Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 11/25/08

Published: Tue 25 Nov 2008 08:20 AM
DE RUEHKO #3233/01 3300820
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(1) Aso administration's three distresses in two months (Mainichi)
(2) Conflict may be sparked in ruling camp over policy debates on
road revenues, postal services, public servant reform (Nikkei)
(3) New Komeito in anguish over administration straying off course:
Eager to build channels with shy premier (Tokyo Shimbun)
(4) New York Federal Reserve Bank President Geithner picked as
treasury secretary (Yomiuri)
(5) We must not have overconfidence in MD system (Yomiuri)
(6) ASDF chief of staff's firing and freedom of thought, creed
(9) Prime Minister's schedule, November 23 & 24 (Nikkei)
(1) Aso administration's three distresses in two months
MAINICHI (Page 5) (Full)
November 25, 2008
Prime Minister Taro Aso marked his second month in office yesterday
by winding up a visit to Lima, Peru, through which he had aimed to
boost his administration's popularity. Aso is expected to lead his
Liberal Democratic Party into the next general election for the
House of Representatives. However, the divided Diet has made a fool
of him, caused him trouble by the absence of a control tower, and
exposed his tendency to make careless remarks. This 'triple
distress' are the elements that weakened former governments. Some
have contended that the Aso administration will gradually become
administrations that failed before him.
"When seeing the present government, I don't understand that why we
(the cabinet of former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda) had to resign,"
former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said many times to
government officials in a recent meeting. Talks ended in failure
between Aso and Ichiro Ozawa, president of the main opposition
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), over a second supplementary for
fiscal 2008. There is no change in the situation of the Diet being
divided. The government has had difficulties in managing Diet
affairs just as the previous government did. In his policy speech
delivered on Sept. 29, Aso criticized the DPJ's tactics to control
the Diet. He has yet to find the "consensus-building rule,' to which
he referred in his policy speech. A senior LDP member said with a
touch of self-derision: "In next year's regular Diet session, the
ruling coalition will bulldoze votes or take second votes in the
Lower House."
Aso's policy of placing priority on policy rather than political
motives has not yet realized. Aso has repeatedly changed his tune
regarding a fixed cash payout plan. Many LDP members have criticized
Aso's policy of distributing 1 trillion yen from road tax revenues
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to local governments.
Aso, however, has taken a bullish attitude, saying: "I think it is a
problem if no view is raised. But one senior ministry official
lamented: "No policy measures have been implemented yet."
All the more because Aso is the only box office star in his cabinet,
Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura has not been able to display
his political presence. This situation is similar to the cabinet of
former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who installed his aides in the
posts of the Prime Minister's Official Residence (Kantei). A senior
New Komeito member is now urging Aso to shuffle the Kantei staff,
saying: "Persons like Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Tadamori
Oshima should join the staff."
Aso's making careless remarks is serious, however. His remark that
doctors lack common sense was a terrible gaffe. Furthermore, his
remark that there is a rule that the state-owned shares of Japan
Post Holding Corporation have to be sold before the end of the year
was criticized for being factually wrong.
There are views backing Aso, such as his being tired, but if Aso
does nothing, he might commit the same error as former Prime
Minister Yoshiro Mori, who lost the support of the people.
Aso administration's 'triple distress' and examples in former
Divided Diet
Prime Minister Aso delayed Lower House dissolution. His meeting with
DPJ President Ozawa over second extra budget failed. Aso will put
the new refueling bill to second vote in the Lower House by
extending the current extra Diet session.
Fukuda cabinet
Meeting between Fukuda and Ozawa ended in failure. Three bills,
including one extending the antiterrorism law, were put to second
votes in the lower chamber.
Absence of control tower
Since Chief Cabinet Secretary Kawamura and Deputy Chief Cabinet
Secretary Matsumoto failed to serve as coordinator, confusion was
created regarding fixed benefit payments plan and 1 trillion yen
distribution from the central government to local government.
Abe cabinet
Prime Minister Abe formed 'friend cabinet.' Although Abe gave five
prime ministerial assistant posts to his aides, the
Kantei-leadership was not realized.
Careless remarks
Aso repeatedly changed remarks on the fixed benefit payments and
other issues. He apologized to medical association for saying
doctors lacked common sense. He misread Chinese characters.
Mori cabinet
Mori made such gaffes as Japan being a divine nation; unaffiliated
voters not going to vote being good. His qualifications as prime
minister were questioned.
(2) Conflict may be sparked in ruling camp over policy debates on
road revenues, postal services, public servant reform
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NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
November 25, 2008
Ahead of budget compilation for next fiscal year and fundamental tax
system reform in December, the government and the ruling camp will
soon start work to flesh out key policy measures. Views are split in
the ruling camp, however, on such policy issues as road revenues,
postal services, and the reform of the public-servant system.
Depending on the contents of the decisions, there could be a serious
impact on the administration of government.
In an executive meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party's Tax System
Research Commission on Nov. 20, former Finance Minister Koji Omi
said: "The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) plans to submit a bill
calling for lowering the current provisional road-related tax rates
next year. Do you think we will be able to win the next election if
we vote down the bill? The voters may not understand our call for
using tax revenues for other purposes than highway construction and
maintenance and for keeping the current tax rates unchanged." Omi
even added: "What the DPJ says is more rational."
Coordination bogging down on tax rate
Prime Minister Taro Aso has ordered: "More than 1.3 trillion yen in
road-specific tax revenues should be distributed to local
governments." If the government allocates some of the tax revenues
to local governments for other purposes than highway maintenance and
also lowers the road-specific tax rates, the highway-related budget
may significantly shrink. The only option left for the LDP would be
to move road tax revenues into the general budget and to keep the
provisional tax rate untouched. Executive members of the LDP's
policy research and tax research panels decided to continue the
current automobile-related tax rates, including the provisional tax
rates, for another three years or so.
In the ruling camp, the New Komeito has been calling for cutting the
automobile weight tax. With the focus of attention on what specific
amount the prime minister has in mind in his 1.3-trillion-yen
proposal, coordination on auto-related taxes is expected to run into
a road block.
Former Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa noted on his website on
Nov. 21: "If the government suspends postal reform, reformists like
me will have no other choice but to take countermeasures, making a
crucial decision." The attack is directed at the prime minister, who
referred to a freeze on the planned sale of state-owned shares in
companies under Japan Post Holdings Co., as well as at the LDP
members aiming at changing the course of postal-service
privatization. In the LDP Policy Research Council, a taskforce
examining the privatization of postal services is now looking into
making proposals going against the trend of privatization. In such a
case, Nakagawa and junior advocates of postal reform will inevitably
react fiercely.
Rise in revolt against Kantei
The proposed reform of the public servant system may also trigger
conflict. Former Administrative Reform Minister Yoshimi Watanabe and
other LDP members have criticized the government's reform plan as
too slipshod. A plan to create a cabinet personnel bureau, the
centerpiece of the government's reform plan, is now likely to be
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postponed. Watanabe, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, and other LDP members called
on Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura on Nov. 21 to submit a
second extra budget bill for fiscal 2008 to the current Diet
session, rising revolt against the Prime Minister's Office
Those critical of the government's public servant reform plan are
also in favor of the government submitting a second extra budget
bill during the current session. Nakagawa and Watanabe are in close
contacted with each other, so Nakagawa had been notified of
Watanabe's plan to call for a second budget bill beforehand.
Anti-Aso moves can also be detected in their moves
(3) New Komeito in anguish over administration straying off course:
Eager to build channels with shy premier
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
November 25, 2008
The ruling parties and the New Komeito are in anguish over the
erratically-struggling Aso administration. They cannot trust Prime
Minister Aso because he keeps committing gaffes. The New Komeito
cannot afford to secede from the administration as the party must
survive the next Lower House election. They are searching for ways
to build channels with the prime minister, by sealing off their
discontent with the delayed dissolution of the Lower House.
New Komeito head Akihiro Ota told the prime minister, who was seated
across the table from him: "We have barely had opportunities to
exchange candid opinions. However, I hope we can have a meeting like
this on various occasions in the future."
A dinner meeting of senior officials of the Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP) and the New Komeito Party was held at the Prime Minister's
Office (Kantei) on the evening of November 18. It was the first such
an occasion since the administration was launched in late
Ota, who had been eager to have a Lower House dissolution before
year's end, was busy making preparations for a Diet dissolution in
October, right after the launch of the Aso administration. He was so
busy that he attended parties only three times. However, the prime
minister inclined to delay the timing of dissolving the Lower House
in response to a strong request from his aides, including Finance
Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who were dubbed his "friends."
Secretary General Kazuo Kitagawa, who served as New Komeito Policy
Affairs Research Council chairman when Aso served in the same post
in the LDP, was supposed to serve as a channel between the New
Komeito and the prime minister. However, the prime minister's
decision to delay a Lower House dissolution made the New Komeito
acutely feel that it has no channel that will enable it to have
"heart-to-heart communication with the prime minister."
Ota admits that he had had few contacts with the prime minister. He
told persons close to him: "It would be troublesome if we have no
prospects for the timing of a Lower House dissolution. We must make
contact with his friends.'" Ota visited the Kantei three times in
November. He also made contact with Aso's "friends."
However, the distance between Ota and the prime minister has hardly
narrowed. That is because unlike former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda,
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with whom Ota occasionally had talks on the management of the Diet,
Aso is reluctant to build new ties, as one senior New Komeito
official noted.
Now that Lower House dissolution is most likely to be delayed until
early in the new year or later, the New Komeito envisages a strategy
of rolling into a Lower House dissolution at the outset of the
regular Diet session to be convened in January next year with the
fiscal 2008 second supplementary budget bill and the fiscal 2009
budget bill as the campaign issues. However, if the government and
the ruling parties suffer a more setback, their scenario would be
derailed, forcing it to revise it.
One senior New Komeito official said, "We are in such a desperate
situation that we have no other choice but to tell the prime
minister, 'If the situation remains as is, we cannot cooperate with
the LDP on the election, because we are tied up.'"
Their discontent, which was once sealed off, is beginning to emerge
in the form of irritation at the administration's straying off
(4) New York Federal Reserve Bank President Geithner picked as
treasury secretary
YOMIURI (Page 1) (Full)
November 22, 2008
The selection of President Timothy Geithner of the New York Federal
Reserve Bank under the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) as treasury
secretary has been firmed up. As the right-hand man of FRB Chairman
Bernanke, he has been spearheading efforts to deal with the
financial crisis, including the bailout or closing of major
financial institutions, such as Bear Stearns.
He was involved in capital injection into financial institutions led
by Treasury Secretary Paulson, based on the Emergency Economic
Stabilization Act.
He served as undersecretary of treasury (responsible for
international affair) between 1999 and 2001 during the Clinton
administration. He was assigned to the American Embassy in Tokyo
before serving in that post. He is well versed in the bad loan
problem that Japan faced at the time. He has a good command of
Japanese. Summers, who is likely to be appointed to be presidential
assistant (responsible for economic affairs), served as treasury
secretary during the Clinton administration. He is a well-known
(5) We must not have overconfidence in MD system
YOMIURI (Page 11) (Full)
November 22, 2008
The Chokai, a Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis-equipped destroyer,
failed to intercept a ballistic missile in a missile intercept test
conducted in waters off Hawaii.
On Nov. 20, at 11:24 a.m. (Japan time), about three minuets after a
mock ballistic missile was launched from Kauai, the Chokai launched
an SM-3 intercept missile. The SM-3 is a three-stage intercept
missile. The launched SM-3 interceptor was continuing its flight
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controlled by the Chokai's radar tracking the mock missile until its
third stage was separated. However, the SM-3's third-stage warhead
is designed to open its 'eyes' and home in on a heat source with
infrared rays. The SM-3 interceptor lost sight of the target right
before hitting the mock missile, according to the MSDF's account.
The SM-3 missile's third-stage warhead flies for several seconds. On
the screen of a monitoring room at the U.S. Navy's missile range was
the SM-3 interceptor's separated third-stage projectile flying
toward the mock ballistic missile. "The moment I thought it hit," an
MSDF staff officer said. "it veered."
The last intercept test, conducted in December last year, was a
success. This time, however, the test was carried out with its
difficulty level raised. Unlike in the previous test, the MSDF was
not informed of what time the mock ballistic missile would be
launched. The Chokai successfully picked and tracked the mock
missile. The MSDF and the U.S. Navy are now looking into the cause
of the intercept test's failure. However, an MSDF staff officer
said: "Everything was normal up until the third stage's separation.
It's highly likely that there was something wrong with the
However, the failure this time had been anticipated.
An MSDF officer confessed: "Even a missile developed with
state-of-the-art technologies is a man-made tool. It's unavoidable
that there will be something wrong with the machine at the rate of a
certain percent." The U.S. military has also failed in three of 15
tests. In the summer of this year, the U.S. Navy conducted a
rim-of-the-Pacific exercise (RIMPAC), with the participation of the
Aegis destroyer Kirishima from the MSDF. The Kirishima was to launch
four SM-2 antiaircraft missiles. However, one of the four missiles
The cost of the MSDF's participation in the test this time was 6.2
billion yen. The government has invested a huge amount of money over
30 billion yen for each Aegis ship's renovation to mount a missile
defense (MD) system. The MSDF renovated four Aegis ships, and their
renovation costs added up to 120 billion yen. The possibility of
missile glitches is closely intertwined with cost efficiency. Japan
and the United States are going to co-develop an advanced version of
the SM-3 (Block 2A) with enhanced thrust and destructive power. Even
this enhanced missile is not exceptional.
Then, the question is what to do.
The MD system, currently in place against ballistic missiles, is a
two-tier intercept system, which is made of the SM-3, a sea-based
missile mounted on Aegis ships, and the Patriot Advanced Capability
(PAC-3), a ground-based missile that is to back up the SM-3 and
shoot down missed projectiles. However, the PAC-3's defensive area
is small. To defend Japan in its entirety, there will be no choice
but to raise the SM-3's targeting accuracy. However, the SM-3 could
have glitches. In addition, several missiles may be launched as
North Korea test-fired seven ballistic missiles in 2006. In that
case, the MD system is highly likely to miss them.
In the present-day military technology, the MD system is the only
way to shoot down intruding ballistic missiles. However, the
government should explain that the MD system is not a perfect
weapon. In its white paper for this year, the Defense Ministry says
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it will be possible for an Aegis ship to cover all over Japan in its
future defense. However, we must not be overconfident. The MD system
is still likely to miss ballistic missiles. Given this, the
government should also review Japan's antimissile readiness.
The MD system may intercept the first-launched ballistic missile.
However, what if second and third ballistic missiles are launched at
Japan? Will Japan wait to intercept them in the same way?
Then, the question is whether Japan should acquire the capability of
striking missile sites. Isn't it about time to seriously discuss
this issue? Such a multilayered defense buildup will lead to
(6) ASDF chief of staff's firing and freedom of thought, creed
SANKEI (Page 13) (Full)
November 21, 2008
Akira Momochi, professor at Nihon University
This is what I was concerned about. Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF)
Chief of Staff Toshio Tamogami has been sacked, and the Defense
Ministry has now begun an investigation of the essays that many ASDF
officers submitted with Tamogami to an contest. The Sankei Shimbun
carried an article about this defense inspection in its Nov. 15
edition. According to the article, defense inspections are generally
intended to investigate such misconducts as back-scratching with
contractors. The article points out that the Defense Ministry's
inspection of what someone wrote in an essay is an unusual case. It
also says such an investigation has caused a strong backlash, with
such comments as that this could lead to intruding into freedom of
thought and belief.
Indeed, In assessing the Tamogami problem, there may be room for
criticism if an officer, in this case one who held the key post of
ASDF chief of staff, submits a public essay that runs counter to the
government's view (Murayama statement), even though it is within the
bounds if it were a personal view. In other words, the freedom of
expression of a public official or officer is unavoidably restricted
to a certain extent. However, freedom of thought and creed is
another story.
After Tamogami's sacking, however, the tone of the press and
politicians in the opposition parties turned critical about what he
had written in the essay. Some blamed Tamogami, implying he was a
dangerous person, while others tended to denounce his thought or his
view of history itself. This is fraught with serious problems that
cannot be overlooked under the Constitution.
To look back on the series of developments, I have some questions.
First, a top brass officer of the Self-Defense Forces made public a
view that differs from the government's view, even though it was his
own personal view. Was this a problem? Second, Tamogami publicized
his essay without reporting it in written form to his supervisor,
going against the Defense Ministry's internal regulations. Was this,
too, a problem? And third, an SDF echelon officer has thoughts (or a
view of history) that go against the Murayama statement. Was this a
problem? Although these points were left ambiguous, action to
dismiss him went ahead. The Defense Ministry even began a defense
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In that respect, the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Tokyo Shimbun said in
their Nov. 2 editorials that each individual is free to have any
kind of perception about history. However, the two dailies also said
the problem is that the ASDF's top brass officer made public a view
that is incompatible with the government's view. The Sankei Shimbun
said in its Nov. 2 editorial that if anyone in the SDF is not
allowed even to raise a question about the government's view, that
is a problem. What the Sankei Shimbun asserted can be taken as
In the meantime, the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun
criticized Tamogami's view itself as "distorted thinking" or "a
distorted view of history." Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto)
President Ichiro Ozawa also commented on a Nov. 3 NHK TV news
program: "Although the government was aware that he held such
opinions (or such a view of history), the government appointed him
to the post of ASDF chief of staff. So the government is
If so, Ozawa's assertion can be taken to mean that the government in
its appointments or promotions to the SDF's chief of staff posts and
all other government office posts must eliminate anyone whose
thinking goes against the Murayama Statement. New Komeito Policy
Research Council Chairman Natsuo Yamaguchi was also quoted by the
Tokyo Shimbun in its Nov. 2 edition as saying: "If the SDF's top
brass and all others in the SDF have a similar way of thinking, they
must be reeducated." This also can be taken to mean that the SDF
must propagandize its members. I wonder if they have forgotten that
the Constitution's Article 19 guarantees freedom of thought and
Freedom of thought and creed (conscience) means that the people are
absolutely free to take any view as long as such remains in their
hearts. It also means that the state must not force or forbid any
specific thought on the people, that the state must not discriminate
against the people for their thought or creed, and that the state
must not compel the people to express their thought (freedom of
silence). The opposition parties and the media criticized Tamogami's
thought itself as inappropriate for the ASDF chief of staff post,
and the Defense Ministry conducted a 'thought investigation' of SDF
members in the name of defense inspection. This smacks of violating
the Constitution.
The Murayama Statement, from the start, is no more than Prime
Minister Murayama's personal view. He stated: "Our country followed
a mistaken national policy at one time not distant in the past, and
its colonial rule and aggression inflicted serious damage and pain
on many countries." Accordingly, he also stated: "I express a strong
feeling of remorse again and express a feeling of apology from the
bottom of my heart." The Murayama cabinet went so far as to adopt
this statement. It has therefore shackled the government and even
cabinet ministers thereafter.
However, each and every person is completely free to have any view
of history. Some segments of the media take the Murayama Statement
as absolute and never allow anyone to criticize it. Such a tendency
is extremely dangerous. Nevertheless, they have reiterated a
question asking each new prime minister if he will follow the
'Murayama Statement." And this time around, they have denounced the
sacked ASDF chief of staff, based on the Murayama statement.
This has become the allegiance test today. I believe that we should
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break away from such an corrupt practice at once and retract the
Murayama statement as early as possible.
Asahi: Mainichi: Yomiuri: Sankei: Tokyo Shimbun
Suspect in ex-bureaucrat assaults plotted to kill 10 more people
Bailout of Citigroup: Government to guarantee its assets worth 29
trillion yen: Additional injection of 1.9 trillion yen
Exchange meeting of Association of Article 9
(1) Business slump and global warming: Time to boost domestic demand
for greenery
(1) Substantial dip in tax revenues: Starting point for fiscal
(2) New strains of flu: Government's crisis control system to be
(1) APEC statement: Abide by agreement reached in WTO talks
(2) College contribution to regional areas: Challenges is to build
(1) U.S. financial crisis moves into new phase
(2) Efficacy of agreement reached at APEC questioned
(1) APEC: More efforts needed to overcome crisis
(2) Midterm account settlement
Tokyo Shimbun:
(1) Major mergers in Heisei period: Time to verify merits and
(2) Promotion of food education: Clue to self-reliance of regions
(1) Government should negotiate with U.S. government for return of
Okinawa ocean area designated for U.S. military drill
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(9) Prime Minister's schedule, November 23 & 24
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
November 25, 2008
Nov. 23
Noon Posed for a group photo at the Peruvian Army General
Headquarters. Issued an APEC statement.
Afternoon Attended a luncheon meeting with other state leaders at
the President's Official Residence. Held a press conference with
Japanese and foreign correspondents at the Japan-Peru Cultural
Center in Lima City.
Night Met the chairman of the Association of Japanese Peruvians and
others. Left Lima International Airport by government plane.
Nov. 24
Early morning Arrived in Los Angeles for refueling.
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