The Abe Climate COP Out
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the first half of December 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: COP 25 and Climate Crisis
—Global Climate Risk Index finds that Japan was the most weather-affected country in 2018. Despite Japan’s special vulnerability, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe still supports coal industry and refuses to talk about the climate emergency… while Japanese people are being killed.
—Nagano Prefecture, which was particularly hard hit by Typhoon Hagibis, becomes the first prefecture in Japan to declare a “Climate Emergency,” putting pressure on the Abe government to begin taking its climate change policies more seriously.
—The Abe government’s pledge to make Japan carbon neutral by 2100, more than 80 years from now, is one of the weakest climate change goals among major industrial economies. Indeed, in the UK election campaigns, the party promises range from 2030 to 2050.
—Admitting that Japan is lagging many other countries, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi declares that shops inside the Environment Ministry headquarters in Kasumigaseki will now stop giving customers single-use plastic bags.
—Japan as Number One: New report by NGOs names Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group as the world’s top financiers of new coal plants, which contribute to the intensifying global climate crisis. “Since January 2017, 307 commercial banks have provided US$159 billion in loans to coal plant developers. The top 3 lenders are the Japanese banks Mizuho (US$16.8 billion), Mitsubishi UFJ (US$ 14.6 billion) and Sumitomo Mitsui (US$7.9 billion).”
—About 400 high school students marched through the streets of Hamamatsu city, Shizuoka Prefecture, calling for action to combat climate change.
—Unnamed Abe government official tells Kyodo News: “There is a need for coal-fired power generation mainly from developing Asian countries where demand for energy is surging. We’re not planning to review our export policy.”
—Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi not exactly defending the Abe regime’s weak policy on the climate crisis at the COP25 talks in Madrid, speaking with an apologetic tone and saying “please keep eye on what we do in the future.”
—At COP25, Shinzo Abe’s Japan is “awarded” the top “Fossil of the Day” prize for “coal fired power stations and continuing to finance coal overseas… Japan’s continued conduct and support for dirty coal is an international embarrassment.” Let us say: ‘How dare you, Japan?’” It’s worth noting that the Shinzo Abe government’s “strategy” at COP25 was to show up entirely empty-handed, effectively saying that Japan is doing enough for the environment and no policy improvements or new targets are required.
Rolling Coverage: Military Bases
—In May, the landowner of Mage Island, Kagoshima Prefecture, refused to sell it for use by the US military and ended talks. Now, we learn the landowner has suddenly decided to sell. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: “It’s important to secure the site for field carrier landing practice from the viewpoint of security so we will continue to try to build a permanent facility at an early date.”
—US President Donald Trump: “I’ve asked Japan. I said to Prime Minister Abe, a friend of mine, Shinzo. I said, ‘You have to help us out here. We’re paying a lot of money. You’re a wealthy nation. And we’re, you know, paying for your military essentially.’”
—Abe government reportedly planning to move ahead with plan to send another destroyer to the Indian Ocean area, pretending to contribute to maritime security, neither officially joining the US coalition nor admitting that it is an anti-Iran move.
—Local opposition in Akita city appears to have finally convinced the Defense Ministry that basing Aegis Ashore at the Araya Training Area isn’t such a wise idea after all, and the policy may change.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga rejects reports that the Defense Ministry has given up on the Araya Training Area in Akita as the site for the Aegis Ashore. He says no such decision has been made.
—International Union for Conservation of Nature declares Okinawa Dugong “critically endangered” with ten or less remaining alive. The construction of the US Marine base at Henoko cited as “likely to be a serious impediment to the recovery of the dugong population.”
—US Marines at Henoko: In 2014, the Abe government estimated airstrip building costs at around ¥350 billion (US$3.2 billion). Now, it looks like the actual costs will be around ¥2.55 trillion (US$23.6 billion).
—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki renews his condemnation of the Abe government: “Ignoring the will of the Okinawans by pushing ahead and dumping earth and sand [into Oura Bay] is an act that tramples upon democracy and erodes local autonomy.”
Rolling Coverage: Shinzo Abe
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggests that cherry blossom scandal documents were shredded “because of the work schedule of the disabled contractor in charge.” We would say that blaming a “disabled” person for his latest coverup is a new low for Abe, but he’s been lower before.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declares that the cherry blossom viewing scandal guest list was “discarded appropriately” and that the Abe government has no need to continue investigating itself. In other words, there’s nothing to see here, folks, move along.
—The Extraordinary Diet Session of 2019 has come to an end, but the only thing “extraordinary” about it was the Abe regime’s lack of accomplishment, spending most of its time fending off a series of scandals rather than doing anything useful for the people of Japan.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “The road to amending the Constitution will never be easy, but it will surely be achieved by ourselves and by myself.”
—Both LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai and, now, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso are calling for Shinzo Abe to remain as prime minister until September 2024 so that he can complete his project to revise Article 9 and to destroy the Peace Constitution.
—Shinzo Abe again denies any intention to change party rules to remain as prime minister beyond September 2021. Top party executives have begun calling for him to have a twelve-year reign for the purpose of revising the Peace Constitution.
—Abe government planning to open next year’s Ordinary Diet Session on January 20. Once again, they believe the most pressing issue is to advance of the process for revision of the Peace Constitution. Will also be new government stimulus spending, but no particular reforms.
—Jiji Press poll shows a sharp 7.9 point drop in the Abe Cabinet’s approval rating to the 40.6% level. This is attributed to the negative public reactions to the cherry blossom scandal. 40% approval is still rather strong for a Japanese prime minister, so there’s no crisis.
Rolling Coverage: Tetsu Nakamura
—Dr. Tetsu Nakamura of Peshawar-kai has died; shot dead in Afghanistan. Japan loses one of its true heroes who fought for human dignity throughout his career.
—Local authorities say that Dr. Tetsu Nakamura’s death was not accidental, but rather he was the intended target of the lethal attack, which also killed his Afghan bodyguards, the driver, and a passenger.
—Japan’s true “soft power”: Dozens of Afghans gather around the Japanese Embassy in Kabul to hold a candlelight vigil mourning the murder of Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, some waving Japanese flags. One Dr. Nakamura helps Japanese security more than three Abe battleships.
—No one claims responsibility for ambush that killed Dr. Nakamura. The Taliban even issues a denial that they were involved. Protesters in Kabul point the finger at Pakistani intelligence services and protest outside the Embassy of Pakistan.
—Memorial services in Kabul are led by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who helps carry Dr. Nakamura’s coffin draped by the Afghan flag. Nakamura’s wife Naoko and daughter Akiko traveled to Afghanistan to receive his body. Candlelight vigils held in many cities.
—Dr. Nakamura’s body has arrived back in Japan. A brief ceremony led by a senior Foreign Ministry official is held at Narita Airport. Nakamura’s wife and daughter have returned to Japan as well.
Rolling Coverage: Russia Relations
—Japan has, for the first time, extradited a criminal suspect to Russia. Aleksandr Zolenko is suspected of involvement in organized crime in the Russian Far East.
—On Sunday, 500 people protested in Ginza for return of Northern Territories, including Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki. In 2018, due to ongoing talks, the group avoided slogans demanding return of the islands. They did not show the same restraint this time.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Nemuro Mayor Masatoshi Ishigaki at the Kantei. Ishigaki stressed the urgency of resolving the territorial problem with Russia, noting that 60% of the Japanese former islanders have died and their average age is over 84.
—The presence of Japanese businesses in the Russian Far East is growing. There are now 68 Japanese firms operating in Vladivostok, a rise of 50% in three years. By contrast, the number of Japanese firms operating in Russia overall is largely flat at about 450.
—Japan-Russia fishery talks in Moscow to set rules for fishing in each other’s maritime exclusive economic zones concluded. For first time since 1994, Japan will not need to pay for access. In return, Russia’s sardine quota will double. Japan’s quota for cod is down by 36.5%.
—Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin soon to visit Japan to seek investment in “Vostok Oil” project. The project aims to increase Russian oil production by 2 million barrels a day, with the oil being shipped via the Northern Sea Route. An estimated US$157 billion investment is needed.
Rolling Coverage: Opposition Merger Talks
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano moving toward inviting the Social Democratic Party to merge with his party. This is a long overdue move, as the SDP’s continued existence is in a practical sense detrimental to the electoral performance of the left.
—Ichiro Ozawa seems to be getting his wish: Yukio Edano now supports a full merger of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Party For the People, and the Social Democratic Party. Not a done deal, but the talks are on.
—Social Democratic Party executives agree to enter talks on the possibility of a full merger with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
—Democratic Party For the People decides to enter merger talks with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. Some on the party’s conservative wing, however, are not enthusiastic about the merger idea, since they still want to appeal to conservatives.
—In the two years and three months since its formation, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has entirely failed to close the support gap with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, in spite of the Abe government’s serial scandals and lack of accomplishment.
—Japan’s ministries must ensure at least 2.5% of employees are people with disabilities. Foreign Ministry has only 1.03%, but has now been permitted an exception and will not have to include staff based overseas. The ministry’s employment quota will thus halve to 80 people.
—Japan outed once again for its embarrassing record on gender equality. While about half of the Japanese athletes in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be women, only 16% of the board members of sports governing bodies are women.
—Abe government scales back scope of 2014 Secrecy Law, deciding that organizations like Tax Agency and Reconstruction Agency don’t possess vital state secrets. Provision that could one day send journalists to prison for doing their jobs remains in place, though unexercised.
—Traitor to the Opposition and Pentagon favorite lawmaker Akihisa Nagashima now expected to run in next general election as the ruling party candidate for Tokyo District No. 18. In other words, he is being sent as an assassin candidate against former Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
—Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama moving towards the full launch of his new Republican Party (Kyowato). It’s main policy platform likely to be a call for Japan to become more independent of the imperial control of the United States. Hatoyama learned about Washington the hard way.
—Japan hands over G20 presidency to Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler who ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and still remained an honored member of the Establishment, calls it “a unique opportunity.”
—Japanese side cancels annual bilateral exchange meeting with South Korean lawmakers, citing National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang’s comments, ten months ago, that then-Emperor Akihito should apologize over Japan’s Comfort Women history.
—Japan Communist Party newspaper Akahata describes Abe government as “too chicken” to criticize the Chinese government and stand up for democracy in Hong Kong. Abe is instead prioritizing an image of having Japan-China relations “back on track.”
—Japan Coast Guard data reveals that, largely out of the media spotlight, the maritime confrontation between Japan and China over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands has been more intense this year than in any year since Shintaro Ishihara triggered the confrontation in 2012.
—Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) survey of 15 year olds finds Japanese students declining versus their international peers in all categories, especially reading proficiency. Meanwhile, China’s students win the No. 1 rank in all categories.
—Strong protests against the explicitly anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) force Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to cancel his planned visit to India.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga repeats call for the United Kingdom to avoid a No Deal Brexit. Japanese businesses are evaluating whether or not they should keep their European bases in Britain or move to European Union nations.
—Fair Trade Commission urged to investigate Rakuten over its “free shipping” policy. Rakuten forces its suppliers to pay the shipping costs, and these firms believe this is effectively abuse of monopoly power by Rakuten.
—JTB partners with a Singapore-government linked firm to promote the spread of halal food certification in Japan. This is connected to the increasing number of Muslim tourists coming, including from Singapore itself.
—Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets visiting Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Taro Kono. Modi reiterates his view that returning to Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations is against India’s interests.
—House of Councillors passes the bilateral US-Japan trade deal negotiated by the Abe government in September, completing the ratification process.
—Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) agrees on united policy to lobby for a national ¥1,100 (US$10.10) minimum wage. By the standards of this overcautious labor organization, this can almost be said to be “bold.” A slight progressive breeze is blowing even in Japan.
—As of December 6, a total of 1,539 foreigners have obtained a visa under the Abe government’s Specified Skilled Worker system, which represents 3.2% of the 47,550 worker quota. While these number will rise, the failure of the new system is already manifest.
—Greenpeace Japan: “High-level radiation hot spots have been found at the sports complex where the 2020 Tokyo Olympic torch relays will begin, according to a survey to be released by Greenpeace Japan.”
—Dentsu found to have given one employee 156 overtime hours of work in a single month. This is the very same firm responsible for 2015 death of Matsuri Takahashi. Since this government will not seriously punish such white collar crimes, big business continues to be abusive.
—US-China trade war, slowing global economy, consumption tax hike, post-Olympics slump, impact of Brexit, rising cost of climate disasters… take your pick… Government prepares a ¥26 trillion yen (US$239 billion) extra spending budget for next year.
—Revealed that Seven-Eleven Japan has been underpaying tens of thousands of employees by a total of at least ¥490 million due to a “miscalculation” of overtime wages that continued for decades. Not only have the workers received very low wages, they were even cheated as well.
—Seven-Eleven Japan franchisees worried that revelation the firm cheated its employees out of their overtime pay for decades will make it even harder to recruit new staff. The compensation system is also being hit for being unrealistic, expecting people to have old records.
—Abe government again to pay lip service to a supposed effort to decentralize the nation. They will state an aim to stop the population rise of the Kanto region by FY2024. Demographic statistics suggest that the national population decline likely to hit Tokyo by 2025 anyway.
—Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission fines Nissan for underreporting former Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s pay package, but accepts Nissan’s request that its fine be reduced by almost half. Still no personal accountability for any of the anti-Ghosn coup plotters.
—MUFG Bank, which is Japan’s largest bank, is reportedly planning to launch a smartphone-based cashless payment service together with Recruit Holdings. MUFG Bank issues statement admitting new partnership with Recruit, but declining to confirm any specifics.
—Some Mos Burger restaurants in Tokyo and Yokohama to start testing self-checkout machines that accept orders and payments without staff assistance. In part, this is related to Japan’s increasingly tight labor market.
—Takanawa Gateway Station, scheduled to open on the Yamanote Line next spring, will showcase some new technologies as a model train station for the future. JR East has released some concept images of its planned unstaffed convenience store.
—Osaka Metro begins testing Japan’s first train ticket gates operated by facial recognition technology. The test involves four stations and is limited to Osaka Metro employees, but the system may be deployed for all passengers in 2024, ahead of the World Expo.
—Latest victim of brutal legal system is Norwegian Ingrid Martinussen, a 32-year-old autistic student of environmental studies at Sophia University. She’s been held ten days because police believe someone tried to send marijuana to her address.
—Drug War: National Police Agency sounds alarm over rising number of minors busted for possessing marijuana, which looks set to rise above 500 busts this year. Police are especially worried over the “incorrect” perception among the young that the drug is basically harmless.
—Yokohama has begun issuing its first LGBT partnership certificates, and some couples have braved the rainstorm to be among the first to receive them.
—Kawasaki City Council passes the nation’s first ordinance against hate speech that carries actual penalties for repeated violations. Under the new ordinance, serial offenders can be fined up to ¥500,000 (about US$4,500) for hate speech outbursts.
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