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Japan Defies US Threats on Jerusalem Policy

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 December 2017.

Well, the threats by Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, were certainly elaborate, but in the end almost entirely counterproductive. Even Japan, which under Shinzo Abe had yet to openly oppose the Trump administration on any major policy issue, stood in defiance this time. Japan joined 128 other countries in the UN General Assembly and voted to declare null and void the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, even though no peace agreement with the Palestinians has yet been reached. Later, Japanese diplomats explained that had they supported the Trump administration, it would have destroyed their diplomatic credibility—sort of like the Trump administration was doing to itself.

The Abe Cabinet approved this week a FY2018 public budget that broke previous records for its size, amounting to about US$860 billion. This figure included a record US$47 billion for massive purchases from the United States of anti-missile systems. As in every year since Shinzo Abe returned to power, the budget is the largest ever as his government tries to spend the economy back to stable growth.

As noted, missile defense systems are a big ticket item. Gaining the most attention is the planned purchase of an Aegis Ashore system from the United States. Obviously, this is related to growing concern about the North Korean missiles being lobbed over the Japanese islands, and what that could mean if an actual war breaks out. However, citizens in Akita have already made clear that they will resist the planned deployment of an Aegis Ashore base to their city, reckoning that its unlikely to be a boon for the security of their local community. More likely, they seem to feel, it would make them a military target.

Poor Yukio Edano has been forced to repeat again and again that his new progressive political party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is not interested in watering down its policies in order to gather together with more conservative opposition politicians under the same umbrella. With his progressive party now gathering considerable public support, and with national and local politicians continuing to defect to his banner, Edano would be very wise to continue doing exactly what he’s been doing—which is to build up his party independently and let the conservatives fend for themselves.

And… speaking of which. In case it wasn’t already clear how politically tone deaf many of the opposition conservatives truly are, former Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara just couldn’t help but eagerly show off this photo of him meeting with Steve Bannon in Tokyo. Starstruck like a little child, Maehara seems unable to exercise even the most elementary political judgment, blissfully unaware of why posing together with a radical white supremacist might be a questionable move.

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