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Democracy Denied in Okinawa

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

Rolling Coverage: Okinawa

—Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court again backs the Abe government and confirms the “Guilty” verdict on Okinawa Peace Action Center head Hiroji Yamashiro for his actions to block construction of the US Marine airbase at Henoko.

—Abe government begins the wholesale destruction of the Henoko coastline, pouring sand and soil into Oura Bay to construct the landing strips for US Marine aircraft.

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya states that Futenma Air Base will not be returned by the US Marines to Japan in 2022 as earlier envisioned. He provides no date at which is expected to happen.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: “Building the Henoko base is the Only Solution for maintaining deterrence under the US-Japan Alliance and removing the danger of Futenma Air Base.”

—Encouraged by the Abe government, conservative-dominated city and town councils attempting to disrupt planned Okinawa popular referendum on Henoko base construction. Yonaguni City Council refusing any local budget to hold the referendum.

—This natural coastline in Okinawa will soon no longer exist, turned into a concrete landing strip for US Marines. It’s a new base that many military experts admit is not really needed. But because the Okinawan people are politically marginalized, their heritage to be destroyed.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki: “The national government had better realize that through their actions the anger of the Okinawan people will become more and more enflamed.”

—Protester Art: Santa Abe brings the people of Okinawa good cheer and a big bag of dirt to destroy their natural heritage. This is the Abe government’s Christmas present for Okinawa and for democracy in this nation.

—Veterans For Peace petitioning the US Congress to stop the landfill activities at Henoko: “The Henoko base construction is framed by the history of colonization and racism against Okinawans.”

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki visits the Camp Schwab gates in Henoko and cheers on the anti-base protesters: “When the time for resistance comes, then resist!” he declares.

Politics

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan wins its first-ever prefectural assembly seat by election. This occurred in the Ibaraki elections this weekend. However, the Liberal Democratic Party won 34 seats and will still dominate the chamber.

—Although many analysts believe that the political clock is now against him, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once again asserts that he will revise the Constitution: “There is no change in my hope to see a new constitution take effect in 2020,” he declared.

—The report of my death was an exaggeration! Conservative Yomiuri Shinbun boss Tsuneo Watanabe, 92, appeared in public for the first time in quite a while last night. He attended a banquet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a Tokyo hotel.

—Former Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba makes clear that he does not intend to apply to join the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan even when most other members of the Group of Independents do so.

—In an attempt to recover from the Mio Sugita fiasco, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to submit legislation next year asserting their support for a tolerant society accepting of LGBT people. It’s not clear if the measures will go beyond the symbolic.

—Akihisa Nagashima’s plans to establish a new rightwing opposition party founder when he can’t find the needed four other lawmakers to join him, the minimum condition for the establishment of a national political party.

—As all the critics had said would happen, the Tax Agency admits that about 700,000 MyNumbers of individual citizens have been improperly leaked. A company in Tokyo which was hired by the Tax Agency violated the rules and forwarded individual data to other companies.

International

—Japan Communist Party and Okinawan politicians continue to point out what the mainstream media in Japan routinely ignores, that US military privileges under the Japan SOFA are much greater than they are in European nations like Germany.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono raises controversy by repeatedly refusing to answer questions about Russia’s position on the disputed Southern Kuriles / Northern Territories. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan executive Kiyomi Tsujimoto hyperbolically declares Kono “worse than US President Trump.”

—US military gives up the search for the US Marines who went missing after two aircraft collided over the seas off Kochi Prefecture during an exercise. The official toll is therefore six Marines dead and one survivor.

—A 55-year-old Chinese man is grabbed by security forces outside Yasukuni Shrine when he burned a newspaper, apparently in protest to the Nanjing Massacre of 1937-1938. Reports suggest that he is a known political activist.

—Defense Ministry to drop its expression “dynamic joint defense force” in favor of “multidimensional joint defense force.”

Economy

—Revised data shows that Japan’s economic performance in the July-September 2018 period was the second-worst since Shinzo Abe returned to power. The growth rate was -0.6% (annualized -2.5%). That’s more than twice as big a drop as initial figures reported.

—Tokyo prosecutors indict Carlos Ghosn, Greg Kelly, and Nissan Motors as a corporation on charges of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act. They face a 99% conviction rate under Japan’s curious legal system.

—Carlos Ghosn’s lawyers file an appeal to have him released from detention, but the judge quickly rejects it, backing prosecutors, as usual, who contend that Ghosn is a “flight risk.”

—Renault board said to be divided about keeping Carlos Ghosn on as Chairman for the long period he is being kept hostage by Japanese prosecutors. Director Cherie Blair (wife of Tony Blair) calling for Ghosn to be dropped quickly, without him able to defend himself.

—Japan Investment Corporation looks set to implode after only several months in existence, with most of its private-sector leadership set to resign. METI at first promised to give them independence in making investments, then began heavy-handed interference.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explains why Japan’s government is banning Huawei and ZTE from government contracts: “It is extremely crucial not to procure equipment that embeds malicious functions including information theft and destruction.”

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicates that the Japanese government’s new ban on the purchase of telecoms equipment made by Huawei and ZTE is not meant to extend to Japanese private businesses at this time. However, in spite of Suga’s claim, in practice Japan’s major telecommunications companies like NTT Docomo, SoftBank, and KDDI are, in fact, imposing their own bans on buying Huawei and ZTE equipment and are likely to shadow Abe government policy.

—SoftBank reportedly doing more than just banning future equipment purchases from Huawei; they are actually replacing the Huawei telecommunications equipment that they have already installed.

—Post-October 2019 cashless payment tax rebates getting ridiculous. The current notion is that the effective cashless payment consumption tax will be 5% at small stores and 8% at large corporate chains. People who pay cash will face a 10% consumption tax. Any questions?

—Tokyo prosecutors ask for a ten-year prison sentence for Mark Karpeles, former CEO of Mt. Gox, which was handling over 70% of all bitcoin transactions worldwide for a period earlier this decade, before its collapse. Prosecutors say Karpeles embezzled from the company.

—The European Parliament has ratified the new trade agreement with Japan, meaning that it will be effectuated in February, perhaps improving the availability and prices of some consumer goods in Japan.

Society

—Juntendo University enters the hall of shame after a third party report confirms that this Japanese university too discriminated against women in its entrance exam processes.

—Nihon University owns up to the fact that it altered exam results to favor the children of past alumni. Japan’s entire “Exam Hell” tradition is supposedly built on its fairness to all applicants, but clearly even that advantage has been undermined in recent years.

—At Tokyo Medical University, 11 of the 16 board of directors members have resigned en masse over the entrance exam discrimination scandal. The five who did not resign are those who joined the board after the scandal broke in order to clean up the public mess.

—Ministry of Resident Foreigners? With the upgrade of the Immigration Bureau to become the Immigration Agency, there are proposals within the government to create a full ministry that would handle almost all matters related to foreign residents in Japan.

—The Foreigner Desk: Abe government planning to set up “inquiry counters” in about a hundred locations around the country with the mandate to give advice to resident foreigners who come and visit them.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says foreign workers to be sent out to more rural areas: “When the revised labor law was passed, there was a supplementary resolution to prevent workers from concentrating in Tokyo. We would like to properly address that issue.”

—Supreme Court rules that Hoshu Sokuho, a rightwing aggregator website, must pay 2 million yen (about US$18,000) in damages for defamatory and discriminatory attacks against a Korean woman.

—Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii confirms that the number of inbound international tourists arriving in Japan in 2018 will set another new record, this time above 30 million. The Abe government wants to add another 10 million within two years.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between December 10 and December 14.

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