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Towards the Formation of the National Democratic Party

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

Top Headline

—The new political party formed by the Democratic Party and the Party of Hope might be named Kokumin Minshuto, which we presume will translated as “National Democratic Party.” Akihisa Nagashima resigns as policy chief of the Party of Hope and makes clear that he does not intend to join the new party. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike to back out completely from national-level politics with the formation of the National Democratic Party. Meeting with Party of Hope leader Yuichiro Tamaki, it is clarified that the party connection with Koike is now fully severed. Party of Hope expected to divide in two tomorrow, with a small group led by Shigefumi Matsuzawa creating a smaller, rightwing party.

Politics

—Bowing to opposition party pressures, Finance Minister Taro Aso announces a freeze on Junichi Fukuda’s US$500,000 retirement payout. Once again, Abe government shown willing to throw bureaucrats under the bus in attempt to save senior politicians.

—Taro Aso renews his refusal to step down as Finance Minister, saying it is his job to prevent a reoccurrence of things that already happened under his watch. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains afraid to fire Aso, knowing that he needs his ruling party faction’s support.

—Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda defends sexually harassed TV Asahi reporter against members of her own party: “Protection and relief for victims comes first. I want a calmer reflection on why the female journalist had to do what she did.”

—Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi unhappy with Hakubun Shimomura’s comments about the media trying to destroy the state. Yamaguchi responds: “It’s an absolutely baseless statement and not the sort of thing that should be said.”

—Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi under fire for visiting a “sexy yoga” business, including a private yoga lesson and an oil message, using an official car.

—Liberal Democratic Party Diet affairs chief Hiroshi Moriyama says that calling a snap election is an “option” if a no confidence motion is submitted against the Abe Cabinet. We sincerely doubt that Moriyama’s view matches up with Shinzo Abe’s view of this matter.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano praises Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda: “In terms of social policy matters, our views are extremely close.”

—Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura indicates that his party’s plan to hold a second popular referendum on the administrative unification of Osaka later this year is not going to occur. He does not give a clear timeline going forward.

International

—South Korean President Moon Jae-In promises Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a phone call that he will raise the subject of Japanese abductees when he meets face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

—Abe government about to make a major financial payoff to Nago City for electing the “correct” candidate in February elections. Subsidies were suspended in 2010 when the anti-base Susumu Inamine was elected. Now the central government will pay two years’ worth of subsidies.

—Former Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine is among the protesters who were forcibly removed by police from a sit-in conducted in front of Camp Schwab, Henoko, Okinawa.

—At the moment, Yuriko Koike’s term as Governor of Tokyo is scheduled to end on July 30, 2020. Unfortunately, this is also right in the middle of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Discussions have begun about how to deal with this overlap.

—Admiral Harry Harris will apparently be shifted from his earlier expected nomination as US Ambassador to Australia to instead become US Ambassador to South Korea. That’s what the Korean Peninsula needs for its peace process: an ambitious rightwing admiral with a record of verbally provoking the Chinese and showing disrespect for the wall that is supposed to exist between the uniformed military and US domestic politics.

Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index released: “Japan’s rise (up five places at 67th) reflects a relative easing in pressure on the media from Shinzo Abe’s nationalist government, although journalists are still constrained by the weight of tradition and business interests.”

Economy

—The Japanese government already trying to back away from the notion of a bilateral US-Japan trade treaty, which President Trump pushed on Prime Minister Abe at their recent meeting. Minister Toshimitsu Motegi makes clear it will be months before serious talks begin.

—Niigata gubernatorial elections set for June 10. The official campaign period will begin May 24. Opposition forces have yet to select a candidate to carry on their anti-nuclear policies.

—Ruling coalition planning to start deliberations of Way of Working Reform Bill in spite of the fact that most of the opposition parties are boycotting parliamentary debate.

—Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office belatedly beginning an investigation of Kobe Steel’s falsification of product quality data, which has been in the news headlines for months.

Society

—Prosecutors charge a rightwing Association of Citizens against the Special Privileges for Resident Koreans (Zaitokukai) activist in Kyoto with defamation for his public claims that a local Korean school was involved in North Korean abductions in Japan (the last one was in 1983). Unrepentant, the rightwinger claims he only spoke “based on facts.”

—Japan Sumo Association planning a board meeting for this coming weekend to discuss whether they can or should continue their policies of discrimination toward women, which they say are based on “tradition.”

Note: There was no separate “Today in Japan” report issued on April 24.

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