Cablegate: Japanese Morning Press Highlights 11/18/08
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P 170119Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 09 TOKYO 003166
DEPT FOR E, P, EB, EAP/J, EAP/P, EAP/PD, PA;
WHITE HOUSE/NSC/NEC; JUSTICE FOR STU CHEMTOB IN ANTI-TRUST DIVISION;
TREASURY/OASIA/IMI/JAPAN; DEPT PASS USTR/PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE;
SECDEF FOR JCS-J-5/JAPAN,
DASD/ISA/EAPR/JAPAN; DEPT PASS ELECTRONICALLY TO USDA
FAS/ITP FOR SCHROETER; PACOM HONOLULU FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY ADVISOR;
CINCPAC FLT/PA/ COMNAVFORJAPAN/PA.
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP KMDR KPAO PGOV PINR ECON ELAB JA
SUBJECT: JAPANESE MORNING PRESS HIGHLIGHTS 11/18/08
1) Japan's economy in recession: Government expects zero GDP growth
this fiscal year, greatly revising downward earlier forecast
2) Prime Minister Aso returns in high spirits from G-20 summit to
find economy sinking deeper into recession and no means to counter
it (Tokyo Shimbun)
3) With polls plummeting, the economy in recession, ruling Liberal
Democratic Party moving away from early Diet dissolution to a spring
or later scenario (Yomiuri)
4) Extension of Diet now seems inevitable, as Ozawa-driven
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) breaks agreement to allow
anti-terror bill to pass on time (Asahi)
5) Aso finds himself further in the lurch as own party begins to
criticize his handling of Diet affairs, centered on the second
supplementary budget (Mainichi)
6) DPJ suddenly switches to attack mode in the Diet (Mainichi)
7) Other opposition parties criticize DPJ head Ozawa for shifting
Diet tactics suddenly (Nikkei)
8) Ozawa in meeting with Aso yesterday allegedly said he would
resign his Diet seat if the second supplementary budget was not
Defense and security affairs:
9) Maritime Self-Defense Force trains with Navy carrier George
Washington in southern waters (Asahi)
10) Despite government ban order, then ASDF chief Tamogami last
month allowed jet-mountable cluster bombs to be displayed in parade
11) Iraqi government in negotiation SOFA with the U.S. used
U.S.-Japan SOFA as a model (Asahi)
12) Japan slips to 98th place in world ranking of gender equality
1) Zero growth for fiscal 2008: Government likely to make
substantial downward revision
MAINICHI (Page 1) (Full)
November 18, 2008
The government on November 17 started looking into the possibility
of making a substantial downward revision to its projection for
economic growth for fiscal 2008. This is because it is now unlikely
for the economy to achieve the growth rate estimate projected in
July (1.3 PERCENT in real terms, 0.3 PERCENT in nominal terms)
with gross domestic product (GDP) for the July-September quarter,
released the same day, marking a second consecutive quarterly
contraction for the first time in seven years. The government will
formally revise the projection in its economic outlook to be
compiled in December. The likelihood is strong that since both
domestic and foreign demands have further cooled, following the
worsening global economy due to the escalation of the financial
crisis originating in the U.S., real growth for fiscal 2008 will be
revised to almost zero.
A further decline in the global economy, mainly in the U.S. and
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Europe, is expected in 2009. There is a strong possibility of the
government making a downward revision to the outlook for the
Japanese economy for fiscal 2009 from 1.6 PERCENT , projected in
July, to the 0 PERCENT level.
In connection with the GDP figures released on the 17th, a senior
Cabinet Office official explained, "Since the economic climate has
changed since, it is imperative to make a downward revision to a
growth outlook for fiscal 2008." The Bank of Japan in its Outlook
Report has made a significant downward revision to its outlook for
the Japanese economy's real growth from the mid-1 PERCENT level to
0.1 PERCENT for fiscal 2008 and to 0.6 PERCENT for fiscal 2009.
The government is expected to follow suit with a revision in
December. The substantial downward revision to the government
outlook for economic growth is bound to put a dent in the state's
The likelihood is that unless the economy fully recovers, the
government's goal of moving the primary balance into the black by
fiscal 2011 will become unachievable.
2) Economic recovery nowhere in sight
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Full)
November 18, 2008
Prime Minister Taro Aso during the recent emergency summit meeting
(financial summit) sent a message on "Aso for the economy" to the
world. However, as if to dampen his buoyant mood at the summit, the
nation's gross domestic product released by the Cabinet Office on
November 17 turned out to be in negative territory. The government
was forced to declare that the economy has taken a downward turn.
The prime minister, who gives top priority to economic recovery,
will continue to face challenges in managing his administration.
Commenting on the financial summit, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo
Kawamura proudly said, "Japan has set a direction that will go down
in history. It is significant that momentum to address the current
financial crisis is surging. The prime minister has displayed his
presence to the fullest extent."
Aides to the prime minister hoped his success at the summit would
lead to a rise in cabinet support ratings. However, when he returned
home, the prime minister faced the government announcement that the
economy has taken a downward turn. Commenting on the GDP marking
negative growth for two consecutive quarters, Kawamura said, "The
future of the economy will be even harsher. We must pay attention to
the risks that will pose."
The prime minister is determined to do his utmost to put the economy
on a recovery track through expanded domestic demand. However, it is
not an easy job. The government has adopted a package of economic
stimulus measures worth 11.7 trillion yen in late August and an
additional package worth 26.9 trillion yen in late October. However,
whether they will help shore up the economy is unclear.
The government and ruling parties fell into confusion over measures
incorporated in the package, including an income restriction for a
flat-sum cash benefit plan and the transfer of 1 trillion yen drawn
from the freed up special road-construction funds to local
governments. It remains unclear whether will be a second
supplementary budget, which is designed to finance the packages,
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submitted to this Diet session.
When he took office, the prime minister said, "It will take three
years for the economy to fully recover." Now that he has decided to
put off a Lower House dissolution, the prime minister will face the
test of achieving concrete results from the economic stimulus
package. There is not much time left for "Aso for the economy."
3) Cabinet support ratings falling: Economy shows downturn: LDP
mulling Lower House dissolution next spring or later
YOMIURI (Page 3) (Full)
November 18, 2008
Although the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is calling for an early
Lower House dissolution, the government and the ruling camp are
showing no indications of responding to its demand.
Prime Minister Aso during his stay in Washington on November 14-15
hinted to reporters that he planned to give top priority to passage
of the fiscal 2009 budget within the current fiscal year and then
would dissolve the Lower House next spring or later. An increasing
number of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers now favor this
timetable. Referring to Lower House dissolution, Secretary General
Hosoda in a speech given on the 17th in Nagoya City underscored: "In
my view, given the current economic situation, Lower House
dissolution will not take place before next spring. It is logical to
consider the timing when Diet affairs are settled for the time,
beginning with passage of the fiscal 2009 budget bill."
The economy has taken a downward turn. Cabinet support ratings are
continuing to plummet.
Under such circumstances, there is strong skepticism in the LDP
regarding whether it has a chance to win, if a Lower House election
were held now. Concerning DPJ President Ozawa's latest (hard-line)
tactic, some lawmakers take the view that they must not respond to
his provocative approach, because if the DPJ tries to aggressively
control the Diet, public criticism will be directed at it. However,
it is also true that dissatisfaction with the prime minister is
lingering in the LDP, because his sole attention is to the economy,
the future prospects of which remain unclear.
The stance of the New Komeito, which is only worried about the Tokyo
Metropolitan Assembly election next summer, is that it is desirable
to set a date for a Lower House election that allows a certain time
interval from that event. Concerning the timing for the Lower House
election, one senior LDP official on the 17th noted, "There will not
be a double election of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election and
the Lower House election."
4) Diet extension inevitable; DPJ to renege on agreement to take
ASAHI (Top play) (Excerpts)
November 18, 2008
Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa held talks with
Prime Minister Taro Aso (president of the Liberal Democratic Party)
at the Prime Minister's Office last night and sought the
presentation of a second supplementary budget to the Diet in the
current session. In response to Aso's unwillingness to give a clear
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answer, the DPJ has adopted a policy course to scrap an agreement
reached between the ruling and opposition camps to take a vote in
the Upper House on a bill amending the refueling special measures
law before the current Diet session ends on Nov. 30 and to put off
an Upper House vote for the time being if the government fails to
submit a second supplementary budget. Given the difficulty for bills
amending the refueling special measures law and the Financial
Function Strengthening Law to clear the Diet in the current session,
an extension of the session now seems inevitable. Also linked to the
timeframe for submitting a second supplementary budget, the session
is likely to fall into confusion.
The first Aso-Ozawa meeting took place for about half an hour at the
request of the DPJ.
In the meeting, Ozawa pressed Aso to present a second supplementary
budget, saying: "You have not called a general election, saying that
the economy is more important than the election. The current
situation is strange in view of your logic." In response, the prime
minister simply said: "We are in the middle of efforts to submit a
budget. I cannot say anything more at this stage."
In response to Aso's elusive answer about a second supplementary
budget, the DPJ has decided to renege on its agreement to take a
vote on the refueling legislation at the Upper House Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee on Nov. 18. DPJ Upper House Diet Affairs
Committee Chairman Susumu Yanase conveyed the decision to his LDP
counterpart Seiji Suzuki. In a press conference after the meeting,
Ozawa explained: "This does not mean that we will boycott
deliberations. We would like to deal with the situation by
consulting with other opposition parties in the belief that
deliberations must be carried out as necessary."
The government and the ruling coalition have tried to coordinate
views not to extend the session on the assumption that the bills
amending the refueling legislation and the financial function
strengthening law will get Diet approval in the current session. But
witnessing the DPJ's shift to a hard-line stance yesterday, a person
close to the prime minister said: "An extension of the refueling
mission is an international pledge, and if the DPJ boycotts
deliberations, the Diet session would have to be extended."
Meanwhile, Aso said to reporters: "(Whether or not to extend the
Diet session) would not be determined until the very end of the
current session." Nevertheless, for getting important bills enacted,
extending the session seems inevitable.
Aso expressed wariness about the DPJ's possible attempt to prolong
deliberations following the presentation of a second supplementary
budget. But Ozawa emphatically said in the meeting: "I promise,
taking responsibility as leader, to conduct deliberations from a
commonsense standpoint and reach a conclusion in the Diet." After
the meeting, Aso implied to reporters that the government might
submit a second supplementary budget to the current session on the
condition that the DPJ take a vote on it at an early date, saying:
"It is one idea to get the supplementary budget (enacted) in the
The LDP is still alarmed, with one leader saying, "What Mr. Ozawa
said does not ensure anything." But there has appeared a possibility
to submit the budget to the current session, with a person close to
Aso saying: "There is no reason not to present the budget."
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5) Prime minister in difficult position over whether to submit
second extra budget in current Diet session
MAINICHI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
November 18, 2008
In meeting with Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa
yesterday, Prime Minister Taro Aso stopped short of mentioning
whether the government would submit in the current Diet session a
second fiscal 2008 extraordinary budget bill that would include
fiscal resources for additional economic stimulus measures.
Coordination in the government ran into trouble over a fixed-amount
cash handout program, a key element in the second extra budget.
Given this, difficult deliberations on the program are expected. But
if the government decides to delay the submission of the bill,
questions might be raised about the government's pledge to give
priority to boosting the economy. Under this situation, Aso has been
under intense pressure to make a hard decision.
In the party head talks, Ozawa insisted that the second
supplementary budget bill be submitted during the current Diet
session, but Aso responded to Ozawa with this question: "Will (the
DPJ) agree to deliberate on the bill? Will the party agree to take a
vote on the bill (at an early date)?" Ozawa replied: "Although we
will not be able to support the bill, I responsively promise as the
leader of the party to reach a conclusion in the Diet," but Aso just
responded: "The government will quickly lay out (the bill)."
When he visited Washington to attend the financial summit, Aso also
indicated his eagerness to submit a second extra budget during the
current Diet session, remarking: "I think it would be better to
submit the bill as quickly as possible." In the ruling camp,
however, the dominant view is that the bill should be submitted in
the next ordinary Diet session in January, so the prime minister now
finds it difficult to switch plans and submit the bill to the
A senior New Komeito member who was briefed about the contents of
the party head talks commented last night: "If the DPJ tries to
prolong deliberations by means of all-out resistance, the second
extra budget will also be affected." But some ruling party members
point out the prime minister's lack of leadership as one of the main
causes for the confusion over fixed-amount cash handouts. One member
grumbled: "Even if the government submits a bill during the current
Diet session, the bill will just be criticized by the opposition
bloc. It would be better to make a fresh start."
6) DPJ plunges into battle mood, set off by Aso's remark indicating
delay of Lower House dissolution to spring or later
MAINICHI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
November 18, 2008
In meeting with Prime Minister Taro Aso yesterday, Democratic Party
of Japan (DPJ) President Ichiro Ozawa insisted that a second fiscal
2008 supplementary budget bill should be submitted during the
current Diet session. But Ozawa, complaining that Aso's reply was
unsatisfactory, has begun to take a confrontational stance. When the
DPJ was unable to find any effective means of attack with only two
weeks left until the end of the ongoing session, the prime minister
made a statement indicating a delay in the dissolution of the House
of Representatives to the spring or later. The main opposition party
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jumped at this remark and took advantage of the "error" made by the
other side only a few days before the planned vote on a bill
amending the New Antiterrorism Special Measures Law to extend the
Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.
But it is still uncertain whether the DPJ would be able to force the
government to dissolve the Lower House at an early date.
Ozawa told Aso during their talks yesterday: "You pledged to the
people that priority will be given to economic growth over an
election. You have yet to implement this pledge although only two
weeks are left until the end of the current Diet session. That is
beyond my comprehension." According to a participant, "Mr. Ozawa was
speaking about 90 PERCENT of the total amount of time used for the
Many DPJ members had taken the current Diet session as "a throwaway
match," seeing calls growing in the ruling camp for forgoing the
submission of a second extra budget in the current session. On Nov.
14, the DPJ accepted a request from the People's New Party and
decided to present a plan to start deliberations on a bill reviewing
postal privatization as the condition for voting on such key bills
as the refueling bill. But a senior House of Councillors member
said: "It is difficult to change the planned date of voting the bill
on the 18th."
Despite the circumstances, Ozawa stated in an executive meeting
yesterday morning: "The prime minister said that he would not
dissolve the Diet before April. I will ask him about that." This
remark completely changed the atmosphere. A senior member of the
Diet Affairs Committee said: "He might be aiming to urge the Aso
government to submit a second extra budget bill by having it extend
the current Diet session and then cause damage to the
7) JCP, SDP criticize Ozawa's response
NIKKEI (Page 2) (Full)
November 18, 2008
Japanese Communist Party Head of the Secretariat Tadayoshi Ichida in
a press conference yesterday criticized the fact that Democratic
Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa in his talks earlier in the
day with Prime Minister Taro Aso sought the presentation of a second
supplementary budget to the current Diet session by linking it to a
vote on a bill extending the refueling legislation. Ichida said:
"(The refueling legislation and the second supplementary budget) are
different in nature, so they must not be linked to each other in
discussion." Social Democratic Party head Mizuho Fukushima, too,
emphatically said to the press: "I cannot understand at all (Mr.
Ozawa's decision) to suddenly reject deliberations because the
government has not presented a second supplementary budget and to
reverse the agreement to take a vote."
8) Ozawa expressed willingness to give up his Diet seat?
YOMIURI (Page 4) (Full)
November 18, 2008
There was a discrepancy yesterday in explanations between the ruling
bloc and Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa on whether
or not he had said, "I am willing to give up my Diet seat," over the
handling of a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2008 in his
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talks with Prime Minister Taro Aso earlier in the day.
A ruling party leader quoted Ozawa as telling Aso: "We would like to
see the second supplementary budget presented to the current Diet
session. Our party will cooperate in taking a vote on it. If this
promise is broken, I will resign from the Diet." Another executive
said: "Mr. Ozawa said, 'I will stake my political life on it,' and
the prime minister asked, 'Are you sure?'"
Ozawa in a press conference after the meeting flatly denied the LDP
explanation, saying, "I didn't say such a thing." The truth is
shrouded in thick fog.
9) U.S. nuclear flattop conducts joint drill with MSDF
ASAHI (Page 34) (Full)
November 18, 2008
The USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier
that arrived at the U.S. Navy's Yokosuka base in September, showed
its aircraft's deck landing practice to the press yesterday.
Carrier-borne fighter-attack planes were lined up on the deck, and
they took off with a roar. The George Washington also received
supplies from a supply ship running alongside. "The exercise this
time will be a message to show that the United States will do its
best to maintain stability in the West Pacific," said George
Washington Carrier Strike Group Commander Richard Wren.
The George Washington is now on a training mission with the Maritime
Self-Defense Force in waters off the Nansei Shoto islands, including
exercises for anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare and also for
ballistic missile defense. This is the first time for the George
Washington to conduct such full-fledged training exercises in the
region since her deployment to the 7th Fleet. Participating in the
training exercises are about 25 vessels and 50 planes from the MSDF
and 14 vessels and about 70 planes from the U.S. Navy.
10) ASDF exhibited cluster bomb in troop review; Tamogami in charge
TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 1) (Full)
November 18, 2008
Even though the government has decided to scrap Japan's cluster
bombs, this paper has learned known that the Air Self-Defense Force
had exhibited a cluster bomb in a review of its troops on Oct. 19,
introducing it as a weapon that can be mounted on fighter planes.
The person responsible for the review was former ASDF Chief of Staff
Tamogami, who has been dismissed for his publication of an essay
differing from the government's view regarding a war of aggression.
Tamogami was opposed to prohibiting cluster munitions. Given this
fact, the cluster bomb might have been intentionally put on
The ASDF review was held at the ASDF's Hyakuri Base in Ibaraki
Prefecture. There were about 7,000 people at the review, including
guests from abroad. The event was held in the presence of Prime
Minister Taro Aso, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, and brass
officers from the Self-Defense Forces. In addition to ASDF
aircraft's flight demonstrations, ASDF planes and missiles were
The cluster bomb in question has about 200 bomblets that can kill or
TOKYO 00003166 008 OF 009
injure enemy troops in an area that is three times larger than a
soccer ground. It was displayed along with F-15 and F-2 fighter
planes exhibited in a hangar. Its explanatory panel did not refer to
the government's decision to scrap Japan's cluster bombs.
The Defense Ministry has already earmarked a total of 7.5 billion
yen in its budget request to study how to scrap the cluster bombs
and to procure alternative weapons. However, the government had
initially been opposed to banning the cluster munitions, taking the
position that such weapons are necessary for the defense of Japan as
a country with long coastlines. Especially, Tamogami insisted,
"Unexploded bombs could also damage (Japanese) people, but damage
from being occupied is far more serious."
The ASDF's public relations office commented: "It was on display in
the last review (three years ago), so we just showed it. There was
no particular intent. There was no order from Chief of Staff
11) Iraq tenacious in negotiating with U.S. on security accord; SOFA
ASAHI (Page 8) (Full)
November 18, 2008
Iraq negotiated with the United States for a security agreement
after studying the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
In early June, Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Hammoud visited Japan
for five days. According to Japanese government officials, Hammoud
asked for detailed explanations about the SOFA's history and
implementation and showed interest particularly in criminal trial
How to handle U.S. soldiers has been a matter of major concern in
Japan as well. Under the SOFA, Japan has primary jurisdiction over
off-duty crimes. However, the United States is to judge whether such
crimes were committed off duty. Municipalities saddled with U.S.
military bases are therefore greatly dissatisfied.
In particular, the problem is the case where the U.S. military
detained U.S. military suspects over off-duty incidents or
accidents. The SOFA stipulates that the U.S. military will detain
them until they are indicted.
In 1995, a schoolgirl rape that occurred in Okinawa Prefecture
enraged local people. In its aftermath, the Japanese and U.S.
governments concurred on improving the SOFA's implementation. The
United States then agreed to show "sympathetic consideration" for
Japanese investigative authorities' requests to hand over U.S.
military suspects in serious crimes, such as rape and murder, before
they are indicted. In 2004, Japan agreed to allow the presence of
those connected to the U.S. military when local police question U.S.
military suspects. Instead, Japan will request the U.S. military to
turn over U.S. military suspects in all criminal cases that
seriously concern Japan. The Iraqi vice minister was surprised to
hear the situation in Japan, saying Japan and the United States are
12) Japan slips to 98th place in gender quality ranking
ASAHI (Page 2) (Slightly abridged)
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November 18, 2008
(Shigeo Tosa, London)
The World Economic Forum, based in Geneva, has announced the latest
global gender gap report covering 130 countries. While Scandinavian
countries held the top positions, Japan's place dropped from 91 in
the previous year to 98. The slip is attributed to the number of
female lawmakers and the gender gap in terms of promotions.
The survey was conducted by creating indices in the political,
economic, education, and health areas. Japan did well in health, as
it came out on top as to the average life span. But Japan ranked
107th in the political area and 102nd in the economic area.
Norway, Finland, and Sweden held the top three places for three
years in a row. China rose from 73rd to 57th.