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Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 03/25/08

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 10 TOKYO 000809

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 03/25/08

Index:

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

Defense and security affairs:
4) Seaman in Navy custody says he was in a bar at time of slaying of
cabbie, lost the credit card somewhere (Asahi)
5) Prime Minister Fukuda says he is not thinking of revising the
U.S.-Japan SOFA in response to USFJ incidents, prefers its improved
operation (Yomiuri)
6) Host-nation support budget being derailed by Diet uproar and
Democratic Party of Japan's growing opposition to it (Nikkei)
7) Prime Minister Fukuda covering Defense Minister Ishiba as DPJ
pursues his responsibility for handling of Aegis accident (Tokyo
Shimbun)
8) LDP defense policy clique, opposed to Ishiba's reform initiative,
set about drafting own defense-ministry reform proposals (Yomiuri)


9) Foreign Minister Koumura pledges support to UN's PKO training
center (Yomiuri)

10) Prime Minister Fukuda will only bring up Tibet with China's
President Hu "if necessary," does not want to interfere with China's
internal affairs (Sankei)

Diet at an impasse:
11) Lower House Speaker Yohei Kono is trying to mediate between the
ruling and opposition camp to break logjam over controversial tax
bill package (Tokyo Shimbun)
12) Fukuda complains about the opposition's intransigence in the
Diet (Tokyo Shimbun)
13) Inevitable that time will run out for package of tax-related
bills being held up by the opposition in the Diet, making 25 yen a
liter drop in gasoline a reality (Mainichi)
14) DPJ hanging tough on the gas-tax issue, but puts off submission
of counterproposal that would make up for huge loss of tax revenues
(Tokyo Shimbun)

Articles:

1) TOP HEADLINES

Asahi and Tokyo Shimbun:
Knife attacker intended to assault sister, elementary school

Mainichi:
Hegemony adrift (Part 1): North Korea exports arms to Ethiopia; U.S.
winks at contradictions

Yomiuri:
Average land prices rise for second year

Nikkei:
Nippon Steel to build furnace complex in Brazil costing over 500
billion yen

Sankei:
World Association of Newspapers calls for advertisements protesting
detention of Chinese journalists

TOKYO 00000809 002 OF 010

Akahata:
Report on falling job market

2) EDITORIALS

Asahi:
(1) Knife attack should have been prevented
(2) Shinginko Tokyo: Ruling bloc at governor's beck and call

Mainichi:
(1) Police to blame for Tsuchiura knife attack
(2) Land prices: City planning important for revitalizing local
economies

Yomiuri:
(1) Subprime loan crisis taking toll on land prices
(2) What promoted Ibaraki man to indiscriminately attack people?

Nikkei:
(1) Land prices leveling off due to declining foreign capital
(2) Do not throw mediation effort by the leaders of the two Diet
houses into wastebasket

Sankei:
(1) Stopgap measure for provisional tax rates cannot be helped
(2) Police response to knife attack too slack

Tokyo Shimbun:
(1) Prime minister must take another step regarding road-improvement
tax revenues
(2) Ibaraki spree attacker: Police failed to prevent second crime

Akahata:
(1) Taxi murder: U.S. Navy deserter must be questioned

3) Prime Minister's Official Residence (Kantei)

Prime Minister's schedule, March 24

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
March 25, 2008

10:47
Met at Kantei with Hiroshima Mayor Akiba.

11:21
Met with Fukuoka Gov. Aso, chairman of National Governors'
Association, and representatives of five other regional
organizations. Met afterwards with Kenta Okamura, UN young
ambassador from private-sector.

13:00
Attended Upper House Budget Committee session.

17:12
Attended LDP executive meeting.

17:55
Met at Kantei with Special Advisor Ito.

19:05

TOKYO 00000809 003 OF 010


Met at his official residence with LDP General Council Chairman
Nikai, Policy Research Council Chairman Tanigaki, later joined by
Secretary General Ibuki and Diet Affairs Chairman Oshima.

SIPDIS

4) Cabbie murder: U.S. sailor "was at a bar"

ASAHI (Page 39) (Full)
March 25, 2008

The U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) has now
detained a 22-year-old U.S. Navy seaman whose credit card was
discovered in a taxi where the 61-year-old driver, Masaaki
Takahashi, was found stabbed to death. The slaying occurred in the
city of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. This seaman, stationed at the
U.S. Navy's Yokosuka base, has denied his alleged involvement in the
murder, sources revealed. He has told the NCIS that he was at a bar
along Yokosuka's Dobuita Dori street when the murder took place,
according to the sources. The seaman has also told the NCIS that he
had lost the credit card, the sources said.

According to informed sources, the NCIS is questioning the sailor
about where he was after he fled the Yokosuka base on March 8 and
what he was doing on the night of March 19 when Takahashi was
stabbed to death. The sailor has told the NCIS that he was at a bar
along a street of entertainment and eating establishments known as
Dobuita Dori, several hundred meters east of Yokosuka City's
Shioiricho Nichome block, where the taxi was found with its slain
driver.

Along Dobuita Dori are a number of bars and restaurants often used
by U.S. Navy and other military personnel.

5) Prime Minister Fukuda has no intention to revise SOFA

YOMIURI (Page 2) (Full)
March 25, 2008

At an Upper House Budget Committee session yesterday, Prime Minister
Fukuda was asked by opposition parties about the calls for revisions
to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in the wake of a
series of misconduct by U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan.
Fukuda noted: "I have no intention at this point in time of amending
SOFA. I will focus on how to improve the operation of SOFA."

In this regard, at a news conference the same day, Vice Foreign
Minister Mitoji Yabunaka referred to a U.S. serviceman assigned to
the U.S. Navy's Yokosuka Base whose credit card was found in a taxi
in which the taxi driver was killed in Yokohama, Kanagawa
Prefecture, and said: "The U.S. side has promised to fully cooperate
with Japan once the Kanagawa Prefectural Police decide to question
the serviceman."

Speaking of the case in which the prefectural police ask the U.S.
side to hand the serviceman over with an arrest warrant for him,
Yabunaka said: "I think (the U.S. side) will naturally cooperate
with the Japanese side."

6) Burden sharing for USFJ also overshadowed; DPJ opposed to
sympathy budget

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridged)
March 25, 2008

TOKYO 00000809 004 OF 010

Dark clouds are hanging over Japan's omoiyari yosan (literally
"sympathy budget") for U.S. Forces Japan. The government has asked
the Diet for its approval of a plan to enter into a new special
agreement with the United States to extend this sympathy budget for
another three years from April. However, it now seems difficult to
get Diet approval before the current special agreement expires at
the end of March. The leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan
(Minshuto) is strongly opposed to extending the budget while calling
for reviewing Japan's USFJ-related outlays, and the DPJ will likely
forgo its entry into procedures for approval in the House of
Councillors. The government fears that a vacuum, should one arise in
the sympathy budget's execution, would inevitably have a negative
impact on bilateral relations. The government is therefore calling
on the DPJ to cooperate.

"This amount of money is four times as much as that of the average
family in Japan. It's too much." With this, Keiichiro Asao, a DPJ
lawmaker, raised a question over the sympathy budget before the
House of Councillors in its meeting yesterday. Asao called for the
government to review its outlay for U.S. military housing's
utilities, including heating and lighting expenses. Foreign Minister
Masahiko Koumura stated, "The government will consider how to work
on the U.S. side to make efforts to cut back."

The proposed plan to enter into a new special agreement is for the
Japanese government to take on an annual outlay of approximately 140
billion yen, which covers utilities for U.S. military housing, wages
for Japanese employees working at U.S. military bases, and other
USFJ-related maintenance costs. The special agreement is a kind of
treaty, so the Constitution gives the House of Representatives
superiority. If and when the House of Representatives and the House
of Councillors differ in their decisions on this special agreement,
the House of Representatives' decision takes priority over the House
of Councillors' decision. If the upper chamber does not take a vote
within 30 days after the lower chamber's passage, the special
agreement will be approved then.

The government and the ruling coalition wanted to get Diet approval
for the plan within the current fiscal year. However, the House of
Representatives' entry into deliberations was delayed until Mar. 18
in the aftermath of their standoff. On Mar. 19, the House of
Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee met. That day, however,
the committee only heard the government's account of reasons for its
proposal on the special agreement and did not enter into substantive
deliberations. The House of Representatives is expected to approve
the proposed special agreement in its plenary sitting on Mar. 28 or
later.

Meanwhile, Yosho Hachiro, the foreign minister in the DPJ's shadow
cabinet, grilled the government over the sympathy budget and how the
money has been spent. "It's terrible," Hachiro stated. On Mar. 17,
the House of Councillors Budget Committee held a meeting, during
which it was brought to light that about 20 PERCENT of the Japanese
government's outlay in its burden sharing of personnel costs was for
bar and golf course workers. There were a number of incidents
involving U.S. servicemen, so the opposition parties are raising
strong objections to the sympathy budget.

If the DPJ opposes the government proposal, and if the House of
Councillors remains unable to take a vote on it, the government may
not be allowed to execute its relevant budget for at least one

TOKYO 00000809 005 OF 010


month. In that case, wages for Japanese workers and other payments
would fall into arrears. The Japanese government informally asked
the U.S. military to shoulder the burden. According to a senior
official of the Foreign Ministry, however, the U.S. military
disagreed with the idea.

7) Prime minister defends Ishiba regarding Aegis accident

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Abridged)
March 25, 2008

The House of Councillors Budget Committee conducted yesterday
afternoon intensive deliberations on diplomacy and defense affairs
in the presence of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Defense Minister
Shigeru Ishiba and others. In the wake of the release of an interim
report by the Ministry of Defense on the recent collision between an
Aegis destroyer and a small fishing boat and the punitive actions
against those concerned, the major opposition Democratic Party of
Japan pursued Ishiba's responsibility. Throughout the session, the
prime minister remained defensive of Ishiba, making a clear
distinction between that and the questions of selecting the new Bank
of Japan governor and of the provisional gasoline tax rate.

Regarding the fact that MOD produced only one interim report on the
Aegis accident, punitive actions, an information leak incident and
other misconduct, DPJ member Keiichiro Asao said: "We cannot help
but think that the ministry intended to dilute the impact of each
case." He also tacitly called for Ishiba's early resignation by
citing the fact that following the Nadashio accident 20 years ago,
then defense chief Tsutomu Kawara resigned from the post a month
later.

In response, the prime minister said: "(The decision) was made under
the situation at the time. At present, Mr. Ishiba is mulling how
best the system must be revamped. I would like him to do his best."

About the fact that the Maritime Staff Office questioned the Aegis
ship's chief navigator without obtaining Ishiba's approval or taking
notes, DPJ member Tadashi Inuzuka raised a question about Ishiba's
leadership, saying, "The (MSO) tried to handle the matter behind the
closed doors behind the back of the defense minister."

The prime minister again brushed aside Inuzuka's view, saying, "(In
an emergency situation), people don't have time to think about
taking exhaustive notes. It's not as though everything was bad."

8) Defense policy clique independently develops MOD reform argument;
LDP subcommittee reacts strongly to Ishiba vision

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Excerpts)
March 25, 2008

In the wake of a series of misconduct by the Ministry of Defense
(MOD), Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba has come up with a plan to
integrate and reorganize civilian personnel from internal bureaus
and uniformed personnel from the staff office of each SDF force. His
plan though is drawing objections not only from within MOD but also
from the Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP has established under its
Security Research Commission, chaired by former defense chief Gen
Nakatani, a MOD reform subcommittee, chaired by Yasukazu Hamada. The
subcommittee has decided to produce a set of proposals in April
ahead of the government's report in June apparently with the aim of

TOKYO 00000809 006 OF 010


forestalling the Ishiba vision. The tug-of-war between the defense
minister and LDP defense policy specialists is likely to intensify.

Ishiba's plan is intended to integrate civilian personnel and
uniformed officers into one body tasked with three functions:
building up defense capabilities, employment, and measures for the
Diet and public relations. Work is underway by a MOD reform
promotion team to map out specifics to realize the plan. Specific
plans will be presented to the government's Council on Reform of the
Defense Ministry in the Prime Minister's Office (Kantei).

Ishiba's radical plan is drawing objections from within the LDP.
Nakatani, for instance, raised questions about the Ishiba vision in
his book published earlier this month, wringing: "It is an easygoing
way of thinking that combining (civilian personnel and uniformed
officers) will produce good results."

The LDP subcommittee that held an inaugural meeting on March 19
plans to produce a set of proposals in April regarding two points:
(1) responses to national contingencies and crises, and (2) how
civilian control and MOD should be. The subcommittee also intends to
discuss matters without being bound by the Ishiba vision.

9) Foreign Minister Koumura positive about mobilizing more SDF
troops, police officers for PKOs

YOMIURI (Page 2) (Full)
March 25, 2008

Foreign Minister Koumura yesterday delivered a speech at United
Nations University in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. In the speech, he
mentioned Japan's participation in UN peacekeeping operations (PKO)
and stressed: "The number of (Self-Defense Forces) personnel and
police officers Japan has sent to PKOs has totaled 36. This figure
ranks 83rd among 119 countries. I think Japan needs to more actively
take part in PKOs under the current system."

Koumura explained that Cambodia, to which under the PKO Cooperation
Law Japan sent its personnel for the first time, "has now sent more
than three times as many people as Japan has to PKOs." He indicated
his willingness to send more personnel to PKOs.

The UN has established a PKO training center in various countries.
Referring to these centers, Koumura proposed supporting those
centers in Asia and Africa on a priority basis, noting, "I would
like to facilitate cooperation from various angles, including
sending instructors." The Japanese government is considering
dispatching SDF personnel to those centers as instructors.

10) Prime Minister Fukuda indicates non-interference stance toward
Tibetan riots; Would bring it up in meeting with Chinese president
"If necessary"

SANKEI (Page 5) (Full)
March 25, 2008

At an Upper House Budget Committee session yesterday, Prime Minister
Yasuo Fukuda was asked whether he would put riots in Tibet on the
agenda for discussion with Chinese President Hu Jintao during Hu's
visit to Japan in May, but the prime minister refrained from coming
up with a clear-cut answer and instead stated only that "If it is
necessary to exchange candid views, I want to make efforts so that

TOKYO 00000809 007 OF 010


(Japan and China) can have a relationship to allow that."

Ichita Yamamoto of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
inquired: "Do you have any intention to urge President Hu to
facilitate a dialogue between the Chinese and Tibetan parties
concerned?"

In response, Fukuda gave his view about his diplomatic principles,
noting, "The important thing is to find the other side's good points
and associate with the other side in the way to help its good points
to develop further." He even mentioned, "It is only natural that the
two countries hold contrary opinions," revealing his nonintervention
stance.

In addition, Fukuda said, "The most desirable relationship would be
such that allowed China to be frank enough to say to Japan, 'You are
wrong on that point,' while Japan might advise, 'China should do
this or that.'" Fukuda eventually parried Yamamoto's question, but
Yamamoto wanted to hear Fukuda's determination to assume a resolute
attitude toward the Chinese leader.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, in response to the
same question, noted, "It is likely that I will touch on the (Tibet)
issue" during a planned meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang
Jiechi, who is to visit Japan on April 17-21. Koumura indicated his
intention to take up the Tibet issue.

11) Lower House Speaker Kono urges ruling and opposition parties to
break stalemate on provisional tax rates; Diet affairs committee
chiefs to meet today

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
March 25, 2008

Yohei Kono, speaker of the House of Representatives, called the
secretaries general of the Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic

SIPDIS
Party of Japan, New Komeito, Japanese Communist Party, Social
Democratic Party, and People's New Party in his office to urge them
to break the deadlock regarding a bill to amend the Special Taxation
Measures Law, aimed at retaining the current provisional tax rates,
including the provisional tax for gasoline prices, over which the
standoff between the ruling and opposition camp has deepened.

Kono sough a meeting of the secretaries general, saying: "If the
present situation continues as is, the public will have distrust in
the Diet. I want you to make efforts to break the deadlock." DPJ
Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama, however, said: "A meeting of the

SIPDIS
Diet affairs committee chairmen should first be held. If necessary,
we secretaries general should hold a meeting." Other parties agreed
with Hatoyama. So, the Diet affairs chairmen will meet today. Prior
to this, DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Masayuki Naoshima
met with his LDP and New Komeito counterparts Sadakazu Tanigaki and
Tetsuo Saito in the Diet building. Naoshima told them that his party
had decided to reject consultations on a revision of the tax reform
bill with no modifications to the bill.

Naoshima told them: "We cannot accept your proposal to hold
consultations because the modified bill stipulates the special
taxation revision bill should be enacted before the end of this
fiscal year."

He then added: "Since we do not refuse to hold a discussion, I want

TOKYO 00000809 008 OF 010


leave the matter to the hands of secretaries general."

12) Fukuda grumbles about opposition parties' stance over gasoline
tax issue

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
March 25, 2008

Representatives from six local groups, including National Governors'
Association Chairman Wataru Aso (Fukuoka governor), called on Prime
Minister Fukuda at his official residence yesterday and earnestly
asked him to enact by the end of this fiscal year a bill amending
Special Taxation Measures Law that includes a measure to extend the
current provisional gasoline tax rate. One representative said: "If
the provisional tax rate is scrapped, our revenues will
significantly decrease."

In response, the prime minister said:

"I would like to avoid causing you trouble. We should discuss the
issue (in the Diet), staying up all night and also on the weekend.
But (the opposition bloc) has continued to refuse talks. It is quite
deplorable."

(08032502ys) Back to Top


13) MAINICHI (Page 1) (Excerpts)
March 25, 2008

As the ruling and opposition parties failed yesterday to reach an
agreement on the government's plan to enact by the end of the
current fiscal year a bill amending the Special Taxation Measures
Law including measures to retain the current provisional gasoline
tax, the provisional gasoline tax is bound to expire on March 31.
The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) yesterday
conveyed to the ruling camp its decision to reject their modified
bill on highway tax revenues. House of Representatives Speaker Yohei
Kono called on the secretaries general of the ruling and opposition
parties to resolve the matter through discussion, but no progress
was made. Since many Liberal Democratic Party members are negative
about further concessions from the largest opposition party, the
situation is that it will be difficult for the two camps to agree to
hold consultations on a revision of the modified government bill.

Lower House Speaker Kono last night called the secretaries general
of the ruling and opposition parties to the Diet building and urged
them: "I want you to come up with measures to break the deadlock as
there is not much time left (until March 31)."

Therefore, the Diet affairs committee chairmen of the ruling and
opposition parties are expected to hold a meeting today. DPJ
Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said in a strong tone: "The

SIPDIS
mediation by the top leaders of the two Diet houses was broken by
the forced vote on the fiscal 2008 state budget bill in the Lower
House." He revealed again the view that the mediation by the Lower
House speaker and Upper House president at the end of January that
the ruling and opposition blocs should reach a certain conclusion by
the end of the current fiscal year had become null and void.

14) DPJ may forgo vote on its counterproposal to highway tax bill,
giving priority to lowering gasoline tax rate

TOKYO 00000809 009 OF 010

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
March 25, 2008

With the current provisional gasoline tax rate set to expire in one
week, a tug-of-war is intensifying in the Diet over the
counterproposal presented by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to
the House of Councillors. The ruling camp intends to bring its bill
back into the House of Representatives for a revote, based on the
view that if the DPJ proposal is approved in the Upper House, it
will be interpreted to mean that the government bill was rejected or
amended. In an effort to avoid such a situation, the DPJ is expected
to refuse to take a vote on the bill in the Upper House.

Besides the measure to extend the current provisional gasoline tax
rate, the government bill also proposes maintaining the exemption of
taxation on foreign capital on the Tokyo offshore market and on
cigarettes and liquor brought into the nation. With the aim of
avoiding having these tax-exemption measures scrapped together with
the gasoline bill, the DPJ's counterproposal excludes only gasoline
tax-related measures. The main opposition party plans to have it
enacted in the Upper House and then send it to the Lower House and
enact it there.

But the ruling coalition believes that if the DPJ plan is approved
in the Upper House, the government's bill can be interpreted as
having been rejected or revamped. Fearing such a situation, the
ruling side has begun to emphasize that it would be possible to pass
the bill by a two-thirds vote in the lower chamber, based on Article
59 of the Constitution.

Liberal Democratic Party Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Tadamori
Oshima said in a press conference yesterday: "Whether to apply
Article 59 is a matter that has room for discussion."

The ruling coalition cannot make a compromise on the policy of
maintaining the provisional tax rate, but no prospects are in sight
for the DPJ to agree to talks on revising the bill. Even in the
ruling camp, some have begun to say that it would be difficult to
resort to the revote option. But the government cannot afford to
worry about appearances.

Meanwhile, the DPJ is increasingly alert to the other side's moves,
because if the government bill is enacted into law, its strategy to
lower the gasoline tax will be torpedoed.

DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka, with his
counterparts of the Social Democratic Party and the People's New
Party, intermittently met with Lower House Speaker Yohei Kono and
Oshima yesterday. They proposed that the DPJ counterproposal be
enacted as the speaker's proposal within this fiscal year. Their
proposal stems from the judgment that Article 59 will not apply to a
speaker's proposal. The ruling side rejected this proposal. Kono
gave no clear-cut reply.

The DPJ earlier submitted to the cabinet a written question under
the name of Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama asking if it is
possible for the ruling coalition to use a Lower House revote to
force the bill through. In a meeting of the Lower House Finance
Committee, DPJ members asked for views of the Cabinet Legislation
Bureau and the Lower House secretary general in a drive to secure a
"guarantee" for preventing the possibility of the bill passed by a

TOKYO 00000809 010 OF 010


lower chamber overriding vote. The Cabinet Legislation Bureau and
the Lower House secretary general, though, gave no clear replies,
either.

In the DPJ, many members have begun to think it will be unavoidable
to forgo a vote on the party's counterproposal in the Upper House
and give priority to lowering the gasoline rate as long as the
ruling side continues to refuse making a definite promise. A senior
member was overheard saying: "We will wait silently until a week
passes." The possibility is now growing that the gasoline and other
tax measures will expire and that people's livelihoods will be
seriously affected.

SCHIEFFER

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