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Today in Japan (12.28.17)

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

Politics

—Taro Aso, of all people, set to become the longest-serving Finance Minister in postwar Japanese history as of mid-February of next year. Who’d of thunk it?

—Welfare Ministry punishes 61 of its bureaucrats over scandal in which receipts for hotel stays were forged and other accounting discrepancies related to travel adding up to over US$4 million.

—Party of Hope and Democratic Party to hold talks in early January with eye to possibility of forming unified parliamentary caucus. If realized, this center-right grouping would likely surpass the progressive Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan as the largest opposition force (but with little popular support).

—Japan Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii fears Democratic Party will become more open to Article Nine revisions if it joins unified parliamentary caucus with Party of Hope. This could spell the end of any form of cooperation between the Communist Party and the Democratic Party.

— Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s Yukio Edano continues to keep his Japan Communist Party allies at arm’s length. He is willing to coordinate single-district candidates with them, but will not agree to have the two parties offer each other mutual endorsement and electoral support.

—Democratic Party executives angry as Renho is accepted into the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan before her application to leave the Democratic Party had been decided upon. Officially, Renho is currently a member of both parties.

—The case of House of Representatives lawmaker Takahiro Kuroiwa is an odd one. Although he is applying to resign from the Democratic Party, he intends to remain in the “Unaffiliated Association” parliamentary caucus together with the other Democratic Party lawmakers.

—Yoshitaka Nakayama, the conservative mayor of Ishigaki City, Okinawa, to run for a third term. Election Day is March 11, 2018. One of the main issues is the basing of Self-Defense Forces on the small island.

International

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono warns against any attempt by Seoul to change the 2015 Comfort Women deal: “If South Korea tries to revise the agreement that is already being implemented, that would make Japan’s ties with South Korea unmanageable and it would be unacceptable.”

—Abe government reportedly annoyed that South Korea revealed they are in secret talks over Comfort Women issue. Why should this be a secret in the first place? The only thing that makes sense is that Abe didn’t want the Japanese rightwingers who form his political base to know

—South Korea President Moon Jae-In says 2015 Comfort Women negotiation “had serious flaws both in process and content.” Abe government responds that (like Henoko) the current agreement is “the only solution.” Seems like poor Japan never has any choices, according to conservatives.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono has reportedly proposed Arab-Israeli peace talks be held in Tokyo, with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jared Kushner participating.

—US military annoyed that some freelance Japanese journalists fly drones over US military bases, especially at Henoko. They say it is a “terrorism risk” and have quietly demanded that Japanese government take legal action to prevent such drone flights.

—Genron NPO opinion poll finds that more than 20% of Japanese would support a US military attack on North Korea. Only 48% say they would oppose such an attack.

—Showing their true colors (if they have any) Komeito to back pro-base candidate in Nago mayoral elections, even though the Okinawa chapter of Komeito claims to be opposed to the construction of the US Marine airbase at Henoko. Ever the political opportunists.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to make as a basic policy the demand that the Henoko base construction plan be halted and brought back to a “zero base” in which the whole project is reexamined, with the need for Okinawan peoples’ opinions being respected.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga heading to Okinawa tomorrow to discuss US base issues with local authorities.

Economy

—Major utilities caught sending their executives to Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan public hearings, posing as ordinary members of the public in order to promote pro-nuclear views.

Society

—Abe government to drastically cut work permits for asylum seekers, in an apparent attempt to ensure that fewer people apply for refugee status. More than ten thousand people applied for asylum last year, but only 28 applications were approved.

—Shoko Asahara, founder of the murderous Aum Shinrikyo cult, thought likely to be executed by the Abe government in 2018. Apparently, some Justice Ministry bureaucrats want this done by the end of the Heisei Era, before the next Emperor’s reign.

For breaking news, follow on Twitter @ShingetsuNews

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