NO. 27 &emdash; July 18, 1997


Feature Article


Advancing and commercializing television technology has been a consistent priority of the Japanese government and the domestic electronics industry. By 1990 a 20-year public-private development effort had produced the world's first practical high-definition television technology. All the pieces were in place to begin commercializing the know-how. Despite government and industry attempts since then to drive down retail prices for the technology and to promote HDTV in advance of such major viewer attractions as the 1996 Summer Olympic Games and the upcoming 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, sales of HDTV sets have been well below expectations. In part this reflects the development of a superior HDTV system in the United States. It could become a global standard &emdash; something Tokyo failed to achieve. Although bloodied, Japan's electronics industry is far from being out of the advanced television race. Not only will equipment makers there be major players in the HDTV market irrespective of the standards question, but they already are engaged in research on the next generation of television technology, ultra definition.

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Weekly Review

Hashimoto Rewrites Budget-Writing Process by Jon Choy

The Ministry of Finance is considered the most powerful agency in the government because of its control over spending, taxes, monetary policy and the financial sector. Recently approved legislation will reduce MOF's grip on the latter two. Now, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto has taken steps to limit the ministry's authority over the budget process. These changes could mark the beginning of an era of reduced MOF influence and a reshuffling of power relationships between bureaucrats and politicians as well as among ministries and agencies.


Corporate Japan Experienced Huge Cash Inflow In 1996 by Douglas Ostrom

Recently released Bank of Japan flow of funds data for 1996 contained a startling statistic. Large domestic corporations, whose postwar reputation rests in part on their ability to absorb funds from other parts of the economy, generated much more cash last year than they could use. While also present in 1994 and 1995, the phenomenon was far larger in 1996. If the trend persists, it has implications for the growth of the Japanese economy, the value of the yen and the prospects for the nation's external imbalance.


Hashimoto's Cambodia Evacuation Mission Order Raises Eyebrows by Barbara Wanner

Concerned that the early July political upheaval in Cambodia might endanger Japanese nationals still in that volatile Southeast Asian country, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto July 11 ordered the dispatch of three Air Self-Defense Force C-130 transport planes to Thailand to prepare for the possible evacuation of about 370 of his countrymen. This marked the first time since the end of World War II that Tokyo had sent military aircraft on a mission beyond the vicinity of the home islands that was not a training flight.


Cambodian Crisis Brings Measured Response From Japan, Asean by Eric Altbach

The successful July 6 coup carried out in Cambodia by Hun Sen and his supporters against his fellow prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, elicited a measured but critical response from the Japanese government and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as from the United States and other Western countries.

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