Search

 

Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 12/31/08

VZCZCXRO7474
PP RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
DE RUEHKO #3538/01 3660105
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 310105Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9774
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/USDOJ WASHDC PRIORITY
RULSDMK/USDOT WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J5//
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 4006
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 1653
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 5440
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 9576
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 2215
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7026
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 3041
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3097

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 TOKYO 003538

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR E, P, EB, EAP/J, EAP/P, EAP/PD, PA;
WHITE HOUSE/NSC/NEC; JUSTICE FOR STU CHEMTOB IN ANTI-TRUST DIVISION;
TREASURY/OASIA/IMI/JAPAN; DEPT PASS USTR/PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE;
SECDEF FOR JCS-J-5/JAPAN,
DASD/ISA/EAPR/JAPAN; DEPT PASS ELECTRONICALLY TO USDA
FAS/ITP FOR SCHROETER; PACOM HONOLULU FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY ADVISOR;
CINCPAC FLT/PA/ COMNAVFORJAPAN/PA.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP KMDR KPAO PGOV PINR ECON ELAB JA

SUBJECT: JAPANESE MORNING PRESS HIGHLIGHTS 12/31/08

Index:

1) Prime Minister Aso's packed diplomatic schedule for 2009 may be
sideswiped by Diet turmoil (Nikkei)

2) Japanese government frustrated by lack of progress in
negotiations with China over joint development of gas fields in the
E. China Sea (Mainichi)

3) Government to create new panel of experts next month to revise
the National Defense Program Outline (Nikkei)

4) Yen in 2008 rose from 109 to 87 yen to the dollar: How far will
yen appreciation go in 2009? (Yomiuri)

Politics as usual:
5) Nishimatsu Construction Co. provided 478 million yen in illegal
political donations through shady political organizations to key
figures in LDP, DPJ (Yomiuri)
6) Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) works out new arrangement to back
New Komeito election candidates running in certain Tokyo wards
(Sankei)
7) LDP's Taku Yamasaki denies he will form a new party prior to the
next general election (Sankei)
8) Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) cutting costs on party
convention, commercials in order to devote all resources to
preparing for next election (Yomiuri)

Articles:

1) Prime Minister Aso walking a tight rope in setting his diplomatic
schedule for 2009, with pressure to place priority on Diet affairs

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridged)
December 31, 2008

The diplomatic schedule of Prime Minister Taro Aso for 2009 is
developing into a balancing act in which the maneuvers of the
opposition camp in the regular session of the Diet have to be
factored. The prime minister at the beginning of the year will make
a hurried trip to South Korea to actively carry out summit
diplomacy, the hope being to use this visit to boost the cabinet's
sagging popularity at home. However, the ruling camp has taken a
stance of all-out confrontation during budget deliberations and
other Diet encounters. For the time being, the reality is that the
prime minister has no choice but to give precedent to the Diet over
diplomacy.

Unclear outlook until April

The prime minister around Jan. 10 is planning to meet with South
Korean President Lee Myung-bak. This is to be the chance to restart
a shuttle diplomacy that had been cut short by the territorial issue
centering on claims to Takeshima (Dokdo in Korean). However, with
the exception of this visit, the rest of the schedule for bilateral
meetings has yet to be clearly set.

The opposition camp has taken the position of seeking thorough
deliberations on such bills as the national budget, having in mind
the forcing of an early Lower House dissolution. As a result, the
outlook for fixing Aso's diplomatic schedule until April remains
difficult to predict.

TOKYO 00003538 002 OF 006

The prime minister has indicated his strong desire to attend the
Davos Conference in Switzerland, an annual international economic
forum that will be held in late January. However, this timeframe
overlaps with the start of full-scale deliberations on the next
fiscal year's budget in the Diet. Already, there have been
complaints heard in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with a
senior member of the Diet Affairs Committee saying, "The level of
priority (the prime minister is giving to the Diet) is too low."

The schedule has been set for February 24-26 for the ASEAN-plus-3
summit conference -- postponed due to unrest in Thailand -- and the
East Asian Summit Conference. However, this timeframe, too, it is
feared, will overlap with the lower-house passage of the budget
bill. The Japanese side is seeking an adjustment of the schedule.

On the other hand, what the prime minister's aides are calling the
top-priority agenda item now is the prime minister's attendance at
the second G-20 financial summit meeting that will be held in
England April 2. The prime minister by attending hopes to explain to
the G-20 leaders and others that Japan has been tackling the issues
proactively, and by this, demonstrate his presence in the group.

However, there is a high probability at this point that the bills
connected to next fiscal year's budget bill that will back up Aso's
economic stimulus plan will not be passed without the cooperation of
the opposition camp.

Effect of the twisted Diet

The schedule for Aso's first meeting with the new U.S. president,
Barack Obama, has still not been coordinated. Aides are considering
an Aso visit to the U.S. as soon as possible after the new
administration is launched on Jan. 20. At the latest, a meeting
could be set up in the spring. However, there is strong feeling that
the meeting "will be at Washington's convenience," according to a
senior Foreign Ministry official, since the U.S. president's
post-inauguration schedule is already packed.

2) Tokyo frustrated by stagnation in gas talks with Beijing

MAINICHI (Page 2) (Abridged)
December 31, 2008

Japan and China agreed in June to jointly develop gas fields in the
East China Sea. However, the Japanese and Chinese governments will
likely see the old year out, while remaining unable to make a treaty
that will present in concrete terms, for example, the shared
interests (of the two countries). The joint development project is
positioned as a symbol of better relations and strategic reciprocal
relations between the two countries, but bilateral talks have been
stagnant. The Japanese government says that is because China has
changed its attitude toward a negative stance. The two governments
have been unable to find out a way out of the impasse. As it stands,
the Japanese government is growing irritated. "It's not good for
both countries to put off negotiations," a senior Foreign Ministry
official complained.

Prime Minister Taro Aso: "We want to hold talks at an early stage to
translate our political agreement into action."

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao: "We want to continue our

TOKYO 00003538 003 OF 006


communications at the working level."

In the Dec. 13 Japan-China summit meeting, Aso urged Wen to enter
into talks for a treaty based on the bilateral agreement on gas
field development. However, Wen was brusque.

Tokyo and Beijing saw no progress in their prior working-level
coordination. The Japanese government hoped to see something in the
two leaders' meeting but got the cold shoulder.

In 2003, China went ahead with its gas development near the
'equidistance line' that Japan maintains as the boundary line. The
development of gas fields has since been a bilateral issue. China
insisted on a boundary line that enters Japan's boundary from the
equidistance line. This boundary issue has become a major point at
issue over a conflict of interests for natural resources.

Under such circumstances, Japan and China reached the June
agreement. That is because both Tokyo and Beijing wanted to make an
appeal on their cooperation, with Japan scheduled to host the Group
of Eight (G-8) summit at Lake Toya in Hokkaido and with the Beijing
Olympics also scheduled ahead for China. The boundary issue was
shelved in that agreement. However, the Japanese government took it
as a settlement along with Japan's claim to set the equidistance
line. "It was not too bad," a senior Foreign Ministry official
said.

In China, however, the agreement was criticized as a "unilateral
concession." Anti-Japanese activists made demonstrations in front of
the Japanese embassy in Beijing. The Chinese government is
apparently concerned that entering into talks for a treaty may
arouse anti-Japanese nationalism.

3) New panel eyed for defense plan revision

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridged)
December 31, 2008

The government will set up a new advisory panel at the prime
minister's office in January next year ahead of revising the
National Defense Program Guidelines, which sets a basic course of
action for Japan's defense policy. The government will appoint Tokyo
Electric Power Co. Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata as panel chair. The
panel is to discuss such issues as: 1) coping with Chinese and
Russian military expansion; 2) reviewing the Ground, Maritime, and
Air Self-Defense Forces' setup; 3) screening for the follow-on
fighter jet model (FX) and other hardware selections; 4) using outer
space for defense; and 5) the advisability of Japan's three
principles on weapons exports. The government is going to make a
cabinet decision late next year to adopt a new version of the NDPG.

4) Yen grew stronger against dollar in 2008

YOMIURI (Page 3) (Full)
December 31, 2008

The yen grew stronger against the dollar in Tokyo in 2008 as markets
lost confidence in the dollar due to the U.S.-triggered financial
crisis. The U.S. dollar briefly fell to 87 yen, the lowest level in
13 years. The yen's effective exchange rate also marked a record
high in November since 1973, when Japan adopted the floating
exchange rate system. The sharp gain in the yen's exchange value

TOKYO 00003538 004 OF 006


seriously aggravated the business performance mainly of
export-oriented companies, dealing a serious blow to the Japanese
economy.

The dollar was traded at 109 yen early this year, but the rate began
to fall in mid-March. The financial difficulty of the leading
securities company Bear Stearns seriously impaired U.S. financial
institutions' credit, bringing down the dollar to the 95 yen level.
Further, in the aftermaths of the downfall of Lehman Brothers, the
financial crisis became more serious in mid-October. Since then, the
dollar has been under strong selling pressure against the yen. The
dollar dropped to 87.19 yen, the lowest level this year, on Dec.
18.

While the Japanese economy was sinking deeper into recession, a
yen-buying frenzy was evident. Behind this trend is the view that
the Japanese financial market is considerably more stable, compared
with U.S. and European markets. The euro has also fallen by 38 yen
annually.

An executive of a leading trust bank commented: "It is feared that
the financial crisis will be protracted, and the future of the yen
remains unpredictable." Many in the market take such a view. Maki
Fukui of Mizuho Corporate Bank takes a severe view: "If markets are
disappointed at the incoming U.S. Obama administration's economic
policy, the dollar could sink to the 79.75 yen level."

5) Nishimatsu Construction allegedly donates 478 million yen to
Ozawa, Mori and other politicians through shady political groups

YOMIURI (Top Play) (Excerpts)
December 31, 2008

Nishimatsu Construction Co., based in Tokyo, made illegal donations
to ruling and opposition politicians through shady political
organizations headed by former company executives. The company
listed its employees as members of the political organizations and
had them pay membership fees to the groups. Donations were paid to
the politicians through the groups. The company covered the
employees' membership fees by making special payments to them as
bonuses. The amount of donations exceeds 400 million yen, and the
company designated the destinations of donations.

Of the total amount of about 478 million yen in donations, 26
million yen went to the fund management groups of six politicians
from 2004 through 2006. The six include Democratic Party of Japan
President Ozawa (who received 14 million yen), former Finance
Minister Koji Omi of the Liberal Democratic Party (4 million yen),
and former Prime Minister Yoshio Mori (3 million yen).

6) LDP to launch campaign headquarters to support New Komeito Ota

SANKEI (Page 4) (Excerpts)
December 31, 2008

Liberal Democratic Party Headquarters and the Tokyo Metropolitan
Federation of Chapters decided yesterday to launch the party's
campaign headquarters to support New Komeito President Akihiro Ota
in Tokyo No.12 constituency. This decision is based on an agreement
among Election Strategy Committee Chairman Makoto Koga and senior
members of the federation. It is unprecedented for one political
party to set up a campaign headquarters for another party's

TOKYO 00003538 005 OF 006


candidate, although the LDP initially decided to support Ota in the
No.12 district.

Meanwhile, LDP Koga and New Komeito Secretary General Kazuo Kitagawa
agreed in September on the view that the LDP would not call the
voters to vote for the New Komeito in the representational portion
of the election. In early December, Koga indicated that the party
would review the conventional way of cooperation in the
representational portion, saying: "Is it all right to give 180
proportional-representation seats to the New Komeito?"

The LDP's move reflects its concern about an expected severe outcome
of the next election for the LDP. As one LDP lawmaker said, "The New
Komeito also used in local elections the list of supporters that the
LDP gave to its coalition partner for the previous Lower House
election," there is discontent toward the New Komeito in the Tokyo
federation.

Even so, since the LDP cannot dissolve the LDP-New Komeito
cooperative line, the party has decided to totally support Ota in
the No.12 district, in which no LDP candidate will run, in an
apparent aim of demonstrating election cooperation between the two
ruling parties.

7) Yamasaki emphasizes no intention of forming new party before
Lower House election

SANKEI (Page 4) (Excerpts)
December 31, 2008

It has been reported that Taku Yamasaki, former vice president of
the Liberal Democratic Party, would launch a new study group with
former Secretary General Koichi Kato as early as January, keeping in
mind the possibility of forming a new political party prior to the
next House of Representatives election. Yamasaki denied this
conjecture yesterday.

In reply to a question by a reporter in Fukuoka, Yamasaki said: "I
am not thinking about a new party for now. I am determined to do my
best to bring about a victory to the LDP and make it the leading
party in realigning the political world."

According to informed sources, Kato proposed to Yamasaki forming a
study group in the LPD, and they have begun looking into the
possibility, but its members have yet to be decided.

8) DPJ economizing first

YOMIURI (Page4) (Abridged)
December 31, 2008

The leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto) is now
trying to cut expenses in preparation for the next general election
for the House of Representatives. There is no foreseeing when the
election will take place. As it stands, the DPJ is holding down its
party convention and commercial publicity spending for the election
battle.

The DPJ will hold a party convention on Jan. 18 at Mielparque Tokyo
in Shiba Koen, Tokyo. Meanwhile, the ruling Liberal Democratic
Party's convention is also slated for that day. However, the DPJ has
decided not to do anything showy like a music band's performance.

TOKYO 00003538 006 OF 006


The agenda for the DPJ's party convention will be minimized to the
party's budget and its settlement of accounts. The DPJ will have its
lawmakers attend the convention. However, the DPJ will not seek
participation from its prospective new-face candidates and former
lawmakers who are going to run in the next election for the House of
Representatives, as the party leadership thinks they should prepare
themselves for the election.

The venue for the DPJ's party convention used to be Yubin Chokin
Kaikan or Postal Savings Hall. The cost there is about one-fourth to
one-fifth of the cost at a famous hotel, according to the DPJ. One
party executive explains, "We held a party convention when DPJ
President Ozawa was elected this fall, so we don't have to make it
big."

The DPJ will have its TV commercials aired across the nation around
the turn of the year but will make them plain and simple with some
cuts from Ozawa's stumping tour photos and some catchphrases for
"people's safe living" and "political tasks." Most of the photos
were used for TV commercials aired in September. The DPJ says the
party used almost no money to produce the commercials.

The DPJ is trying to economize on its spending because the party has
no major revenue sources but political party subsidies unlike the
LDP that will collect big money for its political funds with
corporate donations and fundraising parties. Many of the DPJ's
lawmakers have been elected a few times, so their individual
fundraising power is not so strong.

Prime Minister Aso has now forgone the general election for the
House of Representatives. One LDP lawmaker says, "If the election is
long away, the DPJ will run out of the money." In other words, the
DPJ needs to economize on its usual party activities in order to
save money for election campaigning.

ZUMWALT

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC