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Conservative Opposition Fumbles Again

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 January 2018.

The agreement to unify the parliamentary caucuses of the Party of Hope and the Democratic Party lasted all of two days. When the executives took the agreement back to their rank-and-file lawmakers, a rebellion broke out within both parties. The Democratic Party cracked first, disowning the agreement. In the wake of the latest debacle, it seemed only a matter of time before these two more-or-less center-right parties either split apart or even disintegrated. They were both adrift without a discernible strategy.

For the third time this month alone, a US Marine helicopter from Futenma Air Base made an emergency landing in Okinawa. The latest event occurred at the small and remote Tonaki Island. It was no wonder that an anti-base candidate was able to overcome a conservative incumbent in Nanjo city, Okinawa, as the local public was outraged by the serial accidents. The unwillingness of the US Marines to ground their helicopters and the apparent inability of the Japanese government to make them do so, simply added to the discontent.

Negotiations held this week in Tokyo reportedly led to a broad agreement on the terms for TPP 11, the major trade agreement between eleven Asia-Pacific nations. Canada’s objections to the terms were apparently overcome. The plan was to actually sign the agreement in Chile in March. For Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his government’s ability to rally the other ten nations and get the pact in place would be a proud achievement.

As the Ordinary Diet Session opened for 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signaled that he was in earnest about revising pacifist Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution. He even suggested that anyone who didn’t support his plans was irresponsible and was unfairly asking Self-Defense Forces officers to risk their lives for the nation.

Mainly through the urging of Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reluctantly agreed to attend the opening ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Abe’s inclination—clearly—was to snub South Korea’s invitation to show his displeasure with their handling of the Comfort Women issue. A key factor in his relenting was probably a concern that a snub could negatively impact the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in a couple of years.

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