Abe: Inflation Target Never “Real Objective” of Abenomics
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the second week of June 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finds a new way to excuse the utter failure of Abenomics after six years to achieve its central 2% annual inflation goal: He now claims it was not his “real objective” so its okay that the target was never hit. Move the goalposts and say you scored.
—Foreign Ministry has delayed issuing a passport to journalist Jumpei Yasuda for five months. The Abe government now seems to be regularizing its policy of trying to stop all of Japan’s war zone journalists from doing their jobs.
—Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Japanese authorities to issue new passports without delay to war correspondents and ex-hostages Jumpei Yasuda and Kosuke Tsuneoka.
—The Abe government’s maneuvers in the Diet leading even ruling party lawmakers to believe that the prime minister intends to call a double election this summer.
—With not much to crow about in terms of ethical administration, economic vitality, or much anything else, the Liberal Democratic Party’s House of Councillors campaign to focus on Abe doing a good job managing Donald Trump and the US alliance.
—Another big win for the Osaka Restoration Association, which is on a roll. Their candidate Hideki Nagafuji wins the Sakai city mayoral race, turning a city government that had been their No. 1 local enemy on Osaka unification into an allied force.
—Antonio Inoki gives up his plan to run for reelection in the House of Councillors elections this summer, in spite of his new alliance with the Democratic Party For the People. This may represent his retirement from politics, though he will remain active about North Korea.
—Empress Emerita Michiko, 84, diagnosed with heart valve abnormalities and an irregular pulse.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan proposes revising Imperial Household Law to allow the possibility of Emperors on female bloodlines as well as female Emperors. Conservatives expected to be outraged as many of them think they own all Emperor-related issues.
—Cultural Affairs Agency expected to back Foreign Minister Taro Kono’s campaign to reverse the order of Japanese names in foreign languages to put family names first. Supposedly, news media is supposed to comply.
—Human Rights Watch notes that the World Professional Association for Transgender Health has urged the government of Japan to reform its legal recognition procedure for transgender people.
—Tokyo High Court makes another typical judgment on US military base issues. It rules that late night and early morning aircraft noise at Yokota base require the Japanese government to pay damages to local residents, but issues no orders for US military to change anything.
—Defense Ministry concludes that the F-35A fighter jet crash in April was caused by pilot vertigo rather than any specific technical problem with the jet. The search to find the debris was recently suspended.
—Akita Governor Norihisa Satake upset with the Defense Ministry for offering a mistaken geographical survey and for one defense official falling asleep while briefing local citizens about the prospective Aegis Ashore facilities.
—Vladimir Putin says that Russia and Japan need to raise their level of trust if a peace treaty is to be signed. The Russian side often says this and the Abe government has sought to respond. However, it is hard to have such trust when US-Russia relations remain so tense. Putin on the US-Japan Security Treaty: “There are articles that we need to understand how they work and we need to understand the potential of Japan within the framework of this agreement to take sovereign decisions.” He also raises the issue of US bases being built in Okinawa against the will of the local people and governor. He states that Russia is concerned that the same could occur in areas of importance to Russian security. The implications of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s words are clear. He is saying, how can we consider transferring any territory to Japan if we cannot be certain that the US would not force Japan to permit it to construct military facilities there?
—Vladimir Putin on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and Japan: “Now [the US] has declared their effective withdrawal from the INF Treaty and, as far as I know, Japan has a positive attitude towards the deployment of such weapons systems on its territory.”
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declines to respond to Putin’s comments suggesting the US-Japan Security Treaty is an obstacle to a Russia-Japan peace treaty. Suga instead repeats that the government intends to continue talks to resolve the status of the islands and to sign a peace treaty.
—Shinzo Abe on Aegis Ashore: “We ourselves are installing these systems and will independently operate them. They do not represent a threat to Russia or other neighbors. Consequently, it is wrong to consider that these installations would be attacked in a conflict.” Abe is seeking to reassure the residents of Akita and Yamaguchi but he is surely wrong here. In a conflict, Japan’s adversary would seek to eliminate its missile defense systems. This is especially true if, as Russia claims, Aegis Ashore has potential offensive capabilities.
—Russia seeks agreement on proposed Sakhalin-Hokkaido visa-free zone when Putin meets Abe on June 29 in Osaka. Japan is reluctant, however, worrying that it would imply the end of the territorial dispute and recognition of the islands as part of Sakhalin. Japan is also reportedly concerned about how to regulate the movement of Russian visitors to Hokkaido (e.g. what would stop them from traveling on to Honshu?). Also, there is the worry that Japanese criminals could exploit the system to evade justice by fleeing to Sakhalin.
—Liberal Democratic Party releases policy pledges ahead of House of Councillors election. It notes the goal of resolving territorial dispute with Russia, describing the islands as “our inherent territory.” Abe’s team has avoided using these words so as not to annoy Russia.
—More than 2,000 people visit the MSDF’s Suzunami destroyer during its visit to Vladivostok. The Japanese naval ship will conduct joint search and rescue exercises with the Russian Pacific Fleet from June 15.
—Duma deputies led by Georgi Karlov have concluded their tour of the Kuril chain. Under the slogan “The Kurils Are Ours” the purpose of the tour was to commemorate the “liberation” of the islands from Japanese militarism. The trip included Iturup.
—At least four candidates will compete in election for Sakhalin governor on September 8. These will include Acting Governor Valeri Limarenko and the Communist Party’s Aleksei Kornienko, one of the organizers of protests against the transfer of the Kurils to Japan.
—Controversy brewing in South Korea over the display of Japan’s unofficial Rising Sun flag by fans. Professor Seo Kyung-Duk of Sungshin Women’s University is demanding a ban on it at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, saying it is a symbol of Japan’s past military aggression.
—Former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera holds lecture and he declares Japan-South Korea relations are doomed to be poor so long as the progressive government is in power: “I can hardly imagine that Japan-South Korea relations will improve during the Moon administration.”
—South Korea National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang finally backs down somewhat on his demand that the Japanese Emperor apologize for Comfort Women history. Moon met with visiting former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who was been working to improve bilateral relations.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Japan on his way to Iran. He will be the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit Iran since the Islamic Revolution and the second overall. Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda visited Iran in 1978, on the eve of the revolution.
—Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him, now or in future.”
—It seems that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s mission to prevent a US-Iran “accidental conflict” through Japanese diplomacy hasn’t been a resounding success, now with tankers attacked in the Persian Gulf.
—US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: Iran’s government has “insulted Japan by attacking a Japanese oil tanker just outside of Iranian waters, threatening the lives of the entire crew, creating a maritime emergency.”
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounces the attacks on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, but he does not follow the US government in immediately blaming Iran for the attacks.
—Defense Ministry accelerates landfill operations to build the new US Marine airbase at Henoko, ignoring the results of the recent referendum and the stance of the prefectural government. Governor Denny Tamaki denounces the action as illegal and undemocratic.
—Japan declines one spot in the 2019 Global Peace Index to become the world’s No. 9 most peaceful nation. Among Asian countries, Japan falls to No. 2, behind Singapore. The Abe era has seen Japan decline in most international peace and democracy indexes. For example, in the 2012 Global Peace Index, issued just before Shinzo Abe came to power, Japan was rated the No. 5 most peaceful nation in the world; the only Asian nation in the top ten. The worst consequences of Abe remilitarization campaign probably come in the future.
—The failure of the Fiat Chrysler-Renault merger negotiations attributed first and foremost to the French government, which made unacceptable demands once it got involved. Nissan’s reluctance cited as a secondary unhelpful factor.
—French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is apparently an advocate of focusing on the strengthening of the Renault-Nissan partnership, and even suggests that the French government is willing to reduce its stake in Renault to make that happen.
—Policy disputes between Hiroto Saikawa’s nationalist Nissan management and French partner Renault are becoming increasingly public. There are also indications that merger negotiations between Renault and Fiat Chrysler might be revived, though that is far from certain.
—There is a movement afoot to dump coup-plotter Hiroto Saikawa from the Nissan Motor Board of Directors. It is not seen as credible that he can completely wash his hands of the Carlos Ghosn events, as he was Ghosn’s protege the whole time before betraying his boss.
—Russia’s MegaFon and Finland’s Cinia sign an agreement on laying a fiber optic cable through the Arctic to connect Tokyo and Helsinki. The 10,000 kilometer cable is expected to need investment of about US$1 billion and could take 3-5 years to realize.
—Japan Tobacco says fake products account for 10.3% of tobacco in Russia. The Japanese firm owns five factories in Russia and has invested US$4.6 billion. It has 40% market share. As well as famous international brands, it also owns Russian Style, Peter I, and Troika brands.
—Japan is facing a shortage of capelins after the failure of the fishing season in Iceland and Norway, from where Japan imports 90% of its supplies of this fish. Japanese firms are rushing to buy up supplies from the Russian Far East.
—Right-hand-drive minibuses to be banned in Russia from July 1. New rules also being introduced that will regulate use of right-hand-drive passenger vehicles. This will affect trade with Japan, which continues to export many second-hand vehicles to the Russian Far East.
—Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak says Russia to increase LNG production five times by 2035 to take 20% of global market. 70% of exports to go to Asia. Mitsui and Japanese consortium’s deal to take 10% in Arctic LNG-2 expected to be finalized later this month.
—The Trump administration is still asking for currency exchange rate policies to be included in bilateral trade talks, but so far the Abe government continues to resist the idea.
—Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Governor Ralph Torres is in Japan on a mission to boost tourism to his Pacific territories. Among the expected agreements is one finalizing Skymark Airlines as an airline carrier serving the route between Japan and the Marianas.
—Mos Burger planning to open its first outlet in the Philippines by the end of 2020, a rare case of a Japanese hamburger chain trying to compete internationally.
—Workers for Uber Eats in Japan planning to unionize, particularly concerned about the company not paying for social insurance and the lack of provision to its delivery riders of accident compensation and sickness benefits.
—Kao, the Japanese soap and detergent company, finds that its #beWhite social media campaign (intended to show a distinction between themselves and exploitive “black companies”) wasn’t such a hot idea after all. Who coulda figured?
—Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit partnering with All Nippon Airways in a space satellite launch partnership: “Together, we’ll open up access to space for Japan’s rapidly growing smallsat industry.”
—Abe government adopts bill to promote cutting-edge technology “supercities.” The legislation is pretty vague and it is not expected to pass this Diet session due to the lack of remaining time.
—Toyota aims to get half of its global sales from electrified vehicles by 2025, but is concerned about its ability to produce enough batteries. Meanwhile, they are teaming with Subaru on developing a new electric sports utility vehicle.
—As part of its policies to encourage start-up culture in Japan, the Abe government planning to change immigration laws to allow those on student visas to change their status if they want to start businesses while remaining students in Japan.
—Abe government pledges that Japan will become carbon neutral by the end of the century, but it fails to set specific targets and indicates that it has no current plan to eliminate coal-fired power plants, a major contributor of CO2.
—Baby Bust: The number of babies born in Japan put at 918,397 last year. Each year the number has been falling to new record lows in the modern era.
—The population of Yubari city, Hokkaido, has fallen below 8,000 people. In 1960, the population of the city had been nearly 117,000 people.
—Tokyo University of Social Welfare ordered to stop accepting foreign students after controversy that hundreds of its foreign students have been disappearing after enrollment. The implication is that foreigners have used the school to enter Japan and then work illegally.
—Business Insider Japan poll, though with a very small sample, finds that more than 60% of professional women have on occasion been ordered to wear high heels in the workplace.
—Some Japanese Olympic organizers concerned that some foreign visitors may bring marijuana to Japan, especially as the drug is being legalized in many other nations, perhaps not realizing that this country treats illicit drugs like an apocalyptic threat.
—New law passed that will require dog and cat breeders to microchip pets, with existing pet owners encouraged to do the same. It will still be a few years before this law is effectuated.
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