Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 10/22/08

DE RUEHKO #2953/01 2960830
P 220830Z OCT 08




E.O. 12958: N/A



(1) Kyodo News poll on Aso cabinet, political parties (Tokyo

(2) Yomiuri-Waseda poll on political mindset: Public wavering over
choice for government (Yomiuri)

(3) Editorial: Legislation to extend refueling mission; More
substantive discussion sought (Asahi)

(4) Editorial - Refueling bill; DPJ's security policy swaying

(5) Preparation for Nov. 30 Lower House election underway: Premier
hesitant to dissolve Lower House due to financial crisis, stressing
priority of economic stimulus measures (Yomiuri)

(6) Prime Minister Aso on the comfort-women issue: The government
will follow the Kono Statement (Mainichi)

(7) Where will Prime Minister Aso go tonight? Eats at exclusive
restaurants and drinks at exclusive private bars (Asahi)

(8) Aso diplomacy has failed (Shukan Asahi)


(1) Kyodo News poll on Aso cabinet, political parties

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
October 20, 2008

Questions & Answers
(Figures shown in percentage. Parentheses denote the results of the
last survey conducted Sept. 24-25.)

Q: Do you support the Aso cabinet?

Yes 42.5 (48.6)
No 39.0 (32.9)
Don't know (D/K) + no answer (N/A) 18.5 (18.5)

Q: (Only for those who answered "yes" to the previous question)
What's the primary reason for your approval of the Aso cabinet? Pick
only one from among those listed below.

The prime minister is trustworthy 19.6 (15.4)
Because it's a coalition cabinet of the Liberal Democratic Party and
the New Komeito 6.1 (4.9)
The prime minister has leadership ability 9.6 (16.6)
Something can be expected of its economic policies 14.5 (17.6)
Something can be expected of its foreign policies 3.7 (1.9)
Something can be expected of its political reforms 1.9 (4.8)
Something can be expected of its tax reforms 1.8 (1.7)
Something can be expected of its administrative reforms 3.8 (1.7)
There's no other appropriate person (for prime minister) 37.6
Other answers (O/A) 0.3 (1.8)
D/K+N/A 1.1 (1.7)

Q: (Only for those who answered "no" to the first question) What's

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the primary reason for your disapproval of the Aso cabinet? Pick
only one from among those listed below.

The prime minister is untrustworthy 8.5 (11.4)
Because it's a coalition cabinet of the Liberal Democratic Party and
the New Komeito 16.2 (20.8)
The prime minister lacks leadership ability 5.9 (5.3)
Nothing can be expected of its economic policies 22.6 (14.9)
Nothing can be expected of its foreign policies 4.2 (1.2)
Nothing can be expected of its political reforms 14.8 (13.6)
Nothing can be expected of its tax reforms 3.9 (5.3)
Nothing can be expected of its administrative reforms 6.9 (8.7)
Don't like the prime minister's personal character 13.2 (14.0)
O/A 2.5 (2.2)
D/K+N/A 1.3 (2.6)

Q: The fiscal 2008 supplementary budget has passed the Diet. There
is an opinion saying the government should further issue
deficit-covering bonds and compile a large-scale extra budget. Do
you support the idea of issuing deficit-covering bonds to boost the
nation's economy?

Yes 24.2
No 56.2
D/K+N/A 19.6

Q: What do you think about the new healthcare insurance system for
those aged 75 and over?

Call off the new system and restore the original system and then
introduce a new system 46.6
Maintain the current system 11.1
D/K+N/A 2.8

Q: The House of Representatives' current membership is up until
September next year. When would you like an election to be held for
the House of Representatives?

November 31.6
At the end of this year or at the beginning of next year 5.2
Around spring after the budget for next fiscal year pas passed the
Diet 29.8
Before the term expires in September next year 26.6
D/K+N/A 6.8

Q: What do you consider when voting in the next election for the
House of Representatives? Pick only one.

Social security, such as pension and healthcare systems 33.0
Economic measures, job security 26.5
Fiscal reconstruction, tax reform 17.5
Civil service reform 8.7
Diplomacy, national security 3.1
Politics and money 8.3
O/A 0.2
D/K+N/A 2.7

Q: Would you like the present LDP-led coalition government to
continue, or would you otherwise like it to be replaced with a
DPJ-led coalition government?

LDP-led coalition government 38.3 (38.1)

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DPJ-led coalition government 43.0 (43.8)
D/K+N/A 18.7 (18.1)

Q: Which political party are you going to vote for in the next House
of Representatives election in your proportional representation

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 32.7 (34.9)
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) 35.9 (34.8)
New Komeito (NK) 5.0 (5.7)
Japanese Communist Party (JCP) 3.2 (2.7)
Social Democratic Party (SDP or Shaminto) 1.5 (1.2)
People's New Party (PNP or Kokumin Shinto) 0.8 (0.4)
Reform Club (RC or Kaikaku Kurabu) 0.2
New Party Nippon (NPN or Shinto Nippon) 0.2 (0.2)
Other political parties, groups --- (---)
D/K+N/A 20.5 (20.1)

Q: When comparing Prime Minister Taro Aso and DPJ President Ichiro
Ozawa, which one do you think is more appropriate for prime

Taro Aso 52.3 (53.9)
Ichiro Ozawa 27.2 (29.4)
D/K+N/A 20.5 (16.7)

Q: Which political party do you support?

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 36.2 (37.0)
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) 26.8 (28.3)
New Komeito (NK) 4.7 (4.7)
Japanese Communist Party (JCP) 2.7 (2.4)
Social Democratic Party (SDP or Shaminto) 1.1 (1.2)
People's New Party (PNP or Kokumin Shinto) 0.4 (0.3)
Reform Club (RC or Kaikaku Kurabu) 0.1
New Party Nippon (NPN or Shinto Nippon) 0.1 (0.2)
Other political parties, groups --- (---)
None 24.4 (23.1)
D/K+N/A 3.5 (2.8)

Polling methodology: The survey was conducted Oct. 18-19 across the
nation by Kyodo News Service on a computer-aided random digit
dialing (RDD) basis. Among randomly generated telephone numbers,
those actually for household use with one or more eligible voters
totaled 1,474. Answers were obtained from 1,030 persons.

(2) Yomiuri-Waseda poll on political mindset: Public wavering over
choice for government

YOMIURI (Page 15) (Full)
October 19, 2008

The Yomiuri Shimbun and Waseda University conducted a joint public
opinion survey across the nation, and the survey found that the
nation's voting population was in a growing fret over politics now.
People were feeling uneasy or disappointed in their images of the
two major political parties, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and
the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto). The
voter appears unable to make a positive choice over whether to
entrust the LDP or the DPJ with the future of Japan.

Questions & Answers

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(Figures shown in percentage)

Q: Do you think it's all right to entrust the DPJ with the reins of

Yes 35.5
Somewhat think so 22.7
Don't very much think so 18.4
No 19.9
No answer (N/A) 3.5

Q: Do you look forward to the LDP in the future? How about the DPJ?

Yes 20.5 20.0
Somewhat yes 28.0 30.1
Not very much 29.8 30.5
No 19.8 17.1
N/A 1.9 2.2

Q: Do you feel uneasy about the LDP in the future? How about the

Yes 39.5 32.5
Somewhat yes 42.6 42.0
Not very much 10.8 15.2
No 5.1 6.3
N/A 2.0 4.0

Q: Are you satisfied with the LDP in the past? How about the DPJ?

Yes 3.4 1.7
Somewhat yes 16.9 14.9
Not very much 39.0 41.3
No 39.4 37.5
N/A 1.3 4.5

Q: Are you disappointed at the LDP in the past? How about the DPJ?

Yes 31.0 20.4
Somewhat yes 37.7 29.5
Not very much 19.2 30.1
No 9.5 12.6
N/A 2.7 7.4

Q: Do you think the LDP is competent to hold the reins of
government? How about the DPJ?

Yes 28.4 11.6
Somewhat yes 38.7 34.4
Not very much 16.6 26.9
No 12.5 20.5
N/A 3.9 6.6

Q: What's your impression of Prime Minister Aso?

Good 17.6
Good to a certain degree 39.4

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Bad to a certain degree 26.5
Bad 9.5
N/A 7.0

Q: What's your impression of DPJ President Ozawa?

Good 7.9
Good to a certain degree 26.7
Bad to a certain degree 37.1
Bad 21.7
N/A 6.6

Q: When comparing Prime Minister Aso and DPJ President Ozawa, which
one do you think would be more appropriate for prime minister?

Minister Aso 57.1
DPJ President Ozawa 26.2
N/A 16.6

Q: Are you satisfied with the next election for the House of

Very interested 46.3
Somewhat interested 34.1
Not very interested 14.9
Not interested at all 4.2
N/A 0.4

Q: Which political party are you going to vote for in the next
election for the House of Representatives in your proportional
representation bloc?

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 31.6
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) 24.8
New Komeito (NK) 3.1
Japanese Communist Party (JCP) 2.1
Social Democratic Party (SDP or Shaminto) 1.6
People's New Party (PNP or Kokumin Shinto) 0.4
Reform Club (RC or Kaikaku Kurabu) ---
New Party Nippon (NPN or Shinto Nippon) 0.1
Other political parties 0.1
Undecided 35.8
N/A 0.4

Q: Would you like an LDP-led coalition government to come into
office after the next election for the House of Representatives, or
would you otherwise like a DPJ-led coalition government?

LDP-led coalition government 47.3
DPJ-led coalition government 36.1
Other answers (O/A) 1.1
N/A 15.4

Q: What form of government do you think is most desirable to resolve
issues facing Japan?

A coalition government of the LDP and the DPJ 19.6
A coalition government of opposition parties centering on the DPJ
The LDP's single-party government 9.3
The DPJ's single-party government 6.3
A coalition government centering on the LDP and the DPJ 18.7

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A new framework of government with the ruling and opposition parties
realigned 12.8
O/A 0.2
N/A 12.1

Polling methodology
Date of survey: Oct. 4-5.
Subjects of survey: 3,000 persons chosen from among all eligible
voters throughout the country (at 250 locations on a stratified
two-stage random-sampling basis).
Method of implementation: Door-to-door visits for face-to-face
Number of valid respondents: 1,787 persons (59.6 PERCENT )
Breakdown of respondents: Male-48 PERCENT , female-52 PERCENT ;
persons in their 20s-10 PERCENT , 30s-16 PERCENT , 40s-16 PERCENT ,
50s-21 PERCENT , 60s-21 PERCENT , 70 and over-17 PERCENT .
(Note) The total percentage does not become 100 PERCENT in some
cases due to rounding.

(3) Editorial: Legislation to extend refueling mission; More
substantive discussion sought

ASAHI (Page 3) (Full)
October 21, 2008

The Lower House panel passed legislation to extend the refueling
mission by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) in the
Indian Ocean for another year. The Upper House is likely to reject
the legislation, but it will highly likely be enacted by the end of
the month, with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) agreeing to
reject it promptly, so that a second vote can be held in the Lower
House for swift approval by a majority vote of more than two-thirds
of the members.

Probably because such a goal was foreseeable from the beginning, the
two days of committee deliberations failed to have much in-depth
discussion as to what steps the international community should take,
or what contribution Japan should make to stabilize the situation in
Afghanistan and control international terrorism.

The Lower House panel was a good opportunity to discuss recognition
of the current situation and diplomacy, since the DPJ's
counterproposals were also on the table. The deliberations were
unsatisfactory, having spent more time on legal interpretation and
the scandal at the Ministry of Defense (MOD), rather than on how to
assess the current situation in Afghanistan. There was not even the
slightest impression given that the two sides were having a
public-relations war.

The ruling party rebutted the DPJ's argument that the refueling
mission was unconstitutional. DPJ President Ozawa has long
expounded his own view that the constraint placed by Article 9 of
the Constitution shall not apply to an endorsement by the United
Nation. The ruling party demanded an answer to a question as to
whether the Self Defense Force (SDF) is allowed to use force in
foreign countries with a U.N. resolution alone.

Mr. Ozawa's argument has been rejected by even lawmakers in the DPJ.
The ruling party questioned the unresolved points in the argument.
In the end, the DPJ avoided giving a direct answer and just stated
in an abstract form that the party's legal concept is different.

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The ruling party further pointed out that the SDF can not virtually
do anything if its deployment to provide aid for reconstruction is
subject to a cease fire agreement, as in the DPJ's proposal.

Meanwhile, the DPJ demanded disclosure of information on the names
of refueled foreign vessels and addressed the incident involving the
loss of life of an MSDF member during combat training, employing a
tactic to highlight the Defense Ministry's tendency to cover up

The DPJ also made a proposal for the deployment of SDF ships to
counter piracy off the coast of Somalia in Africa. The proposal is
yet to become an official party policy, but it was probably a tactic
to avoid being viewed as passive in the area of international

A question as to what role Japan should play in the war on terror
actually came up, going beyond the controversy over the refueling
issue. Discussion should have been seen as necessary here on the
changes over the past year in the international situation, such as
political instability in Pakistan that receives the most amount of
refueling assistance. Why was not any effort to do so made, such as
calling in a specialist to give unsworn testimony?

By what date will the bill be adopted? What view would be
advantageous to use in the general election campaign? Only such
inward-looking motives were emphasized. Even though Japan has been
elected to a nonpermanent seat on the U.N. Security Council starting
next year, there has been too little debate from a global
perspective appropriate for the country's role. We urge the Upper
House to engage in more substantive discussion.

(4) Editorial - Refueling bill; DPJ's security policy swaying

SANKEI (Page 2) (Full)
October 22, 2008

A bill amending the new Antiterrorism Special Measures Law to extend
the refueling mission by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force
passed the Lower House with a majority of votes from the ruling
party. The Upper House begins deliberations on Oct. 22 and is
expected to vote down the bill, but the Lower House will likely
repass the bill into law in an overriding second vote on Oct. 30.

The worst-case scenario of unilaterally pulling out of the war on
terror may be avoided, but both ruling and opposing parties should
discuss the fundamental issue as to whether Japan is to only provide
refueling aid and, furthermore, how Japan can be more involved in
promoting peace and stability in the international community.

A bill on the Special Measure Law to support reconstruction of
Afghanistan proposed by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was
voted down with a majority of votes from the ruling coalition, the
Japanese Communist Party (JCP), and the Social Democratic Party
(SDP). The bill limits the deployment of the Self-Defense Force
(SDF) to the area over which a conflict cessation agreement has been
reached between the local government and armed groups. However,
this bill can not be applied to reality, since the DPJ
representative introducing the bill admitted, while giving answers
in the session, that there is no such area at present. Though
aiming at taking office, the DPJ fails to fulfill its responsibility
of proposing a realistic counterproposal to the refueling mission

TOKYO 00002953 008 OF 014

that it opposes.

However, the DPJ proposal calls for the enactment of legislation to
proactively contribute to the anti-terrorist efforts of the
international community. The measure would contain an article that
would allow the use of weapons "when absolutely necessary to control
resistance," thus brining Japan's restriction on the use of weapons
closer to the international standard. The proposal could serve as a
draft of a permanent law to respond to every situation, instead of
ad hoc deployments of the SDF. The ruling party should draw on it.

Meanwhile, the discussion at the Lower House revealed the DPJ's
security policy is disorganized.

DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa referred to the refueling mission at a
press conference on Oct. 14, by saying "We can't cooperate (in the
refueling mission) because it violates the Constitution of Japan."
However, the DPJ representative introducing the bill left some room
for the extension of the mission by insisting that (the refueling
mission) would violate the Constitution only if it was diverted to
operations in Iraq. A DPJ lawmaker who raised questions during the
session said that there are various opinions in the DPJ about the
propriety of the refueling mission.

In addition, following Mr. Ozawa's statement that the U.N.
peace-keeping activities ultimately provide collateral to Japan's
security, Prime Minister Taro Aso criticized his assertion by saying
that a national security can not be entrusted to the U.N., which is
now influenced by the policies of a few countries. Mr. Ozawa's
U.N.-supremacy view is debatable even in the DPJ. This indicates
the party discussion on the security policy, the foundation of a
nation, is half-baked.

Mr. Ozawa should make detailed explanations at debate among party
leaders and on other occasions, otherwise he will not increase the
sense of trust in his party.

(5) Preparation for Nov. 30 Lower House election underway: Premier
hesitant to dissolve Lower House due to financial crisis, stressing
priority of economic stimulus measures

YOMIURI (Page 4) (Abridged slightly)
October 22, 2008

Prime Minister Aso is becoming nervous about the worsening economic
situation in the wake of the financial crisis gripping the U.S. and
Europe. He is making preparations with a scenario of dissolving the
Lower House as early as the end of this month, officially announcing
the election on November 18 and holding it on the 30th. However, he
appears to be increasingly concerned that the economic situation
would hurt the ruling camp in the election. Some observers believe
the prime minister wants to put off the Lower House election because
of the financial crisis.

Calls for postponing election among aides

The observation that the prime minister is hesitant about dissolving
the Lower House at the end of this month spread across political
circles on October 20. He attended the birthday party for the
Empress that day. During the party, he told another participant, a
lawmaker who is close to him: "When the U.S. economy is shaky, Japan
must support the global economy. There will be a political vacuum in

TOKYO 00002953 009 OF 014

the U.S. between the presidential election on November 4 and the
inauguration of the new president in January." The rumor that the
Lower House election might not be held until after New Year's was
spread around through a person who heard this remark.

The prime minister again referred to the political vacuum that is
expected to occur in the U.S. at a meeting of the Taro-kai - a group
of lawmakers close to him, such as Internal Affairs Minister Kunio
Hatoyama. They met on the evening of the 20th. He reportedly said,
"The global economy will worsen without fail. We must deal with this
problem now."

The prime minister, who is sensitive to the movements of economic
indexes, ordered his secretary to tell him stock price movements on
the Tokyo Stock Exchange every 30 minutes, even during Diet
deliberations. One aide revealed: "Since the prime minister has many
supporters among small to medium-sized company managers, he is
collecting information through his own channels. It appears that he
has a heightened sense of crisis that the real economy is worsening
at a pace faster than expected."

There is a view that another reason that the prime minister is
hesitant about dissolving the Lower House is that many of his aides
at the Kantei are urging him to delay the election. As a matter of
fact, Finance Minister and State Minister for Financial Policy
Nakagawa and Vice Election Committee Chairman Suga during a dinner
with the prime minister said, "Now is not the time for dissolving
the Lower House."

Going round and round in circles

Chances are that if the prime minister postpones the expected Nov.
30 Lower House election option to a later date, he might become
effectively unable to exercise his right to dissolve the Lower

A Lower House election in December would hamper the annual tax code
revision and the compilation of the fiscal 2009 budget. If it is
held at year's end or early next year, the start of budget
deliberations in the regular Diet session early next year could slip
to a later date, necessitating the compilation of a stopgap budget.
Should that occur, Prime Minister Aso would come under fire as
having failed to live up to his slogan that he attaches importance
to the economy. If he postpones the election to a date after Nov.
30, he would be unable to dissolve the Lower House until the fiscal
2009 budget is approved next spring. In that case, the prime
minister would have no leverage over the political situation, such
as using his right to dissolve the Lower House, according to a
senior member of the Ibuki faction.

The DPJ is now cooperative toward his steering of the Diet in
pursuit of dissolution of the Lower House. However, it is likely to
shift to a confrontational stance if Aso puts off the Nov. 30
scenario. Conflict between the LDP and the New Komeito is also
certain to increase, since the coalition partner is seeking an early
dissolution of the Diet.

The ruling parties want to use an additional economic stimulus
package as their sales point in campaign for the next Lower House
election. The package will be filled with pork-barrel largesse, an
early dissolution of the Lower House having been taken into
consideration. As such, there is concern that if the year-end annual

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tax code revision and the compilation of the fiscal 2009 budget
start and discussions on specific funding sources begin, there would
appear discrepancies with the government's previous policy.

A deep-rooted view is that since the economy is expected to worsen
further, delaying the timing of dissolution of the Lower House would
be disadvantageous to the ruling camp. LDP Secretary General Hosoda
and Mikio Aoki, former chairman of the LDP caucus in the Upper
House, stand firm on their projection that in the end, the prime
minister will reach a decision that he has no choice but to hold the
election on November 30.

(6) Prime Minister Aso on the comfort-women issue: The government
will follow the Kono Statement

Mainichi (Internet ed.) (Full)
October 15, 2008

Prime Minister Taro Aso was asked in the Upper House Budget
Committee on Oct. 15 about the Kono Statement of 1993 that
recognizes and apologizes for the former Japanese army's involvement
in the so-called comfort-women issue. He said, "The basic position
of the government today, as well, follows the (Kono) Statement." He
was replying to Democratic Socialist Party head Miho Fukushima.

(7) Where will Prime Minister Aso go tonight? Eats at exclusive
restaurants and drinks at exclusive private bars

ASAHI (Page 4) (Abridged slightly)
October 22, 2008

Prime Minister Taro Aso will mark one month in office on the 24th.
The 68-year-old prime minister has gone almost every night to
restaurants and bars in hotels. He ends his day at a hotel bar. He
is very particular in his lifestyle. However, it is unclear whom he
goes along with.

Aso informally meets someone else

Aso had dinner with Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Jun Matsumoto on
the 8th, 9th and 10th.

According to the prime minister's schedule on Oct. 10, Aso arrived
at the Japanese restaurant Yamazato in the Hotel Okura at 7:11 p.m.
to have dinner with Matsumoto; and he arrived at 10:03 p.m. at the
hotel's Orchid Bar to talk with Matsumoto.

The prime minister's schedule for the night is given to reporters
attached to the prime minister around the time when Aso leaves the
Prime Minister's Official Residence (Kantei) after finishing his
official duties. Besides Matsumoto and Aso's secretaries, those who
accompanied Aso to restaurants and bars are lawmakers belonging to
the Aso faction and his office staff. Aso went out nine times so far
with Matsumoto, who is a Lower House member belonging to the Aso
faction and a close aide to the prime minister.

What do Aso and Matsumoto talk about every night? Naturally, Aso's
actions raise questions that he may be secretly meeting with
somebody else. However, since he uses exclusive private bars in
first-class hotels that have several entry doors, it is difficult to
find out who he is with.

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Those who had got together with Aso on the night when Aso reportedly
met Matsumoto were found. One of them said: "So as not to be seen by
reporters, I entered the hotel 40 minutes earlier than (the prime
minister) and left one hour after him." Appearing on an NTV program
on Oct. 12, a lawyer with close ties with Aso said: "I recently had
a drink with Mr. Aso."

It was officially announced that the prime minister dined with his
secretary at a Chinese restaurant in a Tokyo hotel on the night of
Oct. 16. But that night, Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, Minister
of State for Administrative Reform Akira Amari and Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP) Election Strategy Council Deputy Chairman
Yoshihide Suga came out from the restaurant after Aso had left the

Past prime ministers secretly invited guests to the Kantei and met
separately with other persons. Aso, however, has had meetings at
night more frequently than his predecessors. One of Aso's aides
said: "I am used as a dummy (in place of the people the prime
minister meets)."

Rhythm is important

On October 2, Aso was seen talking cheerfully with junior lawmakers
with a cigar in one hand at a restaurant on the second floor of a
multitenant building in Roppongi. A lawmaker joined the gathering
said: "We were talking nonsense 99 PERCENT of the time."

Is Aso trying to refresh his spirits after unwinding from his
official duty? A person close to Aso said: "The prime minister is
always in a state of tension. So he cannot go to sleep before he
smokes a cigar at the bar."

However, Aso kept the same lifestyle when he was a cabinet minister
or had no government position. Some in the LDP have criticized Aso,
with one saying: "It is not good for him to go to a bar every night
ahead of the general election."

A person who has known Aso for a long time said:

"He does not want to change his rhythm even since becoming prime
minister. He looks back on the day at the end of a day while
listening to music at the bar. This rhythm is important for him.
What (the prime minister) is required are the achievements (of his

Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was criticized by some in the
ruling camp for frequently having meetings at night. This was one of
the reasons Mori lost momentum.

Number of Aso's meetings stands out

During the 28 days since taking office, Aso returned straight to his
private residence only four days, including the day he took office.
Excluding his overseas travel and dinner with the Emperor and
Empress, he went to 32 eating and drinking establishments in 21 days
in Tokyo. Of the 21 days, he went to both a restaurant and a bar 10

(8) Aso diplomacy has failed

SHUKAN ASAHI (WEEKLY ASAHI) (Abridged slightly)

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October 31, 2008

By Takashi Uesugi, journalist

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau
Director-General Akitaka Saiki is known as a hard-liner on North
Korea and is also regarded as one of the star diplomats because of
his gallant appearance. He normally does not make comments
antagonizing the media. What was in the article that prompted Saiki
to show strong emotions toward reporters?

Before a group of reporters covering MOFA, allegedly assembled for
an off-the-record session, Saiki said furiously: "Don't kid me!
Japan received a phone call directly from President Bush. Don't
write fake articles!" One of the attendants later said. "Mr. Saiki
was angry at Asahi and Yomiuri articles."

The headlines of the Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun articles that
enraged the star MOFA bureau chief read:

"Japan kept out of the loop -- A shock" (Asahi Oct. 12 morning

"Defeat of Japanese diplomacy" (Yomiuri Oct. 13 morning edition)

In June, the United States announced that it would remove North
Korea from its list of terrorism-sponsoring nations. The North had
been on the list since 1988. In reaction, the Japanese government
continued urging the United States not to delist the North.

For Japan, which is saddled with the abduction issue, to see the
United States, its ally, making concessions to North Korea has been
nothing but a nightmare. It would be a repetition of the nightmare
eight years ago.

In 2000, then Secretary of State Madeline Albright visited North
Korea and as a result, the antagonistic relationship between North
Korea and the United States eased. But that was only part of the
desperate effort of the Clinton administration in a lame duck stage
to score points on the diplomatic front.

As expected, the United States was eventually duped by North Korean
leader Kim Jong Il and ended up allowing the North to pursue a
nuclear development program.

The Japanese government, including Prime Minister Taro Aso, has been
giving consideration, possibly too much, to the United States so as
not to see the same nightmare repeated.

But the nightmare soon became a reality. On Saturday, October 11,
Prime Minister Aso was attending a Japan Junior Chamber of Commerce
meeting in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. At one point, Aso
had to excuse himself from the meeting to rush into another room.
The prime minister there had an emergency telephone conversation
with President George W. Bush. It was clear from the fact that the
prime minister was not accompanied by a MOFA secretary that the
telephone conversation was abruptly scheduled at 23:20 that day.

President Bush told Prime Minister Aso on the phone that the United
States would remove the North from its terrorism blacklist in 30
minutes. That was a real bolt out of the blue.

TOKYO 00002953 013 OF 014

The day before, on Oct. 10, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura
made the following comment in an impromptu interview: "The
government has not received any formal notice from the United States
that it would delist the North as a state sponsor of terrorism
before the end of October."

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, too, emphatically stated after a
telephone conversation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on
the same day that the delisting would not occur on the weekend,
exposing confidence in the Japan-U.S. alliance.

In reality, such U.S. news companies as AP and the New York Times
had reported for days that the delisting would occur before long.

But the Japanese government treated them as erroneous reports and
did not take them seriously. Behind that lies the Japanese
government's one-sided love of the United States and groundless

Prime Minister Aso defended the United States, while criticizing the
major opposition Democratic Party of Japan. He said in his policy
speech: "We hear statements from various senior members of the DPJ
that Japan should shift the pivot of its diplomacy from the
Japan-U.S. alliance to the United Nations. I believe that the
importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance for the security of Japan and
its people remains totally unchanged. (omitted) The Japan-U.S.
alliance and the UN-which should take precedence over the other? I
believe the DPJ has the responsibility to make its position clear to
the Japanese public and the world." Despite such a demonstration of
allegiance to the United States, Japan's "love," America, has
treated Tokyo coldly.

As a romance does not result in a happy ending with a sense of
honesty alone, diplomacy does not bear fruit with genuine feelings
alone. A senior MOFA official, while admitting a strategic mistake,
explained the government's inaccurate understanding of the United
States this way: "In view of Japan's contributions to the war on
terror in the form of refueling legislation and support for the U.S.
financial crisis, it was true that the government had a lax view
that the United States would not ignore Japan's wishes. There was a
changeover of the prime minister at a critical time, and the
political vacuum hurt."

The United States' response to South Korea was another nightmare for
Japan. A government official noted: "Japan received the notice 30
minutes before (the delisting), while South Korea was informed a day
before (the delisting). The truth seems that Japan's reaction was so
subdued that the United States forgot to notify it."

Is it really possible to forget about Japan?

Tokyo's reaction was, while the U.S. media repeatedly reported on
the forthcoming delisting and Seoul made many inquiries to
Washington. Shortly before the delisting, a meeting was held at
Kantei (Prime Minister's Official Residence) attended by Prime
Minister Aso. There Chief Cabinet Secretary Kawamura reportedly
said: "I believe President Bush did not directly say that. Only
low-level government officials are saying that, and chances are high
that people of such a level are saying that arbitrarily. Assistant
Secretary Hill has taken steps because he just wants to take

TOKYO 00002953 014 OF 014

Foreign Minister Nakasone's incompetence stands out

Why does the government not realize that this kind of arrogance and
poor awareness of the situation always results in the defeat of
Japanese diplomacy?

Finance Minister and Financial Services Minister Shoichi Nakagawa,
who visited the United States to attend the latest G-7 meeting of
finance ministers and central bank governors, asked Secretary of
State Rice not to delist the North. His request on the improper
occasion incurred Rice's displeasure.

Foreign Minister Nakasone, too, seems to have failed to read the
sign when he held a telephone conversation with Secretary Rice.

A senior MOFA official commented: "A cabinet minister as incompetent
as Foreign Minister Nakasone is rare. Government officials always
have to repeat their lectures many times over and he still does not
understand. He is helpless. Just riding on his father's coattail, he
has never spoken using words of his own. It was just not possible
for him to get the message across in his talks with Rice."

An aforementioned government official also noted: "The United States
thinks it informed Japan, but Japan does not think it received
expiation. The telephone conversation with Bush lasted only 10
minutes. Excluding the interpretation, they discussed the matter
only for five minutes or so. Whether (Prime Minister Aso) was able
to convey Japan's discontent to the United States in that short
conversation is questionable."

Prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda abruptly walked off the
job and created political vacuums. Japan's international credibility
is in ruins.

The sudden disappearance of the chair of the G-8 summit from the
season of major diplomatic events, such as the UN General Assembly,
deserved to lose the credibility of the global community. An
American news agency Tokyo office reporter said matter-of-factly:
"It has hardly been reported in Japan, but no country in the world,
not to mention the Group of Seven, now expects Japan to take the
initiative in any area. Harboring the wrong idea, Japan seems to be
trying to become a world leader, but no country is expecting
anything of Japan and they really don't want to see Japan do
anything unnecessary."

To begin with, the United States designated terrorism-sponsoring
countries based on its own law. The optimism and weakness of Japan's
foreign policy that fluctuates between hope and despair and is
easily affected by the delisting of such a country are helpless.

The Aso administration holds optimistic views about the United
States. Regardless of Japan's efforts to pass the refueling law, buy
U.S. bonds, and play up the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance,
the United States still forgot about Japan.

Japanese diplomacy has not failed; it simply does not exit.


© Scoop Media

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