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Today in Japan (11.23.17)

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported today by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Politics

—Finance Ministry gave Abe-linked Moritomo Gakuen a huge 86% discount on public land for new rightwing elementary school. Board of Audit concludes there were no grounds for selling the land at such a low price.

—Osaka District Court rejects bail for the Kagoikes. They go to jail while the bigger, more important Moritomo Gakuen scandal suspects remain uncharged and not even forced to answer questions under oath.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Acting Leader Akira Nagatsuma calls on Abe government to publicly release all documents, including memos, on approval of Kake Gakuen veterinary school.

—On Tuesday the 21st, the Diet began hearings on the Shiori rape case, in which it is suspected a journalist with close ties to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was given favorable treatment by police and prosecutors.

—Liberal Democratic Party to hold its convention in late March. Constitution revision policy expected to be a key issue.

—On Sunday, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan had its first local government politician elected. It was a by-election for the Nagoya City Council.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to decide on which Democratic Party local politicians it will allow to join the new party by the end of the year. It will not consider applicants from parties other than the Democratic Party for the time being.

—Rengo’s Rikio Kozu and Democratic Party leader Kohei Otsuka are echoing each others’ exact words. They say Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan call for Democratic Party local politicians to decide by end of year which party to belong to is “unlike Yukio Edano.”

—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike assumes post of “Special Advisor” to the Party of Hope after new leader Yuichiro Tamaki appealed to her to remain linked to the party she founded.

—Rengo chief Rikio Kozu says that his labor union federation feels its closest connection with the remnants of Democratic Party, in spite of its negligible support from the public.

—Rengo chief Rikio Kozu’s latest hare-brained scheme is to push Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Democratic Party, and Party of Hope into an electoral coalition with a united candidate list, which would completely defeat the purpose of Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s foundation as separate progressive party.

—Democratic Party leader Kohei Otsuka is also pushing idea of three-party alliance, arguing that his centrist party should play the mediator between progressive Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and conservative Party of Hope.

—The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, meanwhile, wisely seems to realize that federating with the Democratic Party and Party of Hope would be a political minus. Akira Nagatsuma states, “Working together with them would weaken our policies and would be difficult for the people to understand.”

—Far right politician Yasuhiro Oe, now Liberal Democratic Party but formerly a Happiness Realization Party member, announces he will run for post of Governor of Wakayama in December 2018 election.

—Ruling coalition and opposition parties appear to have agreed on 5:9 split on question time in the all-important Diet Budget Committee. This effectively reduces opposition question time from 80% to about 65%.

—Shigeru Ishiba says that as a ruling party lawmaker it is not one’s job to silently fall in line behind the prime minister: “Where there is no criticism, there is no progress,” he declares.

International

—Prime Minister Abe “welcomes and supports” US President Donald Trump’s decision to re-list North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Anything that adds “pressure” is okay with Shinzo Abe.

—Abe government suggests that US re-listing of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism will help resolved abductee issue, assuming Japan is right that there is actually much left to resolve.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke before the Diet on Friday the 17th: “My mission will not end until the abduction victims step on Japanese soil again and embrace their families.”

—Abductee mother Sakie Yokota goes off the rightwing playbook by publicly urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to engage in direct talks with North Korea over abductee issue: “Now is the time,” she declared.

—UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says that Japan’s program for accepting refugees “is very small,” and points out that Tokyo’s international funding for refugees has been slipping downwards every year since Abe returned to power.

—Ministry of Justice plan to deal with refugee policy criticism is to try to ensure that fewer people are able to apply to Japan as refugees.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declines invitation to participate in climate summit to be held in Paris in December. This is possibly another effort to flatter US President Donald Trump, who is hostile to international efforts to combat climate change.

—On Sunday the 19th a drunk US Marine in Okinawa reportedly ran a red light and crashed into a small truck, killing the driver, 61-year-old Hidemasa Taira. Order issued banning US troops in Okinawa from drinking alcohol and confining them to base.

—Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga responds to US Marine’s fatal auto accident: “We can’t help but conclude that preventive measures against drunken driving taken so far by the US side are insufficient.”

—Yesterday a US Navy C2-A transport plane crashed in the seas off Okinawa during “routine” mission. Three people reported missing after initial rescue operations.

—Concerned about Taro Aso’s imagined “armed refugees” from a potential Korean war, Abe government said to be mulling concentration camps in western Japan should a conflict break out.

—Self-Defense Forces to expand area of Japan’s overseas military base in Djibouti by 20% by leasing more land. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera confirmed the plan over the weekend.

—Trump’s America First policy muse, Steve Bannon, calls upon Japan to remilitarize: “It’s a fairly dangerous time, and it’s just logical that the Japanese now would start to think about rearming.”

—Recently retired veteran politician Shizuka Kamei mulling a visit to North Korea next month in order to encourage bilateral diplomacy on missile development and nuclear weapons.

—Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura to go ahead and cancel Osaka’s oldest sister city agreement with San Francisco over his rightwing tantrum regarding Comfort Women statue in the United States.

Economy

—Minister of Economic Revitalization Toshimitsu Motegi calls on Asia-Pacific governments to quickly ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement before any democratic opposition in any country might have a chance to pronounce a different verdict at the polls.

—US Ambassador William Hagerty says Trump and Abe “had significant discussions regarding trade” during US President’s visit. Abe government says that trade was not discussed. You can choose who to believe.

Society

—Safe Country Japan: Ministry of Justice White Paper on Crime finds there were less than one million crimes reported in Japan for the entire year of 2016, a new record low for the post-1945 era.

— Liberal Democratic Party dinosaur Wataru Takeshita strikes again! This time he declares that any foreign state guest who has a same-sex partner should be banned from dining with the Emperor and Empress.

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