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Abe Reelected Liberal Democratic Party Leader

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

Top Headline

—Shinzo Abe, as expected, decisively defeats Shigeru Ishiba in the Liberal Democratic Party leadership elections. However, Ishiba’s loss 224-181 in party chapter votes gave him a respectable finish, by no means an embarrassing result for the challenger. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his team were not expecting so many local chapters to vote for Ishiba and are actually a bit shocked. Despite his clear victory, Abe’s hold over the ruling party may be slipping. Moreover, Shigeru Ishiba’s solid performance with rank-and-file party members (for the second time), is thought to give him the best chance to be Shinzo Abe’s successor as prime minister. However, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso takes issue with the near-consensus that Shigeru Ishiba “fought well” in the party presidential race and achieved unexpectedly strong results. In Aso’s view, Ishiba lost in a landslide and deserves little credit for his performance. Meanwhile. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano says that Shinzo Abe’s victory in ruling party elections will make it easier for the opposition parties to make major gains in next year’s House of Councillors elections.

Politics

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declares in a television interview that party lawmaker Mio Sugita will not be sanctioned for her promotion of anti-LGBT discrimination “because she is still young.”

—Opposition parties criticize Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga for taking several trips to Okinawa to campaign for Nippon Kaigi-affiliated gubernatorial candidate Atsushi Sakima rather than stay close to the Prime Minister’s Office and his crisis-management duties.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces that the time for Constitution revision is here, indicating that we will prioritize the struggle for the Self-Defense Forces’ “honor” over all of the economic and social reforms that Japan needs at this time.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says that his Agriculture Minister Ken Saito’s account of how a pro-Abe party lawmaker demanded Saito resign for supporting Shigeru Ishiba in the party election isn’t true. Essentially, Abe accused one of his ministers of fabricating a story.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan commits to policy whereby a minimum of 40% of its proportional representation candidates in next year’s House of Councillors election will be female.

—Yukio Edano says that the old Democratic Party of Japan’s idea of forming “Next Cabinets” was a failure that didn’t impress the Japanese people. He rejects calls from the Democratic Party For the People to form a new one as part of cross-party cooperation.

—Kazuo Todani becomes the second head of the Education Ministry bureaucracy in just two years to be forced to resign to take responsibility for scandals by senior ministry bureaucrats. He had been the successor to Kihei Maekawa, who went on to be a scourge of the Abe regime.

—“Friend of Abe” Akira Amari makes clear that he doesn’t want to see Shigeru Ishiba given a Cabinet post in the upcoming reshuffle. Amari says there’s no room for someone who dared to criticize the Abe government’s views on Constitution revision.

—The word is that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to retaliate against anyone who supported Shigeru Ishiba in the party leadership election by appointing none of them in the coming Cabinet reshuffle.

—So far, the list of ministers said to be safe in Cabinet reshuffle is Suga, Aso, Kono, Motegi, and Seko. It looks that, once again, “Cabinet Reshuffle” in the Abe area means a redistribution of the lesser posts while the core team remains in place.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thought likely to try to raise his disgraced ally Akira Amari back into a major political post in the coming reshuffle. Amari used to be one of Abe’s major agents, and for this prime minister loyalty is the highest degree of competence.

—Shinzo Abe may already have entered his lame duck period as Japan’s leader. Clearly many people think he’s been in office too long already, the ruling party will start thinking more about the post-Abe era, and his top agenda item, Constitution revision, is likely a quagmire. Also, if Shinzo Abe goes to the people with the Constitution revision referendum and then loses, Shigeru Ishiba will be perfectly positioned to say “told you so” and perhaps gain enough clout to dislodge Abe.

—Ishiba, Kishida, Kono, Koizumi — It’s now clear that one of these four is highly likely to be Shinzo Abe’s successor as president of the Liberal Democratic Party. None of them is a true Abe protege like Inada, Hagiuda, or Seko, but Abe’s people clearly not up to the job.

—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike says that although she too favors Constitution revision, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is wrong to see it as the main issue the country needs to grapple with right now. Economy, social security, and much else needs urgent government attention.

—Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi continues to publicly signal his lack of interest in devoting this autumn’s Diet session to the issue of Constitution revision. He says there has been no coordination among the ruling coalition parties on this issue.

—The decision by the magazine Shincho 45 to devote its October issue to the defense of Mio Sugita’s discriminatory views of LGBT people has caused a rebellion even within the company itself, with one company branch publicly criticizing the hateful October issue.

—President of Shinchosha Publishing Company Takanobu Sato issues public statement criticizing, remarkably, the editorial decisions of one of his own publications, Shincho 45, which defended had defended the anti-LGBT discrimination of lawmaker Mio Sugita.

—Mainichi Shinbun discovers that there is “a rightward shift in the on-paper publishing industry as a whole,” meaning that Japanese print publications are now trying to survive by offering provocative hard right views on contemporary issues.

—Rengo pushes forward with its attempt to recreate the old Democratic Party of Japan through party mergers. They much prefer a right-center-left opposition that agrees on nothing than vibrant progressives like the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan which actually stand for something.

—Harunobu Yonenaga to run for post of Governor of Yamanashi Prefecture.

—Toru Hashimoto calls for the destruction of the national political party that he founded, the Japan Innovation Party. He says its existence is only disrupting the ability of the national opposition to unify.

International

—Yet another US Marine helicopter from Futenma crash lands. This time it was a CH-53E Super Stallion which came down at Nagasaki Airport. No one was hurt.

—The Abe government is eager to send the Self-Defense Forces overseas under the terms of the 2015 Abe War Law, but have been looking for a peacekeeping mission unlikely to involve any combat situations. The Sinai Peninsula Arab-Israeli peacekeeping mission may fit the bill.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeking a bilateral meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York later this month. Apparently, Abe will convey the notion that Japan’s going along with Trump oil sanctions isn’t meant to reflect any anti-Iran hostility on Japan’s part.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe clearly rejects Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to sign a bilateral peace treaty this year without reaching an agreement on the Southern Kuriles-Northern Territories dispute. In other words, Abe maintains Japan’s long-time position.

—The Defense Ministry requesting budget for an AI system to manage documents, citing their own (intentional, politically-motivated) inability to find South Sudan and Iraq War daily logs as justification.

—US President Donald Trump promises to intensify trade war policies against other nations: “If countries will not make fair deals with us, they will be ‘Tariffed!'” he boasts.

—Defense Ministry conducts its first submarine exercises in the South China Sea, and then they announce it to media, which they don’t usually do with such drills. The clear objective is to openly antagonize the Chinese government.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera insist that publication of Japanese submarine’s training mission to the South China Sea was in no way meant as a message to the Chinese government.

—South Korean President Moon Jae-In and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un have begun a new round of direct talks in Pyongyang.

—Shigeru Ishiba under fire from conservatives for releasing video that says the US military concentrated in Okinawa in the 1950s because of concerns about the anti-base movement in the main islands. His “heresy” was to acknowledge political (not military) factors are involved.

—Norihiko Hanada, mayor of Abu town, Yamaguchi, comes out in opposition to the deployment of an Aegis Ashore system in neighboring Hagi city. He says it could “substantially damage the peace, safety, and security of residents.” Seems that Choshu is unwilling to be Okinawa.

—Okinawa Prefectural Assembly poised to quickly pass bill to hold prefecture-wide referendum on the Henoko base-building plan. Regardless of the outcome of the gubernatorial elections, anti-base forces hoping to make very clear Okinawans’ opinions on the US-Japan base plans.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono meets Beatrice Fihn, head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Nobel Peace Prize winner repeatedly snubbed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself, because her ideas don’t match Abe’s ideas about nuclear weapons.

—Police in Okinawa have reportedly made over 60 warnings about cases of election laws being violated in the Okinawa gubernatorial elections. Mainly this seems to be about candidate posters being placed in areas that are against regulations.

—Kyodo News poll finds Denny Tamaki and Atsushi Sakima running dead even one week before the crucial Okinawa gubernatorial election. As always in such case, voter turnout likely to be key to winning or losing.

Economy

—The Trump administration announces US$200 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports, ratcheting up its global trade war policies to a new level. Donald Trump tweeting gleefully about the positive impact he expects.

—Abe government officials continue their gutless rhetoric criticizing protectionism and international tariff battles, while being completely unwilling to say openly that the entire source of these misguided policies is one man in the White House, whom they dare not name.

—Hokkaido Earthquake-damaged Tomato-Atsuma Thermal Power Plant partially resumes operations. It was the breakdown at this plant that triggered the blackouts across Hokkaido. METI Minister Hiroshige Seko says Hokkaido has returned to normal electricity services and special energy savings are no longer necessary.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono hints gently to his British counterpart that Brexit needs to be done right (i.e. have easy access to European Union countries) or else Japanese companies will have to reevaluate their investment decisions in the region.

—Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association expresses concern about the future of the NAFTA agreement. Japanese auto companies built a lot of factories in Mexico on the understanding that they would have unhindered access to the United States and Canada.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga renews his criticism of DoCoMo, KDDI, and SoftBank for raking in massive profits, suggesting that they are not really completing with one another and are effectively operating as a cartel, inflating rates to consumers.

Technology

—World Economic Forum study says that machines, including robots, will be conducting about 52% of work tasks by 2025. Automation of work will roughly double over the next seven years, posing questions for the future of human workers.

—Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will take six-to-eight guests with him on his scheduled 2023 SpaceX flight around the Moon. He will be paying Elon Musk’s company “a lot of money” for being one of the world’s first space tourists.

—Once again, a major theft of cryptocurrency has taken place in Japan. This time Osaka-based operator Tech Bureau has been hit for about 6.7 billion yen (about US$60 million) from its Zaif platform.

—A simple test of newspaper delivery by drone was conducted in Hokkaido. Talk about a mismatch of technologies! Drones will be a big part of our future, but print newspapers are already disappearing in advanced countries. More pertinent tests are recommended.

—Two robots, Rover 1A and Rover 1B, have been successfully deployed from Hayabusa-2 onto the asteroid Ryugu, according to plan. They are both in working order and are starting their surface mission.

Society

—On Respect for the Aged Day, the Ministry of Internal Affairs announces that there are now more than 20 million women in Japan aged 65 or older for the first time in history.

—Sapporo doesn’t give up its Winter Olympics bid. Rather, it just changes its target from the 2026 Winter Olympics to the 2030 games.

—Railway services linking Kansai International Airport with Honshu have resumed, marking an important milestone for the recovery of Japan’s third-largest airport after the flooding and damage caused by Typhoon No. 21.

—Tokyo Metropolitan Government to propose this week the nation’s first ordinance that would ban discrimination against LGBT individuals. It is being portrayed as another measure to bring the capital in line with the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

—Kyoto city government estimates that about 1,845 Airbnb guesthouses have been forced to shut down in the last three months due to the passage of the Minpaku Law, leaving only several hundred more that are still operating in the shadows.

—Chiba City follows Tokyo in passing an anti-smoking ordinance much stronger than the new national law (which was watered down by ruling party Old Boys). In Chiba, smoking will now be banned in any restaurant that has employees. Violations can carry a 50,000 yen penalty. Particularly significant is the potential 50,000 yen fine. This makes it the first such local anti-smoking ordinance in Japan that can have material consequences for violating it.

—Fukuoka High Court dismisses the appeal of former US base worker Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, and upholds his life sentence for the rape and murder of an Okinawan woman in 2016.

—Fire and Disaster Management Agency confirms that in August, too, Japan hit the all-time record for number of people transported to the hospital due to heatstroke. 30,410 people went to the hospital, surpassing the previous 2010 record of 28,448.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between September 17 and September 22.

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