Osaka G20 Summit Produces Few Results
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the second half of June 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: Osaka G20 Summit
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un without conditions, but he is now unwilling to meet South Korean leader Moon Jae-In at all. It is likely there will be no such bilateral leaders meeting at the G20 in Osaka.
—Japan and Russia will reportedly not sign an agreement on joint economic projects on the Southern Kurils when Abe and Putin meet in Osaka on June 29. The two sides have failed to reach agreement on the content of the projects and on their legal basis. Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov: “Whether or not Tokyo wants to conduct some kind of economic activity on the territory of our islands, our plans for the Kurils will not change. We will develop them independently, perhaps with the involvement of other investors.”
—Bloomberg: US President Donald Trump has been discussing to his aides the possibility of putting an end to the US-Japan Alliance, which he sees as another entanglement in which a foreign ally is taking advantage of the United States’ history of conducting poor negotiations.
—As if he were in a position to know, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denies that US President Trump suggested ending the US-Japan Alliance in private conversations. Disparaging allies is as characteristic of Donald Trump as lying is habitual for Yoshihide Suga.
—No joint statement is expected from Abe-Putin meeting in Osaka on June 29 due to lack of progress on peace treaty and joint economic projects on the disputed islands. Japan also not ready to accept Russian proposal for Sakhalin-Hokkaido visa-free zone.
—European Council President Donald Tusk has been on a visit to Nagasaki and Hiroshima ahead of the G20 Summit in Osaka. He seems to have been deeply impacted by what he saw there.
—Several hundred Uyghurs march through the rainy streets of Osaka decrying the genocide in China and calling for the G20 leaders to take up the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
—According to local police, about 32,000 officers are being mobilized in Osaka and the surrounding region for the G20 Summit chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka. They agree to promote “free and fair trade” in the international sphere and also agree in principle that Xi will made a state visit to Japan next spring.
—In a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leaders agreed to strengthen security cooperation between the two countries in pursuit to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
—After thirty years, Japan’s commercial whaling industry prepares to once again go on the hunt. Conservation groups are calling on G20 leaders to intervene on behalf of the whales, but the quota for the hunt will not be released until after the summit.
—Heightened security presence due to the G20 Summit in Osaka has brought inconveniences and disruptions to residents and tourists of the city. Schools have closed, garbage collection has halted, and large-scale traffic regulations have been imposed.
—Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak says Russia and Japan to sign a series of energy contracts during Putin’s Osaka visit. He particularly mentions Japanese involvement in the transshipment of LNG (presumably the Mitsui OSK investment in Kamchatka hub) and hydrogen.
—Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agree to restart bilateral talks to resolve their trade war, but there is no notable progress on strengthening institutions or frameworks that could bring greater stability to global trade relations.
—US President Donald Trump confirms that he believes the US-Japan security treaty should either be ended or changed. He claims the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agrees with him that Japan must have the duty of militarily defending the United States if it is attacked.
—Now that Trump has said this in a major press conference. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga can no longer continue his lies about Trump not really believing such things. Suga continues to maintain, however, that there have been no talks about changing the treaty.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s response to Trump calling the US-Japan security treaty unfair is to say that Trump announcing his view to the world is irrelevant. It only becomes an issue if raised in bilateral talks. However, President Trump’s wording makes clear that he HAS raised the issue privately with Prime Minister Abe, so Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s latest contention that it was never discussed bilaterally is yet another – yet another – Abe government lie.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and refuses to even mention MBS’ murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Forget condemnation: Abe won’t even mention it as an issue of concern. Human rights is only a stick to beat China and North Korea.
—The Abe government, reflexive liars that they are, caught in yet another lie. Hearings on the deregulation of pearl farming were held; the Cabinet Office then lied and said they never happened. Caught red-handed, they now say the hearings did occur, but there are no records.
—Seiji Mataichi, 74, will not run for reelection in the House of Councillors due to his poor health condition, but will remain leader of the Social Democratic Party. Depending on how things go, he may run in the next House of Representatives election.
—Social Democratic Party likely to fall short of the support it needs in next month’s House of Councillors election to retain its legal status as a national political party. They can retain their status if they gain more than 2% of all votes cast, but that isn’t expected.
—House of Councillors Lawmaker Motohiro Ono has applied to leave the Democratic Party For the People. For the time being he will become an independent lawmaker.
—Opposition parties submit a censure motion against Finance Minister Taro Aso, who is refusing to accept a government report that pensions alone will not provide enough money to live for most elderly couples. They estimate a savings of 20 million yen is also needed.
—As expected, the opposition-supported “no confidence” and censure motions against Finance Minister Taro Aso were easily defeated by a government that has a supermajority in both parliamentary chambers.
—Asahi Shinbun gets its hands on a new “manual to prevent verbal gaffes” that the Liberal Democratic Party has issued to its lawmakers and staff members. It gives them advice how not to become the next fodder for media headlines and opposition party outrage.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe officially tells his coalition partner Komeito that he will not call a double election for next month. It will be only the scheduled House of Councillors elections.
—Rightwing, pro-Pentagon lawmaker Akihisa Nagashima finally finds his true political home after years of screwing up opposition politics. He is applying to join the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. This is a good thing for the opposition’s future.
—The election platform of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan for next month’s House of Councillors election to call for once again freezing the consumption tax, which is scheduled to be hiked to 10% in October.
—Hodaka Maruyama made his first appearance in the Diet in a month, voting against motion of no confidence in Abe government. Maruyama took a leave of medical absence after scandal in which he drunkenly asked whether Japan should go to war to reclaim the Northern Territories.
—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya admits another mistake in the proposed siting for the Aegis Ashore facility in Akita Prefecture: the area is vulnerable to flooding from a large tsunami, as occurred in March 2011 in the Tohoku region.
—Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Fumio Kishida publicly warns hardline Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya that he needs to stop pushing so hard for the Aegis Ashore facility in Akita and to start rebuilding the damaged trust with the local community.
—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya apologizes to Akita Governor Norihisa Satake for giving the prefecture faulty data about its Aegis Ashore facility survey. Although said they are “back to square one,” many observers expect the Defense Ministry will make no plan changes.
—In a rare positive step by the Abe government, they are not choosing to simply believe US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran was responsible for the tanker attacks. They are asking the US government for concrete evidence to back their claims about Iran’s culpability.
—Abe government being accused of duplicity and even “treachery” in its Russia policy. The government refuses to call the disputed islands “inherent territory,” yet the term is used in Liberal Democratic Party’s election pledges.
—It is rumored that the Kantei is not happy with Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Mori. They don’t think he’s been positive enough in dealing with Russia. This is another indication that Japan’s Russia policy is being driven by the Kantei.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on the violation of Japanese airspace by Russian bombers on June 20. “We are analyzing Russia’s intentions.” The alleged intrusion by Russian bombers into Japanese airspace on June 20 is the first such incident in four years. The last suspected violation of Japanese airspace by Russian aircraft was in September 2015.
—Abe government keeping quiet about violation of Japanese airspace by Russian bombers on June 20. Both Suga and Kono avoid criticism. While the government doesn’t want to negatively impact relations before Putin’s visit, they risk being accused of “weak-kneed diplomacy.”
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s Yukio Edano criticizes Abe’s policy on the dispute with Russia: “Why has the government stopped saying ‘our country’s inherent territory’? It’s a clear retreat. We need to go back to the stage before the start of the Abe Cabinet.”
—Asked if the Russian flag might one day have to be lowered on the Southern Kurils due to their transfer to Japan, President Vladimir Putin replied: “We have no such plans.” Instead, Putin stressed Russia’s plans to develop the islands: “We will develop infrastructure there.”
—Russia wants an agreement to begin talks on a Hokkaido-Sakhalin visa-free zone. Japan is resisting any system that would treat Southern Kuril residents equally with residents of Sakhalin. They fear this would imply that the islands are part of Sakhalin.
—Utilizing powers under the unconstitutional 2015 Abe War Law, the Self-Defense Forces are significantly boosting their participation in war exercises, including the biennial Talisman Sabre series of exercises in Australia later this month.
—Regarding the wartime forced labor dispute, South Korea proposed to Japan that a joint fund be made by companies from both countries, including the accused firms, to compensate the victims. In return, Korea would consider Japan’s desired consultation procedure. Japan rejected the proposal, repeating that compensation claims were already settled in 1965; requesting Korea begin trilateral arbitration with a third mutually agreed upon country, and if Korea refused, said they would take the matter to the International Criminal Court.
—ASDF to resume flights of F-35A aircraft at Misawa Air Base in the near future, which had been suspended since the fatal accident, now blamed on the pilot having become disoriented.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again speaks at the annual memorial ceremony for the Battle of Okinawa, and he is loudly heckled by the local people for the fourth year in a row, especially when he says he is working to reduce the prefecture’s burden of hosting US troops.
—It has become increasingly apparent that “Team Abenomics” has fallen apart. Shinzo Abe no longer backs Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s 2% inflation target, and Kuroda is more openly frustrated with Abe’s unwillingness to take on major structural reforms.
—The passenger ferry between Wakkanai (Hokkaido) and Korsakov (Sakhalin) will not operate this year after the Japanese city refused to pay for its operation. Last year, Sakhalin region stepped in to pay the costs, but this will not happen again this year.
—Japanese gyudon chain Matsuya opens its first restaurant in Moscow. Two more are planned for later this year. Russia has 2,400 Japanese restaurants but few are actually run by Japanese firms. An exception is Marugame Seimen, which has six udon shops in Moscow.
—Mitsui OSK considering investment in Novatek’s proposed LNG hub on Kamchatka. It will take LNG brought through the Northern Sea Route on ice-breaking carriers and reload it onto conventional carriers to take the gas to various Asian markets. Expected to begin in 2023.
—Between January and May 2019, 47,100 Russian tourists visited Japan, an increase of 19.6% from the same period a year before. In 2018, a total of 98,400 Russian tourists visited Japan, an increase of 22.7% from 2017.
—The first shipment of gas from Russia’s Yamal LNG project (which began operations in 2017) has arrived in Japan. Volumes will increase if Russia develops an LNG hub on Kamchatka to permit transfer of LNG onto non-icebreaker carriers, which are cheaper to operate.
—Head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev announces that Russia-Japan Investment Fund (RDIF & JBIC) to invest in methanol plant in Volgograd. The project involves Marubeni and Russia’s Aeon, and expects to be complete in 2022.
—Report from the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs finds the not surprising fact that among major nations Japan’s ratio of “working age” population is the lowest in the world.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan proposes legislation that would raise the minimum wage nationally to 1,300 yen (about US$12) per hour within five years. Currently, the lowest minimum wage is 761 yen (about US$7) per hour in Kagoshima Prefecture. In many parts of Japan, if you are working full-time (40 hours a week) on minimum wage, you’d be making less than 1,600,000 yen (about US$14,800) on an annual basis.
—Abe government basic policy sets aim of raising the average minimum wage in Japan to 1,000 yen (US$9.26), a significant jump from the current 874 yen (US$8.10) average. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is calling for a 1,200 yen (US$11.11) minimum wage.
—Mitsubishi Motors shareholders officially approve Carlos Ghosn’s dismissal from its board of directors, following the earlier actions of Nissan Motors.
—Bloomberg reports that the Abe government secretly lobbied the French government to put the brakes on the proposed Renault merger agreement with Fiat Chrysler. There have been a number of hints that the Abe government is more deeply involved than many realize.
—Nissan Motor CEO Hiroto Saikawa being questioned over his 2013 purchase of a house, which former board member Greg Kelly says involved maneuvers that violated company rules. Kelly would seem to be understandably bitter at Saikawa.
—Carlos Ghosn’s lawyers ask prosecutors to offer a detailed explanation as to why they chose not to indict Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa when he too approved the documents that led to Ghosn’s initial arrest.
—Carlos Ghosn’s trial pushed back until early 2020 after the prosecutors hit him with the extra charges.
—Vice-Finance Minister for International Affairs Masatsugu Asakawa warns about the recent appreciation of the Yen: “We have no choice but to be concerned about a rapid movement that cannot be explained by economic fundamentals.”
—Fire Ants! Yes, they’re back! This time about 20 or 30 fire ants were found at Aomi Pier in Odaiba, Tokyo. This was the first new discovery of fire ants in Japan this year, but there are expected to be more now that the weather has turned warm.
—Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is planning to call on Japan to “jointly develop” the Amazon rainforest, and help to wreak environmental havoc in his country that some believe will have disastrous global consequences.
—METI agrees to establish a public-private council on unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) with an eye to begin testing them early next year. Japan Post, Rakuten, and Yamato Transport among the council participants.
—Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada has unveiled the Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Information Platform (AP-Plat), which will provide countries in the Asia-Pacific region with data on the effects of climate change.
—Seven-Eleven Japan to replace the plastic wrapping of its triangular onigiri with a sugar-cane-derived biomass plastic in the coming weeks. The company sells about 2.2 billion onigiri on an annual basis.
—A “consultation center” for foreign residents of Japan to be established near Yotsuya Station next year. Sounds like it will be heavily staffed by immigration officials, so it may be more about exercising more control over foreigners than simply assistance for those in need.
—6.8 earthquake strikes just off the coast of Niigata Prefecture, causing a small tsunami. In total there were about a dozen serious injuries but no recorded fatalities.
—Rightwing Comfort Women revisionists including Nobukatsu Fujioka, Yoshiko Sakurai and Kent Gilbert sue the director and the distributor of the documentary film “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue,” claiming they were misled into giving interviews.
—Thirteen women sue Juntendo University for secretly altering their entrance exam scores to ensure that they failed to gain admittance to their medical school between 2011 and 2018.
—A new law makes it clear that it is the responsibility of the national and local governments to promote Japanese-language learning for the foreign community in Japan. There seems to be increasingly acknowledgement that some foreigners are in Japan for the long haul.
—Ibaraki to become the first of Japan’s 47 prefectures to issue partnership certificates to LGBT couples from July 1. Governor Kazuhiko Oigawa tells the media: “This is a matter of human rights. We must move quickly to eliminate discrimination and prejudice.”
—Education Ministry plans to have one computer terminal available for every student in grade school by FY2025. Currently, the average across the nation is about one computer per five grade school students.
—Yasuhiro Yamashita is elected President of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC). His election brings to a formal end the eighteen-year reign of Tsunekazu Takeda.
—An evacuation advisory was put into place for much of Kagoshima city due to heavy rainfall. Many residents were advised to leave due to risk of landslides and floods. The warning was a level 4 on a 5-point severity scale.
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