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Abe Government to Media: Forced Labor Wasn’t Forced

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

Top Headline

—”Forced Labor” vs. “Wartime Labor”: The Abe government appears to be pressuring the news media to stop referring to “forced labor” in preference to their term “wartime labor.”

Politics

—A lot of the theories about the collapse of Japan Times swirl around Publisher & Chair Minako Kambara Suematsu, whom some allege is close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. She has, at minimum, taken photographs with Abe and posted them on her blog (she is in the gray kimono).

—Rightwing Ethics: It has been revealed that the DAY BEFORE she left the rightwing party she then led, the Kokoro Party, Kyoko Nakayama transferred 210 million yen (US$1.9 million) to her own political bank account. Not technically illegal, but a betrayal of public trust.

—Regional Revitalization Minister Satsuki Katayama forced to “revise” her political funding reports for a fourth time since gaining her ministerial portfolio. At best, she has been remarkably sloppy about maintaining the official reports.

—Zenroren, the labor union federation associated with the Japan Communist Party, starting to livestream its street speeches as a step toward modernization.

—Ichita Yamamoto has firmed up his intention to run for the post of Governor of Gunma Prefecture. He is one of the more media-savvy and accessible lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

International

—Abe government reportedly considering the seizure of South Korean assets in Japan if any move is made to enforce the South Korean Supreme Court’s wartime forced laborer judgements against Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

—Russian NGO survey finds that only 17% of Russians support handing over the four disputed islands to Japan, while 74% oppose a handover. Apparently the option of handing over only Shikotan and the Habomais wasn’t polled.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asks Chinese President Xi Jinping to lift his country’s ban on food imports from the ten prefectures closest to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Xi gives a non-committal reply.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asks UK Prime Minister Theresa May to avoid a “no deal” Brexit as well as “to ensure transparency, predictability and legal stability in the Brexit process.”

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, making clear that little matters such as the torture and murder of prominent journalists shouldn’t stand between powerful gentlemen.

—Abe government uses another dirty trick to force Henoko base construction. Blocked from use of the public port of Motobu, they made use of a private pier owned by Ryukyu Cement Company to load boats with sand and soil.

—Abe government announces that its wholesale destruction of the Henoko coastline will commence on December 14, not waiting for the results of legal cases and dispute mechanisms before violating the clearly expressed democratic will of the Okinawan people.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki denounces loading of sand and soil for Henoko destruction using Ryukyu Cement Company pier. He says it was illegal because not authorized by the prefectural government, and suggests the local company too may face sanctioning.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki’s threat of sanctions against Ryukyu Cement Company appear to have quickly had an effect as the Defense Ministry suspends use of its pier for loading Henoko-bound sand and soil. Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya says he’s investigating the facts.

—Two city councils dominated by conservatives, Ishigaki and Ginowan, have passed resolutions stating opposition to holding the prefecture-wide referendum on Henoko base construction. Their supposed grounds is that it will cost taxpayer money.

—Judiciary once again lines up 100% behind the Abe government against democracy in Okinawa, with the Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court refusing to issue an injunction against Henoko base construction.

—Break about the hamburgers and Diet Coke! Ready the golf course! Plans are afoot to host US President Donald Trump on a second state visit to Japan next May, shortly after Naruhito becomes the next Emperor.

—Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has been sent as Japan’s envoy to the funeral of US President George H. W. Bush.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announces that a total of 180 ghost ships from North Korea have washed up on or near the Sea of Japan coastline since the beginning of the year.

—Two Marine Corps aircraft from Air Station Iwakuni apparently collided while conducting a mid-air refueling exercise off the coast of Kochi Prefecture. First reports say that seven Marines were aboard the planes. Rescue operations are underway.

—US Navy conducted warship tour near territorial waters to antagonize Russia as they frequently antagonize China. The statement says the purpose was “to challenge Russia’s excessive maritime claims and uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea.”

—Abe government mulls defense budget outlay for laser weapon meant to shoot planes, drones, and even mortar shells out of the sky.

Economy

—Childcare workers continue to be scarce, making it difficult for many women to enter or remain in the workforce. This issue has been highlighted in parliamentary debate and the media for several years, but the Abe government can’t seem to act effectively. Note that this follows the release of statistics showing that the government’s Japanese-language requirements for foreign caregivers have resulted in only 247 people being accepted for what was supposed to be 5,000 openings. Is Japan just shooting itself in the foot again?

—Another fissure opens in the prosecution’s case against Carlos Ghosn. Nissan had not set aside any money for Ghosn’s post-retirement payments, adding support to his contention that the payments hadn’t really been fully decided.

—Sankei Shinbun reports that prosecutors planning to rearrest Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly so that they can keep them cut off from the world at least until the end of year. They will be rearrested for the same charge, but different years. Prosecutors refuse to confirm.

—Nissan Motors is apparently hesitating to move forward with selecting a replacement for Carlos Ghosn as chairman, perhaps because they are now starting to feel the heat of criticism after they betrayed their former leader over a weak case they fed to the prosecutors.

—Nissan refuses Renault’s request to replace Carlos Ghosn as chairman with another officer from Renault. This adds even more evidence that Nissan’s betrayal of Ghosn was not about any wrongdoing on his part, but part of a boardroom coup from the Japanese side.

—Human Rights Watch says Japan needs to “reform its laws and policies to end violence and harassment in the workplace,” and that the Abe government’s current proposals don’t pass muster.

—The government’s FY2019 regular budget will likely exceed 100 trillion yen (about US$884 billion) for the first time.

—Ministry of Finance says that tax revenue are on pace to set a record high this year. The final figure for 2018 will likely exceed 60 trillion yen (about US$530 billion). Corporate tax revenues in particular have been higher this year.

—Ruling coalition on verge of passing legislation that revise the Water Supply Act (1957) so as to allow private companies to run municipal water services.

Technology

—NHK and other Japanese television networks inaugurated 4K and 8K broadcasting.

—Tokyo Telemessage, the only pager service provider remaining in Japan, to end its services next September. Pagers are about to become an entirely defunct technology in Japan.

—Convenience store chain Ministop to begin accepting cashless services Rakuten Pay, PayPay, and LINE Pay nationally from December 17.

Society

—Abe government planning a standardized Japanese-language test for some of immigrants under the new visa categories. The Japan Foundation is reportedly involved in this project.

—Seven-Eleven Japan asks all of its franchise outlets in Tokyo to remove ashtrays from the front of their stores. More Japanese are complaining about the health risks of passive smoking and Seven Eleven now sees the ashtrays as a net negative for business.

—The new Yamanote Line train station to open between Tamachi and Shinagawa to be named “Takanawa Gateway Station.”

—Speaking of new stations in Tokyo, there will be a new station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line opening in 2020 between Kasumigaseki and Kamiyacho. The name of the new station has just been announced: Toranomon Hills Station.

—Abe government now thinking about April 11 as the day that the new Imperial era name will be announced, giving calendar makers and computer programmers even less time to prepare for the changeover. Akihito to abdicate the throne on April 30.

—Tokyo police used camera footage to identify 15 people involved in turning over a truck in Shibuya as part of Halloween celebrations. Five of those identified were foreigners from the UK and France. Police arrest four Japanese whose actions deemed the worst behavior.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between December 1 and December 5.

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