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This Week in Japan (11.16.17)

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 second week of November 2017.

One. The Party of Hope gained a leader and lost a leader this week. First of all, the young conservative candidate Yuichiro Tamaki was elected co-leader over a more centrist rival. The vote suggested that the Party of Hope would take policy stances that were distinctly right-of-center, including an openness to revising Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution. Meanwhile, the other co-leader, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, pulled another surprise by resigning from her leadership position and turning over the party entirely to Tamaki. Governor Koike’s ambition to one day become prime minister now seemed quite out of reach, and even her position as governor was dramatically weakened as the Komeito party broke off its alliance with her local Tokyoites First party.

Two. In meetings held in Danang, Vietnam, a basic agreement over the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the United States appeared to be reached by the other eleven nations. This was a substantial development hailed in some circles as a rejection of the inward-looking protectionist stances promoted by the Trump administration. The new pact was dubbed the “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.” Some ambiguity remained, however, because Canada walked out in the latter stages of the negotiations and didn’t make clear whether or not they were really on board.

Three. US Ambassador William Hagerty travelled to Okinawa and met for the first time with Governor Takeshi Onaga. The Governor’s message was unusually direct and stark: “In the hearts of Okinawans,” he began, “the US government and military are entirely responsible… I want you to understand that the base construction in Henoko is calling into doubt Japanese and American democracy,” the Governor stated.

Four. The Ministry of Education approved the veterinary school of Kake Gakuen to open for business next April as planned. Despite being at the center of an influence-peddling scandal about which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had yet to give a convincing explanation, the project was being pushed through as if nothing were amiss.

Five. Political parties across the ideological spectrum were beginning to clarify their positions on revision of the Constitution, anticipating that Prime Minister Abe would make this a key issue in the coming year. Most interestingly, the ruling coalition Komeito party suggested that the Constitution should not be revised unless more than two-thirds of the general public agreed with the proposal in a referendum. In this way, Komeito continued to signal that it did not agree with Abe that changing the Constitution should be a policy priority.

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