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Economic Growth Streak Ends

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

Top Headline

—Initial data suggests that the Japanese economy stopped growing in the January-March quarter. If confirmed by data revisions, it means the growth streak stopped at eight quarters. Most analysts do not believe Japan has entered a recession, however, and growth will resume.

Politics

—In Diet debate, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declares it “no problem” that his aide Tadao Yanase met with Imabari city officials about Kake Gakuen in April 2015… Hey! There’s a credible evaluation from an impartial judge!

—The ruling party now refusing to call Ehime Governor Tokihiro Nakamura as a witness to the Diet, knowing he will present facts that will expose Abe government lies about the Kake Gakuen scandal.

—It emerges that in 2015 when visiting Imabari city, Cabinet Office official Yutaka Fujiwara was being driven around in a Kake Gakuen car.

—JNN poll finds Democratic Party for the People possessing a mighty 0.8% national support rate. Party co-leader Yuichiro Tamaki sees the bright side: “I’m just glad that it wasn’t 0%.”

—Several polls agree that the new Democratic Party for the People has launched with roughly 1% of the public supporting them. They appear to be dead on arrival, as expected, but at least the lawmakers of the party are ideologically similar to one another.

—Makiko Kishi, 42, chosen by the All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union (Jichiro) as their House of Councillors candidate who will run as a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

—Democratic Party for the People co-leader Yuichiro Tamaki denounces Finance Minister Taro Aso in brutal terms: “He is a man without remorse. He lacks nobility of character and hasn’t a shred of intelligence.”

—Shinzo Abe again corruptly awards one of his rightwing ideological allies. Katsutoshi Kawano to remain as SDF Chief of Staff long past time when he should have retired. Kawano admitted lying last month about the existence of South Sudan daily logs, but no matter.

—Rengo and Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan confirm their political connection. Rengo head Rikio Kozu continues his idiotic campaign to merge Yukio Edano’s progressive party with the centrist opposition, but Edano simply promises good efforts at communication. However, Edano says it is possible for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to make a policy agreement with Rengo. It’s not clear which side is really compromising on nuclear energy policy, but initial indications are that Edano may have the upper hand.

—Diet passes a non-binding law encouraging political parties to run as many female candidates as possible. No penalties for non-compliance. The worst gender in balance in terms of candidates has been the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, so really the change must start there.

—Morons in the House of Councillors trying to use “Democratic Party” as their caucus name instead of the new party name “Democratic Party for the People.” Apparently it’s just because they are nostalgic for the former name, but they are making a mockery of the new party.

International

—US National Security Adviser John Bolton declares it “possible” that the United States might impose unilateral sanctions on countries that do business with Iran, presumably including allies such as Japan.

—Since the buzz now is about a Trump-Abe summit AFTER the Trump-Kim summit, guess we can surmise that Abe’s request to meet Trump before he meets with Kim was firmly rebuffed.

—Abe government demands North Korea immediately release Japanese abductees as sort of precondition to Abe-Kim talks. It’s never been clear that North Korea is actually holding any abductees as Japan claims. Abe again leads with ultimatums rather than discussions. Working out?

—Mike Pompeo: “Make no mistake about it: America’s interest here is preventing the risk that North Korea will launch a nuclear weapon into LA or Denver.” That is, Trump government policy is to secure US interests, not Japan’s interests. Abe not liking the sound of it.

—Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera says Aegis Ashore bases could be placed in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says moving US embassy to Jerusalem could make peace more difficult, but doesn’t actually criticize the Trump administration. It’s typical cowardice from Japanese conservatives when dealing with the United States, even with dozens dead.

—Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga confirms that the tumor removed from his pancreas was cancerous. Chances seem to be growing that Onaga may retire from politics rather than run for reelection at the end of the year. It would be a devastating blow to the anti-base movement.

—North Korea makes clear that it sees peace talks as aimed at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, not simply a unilateral disarming of North Korea while the United States remains militarily prepared to attack. They suggest Trump-Kim summit could be cancelled.

—North Korea further signals that it won’t be intimidated by cancelling a round of high level talks with South Korea after enhanced US military exercises that seem to be practicing bombing runs against North Korea. This US government describes the exercises as “defensive.”

—Abe government expresses support for US-South Korea military drills. Of course, that’s not a tough position to take when you’ve been trying to derail Korean Peninsula peace talks since they began at the start of this year.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks of a “new relationship” with South Korea which he says should be “future-oriented” (i.e. must whitewash wartime history). Abe’s “new relationship” plan sounds exactly like what he’s been pushing unsuccessfully for years now.

Economy

—Abe government pushing for more than 20% of Japan’s energy to come from nuclear power in 2030; Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan calling for zero nuclear energy by the same year. Abe plan requires each reactor to operate for sixty years before decommissioning.

—After problems discovered, restart of Genkai No. 4 nuclear reactor delayed until at least May 24.

—US Ambassador William Hagerty joins campaign to pressure Japan to sign an unfavorable bilateral trade agreement with the United States: “The president is, as you know, a man of action and expects us to get results quickly. I think Mr Abe understands that.”

—The Abe government reportedly mulling retaliatory tariffs against the United States as a response to Donald Trump’s tariffs on Japanese steel and aluminum. Does the Abe government really have the stomach for taking on someone other than Asian neighbors? We’ll see.

—Ruling coalition-backed Hideyo Hanazumi officially announces his bid to become Governor of Niigata Prefecture. TEPCO’s demand to reenter the nuclear power business with the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant expected to be the central issue.

—Confirmed that all the main opposition political parties are uniting behind the anti-nuclear candidacy of Chikako Ikeda for Niigata Governor. Two years ago the Democratic Party was unable to officially support Ryuichi Yoneyama due to Rengo’s opposition.

—Mitsubishi UFJ Bank to begin phasing out about 20% of its branches nationally over the next five years. There’s also talk of major banks collaborating to make their branches useable for multiple banking companies’ customers.

—Tokyo man dies of overwork after being made to work an average of 87 hours overtime for two consecutive months. This comes while the Abe government, doing the bidding of big business groups, is pushing for a maximum of 100 hours overtime per month. This death would be legal.

Society

—Women in Media Network Japan is formed with aim of combatting sexual harassment in the news media industry, which they say is widespread.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued from May 14 to May 16.

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