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Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 09/24/08

DE RUEHKO #2629/01 2680144
P 240144Z SEP 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


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Aso leaps into action:
1) President Bush, welcoming the election of Taro Aso as prime
minister, would like to meet him as soon as possible (Yomiuri)
2) Will Aso's be the shortest cabinet on record? All expecting Diet
dissolution and a snap election soon after his government is formed
(Tokyo Shimbun)
3) Extraordinary Diet session opens today, with three hot issues,
including tainted rice supplies, for the DPJ to attack the ruling
camp (Tokyo Shimbun)
4) Cabinet selection today: Nakasone likely to be foreign minister
5) Prime Minister Aso to tackle revision of controversial medical
care system for the elderly; Most of Cabinet names already known
before formal selection today (Nikkei)
6) Based on names leaked to the press, Aso Cabinet seems filled with
friends and cronies and lacks superstars (Nikkei)

7) After a spotty year in office as prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda
quietly melts away today (Tokyo Shimbun)

8) New Komeito reelects Ota as its party president (Mainichi)

War on terror:
9) U.S. special envoy in July came to Tokyo to urge Fukuda
government to reconsider decision to put off SDF dispatch to
Afghanistan (Tokyo Shimbun)
10) In speech at UNGA, Aso to focus on UN contributions to the war
on terror, environmental issue (Yomiuri)

11) UN Africa conference: Japan to stress achievements in ODA
disbursements (Asahi)


1) Bush wants to see Aso early

YOMIURI (Page 2) (Full)
September 24, 2008

NEW YORK-U.S. President Bush met with former Prime Minister Mori,
now visiting the United States, at a New York City hotel on the
evening of Sept. 22 (yesterday morning Japan time). In the meeting,
Bush told Mori that he welcomes Liberal Democratic Party President
Aso as Japan's new prime minister.

Mori explained that Aso will be elected prime minister in an
extraordinary session of the Diet today. "I called Mr. Aso a little
while ago, and he asked me to send his best regards to President and
Mrs. Bush," Mori told Bush. He added, "Mr. Aso shares your view of
the international situation." In response, Bush also asked Mori to
send his best regards to Aso. "Prime Minister Aso is wonderful,"
Bush said, "and I want to see him as soon as possible."

2) Aso may become shortest-serving prime minister if LDP falls into

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Excerpts)
September 24, 2008

Newly elected Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President Taro Aso will

TOKYO 00002629 002 OF 010

be named prime minister today. Aso may dissolve the House of
Representatives in early October at the earliest. It is
unprecedented for a prime minister to resort to this last gasp
measure as his first task after taking office. The possibility is
strong that Aso will dissolve the Lower House in the record shortest
period of any prime minister.

Under the present Constitution, Ichiro Hatoyama was the prime
minister who dissolved the Lower House in the shortest period after
taking office in 1955. He dissolved the Lower House only 46 days
after he was named prime minister, aiming at departing from the
minority ruling party.

Yoshiro Mori, who suddenly assumed office in April 2000 following
the death of then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, was the prime
minister who dissolved the Lower House in the second-shortest period
on June 2, 2000, setting the election date for June 25, Obuchi's

The dominant view in the LDP is that the Lower House should be
dissolved while the Aso cabinet is enjoying popularity.

Should Aso dissolve the Lower House in early October immediately
after questioning sessions by party representatives at the
forthcoming extraordinary Diets session, Aso would dissolve the
lower chamber about ten days after he was named prime minister.

However, it is a dangerous game because he will have to step down if
the ruling coalition fails to secure a majority of the Lower House
seats in a general election.

Under the present Constitution, the Hata cabinet ran for only 64
days, the shortest period. If the LDP falls into the opposition in a
general on Oct. 26, or on Nov. 2 or 9, Aso will become the
shortest-serving prime minister.

3) Extra Diet session opens today; DPJ ready to attack government,
ruling coalition on three issues, including tainted rice

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
September 24, 2008

With the extraordinary Diet session to be convened today, the main
opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is waiting expectantly to
debate the supplementary budget bill for this fiscal year that
includes a package of emergency economic stimulus measures. Although
the DPJ has suggested, as a condition for its cooperation in
enacting the budget, dissolution of the House of Representatives
through mutual talks, the party wants to give itself a boost as it
goes into a general election by pursuing the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP), led by its new president, Taro Aso, on three
issues: the tainted rice scandal, pension-record mess, and financial

DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka stressed in a
speech last evening in Saitama City his party's stance of
cooperating with the ruling camp to pass the supplementary budget
bill: "For the sake of the public, we will approve the supplementary
budget even if we are not fully satisfied with it."

The ruling coalition plans to prioritize deliberations on the
supplementary budget over Lower House dissolution. Aso has sought to

TOKYO 00002629 003 OF 010

constrain the opposition, saying: "It is unthinkable from a
common-sense standpoint to prevent the supplementary budget from
clearing the Diet." DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama has taken a
flexible stance by indicating the possibility of his party
responding to talks to revise the budget bill.

Noting that the budget bill includes funds for supporting small to
medium-sized companies, DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa made this
critical comment: "Even if funds are increased, there is no system
to lend that money to small companies." It thus seems difficult for
the DPJ to find common ground in revision talks with the ruling

Should the Lower House be dissolved without reaching an agreement in
the revision talks, the ruling coalition would then accuse the DPJ
of having "killed" the supplementary budget.

The DPJ has been cooperative on enacting the budget bill because it
wants to give the public the impression that the ruling camp instead
is being uncooperative.

The largest opposition party has many issues to attack the
government and ruling camp on, such as the resale of tainted rice,
the falsification of average index monthly earnings that are the
base for employee pension payments, and the financial crisis that
started in the United States. DPJ head Ozawa will open the party's
attack at representative interpellations in the Lower House -- the
first time he has led that charge since January last year.

Ozawa expressed his confidence to a senior party member in driving
the Aso administration into a corner, saying: "It's a piece of cake.
Soon or later (the Aso government) will collapse."

4) Aso cabinet to be launched today; Former Education Minister
Hirofumi Nakasone likely to become foreign minister

MAINICHI (Top play) (Abridged)
September 24, 2008

LDP President Aso Taro, 68, is expected to be named the 92nd prime
minister, or the 59th person to assume the post, in the
extraordinary Diet session that will be convened today. Aso is
expected to form a new cabinet later in the day. A meeting was held
between Aso and New Komeito Representative Akihiro Ota in Tokyo
yesterday in which the two leaders agree to maintain the LDP-New
Komeito coalition and concluded a 19-item coalition government
accord, including a review of the medical insurance system for
people 75 and older. As for the new cabinet, coordination is
underway to appoint former Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, 62,
as foreign minister and former Policy Research Council Chairman
Shoichi Nakagawa, 55, as finance minister. It has already been
decided to appoint former Education, Science and Technology Minister
Takeo Kawamura as chief cabinet secretary.

Aso has also informally decided to reappointment five ministers:
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai, 69; Consumer
Administration Minister Seiko Noda, 48; Economy and Fiscal Policy
Minister Kaoru Yosano, 70; Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi
Masuzoe, 59; and Environment Minister Tetsuo Saito, 56. Former
Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who ran in the LDP presidential
race along with Yosano, is likely to become the next agriculture,
forestry and fisheries minister. There is a high likelihood that

TOKYO 00002629 004 OF 010

former Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, 60, will receive the justice
portfolio and that former METI Minister Akira Amari, 59, will become
the next internal affairs and communications minister. Former deputy
defense chief Yasukazu Hamada, 52, is being mentioned as the new
defense minister.

In determining the top four LDP executives on Sept. 22, Aso tried to
strike a balance among factions, as seen in his appointment of
Hiroyuki Hosoda of the Machimura faction, the largest in the party,
as secretary general. In forming his cabinet, Aso plans to generate
a clear "Aso imprint" irrespective of a factional balance for the
sake of the next Lower House election.

The administrative agreement reached between Aso and Ota specifies
the steady implementation of a comprehensive economic stimulus
package including a flat-sum tax cut, the fundamental reform of the
food production and distribution system and amendments to
legislation for ensuring food safety, in addition to a review of the
medical insurance system for people 75 and older.

The two houses of the Diet are scheduled to hold plenary sessions in
succession starting at one o'clock this afternoon to name the next
prime minister. The LDP and New Komeito are expected to name Aso as
the prime minister in the Lower House session. In the Upper House
session, DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa is expected to be named the
prime minister as a result of a runoff between the top two
contestants following the first ballot in which no one will win a
majority of votes. Even though the joint committee of both houses is
likely to hold a meeting as a result, Aso is certain to become the
next prime minister because the Lower House's choice prevails under
the Constitution.

5) Aso to be picked prime minister today: To review public health
insurance scheme for elderly people aged 75 or older; Agreement
reached on LDP-New Komeito coalition; Review organ to discuss
regional bloc system to be set up

NIKKEI (Top Play) (Full)
September 24, 2008

After being designated prime minister in the extraordinary Diet
session to be convened today, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)
President Taro Aso will launch his cabinet. During a meeting with
New Komeito President Akihiro Ota on the evening of the 23rd, he
confirmed the party's stance of continuing its coalition government
with that party. Both leaders agreed to take a second look at the
public health insurance scheme for elderly people aged 75 or older.
In forming his cabinet, Aso will appoint former Research Council
Chairman Shoichi Nakagawa as finance minister and former Education
Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, an Upper House member, as foreign
minister. State Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Kaoru Yosano
will remain in his post.

Regarding the health insurance system for people aged 75 or older,
the agreement with the New Komeito on the forming of a coalition
government mentions that giving consideration to the feelings of
elderly people, the new government will make changes to the system
to make it better by speeding up the current timetable for revising
the system in five years' time, as stipulated by law. The points of
contention up for revision will likely be the current system of
uniformly drawing a demarcation line for elderly people aged 75 or
older, regardless of their health condition, and the automatic

TOKYO 00002629 005 OF 010

deduction of premiums.

Aso and Ota also agreed that the system under the current public
pension scheme that reduces payouts to pensioners who are still
employed should be revised. The agreement also includes measures to
address those who do not receive pensions and those whose pension
benefits are very low, by shortening the pension system contribution
period required to become eligible for pension benefits and
extending the additional contribution period required to become
eligible for benefits. The aim of the two parties is to demonstrate
a stance of tackling reform of the social security system just prior
to the upcoming Lower House election.

Concerning the doshu regional bloc system, Aso and Ota confirmed a
policy of setting up a review organ within the cabinet to pave the
way for enacting a basic law. As to the tainted-rice problem, they
took a stance that the issue must be addressed immediately and
properly in order to strengthen the system for ensuring food

Referring to three postal services, they said that improvements must
be made in order to boost consumer convenience. They drew a line
from the stance of those wishing to review the privatization of
postal services.

President Aso is expected to be designated the 92nd prime minister
once the Diet votes at plenary sessions of the both chambers. He
will be the 59th person to be elected as prime minister. Aso
immediately will start forming his cabinet. The lineup of the new
cabinet is set to be fixed by the evening. He informally selected
Takeo Kawamura as chief cabinet secretary, a key post in the
cabinet. Akira Amari is expected to be picked as internal affairs
minister responsible for revitalizing local districts. Kunio
Hatoyama will return as justice minister. Shigeo Ishiba will head
the Agriculture Ministry.

First-time ministers are Eisuke Mori as education minister and
Yasukazu Hamada as defense minister. Attaching importance to the
impact of the U.S.-induced turmoil in the financial markets,
coordination is under way with the possibility of having finance
minister Nakagawa, who can take part in meetings of finance
ministers and central bank governors from the Group of Seven nations
(G-7), double as state minister for financial policy.

Concerning the timetable for the next Lower House election, the
ruling parties are now undergoing final coordination with focus on
two possibilities: (1) official announcement on October 21 and
voting on November 2; and (2) official announcement on October 28
and voting on November 9. They will speed up efforts to pave the way
for a confrontation with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or
Minshuto) with reigns of government on the line.

List of persons whose entry into cabinet has been firmed up

Internal affairs minister
Akira Amari (59)

Justice minister
Kunio Hatoyama (60)

Foreign minister
Hirofumi Nakasone (62)

TOKYO 00002629 006 OF 010

Finance minister
Shoichi Nakagawa (55)

Education minister
Eisuke Mori (60)

Welfare minister
Yoichi Masuzoe (59)

Agriculture minister
Shigeru Ishiba (51)

Economy, trade and industry minister
Toshihiro Nikai (69)

Land and transport minister
Sadakazu Tanigaki (63)

Environment minister
Tetsuo Saito (56)

Defense minister
Yasukazu Hamada (52)

Chief cabinet secretary
Takeo Kawamura (65)

State minister for economic and fiscal policy
Kaoru Yosano (70)

State minister for consumer administration
Seiko Noda (48)

indicates "second term in the same post"

6) Aso puts close ties ahead of flashiness in appointing party
executives and cabinet ministers

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
September 24, 2008

New LDP President Taro Aso has decided to give major cabinet and
party executive posts to lawmakers who are close to him. Clearly
intending to contain destabilizing factors in the party, Aso even
tried to persuade former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to take the
post of secretary general. The plan fell through, however. In order
to face off with DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa in the next Lower House
election, Aso clearly wants to achieve monolithic unity in his

Aso especially struggled in determining how to treat the Machimura
faction. Aso, who heads his own faction, believes that his
administration could not stand without the backing of the Machimura
faction, the largest in the party. Deeming Mori was the only person
who could control the Machimura faction, Aso approached the former
prime minister via a Machimura faction executive to convince him to
take on the post of secretary general.

Mori rejected the offer, and Aso then turned to Hiroyuki Hosoda. Aso
highly values Hosoda's unassuming and dependable style to get the
job done. Although some urged Aso to make Hosoda the new Diet

TOKYO 00002629 007 OF 010

Affairs Committee chairman, the new LDP president insisted on giving
the secretary general post to the Machimura faction.

It had been widely believed in the Machimura faction that Chief
Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura - the head of the faction that
for the most part supported Aso instead of Yuriko Koike in the LDP
presidential race -- would become the next secretary general. But a
person close to Aso said: "Mr. Aso does not get along well with Mr.

Aso reportedly told a veteran lawmaker close to him: "I followed Mr.
Mori's advice regarding the post of secretary general, and I will
handle the cabinet posts as I like."

Except for the post of secretary general, Aso hardly tampered with
the party executives for the sake of the looming Lower House

As for the chief cabinet secretary post, Aso first sounded out Diet
Affairs Committee Chairman Tadamori Oshima. Although there a variety
of speculations about the Oshima plan that did not materialize,
Oshima told those around him: "I did not turn down the offer. There
is no one but me who can handle Diet affairs at a time like this."

Aso's trend to give posts to close friends is even clearer when the
list of cabinet ministers is considered: such persons as Takeo
Kawamura has informally been picked as chief cabinet secretary,
Shoichi Nakagawa will be finance minister, and Akira Amari will
become internal affairs and communications minister. All are known
for their close ties with Aso. The cabinet lineup also includes some
education policy specialists, such as Kawamura and Hirofumi
Nakasone, who is likely to become the next foreign minister.

Contrary to Aso's words to give consideration to the next election,
the lineup is a far cry from an all-star cabinet. "Mr. Aso should be
only one who will stand out," an Aso aide explained. But there is
discontent in the party, with one saying: "Mr. Aso picked only those
who have close ties with him. He does not seem really eager to fight
the next election."

LDP executives

Secretary general
Hiroyuki Hosoda (Machimura faction)

General Council chairman
Takashi Sasagawa (Tsushima faction)

Policy Research Council chairman
Kosuke Hori (Tsushima faction)

Election Strategy Council chairman
Makoto Koga (Koga faction)

Senior deputy secretaries general
Nobuteru Ishihara (Yamasaki faction)
Motoo Hayashi (Yamasaki faction)

Policy Research Council deputy chairman
Hiroyuki Sonoda (Koga faction)

Election Strategy Council deputy chairman

TOKYO 00002629 008 OF 010

Yoshihide Suga (Koga faction)

denotes reappointment.

7) Monthly report by reporters: Prime Minister Fukuda resigns today;
no change in his condescending attitude

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
September 24, 2008

By Kei Sato

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda today hands over power just one year
after taking office to Taro Aso. He yesterday moved out from the
prime minister's official residence and returned to his private
residence. This column, started in late April, will end with this

Fukuda suddenly announced his resignation on the night of Sept. 1.
When he was told by a reporter at an emergency press conference that
he spoke as if describing someone else's problem, Fukuda responded
in a strong tone: "I can see myself objectively. I am different from

I wonder whether Fukuda really could see himself objectively. He
refused the regular press meeting which used to be held twice a day.
The reason for his refusal was that "unnecessary background noise
should not be created."

However, when he encountered criticism by some members of his
government, he reluctantly resumed the press meetings on Sept. 8.
Even the failure of the U.S. major securities firm Lehman Brothers
hit during a "political vacuum," for he irregularly met the press.
So, it is difficult to say that he has fulfilled his

When Agriculture Minister Seiichi Ota and Administrative Vice
Minister Toshiro Shirasu resigned to take responsibilities for the
tainted-rice scandal, Fukuda reacted as if it had nothing do to with

Fukuda carried out his duties to the last moment. This may be
different from former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who spent last days
of his administration in bed. But Fukuda lacked the ability to talk
to the public.

I was a reporter attached to the Prime Minister's Official Residence
when Fukuda announced his resignation. Although his catch phrase was
"to match the public's thinking," I felt everyday his condescending

8) New Komeito convention approves Ota's reelection

MAINICHI (Page 1) (Full)
September 24, 2008

The New Komeito held a party convention at a Tokyo hotel yesterday
and formally approved the reelection of Akihiro Ota, 62, as party
head. Ota had been reelected by the party on Sept. 16. The
convention also decided to reappoint the party leadership, including
Secretary General Kazuo Kitagawa, 55. The party also determined the
first group of candidates for the next Lower House election: 8 for

TOKYO 00002629 009 OF 010

single seats and 27 for the proportional representation segment. Ota
said, "The LDP and New Komeito now have a matured relationship
allowing them to say what they want to say to each other." Ota also
indicated that his party would aim for over 31 seats, its current
strength, in the next Lower House election.

9) U.S. envoy urged Japan in July to reconsider putting off SDF
Afghan dispatch

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 3) (Full)
September 24, 2008

It was learned yesterday that a special envoy from U.S. President
Bush visited Japan in late July to ask the government to reconsider
its once-dropped plan to send the Self-Defense Forces to Afghanistan
as another approach to assist with that country's reconstruction.
"Among the major countries excluding Russia, only Japan has yet to
send troops to Afghanistan," the envoy noted. With this, the envoy
indicated that Japan's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean
alone are insufficient.

The U.S. envoy's visit to Japan was revealed by a source connected
to Japan-U.S. relations. On July 6, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda met
with Bush in the Hokkaido town of Toyako. On that occasion, Fukuda
told Bush that Japan had given up on the option of sending SDF
troops to Afghanistan. After that, the envoy was sent to Japan,
evidence that the U.S. government was highly dissatisfied.
Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party President Aso will make his
debut as Japan's new prime minister, launching his cabinet today.
Washington will likely call on the new prime minister to consider
sending SDF troops to Afghanistan.

According to the source, the presidential envoy was Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Central Asia Bobby Wilkes. He met with
senior officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry
and expressed dissatisfaction over the Japanese government's
decision to drop its SDF Afghan dispatch. He then asked the Japanese
government to consider a new role for the SDF to assist

10) Aso to pledge contribution to war on terror in U.N. address

YOMIURI (Page 2) (Full)
September 24, 2008

Liberal Democratic Party President Aso, who takes office as prime
minister today, has decided to address the United Nations General
Assembly in New York. In his U.N. speech, Aso will explain Japan's
course of action regarding antiterror measures, global warming, and
U.N. reforms. He is also expected to touch on North Korea's
abduction of Japanese nationals. Japan's prime minister will address
the UNGA for the first time since Prime Minister Koizumi did in

Aso's U.N. speech is to take place on the afternoon of Sept. 25
local time (on the morning of Sept. 26 Japan time). It will be the
first diplomatic event for Aso as Japan's new prime minister.

Aso met with Administrative Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka
and others at LDP headquarters yesterday afternoon to discuss what
to put in his U.N. speech.

TOKYO 00002629 010 OF 010

In connection with antiterror measures, Aso will clarify that Japan
will continue its contribution to the war on terror. When it comes
to the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the
India Ocean, Aso will avoid declaring its continuation because a
government-planned bill to amend the new Antiterrorism Special
Measures Law cannot be expected to clear the Diet.

On the issue of global warming, Aso will propose expediting
discussions for the Conference of Parties to the U.N. Framework
Convention on Climate Change to be held late next year, based on the
results of this summer's Group of Eight (G-8) summit in the Hokkaido
town of Toyako.

Meanwhile, Aso, given a substantial increase in the number of U.N.
members, will suggest the need to reform the U.N. Security Council.
In addition, he will also call on U.N. members to support Japan's
bid for a permanent seat on the UNSC.

11) UN African Union meeting: Japan stresses its achievements

ASAHI (Page 2) (Full)
September 24, 2008

The UN on September 22 held a high-level meeting to confer on
African development. Responding to Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's
call, representatives of about 140 countries, mainly leaders of
African nations, took part in the meeting. Former Prime Minister
Mori attended the meeting from Japan. He reported on the results of
the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development
(TICAD4), which Japan hosted.

At the outset of the meeting, Ban cited the adverse effects of
global warming and the food crisis on the development of African
nations. He stressed, "If the situation is left unattended, no
country will be able to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs)." He sought the implementation of the G-8's commitment made
at the Gleneagles Summit in Britain to double their government's ODA
to Africa by 2010.

Former Prime Minister Mori underscored, "Japan released a set of aid
measures at TICAD4 designed to double ODA to Africa and investment
by the private sector." Citing the dispatch of a government/private
sector delegation for the promotion of trade with and investment to
Africa this month, Mori stressed Japan's efforts to extend aid that
meets the real needs of Africa.

In response, Tanzanian President Kikwete, chair of the African
Union, expressed gratitude for aid from the G-8. However, he
complained that the pace of the increase in ODA is slow. He called
for cooperation, saying, "It will be too late unless they deliver on
their promise now." The meeting closed, adopting a political
statement noting the need to strengthen aid to Africa.


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