Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 03/04/08

DE RUEHKO #0571/01 0640809
P 040809Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A



(1) Difficulties lie ahead for Defense Ministry reform, with
confrontation heating up between civilian personnel and uniformed
officers (Nikkei)

(2) Prime minister orders work for restructuring MOD; Integration of
civilian and uniformed groups in focus (Yomiuri)

(3) France an ordinary country, Japan abnormal (Sankei)

(4) U.S. military relaxes lockdown; Local heads, civic groups
criticize reflection as mere pose; Set to pursue step in prefectural
rally (Okinawa Times)

(5) Political battle over provisional gas tax rate: LDP impatiently
making frantic effort for early start of Diet deliberations; DPJ
remain bullish with Ozawa's policy change reflected in party
atmosphere (Tokyo Shimbun)

(6) Editorial: Quickly work out measures to protect cultural assets
from earthquakes (Yomiuri)


(1) Difficulties lie ahead for Defense Ministry reform, with
confrontation heating up between civilian personnel and uniformed

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
March 4, 2008

About two weeks have passed since a collision occurred between a
Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) Aegis destroyer and a fishing
vessel, but the Defense Ministry is still straying off course.
Explanations by its senior members have changed again and again, and
a lack of cooperation between the ministry and the Japan Coast Guard
(JCG) has also been exposed. Particularly, deep-seated mutual
distrust between civilian personnel from internal bureaus and
uniformed personnel from the Self-Defense Forces' staff offices has
been exposed. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attended a meeting
yesterday of the government's panel on reforming the Defense
Ministry, chaired by Tokyo Electric Power Co. advisor, held for the
first time after the Aegis collision. In the meeting, Fukuda
stressed the need for efforts to prevent recurrence of a similar
incident. But difficulties lie ahead for the drastic reform of the

"An impermissible incident occurred. I would like you to submit a
plan to build a new Defense Ministry and a Self-Defense Force (SDF)
that the public can truly trust," the prime minister said in a harsh
tone at the outset of the meeting, showing the letter he had
received from the family of the missing fishermen. The blunders made
by the Defense Ministry and the SDF after the incident have made
people wonder if they are trying to cover up information on the
collision. The prime minister sees this as a problem.

The Defense Ministry had announced that the destroyer spotted the
fishing boat "two minutes before" the accident but it later changed
it into "12 minutes." It has been learned that Defense Minister
Shigeru Ishiba called in the navigating officer of the Aegis
destroyer to the Defense Ministry and questioned him on the day of

TOKYO 00000571 002 OF 008

the accident. But this information was left unveiled for one week.
It has yet to be clarified whether the ministry had informed the
JCG, which is responsible for the investigation, of Ishiba's
questioning of the navigating officer.

Behind the current confusion in the Defense Ministry, many observers
see not administrative blunders but the long-lasting antagonism
between civilian personnel and uniformed officers. The hostility was
also taken up when there were reports on such cases as the leak of
classified information on the Aegis system by a MSDF seaman and the
bribery scandal involving former Vice Minister Takemasa Moriya.

In internal bureaus, there is the distrust that uniformed personnel
might have properly relayed detailed information. In a press
conference yesterday, Vice Minister Kohei Masuda again apologized
for the delayed announcement of the facts, saying: "There was no
persuasive reason." Regarding the ministry's prior notification
(about the questioning of the navigating officer) to the JCG, the
vice minister explained, based on information from the Maritime
Staff Office, that there were call records of 09:05 and 09:06 on the
day of the accident. But JCG members have said that they cannot
confirm it.

Meanwhile, uniformed personnel are critical of civilian personnel. A
former Defense Ministry official said: "Knowledge about the details
of weapons and the management of units is needed for the formation
of defense plans. But not all civilian officers have much knowledge
of such matters."

The series of scandals involving the Defense Ministry have added
fuel to the mutual distrust between civilian personnel and uniformed
officers. A senior internal bureau member muttered upon hearing the
news of a collision between a MSDF escort vessel and a freighter in
Vietnam on March 3, "Not again! They have no feeling of tension." On
the other hand, a uniformed officer assailed that such scandals as
the one involving Moriya could depress the morale of people on the

In the meeting yesterday, harsh views were presented. One
participant asserted: "The major cause (for the blunder) was a lack
of basic policy for moves;" and another said: "There is no
consistency in responses to external matters." The defense minister
emphasized: "The system of assisting the minister is now being

The defense minister has already announced his reform plan calling
for integrating civilian personnel and uniformed personnel and then
forming groups according to function, such as the buildup and
operation of defense capacity, and explanations in the Diet and to
the people. Appearing on a TV program yesterday, Ishiba expressed
his displeasure at the rivalry between civilian personnel and
uniformed personnel, saying: "Will they be able to take proper
action in times of emergency?"

Under the defense minister's proposal, however, the organizations
would be completely changed. In the ministry, there is no mood for
willingly cooperating in implementing the plan. Ishiba said:
"Officers should express their views, and those against my proposal
should openly say that this or that part is improper." But ministry
officials remain unresponsive.

(2) Prime minister orders work for restructuring MOD; Integration of

TOKYO 00000571 003 OF 008

civilian and uniformed groups in focus

YOMIURI (Page 1) (Excerpts)
March 4, 2008

The government decided yesterday to launch a full-scale effort to
reorganize the Ministry of Defense (MOD), due to the series of
unfortunate incidents in the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense
Forces (SDF), including the recent collision between the Maritime
Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyer Atago and a fishing boat. The
government's Council on Reform of the Defense Ministry, chaired by
Tokyo Electric Power Co. adviser Nobuya Minami, is planning to
produce a reform plan as early as June, based on Defense Minister
Shigeru Ishiba's private proposal to integrate and reorganize the
civilian personnel from internal bureaus and uniformed personnel
from the Self-Defense Forces' staff offices. Discussions are
expected to be difficult since many officials in the ministry oppose
the envisaged reform.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attended yesterday the panel's meeting
for the first time since the Atago accident. He told the members:
"An extremely regrettable accident has occurred. Based on the
lessons we have learned, I would like you to come up with a plan to
transform MOD and SDF into organizations worthy of public trust."

The council's discussions have been focused on three points: (1)
ensuring transparency in defense equipment procurement, (2)
establishing a strict information security system, and (3) ensuring
civilian control.

As the next step, the panel is set to study specific ways to
drastically reorganize the ministry.

Specifically, the panel is expected to discuss Defense Minister
Ishiba's plan to integrate and reorganize the ministry's internal
bureaus and the SDF staff offices into three sections, each
responsible for: building up defense capabilities, employment, and
Diet affairs and public relations.

Under this system, civilian personnel and uniformed personnel, who
are currently placed in different sections, would work together to
make the decision-making process more flexible. It is also aimed at
encouraging civilian personnel and unformed personnel to overcome a
history of mutual distrust to run MOD and SDF more effectively.

(3) France an ordinary country, Japan abnormal

SANKEI (Page 5) (Abridged)
February 29, 2008

Hiroyuki Noguchi

A Maritime Self-Defense Force supply vessel resumed its refueling
mission in the Indian Ocean after a hiatus of four months for
foreign naval vessels engaged in antiterror operations. During the
MSDF's absence, France was amazing with its presence in the Middle
East and in the Indian Ocean. The French military conducted
antiterror activities in the Indian Ocean and made four aircraft
carrier dispatches. In Afghanistan, France has deployed 1,000 ground
troops, with its air force airlifting troops. France was opposed to
the Iraq attack. Even so, its international influence has been
increasing. This is in sharp contrast to Japan, which chose to cut

TOKYO 00000571 004 OF 008

off its influence and lost four months on its own. The Self-Defense
Forces is not expeditionary like France's armed services, which have
flattops and marines. However, the SDF and the French military are
almost on the same scale. This is the striking contrast between an
"ordinary country" that pursues national interests, with its
diplomacy and military as one, and an "abnormal country" that
refused to do so.

France outwardly opposed the U.S.-led military attack on Iraq from
its stance of attaching importance to the United Nations. However,
that was reportedly intended to defend its energy stake in Iraq. The
Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto) also raised an objection to
sending an MSDF squadron to the Indian Ocean without a U.N.
resolution as unconstitutional. However, that was a political tactic
to allow the party to take over political power. It is only natural
that a country should act on behalf of its national interests. As
far as diplomacy and security are concerned, however, a political
party should not act for its own self interests.

Even the French government, which opposed the Iraq attack, says the
MSDF's refueling mission is fully in line with the U.N. Charter,
which the Constitution of Japan honors. The U.N. World Food Program
(WFP) continues its food aid to Somalia, a country facing the Indian
Ocean. In November last year, the French navy went on a patrol
mission to defend WFP support ships against pirates. In Indian Ocean
waters off Somalia, there were 22 pirate attacks from early last
year through this point, including two attacks on WFP support ships.
Somalia neighbors Djibouti, which was a French territory. Currently,
the French army and air force contribute in part to the defense of
Djibouti. France carried through its stance of attaching importance
to the United Nations even though its troop deployment was intended
to protect its interests.

An "ordinary country" can participate in collective self-defense. In
January, French President Sarkozy signed an agreement to set up
bases in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the French army, navy,
and air force to station up to 5,000 troops. This is the first time
for France to station troops in a Persian Gulf state, where the
French military will keep tabs on the Straits of Hormuz, which is a
strategic point for crude oil shipping. In other words, France has
now influence on the oil market.

It is not difficult for an ordinary country to send troops. That is
because an ordinary country's military law for ordinary times-which
incorporates the purpose of using its armed forces-can cover a
considerable portion of its military operations. Meanwhile, an
abnormal country establishes a special measures law for each
situation. An ordinary country-unlike an abnormal country-is ready
for potential situations. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is now
discussing a permanent law allowing Japan to send SDF troops for
overseas activities whenever necessary. A permanent law, once
established, would quicken Japan's overseas troop deployment as
compared with taking much time to enact a special measures law.
Under a special measures law, however, SDF activities are
interpreted as administrative affairs, differing from military
operations that are prescribed in a military law. This is why Japan
needs a permanent law. Such a permanent law also shows that Japan is
an abnormal country.

(4) U.S. military relaxes lockdown; Local heads, civic groups
criticize reflection as mere pose; Set to pursue step in prefectural

TOKYO 00000571 005 OF 008

OKINAWA TIMES (Page 29) (Full)
March 4, 2008

Despite a flurry of incidents by U.S. service members, the U.S.
military on March 3 significantly relaxed the base lockdown,
unilaterally releasing a notice that ended its "period of
reflection." The step has drawn strong objections from local heads
and civic groups, saying, "As expected, the reflection was only a
mere pose," and, "If another incident occurs, how is (the U.S.
military) going to take responsibility?"

Chatan Mayor Masaharu Noguni harshly criticized the decision,

"The lockdown was a kind of performance by the U.S. military. Due to
organizational slackness, guidance on the series of incidents has
not reached the lower-ranking soldiers. Given the absence of a sense
of repentance, we cannot understand the relaxation."

The Okinawa City Assembly will hold a Base Affairs Ad-Hoc Committee
meeting on March 5 to discuss its response to the recent trespassing
in a private building by a U.S. airman. Committee Chairperson Katsue
Yonamine said in disgust:

"I wonder how the U.S. military is taking the fact that misconduct
occurred despite the ban on leaving the bases. Why do they have to
loosen up the measure, when it is not even now working properly?"

Haruko Odo, who heads a federation of women's groups in the
prefecture, commented angrily:

"Once a curfew is imposed, it must be kept in place for three months
in order to produce results. 'Reflection' did not have any
substance. (The U.S. military) has always been like that for over 60
years after the end of WWII. We will pursue the matter at the
upcoming prefectural rally."

Okinawa Heiwa Undou Center Secretary General Hiroji Yamashiro took
this view:

"They made the decision at the wrong time. How are they going to
take responsibility if another incident occurs after the ban is
eased? All we can do is to heighten public opinion by protesting
(incidents involving U.S. military personnel)."

Prefecture Peace Committee Secretary General Hiroyasu Okubo also
criticized the step, saying:

"As long are there are bases, crimes will definitely occur. The
lockdown was only a pose, a makeshift period of reflection. To stop
taking even that pose is defiant."

Meanwhile, a 33-year-old American running a restaurant in Chatan
welcomed the decision, noting: "It was natural to remove the family
members and civilian employees from the ban."

(5) Political battle over provisional gas tax rate: LDP impatiently
making frantic effort for early start of Diet deliberations; DPJ
remain bullish with Ozawa's policy change reflected in party

TOKYO 00000571 006 OF 008

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
March 4, 2008

Following the passage of the fiscal 2008 budget bill and the bill
amending the Special Tax Measures Law, including the maintaining of
the provisional rates on such taxes as the gasoline tax, by the
Lower House, a full-fledged political battle between the ruling and
opposition parties kicked off in the Upper House on March 3. The
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) is stiffening its
stance, saying that it cannot respond to a call for participating in
Upper House deliberations on the budget bill, because the ruling
camp rammed those bills through the Lower House. The ruling parties,
which see securing Diet approval for the bill amending the Special
Tax Measures Law as a duty that takes top priority, are increasingly
becoming impatient.

Diet Policy Committee Chairman Seiji Suzuki Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP) stressed during a press conference on Mar. 3: "We are calling
on the DPJ to take part in Diet deliberations as soon as possible.
We want it to quickly present a deliberation schedule so that we can
confer on that."

The ruling parties on Mar. 3 made frantic efforts for an early start
of deliberations on the budget bill and the bill amending the
Special Tax Measures Law. As part of such efforts, LDP Diet Policy
Committee Chairmen Seiji Suzuki and New Komeito Diet Policy
Committee Chairman Hisashi Kazama of the Upper House on the evening
of the 3rd visited the Upper House speaker, deputy speaker, the
Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in an
effort to strengthen pressure on the DPJ so that it will soften its

In the meantime, Upper House Budget Committee Chairman Yoshitada
Konoike adopted by virtue of his office a schedule for holding
deliberations on the 4th with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and all
cabinet ministers in attendance.

He fixed a deliberation schedule, while knowing that it would be
impossible to hold deliberations in the Upper House with the number
of participants falling short of the quorum if the opposition
parties boycott them. However, he expects that if the DPJ's absence
is highlighted, public criticism of the DPJ would mount, and the DPJ
as a result would soften its stance.

However, there is a slim chance of the DPJ responding to a call for
taking part in Diet deliberations at an early date.

DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chair Susumu Yanase on the afternoon of
the 3rd triumphantly said, when Suzuki notified his party of the
committee's decision to hold by virtue of his office an Upper House
Budget Committee meeting: "We have no intention whatsoever of
attending deliberations. If we did, it would worsen the situation."

Senior DPJ members, including President Ichiro Ozawa, on the
afternoon of the 3rd vowed to continue the stance of not responding
to a call for taking part in Upper House deliberations, citing that
the relationship of trust between the ruling and opposition parties
has collapsed with the ruling camp forcing bills, including the
budget bill, through the Lower House.

The ruling parties are calling for holding talks to revise the bill
amending the Special Tax Measures Law. The DPJ is determined not to

TOKYO 00000571 007 OF 008

respond to their call, unless the LDP comes up with a revision plan,
a senior Diet Affairs Committee member said. It is also determined
not to agree to set up a consultative organ. Even if it took part in
Upper House deliberations, it wants to prioritize deliberations on
its own counterproposals.

The strategy of attaining cuts in gasoline prices by letting the
provisional tax rate expire at the end of March, thereby forcing the
Fukuda cabinet to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election, is
also regaining ground in the DPJ.

Behind a hard-line stance like this is Ozawa's clear confrontational
stance. He noted: "The current LDP-New Komeito administration and
the Fukuda cabinet are unsteady. It would be better to hold a
general election for the sake of the public."

A change in the stance of Ozawa -- whom party members had suspected
since the grand coalition hurly-burly last fall that he might join
hands with the prime minister -- is apparently reflected in the
hard-line stand.

(6) Editorial: Quickly work out measures to protect cultural assets
from earthquakes

YOMIURI (Page 3) (Abridged)
February 29, 2008

A strong earthquake in Kyoto and Nara may collapse or burn many of
the temples that are designated as national treasures or key
cultural assets, including world's cultural assets.

The government's Central Disaster Prevention Council has produced
its first report on possible damage to be caused by a major
earthquake to cultural assets. It was a shocking report on
earthquake prediction. In actuality, however, for most of such
buildings, satisfactory measures against an earthquake or a fire
have not been taken. It is our responsibility to protect historic
cultural assets for the sake of future generations. Measures must be
urgently hammered out.

The report focuses on whether a quake registering a strong 6 or over
on the Japanese seismic scale could occur in a zone of active
faulting in the Kinki or Chubu metropolitan district and on where
the flames would spread.

There are about 260 buildings designated as national treasures or
important cultural assets houses in the zone of the Hanaore Fault
running from Shiga Prefecture through Kyoto Prefecture, mainly in
Kyoto. Of the 17 temples and castles as the world's cultural
heritage in Kyoto, Kiyomizu Temple, Toji and other 11 assets are
located within this region.

An earthquake in the zone of the Ikoma Fault in eastern Osaka is
estimated to affect a region that houses about 220 national
treasuries or important cultural assets, including Horyu-ji and

A major quake will inevitably deal a serious blow to cultural
assets. Even so, quake-proof measures have been taken only for
20-some cultural assets in the zones mentioned above in recent

TOKYO 00000571 008 OF 008

Since 2005, the Agency for Cultural Affairs has provided subsidies
for earthquake inspections of the buildings to which a number of
tourists visit. The inspections found a high possibility that
Nijo-jo may collapse in a great earthquake.

In Kyoto, only seven cultural assets underwent an earthquake
inspection with the agency's subsidies. The owners should hurriedly
have their assets inspected and make them resistant to earthquakes.


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