This Week in Japan (11.30.17)
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 final week of November 2017.
One. The Moritomo Gakuen Scandal reemerged at the center of Japanese political debate this week in the wake of the Board of Audit’s official finding that the Finance Ministry had sold land to the rightwing educational institution at an unjustifiably low price. A Finance Ministry official then confirmed that the handling of the sale had been unlike any other case. In spite of these clear findings, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continued to maintain that his government had done nothing wrong, and the ruling party refused opposition demands that First Lady Akie Abe and National Tax Agency chief Nobuhisa Sagawa—both of whom are central figures in the scandal—be made to face questioning in the Diet.
Two. North Korea test fired a missile for the first time in about two-and-a-half months, raising regional tensions once again. This missile was the most powerful yet, likely capable of striking anywhere within the continental United States. Pyongyang appeared close to perfecting its technology. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s response was to repeat his call for pressure on North Korea and to refuse any effort to engage in diplomatic talks. US President Donald Trump simply called the North Korean leader “a sick puppy,” but offered no specific policy prescriptions.
Three. Rightwing Japan Innovation Party lawmaker Yasushi Adachi engaged in a diatribe against the Asahi Shinbun, a slightly left-leaning establishment daily newspaper. Adachi’s basic complaint was that, from his point of view, the Asahi offers biased reporting on the Moritomo Gakuen Scandal and other political matters. This lawmaker called for the newspaper to “die” and accused it of the wholesale fabrication of news. He did not cite compelling evidence to support his accusations.
Four. The Oi reactors in Fukui Prefecture became the focus of the nuclear power debate this week. While the pro-nuclear Fukui Governor authorized the restart of two of the reactors, the opposition of the neighboring Shiga Governor was dismissed. Should there be a major nuclear accident at Oi, the effects were expected to seriously impact Shiga Prefecture as well. The Abe government maintained its insistently pro-nuclear stance.
Five. Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui was re-endorsed as the leader of the Japan Innovation Party, in spite of its weakening electoral performance. This rightwing opposition party had by this point lost much of its relevance outside of its Osaka stronghold, and even there seemed to be facing an uphill battle to maintain its authority. The trend lines all suggested that—barring some dramatic reversal—the Japan Innovation Party was headed toward a complete defeat in the coming years.
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