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Obama's 2013 state of the union addressifull textj
Feb.12, 2013

You tube:Obama's 2013 State of the Union Addressifull textj

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens:

Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that
"the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners
for progresscIt is my task," he said, "to report the State of the Union
? to improve it is the task of us all."

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people,
there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war,
our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.
After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created
over six million new jobs. We buy more American cars than
we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty.
Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding,
and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections
than ever before.

Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say
with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.

But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans
whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded.

Our economy is adding jobs ? but too many people still
can't find full-time employment.

Corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs ?
but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of
America's economic growth ? a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country
? the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities,
you can get ahead, no matter where you come from,
what you look like, or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works
on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages
free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors
of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

The American people don't expect government to solve every problem.
They don't expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue.

But they do expect us to put the nation's interests before party.
They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can.
For they know that America moves forward only when
we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union
remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget
? decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery.

Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce
the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion ? mostly through spending cuts,
but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion
in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how ?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn't
agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars'
worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year.

These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military
readiness. They'd devastate priorities like education, energy,
and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery,
and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That's why Democrats,
Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said
that these cuts, known here in Washington as "the sequester," are
a really bad idea.

Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only
the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education
and job training; Medicare and Social Security benefits.

That idea is even worse.

Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost
of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care
deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need
for modest reforms ? otherwise, our retirement programs will
crowd out the investments we need for our children,
and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

But we can't ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder
the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more
from the wealthiest and most powerful.

We won't grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care
or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing
communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters.

Most Americans ? Democrats, Republicans, and Independents ?
understand that we can't just cut our way to prosperity.
They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced
approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue,
and with everybody doing their fair share.

And that's the approach I offer tonight.

On Medicare, I'm prepared to enact reforms that will achieve
the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of
the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan
Simpson-Bowles commission.

Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of
health care costs. The reforms I'm proposing go even further.
We'll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and
ask more from the wealthiest seniors.

We'll bring down costs by changing the way our government
pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn't be based
on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital ?
they should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as
they don't violate the guarantee of a secure retirement.
Our government shouldn't make promises we cannot keep ?
but we must keep the promises we've already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do
what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and
save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes
and deductions for the well-off and well-connected.

After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education
and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks ?
How is that fair ?
How does that promote growth ?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform
that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.

The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses
spend less time filling out complicated forms, and more time
expanding and hiring;
a tax code that ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants
can't pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries;
a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas,
and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers
that create jobs right here in America.
That's what tax reform can deliver. That's what we can do together.

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform won't be easy.

The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent
of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy,
and visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans.

So let's set party interests aside, and work to pass a budget that
replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments
in our future.

And let's do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers
and scares off investors. The greatest nation on Earth cannot
keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis
to the next.

Let's agree, right here, right now, to keep the people's government
open, pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and
credit of the United States of America. The American people have
worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis
to see their elected officials cause another.

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part
of our agenda. But let's be clear: deficit reduction alone is not
an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs
? that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day,
we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation:

How do we attract more jobs to our shores?
How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs?
And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that
independent economists said would create more than one million
new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda,
and I urge this Congress to pass the rest. Tonight, I'll lay out
additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent
with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago.

Let me repeat ? nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase
our deficit by a single dime. It's not a bigger government we need,
but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests
in broad-based growth.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and

After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers
have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three.

Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan.
Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico.
After locating plants in other countries like China,
Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home.
And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend.
Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute
in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now
a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D
printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way
we make almost everything.

There's no reason this can't happen in other towns. So tonight,
I'm announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs,
where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense
and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization
into global centers of high-tech jobs.

And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of
these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing
is Made in America.

If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest
in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human
genome returned $140 to our economy.

Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock
the answers to Alzheimer's; developing drugs to regenerate
damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times
more powerful.

Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments
in science and innovation.

Now is the time to reach a level of research and development
not seen since the height of the Space Race.

And today, no area holds more promise than our investments
in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised
to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home
than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars
will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy
we generate from sources like wind and solar
? with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it.

We produce more natural gas than ever before
? and nearly everyone's energy bill is lower because of it.

And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous
carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more
to combat climate change. Yes, it's true that no single event makes a trend.

But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.
Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods ? all are now more frequent
and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy,
and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states
have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.

Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science ?
and act before it's too late.

The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue
while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue
a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one
John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

But if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will.
I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take,
now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities
for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition
to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and
the jobs that came with it. We've begun to change that. Last year,
wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America.

So let's generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year ?
so let's drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China
keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power
and greater energy independence. That's why my Administration will
keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research
and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects
our air and water.

Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and
waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose
we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security
Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and
trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and
retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.

Let's take their advice and free our families and businesses
from the painful spikes in gas prices we've put up with for far too long.

I'm also issuing a new goal for America: let's cut in half the energy
wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years.
The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills
by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support
to help make it happen.

America's energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly
in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they'd rather locate and hire:
a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail
and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids.

The CEO of Siemens America ? a company that brought hundreds of
new jobs to North Carolina ? has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure,
they'll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these
job-creating projects in your districts. I've seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

Tonight, I propose a "Fix-It-First" program to put people to work
as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000
structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure
taxpayers don't shoulder the whole burden, I'm also proposing
a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade
what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods;
modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of
our children. Let's prove that there is no better place to do business
than the United States of America. And let's start right away.

Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector.
Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007.
Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years,
home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families
with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected.
Too many families who have never missed a payment and want
to refinance are being told no. That's holding our entire economy back,
and we need to fix it. Right now, there's a bill in this Congress
that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance
to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today's rates. Democrats and
Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for?

Take a vote, and send me that bill. Right now, overlapping regulations
keep responsible young families from buying their first home.

What's holding us back?
Let's streamline the process, and help our economy grow.

These initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing will
help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs.
But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills
and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age.

Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better
he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds
are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents
can't afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor
kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can
shadow them for the rest of their lives.

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available
to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education
can save more than seven dollars later on - by boosting graduation rates,
reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it
a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma,
studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade
level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of
their own. So let's do what works, and make sure none of our children
start the race of life already behind. Let's give our kids that chance.

Let's also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path
to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their
high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree
from one of our community colleges, so that they're ready for a job.
At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York
Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will
graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers
or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago,
we started Race to the Top ? a competition that convinced almost every state
to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent
of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I'm announcing a new
challenge to redesign America's high schools so they better equip graduates
for the demands of a high-tech economy. We'll reward schools that develop
new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes
that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math ? the skills
today's employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some
higher education. It's a simple fact: the more education you have, the more
likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class.
But today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of
a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college
more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years.

But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education.
Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it's our job to make sure
they do.

Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that
affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive
certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will
release a new "College Scorecard" that parents and students can use
to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get
the most bang for your educational buck.

To grow our middle class, our citizens must have access to the education
and training that today's jobs require. But we also have to make sure
that America remains a place where everyone who's willing to work hard
has the chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity
of striving, hopeful immigrants. And right now, leaders from the business,
labor, law enforcement, and faith communities all agree that
the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build
on the progress my Administration has already made ? putting more boots
on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing
illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship ?
a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and
a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line
behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut
waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs
and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done. As we speak,
bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill,
and I applaud their efforts. Now let's get this done. Send me a comprehensive
immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away.

But we can't stop there. We know our economy is stronger
when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free
from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of
domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women
Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. I urge the House
to do the same. And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn
a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness
Act this year.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day's work
with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum
wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we've put in place,
a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives
below the poverty line. That's wrong. That's why, since the last time
this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen
to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one
who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal
minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes
of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries
or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead.

For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money
in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn't have to wait year after year
for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher.

So here's an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year:
let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes
a wage you can live on.

Tonight, let's also recognize that there are communities in this country
where no matter how hard you work, it's virtually impossible to get ahead.
Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up.
Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are
still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance
of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny.

And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity
into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.

Let's offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who've got what it takes
to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will
give them a chance. Let's put people back to work rebuilding vacant
homes in run-down neighborhoods. And this year, my Administration will
begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these
communities back on their feet. We'll work with local leaders to target resources
at public safety, education, and housing. We'll give new tax credits to
businesses that hire and invest. And we'll work to strengthen families
by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples,
and doing more to encourage fatherhood ? because what makes you
a man isn't the ability to conceive a child; it's having the courage to raise one.

Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of
prosperity ? broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class ? that has always
been the source of our progress at home. It is also the foundation of our
power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice
every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that
America will complete its mission in Afghanistan, and achieve our objective
of defeating the core of al Qaeda. Already, we have brought home
33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move
into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight,
I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will
come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end
of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America's commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan
will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We are negotiating
an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions:
training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again
slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue
the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self.
Different al Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged
? from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving.

But to meet this threat, we don't need to send tens of thousands of our sons and
daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help
countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security,
and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali.
And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue
to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat
to Americans.

As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my
Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy
framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have
kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy,
no one should just take my word that we're doing things the right way.

So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress
to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of
terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and
balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American
people and to the world.

Of course, our challenges don't end with al Qaeda. America will continue
to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world's most dangerous
weapons. The regime in North Korea must know that they will only
achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations.

Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only isolate them further,
as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and
lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time
for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding
that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary
to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.

At the same time, we will engage Russia to seek further reductions
in our nuclear arsenals, and continue leading the global effort
to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands ?
because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks.
We know hackers steal people's identities and infiltrate private e-mail.
We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets.
Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid,
our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems.
We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing
in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

That's why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen
our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing
standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.
Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government
a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.

Even as we protect our people, we should remember that today's world
presents not only dangers, but opportunities. To boost American exports,
support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets
of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership.
And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union
? because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports
millions of good-paying American jobs.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world
enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day.
So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme
poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people
to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young
and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities
to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world's children
from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during
this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon
? when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home
where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined
the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said,
"There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that."

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances
from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East,
we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights,
and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy,
and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt;
but we can ? and will ? insist on respect for the fundamental rights of
all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered
its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of
every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of
security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver
when I travel to the Middle East next month.

All this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve
in dangerous places at great personal risk ? our diplomats, our intelligence
officers, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

As long as I'm Commander-in-Chief, we will do whatever we must
to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain
the best military in the world. We will invest in new capabilities,
even as we reduce waste and wartime spending.

We will ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits
for their families ? gay and straight. We will draw upon the courage and
skills of our sisters and daughters, because women have proven under fire
that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans
? investing in world-class care, including mental health care,
for our wounded warriors; supporting our military families; and giving
our veterans the benefits, education, and job opportunities they have earned.
And I want to thank my wife Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued
dedication to serving our military families as well as they serve us.

But defending our freedom is not the job of our military alone.
We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected
here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens:
the right to vote. When any Americans ? no matter where they live or
what their party ? are denied that right simply because they can't wait
for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.

That's why, tonight, I'm announcing a non-partisan commission to improve
the voting experience in America. And I'm asking two long-time experts
in the field, who've recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign
and for Governor Romney's campaign, to lead it. We can fix this,
and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.

Of course, what I've said tonight matters little if we don't come together
to protect our most precious resource ? our children.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time
this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different.
Overwhelming majorities of Americans ? Americans who believe in the 2nd
Amendment ? have come together around commonsense reform
? like background checks that will make it harder for criminals
to get their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together
on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.
Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition
magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no,
that's your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months
since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries
have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton.
She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss.
She was a majorette.
She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend.
Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates,
performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later,
she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away
from my house.

Hadiya's parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight,
along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn
apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg,
and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence ?
they deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.
Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve
all the challenges I've outlined tonight. But we were never sent here
to be perfect.

We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation,
expand opportunity, and uphold our ideals through the hard,
often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way
they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare,
all across this country. We should follow their example.

We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named
Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness,
her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring ?
they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan
she devised that kept them all safe.

We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named
Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told
the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was
not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would
get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line
in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted
in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read "I Voted."

We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy.
When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and
Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety.
He fought back until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers
to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside ?
even as he lay bleeding from twelve bullet wounds.

When asked how he did that, Brian said, "That's just the way we're made."

That's just the way we're made.

We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different
views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title:

We are citizens. It's a word that doesn't just describe our nationality
or legal status. It describes the way we're made. It describes what we believe.
It captures the enduring idea that this country only works
when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations;
that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well
into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all,
as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great
chapter in our American story.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
The End

Air Pollution Problem:
Whose Responsibility
Feb.1, 2013

With Beijing suffering its fourth bout of heavy smog this month,
figures ranging from Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to real estate mogul
Pan Shiyi have issued calls for the government and industry
to get serious about pollution. But the government's flagship
English-language newspaper China Daily is putting the onus
on another group to help tackle the smog problem: regular people.

In a front-page story on Wednesday, the paper said a gjoint efforth
was required to fight air pollution, arguing that citizens should do
their part by taking more public transportation and driving less.

gTackling air pollution requires input from individuals as well as
officials,h the newspaper said, citing experts.

gEveryone is responsible for creating air pollution. No one will act
if we all just place our hopes in others,h the paper quoted Du Shaozhong,
director of the China Beijing Environment Exchange, as saying.

Civic-minded exhortation, or an effort to shift the blame ?

Urging individuals to take responsibility for their impact
on the environment lies at the core of environmental movements in the U.S.
and Europe. And no one can argue that more people taking public
transportation won't help reduce some of the pollution afflicting
China's cities ? not to mention the sclerotic traffic that chokes roads
in major urban centers like Beijing. The suggestion is nevertheless
problematic in China for a couple of reasons.

First, the contribution of individuals to China's air pollution problem
is small compared to that of companies and power plants.
The China Daily story quotes Xiao Yan, a 30-year-old lawyer
who takes public transportation in Beijing to the dismay of
her colleagues, as saying vehicle emissions are gnot much less
than those from industry.h That may be true as far as major cities
are concerned, but it's also misleading.

Although vehicle pollution is a large and growing source of
urban air pollution, it isn't clear how much passenger vehicles are
contributing to the smog that has engulfed Beijing over the past
few weeks. Almost 80% of fine particulate matter, known
as PM2.5, emitted from vehicles in China comes from diesel-powered
trucks, which represent less than a fifth of the country's vehicle fleet.

And while Beijing itself is home to relatively few smoke-spewing
factories and steel mills, heavy industrial pollution from surrounding
areas has a way of blowing over to blanket the city.

The call for individuals to take responsibility for improving China's
air also risks falling on deaf ears. China's government, anxious
to limit the role and power of civil society

has long positioned itself as the country's ultimate problem solver,
making individuals less inclined to see themselves as having the power
? or the responsibility ? to tackle social issues themselves.

In a 2011 survey of Chinese people's attitudes toward environmental
protection, the World Wide Fund for Nature found 56% of 1,600
respondents agreed at least somewhat with the idea that
environmental protection was a government, rather than an individual, issue.

The China Daily did pay lip-service in the end to the notion that
individual impacts on China's pollution problem could be limited,
quoting Zhou Rong, a climate and energy project manager
at Greenpeace, as saying blame for China's pollution problem lies elsewhere.

gI agree that people should not drive and then complain about the bad air,
but the major problem is still in the structure of the economy and
energy consumption, which cannot be changed by ordinary people,h
Ms. Zhou told the newspaper.
The End

New York Times 'hit by hackers from China'
Feb.2, 2013

Hackers from China have "persistently" infiltrated the New York Times
for the last four months, the US paper says.

It said the attacks coincided with its report into claims that the family
of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune.

The hackers used methods which have been "associated with the Chinese
military" to target the emails of the report's writer, the paper said.

China's foreign ministry dismissed the accusations as "groundless".

"To arbitrarily assert and to conclude without hard evidence that
China participated in such hacking attacks is totally irresponsible,"
said spokesman Hong Lei.

"China is also a victim of hacking attacks. Chinese laws clearly forbid
hacking attacks, and we hope relevant parties takes a responsible attitude
on this issue."

Beijing has been accused by several governments, foreign companies
and organisations of carrying out extensive cyber espionage
for many years, seeking to gather information and to control China's image.

'China-based subterfuge'

According to the Times, the hackers first broke into their computer system
in September, as the report on Mr Wen was nearing completion.

The report, which was dismissed as a "smear" by the Chinese
government, said Mr Wen's relatives had amassed assets worth
at least $2.7bn through business dealings. It did not accuse
the Chinese premier of wrongdoing.

China is sensitive about reports on its leaders, particularly
when it comes to their wealth.

The New York Times said the hacking initially focussed on the computers
of David Barboza, the paper's bureau chief in Shanghai who wrote
the report, and one of his predecessors, Jim Yardley.

Internet security firm Mandiant, which was hired by the Times
to trace the attack, followed the hackers' movements for four months,
to try to establish a pattern and block them.

The hackers installed malware which enabled them to access any
computer using the New York Times network, steal the password
of every employee, and access 53 personal computers, mostly outside
the Times offices.

They found the hackers began working for the most part at 08:00
Beijing time. They have not been able to establish how exactly
the hackers broke into the system, but believe it may have
been through a so-called spear-phishing attack, where an employee
clicked on an email or link containing malicious code.

The security firm found that in an attempt to hide the origin of
the attack, it had been routed through computers in US
universities which, the paper said, "matches the subterfuge
used in many other attacks that Mandiant has tracked to China".

The Times said experts had found that the attacks "started
from the same university computers used by the Chinese military
to attack United States military contractors in the past".

Mandiant's chief security officer, Richard Bejtlich, said that
"if you look at each attack in isolation, you can't say,
'This is the Chinese military'," but that the similar patterns and
targets of the attacks indicated a connection.

"When you see the same group steal data on Chinese dissidents
and Tibetan activists, then attack an aerospace company,
it starts to push you in the right direction," he said.

The paper said no personal data of staff or customers was stolen
and that no attempt was made to shut down its website.

"They could have wreaked havoc on our systems," said chief
information officer Marc Frons. But he said what they appeared
to be looking for were "the names of people who might
have provided information to Mr Barboza".

There was also no evidence that sensitive emails or files
on the Wen family had been accessed, or that the intruders
had sought information unrelated to the Wen family, the paper said.
The End

Japanese Manufacturing workers
drop below 10 million

Feb.3, 2013

The number of workers in Japan's manufacturing sector has dropped
below 10 million. It's the lowest in over 50 years.

Researchers at the Internal Ministry say 9.98 million people were
employed in manufacturing in December.

That's down 350 thousand people from the same month a year ago.

It's the first time since June of 1961 that the number has dropped
below the key 10 million level.

The figure also marks a 38 percent decline from a peak in October 1992.

Over 16 million people were employed in the sector at the time.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura expressed concern
about the contraction. He said that after World War 2, Japan climbed
its way up to become the top manufacturing nation. Tamura added
that Japan needs to find ways to maintain its industrial sector.
The End

Abe: Statement over wartime actions
from THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, February 4, 2013

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he intends to issue a statement befitting
a new age to replace a landmark apology for Japan's wartime actions
in Asia that was issued in 1995.

gI would like to issue a 'future-oriented' statement that is appropriate
for the 21st century,h Abe said at a plenary session of the Upper House.

Abe did not elaborate on the timing and content of the new statement
to replace the one drawn up by the socialist Prime Minister Murayama,
but said he "would give the matter appropriate thought.h

Marking the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II on Aug. 15,
1995, Murayama said, "Through its colonial rule and aggression,
Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to people in Asia.h

Abe's repeated utterances on the issue have caused concern in Asian
nations that perceive Japan's new leader to be right-tilting.

When questioned by Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima,
Abe said he shared the thoughts of previous administrations that Japan
caused tremendous damage and suffering to many countries during
World War II, especially those in Asia.

The statement will likely say that the nation seeksgcoexistence and
coprosperity between Japan and Asia toward the future,h
Yoshihide Suga, chief Cabinet secretary, told reporters Feb. 1.

Suga said details will be discussed by an advisory panel of experts.
However, he did not elaborate on when the panel will convene or
when the new statement will be made.

Abe has said he wants to revise the Constitution in order to redefine
the Self-Defense Forces as a military force to be used for national defense.

gEven though the SDF is not called a military in this country,
it is treated as a military under international law,hAbe said.
gJapan needs to resolve this contradiction to fit with reality.h
The End

Japan protest over Chinese Vessel's radar action
Feb.5, 2013

A Chinese vessel has locked its weapon-targeting radar on a Japanese
ship, Tokyo says, amid mounting tensions over a territorial row.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said the incident happened
on 30 January near islands claimed by both nations in the East China Sea.

He said this had prompted Tokyo to lodge a formal protest with Beijing.

The row, over islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China,
has escalated in recent months

Taiwan also claims the island chain , which is controlled by Japan.

'Dangerous situation'

"On 30 January, something like fire-control radar was directed
at a Japan Self-Defence Maritime escort ship in the East China Sea,"
Mr Onodera told reporters on Tuesday.

The minister identified the Chinese vessel as a navy frigate,
adding that a Japanese military helicopter was also targeted
with a similar radar a few days earlier.

"Directing such radar is very abnormal. We recognise it would create
a very dangerous situation if a single misstep occurred," he said.

Radars use radio waves to detect the intended target
and then guide missiles or other weapons.

Also on Tuesday, the Chinese ambassador to Japan rebuffed
an earlier protest over continuing Chinese patrols off the disputed
islands, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

Ambassador Cheng Yonghua said the islands and the surrounding
waters were China's "inherent territory".

The dispute over their ownership of the islands has continued
for years, but it reignited in 2012 when the Japanese government
purchased three of the islands from their private Japanese owner.

The move triggered diplomatic protests from Beijing and Taipei,
and sparked small public protests in China, affecting some
Japanese businesses operating in the country.

Chinese government ships have since sailed many times through
what Japan says are its territorial waters around the islands.

Late last year, a Chinese government plane also flew over
the islands in what Japan called a violation of its airspace.

In response, Tokyo has moved to increase military spending
for the first time in a decade.

The eight uninhabited islands and rocks lie close to strategically
important shipping lanes, offer rich fishing grounds and are thought
to contain oil deposits.

In December, Beijing submitted to the UN a detailed explanation
of its claims to the disputed islands.

A UN commission of geological experts will examine China's
submission but does not have the authority to resolve conflicting claims.
The End

Tsunami Reaches Japan after South Pacific Quake
Feb.6, 2013

Tsunami waves up to 40 centimeters high were observed in Japan
following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in the South Pacific
on Wednesday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

A 40-centimeter tsunami reached Hachijojima, part of the Izu
island chain and some 280 kilometers south of Tokyo, at 8:27 p.m.,
while a 30-centimeter wave was observed in Toshima,
a village comprising some islands in the southern prefecture
of Kagoshima, at 8:36 p.m., the agency said.

Meanwhile, 20-centimeter waves were seen mainly at several
locations on the country's main island, including Kushimoto
in Wakayama Prefecture and Soma in Fukushima Prefecture.

Following the powerful quake that occurred off the Solomon
Islands at 12:12 p.m. local time , the Meteorological Agency
issued a tsunami advisory for Japan's Pacific coast
between the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido and
the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa Prefecture at 2:41 p.m.
Japan time.

In Japan, the first tsunami after the temblor was observed
on the coast of Chichijima, part of the Ogasawara group of
islands and nearly 1,000 kilometers from Tokyo, at 6:14 p.m.,
according to the agency. The wave measured 20 centimeters in height.
The End

Russian fighter jets 'breach Japan airspace'

Two Russian fighter jets have violated Japanese airspace, prompting
Tokyo to scramble its own aircraft, reports say.

Japan lodged a protest after the planes were detected off the northern
island of Hokkaido for just over a minute.

The incident happened after Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said he was
seeking a solution to a territorial dispute with Russia over
a Pacific island chain.

Russia's military denied the incursion, saying the jets were
making routine flights near the disputed islands.

Mr Abe was speaking on the anniversary of an 1855 treaty
which Japan says supports its claims to the islands.

The four islands - which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan
calls the Northern Territories - are the subject of a 60-year-old dispute.

Because of the dispute, the two nations have not yet signed
a peace treaty to end World War II.

"Today, around 03:00 , military fighters belonging to Russian
Federation breached our nation's airspace above territorial waters off
Rishiri island in Hokkaido," the foreign ministry said, quoted
by AFP news agency.

Hours earlier, Mr Abe told former inhabitants of the disputed
islands and their descendents: "In the telephone talks, I told
[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin I would make efforts
to find a mutually acceptable solution so as to ultimately solve
the issue of the Northern Territories."

In December, Mr Abe and Mr Putin agreed to restart talks
on signing a peace treaty.
The End

How serious are China-Japan tensions ?
February 8, 2013

A row over islands in the East China Sea has left ties
between Japan and China severely strained.
In the latest development, Japan says a Chinese frigate
locked weapon-targeting radar on one of its navy ships
in waters near the islands, called Senkaku in Japan
and Diaoyu in China.
Five experts assess how serious the situation is.


The situation is certainly the most serious
for Sino-Japanese relations in the post-war period
in terms of the risk of militarised conflict.

The two sides have had periodic deteriorations in bilateral ties before
and usually found a way to settle if not resolve differences.

Moreover, in the past there was never really any risk of armed conflict.

The situation is thus serious, with a risk of the militarisation
and escalation of tensions.

There are mechanisms to defuse tensions somewhat
but there is also perhaps a lack of leadership on both sides
necessary to really focus on dealing with the problems.

We are seeing the coincidence of two regimes in China and Japan
which are facing crises of legitimacy and a temptation
to turn to issues of nationalism to compensate.

The problems of the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party
in trying to maintain one party rule in the face of
pluralist pressures are well known.

Japan is a democracy so does not face quite the same pressures,
but there is a similar sense of the bankruptcy of the legitimacy
and competency of the governing elites, and all of this is set
against a difficult economic climate.

In this sense, both political leaderships have incentives to play
with issues of nationalism, but clearly this is very hazardous
both internally and for external relations.

Neither Japan nor China will admit that from their perspective
there is an issue of sovereignty that can be questioned and thus
taken to any kind of international arbitration.

These absolutist positions mean that the issue can never be resolved,
and in any case domestic political opinion would not allow it.

Hence, the best that can be hoped for is for both sides to just try
and keep the issue at the lowest level of tension possible
and to focus on issues where they can co-operate.

It will mean that diplomats will be busy on both sides
trying to control any provocative statements for the time being,
and at some point there will need to be some interaction
of the top leadership.

The Japanese side, despite tough talk and no intention to compromise
on sovereignty, does not want to raise the temperature any more
on the issue, and will be trying to quietly reach out
and start a dialogue on minimising the issue.

But whether China is ready to respond is hard to say,
and it will certainly try to keep the pressure on with activity
around the islands.

View 2

China views the "nationalisation" of the Diaoyu Islands
by the Japanese government in September 2012
as a serious provocation and will do whatever is necessary
to assert its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.

Japan is using more and more naval ships and warplanes
over the Diaoyu Islands, and is trying its best to involve the US
on its behalf in this dispute.

While without taking a position on the sovereignty issue,
the United States has reaffirmed its recognition of Japan
exercising administrative rights over the Diaoyu Islands,
and is claiming that the US-Japan Defence Treaty applies
to the Diaoyu Islands.

It does not take rocket science to conclude that any further
provocation or major misstep in this explosive situation
may push the territorial dispute over the brink.

If Japan wants to instigate an armed conflict which may eventually
involve China and the US on opposing sides, it would be a fantasy
to imagine that any such conflict would enable one side
to completely overwhelm the other without quickly escalating
from a conventional war to a non-conventional war.

As the three largest economies in the world, the US, China and
Japan have nothing to gain and everything to lose in such
an armed conflict, and the world at large would suffer disastrous

Therefore it is time for greater courage, wisdom and vision
to prevent any further escalation of tension between China and
Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, and it is time for building
greater peace, stability and reconciliation in Northeast Asia.

However, some people who do not have adequate knowledge
of the complexities of the dispute may view China and Japan
as just another pair of countries embroiled in a standard territorial
dispute. But the reality is quite different. Imperial Japan was
a die-hard ally of Nazi Germany in the Axis of Evil
in the Second World War, and unconditionally surrendered
to China and other allied countries in 1945.

The political existence of the post-WWII Japan will be challenged
if it dares to disregard the Cairo Declaration [which states Japan
shall be stripped of all territories seized from China]
and the Potsdam Declaration [which says "Japanese sovereignty
shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu,
Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine"],
and challenges the post-WWII international security order.

Japan could be a better country, and the Japanese nation
a greater nation, if it had the political courage and wisdom
as Germany and the German nation have demonstrated,
in dealing with their WWII responsibilities.

View 3

The situation around the Senkaku Islands is very dangerous.

There is no territorial dispute as legally defined,
since China's claims over the islands have no consistency or
legal grounding. This is why China is attempting to change
the territorial status quo by force.

China successfully took control of the Scarborough Shoal
in the South China Sea from the Philippines last year
by sending paramilitary ships to the shoal.

But this will not work vis-a-vis Japan since the Japan Coast
Guard is much more capable.

China's seamanship is immature and its paramilitary ships
sometimes lose manoeuvrability in the rough waters
around the Senkakus.

Its military has also taken provocative action such as pointing
missile radar at Japanese ships and aircraft.

As such, the possibility exists of accidents and escalation.

Japan has no intention of escalating the situation
and is responding with restraint, while keeping communication
channels open.

It is China's responsibility to explain why it kept silent
about the islands for 76 years between 1895 and 1971.
There are even documents and maps in which China
acknowledged the islands as Japanese territory.

China should stop challenging Japan's legitimacy by force
and adopt peaceful means.

If China wishes to settle this in court, the Japanese government
would accept the challenge in accordance with international law.
In doing so, however, China must be prepared to accept
the ruling, even if it is not in China's favour.

It is very difficult to foresee any "solution"
as the question is not about ownership of small islands.

It is not about territorial or resource nationalism either.
Behind China's hard-line stance on the islands lies
its anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategy.

A2/AD rests on wide-ranging ocean surveillance to detect
and locate approaching enemy forces.

Primary A2/AD weaponry includes a large submarine fleet
and land-based aircraft carrying anti-ship cruise missiles.

Anti-ship ballistic missiles to target moving ships might be
added in the near future.

This is why China claims almost all the waters in the East
and South China Seas and the Yellow Sea - to conduct ocean
surveillance while blocking foreign surveillance activities.

If China adopts peaceful ways to make its claims,
I believe Japan and China can manage the confrontation
over the islands and ease tensions.

But that would require a huge change in China's strategic thinking.

View 4

Maritime East Asia is becoming increasingly dangerous.
The past 12 months have seen a series of crises and
spats in the East China Sea and South China Sea
that threaten to spin out of control.

The United States risks becoming entangled in conflicts
among countries that are its friends and partners.

China, Taiwan and Japan each claim the Diaoyu/Senkaku
Islands northeast of Taiwan while China, Taiwan and
several Southeast Asian countries claim various land forms
in the South China Sea. Behind these claims is
an intensifying contest for hydrocarbon, mineral and
fishery resources.

Conflicts have become more intense in recent years
because China is acquiring the seaborne capabilities
to assert its own claims and challenge those of others.

Growing nationalist sentiment in all countries exerts pressure
on leaders to take strong stands and eschew compromise.

The capacity each of these governments to conduct crisis
management is modest at best. Domestic nationalism
weakens that capacity even further.

The proximate source of the current danger is how
the countries seek to promote their claims
through the operations of their maritime agencies.

Clashes and standoffs are growing more common.

Although no incident has crossed the threshold of loss of life,
that may be only a matter of time.

Clashes at any level are not in the US interest,
because they force the United States to choose
among countries with which it seeks good relations.
Washington will continue to counsel restraint
among the contenders (China has deservedly become
the main target).

But the United States has both the need and the opportunity
to facilitate through quiet diplomacy a reduction
in the probability of physical clashes and the attendant tensions.

The goal should be to encourage the countries concerned
to regulate the operations of their maritime agencies
through the adoption of conflict-avoidance mechanisms
and institutionalised risk-reduction measures.

View 5

The manner in which the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute has unfolded
between China and Japan has implications for Asean's [Association
of Southeast Asian Nations] relations with China.

Asean, comprising 10 smaller countries, witnessed China
adopting various measures in response to Japan's nationalisation of the islands.

Besides their continued air and sea tussles near and over the islands,
China has apparently tightened the economic screws on Japan.
Japanese imports to China have dropped and Japanese businesses,
especially its car manufacturers, have seen their sales in China plummet.

The fear by individual Asean countries is that Beijing would readily
leverage on their growing economic dependence on China
to force them to back down on issues Beijing considers
to be in its national interests.

Already, the Philippines has found itself reeling
from China's wrath due to their differences over the Scarborough
Shoal/Huangyan Island in the South China Sea.

What started out innocuously as illegal poaching by Chinese fisherman
in waters off the shoal in April 2012 soon developed
into a stand-off at sea that lasted several weeks.

Simultaneously, Philippine exports to China were subjected to
more stringent checks and Chinese nationals were advised
against visiting the Philippines.

Most interestingly, while Philippine government vessels have
withdrawn from the shoal area in an agreement reportedly struck
by both sides in June 2012, the Chinese governmental vessels
have apparently yet to comply. In this stand-off, the Philippines
blinked first.

Although China appears to have won this "battle" over the shoal,
this may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory.

Given its heft, China would lose much credibility in Asean
if it persists with this "hard" approach.

Instead, Asean would like China to pursue an outcome based
on "mutual benefit" and "mutual respect",
to use China's own diplomatic language.

This would entail China sitting down with Asean claimant states
and perhaps even Asean as an association to devise a way
to manage their differences.

By making progress through talks, China can reaffirm its peaceful
development message to its smaller neighbours.

China can also minimise the involvement of third parties
not directly involved in the territorial disputes.
The End

North American Snowstorm
February 9, 2013

Thick snow is blanketing the north-eastern US as a major storm cuts
power to thousands of homes and plays havoc with transport schedules.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut and Maine are all
on an emergency footing, with millions of residents being warned
to stay indoors.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has temporarily banned
all non-essential traffic on the state's roads.

Meteorologists say the storm could be New England's worst for decades.

Airlines cancelled more than 4,300 flights - including all those to
and from the three major airports in New York City -
and the train operator Amtrak has suspended nearly all services
north of the city.

People have been warned to stay off the roads, and stock up on food
and other supplies as the storm affects 25 million people in the region.

Worse to come ?

With the heaviest snow expected late on Friday and early on Saturday,
blizzard warnings were in effect for much of the coastal section
of the north-eastern US, from Newark to southern Maine.

Forecasters said the storm could dump as much as 90cm of snow
in some places as it hammered swathes of territory,
with winds of up to 120km/h expected to create deep drifts.

Parts of Massachusetts were already under a foot of snow
by Friday night, with more expected over the weekend.
Some 350,000 homes and businesses across the region were
without electricity.

"This is a storm of major proportions," warned Boston Mayor
Thomas Menino. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."

In New York City, which is expecting a 12in dousing,
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said snow ploughs and 250,000 tonnes
of salt were being put on standby.

The storm has also disrupted New York Fashion Week, which is held
under a big tent. Organisers say they will bring in extra crews
to help with snow removal and add an extra layer of tenting to the venue.

Some neighbourhoods in the city are still recovering from Sandy,
an October storm that brought record flooding.

Many of those areas face a renewed risk of storm surge and
flooding from the winter storm.

Fuel shortages were being reported from Connecticut to New York
City as motorists queue at petrol stations to fill up vehicles,
generators and snow blowers.

The National Weather Service had earlier said the combination
of two weather systems from the polar and sub-tropical jet streams
would produce a "potentially historic" storm.

Snow was being blamed for a 19-car pileup in Maine on Friday morning.
The End

Abe restarts discussions
on collective self-defense right

from THE ASAHI SHIMBUN Feb.10, 2013

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Feb. 8 took a step toward his
long-cherished goal of allowing Japan to exercise its right
to collective self-defense.

For the first time since becoming prime minister again,
Abe reconvened a private advisory panel, which handed him
a report on the issue that it had compiled five years ago.

"I offer my gratitude for being given this opportunity
to receive the report anew," Abe said.

The right to collective self-defense refers to the right
under international law for a country to launch a counterattack
after an ally is attacked.

Under the government's current interpretation of the Constitution,
Japan possesses the right to collective self-defense
but cannot exercise it.

Abe first set up the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of
the Legal Basis for Security in April 2007 during his prior stint
as prime minister, but he stepped down for health reasons five
months later. The panel submitted its report to the government
in June 2008, but Abe was no longer there to receive it.

Yasuo Fukuda, Abe's successor, received the report, but no further
discussions ensued because Fukuda was opposed to lifting the ban.

On Feb. 8, Abe looked visibly gratified as he was handed a copy
of the 2008 report at the outset of the panel meeting. The previous
meeting was held in August 2007.

With Japan facing a more dire security situation than the last time
he served as the country's leader, Abe currently has the wind
at his back in the effort.

"I convened this meeting to discuss once more what Japan should do
to maintain its own peace and security in the face of changing tides,
including the most effective way to carry out the Japan-U.S. security
arrangement," Abe said during his opening speech.

Shunji Yanai, chairman of the panel and a former ambassador
to the United States, briefed him about the content of the 2008 report.

That report considered four scenarios:
(1) defense of U.S. naval vessels under armed attack on the high seas;
(2) interception of a ballistic missile that might be on its way
to the United States;
(3) use of weapons to guard units of other countries engaged
@@in the same international peacekeeping operations; and
(4) logistics support for the operations of other countries
participating in the same international peacekeeping operations.

The report recommended that Japan be allowed to engage
in all four categories of activities, and said the right to exercise
collective self-defense should be acknowledged in the first two cases.

Yanai said he will have the revived panel discuss a broader array
of scenarios.

"In addition to terrorism, nations are also posing an ever-greater
threat," Yanai told reporters following the meeting. "Considering
that, threats may take a form other than the four categories studied,
so we will discuss that."

The panel plans further discussions on the basis of the 2008
report, with no change in its membership, and hopes to compile
a new recommendation.

While Yanai was noncommittal on when the new recommendation
will be put together, a senior government official said it will not be
earlier than the Upper House election to be held in July.

Abe plans to visit the United States in late February,
where he will tell President Barack Obama that he is pushing
for lifting the ban on collective self-defense. He is also expected
to inform Obama of the course of the panel's discussions.

Despite Abe's enthusiasm, however, not every stakeholder
in the matter is as keen as the prime minister on lifting the ban.

New Komeito, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, remains
cautious. Pacifism is among the basic tenets of the party,
which is backed by Japan's largest lay Buddhist group.

"I don't believe there are plans to rush into a decision following
a conclusion by the advisory panel," New Komeito leader
Natsuo Yamaguchi told a news conference on Feb. 8.

Opinion is also divided in the United States, the apparent collective
self-defense partner in the event the ban is lifted.

While some U.S. experts well-versed in Japanese affairs have called
for upgrading the Japan-U.S. alliance to a level equivalent
to the U.S.-Britain alliance, one U.S. government source
warned that starting discussions now--when tension between
Tokyo and Beijing is running high over the Senkaku Islands
--could prompt a military clash.

For that reason, some U.S. officials and experts have said
the collective self-defense issue is not among the top bilateral priorities.

Even in the Japanese Defense Ministry, which would be
in primary charge of the matter if the ban were lifted,
the mood is rather restrained.

"Our territorial land, waters and airspace are coming under threat,"
said one senior ministry official. "It's the defense of Japan
under the right to exercise individual self-defense--not collective
self-defense--that is our main priority."
The End

Man arrested over e-threat
from The Yomiuri Shimbun Feb.11, 2013

Data found on a cat's collar led to the arrest Sunday of a man
from Koto Ward, Tokyo, on suspicion of remotely controlling
a computer at a company in Aichi Prefecture last summer
to post an online mass murder threat.

Yusuke Katayama, 30, a company employee, denied any
wrongdoing, according to a joint investigation task force set up
by the Metropolitan Police Department as well as the Osaka,
Kanagawa and Mie prefectural police.

Four men were mistakenly arrested in a string of four separate
incidents last year in which online threats were sent via remotely
controlled personal computers infected with viruses,
while e-mails claiming responsibility were sent to media
organizations. The joint investigation task force suspects
Katayama may also have been involved in these cases.

As the computers were later found to have been infected with viruses,
the cases against two of the men were dropped and the indictment
for another was nullified. The probation of the fourth man--a minor
at the time of his arrest--was also nullified.

According to the joint task force, Katayama allegedly interfered
with the activities of a major comic market to be held in Koto Ward,
by remotely controlling a computer at an Aichi Prefecture company
on Aug. 9, posting a threat to commit mass murder on the major
Internet forum 2channel.

"That's not true at all," Katayama was quoted as saying.

Police struggled to find the suspect because a software program
enabling online anonymity, "The Onion Router," was used in the case.

In one of the four other online threat cases, a university student
in Tokyo was arrested in June on suspicion of posting a message
on the Yokohama municipal government's website regarding
an attack on a primary school. He was put on probation,
which was nullified in October.

A mass murder threat was posted on the Osaka municipal government's
website in July, for which anime director Masaki Kitamura was
arrested. He was indicted in September, but the indictment was
later nullified.

A Fukuoka man was arrested for allegedly sending a threatening
e-mail in August to the kindergarten affiliated with Ochanomizu
University in Tokyo, while a Tsu man was held on suspicion of
posting a threat in September to bomb the Ise Grand Shrine
in Mie Prefecture on an online message board. Both cases were
eventually dropped.

Cat carries riddle's answer

Police suspected Katayama was behind the threats after a cat was
found on Enoshima island, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Jan. 5,
wearing a collar to which a memory device containing data
for the virus used to remotely control computers was attached.

According to investigation sources, security camera footage showed
a man on the island at about 2 p.m. on Jan. 4 touching the area
around the neck of the cat.

The camera also captured the man taking pictures of the cat
wearing the collar.

The investigation task force concluded the man had put the collar
on the cat. After examining the images taken by the camera and
the road traffic records on the vehicle used on his return trip
from the island, it was later concluded that the man lived in Tokyo.

Early on Jan. 5, e-mails claiming responsibility for the online
threats were sent to media organizations. They contained puzzles
that, when solved, showed an image of the cat and a message
that said the sender put a memory device on its collar.

Based on the information, the investigation task force collected
the memory stick on that day that was attached on the back of
the collar.

The memory stick contained texts that apparently described
the perpetrator's motives: "I found myself involved in a crime
in the past. Even though I was innocent, it forced me
to completely change my way of life."

The memory device also contained the source code of the iesys.exe
virus used to remotely control computers.

The investigation task force concluded that only the real perpetrator
knew the program's code.
The End

U.S. believes Japan on China radar incident
February 12, 2013

The U.S. government says it believes its ally Japan's allegation
that China activated its weapons-guiding radar last month
in an escalation of tensions between the two Asian powers
in the East China Sea.

China denies Japanese claims that Chinese naval vessels locked
their radar on to a Japanese destroyer and helicopter.

China accuses Japan of fabricating reports to smear China.

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said
on Feb. 11 that the U.S. was briefed by Japan, and quote,
"we have satisfied ourselves that it does appear to have happened.''

China and Japan are embroiled in a territorial spat over a cluster
over tiny islands called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

Washington says it takes no stance in the sovereignty dispute,
but opposes "nilateral actions'' undermining Japan's administration
of the islands.
The End

U.S. Sure about Radar Incident: Official
February 12, 2013, from Jiji Press

The United States believes that a Chinese warship locked
a weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense
Force destroyer in the East China Sea last month as claimed
by Japan, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

"We were briefed by our Japanese allies on the incident and
we've satisfied ourselves that it does appear to have happened,"
Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told
a news conference, thus disapproving of China's claim that
Japan has spread false information on the matter.

"We have been quite clear about our concern with regard to this
with our Chinese interlocutors," she said.

"We urge all parties to avoid actions that could raise tensions
or result in miscalculation that would undermine peace, security,
and economic growth of this vital part of the world," Nuland added.

At a news conference after a meeting with Japanese
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in mid-January,
then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that
the United States opposes "any unilateral actions
that would seek to undermine Japanese administration"
of the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, over which
tensions are increasing between Japan and China.
The End

North Korea conducts third nuclear test
February 13, 2013

North Korea successfully conducted an underground nuclear test on Feb.12,
Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said.

This was the third nuclear test conducted by North Korea.

According to KCNA, the test was carried out in a "safe and perfect manner."

Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said what
appeared to be an artificial earthquake had been detected in North Korea
at around noon Tuesday, adding that the tremor was possibly caused
by a nuclear test.

Suga said the magnitude-5.2 quake was detected at 11:57 a.m.,
and the depth of the quake was less than one kilometer.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was close
to the known nuclear test site in Punggyeri in Kilju,
North Hamgyong Province, in northeastern North Korea.

The latest nuclear test conducted by the reclusive communist country
follows those in October 2006 and May 2009, and was the first
under the Kim Jong Un regime.

Along with the apparent launch of a long-range ballistic missile
on Dec. 12, the nuclear test is a clear violation of U.N. Security
Council resolutions and is certain to be condemned
by the international community. It also likely will have a serious
impact on the resumption of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear
development programs.

Pyongyang's latest nuclear test is considered an attempt
to boost progress in its nuclear and missile development programs
and to increase its negotiating power with the United States.

By emphasizing its status as a nuclear power at home and abroad,
it apparently aims to bolster Kim Jong Un's reputation and
solidify his regime.

It has been speculated that a third nuclear test would lead
to North Korea's acquisition of crucial technology to downsize nuclear
warheads so they could be mounted on ballistic missiles.

North Korea has been promoting the simultaneous development
of both plutonium-based and uranium-based nuclear weapons.

In February 2012, North Korea reached an agreement
with the United States to suspend nuclear tests,
uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches.

However, the North Korean Foreign Ministry announced in April
that Pyongyang was no longer bound by the agreement
and would take any necessary action.

According to the South Korean government, excavation of
a new tunnel for an underground nuclear test was apparently
completed by early December at the Punggyeri site.
The End

Obama's State of the Union Address

President Barack Obama on Feb.12, Tuesday wagered
his second term on an ambitious bid to strengthen America
at home by reigniting its economic engine, cutting gun
killings and fixing a broken immigration system.

Focusing his State of the Union address squarely
on domestic priorities, Obama dealt in passing
with churning foreign policy crises, including
North Korea's new nuclear test and Iran's unsolved
atomic brinkmanship.

And as he ends an era of draining land wars abroad,
Obama announced plans to halve U.S. troop numbers
in Afghanistan within a year, though he vowed
the global pursuit of terrorist suspects would go on.

Praising American steadfastness during testing
economic times, Obama grasped for a note
of optimism, while vowing to restore the middle class.

"Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis,
and can say with renewed confidence that the state of
our union is stronger," Obama said, in a speech
punctuated by 68 ovations, delivered at the House of
Representatives in Washington.

The address, before a huge national audience, was
Obama's best chance to sell his second-term plans
in a bitterly divided nation and to stave off
the domestic lame-duck status that has been
the bane of second term presidents.

Divided Washington must fix its gaping budget deficit,
Obama told lawmakers, describing billions of dollars
in automatic spending cuts due to crash into the economy
on March 1 as "a really bad idea:'

He slammed Republican ideas to adjust retirement
benefits and health care for seniors as "even worse."

"A growing economy that creates good, middle-class
jobs - that must be the North Star that guides our
efforts," Obama said, seeking to turn promises of
a more equitable economy made in his re-election
campaign into a reality.

Obama's message was unapologetically tailored to
a domestic U.S. audience, as he insisted that
government investment must bankroll jobs growth.

"He will be about revitalizing the middle class and
(easing) a sense of insecurity that has swept through
much of the nation," said Princeton University
professor Julian Zelizer.

But Republicans wasted no time in trying to thwart
Obama's plans.

"President Obama ? He believes ... that the economic
downturn happened because our government didn't tax
enough, spend enough and control enough," one of
the GOP's rising stars, Sen. Marco Rubio,
said in the Republican response to Obama's speech.
As you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every
problem we face is for Washington to tax more,
borrow more and spend more.'

Obama was at his most passionate when making
the case for measures to stem gun violence,
following the shooting massacre of 20 kids
at a Connecticut elementary school in December.

"If you want to vote no, that's your choice," he said,
drawing lawmakers to their feet in an emotional
tribute to victims of gun violence. "These proposals
deserve a vote."

Looking on in the House gallery with first lady
Michelle Obama were the parents of
Hadiya Pendleton, a teenager gunned down
in a random shooting not far from the president's
Chicago home days after she took part in his
inaugural parade.

Obama also announced the return of 34,000
of the 66,000 U.S. troops remaining
in Afghanistan by next February, ahead of
a full withdrawal in 2014.

"This drawdown will continue. And by the end
of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be
over," he said.

In a brief diversion abroad, Obama said North
Korea's Tuesday nuclear test would only further
its isolation, and promised to stand by Asian allies,
strengthen missile defense and lead the world
in a firm response.

Obama said "Iran must recognize that now is
the time for a diplomatic solution" to a nuclear
showdown, ahead of new talks with world powers
this month.

Arguing that al-Qaida was a "shadow" of its former
self, Obama pledged to help nations such as Yemen,
Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security,
while helping allies such as France fight extremists
in Mali.

Breaking new ground, Obama announced the start
of formal talks between the United States and
the European Union on a trans-Atlantic free-trade

Despite criticism that he ignored the slaughter of
nearly 70,000 people in Syria, Obama vowed to keep up
pressure on the regime of President Bashar Assad and
said he would stand firm in defense of Israel, which
he will visit next month.

He tried to shame Congress into action on climate change.
" We can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment
of science - and act before it's too late;' Obama said.

Domestically, Obama also said he wanted a bill to reform
the broken immigration system to give illegal immigrants
a path to citizenship within months.
The End

An apparent meteorite shower
has injured 1,200 people in Russia

Feb. 15, 2013

Burning objects with tails of white smoke were seen falling
from the sky on Friday morning in the Chelyabinsk region.

The country's Interior Ministry says impacts from crashes
shattered windows in wide areas and caused the injuries.

The Emergency Situations Ministry is searching within a radius
of several hundred kilometers in Chelyabinsk and
other regions for debris from the possible meteorites.
The End

Meteor impact injures hundreds in central Russia
Feb.16, 2013

A meteor crashing in Russia's Ural mountains has injured at least 1,200 people,
as the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings.

Most of those hurt, in the Chelyabinsk region where the meteor fell,
suffered cuts and bruises but at least 46 remain in hospital.

A fireball streaked through the clear morning sky, followed by loud bangs.

President Vladimir Putin said he thanked God no big fragments had fallen
in populated areas.

A large meteor fragment landed in a lake near Chebarkul,
a town in Chelyabinsk region.

The meteor's dramatic passing was witnessed in Yekaterinburg,
200km to the north, and in Kazakhstan, to the south.

"It was quite extraordinary," Chelyabinsk resident Polina Zolotarevskaya
told BBC News. "We saw a very bright light and then there was
a kind of a track, white and yellow in the sky."

"The explosion was so strong that some windows in our building
and in the buildings that are across the road and in the city
in general, the windows broke."

Officials say a large meteor partially burned up in the lower
atmosphere, resulting in fragments falling earthwards.

Thousands of rescue workers have been dispatched to the area
to provide help to the injured, the emergencies ministry said.

The Chelyabinsk region, about 1,500km east of Moscow,
is home to many factories, a nuclear power plant and
the Mayak atomic waste storage and treatment centre.

One Russian politician said the event was not a meteor shower
but a US weapons test, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal
Democratic Party, was quoted as saying: "Meteors are falling.
Those are not meteors, it is Americans testing their new weapon."


Chelyabinsk's health department said 985 people had sought
medical treatment, including 204 children, Interfax reported.
Two people in the town of Kopeysk were in a serious condition, it added.

The governor of Chelyabinsk region, Mikhail Yurevich, was
quoted elsewhere as saying 950 people had been hurt, two seriously.

Mr Putin promised "immediate" aid for people affected,
saying kindergartens and schools had been damaged,
and work disrupted at industrial enterprises.

Many children were at lessons when the meteor fell at around 09:20.

Video posted online showed frightened, screaming youngsters
at one Chelyabinsk school, where corridors were littered with broken glass.

Chelyabinsk resident Sergei Serskov told BBC News the city
had felt like a "war zone" for 20 to 30 minutes.

"I was in the office when suddenly I saw a really bright flash
in the window in front of me," he said.

"Then I smelt fumes. I looked out the window and saw a huge line
of smoke, like you get from a plane but many times bigger."

"A few minutes later the window suddenly came open and
there was a huge explosion, followed by lots of little explosions."

Asteroid coincidence

The Russian Academy of Sciences estimates that the meteor weighed
about 10 tonnes and entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed
of at least 54,000 km/h.

It would have shattered about 30-50km above ground,
with most of the meteor burning up.

Scientists have played down suggestions that there is any link
between the event in the Urals and 2012 DA14, an asteroid expected
to race past the Earth on Friday at a distance of just 27,700km
- the closest ever predicted for an object of that size.

Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, of the Astrophysics Research Centre
at Queen's University Belfast, said there was "almost definitely"
no connection.

"One reason is that 2012 DA14 is approaching Earth from the south,
and this object hit in the northern hemisphere," he told BBC News.

"This is literally a cosmic coincidence, although a spectacular one."

Such meteor strikes are rare in Russia but one is thought to have
devastated an area of more than 2,000 sq km in Siberia in 1908.
The End

Takanashi clinches World Cup title
Feb.19, 2013

Teenager Sara Takanashi became the first Japanese to win
an overall World Cup ski jump title, clinching the women's crown
here Sunday with her fourth straight victory on the circuit.

Takanashi captured her eighth title of the season with jumps
of 89.5 meters and 92 meters, giving her 266.9 points,
a comfortable 23.9 ahead of France's Coline Mattel in second.

With 1,137 points, Takanashi clinched the World Cup title
with two meets to spare. American Sarah Hendrickson is second
at 847.

"I wasn't thinking about it so much, so I'm surprised," said
Takanashi, who was unaware she had clinched the title
until told by reporters afterward. "My steady training helped,
but the biggest factor was the support of my team."

At 16 years 4 months, Takanashi became the youngest overall
World Cup champion, according to the International Ski Federation.

Takanashi has established herself as the favorite at the 2014 Sochi
Olympics, where women's ski jumping will make its Olympic debut.
The End

Abe: Farm industry won't be sacrificed for TPP
Feb.19, 2013

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed that he will not sacrifice
Japan's agriculture to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks.

Abe was speaking at a debate on this fiscal year's supplementary
budget bill in the Upper House Budget Committee on Tuesday.

Upper House member Toshio Yamada told the session that
Japan's automobile industry has a wide range of related industries
and could offer many jobs.

He said, however, that in exchange for protecting the car industry
by joining the multinational free trade agreement, farming industry
should not be sacrificed.

Abe agreed with Yamada's view, saying he believes farming is
a fundamental industry for Japan and he will consider how to handle
the TPP negotiations with this in mind.

The prime minster added that he will do his best to protect Japan's
national interest at his meeting with US President Barack Obama
scheduled for later this week.

Meanwhile, lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party
opposed to joining the TPP talks have submitted to the government
a resolution that includes items that should be exempted
from the abolition of tariffs.

About 100 lawmakers attended a meeting to compile the resolution

The resolution cited rice, wheat, beef, dairy products and sugar
as items that should be made exempt from the tariffs abolition.

It also said that the participation of for-profit businesses
in the management of medical institutions should not be allowed.

The resolution added it strongly hopes that the Japan-US summit
later this week will reflect Japan's national interest.
The End

Japan trade deficit hits record as yen weakens
Feb.20, 2013

Japan's monthly trade deficit hit a record in January after its recent
aggressive monetary policy stance weakened its currency sharply.

Exports rose in January, the first jump in eight months,
as its goods became more affordable to foreign buyers.

However, a weak currency also pushed up its import bill resulting
in a monthly trade deficit of 1.6tn yen ($17.1bn; 11.1bn),
a 10% jump from a year ago.

Japan's deficit has also been impacted by an increase in fuel imports.

The world's third-largest economy has seen a rise in fuel imports,
as most of Japan's nuclear reactors continue to remain closed.

Japan's imports rose 7.3% in January, from a year earlier.
One of the biggest jumps was in the import of liquefied
petroleum gas (LPG), which surged more than 28%.

Meanwhile, exports rose 6.4%, driven up mainly by shipments
of manufactured goods, the customs and tariff bureau said.

Exports boost ?

Japan's exports, one of the key drivers of its economic growth,
have been hurt by a variety of factors.

Demand from the eurozone, of Japan's biggest markets,
has been hurt by the region's ongoing debt crisis.

A territorial dispute with China has hit sales of Japanese goods
to the country, Japan's biggest trading partner,
over the past few months.

However, the latest data indicated that things may be starting
to change.

Japan's shipments to China rose by 3% in January from a year
earlier, the first rise since May.

At the same time, exports to the US, the world's biggest
economy, also jumped 10.9%, further adding to hopes of
a recovery in the sector.

Meanwhile, the pace of decline in exports to the European Union
also slowed during the month.

There are hopes that as shipments to key markets recover and
the yen continues to remain weak, Japan's export sector may
see a sustained recovery.

The yen has dipped nearly 15% against the US dollar since November.

A weak currency helps boost profits of exporters when they
repatriate their foreign earnings back home, giving them a much
bigger pile of cash to invest at the end of the financial year.
The End

Chinese Military linked to widespread

Feb.21, 2013

As public evidence mounts that the Chinese military is responsible
for stealing massive amounts of U.S. government data and
corporate trade secrets, the administration of U.S. President
Barack Obama is eyeing fines and other trade actions
it may take against Beijing or any other country guilty of

According to officials familiar with the plans, the White House
will lay out a new report Wednesday that suggests initial,
more-aggressive steps the U.S. would take in response
to what top authorities say has been an unrelenting campaign
of cyberstealing linked to the Chinese government.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were
not authorized to speak publicly about the threatened action.

A U.S. security firm has linked Chinafs military to cyber-attacks
on more than 140 U.S. and other foreign corporations and entities,
according to a report released Tuesday.

The 60-page study by investigators at the Alexandria,
Virginia-based Mandiant security firm presents one of
the most comprehensive and detailed analyses to date tracing
corporate cyber-espionage to the doorstep of Chinese military facilities.
And it calls into question China's repeated denials that its military
is engaged in such activities.

The document, first reported by The New York Times,
draws on data Mandiant collected from what the company said
was the systematic theft of data from at least 141 organizations
over seven years. Mandiant traced the attacks back to a single group
it designated gAdvanced Persistent Threat 1,h or gAPT1,h
and now has identified the group as a Chinese military unit
within the 2nd Bureau of the People's Liberation Army General
Staff Department's 3rd Department, going by the designation
gUnit 61398.h

Although most of the targets were U.S. companies, a Mandiant
official said APT1 also hit about a dozen entities that he described
as smaller U.S. local, state and federal government agencies unable
to protect themselves, as well as international governmental
organizations overseas, including bodies in which China might have

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney declined to address
the findings of the Mandiant report or say whether it squared
with U.S. intelligence assessments. Carney told reporters:
gWe have repeatedly raised our concerns at highest levels about
cybertheft with senior Chinese officials, including the military,
and we will continue to do so. Itfs an important challenge,
one the president has been working on and urging Congress
to work on for quite some time. The United States and China
are among the worldfs largest cyber-actors, so itfs critical.h

Analysts have long linked the unit to the Chinese military's
3rd Department, and to extensive cyber-espionage. But what
Mandiant has done is connect the dots and add new ones
by locating the Internet protocol addresses used in commercial
cyber-attacks, placing them on a map and linking that information
to open-source data about people associated with the unit.

gSince 2006, Mandiant has observed APT1 compromise
141 companies spanning 20 major industries,h the firm said
in its report. Of those victims, 87 percent gare headquartered
in countries where English is the native language,h it went on.

Mandiant did not name the victims but said 115 of them are
located in the United States, two in Canada and five in Britain.
Of the 19 others, all but two operate in English. The report lists
three victims each in Israel and India, two each in Taiwan,
Singapore and Switzerland, and one each in Norway, Belgium,
France, Luxembourg, Japan, South Africa and the United Arab

These targeted entities include ginternational cooperation
and development agencies, foreign governments in which
English is one of multiple official languages, and multinational
conglomerates that primarily conduct their business in English,h
the report said.

The top sectors targeted by the APT1 cyber-espionage campaign,
Mandiant said, are information technology, aerospace,
public administration, satellites and telecommunications and
scientific research and consulting.

gWe have figured things out in an unclassified way that
the government has known through classified means,h
said Richard Bejtlich, Mandiant chief security officer, adding
that the company shared the study with U.S. intelligence agencies
before it was released.

The unit is just one of dozens working for the Chinese military
in cyber-espionage all over the country, analysts say.
There are other units within the General Staff Department's
2nd Department, which conducts military intelligence, and
within the Ministry of State Security, which conducts internal
counterintelligence and external espionage, according to analysts.

APT1, also dubbed gComment Crewh by security companies
that have studied its tactics, focuses on commercial targets overseas,
which makes its work more visible to the security firms tracking
the intrusions. Chinese units that focus on military and intelligence
targets are less visible to the cybersecurity companies.

gOnce APT1 has compromised a network, they repeatedly monitor
and steal proprietary data and communications from the victim
for months or even years,h Mandiant said. It said the activity
it has uncovered appears to represent gonly a small fraction of
the cyber-espionage that APT1 has committed.h

The Chinese military has repeatedly denounced accusations that
it is engaging in cyber-espionage, and did so again Tuesday.

gSimilar to other countries, China faces serious threats from
cyber-attack and is one of the main victims of cyber-attacks
in the world,h the Ministry of Defense said. gThe Chinese
Army never supported any hacking activities. The accusation
that the Chinese military engaged in cyber-attacks is neither
professional nor in accordance with facts. g

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Tuesday also
challenged the reportfs findings. gHacking attacks are
transnational and anonymous,h and determining their origins is
extremely difficult, he said. gWe donft know how the evidence
in this so-called report can be tenable.h

Mandiant investigators said they based their conclusion
in part by tracing an overwhelming number of cyber-attacks
by the APT1 group to networks serving a small area on the edge
of Shanghai ? the same area where Unit 61398 is believed
to be operating in a 12-story building. It also found evidence
that China Telecom had provided special high-speed fiber optic
lines for those headquarters in the name of national defense.

The only alternative explanation to military involvement,
Mandiant argues in the report, is that ga secret, resourced
organization full of mainland Chinese speakers
with direct access to Shanghai-based telecommunications
infrastructure is engaged in a multiyear, enterprise scale computer
espionage campaign right outside of Unit 61398's gates.h

The Mandiant report coincides with the completion of a classified
National Intelligence Estimate by the U.S. intelligence community
that concluded that China was the most aggressive perpetrator
of a massive campaign of cyber-espionage against commercial
targets in the United States.

It also comes days after Obama issued an executive order aimed
at better securing the computer networks run by critical U.S.
industries, such as transportation and energy.

gWe know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate
secrets,h Obama said in his State of the Union address.
gWe cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did
nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.h

On Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said
the administration was aware of the Mandiant report. She reiterated
that the United States ghas substantial and growing concerns
about the threats to U.S. economic and national security posed
by cyber-intrusions, including the theft of commercial information.h

Before she left office this month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton said the United States has elevated the cyber-espionage
issue to the strategic dialogue level with China. gWe have to
begin making it clear to the Chinese that the United States
is going to have to take action to protect not only our government,
but our private sector, from this kind of illegal intrusions,h Clinton said.

Other security experts have also traced cyber-attacks to China
in the past. In one instance, documented by Bloomberg News
reporters last week, a malware expert at Dell SecureWorks and
other security experts traced cyber-attacks to a man named Zhang
Changhe teaching at a Chinese military academy, PLA Information
Engineering University.

Along with Tuesdayfs report, Mandiant included lengthy
descriptions of the groupfs past methods and more than
3,000 indicators to help others bolster their defenses against
the unit's tactics.

The company explained its rationale, saying its leaders decided
that the benefits of exposing the military unit's activity and
pinning responsibility squarely on China now outweighed
the usefulness of keeping silent.

gIt is time to acknowledge the threat is originating in China,
and we wanted to do our part to arm and prepare security
professionals to combat that threat effectively,h the report said.
gWithout establishing a solid connection to China, there will
always be room for observers to dismiss APT actions as uncoordinated,
solely criminal in nature, or peripheral to larger national security
and global economic concerns.h

Company officials, however, acknowledged that the report
would likely lead to negative consequences, such as prompting
Unit 61398 and other military operations to change their methods,
making them harder to detect and stop. They also concluded
the report by saying that Mandiant as a company was ready to face
greprisals from China as well as an onslaught of criticism.h

Details included in the new report suggest a massive operation
behind the cyber-attack carried out by the unit singled out
by Mandiant. According to Mandiant, the unit is one of the most
prolific and likely includes hundreds or even thousands of employees.

The groupfs attack infrastructure uses more than 1,000 servers.
In the past two years alone, the report noted, hackers logged
into the same attack infrastructures 1,905 times from 832 different
Internet protocol addresses. And in 97 percent of the cases,
according to the report, the hacking group used IP addresses
registered in Shanghai and computer systems set to Simplified
Chinese language ? a written form of Chinese that is unique
to mainland China and not used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

An operation of such a size, the report argues, would require
a sizable dedicated IT staff as well as linguists, open source
researchers, malware authors and other support staff.

The scale of the unitfs intrusions is also surprising.
While Mandiant was careful not to name any targeted corporations,
the report counts 147 targeted companies, spanning 20 major
industries, including several sectors publicly identified by China's
government as emerging ones central to Chinafs strategic interests.

On average, the attackers stayed in companies' systems almost a year,
but in one case investigated by Mandiant, a company was
infiltrated for almost five years. In many cases terabyte-size
portions of intellectual property were siphoned off.

In an effort to illuminate the hackers behind such attacks, the report
also included personal details of three operators believed to be
part of the unit, tracking them using accounts associated with attacks.

In a video addendum published online with the report, the security
firm showed one of the hackers using details such as a Shanghai
cellphone to create a Google mail account that is later used
in cyber-attacks to target the email accounts of Southeast Asian
military organizations in Malaysia and the Philippines.
The End

Elderly employment focus of shunto
Feb.22, 2013, from The Yomiuri Shimbun

One major theme of this year's shunto spring labor negotiations
is the revised law on stable elderly employment,
which will require companies to continue employing workers
until the age of 65 starting from April.

While employers are seeking ways to minimize a possible hike
in personnel costs caused by continued employment,
labor unions are worried such moves could negatively impact wages
for younger workers.

The revised law is aimed at coping with the increase from
60 to 65 in the eligible age for receiving corporate pension benefits.
The age will be increased incrementally through 2025.

Most companies with a mandatory retirement system have set
the retirement age at 60. The current law requires such companies
to adopt one of three measures to deal with the pension reform:
abolish the mandatory retirement system, raise the retirement age,
or introduce a system to reemploy or continue employing workers
after retirement.

However, there are no penalties under the current law and
companies can choose which workers they keep after retirement based
on standards established in in-house labor-management agreements.

Starting from April, however, the revised law will require companies
to continue employing all workers who wish to keep working.
The names of companies that violate the law will be publicly announced.

Few companies have chosen to abolish the mandatory retirement system,
fearing that it could lead to delays in promotions and a surplus workforce.
Most companies have chosen to continue employing workers or
raise the mandatory retirement age to 65.

Suntory Holdings Ltd. will raise its mandatory retirement age
from 60 to 65 starting in April. Toyota Motor Corp. is also studying
a plan to introduce a "half-time" system, in which regular working
hours will be halved after reemployment.

Some companies, however, are looking to improve their business
performance by fully utilizing the potential of older workers and
recoup the increase in labor costs. These companies, including
Suntory, plan to introduce a merit-based wage system in place of
a uniform wage system.

Meanwhile, other companies have begun reducing wages of
employees under 60 to offset the increase in labor costs caused
by the revised law. Such measures include cutting the number of
new recruits and reviewing an annual base pay raise system.

During this year's shunto wage negotiations, the Japan Business
Federation (Keidanren) stressed that one difficulty facing
companies in terms of increasing wages is the obligation
to continue employing workers until 65.

"It's estimated that companies will have to pay 2 percent more
in wages five years from now due to the increase in the elderly
population," Keidanren said.

The Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) criticized this view,
saying, "Companies saying they don't have enough money to continue
employing older workers is merely an excuse to cut wages."

The continued employment of elderly workers under the revised law
will undoubtedly impact the lives of all company employees,
including younger workers. Therefore, companies must introduce
a well-balanced system that will enable workers of all ages to share
work and prosper.
The End

Putin: Lack of treaty eabnormalf
Feb.23, 2013

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday described the absence of a peace
treaty between Japan and Russia as an gabnormal situationh and
expressed his readiness to resolve the long-running dispute over a group
of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.

Putin also said his remarks last March ostensibly seeking a draw
over the dispute meant finding a solution acceptable to both countries,
visiting former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori told a news conference
after meeting the Russian leader in Moscow.

The president made the comment when Mori, who arrived in Russia
on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's
visit here later this year, asked the Russian leader ? a longtime judo
enthusiast ? what he had meant when he said he would seek ghikiwake,h
a judo term for draw, to settle the dispute.

It referred to a gsettlement without win or loss,h Putin was quoted
as telling Mori.

Mori also handed Putin a personal letter from Abe and stressed to him
that settling the island row needs the resolve of both nationsf leaders.

The visit by Mori, who is in Russia as Abefs special envoy, is
drawing major attention over whether it can set the tone for finally
finding a resolution to the territorial dispute. Both Abe and Putin have
expressed readiness to seek a gmutually acceptable solution.h

gIfm awaiting the Japanese prime ministerfs visit,h Putin told
Mori at the outset of their 70-minute meeting.

Abefs trip is expected for April or May.

Putin also expressed hope for greater cooperation between the two countries,
saying bilateral cooperation in the economic field has been successful.

gFrom now on, I hope to put cooperation in the agricultural field
on the right track,h he added.

He also revealed plans to send a mission headed by his energy minister
to Japan soon for meetings with business leaders, according to Mori.

The dispute over the ownership of the islands off Hokkaido
? Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group ?
has prevented the two countries from concluding a peace treaty
after World War II. They were seized by the Soviet Union at the end
of the war and the Japanese islanders were later evicted.

Mori's visit came amid some apprehension in the Japanese government
because he said on a TV program in January that Tokyo has an option
of settling the dispute through the return of three of the islands.

Mori's stance is at odds with the government's position that Tokyo
is flexible about when, how and on what conditions the islands are
returned as long as Moscow acknowledges Japanese ownership of all four.

Also at issue was whether Putin would confirm as still valid a 2001
statement, agreed on between Mori and Putin at the time, that confirmed
the 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration was legally valid, and whether
the Russian leader would indicate readiness to inch toward Japan's position.

At the news conference aftertheir meeting, Mori said he and Putin
confirmed the importance of the statement, which Mori as prime minister
signed in March 2001 with Putin in the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

It defined the 1956 joint declaration as the starting point of negotiations
for forging a peace pact. The declaration, which ended the state of
war and restored diplomatic relations between the two countries,
says two of the four islands ? Shikotan and the Habomai islet group
? will be handed over to Japan after a peace treaty is signed.

In the so-called Irkutsk Statement, the two leaders also reaffirmed their
common position that on the basis of a separate bilateral document
? the 1993 Tokyo Declaration ? a peace treaty should be concluded
by resolving the dispute over the ownership of all four islands.

During Thursdayfs talks, Mori and Putin also discussed North Korea,
which last week conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of
warnings from the international community, with the Russian leader
saying the test was totally unacceptable, according to Mori.

Among other issues, Putin expressed displeasure with the International
Olympic Committeefs recent decision to drop wrestling
from the 2020 Summer Games, expressing hope that Japan and Russia
? whose athletes are medal contenders in the sport ? will cooperate
toward having the decision reversed.

During his stay in Moscow, Mori is slated to meet with Sergey Naryshkin,
speaker of the lower house of the Russian Parliament, and give a speech
at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on Friday.
He is due to return to Japan on Saturday.

Mori, 75, a member of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, served as prime
minister from April 2000 to April 2001.
The End


Abe-Obama talks set stage for TPP entry
Zero tariffs not prerequisite to Japan joining multilateral talks
Feb.24, 2013

Japan will not have to vow to remove all trade tariffs if it joins the
Trans-Pacific Partnership trade initiative, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
and U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed Friday, setting
the stage for the countryfs early entry into the ongoing talks.

During their summit talks, the two leaders said they also agreed
to enhance security cooperation in Asia in response to North Korea's
nuclear threats and Chinafs mounting military assertiveness,
which has escalated territorial disputes throughout the strategically
critical region.

It was their first White House meeting since Abe and his Liberal
Democratic Party administration took office in late December.

gThe two governments confirm that should Japan participate
in the TPP negotiations, all goods would be subject to negotiation,h
Obama and Abe said in a joint statement, adding,
gAs the final outcome will be determined during the negotiations,
(Japan) is not required to make a prior commitment
to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP (discussions).h

Abe had said that Japan would not join the multilateral, U.S.-led
free-trade talks if it were required to abolish all tariffs without
exception under the Pacific Rim accord, reflecting opposition
from domestic farmers ? a core constituency of his ruling LDP
that fears an influx of cheap agricultural imports.

The prime minister used his inaugural face-to-face meeting
with Obama to sound him out on the possibility of Japan excluding
certain agricultural products, especially rice and beef, from the zero
tariffs principle.

gIt became evident that (the TPP) is not premised on tariff
elimination without sanctuary,h Abe told a joint news conference
after their meeting, standing alongside Obama.
gI will determine (whether to join the discussions) as early as possible.h

After returning to Tokyo, Abe is expected to accelerate the process
within the LDP-led ruling coalition to build a consensus on Japan's
accession to the TPP. Eleven Pacific Rim economies, including
Australia, Singapore and Chile, are hammering out a framework
for the accord.

Among other topics covered, Abe told Obama that Japan is close
to signing the 1980 Hague treaty on cross-border parental child
abductions, and subsequent custody disputes, following years of
pressure from the United States, Canada and major European countries.

Abe said the Diet is expected to pass related bills in May with
the endorsement of both the ruling and opposition camps, allowing Japan
to finally join the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International
Child Abduction.

On North Korea, the two leaders voiced their shared gdetermination
to take strong actions in responseh to Pyongyang's latest rocket
and nuclear provocations, according to Obama.

The North conducted its third underground atomic test Feb. 12,
drawing international condemnation that included calls for additional
sanctions to be slapped on the reclusive country. That followed
its successful rocket launch in December, which was widely
considered a ballistic missile test. Both actions were carried out
in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Abe and Obama confirmed the importance of cooperating
to seek the imposition of harsher sanctions on North Korea,
among them a possible ban on financial institutions in the United
States found to have done business with Pyongyang.

Obama meanwhile reiterated his support for Abe's efforts to address
the decades-old abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean
agents in the 1970s and 1980s. He also offered his condolences
for the 10 Japanese killed in last monthfs hostage crisis
in Algeria, and pledged increased bilateral cooperation
in the fight against terrorism.

On maritime security, Abe said Tokyo and Washington will look
to enhance cooperation under the bilateral security alliance
to ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region in the face
of an increasingly belligerent China.

Abe raised concerns about Chinese vessels that have repeatedly
intruded into Japan's territorial waters around the Senkakus
since the previous Democratic Party of Japan administration
nationalized the disputed islet chain in September.

He also sought Washington's understanding on Japan's official
position on the uninhabited East China Sea islets, namely that
they are an inherent part of Japanese territory and that no dispute
exists as to their sovereignty. The islets are administered
by Japan but also claimed by China, which refers to them as Diaoyu.

The prime minister hopes to hold talks with China's new leaders
about the territorial row, after the U.S. called on Asia's two largest
economies to begin dialogue and come up with a peaceful
solution to the increasingly acrimonious clash.

Abe is further seeking to bolster Japan's defense capabilities
through a possible revision of the pacifist Constitution, as well as
the government's interpretation of it, in order to re-brand and allow
the Self-Defense Forces to exercise collective self-defense overseas.

Another of his key policy pillars is to restore ties with the U.S.
that frayed during the three-year rule of the DPJ, which Abe has
repeatedly criticized for harming bilateral ties by trying to renege
on a pact with Washington to relocate a U.S. base within Okinawa.

gThe trust and bonds of the alliance (with the U.S.) are back,h
Abe said after meeting with Obama.

At their joint news conference, Obama for his part stressed that
gJapan is one of our closest allies, and the U.S.-Japan alliance is
the central foundation for our regional security and so much of
what we do in the Pacific region.h

On the contentious ? and long-stalled ? relocation of U.S. Marine
Corps Air Station Futenma, Abe and Obama agreed to forge ahead
with the existing plan to move the facility from the heavily populated
city of Ginowan to a rural coastal district farther north on Okinawa
Island. Local residents want the base moved outside the prefecture
altogether, and have successfully held up the proposed plan for years.

Upon Abe's return, his government will seek Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu
Nakaimafs permission to undertake the offshore land reclamation
necessary for the air stationfs planned new site. However, Abe did not
convey to Obama when he would seek the governor's authorization,
a prerequisite before work can begin on constructing a replacement base.

Concerning economic policy, Obama said he and Abe were of the same
mind that gour No. 1 priority has to be making sure that we are
increasing growth.h

But while noting that Abe is winning public support at home
for his growth-oriented economic policies, Obama fell short of
commenting on what has been dubbed gAbenomicsh ? a package
of bold monetary easing, ample fiscal spending and strategies
to drive up employment, productivity and private investment.
The radical approach has triggered criticism from some of Japan's
trading partners that the Abe administration is deliberately weakening
the yen to boost the countryfs export-driven economy.

With regard to energy issues, Abe asked Obama to approve U.S.
shale gas exports to Japan to secure cheaper resources for the nation's
power stations, now that all but two commercial nuclear reactors
remain offline in light of the safety issues raised by the Fukushima
disaster. In response, utilities have had to ramp up thermal power
generation to ensure a stable supply of electricity, sending their
procurement costs soaring.

Washington has not previously authorized the export of shale gas
to countries with which it has not concluded a free-trade accord,
and Obama only said that the U.S. recognizes Japan as a key ally.
The End


Park to usher in New Era of Friendship,
or Side wiyh China ?

from The Japan Times, February 26, 2013

To avoid father's 'pro-Japan' taint,
new leader could take harder line

Park Geun Hye was inaugurated Monday as South Korea's first female president,
ushering in what many in Japan hope will be a new era in improved bilateral
relations, which were strained by her predecessor, Lee Myung Bak.

But experts in Japan are unsure if Park will deliver on such hopes, although
in Japan she is often associated with her father's achievement of nomalizing
diplomatic relations with Japan in the 1960s.

Park also takes a softer line and appears more self-restrained than Lee,
who last August became the first South Korean leader to visit the Seoul-controlled
Takeshima islets, which are known in Lee's country as Dokdo.

That trip was seen as a bid to fan nationalist sentiment in order to restore his
tarnished legacy while boosting the popularity of his party and ultimate
successor, Park.

For Japan, Park was preferable to her December election rival, Moon Jae In,
a leftwing dark horse who had called on Seoul to put more pressure on Tokyo
over points of bilateral contention.

"Park is not a politician who plays to the grandstand. She won't intentionally
hurt the South Korea-Japan relationship," said Ryukoku University professor
and Korean affairs expert Ri Sotetsu.

"In that sense, Japan can feel at ease" with Park's debut, said Ri, who published
a biography of Park in Japan last November.

At present, however, Park hasn't signaled any immediate desire to boost relations
with Japan.

Her father, the assassinated dictator Park Chung Hee, was president when South
Korea established diplomatic ties with Japan in 1965 and concluded a basic
relations treaty.

Kan Kimura, a professor at Kobe University and a noted expert on Korean affairs,
said some Japanese may think Park would be favorably inclined to foster
improved relations, but that could be a mistaken notion.

"I don't think she will actively work to improve the Japan-South Korea relationship,"
Kimura said.

Park's father, who was fluent in Japanese, was an Imperial Army officer
in the Manchurian puppet state of Manchukuo.

He maintained close relations with many Japanese leaders after the war,
including the late Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, the grandfather of
current leader Shinzo Abe.

But domestic political foes still brand the late president as "pro-Japan,"
a weakness in the eyes of some South Koreans that could easily be spread
to his daughter, Ryukoku University's Ri said.

In South Korea, a "pro-Japan" reputation can be a powerful stigma
for politicians.

"The background of her father will be a burden for her" rather than
an asset in 'handling diplomacy with Japan, Ri said.

Kimura also pointed out that Park lacks a strong domestic power base.

She won the December election by a razor-thin margin, and her ruling
Saenuri Party, too, has a slim majority in the National Assembly.

"If the ruling party is split, it would easily lose a majority (in the assembly);'
Kimura said, adding that Park doesn't have a chance to change the situation
until at least 2016, when the next general election will be held.

Anti-Japan sentiment remains strong among South Korean voters, and
Park would not resist such sentiment at home if she believes it would help
her to retain her political clout, Kimura said.

Lee, too, was initially considered Japan-friendly, and even had a much
stronger power base than Park when he launched his administration in 2008.
He won a landslide victory in the presidential election and his party enjoyed
a stable majority in the assembly.

But as a lame duck leader, Lee resorted to whipping up anti-Japan fervor
in a bid to boost both his and his party's popularity - a common political ploy.

This practice has never changed, Kimura said, noting that Park, who studied
and speaks fluent Chinese, apparently attaches more importance to relations
with China than those with Japan.

Past precedent had held that incoming South Korean presidents first met
with the U.S. ambassador after their election, followed by the Japanese
ambassador, and then the Chinese ambassador.

But Park was the first to tinker with this tradition by meeting first
with the U.S. ambassador and then with the Chinese envoy.
The Japanese ambassador followed, leaving Japanese diplomats
in Seoul dumbfounded.

"She is signaling to China that she is attaching more importance
to China than Japan.

This is a clear departure from the administration of Lee Myung Bak,"
Kimura said, adding that she will probably side with China against
Japan over historical or territorial points of contention if tensions
with Japan flare.

But Park has another reason to prioritize ties with Beijing over those
with Tokyo:

While Japan's economic presence in South Korea has declined
in recent years, China's has grown exponentially.

China is now the destination for about one-third of South Korea's
total exports, whereas Japan accounts for just some 7 percent.

Abe's Cabinet, which has been focusing on domestic economic
issues, is now working hard to mend ties with Seoul.

Abe and key government officials have repeatedly called
South Korea "the most important neighboring country that
shares basic values and interests" with Japan.

Abe has also stopped talking about replacing two key war
apologies, one issued in 1995 by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi
Murayama and the other in 1993 by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary
Yohei Kono.

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party had also pledged during the December
election that returned the party to power to have the central government
host a ceremony in Shimane Prefecture to commemorate the 1905
annexation by Japan of the disputed Takeshima islets.

However, Abe didn't fulfill this pledge, and the prefecture held
its own event Friday.

So far, Abe has kept some of the hawkish goals he espoused
in last year's campaign in check, leaving South Koreans perplexed
and wondering which is the true Abe, Kimura said.
The End

Italy election:
Nation in dramatic situation - Bersani

Feb.27, 2013

Pier Luigi Bersani: "We have a major responsibility in the light of
the outcome of the election".

Italy struggles with 'nightmare' result - a blow against austerity
Stalemate in 'ungovernable' Italy, Italian media dumbstruck.

Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani says Italy is in a "dramatic
situation" after election results that leave the country in political

Stock markets and the euro have fallen amid concerns the deadlock
could re-ignite the eurozone debt crisis.

But Mr Bersani, whose coalition won most seats in parliament,
did not identify a preferred partner in government.

He said all political parties should take responsibility for the country.

Centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi said earlier fresh elections
should be avoided, and called for a period of reflection,
which correspondents suggest could mean he is considering
a very awkward alliance with his opponents on the centre-left.

Other European countries have urged Italian politicians to create
a stable government as soon as possible - with France and Germany
urging continued reform, and Spain describing the result
as a "jump to nowhere".

Comic protest

In his first speech since the elections on Sunday and Monday,
Mr Bersani said: "We are aware that we are in a dramatic situation,
we are aware of the risks that Italy faces."

His centre-left bloc won the lower house vote but failed to secure
a majority in the Senate. Control of both houses is needed to govern.

A protest movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo won 25%,
but the centrist bloc led by current Prime Minister Mario Monti
came a poor fourth, with about 10%.

The outcome of the election, which comes amid a deep recession
and tough austerity measures, was so close between the two main blocs
that the margin of victory given in interior ministry figures was
less than 1% in both houses of parliament.

The winning bloc automatically gets a majority in the lower house.
But the same is not true in the Senate, where seat allocations
are decided by region and can conflict with the national vote.

European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said the EU
expected Italy to "honour its commitments" on debt and deficit
reduction, and other structural reform, saying he understood
the "concern expressed by Italian citizens".

"The Commission has full confidence in Italian democracy and...
will work closely with the future government towards the relaunch
of growth and job creation in Italy," he said.
The End

Record accumulated snowfall buries northern Japan
Feb.28, 2013

Communities in Hokkaido and five prefectures of the Tohoku region
had record levels of accumulated snow as of Feb. 25, although
precipitation levels are about the same as an average year.

In the Sukayu district of Aomori city along the Hakkoda mountain range,
the snowpile measured 5.61 meters, a record for all areas where the Japan
Meteorological Agency keeps records of accumulated snowfall.

Thirteen locations have set records for their snowpiles this winter.

Low temperatures in the region are a major reason
for the deep snowpiles and some municipalities are facing problems
from the accumulated snow.

Located at an altitude of 890 meters, Sukayu is known for its hot springs.
Some tourists came to the area after seeing news reports about the huge

An inn in the area has increased the number of times a day it shovels
snow from three to five. Bulldozers are in operation from 4 a.m. until 9 p.m.
clearing snow from the roads and parking lots. Despite these efforts,
overnight snowfall leaves a knee-high snowpile by most mornings.

In Aomori city, where population density is greater, the snowpile
in a central part of the city measured 1.42 meters, the deepest
it has been this winter. The 40 or so locations, such as vacant lots,
where snow is dumped are full. The city had set aside
about 985 million yen ($10.5 million) in its budget to clear snow
from major roads, but so far 1.36 billion yen has been spent,
forcing the municipal government to submit a supplementary budget
asking for an additional 600 million yen.

Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, also had a record snowpile of 1.53 meters.
Because so many residents have dumped snow in a local river,
there is now the danger of flooding because the river has been dammed
by the snow.

Although city officials are asking residents to stop dumping the snow
in the river, the practice has continued because some citizens claim
they cannot use their kerosene stoves because the snow covers
the exhaust vents.

According to JMA officials, total precipitation since November
in most regions has been between 0.8 and 1.2 times that of an average year.

However, record snowpiles of 3.41 meters in Tadami, Fukushima
Prefecture, and 2.79 meters in Nishi-Waga, Iwate Prefecture,
have been measured.

"There have been many days in which temperatures have not risen
so the fallen snow has not melted," said JMA forecaster Norihisa Fujikawa.

The average temperatures since December have been lower by 1.2 degrees
in northern Japan and 0.9 degree in eastern Japan than the levels
for average years.
The End