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Towards an Abe-Kim Summit

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

Top Headline

—North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un reiterates that he’s “open” to meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.” Following that, a report emerged that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on the sidelines of a meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, in September. Japanese and North Korean officials made contact in Mongolia on June 14, starting the process of arranging the possible summit meeting.

Politics

—Shinzo Abe’s allies are, as expected, portraying the ruling party’s victory in Niigata Prefecture as an endorsement of the prime minister’s leadership.

—Opposition parties solidly win yesterday’s undercard race: opposition-backed challenger Naoto Sakai defeats ruling coalition-backed incumbent Daisuke Tanaka in Tokyo Nakano Ward mayoral race. The margin wasn’t even close.

—Social Democratic Party leader Seiji Mataichi leaves the hospital and returns to work. He says he is fully recovered from whatever had ailed him.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has returned to Japan after his travels to the United States and Canada.

—The Abe government to expand sexual harassment awareness training at government ministries, but is not currently interested in specifying possible punishments for those who engage in sexual harassment.

—Diet enacts law to make 18- and 19-year-olds legal adults as of April 2022. People of this age will still be officially forbidden to drink, smoke, or gamble.

—Democratic Party For the People executive Kenta Izumi taunts Komeito. They used to portray themselves as the “brake” on the worst instincts of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. But now, Izumi says, the “brake” seems to have stopped functioning.

International

—A US Air Force F-15 jet fighter crashes into the seas off Okinawa during air exercises. The pilot has been rescued.

—Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga (looking much thinner and more frail than he does in this graphic) is clearly thinking these days about posterity and his Ryukyu people’s unfinished agenda of achieving genuine self-determination and democracy vis-a-vis Washington and Tokyo.

—The wholesale destruction of the Henoko coastline to build the new US Marines airbase set to begin on August 16. This is when dirt, gravel, etc., will start being poured into Oura Bay to form the foundation of the landing strips.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says that US President Donald Trump promised 100% to raise Japanese abductee issue with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in today’s meeting.

—Abe government apparently quite unhappy with US President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend US-South Korea military exercises that practice an invasion of North Korea. This departs sharply from the Abe view that “maximum pressure” must be maintained.

—Abe government unhappy with Russian plan to lay undersea fiber-optic cables between Sakhalin island and the Southern Kuriles / Northern Territories. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: “It is extremely deplorable that such a project is being carried out under Russian occupation.”

—India’s bullet train project set to miss its December deadline to acquire needed land for the Japan-backed US$17 billion investment, following protests by sapota and mango growers in Maharashtra.

Economy

—Governor-elect Hideyo Hanazumi takes cautious view on restarting TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant. He says that the people of the prefecture must be persuaded before there is a restart.

—New Niigata Governor Hideyo Hanazumi says it will take about two or three more years to confirm the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, apparently keeping in place the basic stance of his anti-nuclear predecessor.

—Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai makes comments suggesting that the ruling party shouldn’t pressure new Niigata Governor Hideyo Hanazumi into quickly restarting nuclear reactors. They should be appreciative that they regained this governor seat.

—Unimat Life, a company which focuses on the coffee industry, as well as two other group companies, were found by tax authorities to have failed to report a total of about 10 billion yen (about US$91 million) in income over the past several years.

—Mitsubishi Materials shipped copper slag aggregate (used in making concrete) without conducting proper quality checks in conformity with industrial standards. They thus disclosed their direct involvement in product quality misconduct for the first time. Akira Takeuchi to step down as president of Mitsubishi Materials to take responsibility for this scandal, though he will remain on as a non-executive chairman. Naoki Ono to become the new company president.

—The Japanese market for “minpaku” (private lodging services) in 2017 is estimated at 125 billion yen (about US$1.1 billion), more than double the previous year. The first law regulating minpaku will be effectuated from June 15, and may shrink the industry considerably.

—Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad: “We need TPP renegotiated.” Since the Abe government will predictably reject this idea, it’s unclear whether or not it will ultimately be TPP 11 or TPP 10, minus Malaysia.

—Implementation of legislation regulating the short-term rental of private homes has ostensibly left Airbnb undeterred. Co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk says that he hopes to make the rules simpler, most likely with the goal of remaining a major form of Japan accommodation.

—Tokyo Disney Resort to expand the size of Tokyo DisneySea by about 100,000 square meters, or 20%. New projects will include additional theme areas and a 475-room hotel. Expected to cost about 250 billion yen (about $2.25 billion).

Technology

—Nissan Motor aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per new vehicle by 40% by FY2022. The automaker already has a plan to boost annual sales of electric vehicles to one million units by fiscal 2022.

—Toyota Motor has begun negotiations with firms, including Seven-Eleven Japan and Yamato Transport, for developing next-generation services such as utilizing commercial electric vehicles as mobile convenience stores and as driverless electric vehicles to transport goods.

—Japan and China begin to work together on project to unify standards for electric vehicle charging systems. It is anticipated that this will cut manufacturing costs and promote the spread of electric cars.

—Shin-Osaka Station likely to be extended deep underground to receive new high-speed trains.

Society

—Tokyo High Court rejects idea that police might have framed 82-year-old Iwao Hakamada, and they threaten to send him back to prison. They dismiss DNA evidence that led lower court to a long-overdue acquittal.

—Tickets to enter Olympic venues in 2020 will cost 2,000 yen (about US$18) at the lowest and as much as 300,000 yen (about US$2,730) for the best seats at the Opening Ceremony.

—Government reports 374 known cases of MyNumbers being stolen or misused in FY2017, well before the system is even being used by many people.

—Transport Ministry mulls possibility of forcing shinkansen passengers to undergo baggage checks as the latest “security measure,” but the practicality of such a policy is in doubt.

—Foreigners who run up medical bills in Japan and later refuse to pay them to be denied re-entry to the country. The government is now setting up a system by which local governments can inform the immigration authorities who should be on the “no entry” list.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between June 11 and June 14.

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