Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 09/11/08

DE RUEHKO #2499/01 2550112
P 110112Z SEP 08




E.O. 12958: N/A



Election fever:
1) Taro Aso grabs lead in LDP's five-way presidential race (Asahi)

2) Yomiuri survey of LDP lawmakers shows Aso now commanding a
majority lead (Yomiuri)
3) Nikkei survey finds Aso enjoying a majority of supporters among
local LDP chapter heads (Nikkei)
4) Neither candidate Aso nor former defense chief Ishiba wants to
form "grand alliance" with the DPJ to solve the "twisted Diet" power
imbalance (Mainichi)
5) The five LDP presidential candidates all profess support for
extending the MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean (Nikkei)
6) Opposition parties sharply criticize the LDP presidential race,
predicting it signifies "the beginning of the end of the LDP"
7) Opposition camp ridicules the LDP presidential race as "just like
a festival show" (Yomiuri)

Economic agenda:
8) Aso wants to pass supplementary budget during the upcoming
extraordinary Diet session, raising doubts about timing of Diet
dissolution (Tokyo Shimbun)
9) Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura says the supplementary budget
will be submitted to the Diet on Sept. 29 (Yomiuri)

10) Departure of ASDF from Iraq transport duty to start late this
year, when the authorizing UN resolution expires (Yomiuri)

11) Rumors that Kim Jong Il is seriously ill spark more rumors that
military now in charge, raising nuclear concerns; Two commentators
assess the DPRK situation (Yomiuri)


1) Aso gains upper hand in LDP presidential race

ASAHI (Top Play) (Slightly abridged)
September 11, 2008

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) yesterday officially
kicked off the campaign for its Sept. 22 presidential election. The
LDP has given a total of 141 votes to its prefectural chapters --
three votes to each prefectural chapter. The Asahi Shimbun has found
that Secretary General Taro Aso has the advantage in the local
chapters. As he has gained support from the 386 LDP lawmakers, if
this trend continues, the possibility is strong that he will win a
majority in the first casting of votes.

Besides Aso, former policy chief Nobuteru Ishihara, 51, former
Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, 56, former Defense Minister Shigeru
Ishiba, 51, and Economic and Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano, 70, are
running in the LDP leadership race.

The 47 prefectural chapters will decide for whom they will vote
based on the results of voting by rank and file party members. When
Asahi asked local chapters' senior members about their predictions,
30 chapters mentioned the names of candidates who they assumed would
win the election. Of the 30 prefectures, 29, excluding Tottori,
where Ishiba comes from, were expected to vote for Aso.

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Ibaraki, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Niigata, Yamaguchi and Fukuoka
have decided to give all three votes to a candidate who garners the
largest number of votes from rank and party members. The outlook is
therefore that all votes that these prefectures have will go to

Fukushima and Miyazaki, which have adopted a system under which the
three votes are allotted to candidates in proportion to the number
of votes they receive from rank and file party members, said that
they would vote for Aso. In addition to these two prefectures,
Akita, Tochigi, Ishikawa, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Mie, Osaka, Hyogo,
Tokushima, Saga, and Okinawa said that Aso would gain two or three

Asked why they predict Aso will have the advantage, a senior
Fukushima chapter member said: "He has dispatched a clear message
that economic measures are important since he knows local economies
face predicaments." A senior Ishikawa chapter member said: "He is
giving consideration in economic policy measures to local areas. He
can be relied on to lead the LDP into the next Lower House
election." They appreciated Aso's high-profile and his aggressive
fiscal disbursement plan.

Tottori said that it would give three votes to Ishiba. Tokushima,
too, mentioned his name. Hyogo and Okinawa said that the possibility
was high that their votes would go to Koike. Hyogo is Koike's former
electoral turf. Koike is popular in Okinawa, since she once served
as minister in charge of Okinawa affairs. However, four candidates,
excluding Aso, have not gained support, so far.

Meanwhile, 17 prefectural chapters said they had no idea or
refrained from answering, in order to avoid any impact on the
voting. There is a possibility that the situation will change during
the campaigning.

Yesterday, 125 lawmakers from all 8 LDP factions attended a ceremony
to start Aso's campaign for the race. About 20 members took part in
four other candidates' ceremonies. Following former Prime Minister
Yoshiro Mori, a supreme advisor to the Machimura faction, the
largest in the party, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday
revealed his intention to back Aso. The Ibuki faction, the
membership of 28, and the Nikai faction, which has 16 members, have
already announced their support for Aso. Masahiko Koumura, who heads
a 15-member faction, yesterday clarified his support for Aso.

2) More than half of LDP lawmakers backing Aso

YOMIURI (Top play) (Abridged)
September 11, 2008

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has now kicked off its
presidential election with voting and vote counting set for Sept.
22. LDP Secretary General Taro Aso, 67, and four other LDP lawmakers
filed their candidacies yesterday and opened their 12-day campaign
battle. The LDP and its coalition partner, the New Komeito, are
coordinating to dissolve the House of Representatives in early
October, so the LDP race will be an election to pick an 'election
campaigning face' for a showdown with Democratic Party of Japan
(Minshuto) President Ozawa in the next general election for the
House of Representatives. The LDP has a total of 386 lawmakers in
the Diet's lower and upper chambers. Aso is gaining more support
among them, and he is now certain to secure 197 votes, more than

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half of their votes. Meanwhile, the LDP's local chapters, each of
which has a balloting slot of three votes, have a total of 141
votes. The five candidates are now trying desperately to lock on the
local votes.

The five candidates running in the LDP presidential race are Aso,
former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, 56, from the Machimura
faction, Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano, 70,
unaffiliated with any faction, former LDP Policy Research Council
Chairman Nobuteru Ishihara, 51, from the Yamasaki faction, and
former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, 51, from the Tsushima
faction. The LDP will hold a meeting of its lawmakers from both
houses on Sept. 22. On that occasion, the LDP's 386 lawmakers and
three representatives from each of the LDP's prefectural federations
will cast their votes to elect the new LDP president.

The Yomiuri Shimbun looked into trends in the voting attitudes of
LDP Diet members. As of yesterday evening, Aso was backed by 197
persons (51 PERCENT ), standing above all others. Yosano was backed
by 34 persons (9 PERCENT ), Koike-29 persons (8 PERCENT ),
Ishihara-24 persons (6 PERCENT ), and Ishiba-24 persons (6 PERCENT
). About 20 PERCENT of the LDP's lawmakers have yet to clarify
their attitudes.

Aso has gained a wider base of support in all eight LDP factions. He
is now certain to get support from his own 20-member faction and
16-member Nikai faction. In addition, he has support from more than
half of the 88-member Machimura faction, which is the largest of all
factions in the LDP, and has support from the greater part of the
28-member Ibuki faction and the 15-member Koumura faction. More than
20 persons in each of the Tsushima faction, which has 69 members for
voting, and the 62-member Koga faction have also clarified their
support for Aso.

3) More than half of LDP's prefectural leaders backing Aso

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridged)
September 11, 2008

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun conducted a questionnaire survey of
prefectural-level executive officers of the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party over the now-announced LDP presidential election,
which is set for Sept. 22. In the survey, they were asked to pick
the most desirable candidate for the LDP presidency. In response,
executives from 26 of the LDP's 47 prefectural federations chose LDP
Secretary General Taro Aso. They are apparently pinning their hopes
on Aso for his advocacy of economic pump-priming measures.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is expected to be dissolved
soon for a general election. With an eye on this potential snap
election, many of the LDP's local executives also want their local
economies to be boosted. This issue will likely be a point of
contention in the LDP race.

Among those supporting Aso, "his policies are good" was the most
common reason. This answer came from 18 LDP prefectural
federations-or about 70 PERCENT of those that support Aso. Among
other reasons, "he has national popularity" and "he has leadership
ability" were given by 12 LDP prefectural federations.

Aso has been pushing for a comprehensive economic stimulus package.
In his campaign pledge as well, Aso has advocated implementing
economic measures and an across-the-board fixed-amount tax break.

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His economy-first standpoint is believed to be a reason for his
securing so much support from local party leaders. Aso is highly
popular, so many of them want him to become the next LDP president
for a potential snap election.

4) LDP presidential race: Aso, Ishiba negative about "grand
coalition" (with DPJ), while Yosano and others positive

MAINICHI (Page 1) (Excerpts)
September 11, 2008

The campaign for the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election
on Sept. 22 kicked off yesterday, with five candidates filing their
candidacies. In a joint press conference held by the five
candidates, Secretary General Taro Aso, who is seen as the most
promising candidate, pointed out that economic policy would be the
main campaign issue for the next House of Representatives election,
which is likely to be officially announced on Oct. 28 and take place
on Nov. 9. State Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Kaoru
Yosano said that it was desirable to dissolve the Lower House after
the supplementary budget bill clears the Diet. Asked about the
concept of a grand coalition with the Democratic Party of Japan, Aso
and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba ruled out the
possibility, but Yosano, former Policy Research Council Chairman
Nobuteru Ishihara, and former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike took a
positive view.

Aso said this about the possibility of forming a grand coalition:
"It is extremely difficult to realize the idea under the single-seat
constituency system." Ishiba also flatly rejected it, saying: "Such
a notion ignores the public will, so it something that is beyond my
understanding. It is meaningless for parties with different policy
stances to join hands."

But Yosano said: "The divided Diet situation will remain unchanged
even after the Lower House election. That should become important
homework for the LDP." Ishihara stated: "It is fully conceivable as
a political technique. The next prime minister must prepare the next
hand of cards, including the possibility of forming a grand
coalition; otherwise, the current divided situation will never be
changed." Koike remarked: "I think that a variety of dynamism might
come out depending on how one party wins and how another loses in
the next general election. It might be an option for political
parties with the same policy direction to team up."

5) LDP presidential candidates call for continuation of refueling

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridged)
September 11, 2008

Five LDP lawmakers running in the party presidential race have
played up to the New Komeito and the public the need for an early
enactment of a bill extending the Indian Ocean refueling
legislation, which is due to expire next January,. At the same time,
they all failed to propose clear ways to break the impasse in the
divided Diet

Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba cited foreign and security
policies as the campaign issues for the next Lower House election.
Calling himself a defense expert, Ishiba referred not only to the
extension of the refueling mission but also the enactment of a

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permanent law enabling the country to dispatch the SDF overseas, as

Yuriko Koike highlighted the cost effectiveness of the extension of
the refueling mission, saying: "A growing threat to the sea lanes
would push up ship insurance. The cost of nautical shipping
insurance would become much higher." Kaoru Yosano noted for enacting
the refueling extension legislation in the next extraordinary Diet
session: "No matter what, we must convince the New Komeito and ask
the cooperation of other parties."

Taro Aso indicated that the stage is being set to pull the Air
Self-Defense Force out of Iraq, adding: "It is unconceivable for
Japan alone to leave the Indian Ocean."

Nobuteru Ishihara also expressed concern, saying: "(Pulling out of
the Indian Ocean) would end up sending the message that Japan would
not join the war on terror on its own circumstances." As for ways to
break the gridlock in the current Diet, Koike vowed to offer an
explanation easy to understand, and Aso underlined the need to make
efforts to win public understanding.

6) Opposition parties criticize LDP presidential race as beginning
of end of party

SANKEI (Page 5) (Abridged slightly)
September 11, 2008

In the wake of the official announcement of the LDP presidential
race yesterday, opposition parties expressed scathing views about
the party.

Democratic Party of Japan Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji
Yamaoka told a group of reporters in the Diet building: "(All the
candidates are now lined up), and I somehow feel this is the end of
that party. The fissure in the LDP will deepen. Today is the
beginning of the end of the LDP."

Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii told the press corps in
Tokyo: "It is utterly wrong to think that the cheerful (presidential
campaigning), while turning a blind eye to the people's livelihood,
would help win national popularity."

Social Democratic Party head Mizuho Fukushima told reporters: "The
LDP is conducting its presidential race for the sake of the next
Lower House election. The party is ignoring the people." People's
New Party Secretary General Kamei also said: "Two consecutive prime
ministers walked off the job, but (no candidate) has offered an
apology for it."

7) Opposition parties criticize LDP presidential election

YOMIURI (Page 3) (Full)
September 11, 2008

Opposition parties yesterday leveled criticism at the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party's presidential election.

Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan
(DPJ), told the press corps:

"I haven't heard any comments from them that they are sorry for

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dealing a blow to the national interest by creating a political
vacuum through their presidential election. They appear to be
practicing for a general election."

DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka also said to
reporters: "It is an entertainment show for the LDP and by the LDP.
The start of the presidential campaign is also the beginning of the
end of the LDP. "

Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii pointed out: "All five
candidates served in the Koizumi cabinet. Whoever wins, there will
be no bright prospects for Japanese politics." Social Democratic
Party Chairperson Mizuho Fukushima made a critical comment at a
press conference: "The LDP is trying to change its surface alone,
not its contents."

8) Aso: Supplementary budget bill must be enacted in extra Diet

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
September 11, 2008

On a TV program last night, Secretary General Aso indicated his
determination to have the fiscal 2008 supplementary budget bill to
finance comprehensive economic measures passed in the upcoming
extraordinary Diet session. Aso said: "I think the issue must be
urgently addressed. We must pass the extra budget bill into law."

A supplementary budget bill is voted on in the House of
Representatives first prior to voting in the House of Councillors.
If the Lower House is dissolved before the bill is voted on in the
Upper House, the bill will be scrapped. If the government and the
ruling camp decide to have the bill clear the upcoming Diet session
but in the event that the opposition camp delays the vote in the
Upper House, the bill will be automatically enacted 30 days after it
clears the Lower House. In such a case, the successor to outgoing
Prime Minister Fukuda will have to wait until after the dissolution
of the Lower House for the bill to clear the Diet.

9) Chief cabinet secretary reveals plan to submit extra budget bill
to Diet on Sept. 29

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
September 11, 2008

In a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party's Machimura faction
yesterday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura indicated that a
supplementary budget for fiscal 2008 would be submitted to the Diet
on Sept. 29. He said: "Preparations are steadily going ahead to
submit the extra budget bill after the new party president is
elected. I believe we will be able to present it possibly on the
29th." He also said that a bill amending the New Antiterrorism
Special Measures Law and bills related to establishment of a
consumer agency will be adopted at a cabinet meeting on the 19th.

10) ASDF likely to pull out of Iraq within year

YOMIURI (Page 1) (Full)
September 11, 2008

The Air Self-Defense Force, currently on an airlift mission in Iraq
to help with its reconstruction, will likely be withdrawn later this

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year, government officials said yesterday. This is partly because a
United Nations resolution, under which multinational forces are
operating in Iraq, will expire at the end of this December. In
addition, U.S. President Bush has announced a plan to reduce 8,000
U.S. troops in Iraq by early next year. The government is expected
to announce a pullout plan shortly.

Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Aso attended a joint
press conference yesterday with other LDP candidates running in the
LDP's presidential election where he implied that the time to recall
the ASDF is nearing. "When we take a look at the present situation
in Iraq, there is a situation being created for the ASDF to be
withdrawn," Aso said. Meanwhile, a senior Foreign Ministry official
also said yesterday evening, "This time around, we may now consider
withdrawing the ASDF." According to government officials, the U.S.
government has also shown understanding for the ASDF's pullout.

The ASDF mission in Iraq is based on the Iraq Special Measures Law,
a time-limited law set to run out at the last day of July next year.
However, the Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto), the largest of
all political parties in the House of Councillors, is calling for
the ASDF to be withdrawn.

The government will now focus on backing up the war on terror in
Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Diet will soon open an extraordinary
session, during which the government will do its utmost to amend the
new Antiterrorism Special Measures Law in order to continue the
Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the Indian

11) U.S. alarmed that North Korean military may be seizing power and
hardening its stance on nuclear issue

YOMIURI (Page 7) (Excerpts)
September 11, 2008

Etsunari Kurose, Washington

The rumor of the deterioration of the health of North Korean leader
Kim Jong Il originated from U.S. authorities raced around the world
via U.S. media since Sept. 9. The uproar can be said to reflect the
Bush administration's sense of alarm about the news. The U.S.
administration is on high alert, deeming that in the event the
military hardliners seize real power after Kim Jong Il falls from
power, the North would inevitably promote nuclear armament and
further harden its confrontational stand against the United States.

Kim's absence unconnected with suspended disablement work

By Hajime Izumi, professor, University of Shizuoka

In view of past cases, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il should have
attended the 60th anniversary military parade. His absence was
unexpected. Some kind of unusual event must have occurred.

There is no doubt that there was a good reason for it. Was it an
illness, injury, or something else? Given the fragmentary
information, making a decision at this point is difficult. His
movements have not been reported since mid-August, but there have
been similar absences in the past.

Pyongyang announced on Aug. 26 that it had suspended the nuclear

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disablement work that came out of the six-party agreement. It is a
stretch to link this to Kim being seriously ill and conclude that
was why the North has taken extreme action. This is North Korea's
usual ploy to apply pressure on the United States and we can expect
to play that card in the course of negotiations. It is not that the
North has suddenly changed its attitude.

In any event, the problem is that Kim Jong Il has yet to determine
his successor. If he is seriously ill and cannot make decisions, as
was reported, the National Defense Commission, the country's highest
military leadership organ, would push ahead with the selection.

No turmoil even if Kim Jong Il dies

By Paek Sung Ju, Korea Institute for Defense Analyses

Kim Jong Il's absence from the 60th anniversary parade points to a
high likelihood of a grave change in his health.

Whether there will be any change to the North's power structure
depends on the condition of his illness. Is he unable to conduct
state affairs or is he undergoing treatment temporarily? The
situation can change significantly. In either case, the question of
transferring power would take shape.

Even if Kim Jong Il dies, I do not think the North will be thrown
into turmoil suddenly. In such a case, the North would adopt an
emergency state management system led by the Korean Workers Party
Central Committee, not the National Defense Commission. The NDC does
not have nationwide organizational power, so the country would have
to maintain the system centering on the KWP that has complete
networks in society.

The country would hold onto the nuclear programs. Chances are high
that the military will put forward a sterner position than before
and there will be change in its stance in talks with the United
States on the nuclear issue.

To become Kim's successor, a contest is expected between his eldest
son Jong Nam and his second son Jong Chol. Jong Nam seems to have an
edge for he is being backed by Chong Song Taek, a party executive
and the husband of a sister of Kim Jong Il. Some take the view that
Kim Ok, Kim Jong Il's current wife, will wield influence, but she
would lose power with the death of her husband.


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