Asahi Shimbun correspondent wins award for outstanding reporting
Kenji Minemura (The Asahi Shimbun)
An Asahi Shimbun correspondent in Beijing, Kenji Minemura, has been named co-winner of the 2010 Vaughn-Ueda international journalist prize, it was announced Monday.
Minemura, who is assigned to the China General Bureau in Beijing, shares the award with Tomoko Oji, who works at The Mainichi Shimbun's foreign news desk.
The annual award is presented to journalists who help promote international understanding through outstanding reporting.
Minemura, 36, joined The Asahi Shimbun in 1997 and worked for the newspaper's then Hiroshima bureau and Osaka Head Office's City News Section before he was appointed correspondent based in Beijing in May 2007.
Minemura has aggressively covered China's security policies, such as its plans to build its own aircraft carrier, its maritime strategy and previously undisclosed policies that restricted media coverage and the dissemination of information.
Oji, 45, joined The Mainichi Shimbun in 1989. She worked as a correspondent at the paper's North American Bureau in Washington D.C. before she assumed her current post on the foreign news desk in October 2010.
Oji was cited for a series that shed light on negative aspects of the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
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Following are three of the scoops by Minemura.
On June 16, 2009, the vernacular Asahi Shimbun carried a report by Minemura on an unannounced visit to China by Kim Jong Un, the third son and heir apparent of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
A summary of the article follows:
The visit was intended to inform Chinese President Hu Jintao and other top Chinese officials that Kim Jong Un had been tapped by his father to eventually succeed him.
The report was based on accounts from North Korean sources close to Kim Jong Il as well as North Korean contacts in Beijing.
Kim Jong Un flew to Beijing around June 10 and met with Hu and other officials, including Wang Jiarui, the head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department.
North Korean officials accompanying Kim Jong Un explained that he had been appointed to the important post of head of the Organization and Guidance Department in the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
Hu discussed Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions during his talks with Kim Jong Un.
After visiting Beijing, Kim Jong Un inspected high-tech factories in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, both in Guangdong province. Kim Jong Il also visited those cities during a trip to China in January 2006.
Guangdong province was one of the first areas in China to enjoy the fruits of China's reform and open-door policy begun about 30 years ago.
Having Kim Jong Un follow a similar itinerary as his father was intended to show that he was the legitimate successor and that he was also interested in implementing similar policies in North Korea, North Korean sources said.
Kim Jong Il also visited China in June 1983, soon after he was tapped to succeed his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea.
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The article was carried by The Asahi Shimbun's English edition on Dec. 31, 2008:
China to start construction of 1st aircraft carriers next year
By KENJI MINEMURA
BEIJING--China will begin construction of the country's first domestically produced aircraft carriers in Shanghai next year, with an eye to completing two mid-sized carriers by 2015, military and shipbuilding sources said.
Beijing is also expected to complete work on a never-finished former Soviet aircraft carrier moored in the northeastern port of Dalian, to provide training for carrier-based pilots and crew.
The two 50,000- to 60,000-ton carriers will rely on conventional propulsion systems, not nuclear power. They will be assigned to the People's Liberation Army Navy south sea fleet, tasked with patrolling the South China Sea, sources said.
China's carrier ambitions and the build-up of its blue-water fleet have long been of interest to Pacific nations.
National defense ministry spokesman Huang Xueping recently commented that China might build its own aircraft carriers.
However, this is the first time the goals of Chinese naval planners have been clarified in such detail.
If China does bolster its naval combat capabilities by deploying aircraft carriers, it could significantly impact the delicate military balance in East Asia.
According to sources close to Shanghai municipal authorities, one of the world's largest shipbuilding facilities was completed this fall on Changxingdao island at the mouth of the Changjiang river near Shanghai.
One of the four docks there is for construction of the aircraft carriers, they said.
Shipbuilding sources said there are plans to import electrical control parts from Russia and that orders have already been placed with domestic military suppliers.
If procurement goes as planned, the carriers could be completed about two years earlier than envisaged.
Meanwhile, shipbuilders in Dalian are nearing completion of the 60,000-ton former Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier Varyag, as a training ship for carrier-borne aircraft pilots and crew. The ship, which was about 70 percent complete at the time of its purchase, was first acquired by a Macao tourism firm in 1998. Since 2002, it has been under construction by a Dalian-based shipbuilder with ties to the navy.
A ranking Chinese navy officer told The Asahi Shimbun that as China increasingly relies on Mideast oil, the aircraft carriers would likely see duty guarding sea lanes in the Malacca Strait and in the Indian Ocean. The officer contended that because the ships will be smaller than U.S. carriers they will not pose a threat.
Ikuo Kayahara, a professor of security studies at Takushoku University and a former research department director at the National Institute for Defense Studies, said China's plan to build aircraft carriers is a "key pillar to enhancing its naval capabilities."
"China hopes to broaden its buffer zone to protect its coasts from a perceived threat from the United States," Kayahara said.
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The article was carried by The Asahi Shimbun's English edition on March 26, 2010:
China bans reporting on 18 subjects
By KENJI MINEMURA
BEIJING--Amid the Google Inc. brouhaha and cries of censorship, China has prohibited the Chinese media from reporting on 18 subjects, including yuan revaluation, corruption and problems in Tibet and the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region.
Liu Yunshan, director of the publicity department of China's Communist Party, faxed notifications about the bans to major newspaper companies, television and radio stations and Internet news companies on Sunday.
The following day, Google announced its withdrawal from China's Internet search market.
According to a senior official of a Chinese media company, the current censorship is "among the largest ever" and exceeds that imposed before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The 18 banned topics also include the difficulties faced by university students in finding jobs after graduation, food safety and rising prices of cooking oil.
"Most of the subjects that people are interested in have been banned. We don't know what to report on," said an official at a Chinese newspaper.
In the notification to the Chinese media, Liu said the top priority concerns the value of the yuan against the U.S. dollar.
Amid complaints of cheaper Chinese exports flooding overseas markets, Washington has increasingly pressed Beijing to revaluate its currency. Liu banned reports on criticism against China, especially from U.S. lawmakers, and told the Chinese media to use stories from the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
But commentaries that "criticize U.S. actions" were welcomed, even ordered, by Liu.
Sources in China said the government likely learned of Google's withdrawal decision in advance and decided to quickly impose its control over the media concerning sensitive topics.
"The Google issue ended up tightening media control in China," said a senior official at an Internet news organization in China.
When Google revealed in January its intention to pull out of China due to censorship issues, arguments for and against the move appeared in the Chinese media and on Chinese websites.
The U.S. government also called on China to stop censoring Internet sites.
But after Google's pullout, Chinese newspapers Wednesday merely carried statements by officials in the State Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressing "dissatisfaction and indignation" over Google's pullout. The statements were quoted from the Xinhua News Agency.
Although some Chinese media ran commentaries on the subject, they all followed the Communist Party's line. The Jinghua Shibao (Beijing Times), for example, wrote, "The Google issue has nothing to do with freedom of the press."
On March 17, Zhongguo Jingji Shibao (China Economic Times) carried an exclusive story on the deaths of four children in Shanxi province who received vaccinations against hepatitis B and other diseases, and aftereffects suffered by more than 70 children.
The story, which pointed out a problem in storing the vaccine at a company associated with the Ministry of Health, spread through the Internet.
Public interest was so great that local health authorities held a news conference Monday and promised to start an investigation.
However, that subject is one of the 18 now banned.
Many off-limit subjects involve problems that have angered the Chinese general public.
"If there are heated reports, they could lead to criticism against authorities," a Communist Party source said.
Other banned subjects are:
* High medical fees;
* Disparity of wealth;
* Reform of the registration system separating urban dwellers from rural residents;
* Forecasts of appointments for Communist Party leaders;
* Expansion of autonomy at universities;
* The collapse of school buildings in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and delays in reconstruction;
* The beating death of a steel plant president in Jilin province;
* Collusion between police and gangsters in Chongqing;
* Rising real estate prices and the housing shortage; and
* Real estate developers trying to increase land prices.