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Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 04/15/08

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PP RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHKO #1030/01 1060807
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 150807Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3459
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/USDOJ WASHDC PRIORITY
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RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHHMHBA/COMPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI
RHMFIUU/HQ PACAF HICKAM AFB HI//CC/PA//
RHMFIUU/USFJ //J5/JO21//
RUYNAAC/COMNAVFORJAPAN YOKOSUKA JA
RUAYJAA/CTF 72
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 9659
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 7282
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 0953
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 5695
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 7876
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2828
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8850
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 9368

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 TOKYO 001030

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: DAILY SUMMARY OF JAPANESE PRESS 04/15/08


INDEX:

(1) Government to automatically withhold medical insurance premiums
from pension benefits of very elderly starting today; Dismay
widespread due to government's lack of effort to publicize new
system (Tokyo Shimbun)

(2) Japan adrift: Time to act to make future bright (Nikkei)

(3) Former LDP Secretary General Nakagawa: Prime Minister Fukuda
should convey his own views to public (Nikkei)

(4) Kazamidori (Weathervane) column: Need for six-party talks on
Burma (Nikkei)

ARTICLES:

(1) Government to automatically withhold medical insurance premiums
from pension benefits of very elderly starting today; Dismay
widespread due to government's lack of effort to publicize new
system

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Abridged slightly)
April 15, 2008

The government begins today withholding medical insurance premiums
from pension benefits of those 75 and over under the very elderly
medical system. The system has already created confusion due to
miscalculated insurance premiums, the imperfect delivery of new
insurance cards, and other factors. Further, the government's
efforts to publicize the new system have been insufficient. Dismay
and discontent are widespread among elderly people.

Under the new system, individuals first take out medical insurance
in their respective prefectures, and all individuals pay insurance
premiums in principle. Those who are dependents of their children
with corporate insurance and those working at companies have been
forced to leave employees' health insurance. Those with National
Health Insurance have also shifted to this system.

In the case of a couple, the husband or wife joins this system when
that person turns 75, making the two pay premiums separately. As
seen in miscalculations by municipalities, the deduction and
exemption system is also quite complicated.

The new system is designed to cut medication and other types of
waste by having physicians in charge give comprehensive medical
treatment to patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes,
dementia, and high blood pressure. A system in which people can
receive examinations and treatment as many times as needed at fixed
monthly fees has also been introduced.

This has resulted in the widespread misconception that very elderly
people will not be able to consult doctors freely. The system is now
drawing fire in various parts of the country as a scheme ignoring
the elderly.

The system aims at curbing medical expenses by increasing
transparency in medical benefits and fees by separating those 75 and
older, whose healthcare costs are on the rise.

The system costs 1.8 trillion yen, and 50 PERCENT of it is funded

TOKYO 00001030 002 OF 007


by tax money, like the old health insurance system for the elderly,
10 PERCENT by premiums by the elderly, and the remaining 40 PERCENT
by premiums by younger generations.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has placed little
emphasis on explaining the system, taking the position that the
burden to be born by the elderly will be the same level as before.
In reality, the system puts additional burdens on 2 million people
who have been dependents of their children and others, though there
are reduced rates and exemptions. It also means greater burdens for
the majority of low-income earners in urban areas, which have been
holding down insurance premiums by putting taxes in the National
Health Insurance account.

Ninety-nine percent of people over 75 have paid national insurance
premiums. Still, there is strong discontent about the government
automatically withholding medical insurance premiums from pension
benefits, given the possibility that the government has not paid out
pension benefits correctly due to its pension-record mismanagement.

The MHLW has played up the system's advantage, saying that the
elderly do not have to go to financial institutions to pay their
premiums. The ministry's awareness is a far cry from dispelling a
sense of distrust in the automatic withdrawal system.

(2) Japan adrift: Time to act to make future bright

NIKKEI (Page 1) (Abridged)
April 15, 2008

Prescriptions for Japan:

? Be aware of costs as an aging society
? Become a country with sustainable economic growth that provides
"mid-level welfare with mid-level burden"
? Handle social security reform as suprapartisan policy task

Vibrant Asia. Changing Europe. In contrast, Japan. . . . While other
countries of the world are making brisk moves, Japan appears to be
alone and inward-looking. Japan appears not powerful enough to bring
about change. Japan seems adrift. But Japan should not make its
future gloomy.

Nursing homes for elderly people with dementia have been built one
after the other in Kasumigaura City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Each home
accommodates some 200 elderly persons. What is going on those homes
at present is "what was never imagined at the beginning," said an
official from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

In April 2006, the government made revisions to the nursing home
system; as a result, those who are allowed to live in nursing homes
are now limited to local residents living in the area. But a city
government official in charge noted: "Nearly half of the residents
in nursing homes even now are from Tokyo.

Overcrowded cities suffer a shortage of nursing homes. Meanwhile,
local cities are unable to afford the costs for them to pay for
elderly people.

Japan is aging faster than any other country. One out of six elderly
persons needs nursing care. The population of people aged 65 or
above is 27 million, but this population will expand to 36 million

TOKYO 00001030 003 OF 007


in 2020. However, the social welfare systems for pensions, medical
treatment, and nursing care are not necessarily functioning
properly.

"We are sorry to say that there will be no consultations today."
This kind of announcement is increasingly heard in hospitals across
the country. According to a survey by an industry organization of
2,800 hospitals, 521 hospitals said they had suspended
hospitalization, and 439 hospitals said they closed some departments
for consultations.

The number of patients is on the rise, but the number of doctors is
on the decrease, and the health insurance system lacks funds. The
sharply falling birthrate has made it difficult for the generations
now working to receive the same pension amount as the current
elderly receive. At the same time, there may be organizations that
are of no use, and the current way of managing the systems may be
wrong. If the systems are managed a little more efficiently, money
may be shifted to the area of greatest need for funds. What is clear
at present is that the situation in Japan is serious and that
revenue sources are limited. Because Japan has left the (social
welfare) problem unattended for many years, prescriptions are
limited.

What are politicians doing to deal with that problem? At the World
Economic Forum in Davos early this year, Prime Minister Fukuda,
after introducing himself, said, pointing to former State Minister
in Charge of Economic and Fiscal Policy Heizo Takenaka, who was also
attending the forum: "All reforms have been already done by this
person. Nothing has been left for me to do."

Politics needs to emerge from its indecisiveness

It is politicians' responsibility to fix the situation. The
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD)
Secretary General Gurria said: "Because of its falling birthrate and

SIPDIS
aging population, Japan is placed in a more disadvantageous
situation than other countries." When asked what she would do to
deal with that, Gurria said: "I wouldn't cite 'political
difficulties' to do nothing in order to justify myself."

On April 11, the government and the ruling parties agreed to the
prime minister's last-ditch proposal to move revenue sources set
aside for road construction into the general account. This agreement
is seen as a byproduct of the divided Diet, but it could lead to
moving reform forward. It is a good thing if funds used for social
welfare will expand. Debate on a method to finance basic pensions
entirely from tax revenue, for instance, the consumption tax,
instead of insurance premiums is gaining momentum.

Increasing the burden does mean bullying the weak. Currently, one
out of five is an elderly person, but in 50 years, half the
population will be elderly. Politicians must explain why it is
impossible for younger generations alone to bear the social welfare
burden. A growing population leading to economic growth and
increased tax revenues is a thing of the past. Japan, which is no
longer a rising country, needs to sustain economic growth by making
the best use of the market system and globalization. For that end,
it is necessary for Japan to drastically shift its current social
welfare systems from low burden and mid-level welfare to mid-level
burden and mid-level welfare.


TOKYO 00001030 004 OF 007


Politicians need to select items that will not be used as subjects
for political struggles and need to be handled in a suprapartisan
manner. At the top of them would be social welfare reform. If
politicians are unable to do so, it will be impossible for us to
expect political leadership.

(3) Former LDP Secretary General Nakagawa: Prime Minister Fukuda
should convey his own views to public

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
April 15, 2008

Questioner: The criticism is that there is "a political slump" due
to paralysis in policy-making caused by the divided Diet.

Nakagawa: One of the causes of the confusion is internal strife in
the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which dominates the House of
Councillors, with an eye on its presidential election (in
September). When one group in the DPJ tries to hold discussions with
us, the other group kills it. The DPJ has repeatedly done such a
thing.

Questioner: The government and ruling parties have agreed on a plan
to integrate the revenues from road-related taxes into the general
account starting in fiscal 2009.

Nakagawa: With this plan, we will seek discussions through the end
of April, but chances are that the DPJ will not accept our plan.
Unless the DPJ comes to the negotiating table, we won't be able to
find middle ground.

Questioner: Are there any measures to resolve problems caused by the
divided Diet?

Nakagawa: The latest one-on-one debate (between Fukuda and DPJ head
Ichiro Ozawa) was good, wasn't it? The prime minister's thoughts
were felt. The leaders should conduct such a debate every day. It is
good to show the public what is really going on and what the two
leaders are thinking. Public opinion may move the stalled
consultations between the ruling and opposition parties, including
the DPJ.

Questioner: Recently, the prime minister himself is trying to break
the impasse in policy consultations.

Nakagawa: Since the prime minister originally intended to come out
with various reforms in April, materials have been prepared. If he
directly explains his thoughts to the public and if he holds on to
his resolve for reforms, his grip on the party will strengthen.

Questioner: Some say that the Fukuda cabinet should be shuffled as
early as possible because Prime Minister Fukuda retained most of the
ministers of the former Abe cabinet.

Nakagawa: I have heard people say this. (Waiting for the proper
timing) the prime minister should form his own (cabinet). It is
usually difficult to shuffle a cabinet while the Diet is in
session.

Questioner: In order to force an early dissolution of the House of
Representatives for a snap election, the DPJ has drawn a clear
contrast with the government and ruling coalition.

TOKYO 00001030 005 OF 007

Nakagawa: The Lower House members should serve in their posts until
their terms expire. Some in the LDP say that the Lower House should
not be dissolved before the end of the next year's G-8 summit. (In
connection with his remark that was taken to mean he had mentioned a
possible dissolution of the Lower House) Former Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi angrily dismissed the idea.

Questioner: How about the possibility of a grand coalition (between
the LDP and DPJ), which once hit a roadblock, or a partial
coalition?

Nakagawa: In an effort to stabilize politics, we will respond to any
measures. However, nothing is likely to happen before the end of the
LDP presidential race.

Questioner: How about a political realignment?

Nakagawa: What I said includes that.

(4) Kazamidori (Weathervane) column: Need for six-party talks on
Burma

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
April 13, 2008

By Hisayoshi Ina, senior editorial writer

I want the readers to understand why I am using the old name Burma
instead of Myanmar, which the Japanese media prefer.

My purpose in writing this column is to urge the Japanese government
to shift its current policy, which has resulted only in coddling the
military government that runs Burma. The reason is because one of my
proposals would be to change from using Myanmar, the name given by
the military junta, to the old name Burma.

I would like to list three basic points that are preconditions for
my argument:

1) A socialist government ran Burma for 26 years, but was toppled in
1988 by a pro-democracy group. However, the Burmese military smashed
the movement and assumed full power to run the country.

2) In 1990, the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu
Kyi won the general election. Ignoring the result of the election,
the military junta has continued to stay in power since then.

3) The military government will conduct a national referendum on May
10 to ask the public to approve a newly drafted constitution. The
new constitution approves the status quo in the country. Based on
the new code, the military junta plans to hold a general election in
2010.

The website of Japan's Foreign Ministry states that in order to
promote democratization and improved human rights in "Myanmar,"
Japan will persistently urge both the current government and the
democratic forces, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to hold a dialogue.
Japan will continue to maintain relations with both sides, so as to
not isolate "Myanmar."

That is the way the Japanese government deals with Burma

TOKYO 00001030 006 OF 007

Perhaps taking such an ambiguous strategy in the 1990s was
unavoidable.

Japanese conservatives have long felt close to Burma, which
traditionally has been a pro-Japanese country. Politicians were
concerned that if pressure was applied, Burma would move toward
China.

Japan's strategy was not only totally ineffective, it instead
worsened the situation. That was demonstrated by last September's
demonstrations, and their suppression, and by the fatal shooting of
Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai.

It is time for the Japanese government to admit to a failure in its
policy and change it. It will be too late to do so after Burma's
national referendum. There is a view calling for policy shift in the
mainstream of the Foreign Ministry. Conditions at home and abroad
have been met.

Firstly, Burma's insincere response to the Nagai incident and North
Korea's response to the abduction issue are exactly the same. If
Japanese conservatives, who take a tough stance toward the North,
continue to back the military junta in Burma, it means that their
policy lacks consistency.

Secondly, there is little chance now that Burma will be urged to go
over to the Chinese side. China itself is busy with dealing with its
own Tibetan problem prior to the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai
Exposition. Beijing has no breathing room to stand up for Burma's
military junta, which is being criticized by the international
community.

If Tokyo urges Beijing to hold six-party talks on the
democratization of Burma, it would be difficult for it to refuse the
proposal. The six countries would be Burma, China, India, Japan,
Thailand, and the United States in alphabetical order.

When I proposed this idea at an international conference, a India,
the United States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and
the European Union be participants in the talks.

The suggestion was that the EU, which has taken a tougher stance
toward the human right issue than Japan, be included in the group of
six countries, and that Japan be excluded. I see in the suggestion
the complicated mind of a Chinese intellectual.

Like the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs, the
framework of this kind of talks is premised on "same bed, but
different dreams" notion -- the north wind policy and sunshine
policy groups. The framework functions with the two groups.

To that end, the north wind policy is needed at first. Lure Burma's
military government to talks after stopping the north wind.

The U.S policy of freezing funds to North Korea was effective. The
North returned to the negotiating table after the freeze was lifted.
A joint statement was issued, although it was insufficient. But the
wind stopped, and the North began to ignore the accord.

The United States, Australia, and Canada have already taken such
financial measures to suspend trade by individuals and corporations.

TOKYO 00001030 007 OF 007


If Japan joins the sanctions, similar to those that were used
against North Korea, the effectiveness would increase.

The United Nations and the governments and media of major countries
use the word Burma and not Myanmar. The U.S. and British governments
and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) also use Burma. If
Japan quits using the word Myanmar and substitutes Burma, the wind
will be once more blowing against the military junta. My column is a
test for Japan to meet that challenge.

SCHIEFFER

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