Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 09/13/07

DE RUEHKO #4281/01 2560758
P 130758Z SEP 07





E.O. 12958: N/A



(1) Poll on Abe cabinet's job performance

(2) Many unanswered questions about Abe's explanation for

(3) Prime Minister Abe quits but what will be the fate of structural
reforms? Challenge is to strike balance with effort to correct
social disparities: CEFP meeting cancelled on short notice

(4) Emergency roundtable on Prime Minister Abe's decision to step
down -- a political crisis that requires public vote (Part 1)

(5) Collapse of Abe administration (Part 1): Abe lacks competence
required of prime minister

(6) Prime Minister Abe to be hospitalized for at least 3-4 days at
Keio Hospital

(7) Protection of lifeline for oil transport


(1) Poll on Abe cabinet's job performance

MAINICHI (Page 5) (Full)
September 13, 2007

Questions & Answers
(T = total; P = previous; M = male; F = female)

Q: What do you think is needed for prime minister?

Experience 5 7 4
Decisiveness 28 29 27
International sensibility 2 2 2
Popularity 1 1 1
Ability to translate policy measures into action 30 29 31
Foresight 18 18 17
Ability to coordinate 6 5 6
Personal character 2 2 2
Ethics 3 3 3
Youthfulness 1 1 1

Q: Do you appreciate the Abe government over the past year?

Yes 22 21 23
No 74 76 71

Q: What do you think was good about what Prime Minister Abe has

Enacted the National Referendum Law that stipulated procedures for
constitutional revision 7 9 5
Made efforts for education reform, such as revising the Fundamentals
of Education Law 15 14 16
Improved relations with China and South Korea 13 16 10
Reformed the public service system, such as restricting golden

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parachuting 24 24 24
Response to the government's pension record-keeping flaws 23 20 25

Q: What do you think was wrong about what Prime Minister Abe has

Enacted the National Referendum Law that stipulated procedures for
constitutional revision 7 8 7
Made efforts for education reform, such as revising the Fundamentals
of Education Law 4 4 4
Reinstated postal rebels to the LDP 13 15 11
Response to political scandals over money and gaffes from his
cabinet ministers 44 43 45
Stayed on after the LDP's route in this July's election for the
House of Councillors 20 23 18

Q: The Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto) garnered 60 seats in
this July's election for the House of Councillors and took great
strides. Do you think it's all right to entrust the DPJ with the
reins of government?

Yes 43 52 36
No 50 45 54

(Note) Figures shown in percentage, rounded off. "No answer"

Polling methodology: The survey was conducted across the nation over
a period of three days, Sept. 7-9, on a face-to-face basis. A total
of 4,575 persons were chosen from among men and women aged 20 and
over as of Sept. 30 at 300 locations on a stratified two-stage
random sampling basis for interviews. Answers were obtained from
2,516 persons (55 PERCENT ).

(2) Many unanswered questions about Abe's explanation for

ASAHI (Page 2) (Full)
September 13, 2007

There are some questions about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's reason
for his decision to resign, which he explained in a press conference
yesterday. There seemed to be prospects for an extension of the
Maritime Self-Defense Force's (MSDF) refueling services, even if he
had not resigned. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will not agree
to an extension of the MSDF refueling operation even after he steps
down. He cited the devastating defeat in the July House of
Councillors election as a reason. However, it is makes no sense at
all that he announced his intention to resign two days after he had
expressed his determination to stay in office in his policy speech,
instead of immediately after the Upper House election.

Abe stressed that the MSDF mission in the Indian Ocean must continue
at any cost. He explained that he would change the situation since
DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa snubbed his request for a meeting.

However, the government and ruling coalition had decided to submit
new legislation to limit the MSDF activities to refueling and
supplying water to allied vessels in the Indian Ocean. Even if the
legislation is voted down at the Upper House, which is controlled by

TOKYO 00004281 003 OF 010

the opposition camp, it is possible that it will be re-approved by
two-thirds of the Lower House by extending the term of the current

If Abe had a strong will to get the new legislation through the Diet
as he had enacted a bill revising the National Civil Service Law
during the previous extra session, the MSDF refueling mission will
be able to resumed, although the mission might be discontinued for
about one month. Therefore, the prime minister's decision to resign
is inconsistent with his statement in Sydney last weekend that he
would stake his job on extending the MSDF refueling operation, which
is an international commitment.

Abe said his staying in office was obstructed by his failure to
obtain a meeting with DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa. Ozawa, however,
has consistently opposed continuation of the MSDF operation. Abe
expressed his expectations of frank talks between the new LDP
president and Ozawa, but there is no guarantee that the DPJ will
change its position after Abe resigns as prime minister.

It is not understandable that he cited the LDP's crushing defeat in
the Upper House election as a reason for his decision to resign at
this time.

Revealing that Ozawa cited as his reason for not meeting Abe was
that Abe had not accepted the judgment of the people, Abe stated:
"The results of the Upper House election were harsh." He also said:
"The Abe cabinet failed to obtain public confidence. I think this is
probably my responsibility."

Abe announced his intention to stay in office despite the LDP's
setback in the July Upper House race. He then came under fire from
both the ruling and opposition camps. In his policy speech on Sept.
10, however, he expressed his determination to continue to push
forward with reforms for the sake of the people based on the results
of the Upper House election. The reasons for the resignation of
successive prime ministers were clear. They took responsibility for
budgets not clearing the Diet due to scandals, the party's setback
in an election, as well as health reasons.

However, Abe quit his job, reversing his past remarks immediately
before the start of questioning sessions by party representatives on
his policy speech. Although a health problem was included in Abe's
decision as Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano revealed, it goes
without saying that he lacked the qualifications to be prime

(3) Prime Minister Abe quits but what will be the fate of structural
reforms? Challenge is to strike balance with effort to correct
social disparities: CEFP meeting cancelled on short notice

MAINICHI (Page 11) (Excerpts)
September 13, 2009

Prime Minister Abe's abrupt decision to step down will likely have a
major impact on economic policy, including fiscal and financial
policies and trade talks. The expanded social disparities caused by
the structural reform policy inherited from the previous
administration, as well as public distrust in the government over
the pension fiasco and the politics and money issue are attributable
to the ruling parties' crushing defeat in the Upper House, which
prefaced Abe's resignation. Amid the bleak economic prospects,

TOKYO 00004281 004 OF 010

chances are high that voices calling for a shift from the reform
policy will gain ground with a changeover of prime ministers as the
occasion. Trade talks, which require coordination of complicated
interests, will need a prime minister's leadership. A protracted
period of political turmoil could have a negative impact on the
management of the economy and public finances.

Following the announcement of Prime Minister Abe's decision to step
down, a meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP),
slated for the evening of Sept. 12, was cancelled on short notice.
The panel was supposed to discuss such issues as reshaping local
economies. However, it had no other choice but to put off the
meeting until after a new prime minister takes office. The role of
the CEFP, which has served as the driving force for structural
reforms, could change, depending on the policy of the next

Prime Minister Abe failed to achieve major results in economic
policy. He advocated a new economic growth strategy aimed at
boosting tax revenues through economic growth. Referring to
financial resources to fund an increase in state contribution to the
basic pension, he said in the July Upper House election campaign
that he wanted to bring about a situation that does not require a
hike in the consumption tax. However, he failed to win support from
the voters.

The gross domestic product (GDP) for the April-June quarter in the
second preliminary report marked negative growth. What impact the
high-interest housing loans (sub-prime loan) for low-income earners
in the US will have on the Japanese economy is not clear. The future
of the economy, which has thus far boosted tax revenues, is not all
that rosy. In particular, various economic indices indicate that the
benefits of the economic recovery centered on the manufacturing
sector and leading companies are not being felt by small and medium
businesses and local economies.

The challenge the next administration will likely face will include
dealing with such issues as correcting income disparities, while
promoting efforts to recapitalize public finance. However,
scattering about pork-barrel largesse in the form of carrying out
unnecessary public works and budgetary fund appropriation will not
herald independent local governments. Taizo Nishimura, chairman of
the Fiscal System Advisory Council, an advisory panel reporting to
the finance minister, was quick to make it clear during a press
conference on Sept. 12 that though the economic policy could change
under the next prime minister, further deterioration of public
finances must be prevented.

Positive impact on Japanese economy

Kiyohiko Fukushima, professor at Rikkyo University

Prime Minister Abe has decided to hand his administration to the
next leader, feeling his limitations in what he can do as prime
minister. His decision could work favorably to the Japanese

In implementing the reform policy, which he inherited from his
predecessor Koizumi, Abe only partially modified it. One reason for
the LDP defeat in the Upper House election is social disparities
between urban and rural districts. A similar point has been made in
the LDP.

TOKYO 00004281 005 OF 010

If the next prime minister presses ahead with an effort to make
public finances healthy, while correcting excessive market
principles without scattering about pork-barrel largesse, he would
be able to win high scores from the public and the market. The
nation will need a leader who can talk about a consumption tax hike
with confidence in the future.

Doha Round

Another concern is that Japan's influence on multilateral talks
(Doha Round) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) will decline. Abe
during the APEC forum summit held in Sydney, Australia, Aug. 8-9
expressed to participants his political resolve to reach an
agreement within the year. However, his resignation as well as the
string of the replacements of agricultural ministers are certain to
deal a blow to the trade policy.

Economic, Trade and Industry Minister (METI) Akira Amari on Sept. 12
told reporters, "All we can do is to have the meaning of the prime
minister's resignation understood." However, personal ties with the
other party holds the major key in trade talks, as a senior METI
official put it. It could be difficult for a new administration to
have Japan's negotiation partners understand its position right
after the beginning.

The head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
(MOFA) has been replaced successively after the suicide of
Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka in May. Even the vice
minister was replaced on Sept. 7. Some in the ministry lamented,
"When can we work in peace?"

MAFF has many issues to deal with, including easing conditions for
importing US beef, reviewing the farmland system and WTO talks. It
is also of urgent necessity to restore trust in MAFF, which has been
damaged due to the criticism it came under over subsidies.
Agriculture Minister Wakabayashi on Sept. 12 stated, "Those pending
issues will not immediately halt agricultural administration."
However, there is strong concern about such a possibility.

Wakabayashi, who took office on Sept. 4, is still receiving
briefings on pending issues from various bureaus in the ministry. If
a sixth minister takes office, MOFA has to establish a system from
scratch. One senior official criticized Abe, "The resignation of
Vice Agriculture Minister Yoshio Kobayashi for a fresh start of the
ministry will be wasted. Prime Minister Abe is irresponsible."

(4) Emergency roundtable on Prime Minister Abe's decision to step
down -- a political crisis that requires public vote (Part 1)

MAINICHI (Page 4) (Abridged)
September 13, 2007

? Jun Iio, professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy
? Atsushi Kusano, professor, Keio University
? Takakazu Matsuda, senior writer, Mainichi Shimbun


-- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe abruptly announced his decision to step
down. What was your reaction, and in your view, what caused him to

TOKYO 00004281 006 OF 010

do so?

Kusano: It took me by total surprise. He could have done so after
his crushing defeat after the July Upper House election, or before
shuffling his cabinet. It is utterly irresponsible to announce his
intention to step down soon after delivering his policy address and
before Diet interpellations kick off. He simply plans to throw away

Iio: I was shocked. It was just unbelievable. At the same time, it
made me realize that such a person has been serving as the prime
minister. He shouldn't have decided to resign, no matter what. His
answers to the questions during the press conference yesterday, in
which he officially announced his decision to step down, were
somewhat illogical. It was appalling to know that a person like him
who is incapable of holding the reins of government has been serving
as the prime minister.

Matsuda: There was a view even within the cabinet that the days of
the Abe administration were numbered, so I thought his
administration would probably come to an end before the end of the
year -- but not so abruptly. He announced his decision like fleeing
before the enemy lines. He has been ignoring the general public. He
decided to stay in power by ignoring the public. He again decided to
step down by ignoring the public.

Kusano: Not only Abe but also all LDP lawmakers are to blame. After
all, it was the LDP lawmakers that elected Abe as their president a
year ago, expecting him to behave like his predecessor, Junichiro
Koizumi, who had a rare talent for dealing with the media.

-- As reasons for his resignation, Prime Minister Abe cited DPJ
President Ichiro Ozawa's rejection of talks with him and the need to
turn around the political situation for an extension of the
refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. What is the real reason?

Iio: He first cited Japan's failure to keep its international
pledge. His resignation would reduce Japan's chances to deliver on
that pledge, for the next LDP president will not necessarily
advocate the same policy. In order to break the impasse, Abe could
have announced his decision a lot earlier, but he didn't. So my
guess is that the real reason was personal -- he just wanted to call
it quits.

I want to know since when he has been harboring that desire, because
it is a matter of collective responsibility. When the country's top
leader loses his mental balance under the parliamentary cabinet
system, people around him should advise him to step down. Those
around Abe should also be blamed.

Masuda: He has failed to live up to his own words -- what he calls
his international pledge. Realizing that he won't be able to deliver
on it, he has decided to step down all by himself.

Iio: Abe repeatedly played up the importance of the Antiterrorism
Law. If he really meant it, he could have introduced a bill to
extend the law in the previous Diet session and have it passed. He
should have called an extraordinary Diet session right after the
July Upper House election without shuffling his cabinet and
immediately presented an Antiterrorism Law extension bill. Both
extending the existing law and enacting new legislation have become
difficult with his resignation.

TOKYO 00004281 007 OF 010

Kusano: Regarding the question of politics and money, Abe pledged to
mandate all lawmakers to attach receipts for expenditures over 1 yen
to their political funds reports. This may never happen because it
is drawing fire even from within the LDP. Abe promised so many
things that are unlikely to be put into action.

Matsuda: Pension is one of them. He declared to complete
crosschecking the unidentified pension records in a year. He has
decided to throw up the three challenges -- politics and money, the
pension, and the Antiterrorism Law -- that must be thoroughly
discussed in the ongoing extraordinary Diet session.

Iio: He has decided not only to step down but also destroyed the
foundations for the three challenges. The lawmakers might have to
start from scratch. What would happen to the campaign pledges if the
next prime minister decides to ignore them? This is no longer a
crisis for the LDP; it is a crisis for Japanese politics.

-- Did Abe show any sings of his intention to resign?

Matsuda: Behind Secretary General Aso's strong leadership in the
party and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano's dominance in the cabinet,
I sensed their intention to reduce Abe's influence. For instance,
Abe retired early yesterday reportedly due to a cold. Yosano then
called in persons concerned to discuss ways to extend the Indian
Ocean mission. It pointed to an envisaged political scene without

Kusano: I hear that during his tenure as chief cabinet secretary,
Abe often lost his tempter regarding the scrap-and-build
reorganization of the state-owned financial institutions. According
to a senior Foreign Ministry official, Abe was elated during the
Japan-US and Japan-Australia summits on the sidelines of the recent
APEC forum. President Bush highly evaluated Japan's refueling
mission, and Abe promised Japan's continued commitment. But the
conclusion reached through the talks last night among Yosano and
others was that re-adoption of new legislation in the Lower House
would be difficult. Abe won't be able to deliver on his personal
pledge, and that prompted him to throw up everything. I think this
can explain his behavior.

Iio: Even if re-adoption is not possible, he should pull the ruling
coalition together. He has the power to dissolve the Lower House. He
could use it to ask for a public vote of confidence in his
administration. He seems to lack what it takes to be the nation's
top leader.

Matsuda: In a meeting last Thursday with newspaper editorial
writers, he lacked aggressiveness, repeating the same thing over and

Kusano: In explaining Abe's decision, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano
cited his health problem.

Iio: This is a political crisis. We need to know the truth. If Abe
has a health problem, he should conduct Diet interpellations, as
planned, and explain clearly why he decided call it quits at this

(5) Collapse of Abe administration (Part 1): Abe lacks competence
required of prime minister

TOKYO 00004281 008 OF 010

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 1) (Full)
September 13, 2007

A plenary session of the House of Representatives was scheduled to
start at 13:00 yesterday. Although the first bell usually rings ten
minutes before the start of a session, it didn't yesterday.

Only a limited number of senior Liberal Democratic Party members,
such as Secretary General Taro Aso and Diet Affairs Committee
Chairman Tadamori Oshima, had been informed of the reason why the
bell didn't ring. About ten minutes later, many lawmakers learned of
the unprecedented new that the prime minister would resign just
before representative interpellations at a House of Representatives
plenary session.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe secretly conveyed his intention to resign
to Aso for the first time when they met in private on the evening of
Sept. 10.

About two hours before meeting with Aso, the prime minister
delivered policy speeches at both houses' plenary sessions, in which
he said: "I would like to engage in state affairs while deeply
reflecting on causing public distrust in politics." On Sept. 9, he
categorically said in a press conference in Sydney, "I will stake my
job" on extending the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling
mission in the Indian Ocean.

Immediately after expressing this determination, he announced that
he would resign as prime minister. It is hard to understand why.

The five LDP executive officers rushed to the Prime Minister's
Office (Kantei) just before the prime minister's press conference
starting at 2:00 pm yesterday to announce his decision to step down.
House of Councillors Caucus Chairman Hidehisa Otsuji asked Abe why
he decided to resign at this time and tried to dissuade him from
resigning, saying: "You should not make a decision on your own. Your
decision will affect the entire nation." His words represented the
feelings of many LDP members and people. But no clear-cut reply came
from the prime minister.

As pointed out by Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano, there may be
some health problem. The prime minister was seen eating only rice
gruel during a study session for his policy speech. Later, he
reportedly survived somehow by receiving an intravenous drip. On
Sept. 11, Upper House member Hiroshige Seko (former special advisor
to t he prime minister), an close aide to the prime minister,
secretly visited the Kantei and tried to encourage him, but Abe

reportedly made no response. The prime minister was certainly in an
extreme situation both physically and mentally.

Even so, since his responsibility as the head of one nation is
heavy, Prime Minister Abe unavoidably has been exposed to criticism
for his decision to abandon his duty at this time. Not only
opposition members but also LDP members denounce him as

The prime minister entered the Kantei last September, carrying the
burden of public "expectations" on him for his youth and freshness.
Such expectations, though, soon changed into "anxiety" and
"disappointment." The lack of explanation and the inability to make
a decisive decision are cited as the main reasons for the change in

TOKYO 00004281 009 OF 010

public feelings.

Why is it necessary to revise the Constitution? Why does the
government need to reform the civil-servant system? Why doesn't he
resign although the LDP was defeated in the Upper House? Why doesn't
he reshuffle the cabinet?

The prime minister gave no proper replies to the questions posed to
him. His decisions also lacked principle.

Why did he decide to put an end to his administration now? His
decision to leave office hit the nation like a bolt from the blue.
This was a symbolic event of the administration.

Prime Minister Abe often says that history will evaluate
politicians. As of Sept. 12, we have to give a harsh evaluation to
Prime Minister Abe. He is judged as lacking competence required of a
prime minister.

(6) Prime Minister Abe to be hospitalized for at least 3-4 days at
Keio Hospital

September 13, 2007, 14:30 p.m.

Physicians at Keio Hospital (at Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward) held a press
briefing this afternoon to announce the results of their check up of
Prime Minister Abe, who yesterday announced his intention to resign.
Norifumi Hibi, the physician in charge and a professor of internal
medicine at the hospital, explained: "The prime minister is totally
exhausted. He has lost some five kilograms over several months. He
is suffering from a functional gastrointestinal disorder. If the
symptoms become worse, it will hinder his daily life." The physician
added, "The prime minister needs to be hospitalized for at least
three to four days."

Earlier in the day, Abe underwent a medical checkup at the hospital.
He expressed his intension to attend a general meeting of his
Liberal Democratic Party's Diet members of both the chambers slated
for this afternoon, but a team of doctors judged it would be
difficult for him to do so. As a result, Abe gave up on attending
the meeting.

(7) Protection of lifeline for oil transport

SANKEI (Page 1) (Excerpts)
September 13, 2007

Keiichi Takagi

The Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) has been engaged in the
refueling mission in the Indian Ocean under the Antiterrorism
Special Measures Law, which expires on Nov. 1. This mission is of
great significance in the sense that Japan has taken part in the
international joint operations against terrorism. As the
multinational force's performance, a source familiar with Japan-US
military affairs revealed that the multinational force's vessels
have interdicted eight cases of piracy until now. Although the
MSDF's refueling mission has not been a direct help to prevent
international terrorist group al-Qaeda and the Taliban -- the
primary target of the antiterrorism operations -- from transporting
their weapons and narcotics and to capture them, the MSDF's another

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important role of playing a part in the defense of the (Japanese)
sea lanes has been proven.

Japan depends on marine transportation of its energy resources, such
as oil and minerals. According to the Natural Resources and Energy
Agency, Japan imports 90 PERCENT of its oil from the Middle East,
and "All oil is transported by large tankers to Japan via the Indian
Ocean." Keeping the Indian Ocean safe is an important task for Japan
in terms of energy security.

The MSDF's participation in the antiterrorism tactic in the Indian
Ocean by refueling other countries' vessels has contributed to
containing pirates operating behind the scenes for looting in the
ocean leading to the Straits of Malacca. In this regard, a
government official stressed: "It has fully served Japan's national


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