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Ghosn Prosecutors Double Down

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

Rolling Coverage: Carlos Ghosn

—Tokyo court rejects extension of Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly detention, boosting their chances of getting out on bail. Finally, they may soon be able to tell their side of the story and defend themselves in public after weeks of character assassination.

—Judges in Japan almost always grant prosecutors’ requests to hold suspects longer. The fact that this judge turned down the request is the first overt sign we’ve seen that the legal establishment in Japan is groaning under the weight of international criticism.

—Carlos Ghosn makes his first public statement since his arrest, communicated through his lawyer: “Things as they stand are absolutely unacceptable. I want to have my position heard and restore my honor in court.”

—Prosecutors doubling down: They have re-arrested Carlos Ghosn, again, on new charges. This might mean no release on bail as has been reported last night and this morning.

—Prosecutors have told NHK that the judge’s decision not to allow the extension of the detention of Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly was “unjust” and dangerous, because they would likely flee the country. This group of prosecutors is REALLY intransigent.

—Unbelievable! The new charges filed against Carlos Ghosn relate to actions he took ten years ago. There is a seven-year statute of limitations on these kinds of offenses, but prosecutors argue that time Ghosn spent overseas shouldn’t count as time that has elapsed.

—The court approves Tokyo prosecutors’ request to hold Carlos Ghosn for another ten days, until January 1. Looks like he’ll be spending both Christmas and New Years 2019 behind bars, without being able to defend himself in public.

Politics

—2020 Olympics and Cybersecurity Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada: “There are two things that I’ve been feeling ashamed about since I became a lawmaker: Not being able to use a computer and not being able to speak English.”

—Yukio Edano: Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to be welcome to join the parliamentary caucus of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan so long as he agrees to support the party’s position of opposing the consumption tax hike to 10%.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan moving toward making Seiji Osaka the progressive candidate for Hokkaido governor. The party is hopeful that Hokkaido could become their main electoral stronghold if they do well next year.

—Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura reportedly considering a shock double resignation in order to force the Osaka Restoration Party’s central policy of a second referendum on Osaka unification back on the table, especially vis-a-vis Komeito. This maneuver may include some unusual moves, including the possibility that Matsui will step down as governor for a while and not immediately run again, or that Mayor Yoshimura may run for the gubernatorial post. At any rate, they are contemplating a high-risk strategy.

—Shunji Kono elected to a third term as Governor of Miyazaki Prefecture.

International

—Reports indicate that the Abe government will pull Japan out of the International Whaling Commission, since they haven’t been able to get their way in policy terms and have turned a blind eye to international criticism, and court judgments, of their whale hunts. With its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission, the Abe government reportedly planning to authorize (openly) commercial whaling in the near future, now unencumbered by international agreements and in defiance of world opinion.

—Astrid Fuchs, Whale and Dolphin Conservation: “The Japanese government is officially turning its back on international cooperation around conservation measures, and one of the greatest conservation agreements ever made – the ban on commercial whaling.”

—Asahi Shinbun: “Tokyo should not withdraw from the IWC… If Japan does so, it will risk being viewed as a nation that is ready to quit a high-profile international venue simply because its own arguments are not accepted. The plan to quit can only be labeled as shortsighted.”

—As widely anticipated, Kim Jong-Un now backtracking from his denuclearization promise to Donald Trump. North Korea explains that mutual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula also includes nuclear weapons aimed at them from nearby countries, including Japan.

—Another major lawsuit is filed in South Korea, this one by over 1,100 people, calling for compensation regarding Japanese companies that used them as forced laborers during the Pacific War.

—South Korean warship locks its fire-control radar onto a Self-Defense Forces patrol plane over the Sea of Japan, according to the Defense Ministry. The Abe government is taking this as a serious incident.

—South Korea’s Ministry of Defense is denying Japan’s Ministry of Defense’s claim that a South Korean warship locked its fire-control radar on a Japanese patrol plane. This whole dispute seems like a big yawn to us, but the Abe government is treating it like a huge outrage.

—Russian President Vladimir Putin has apparently told the Abe government that their plan to purchase and deploy the Aegis Ashore system is making it difficult for Russia to return any island territories and sign a peace treaty.

—Newly released diplomatic documents show that the “two islands plus alpha” proposal to solve the Southern Kuriles-Northern Territories dispute was on the table during Abe’s grandfather’s time as prime minister as well, almost sixty years ago.

—Okinawa Prefectural Assembly passes resolution demanding that landfill operations to build Henoko airbase be suspended immediately. The minority Liberal Democratic Party votes against the resolution, and Komeito and the Japan Innovation Party leave the chamber so as not to have to vote on it.

—Okinawa to conduct special House of Representatives election on April 21 to fill the District 3 seat that opened up when Denny Tamaki became Governor. It will likely be another key contest between the anti-base All-Okinawa forces and the pro-base Liberal Democratic Party.

—Aiko Shimajiri to be the Liberal Democratic Party candidate for the April 21 by-election for the House of Representatives Okinawa District 3 seat, which had been Denny Tamaki’s seat before he was elected Governor.

—It appears the Abe government’s campaign to disrupt the February 24 Okinawa referendum on Henoko construction will be at least partially successful. Conservative-controlled municipalities are refusing to conduct the poll, which will later be argued makes it unrepresentative.

—Osaka’s Sakai City Council passes a resolution demanding that the Abe government enter into sincere talks with the Okinawa Prefectural Government over Henoko base construction. They are concerned about the violation of local community rights.

—Abe government looking to purchase a total of 147 Lockheed Martin F-35 jet fighters, which will make Japan the second-largest customer for the warplane after the United States itself. It seems that if Shinzo Abe cannot get the revision of the pacifist Constitution that he dreams about, he’ll at least get the next best thing: Military policies that make a mockery of what the despised Constitution mandates for the nation.

—Japanese media reports that the Japanese government, like many other governments around the world, are worried about the departure of Jim Mattis as US Defense Secretary. He was seen as a crucial stabilizing influence over the chaotic Trump administration.

—China to soon surpass Japan in yet another field. It is to become the 2nd largest financial contributor to the United Nations, with Japan falling to the third spot. As one result, Japan’s campaign to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council is also fading.

Economy

—Nomura Research Institute reports that extremely rich households have doubled since 2011, indicating increasing wealth inequality in Japan as well. Compared to most other developed countries, however, Japan is still pretty socially equitable in economic terms.

—Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee now puts the budget level for hosting the 2020 Olympics at 1.35 trillion yen (about US$12 billion). The Board of Audit expects it will be more than double that figure. The “Compact Olympics” bid becoming one of the most expensive.

—Trump administration likely to soon begin serious effort to push Japan to raise the value of the Yen. The Abe government likely to resist the push. If it does happen, it is bad news for those paid in Dollars.

—Right now: US$1.00 = 111.1 Yen. Worries about the Trump economy causing the Dollar to depreciate versus the Yen and some other currencies.

Technology

—Over the New Years Holiday, JR East planning to conduct its first tests of self-driving trains on the Tokyo Yamanote Line.

—National Police Agency presents legislation that would begin to legalize the use of self-driving cars on Japanese public roads. The level of autonomous authorization would progressively increase as the technology gains more trust.

Society

—Emperor Akihito has decided that he will make no effort to renew his driver’s license when it reaches its current expiration in January. He has been licensed to drive since 1954, when he was 20 years old.

—Emperor Akihito turns 85, which will be his last birthday while serving as Emperor. Akihito: “It gives me deep comfort that the Heisei Era is coming to an end, free of war in Japan… I have believed it is important to pass on this history accurately to those born after the war.” (Unlike Prime Minister Abe, Akihito means “accurately” as objectively true).

—Over 80,000 people came to the Imperial Palace for birthday greetings to Emperor Akihito, which was the largest crowd ever for a birthday during his thirty-year reign.

—Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that about 921,000 babies will have been born in Japan by the end of the year. That’s the lowest number on record, and the records go back to 1899. Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare also estimates that the natural fall in Japan’s population in 2018 will be about 448,000 people, also the largest decline ever recorded in the country.

—Tokyo Tower reaches 60 years old today, having opened in December 1958 as a triumphant symbol of the growing, peaceful postwar Japan.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between December 20 and December 23.

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A roundup of the most significant news stories from Japan reported on December 24, 2018.

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