Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 06/19/08

DE RUEHKO #1683/01 1710134
P 190134Z JUN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A



1) Top headlines
2) Editorials

Defense and security affairs:
3) Mainichi poll finds 74 PERCENT of public supports Japan's
decision to enter pact to ban cluster bombs (Mainichi)
4) Government putting off submission this fall of bill to create
permanent SDF dispatch law (Asahi)
5) Government's survey mission to Afghanistan returns to Japan

North Korea problem:
6) Secretary Rice invited to visit Pyongyang (Mainichi)
7) Senior Foreign Ministry official defines "progress" on the
abduction front when the reinvestigation starts (Asahi)
8) Former Prime Minister Abe blasts LDP's Taku Yamasaki for favoring
a dialogue instead of a pressure approach in dealing with North
Korea (Sankei)

China and Taiwan ties:
9) Japan announces agreement with China on developing two gas fields
in the E. China Sea (Nikkei)
10) Gas-field agreement is a triumph of cooperation over national
interest but the profitability of the arrangement remains in doubt
11) Containing criticism that China made concession to Japan a
priority for Beijing (Yomiuri)

12) Demonstrators in Taiwan burn the Japanese flag (Yomiuri)
13) Taiwan reportedly sending warships to the Senkakus (Yomiuri)

Political agenda:
14) 80 PERCENT of surveyed Diet members against constraining social
security spending, including over half of the ruling camp (Tokyo
15) Fierce political reaction to the issuance of the policy
guidelines that stress reducing expenditures (Mainichi)
16) LDP fiscal research center head predicts that the consumption
tax next year may have to be raised to 10 PERCENT (Mainichi)
17) Democratic Party of Japan in political ploy wants to revisit the
issue of privatization of postal services (Yomiuri)
18) DPJ President Ozawa making round of visits to regional areas
19) Rebel lawmakers Muneo Suzuki and Watanuki planning new united
group in the Diet (Yomiuri)



MHLW to increase number of doctors after finally admitting shortages

Mainichi, Yomiuri, Nikkei, Sankei, & Tokyo Shimbun:
Japan, China reach final agreement on joint development of gas
fields in East China Sea; Japanese firms to invest in Shirakaba


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Battle intensifying over issue of consumption tax hike


(1) Japan, China able to make practical compromises on gas field
(2) Prime minister needs to demonstrate leadership to promote

(1) More efforts needed for Japan, China to make East China Sea an
area of cooperation
(2) Prime minister should hike consumption tax if he thinks it

(1) Gas field agreement a major step forward toward mutually
beneficial bilateral relationship
(2) Work out program to train and properly post doctors

(1) Persist with policy of reviewing revenues and expenditures
(2) We hope East China Sea can be a sea of peace with gas field
agreement between Japan, China

(1) Consumption tax hike should be premised on thorough expenditure
(2) Japan-China gas field agreement: Negotiations on equal footing
finally possible

Tokyo Shimbun:
(1) Gas field accord shows how to avoid conflict of national
(2) Conduct thorough discussion on how to cut wasteful expenditures

(1) Withdraw notice of reducing transport expenses to go to hospital
for welfare recipients

3) Poll: 74 PERCENT approve Japan's consent to anti-cluster treaty

MAINICHI (Page 2) (Full)
June 19, 2008

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) from cluster bombs has been causing
serious damage. The government has now agreed to the text of a draft
treaty for an immediate and total ban on such cluster bombs, with
the exception of "smart" cluster munitions. Asked about this
consent, affirmative answers added up to 74 PERCENT , with negative
answers accounting for only 13 PERCENT , in a recent telephone-based
nationwide public opinion survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun
on June 14-15. Meanwhile, public opinion was split over the
government's decision to forgo Japan's dispatch of Self-Defense
Forces aircraft to China in the aftermath of a recent earthquake
that devastated Sichuan Province. Answers also varied with ages.

In the survey, respondents were asked about the government's consent
to the cluster ban treaty. In response to this question, affirmative
answers came from 79 PERCENT of those who support the Fukuda

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cabinet and 78 PERCENT of those who do not support it. In addition,
affirmative answers came from 80 PERCENT of those who support the
ruling Liberal Democratic Party and also from those who support the
leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto). These
figures show that the general public is taking a favorable view of
the government's consent to the treaty. Among men, "yes" to this
question accounted for 82 PERCENT . Among women, it was 66 PERCENT

The government has now forgone its dispatch of SDF aircraft to China
on a relief mission for those affected by the Sichuan earthquake. In
the survey, respondents were asked if they thought it was an
appropriate judgment or it might have been better to send SDF
aircraft. To this question, 48 PERCENT answered that it might have
been better to send SDF aircraft, with 42 PERCENT saying it was an
appropriate judgment.

"It would have been better" accounted for 70 PERCENT among those in
their 20s. This figure, however, goes down in higher age brackets.
It was 37 PERCENT among those aged 70 and over. Generations with
war memories were cautious about dispatching SDF aircraft to China.
"Appropriate" came from 44 PERCENT of those who support the Fukuda
cabinet and also from 44 PERCENT of those who do not support it.

4) Gov't to forgo SDF legislation this fall

ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
June 19, 2008

The government has decided to forgo presenting a bill to the Diet
this fall for a permanent law that will allow Japan to send the
Self-Defense Forces on overseas missions. The Antiterrorism Special
Measures Law, under which the Maritime Self-Defense Force is
currently tasked with a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean, is
set to run out in January next year. The ruling Liberal Democratic
Party therefore had a plan to enact a permanent law to continue the
MSDF mission. However, the LDP's coalition partner, New Komeito, is
cautious about the plan. The Diet is now divided with the ruling
coalition holding a majority of the seats in its lower chamber and
the opposition camp controlling its upper chamber. As it stands, the
government judged that the legislation cannot be expected to clear
the Diet.

"It's quite difficult to present the permanent legislation to the
Diet at this fall's extraordinary session," Chief Cabinet Secretary
Machimura told a news conference yesterday. "The ruling parties have
studied the feasibility of this legislation," Machimura said. "But,"
he added, "it wouldn't be easy when we look at the opposition
parties and the House of Councillors."

5) Survey team returns from Afghanistan

ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
June 19, 2008

A survey mission made up mainly of personnel from the foreign and
defense ministries that the government had sent to local areas in
Afghanistan to investigate the possibility of a Self-Defense Force
dispatch returned to Japan on June 18. The team left Japan on June 8
and centering its travels to around the capital city of Kabul
observed the activities of ISAF, the international security
assistance force sent by NATO. In addition to Afghanistan itself, it

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also surveyed the airfield facility in neighboring Tajikistan that
is being used by the U.S. forces. The government will now look into
the possibility of air transport assistance to the multinational
force through the use of Air Self-Defense Force transport aircraft
and Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters.

6) North Korean vice minister requests visit to Pyongyang by U.S.
secretary of state

MAINICHI (Page 1) (Full)
June 19, 2008

Shoji Nishioka, Beijing

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan requested during his
meeting late last month with Assistant Secretary of State
Christopher Hill, the U.S. chief negotiator in the six-party talks,
that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visit the country, it was
learned yesterday through information provided by a source connected
to the six-party talks. North Korean appears to be motivated to make
a visit by Secretary Rice a stepping stone to normalizing diplomatic
ties with the United States.

The two chief negotiators met on May 27-28 in Beijing and exchanged
views on such issues as North Korea's expected declaration of its
nuclear programs and delisting the North as a state sponsor of

Hill reportedly did not respond immediately to Kim's proposal that
Secretary Rice visit the country.

7) Senior Foreign Ministry official says "progress" on the abduction
front is when the reinvestigation starts

ASAHI (Page 4) (Excerpts)
June 19, 2008

A senior Foreign Ministry official yesterday commented on the
reinvestigation of the abduction issue, as promised by North Korea:
"We will regard 'progress' for the first time only when the North
indicates its specific method (of reinvestigating) that is
convincing to the Japanese side, and when that process begins."

In the bilateral talks that took place in Beijing on June 11-12,
North Korea changed its stance of insisting that the abduction
problem had been settled, and promised a reinvestigation that Japan
had sought. But the senior official pointed out, "It is not enough
by itself for North Korea to have changed its previous assertion."

8) Abe criticizes Yamasaki over North Korea

SANKEI (Page 5) (Abridged slightly)
June 19, 2008

Former Prime Minster Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party
delivered a speech at a Tokyo hotel on June 18. Touching on the fact
that the Parliamentary League to Promote Diplomatic Normalization
between Japan and North Korea, chaired by former LDP Vice President
Taku Yamasaki, is calling for the removal of sanctions against North
Korea and a shift to a dialogue policy, Abe said: "If lawmakers say
something that is more lenient than what is said by government
officials in talks, that would immensely harm the government's

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negotiating ability. That is worse than useless."

Further, in regard to the fact that Yamasaki described what Abe said
as naive, the former prime minister slammed Yamasaki, saying, "(Mr.
Yamasaki's) Japanese language ability is not good. It does no good
and a lot of harm. Every lawmaker should act based on national

Abe also sounded an alarm regarding the fact that Pyongyang in the
recent Japan-DPRK working-level meeting announced a plan to conduct
a reinvestigation in the issue of Japanese nationals abducted to the
North, saying: "Japan has been duped by the North many times over.
This time around, we must raise our guard so as not to repeat that
mistake." Abe also warned Washington regarding its moves to delist
the North as a state sponsor of terrorism, saying, "It might end up
losing the leverage in addressing the abduction issue."

9) Japan, China reach agreement on joint development of gas fields

NIKKEI (Top play) (Excerpts)
June 19, 2008

The Japanese and Chinese governments have reached agreement on the
pending issue of developing gas fields in the E. China Sea. Setting
up a "joint-development zone" in the northern part of the sea that
straddles the median line between Japan and China, the two sides
will narrow down the drilling locations through joint exploration.
Such aspects as the means of allocating earnings from the projects
will be settled by negotiations. On the question of the Shirakaba
(Chinese name: Chunxiao) oil field that a Chinese company has been
developing independently, a Japanese corporation will provide
financing and in this way, Japan will secure a certain amount of
rights and interests in it. It has been four years since Japan
protested China's development of gas fields in June 2004, but now
the issue has been generally settled

Major points of agreement between Japan and China:

? Until boundary lines can be demarcated, Japan and China will
cooperate without damaging their respective legal positions.

? A joint development zone will be established in the southern seas
near Asunara (Chinese name: Longjing), Through joint exploration,
locations will be selected for joint development.

? In accordance with Chinese law, a Chinese company will continue to
develop the gas field of Shirakaba (Chinese name Chunxiao), with
capital participation from a Japanese company.

? Talks will continue on the other gas fields in the sea so that
joint development can be realized at an early date.

? Efforts will be made so that there will be an early signing of the
necessary documents.

10) Japan, China agree on joint gas field development in East China
Sea, giving priority to cooperation over profits

ASAHI (Page 6) (Excerpts)
June 19, 2008

Japan and China have reached a final agreement on gas exploration

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projects in the East China Sea, but a spate of issues, like economic
sovereignty, have been left for future negotiations. Negotiations on
Japan's concession rights for the Shirakaba (Chunxiao in Chinese)
gas field also have yet to start. The two governments are trying to
play up their friendship, but many barriers stand in the way of the
joint development.

Question about profitability

"I hope (the East China Sea) will become an important energy source
for both Japan and China," Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry
Amari emphasized in a press conference yesterday.

Although experts point out that the amount of gas reserves in the
East China Sea is small, an executive of Teikoku Oil Co., which has
concession rights near the Shirakaba gas field and other areas,
said: "The total amount of reserves (in the East China Sea) might
become one of the largest for Japan."

Teikoku Oil applied for concession rights in 1969, but the
procedures had long been frozen given a dispute over demarcation
between Japan and China. The company won the rights in 2005, but
even after that, it had to wait for the start of negotiations
between the two governments. The areas that are covered by the
agreement yesterday are outside the reach of its rights, but
President Masatoshi Sugioka issued this comment yesterday: "We would
like to earnestly work out the details in future negotiations,"
indicating his strong interest in the joint-development projects.

As for the Chinese-operated Shirakaba gas field, the focus of
attention is on who will invest in the Chinese companies involved in
the project.

In addition to petroleum companies, such as Teikoku Oil, trading
houses and government-affiliated institutes could be involved. For
private firms, however, there is the problem of limited
profitability, with a major oil company executive posing a question
about profitability. Negotiators have also said that it will not

To transport exploited natural gas to Japan, it is necessary to
build a pipeline connecting the reserves and Kyushu or Okinawa with
a massive investment. China has already started work to build a
pipeline. A person in the oil industry said: "Even if Japan obtains
concession rights, it will have no choice but to sell the product to
China. China may buy it at the price it desires."

There is the possibility, however, that the agreement this time will
become a major step toward the joint development of latent natural
resources in the East China Sea.

Difficult negotiations expected on concession rights

Negotiations on concession rights will be a major hurdle for the two
countries to launch joint development. China started resource
exploitation in the East China Sea in the 1970s and 1980s and has
steadily drilled test gas fields. Seen from the Chinese perspective,
the joint development of the Shirakaba oil field means Japan's
participation in China's project. Japan might be asked to pay a huge
amount of money to gain concession rights for the gas field.

11) Containing criticism that China made concession to Japan a

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priority for Beijing

YOMIURI (Page 2) (Abridged)
June 19, 2008

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu released yesterday a
statement on a (Japan-China) agreement on the exploration of gas
fields in the East China Sea saying that the results will serve the
interests of the two countries and be beneficial for the stability
of bilateral relations. It is extremely important for the Hu Jintao
administration, which has shifted to a strategically and mutually
beneficial policy course, to give the impression that it has not
made concessions to Japan in order to minimize criticism at home.

Meanwhile, some 20 Chinese civic group members claiming China's
sovereignty over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands yesterday staged a
demonstration in front of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing chanting,
"Japan, get out of the East China Sea!" while holding a banner
expressing opposition to the Japan-China agreement.

Messages opposing making concessions to Japan have begun to increase
on Internet bulletin boards. In the event the agreement generates
the impression that China has made a concession to Japan over the
sovereignty issue, the Hu administration might come under fierce
fire. At the same time, the administration might find itself under
heavy pressure from former President Jiang Zemin and other elders,
leftists, and the military, who take a hard-line stance toward

Beijing, which puts high priority on domestic policy, has emphasized
that the exploration of the Shirakaba gas field (Chunxiao in
Chinese) has nothing to do with sovereignty. "We welcome the
participation of Japanese companies under relevant Chinese laws,"
Jiang Yu said in the statement yesterday.

12) Japanese flag torched in anti-Japanese rally in Taiwan over
Senkaku accident

YOMIURI (Page 2) (Abridged)
June 19, 2008

In the wake of an accident in which a Taiwanese sport-fishing boat
sank after colliding with a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat in waters
near the Senkaku Islands (known as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan), members of
Hong Kong's Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands
(ACDDI) and Taiwanese pro-China activists on June 18 staged a
protest in front of the Interchange Association, Japan, (IAJ) Taipei
Office, and burned a Japanese flag while shouting, "Japanese, get
out of Tiaoyutai!"

The ACDDI members entered Taiwan in order to head for the Senkakus,
but they gave up a demonstration at sea because they failed to find
a fishing boat to get there. On June 12, fishermen also staged a
protest in front of the IAJ office demanding an apology from the
Japanese government. Meanwhile, the IAJ disseminated pamphlets to
Japanese schools and other places urging Japanese nationals living
in Taiwan to be alert to growing anti-Japanese sentiment. As if to
fan anti-Japanese sentiment, a local assemblyman has begun calling
for a boycott of Japanese products.

13) Taiwanese defense minister expresses willingness to send
warships to Senkaku Islands

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YOMIURI (Page 2) (Abridged slightly)
June 19, 2008

According to Taiwan's Central News Agency, National Defense Minister
Chen Chao-min announced on June 18 that he was willing to dispatch
warships to Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands
(known as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan), over which Taiwan has also claimed
sovereignty, if needed. Chen was responding to question from a
Kuomintang lawmaker taking a hard-line stance toward Japan at the
national assembly.

Chen indicated that in the event there was a request for assistance
from Taiwan Coast Guard patrol boats in accordance with an agreement
between the coast guard and the defense ministry, Taiwanese warships
should head for (Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus) to
provide assistance.

The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou considered sending
warships to waters near the Senkakus this week but called off the
plan, saying that it would put high priority on a peaceful
settlement through dialogue. Ma also said on June 17, "We must take
action when necessary, and we will defend our territory and
sovereignty with all our might." The Taiwanese president clearly
remains hard-edged toward Japan over the issue.

14) Diet poll: 80 PERCENT opposed to curbing social security

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 1) (Abridged)
June 19, 2008

The government plans to annually constrain 220 billion yen in the
growth of spending on social security, including medical and nursing
care services. The Tokyo Shimbun conducted an urgent questionnaire
survey of all lawmakers in the Diet over the advisability of curbing
social security spending and what to do about funding resources.
There were answers from 157 lawmakers. Among them, 136 legislators
(87 PERCENT ) were opposed to the government's plan to continue
holding down the growth of social security spending. In Japan,
medical services are collapsing, and nursing care services in
particular are on the decline. Most of those who responded to the
survey said the government should review its plan to hold down
social security spending.

In the breakdown of those who responded to the urgent survey, there
were answers from 110 lawmakers from the opposition parties or who
are independents. They were all opposed to the government's plan to
hold down social security spending. Meanwhile, there were answers
from 39 lawmakers belonging to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Among these LDP lawmakers, 19 persons supported the government's
plan, with 20 saying they are against it. In the case of New Komeito
as the LDP's coalition partner, there were answers from eight of its
lawmakers. Among them, six persons were opposed to holding down
social security spending. As seen from these figures, the two ruling
parties were also divided in opinion.

The questionnaire was sent to all 722 lawmakers in the Diet, and 565
persons did not respond. The response rate was 22 PERCENT .

15) LDP fiercely opposing spending cut policy of basic policy
guidelines out of sense of crisis concerning next Lower House

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MAINICHI (Page 2) (Abridged slightly)
June 19, 2008

The government has drafted basic policy guidelines on economic and
fiscal management and structural reforms for the fiscal 2008
national budget. Many Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members
yesterday, June 18, called for revising the spending cut policy
included in the draft. Behind the call for increased spending is a
sense of crisis concerning the next Lower House election. A
tug-of-war between the Prime Minister's Official Residence (Kantei)
and the LDP over the issue of whether to keep fiscal discipline firm
or to boost expenditures has moved into full swing with the LDP
motivated by the desire to regain leadership over budget
compilation, after a period under the Koizumi administration when
the Kantei was in charge.

The LDP on the 18th held a plenary session of the Policy Research
Council. The session lasted for three hours. More than 30 lawmakers
participating in the session held a microphone one after another and
voiced their opposition to the spending cut policy. Only two
supported the proposal for keeping fiscal discipline firm.
Participants loudly expressed their disgruntlement with the draft,
which clarifies the need for maximum spending cuts both at the
central and local government levels.

A Land, Infrastructure and Transport Division-related meeting then
followed. Participants even mapped out a resolution seeking a
revision of the 3 PERCENT cut in public works stipulated in the
draft. Moves to water down the spending cut policy line during the
Fukuda administration have become visible in one sweep.

Prime Minister Fukuda on the 17th hinted at his stance that it would
be unavoidable to raise the sales tax, flaring up intraparty

Former Home Affairs Minister Takeshi Noda and Hiroyuki Sonoda,
senior deputy chairman of the Policy Research Council, gave a high
score to the prime minister's remark at a study meeting hosted by
former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano. They said that the
prime minister's remark was appropriate. Participants in the meeting
included many lawmakers in favor of hiking the consumption tax.
Yosano told reporters after the meeting, "The prime minister's
remark is reasonable in view of the LDP's past commitment as well."

On the other hand, former Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe, chairman
of the Fresh Wind," an intraparty group mainly joined by junior
lawmakers, fiercely checked the argument calling for a hike in the
consumption tax, underscoring, "It is not possible to hike the
consumption tax amid a series of scandals, including the arrests of
staff members of the Hokkaido Development Bureau." Yuji Tsushima,
chairman of the Tsushima faction, who serves as the party's Tax
System Research Commission, at his faction's staff meeting reminded,
"It would be better if the prime minister comes up with many policy
proposals without thinking about the tax code."

Regarding his consumption tax statement, the prime minister on the
evening of the same day told reporters, "First things first. We must
boil down various policy proposals and work out fiscal resources to
finance those proposals. Whether to hike the consumption tax or not
is the issue to be discussed after that." He thus tried to put the

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situation to rest.

16) LDP Fiscal Reform Study Group Chairman Sonoda hopes to see 10
PERCENT consumption tax next fall: Rate on food to be reduced

MAINICHI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
June 19, 2008

Hiroyuki Sonoda, senior deputy chairman of the Liberal Democratic
Party's (LDP) Policy Research Council and the chairman of the LDP
Fiscal Reform Study Council during an interview with the Mainichi
Shimbun said, "We want to finalize a package of proposals including
when to hike the consumption tax and the margin of the hike, based
on a debate on the tax code this fall, and make it the party's
manifesto." He thus clarified his stance that a concrete consumption
tax hike proposal should be incorporated in tax code revision
guidelines the ruling parties will finalize at year's end.

Regarding Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's statement that now is the
time to decide on a consumption tax hike, Sonoda indicated his
perception that the government would accelerate discussions on a
consumption tax hike discussion, saying, "The prime minister's
statement will have a major impact on tax code reform discussions."

Concerning the timeline for raising the consumption tax and the
margin of the hike, Sonoda said, "We want to raise the tax to 10
PERCENT as early as October 2009, if we can obtain the
understanding of the people." He made that remark in view of the
fact that raising the state contribution to the basic pension in
fiscal 2009 will require 2.3 trillion yen. At the same time, he
said that reduced rates would be applied to such items as food.

17) DPJ to include postal privatization review in campaign pledges
in consideration of JPGU, PNP

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
June 19, 2008

The Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ) Deputy President Naoto Kan
yesterday revealed that his party would include a policy of
reviewing the postal privatization program in a set of campaign
pledges (manifesto) for the next House of Representatives election,
expecting support from the Japan Postal Group Union (JPGU). The
largest opposition party also appears to be giving consideration to
the People's New Party (PNP), which was founded in opposition to
postal privatization. However, since there is a cautious view about
the policy in the DPJ, internal coordination is expected to stall.

Kan attended the JPGU's first national convention held yesterday in
Sapporo. Kan said in a speech: "My party has to start working on a
new manifesto. We want to do our best in reviewing the postal
privatization program, while hearing your views and consulting with
the PNP." He then asked for their support for his party (in the next
Lower House election), saying: "We wish the JPGU to achieve its goal
of having a membership of 300,000, and we will rely on you in the
next Lower House election."

The Japan Postal Workers' Union (JPU) and the All Japan Postal Labor
Union merged last October into the JPGU with a membership of about
224,000, the largest labor union in Japan. The JPGU is one of the
organizations, with which the DPJ wants to step up its ties.

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For the largest opposition party, cooperation with the PNP is also
important for the coalition of opposition parties in the Diet. The
DPJ and PNP jointly presented a bill revising the postal
privatization program to the House of Councillors last October,
which was the PNP's condition to form a coalition in the Upper
House. The Upper House adopted the bill last December. The PNP has
urged the DPJ to incorporate a pledge to review postal privatization
in its manifesto for the next Lower House election. PNP Deputy Chief
Shizuka Kamei said: "DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa promised to include
it in the manifesto."

Following Kan's remark, PNP Chief Tamisuke Watanuki commented:
"There is a possibility that the postal privatization program will
be revised (if the opposition gains a majority in the Lower House)
like the Upper House in the next Lower House election." Some say
that many DPJ lawmakers favor postal privatization. A mid-level
member expressed concern saying: "A review of the postal
privatization program will have a negative impact on our party in
the Lower House election."

18) DPJ President Ozawa making round of visits to regional areas:
Last resort for next Lower House election is Rengo

MAINICHI (Page 5) (Excerpts)
June 19, 2008

Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) President Ichiro Ozawa
will be frequently visiting regional areas this month in the run-up
to an anticipated next Lower House election. He is focusing on
strengthening ties with the Japanese Trade Union Confederation
(Rengo), the party's largest support organization, instead of just
making street-corner speeches. He is determined to make the trade
organization the DPJ's "sincere friend," by cozying up to labor
leaders, even by setting up wining and dining sessions as a venue
for exchanging views, according to an informed source.

Ozawa on June 18 made a speech in front of about 30 participants in
an opinion exchange meeting with the Rengo Local of Oita: "The DPJ
is still a new organization. We would like to have help from Rengo
members throughout the nation. I appreciate your responding to our
request with readiness."

The membership of Rengo is approximately 6.6 million as of 2007,
down 16 PERCENT in comparison with the peak year of 1994, according
to a survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Some say
that the organization's influence over its members' voting behavior
has declined. Some veteran lawmakers are skeptical about Rengo's
vote-gathering power, with one noting, "Rengo votes are nothing
great." However, Ozawa has softly opposed those veteran lawmakers,
saying: "Our junior members do not have their own organizations.
Rengo is the only organization that works for them most devotedly at
a crucial moment."

In his round of visits to regional areas, Ozawa holds exchanges of
views with senior members of Rengo's local branches to hear their
policy requests and situations in their constituencies, followed by
a press conference and then a dinner meeting. He occasionally
inspects various facilities. However, he is no longer giving
sidewalk speeches to directly appeal his policy stance to voters.

19) Some Lower House members considering forming parliamentary group
with eye on next Lower House election

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YOMIURI (Page 5) (Full)
June 19, 2008

A plan to form a parliamentary group in the House of Representatives
has emerged among the People's New Party (PNP), the New Party Daichi
and some conservative lawmakers. The aim is to secure a casting vote
in case the ruling and opposition camps are dead even in the next
Lower House election. They are expected to form a group of a dozen
or so. Five Lower House members -- PNP President Tamisuke Watanuki,
New Party Daichi leader Muneo Suzuki, independent lawmaker Takeo
Hiranuma, who is a former trade minister, former Minister of
Construction Kishiro Nakamura, and Mikio Shimoji held a meeting last
night at a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. The five confirmed that
they would strengthen cooperation with an eye on forming a
coalition. The five and PNP Secretary General Hisaoki Kamei have
regularly held meetings.

In the Lower House, the four PNP members, Hosei Norota, independent
and former agriculture minister, and Shimoji have formed a group
called "PNP, Sozo and Mushozoku." The group will expand if Suzuki
and Nakamura join. A person close to Hiranuma said: "(Hiranuma) has
no intention to take part in any parliamentary group," since he has
mentioned the possibility of forming his own new party before the
Lower House election.


© Scoop Media

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