Monday, August 20, 2007

Shiozaki's office staffer embezzled Y6.3 mil

A staff member at Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki's parliamentary office has embezzled about 6.3 million yen in political funds and double booked expenses in funding reports in 2005 as a coverup, the lawmaker's office said Monday.

"I myself am very shocked and find it regrettable that something like this has happened," Shiozaki said in a statement. "I will deeply reflect on my responsibilities to manage and supervise, and will make utmost efforts to investigate the situation and prevent a recurrence." Shiozaki's office said the staff member embezzled political funds of the LDP branch in Ehime Prefecture's No. 1 constituency, which Shiozaki heads, for private use. In order to conceal the embezzlement, the staff member double booked 6.27 million yen of expenses registered in the office's election campaign expenditure report in 2005 into the LDP branch's political funding report the same year, the office said.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

DPJ takes control of upper house

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan took control of the House of Councillors for the first time Tuesday with senior DPJ lawmaker Satsuki Eda elected president of the chamber, marking the start of political gridlock between the ruling and opposition camps. As parliament convened for a short post-election extraordinary session, Eda, 66, became the first person from outside the Liberal Democratic Party to assume the post since 1956.

The DPJ secured the presidency as the largest party in the upper house after the ruling LDP and its coalition ally, the New Komeito party, lost their majority in the upper chamber in the election on July 29. "We are faced with an unprecedented political situation and the public's expectations regarding the House of Councillors are extremely high," Eda said in his inaugural speech. "I will work for the smooth operation of parliament based on the principles of fairness and impartiality." For vice president, the upper chamber picked Akiko Santo of the LDP, now the second-largest party in the house. In line with parliamentary practice, both Eda and Santo left their parties in assuming their posts.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

U.N. nuclear inspectors to check quake-hit Japanese power station

An inspection team of the International Atomic Energy Agency is planning to make a five-day visit from Monday to check a Japanese nuclear power station that was hit hard by an earthquake last month, government sources said Thursday. The team is expected to comprise two anti-quake measures specialists from the Vienna-based organization's Nuclear Safety and Security Department and three experts from the United States and Europe, the sources said.

The team is expected to produce a report on its findings on Tokyo Electric Power Co's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, which reported minor radiation leaks after the magnitude 6.8 quake. According to the agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog proposed to Japan on July 19 that it participate in Japanese investigations with a view to sharing information, although it is aware that Japan is capable of conducting investigations on its own.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Gov't calls U.S. resolution on apology to sex slaves 'regrettable'

The Japanese government on Tuesday described as "regrettable" the U.S. House of Representatives' approval of a resolution calling on Japan to apologize for its wartime sexual enslavement, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe neither apologized nor protested.

"Regarding this issue, I explained during my visit to the United States in April my views as well as the response the Japanese government has taken so far. The approval of the resolution was regrettable," Abe said in response to reporters' questions. Asked if Japan would comply with an apology to the victims, known euphemistically in Japan as "comfort women," Abe only said, "The 20th century was an era during which human rights were violated. What is important is to make the 21st century a bright one for the world where there will be no human rights violations."

U.S. gov't hopes to continue working with Abe

The United States hopes to continue working with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe despite his ruling coalition's humiliating defeat in Sunday's House of Councillors election, a State Department spokesman said Monday.

"The United States has a strong relationship with Japan that goes back many years. We expect we'll be continuing to work with the prime minister and his government as things move forward," Tom Casey said at a news briefing. "In terms of what this election means or signifies for the Japanese political system, I'll leave that to the politicians and the analysts in Japan," he added.