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“Behavior Unworthy of a Nation Governed by Law”

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

Okinawa

—Nago Mayor Taketoyo Toguchi (who was the victorious conservative candidate in the February elections) doesn’t stray far from the anti-base line. He pledges to demand the removal of all seven helipads within Camp Schwab, the US Marine base at Henoko.

—Okinawa Prefectural Assembly authorizes the holding of a popular referendum on the construction of the US Marine airbase at Henoko. This is intended to demonstrate the Okinawans’ will clearly and to put an end to rightwing lies about the alleged pro-base “silent majority.”

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya preemptively declares that whatever the result of the Okinawans’ referendum on Henoko base construction, it will have no effect on government policy. In other words, Okinawa must host the base and the local people’s consent be damned.

—Defying democracy, the Okinawa Prefectural Government, and possibly the law as it is written, Land Minister Keiichi Ishii declares that the Okinawa government’s withdrawal of permission to construct Henoko airbase is suspended and construction will forcefully resume.

—The most damaging stage of Henoko base construction, pouring dirt and gravel into Oura Bay, is expected to come before year’s end, if the Abe government gets its way. They have used a possibly illegal measure to suspend the authority of the Okinawa Prefectural Government.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki denounces Abe government’s possibly illegal suspension of his prefecture’s authority to prevent Henoko base construction: “It is behavior unworthy of a nation governed by law and it tramples upon the will of the people as seen in the election.”

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki: “I absolutely will never permit the adding of new functions and the building of a new base at Henoko.”

—Defense Ministry planning to resume US Marines Henoko base construction tomorrow, forcefully sweeping aside protesters, the authority of the Okinawa Prefectural Government, the democratic results of the recent elections, and possibly the law itself.

Politics

—Tokyo High Court backs the government (as usual) and rules that Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister in 2013 did not violate the constitutional requirement of a separation between religion and state. The plaintiffs plan to appeal.

—Asahi Shinbun: The Democratic Party For the People calls in a PR adviser to lecture them in an off-record event, and the adviser declares that the DPFP is like “a private-sector company on the brink of collapse.” Some lawmakers don’t even use the party logo on their cards.

—Nagano Prefecture to have a new political group called “Shinsei Shinshu” which is a recombination of former Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers now split into different parties. The formal leader to be the now-retired former Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

—The “JCP Supporter Festival” held in Tokyo. The Japan Communist Party has been making efforts to shake off its elderly image and to appeal more to young people.

—Masao Uchibori easily wins reelection as Governor of Fukushima Prefecture after facing a single Japan Communist Party-backed challenger.

—In a very disappointing loss for the opposition, LDP-backed newcomer Yaichi Nakahara wins the Niigata mayoral race. This post had been in the hands of the opposition for many years.

—Evidence growing that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is still trying to promote the career of rightwing ideologue Tomomi Inada. She is being assigned tasks well above the level she currently holds. At one point it was clear that Abe had been grooming her as his successor.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to back Tokihiro Nakamura for reelection as Governor of Ehime Prefecture. Governor Nakamura gave the Abe government some uncomfortable moments over Kake Gakuen Scandal when he accused central government officials of lying.

—Yukio Edano tells Abe in Diet debate the Constitution does not exist to express what Abe thinks are the ideals of nation, but rather to bind the power of the state: “The prime minister’s misunderstanding is nothing new, but please relearn what the Constitution is from scratch.”

—Former Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki has made his first public appearance since his devastating cycling accident in July 2016. In a wheelchair, the once famously-fit Tanigaki visited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Kantei.

International

—Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on the Implications for Human Rights of the Environmentally Sound Management and Disposal of Hazardous Substances and Wastes, says that Japan must stop returning women and children to radiation-high areas in Fukushima.

—Abe government rejects the UN Special Rapporteur’s warning, saying that he is listening to “one-sided information” about the radiation dangers in Fukushima and that it is fine for women and children to return to the former exclusion zone.

—In Beijing, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes it official: “China has developed into the world’s second-largest economy. The historical mission of Japanese Overseas Development Assistance is completed.”

—Chinese Premier Li Keqiang tells visiting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Beijing wants Japan to join its much-touted Belt and Road Initiative. It’s not clear whether or not Abe will be willing to participate.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has wrapped up his first visit to China since his return to power in 2012. In Beijing, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said all the right things about rebuilding Sino-Japanese relations. It’s too early to tell if this represents a real turning point in what time remains for Abe Diplomacy, or if this is just a tactical move related to Trump trade issues.

—Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Japan for a two-day summit in which he is expected to be showered with marks of respect and affection by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sees India as a strategic counterweight to China.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga say that the deployment of Aegis Ashore in Yamaguchi and Akita prefectures is “premised” on local understanding. (Of course, this only applies to main island Japanese, not Okinawans whose consent is not needed on military issues).

—Pressed by Yukio Edano in Diet debate, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeatedly insists that his plan to bring more foreign labor into Japan is not an “immigration policy.”

—South Korea Supreme Court rules that Nippon Steel must pay reparations to forced laborers during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. The Abe government reacts angrily, saying that the ruling and any attempt to enforce it will damage bilateral relations.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono blasts the South Korean Supreme Court judgment, saying that it “shakes the legal foundations of the friendship and cooperation that has existed between Japan and South Korea since 1965 when their ties were normalized.”

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono says the South Korean government must take “firm and resolute” action in regard to the Supreme Court ruling. It’s not clear to us exactly what Kono is asking for. Is he saying that the Moon administration should defy their nation’s highest court?

Economy

—Finance Ministry has gotten its fill of continually expanding military budgets in the Abe era and is calling for modest budget reductions over the next five years. They believe that weapons procurement policies can be economized.

—The Abe government having more difficulty than expected convincing the backbench lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to support its new policy on increasing foreign labor in Japan with a new residence status. Submission of the bill is delayed.

—Rakuten, Walmart, and Seiyu are teaming up to offer an online grocery delivery service that will initially operate in 16 prefectures, including the Tokyo region.

—Shikoku Electric Power Company has restarted the Ikata No. 3 nuclear reactor in the wake of the Hiroshima High Court’s reversal of its own provisional injunction against the restart.

—December 30 set as the date at which the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership will become effective.

Technology

—Liberal Democratic Party holds its first internal meeting entirely using tablets instead of paper documents. It’s an innovation that we would have expected to see from Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan first, but in this case it was ruling party that made the move.

Society

—Freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda is now back in Japan, having arrived at Narita Airport a short while ago after his three-year ordeal as a hostage in Syria.

—Junpei Yasuda’s account of his captivity in Syria are horrifying: Locked for eight months in a coffin-sized space; a twenty-day period with no food at all; forbidden from making even the slightest noise. He called his experience “hell” and that’s what it sounds like.

—Many rightwingers and online cranks are attacking Junpei Yasuda for going to Syria in the first place. With the profession of journalism under attack globally, many do not understand that going to dangerous places is precisely what reporters do. Some don’t want the truth.

—Japan Press Research Institute finds that 91.8% of the public is still getting its news from corporate television. Newspapers’ share is 70.1% and the internet’s is 66.5%. Younger Japanese use the internet more than the old. Japanese spend about 30 minutes a day on news.

—Idiots in Shibuya early Sunday morning overturned a small truck and stood on top of it, as seen in footage broadcast nationally. Some of these people were foreigners, though impossible to say if they were long-term residents or tourists. Doesn’t help community relations.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between October 26 and October 30.

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