Historic Summit Between Leaders of North and South Korea
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported today by the Shingetsu News Agency.
—The historic North-South leaders’ summit takes place as scheduled, successfully creating an image of comity between the two leaders. Many serious issues must be overcome, but at the level of symbolism it was a powerful day on the Korean Peninsula. One immediate goal of the North-South Korea leaders’ summit is to formally end the Korean War of 1950-1953, which came to a halt in a truce. This truce would be replaced by an actual peace treaty. North-South Korea leaders’ summit also declares the aim of “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. That is no doubt meant to indicate the need for a change in US military policies as well as a dismantling of North Korean nuclear weapons. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he “looks forward to concrete action” from North Korea on missiles and nuclear weapons.
—In results that must be personally frustrating to Shinzo Abe and his “historical mission,” a new Kyodo News poll finds a public majority (58%) in favor of a future revision of the Constitution, but another majority (61%) opposed to it happening under the distrusted Mr. Abe.
—Opposition parties demanding that overseas travel during Golden Week planned by Finance Minister Taro Aso and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera be cancelled because the Abe government has yet to meet its democratic responsibilities at home.
—The official English name of the new party will be different than expected: “Democratic Party for the People” (DPFP). They decided that “National Democratic Party” was too suggestive of Nazi Germany.
—Former Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba applies to resign from the Democratic Party and makes clear that he does not intend to join the Democratic Party for the People when it forms in May.
—Yoshihiko Noda, Katsuya Okada, Jun Azumi, and Kenji Eda reportedly firming up their intention to become independent lawmakers and not join the Democratic Party for the People. They apparently want to federate with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan without joining it.
—Katsuya Okada says that he will become a “complete independent” lawmaker. He sees his role as trying to narrow the distance between the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the soon-to-be-formed Democratic Party for the People. He will also form a local political party in Mie Prefecture.
— Democratic Party for the People to be formed on May 7. It is expected to include about 60 lawmakers, but fall short of the size of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. It will thus become the No. 2 opposition party.
—Some left-leaning lawmakers, including Hiroshi Ogushi and Toshio Ogawa are expected to refuse to join the new Democratic Party for the People and instead apply to join the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano says that if individual, progressive-oriented lawmakers from the Democratic Party or Party of Hope want to join his party, they will be welcomed with open arms.
—Reading the political headlines about which lawmaker is resigning from which party and where they intend to go, can’t help but finally feel some hope for the future of Japan’s opposition. For the first time, the guiding star of the opposition realignment is not personality and personal friendships, but ideology and policies. In May, the three major opposition parties will be more-or-less consistent internally on their basic political orientations.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan executive Kiyomi Tsujimoto goes on the attack against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. She points out that Abe’s words of remorse over administration scandals are not matched by action. Witnesses are being kept away from Diet testimony.
—Mainichi Shinbun reports an interesting irony on Moritomo Gakuen. The original Finance Ministry documents were much more detailed than normal, apparently because the bureaucrats knew the case was unusual and wanted to cover themselves by documenting the process carefully.
—In an event which must make the prime minister nervous, several ruling party lawmakers dined together last evening: Shigeru Ishiba, Fumio Kishida, Nobuteru Ishihara, and Gen Nakatani. They almost certainly discussed the party presidential elections in September.
—The new Takeshita Faction still doesn’t have a viable candidate of its own for prime minister. Wataru Takeshita himself isn’t suitable and doesn’t want the job. Yuko Obuchi is too young and will need more time to recover from her political financing scandal.
—The Kantei finally reports that it has no record of the Imabari city officials entering the building on April 2, 2015. Yep, it’s what we expected. For the umpteenth time the Abe government “cannot find” politically embarrassing documents. Ask yourself a question. Is it even remotely possible from a security point of view that the Prime Minister’s Office wouldn’t keep careful records about who is allowed to enter the building? Well, this is what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would now have us believe.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he is not considering calling a snap election. Believe him. His record has been to call elections ruthlessly only when it serves his own interests. This is definitely not such a juncture.
—Shigefumi Matsuzawa to create a new rightwing grouping which will maintain the name Party of Hope. It will probably have fewer than ten lawmakers, and will try to federate with the Osaka-based Japan Innovation Party. Matsuzawa’s party has secured the minimum five lawmakers needed to be recognized as a political party, but it won’t be much larger than that.
—The Finance Ministry has determined that the sexual harassment allegations against Junichi Fukuda are at least partially true, and therefore there will be some level of reduction in the US$500,000 retirement bonus that he had otherwise been due.
—Abe government rejects Finance Minister Taro Aso’s suggestion to the media that the best policy to prevent sexual harassment of journalists is to have media companies send only male reporters to cover the various government ministries.
—National Governors’ Association and other regional groups hold meeting to denounce the 2016 redrawing of the House of Councillors electoral map. They object to fact that a few very low population prefectures no longer have a Councillor who arose from themselves.
—Goshi Hosono and Akihisa Nagashima do what they do best, they stab the opposition parties in the back while pretending to be opposition lawmakers. They defy the opposition boycott of Diet debate to give aid and comfort to the ruling coalition. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano comments on the behavior of Goshi Hosono and Akihisa Nagashima: “It’s what ruling party members would do.” Meanwhile, a Liberal Democratic Party executive expresses thanks to the conservative pair.
—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, probably the most politically powerful woman in Japan, walked onto a sumo dohyo in Asakusa today, defying the traditional ban on women entering the “sacred” circle.
—The Abe government has issued a formal diplomatic protest to South Korea over a dessert, yes, an after-dinner sweet, because it shows a united Korean flag with Dokdo-Takeshima on it. The pettiness of nationalism knows few bounds, making dessert a state-to-state dispute.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to spend the Golden Week holiday touring to Israel and three Arab countries. He’ll probably find more peace there than he would if he stayed home in Japan.
—Abe government officially adopts the stance that when Self-Defense Force units deployed in Iraq and elsewhere write of “combat” occuring around them, that it does not signify combat “in the legal sense.” Bottom line: Combat exists only if the Abe government says it exists.
—Konosuke Kokuba chosen the new leader of the Okinawa Chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party. One of his first tasks is to oversee the selection of the ruling party’s candidate for Okinawa Governor in the election this December. The candidate should be announced in May.
—The Philippines, which is received a large amount of aid from Japan, removes a memorial to Filipino Comfort Women in Manila which the Abe government had objected to. It’s a significant “victory” for the rightwing Japanese campaign to whitewash wartime history.
—After repeatedly failing to achieve their deadline for reaching a 2% inflation rate in the national economy, the Bank of Japan has finally decided to scrap the deadline, though the 2% inflation target remains in place.
—The ruling coalition begins “debate” on the Way of Working Reform Bill in the absence of the opposition parties, which are boycotting deliberations over the unwillingness of the Abe government to properly address several scandals.
—Opposition parties sounding out independent lawmaker Makiko Kikuta to be their candidate for Governor of Niigata Prefecture, to carry the anti-nuclear banner. Kikuta is a fairly prominent politician with a substantial career in the Democratic Party of Japan.
—Mainichi Shinbun: A growing number of men challenging “Women-Only” train car policies, arguing that it is discriminatory toward men. The train companies are in a bind because the “Women-Only” policies have no legal force, and appeals to usual Japanese politeness are failing.
—Restaurant associations and the tobacco industry are fighting back against Governor Yuriko Koike’s plans to pass a somewhat tougher anti-smoking ordinance in Tokyo. They are trying to mobilize their politicians to stop the ordinance from being enacted.
—Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui may soon jump on the anti-smoking bandwagon. With only very weak national legislation being considered, he says that Osaka, like Tokyo, may pass a local anti-smoking ordinance that is stricter than the national bill.
—Sendai High Court again finds authorities negligent over the deaths of 23 young students at the Okawa Elementary School in the March 2011 tsunami. The compensation to families ordered is even raised to US$13 million. Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai calls the ruling “harsh.”
—The last two members of the North Korean fishing boat crew, who had looted an uninhabited island near Hokkaido some months ago, have been deported from Japan rather than made to serve out their prison sentences.
—The Golden Week outbound rush has begun in major urban areas of the country.
Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued on April 26 and April 27.
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