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Today in Japan (12.25.17)

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

Politics

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has established eight prefectural chapters and is preparing to establish eight more. Meanwhile, the Party of Hope is preparing to open its first two prefectural chapters next month and so far that’s it.

—Main item on Japan’s 2018 political calendar is ruling party leadership race in September, which Shinzo Abe looks to win easily. The following year, 2019, expected to be more dramatic, with unified local elections, Emperor Akihito’s abdication, and House of Councillors election.

—Renho meets with Yukio Edano and Tetsuro Fukuyama to hear in more detail about the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s progressive policies. Although it was not directly discussed, Renho is mulling the possibility of applying to enter the new party.

—Tomorrow, December 26, is the five year anniversary of Shinzo Abe’s return to power. Very few Japanese prime ministers have maintained such a long and stable regime since the office of prime minister was first established in December 1885.

—Democratic Party accepts Yoshifu Arita, Naoki Kazama, and Takashi Esaki’s applications to resign from the party. This appears to be a measure intended to show friendship towards the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, with which they still plan to propose a united parliamentary caucus.

—Democratic Party executives meet to discuss their future strategy. As usual, they are able to agree on nothing, so the party will linger on into the new year with no changes and no forward strategy, except to offer a united parliamentary caucus that has already been rejected.

—Japan Communist Party expresses annoyance that Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan keeps avoiding acknowledgement that the two parties are allies, even though a substantial degree of their electoral success depends on their mutual cooperation.

International

—Ground Self-Defense Forces planning to unveil their first unit of “Marines” in March. Their excuse for why this isn’t an unconstitutional offensive force is their contention that it will exist to “retake” Japanese islands that might be occupied by enemy (i.e. Chinese) forces.

—UN Security Council votes unanimously to impose additional economic sanctions on North Korea, these ones targeting oil imports and demanding that North Korean citizens working abroad be forced to go home.

—North Korea on the new UN sanctions: “We define this ‘sanctions resolution’ rigged up by the United States and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic, as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the region.”

—Foreign Ministry explains to Japanese media that the reason Japan voted to condemn Trump administration on Jerusalem move was that, had they not done so, Japan would have lost all of its remaining credibility as a Middle East mediator, a policy which goes back to the early 1970s.

—Akita Prefectural Assembly votes down motion to send a letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling on him to cancel decision to base Aegis Ashore base in Akita City and to engage in peaceful negotiations with North Korea. The motion was rejected by the chamber’s Liberal Democratic Party majority.

—Chongryon offers to pay for the damages caused by the three North Korean fishermen who looted a hut on an uninhabited island near Hokkaido.

—Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa rejects World Wildlife Fund study that says Japan is a base of illegal ivory exports, thus threatening endangered elephants. He suggests if there is any problem, it’s probably the fault of Chinese people.

—Shinsuke Sugiyama appointed to become the next Japanese Ambassador to the United States, replacing the outgoing Kenichiro Sasae.

—US military jet flies low over Hiroshima Prefecture and alarms residents with engine roar measured on the ground at over 100 decibels. Prefectural officials appear to be preparing a complaint to the government.

—Cabinet Office survey finds that Japanese people’s feelings of friendship toward the United States have been falling since Trump became President. 78.4% of Japanese now say they have friendly feelings towards the United States, down almost six points since last year. However, the US figure is still much higher than friendly feelings towards other nearby nations: United States (78.4%); South Korea (37.5%); China (18.7%); and Russia (18.0%).

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono leaves Japan today bound for a six-day trip to Israel and nearby Arab countries. The main topics involve the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

—In its latest departure from the Constitution, the Abe government is now mulling jet fighters that can be launched from aircraft carriers, providing more offensive striking power for the supposedly non-existent sea and air forces.

—Toshihiro Nikai and Yoshihisa Inoue, the secretary-generals of both ruling coalition parties, are making a joint five-day visit to China to strengthen bilateral relations. Unlike Shinzo Abe, Nikai has always been a strong advocate for Japan-China friendship.

—Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera personally inspects the playground of the Futenma No. 2 Elementary School in Okinawa, the site where a US Marine helicopter dropped a window close to where local children were playing.

—Abe government planning to negotiate new accord with government of Australia which would enhance joint military training. This pact might be signed next month when Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visits Tokyo.

—Abe government to establish a permanent exhibition in central Tokyo for the purpose of propagandizing young people so that they never question that Senkaku-Diaoyu islands or Dokdo-Takeshima are absolutely Japanese territory. We look forward to having our tax money spent on this. After all, why only antagonize one important neighboring country with an exhibition when you can antagonize two? What Japan needs, it seems, is a weaker effort to build constructive relations with mainland Asia and stronger efforts to instill nationalist dogma.

Economy

—JR East may open a new station on the Joban Line to serve J-Village near the Fukushima Daiichi plant, now that it will be reopened to serve the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

—TPP 10? The Abe government considering the possibility of leaving Canada out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement if it keeps holding off on signing the pact.

—Liberal Democratic Party’s tourism promotion lawmaker’s league calls for the Tokyo Metro subway to operate 24 hours a day, except for the small hours of Monday morning. This adds to calls to turn Tokyo into more of an international nightlife city, like rivals in other Asian nations.

Technology

—Athletes, officials, and journalists will reportedly be subjected to facial recognition technology in order to enter venues of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Society

—Cats and Dogs: In the soon-to-be-published survey by the Japan Pet Food Association, it will be revealed that there are now more pet cats in Japan than dogs for the first time since surveys began.

Note: There were no “Today in Japan” reports issued on December 22 and 23.

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