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Today in Japan (12.15.17)

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

Politics

—Confrontation developing between Abe administration and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike over tax revenues. The governor accuses the administration of trying to divert money meant for Tokyo to other regions and purposes.

—Renho wants to meet with Yukio Edano to explore the idea of her defecting from the Democratic Party to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

—Yukio Edano makes comments hinting that Renho is likely to be welcomed if she applies to join the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and supports its progressive agenda.

—A total of 46 local politicians in Tokyo (assembly members, ward and city councillors, etc.) have so far defected from the Democratic Party to join the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

—Kohei Otsuka wants his Democratic Party, Party of Hope, and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to all come together into a single parliamentary caucus.

—Prompted by Democratic Party leader Kohei Otsuka’s notion of a united parliamentary caucus, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano reiterates his stance: “The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has raised a clear flag. Our only criteria for cooperation is whether or not the policies match our ideals.”

—Next year’s Ordinary Diet Session likely to begin on January 22.

—The latest Jiji poll, which always shows relatively low party support rates compared to other polls, finds, among opposition parties, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan at 5.0%, the Democratic Party at 1.8%, the Communists at 1.7%, and the Party of Hope with, OMG, only 0.9%

International

—US military lifts off-base drinking ban that they had imposed on their troops a month ago after a US Marine drunk driver killed a man in Okinawa.

—The Trump administration, schizophrenic as ever, tries to simultaneously back away from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s offer of talks with North Korea, while at the same time insisting that Trump and Tillerson are in full agreement.

—The Japan Coast Guard has recorded a total of 83 “ghost ships” (small wooden boats) drifting in the Sea of Japan this year. They are mostly, or perhaps all, from North Korean fishermen, many of whom presumably died at sea. The previous record number was 80 boats in 2003.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe planning a trip to Estonia in mid-January. He might visit other countries in the Baltic region as well.

—While in Tokyo, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issues warning on North Korea situation: “The worst possible thing that could happen is for us all to sleepwalk into a war that might have very dramatic circumstances.”

—Joseph Yun, US Special Representative for North Korea Policy, tells media: “We should exercise direct diplomacy as well as sanctions. That is our policy, which is based on pressure and engagement.” So far, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is still only for pressure, not engagement.

—Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga in Tokyo, doing the rounds at the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry protesting the latest US military outrage, this one the parts falling from US helicopters onto facilities for schoolchildren.

—Police in Okinawa trying to work up the courage to question the crew of the US Marine helicopter that dropped a window onto an elementary school playground on Wednesday.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan issues press release indicating that the opposition parties have united in demanding the Security Committee of the House of Representatives quickly open a session to discuss the US Marine helicopter dropping window on schoolyard.

—Police arrest three people in Tokyo for illegal exports to North Korea. The “contraband” was food, snacks, and daily items like shampoo, obviously intended to alleviate hunger and poverty among ordinary North Koreans.

—Abe government freezes the assets of 19 additional companies as part of tightened North Korea sanctions. This brings the total to 103 firms and 108 individuals now targeted by Japanese sanctions.

—President Donald Trump preparing to lay out a new “America First” National Security Strategy celebrating unilateralism and hard power that, if actually implemented, would guarantee an acceleration in the decline of global American Empire.

Technology

—In Aichi Prefecture, the government holds its first test of a remote-controlled minivan on a public road, a step toward the introduction of putting driverless vehicles on the road.

Society

—Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) comes down on Tokyo MX’s January 2 “News Girls” program, which slandered Okinawa anti-base protesters. The BPO judges that the program made false charges, was discriminatory, and “a grave breach of broadcasting ethics.”

—In a Mainichi Shinbun column, Yuko Tanaka, the president Hosei University, skewers the LDP dinosaur Wataru Takeshita and other conservatives who oppose LGBT rights and women’s right to keep their family names after marriage by means of appeals to so-called “Japanese tradition.”

—The recent bizarre murder of the female chief priest of Tokyo’s Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine was apparently motivated by her younger brother’s jealousy that their father had willed that his daughter assume the top post and not his unstable son.

Note: There was no “Today in Japan” report released on December 14.

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