Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 07/16/08
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SUBJECT: JAPANESE MORNING PRESS HIGHLIGHTS 07/16/08
1) Top headlines
3) Prime Minister's daily schedule (Nikkei)
4) Prime Minister Fukuda reportedly has made up his mind to shuffle
his cabinet possibly on July 28 (Sankei)
5) Fukuda takes 6-day vacation in July, unusual time for a prime
minister, fueling speculation he is preparing to shuffle his cabinet
6) Prime Minister Fukuda coordinating schedule with the LDP, Komeito
for the upcoming extraordinary session of the Diet that will start
in late August (Mainichi)
7) Renewed dispute with South Korea over Takeshima isles to impact
on Fukuda's diplomacy, including fall trilateral meeting and planned
visit to ROK (Nikkei)
8) ROK ambassador to Japan recalled briefly to Seoul over Takeshima
9) What is the Takeshima territorial dispute all about? (Nikkei)
10) Foreign Minister Koumura journeys to Vietnam and Singapore
Economy under pressure;
11) Bank of Japan sees economy slowing down, revises growth down to
1.2 PERCENT (Tokyo Shimbun)
12) Fukuda promises additional measures this month to deal with oil
prices (Tokyo Shimbun)
13) Financial Services Agency says the U.S. mortgage crisis is "not
a fire on the other side of the bank," orders survey of Japan-owned
mortgage securities (Tokyo Shimbun)
14) Government to strengthen restrictions on sub-prime lending to
ward off crisis in Japan (Tokyo Shimbun)
15) LDP reluctant to render dedicated road taxes into general
revenues, in contrast to New Komeito (Asahi)
16) In creating a Consumer Affairs Agency, the Food Safety
Commission will be kept independent and neutral (Mainichi)
Defense and security affairs:
17) Defense Ministry reform plan shows shift to political leadership
18) Defense Ministry's reform council report to strengthen
minister's command and control function (Mainichi)
1) TOP HEADLINES
Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry plans to regulate TV
shopping programs by new satellite broadcasters
Mainichi and Yomiuri:
Government eyes rule for new pension agency of not hiring Social
Insurance Agency employees who have engaged in illegal union
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Nikkei and Tokyo Shimbun:
Bank of Japan says economy further slows, CPI projected to rise 1.8
MOD reform: Defense counselor (sanjikan) system to be abolished to
build politician-led decision-making system
High fuel costs forced 200,000 fishing boats to halt operations
(1) MOD reform: Civilian control and politicians' responsibility
(2) DPJ leadership race
(1) Fisheries industry needs structural reform
(2) MOD reform: Lawmakers' competence to be tested
(1) Fishermen walking a fine line
(2) U.S. financial crisis
(1) Cooperation between civilian and SDF personnel essential
(2) Fisheries industry needs structural reform
(1) MOD reform: Civilian control must be reviewed thoroughly
(2) U.S. subprime mortgage crisis serious
(1) Fisheries crisis to hit dinner tables
(2) U.S. financial woes require decisive measures
(1) U.S.-Iraq pact talks: U.S. withdrawal essential
3) Prime Minister's Official Residence (Kantei)
Prime Minister's schedule, July 15
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
July 16, 2008
Handed letter of recommendation to a candidate-to-be for Gifu
gubernatorial election at LDP headquarters, attended by Secretary
General Ibuki, Election Strategy Council Chairman Koga, and Deputy
Secretary General Hosoda. Attended LDP executive meeting.
Attended at Kantei cabinet meeting and Taskforce to Promote Reform
of the Civil Servant System. Internal Affairs Minister Masuda
Met with Space Development Minister Kishida, joined by Deputy Chief
Cabinet Secretary Saka. Attended later Defense Ministry Reform
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Met with Cabinet Intelligence Director Mitani, followed by Chief
Cabinet Secretary Machimura.
Met with Lower House member Hosei Norota, followed by former Foreign
Met with Finance Minister Nukaga, Vice Minister Sugita and Budget
Bureau Director General Tango.
Reported to the Emperor in private at the Imperial Palace.
Met at Kantei with Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Oshima and New
Komeito Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Urushibara, attended by
Met with Foreign Minister Koumura, Nukaga, Agriculture Minister
Wakabayashi and METI Minister Amari. Met afterwards with Consumer
Administration Promotion Minister Kishida and Machimura. Machimura
Met with Vice Administrative Foreign Minister Yabunaka, Deputy
Foreign Minister Sasae and Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau
Director General Saiki.
Returned to his official residence.
4) Cabinet shuffle likely on July 28
SANKEI (Page 1) (Full)
July 16, 2008
Prime Minister Fukuda made up his mind yesterday to shuffle his
cabinet for the first time since coming into office. The Group of
Eight (G-8) summit he hosted at Lake Toya in Hokkaido is over now,
and he has come to take a break in policy implementation. Fukuda
judged that it would be better to exercise his power to shuffle
personnel so as to keep his influence over his ruling Liberal
Democratic Party. This decision is based on his plan to convene an
extraordinary Diet session in late August.
This January and April, some LDP heavyweights voiced expectations
that Fukuda would shuffle his cabinet. However, Fukuda, according to
one of his aides, gave priority to continuing policies. He has
therefore retained most of his predecessor Abe's cabinet.
After the G-8 summit, however, there have been calls from within the
LDP for a cabinet shuffle. Fukuda himself was cautious about
shuffling his cabinet. However, Fukuda, partly because of pressure
from the LDP, seems to have judged that it would be better to
shuffle his cabinet to show his influence.
Actually, some of the Fukuda cabinet's ministers and senior vice
TOKYO 00001963 004 OF 013
minister had plans to go abroad late this month, but Fukuda told
them to abstain from doing so. As seen from this fact, Fukuda is now
making preparations to shuffle his cabinet. When Fukuda shuffles his
cabinet, the post of chief cabinet secretary and the post of health,
labor and welfare minister, which is saddled with pension and
healthcare issues, will be in focus.
Fukuda yesterday called in Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga to his
office and told him to work on a fiscal 2009 budget ceiling in
preparation for cabinet approval late this month. One LDP executive
said the LDP was coordinating to schedule this cabinet approval for
July 29. Within the LDP, a cabinet shuffle is therefore expected to
take place on July 30. In August, however, Fukuda will attend the
opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. In addition, he will
convene an extra Diet session. Given this schedule, Fukuda is highly
likely to shuffle his cabinet on July 28.
5) Speculation rife that Prime Minister Fukuda may prepare for
cabinet shuffle during six-day summer vacation
ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
July 16, 2008
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda starts his summer vacation today as he
turns 72. While resting from the Group of Eight Hokkaido Toyako
Summit, he will likely consider how to manage the upcoming
extraordinary Diet session, as well as his administration this fall.
Since it is unusual for a prime minister to take a summer vacation
in July, there is speculation that he may be preparing for a cabinet
Fukuda will be on vacation until July 21. He is expected to stay
either at his official residence or his private residence in Nozawa,
Tokyo. He has no plans to go to any place far. It is the first time
for him to take a vacation since he assumed office. He told
reporters yesterday: "Kantei staff members have no time to rest. I
hope they, too, will enjoy their breaks. I was told that I should
not show up here."
One ruling coalition member said: "He may shuffle the cabinet after
the summer vacation." Asked about this point, Fukuda just said:
"What should I do? Let me think it."
For Fukuda, the six-day summer vacation will likely be but a brief
respite, since he will have to compile in late July budgetary
request guidelines for fiscal 2009, as well as a set of five policy
measures, including measures to support child-rearing.
6) Fukuda coordinating views on Diet schedule with LDP, New Komeito
Diet Affairs Committee chairmen; Focus of attention on possibility
of cabinet shuffle
MAINICHI (Page 5) (Full)
July 16, 2008
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda called in the Diet Affairs Committee
chairmen of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the New Komeito,
Tadamori Oshima and Yoshio Urushibara, to his official residence
yesterday to start coordination on an opening date for the
extraordinary Diet session and other details. Learning that Fukuda
had asked for their views about a Diet schedule just before his
summer vacation, a senior LDP member speculated that "the prime
TOKYO 00001963 005 OF 013
minister may be thoroughly considering during the vacation the
possibility of a cabinet shuffle." Asked about a shuffle of the
cabinet, Fukuda has repeated the statement about "a clean slate."
The focus of attention is on what decision Fukuda will come up with
at the end of his vacation.
The meeting lasted for about an hour, with Chief Cabinet Secretary
Nobutaka Machimura also present.
Oshima said: "If you decide to shuffle the cabinet before the
extraordinary Diet session opens, it is necessary to give enough
time for new cabinet members to be able to give satisfactory Diet
replies." While keeping in mind the possibility of the session
opening in late August, Oshima indicated that the shuffle at the
latest would be carried out in early August.
The prime minister, though, made no clear-cut reply, shopping short
of clarifying whether he intends to shuffle the cabinet or not.
On key bills that should be deliberated on in the extraordinary Diet
session, Oshima cited a bill to extend the new antiterrorism special
measures law, which expires next January, and a bill amending the
Labor Standards Law, which has been carried over from the earlier
regular Diet session. He then stressed: "A conclusion must be
reached in the extraordinary Diet session."
Fukuda replied: "I would like to give them my consideration now." He
indicated that he would meet New Komeito President Akihiro Ota and
make final coordination on details, including the opening day of the
extraordinary Diet session.
7) Takeshima issue casts pall over Fukuda diplomacy; Issue might
take toll on Japan-China-ROK summit and Fukuda's visit to ROK
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridged)
July 16, 2008
The confrontation between Japan and South Korea over Takeshima, a
group of islets known as Dokdo in South Korea, might have a negative
impact on the two countries' diplomatic timetables. A gloomy outlook
hangs over such events as a Japan-ROK foreign ministerial expected
to take place on the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministerial in
Singapore next week and a Japan-ROK-China summit to be held in Tokyo
in September. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is likely to find it
difficult to respond to those events.
According to South Korea, South Korean Ambassador to Japan Kwon Chul
Hyun called on Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka at his ministry
yesterday and told him: "It has become difficult to extend proactive
cooperation in the international scene. It is unknown how much the
South Korean people will welcome a visit to Japan in September by
President Lee Myung Bak to attend the ROK-China-Japan summit."
The bilateral confrontation was sparked by a new Japanese teaching
manual that mentioned the Takeshima issue for the first time.
Ambassador Kwon returned to South Korea temporarily last night in
compliance with an order from his government.
The governments of Japan and South Korea have joined efforts at a
variety of international conferences, including the six-party talks
on North Korea's denuclearization. Ambassador Kwon's statement
revealed that such cooperative relations might stall.
TOKYO 00001963 006 OF 013
For instance, Japan, China and South Korea are scheduled to hold
their first trilateral summit in September apart from other
international conferences. President Lee's decision not to attend
the trilateral summit could deal a serious blow to the Fukuda
Japan is also exploring ways to hold a Japan-ROK foreign ministerial
on the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministerial to be held in
Singapore next week. There has been no clear response from South
Korea to Japan's call for a bilateral foreign ministerial, according
to a government source.
South Korea's response depends on public opinion to a certain
extent. Its stance is to monitor public opinion for the time being
instead of taking hard-line steps right away, such as postponing a
series of diplomatic events. The government intends to calmly watch
the situation in South Korea for the time being.
Prime Minister Fukuda, who puts high priority on Asia, is also
scheduled to make his second visit to South Korea this fall,
following one in February to attend President Lee's inauguration.
According to South Korea, Ambassador Kwon also told Vice Foreign
Minister Yabunaka: "It is unknown if the South Korean public will
truly welcome Prime Minister Fukuda's visit to South Korea."
8) South Korean ambassador temporarily returns home in protest
against Takeshima reference in teaching manual for middle schools
YOMIURI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
July 16, 2008
The Japanese government's decision to include in a teaching manual
for middle schools reference to the Takeshima islets as Japan's
territory has created a row between Japan and South Korea that
continues to grow. Acting on instructions from his home government,
Ambassador to Japan Kwon Chul Hyun returned home yesterday in
protest of Japan's decision. This is the first time in about seven
years for a South Korean ambassador to be recalled due to an issue
that could sour bilateral ties. The Japanese government is wary that
a prolonging of the problem could adversely affect a trilateral
summit meeting of Japan, China, and South Korea scheduled for
September in Japan, as well as cooperation between Japan and South
Korea in dealing with North Korea.
In criticizing the Japanese government, Ambassador Kwon told
reporters in a strong tone at Haneda Airport: "I won't easily come
back to Japan. I am greatly disappointed. Japan is really a nation
close geographically but distant politically,".
Before leaving Japan, Kwon visited the Foreign Ministry in the
morning and met Administrative Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji
Yabunaka. In the meeting, Kwon reiterated the South Korean
government's position over the Takeshima issue.
Yabunaka said "The two countries should calmly deal with the
differences in positions." He then called for a calm response so
that the issue would not damage bilateral ties and that the two
countries would move toward building "a new era for Japan-South
Korea relations," as agreed on between the two countries.
9) Questions and answers on Takeshima issue
TOKYO 00001963 007 OF 013
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridges slightly)
July 16, 2008
Q: What is the origin of the confrontation between Japan and South
Korea over the Takeshima islets, known as Dokdo in South Korea?
A: It all started with South Korean President Lee Seung Man's
announcement in 1952 of the "Lee line" declaring unilateral maritime
rights on the high seas including Takeshima. South Korea's coast
guard has stationed personnel on the largest islet since 1954. The
islets are now effectively under South Korea's control.
Q: What are the standpoints of the two countries?
A: Japan's standpoint is that it has sovereignty over the islets
based on its effective control over them in the mid-17th century. In
1905, a cabinet decision was made to include the islets in Shimane
Prefecture. But South Korea says that it has had sovereignty since
before Japan claimed its sovereignty and that historical documents
show that South Korea's sovereignty was established more than 200
years earlier than Japan's.
Q: Why are the two countries vying for the islets so fiercely?
A: Takeshima covers only an area of 0.2 square kilometers, which is
equivalent to the size of Tokyo's Hibiya Park. But the waters around
the islets are good fishing grounds rich in squids, crabs and so on,
and they are also connected with securing marine resources.
Q: Are the economic interests only at stake?
A: That is not all. In 1905 when Japan decided to include the islets
in Shimane Prefecture, a second Japan-South Korea agreement was also
concluded enabling Japan to deprive South Korea of its right to
diplomacy as a protected state. The level of interest in South Korea
is extremely high. People receive "Dokdo education" as a symbol of
patriotism. In South Korea, the issue is often directly connected to
10) Foreign Minister Koumura to visit Vietnam
YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
July 16, 2008
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced yesterday that
Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura will visit Singapore and Vietnam
on July 21-26. In Singapore, Koumura is expected to attend a foreign
ministerial of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Plus Three (Japan, China and South Korea), as well as a conference
of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) cabinet ministers. In Vietnam, he
will serve as joint chair of a meeting on the 25th of the
Japan-Vietnam Cooperation Committee. Since North Korea is a formal
member of the ARF, there are moves to seek the holding of an
informal foreign ministerial of the six-party countries on North
Korea's nuclear in an ARF meeting on the 24th.
11) The economy is slowing further, says BOJ: Downward revision of
GDP growth to 1.2 PERCENT
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Top Play) (Full)
July 16, 2008
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Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor Masaaki Shirakawa during a press
conference on July 15 held after the central bank's policy board
meeting on monetary policy revised downward the domestic economic
outlook, noting that the economy is slowing down due to slow growth
in capital spending and consumer spending. Concerns about a downturn
in the economy and price rises are mounting due to the steep rise in
the prices of raw materials, such as crude oil. The BOJ is being
pressed to implement even more difficult policy management.
The BOJ at its policy board meeting presented an interim review of
the semi-annual Outlook for Economic Activity and Prices, released
in April. In the interim review, the central bank lowered the
forecast for growth in real gross domestic production (GDP) for
fiscal 2008 from 1.5 PERCENT as projected in April to 1.2 PERCENT .
It revised up its outlook for a rise in the consumer price index
(CPI) to 1.8 PERCENT , up 0.7 points from the previous estimate.
This is the first time for the bank to indicate the margin of
revisions with numbers.
Alarmed about price hikes, starting with a rise in gas prices,
Shirakawa expressed concern, "The CPI will continue to rise for the
time being." However, regarding the future outlook, he maintained
the basic scenario that the economy will continue sustainable
growth, based on stable prices. He predicted that the economy will
return to the mild growth track, although it could occur later than
projected. He also estimated that prices rises will also slow
Concerning the flagging U.S. economy, Shirakawa expressed hopes that
a package of assistance measures for two government-affiliated
housing loan companies that the U.S. government announced on the
13th, would lead to the stabilization of the housing and financial
markets. However, when those markets will recover remains
In order to determine a number of risks, the bank at the meeting
unanimously decided to maintain the current monetary policy of
guiding the policy-related discretionary interest rates to 0.5
PERCENT a year.
12) Additional measures against surging crude oil prices before end
of month, prime minister reveals: Fukuda caught on horns of dilemma
with no fiscal resources available
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Excerpts)
July 16, 2008
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda yesterday evening revealed his plan to
map out additional emergency measures before the end of the month
with the aim of addressing the steep rise in crude oil prices. He
noted, "The government adopted a set of measures in late June.
However, there has been no change in the situation. If possible, I
would like to take additional measures before the end of the
He made that remark in response to a question asked by reporters at
the Prime Minister's Office (Kantei). Regarding the details of
envisaged additional measures, the prime minister simply said, "I
would like to adopt various measures. I would also like to undertake
coordination with the parties."
TOKYO 00001963 009 OF 013
He indicated understanding to the suspension of operations the same
day by fishermen all over the nation, saying, "I am fully aware that
fishermen are suffering tremendously. This is an abnormal
Fukuda revealed his plan to compile additional measures to address
the soaring crude oil prices before the end of the month because he
wanted to show the public appeal his stance of quickly helping
embattled fishermen, who have suspended operations all over the
country. In reality, however, there are no fiscal resources
available for financing additional measures, including the
compilation of a supplementary budget. The prime minister is facing
a policy dilemma that fiscal conditions do not easily permit the
implementation of his policy that shares the public's view.
At first, the prime minister had been negative toward taking
additional measures, saying, "It is necessary to implement measures
within the existing budget." He had been stressing a policy of
tiding over the crisis with a set of emergency measures, which the
government adopted on June 26.
The emergency measures included consideration for improving the
fishing industry assistance fund (approximately 10 billion yen),
including an increase in the amount of the fund to help fishermen
purchase energy-efficient fishing boats. The package also included
consideration for lowering highway tolls designed for the trucking
industry, which is also suffering from the steep rise in gas
However, those measures are just flexible application of existing
projects earmarked in the budget, according to a government source.
The fishermen's public appeal regarding their difficult situation
has revealed that those measures are not giving them immediate
The ruling parties also called for additional measures and the
compilation of a supplementary budget. Under such circumstances, the
prime minister had to veer toward considering additional measures.
13) Financial Services Agency: U.S. housing finance crisis is "not a
fire on the other side of the river"; Minister orders survey to
determine extent of U.S. mortgage securities Japan possesses
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 9) (Full)
July 16, 2008
Financial Services Minister Yoshimi Watanabe, meeting the press
yesterday after a cabinet meeting, made this statement about the two
troubled U.S. government-related housing finance corporations: "The
government and private sectors of Japan and China possess a fair
amount (of related securities); it is not a fire on the other side
of the river." The Financial Services Agency (FSA) plans to carry
out a survey of domestic financial institutions to determine the
extent of U.S. government agency securities issue by the two
corporations they possess.
The U.S. government has announced already a rescue package for the
two corporations that will include the injection of public money. On
this point, Minister Watanabe gave the U.S. high marks, saying, "It
was good that they made a swift decision."
FSA stated that as of June 2007, Japan's public and private sectors
TOKYO 00001963 010 OF 013
possessed approximately $23 billion (or approximately 24 trillion
yen) in U.S. government-related securities, including holdings other
than the two corporations. It stressed, "We will heighten the alarm
With the two U.S. corporations in trouble, the prices of their
shares on the market have plummeted, creating the possibility that
the business conditions of domestic financial institutions also
would be affected.
14) Government to establish system of registering rating companies
in order to strengthen regulation of the sub-prime market and bring
them on par with Europe and U.S.
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 9) (Abridged)
July 16, 2008
Financial Services Minister Watanabe, meeting with the press
yesterday after a cabinet meeting, revealed that he is mulling
public regulation of rating companies that have been showered with
criticism in connection with the sub-prime loan problem. The
ministry's financial advisory council would debate whether to create
a registration system for rating companies and whether financial
authorities would have inspection and monitoring rights over rating
The collapse of market for sub-prime-related commercial commodities
is seen as a cause of lowering of ratings of previously highly-rated
commodities. The lack of transparency of the process of rating such
commodities, coupled with the relation of the securities houses that
sell commodities and the rating companies that receive service fees
for their evaluations are seen as problematical.
The U.S.' Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) already has announced
a new proposal that would include strengthening information
disclosure of the process of rating. The EU early this month agreed
to introduce a registration system.
15) LDP reluctant to free up road-related tax revenues for general
ASAHI (Page 4) (Excerpts)
July 16, 2008
The ruling parties yesterday set up an advisory panel to mull a plan
to shift tax revenues earmarked for road construction and
maintenance into the general spending account. Can the budget for
road projects be cut? Will the ruling coalition really be able
review the provisional tax rates system? Debate has begun four
months after Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda revealed his plan to free
up revenues from the road-related taxes now used solely for road
construction and maintenance and use the funds for general
The advisory council meeting was attended by Liberal Democratic
Party (LDP) and New Komeito policy research council and tax system
panel members. In the first meeting held in the Diet building, there
was an obvious gap between the two ruling parties.
One representative from the New Komeito, which has sought a 10
percent cut in the road-related budget, asserted in the meeting:
"Unless the budget for road projects is slashed, we will disappoint
TOKYO 00001963 011 OF 013
public expectations." The LDP, however, took a cautious stance, with
one member saying: "There would be no change in demand for road
Referring to the current provisional rates for gasoline and other
road-related taxes, the New Komeito called for abolishing the
provisional rates part of the automobile weight tax. However, LDP
Policy Research Council Deputy Chairman Hiroyuki Sonoda stressed:
"The purpose of discussion is not to reduce tax revenues."
The New Komeito intends to appeal its stance of prioritizing reforms
to the public, with an eye on the next House of Representatives
election. Although the New Komeito included a plan to cut the
automobile weight tax in its manifesto (set of campaign pledges), it
withdrew its plan last year in the process of coming up with a tax
system reform outline, after meeting with a strong objection from
the LDP. The New Komeito hopes to make the council, which was formed
with the backing of Fukuda, a forum to display its political
16) Government not to move Food Safety Commission to consumer agency
to ensure neutrality
MAINICHI (Page 2) (Full)
July 16, 2008
The government decided yesterday that it would not move the Food
Safety Commission (FSC), now in the Cabinet Office, to a consumer
agency that will be set up in FY2009. The Council for Promoting
Consumer Policy, led by Gakushuin University Professor Takeshi
Sasaki, will formally adopt this policy in its meeting next week.
The government had discussed the idea of shifting the FSC to the
consumer agency when it is launched.
But it decided not to move the FSC from the perspective of "ensuring
the neutrality of the commission in evaluating the safety of food
and pharmaceuticals from an objective, neutral and fair position,
based on scientific knowledge," as said by a government source.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Consumer Affairs Minister Fumio
Kishida met at the Prime Minister's Office yesterday afternoon and
affirmed this policy.
The consumer policy council on June 13 released its final report in
which the panel proposed shifting 30 laws or ordinances to the
consumer agency but noted that "discussion will be continued" on
what to do about the FSC.
17) Political initiative eyed for Defense Ministry reform
SANKEI (Top play) (Abridged)
July 16, 2008
A government advisory panel reforming the Defense Ministry worked
out a report yesterday and presented it to Prime Minister Yasuo
Fukuda. The report proposes abolishing the Defense Ministry's
defense counselor posts for bureaucrats and setting up advisory
posts for political appointees to assist the defense minister.
Specifically, the report recommends appointing a uniformed officer
from the Self-Defense Forces to the Defense Ministry's internal
bureau post of deputy director general for the Defense Policy Bureau
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and appointing a civilian official from the Defense Ministry's
internal bureaus to the SDF post of deputy chief for the Joint Staff
Office. The government will incorporate the report's recommended
ideas in a Defense Ministry reform bill to be presented to the Diet
in its ordinary session next year.
The government plans to overhaul the Defense Ministry for the first
time since its establishment in 1954.
The advisory panel's report of recommendations came out in the wake
of scandals involving the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense
Forces, such as a former administrative vice minister's bribery case
over procurement and a Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis vessel's
collision with a fishing boat. The report suggests the need for the
Defense Ministry to restructure its organization in order to comply
with regulations and establish professionalism. It recommends both
the prime minister's office and the Defense Ministry to strengthen
their control functions.
In addition, the report also proposes abolishing the defense
counselor system, which has been for some of the Defense Ministry's
bureaucrats to monopolize and formulate defense policies. Instead,
the report recommends setting up advisory posts for political
appointees to assist the defense minister. In concrete terms, it
proposes utilizing a defense conference of advisors under the
political initiative with the participation of senior officials from
the Defense Ministry's internal bureaus and uniformed officers from
the SDF staff offices as the ministry's highest decision-making
body. The idea of abolishing the defense counselor system is aimed
at changing the superiority of civilian officials over SDF personnel
and promoting personnel exchanges between civilian officials and SDF
Main points from the panel report
? Abolish the Defense Ministry's Operational Policy Bureau and
integrate its functions of planning SDF operations into the SDF
Joint Staff Office.
? Integrate the defense buildup sections of the Defense Ministry's
internal bureaus and the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense
? Retain the Defense Ministry's internal bureaus and the GSDF, ASDF,
and MSDF staff offices and promote exchanges between bureaucrats and
SDF staff officers.
? Set up a security policy advisor post to assist the prime minister
and strengthen the control functions of the prime minister's
? Abolish the defense counselor system and set up advisory posts to
assist the defense minister.
? Give legal status to a defense conference as the highest
18) Reform council's report to strengthen command and control of
Defense Minister, but amending the law will be difficult given the
MAINICHI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
July 16, 2008
The report finalized on the 15th by the government's Defense
Ministry Reform Council contains such main features as merging
personnel from the internal bureaus (suits) and the uniformed
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services (uniforms) in order to improve ministry practices that have
led to a series of incidents, and the strengthening of the command
and control of the minister (a politician), by inserting leverage on
the Defense Council, which is the highest advisory council in the
ministry. The control tower function of the Prime Minister's
Official Residence (Kantei) will be strengthened, as well.
However, the unification of the sectors that deal with enhancing
defense capabilities has run into trouble, with some uniformed
officers taking the view of constraining this effort and discussing
it later. And a bill amending the law next regular session also will
inevitably bog down due to the divided Diet.