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This Week in Japan (11.08.17)

SNA (Tokyo) — This Week in Japan is your source for news and information about politics and other happenings in this East Asian island country. This episode covers the Top Five stories of the first week of November 2017.

One. US President Donald Trump made his heralded visit to Japan this week under exceptionally heavy security. He gave a campaign-style speech before US troops at Yokota Base, played golf and ate hamburgers with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and also spoke to Emperor Akihito. As expected, Trump and Abe made a show of their alleged friendship and solidarity, especially vis-a-vis the North Korean threat. Trump was, however, more pointed than anticipated in claiming the bilateral trade was “unfair” and insisting that the United States would nevertheless always be superior to Japan. For his part, Abe stuck to the script and played the part of generous host, avoiding all hint of criticism towards the insecure and vindictive US president.

Two. Another Trump also visited Japan this week, and that was presidential daughter Ivanka Trump. She spoke at a women’s conference and was given a tour around some parts of Tokyo. There did not seem to be any serious policy issues at stake, but the Japanese mainstream media gushed about how beautiful and fashionable she is.

Three. On November 1 the Extraordinary Diet Session began. The first order of business was to launch the Fourth Cabinet of Shinzo Abe, which kept in place everyone who had been appointed at the beginning of August. Although originally planned to be an exceptionally short eight-day Diet session, the ruling party compromised with the opposition parties and agreed to extend the session until December 9. It wasn’t clear if any serious legislation would be passed.

Four. The Abe government used the cover of President Trump’s visit to restart seawall construction at the planned US Marine airbase at Henoko. It was hardly noticed by the mainstream media. One point that was noted is that it was now only a year until anti-base Governor Takeshi Onaga faced a reelection challenge. There was little doubt that the Abe government would pull out all the stops in an attempt to rid themselves of this defiant local leader.

Five. The opposition parties were in an unusual state of division in which the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan led in the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party led in the House of Councillors. Meanwhile, the Party of Hope was still sorting out its own leadership structure and even its basic posture towards the other opposition parties. The answers remained up in the air about how deeply the three major opposition parties would be able to coordinate with one another.

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