Tibet is no Shangri-la
China.org.cn March 31, 2008
Tibet has fascinated the world for centuries and inspired many romantic myths and legends. The remote mountainous region and the exotic character of Tibetan Buddhism have stirred the western imagination.
But pre-1949 Tibet was not the imagined paradise of people living a simple, happy life going about their religious activities. Society was in the grip of a type of feudal serfdom under which politics was intertwined with religion. Temples obstructed all reform; nobles ruthlessly defended their privileges and constantly intrigued against each other. In the old Tibet, serfs were traded and exchanged like pack animals. They were regarded as "horses that can talk", not human beings.
Today the Dalai Lama is seen as a kind, attractive person; a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. But until 1949, the Dalai Lama was the speaker and representative of Tibet's feudal system.
Under feudalism, temples and sutra schools forced families with two boys to send one of them to become a monk. Until 1951, 95 percent of Tibetans were illiterate.
The relationship between Tibetan Buddhism and the emperors of ancient China dates back to the 12th century Yuan Dynasty. The relationship between Tibet and China was like that between "religious leaders and their non-religious protectors." The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama had the status of religious counselors to the emperor who in turn was the protector of all lamas and the whole Tibet. The emperor provided material and military support to the lamas, just as to his other subjects. The records show the Dalai Lama was always a vassal of the emperor.
From 1720 to 1910, Tibet was incorporated into the Manchu empire (Qing Dynasty).
In the 19th century, Britain and Russia began to compete and intrigue against each other for control of Tibet. In 1906, Britain recognized China's "suzerainty" over Tibet. It reaffirmed this position in 1912.
The four languages, Han Chinese, Mongolian, Manchu and Tibetan can be found on most royal buildings of ancient China, more evidence that China has continuously exercised sovereignty over Tibet.
In 1950, not long after they had driven out the Japanese invaders and liberated most of the nation, the People's Liberation Army entered Lhasa. Since then major reforms have been carried out in Tibet, the most important being the abolition of the feudal serf system. Hundreds of thousands of serfs were liberated and became "human."
The Central Government held talks in Beijing with the local rulers of Tibet. The Dalai Lama attended the talks and reached several agreements that gave a large measure of autonomy to the temples and the nobles.
But some senior monks and nobles fearing they would lose their privileges, staged uprisings in 1956 and 1959. The Dalai Lama later admitted that the United States Central Intelligence Agency provided financial aid and arms to the insurgents. After the 1959 uprising failed, the Dalai Lama, together with other monks, fled to Dharamsala, India. During the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976), in Tibet like in other parts of China, Red Guards destroyed temples and persecuted lamas and nuns. It was the darkest page in the history of modern China. But starting from the 1980s, the Central Government and local authorities did their best to repair the damage. Temples were restored to their original condition. Monks and nuns returned to religious sites.
In the reform and opening up period, Tibet's tourism industry has flourished. A new railway has been built to link this once isolated place to the rest of the country. Shops are filled with merchandise from all over the country. The government provides free medical care for all Tibetans and the average life span and health level of the people have improved greatly. The Central Government has allocated large amount of funds to help Tibet modernize and integrate with the national economy.
Tibet has paid great attention to environmental protection. Nature reserves have been established and renewable energy sources promoted in the region. According to every economic indicator people's lives have improved greatly.
Like other places in China, Tibet faces economic and cultural problems that need urgent solutions. But, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), "China has solved the problem of food and clothing for 350 millions people in 20 years." This figure includes millions of Tibetans.
Tibet is one of the most strategically sensitive places in the world. Tibet is the source of Asia's great rivers, the Ganges, Brahmaputra, the Yellow, the Yangtze and the Mekong. It overflows with mineral resources such as uranium, bauxite, copper and lithium and is also rich in petroleum and natural gas.
Tibet is a target that different interest groups would compete and die for.
The March 14 riots in Lhasa and associated protests in other countries were instigated and masterminded by the Dalai clique. Although those taking part were few in number, the western media exaggerated and sensationalized the events, threatening the stability of the region. This is unacceptable.
It is also unacceptable that reporters, commentators and other self-proclaimed judges lecture China on how to deal with the crisis. Many western people have already have misgivings about China. It does nobody any good to encourage further misunderstanding.
About the authors: Serge Pairoux, Secretary-General of the Belgium-China Cultural Center. Henri Lederhandler, Vice Chairman of the Belgium-China Economic and Commercial Council
Cook and tell: Another chef spills the beans
How's that for timing? Or should I say, Time-ing? In my last column, on Kim Jong-il's private life (The Dear Leader, demystified, June 24), I mentioned his sister-in-law Song Hye-rang among the growing genre of first-person accounts of the Dear Leader: noting that she pulled her punches, and that her memoir is not yet available in English.
Little did I know that Time was about to run a cover story on Sung Hae Rang, as the magazine renders her (don't start me on the pitfalls of romanizing Korean). It's a fascinating tale, which I won't repeat here: check it out. But as I'd said, she still defends her bro-in-law - or at least tries to explain why he is as he is.
We also learn that she (herself?) is translating her memoir, The Wisteria House, into English. Not very fast, it seems, since The Economist mentioned this as under way back in 2000. Maybe she still fears the wrath of Kim, as Time implies. (Since defecting in 1996 she lives in Europe - but won't reveal where.) Her daughter Li Nam-ok, whose book Gilded Cage was due out in 1998, is similarly taking her time.
But others are jumping into the breach. The no-longer-so-private life of Kim Jong-il is now chronicled enough for distinct sub-genres to have emerged. As we saw in the last Pyongyang Watch, the Dear Leader's bodyguard, ex-tutor, a kidnapped South Korean fim couple, and a Russian host have all published intimate accounts.
One category we don't yet have is "kiss and tell". Although if the Dear Leader really prefers Swedish blondes, as alleged, it may be only a matter of time before one of them breaks cover and reveals all.
In this Kim is luckier than his hapless son Kim Jong-nam, banished to Beijing after his embarrassing unmasking two years ago traveling incognito with his family at Narita airport (see Fat Bear: No meeting Mickey Mouse any time soon, May 11, 2001). Allegedly headed for Disneyland, he was later revealed to have made other, solo visits to Tokyo of a nocturnal nature. Paid female companions have even detailed his endowment and performance, unflatteringly.
But if Kim Jong-il is so far spared the blushes of "kiss and tell", he is not free from an emerging genre that might be called "cook and tell". In the proverb, too many cooks spoil the broth - but the Dear Leader's problem is that too many cooks spill the beans. First one, and now another of his former chefs have published memoirs of haute cuisine at the top, in a land racked by hunger for most of its people.
The pioneer in this field is right here at Asia Times Online. If there is any Pyongyang Watch reader who has not already feasted on Ermanno Furlanis' "I made pizza for Kim Jong-il", then go tuck in right now. Billed as "a quixotic culinary journey into the stomach of darkness", this describes how in 1997 two Italians spent three weeks in North Korea, training pizza chefs and preparing meals for you know who. (Go to ATol's Korea Page; links to the three-part series are at the bottom of the right-hand column.)
Yet Furlanis never actually met Kim Jong-il. The nearest he got was a glimpse from a window of the man "whose girth was the measure of his power".
By contrast, Kenji Fujimoto - whose book Kim Jong-il's Chef came out in Japan on June 20 - had a far closer encounter, over a much longer period: almost 20 years. The Seoul daily Chosun Ilbo recently published two articles about his experiences.
Fujimoto first visited North Korea in 1982. In 1988 he became the Dear Leader's exclusive sushi chef. A year later his role widened into that of companion: the two men went riding, shooting, and water-skiing together.
As such, Fujimoto confirms that, as rumored at the time, Kim Jong-il had a serious fall from a horse in 1992. Breaking his collarbone and injuring his head, he was unconscious for several hours.
Fujimoto makes several other striking claims. One is that in 1995 North Korea had a nuclear accident: presumably a radiation leak, since party secretary Kim Ki-nam reported that workers at the (unnamed) plant were sick, with some losing their teeth. Kim Jong-il made no response.
In 1989 he had asked Fujimoto his view of nuclear weapons, himself opining that North Korea was vulnerable without them.
Kim showed more emotion in 1994, when his father Kim Il-sung died. The Dear Leader took this hard, staying in his room all day for a while. At one point his wife found he had a pistol, and yelled at him: "What are you thinking?"
This wife is presumably his current consort Ko Yong-hee, the mother of his second son Kim Jong-chol. Reports in Seoul this year, citing Korean People's Army (KPA) internal documents, claimed a new cult is forming around Ms Ko. This was seen as a bid to boost Jong-chol, aged 22 and the army's choice, to be his father's eventual heir, as opposed to his unfortunate elder brother Kim Jong-nam.
Not so, says Kenji Fujimoto. Kim Jong-il thinks his middle son is "like a girl" (so much for gender equality under communism). Instead he favors his little-known youngest son, 20-year-old Kim Jong-woon, who is said to "resemble him in every way". Perhaps Jong-woon too is Ko Yong-hee's son, as the Dear Leader is not known to have had any official consort since her; he had several before. Ko, incidentally, is a returnee from Japan; her family hails originally from Cheju island in South Korea.
And the food? Nothing but the best, of course. Shark's-fin soup, of a particularly rare kind, is on the menu four days a week. Sushi is once a week, and dog soup on Sundays (plus "every special dog-food-eating summer day"). Kim Jong-il has a very sensitive palate - Furlanis and Pulikovsky say the same - noticing even minute changes in ingredients, and disliking spicy food. Yet Furlanis reported meeting a curry chef just recruited from Pakistan: strictly korma, perhaps.
On spice of another kind, Fujimoto speaks of girls dancing nude at banquets - but strictly no touching, let alone sex. His own wife was a member of Kim Jong-il's "pleasure squad", and a well-known singer - which did not spare her from being ordered to box with a fellow entertainer. My, what jolly fun.
By Fujimoto's account, which tallies with others, Kim Jong-il was "not cocky most of the time ... he always smiles and has many hobbies". But he is mercurial.
Fujimoto often saw him bawl out officials, in person or on the phone - with faulty or incomplete intelligence reports a particular bugbear. Once he even threw a steel (not silver?) napkin box at Chang Sung-taek, his brother-in-law and chief confidant.
So why did Kenji Fujimoto give up this life of voyeurism and luxury, speedboats and Mercedes? On a visit to Japan in 1996, he was arrested carrying a fake Dominican Republic passport (Kim Jong-nam was caught traveling on one of those, too).
After this he feared that some in Pyongyang suspected him of spying. In 2001 he defected via China, after realizing his phone calls to Japan were being tapped.
Can we believe all this? Probably. Despite the lack of corroboration, and possible embellishment here and there, in general this confirms the picture painted by others. To Kim Jong-il's chagrin, his ex-chef won't be the last to reveal that behind the absurd mask of deification, there lurks an aging spoiled brat.
At the end of April in 1945, the capital of Nazi Germany, Berlin, laid in ruins.
This is the translation of the original site from Japanese into English. )
The Mystery of Dead Tibetans in Berlin
On that day, allied soldiers were patrolling around East Berlin. They spotted seven bodies with the badge of SS (Schutzstaffel). They seemed to be German soldiers, nothing unusual. But there was one thing unusual. One of the seven bodies was surrounded by other six bodies in a circle. They glanced at them and passed.
But a soldier found that the way they had been killed was strange. He stopped other soldiers. They looked at the dead German soldiers carefully again. The hands of a dead soldier in the center had been joined firmly as if he had been praying. The both hands were covered with green gloves. But the most surprising thing was that the dead soldiers' faces were beyond doubt faces of Asians, particularly from Tibet. Not only the soldier in the center but also all other bodies around him were Tibetans.
"What's this all about?"
The allied soldiers were stunned at the inexplicable scene in front of them.
But it was apparent that the Tibetans had not been killed but that they had committed some ritual suicide.
The dead wore German military uniforms, but with neither identification badges nor identification paper. They were laid on the floor in a perfect array. They had disemboweled themselves with ceremonial daggers.
Since then, hundreds of dead Tibetans were found one after another in every nook and cranny of Berlin.
Some squads resisted stubbornly to the end after Hitler had killed himself. The final battle was fought around the communications control center. Many dead soldiers were found at the ruined communications control center. Among them about 1000 bodies were Tibetans. Though they were neither Hitler's guardsmen nor entourages, they fought for life to the last moment.
Hatoyama richest among 18 members of Fukuda's Cabinet
TOKYO, Oct. 26 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama is the richest among the 18 members of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's Cabinet, with his family's assets totaling 730.36 million yen, documents submitted by Cabinet members showed Friday.
Fukuda ranked eighth with assets at 72.11 million yen.
Assets declared by Fukuda, his 17 ministers and their immediate family members averaged 116.95 million yen, showing an increase of more than 25 million yen from the average 91.36 million yen for the Cabinet of Fukuda's predecessor Shinzo Abe, disclosed in November 2006.
Disclosure of ministers' assets has been mandated since 1984 after former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka (1918-1993) was convicted in the Lockheed bribery scandal. However, critics say the current disclosure requirements do not provide a clear picture and sometimes may not show the market value of what they actually own.
The assets disclosed include real estate, deposits and securities held by the Cabinet members, their spouses and children financially dependent on them. Other forms of assets include golf memberships, automobiles and art works.
Disclosure of stockholdings held by the ministers does not cover value and is limited to names of issues and numbers of shares.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe places second with 361.49 million yen, while Financial Services Minister Yoshimi Watanabe, who is also in charge of administrative reform, is the cellar dweller at 4.03 million yen. Four of the 18 declared more than 100 million yen in assets.
Hatoyama's assets include a residence on a 1,300-square-meter tract of land in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward and a villa in the highland summer resort of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture. He also purchased a condominium in his constituency of Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, in February this year.
Hatoyama holds about 200 million yen worth of time deposits and government bonds. His stockholdings include 3.75 million shares of Japan's largest tire maker Bridgestone Corp. that are worth several billion yen in market value.
Hatoyama is a grandson of former Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama (1883- who restored Japan's diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in His elder brother Yukio, the incumbent secretary general of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, is also known as a rich man.
Masuzoe's assets are mainly public and corporate bonds worth 320 million yen.
Most of Fukuda's assets are a condo in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward and land and housing properties in his constituency of Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. Fukuda's financial assets are 4.8 million yen of time deposits held by himself and his wife.
Meanwhile, assets declared by 25 senior vice ministers and 26 parliamentary secretaries averaged 128.46 million yen and 53.72 million yen, respectively.
The disclosure of assets this time also covered those of former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano and former farm minister Takehiko Endo, both of whom entered Abe's Cabinet in late August.
Yosano did not join Fukuda's Cabinet formed in late September while Endo resigned a week after being appointed. Yosano's assets came to 145.24 million yen, and Endo's 8.9 million yen.
Business Notes Scandal
TIME Aug. 26, 1991
In a season of scandal among Japan's largest financial firms, an eccentric restaurateur from Osaka has managed to steal the show. Nui Onoue, 61, who claims she began playing the stock market in response to a "divine message," was accused last week of using forged certificates worth $2.5 billion to obtain loans from a host of banks and financial companies. Among the duped lenders was the prestigious Industrial Bank of Japan. By last October, Onoue had built up her portfolio to an estimated value of nearly $780 million and ranked as one of Japan's largest individual investors. But prosecutors speculate that the 39% plunge in Tokyo share prices last year forced Onoue to make a desperate move to cover her losses.
Restaurateur in bubble-era bank fraud faces 15 years
Japantimes July 7, 1997
OSAKA -- Prosecutors demanded a 15-year prison term July 7 for a female restaurateur over 274 billion yen in business crimes involving the now-defunct Toyo Shinkin Bank and other financial institutions during the bubble economy of the early 1990s.
Osaka restaurateur Nui Onoue, 67, is accused of breach of trust involving 95 billion yen and swindling 179 billion yen from financial institutions. In the session, held at the Osaka District Court, prosecutors said Onoue conspired with a Toyo Shinkin branch manager in 1990 and 1991 to falsify savings account certificates to indicate she had 416 billion yen deposited at the bank. She then allegedly defrauded the Industrial Bank of Japan out of 172.5 billion yen in stocks and discount bank debentures.
Onoue had been borrowing from IBJ at the time, and she exchanged the bogus certificates for stocks and discount bank debentures she had already put up as collateral, they alleged. In 1987, prosecutors said, Onoue conspired with a Kizu Shinkin Bank branch manager at the time to falsify 5 billion yen in savings account certificates and swindled various nonbank financial institutions out of 6.5 billion yen. Kizu Shinkin also reported 5 billion yen in losses.
The defendant caused two nonbanks that had tendered loans to her 90 billion yen in losses by reclaiming her collateral without permission in 1990 and 1991, the prosecutors alleged. Onoue has denied the charges.
Four former officials of financial institutions have been indicted in connection with the case, which is considered symbolic of Japan's bubble days. They were all found guilty. A prosecutor said at the court session July 7 that "the defendant's crime was premeditated and vicious, because it forced a bank to go under and caused an outrageous amount of damage." He demanded she be sentenced to 15 years. Toyo Shinkin Bank was left with a massive amount of debt, and in September 1992 it was merged into another financial institution. Kizu Shinkin Bank went under in August 1995.
Onoue's Japanese-style restaurant in Osaka is closed and she has no buyers. She has been released on bail.
Chinese premier urges better ties with Japan
Wen urges Beijing not to forget past aggressions on rare ‘ice-thawing’ visit
msnbc April 12, 2007
TOKYO - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged Japan’s parliament on Thursday not to forget Tokyo’s wartime aggression even as the two Asian powers mend their strained ties and bolster thriving business relations.
Wen — the first Chinese leader to address the parliament in 22 years — was on a three-day “ice-melting” trip to Japan as the two countries worked to reverse a deterioration in ties caused in part by disagreements about the past.
The Chinese premier, who spent part of Thursday urging Japanese business leaders to invest in China, also struck a conciliatory note, acknowledging Japanese apologies and blaming a clique of militarists for Tokyo’s invasions of China.
“To reflect on history is not to dwell on hard feelings but to remember and learn from the past in order to open a better future,” he said, adding, however, that he hoped Japan’s apologies would be “turned into actions.”
The two countries have been at odds in recent years over Japan’s invasions and occupation of China in the 1930s and ’40s. China has accused Japan of not fully atoning for its aggression, while some Japanese feel accounts of their wrongdoings have been exaggerated.
The Wen trip was aimed at building on an improvement in ties begun when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe traveled to China in October. Ties had plunged to postwar lows during the 2001-2006 term of his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.
Japanese officials said they were satisfied so far with the visit, which was to end Friday.
“Premier Wen Jiabao’s speech was very positive, and I thought it was very good that forward-looking remarks were made on broad-ranging issues,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said.
On Wednesday, Wen and Abe declared their firm intentions to move forward on rebuilding relations, signed agreements on energy and the environment, and issued a joint statement that laid out a series of issues for the countries to cooperate on.
Wen also strove to put a human face on the Chinese government, coming out early Thursday for a jog at a Tokyo park — in sportswear with a Beijing 2008 Olympics logo — and even joining a group doing tai chi. On Friday, he was to play baseball with college students in western Japan.
Much of Wen’s activities on Thursday and Friday were aimed at business relations. China, including Hong Kong, is Japan’s No. 1 trading partner, and Beijing is eager to increase Japanese technology transfers and investment in its booming economy.
After the parliament speech, Wen lunched with members of Japan’s leading business federation, declaring that “winter has past, and spring has come in China-Japan relations.”
He urged Japanese companies to invest in China, vowing to address vast imbalances in the Chinese economy, improve the natural environment, protect intellectual property rights, continue tax breaks for high-tech companies and proceed with currency reform.
“China must build a society that conserves its resources and protects its environment,” Wen said.
Later Thursday, Wen and Abe met to launch a series of high-level economic dialogues expected to boost cooperation between the two trading partners.
“Economic ties between Japan and China have expanded rapidly in recent years,” Abe told the inaugural meeting. “Our economies have become indispensable to each other... and our relationship is crucial to the world economy,” he said.
Wen said he hoped to hold the first of the bilateral economic talks in Beijing later this year.
He also made a number of statements on issues close to Japanese hearts.
On Wednesday, he expressed understanding for Japan’s drive to win a resolution of North Korea’s past kidnappings of Japanese citizens. On Thursday, he alluded to Tokyo’s long-standing campaign to win a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council — a campaign China has blocked in the past.
“China understands Japan’s hope to play a bigger role in international society, and we are ready to strengthen our mutual understanding over the United Nations’ reforms,” he said.
Wen, however, also warned the Japanese not to meddle in Beijing’s relations with Taiwan, which it considers part of China. The premier said China hoped for peaceful reunification, but that it could not tolerate Taiwanese independence.
Al-Qaeda Branch Claims Algeria Blasts
Dozens Die in Strikes on Premier's Office, Police Post; 'New Front' Seen in N. Africa
Washington Post April 12, 2007
BERLIN, April 11 -- Al-Qaeda's new affiliate in North Africa asserted responsibility Wednesday for the deadliest attacks in Algeria's capital in a decade as 24 people were reported killed and 222 injured in bombings that shattered the prime minister's headquarters and a police base.
The Algerian strikes came one day after four suicide bombers died in confrontations with police in Casablanca in neighboring Morocco. Counterterrorism officials and analysts said the plots were the latest signs that local terrorist groups have escalated operations under al-Qaeda's banner and warned that the North African networks are expanding their reach to Europe and Iraq.
"We're seeing a new front opening up big-time," said Bruce Riedel, former senior Middle East analyst for the CIA and National Security Council. "The events in Morocco, but more clearly in Algiers, show al-Qaeda opening up a new front in the jihad. They were operating there before, but this is a declaration."
The Algerian government has been fighting a bloody insurgency mounted by Islamic radicals since 1992, but authorities appeared stunned by a late-morning vehicle bomb attack on the Government Palace, which contains the office of the prime minister and other high officials. It was the first major bombing in the heavily protected capital since the mid-1990s, killing 12 people and wounding 135, according to the state-run APS news agency. Authorities said the toll was likely to rise.
Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem was unhurt and spoke briefly with reporters outside the heavily damaged building. He called the attack a "betrayal" of an amnesty program that has resulted in the release of hundreds of insurgents from prison in an attempt to bring peace to the war-torn nation.
"This is a crime, a cowardly act," Belkhadem said. "At a time when the Algerian people are asking for national reconciliation and extend their hands, these criminal acts are taking place."
A representative of a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb asserted responsibility for the Algerian bombings in a phone call to the Morocco bureau of al-Jazeera television, the network said. Maghreb is an Arabic word for the region of North Africa stretching from Mauritania to Libya.
The group also posted an Internet statement giving details of the operation and photos of three purported bombers. It said the "martyrs" drove explosives-filled trucks into three targets: the government palace in Algiers, a police special forces barracks in the suburb of Bab Ezzouar and what it asserted was a regional headquarters for Interpol, according to a translation of the statement by the SITE Institute, a Washington-based terrorism research organization.
The Algerian press agency reported that only the Government Palace and the police barracks were attacked, with 12 reported dead and 87 wounded at the second location.
In Morocco, government investigators said they had found no operational links between the attacks in Algiers and the suicide bombers in Casablanca. At a news conference, Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa said the timing of the plots may have been coincidental, but concerning a connection, he added, "We don't rule it out."
Authorities in Casablanca said the explosions occurred after police surrounded four wanted terrorism suspects in an apartment building. Three blew themselves up with explosives-laden belts after they emerged from the building; a police sniper killed the fourth man before he could detonate his bomb. One police officer died and 21 bystanders were injured in the blasts, officials said.
Moroccan police said they were tracking the suspects in the belief they were accomplices of a man who blew himself up March 11 at an Internet cafe in Casablanca, injuring four people. Authorities have arrested 31 suspected members of the cell, which they believe planned to attack tourist sites, and are seeking three others, according to the Interior Ministry.
Yang Jiechi Holds Talks with His Japanese Counterpart Masahiko Komura
Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in San Francisco
On December 1, 2007, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his visiting Japanese counterpart Masahiko Komura held talks at the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Yang said the current China-Japan relations have maintained sound momentum and bilateral cooperation in various fields has made remarkable progress. The leaders of the two countries have maintained frequent contacts and exchanges, helping push bilateral ties to a new stage of building strategic, reciprocal ties in an all-round manner. The two countries have launched their high-level economic dialogue mechanism, made new progress in defense exchanges and kept communication and coordination in international and regional affairs, he said, adding that both sides also held various activities to mark the 35th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic ties. China will continue to pursue the good-neighborly and friendly policy with Japan and develop long-term stable cooperation based on the three political documents between the two countries, he said. China is willing to make joint efforts with Japan to expand exchanges, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in an effort to push for greater progress in the China-Japan relationship, Yang added.
On the Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's upcoming visit to China, Yang said both sides should strengthen cooperation and make preparations for Fukuda's visit so as to ensure its success and push ahead with bilateral relations. He urged both sides to focus on cooperation in energy and environmental protection and deepen economic and trade cooperation to achieve mutual benefits and a win-win situation. He also called for strengthening humanistic exchanges to build up friendship between the two peoples. The leaders of the two countries have agreed to designate the year 2008 as the "Year of China-Japan Youth Exchange ", said Yang, expressing hope that both sides will arouse the initiative of the two peoples from all walks of life and cement the social basis of China-Japan friendship for generations. The foreign minister also suggested that the two countries properly handle key sensitive issues to ensure sound, stable development of bilateral ties. Yang emphasized that the history issue and Taiwan question concern the political foundation of China-Japan relations. He said he hoped the Japanese side could appropriately handle relevant issues in accordance with the three political documents and relevant consensus.
Komura said the atmosphere of Japan-China relations is good and the meetings between state leaders of both countries have forcefully promoted the development of bilateral ties. The two countries have successfully held a series of events to mark the 35th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China diplomatic ties and "Cultural and Sports Exchange Year", which provide great opportunities for dynamic development of bilateral ties, said the foreign minister. Japan attaches great importance to furthering strategic reciprocal ties with China and is ready to keep close cooperation and coordination with China so that the exchanges of visits between leaders of the two countries could yield positive outcomes. Komura pledged Japan's joint efforts with China to well hold a range of grand events to mark the "Year of China-Japan Youth Exchange" and the 30th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between China and Japan. Japan is willing to increase mutual trust in politics and security and facilitate bilateral exchanges and cooperation in environmental protection and culture to ensure that enormous achievements will be made in bilateral ties in the year 2008.
Komura reiterated Japan's position on the Taiwan question, saying Japan's stance remains unchanged. Japan does not support Taiwan to "join the United Nations" and opposes unilateral change of the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, Komura said.
To properly settle the East China Sea dispute at an early date and achieve joint exploration serves the mutual interests of both countries and is conducive to pushing forward the improvement and development of bilateral relations, Yang said, adding China always takes a positive attitude in solving the issue. Yang said maintaining friendly consultations is the only correct solution to the issue. Shelving disputes and seeking joint exploration is a realistic way to resolve the issue and making consistent efforts toward each other is key to progress in the consultations, Yang said. He said both sides should, on the basis of respecting the truth, seek common ground and narrow differences to jointly push for substantial progress in the East China Sea talks.
Both sides also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern.
Komura and Yang also signed agreements on mutual cooperation in criminal investigations and on Japan's final batch of yen loans to China after their talks.
Japan PM urges China co-operation
BBC NEWS 30 December 2007
Japan's Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, has called for increased co-operation with China in the future, at the end of a four-day trip to the country.
Mr Fukuda said the neighbours could do more for the world by co-operating than each would achieve single-handedly.
Despite the remarks, earlier talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, and President Hu Jintao did not resolve a dispute over maritime gas fields.
Mr Fukuda's visit to China was his first since taking office in September.
China refused high-level contact with Japan from 2001 to 2006 during the premiership of Junichiro Koizumi, after he made annual visits to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine.
Mr Fukuda has said he will not visit the shrine while he is in power and has called for Japan to be humble about its past.
Speaking after visiting the birthplace of the philosopher Confucius in the eastern town of Qufu in Shandong province, Mr Fukuda said his trip to China had been "very meaningful".
"I had in-depth discussions with Chinese leaders and agreed that Japan and China can do more if they co-operate than each can do single-handedly," he told reporters.
"There will be nothing good for the region and the world unless Japan and China have co-operative relations," he added.
Before visiting Qufu, Mr Fukuda travelled to Tianjin to tour a Toyota car factory in the city.
He had earlier played a game of catch with Mr Wen Jiabao in Beijing following three days of talks aimed at improving Sino-Japanese relations.
The two men agreed to co-operate on climate change and trade, and to increase youth exchanges between their countries.
But despite 11 previous rounds of talks, no agreement has been reached on the two countries' territorial dispute over lucrative gas fields in the East China Sea.
China does not accept the maritime border which Japan has proposed as a starting point for negotiations. The two leaders agreed only to raise discussions to vice-ministerial level.
Crown Prince helps excavate Mongolia fossils
Japantimes July 14, 2007
ULAN BATOR (Kyodo) Crown Prince Naruhito visited Mongolia's Natural History Museum and a paleontology center in Ulan Bator and took part in fossil excavation work Thursday.
In the museum, which exhibits fossils of dinosaurs and dinosaur eggs that have been found in the Gobi desert, the Crown Prince saw exhibits including skeletal specimens of the carnivorous Tarbosaurs.
At the paleontology center, which focuses on conservation and restoration of fossils, he assisted with fossil-extraction work by removing sand with a brush and said it requires great patience.
Earlier in the day, he visited the Japanese ambassador's residence and chatted with about 20 Japanese residents of Mongolia. One of them, Yukio Kasuga, 86, received the prince's gratitude for his efforts in getting a support facility built for orphans in a suburb of Ulan Bator.
NORTH KOREA THIS WEEK NO. 459
YONHAP NEWS July 26, 2007
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The following is a chronological review of major developments related to North Korea from July 19 to 25, 2007.
19 The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) says a biochemical research team at the University of Science of the DPRK (North Korea) has developed a highly efficient protoporphyrin hepatitis injection and protoporphyrin hepatitis capsule.
19 A friendly meeting between North Korean and Cuban embassy officials in Pyongyang is held at DPRK-Cuba Friendship Moranbong Middle School No. 1 in Pyongyang on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the July 26 armed uprising of the Cuban people.
19 Valery Sukhinin, Russian ambassador to the DPRK, hosts a reception at the embassy in Pyongyang on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the publication of the DPRK-Russia Joint Declaration.
19 Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), sends a message of sympathy to Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, the Brazilian president, in connection with an air crash in Sao Paulo, Brazil that caused a huge loss of lives.
20 Kim Yong-nam leaves Pyongyang by a special plane to pay official goodwill visits to Mongolia, Algeria and Ethiopia.
20 The KCNA says meetings of voters to nominate candidates of deputies to the provincial (city under the direct control of the government), city (district) and county people's assemblies have been held across the country.
20 The KCNA says a national sports department has been recently established in the Korean University of Physical Education.
20 Kim Yong-nam sends a message of greetings to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez on the occasion of the 197th anniversary of the independence of Colombia.
20 Kim Yong-nam arrives in Ulan Bator by a special plane to pay an official goodwill visit to Mongolia upon the invitation of Mongolian President Nambariin Enkhbayar.
20 A series of talks between the DPRK and the U.S. and the meeting of heads of the delegations to the six-party talks wind up in Beijing, after starting on July 17.
20 Talks between Kim Yong-nam and Nambariin Enkhbayar, president of Mongolia, are held in Ulaanbaatar.
20 Agreements on cooperation in the fields of public health and medical science, marine transport and others between the governments of the DPRK and Mongolia are signed in Ulan Bator.
20 Kim Yong-nam meets Miyegombiin Enkhbold, Mongolia's prime minister, who paid a courtesy call on him.
20 Mongolian President Nambariin Enkhbayar hosts a banquet in honor of Kim Yong-nam in the Mongolian capital.
21 The DPRK delegation headed by Kim Kye-gwan,vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, returns home.
21 Kim Yong-nam meets with D. Lundejanchan, chairman of the State Great Hural of Mongolia, when the latter paid a courtesy call on him.
21 Kim Yong-nam meets with Mongolian President Nambariin Enkhbayar.
21 Inter-sector talks between the DPRK and Mongolia are held in Ulaanbaatar.
22 Kim Yong-nam sends a message of greetings to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the great July 23 revolution in Egypt.
23 A delegation of the (North) Korean Journalists Union led by Kim Pyong-ho, deputy director general of the KCNA, leaves Pyongyang to visit China.
23 Kim Yong-nam sends a congratulatory message to Pratibha Patil who was elected president of India.
23 Enrique Montoto Cruz, Cuban charge d' affaires in Pyongyang, and his embassy officials help employees of the DPRK-Cuba friendship stock farm in weeding a bean field on the occasion of the month of solidarity with the Cuban people.
23 Kim Yong-nam sends a message of thanks to Nambariin Enkhbayar, president of Mongolia, after concluding his four-day official goodwill visit to the country.
23 Chairman of the Asian Football Confederation Mohamed Hammam Saad Al-Abdulla and his party arrive in Pyongyang.
23-24 An international scientific symposium on potatoes is held in Pyongyang.
24 The sixth inter-Korean general-level military talks open in the South's side of the truce village of Panmunjom.
24 Chief Jo Il-min and members of the Pyongyang Mission of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front visit the historic site associated with the Korean War (1950-1953) ahead of the 54th anniversary of the armistice on July 27.
24 Kim Yong-nam sends a message of greetings to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, on the occasion of its independence day.
24 Kim Yong-nam arrives in Algiers to pay an official goodwill visit to Algeria.
24 Talks between Kim Yong-nam and Abdelkader Bensalah, president of the Council of the Nation of Algeria, are held in Algiers.
24 Abdelkader Bensalah, president of the Council of the Nation of Algeria, hosts a banquet in honor of Kim Yong-nam.
25 Kim Yong-nam sends a message of greetings to Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldivian president, on the occasion of the independence day of the Republic of Maldives.
25 The nomination of candidates for deputies to the provincial, city and county people's assemblies of the DPRK is finished.
Sumo champion suspended for playing football while 'injured'
guardian.co.uk, August 1 2007
Asashoryu, the enfant terrible of sumo wrestling, has been banned from taking part in the next two tournaments after he was filmed playing football in his native Mongolia while supposedly recovering from injuries.
In an unprecedented show of anger towards a reigning grand champion, the Japanese Sumo Association told Asashoryu today that he would not be allowed to take part in the September and November tournaments and would receive a 30% pay cut for four months.
It is the first time in the sport's 2,000-year history that a yokozuna - grand champion - has been banned from a tournament.
After sweeping to another title in Nagoya last month, Asashoryu was given permission to miss an 18-day regional tour, starting on Friday, which includes exhibition bouts and public relations work with children and sumo fans.
His stable master, Takasago, submitted a doctor's certificate explaining that his prize wrestler was suffering from a damaged ligament in his left elbow and a stress fracture in his lower back.
But over the weekend a Japanese TV network showed footage of the wrestler sprinting around the pitch during a charity football match in Mongolia organised by the former Japanese international Hidetoshi Nakata.
Dressed in a tight-fitting "Rooney" England T-shirt, he showed no sign of discomfort as he skipped tackles, made diving headers and scored off a pass from Nakata.
The Kyodo news agency reported that Asashoryu, whose real name is Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj, had played in the match at the request of the Mongolian government.
His stable master was not impressed. "I told him that if he could join the sumo tour, then he should," he told reporters. "And if he was unable to do that, to check himself into hospital. He said that the government had asked him to play, but even so, what he did was unacceptable."
On his return to Tokyo on Monday, Asashoryu headed straight to the sumo association's headquarters to apologise. "I am reflecting on what I have done," he told officials, adding that he would receive treatment for his injuries later that day.
The association said that he was no longer welcome on the PR tour, whatever his physical condition.
Most sumo fans will miss the 26-year-old, who is considered one of the finest wrestlers in the sport's history. Despite his lack of height and relatively light weight of 148kg (more than 23 stone), he has won 19 tournaments since becoming yokozuna, or grand champion, in 2003, including a record seven in a row. His career total of 21 victories makes him the fifth most successful wrestler of all time.
Though the ban will not affect his status, it will please traditionalists who believe that the young upstart from Ulan Bator does not posses the right personal attributes to be a yokozuna.
He has frequently tested the patience of Japan's conservative sumo authorities with his disdain for the rules of engagement in the ring and his bad behaviour off it. In July 2003 he was disqualified after tugging the top knot of his compatriot and rival Kyokushuzan.
Earlier that year he appeared to bump into the same opponent after losing to him. Their row reportedly continued in the changing room, where the pair wrestled naked in the communal bath.
Soon after becoming yokozuna Asashoryu failed to attend the funeral of the former master of his stable, preferring to return to Mongolia for a holiday. This year a magazine accused him and other wrestlers of match-fixing. They have denied the allegations and have filed a criminal complaint accusing the magazine of defamation.
Asashoryu nearing depression
Japantimes Aug. 6, 2007
Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu, who has apparently been in a tattered emotional state since getting hit with a suspension from two grand sumo tournaments, was diagnosed with a mild case of depression on Sunday. Psychiatrist Masaki Honda administered an exam on Asashoryu at the grand champion's Tokyo home and later submitted a medical report to stable elder Takasago, calling Asashoryu's condition "one step away from depression." Labeling Asashoryu's illness as a type of nervous breakdown, Honda said the 26-year-old is finding it difficult to eat anything and cannot sleep. "His eyes are glazed over and he isn't able to speak sensibly about anything," Honda said. "His face is gloomy and I felt sorry for him." Honda is recommending that Asashoryu be permitted to have a change of environment by returning to his home land in Mongolia as soon as possible to avoid a mental collapse into full-blown depression. "As quickly as possible, Asashoryu should move to an environment that suits him best. If he spends two or three more days like this, he will fall into depression. If he becomes depressed, he will need three months to recover," Honda said.
Mongolia, N. Korea sign friendship treaty
Asian Political News, August 12, 2002
ULAN BATOR, Aug. 8 Kyodo
North Korea and Mongolia signed a bilateral friendship and cooperation treaty here Thursday in another sign of a change of direction in North Korean diplomacy.
The treaty was signed by North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun and his Mongolian counterpart, Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun, at a ceremony in the Mongolian capital.
According to the Mongolian Foreign Ministry, the treaty pledges bilateral cooperation in a wide range of fields, including economic, cultural, educational and scientific areas.
It also declares cooperation in seeking peaceful solutions to conflicts to safeguard peace and safety in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Northeast Asia.
Paek, who arrived in Ulan Bator on Wednesday for a three-day official visit, is the first North Korean foreign minister to visit Mongolia in 14 years.
The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1948, the same year North Korea emerged amid the chaos following the end of World War II.
Mongolia, a former satellite of the Soviet Union, assisted North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, and the two countries eventually signed their first friendship and cooperation treaty in 1986.
However, with the impending political collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by the end of the 1980s, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, the Communist party that ruled Mongolia from the 1920s, ceded its monopoly on political power.
(This is an excerpt translation of Wikipedia from Japanese to English.)
Morihisa Aoki is a former Japanese diplomat. He is now a councilor of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. He was born in 1938. One of his grandfathers was the vice director of the League of Nations. Another grandfather was the foreign minister. His father was the ambassador to the Geneva International Organization. Aoki graduated from Tokyo University and entered the Forein Ministry in 1963.
When he was the ambassador to Peru, he was involved in the Japanese embassy hostage crisis in 1996. He was held hostage with hundreds of people.
He became the ambassador to Kenya in July, 1998. The next month, the US embassy in Nairobi was bombed by terrorists. He retired from the foreign ministry three days after the 9.11 terrorist attacks in the US.
Moriya says he burned all of his records
Act done amid Koike row, 'memo nerd' claims
Japantimes Dec. 1, 2007
Former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya confessed to burning diaries and other personal records when he left the Defense Ministry in August in an interview before he was arrested for allegedly taking bribes from a defense equipment trader.
Moriya was known for his habit of taking detailed notes on whom he met with and what they discussed, being dubbed a "memo nerd." If he did burn the records, this will only further fuel suspicions that he was bribed by arrested defense equipment trader Motonobu Miyazaki.
"I burned all records, including my diaries when I left the ministry," Moriya said in an interview on Nov. 23.
Sources said prosecutors are highly interested in the fate of Moriya's personal records as they believe the notes could help substantiate the bribes he allegedly took over the procurement of Self-Defense Forces equipment and could also lead to a corruption case involving politicians.
Moriya, 63, claimed he burned the records in anger amid a clash in August with then Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, who wanted him retired and replaced.
"Ms. Koike leaked her appointment plan to newspaper reporters before notifying me . . . and told me 'You must quit.' As she pressed me to accept her will, I felt, 'Give me a break' and burned everything at that time," Moriya said.
Moriya said the burned diaries included records on a controversial dinner with Miyazaki and allegedly with Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga among others at a Tokyo restaurant last Dec. 4.
"I burned it as I was displeased" with Koike, said Moriya, who stepped down as vice defense minister Aug. 31.
Moriya said in sworn testimony in the Diet Nov. 15 that Nukaga was present at the dinner party. Miyazaki, 69, is a former executive at defense equipment trader Yamada Corp. and the founder of rival trader Nihon Mirise Corp.
But Nukaga has flatly denied attending the dinner, prompting an opposition-dominated House of Councilors committee to decide to summon Nukaga, a former Defense Agency chief, for sworn testimony over suspected collusion with Miyazaki.
Prosecutors arrested Moriya along with his wife, Sachiko, 56, on Wednesday on suspicion of taking bribes worth ¥3.89 million in the form of golf outings and other perks in return for favoring Yamada and Nihon Mirise over defense equipment procurements when he was still the top defense bureaucrat.
Sachiko Moriya has meanwhile changed her stance from her initial denial of the allegations and now admits to having taken bribes from Miyazaki, in the form of being treated to golf outings, and told investigators she regrets her actions, the sources said.
Miyazaki has reportedly admitted treating Moriya in return for favors, although Moriya has denied being bribed. His wife claimed at the time of her arrest that she believed going on Miyazaki-funded golf outings didn't constitute bribery as he was a friend, the sources said.
On Friday, prosecutors also raided the office of Yamada as well as the home of Yamada's founder in Yokohama.
The prosecutors indicted Miyazaki on charges of embezzlement involving Yamada's U.S. subsidiary, Yamada International Corp., and served a fresh arrest warrant on him for allegedly giving the bribes to the Moriyas.
Divided Diet forecloses on Fukuda's May Europe trip
Japantimes April 17, 2008
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has canceled planned visits to France, Germany and France in early May due to the expected continuation of the political standoff in the divided Diet, government officials said Wednesday.
Fukuda, however, will visit Russia from April 25-27 as scheduled and meet the Russian leadership, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said at a news conference.
The Golden Week holiday season from late April to early May is usually an opportunity for the prime minister to visit other countries and cultivate relations with world leaders.
The scheduled trip to Europe was considered particularly important for Fukuda because Japan is hosting the Group of Eight summit in July and as chair he needs to negotiate with participating leaders about a difficult agenda featuring efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
"We have been considering a visit to countries other than Russia in early May . . . but we have decided to call it off," Machimura said, citing expected political scheduling at the Diet as one of the reasons for the cancellation.
"I never think (the cancellation) will be good for the national interests of Japan," Machimura said. "It's regrettable."
Fukuda's government has been harried ever since its inauguration in September by the opposition-controlled Upper House, and his planned trip to Europe is the latest victim of the opposition's newly found strength.
The political standoff is expected to resume in early May as the opposition camp is threatening to submit a censure motion against Fukuda in the Upper House if the ruling bloc proceeds with a second vote on government-sponsored budget-related bills, including one to extend special tax rates on gasoline, after April 29.
Article 59 of the Constitution stipulates a bill can be sent back to the Lower House 60 days after it has been handed over to the Upper House for deliberation because it will be considered a rejection by the upper chamber. A bill can then be approved with two-thirds of the votes in the Lower House.
The ruling bloc-controlled Lower House passed the budget-related bills on Feb. 29 for the first time, but the opposition-controlled Upper House has shelved the bills and no schedule has been set for a vote in the upper chamber.
A top Foreign Ministry official declined comment on the cancellation Wednesday morning, saying, "It is a political affair."
But the official insisted Fukuda does not necessarily need to meet world leaders face to face before the G8 summit in July because he has already met with U.S. President George W. Bush, had phone conversations with other leaders and is set to meet Russia's leaders soon.
(This is the translation of part of
this Japanese site.)
During WWII, Morihisa Aoki's father, Morio Aoki, worked as Second Secretary at the Japanese Embassy to Turkey. He was one of the most pro-Axis Japanese diplomats. One of his colleagues wrote in his memoirs that the atmosphere in the embassy was all the time stodgy and uncomfortable due to the Ankara King's impudent attitude. It goes without saying that the King was Morio Aoki. I really feel that the apple never falls far from the tree.
Sun sets on the 'magnificent seven' era
Japantimes April 6, 2000
Obuchi's departure from the political scene appears to mark the end of the "seven lieutenants" era of former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita.
The seven are
Keizo Obuchi, Ichiro Ozawa, Ryutaro Hashimoto, Seiroku Kajiyama, Tsutomu Hata, Kozo Watanabe and Keiwa Okuda.
They were all once key members of a Liberal Democratic Party faction led by Takeshita and the late party kingmaker, Shin Kanemaru, that dominated LDP politics during the late 1980s and the early 1990s.
Even after the faction's breakup in 1992 and the defection of Ozawa and his followers from the LDP the following year, the seven men continued to play important roles in politics throughout the 1990s. Three of the seven -- Obuchi, Hashimoto and Hata -- became prime ministers.
Okuda died in 1998, and Obuchi -- Takeshita's closest aide, who took over the faction from his mentor -- and Kajiyama are now hospitalized. There is little prospect that the comatose Obuchi will return to an active career.
The political clout of the other four are also on the wane. Ozawa, once touted as the leading reformer in Japanese politics, suffered the defection of a majority of his Liberal Party members Monday after the party left the LDP-led ruling alliance. His party is now the sixth-largest force in the Lower House and the seventh-largest in the upper chamber.
"Times are changing, and we cannot help it if the days of the seven are over," said Watanabe, Lower House vice speaker.
Watanabe said Obuchi must have been terribly shocked by Ozawa's departure from the coalition. Obuchi suffered a stroke and was hospitalized just a few hours after his talks with Ozawa broke down Saturday.
"Everybody walks away from Ozawa because he lacks the ability to deal humbly with people," Watanabe said, referring to the defection of the Liberal Party lawmakers.
Watanabe said he regrets that Takeshita himself has been hospitalized for more than a year due to what has been described as back pain. "If Mr. Takeshita had been well, everybody would have consulted him," he said.
Even after the fall of the seven, however, other former Takeshita faction members hold key positions in Nagata-cho. Among them are Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki and LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka, who are believed to have orchestrated the transition from Obuchi to Yoshiro Mori.
Watanabe believes the Mori Cabinet will be effectively run by Aoki and Nonaka.
Japan's leadership ballot gets underway
BBC July 24, 1998
Japan's ruling Liberal Democrat Party has started voting to choose a new party president to replace the outgoing Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.
He resigned to take responsibility for the party's disastrous showing in July 12 elections for the upper house of Parliament.
The winner is virtually certain of being elected prime minister in a later vote by parliament because the LDP commands a comfortable majority in the powerful lower house.
The new LDP president will serve out the rest of Hashimoto's term until the end of September 1999.
The three candidates, making their final public speeches on national television, all vowed to pull Japan out of its economic difficulties.
They demurred from saying how many votes each had secured so far. "It's a corporate secret," said Seiroku Kajiyama, one of the candidates.
According to Japan's Kyodo News Service, some young LDP members from the Lower House are worried about the party's poor showing in the Upper House. Around 20 members have proposed leaving the party if Mr Obuchi, the party stalwart candidate, is chosen as its leader.
If no one wins a majority in the first ballot, a second ballot will be held immediately between the top two candidates.
Foreign Minister, Keizo Obuchi, 61, is seen as the front-runner of the election, with broad party support. He is from the old-school of Japanese politics, adept at forging compromises among competing political groups.
Mr Obuchi said on Thursday it would not be easy to solve the country's bad loan problem - Japan's banks are saddled with huge unrecoverable loans
"The first priority is resolving the bad loans. But the problem is that there may not be enough to ensure the economy will pick up," Mr Obuchi said.
The 72-year-old former Chief Cabinet Secretary, Seiroku Kajiyama has a 30-year political career behind him. He is committed to restoring health to Japan's once-vibrant economy, through fundamental reform, not just superficial fixes.
Because of his age, he acknowledged that he could die at any time, but wants to spend his last years in service to the country.
"I may stumble along the way but I will devote my life to economic recovery," Mr Kajiyama said.
Health Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, 56, enjoys the greatest support among the public. He is outspoken and has presented himself as a drastic reformer.
In his speech, he said the party had to consider why it had done so badly in the upper house election
He said politicians should listen to the voters and think about the long-term future.
"We have to restore the trust of the people in politics," Mr Koizumi said.
"Before we ask people to endure any hardships we have to show that the government and politicians can endure painful reforms themselves."
Three opposition parties merge to form Minseito
Japantimes Jan. 21, 1998
Three opposition parties said Wednesday they will merge Friday to form a new party with an old name in Japanese politics: Minseito, literally "Democratic Politics Party."Former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata announced the name for the new party, to be formed by Kokumin no Koe (Voice of the People), From Five and Hata's Taiyo Party. Minseito was picked from among several candidate names in a general meeting of Diet members of the three parties, Hata said.The name apparently comes from Rikken Minseito, a powerful party in prewar Japan that won a landslide election victory. Its head, Osachi Hamaguchi, was elected prime minister in 1929. It was commonly known as Minseito for short.The new party will be far smaller than Rikken Minseito. It will have 39 legislators: nine in the Upper House and 30 in the Lower House, making it the fifth-largest Lower House bloc.The politicians decided to launch a panel headed by former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, who leads From Five, to study policies targeted ultimately at assuming government power, officials of the three parties said. "Japan is in a serious situation," Hata said. "We should be determined to herald a new era (with new policies)."Kokumin no Koe chief Michihiko Kano, a former state minister, was appointed the new party's secretary general.
Former Transport Minister Keiwa Okuda
and former Justice Minister Megumu Sato were named supreme advisers, while former Home Affairs Minister Hajime Ishii and former Environment Agency chief Wakako Hironaka were named deputy leaders.
The Founder's Early Life
Shorinji Kempo traces its origins more than five thousand years to ancient India. Though it experienced a long period of development in China, its present form is the result of Founder's genius. Doshin So was born in 1911, in Okayama Prefecture, the oldest son of a customs officer. Upon the death of his father, young So was sent to live with his grandfather, who was an employee of the Manchurian railroad. When he was only seventeen, however, his grandfather's death forced him to return to Japan under the patronage of his grandfather's friend Mitsuru Toyama, the founder of the ultrapatriotic Amur River Society. At that time, Japan was experiencing the the effects of worldwide depression and was as a result becoming involved in politics on the Asian mainland.
In 1928, Doshin So returned to Manchuria, this time as a member of a secret organization. To facilitate his covert activities, he became a disciple of a Taoist priest who was also an executive of the Zai-jari secret society and a master of the Byakurenmonken, a branch of Kempo originating at the Shorinji. This was So's first contact with kempo, and though he began to practice it eagerly, in those days it was no more than a series of incoherent disorganized techniques.
The association of Chang Tso-lin, a Chinese warlord acting more or less as a client of the Japanese but proving too nationalistic for some of the officers of the Japanese Kwantung Army, who had him put out of the way, intensified Japanese meddling in Manchuria and China and accelerated their plans to revive the defunct Manchu (Ch'ing) Dynasty. In his role as a secret agent, So was forced to travel widely to gather information for his organization, and this gave him the opportunity to meet masters of Kempo of various kinds. As had been true of the Taoist priest under whom he had studied earlier, however, these men too knew only a handful of techniques that lacked any kind of organization. But trip to Peking brought young So into contact with the twentieth master of the North Shorinji Giwamonken School of Kempo, whose direct disciple he immediately became. Having resigned himself to the unhappy likelihood that he would be the last of the Kempo head masters, this elderly man was overjoyed at finding an enthusiastic and skillful young follower. In a ceremony at the Shorinji Temple in 1936, Doshin So was officially designated the successor of the leader of the north Shorinji school.
In 1945, when the Russian Army entered Manchuria, Doshin So managed to escape through the help of Chinese secret society members: he was finally repatriated in 1946. The grim state of affairs in postwar Japan impressed him with the need of a restoration of morality and national pride and the creation of an entirely new human image. Regarding the Dharma spirit and the practice of Kempo as means to achieve these ends, Doshin So completely revised, expanded, and systematized the many forms of Kempo he had learned in China and thus created Shorinji Kempo as it exists today.
The Founder's Motivation and Purpose for Starting Shorinji Kempo
On August 7, 1945, Soviet troops invaded Manchuria. At that time, Founder was living in a town called Suiyo, on the border of Eastern Manchuria. The Japanese Army retreated before the arrival of the Soviet troops, leaving only civilians, mostly women and children, to face the Russians. Founder managed to escape the town before the Soviets entered it, but he lived for about one year in Manchuria, under the Soviet occupation. During that period, he experienced many fo the hardships and learned the sadness that comes to a defeated people. He saw the only justice was that of force; in other words: might makes right. People let a desire for personal profit and national interests take priority over ideals, honesty, religion, and virtue.
Based on those experiences, Founder realized that everything depends on the individual, and the results will be according to the quality of the individual. He got his first motto from those experiences: The people, the people, the people, everything depends on the quality of the people! (in Japanese, Hito! Hito! Hito! Subete wa hito no shitsu ni aru). It is up to the people who possess the qualities of courage and justice to make a better world and to teach others.
Founder returned to Japan in 1946, with the intention of establishing some kind of school to develop people who would possess the right qualities to work for a better world. On his return, he found the Japanese people confused and discouraged and lacking any sense of purpose. The strong took advantage of the weak and people were only interested trying to service and satisfy their own desires. The young people did not know which way to turn and had lost all hope for the future. Ancient values and virtues were discarded, but there was nothing to replace them. Young people were no longer interested in the virtues of the past, but had failed to find any real solutions to the problems of the present and had little concern for the future.
Founder decided to devote the remainder of his life to developing the kind of people who could help Japan regain the respect and trust of the world. He decided to depend on true Buddhism to achieve his purpose, but he also realized that it would do no good to go live in the mountains as a hermit. To develop people, he had to remain where the people lived their daily lives. He knew that people would not pay much attention to just preaching; he sought for something he could offer people that would attract and hold their interest, as well as benefit them.
One night, the Founder had a dream of a bearded Daruma, who was walking away from him and pointing with his finger. Founder tried to follow, but could not move and called out, asking Daruma to wait. He was awakened by the sound of his own voice. After thinking about the dream, Founder decided that Daruma was telling him to follow in his footsteps. Here was the solution to provide the action needed to attract people! Founder decided to teach Arahan no Ken (a martial art), which Daruma is said to have brought to China from India.
Founder build a 6-mat dojo behind his house in Tadotsu, Kagawa Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku. He called it Honzan. The Arahan no Ken, which Founder had studied in China, is different from budo. The purpose is not to kill, but to overcome one's self. The practice of the art develops both mind and the body, helping to create a well-balanced individual with the mental powers to solve life's problems and the strength to carry out the physical actions necessary. By teaching this Ken to young people and preaching the right philosophy to them, Founder would give them self-confidence, strength, and hope for the future. He organized the religion his philosophical teachings as a branch of Buddihism, and called it Kongo Zen.
Founder reformed and revised what he had studied in China, and backed it up with his theories and philosophy so that it became Shomon no Gyo. This was the beginning of today's Kongo Zen and Shorinji Kempo.
Seventy dead in China train crash: state media
ZIBO, China (AFP) — Seventy people were killed and 420 injured early Monday when a passenger train from Beijing careered off the rails and slammed into another train in eastern China, state media reported.
Ruling out terrorism, the official Xinhua news agency said preliminary investigations found human error was to blame, without elaborating.
The first train was travelling to Qingdao -- the coastal city that will host the Olympic sailing competition in August -- when it derailed, causing a train coming in the opposite direction to leave the tracks.
Nine carriages derailed, China news service said, and the second train crashed into those still on the track.
The rail accident, the worst in China in more than a decade, happened near the city of Zibo in Shandong province, the news service said.
Xinhua reported 70 people killed in the accident, quoting officials at the rescue headquarters. It said there were no foreigners among the dead.
The news agency said four French nationals were among those injured. They included three family members and a friend.
Pascal Boisson, 54, suffered multiple fractures to his ribs and may have another fracture in the chest, Xinhua reported, quoting Zhang Jun, head of the orthopedics department at one of Zibo's hospitals.
Other survivors recounted their experiences.
"We were still sleeping," a 38-year-old woman who escaped from the wreckage told Xinhua.
"I suddenly woke up when I felt the train stopped with a jolt. After a minute or two it started off again, but soon toppled."
The woman, who only gave her family name as Yu, managed to escape from the wreck with her 13-year-old daughter through a huge crack in the floor.
"I suddenly felt the train, like a roller coaster, topple 90 degrees to one side and all the way to the other side," a passenger surnamed Zhang, on the train from Beijing, told Xinhua.
"When it finally went off the tracks, many people fell on me and hot water poured out of the thermos flasks."
The news agency described chaotic scenes in the minutes after the disaster, the ground littered with blood-soaked sheets and shattered thermos flasks, as passengers sought survival.
"I saw a girl who was trying to help her boyfriend out of the train, but he was dead," Zhang said.
At one point so many survivors tried to make phone calls that the mobile communications network was congested and no one could get through, Xinhua said.
Hu Weidong, a coach of China's national sailing team, was also among the injured, and was transferred to a hospital in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province.
"He didn't lose consciousness, but there were grave injuries to his neck and spine, which we fear could cause paralysis," Zhang told Xinhua.
Witnesses said many passengers were able to climb out of the wrecked train carriages shortly after the crash, some wrapped in bed sheets from the sleeper cars to guard against the early morning chill.
More than 700 medical staff and 130 ambulances were involved in rescue efforts, Xinhua said.
A total of 19 hospitals were treating those hurt in the accident, Xinhua reported, while hotels prepared to accommodate the victims' families.
"We have received around 40 injured passengers but nobody died," a nurse at one of Zibo's hospitals told AFP.
"Some of them are seriously injured."
The accident happened at 4:41 am (2041 GMT Sunday), Xinhua said, quoting a spokesman from the Shandong provincial government.
Railway Minister Liu Zhijun and Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang have arrived at the scene to oversee rescue efforts, according to the news agency, with Liu has demanding an investigation.
The accident has disrupted trains on a major rail route linking Jinan, the capital of Shandong, to Qingdao, although the Ministry of Railways said late Monday the line had been repaired. Services will be restored by about 8 a.m on Tuesday, Xinhua said.
This is the second serious train accident in Shandong province.
In January, a high-speed train ploughed into a group of railway workers in the province, killing 18 people.
In one of the worst rail accidents in recent times in China, 126 people were killed and more than 200 injured when two trains collided in central Hunan province in 1997.
Olympic flame arrives in Pyongyang for N. Korea's 1st torch relay
AP Apr 27 2008
The Olympic flame arrived in North Korea early Monday for the first torch relay in the country to be held later in the day.
The torch arrived at Pyongyang's international airport after midnight on a plane from the South Korean capital of Seoul. It was met by crowds of Koreans as well as Chinese living in North Korea waving flags of the two countries.
Pyongyang has been gearing up for the relay, holding on Sunday a rehearsal of the opening ceremony that will take place from 10 a.m. Monday in front of the Tower of the Juche Idea in the central part of the city.
"I am very honored to have been chosen for this at my advanced age," Pak Tu Ik, the 71-year-old first runner who was at the ceremony rehearsal, said Sunday morning.
Pak is a North Korean sports hero who was a key member of the country's soccer team that advanced into the 1966 World Cup quarter finals.
The torch relay in other parts of the world has been marked by scuffles between security officials and protestors against China's policies over issues ranging from Tibet to Sudan to press freedoms.
In Seoul on Sunday, Chinese students clashed with anti-Beijing demonstrators during the torch relay through the South Korean capital. Some 8,300 police officers were deployed across the city to guard the torch.
But an orderly, smooth run was all but guaranteed in the controlled North Korean capital, where the flame was likely to be met by cheering crowds.
"I am confident of the success" of the torch relay, Ri Jong Sok, vice president of the Pyongyang committee organizing the relay, told reporters on Sunday.
Ri said last week that "hundreds of thousands" are expected to turn out to cheer the flame with Chinese, North Korean and Olympic flags in their hands.
North Korea is known to dispatch thousands of its citizens to the streets to welcome some state guests, cheering them and waving pink plastic flowers as their motorcades pass by.
On Sunday, blue and orange banners reading, "Beijing 2008," were hung on both sides of the torch relay route. Similar banners were put up in clusters in street corners.
The torch will be carried along a 20-kilometer route that will include major sites such as the Arch of Triumph, the Chollima Statue and the Kim Il Sung Square, before reaching the Kim Il Sung Stadium at around 3 p.m. for a closing ceremony.
The Olympic flame will be taken to Vietnam after North Korea. After Vietnam, the torch will travel through Hong Kong and Macao before the final leg of the relay in mainland China.
Kim Jon Il visits Beijing.
BEIJING, April 19 (UPI)
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il met with China's President Hu Jintao Monday in Beijing to discuss several thorny issues from food shortages to nuclear arms.
It was Kim's first such visit to China in more than three years, the Kyodo news service reported...