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This Week in Japan (11.23.17)

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 third week of November 2017.

One. Ruling coalition and opposition parties compromised on a 5:9 split of lawmaker question time for the House of Representatives Budget Committee. This means that the opposition parties, which formerly were able to use 80% of the parliamentary time to question government representatives, will henceforth have less than 65% of the allotted time. The Abe government did not offer convincing explanations why the opposition question time should be cut, but it is widely assumed that they have become annoyed by aggressive questioning and wish to further reduce transparency in their governing.

Two. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed the Trump administration’s decision to re-list North Korea as a sponsor of international terrorism. Although the re-listing was widely anticipated to have only marginal practical utility, Abe favored any policy which piled pressure on Pyongyang. Meanwhile, there was an upsurge in discussion about North Korea abductees, though one of the most prominent figures, Megumi Yokota’s mother Sakie, contradicted Abe government policy by calling for direct talks with North Korea to be conducted immediately.

Three. A US Marine was involved in a fatal automobile accident in Okinawa, again reminding the local people of their burden for hosting US forces in Japan that most Okinawans regard as disproportionate, unfair, and undemocratic. Because the Marine was apparently drunk driving when he killed 61-year-old Hidemasa Taira, an order was issued temporarily banning US troops in Okinawa from drinking alcohol and confining them to base.

Four. Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura carried out his threat to dissolve the decades-old sister city agreement between Osaka and San Francisco. Yoshimura was incensed that the municipal leaders of San Francisco approved the establishment of a memorial to wartime Comfort Women, an act that he somehow viewed as a betrayal of trust between the two municipal governments. It turned out, however, that the leadership in San Francisco wasn’t willing to hold their own community views hostage to the rightwing ideology of the Japan Innovation Party, nor, for that matter, the Abe government.

Five. The Board of Audit nailed down an important fact in regard to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal. They confirmed that there were really no legitimate grounds for the Ministry of Finance to sell public land to this rightwing educational group at the giveaway price which they did. It was now indisputable that some kind of illegitimate favoritism was involved from the government side. The question of how direct the role of the prime minister and his wife had been, however, remained to be fully documented.

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