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Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 12/15/06

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 TOKYO 007000

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 12/15/06

INDEX:

(1) Abe popularity spins down; Visible leadership a key to
rebounding

(2) Minshuto fighting futile final battle in extra Diet session;
United front slogan in tatters, no-confidence motion uncertain

(3) Editorial: DPJ platform unconvincing

(4) Deputy Foreign Minister Nishida informally appointed to
ambassadorship; Yabunaka likely to be successor to Nishida

(5) Cooperation between Japan, NATO; Unknown benefits; US, EU have
high hopes

ARTICLES:

(1) Abe popularity spins down; Visible leadership a key to
rebounding

TOKYO (Page 2) (Full)
December 14, 2006

The rate of public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his
cabinet has slumped. The Abe cabinet's approval rating made a fairy
good showing with 65% right after its inauguration in late
September. About two months later, however, it fell below 50%. It
still cannot be said to be low. However, it will likely enter a
cautionary zone if its downward trend continues. We tried to
forecast the Abe cabinet's future course while analyzing approval
ratings for the cabinet of Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, who
sustained his high popularity for about five and a half years.

Koizumi made his debut as prime minister in April 2001. The approval
rating for the Koizumi cabinet hit an all-time high of 86.3% upon
its inauguration and was sustained at around 80% throughout that
year. This is contrasting with Prime Minister Abe, whose popularity
slipped soon. When it comes to freshness, Koizumi was a cut above
Abe.

In February 2002, a surprising incident happened to the Koizumi
cabinet's support rate. It was when Koizumi sacked Foreign Minister
Makiko Tanaka. The Koizumi cabinet's popularity rating went down to
58.0%. In June that year, the Defense Agency was found to have made
a list of those who requested information disclosure. At the time,
the Koizumi cabinet's support rate further dropped to 42.9%.

It was generally believed until the Koizumi cabinet's debut that the
cabinet support rate would not go up once it goes down. However,
Koizumi was persevering. The line graph of approval ratings for his
cabinet zigzagged with sliding and rebounding. In 2006, his
cabinet's support rate leveled off at around 50%.

There was a trend when the Koizumi cabinet rebounded in public
support. The Koizumi cabinet's support rate went up in September
2002 when Koizumi made a sudden visit to North Korea, in September
2003 when he picked Abe for his ruling party's secretary general
post, and in August 2005 when he dissolved the House of
Representatives for postal privatization. As is evident from this
fact, the Koizumi cabinet's support rate rose unexceptionally when
he made a big decision to make the news.


TOKYO 00007000 002 OF 005


Koizumi's decisions were all controversial with pros and cons.
However, Koizumi made easy-to-understand decisions in the face of
objections. This is why he won public support.

In other words, the public wants the prime minister's visible
leadership.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abe, concurrently the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party's president, stayed away from his ruling party's
reinstatement of "postal rebels" last month. Abe left the matter to
his party's leadership, so his face was invisible. Earlier this
month, the government and ruling coalition agreed to review
road-related tax revenues, which have been exclusively set aside for
road construction. The agreement paved the way to transform
road-linked tax revenues into general-purpose revenues. However, Abe
appeared to have caved in to pressure from the LDP's road lobby.
Nothing was clear.

Yoshiaki Kobayashi, a professor of political science at the law
faculty of Keio University, notes three points about the Abe
cabinet: 1) the public can't see whether the Abe cabinet will take
over the Koizumi reforms or whether it will change course; 2) the
Abe cabinet is tackling educational reform, North Korea, and other
issues that will not show results soon; and 2) Koizumi always
narrowed down various issues to a single issue, but the Abe is
addressing too many issues.

It would be indispensable for the prime minister to show the future
course of his government and display his leadership in a clear-cut
way so as to regain his popularity. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa
Shiozaki said, "The prime minister's decisions under his leadership
are not well known to the public, and we also must think it over."

(2) Minshuto fighting futile final battle in extra Diet session;
United front slogan in tatters, no-confidence motion uncertain

SANKEI (Page 5) (Abridged slightly)
December 15, 2006

The ongoing extraordinary Diet session, which is about to end, has
been marked by futile attempts to turn the tables by the major
opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) under the slogan of
a united front with other opposition parties. The party decided last
night to submit a no-confidence motion against the Abe cabinet. But
the party leadership's response had considerably wavered before
reaching that point, exposing differences in views with other
opposition parties. Although Minshuto eyes joining hands with other
opposition parties in the Upper House election next summer, a
warning light has now turned on for that strategy, as well.

Yesterday when the last question-and-answer session was going on at
an Upper House committee on a bill to revise the Basic Education
Law, Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama ran in the Upper House
Minshuto waiting room to ask for the chamber's cooperation. But a
senior Upper House member bluntly told him not to count on the upper
chamber. Although opposition party members stormed the committee
chairman in taking a vote, the session was not thrown into turmoil.

Minshuto's response wavered significantly toward the end of the
current Diet session. A meeting on Dec. 12 of the secretaries
general of Minshuto, the Social Democratic Party, and the People's
New Party reached an agreement to submit a no-confidence motion
against Foreign Minister Taro Aso. The meeting also studied the

TOKYO 00007000 003 OF 005


option of filing a no-confidence motion against the Abe cabinet.

But Minshuto Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Yoshiaki Takagi was
reluctant to do so, saying that a rejection of the motion would be
taken as the Abe cabinet winning public confidence. In a press
conference yesterday, Acting President Naoto Kan highlighted the
need to show a resolute stance. But when it came to the party's
response to Diet affairs, he said from the sidelines, "I don't know
specifics because I'm not in charge of all those things."

President Ichiro Ozawa, who has also completely shifted weight to
the selection of candidates for the Upper House election, repeatedly
indicated that Diet business has been left entirely to the secretary
general. But finally yesterday, Ozawa told Hatoyama, "We need to
consider submitting a no-confidence motion against the Abe
cabinet."

Minshuto's elusive attitude has nurtured discontent among other
opposition parties.

PNP Secretary General Hisaoki Kamei hastily held a press conference
yesterday to announce his party's plan to submit a no-confidence
motion against the cabinet without waiting for Minshuto's decision.
The Japanese Communist Party and the SDP also supported the PNP's
plan. Although Minshuto eventually decided to go along with their
plan, opposition parties' slogan of forming a united front in the
ending extra Diet session has effectively collapsed. "Measures for
the Diet and elections are closely associated with each other. We
must watch the situation carefully," Kamei said at the press
meeting. It was a warning to Minshuto, which eyes joining hands with
other opposition parties in the upcoming Upper House election.

(3) Editorial: DPJ platform unconvincing

NIHON KEIZAI (Page 2) (Abridged)
December 15, 2006

The leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto) has
outlined its platform as a foundation of its manifesto for next
summer's election for the House of Councillors. It fleshed out basic
policies that DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa announced when he stood for
the party's presidential election in September. However, the
platform is ambiguous in many respects and unconvincing.

In the area of national security, for example, the DPJ focused its
security stance on whether to allow collective self-defense. The
DPJ, in its platform, is going to allow the right of self-defense
"if and when Japan sustains an incursion that directly threatens
Japan's peace and security, without getting caught up in conceptual
arguments over the rights of individual self-defense and collective
self-defense". However, conservative lawmakers in the DPJ are
opposed to this wording.

Within the DPJ, there are arguments for and against collective
self-defense. The platform therefore had to use such equivocal
wording. In the event of an "incursion" or more precisely, in the
event of an armed attack, Japan would normally have to exercise its
right of individual self-defense to cope with such an eventuality.
The DPJ must account for what case is anticipated for collective
self-defense, or its debates will not deepen.

(4) Deputy Foreign Minister Nishida informally appointed to
ambassadorship; Yabunaka likely to be successor to Nishida

TOKYO 00007000 004 OF 005

ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
December 15, 2006

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informally decided on Dec. 14 to
appoint Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Tsuneo Nishida
to an ambassadorial post in January and Deputy Foreign Minister for
Economic Affairs Mitoji Yabunaka as the replacement of Nishida.

Nishida joined the ministry in 1970. He has been serving in his
current post since last August after serving in such posts as
Russian Division director, Economic Cooperation Bureau director
general, and Foreign Policy Bureau head. He will be replaced after
serving only 16 months. Underlying the ministry's decision to
withdraw him from his post seems to be the fact that he was at odds
with then Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe as he called on the
government to take a cautious response to an UN Security Council
sanctions resolution against North Korea's July missile test.
Following these appointments, the expectation is that Foreign Policy
Bureau Director General Masaharu Kono will be picked as Yabunaka's
successor; Chikao Kawai, director general of the North American
Affairs Bureau, will replace Kono; and Shinichi Nishinomiya, envoy
extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to China, will succeed
Kawai.

(5) Cooperation between Japan, NATO; Unknown benefits; US, EU have
high hopes

YOMIURI (Page 15) (Slightly abridged)
December 15, 2006

Prime Minister Abe will visit the headquarters of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO). This is the first visit by a Japanese
prime minister. Since NATO is at a major turning point, his visit
will likely open up a horizon for a new age for cooperation between
Japan and NATO.

The NATO Summit held in Riga, Latvia, on Nov. 28-29 was enveloped by
an unusual tension. Members of the military alliance formed in 1948
at the onset of the Cold War discussed how they could cooperate with
non-NATO member nations in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan
and Australia.

Some participants among the 26 member nations took a cautious view,
but US President Bush's stance was clear. Terming cooperation with
non-allied countries as a global partnership program, he went as far
as to say, "NATO will be able to jointly make proposals for joint
drills, exercises and operation programs with Japan and Australia in
the future."

In the end, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand were
included in the list of possible partners. These are the countries
that meet the following conditions: (1) sharing such values as
freedom, democracy and respect for human rights with NATO member
nations; (2) having cooperative relations with NATO in political and
operational terms; and (3) being stable in political terms and
having resources in terms of funds and personnel. The NATO Riga
Summit, the first held in one of the three Baltic nations, has
historic meaning in the sense that it has come up an intention to
strengthen cooperation with Asia-Pacific nations as a general
consensus of the member nations.

Abe will visit NATO Headquarters following this decision. NATO

TOKYO 00007000 005 OF 005


members have high expectations for Japan. Martin Erdomann, Assistant
Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy at the

SIPDIS
NATO Headquarters, expressed his expectations of Abe's visit, "I
want to hear the prime minister's view on the future."

NATO has recently developed relations with Japan rapidly. It invited
Foreign Minister Aso to NATO Headquarters in Brussels this May. In
June, senior officers of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) took
part in a joint drill carried out in the Black Sea as observers. In
August, the NATO Defense College in Rome for the first time accepted
JSDF officers.

In mid-November, senior defense officials, including uniformed
officers, exchanged information and opinions with senior NATO
officers. A Japanese government source indicated his perception that
time is ripe for strengthening relations with NATO.

However, NATO is wooing Japan because of its own circumstances.

NATO is now fighting a difficult battle with Taliban fighters in
southern Afghanistan. The US says that action against terrorism is
NATO's future agenda. Britain, Canada and the Netherlands are
jointly acting with NATO. France and Germany, which confronted the
US over how military power should be used when the Iraq war was
started, are negative toward the idea of taking part in combat. With
no bright future for reconstruction in sight, the US and Britain
sought to reinforce military forces in southern Afghanistan but
failed to secure any clear-cut commitment from them.

At first, NATO had expected the SDF to dispatch troops to
Afghanistan. Following a series of talks to find out the intention
of the other party, NATO has begun to understand the constitutional
limitations the SDF have.

As a realistic means for cooperation, a NATO military source said:
"The Japanese government-sponsored Disarmament, Demobilization and
Reintegration (DDR) program in Japan was wonderful. We want it to
implement a similar program again." They also expect cooperation
from Japan on Africa in the future.

What will be the benefit of Japan cooperating with NATO? Some
Japanese government officials expect NATO to serve as a geopolitical
counterweight to China in East Asia, as Beijing is increasingly
strengthening its power. However, since Japan is not a NATO member,
it has no obligation for joint defense as stipulated in Article 5 of
the North Atlantic Treaty, and NATO has ruled out such a
possibility.

SCHIEFFER

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