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Abe Growls at Korean Peninsula Peace Moves

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 second week of February 2018.

Even as he greeted the South Korean leader in Pyeongchang, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government were signaling in multiple ways that they did not approve of the efforts to bring personal warmth to relations with North Korea. Indeed, the Abe government began to demand that US-South Korea military exercises threatening an invasion of North Korea resume immediately after the Olympics. Since the Abe government was embarked on a political project of trying to terrify the Japanese people into agreeing to a de facto abandonment of the Peace Constitution, they desired that war tensions remain predominant.

Put on the defensive in Diet debate over the Moritomo Gakuen Scandal, the Abe government continued to stonewall any serious investigation. The opposition parties repeatedly demanded that National Tax Agency chief Nobuhisa Sagawa be made to explain why he gave false testimony to the Diet the previous year, and the ruling party continued to refuse to produce him. From a strictly political point of view, the opposition was thus prevented from landing the blow that they had hoped for.

Within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the process was ongoing to endorse a specific plan to revise Article Nine of the Constitution. The preferred plan of Prime Minister Abe, to add a third paragraph endorsing the Self-Defense Forces, was in the ascendancy, but rival Shigeru Ishiba strongly pushed for his plan to eliminate the current second paragraph of Article Nine.

The city of Fukuoka announced that it would become the first municipality on the island of Kyushu to recognize LGBT partnerships. A number of other local governments in different parts of Japan had previously adopted similar policies, but they all lacked legal force since the national law had not been revised. The Fukuoka policy was to take effect on April 1.

Donald Trump made statements suggesting that his administration was finally planning to move forward with retaliation against those countries—including Japan—which it felt engaged in unfair trade practices. Visiting Vice-President Mike Pence also once again suggested that Japan should begin negotiations on a new bilateral trade pact. It remained unclear if the distant thunder would this time develop into a political storm.

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