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Seoul Reluctantly Accepts Comfort Women Pact

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

The Top Headline

—Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha says South Korea has decided not to request a renegotiation of the December 2015 Comfort Women pact with Japan. Comfort Women will be financially compensated with Korean money. It will be decided later what to do with the funds given by Japan. The decision to refrain from seeking renegotiation of 2015 Comfort Women pact is inexplicably met with rigid coldness by the Abe government. Foreign Minister Taro Kono: “We cannot accept any request at all from South Korea for Japan to take further measures.” President Moon Jae-In is weathering criticisms from South Korean opposition parties over his decision to keep the 2015 Comfort Women pact in place. The Abe government clearly doesn’t care a bit. They are totally uninterested in making any gesture that could warm the atmosphere.

Politics

—The secretary of Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Jiro Hatoyama (son of the late Kunio Hatoyama, nephew of Yukio Hatoyama) is under investigation by the National Tax Agency. It’s not clear yet if this will become a more serious matter.

—Jiro Hatoyama’s secretary resigns from his job after the National Tax Agency investigation hits the national headlines. Still unclear whether this matter touches the lawmaker himself.

—“It was handled properly based on the rules.” Finance Ministry insists nothing is wrong regarding highly discounted sale of public land to the Japan Aviation Academy, whose chairman is a founder of the rightwing Channel Sakura.

—Party of Hope decides it will stick with its position of supporting the 2015 Abe War Law, complicating their ability to form a united parliamentary caucus with the Democratic Party. It’s not clear that any of the Democratic Party’s strategies are working out.

—House of Representatives lawmaker Hodaka Maruyama to remain a member of the Japan Innovation Party, withdrawing his October application to leave the party. He had been publicly insulted by Toru Hashimoto, but gradually they have patched up their relations.

International

—Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera receives a direct phone call from US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis apologizing for the US Marine serial mishaps in Okinawa and promising to take serious measures.

—Okinawan officials outraged at US Marines at Futenma ignore their demand that helicopters be grounded until the cause of the recent string of accidents is dealt with and explained. The Futenma flights are continuing as before.

—As of 10 am this morning, North and South Korea resumed direct talks at the truce village of Panmunjom. Cooperation over the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is expected to be a major topic, but confidence building on other issues is also possible.

—At today’s Panmunjom talks, North Korea proposes sending a delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics led by unspecified “high-level government officials” and including North Korean athletes, cheerleaders, journalists, and others.

—Panmunjom talks have already expanded past Olympics issue. South Korea suggested holding military talks to reduce bilateral tensions and North Korea immediately accepted the idea.

—More reporting coming out of Washington that the Pentagon is seriously considering launching “limited” military strikes on North Korea, based on the theory that the Kim regime would buckle under rather than strike back.

—North Korea says it will reactivate a military hotline with South Korea from tomorrow morning, as part of confidence-building measures. The hotline had been shut down as of February 2016.

—Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera departing Japan today for Hawaii. He will confer with the US Pacific Command about the series of accidents in Okinawa and inspect the Aegis Ashore system which Japan is preparing to purchase.

—Kyodo News: Defense Ministry is paying about US$20 million annually in rent for the Naval Housing Annex Negishi (Yokohama) even though there has been basically no one living there for several years. The reason for delay in the US military handover of the land is not clear.

—In Manila, visiting Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda conveys the Abe government’s opposition and disappointment that a memorial has been erected in honor of the local Comfort Women. The Japanese rightwing war against history marches on.

Economy

—New TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa visits Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama in an attempt to convince him to consent to the restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa No. 6 and 7 nuclear reactors.

—Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) approves Hiroaki Nakanishi of Hitachi to become its next Chairman later this year. He will be replacing the outgoing Sadayuki Sakakibara of Toray Industries.

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