Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 08/06/08

DE RUEHKO #2149/01 2190108
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E.O. 12958: N/A



Defense and security:
1) Diverging views mark meeting of Futenma study team (Asahi)
2) LDP Secretary General Aso says that an alternate plan being
mulled instead of renewing the MSDF's refueling mission in the
Indian Ocean (Tokyo Shimbun)
3) LDP floats idea of including the protection of tankers into
anti-terrorism law but Komeito likely to block it (Yomiuri)
4) Foreign Minister Koumura visiting India expresses desire for
refueling mission to the Indian Ocean to be continued (Yomiuri)

5) Foreign Minister Koumura during New Delhi talks avoids subject of
propriety of U.S. having signed a nuclear cooperation agreement

Political agenda:
6) Extra Diet session may not convene until September, with plan
floated for finding alternate solution to Indian Ocean refueling
mission (Nikkei)
7) Cabinet members Tanigaki, Noda plan to visit Yasukuni Shrine on
Aug. 15 (Asahi)
8) Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in high spirits, as support
ratings in the polls rise, gearing up now for early Lower House
election (Tokyo Shimbun)
9) DPJ members and supporters increase by 60,000 to a total of
270,000 (Tokyo Shimbun)
10) Former DPJ President Okada expresses doubts about Ozawa's method
of leading the party (Yomiuri)
11) LDP Secretary General Aso withdraws earlier remark about Diet
dissolution (Yomiuri)

12) LDP Secretary General Aso calls for a postponement of fiscal
reconstruction and consideration for a stimulus package to boost
economy (Asahi)


1) Futenma working teams fail to reach agreement

ASAHI (Page 4) (Abridged)
August 6, 2008

The government's two Futenma Air Station relocation teams composed
of working-level officials of the central government and concerned
local municipalities met for the first time yesterday.

One working team is tasked with finding ways to remove the danger of
Futenma Air Station, and the other is to pave the way for smoothly
implementing the replacement facility construction plan and an
environmental impact assessment. They were launched in accordance
with the strong wishes of Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka
Machimura. The government aims to complete the relocation by 2014,
as was agreed upon with the United States, by displaying its
deference to Okinawa's requests.

In the first sessions, Okinawa requested the government's maximum
consideration for local calls for moving the envisaged replacement
facility offshore. The government, however, insisted that the plan
agreed upon between Tokyo and Washington cannot be modified unless
there is a rational reason. The views of the two sides remained wide

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There is also a gap in views between the two sides over the
direction of future discussions. Governor Hirokazu Nakaima indicated
in a press conference on July 25 that discussions would be based on
an offshore relocation plan, saying, "Working-level talks will begin
because there is a tacit understanding (on moving the planned runway
offshore)." An Okinawa official said, "We believe that a substantive
response will come from the government."

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry clings to its view that
working-level talks are venues for discussing technical issues
necessary for advancing the assessment based on the Japan-U.S.
agreement. There is an observation in the government that Machimura
and Nakaima are searching for common ground behind the scenes. The
talks are likely to face difficulties.

2) Aso mulls alternative for MSDF's refueling operation

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 1) (Abridged)
August 6, 2008

The government plans to revise the new Antiterrorism Special
Measures Law, which is set to run out in January next year and under
which the Maritime Self-Defense Forces has been tasked with
refueling activities in the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, the ruling
Liberal Democratic Party will consider presenting another bill
incorporating other measures for Japan's international contributions
if cooperation is not available from the leading opposition
Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto). "If they say 'no,' we will
then have to consider what we can do other than refueling," Taro
Aso, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said
in yesterday's media interview. "One idea is to escort oil tankers,"
Aso said, adding, "There are various other measures." With this, he
came up with the idea of having the MSDF secure Japan's sea lanes.

3) LDP execs eye escorting tankers

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
August 6, 2008

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is now considering tasking the
Maritime Self-Defense Force with other antiterror assistance
measures in the Indian Ocean instead of continuing its refueling
activities there under a newly enacted law for special measures
against terrorism. The government and the LDP plan to present a bill
to the Diet at its extraordinary session this fall in order to
extend the law with the option of taking a second vote in the House
of Representatives since the bill is likely to be voted down in the
opposition-controlled House of Councillors after its passage through
the House of Representatives. However, New Komeito, the LDP's
coalition partner, remains reluctant to do so.

LDP Secretary General Aso indicated in yesterday's media interviews
that the LDP would consider sending the Self-Defense Forces to
escort Japanese tankers if the option of extending the MSDF's
refueling mission in the Indian Ocean fails to obtain understanding.
LDP General Council Chairman Sasagawa also agreed with Aso in
interviews. "We need to secure ships bound for Japan, instead of
refueling activities." Aso and Sasagawa will likely try to iron out
differences in the ruling coalition over possible options including
such an idea. However, one government official is skeptical of that
idea's feasibility, noting that a new law will be needed in that

TOKYO 00002149 003 OF 008

case as well.

4) Koumura willing to continue refueling

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
August 6, 2008

NEW DELHI-Foreign Minister Koumura met with Afghanistan's President
Karzai, who is now visiting India, at a hotel in New Delhi on the
afternoon of Aug. 5 (on the evening of Aug. 5 Japan time), in which
he clarified that Japan would like to continue the Maritime
Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean.

"We will continue our security measures, including refueling
activities, and our reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan,"
Koumura told Karzai.

Karzai expressed hopes for Japan's continued assistance. "We
appreciate Japan's powerful and generous assistance," he told
Koumura. "I appreciate Japan's refueling activities, and I also hope
for Japan's continued refueling activities."

5) U.S.-India nuclear agreement: Foreign Minister Koumura avoids
clarifying stance

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
August 6, 2008

Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, now visiting India, met with
Prime Minister Singh and External Affairs Minister Mukherjee
separately. India sought Japan's approval of its nuclear agreement
with the U.S. for civilian use of nuclear energy. Koumura
acknowledged the need for India to secure electric power. However,
he did not clarify whether he favors or opposes the pact, saying,
"The stand of Japan, the only country on which nuclear weapons have
been used, is to seek the abolition of nuclear arms."

In talks with Singh, both leaders confirmed his visit to Japan,
possibly in the fall. They also agreed on the stance of both
countries aiming at reaching a consensus on the signing of an
economic partnership agreement (EPA) before his visit to Japan. The
U.S.-India agreement is intended to open the way for the transfer of
nuclear technology from abroad to India by treating the nation,
which is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
as an exception.

6) Growing possibility of Lower House dissolution casts pall over
next extra Diet session; LDP secretary general indicates that
convocation might slip to September

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
August 6, 2008

The four new LDP executives, including Secretary General Taro Aso,
granting separate interviews to the Nikkei and other news companies
yesterday, revealed their policies toward the next extraordinary
Diet session. At the same time, they all stopped short of showing
any solutions to mounting challenges. Given the strong
confrontational mood between the ruling and opposition blocs with
the possibility of a Lower House dissolution for a snap general
election hanging over the horizon, the outlook for the extra Diet
session seems extremely murky.

TOKYO 00002149 004 OF 008

Extending refueling operation not the only option

The ruling parties have yet to reach an agreement on when to convene
the extra Diet session. Aso's predecessor Bunmei Ibuki had pointed
to late August. Aso, however, indicated in the interview that it
could slip to a later date, saying, "I don't think it has to be in
late August."

LDP poised to make a compromise with New Komeito

Election Strategy Council Chairman Makoto Koga, too, expressed a
cautious view about convening the next session in late August.
General Council Chairman Takashi Sasagawa indicated that the extra
session would be convened by the first half of September. Prime
Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Ibuki had been looking for ways to convene
the session on August 22 with the aim of securing enough
deliberation time. The "new Aso leadership," though, seems to be
willing to make a compromise with the New Komeito, which is calling
for the convocation in late September.

The term of the session is also in focus. The New Komeito, hoping
for a Lower House dissolution in late December or early January,
wants to close the extra Diet session as early as possible. New
Komeito Representative Akihiro Ota in a press conference yesterday
revealed the party's plan to expedite preparations for the next
election, saying: "The political arena will turn into a battlefield
in the fall or later. We must be ready for the next election
whenever that will be."

The option of a Lower House dissolution at the year-end and New Year
period is on Aso's mind as well.

Escorting transport ships as an option

Aso and Sasagawa indicated in connection with legislation for
extending Japan's refueling operation in the Indian Ocean -- the
biggest bone of contention in the extra Diet session -- that
conducting activities strictly for escorting commercial tankers
could be an option.

Aso said: "Even if the refueling mission is not allowed, there are a
variety of other options, such as escorting Japanese transport
vessels." Sasagawa also noted: "The economic situation is different
from when (the Indian Ocean refueling legislation) was readopted (in
the Lower House). It is important to hold talks between the ruling
and opposition blocs so that Japanese transport vessels will be able
to return home safely."

The New Komeito, opposing the option of the Lower House readopting
the refueling legislation, is calling for postponing an extension to
next year's regular Diet session. Statements by Aso and others come
from the fact that an extension of the refueling mission is the
source of dispute between the LDP and New Komeito.

The problem is that the Maritime Self-Defense Force has never been
used for such a purpose. Learning of the contents of the interview,
Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura called on Aso and told
him once again that the government has simply decided to extend the
refueling legislation. A New Komeito executive, too, expressed
concern that escort vessels might end up exercising the right to
collective self-defense.

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7) Tanigaki, Noda indicate possibility of visiting Yasukuni Shrine

ASAHI (Page 4) (Full)
August 6, 2008

Prime Minister Fukuda said yesterday that he would not pay official
homage at Yasukuni Shrine on the anniversary of the end of WWII on
August 15. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Yasuoka has revealed his
intention to visit the shrine. Land, Infrastructure and Transport
Minister Tanigaki; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ota
and State Minister for Consumer Administration Noda have indicated
the possibility of paying homage at the shrine. Last year, only one
minister in the Abe administration visited the shrine. If an
increasing number of members of the Fukuda cabinet visit Yasukuni
Shrine, the improved relationship between Japan and China might be
adversely affected.

Fukuda avoided a Yasukuni visit on Aug. 15 when he was serving as
chief cabinet secretary. Asked by reporters yesterday about whether
he would visit the shrine on the 15th, Fukuda replied: "Remember
what I did in the past." Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura also
ruled out a shrine visit. Foreign Minister Koumura, as well, said:
"I won't, as foreign minister." Tanigaki, who forwent a visit in the
days when he was finance minister, commented: "Since I am chairman
of the Kyoto War-Bereaved Association, I have a reason to visit the

The number of cabinet ministers who visited Yasukuni Shrine on Aug.
15 has decreased over the past decade, with nine under the Mori
cabinet in 2000 as its peak.

8) DPJ remains bullish, despite surge in cabinet approval ratings,
putting more work into preparations for general election

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Excerpts)
August 6, 2008

Though approval ratings of the Fukuda cabinet have taken an upward
turn, following the shuffle, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or
Minshuto) remains bullish. It is now putting more work into
preparations for a dissolution of the Lower House for a snap
election at an early date.

Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama at a meeting of the "Next Cabinet"
on August 5 rapped the new cabinet, "We only hear voices of
disappointment at the launch of another bureaucrat-led cabinet."
Azuma Koshiishi, head of the DPJ caucus in the Upper House, during a
press conference took a confrontational stance, saying, "It's a
nonsensical cabinet with incumbent ministers appointed to different
posts from the previous cabinet. I want to characterize the next
extraordinary Diet session as one that has to do with a Lower House
dissolution and a snap election in the sense that we will snatch
power from the ruling coalition."

There is little sense of alarm in the party about a rise in cabinet
support ratings. This is because approval ratings should have
increased more, since the shuffle was carried out in a situation
where opposition parties have had few chances to take active part
(in the Diet), as it was in recess. One junior lawmaker said, "The
Fukuda administration has no more factors that can boost its
approval rating."

TOKYO 00002149 006 OF 008

However, the appointment of Taro Aso as secretary general of the
Liberal Democratic Party has raised the level of alarm in the DPJ,
with one member noting, "The public may find his cheerful character

The DPJ is determined to fight Aso by seeking an apology from him
for his statement in which he compared the DPJ to Nazi Germany.

In any case, the DPJ expects that Prime Minister Fukuda will
dissolve the Lower House during this new administration. The DPJ is
determined to press ahead with preparations, calculating that there
will be a general election in six months' time or so, as President
Ichiro Ozawa put it.

9) Number of DPJ rank-and-file members and supporters increases
60,000 to 270,000 ahead of leadership race

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Abridged slightly)
August 6, 2008

The Democratic Party of Japan announced at its executive meeting
yesterday that the number of party members and supporters totaled
269,124 for fiscal 2008, as of May 31.

This is an increase of nearly 68,000 from fiscal 2007, which marked

The increase is ascribable to the party's overwhelming victory in
last year's House of Councillors election and its vigorous efforts
to recruit new party members and supporters with voting rights ahead
of the party leadership race in September.

The total can be broken down into 44,340 rank-and-file party
members, 222,407 supporters, 224 Diet members, and 2,153 local
assembly members. By prefecture, Tokyo topped the list at 22,090,
followed by Hokkaido at 16,039, and Aichi at 15,706.

The DPJ presidential election is conducted based on a point system
in which a vote by each Diet member can be converted into two points
and a vote by each candidate scheduled to run in the next Lower
House election into one point.

A total of 100 points for the local assemblymen as a package is
distributed to each candidate in accordance with their votes won
based on the d'Hondt formula. As for votes by the rank-and-file
members, one point is distributed to the candidate with most votes
in each of the 300 Lower House single-seat constituencies.

10) DPJ's Okada in magazine article: I feel sense of disconnect with
Ozawa's political methods

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
August 6, 2008

Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Vice President Katsuya Okada has
contributed an article titled, "My stance is different from Mr.
Ozawa's -- Declaration to take over the political reins," in the
monthly Bungei Shunju that goes on sale on the 9th. In it, Okada
notes about President Ozawa: "His strategy of placing emphasis on
the single-seat constituencies and localities in the House of
Councillors election (last year) was superb." But he frankly reveals

TOKYO 00002149 007 OF 008

that he is feeling odd about his political methods, saying: "I
sometimes feel that if I were party president, I would do things

11) Aso tells LDP members to refrain from talking about timing of
Diet dissolution

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Excerpts)
August 6, 2008

Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Aso said in a party
executive meeting yesterday that party members should refrain from
making statements about the timing for the next House of
Representative election. This remark came under the current
unsettled situation in the party as executives have cited "sometime
between later this year and early next year" or "just before the
expiration of all Lower House members' term" as the possible timing
for the next Lower House dissolution. Public support for the Fukuda
cabinet has improved following the latest shuffle. Some speculate
that the remark was also intended to keep the improved public
support by having Prime Minister Fukuda devote himself to tackling
policy issues for the time being.

In the executive meeting yesterday, Fukuda stressed his resolve to
make utmost efforts to compile a comprehensive economic package. He
then asked for support from the party, saying: "The terms of all
Lower House members are to expire a year from now. We must now
tackle issues with the help of a united party effort." Later, Aso
said: "The prime minister probably means that we should refrain from
talking about the timing of a Lower House dissolution."

Regarding the timing, three options -- later this year or early next
year, next spring or later, and just before the expiration of all
Lower House members' terms -- had been mentioned in the LDP before
the cabinet shuffle. But many have begun to predict that the
election might be held earlier than expected. Executive Council
Chairman Sasagawa commented on a commercial TV program on the 3rd:
"If public support for the cabinet soars, the dissolution of the
Lower House might come earlier." Calls for an early dissolution are
also growing in the New Komeito.

Under these circumstances, many wonder why LDP Election Committee
Koga has changed his prediction from "late this year or early next
year" to "just before the expiration of all members' terms" in
September of next year. In the ruling camp, some members, seeing the
Fukuda-Aso team formed, speculate that the prime minister might be
replaced before the Lower House dissolution. In part because of this
speculation, some believe that Koga's remark might be intended to
head off calls to replace the premier.

12) Fiscal reconstruction likely to be put off, says Secretary
General Aso: Priority to be given to economic stimulus measures

ASAHI (Page 1) (Full)
August 6, 2008

Secretary General Taro Aso of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on
August 8 noted that putting the goal of achieving fiscal
reconstruction by fiscal 2011 on the back burner is an option. He
thus referred to the possibility of delaying the target year for the
first time as an LDP executive. He also said, "The economy is on the
way to a recession." He thus indicated his stance of giving priority

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to measures to stimulate the economy. He made those statements in an
interview given to various dailies, including the Asahi Shimbun.

The government has set a goal of moving the primary balance into the
black by fiscal 2011. Aso pointed out, "Allowing the economy to
further deteriorate for the sake of giving priority to moving the
primary balance into the black should not be among the options." He
continued: "The government must uphold the target. However, moving
back the target by several years is an option."

The fiscal reconstruction goal was set under the basic policy
guidelines on economic and fiscal management and structural reforms
for the fiscal 2006 national budget compiled during the Koizumi
administration. Some LDP members are calling for delaying the target
year or scrapping the target itself.

As reasons for delaying the target year, Aso explained, "There will
be restrictions if we do things while pursuing fiscal
reconstruction. Economic stimulus measures have priority."
Concerning the perception of the present state of the economy, which
the government described as being in a temporary lull, Aso indicated
his own perception, noting, "The economy is not in a temporary
slump. It is on the way to a recession."

Regarding the Antiterrorism Special Measures Law intended to enable
the Maritime Self-Defense Force to engage in refueling and
water-supply operations in the Indian Ocean, he indicated his
intention to consider another way of rendering assistance instead of
simply extending the law.

As another assistance measure, he insisted that a permanent law is
necessary for the dispatch of SDF personnel abroad, giving the
example of SDF vessels escorting private tankers. He also indicated
that since a cautious stance toward the enactment of a general law
is deep-rooted in the New Komeito, it would be difficult to address
this issue in the next extraordinary Diet session.


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