Thursday, November 29, 2007

Former Vice Defense Minister Moriya arrested for taking bribes

Prosecutors arrested former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya on Wednesday on suspicion of taking bribes from a defense equipment trader while he was still the top defense bureaucrat. Moriya, 63, was frequently wined and dined by Motonobu Miyazaki, 69, a former executive of defense equipment trading house Yamada Corp and a founder of another trader Nihon Mirise Corp, and played golf with him at Miyazaki's expense, investigative sources said.
Moriya denied doing special favors for the two companies in his recent parliamentary testimonies, but the special investigation squad at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has determined that Miyazaki entertained Moriya expecting favorable business treatment from the top defense bureaucrat, according to investigative sources.

Canada urges Japan to apologize to WWII sex slaves

Canada's lower house unanimously approved a draft motion Wednesday that urges the Japanese government to make a "formal and sincere apology" to women who were forced by the Japanese military to provide sex for soldiers during World War II.
The text of the motion said the Canadian government should call on the Japanese government "to take full responsibility for the involvement of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the system of forced prostitution, including through a formal and sincere apology expressed in the Diet to all of those who were victims; and to continue to address with those affected in a spirit of reconciliation."
It also said, "Some Japanese public officials have recently expressed a regrettable desire to dilute or rescind the 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the 'comfort women,' which expressed the (Japanese) Government's sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal."
The motion, though nonbinding, also said the Canadian government should call on Japan to abandon any statement which devalues the expression of regret from the Kono statement and to clearly and publicly refute any claims that the sexual enslavement and trafficking of the "comfort women" for the Imperial Japanese Army never occurred.
"The Canada-Japan alliance continues to be based on shared vital interests and values in the Asia-Pacific region, including the preservation and promotion of political and economic freedoms, support for human rights and democratic institutions, and the securing of prosperity for the people of both countries and the international community," the text said.
Similar motions were adopted in July by the U.S. House of Representatives and earlier this month by the Netherlands' lower house.
Tokyo had asked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper not to have such a motion passed, according to the Japanese Embassy in Canada, but Canada's four major parties have already agreed to approve it.
An all-party special hearing was held Tuesday at a lower house plenary session to hear from some former sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women" in Japan, from South Korea and the Philippines.
The resolution would include a request that school textbooks in Japan describe the sexual enslavement of young women as a war crime committed by the Japanese military, according to the reports.
Opposition New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, who spearheaded the initiative, said: "For me, this isn't crimes against 200,000 women. It's crimes against humanity and all of the world's citizens have a responsibility to speak out against it."
Hundreds of thousands of women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries were kidnapped and forced to work in military brothels during World War II.
Japan has euphemistically referred to them as "comfort women."
While the scale of the practice is still debated in Japan, it remains an irritant between Tokyo and its neighbors.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reopened the wounds earlier this year by saying there was "no evidence" of the practice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Former Vice Defense Minister Moriya arrested for taking bribes

Prosecutors arrested former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya on Wednesday on suspicion of taking bribes from recently arrested defense equipment trader Motonobu Miyazaki while he was still the top defense bureaucrat. Moriya, 63, has admitted to being frequently wined and dined by Miyazaki, 69, a former executive of defense equipment trading house Yamada Corp and former president of another trader Nihon Mirise Corp, and playing golf with him in violation of an in-house ethical code of conduct.

But in parliamentary testimonies last month and this month, Moriya flatly denied doing special favors for the two firms. Investigative sources said the prosecutors suspect Moriya gave special favors to Yamada and Nihon Mirise, both based in Tokyo, on matters including procurement of General Electric Co's engines for the Air Self-Defense Force's next-generation CX aircraft in 2005 and later. Moriya is also alleged to have been involved in Yamada's padding of bills for U.S. radar-jamming equipment for helicopters.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ishiba concerned over French support for lifting China arms embargo

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba voiced concern Tuesday over French President Nicolas Sarkozy's support for a proposal to lift a European arms export embargo against China, stressing it may lead to collapsing a regional military balance. "Neither Japan nor the United States wishes for a situation in which the military balance in the region could rapidly collapse," Ishiba told a press conference.
"I hope relevant countries will be mindful of the military balance when exporting" weapons to China, Ishiba said. Sarkozy expressed his support for lifting a European Union ban on arms exports to China during talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday in Beijing, according to a Chinese government spokesman.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Upper house lawmakers inspect execution chamber

A group of lawmakers from the House of Councillors' legal affairs committee inspected an execution chamber at Tokyo Detention House on Thursday.
It was the first such inspection by lawmakers other than the justice minister in about four years. Members of the House of Representatives' legal affairs committee also plan to inspect it on Monday.
According to committee chairman Kiyohiko Toyama, 11 members inspected the execution facility where inmates are hanged and the site where detention officials push the buttons to operate the facility.
"I had the impression that the Justice Ministry is reluctant to disclose information about executions, including the execution chamber," Toyama told reporters, stressing the need to debate the issue of capital punishment.
Toyama said he is against capital punishment and that it should be abolished and replaced by life imprisonment.
Other members of the committee said, "We should consider whether hanging is appropriate," and "The psychological burden on detention officials involved in executions may be huge," according to Toyama.
The Justice Ministry turned down requests from media organizations to accompany the lawmakers, saying, "It is a place where the heaviest and most severe penalty is executed, and is not suitable to be publicized."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Five foreigners refused entry on first day of fingerprinting

The Justice Ministry said Wednesday that five foreign nationals had been refused entry to Japan on Tuesday, the first day of the government's policy of taking fingerprints and photographs of foreign nationals aged 16 or older upon their entry at its 27 airports and 126 seaports nationwide.

Ministry officials said the fingerprints of the five were identical to those of five people who had been deported from Japan before. Of the five, three people are believed to have used forged passports, the officials said.

Meanwhile, there were no foreign nationals who faced the refusal of entry because they resisted having their fingerprints and photographs taken, the officials said.

They also said the ministry failed to read fingerprints of a total of 21 foreigners at Obihiro, Narita, Central Japan and Fukuoka airports as well as Hakata seaport through scanners, apparently due to their advanced ages which make their fingerprints unclear.

The 21 were all allowed to enter Japan after undergoing oral immigration examinations under a ministry ordinance and other rules, the officials said.

Many visitors expressed understanding of the measure's necessity for antiterrorism security but were displeased with the long waiting time.

The measure excludes ethnic Koreans and other permanent residents with special status, those under 16, those visiting Japan for diplomatic or official purposes, and those invited by the Japanese government.

However, Choi Sung Shik of the Korean Residents Union in Japan said in a protest rally in front of Tokyo's Justice Ministry building Tuesday that many Korean permanent residents without special status will now be subjected to the measure.

Also joining the rally organized by Amnesty International-Japan and other human rights organizations, Choi Sun Ae, a third-generation Korean resident, also expressed strong concerns about the impact that the measure is likely to have on the Korean community in Japan.
Choi Sun Ae said she once refused to get fingerprinted and was accordingly stripped of her permanent status due to violation of an Alien Registration Law regulation, although she later regained it after the regulation was abolished in April 2000.

"Under the revised immigration law, Korean residents with general permanent statuses would face a similar situation to mine if they reject the fingerprinting," she said.

Also among some 50 protesters was Renate Tamamushi, 68, who has been married to a Japanese man and lived in Japan for 46 years. She voiced opposition to the fingerprinting, saying, "Japan is my second home country and I don't want to be treated like a terrorist."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Elderly woman donates Y1 bil in cash to hometown

woman donated 1 billion yen in cash Friday to her hometown of Minamiashigara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on the occasion of her 88th birthday to promote education and sports.

Chizuko Yokomizo, a resident of the seaside resort town of Oiso in the same prefecture, said she decided more than 40 years ago to donate 1 billion yen when she turned 88 and continued to save money to achieve that goal.

The cash — 100 bundles of banknotes each containing 10 million yen — were piled up in a pyramid form in a conference room on the third floor of the city hall. They weighed about 100 kilograms.

The amount, which is equal to 6.7% of the city government's general-account budget for fiscal 2006, is equivalent to about 53 percent of its education expenses.

"It is the greatest happiness in my life to be able to do this favor for my hometown," Yokomizo said. "I'd like to continue my efforts for children's education as long as I live."

The city government plans to establish a Yokomizo memorial fund aimed at promoting children's sports and cultural activities, helping child raising and assisting in educational studies, officials said.

Born in 1919, Yokomizo was raised by her parents who were teachers, and became a high school teacher herself.

After World War II, Yokomizo and her late husband established a kitchen equipment business venture that resulted in great success.

In 1999, she donated 500 million yen to the Oiso municipal government which used the money to build a welfare facility for handicapped people.

Minamiashigara, with a population of 44,000, is located in the mountains some 80 kilometers southwest of central Tokyo.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fukuda arrives in U.S. for summit talks with Bush

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda arrived Thursday in the United States where he is expected to explain to U.S. President George W Bush the following day about Japan's efforts to resume its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and seek cooperation in dealing with North Korea.
An advocate of active Asian diplomacy, Fukuda will seek understanding from Bush that his policies are in the common interests of Japan and the United States, according to Japanese officials. The prime minister also hopes to reaffirm the Japan-U.S. alliance. He and Bush will hold summit talks in Washington for about an hour, make brief remarks to the press and then continue talks at a luncheon hosted by Bush, the officials said.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Immigration fingerprinting, photographing device unveiled at Narita

The Immigration Bureau put a new fingerprinting and photographing device on public display at Narita International Airport on Wednesday, a week before a new law requiring the fingerprinting and photographing of foreigners entering Japan comes into force. The law is aimed at preventing terrorism but officials say fingerprints and other biometric data will be stored in a database to be checked against foreigners who have been deported from Japan and those wanted by the Japanese police.

The law excludes ethnic Koreans and other permanent residents with special status, foreigners aged under 16, visitors to Japan using diplomatic or official passports and state guests.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

N Korea removal from blacklist may hurt Japan-U.S. ties: Machimura

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Monday that Japan-U.S. ties could be adversely affected if the United States decides to remove North Korea from its list of terrorist-sponsoring nations despite Tokyo's request not to do so due to lack of progress in the issue of Pyongyang's abduction of Japanese.
While Machimura denied that one problem might totally damage bilateral relations, which he described as "multilayered," he said delisting North Korea "certainly would not have a good influence on the Japan-U.S. relationship." Machimura said that Japan-U.S. ties include the economy, culture, diplomacy and person-to-person relationships, but emphasized that the abduction issue carries "a different weight" compared with other bilateral themes as it involves the feelings and emotions of Japanese people.

Fukuda to meet Bush on Friday

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will visit the United States on Friday for talks with U.S. President George W Bush and then travel to Singapore next week to attend annual regional summit meetings, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Monday.

The top government spokesman said that in his talks with Bush, Fukuda is expected to reaffirm the Japan-U.S. alliance and his wish to further enhance it, as well as to express his intention of making the alliance and Japan's Asian diplomacy resonate with each other. Fukuda is expected to express his determination to resume at an early date Japan's refueling operations in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, according to sources close to the matter

Monday, November 12, 2007

Top court eyes letting lay judges decide whether to accept confessions

The Supreme Court's Legal Training and Research Institute is set to propose letting lay judges determine whether to accept confessions as evidence when Japan introduces a lay judge system for criminal trials by May 2009, according to an outline of its study report. The outline gives high credit to the recent adoption of videotaped interrogations as an "effective method" of ensuring the credibility of confessions, making it likely to encourage its full introduction.

In Japan, "voluntary confessions" that are accepted by courts in convicting suspects but later turn out to have been forced by investigators have become a major problem due to such recent cases as that of a man found to be innocent after serving two-year prison terms for rape and attempted rape in Toyama Prefecture. In the outline, the institute calls for not using confessions as evidence unless lay judges decide to adopt them in cases where the voluntariness of the confessions is a disputed point.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ozawa retracts resignation offer

Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa expressed his intention Tuesday to retract his earlier offer to step down and remain in his post as head of the largest opposition party, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said.
Hatoyama told reporters after meeting with Ozawa for a second day to try to convince him to stay in his post that the DPJ leader told him, "I feel as if I've embarrassed myself somewhat, but I would like to give it one more go." The development came just after Ozawa's aides said no conclusion had been reached following the talks between him and Hatoyama as well as acting presidents Naoto Kan and Azuma Koshiishi.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shiga man, 69, arrested for threatening to bomb bullet train

Shiga Prefectural Police on Monday arrested temp-staff worker Takahiro Murakami, a 69-year-old resident of Omi-Hachiman, for allegedly threatening to bomb a West Japan Railway Co shinkansen. According to police, Murakami called JR West's customer center from his home on July 21, and threatened "Do you want me to blow up the shinkansen?" As a result, JR West conducted a search for any unusual objects between Shin-Kobe and Hakata stations.
Initially, Murakami called JR West to complain about its handling of a derailment accident on the Fukuchiyama Line in April 2005 that left 107 dead and more than 500 people injured. But, frustrated with the railway's response, he began to say he would blow up the shinkansen, according to police.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Book author ordered to compensate Nanjing Massacre victim for libel

The Tokyo District Court on Friday ordered the author of a book examining the Japanese military's atrocities in Nanjing in 1937 and its publisher to pay a combined 4 million yen in damages to a woman for discrediting her by giving readers the impression that she is not a witness to the incident despite her claiming to be so.

In handing down the ruling to Asia University Professor Shudo Higashinakano and publisher Tendensha, Presiding Judge Michiyo Miyokawa said that the book's description left a strong impression that the plaintiff, Xia Shuqin, only pretends to be a survivor of the Nanjing Massacre.

Miyokawa continued, "Its interpretation of materials is inappropriate, bringing about no valuable academic results, and the court cannot recognize any truth in the book or any reasons that can be believed as truth."

After receiving the decision, Higashinakano said, "It is extremely disappointing. I am planning to appeal the ruling."

About 13,000 copies of the book have been sold in Japan, and English and Chinese translations have been published.

According to the ruling, Xia claims to be the 8-year-old girl whose family was killed during wartime atrocities by the Japanese military referred to in a document written by an American priest and she is well-known for relating her experience.

However, the book argued that Xia was not the girl referred to.

In August last year, a Chinese court ordered Higashinakano and another Japanese author, and their publisher Tendensha to pay a total of 1.6 million yuan (23 million yen) in damages to Xia.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Fukuda orders legal review to ensure safety of food, others

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told his cabinet ministers Friday to implement a thorough review of Japan's laws and policies to ensure people's safety following a series of falsification incidents of food and other products, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said.
The ministers are urged to report soon after any review and if inadequacies are found, the government will consider legal revisions in the next Diet session, which convenes in January. If any areas require urgent attention, the government will work out concrete steps to handle them by the year's end under the direction of State Minister Fumio Kishida, who is in charge of quality-of-life policy affairs, Machimura said.