Sept. 2 through the evening of Sept. 3 over the telephone on a
computer-aided random digit dialing (RDD) basis. Respondents were
chosen from among the nation's voting population on a three-stage
random-sampling basis. Valid answers were obtained from 1,069
persons (58 PERCENT ).
(2) Reinvestigation into abduction cases in limbo due to prime
minister's resignation announcement
TOKYO 00002428 003 OF 009
MAINICHI (Page 1) (Full)
September 4, 2008
North Korea (DPRK) agreed to conduct a reinvestigation into
abduction cases involving Japanese nationals at bilateral
working-level talks in August. The outlook now is that it would be
impossible for the nation to end the investigation by the fall at
the earliest, because a significant delay in the launching of the
investigation is expected. This was revealed by a senior Foreign
Ministry official. The main cause of the delay is Prime Minister
Fukuda's announcement of his decision to step down. However, it is
unknown whether the DPRK will actually start an investigation, given
the increasingly likely prospect that the Lower House will be
dissolved for a snap election soon after the new prime minister
takes office. There is a growing possibility of the agreement
reached during the Fukuda administration being annulled.
The agreement reached in August noted that the reinvestigation
should be conducted immediately and ended by the fall at the
earliest. The two countries agreed that Japan would ease some
sanctions as soon as the DPRK launched its investigation. However,
it is impossible for Japan to make a political judgment regarding
the removal of sanctions before a new prime minister is elected. The
view gaining ground is that the North is not likely to start an
investigation, when there is the possibility of Japan not lifting
The same senior Foreign Ministry official revealed that Japan has no
intention of urging North Korea to start a reinvestigation for the
time being, noting that it is not a matter on which a working-level
official can make a decision.
North Korea might have already communicated something to the
Japanese side, although the official would not admit such, simply
noting, "We have had no communication from North Korea."
Because of the outlook for dissolution of the Lower House and a snap
election soon after the election of a new prime minister, Pyongyang
will most likely first try to determine the stance of the new
administration. There is a possibility of the August agreement
effectively becoming a dead letter, and the new administration being
pressed to start all over again.
(3) Continuation of refueling mission requires convincing
YOMIURI (Page 13) (Abridged slightly)
September 4, 2008
By Akihiko Tanaka, professor, University of Tokyo
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda abruptly announced his resignation,
irresponsibly walking off the job.
He also suddenly resigned as chief cabinet secretary (on May 7,
2004). He probably could not allow himself to change his style just
to cling to power. Support ratings were sluggish, and the New
Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan seemed to care less about
the country's responsibility to the rest of the world. Fukuda might
have concluded that continuing to serve as prime minister under such
circumstances would not be good for Japan.
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I believe Prime Minister Fukuda was fixated on the maintenance of
Japan's international role.
There are no prospects for the enactment of a bill amending the New
Antiterrorism Special Measures Law in the next extraordinary Diet
session. The suspension of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's
refueling mission is a serious matter for the international
community. There was strong opposition in the ruling coalition to
using a two-thirds overriding vote in the House of Representatives
to enact the legislation. There was a possibility of the legislation
being used politically and damaging Japan-U.S. relations as a
Tokyo's decision to drop out of international support for
Afghanistan when the country is in a serious situation would make
Japan of less significance to the United States. Japan would
disappear from the sight of the next U.S. administration. Japan's
diplomacy would then be thrown into turmoil. Prime Minister Fukuda
failed to explain such points thoroughly. In a democracy, nothing
happens unless the media and the public are involved.
At the same time, the prime minister's achievements on the
diplomatic front merit high praise. In particular, Japan-China
relations have significantly improved.
During his visit to Japan in May, Chinese President Hu Jintao
praised the path Japan has taken since the end of WWII -- something
that had not been done by his predecessors. Under the Fukuda
administration, there were clear changes to relations between the
two countries, as seen in the facts that they reached a basic
agreement on the joint development of gas fields in the East China
Sea and that China has conducted a thorough investigation into
poisoning cases triggered by Chinese-made frozen dumplings.
The Lake Toya summit in July accomplished substantial results as
well. As part of an effort to establish a framework for combating
global warming, the prime minister played a central role in efforts
to include newly emerging countries like China and India in the
fight to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
These diplomatic achievements were not fully appreciated by the
people and did not help boost the cabinet's support ratings. Amid
the volatile international situation, exemplified by the
Russia-Georgia conflict, the people and politicians remain
inward-looking and do not understand the importance of diplomacy.
That might be the reason why the prime minister decided to call it
The focus has already shifted to who will replace Fukuda. Moves are
likely to intensify with an eye on the next Lower House election.
The prime minister's post should be filled by a person who can
explain in simple language to the people what Japan has to do in the
international community. Above all, a vacuum must not be created in
the refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. In order for Japan to
fulfill its international responsibilities, the matter must be
discussed in the next extraordinary Diet session, and the
continuation of the refueling mission must be set via an overriding
vote in the Lower House, as necessary, and that decision must be
taken to the people.
(4) Ozawa to map out policy platform: Decentralization reform to
include total scrapping of tied subsidies
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MAINICHI (Page 2) (Full)
September 4, 2008
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) President Ichiro Ozawa
on September 3 decided to map out a policy platform based on the
premise that he would become the next prime minister if a change in
government occurs, following the next Lower House election. His
policy platform will center on the reform of the decentralization of
power featuring the scrapping of tied subsidies. He plans to release
it on the 21st, when he is expected to be elected as president for a
third term. The DPJ views that there could be dissolution of the
Lower House before the end of September. It intends to hastily map
out a manifesto for the next Lower House election, based on Ozawa's
policy platform.
Outline to be released on the 21st
Fukuoka Prefecture Governor Wataru Aso, chairman of the Association
of Prefectural Governors (APG), on the afternoon of the 3rd visited
the DPJ headquarters with a statement requesting the party to place
the reform of the decentralization of government administration as
one of the party's top priorities. Ozawa responded, "Our plan is far
more advanced than your request." In response to a request by the
APG, which it made with the possible launching of a DPJ
administration in mind, Ozawa reiterated his desire to implement
reform, saying, "I would transfer all authorities to local
governments except for authority over the functions of the state."
Concerning the reform of the decentralization of power, Ozawa has
previously stressed that the first thing he wanted to do once he
takes over the reins of government is to implement the reform of
decentralization. The party's Decentralization Committee, chaired by
Koichiro Genba, is now pursuing discussions on the issue. The panel
is mapping out a set of proposals, including: (1) 20 trillion yen in
individual subsidies provided by each government agency to local
governments should be turned into grants over three to five years
starting in the fiscal 2009; and (2) reorganizing present
municipalities into 700 to 800 wide-spread local governments and
basic local governments over five to ten years and eventually
integrating them into 300 basic local governments.
It has been pointed out that tied subsidies are one cause of
unabated wasteful projects, because they can only be used for areas
designated by sponsor-government agencies. Ozawa aims at boosting
fiscal resources, which local government can spend at their own
discretion, by turning tied subsidies into grants. Regarding the
idea of establishing local governments, Ozawa has proposed a
two-tier structure consisting of the state and 300 basic local
governments. However, some party members are opposing Ozawa's plan
with one mid-ranking member rebutting, "The authority of the central
government would become even stronger under such a structure." For
this reason, Ozawa will likely set a mid-term goal of creating a
three-tier structure, by reorganizing municipalities into 700 to 800
basic local governments, while keeping wide-area local governments,
which are equivalent to the present prefectures, intact. Deputy
President Naoto Kan, Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama and several
others on the 3rd met at the party headquarters and confirmed their
stance of accelerating the process of mapping out a manifesto for
the next Lower House election to be formally adopted in early
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(5) Editorial: U.S. House Speaker's visit to Hiroshima atomic bomb
memorial a significant step
ASAHI (Page 3) (Full)
September 4, 2008
When the lower house speakers of the Group of Eight (G-8) major
countries were about to leave the monument at Hiroshima Peace
Memorial Park where they had just laid down wreathes of flowers,
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a small sign
of the cross. Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S. political figure to
visit Hiroshima, which suffered from an atomic bomb dropped by the
U.S. during World War II. What went through her mind at that time?
Did she pay tribute to the 140,000 people who had lost their lives
in a flash? What thought did she have about her own country that had
bombed the city?
There is a wide difference between Japan and the U.S. in the way the
atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are evaluated. The two
countries have concluded a security treaty and praise each other as
allies sharing common values. But when it comes to issues related to
war and history, there still exists an unhealed wound.
The U.S. government's view is that the bombings hastened Japan's
surrender and resulted in saving many lives. But the Japanese
people's feeling is that surrender was only a matter of time even
without the bombings and that the use of the weapons that
indiscriminately killed civilians and seriously exposed many people
to radiation was unforgivable from a humanitarian point of view.
The Japanese government, however, has taken an ambiguous attitude,
out of consideration to the U.S., saying that it is impossible to
even say that the use of nuclear weapons violated international
Last summer, then Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma said: "The dropping
of atomic bombs on Japan could not be helped." This remark halfway
represented the view of the U.S. since it ignored the pain of the
atomic bomb victims.
One year after Kyuma made the remark, Japan hosted the seventh
annual conference of lower house speakers from the G-8 major
countries in Hiroshima. House Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono was
the one who had recommended Hiroshima as the site for the
conference. He was motivated by a desire to discuss nuclear
disarmament, while looking squarely at the evidence that human
beings used inhumane weapons against other human beings.
After the G-8 conference, Pelosi issued a short statement noting: "I
recalled anew through this tour of Hiroshima that war is hugely
destructive. I came to think that it is an imminent task for all
countries to promote peace and build a better world." She supposedly
tried to respond in her own way to Kono's motive to hold the meeting
in Hiroshima.
There is also dissatisfaction among atomic-bomb suffers, because
there has never been an apology from the United States for the
atomic bombings. The U.S. has never changed its nuclear policy to
move toward abolition of all nuclear weapons. But at t a time when
many Americans seek to justify the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, Pelosi's visit to Hiroshima is significant.
TOKYO 00002428 007 OF 009
Taking a liberal stand, Pelosi is eager for nuclear disarmament, but
she visited Hiroshima as the House of Representatives speaker, even
though she might be publicly criticized for doing so. We would like
to express our respect to her for her courage and discernment.
When we evaluate a historical event, useless disputes tend to
emerge, involving nationalism. It is necessary for both sides to
understand the other side's pain even slightly, without discussing
whether the event was right or wrong. We would like to bear in mind
the sign of the cross made by Pelosi.
(6) Kazamidori (Weathervane) column: "Koizumi disarmament" irritates
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
August 31, 2008
By Hisayoshi Ina, editorial writer
I have my doubts about two common beliefs regarding Japan-U.S.
The accepted notions in question are: 1) Japan is more dissatisfied
with the present state of the bilateral alliance than the United
States due to its distrust of U.S. policy toward North Korea; and 2)
the Koizumi administration pleased the United States by sending the
Self-Defense Forces (SDF) overseas, while enraging China with the
Yasukuni Shrine issue.
Turning the argument around, if one assumes that the United States
is more displeased than Japan over the present state of the
alliance, it would mean that the Koizumi administration angered
Washington when it made China happy.
The Koizumi administration that stayed in office for five years from
2001 received a certain level of international appreciation for
dispatching the SDF to the Indian Ocean. That may have been the
impression, but the opposite may just be true.
In point of fact, the national defense budgets of major countries,
other than Japan, have increased their national defense budgets in
the seven years since 2001. Looking at the defense budgets of major
countries for 1997 and those for 2007 based on military balance
figures and the Budget Message of the President, China boosted its
spending 4.8 times over the last decade; the United States, 2.1
times; Britain, 1.7 times; Germany, 1.6 times; and France, 1.3
times. Japan, on the other hand, only increased defense spending by
1.9 PERCENT . Only Japan's budget did not double, but went up by
only a fraction.
In 2001, terrorists attacked the United States, and the period
between 2001 and 2007 was one in which major countries rushed to
build up their armaments. Arms growth rates in European countries
stayed relatively low probably because of strong euro. However,
compared to China, Japan seems to have been engaged in arms
reduction. I call this the "Koizumi disarmament"
Such a trend may have made China happy. Assuming that it was
difficult for Japan to correct its trajectory due to its economic
downturn, it should have cast a pall on relations with the United
States. The U.S. government has already expressed its displeasure
about it. This can be seen in the annual report on China's military
TOKYO 00002428 008 OF 009
power that the U.S. Department of Defense released on March 3,
According to a responsible Pentagon official, the most important
point in the annual report is a column chart found on page 33. The
column indicates the national defense budgets of such countries as
China, Russia and Japan. It also shows that the figure that China
disclosed topped Japan's defense spending.
The Defense Department estimates that China's real defense budget is
about twice or three times the figure that the government releases.
Even the official figure China revealed was larger than Japan's
defense budget. Under normal circumstances, Japan should have
increased its level of its dependence on the alliance with the U.S.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer, referring to this point
in a speech delivered on May 20 at the Foreign Correspondents Club
of Japan, called on Japan to increase its defense budget. Schieffer
said that Japan's defense outlays accounted for 0.89 PERCENT of its
gross domestic product (GDP), and that the figure was the lowest
among advanced industrialized countries belonging to the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Ambassador Schieffer criticized Japan for taking a "free ride," by
relying on the U.S.' defense capability. However, it is difficult
now for Japan to increase its defense budget due to the money
scandal involving former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya,
among other reasons. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) headed by
Ichiro Ozawa, however, has called for a cut in Japan's host nation
support that covers the expenses of U.S. bases in Japan. Such would
make the U.S. side angry.
No matter what happens in the world, whether it is the Fukuda
administration or the Ozawa administration, Japan will probably
continue its own "disarmament" policy. If the U.S. assertion is
taken into account, it is absolutely necessary for Japan to continue
the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling operation in the Indian
Ocean in order to reduce friction between Tokyo and Washington.
Under the present political situation, though, it appears difficult
for Japan to continue that mission.
Japanese conservatives erupted angrily when the U.S. government
decided to delist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, even
saying, "The U.S. betrayed Japan." If Japan ceases its refueling
mission, the U.S. will react similarly.
There is naturally an argument that Japan should defend itself by
nonmilitary means and contribute to world peace. In the process of
implementing the structural reforms, the Koizumi administration even
cut the budget for official development assistance (ODA) was
Japan has dropped to the level of being the number two aid donor,
overtaken by the United States in 2001, the year the Koizumi
administration was inaugurated. As a result of ODA cuts by the
Koizumi government, Japan dropped to fifth place in 2007. It will
soon sink more to become the sixth-largest aid donor.
Japan is on a downward slippery slope. I am convinced of it. Even
the Fukuda administration's slogan of realizing peace of mind,
reflected an inward-looking, shrinking orientation, that sought a
minimum level of peace of mind. An international environment that
TOKYO 00002428 009 OF 009
can provide peace of mind is premised on everything being secure.
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