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Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 04/19/07

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190118Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
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RHMFIUU/HQ PACAF HICKAM AFB HI//CC/PA//
RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA//J5/JO21//
RUYNAAC/COMNAVFORJAPAN YOKOSUKA JA
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RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 3202
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 0753
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 4287
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 0057
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RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6662
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3987

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 11 TOKYO 001725

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR E, P, EB, EAP/J, EAP/P, EAP/PD, PA;
WHITE HOUSE/NSC/NEC; JUSTICE FOR STU CHEMTOB IN ANTI-TRUST DIVISION;
TREASURY/OASIA/IMI/JAPAN; DEPT PASS USTR/PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE;
SECDEF FOR JCS-J-5/JAPAN,
DASD/ISA/EAPR/JAPAN; DEPT PASS ELECTRONICALLY TO USDA
FAS/ITP FOR SCHROETER; PACOM HONOLULU FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY ADVISOR;
CINCPAC FLT/PA/ COMNAVFORJAPAN/PA.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP KMDR KPAO PGOV PINR ECON ELAB JA

SUBJECT: JAPANESE MORNING PRESS HIGHLIGHTS 04/19/07


1) Top headlines
2) Editorials
3) Prime Minister's daily schedule

Comfort-women issue:
4) Ambassador Schieffer says the comfort-women issue will not have
great impact on the upcoming summit between Prime Minister Abe,
President Bush
5) Former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato criticizes group of Diet
members traveling to Washington to argue that WWII comfort women
were not coerced

6) 2008 G9 Summit: Government plans to split up locations of prime
ministers', foreign ministers', and finance ministers' talks

7) LDP group led by Koichi Kato, Taku Yamasaki to visit China, ROK
starting on April 27

Nagasaki mayor shooting:
8) Defense Minister Kyuma cancels all official business and heads to
Nagasaki for funeral of Nagasaki mayor, who was a close friend
9) Government plans to tighten import restrictions on firearms in
wake of Nagasaki mayor's assassination by a gangster
10) Need to beef up protection of key public officials in the wake
of the Nagasaki shooting of the mayor

11) Commentary by social historian Koguma on US campus massacre: Gap
between US Constitution and reality

12) Panel to start study of collective sell-defense on April 25th

13) Japan, Russia energy talks now focusing on Sakhalin 1 project

Political agenda:
14) Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) seems to have lost its
policy presence in the current Diet session
15) LDP, New Komeito still at odds over the contents of revision of
the political funds law regarding office expenses
16) Report on Okinawa by-election campaign

Articles:

1) TOP HEADLINES

Asahi, Mainichi & Tokyo Shimbun:
FTC to raid independent administrative corporation under MAFF's
supervision possibly today on suspicion of bid-rigging

Yomiuri:
Bill amending the Juvenile Law to be enacted by Lower House,
allowing police to detain minors under 14

Nihon Keizai:
Under Health Ministry's five-year project, new medicines overseas
will be approved in one and a half years with promotion of clinical
trials with overseas pharmaceutical companies

Sankei:
Nagasaki mayor dies; Suspect's continued extortion rejected by city
government

Akahata:

TOKYO 00001725 002 OF 011


Nagasaki mayor dies after being shot

2) EDITORIALS

Asahi:
(1) Assassination of Nagasaki mayor: Rise up against terrorism
(2) National referendum bill: Minimum turnout must be discussed

Mainichi:
(1) Pension for part-timers: Fair treatment essential
(2) Senshu University's Kitakami Senior High School: Review of
Senior High School Baseball Charter needs to be discussed

Yomiuri:
(1) Amendment to Child Abuse Prevention Law: Swift enforcement
essential
(2) Natural gas-version of OPEC: Will Russia act like Saudi Arabia?


Nihon Keizai:
(1) Assassination of Nagasaki mayor an act of terrorism against
democracy
(2) We are determined to continue fair reporting and commentary
without bowing to blackmail, violence, pressure

Sankei:
(1) Shooting at US university: Worry is prejudice against
Asian-Americans may grow
(2) Toilet seats catch on fire: Problems with the Washlet

Tokyo Shimbun:
(1) Assassination of Nagasaki mayor: Resolute attitude against
terrorism
(2) Shooting at US campus: How to keep balance between safety and
freedom

Akahata:
Future of food: Municipalities should be more empowered to protect
agriculture

3) Prime Minister's Official Residence (Kantei)

Prime Minister's schedule, April 18

NIHON KEIZAI (Page 2) (Full)
April 19, 2007

09:47
Arrived at Kantei.

10:15
Met Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process Arima, Deputy
Foreign Minister Yabunaka, and Middle Eastern and African Affairs
Bureau Director General Okuda.

11:02
Met Harvard University Professor Emeritus Peter Ashton and other
Japan Prize winners.

12:00
Met New Komeito leader Ota, followed by Kabuki actor Ichikawa
Danjuro and others. Afterward met Internal Affairs and

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Communications Minister Suga and Financial Services State Minister
Yamamoto.

14:10
Met Yabunaka and Okuda in the presence of advisors Koike and Seko.
Afterward met Resources and Energy Agency Director General Mochizuki
and others.

15:43
Met former Finance Minister Yosano, followed by US Ambassador to
Japan Schieffer. Afterward met Defense Minister Kyuma.

17:02
Met Foreign Minister Aso, METI Minister Amari, MAFF Minister
Matsuoka and others, followed by New Komeito deputy head Higashi.

18:10
Attended a new health frontier wise men's conference. Afterward met
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Matoba.

19:27
Dined at the Hotel Okura with secretaries and others.

21:23
Returned to his official residence.

4) The comfort women issue "will not have much impact (on bilateral
ties)"

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
April 19, 2007

Prime Minister Abe yesterday met with US Ambassador to Japan Thomas
Schieffer at the Prime Minister's Official Residence (Kantei) and
the two exchanged views ahead of Abe's visit to the United States
starting April 26. After the session, Schieffer spoke to the press
corps about the so-called "comfort women" issue: "It will not have
much of an impact (on US-Japan relations). It was very good (that
the prime minister) reaffirmed during a telephone conversation with
President Bush that Japan would stand by the Kono Statement."

5) Former LDP Secretary General Kato criticizes US visit by
lawmakers on wartime comfort women issue

ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
April 19, 2007

Speaking of a group of lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP) who are considering visiting the US in connection with the
resolution on the wartime comfort women issue submitted to the US
House of Representatives, former party secretary general Koichi Kato
yesterday said during a videotaping by Asahi Newstar, a CS
broadcaster, "They say that they will explain that neither the
former Japanese Imperial Army nor the state was involved and say
that commercial vendors did it. I am concerned that their visit to
the US might end up worsening the situation." He was referring to
the Council of Diet Members to Consider the Future of Japan and
Historical Education, who are planning to visit the US.

6) Government plans to host 2008 G-8 summit, foreign ministerial,
finance ministerial in separate places


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YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
April 19, 2007

Japan will host the G-8 summit in 2008. In this regard, the
government decided yesterday to hold the G-8 summit, the foreign
ministerial, and the finance ministerial in three separate places
and on different dates.

In recent G-8 summits, the three conferences have been held on
different dates and in different places.

When Japan hosted the 2000 G-8 summit, the summit was held in
Okinawa, the foreign ministerial in Miyazaki, and the finance
ministerial in Fukuoka.

Hokkaido; Yokohama and Niigata Cities; Kyoto, Osaka, and Hyogo
Prefectures; and Okayama and Kagawa Prefectures are carrying out
activities to host the 2008 G-8 summit. The Foreign Ministry made
firsthand observations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to
make a final decision.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso indicated his view in his meeting on April
17 with Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi that the decision would be
made after the April 22 unified local elections.

7) Kato, Yamasaki to travel to China, ROK from April 26

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
April 19, 2007

Koichi Kato, former secretary general of the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP), and Taku Yamasaki, former vice president of
the LDP, are to make a six-day trip to China and South Korea
starting on April 26. They will meet with key government officials
of those two countries and visit Yanji in Jilin Province near the
China-North Korea border with the aim of highlighting their stance
of placing emphasis on "Asia diplomacy" as well as "dialogue with
North Korea."

They will be accompanied by other lawmakers, including House of
Representatives member Futada Koji (of the Niwa-Koga faction), who
is a member of the Research Council on Asia Diplomacy and Security
Vision, chaired by Kato, and who serves as the chief of secretariat
for the faction, former Defense Agency Director-General Gen Nakatani
(Tanigaki faction), and House of Councilors member Shinya Izumi.

8) Defense Minister Kyuma cancels official duty to visit Nagasaki

SANKEI (Page 5) (Full)
April 19, 2007

Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma cancelled yesterday's all his
schedules, including a courtesy call by the US Pacific Fleet
commander, Adm. Gary Roughead. The reason for his cancellation was
to organize the funeral of Itcho Ito, who was shot to death, and to
choose a candidate for the Nagasaki city mayoral election in place
of Ito, who was running in the race, as an influential lawmaker
representing Nagasaki. Before leaving Tokyo, he told reporters:
"Since no stalemate in politics is allowed, we must find a candidate
taking the place of the mayor sometime today or tomorrow to field in
the election."


TOKYO 00001725 005 OF 011


Kyuma said that he had asked Ito to run in the summer's House of
Councillors election, but Ito had turned down his offer. He lamented
Ito's sudden death, saying, "I think he had splendid character and
was highly respected. How truly regrettable."

9) Government to strengthen measures to prevent import of firearms:
Import records must be engraved on guns and ammunition

NIHON KEIZAI (Page 1) (Full)
April 19, 2007

The government and the ruling camp will strengthen measures to
prevent the smuggling of firearms into Japan. Main measures include
obligating the engraving of import data, such as the year of import,
on firearms and bullets to enable authorities to track down
smuggling routes from abroad and smuggling rings. They plan to
submit related bills, including an amendment to the Swords and
Firearms Control Law, to the current Diet session. They had been
pressing ahead with an effort to submit those bills from before.
They have judged that it is necessary to strengthen such measures in
the wake of the assassination of Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito on Apr.
17.

Consolidating domestic laws as a measure to deal with firearms will
become necessary in order for Japan to ratify the Firearms Protocol
under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized
Crime, which it signed in 2002. At present, 62 countries have signed
the protocol. The government will aim at sharing information on such
matters as smuggling rings with foreign investigative organizations
by quickly ratifying the protocol so the inflow of firearms can be
interdicted at the border, an effort that is difficult for Japan to
carry out on its own.

The protocol mandates signatory countries to engrave the names of
manufacturing countries and manufacturers on firearms and bullets
when they are manufactured.

10) Strengthened VIP protection, firearms control now focused on the
agenda in response to Nagasaki mayor's assassination

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Excerpts)
April 19, 2007

In response to the incident in which Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito was
shot by a gangster and died afterward, the government has begun to
consider strengthening firearms control and police protection for
important people.

Gun ownership is prohibited in Japan. But the suspect fired a gun,
which "he was not allowed to possess" (Chief Cabinet Secretary
Shiozaki), at the incumbent mayor during his election campaigning at
point-blank range. This is a serious challenge to democracy.

According to statistics by the National Police Agency (NPA), 489
guns were confiscated in 2005. The number has been on the decrease
in recent years, but the government analyzes that the decline is
attributed to an increase in cases in which organized criminal
groups avoid attracting the attention of the police.

The government's Gun Control Promotion Headquarters, composed of
cabinet ministers and others, is tasked with working out
comprehensive measures to control guns. In a press conference,

TOKYO 00001725 006 OF 011


Shiozaki, who heads the taskforce, emphatically said: "We must step
up efforts to move ahead with countermeasures, such as strengthened
cooperation among the police, customs, and the Japan Coast Guard."

The taskforce, though, holds a meeting only once a year. Some
persons point out that the body is turning into a mere shell.

On VIP protection, police authorities select persons who come under
police protection. Under National Public Safety Commission's rules,
only the prime minister and guests of the state are designated as
those under protection. If the NPA director general judges that a
certain person might be exposed to serious harm in terms of life,
limb, or assets because of his or her political assertions, the
director general will place the person under guard.

Those under 24-hour protection by security police (SP) are only the
prime minister, cabinet ministers, and political party leaders. In
the case of local government leaders, only when they are
blackmailed, they are under police protection. Mayor Ito was not
under protection. A Kantei source said, "There was no specific
information beforehand."

11) Interview with Eiji Koguma, professor at Keio University: US
Constitution deviated from reality

ASAHI (Page 6) (Full)
April 19, 2007

In connection with the incident in which a gunman massacred 32
people on a university campus in the United States, the Asahi
Shimbun interviewed Eiji Koguma, who authored the book , Citizens
and arming.

-- The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
includes a provision pertaining to gun ownership. The US is in a
quite different situation from Japan.

In Japan, since Hideyoshi Toyotomi issued the sword-hunt order (in
the late 17th century), only the government's military and police
have been allowed to own weapons. In the US, however, citizens in
villages carved out of the wilderness fought the American
Revolutionary War with their own weapons. This provision is a
product of this history.

-- How has the provision in question been interpreted in US
society?

The public are split, with some saying that the amendment recognizes
individuals' right to own arms but others insisting that
restrictions should be placed on individuals having their own arms
on the grounds that the provision was designed only to allow
militiamen to carry weapons. The National Rifle Association insists,
based on the first stance, that placing restrictions is a violation
of individuals' right to bear arms.

-- More than 200 years have passed since this amendment was added in
1791, four years after the promulgation of the Constitution.

When the Constitution was created, the US was a farming society, so
no thought probably was given to individuals who left the carved-out
villages. That was why a line was not drawn between individuals and
civil soldiers regarding weapons ownership, I think.

TOKYO 00001725 007 OF 011

Until recently, weapons that citizens carried were pistols, at most.
Since the 1990s, automatic rifles have been easily available through
Internet shopping.

The Constitution no longer matches conditions in American society
today, not to mention the advances in weapons technology. Many
therefore are calling for restrictions on gun ownership. The issue
has become very difficult to resolve because of its linkage to the
people's rights and freedom, the basic principles of the US.

12) Blue-ribbon panel to be established on April 25 to study
scenarios on the use of the right to collective defense

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
April 19, 2007

The government yesterday decided to establish a council of experts
to study particular cases concerning the right to collective
self-defense. By announcing the establishment of the council ahead
of Prime Minister Abe's tour of the United States starting on April
26, the government apparently wants to stress a stance of
strengthening the Japan-US alliance. The government will convene the
first meeting of the panel after the Golden Week holidays from late
April through early May and ask it reach a conclusion by this
summer.

Former Ambassador to the United States Shunji Yanai has been
informally picked to chair the council. Former Ambassador to
Thailand Hisahiko Okazaki, former Administrative Vice Defense
Minister Ken Sato, former Joint Staff Council Chairman Tetsuya
Nishimoto, University of Tokyo Prof. Shinichi Kitaoka (history of
Japanese diplomacy), a former deputy permanent representative to the
United Nations, National Defense Academy Professor Emeritus Masamori
Sase (international politics), and Komazawa University Prof. Osamu
Nishi (specialist on the Constitution) have been informally picked
as members. The council is expected to be composed of 10 or so
members.

13) Sakhalin 1 next focus of development of natural gas: Japan seeks
cooperation from Russia

YOMIURI (Page 9) (Full)
April 19, 2007

Now that Gazprom, Russia's natural gas monopoly, has formally
obtained a majority of shares of Sakhalin Energy, a mainstay company
involved in the Sakhalin 2 project near Sakhalin, Russia, the focus
will shift to the nearby Sakhalin 1 project. Exxon Mobil has signed
a tentative contract with China for exports of natural gas from
Sakhalin 1. Gazprom is said to have indicated a desire to obtain the
right to sell natural gas from the Sakhalin 1 project to Japan and
other countries. The Japanese government is working on Exxon to
export products to Japan. Chances are that Japan and Russia may seal
a tie-up deal over the Sakhalin 1 project.

The Resources and Energy Agency of the Ministry of Economy, Trade
and Industry has asked Exxon to export liquefied natural gas (LNG)
to Japan, but it has not yet received a definite answer. According
to an informed source, Gazprom wants to export natural gas to Japan
by liquefying products drilled in the Sakhalin 1 project as well,
using LNG facilities at the Sakhalin 2 project, which has come under

TOKYO 00001725 008 OF 011


its control.

The Resources and Energy Agency this January sought cooperation from
Gazprom over exports of natural gas from the Sakhalin 1 project to
Japan and conveyed a decision to help its business tie-up with
Japan's energy-related company in return. The Russian government has
begun applying pressure on Exxon since the end of March, as can be
seen in the fact that it has launched an investigation into
environmental destruction at the Sakhalin 2 project site, as it did
over the Sakhalin 1 project. The battle over natural resources in
Sakhalin will likely heat up.

14) DPJ upstaged in Diet

ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
April 19, 2007

The leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto) has
totally lost its presence in the Diet. The DPJ has allowed a
national referendum bill and other critical legislative measures to
get through the House of Representatives, and the opposition leader
has failed to show his presence in Diet debates. With the Diet
entering into the latter stage of its current session, the DPJ wants
to take the offensive against Prime Minister Abe and his
administration, focusing on a Social Insurance Agency reform bill
that will affect pensions. However, the ruling Liberal Democratic
Party is playing hardball to steer the Diet with its coalition
partner, the New Komeito. Meanwhile, DPJ President Ozawa is showing
no interest in the Diet. Besides, the DPJ still has no control tower
for Diet affairs. Can the DPJ map out a clear-cut strategy toward
this summer's election for the House of Councillors?

"As far as I can see, there are now many more LDP members-so many
that I want to boil them in soy sauce for tsukudani. The LDP is
arrogant and overbearing." With this, Yoshihiko Norota, a DPJ
lawmaker, decried the LDP-led governing coalition over its way of
steering the Diet in a plenary sitting of House of Representatives
members on April 17 when three education-related bills introduced by
the government entered into Diet deliberations.

Three hours before the start of this plenary session in the lower
chamber, the DPJ presented counterproposals in a hurry against the
government-introduced package of legislative measures. The DPJ had
called for the ruling coalition to put off the plenary session, but
its proposition was pushed back. The DPJ had planned to present its
counterproposals after the Golden Week holidays, but the party came
up with the counterproposals earlier than scheduled.

The DPJ's original plan was not to present its counterproposals
right away. At first, the DPJ's Diet policy committee did not send
in its list of members for special committees and even sketched out
a boycott strategy. However, the ruling parties went ahead with Diet
deliberations. The DPJ therefore changed its mind and showed up for
fear of losing opportunities to challenge the LDP-led government in
debate. "An over-easy egg is okay, but an over-easy bill is not." So
saying, an executive of the LDP's Diet policy committee mocked the
DPJ's wavering strategy.

When the DPJ was led by Katsuya Okada and Seiji Maehara, the party
weighed making counterproposals to hit problems in
government-drafted bills. Ozawa, now leading the DPJ, declines to
face off with the ruling bench. However, the DPJ cannot completely

TOKYO 00001725 009 OF 011


leave its counterproposition policy behind in order to show its
governing competence. The DPJ has been failing to steer itself well
on these two policy courses.

What lies behind that is the DPJ's lack of its control tower. Ozawa
is now on a tour of the nation ahead of this summer's House of
Councillors election. This week, he is stumping in Tochigi,
Kagoshima, and Kumamoto. Naoto Kan, who should be in charge of
acting for Ozawa, has been also busy in the run-up to Tokyo's
gubernatorial election and Diet by-elections for the House of
Councillors.

The DPJ is currently under the troika leadership of Ozawa, Kan, and
Yukio Hatoyama, who is the party's secretary general. "Mr. Ozawa has
not been in the Diet from the start. Mr. Hatoyama can't control our
party in the Diet. Mr. Kan attends meetings but he only complains to
the Diet policy committee chairman." With this, one of the DPJ's
mid-level lawmakers hit the nail on the head.

The DPJ will also come up with counterproposals to a bill revising
the Iraq Special Measures Law and to a bill restructuring the Social
Insurance Agency. The DPJ is aiming to reform the agency in
particular. The party is thinking of presenting three bills to
restore confidence in pensions, thereby trying to make an appeal on
its presence.

The question, however, is whether the DPJ can get its
counterproposals spotlighted in campaigning for the forthcoming
upper house election. The DPJ has to take the lead in steering the
Diet with a well-combined setup of counterproposals and showdowns.
However, one DPJ lawmaker on the Health, Labor and Welfare Committee
of the Diet's lower chamber felt uneasy, saying: "I wonder how far
the party leadership is thinking of facing off in a serious manner.
That's what I don't know well."

15) Coordination between LDP, New Komeito on revising political
funds control law bogs down on issue of office expenses, as LDP
reluctant to attach receipts to political fund reports

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Excerpts)
April 19, 2007

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and New Komeito Chief Representative
Akihiro Ota yesterday agreed to submit a bill amending the Political
Funds Control Law to the current session of the Diet. The agreement
is aimed to play up the ruling coalition's stance of actively
working together on the issue of "politics and money" prior to the
April 22 Upper House by-elections in Okinawa and Fukushima. However,
gaps between the two parties remain on the contents of the bill. The
question is whether the LDP will accept the New Komeito's proposal
that politicians be obliged to attach receipts for office expenses
of more than 50,000 yen to political funding reports.

The prime minister last might met separately with LDP Reform
Implementation Headquarters Chief Nobuteru Ishihara and New Komeito
Political Reform Headquarters Head Junji Azuma and he told them:

"Mr. Ota and I have agreed to submit a bill to amend the Political
Fund Control Law to the current Diet session. I want you to make
efforts so that the ruling coalition's project team (PT) will have
penetrating debate."


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Asked by reporters after his meeting with Abe about his view on the
New Komeito's proposal that the bill stipulate that politicians
would be required to submit receipts, Ishihara responded: "Our party
is not thinking about such a requirement." He added: "As ruling
parties, we will settle the issue as we should do. I want to craft a
bill that acceptable to the public." Ishihara indicated the
possibility that coordination in the ruling camp might be
prolonged.

LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa revealed in a press
conference on April 9 that the ruling coalition would come up with
the outline of a bill before the April 22 Upper House by-elections.
A group of junior lawmakers, headed by Yasufumi Tanahashi, and
former LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki have expressed their
approvals for submitting receipts.

However, many in the LDP, including Ishihara, are reluctant to
submit receipts. A mid-level lawmaker said: "The office expenses
issue has passed over a critical point. Amid the cabinet approval
rating on the increase, bringing up the issue will work the other
way."

The issue of huge utility expenses by Agriculture Minister
Matsuoka's fund management organization has had a major impact on
the amendment issue. A senior LDP member said:

"If attaching receipts to political fund reports is decided, this
will certainly give the opposition more ammunition to use. We will
be put on the defensive at the second half of the current session,
which has a long list of important legislation."

16) Report on Upper House Okinawa by-election: Political parties
struggling to determine public opinion on bases and Constitution

MAINICHI (Page 5) (Abridged)
April 19, 2007

Yoshimasa Karimata, 57, a candidate backed by opposition parties for
the April 22 Upper House by-election, delivered a campaign speech in
Ogimi Village in the northern part of Okinawa's main island on April
16.

"Japan has not been embroiled in war over the last 62 years because
of Article 9 of its constitution. The Abe administration is trying
to revise Article 9. We will not let the government build a new base
in the Henoko district."

Karimata's speech elicited huge applause from the audience.

The race is effectively a duel between Aiko Shimajiri, 42, a former
Naha assembly member endorsed by the ruling coalition, and Karimata,
a former Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) Okinawa
chairman. The Karimata camp initially made the expanding social
disparity a major campaign issue under the LDP-New Komeito
administration.

The reformist camp has traditionally appealed to local anti-base
sentiment by playing up base issues in the prefecture. But the
defeat of the candidate backed by the opposition camp in the
gubernatorial race last year has made the opposition parties realize
that they cannot destroy the thick LDP-New Komeito wall with antiwar
and peace slogans alone.

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The major opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) intends to
make social disparities and livelihoods major campaign issues in the
Upper House election this summer. In fact, the base issue takes
ninth place in Karimata's 10-item manifesto, reflecting the
opposition camp's policy of not overly highlighting the issue.

But that strategy is being reviewed. Complaints have come from
within the Karimata camp about his lack of efforts to address such
issues as the elimination from school history textbooks of
descriptions on the use of coercion by the former Imperial Japanese
Army behind the mass suicides in the closing days of the Battle of
Okinawa and the intensifying constitutional debate through Diet
deliberations on national referendum legislation.

A Karimata camp election campaign official voiced difficulty making
everyday issues campaign issues, saying, "In order to make a clear
distinction with our rival, we need more than the social
disparity."

Meanwhile, Shimajiri spoke before some 350 supporters in Yaese Town
in the southern part of Okinawa on April 16, saying: "I am going to
change politics from the kitchen. The kitchen is a treasure house of
innovative ideas. We can for instance utilize ideas on household
budgets."

It was a gamble for the LDP and the New Komeito to field Shimajiri,
a native of Sendai who has served as a city assembly member only for
three years. In addition, in the past, she was elected to the Naha
city assembly on the Minshuto ticket and left the party only in
August 2005. She might stir criticism from conservative forces.

This has promoted the ruling coalition to play up Shimajiri's image
in her campaign. In delivering campaign speeches, she now focuses on
"the kitchen" as a mother of four, rarely touching on base issues.
Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Okinawa on April 15, he
refrained from referring to constitutional revision, a top priority
for his administration.

Another Upper House by-election will take place on April 22 in
Fukushima Prefecture, where the Minshuto candidate is ahead. Both
the ruling and opposition camps are determined to win the two
by-elections, a prelude to the Upper House election this summer.

But given the campaign issues, voter interest in the two
by-elections is not necessarily high. For instance, a 34-year-old
Naha housewife took this view: "Okinawa has been forced to host US
bases throughout the postwar period, so I don't have much interest
in national politics. The prime minister and party heads visit the
prefecture only when they need our votes."

Okinawa marked a record-low national election voter turnout (54.24%
) in the 2004 Upper House election. Whether the prefecture can
achieve better than that in the upcoming election remains to be
seen.


SCHIEFFER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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