英字新聞 (読売、毎日、朝日、英字新聞の社説を学習研究 )


旧ソ連抑留者 「シベリア以外」の解明も急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Determine fate of detainees at former Soviet camps outside Siberia
旧ソ連抑留者 「シベリア以外」の解明も急げ

At long last, there are important clues in regard to finding out the whole truth about a tragedy that has so far been shrouded in darkness.

Materials concerning Japanese nationals who were detained at camps and other facilities of the former Soviet Union after the end of World War II have recently been discovered one after another.

It has been disclosed that the Russian national archives have a number of documents, such as 55 photos of Japanese interned in Dalian in northern China and lists of deceased Japanese detainees in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, the southern region of Karafuto (now called Sakhalin) and in Dalian.

In the wake of reporting by The Yomiuri Shimbun on the lists of deceased internees, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has made public lists of a total of 10,723 Japanese internees, although some cases may have been listed more than once.

Among the lists released by the ministry are the names of 2,130 people who do not fall into the category of “detainees in Siberia” — those who were interned in the former Soviet Union or Mongolia.

Actual conditions of Japanese detainees in areas other than Siberia are virtually unknown, including how many died. Measures to support bereaved families must be provided promptly, including fact-finding investigations and providing information to aging families of the deceased.

In the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, Tokyo and Moscow agreed to mutually abandon the right to claim compensation for wartime damage.

Returnees from Siberia and bereaved families of deceased detainees in Siberia have filed lawsuits for compensation against the Japanese government, demanding payment of wages that the plaintiffs say should have been paid for forced labor the detainees engaged in, as well as damages for their internment.

The 1988 legislation of a special fund law for the provision of compensation for those who were interned and the 2010 enactment of a temporary statute requiring the government to conduct investigations were all designed to provide detainees in Siberia with relief measures.

Russia’s ‘confidential’ info a key

Regarding those who died while interned in areas other than Siberia, however, the government fell short of making public lists of detainees’ names and failed to carry out investigations, even though the government obtained the lists in and after 2000, as priority was given to those who were detained in Siberia. The fact that health and welfare minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki apologized for this, pledging to take steps to rectify the situation, can be considered a positive step forward.

Many tasks must be undertaken if the government attempts to provide bereaved families of those who were interned in areas other than Siberia with new assistance measures and to put into effect investigations relevant to them. This is because the current laws have limited the scope of beneficiaries to those who were interned in the former Soviet Union and Mongolia.

Studies should be made in connection with this on ways to beef up arrangements to conduct investigations. One idea would be to let Japanese experts on the matter to take part in investigation.

To uncover what actually happened, it is imperative to dig out information Russia still has not offered Japan.

To cite an example, Russia has yet to make public information about the fate of the Japanese interned in a number of detention camps near Pyongyang, where several thousands of the detainees are said to have perished. Even though Russia has provisioned the information to the Japanese government regarding the situation in the northern region of the Korean Peninsula, or information about “repatriation camps” in two areas of Hungnam and Wonsan.

Because the records relating to deaths by execution and abuses of the Japanese detainees have been designated as “confidential,” Russia’s security institutions in charge of the matter is said to be negative about lifting the ban on disclosing this information.

Whether Russia discloses the information in question may depend on a high political judgment in Russia, perhaps by President Vladimir Putin.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been probing the possibility of having face-to-face talks with Putin this autumn. If the meeting materializes, Abe should seek a cooperation in resolving the problem of the detention of Japanese by the former Soviet Union.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2015)


休眠預金法案 公正性の確保へ審議を尽くせ


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bill on using dormant accounts must be deliberated to ensure fairness
休眠預金法案 公正性の確保へ審議を尽くせ

A nonpartisan group of lawmakers has compiled a bill to use money in dormant bank accounts — accounts that have had no deposit or withdrawal activity for more than 10 years — for social welfare and other purposes.

The group said that it would submit the bill for passage during the current Diet session.

Every year, about \50 billion worth of deposits are categorized as dormant and recorded as profits of financial institutions. Britain and South Korea have a system to use such funds to support welfare and other activities. The nonpartisan group drafted the bill based on those and other examples.

The bill stipulates that the money would be used for various welfare activities, including assistance for children, youth and impoverished people. But if depositors subsequently claim their money, it would be repaid, according to the bill.

We think the bill’s aim to use such funds to improve welfare while paying due consideration to protecting depositors is reasonable.

Private-sector organizations would be entrusted to distribute the funds to foster activities beyond the reach of the support from the government and other public-sector organizations. To coordinate the distribution, a general incorporated foundation called a “designated utilization organization” would be created.

This organization would choose several fund distribution organizations from among incorporated foundations around the country. Through the fund distribution organizations, aid funds would be given or loaned to nonprofit and volunteer organizations working on welfare projects.

With the wisdom of private-sector organizations involved, we expect the money to be used for assistance in a way that suits situations on the ground.

Legal compliance important

However, it is worrying to see that there are not a few who doubt if the bill guarantees fair and transparent distribution of the funds.

They particularly find problems concerning good governance and legal compliance of the envisaged utilization and distribution organizations. Many of them point out that measures to prevent corrupt conduct such as payoffs from fund recipients are obscure.

Both organizations, which would broker a huge amount of funds, would require strict management.

New Cabinet Office ordinances would be made to set up details of the system to use the deposits, according to the bill. However, we think that a law should include more details concerning regulation to secure fair distribution of aid funds, such as an auditing method.

A measure to prevent people involved in the distribution of funds from providing “peer support” to organizations they belong or are related to is essential.

After all, money in dormant accounts belongs to the account holders. As much of this money as possible should be returned to the original depositors. Britain and South Korea have an online system enabling the public to check easily whether they have dormant accounts. Japan, too, should consider efforts to reduce the amount of dormant deposits.

It is important to win the public’s understanding of the system to utilize dormant deposits by eliminating various suspicions about it. The Diet should thoroughly deliberate the bill to improve the envisaged system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2015)


自民党総裁選 無投票再選も前向きな選択肢


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Unopposed reelection of Abe as LDP leader a positive course
自民党総裁選 無投票再選も前向きな選択肢

We think it appropriate that the schedule for election of the Liberal Democratic Party president has been decided from the standpoint of lessening its effects on Diet deliberations of the security-related bills, which are the most important business in the current session.

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s term as LDP president expires at the end of September, the main ruling party decided to hold its presidential election on Sept. 20, with the official campaign period to begin on Sept. 8.

An LDP presidential race at the expiration of a presidential term is normally held before an extraordinary session of the Diet in autumn. However, since the current ordinary Diet session has been significantly extended, the upcoming election is held during the session — an exceptional situation.

The LDP considered other schedules, such as holding the vote on Sept. 27 with a campaign period starting on Sept. 15. However, since deliberations on the security-related bills are a little stagnant at the House of Councillors, the party has decided to hold the election as early as its election regulations permit after examining its effects on deliberations of and voting on the bills at the Diet, as well as a scheduled trip abroad by the prime minister.

In the presidential race, Abe is highly likely to be elected again without a contest.

All seven factions of the LDP, including the Hiroyuki Hosoda faction of which Abe was originally a member, have decided to support the prime minister. With such moves, the factions apparently aim to win posts for their members in the Cabinet reshuffle and the changes of LDP executives expected in October after the current Diet session adjourns.

Shigeru Ishiba, minister in charge of vitalizing local economies, competed with Abe in the LDP leadership race in September 2012, but he does not intend to run for the presidency this time because he is currently a member of the Abe Cabinet. Former LDP General Council head Seiko Noda is trying hard to run for the election but is said to be having difficulty collecting the support from 20 LDP lawmakers required for candidacy.

No rival candidate

Considering the prime minister’s achievements in the last three years, it is certainly not easy to field a rival candidate. Abe has built a strong political foundation by scoring crushing victories in two House of Representatives elections and one upper house election. Even after a drop, his Cabinet still has a public approval rate above 40 percent.

In September last year, Abe reshuffled his Cabinet but retained ministers necessary to keep its basic frame, such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Finance Minster Taro Aso. At the same time, he appointed Sadakazu Tanigaki as LDP secretary general and Toshihiro Nikai as LDP General Council head, both executive posts of his party. The Abe regime has been made stable with his strategy of placing political heavyweights in important posts in anticipation of a long-term government.

If several candidates run for the presidential race, it is likely to create an opportunity for policy discussions on the course of Japan for the next three years. However, can the LDP afford that now?

The global economy is destabilized, and the recovery of the Japanese economy is at a standstill. Is it really productive to spend energy on making counterproposals to Abenomics, the prime minister’s economic policy package, and fighting among members of the same party?

The security-related bills are extremely significant in terms of securing the peace and safety of Japan and the surrounding region, but the understanding of the bills is not necessarily spreading among the public.

With Diet deliberations on the bills entering a crucial phase, it is also difficult to secure the environment necessary to hold a full-scale presidential election, including arrangements for a stumping tour of candidates around the country and voting by party members.

It may be a positive course for LDP members to unite under Abe to overcome difficult challenges.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2015)


橋下氏維新離党 何とも分かりづらい内紛だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hashimoto’s departure from JIP caps baffling intraparty squabble
橋下氏維新離党 何とも分かりづらい内紛だ

Conflict within the Japan Innovation Party has spiraled into the departure of two members who founded the party. Many people must be baffled at the events that led to this.

Toru Hashimoto, supreme adviser of the JIP and also Osaka mayor, and adviser Ichiro Matsui, who is also Osaka governor, have both announced they will leave the party.

Hashimoto said he “plans to shift his focus from a national political party to Osaka’s regional politics” for Osaka gubernatorial and mayoral elections, which will be held in November. In the background to his decision was a lack of confidence in JIP leader Yorihisa Matsuno and other party executives, and there is a possibility that this intraparty friction could lead to a split.

The origin of the squabble was JIP Secretary General Mito Kakizawa’s support for an expected candidate in next month’s Yamagata mayoral election who also was backed by the Democratic Party of Japan and other parties. Matsui regarded this as problematic and demanded Kakizawa resign from his party post. Kakizawa refused to step down. Consequently, Matsui lashed out at Kakizawa and some other members, saying, “They’re addicted to what’s going on in Nagatacho,” referring to the Tokyo area that is considered the nation’s political nerve center.

As the JIP’s local organization in Yamagata had been maneuvering to support another expected candidate, party headquarters had refrained from supporting any specific contender. Although it is undeniable that Kakizawa’s actions, which disregarded the party situation, were indeed careless, the general consensus is that he had not done anything that warranted his resignation.

The decision by Hashimoto and Matsui to step away from the party was overly abrupt and shows a lack of responsible attitude.

Questions must be raised about the behavior of two politicians who wield tremendous influence over the running of the second-largest opposition party. In particular, it is difficult to understand why Hashimoto left the party while he accepted Kakizawa staying in his post.

Keep security talks on track

Matsuno’s inability to bring this fracas under control also displayed a lack of leadership.

Hashimoto and others are close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and have taken stances toward the administration on an issue-by-issue basis. In contrast, Matsuno and Kakizawa have placed great emphasis on working with the DPJ and other parties, so a policy conflict continued within the JIP.

The party is scheduled to hold a leadership election in November. It is possible that many of the party’s Osaka-affiliated lawmakers in the Diet and local assembly members might follow Hashimoto, who is skilled at conveying messages to the public, and leave the party en masse. Such repeated splits and political realignments, which have been done so easily, will make it harder for the JIP to gain the support of the public.

This is a crucial moment for the JIP.

We also are concerned about the impact of the party’s ructions on discussions regarding security-related bills.

The JIP has submitted five counterproposals to the House of Councillors and planned to hold negotiations with the ruling coalition parties about possible amendments to the bills. It also is considering the joint submission — with the DPJ — of a territorial security bill and other bills.

Wide gaps remain between the government-sponsored bills and the JIP counterproposals, so the negotiations were expected to be anything but smooth. Even so, it was hugely significant that constructive discussions were to be held on a range of key points.

Hashimoto stressed, “When the security bills reach an important phase, it is not the time for internal dissension.”

We hope Matsuno and other JIP bigwigs will sincerely engage in talks on possible amendments to the bills. The JIP’s ability to remain a “responsible opposition party” is on the line.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2015)Speech


企業年金改革 多くの人が活用できる制度に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Make corporate pension programs accessible for more employees
企業年金改革 多くの人が活用できる制度に

It is important to make many people eligible to participate in corporate pension programs, as a means of supplementing public pensions.

A bill to reform the corporate pension system is under deliberation at the House of Representatives. The government aims to get the bill passed into law during the current Diet session.

The central pillar of the bill is to review the defined contribution pension system, in which subscribers choose how their pension premiums should be managed, with the amount of their pension benefits to be determined by the results.

The bill calls for establishing “simplified defined contribution pension plans,” with the establishment procedures to be simplified so as to make it easier for even small and midsize corporations to introduce them for their employees.

The bill also envisages creating a system to support the subscription of more people, by creating “individual-type defined contribution pension plans” for employees of companies unable to have such plans on their own and for self-employed people. Under this system, corporations, if only small and midsized firms, can add their contributions to their employees’ pension premiums.

A corporate pension plan is a program to be established by each corporation voluntarily in addition to the kosei nenkin corporate employees pension scheme, part of the nation’s public pension system.

As the level of benefits paid under the public pension system declines against the backdrop of a low birthrate and a graying population, the role of corporate pension plans is growing.

It is appropriate for the corporate pension plan to be utilized by workers other than only those at big companies.

At present, among subscribers to the kosei nenkin scheme, fewer than 40 percent also participate in corporate pension programs. And the ratio of companies that have introduced corporate pension programs is declining. Among smaller firms, with 30 to 99 employees, only 18.6 percent have introduced such programs.

Major programs dissolving

On top of this, kosei nenkin kikin (corporate employees’ pension funds), which once were the leading corporate pension programs, are to be dissolved, with certain exceptions, by March 2019. Faced with management difficulty following the collapse of the bubble economy, one corporate employees’ pension fund after another became unable to stay afloat. As leading companies have pulled out of their schemes swiftly, most of the pension funds still operating are ones formed by smaller firms.

It is an open question whether the reform will be sufficient to help those who will no longer be covered by corporate employees’ pension funds after they are dissolved. It is necessary to try one way after another to promote the spread of the corporate pension plans envisaged by the bill, while assessing the status of the introduction of schemes such as “simplified defined contribution pension plans.”

Also incorporated in the bill is an expansion of the scope of people eligible to participate in “individual-type defined contribution pension plans,” by making full-time homemakers and public-service workers also eligible. In effect, anyone will be able to participate in defined contribution pension schemes.

As working styles have diversified, voluntary resignations and job-switching have become common. The number of nonregular workers who are not eligible to participate in corporate pension plans has also increased.

We can understand the course of action to encourage people’s self-help efforts for their post-retirement years, by providing everyone with a means of supplementing the roles of public pensions.

Open to question is the idea of making even homemakers eligible to participate in “individual-type defined contribution pension plans,” which offer preferential tax treatment, while keeping in place the system of “Category III insured,” under which a dependent spouse of a company or government employee is eligible for basic pension benefits without paying pension premiums themselves. Will the envisaged plan give them excessive preferential treatment?

Regarding nonregular workers, it is also vital to attempt to increase pension benefits for them, by expanding the scope of nonregular workers eligible to participate in the kosei nenkin scheme.

It is important to discuss income security for people in their old age within the framework of the whole pension system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2015)Speech