THE city of Tokyo has become the latest local Japanese government to pass a noise pollution law aimed at reducing high-decibel propaganda from the "sound trucks" of right-wing extremists.
Political groups drive around the city in large, black vehicles draped in Japanese flags, using giant speakers to blast ultra-patriotic messages, usually toward leftist organizations or embassies whose countries disagree with Japan.
The new law allows police to stop any group whose noise reaches a level of 85 decibels from 30 feet away, or roughly the sound heard by commuters in a noisy subway car.
The legislation was passed in a hurry because government officials feared that rightists would step up their noisy barrage to register their opposition to the possibility of Emperor Akihito's apologizing for Japan's wartime past during a trip to China that starts tomorrow.
Many of the groups want to restore imperial rule and revive a militarist "purity" among Japanese.
Civil-rights activists opposed the law because they claimed it was worded too loosely and could be used to stifle almost any street demonstration that police judge to be too loud. NAFTA prompts Asian anxiety
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad has attacked a proposal by the United States that some Asian nations might be invited to join the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Dr. Mahathir, on a trip to Tokyo, warned that the US is blocking attempts by nations in the Far East to form their own regional economic group.
His criticism echoes a similar complaint by a top Japanese trade official, Yuji Tanahashi, who said the US may exclude Japan from a possible expansion of NAFTA to the Asia-Pacific region.
Their comments came after Franklin Lavin, deputy assistant US Secretary of Commerce for East Asia, suggested that the US try to strike more liberal trade accords with Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan, and include them in NAFTA.
This year, the US helped form a loose economic group between North America and Asian nations known as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. The US also successfully suppressed a proposal by Mahathir for an East Asia Economic Caucus.
"What we're after is a single voice from East Asia in defense of worldwide free trade," Mahathir told Japanese businessmen. "If we don't do something now, things are going to get worse later." Japanese Army major upbraided for talk of coup
A Japanese Army major who teaches history at a war college is being punished for writing an article that says a "coup dtat or a revolution" might be needed to clean up political corruption in Japan.
The article, appearing in the weekly Bungei Shinju, brought a quick rebuke from top officials because such a viewpoint would confirm persistent concerns among many Japanese and other Asians that Japan might someday return to military rule.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, in power for 37 years, has been stuck in a series of scandals with little hope of political reform being passed any time soon. Maj. Shinsaku Yanai stated that "it is now impossible to correct injustice by virtue of elections."
Defense Agency chief Sohei Miyashita claimed this week that "no other officer" has this view and that he will "take appropriate action" against Major Yanai for challenging the widely accepted parliamentary system in Japan. A coup was not possible in Japan, Mr. Miyashita added.
The article by Yanai came just a month after the first deployment of Japanese troops overseas since World War II. About 600 Army engineers were sent to Cambodia to help United Nations efforts there.