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Japan-South Korea Military Information Pact Terminated

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the last half of August 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Rolling Coverage: South Korea Relations

—South Korea is planning to increase safety inspections of waste matter, such as batteries and tires, that it imports from Japan, looking for heavy metals and radioactivity. It is understood to be another form of retaliation against Japan amidst the diplomatic dispute.

—South Korea’s Foreign Ministry summons a Japanese diplomat to discuss its concern about Japan dumping radioactive water into the ocean at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and to express their concern about the practice.

—Korean Air announces that it will be suspending many flights to Japan, including all of its Busan-Osaka flights, due to a sharp fall in demand from Korean passengers who are now avoiding travel to Japan as a protest measure against Abe government policies.

—South Korean tourist visitation to Japan fell by 7.6% in July, the first statistical evidence that the bilateral dispute between the governments is impacting the tourism industry. It remains to be seen if boycott efforts will ramp up further or lose momentum.

—First indications are that the number of South Korean travelers to Japan may have fallen by about 1/3 in August as compared to last years’ figures. The precise figure will be reported next month.

—South Korea has decided to pull out of its General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan, which had been signed in 2016. The Abe government had wanted to continue the agreement, and the US government also expected to be annoyed.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono summons the South Korean ambassador to protest Seoul’s decision not to renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA): “South Korea’s decision misunderstood the regional security environment and is extremely regrettable.”

—US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “We’re disappointed to see the decision that the South Koreans made about that information-sharing agreement. We were urging each of the two countries to continue to engage, continue to have dialogue.”

—Takashi Shiraishi of Hope Alliance Japan pays visit to Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon to affirm that the crisis of Japan-South Korea relations stems from Shinzo Abe and his ultranationalist deniers of history, not from a fundamental dispute between Japanese and Koreans. Shiraishi: “The Shinzo Abe government is encouraging anti-Korean sentiment and working with ultraconservative groups in Korea to attack the Moon Jae-In government. It is a scheme by the Abe government to try to turn the public’s attention away from domestic problems.”

—Asahi Shinbun reports that the “decisive factor” that led Moon Jae-In to end the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was that in response to Moon’s conciliatory August 15 speech, the Abe government made no return gesture either publicly or privately.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “Regrettably, South Korean actions damaging bilateral relations of trust are continuing… We will continue to cooperate closely with the United States to ensure peace and stability in the region and maintain the security of Japan.”

—South Korea’s military has apparently informed the Japan Defense Ministry that they are suspending or significantly reducing unit-level exchange programs with the Self-Defense Forces in addition to ending the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).

—Despite the announced discontinuation of the GSOMIA with Japan, the South Korean government has made it clear that military information sharing will be carried out with the Americans as an intermediary. This may mean the GSOMIA termination is largely symbolic.

—Amid the escalating tensions with Japan, a video has gone viral of a Korean man threatening, pursuing, and then assaulting a desperate Japanese woman on the streets of western Seoul near the university district of Hongdae. Police are investigating the matter. The assault is thought to result from the anti-Japanese mood. At the outbreak of tensions, the popular movement targeted Japan broadly, but recently activists have been focusing specifically on Shinzo Abe specifically and making connections with Japanese civic groups.

—The South Korean military holds exercises around the disputed Dokdo-Takeshima island, drawing predictable protest from the Japanese government.

—South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-Yeon offers to keep the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in place if the Abe government restores normal trading relations with South Korea. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga immediately rejects the offer.

—The Abe government carries out its threat and removes South Korea as a preferential trade partner, dismissing the South Korea prime minister’s offer to extend both regular trade relations and the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). It seems that despite their whining the Abe government didn’t really value the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) either, not willing to pay even the “cost” of maintaining South Korea as a preferential trade partner.

—South Korean President Moon Jae-In: “Japan has yet to even state an honest reason for its economic retaliation… No matter what excuse it provides as justification, it is clear that the Japanese government has linked historical issues to economic matters.”

—Presidential aide Kim Hyun-Chong states Seoul’s refusal to reconsider the termination of the military information sharing agreement with Japan. He accuses Japan of wanting to rewrite colonial history and demanding Seoul improperly interfere with its Supreme Court.

—Japanese low-cost carrier Peach Aviation announces that it will be suspending or reducing flights to South Korea due to the falloff in demand. Eight South Korean airlines have already done so, but this is a first for a Japanese airline since the bilateral dispute began.

Rolling Coverage: Opposition Parties

—The Japan Communist Party again says it would welcome joining a future coalition government led by Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano, and again the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leadership backs away from the concept, not wanting close cooperation with the Japan Communist Party.

—Yukio Edano’s Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is now playing the “numbers game” that it had pledged not to engage in during the early months after its formation. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Democratic Party For the People have united their parliamentary caucuses in both houses of the Diet in the absence of a policy agreement between them.

—Democratic Party For the People lawmakers who arose from the pro-nuclear Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker’s Unions of Japan (Denryoku Soren) are predictably resisting the idea that the joint caucus with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan means they must support a zero nuclear policy.

—Japan Communist Party again appeals to other opposition parties to create an alliance that could form an alternative coalition government if it could gain enough seats in the next House of Representatives election. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Democratic Party For the People again backing away from such cooperation. Lurking in the background here is the Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) whose leaders would probably rather remain ineffectual and politically powerless than to cooperate with the Communist Party. Rengo provides key support to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Democratic Party For the People.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers have approved the parliamentary caucus merger with the Democratic Party For the People. This represents a clear scaling back of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s previous ambition to lead the opposition on its own.


—More than a week after rightwing terrorist threats shut down the freedom of expression exhibition at the Aichi Triennale, the nation’s leader, Shinzo Abe, has said nothing at all, once again signaling that he tacitly backs threats and intimidation by rightwing forces.

—Foreign artists whose work is being shown at the Aichi Triennale ask for their work to be withdrawn in light of the organizers’ unwillingness to defend freedom of expression. They also condemn Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s key role.

—Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura and Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura are still fighting over the suppression of the Comfort Women statue exhibit. Omura has established a commission looking at Kawamura’s violation of freedom of expression, and Kawamura is outraged.

—As the people of Hong Kong continue to put their lives on the line for their democratic future, Agriculture Minister Takamori Yoshikawa has an urgent message for them: “I want people in Hong Kong to continue enjoying Japanese agricultural products.”

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to carry out major Cabinet reshuffle in the middle of next month. The current Cabinet is one of the weakest of the Abe administration, made up largely of men forced on Abe by the Liberal Democratic Party factions in payment for their support for his third term.

—Cabinet reshuffle and Abe travels likely to delay opening of Extraordinary Diet Session until October 4. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to use the session to make his long-delayed push to revise the Peace Constitution.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe goes public with his plan to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle next month. He hints that the Cabinet will have some younger politicians. Shinjiro Koizumi is widely expected to receive his first ministerial portfolio.

—Kyodo News is reporting that Mayor Fumiko Hayashi of Yokohama has decided to make a bid for an Integrated Resort, and she will be announcing it shortly. If it goes through as she hopes, it means that there will be a casino resort at Yamashita Pier from around 2026.

—Social Democratic Party deputy leader Mizuho Fukushima tells Jiji Press: “The 2015 War Law clearly violates the Constitution… Discussing constitutional reform after this unconstitutional law has been enacted will destroy the normative nature of the Constitution.”

—Masanao Ozaki announces that he won’t be running for reelection as Governor of Kochi Prefecture, but will instead aim to become a House of Representatives lawmaker. There will thus be a new governor as of the scheduled November 24 gubernatorial election.

—Ministry of Internal Affairs bureaucrat Seiji Hamada resigns his post to run as Governor of Kochi Prefecture. This is the depressing way that most governors of rural prefectures gain their posts: senior bureaucrats parachute directly into office with ruling party support.

—Opposition-backed Motohiro Ono narrowly beats a ruling party-backed candidate in the Saitama gubernatorial election, a significant victory for the opposition on a local level.

—Ruling party lawmaker Hiroshi Ueno forced to quit as a parliamentary vice-minister of labor after it is found he wanted bribes to speed up visa procedures for foreigners working for certain dispatch firms. He still holds his seat in the House of Representatives.

—Kojiro Shiraishi, chairman of the Yomiuri Shinbun group, officially appointed as new ambassador to Switzerland. The rotten state of Japan’s major news media couldn’t be exposed in any clearer fashion.


—Foreign Ministry issues a travel advisory for Japanese nationals visiting Hong Kong to exercise caution. Some Japanese businesses which do business in Hong Kong are delaying trips and taking other security precautions.

—Hongkongers placed adverts in eleven newspapers across ten countries calling for international support and solidarity with the pro-democracy movement. Ad in the Nikkei and featured an egg hit by a bullet, referencing Haruki Murakami’s famous “wall and egg” speech.

—The Abe government finally speaks up about Hong Kong with Foreign Minister Taro Kono urging his Chinese counterpart Foreign Minister Wang Yi to resolve the Hong Kong crisis through dialogue.

—Foreign ministers from Japan, South Korea, and China will hold a trilateral meeting next week, the first since 2016, after which they were broken off due to a row between Korea and China. The parties are have yet to determine whether to meet bilaterally as well.

—“Defensive” Aircraft Carriers: Arguing that the very same weapons used to launch the Pearl Harbor attack are now “purely defensive” and constitutional, the Abe government to purchase 42 F-35B fighters to be deployed on the two ships it is converting into aircraft carriers. Just to keep track, the Abe government now argues that Marine coastal assault forces, aircraft carriers with F-35s, and medium-range missiles with preemptive attack capabilities are all weapons that are purely defensive and cannot be used for war-making against any nation.

—Kyodo News Poll: Japanese oppose sending the Self-Defense Forces to the Persian Gulf on orders from Washington. 57.1% oppose any such deployment of Japanese warships and only 28.2% support the notion.

—NHK releases documents showing Emperor Hirohito planned to express public remorse in 1952 for his failure to stop military officers from launching the Pacific War, and he regretted the atrocities of the Nanjing Massacre. He was stopped by then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. It’s a good reminder in the midst of controversies over Comfort Women and forced labor that the ghost of Japanese aggression still impacts the region because conservative politicians worked for decades to block acknowledgement of history and genuine reconciliation in Asia.

—An expedition organized by the Russian Geographical Society and Russian Navy discovers a network of underground passages on Iturup that are believed to date from the Pacific War. They have also found a sunken Japanese ship that was built in the 1930s or 1940s.

—Four unnamed members of the Japanese Diet visited the Southern Kurils on the visa-free trip that departed Nemuro on August 15. This is the first time Japanese lawmakers have visited since Hodaka Maruyama’s notorious trip in May.

—New Japanese defense white paper to concede that North Korea likely possesses miniaturized nuclear warheads that can be fired on the tips of ballistic missiles. All of Japan is in easy range.

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya says North Korea may be developing missiles that can penetrate anti-missile defense systems. Of course, this is one reason why the huge Aegis Ashore expense doesn’t make sense, since it just fuels another technological arms race in Asia.

—Ministry of Defense announces its plans to redo its Aegis Ashore surveys in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures. Their failure to conduct proper surveys the first time predictably has not changed their policies at all; it just delayed them for a couple months.

—Defense Ministry requests a record 5.32 trillion yen (about US$50.3 billion) budget for FY2020, which would be an increase of about 1.2% from the current year. Military budgets have been on the rise both in East Asia and globally.

—Women’s groups in Manila create a new monument to wartime Comfort Women on the grounds of the local church to replace the one that was removed the beach area last year, apparently due to pressure on the Philippines government by the Abe administration.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has commented on the Amazon rainforest wildfires: “We are concerned about the situation, and Japan would like to provide the necessary support.”

—The three-day 2019 Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VII) launched in Yokohama. Since this series launched in 1993, it has been one of Japan’s more successful diplomatic initiatives, giving some coherence to Japan-Africa relations.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, visiting Guam, is told by the US military officers that he meets that the plan is still to bring some US Marines from Okinawa to Guam beginning in 2024.


—Travelers staying at hotels in Kitakyushu city, Fukuoka Prefecture, will pay an additional 200 yen local tax. This could be the beginning of a trend that spreads to other local governments around the nation that wish to raise revenues. It is, unfortunately, a regressive tax.

—The government is proposing that a special 1,000 yen (about US$9.50) special toll will be imposed on all vehicles using the Tokyo area expressways during the period of the 2020 Olympics.

—Cabinet Office survey finds that about 5% of Japan’s workforce now consists of freelancers of one kind or another.

—Mori Building unveils plans to build Japan’s tallest skyscraper, which will be a 330-meter-tall beast in the Azabudai-Toranomon area. It is expected to be completed in March 2023. Cost estimated at 600 billion yen (about US$5.6 billion).

—UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: “It is true that in Japan we still have a very low percentage of women for positions of responsibility in the private sector. I am a strong supporter of gender parity.”

—Stung by criticism of Japan’s poor record on paternity leave, the Labor Ministry to boost subsidies to companies whose employees take paternity leave in an effort to normalize the practice. Currently the rate of men taking paternity leave is about 6%.

—The Labor Ministry, charged with overseeing fairness in Japanese workplaces among other things, found to be rife with sexual harassment and power harassment. According to an internal survey, almost half the workers in the Labor Ministry say they’ve experienced it.

—Seven-Eleven Japan again in dispute with its Higashiosaka franchisee over business hours. The franchisee is now demanding to close the store of Sunday, and Seven-Eleven is threatening to cancel the contract. They are also, however, offering to send staff on Sundays.

—The Abe government and the Trump government reach an agreement in principle on a bilateral trade pact. Trump speaks of it as a done deal, while Abe says more working level talks are needed. It is thought that the agreement will be signed next month. From this distance it appears that the Abe government got off much easier than they once feared. The key is that Trump is now desperate for presidential election reasons to be seen to be helping US farmers impacted by the China trade war.

—Fears of the impact of the US-China trade war are pushing the Nikkei Stock Index down and the value of the Yen up.

—“Vladivostok+” project launched to encourage Japanese tourists to visit the city and other parts of Primorsky Krai. The announcement comes as a delegation of Japanese politicians, headed by Hirofumi Kado, meets Governor Oleg Kozhemyako.

—For Japan’s renewed “commercial” whaling, the Fisheries Agency is seeking a FY2020 budget of 5.1 billion yen (about US$49 million). That’s a pretty big public subsidy for what is supposed to be a private business at this point.

—TEPCO offering to start decommissioning at least one of the seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in exchange for local permission to reactivate the two newest reactors. TEPCO has not had an active reactor since the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

—Having failed in the industry individually, TEPCO, Chubu Electric, Hitachi, and Toshiba mull pooling their resources to revitalize Japan’s nuclear power industry. Clearly the hidden hand of the pro-nuclear Abe government lies behind this concept.

—The two-day L20 Summit (International Trade Union Confederation) opens in Tokyo calling for “a New Social Contract” to “reduce precariousness and inequality produced by the current global economic model, and restore people’s faith and trust in governments and institutions.”

—Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau reports that Facebook Japan failed to declare about 500 million yen (about US$4.7 million) in taxable income in the 2016-2017 period, and the firm has now been required to pay up.


—The three top convenience store chains, Seven-Eleven, Lawson, and FamilyMart, will give their customers a 2% discount if cashless payments are used, effective as of the October consumption tax hike to 10%.

—Fire and Disaster Management Agency to begin training dozens of firefighters to pilot drones, which is intended to help in some firefighting and other disaster control situations.

—Fair Trade Commission announces that it has compiled new guidelines on data protection that it will oblige technology giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google to abide by.


—Asahi Shinbun: More corruption discovered in the thoroughly-scandalous Technical Intern Training Program. Some Japanese organizations are taking bribes from Myanmarese and Vietnamese dispatch companies to accept their interns. Bribery costs passed on to the interns.

—Immigration Services Agency reports that 832 foreigners living in Japan (a record number) were stripped of their residency status last year. These were mostly students and technical trainees. By nationality, about half of them were Vietnamese.

—Labor Ministry reports that the workers’ passive smoking rate has fallen to a record low 28.9% subjected to passive smoking at their workplaces. This number is expected to continue to decline after new laws and ordinances come into effect next year.

—Excluding US military personnel and their dependents, Chinese have now surpassed Americans as the largest foreign community living in Okinawa Prefecture. This is a first since Okinawa emerged from its 1945-1972 status as a (de jure) military colony of the United States.

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