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Ichiro Ozawa Granted Entry to Democratic Party For the People

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

Top Headline

—The merger of the Democratic Party For the People and the Liberal Party finally goes forward. Perhaps the most significant result is that Ichiro Ozawa is no longer isolated in a tiny opposition party, but is now back in the mainstream of opposition politics.


—Tsuyoshi Tabata, the Liberal Democratic Party House of Representatives lawmaker who resigned last month over a “woman problem,” is being referred to prosecutors on rape charges.

—Tomoko Horaguchi has been elected to the Suginami City Council. She is backed by the Japan Revolutionary Communist League, National Committee (chukakuha), a rare case of someone on the far left being elected to office.

—Freelance journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka sues the Foreign Ministry for seizing his passport. The government has been preventing him from going abroad to cover war zones. Tsuneoka and his supporters argue that fundamental democratic rights are being violated by the government.

—Okinawa’s new representative Tomohiro Yara joins the Democratic Party For the People. This is related to the fact that he replaced Denny Tamaki, who was secretary-general of the Liberal Party, which is in turn merging with the Democratic Party For the People.

—One notable characteristic of allowing Akihito to abdicate is that Naruhito will become Emperor in an atmosphere of celebration, rather than overshadowed by mourning for the death of his father.

—Among this month’s crop of new politicians is Puranik Yogendra, the first Japanese politician of Indian heritage. Backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, he was elected to the Edogawa City Council.

—The Protect the Nation from NHK political party did reasonably well in local elections, getting some of its candidates elected to city councils. They have thus decided to run 10 candidates in July’s House of Councillors elections.

—Leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Democratic Party For the People, Japan Communist Party, and Social Democratic Party marched in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade, affirming their support for LGBT rights.


—Japan and Russia deputy foreign ministers agree to establish working group to address legal aspects of joint economic projects on the disputed islands. Over two years since talks on joint projects were agreed, legal questions only being seriously addressed now.

—Japan’s Diplomatic Bluebook 2019 removes Japan’s direct claim of ownership over the four disputed Northern Territories. Last year’s document stated that “the four northern islands belong to Japan.” This language has now been removed.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono insists that “the legal position of the government has not changed” despite language about the Northern Territories belonging to Japan being excluded from the Diplomatic Bluebook; intention is to avoid angering Russia ahead of Putin visit in June.

—Hokkaido Shinbun editorial criticizes the disappearance of Japan’s explicit claim to the Northern Territories from the Diplomatic Bluebook 2019. It also notes that the Bluebook includes no mention of the 1993 Tokyo Declaration. It describes Japan’s attitude as “servile.” The 1993 Tokyo Declaration is important because it mentions all four of the disputed islands. By contrast, the 1956 Joint Declaration, which is now the basis for negotiations, mentions only the two smaller islands of Shikotan and the Habomais.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama criticizes edits to the Diplomatic Bluebook which remove Japan’s explicit claim to the Northern Territories: “This is a big problem. It raises the question of whether Japan’s position has changed.”

—Hokkaido’s new governor Naomichi Suzuki will attend the Russia-Japan governors’ meeting in Moscow on May 13. It will be his first overseas trip since taking office this month. The governors’ meeting began in 1968 but has been held irregularly since.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono asked by opposition if talks with Russia are still based on 1993 Tokyo Declaration and 2001 Irkutsk Statement. He avoids answering, mentioning only the 1956 Joint Declaration. This differs from Abe who said that Tokyo Declaration is still relevant.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says that he welcomed the Putin-Kim meeting, describing it as contributing to the denuclearization process. He also stressed Japan and Russia share the goal of Korean denuclearization. While true, their favored means have differed significantly.

—There are now more than forty sister-city relationships between Russia and Japan. The first was agreed between Nakhodka and Maizuru in 1961. The most recent is Sochi and Nagato in 2018. Next may be Kronshtadt and Fuji city.

—Brigadier General Christopher Mahoney, deputy commander of US Forces Japan, tells the media that he supports allowing civilian airliners to use Yokota Air Base during the Olympics, but that bilateral talks on the matter are currently underway.

—Revealed that in January South Korea warned Japan it would activate its firing radar if Japanese patrol aircraft attempted to “buzz” (perform a threatening flyover of) its warships, after a naval spat that flared up in December. Japan demanded a retraction, but was rebuffed.

—As is typical of the Abe government after all its preaching about “rule of law” in international affairs, whenever an international court rules against them, as the WTO just did on South Korea’s Fukushima seafood ban, they whine that the international courts are biased.

—Having lost its case against South Korea in the WTO, the “rule of law” Abe government now trying to enlist the Trump administration to overturn the WTO judgment and growling darkly about the need to “reform” the WTO, with discussions to be held at the G20.

—Osaka Prefectural Police will close almost all major sections of the Hanshin Expressway for up to four days, June 27 to June 30, for the G20 Summit. In our age of profound inequality, convenience for a handful of world leaders takes precedence over the needs of millions.

—JTB Corporation is forcibly cancelling all planned tours to Sri Lanka through June 16, arguing that they can’t guarantee the safety of travelers. H.I.S is continuing its Sri Lanka tours. Both companies are letting customers cancel for free.

—Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send an emergency response team to Sri Lanka to confirm the safety of and to render assistance to Japanese nationals in the country after the recent terrorist attacks.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visiting Brussels and the leaders of the European Union, declares that “we must absolutely avoid a No Deal Brexit.” Once again, Abe pushing hard for a policy that goes against the position of the ERG wing of the UK’s Conservative Party.


—Tesla and Panasonic in a public dispute over the pace of production at the Gigafactory. Since Panasonic makes the batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles, the discord potentially has very high stakes.

—METI Minister Hiroshige Seko downplays the economic impact on Japan of cutting off oil imports from Iran in accordance with unilateral US threats of sanctions. Once again, damage done to Japanese interests by the US government are swept under the carpet as being unimportant.

—Renault continues proposing a merger with Nissan, pretending that Nissan’s coup against Carlos Ghosn wasn’t entirely about a Japanese nationalist reaction against the idea of such a merger. Nissan executives don’t have a global business strategy, only nationalist instincts.

—Tokyo prosecutors have tried to bar Carole Ghosn from visiting her husband Carlos Ghosn in prison, accusing her of interfering in their case against him. (This comes after the prosecutors stole Ghosn’s defense strategy notes). The court does not agree to ban Carole Ghosn. At this point we must say that even if Carlos Ghosn was guilty of every single charge that the prosecutors and Nissan have thrown at him, the threats to justice and democracy posed by the Japanese government’s handling of this matter is the far greater concern.

—Although the specifics are not known, it is confirmed that French President Emmanuel Macron brought up the issue of Carlos Ghosn’s long detention when he met with visiting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

—Violating an agreement with Renault, the Hiroto Saikawa-led Nissan promotes executives loyal to the new nationalist regime and pushes out foreigners and Japanese who are known to be close to Carlos Ghosn.

—The Tokyo District Court defies prosecutors a second time and grant Carlos Ghosn bail. The bail money this time is set at 500 million yen, or almost US$5 million. For those keeping count, if released on bail, Carlos Ghosn will have spent US$13.5 million in the last couple of months to get himself released from prison; at the same time he has lost jobs, had severance packages cancelled, and lawyers’ fees — even if found 100% innocent.

—Carlos Ghosn is back out of detention, but now he is ordered not to have contact with his own wife as one of the conditions. Ghosn complies but describes the condition as “cruel and unnecessary… We love each other very much.”

—Renault expected to propose the creation of a holding company under which Renault and Nissan would be merged. However, Nissan Motors, with its new nationalist regime, is expected to refuse. After all, what was whole point of the coup against Ghosn but to avoid this?

—Nuclear Regulation Authority orders Kyushu Electric to complete its mandated counter-terrorism safety measures by March 2020 or have its permission to operate the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant suspended.

—More than eight years after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, TEPCO is able to transfer some nuclear fuel from the reactors. Seven unspent fuel rod assemblies were transferred to a pool about 100 meters away. There are 559 more in the No. 3 reactor alone.

—Nuclear Regulation Authority warns TEPCO to improve its security over nuclear materials. Last December a key to one of the buildings containing nuclear materials went missing and the TEPCO staff didn’t notice for more than a week.

—Fair Trade Commission mulls applying anti-trust law to the convenience store chains that may be unreasonably forcing franchisees to stay open 24 hours a day. The argument is that the chains are abusing their positions of power against the individual store owners.

—Novatek to sell 20% stake in Arctic LNG-2 to CNPC & CNOOC. Total already has a 10% stake. Talks underway with Saudi investors, as well as with Mitsui and Mitsubishi. Novatek Chairman Leonid Mikhelson has spoken of the Japanese side’s “good proposal.”

—Abe government trying to draw a clear line between bilateral trade talks and currency talks. Of course, past history shows that if Washington decides to increase the pressure on Tokyo, Japan’s ruling conservatives are willing to give up basically anything.

—US President Donald Trump uses latest visit to Washington by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pour on pressure over trade issues. Trump declares that the terms of the new US-Japan trade agreement may be set before his May visit to Japan.

—US President Donald Trump pushing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “to get rid of” all of Japan’s agricultural tariffs.

—METI has hold of a scheme to build a special theater district somewhere in Tokyo that would be the Japanese equivalent to New York’s Broadway or London’s West End.


—Ministry of the Environment reports that two endangered dugong, believed to be a parent and child, were spotted by helicopter near Hateruma Island, Okinawa Prefecture, the southernmost island of Japan, in August 2018.

—Promising Japanese startup Seven Dreamers Laboratories files for bankruptcy and suspends its business operations. They had gained notability with their laundry-folding robot, Laundroid.

—Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications starting to move decisively to accelerate the establishment of 5G infrastructure, now offering public subsidies to the companies upgrading base stations from 4G.

—The Abe government once again bends to the will of its big business allies and drops the goal to eliminate coal-fired thermal power plants, a major source of CO2. The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) argued that the coal plants are low cost and should be maintained.

—While it continues to grow in audience and revenue, LINE records a 10.3 billion yen (US$93 million) financial loss in the January-March quarter.

—Although the Abe government is unwilling to move decisively, Electric Power Development Company (J-Power) has announced that it will “review the plan” to build a coal-fired thermal power plant in Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

—According to Carbon Brief, Japan is the No. 6 country in the world when it comes to putting greenhouse gases into the air, cumulative through the industrial era. Only the USA, China, Russia, Germany, and the UK are more responsible for climate change.


—Nagasaki University announces that it will no longer hire professors who smoke and who won’t promise to quit smoking if they are employed: “We have reached a conclusion that smokers are not fit for the education sector.”

—A female journalist sues Nagasaki city after they refuse to apologize and take preventive measures in the wake of the reporter being sexually assaulted by a senior city official. The city official himself committed suicide, but the city government taking no responsibility.

—Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reports that as of last October 1 there were a total of 8,460,000 abandoned homes in Japan, reflecting the nation’s depopulation and struggles of rural economies.

—The Immigration Services Agency to tighten standards for Japanese-language schools, concerned that they have been used as funnels to bring foreigners to Japan who then illegally take up paying jobs.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between April 23 and April 29.

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