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Diet Extension to Push Immigration Bill

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

Top Headline

—Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has yet to commit to a specific figure as the cap, the government is leaking the notion that between 260,000 and 340,000 additional foreign workers would be allowed into Japan under the new immigration policy revision proposals. In that connection, the Liberal Democratic Party considers plan to extend the current Diet session by about ten days to allow a larger debate on the immigration bill before they push it through. This would mean the Diet session would end around December 20.

Politics

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan clearly targeting Hokkaido as the prefecture that it wants to make its main electoral base nationally. Hokkaido was once called the “Democratic Party Kingdom,” and Yukio Edano and crew have notions of rebuilding that northern kingdom.

—Former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Sonoda passes away at age 76. He spent his political career in about half a dozen different parties, the LDP and those further right. SNA filmed him a couple times in 2012 when he was Secretary-General of the Sunrise Party.

—Osaka Restoration Association likely to delay second referendum on Osaka prefectural and city unification until next July’s House of Councillors elections. Komeito is strongly against the idea of holding the referendum in May, as initially envisioned.

—Next year’s Ordinary Diet Session likely to begin on January 4.

—Regional Revitalization Minister Satsuki Katayama, the only female in the current Abe Cabinet, is fending off opposition party calls that she resign over her questionable political finance reports.

—The Right Man for the Right Job: Yoshitaka Sakurada, the 68-year-old rightwing hack that Abe appointed Minister in Charge of Cybersecurity, admits under opposition questioning in the Diet that he doesn’t really know how to use a computer.

—Hakubun Shimomura, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Constitution revision headquarters, effectively dumped as potential director of the House of Representatives Constitution panel after insulting the opposition parties from the outset. No diplomatic skills.

—House of Representatives lawmaker Shoichi Kondo steps down as a vice-president of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan over missing entries in his official campaign finance reports.

—To show its commitment to LGBT rights, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to run Taiga Ishikawa as a House of Councillors candidate. Ishikawa was the openly gay politician who ran unsuccessfully in 2013 to become leader of the Social Democratic Party.

International

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki wants to start inviting US lawmakers to come and visit Okinawa, to see for the themselves the problems of hosting too many US military bases on the island for decades and increasingly in opposition to the democratic will of the Okinawans.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki makes clear he will block Henoko base construction at every opportunity. The Defense Ministry is legally required to gain prefectural approval for every minor plan change. He will refuse them each time, and says construction should stop now.

—Governor Denny Tamaki speaks in the clearest terms about the DC-Tokyo rejection of Okinawa’s democratic will. Tamaki will not allow the new US Marine airbase at Henoko: “I was elected by pledging to oppose the relocation to Henoko. The will of the people will not waver.”

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya admits to Ginowan Mayor Masanori Matsukawa that the promise to remove the “World’s Most Dangerous” US Marine airbase at Futenma by February 2019 will not be fulfilled. No new estimation of when it will happen is forthcoming.

—The Okinawa popular referendum on the plan to build the new US Marine air base at Henoko likely to occur in February. The Abe government has already pledged to ignore its results and to give the people of Okinawa no voice in controlling their own land and airspace.

—Motobu Port, damaged by a typhoon in September, looks like it will force delay until next year of the Abe government’s desire to destroy Oura Bay with landfill for the new US Marine airbase at Henoko. Sand and rock transportation problems continue.

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya reverses his predecessor Itsunori Onodera’s policy of asking the US Marines to let the Self-Defense Forces inspect Futenma base for its safety. Iwaya bringing a more rightwing (and slavish to the Pentagon) tone to the Defense Ministry.

—Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates in Japan to help promote public awareness of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “demonstrates the firm Japan-US Alliance” by holding phone call with US President Donald Trump and praising him for extending his control over the US Senate.

—Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates that half a million people have now died in direct violence from the “War on Terror.” Useful reminder that so-called “anti-terrorism” kills many more people than terrorism.

—Trump administration trying to back out of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons’ obligation to work for nuclear weapons disarmament. This is putting the Abe government in a bind, stretching their policy of nuclear weapons hypocrisy near breaking point.

—Abe government now seems to be denying that there were any forced laborers during the Pacific War but only “workers from the Korean Peninsula.” This regime’s historical denialism seems to be plumbing new depths of shame, damaging relations with South Korea and others.

—US Department of Defense estimates its military bases in Japan as equivalent to US$98.2 billion in assets, more than double the value of bases in Germany. 8 of the 10 most valuable bases are in Japan. This is what Washington DC calls Japanese “free riding” on the alliance.

—It will soon strike the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in Japan. It is the 100 year anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First War War in 1918. It was a war that started almost accidentally, killed tens of millions, and then solved nothing.

—North Korea: “More than 8.4 million people were kidnapped, abducted, and forcibly transported to battlefields and backbreaking workplaces, and 200,000 women were forced into sexual slavery. Our people must accept Japan’s apologies and compensation a thousand times over.”

—Ghost ships from North Korea continue to wash ashore on the northern coast of the Sea of Japan.

—European leaders like Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are showing recognition that their own interests need to be defended not only from Russia, but also from the United States. When O When will Japanese leaders start realizing that 100% reliance on the US isn’t their best option either?

—Amnesty International joins the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in revoking its Human Rights honors to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Once regarded as a champion of democracy in her country, her complicity in the genocide of Rohingya Muslims has tarnished her image.

—Rather than sue the White House to have Jim Acosta return as CNN correspondent, how about the major media show a little backbone for once and collectively boycott White House press conferences until Acosta is restored? Failures are on the corporate media side as well.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe departs Japan on a five-day tour of Singapore, Australia, and Papua New Guinea.

—Theresa May’s Conservative government on the ropes as her Brexit minister suddenly resigns in protest.

—Reports afoot that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may be agreeing to a peace treaty with Russia on the basis that the Russians have suggested for decades but Japan rejected: Two of the disputed islands would be returned and the others would not.

Economy

—National Tax Agency and Nissan Motor Company are in a dispute over 20 billion yen (about US$182 million) of the firm’s FY2016 income that was parked in a subsidiary in Bermuda. The dispute is over whether or not the Nissan parent company should have declared this income.

—JR Hokkaido expecting to post record loss in FY2018 of about 17.5 billion yen (about US$155 million). JR Hokkaido remains the least successful product of the break-up of Japan National Railways in 1987, and this year was hit by typhoon and earthquake damage as well.

—Nippon Steel turned away South Korean lawyers who came to discuss the recent South Korean Supreme Court ruling on compensation for wartime forced labor. Nippon Steel has decided to hide behind Abe government intransigence and refuses to take any responsibility.

—In an unusual move for the Japanese business world, the new management team of Suruga Bank has filed a lawsuit against the former management team for mishandling loan policies and creating avoidable financial losses.

—US Vice-President Mike Pence uses his visit to Tokyo to pile on pressure for Japan to sign a new, detrimental bilateral trade agreement with the United States that the Japanese don’t want. It is unclear if the Abe government will ultimately refuse or buckle under.

—This year is proving to be one of the weakest years for Abenomics. The third quarter of 2018 shows a decline of 0.3% (annualized -1.2%) in the Japanese economy. The whole design of Abenomics is to overspend now in order to stimulate more growth. It’s starting to stumble.

—After continuing massive purchases, the Bank of Japan’s asset holdings reached 553.6 trillion yen (about US$4.9 trillion), more than the entire Japanese national GDP of 552.8 trillion yen, according to end-of-June figures. Its proportionally far more than the USA or Europe.

—IKEA reportedly planning to open its first outlet in central Tokyo. It will be next to Harajuku Station with a planned opening in spring 2020.

Society

—In a sign Japan changing, a lawsuit to be filed against the use of taxpayer money for any ceremony surrounding the enthronement of the next Emperor that can be deemed to be religious. They will argue that it violates the Constitution’s separation of religion and state.

—Ministry of Justice to make it more difficult for the foreign laborers accepted under new visa categories to become permanent residents by not counting any of the time they live in Japan under the new visa categories towards to five-year minimum period.

—The Stink! Workers at the new Toyosu Fish Market are complaining of extremely foul smells emanating from certain parts of the facility. The more modern and air-tight building construction is proving to have an unforeseen (and insalubrious) consequence.

—Cabinet approves bill that will make a ten-day Golden Week holiday next year to celebrate the enthronement of the new Emperor. According to the plan, work will end Friday, April 26, and the next workday will be Tuesday, May 7.

—Yokosuka city in Kanagawa Prefecture to join a growing list of local municipalities that will officially recognize LGBT partnerships. The conservative national government continues to drag its feet, but changes are happening at the grassroots level of Japanese society.

—Japan Meteorological Agency is debating its warning and information systems for the next major Nankai Trough earthquake series. The last major quake to hit Tokyo was 1923. Historically, Tokyo is already decades overdue for the next one.

—After a three-year court battle, the Osaka High Court acquits a tattooist for operating without a medical license. This overturns a lower court ruling that found that a medical license is necessary for tattooists.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between November 9 and November 15.

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