Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 09/10/08

Published: Wed 10 Sep 2008 01:22 AM
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Opinion polls:
1) Labor Ministry poll shows Japanese society under great stress,
with 57 PERCENT rating their lives as "hard" or "distressful"
2) Face-to-face Mainichi poll finds 23 PERCENT of the public
favoring Taro Aso as an appropriate person to be prime minister, but
only 7 PERCENT pick Ichiro Ozawa (Mainichi)
3) Mainichi poll: DPJ President Ozawa given low marks by 72 PERCENT
of the Japanese public (Mainichi)
Election season:
4) LDP presidential race officially starts today, with the economy
as the main campaign issue (Mainichi)
5) Yomiuri survey of LDP lawmakers finds 40 PERCENT planning to
support Taro Aso in the LDP presidential election (Yomiuri)
6) Expecting Diet dissolution in October, the ruling camp lining its
strategic ducks in a row, even asking the opposition for talks on
key bills (Nikkei)
7) DPJ altering its political strategy in view of the upcoming
election (Mainichi)
Policy agenda:
8) Ruling camp putting off tough policy issues until the next prime
minister (Asahi)
9) Ruling parties agree on contents of bill extending MSDF refueling
in Indian Ocean (Asahi)
North Korea problem:
10) Foreign Minister Koumura makes a strong appeal to North Korea on
abduction issue to mark that country's 60th anniversary (Yomiuri)
11) DPRK at 60th anniversary marked by failed domestic and foreign
policies, stagnation, hunger, social unrest, and possibly a
seriously ill dictator (Tokyo Shimbun)
1) 57 PERCENT feel lives are distressful: gov't poll
YOMIURI (Page 2) (Full)
September 10, 2008
Over 57 PERCENT of the Japanese public feels their lives are hard
or distressful (kurushii), the Yomiuri Shimbun found from a survey
of public life conducted in 2007 by the Ministry of Health, Labor
and Welfare. The percentage has risen since 2000. This time, it hit
an all-time high since the survey started in 1986.
The survey was conducted in July 2007 of about 36,000 households,
and answers were obtained from about 24,000 households. Those
feeling badly off totaled 57.2 PERCENT , broken down into "very
hard" at 24 PERCENT and "somewhat hard" at 33.2 PERCENT . "Average"
accounted for 37.7 PERCENT , with "somewhat easy" at 4.6 PERCENT
and "very easy" at only 0.5 PERCENT .
The proportion of households feeling badly off was 50.7 PERCENT in
2000. It continued increasing in the following surveys and reached
56.3 PERCENT in 2006.
Annual income per household (in 2006) was less than 4 million yen
for 44 PERCENT but averaged 5,668,000 yen.
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2) Poll: Aso ranks top at 23 PERCENT for prime minister, Ozawa at 7
MAINICHI (Page 1) (Full)
September 10, 2008
The Mainichi Shimbun conducted a face-to-face public opinion survey
across the nation on Sept. 5-7, in which respondents were asked who
they thought would be appropriate for prime minister. There are now
five candidates running in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's
presidential election. Among them, LDP Secretary General Taro Aso
scored 23 PERCENT , followed by former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike
and former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Nobuteru Ishihara
respectively at 4 PERCENT , and Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister
Kaoru Yosano and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba respectively
at 1 PERCENT .
Another question asked respondents to pick a free choice with no
names given. Among others, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
and Ichiro Ozawa, president of the leading opposition Democratic
Party of Japan (Minshuto) ranked second to Aso, both marking 7
Among LDP supporters, Aso topped all others at 38 PERCENT , with
Koizumi at 8 PERCENT and Koike at 5 PERCENT . Aso also ranked top
among those who support the New Komeito, which is the LDP's
coalition partner, and among those with no particular party
affiliation, equally at 23 PERCENT . Ozawa was the best choice at 25
PERCENT among DPJ supporters, and Aso ranked second at 17 PERCENT
In the breakdown of public support for political parties, the LDP
stood at 33 PERCENT , with the DPJ garnering 22 PERCENT . The LDP
rose 8 percentage points from the last face-to-face poll in
September last year. The DPJ was up 1 point. The results of previous
polls and the one taken this time cannot be simply compared due to
different polling methodologies. However, the LDP and the DPJ were
both at 24 PERCENT in a telephone-based poll taken in early
3) Poll: DPJ's Ozawa unpopular
MAINICHI (Page 5) (Full)
September 10, 2008
Ichiro Ozawa-the incumbent president of the leading opposition
Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto)-was reelected unopposed
yesterday for a third term. In a recent poll conducted by the
Mainichi Shimbun, however, 72 PERCENT of all respondents answered
"no" to a question asking if they appreciated Ozawa. "Yes" accounted
for only 22 PERCENT . The figures are almost the same as the public
ratings for Prime Minister Fukuda and his cabinet over the past
year, implying that if the DPJ comes into office after the next
election for the House of Representatives and Ozawa becomes prime
minister, he could be troubled with low public ratings as Fukuda
Noticeably, negative answers accounted for 39 PERCENT even among
DPJ supporters. Affirmative answers accounted for 57 PERCENT and
outnumbered negative ones. However, the figures show that the public
ratings for the DPJ and for its leader are not necessarily
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4) Official announcement of LDP presidential election today to kick
off battle for general election, with economic policy as main
campaign issue
MAINICHI (Top Play) (Full)
September 10, 2008
The Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election scheduled for
Sept. 22 will be officially announced today. Since the election is
seen as a prelude to the next House of Representatives election,
which is likely to be held on Nov. 9, there may be a move toward
political realignment. The Democratic Party of Japan, in which
President Ozawa has won a third term without a formal vote, also has
already started full-scale preparations for a general election. The
official announcement of the LDP presidential race will kick off a
political battle that will last until the Lower House election.
Five candidates will run in the presidential race. The five are
Secretary General Taro Aso, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba,
former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, State Minister in charge of
Economic and Fiscal Policy Kaoru Yosano, and former Policy Research
Council Chairman Nobuteru Ishihara, who formally announced his
candidacy yesterday.
The LDP anticipates that the election campaign among the five
candidates, larger than the largest-ever four in the 2003 election,
will draw public attention. The candidates will deliver
street-corner speeches in 17 locations across the nation, with an
eye also on the Lower House election.
The ruling camp is pushing ahead with coordination to set the prime
minister's policy speech for the 29th and a representative
interpellation session for Oct.1-3 in the extraordinary Diet session
scheduled to open on the 24th. Many people predict that the new
prime minister, taking advantage of the momentum from the LDP
presidential election, may decide to dissolve the Lower House after
the representative interpellation session, but some are calling for
dissolution just after the prime minister's policy speech.
If the new prime minister takes their calls into consideration, the
Lower House will be dissolved only 10 days or so after the new
cabinet is launched, something that is unprecedented. In the past,
the Lower House was dissolved within 45 days after the first
Hatoyama cabinet was inaugurated, the fastest ever. The DPJ is
calling for an early dissolution, but the main opposition party is
now concerned that an early Lower House election might benefit the
In the presidential race, active debate on economic and fiscal
policy is expected. Some ruling party members anticipate that as a
result of such debate, momentum may grow for political realignment.
The focus of attention is on whether the new prime minister who is
elected in the LDP presidential race will be designated prime
minister again after the Lower House election expected to be held
about two months later.
5) 40 PERCENT of LDP lawmakers likely to vote for Aso in LDP
presidential election
YOMIURI (Top Play) (Excerpts)
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September 10, 2009
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will announce today that it will
hold a presidential election on Sept. 22. This means that the
official campaign for the LDP presidential race will kick off today.
A Yomiuri Shimbun survey of LDP lawmakers' voting intentions found
that more than 40 percent of the lawmakers (386) would likely vote
for Secretary General Taro Aso. The expectation is that LDP
presidential candidates -- former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, 56,
a Machimura faction member; Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister
Kaoru Yosano, 79, who does not belong to any faction; former policy
chief Nobuteru Ishihara, 51, a Yamasaki faction member; and former
Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, 51, a Tsushima faction member --
will actively conduct debate on economic and security policies.
According to the results of the survey conducted by the Yomiuri
Shimbun, 163 lawmakers or 42 PERCENT of the LDP Diet members have
decided as of late last night to vote for Aso. The 163 include: all
20 Aso faction members; all 16 Nikai faction members; about 70
PERCENT of the 28 Ibuki faction members; a majority of the 15
Koumura faction members; about 40 PERCENT of the 88 Machimura
faction members and the 62 Koga faction members; and some members
from the Tsushima n and the Yamasaki factions. The Tsushima faction
has 70 members; and the Yamasaki faction, 41.
Less than one percent lawmakers have decided to vote for Koike,
Ishihara, Ishiba and Yosano. Koike gained support from some
Machimura faction members and some lawmakers from the policy sturdy
group called "New Breeze," which is headed by former Secretary
General Tsutomu Takebe. Ishihara won support from the Yamasaki
faction and some members from the Koga and Machimura factions.
Ishiba got support from the Tsushima faction alone. Yosano was
backed by some members from the Koga and Machimura factions, as well
as some lawmakers with no factional allegiance.
However, nearly 40 PERCENT of the LDP lawmakers have yet to decide
for whom they will vote.
6) Ruling coalition laying groundwork for possible Lower House
dissolution in October
NKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
September 10, 2008
The ruling parties have begun to take preparatory steps for a
possible dissolution of the House of Representatives in October.
Yesterday, a day before the start of the official campaign for the
Sept. 22 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election, the
ruling coalition held a succession of meetings on bills extending
Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and establishing a
consumer affairs agency. The ruling camp on Sept. 12 will ask the
opposition bloc to hold policy consultations on such issues as the
government-drafted economic stimulus package. The aim is to generate
momentum for the next Lower House election by holding discussions
with the opposition before the upcoming extraordinary Diet session.
The ruling camp's project team on the refueling extension has
drafted a bill extending by one year the refueling operation.
The meeting of policy chiefs decided that the ruling parties would
end internal procedures by Sept. 16 regarding how they would respond
to the two bills before the cabinet makes a decision on the 19th.
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The ruling coalition has predicted that consultations with the main
opposition party Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will run into
difficulties. Speculation has been rife that the DPJ may rupture
talks with the ruling coalition due to the possible early Lower
House dissolution.
If there is an early dissolution of the Lower House, a political
vacuum will be unavoidable until the end of the general election.
The ruling parties have been motivated to strengthen their internal
ties, as well as to fend off criticism for putting on the
back-burner a number of issues, by demonstrating their efforts to
settle key legislation.
7) DPJ alters election strategy
MAINICHI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
September 10, 2008
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) decided yesterday in a meeting
of its shadow cabinet to come up with the framework of a manifesto
(set of campaign pledges) for the next House of Representatives
election on Sept. 21, when President Ichiro Ozawa is formally
reelected for his third term. Policy Research Committee Chairman
Masayuki Naoshima, who had said that the party would formulate a
manifesto on the 21st or later, stressed yesterday to reporters:
"Since the situation is imminent, we can't do so after we set our
basic policy."
The largest opposition party has been also forced to revise the
results of its survey on the state of electoral districts, which
become materials to choose candidates. A senior party member said:
"We have to revise the results of our survey."
Ozawa went around several electoral districts in Tokyo yesterday. He
visited without advance notice offices of those who have been
informally picked DPJ candidates. He stayed in each office just for
10 minutes.
Later in the day, Ozawa told Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama: "I
want you to hold an executive board meeting, since the election will
be held soon."
Appearing on an NHK news program last night, Ozawa expressed his
concern, saying: "It will not be that easy to defeat the LDP in the
Lower House."
8) Global warming left for next administration
ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
September 10, 2008
Prime Minister Fukuda attended a meeting of four cabinet ministers
in charge of policy to combat global warming and reiterated the need
for the ministries to continue to proactively address his proposal
to turn Japan into a low-carbon society under the next
administration. As its test case, the participants confirmed that
the government will introduce an emissions trading system in October
on a trial basis. But since there are many difficult problems in
forming the system, it is unclear whether things will go smoothly.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura stressed in a press conference
TOKYO 00002476 006 OF 009
yesterday that the next government will continue efforts to curb
global warming in accordance with the action program adopted in a
cabinet meeting under the Fukuda cabinet. Machimura said: "That is
the government's major policy. No matter who becomes prime minister,
Japan will continue to fight global warming."
With the aim of playing a leading role in the Hokkaido Toyako
Summit, Fukuda came up with the trial introduction of emissions
trading as one of the key items in the Fukuda Vision initiative
released in June. Although industrial circles were calling for
caution, Fukuda decided to introduce the system in October and
instructed relevant government agencies to start preparations.
The Fukuda Vision aims at forming an integrated market that involves
cap-and-trade, under which a cap is set on greenhouse gas emissions
from large firms and emissions rights are traded, the Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM) in the Kyoto Protocol designed for
industrialized countries to assist developing countries in reducing
greenhouse gas emissions, and the domestic CDM system to be set up
by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, under which large
domestic companies help small businesses cut emissions.
As measures to urge many firms to participate in the cap-and-trade
system, the government's study team under the Cabinet Secretariat
has considered: (1) letting companies voluntarily join the system to
set an emission cap; and (2) setting no penalty even in the case of
emissions exceeding the upper limit.
However, industrial circles, which are concerned about mandatory
curbs, remain cautious about introducing the cap-and-trade system in
attaining the targets set in their voluntary plans, while supporting
the domestic CDM system, which they think will help companies'
energy-conservation efforts. The system therefore might not fully
9) Ruling parties agree to submit MSDF bill
ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
September 10, 2008
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the
New Komeito, held a meeting of their policy chiefs yesterday, in
which they agreed to present a bill amending the new Antiterrorism
Special Measures Law to extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force's
refueling activities in the Indian Ocean for another year. The
government will endorse the legislation in a cabinet meeting on
Sept. 16 before Prime Minister Fukuda leaves office and will
introduce it to the Diet in its forthcoming extraordinary session.
However, it will be difficult to pass the bill during the
extraordinary session if Fukuda's successor dissolves the Diet at
its outset.
The planned legislation extends the antiterror law for one year up
until Jan. 15, 2009. The MSDF is to continue its current refueling
activities in the same area as under the current law. The ruling
coalition will call on the leading opposition Democratic Party of
Japan (Minshuto) and other opposition parties for policy talks.
However, the DPJ is unlikely to respond in the run-up to a snap
election for the House of Representatives. If the bill does not pass
the Diet within this year, the MSDF will again pull out with the law
running out. The ruling parties concurred in written form that it is
"the most effective and realistic possible option at this point" to
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simply extend the law.
10) Foreign Minister Koumura calls on North Korea to implement
agreement on abduction issue, on 60th anniversary of foundation
YOMIURI (Page 2) (Full)
September 10, 2008
In a press conference yesterday, Foreign Minister Koumura called on
North Korea to deliver on the promises it made to the international
community on the abductions, nuclear development, and other issues,
saying: "We would like to see North Korea play a constructive role
as a member of the international community." He made this remark on
the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of North
As its immediate task, Japan needs to have North Korea to start the
reinvestigation of the abduction victims as it promised. Japan had
anticipated that the North would start the reinvestigation by
Foundation Day on Sept. 9, but North Korea has decided to postpone
it, taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the next Japanese
administration would take.
Koumura expressed eagerness to forge ahead with negotiations on the
abduction and other issues pending between Japan and North Korea,
saying: "If Japan-North Korea relations move forward, our nation and
the international community will welcome it." He also indicated that
Japan would decide to partially remove or ease sanctions if North
Korea implements the reinvestigation, remarking: "Our side will
implement what it promised."
North Korea in August suspended work to disable its Yongbyon reactor
in violation of an agreement reached in the six-party talks. The
nation has indicated it will start reassembling the reactor. Foreign
Ministry Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General Akitaka
Saiki said: "North Korea's move is a strategic one (to draw out
concessions from the international community). It would not be wise
to overreact." He is willing to move bilateral pending issues
forward, separating them from the response to the nuclear issue.
Kim Jong Il was absent from the 60th anniversary ceremony. Regarding
his health condition, a senior Foreign Ministry official indicated
the ministry will carefully collect information, saying: "Although
there are rumors that he is ill, we have not heard anything about
11) North Korea marks 60th anniversary; Country reaches dead end
domestically and diplomatically
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 3) (Abridged slightly)
September 10, 2008
Eiji Tsukiyama, Kaname Fukuda, Seoul
North Korea marked the 60th anniversary of the country's founding on
Sept. 9. In the face of food shortages and other adversities, the
country has been maintaining a peculiar system by using the "nuclear
card" on the diplomatic front, while advocating "military-first
politics" and projecting the image of being a powerful nation. But
with the United States having decided to postpone its plan to delist
the North as a state sponsor of terrorism, Pyongyang recently seems
to have reached an impasse on the diplomatic front. With reports of
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the ill health of DPRK leader Kim Jong Il, speculation about the
selection of his successor may rapidly become a reality.
According to Korean Central Television, tens of thousands of people
filled the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang during the massive parade
of the people's army that took place on Sept. 9 to commemorate the
60th anniversary of the country's founding, showcasing the nation's
rock-solid solidarity both domestically and internationally.
General Secretary Kim Jong Il had always observed such parades in
the past, but he was not there this year.
In sharp contrast to such gaudy commemorative events, the
environment surrounding North Korea is severe. The World Food
Program (WFP) has pointed out the possibility that 5 million to 6
million people might starve in the worst food crisis since the late
The Bank of Korea's statistics also show that the North marked
negative economic growth in 2007 for the second consecutive year.
The North's economy is now 36 times smaller than that of South
In addition to domestic affairs, the country has reached a dead end
on the diplomatic front, as well. The country failed to convince the
United States to remove it from the U.S. terrorist blacklist as
planned, and Japan's pledge to lift its economic sanctions on the
North conditioned on its reinvestigation into the fate of the
Japanese abductees has slipped away, because of Prime Minister Yasuo
Fukuda's decision to step down. The South-North dialogue between
Seoul and Pyongyang also remains suspended.
In January, three newspapers, including the Nodong Sinmun, played up
the significance of the 60th anniversary with their joint New Year
editorial noting, "Let the anniversary shine as the event
commemorating the historic year." But the Nodong Sinmun's Sept. 1
editorial alluded to the harsh reality, noting, "Due to the warlike
conditions and circumstances, it is extremely difficult to brighten
the 60th anniversary as the victor's grand celebration."
The denuclearization process has also stalled due to the North's
attempt to restart the Yongbyon nuclear facility.
A Six-Party Talks source indicated that there is little hope for
progress for the time being, saying: "Now that the United States has
put off delisting the North as a state sponsor of terrorism,
Pyongyang might have decided to hold talks on the denuclearization
issue with the next U.S. administration."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has set the goal of opening the door
to making the country a powerful nation in 2012, the centennial of
the birth of his late father, Kim Il Sung. A powerful nation means
setting the military as a pillar of revolution and advancing
economic construction with its power, according to the Nodong
But the path to economic reconstruction seems steep. China, the
North's major supporters, is moving closer to South Korea as well.
Kim Hyon Jun of the North Korean affairs office of the Korean
Institute for National Unification, a think tank affiliated with the
South Korean government, pointed out difficulty, saying: "In order
to become an economically powerful country, relations with the
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United States, Japan, and South Korea must be improved."
Many experts think that the current regime would last until 2012
unless there are special problems. But according to South Korean
intelligence authorities, Kim Jong Il had a heart bypass in May
2007. Rumor has it that he is suffering from diabetes, as well.
Whenever the North Korean leader, now 66, fails to show up at public
events for a long period of time, a rumor circulates that he is
suffering from ill health.
Kim Jong Il's three sons -- Jong Nam, Jong Chol, and Jong Un -- are
regarded as potential successors to the North Korean leader.
Although an expert indicated that the selection of his successor can
wait, Kim Jong Il's health and his successor issues are drawing much
attention due to his failure to attend the 60th anniversary event.
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