South Korea Folds Under US Pressure
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the last half of November 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: South Korea and GSOMIA
—Japan-South Korea talks at the World Trade Organization are going nowhere, and clearly Seoul has had enough of the Abe government’s inflexibility: “We will not have talks for the sake of talks,” said South Korean chief negotiator Chung Hae-Kwan.
—US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo becomes the latest Trump regime official to try to pressure South Korea to reverse its decision to scrap the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan. The pact is scheduled to expire tonight.
—It can’t be lost on the South Koreans that the Trump government is effectively taking Japan’s side in the bilateral dispute, putting US power on the side of Shinzo Abe’s campaign to whitewash the Japanese war crimes of the early 20th century.
—US Senate adds its voice to pressure South Korea over the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), assisting the Abe government’s campaign to whitewash early 20th century war crimes. The vote was unanimous.
—Background: The Japan-South Korea GSOMIA was signed in November 2016, but somehow the North Korean threat had been contained for many decades before it was in place. Although it is being pumped up now as an existential matter, the GSOMIA is of mostly symbolic importance. In other words, the decision to put such heavy pressure on the Moon government over the GSOMIA reeks of a political campaign to bring down a progressive government in Seoul that is asserting a degree of independence from US imperial power, much like Yukio Hatoyama in 2009.
—Moon Jae-In administration appears to have cracked under the strong pressure from Washington, deciding to extend the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) despite multiple declarations to the contrary. The American Empire smacks down its client state.
—For South Korea, this appears to be a moment comparable to the May 28, 2010, US-Japan Agreement whereby Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama accepted humiliation at US hands and endorsed the Henoko base building plan. Moon Jae-In’s credibility likely to suffer a similar fate.
—In case anyone wonders why East Asian progressive governments seem so short-lived compared to conservative governments, it is because Washington, both Republicans and Democrats, their supposed “ally,” repeatedly kicks them down.
—Establishment Media Literacy: The fact that the US Senate voted unanimously for a statement pressuring the Moon government to make its policy reversal is now mysteriously but conveniently missing from most news accounts about the GSOMIA climbdown.
—Make no mistake: The degree of pressure that Washington put on Moon Jae-In will be dropped into the memory hole almost immediately. The Americans won’t want to openly admit how badly they crushed the South Koreans, and the Moon government itself will hasten to save face.
—Another factor to watch is that the Moon administration is also trying to navigate Donald Trump’s extortionate demand for a US$5 billion annual payoff to keep US troops in the country. Now that Moon has shown that he can be rolled, he’ll be in a world of political hurt.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan policy chief Seiji Osaka issues statement (in Japanese only) expressing “relief” that the GSOMIA with South Korea will continue and hoping for “calm discussions.”
—US State Department on GSOMIA: “This decision sends a positive message that like-minded allies can work through bilateral disputes… Given our shared regional and global challenges, decisions to strengthen trilateral cooperation are timely and critical.”
—South Korea’s (progressive) Justice Party: “It’s not yet clear if Japan will retract its export restrictions. We should have let GSOMIA expire and re-negotiated a new deal if we wanted to show our strong determination.”
—South Korea’s Environment Minister Cho Myung-Rae asks Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi to provide “accurate information” about the radioactive water that has come from the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
—Moon government is making the laughable assertion GSOMIA was extended because of some Abe government concession on trade negotiations, and that the Abe government (get this!) has apologized to South Korea over how the GSOMIA deal announcement was made. Trying to save face. The transparent truth, of course, is that the Moon government buckled under US pressure six hours before GSOMIA was set to expire, and Shinzo Abe, as before, is determined not to give an inch to South Korean views. The political disarray in Seoul is palpable at this point.
—Yonhap reports, based on information from “sources,” that the Abe government made a secret concession over GSOMIA, and that is they agreed to drop the contentious export curbs in “about a month.” The truth of the claim remains to be seen.
—South Korean National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang is trying to find a mutually acceptable way out of the Japan-South Korea forced laborers issue, proposing the creation of a bilaterally-supported foundation. Unfortunately, little prospect the Abe government is interested.
—The Moon Jae-In administration says it wants a comprehensive settlement with Japan over wartime and colonial history issues; the Shinzo Abe government says there’s nothing to be settled, that Koreans must simply learn to “keep their promises” and shut up. Not auspicious.
—Boycott actions in South Korea having major effect on trade relations. Japan’s food exports plunge 58% in October, with exports of alcohol and instant noodles almost wiped out entirely. Chip-making equipment exports fall 49%.
—Japanese beer exports to South Korea: From US$72 million in October 2018 to ZERO in October 2019. Yes, not a single bottle or can of Japanese beer was sent to South Korea last month. Beer boycott reaches 100% impact.
Rolling Coverage: Cherry Blossom Viewing Scandal
—The latest Abe government corruption to be exposed relates to inviting Abe constituents to the annual cherry blossom viewing parties in Shinjuku. Part of the cost was either covered by taxpayers and/or in violation of political funds laws.
—Worth pointing out that the Abe government scandal over annual cherry blossom viewing parties in Shinjuku was exposed by the Japan Communist Party, not by the news media. Not for the first time, the Communists reported what the mainstream is unwilling to expose.
—The Abe government’s response to the uncovering of its cherry blossom event corruption is to deny any and all wrongdoing, and also, tellingly, to cancel next year’s event. Of course, if nothing were actually wrong, why cancel such a high-profile event? A tacit admission.
—Predictably enough, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano is demanding that those connected with Abe’s cherry blossom viewing scandal be called to the Diet to testify.
—Initial polls suggesting that the Abe government is being hit by a roughly five point decline in public support over the cherry blossom viewing corruption scandal. Overall, however, the ruling party maintains a vast opinion lead over the opposition parties.
—As for the documentary records about the cherry blossom viewing corruption scandal, Shinzo Abe’s political office says (tell us if you’d heard this one before) that “no records exist” about the event.
—Citizens group announces they will make a complaint to prosecutors over Shinzo Abe’s cherry blossom viewing corruption. If this nation had a democratic legal system, something like this might actually have made a difference.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe admits that about 1,000 guests annually were invited to the cherry blossom viewing party on the recommendation of his “office,” but he then claims it was the “government” that made the final decision, as if that is somehow separate from himself.
—Japan Communist Party executive Akira Koike slams “the Cabinet Office’s deeply rooted culture of covering up internal information” and asks, “Is the Cabinet Office a hotbed for corruption?” Koike was provoked by the latest Abe Cabinet coverup over the cherry-blossom event.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga becoming target of the cherry blossom viewing scandal, as apparently he holds ultimate responsibility for extending invitations to yakuza organized crime figures to join the high society event.
—Another aspect of the cherry blossom event scandal receiving little attention is that it seems First Lady Akie Abe was allowed to recommend some guests. This makes a mockery, once again, of the Moritomo era contention that she is a “private person” with no government role.
—Prime Minister’s Question Time? Forget it! The ruling party is refusing to have any direct debate between Shinzo Abe and Yukio Edano during the entire extraordinary Diet session. With the cherry blossom scandal ongoing, they just want to duck and hide as much as possible.
—If Japan ever does elect a responsible government in the future, one key lesson from the Abe Era ought to be that there need be strong laws requiring the government to preserve records of its decisions. Putting it all in the shredder ought to become a crime in itself. Worth remembering that’s what happened at the end of the Pacific War as well. All the government ministries burned their files and records. The Abe government is an extreme example, but one of modern Japan’s biggest weaknesses as a democracy is its lack of proper archiving.
Rolling Coverage: China Relations
—Japan Communist Party “Calls for Immediate Cessation of Suppression in Hong Kong”: Chinese government “reaction and measures implemented are incompatible with a socialism that respects democracy and human rights above all.” With this public statement in Japanese and English, the Japan Communist Party has just gone much further in criticizing the Chinese Communist Party and in defense of human rights than the rightwing government of Shinzo Abe.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano releases a statement (so far in Japanese only) calling on the human rights of Hong Kongers to be respected. It is something less than a call for democracy, however, more a call for peace and freedom of expression.
—Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pays visit to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Kantei. They discuss preparations for President Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan next spring. Abe gently mentions the Hong Kong and the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands issues.
—Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi: “We believe it is important that universal values in the international community, such as freedom, respect for basic human rights, and rule of law are upheld in China.” Good! But Japan needs to apply these values widely and evenhandedly.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on the US government’s passage of the (Hong Kong) Human Rights and Democracy Act into law: “The Japanese government will refrain from commenting on another nation’s parliamentary actions.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
—Abe government facing more skepticism within ruling party circles over its plan to host Chinese President Xi Jinping as a state guest next spring. The administration’s continuing efforts to play down the Hong Kong protests is annoying some on both left and right.
Rolling Coverage: Russia Relations
—Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announces that, for Japanese visitors, the e-visa system will be expanded to all of Russian territory from 2021. Currently Japanese citizens can use e-visas to visit the Russian Far East, Buryatia, Kaliningrad.
—Hokkaido’s efforts to raise money for the Northern Territories cause have not gone well. The crowdfunding campaign attracted only four donations and a total of ¥15,000. The target was ¥4,150,000. The money was to be spent on raising awareness of the territorial issue.
—Putin’s special advisor on international information security Andrei Krutskikh says that Russia and Japan are actively discussing the possibility of concluding a joint agreement on the extradition of cyber criminals.
—Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi confirms that Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov raised concerns about the US-Japan Alliance in talks, and he recognizes the alliance as an issue in peace talks. Getting this public acknowledgement is a small diplomatic victory for Russia.
—Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says that, despite being longest serving prime minister, Abe has achieved little. With Russia, despite 27 meetings, “there is no sign of even one rock being returned.” Except towards South Korea, Abe’s foreign policy is “obsequious.”
—Prospects for the passage of the government’s Constitution revision referendum bill this Diet session are clouding as time is beginning to run short before the scheduled December 9 closing. It’s not clear if they will ram it through or delay to next year.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s heckling of opposition lawmakers in Diet debate is one of the most revealing indications of his real way of thinking. Among the “slurs” he has shouted when disagreeing are “Communist Party!” and “Teachers Union!” He is not an all-nation leader.
—Social Democratic Party to elect a new leader in January. Current leader Seiji Mataichi indicates that he will not be a candidate due to his poor health condition. This tiny party has struggled to find leadership since Mizuho Fukushima stepped down in July 2013.
—“TIME 100 Next” decides that the only Japanese who represents the global “next” is Shinjiro Koizumi.
—Shinzo Abe becomes the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history. Blessed by weak rivals in the ruling party, a discredited and talentless opposition, and absolute shamelessness in the face of scandal, it just goes on and on…
—Japan’s “commercial” whaling is already failing as a business enterprise, so ruling party conservatives are mulling legislation to spend more taxpayer money to prop up the moribund industry. It helps that whaling is based in electoral districts supporting Abe and Nikai.
—Ruling coalition-backed Seiji Hamada easily rolls to victory over the united opposition candidate in the Kochi gubernatorial election. He gains over 60% of the vote.
—Protect the Nation from NHK vice-leader Hodaka Maruyama under fire again, this time for meeting Princess Mako of Akishino at a function and asking her if being separated from her fiancee is making her feel lonely. This kind of overfamiliarity with Imperials not welcomed.
—Wataru Takeshita, leader of the LDP Takeshita Faction, returns to duties after ten months receiving treatment for esophageal cancer. Among other things, Takeshita led the charge to weaken anti-smoking legislation, declaring that he couldn’t live without tobacco.
—Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone has passed away at age 101. It’s been pointed out that with the death of Yasuhiro Nakasone, there are no more living Japanese prime ministers of the Showa Era. He was the last one standing.
—Abe government proposes public-private panel together with Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon to combat “fake news.”
—Sanae Takaichi’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications tell NHK to dramatically pare back its budget requests for internet services. The Abe government does not want the national broadcaster to modernize its approach to news and information distribution.
—Interesting Fact: Shinzo Abe and Natsuo Yamaguchi held a private dinner this week. The interesting point? This was the very first private dinner between the two coalition partners in all of the seven years of Abe’s second stint in power.
—Political Bang for the Buck: New figures show seventh consecutive year of big business financial donations to Abe’s ruling party on the rise. Not surprising since Abe’s economic policies are practically dictated by Keidanren. Auto industry giving highest amount of money.
—Donald Trump demands US$8 billion annual payment from Japan for allowing it to host US troops, mainly in Okinawa. This is a 4.5-fold increase over the current “sympathy budget.” It seems that Abe’s service to Trump’s ego not paying off so well after all.
—It seems that the Trump government demand for an US$8 billion annual payoff was originally delivered by John Bolton back in July, but with its usual degree of commitment to democratic transparency, the Abe regime had been able to suppress the information until now.
—Rather than spend US$8 billion a year on Donald Trump’s blackmail, how about spend the same sum to combat climate change, which is already taking thousands of lives in Japan? This is a more real threat than reheated Cold War fantasies about a Chinese military invasion.
—House of Representatives ratifies the bilateral US-Japan trade deal. Now it is on to the House of Councillors for the final endorsement.
—Abe government again fails to stand up for human rights in Myanmar. As the United Nations votes 140-9 in favor of condemning the persecution of Rohingya, Japan stands on the sidelines with an abstention. Once again, Shinzo Abe’s interest in human rights only goes as far as he can use the concept to beat the North Koreans, and sometimes the Chinese, over their heads with it. Otherwise, both inside and outside Japan, he has little interest in defending any vulnerable people.
—The Abe government tells Indonesian President Joko Widodo that if he chooses to move forward with his plan to move the country’s capital out of Jakarta to a planned city in eastern Borneo, that Japan is ready to assist.
—Pope Francis is now in Japan on his four-day visit. He will be backing the issues of nuclear weapons abolition and ending the death penalty, both of these policies which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is among the strongest figures on the opposite side from the Pope.
—Pope Francis: “Our world is marked by a perverse dichotomy that tries to ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue.”
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Pope Francis: “Japan and the Vatican are partners in realizing peace and a world free of nuclear weapons, eliminating poverty, and recognizing the importance of human rights and the environment.”
—UN Climate Action Summit rejected Shinzo Abe’s request to speak at its September event, largely due to his government’s continuing promotion of coal. Greenpeace issued a report a year ago, but Japan has not acted. This is being more widely understood.
—Shinzo Abe wants to visit Imphal in India next month, becoming the first Japanese leader to do so since the bloody battles of 1944.
—Talks underway aimed at making Line a wholly-owned subsidiary of SoftBank. Line executives are concerned they cannot compete against larger US and Chinese companies and have sought SoftBank’s ownership. If realized, competition between Line Pay and PayPay will come to an end.
—The merger of online firms Line and Yahoo Japan is aimed squarely at the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry, hoping to give the combined holding company, Line and Z Holdings, the financial heft it needs to compete against the tech giants.
—Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry declares that the risk to human health from dumping Fukushima Daiichi radiation-contaminated water into the ocean is “significantly small” and therefore should go forward.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to convince Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rejoin Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, and he is even interested in traveling to India next month to make the appeal in person.
—LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai calls for a new stimulus package of about ¥10 trillion (roughly an additional 10% to the annual national budget) out of concern that the economy is beginning to falter. Finance Minister Taro Aso is skeptical about the notion.
—Senior business leader admits that benefits of Abenomics “may have not yet trickled down across the country.”
—Rightwing Abe policies now eating into one of the clear successes of Abenomics: October inbound tourism slips year-on-year 5.5% as the number of South Korean visitors plunges more than 65%. Climate-change fueled mega-typhoons also hurting inbound tourism.
—International Monetary Fund says Japan’s consumption tax, raised to 10% with some exceptions last month, still needs to be doubled to about 20%. This is the rate they believe Japan should have by 2050 to cover expenses related to the aging population.
—Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki expected to announce tomorrow that his prefecture will not go forward with its bid to build an Integrated Resort (casino resort) at Tomakomai. A lack of support in the prefectural assembly and environmental impact cited as reasons.
—Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) announces that foreign direct investment in Japan has now risen above ¥30 trillion (US$275 billion) for the first time.
—Abe government reluctantly beginning to acknowledge that major utilities cannot be entirely relied upon in the era of climate change disasters. Businesses and homes should begin installing rooftop solar combined with battery storage systems.
—Actress Erika Sawajiri expected to be the next celebrity erased from the Japanese national memory after Tokyo police raid her home and find a tiny amount of MDMA. Police say that someone ratted her out… err, a concerned citizen reported her vicious crime.
—Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) survey finds that 11.1% of companies in Japan have rules on female employees’ shoe heel length.
—National Police Agency announces that it will now allow people to print their maiden names alongside their married names on Japanese driver’s licenses.
—Andre Kussunoki, a Brazilian national, has filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court claiming that Japanese immigration officials assaulted him by putting him in unnecessary physical restraints. He is asking for ¥5 million yen in damages.
—Japan Federation of Bar Associations says foreigners are being held in detainment longer, often for opaque reasons: “Human rights violations in immigration centers are on the rise. We would like to work to advance human rights for foreigners as much as we can.”
—Authorities acknowledge that a 28-year-old man at Toyota Motor Corporation was driven to suicide in 2017 by an abusive superior. The executive repeatedly denigrated the worker’s intelligence, even telling him that he should go off and die… which is what he finally did.
—Japan Sport Council reports that the construction of the new National Stadium has been completed, and that the final price tag was US$1.25 billion. The first events at the stadium will begin from New Year’s Day 2020.
—Kawasaki municipal government moving toward the nation’s first anti-hate speech ordinance that would carry penalties for repeat offenders. Under the proposed ordinance, serial violators could be fined up to ¥500,000.
—Kyoto District Court gives mixed ruling on former Zaitokukai member’s defamation of Korea schools. He is fined ¥500,000, but judge says no jail time warranted because the pro-racism activist was trying to “ensure the public interest” regarding North Korea abductions.
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