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Finance Ministry Shows Contempt for Lawmakers

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

The Top Headline

—Opposition parties and others outraged after Finance Ministry reports this morning that after four days of searching, they cannot find a single original document related to the possible forgery they carried out in connection with the Moritomo Gakuen land sale. Even Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai says he finds it “difficult to understand” how the Finance Ministry can act in such contempt of the legislature’s demands to produce documents.

Politics

—There are now more than 1,068,000 Liberal Democratic Party members around the nation. This represents 2.4% membership growth over the past year.

—Democratic Party Secretary-General Teruhiko Mashiko says the new centrist party combining most of the current Democratic Party and the Party of Hope will be formed by the end of April at the latest.

—Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers, led by Shigeru Ishiba, demanding revision to the Constitution allowing the government to declare a national emergency under which national elections can be delayed and the rights of individual citizens abridged.

—After a new batch is admitted today, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan now has about two hundred local politician members, that is prefectural assemblymen, city councillors, etc.

International

—China announces FY2018 bump of 8.1% in its official military budget (though many analysts believe real military spending is higher). Rough comparison: USA—US$715 billion; China—US$175 billion (+?); Japan—US$50 billion; South Korea—US$40 billion.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga calls for more transparency in China’s military budget and defense policies. Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera says that he feel “strong concern” about China’s rapidly increasing military budget.

—Special South Korean envoy to Pyongyang Chung Eui-Yong, chief of the National Security Office, states ahead of his mission: “I will deliver President Moon Jae-In’s sincere and firm resolution to maintain the dialogue and improvement in relations between the South and the North which were fostered on the occasion of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

—Former US President Barack Obama likely to visit Japan on March 24 to 25. Apparently, he will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and discuss North Korea.

Yahoo News apologizes for publishing Sankei Shinbun article that falsely claimed a US Marine saved an Okinawan after a traffic accident, which Sankei used to attack Okinawa’s media: “We take seriously the fact that we delivered false news stories and deeply apologize for it.”

—Rightwing DHC Television to continue producing the anti-Okinawa discriminatory News Girl program in spite of being dropped by Tokyo MX. Backed by rightwing cosmetics maker DHC Corporation, its commercial viability is not really an issue. They will use YouTube and other platforms.

—South Korean President Moon Jae-In and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to meet face-to-face in Panmunjom next month.

—North Korea suggests to South Korean envoys that a freeze on nuclear weapons tests and even denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is possible if the United States is willing to provide credible security guarantees against invasion.

—Trump responds to Korean Peninsula developments: “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

Economy

—Although Taisei Corporation is adamantly denying charges of bid-rigging over the Central Japan Railway maglev project, apparently the prosecutors have gotten a hold of one executive who is singing like a bird, admitting that the collusion occurred.

—Cultural Affairs Agency backs Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC), declaring they may collect copyright fees from music schools. The courts are likely to have the final word in the ongoing dispute.

—The CEO of Kobe Steel to belatedly step down over the company’s data fabrication scandal.

—Party of Hope policy chief Akihisa Nagashima rejects call for joint submission of the Zero Nuclear Basic Bill. He denounces the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s legislation as “ideological.”

Society

—Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko planning three-day visit to Okinawa from March 27. This is expected to be their last visit to Okinawa before Akihito’s abdication at the end of April 2019.

—A volcanic explosion occurs in the Kirishima mountain range, along the border of Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures. The same peak, Shinmoe, last erupted about seven years ago.

Note: There was no separate “Today in Japan” report issued on March 5.

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