Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 03/05/08

DE RUEHKO #0584/01 0650822
P 050822Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A



(1) Too hasty to criticize MSDF for Aegis accident (Sankei)

(2) Prime minister keeps mum about nomination of new BOJ governor;
His decision to be tested (Tokyo Shimbun)

(3) Ruling, opposition blocs not backing down on tough stances
toward selection of next BOJ governor (Nikkei)

(4) Ruling camp seeking chance to hold talks with opposition on
revising highway-related bills

(5) Poll on Fukuda cabinet, political parties, gas tax (Asahi)

(6) Suprapartisan parliamentary league of 107 membership launched


(1) Too hasty to criticize MSDF for Aegis accident

SANKEI (Page 3) (Full)
March 5, 2008

Jim Auer, former director for Japanese affairs at the U.S.
Department of Defense

Japanese drivers used to spend a lot of money to get their driver's
licenses. They are highly trained drivers. Nevertheless, accidents
take place. Unfortunately, some people die every day on Japanese
highways. The media gives little press coverage to everyday traffic
accidents because such accidents occur frequently.

In the recent rare-case collision between an Aegis ship of the
Maritime Self-Defense Force and a small fishing boat, however, this
tragic, albeit rare, accident has suddenly developed into a national
crisis situation, as a result of the mass media's irresponsible
reporting and emotional arguments in the Diet.

I will not pretend to know every fact about the collision between
the Aegis destroyer Atago and the fishing boat Seitoku Maru.
However, I know the danger of entering port amid the busy traffic of
many fishing boats and other ships, and I am also aware of the
MSDF's special capabilities. So I was surprised and disappointed at
the amateurish arguments in the media and in the Diet over the

Any ship, large or small, is responsible for secure navigation at
sea and must be careful when the sea traffic is congested. It goes
without saying that a small ship is more easily controllable than a
large one.

In Hong Kong or Tokyo Bay, it is impossible for a large ship to
change directions when entering port while there are many small
vessels such as fishing boats around it. A large ship runs at an
appropriate slow speed, and a small ship steers to let a large ship
pass. As far as I know, the Atago was running at an appropriate
speed with watchmen on the bridge.

Instead of blaming the Aegis ship as irresponsible on the grounds
that it might have had the autopilot on for steady navigation, we

TOKYO 00000584 002 OF 009

may have to wonder why the Seitoku Maru did not change course, given
that it was on the alert. No one has queried whether perhaps Mr.
Haruo and Tetsuhiro Kichisei might have fallen asleep from fatigue
and did not respond therefore to a warning from another ship

Needless to say, the missing crewmen's family should receive
sympathy, and the accident must be carefully investigated (not by
the Japan Coast Guard but by the MSDF). However, the media, even
before the facts have been completely brought to light, have reacted
negatively, with politicians adding their criticism. This does not
seem to be based on a sense of professionalism. The MSDF has been
making efforts for refueling and maritime interdiction operations in
the Indian Ocean for over six years and has been taking main part in
the defense of Japan against North Korea's missile attacks. I take
it for granted that the MSDF should deserve public gratitude, and do
not feel it is appropriate to shower it with criticism that may be
based on hasty and wrong information.

I do not intend to make light of the pain of the missing crewmen's
family. However, I highly appreciate the MSDF's vital role in its
readiness to meet the actual threat from North Korea. The most
important hope is to peacefully guide China. This can be brought
about by the strong naval cooperation between Japan and the United
States. The MSDF should not be evaluated emotionally based on a
tragic accident whose cause is still not clear; it should be
evaluated based on reason.

(2) Prime minister keeps mum about nomination of new BOJ governor;
His decision to be tested

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Abridged slightly)
March 5, 2008

The major opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is pressing
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda for reconsidering the nomination for the
new Bank of Japan (BOJ) governor. Against DPJ President Ichiro
Ozawa's hard-line stance, there is the view in the ruling coalition
that the prime minister must not budge from a plan to promote Deputy
Governor Toshiro Saito, a shoo-in, to the top post. The prime
minister's final decision will be tested. His decision to be
presented as early as March 6 would become an indication foretelling
how the prime minister will run his administration.

DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka had a meeting with
his LDP counterpart Tadamori Oshima on the night of March 3, in
which Yamaoka indicated difficulty endorsing Muto.

DPJ President Ozawa effectively voiced opposition to promoting Muto
on March 1. This has drawn a bullish reaction from the ruling
coalition, with a senior member saying: "No matter what Mr. Ozawa
says, we have to nominate (the shoo-in) based on our belief. It is
the DPJ that will come under criticism."

At work behind this reaction is a sense of alarm that if the ruling
block gives up on its nomination plan because of Ozawa's statement,
the government's credibility would be undermined.

The selection of the new BOJ governor, which was defined by the
prime minister and others as a matter having major implications on
the international economy and community, could end up hampering the
future management of the Fukuda administration.

TOKYO 00000584 003 OF 009

With the administration's credibility at stake, the prime minister
has the option of applying pressure to Ozawa by using the Muto
nomination plan. A senior LDP member predicted: "The prime minister
has wanted to settle the matter soothingly, but he could be
stubborn, so he won't probably make concessions."

Such a case might result in the worst-case scenario of a vacuum in
the BOJ governorship due to a lack of Diet approval. Further, if the
prime minister submits the Muto plan in the knowledge that the Diet
will not endorse it, his relationship with Ozawa would be damaged
beyond repair.

Advocating a policy line of dialogue since taking office, Prime
Minister Fukuda has not abandoned the idea of forming a grand
coalition with the Ozawa-led DPJ. This can explain why the prime
minister reacted positively to what Ozawa said in party-head debates
and is taking a forward-looking attitude to holding talks on
revising the provisional gasoline tax.

At the same time, there is the observation that the prime minister
will nominate the second-best candidate instead of Muto for the sake
of the dialogue policy course in consideration of Ozawa, though the
option would take a toll on the credibility of his administration.

The prime minister himself, however, has been keeping mum on the
matter, just telling the press, "I would like to see the
government's nomination approved." A senior DPJ member noted, "There
is a 50-50 chance (that the prime minister will nominate Muto)." JOB
Governor Toshihiko Fukui's term of office expires on March 19. The
clock is ticking away.

(3) Ruling, opposition blocs not backing down on tough stances
toward selection of next BOJ governor

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
March 5, 2008

The Diet remained stalled yesterday. The ruling camp is aiming to
take a vote within this fiscal year on the budget bill for FY2008
and a bill amending the Special Taxation Measures law to maintain
the current provisional road tax rates. Upset by the ruling camp's
forcible passage of the bills in the House of Representatives, the
opposition bloc intends to boycott deliberations for the time being.
With both sides refusing to back down on their tough stances, it
seems difficult for them to hold talks on making revisions to the
road-related legislation. No prospects are in sight, either, for
selecting a successor to Bank of Japan governor Toshihiko Fukui,
whose term of office expires March 19.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the Japanese Communist Party,
and the Social Democratic Party boycotted a meeting yesterday of the
Budget Committee set by House of Councillors Budget Committee
Chairman Yoshitada Konoike (Liberal Democratic Party) on his
authority for deliberations on the budget bill. The meeting was
called off due to poor attendance.

DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka explained in an
executive meeting and on other occasions yesterday: "I have set out
the policy of boycotting deliberations for one week." Secretary
General Yukio Hatoyama said: "We will return to deliberations if
there is an apology (from the ruling side)."

TOKYO 00000584 004 OF 009

The ruling coalition also is hanging tough. The Upper House's Budget
Committee and the Lower House's Land, Infrastructure, & Transport
Committee both decided to hold meetings today by exercising their
chairmen's authority. Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and
LDP Upper House Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Seiji Suzuki agreed
in their telephone conversation yesterday to determine the date for
the next meeting of the Budget Committee even if the opposition side
boycotts deliberations.

There is no prospect for the appointment of the BOJ chief, either.
LDP Secretary Bunmei Ibuki indicated in a press conference yesterday
that it would be desirable to present a nominee for the next BOJ
governor. Ibuki said: "By custom, there are cases in which a new
governor is nominated about 10 days before (the expiration of the
incumbent's term of office)," indicating that it would be desirable
to nominate the new governor this week. Meanwhile, DPJ President
Ichiro Ozawa told a press conference in Hamamatsu: "Relations of
trust between the ruling and opposition blocs will not be restored
even by this weekend.

Many members in the ruling camp take this view that as long as the
Diet remains stalled, even if the government presents its
appointment plan, the opposition camp will reject it. LDP Diet
Affairs Committee Chairman Tadamori Oshima told reporters last
evening: "Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura told me on the phone
that the government will not present its appointment proposal on
March 5."

(4) Ruling camp seeking chance to hold talks with opposition on
revising highway-related bills

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
March 5, 2008

The government and the ruling coalition are exploring ways to hold
in the stalled Diet session deliberations on revisions to the
government's draft bill amending the Special Taxation Measures Law
to maintain the current provisional highway-related tax rates and
other bills. A senior New Komeito member told reporters yesterday:
"I think the government's draft and the Democratic Party of Japan's
(DPJ) draft will be discussed in the House of Councillors

Of the three road-tax reform bills submitted by the DPJ to the Upper
House, a bill to reform the road tax system includes measures to:
(1) place road tax revenues into the general account budget so that
the revenues will be used for other purposes than road projects,
such as medical services; (2) discontinue the current provisional
higher tax rates; and (3) abolish the system under which local
governments finance projects initiated by the central government.
Local governments are concerned that a removal of the higher tax
rates could decrease their tax revenues. Taking such apprehension in
mind, the main opposition party specifies measures to make up for
the revenue shortfalls.

The remaining two bills are divided into one that is unrelated to
the temporary tax rates but has a deadline so the party judges it
must be voted on within this fiscal year. The other bill does not
have a deadline. The bill with the deadline calls for extending
seven measures, including the exemption of taxation on foreign
capital on the Tokyo offshore market, a measure specified in the

TOKYO 00000584 005 OF 009

Special Taxation Measures Law, which expires at the end of March.

DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka told reporters
yesterday: "Regarding the measures that must be passed by the end of
March for the sake of the lives of the people, we are determined to
do so by all means." While refusing a vote of the bill amending the
special tax legislation and aiming to lower the gasoline price by 25
yen, the DPJ aims to respond to a compromise plan by the heads of
both houses of the Diet to reach a certain conclusion by the end of
this fiscal year.

The DPJ is negative about negotiations on revisions to the
legislation. President Ichiro Ozawa said: "We should not consider
such revisions as adding everything up and then dividing them by

Some ruling camp members suggest drawing the opposition camp into
revision talks by bringing up a plan to review the government's
medium-term road-construction program, which specifies outlays of 59
trillion yen over a decade.

(5) Poll on Fukuda cabinet, political parties, gas tax

ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
March 4, 2008

Questions & Answers
(Figures shown in percentage, rounded off. Bracketed figures denote
proportions to all respondents. Figures in parentheses denote the
results of the last survey conducted Feb. 2-3.)

Q: Do you support the Fukuda cabinet?

Yes 32 (35)
No 50 (46)

Q: Why? (One reason only. Left column for those marking "yes" on
previous question, and right for those saying "no.")

The prime minister is Mr. Fukuda 16(5) 7(4)
It's an LDP-led cabinet 33(10) 25(12)
From the aspect of policies 17(5) 56(28)
No particular reason 31(10) 9(5)

Q: Which political party do you support now?

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 29 (30)
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) 21 (24)
New Komeito (NK) 3 (3)
Japanese Communist Party (JCP) 3 (2)
Social Democratic Party (SDP or Shaminto) 2 (1)
People's New Party (PNP or Kokumin Shinto) 0 (0)
New Party Nippon (NPN or Shinto Nippon) 0 (0)
Other political parties 0 (0)
None 38 (34)
No answer (N/A) + don't know (D/K) 4 (6)

Q: The gasoline tax is currently added up with an extra tax portion
of 25 yen per liter for road construction and other road-related
purposes. The government presented a bill to the Diet to extend this
additional taxation for 10 years and use gasoline tax revenues for
road construction and other road-related infrastructure projects.

TOKYO 00000584 006 OF 009

The bill, passed by the House of Representatives, is now before the
House of Councillors. Do you support this legislation?

Yes 28
No 59

Q: The government is thinking of incorporating the gasoline tax and
other road-related tax revenues into the general account budget so
that the road-related tax revenues can be used for other purposes as
well. Do you support this way of thinking?

Yes 59 (54)
No 30 (35)

Q: The government plans to construct new roads throughout the
country at 59 trillion yen in the next 10 years. Do you think the
government should construct new roads as planned, or do you
otherwise think the government should scale back on the planned
construction of new roads?

Construct new roads as planned 15 (14)
Scale back on construction plan 71 (75)

Q: Do you appreciate Prime Minister Fukuda's stance or policy over
the gasoline tax?

Yes 18
No 66

Q: An Aegis destroyer of the Maritime Self-Defense Force collided
with a fishing boat, leaving its two fishermen missing. Do you think
Defense Minister Ishiba should resign to take responsibility for the

Yes 34
No 57

Q: (Only for those who answered "yes") When do you think Defense
Minister Ishiba should resign?

Resign at once 18(6)
Resign after investigations and other appropriate steps 80(27)

Q: In the wake of the Aegis accident, Prime Minister Fukuda
suggested the need to overhaul the Defense Ministry. Do you expect
Prime Minister Fukuda to display leadership in restructuring the
Defense Ministry?

Yes 32
No 60

Polling methodology: The survey was conducted Mar. 1-2 over the
telephone on a computer-aided random digit dialing (RDD) basis.
Respondents were chosen from among the nation's voting population on
a three-stage random-sampling basis. Valid answers were obtained
from 2,028 persons (57 PERCENT ).

(6) Suprapartisan parliamentary league of 107 membership launched

SANKEI (Page 5) (Full)
March 4, 2008

TOKYO 00000584 007 OF 009

The national movement organization "National League to Clean up (or
Set Choices for) Japan in View of Local Communities and Consumers,"
which the league calls Sentaku (TN: homophonic double meaning of
clean or choice) was launched in February. The group is headed by
Masayasu Kitagawa, former governor of Mie Prefecture. With the aim
of supporting Sentaku and promoting cooperation with the group, a
nonpartisan parliamentary league with the same name, Sentaku, was
formally launched yesterday. The parliamentary Sentaku is comprised
of 107 legislators, mainly from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party
and the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto).
The parliamentary league aims to "activate policy debate and to give
the voters a chance to choose a new government in the next House of
Representatives election." Under the current situation with the Diet
divided between the ruling and opposition camps, the launching of
this parliamentary group presents the possibility of becoming a
spring board for political realignment.

About 80 lawmakers or 80 PERCENT of the 107 members attended
yesterday's inaugural meeting. Many business leaders, including
Kikkoman Chairman Yuzaburo Mogi, and senior labor union officials
also attended the meeting. There was an air of excitement at the

Takeo Kawamura of the LDP, a former education minister, and
Yoshihiko Noda of the DPJ, who were elected as co-chairs of the
league, made statements, their voices filled with excitement.
Kawamura stated: "The lopsided Diet is a golden opportunity. We want
to respond to public expectations by carrying out political reform,
as well as reform of the Diet based on the viewpoint of consumers."
Noda said: "We should discuss the issues frankly. I want to give
considerable thought as to whether we can take advantage of the
divided Diet situation."

Because the group held their meeting soon after the ruling parties
unanimously had passed the fiscal 2008 budget in the Lower House on
Feb. 29, one would expect the members from the ruling and opposition
camps might have felt awkward. But most participants chatted
pleasantly with each other.

The parliamentary league Sentaku is a temporary group that will last
until just before the next Lower House race. The group will set up
five ad hoc sub-committees to discuss issuing a manifesto (set of
campaign pledges), Diet reform, decentralization, reform of the
bureaucracy, and environmental issues. The legislators will reflect
the outcome of their policy debate in their respective party's
manifesto for the next Lower House election. The parliamentary
league reportedly will hold regular meetings with the parent
organization Sentaku.

Referring to the possible impact on political realignment, Kawamura
said: "It is impossible for political reorganization to occur under
the current single-seat constituency system. Noda commented: "Our
party's purpose is to defeat the LDP. I have no intention of my
party becoming a ruling party by forming an alliance with other
parties." The parliamentary league does not advocate discussing
political themes on which the ruling and opposition parties are at
odds. This is the reason for LDP Secretary General Bunmei Ibuki
eluding to that by saying: "Since the league is a study group, the
launching of the league will not lead to a change in the political

With the participation of more than 100 legislators in the group,

TOKYO 00000584 008 OF 009

the significance of the inauguration has changed. Some recall that
the moves of a parliamentary group calling for political reform
during the Miyazawa government period (early 1990s) led to the
inauguration of the government of Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa
(with the LDP being placed in the opposition camp for awhile). LDP
members joining the group Sentaku include Hiroyuki Sonoda, secretary
general of the now defunct Sakigake Party, and Kenji Kosaka, a
member of the defunct New Frontier Party. Yukio Edano and other DPJ
lawmakers who joined the Sentaku have distanced themselves from DPJ
President Ichiro Ozawa. Attention is also focused on the moves of
former DPJ President Katsuya Okada, who has become an advisor.
Depending on developments, the launch of the parliamentary league
may lay the groundwork for future political realignment.

Members of parliamentary league Sentaku

LDP (51) DPJ (47) New Komeito (8) People's New Party (1)
Takeo Kawamura
Yoshihiko Noda
Keiichi Ishii
Masaaki Itokawa
Hiroyuki Sonoda
Yukio Edano
Yuichiro Uozumi
Nobuteru Ishihara
Sakihito Ozawa
Yoshihisa Inoue
Kenji Kosaka
Koichiro Genba Shigeki Sato
Seiken Sugiura
Komei Matsumoto Keigo Masuya

Tatsuya Ito
Wakako Hironaka Michiyo Takagi
Yoshihide Suga
Keiichiro Asao Shuichi Kato

Seiko Hashimoto
Akira Gunji Eiichi Yamashita

Okiharu Yasuoka
Katsuya Okada
Goji Sakamoto
Seiji Maehara
Gen Nakatani Takeo Hosokawa
Keiji Furuya Katsuhiko Yokomitsu
Ryu Shionoya Jun Azumi
Seiko Noda Shoichi Kondo
Asahiko Mihara Kazuhiro Haraguchi
Hiroshi Imai Atsuhi Oshima
Hiroshi Imazu Koichi Kato
Takeshi Iwaya Goshi Hosono
Toshiaki Endo Yukichi Maeda
Taro Kono Mitsuyoshi Yanagisawa
Toshio Kojima Yorihisa Matsuno
Yoshitaka Sakurada Jin Matsubara
Yasuhisa Shiozaki Koichiro Ichimura
Hakubun Shimomura Makiko Kikuta
Yasufumi Tanahashi Hitoshi Goto
Norihisa Tamura Yasuko Komiyama
Kiyoshi Nakano Yosuke Kondo
Taimei Yamaguchi Takashi Shinohara

TOKYO 00000584 009 OF 009

Gaku Iwasaki Katsumasa Suzuki
Masatoshi Ishida Manabu Terada
Shintaro Ito Chinami Nishimura
Yuko Obuchi Chinami Nishimura
Hiroshi Kajiyama Izumi Yoshida
Shigeyuki Ito Hirofumi Ryu
Masazumi Gotoda Seiji Osaka
Jun Matsumoto Katsuya Ogawa
Shinsuke Okuno Yuichiro Hata
Katsunobu Kato
Yoetsu Suzuki
Masahiko Shibayama Yoshitaka Kimata
Isshu Sugawara Tatsuo Hirano
Yasutoshi Nishimura Tetsuro Fukuyama
Satsuki Katayama Koji Matsui
Manabu Sakai Toshiyuki Kato
Toru Doi Yoshihiro Kawakami
Gaku Hashimoto Kumiko Hayashi
Hiroshige Seko
Hajime Hirota
Yoshimasa Hayashi Kenzo Fujiki
Ichita Yamamoto Mitsuyoshi Yanagisawa
Yoriko Kawaguchi
Seiji Matsuyama
Katsuhito Asano


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>


Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>