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Today in Japan (12.19.17)

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

Politics

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again hints at his remaining political goals. After a successful 2020 Olympics and revision of Article Nine of the Constitution that same year, he’d like to step down in 2021 having secured the “rebirth of Japan.”

—Democratic Party Secretary-General Teruhiko Mashiko says he’s willing to form a united parliamentary caucus with the Party of Hope, even if the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan continues to refuse his overtures. Potentially, this could make the center-right opposition parties into the largest parliamentary opposition force, in spite of the fact that they have abysmal public support ratings and the progressive Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s public support is fairly strong.

—Nationally, Komeito is the Abe government’s ally, but the Komeito Okinawa Chapter say they oppose Henoko base construction. With Nago mayoral election coming up in February, it is the moment of truth for Komeito in Okinawa to show where they really stand.

—Today the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan officially admitted to party membership House of Councillors lawmaker Ryuhei Kawada and 49 local politicians, mostly in Tokyo.

International

—The European Union and twelve other nations, including Australia and New Zealand, condemn Japanese whaling, rejecting Abe government’s unconvincing excuse that it is a scientific program.

—Abe government formally decides to purchase the Aegis Ashore anti-missile system from the United States, which will cost several billion dollars. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera says it will be “a drastic improvement in ballistic missile defense” for Japan.

—US Marines at Futenma resumed flights of CH-53E helicopters this afternoon. Again, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera suggests the US side provided basically zero technical information, while Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says the Abe government is satisfied with US policy.

—Japan Communist Party Secretary-General Akira Koike says he is rendered “speechless” by the Abe government’s apparent willingness to accept the US Marines in Okinawa resuming flights of the CH-53E helicopter without independently confirming its safety.

—Pope Francis says the Japanese “are a people I love very much,” but he finds fault in Japanese society: “excessive competition, competitiveness, consumption, consumption, consumption, consumption, and more consumption.”

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono says that Japanese foreign ministers should be provided a dedicated airplane rather than rely on commercial flights. He argues that Chinese foreign minister, for example, is able to make three times his number of overseas diplomatic visits.

—Five Chinese military fighter jets flew over the Tsushima Strait yesterday. While unprecedented, it was a perfectly legal action. Japan scrambled its own fighter planes in response.

Economy

—Liberal Democratic Party mulling more entertainment and public transport for late night hours in major cities as a measure to increase consumer spending.

—The bitcoin boom is definitely reaching a fever pitch when advertisements start going up at Tokyo Shinbashi Station.

—Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan tops annual two million foreign visitors for the first time this year. It’s location is very near where the Osaka government wants to open an integrated resort (casino-centered entertainment complex) in the mid-2020s.

—Obayashi Corporation admits its guilt to the Fair Trade Commission that it was involved in a bid-rigging scheme on the Central Japan Railway maglev project together with Taisei Corporation, Kajima Corporation, and Shimizu Corporation.

—Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi announces that her prefecture intends to provide some financial support to the JR Hokkaido Railway Company, which is struggling to maintain itself from losses caused by low traffic train lines that nevertheless serve small communities.

—Abe government mulling measures to support Japanese big businesses that are facing uncertainty and possible costs related to the United Kingdom’s Brexit policy.

Society

—Two death row inmates, both of whom were seeking a retrial, were hanged this morning by Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa. One of the executed men was a minor when he committed murder. These were the 20th and 21st hangings conducted since Shinzo Abe returned to power in late 2012.

—Government panel estimates there is up to a 40% chance of a massive earthquake off the eastern coast of Hokkaido within the next thirty years. This would be a huge quake creating another March 11 style tsunami hitting the Hokkaido coastline.

—Imperial Household Agency announces that after Emperor Akihito abdicates, the first residence for he and Empress Michiko will be the Takanawa Residence in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. Later, they may move to the Togu Palace on the Akasaka Estate.

—Citizens movement developing in Akita City protesting idea that an Aegis Ashore system should be established in their area. Presumably, they believe placing the Aegis Ashore locally will make them a primary target for North Korean attack.

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