Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 04/15/08
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP KMDR KPAO PGOV PINR ECON ELAB JA
SUBJECT: JAPANESE MORNING PRESS HIGHLIGHTS 04/15/08
1) Top headlines
3) Prime Minister's daily schedule (Nikkei)
4) Fukuda Cabinet support rate slips 4 points to 30 PERCENT in
Yomiuri poll; Non support up to 58.4 PERCENT (Yomiuri)
5) USFJ Commander Lt. Gen. Rice in Japan Press Club speech defends
effectiveness of the U.S.-Japan SOFA, rejects revision (Asahi)
6) Japanese government indecisive on joining world ban on cluster
bombs, perhaps out of consideration to the U.S. (Tokyo Shimbun)
7) Japanese, Russian foreign ministers agree to expand free visits
by Japanese to the northern islands (Asahi)
8) Government mobilizing 20,000 police for security at the G8 summit
9) Japan using information technology to develop effective test of
reduced CO2 emissions (Sankei)
Politics in turmoil:
10) Two months left in the current Diet session but 60 PERCENT of
the bills remain untouched due to ruling and opposition camp
11) Prime Minister Fukuda's repeated apologies to the public, the
latest being over elderly medical service premiums, exposes poor
handling of issues (Mainichi)
12) Opposition camp launches new attack on the Fukuda
administration: higher premiums for elderly medical care insurance
13) Differences in philosophy between ruling and opposition camps
likely to derail talks over shifting road-related taxes general
account budget by fiscal 2009 (Tokyo Shimbun)
14) Symbolic Yamaguchi-2 by-election kicks off with LDP, DPJ
candidates expected to run a close race (Nikkei)
15) What's this? A new study group in the Diet that includes former
Prime Minister Koizumi, former Defense Minister Koike, and former
DPJ President Maehara (Sankei)
16) Taro Aso firming up political base in order to make a run for
the next LDP presidential race, but many in the LDP would like to
hold him back (Tokyo Shimbun)
1) TOP HEADLINES
Tokyo, seven other prefectures use additional tax money to lessen
medical insurance premiums for very old patients under new medical
Mainichi: Sankei: Tokyo Shimbun:
Deduction from pension begins today of premiums for medical
insurance for 8 million people aged 75 and older; Average monthly
payment reaches 6,000 yen
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European Commission failed to notify Japan of information on heavy
electrical machinery cartel: FTC unable to impose several billion
yen in administrative surcharges
Japan to scrap taxes on investment returns from overseas funds to
promote inflow of Middle East money
Four opposition parties doing their utmost to scrap new medical
service system for very old
(1) Tainted gyoza incident: Do not allow investigation to be
(2) Tokuyama Dam: Fifty years spent for construction wasted
(1) New medical service system for very old people in turmoil:
Government, ruling parties heavily responsible for confusion
(2) Failure to pay high school entrance fees: It was a mistake for
school not to allow two students to attend entrance ceremony
(1) Overseas dispatch of SDF needed
(2) Lay judge system: How can citizens' sense of participation be
(1) Make efforts to alleviate anxieties elderly people harbor toward
(2) Shrinking retail industry: New opportunities in Asia
(1) Lay judge system: Success of new system depends on cooperation
(2) Measures to deal with new strains of flu: Specific measures
(1) Accident caused by wheel that came off moving truck: Do not
overlook metal fatigue
(2) Amendment to Anti-Monopoly Law: Toughening punishments global
(1) Special-purpose road construction revenues: Extending
provisional gas tax rate for another 10 years fundamentally
3) Prime Minister's Official Residence (Kantei)
Prime Minister's schedule, April 13 & 14
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
April 15, 2008
Met Special Advisor Ito at his official residence.
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Spent the afternoon at his official residence.
Made an on-site inspection of the National Center for Child Health
and Development in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
Attended a liaison meeting of the government and the ruling
coalition at the Kantei. Later met Secretary General Ibuki.
Met Cabinet Secretariat Special Advisor Okuda and Advisor Kusaka.
Posed for a photo with the wives of the ambassadors of G-8 member
countries. Recorded a videotaped message for the Lake Toya Summit.
Met Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Ota, Assistant Deputy Chief
Cabinet Secretary Saka. Ota stayed behind.
Met Administrative Reform Minister Watanabe.
Attended an LDP executive meeting in the Diet Building. Ibuki stayed
Attended a meeting of the Consumer Administration Conference at the
Returned to his official residence.
4) Poll: Cabinet approval rate drops to 30 PERCENT ; 50 PERCENT
think provisional gasoline tax rate should be maintained
YOMIURI (Page 1) (Full)
April 15, 2008
The approval rating for Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's cabinet
dropped 3.9 points from the previous survey in March to 30.0 PERCENT
in a face-to-face nationwide interview survey conducted by Yomiuri
Shimbun on April 12-13. The disapproval rate was 58.4 PERCENT , up
4.4 percentage points from the previous survey. The approval rate
marked a record low in face-to-face surveys since the Fukuda cabinet
was launched last September.
The approval rate in a telephone-based spot survey, conducted on
April 1-2, which tends to clearly show changes, dropped to 28.0
PERCENT . The declining support rating appears unstoppable.
By the end of March, the government had identified the names of
about 10 million holders of about 50 million pension records whose
owners had been unidentified. Thirty-five percent of respondents
said they strongly approved or somewhat approved of the government's
handling of the matter, far exceeded by the 63 PERCENT who said
they strongly disapproved or somewhat disapproved of it. Although
the Democratic Party of Japan is preparing to submit a censure
motion against Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe
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over the pension record debacle, only 12 PERCENT said he should
resign, with 84 PERCENT saying he need not step down.
Thirty percent supported the government's and ruling coalition's
plan to revive the provisional gasoline tax rate by the end of
April, while 61 PERCENT were against the move. Asked about how the
provisional tax rates should be handled, 42 PERCENT said they
should be maintained to be used for a broad range of purposes and 9
PERCENT said they should be used for improving highways. All in
all, over 50 PERCENT indicated that the rates should be maintained,
while 40 PERCENT said they should be scrapped.
5) USFJ commander in press conference: "SOFA should not be revised"
ASAHI (Page 38) (Full)
April 15, 2008
U.S. Forces Japan Commander Edward Rice (U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen.)
held a press conference yesterday at the Japan National Press Club.
In it, touching on growing calls for a revision of the Japan-U.S.
Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in the wake of a series of
incidents by U.S. service members, Commander Rice said: "I don't
think it should be revised. I think we should make greater efforts
for flexible operation of the SOFA, as necessary."
He also indicated that Japan's host-nation support (sympathy budget)
for the costs of stationing U.S. forces in Japan was relatively
cheap, saying: "It is a great investment in the security of Japan
and the entire region. How much money would it cost for Japan to
purchase the same defense equipment independently?" Referring to a
string of incidents caused by U.S. service members in Okinawa and
Yokosuka before and after he took command in February, the commander
underlined the U.S. military's close cooperation with Japanese legal
authorities and its efforts to prevent a recurrence, saying,
"Although there have been one or two individuals who failed to meet
the U.S. military standards, we have made them take responsibility
appropriately." About the relocation of Futenma Air Station in
connection with the realignment of U.S. forces, Rice noted, "I am
optimistic that the matter will significantly move forward during my
term of office."
At the same time, he was negative about the joint military-civilian
use of U.S. Yokota Air Base, as advocated by Tokyo Governor Shintaro
Ishihara and others, saying: "It is a vital hub base for the Air
Force's mobility in the western Pacific. It must maintain its
capabilities for operational missions in time of a contingency."
6) Japan's stance on cluster bombs remains evasive out of
consideration for U.S.
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 3) (Abridged slightly)
April 15, 2008
The world is split into two groups over cluster bombs. One group
supports the "Oslo Process," initially advocated by Norway. Some 140
counties belong to the group with the aim of concluding a treaty by
the end of the year totally banning the use of cluster bombs. The
United States, Russia and China are not included in this group.
The other is the conference of the Convention on Prohibitions or
Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW),
composed of some 100 signatories. Although the United States, Russia
TOKYO 00001024 005 OF 011
and China are members, they are reluctant to craft treaties
apparently in an effort to make it toothless.
The Japanese government belongs to the two frameworks, but it puts
high priority on the CCW. The government has reportedly joined the
Oslo Process in order to assert Japan's standpoint. Although Japan
signed the declaration at a meeting in February, it proposed that
new bombs with low exploded rates be exempted from the ban,
exhibiting its opposition to a total ban.
The government cited the following to explain such a policy: (1) A
treaty not joined by major powers is ineffective, and (2) it is
necessary for the country's national defense. The prevalent view,
however, is that Japan did so out of consideration for the United
The government's evasive response is drawing fire not only from the
opposition parties but also from within the ruling bloc. At
nonpartisan study meeting, former LDP Secretary General Hidenao
Nakagawa criticized the government, saying: "The government should
go for a total ban; otherwise it will not be supported by
The contents of a treaty banning cluster bombs are scheduled to be
finalized at the Oslo Process Dublin meeting in May for a signing
ceremony at the end of this year. What is the government's final
decision? It might escalate into a political issue depending on how
things turn out.
7) Japanese, Russian foreign ministers agree to allow more former
islanders to visit Northern Territories freely
ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
April 15, 2008
Toru Tamagawa, Moscow
Visiting Foreign Minister Koumura yesterday met with his Russian
counterpart Lavrov at Russia's Foreign Ministry building's annex in
Moscow. The two leaders agreed to allow more former islanders to
visit the four islands that comprise the Northern Territories
freely, commonly called "free visits." The Russian side also in
effect admitted to an intrusion into Japanese airspace by a Russian
aircraft this past February.
This move by Moscow is taken by Tokyo as a manifestation of its
enthusiasm to improve relations with Japan. Japan wants to use this
mood to move the territory issue forward when Prime Minister Fukuda
visits Russia later this month and meets with President Putin and
President-elect Medvedev, who is to assume the post of president in
May, and at a planned meeting with Medvedev at the upcoming Group of
Eight summit in Late Toya, Hokkaido (G-8 Toyako Summit) in July.
The free visits are a system under which former islanders can visit
the Northern Territories without taking any complicated procedures.
This system began with an agreement reached between the top leaders
of the two countries in 1998. According to the Japanese side's
account, Koumura and Lavorv agreed to allow former islanders'
children, their spouses, grandchildren, and nurses who accompany
them to visit the Northern Territories from this summer. As for a
Russian bomber's violation of Japan's airspace over the southern
part of the Izu Islands, which the Russian military had denied,
TOKYO 00001024 006 OF 011
Lavrov said: "That was not intentional."
The Russian side also offered to provide a list of 134 Japanese who
died while in detention in Siberia after World War II. The currently
known fact is that the number of Japanese who died while in
detention in Siberia totaled 49,035. But estimates of the total are
55,000, and more than 14,000 Japanese were not listed.
Meanwhile, in the session, Koumura hailed the fact that total trade
value between Japan and Russia in 2007 exceeded 20 billion dollars
for the first time.
8) 20,000 police officers to be deployed for G-8 Toyako Summit with
MPD planning to send 13,000 police officers to Hokkaido
SANKEI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
April 15, 2008
An outline of security precautions Japan will take for the upcoming
G-8 Toyako Summit came to light yesterday. The Tokyo Metropolitan
Police Department (MPD) and the Osaka Prefectural Police plan to
send a total of 13,000 riot police officers to the Hokkaido
Prefectural Police so that the security system will have 20,000
police officers. In order to contain international terrorism by
Islamic extremists and radical activities by anti-globalism
activists, a security headquarters will be established in three
locations, including the venue for the G-8 summit and New Chitose
Airport, in order to command a large unit in an effective manner.
The venue for the G-8 Toyako Summit is the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort
& Spa, which stands atop the 620-meter Mt. Poromoi. The hotel has
been chosen as the venue for the G-8 primarily because it is easy to
The security headquarters will be established in (1) the Lake Toya
area, (2) New Chitose Airport, which the leaders of each country
will arrive in or depart from; and (3) Sapporo, where leaders who
will be invited to the outreach session will stay. Officers of the
Hokkaido Prefectural Police will lead those three headquarters as
their heads or as the deputy head of the New Chitose Airport
headquarters. The deputy heads of the Toyako headquarters and the
Sapporo headquarters will be assumed by officers from the MPD and
the Osaka Prefectural Police.
In the G-8 Kyushu/Okinawa Summit in 2000, the public security
headquarters to collect information about terrorism, the guard
headquarters to control convoys, and the traffic headquarters were
also established. Similar headquarters are planned to be established
for the upcoming G-8 Toyako Summit, as well.
9) MIC aims to get its formula for calculating CO2 reductions
through IT adopted as international standard
SANKEI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
April 15, 2008
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has
decided to work on other countries to have recognizes as an
international standard a method of calculating carbon dioxide
reductions owing to the use of information technology (IT), a
formula that was created independently by MIC. With the start of the
first commitment period (2008-2012) under the Kyoto Protocol, which
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has set greenhouse gas reduction targets for industrialized nations,
how to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide has now become an
important task for each country.
On the question of how much carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced
by the use of IT, each country has used its own calculation methods.
MIC aims to spur international efforts to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions by making clear how much the broad use of IT contributes
to cutting carbon dioxide emissions, and thereby to prepare an
environment for emissions trading.
According to the government's simulations, the active use of IT will
help cut carbon dioxide emissions by tens of millions of tons across
MIC has conducted a survey together with firms about how much carbon
dioxide emissions will be reduced if IT-related equipment is used in
industries as well as households since 2007. As a result, MIC has
calculated that if business transactions on the Internet are
accelerated and also if computerized contents, such as newspapers
and books, working-at-home by the use of personal computers, and
teleconferences are more frequently introduced, carbon dioxide
emissions for 2012 will be reduced by 68 million tons from the
fiscal 1990 level in the areas of distribution and transportation.
According to the simulations, the active use of IT will lead to
emitting 30 million tons of carbon dioxide in fiscal 2012, but that
figure will be surpassed by the amount of carbon dioxide emission
cuts in the areas of distribution and transportation.
Based on the simulations, MIC created a formula to measure expected
emission cuts in other countries if they promote adopting IT
equipment. MIC intends to present the formula to the International
Telecommunications Union under the United Nations so that the
formula will be adopted as an international standard.
10) Two months left until regular Diet session adjourns:
Deliberations on sixty percent of bills suspended
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
April 15, 2008
Deliberations on bills are visibly slow due to the divided Diet.
Coordination with opposition parties, which hold a majority in the
Upper House, are facing difficulties, though there are only two
months left until the close of the Diet session on June 15. The
government has presented 78 bills to the Diet, of which about 50
bills are still in the Lower House. Deliberations on such bills as
an insurance bill and a bill amending the Financial Instruments and
Exchange Law have all been delayed. If the situation is left
unattended, the daily life and economic activities of the public
could be affected adversely.
With the opposition-controlled Upper House in mind, the government
presented a slightly reduced number of bills to the Diet -- 78,
compared with the regular Diet session last year. Even so, only 13
bills have been enacted into law as of April 14, significantly
falling below 24 marked around the same period last year.
Three bills, including a bill amending the Consumer Contracts Law,
are expected to be adopted at a Lower House plenary session today. A
bill amending the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport
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Establishment Law aimed at setting up a tourism agency will be
submitted to the Lower House, once it is approved at the Lower House
Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee. It is likely to be
enacted just in time. Even so, 47 bills will still remain idle in
the Lower House.
11) Fukuda making apology after apology over hepatitis, pensions,
resulting in underscoring government's blundering responses
MAINICHI (Page 5) (Full)
April 15, 2008
Prime Minister Fukuda has made apology after apology to the people
starting this year. Since his apology over the issue of relieving
hepatitis C patients was taken favorably, he appears to have been
trying to obtain public understanding by taking a frank attitude in
dealing with other blunders. But this approach has resulted in
exposing the government's blundering responses.
On the issue of deductions of insurance premiums from pension
payments under the new medical system for very old persons, Fukuda
uttered an apology yesterday: "A lack of explanation has caused a
mess. We will reflect on the confusion." The deduction will start
today, so his apology came too late.
Regarding the government's failure to complete the work of tracking
unidentified pension accounts by the end of March, the government
continued to say that it was not a violation of its campaign pledge,
but an apology was offered in the end. When gasoline prices began to
come down, Fukuda said: "The government's bill has been shifted onto
Such problems have been caused mainly by policy clumsiness, rather
than responses to such unexpected accidents as the collision between
an Aegis destroyer and a fishing boat (in February). The prime
minister is in a great quandary.
12) Four opposition parties blast new medical system for very old
YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
April 15, 2008
Ahead of April 15, when the government started withholding medical
insurance premiums for a new health-care program from the pension
benefits of those 75 and over, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ),
Japanese Communist Party (JCP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), and
the People's New Party (PNP) gave street corner speeches in a
shopping area in Sugamo, Tokyo. The four opposition parties stressed
the need to scrap the new system and criticized the government and
DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama underscored: "A horrible system
has been introduced. We will fight until the government says it will
abolish it." PNP Vice President Shozaburo Jimi, who is a medical
doctor, said in a strong tone: "There is a medical care system
because we fall ill when we get old. We must not allow politics that
treats the poor coldly."
Meantime, the government and ruling parties are desperate to explain
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New Komeito leader Akihiro Ota told reporters: "The main cause of
worry (for the elderly) is that (sufficient) explanations have not
13) Talks on highway tax revenues ends in failure; Ruling coalition
asserts, "Necessary roads should be constructed," DPJ says, "Local
areas should decide whether to build or not"
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Excerpts)
April 15, 2008
The ruling parties and main opposition Democratic Party of Japan
(DPJ) yesterday failed to reach an agreement to initiate
consultations on the handling of tax revenues earmarked for road
construction. Although both sides have stressed their
forward-looking attitudes for holding the consultations, they were
unable to find common ground because of differences in their
"philosophy" toward road construction and maintenance.
The main topic of discussion yesterday was the fact that the ruling
coalition set an early enactment of a bill amending the Special
Taxation Measures Law as a premise for an initiation of the
consultations. The DPJ will never allow the legislation to be passed
by the Diet because such would mean that the reduced gasoline prices
would be returned to the original higher level. At a press
conference, DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka
severely criticized the ruling camp, saying: "They suggested a
discussion, but what they were saying is tantamount to saying they
did not want any."
For the government and ruling bloc, an early passage of the tax
reform bill is "nonnegotiable," said Chief Cabinet Secretary
Nobutaka Machimura. The ruling coalition's assertion is that if the
bill is not enacted, revenue shortages in local governments will not
Regarding the handling of the special-purpose road construction
revenues, the impression is that the ruling parties are
overly-swayed by narrow party interests. Even in policy discussions,
the ruling camp and the largest opposition party were like oil and
water and unable to agree. In case the consultations are launched,
the possibility of their reaching an agreement is extremely slim.
14) Campaigning for by-election in Yamaguchi 2nd District kicks off
today with face off between LDP, DPJ
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
April 15, 2008
The by-election in the Yamaguchi 2nd District for a House of
Representatives seat, the first national election under the Fukuda
administration, will be officially announced today. It is likely to
be a one-on-one fight between Shigetaro Yamamoto, backed by the
Liberal Democratic Party and a former Cabinet Secretariat's regional
revitalization integration office head, and lawmaker Hideo Hiraoka
of the Democratic Party of Japan. The outcome of the election is
expected to affect the future of the provisional gasoline and other
road-related tax rates. The main ruling and opposition parties are
ready to engage in an all-out battle for the election on April 27.
The election is to fill the post vacated by Yoshihiko Fukuda, who
was elected to head Iwakuni City. Hiraoka was elected under the
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proportional representation segment in the previous Lower House
election. This time, he aims to win victory in the single-seat
15) Koizumi, Koike, Maehara eying a study group!?
SANKEI (Page 5) (Full)
April 15, 2008
The possibility of forming a study group is now under consideration
among lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), informed sources said yesterday.
The lawmakers include former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and
former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, both of whom belong to the
LDP, and DPJ Vice President Seiji Maehara. They see the envisioned
study group as a venue for policy dialogue under the politically
divided Diet situation, but the move is likely to touch off a
speculation that they might have reorganization of the political
world in mind.
Koizumi, Koike, and Maehara held a meeting on the night of April 9
with business leaders and lawmakers, including former Nippon
Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) Chairman Hiroshi Okuda,
special advisor to the Cabinet Office. Participating in the meeting
were also former Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern
Territories Toshimitsu Motegi and others from the LDP and former
Policy Research Council Chairman Yoshito Sengoku, former Deputy
Secretary General Koichiro Genba and others from the DPJ. According
to one participant, the idea of forming a study group was brought up
in this meeting.
In the meeting, Koizumi reportedly said upon listing the names of
Koike and Maehara: "There are two potential candidates for the post
of prime minister. Something interesting might happen." Maehara,
though, denied yesterday the idea of forming a study group when a
close aide referred to the possibility.
One participant from the LDP yesterday defined the meeting over
dinner as just an exchange of views, saying: "When one is invited to
a drinking party, the person usually does not decline the
invitation." Meanwhile, a participant from the DPJ indicated a
willingness to use the meeting with Koizumi and other members as a
material to shake the LDP, remarking: "Most of the participants (in
the meeting from the DPJ) were those from the now defunct New Party
Sakigake. They learned a lesson from the experience in which
Sakigake turned into a complementary force for the LDP in the
coalition government of the LDP, the Social Democratic Party and
16) LDP's Aso solidifying political footing in LDP; Some in LDP
alarmed by Aso's moves
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
April 15, 2008
While there is a rumor that the Fukuda cabinet may resign en masse
due to its low popularity, Taro Aso , former secretary general of
the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been making efforts to
solidify his footing in his party, with an eye on succeeding Prime
Minister Yasuo Fukuda.
A party hosted by the Aso faction on April 11 in Tokyo drew 1,850
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participants, revealing how popular Aso is. Aso underscored his
enthusiasm to run in the next LDP presidential election, saying: "I
am resolved again to face the challenge, by borrowing your
Aso has been busying himself in expanding his political clout. The
Aso faction's membership is now 20, adding two independents. In
order to become an LDP presidential candidate, at least 20
recommendations from LDP lawmakers are required. Aso is now able to
run in the race backed by two independents.
Aso along with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a meeting
on April 5 in Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. On April 8, he
dined with senior members of the Machimura faction, including former
Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa, trying to strengthen
communication channels to the largest faction in the LDP.
However, many in the LDP are alarmed about Aso's moves. Secretary
General Bunmei Ibuki sought to constrain Aso at the party of the Aso
faction on the 11th, saying: "Under such a difficult situation, I
want the Aso faction to support Prime Minister Fukuda."
In last year's LDP presidential election, eight factions in the LDP
tightened the nooses around Aso. Therefore, Aso will have to
continue devoting himself to solidifying his footing in the party
for the time being.