SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the first half of January 2020 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: Carlos Ghosn
—Lebanese authorities contend that Carlos Ghosn entered their country legally using a French passport. It is speculated that France may have issued him a second, fresh passport sometime before his escape from Japan.
—The response of prosecutors to Ghosn’s flight to Lebanon is to ask the Tokyo District Court to revoke Carlos Ghosn’s bail. They’ve yet to make any public response after turning Japan’s justice system into an international embarrassment.
—“Speculation is rife that a foreign or Japanese government, or both, might have been involved, or maybe just looked the other way to allow the escape to rid the public of a potentially embarrassing trial.” That’s in the Mainichi Shinbun! Interesting times.
—Carlos Ghosn says he’ll meet reporters on January 8, almost a week from now. In the meantime, there will be leaked bits of information maintaining public interest, and the holidays will be over and he’ll have everyone’s attention. If nothing else, he’s smart.
—Reuters reports that the Lebanon MTV report is wrong and Ghosn was not smuggled out of Japan in a box. It was, they report, a highly professional operation carried out by a private security company. It now seems to be confirmed they used Kansai Airport. One point on which Reuters and Lebanon MTV agree, however, is that shortly after arriving in Lebanon, Carlos Ghosn met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who welcomed him warmly and offered his continuing support.
—Rightwing militarist lawmaker Masahisa Sato advises going after Lebanon hard, asserting that Japan’s “sovereignty has been violated and judicial system challenged.” He cites Lebanon’s past sheltering of Japanese Red Army figures Kozo Okamoto and Fusako Shigenobu.
—Financial Times reports that Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who greeted Ghosn warmly after his escape, had asked a visiting Japanese diplomat to release Ghosn to Lebanon on December 20, a week before Ghosn’s escape.
—Prosecutors raided the Tokyo home of Carlos Ghosn this afternoon, only to find that the nest was empty.
—It is now being reported that Carlos Ghosn did indeed have a spare French passport. While the reports are vague, it sounds like the Japanese government knew that he had the passport, which seems like (another) serious lapse on their part.
—Reports out of Turkey suggest that seven pilots and airport staff have been detained on suspicion of aiding Ghosn’s passage to Lebanon, or not correctly carrying out proper immigration procedures.
—Japan has gotten Interpol to issue a “red notice” for Carlos Ghosn, officially making him an international fugitive. Meanwhile, both Lebanon and France have indicated that they will not extradite Ghosn to Japan, giving him two safe countries for travel.
—Former Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe points out that it is unacceptable that the Abe government has simply remained silent about the Ghosn case, and the New Year holiday is no excuse. He asks why the Japanese people must rely only on information from abroad.
—Carlos Ghosn issues a second statement, this one denying that his wife Carole or any other family member played a role in organizing his escape, as has been reported. He has that he alone organized his flight from Japan.
—It’s been pointed out that one major issue that Ghosn is likely to refuse to answer in his press conference next week are details of his escape and who helped him, as this would put others in legal jeopardy. Reporters will have to dig this out for themselves.
—MNG Jet issues statement declaring that one of its employees, acting without the knowledge of management, chartered two planes for Carlos Ghosn under false pretenses. They issued a criminal complaint to the Turkish government on January 1.
—Carlos Ghosn’s Houdini act is starting to look less impressive by the day. New reports say he just walked out of his front door alone. The 24-hour cameras at his home were only checked by authorities once a month. The official incompetence is stunning.
—It seems that Nissan Motor, on its own initiative, hired a private security company to spy on Carlos Ghosn while he was out on bail. This surveillance ended shortly before his escape because Ghosn threatened legal action against them.
—Carlos Ghosn’s defense team, led by lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, is considering resigning, but first they are making an effort to contact Ghosn in Lebanon to ascertain his intentions.
—“Certainly I have been betrayed. But it was not Carlos Ghosn that betrayed me.” Ghosn’s lawyer Takashi Takano blogs outrage at the unjust Japanese legal system which prosecuted Ghosn on the thinnest evidence he’d ever seen in his legal career.
—Investigators now speculate that Ghosn may have hidden in a large case that was loaded onto a private jet at Kansai Airport. Several cases were not subject to x-ray checks because they were too large to fit into the machine.
—Justice Minister Masako Mori: “Our country’s criminal justice system sets out appropriate procedures to clarify the truth of cases and is administered appropriately, while guaranteeing basic individual human rights. The flight by a defendant on bail is unjustifiable.”
—Not surprising, but still worth noting is that there is absolutely nothing in the response of the Justice Ministry or the prosecutors’ office that demonstrates even an iota of self-reflection in the Carlos Ghosn case. They think the only problem was the judge granting bail.
—Prosecutors office releases statement rejecting criticism: “Prosecutors strictly enforced the due process stipulated by law, and have proceeded with investigations and trials while ensuring the rights of defendants… [Ghosn] wanted to escape punishment of his own crimes.
—The picture beginning to emerge is that Ghosn’s flight was organized by two American mercenaries, Michael Taylor and George-Antoine Zayek, with strong ties to Lebanon’s Maronite Christian community. Likely, Lebanese President Michel Aoun was deeply involved.
—Opposition leader Yukio Edano takes a straight conservative line on Carlos Ghosn, attacking him for his “challenge to Japan’s legal order.” His criticism of the government is limited to calling for tougher security checks at airports.
—Unnamed government officials are telling the Japanese media that they realize that the chances are “low” that Lebanon will agree to ship Carlos Ghosn back to Japan, and that’s there’s not too much they can really do about that fact.
—The Wall Street Journal and other media has now more-or-less figured out the whole route by which Carlos Ghosn escaped Japan. It’s still not clear, however, why he wasn’t recognized and stopped on the Shinagawa to Shin-Osaka shinkansen.
—Tokyo prosecutors issue an arrest warrant for Carole Ghosn, the wife of Carlos Ghosn.
—Nissan Motor condemns Carlos Ghosn’s flight, calling it “an act that defies Japan’s judicial system.” They add that “Ghosn’s flight will not affect Nissan’s basic policy of holding him responsible for the serious misconduct.” This from the company he saved.
—Ghosn spokeswoman to Reuters: “Last time Carlos Ghosn announced a press conference and got re-arrested. This time, the day before he is announced to speak out freely for the first time, they issued an arrest warrant for his wife Carole Ghosn… this warrant is pathetic.”
—Immigration Services Agency asks the Transport Ministry to order international airports to conduct inspections of all luggage on private jets large enough for a person to hide in. This appears to be the main policy lesson the Abe government has learned so far.
—Ambassador Takeshi Okubo seeks meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun to ask for his country’s cooperation in the Ghosn case. Reports say that Aoun already promised Ghosn a week ago that he would be protected from Japan.
—Carlos Ghosn says that in tomorrow’s press conference he will name the names of Nissan and Abe government officials who plotted to “take him out” over the Renault alliance, and suggests that he also smuggled out of Japan documentary evidence of this conspiracy.
—Fox News Andrew Napolitano on Ghosn case: “The rule of law as we appreciate it in the Western world flatly does not exist in Japan… [he] is innocent of the charges and he is fleeing from a system that is perverse with respect to criminal defendants.”
—Carole Ghosn says her husband’s press conference this evening is “the most important statement of his life.” She also says that his flight from Japan was effectively “only possible choice” other than being forced to admit to crimes he didn’t commit.
—Contrary to initial reporting, Carole Ghosn says that she was out of the loop on her husband’s escape plans and it came as the best surprise of her life. The arrest warrant Japan has issued for her is on the charge of allegedly lying to Japanese investigators.
—The current executives of Nissan Motor have effectively been waging a war on Carlos Ghosn’s reputation since the day he was arrested. Now they are expanding their internal anti-Ghosn task force and bracing for his press conference this evening.
—Former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera frets to Bloomberg: “Ghosn is likely to heavily attack Japan’s systems or its corporate culture… Those remarks will be transmitted to the world and inflict large damage on Japan.”
—Jiji Press reports most Japanese journalists are being excluded from attendance at the Carlos Ghosn press conference in Lebanon. “The apparent exclusion of Japanese journalists suggests that Ghosn does not want to face tough questions from them, observers said.” Observers?
—Ghosn’s Japanese defense team office raided by prosecutors. They refused the prosecutor’s demand to hand over the computer from lawyer Junichiro Hironaka’s office, pointing out that it was an illegal demand that violated attorney-client confidentiality obligations.
—Justice Minister Masako Mori: “Japan’s criminal justice system sets out appropriate procedures and is administered properly to clarify the truth in cases while guaranteeing basic individual human rights… Each nation’s criminal justice system has its roots in its history and culture, being formulated and developed over a long period of time. Therefore, there is no superiority or inferiority among legal systems of different countries… The merits of a criminal justice system should be decided by assessing the entire system per se. It is not appropriate to single out certain aspects of the system and criticize them… Thanks to the persistent efforts made by Japan’s police, judges, and prosecutors, and the Japanese public, Japan’s crime rate is extremely low compared to other countries and it is fair to say that Japan is now the safest country in the world… I am aware of various views about the Japanese system. As a matter of fact, we continue to upgrade our system to respond to the demands of the day. We will spare no effort to consistently review how we can improve Japan’s judicial system… The judges will make a decision from a neutral and fair position. Therefore, it is wrong to argue that a person cannot obtain a fair judgement because of the high conviction rate in Japan… Ghosn criticized that the investigation against him was based on a conspiracy by the relevant stakeholders of Nissan and the Japanese government. However, there is no way that the prosecutors offices would take part in any kind of conspiracy… If defendant Ghosn has anything to say on his criminal case, he should make his argument at a Japanese court and present concrete evidence.”
—Justice Ministry and the Prosecutors Office reveal the stunning fact that they can, when they want to, communicate promptly in English (and French) to the rest of the world. It’s a level of effort they’ve been unwilling to make for the more than two million foreign residents.
—Tokyo Prosecutors: “[Ghosn’s] statements during his press conference today failed to justify his acts. Defendant Ghosn has only himself to blame for being arrested and detained for approximately 130 days… Defendant Ghosn’s allegations completely ignore his own conduct, and his one-sided criticism of the Japanese criminal justice system is totally unacceptable.”
—Should be pointed out that Ghosn’s use of multiple languages in his press conference was clever. While it may have annoyed English-speaking TV channels, it allowed him to be broadcast in his own words in all those different media worlds. He also addressed local concerns like his travel to Israel.
—Carlos Ghosn allowed only three Japanese media organizations into the press conference room which he felt were something more than just propaganda organs for the Prosecutors Office. They were the reporters of the Asahi Shinbun, TV Tokyo, and Shukan Post.
—It’s been pointed out that Justice Minister Masako Mori tweeted last night that Carlos Ghosn should come to court and “prove his innocence.” Later, no doubt realizing her gaffe (i.e. innocent until proven guilty), she rewrote the tweet to say “assert his innocence.”
—Justice Minister Masako Mori’s original statement that Ghosn should “prove his innocence” was apparently distributed to Japanese reporters as well. She is now apologizing.
—Justice Minister Masako Mori’s “prove his innocence” gaffe in relation to Carlos Ghosn is now national news. The words were used in her original press conference, the handout to the Japanese media, and it was tweeted. She’s now in a bit of trouble.
—Carlos Ghosn: “…a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed.” Justice Minister Masako Mori: “If he says he is innocent, he must prove his innocence openly and fairly in court.”
—Lebanon has banned Carlos Ghosn from international travel and is conducting an investigation in response to the Japan-initiated notice from Interpol. Ghosn has been questioned both over the Japan case and his 2008 visit to Israel, which is illegal under Lebanese law.
—The Japanese government has asked Interpol to issue a red notice on Carole Ghosn as well, doubling down on their charge that she committed perjury when speaking to Japanese investigators.
—Carlos Ghosn to France 24: “My advice to all the foreigners in Japan [is] get out, because you are playing with your life. Something like this can happen to you unless this hostage justice system changes.”
—France 24 reporter: “Is [Japan] still a democracy?” Carlos Ghosn: “I don’t think so… when you have a country with one party rule for so many years, you question.”
—Carlos Ghosn to Fox Business on Nissan boardroom coup: “Nothing would have happened without these people feeling some kind of support from a few officials from the government.” At another point, he specifies the support came from officials within METI.
—Carlos Ghosn cites two major motives for the coup against him. First, there was concern about a decline in Nissan’s economic performance. Second, there was fear that Nissan would lose its autonomy, especially because the French government was so active at Renault.
—Carlos Ghosn compares the Japanese legal system to that of the Soviet Union: “You have people who do not want you to leave,” as if you were “in North Korea… China or… Soviet Russia.” “It is comparable?” the journalist asked. “Absolutely.” Ghosn answered.
—Carlos Ghosn lawyer Francois Zimeray: “Japan is an admirable, modern, and otherwise advanced country. It deserves better than an archaic system that holds innocent people hostage. The onus is on you to abolish it.”
—Prosecutors Office now claiming that not only did Carole Ghosn lie to them, but that she is probably guilty of bribing and intimidating witnesses, as well as destroying evidence. The more Carlos Ghosn talks in public, the more the prosecutors target his wife.
—Financial Times reports that Nissan Motor is engaged in “secret contingency planning” to completely break up its alliance with Renault. It’s the logical culmination of the self-defeating nationalist campaign that began with the plot against former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.
Rolling Coverage: Iran Tensions
—Japan Communist Party Chair Kazuo Shii condemns the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and expresses concern about escalation. He calls for the Trump government to return to the Iranian nuclear deal and negotiations.
—Now that the Trump regime is in the business of murdering senior officials of foreign governments, the focus is back on the Abe government, which has so far remained silent, about whether to move forward with its Gulf of Oman deployment as planned, or begin a rethink.
—Japan Communist Party Chair Kazuo Shii points out that the current crisis in US-Iran relations did not start with the latest events in Iraq, but were provoked by the May 2018 decision of President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. He calls for diplomacy.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano suggests the US assassination of General Qassem Soleimani has dramatically heightened tensions and thus “fundamental discussions are needed in the Diet on whether Self-Defense Forces troops should be dispatched.”
—In New Years press conference, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asks that both the United States and Iran refrain from further escalation after the Trump regime’s assassination of Qassem Soleimani, but indicates that he still intends to deploy the Self-Defense Forces.
—Kansai Economic Federation Chairman Masayoshi Matsumoto expresses concern about the potential economic impact of the US assassination of General Qassem Soleimani: “The economy will decelerate if oil prices go up.”
—Japan Communist Party submits parliamentary petition to cancel the planned Self-Defense Forces deployment to the Gulf of Oman and to hold Diet debates about the situation in the region after the US assassination of General Qassem Suleimani.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Saudi Arabia, Oman, and United Arab Emirates next week: “I hope to contribute to peace and stability in the region through diplomatic efforts to ease tensions.” He’s done a bang up job on that mission so far. Of course, this is one case in which Shinzo Abe’s objectives are positive, but it simply doesn’t work so long as he’s completely unwilling to put any daylight between Japan’s position and the Trump government’s position. He is going empty-handed and with no credibility.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has cancelled the trip he was planning to Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates in light of the military conflict between Iran and the United States showing every sign of spiraling out of control.
—Japan Communist Party Statement: “We condemn the unlawful use of force by the Trump administration and demand a return to a path to resolution through diplomacy”
—Japan Communist Party: “No nation has a right to kill a top official of a foreign sovereign state. Such an act is an unlawful preemptive attack which violates the UN Charter… The Trump administration should be held accountable for the triggering of heightened tension… The Abe administration has made a cabinet decision to send a Self-Defense Forces unit to the sea off the Middle East in de facto accepting of President Trump’s call to join its ‘coalition.’ The decision is increasingly recognized as reckless and dangerous.”
—With the CDPJ having exposed itself as essentially a lightweight version of the LDP, and Reiwa Shinsengumi still rather inexperienced and fuzzy-minded, it is really only the Japan Communist Party that speaks sense, as a Japanese political party, about international issues.
—The Japanese Embassy in Baghdad has been temporarily closed due to enhanced security fears stemming from the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani and the spiraling conflict between the United States and Iran.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s on-again, off-again trip to the Persian Gulf region is on again, as Japanese officials calculate that tensions are declining enough that a visit can risked. This also signals that Abe still plans to send the SDF mission to the Gulf of Oman.
—Abe government has ordered an MSDF destroyer and patrol planes to depart for the Gulf of Oman on their “information-gathering mission.” Taxpayers are paying a lot of money for what will no doubt be extremely critical information about what blue seas look like.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves Japan on his diplomatic mission to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Oman. He won’t be meeting Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, however, who just up and died after serving nearly fifty years as the nation’s ruler.
—Defense Minister Taro Kono declares that MSDF mission in Gulf of Oman needed “to protect the safety of the navigation in the area.” Of course, he neglects to mention that they don’t really have legal authority to protect anyone except themselves.
Rolling Coverage: Casino Bribery Scandal
—Among the ruling party lawmakers now suspected of receiving bribes from 500 Dot Com is one of the most prominent pro-casino lawmakers, former Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, who served in Shinzo Abe’s last Cabinet after spearheading pro-casino policies.
—Conservative Okinawa lawmaker Mikio Shimoji admits that his office received the ¥1 million bribe from 500 Dot Com, the Chinese lottery firm that wanted to build a casino resort in Okinawa in 2017.
—Mikio Shimoji applies to resign from the Japan Innovation Party (Osaka Ishin) after admitting that he received ¥1 million in bribe money from the Chinese lottery firm 500 Dot Com. He says that he did nothing in particular to help the company after receiving the bribe.
—The Casino Regulatory Commission, an independent agency within the Cabinet Office, is launched in the midst of the major bribery scandal. The January 7, 2020, launch date was set months ago, but it so happened to arrive in the current political climate.
—Investigators say Masahiko Konno illegally brought ¥22 million in cash from Hong Kong to Japan in 2017, and apparently had no difficulty meeting six pro-casino lawmakers and handing them bundles of cash on behalf of a Chinese firm. One of them later became Defense Minister.
—Mikio Shimoji, having admitted being bribed by a Chinese lottery firm, is considering resigning his seat in the Diet. Meanwhile, the five LDP pro-casino lawmakers investigators say were bribed are so far denying the charges, in spite of being identified by the same evidence.
—Japan Innovation Party (Osaka Ishin) rejects Mikio Shimoji’s application to resign from the party and expels him instead. They also demand that he resign as a lawmaker.
—Toshimitsu Funahashi becomes the first ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker to admit receiving the ¥1 million bribe from 500 Dot Com. His excuse is that he didn’t realize it was supposed to be a bribe from the firm and just thought it was a political donation. Seems to us that a political system wherein a politician admits that a businessman has handed them ¥1 million in cash in a paper bag over dinner, and then makes the claim that is perfectly legal, is already hopelessly corrupt.
—Prosecutors set to rearrest former state minister of the Cabinet Office Tsukasa Akimoto over allegedly receiving casino bribes from the Chinese lottery firm 500 Dot Com. His 23 days of detention are nearing an end and prosecutors want to keep him locked up.
Rolling Coverage: Russia Relations
—Japan and Russia expect to reach 300,000 total visitor numbers in 2020 (with around half in each direction). This is impressive increase from just 140,000 in 2016. With several new flights beginning, they are on track to reach the target of 400,000 by 2023.
—Japan’s Marubeni, and JFE Engineering have signed deal with Russia’s Sovkhoz Elektrostalsky to deliver equipment to cultivate Japanese strawberries via greenhouse agriculture in the Moscow region’s Elektrostal. Construction expected to be complete April 2021.
—Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov meets counterpart in Tokyo for Russia-Japan strategic dialogue. Ryabkov: “We heard the same position from the Japanese side. It doesn’t convince us. We don’t consider the appearance of [Aegis Ashore] to serve only to protect Japan.” Russia believes the Aegis Ashore system can also be used to fire Tomahawk missiles that could reach Russian territory. Also, Moscow considers the system part of the US’s expanding global network of missile defense that could negatively impact Russia’s strategic deterrent.
—President of Japan’s Olympic Committee Yasuhiro Yamashita has been elected to the IOC. Yamashita is an Olympic judo gold medalist. He also has close personal relations with Vladimir Putin and has worked to strengthen Japan-Russia relations.
—Russia’s Baltic Fleet is to conduct a joint anti-piracy exercise for the first time with Japan in the Gulf of Aden later this month. Three Russian ships will be involved: the Yaroslav the Wise patrol ship, the Elnya tanker, and the Viktor Konetskii tugboat.
—Mainichi reports that Russia wants to agree a preliminary document with Japan before considering a peace treaty. This would include a commitment that, even if Moscow transferred territory to Japan, US forces in Japan would not pose a threat to Russia.
—Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi suggesting that Yuriko Koike should be backed for reelection as Tokyo Governor, making it less likely that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is split on the matter, will run a candidate against her.
—Yukio Edano firmly rejects Yuichiro Tamaki’s notion that the CDPJ and DPFP should both dissolve and create an entirely new political party: “I have 100% no intention of creating a new political party,” declares Edano.
—Social Democratic Party leader Seiji Mataichi indicates that his party’s merger talks with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan have gone well, and they’ve basically reached a policy agreement.
—Leadership talks between Yukio Edano and Yuichiro Tamaki fail, with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party For the People unable to agree on a merger plan.
—Yukio Edano floats publicly that the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has options other than merging with the Democratic Party For the People. In other words, he’s threatening to walk away from the merger talks unless the DPFP compromises on the merger format.
—Former journalist and opposition politician Yukiko Miyake apparently committed suicide over the holidays.
—Pretty much every left-of-center newspaper in Japan, including the Establishment ones, has now editorialized that the Abe government is not simply a conservative regime, but an outright threat to Japanese democracy going forward.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tells ruling party lawmakers: “Let us make a big step toward revising the Constitution, which is a huge responsibility for us.”
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterates that he is “not thinking” of remaining as prime minister beyond September 2021. What he didn’t say is that ruling party rules forbid him from seeking a 4th consecutive term. Why? Because everyone knows that the party rules are a joke.
—November 1 to be the big date in Osaka. That’s to be the day when the popular referendum on the administrative unification of Osaka Prefecture and City is conducted. In May 2015, voters rejected unification. This will be the second vote on a revised plan.
—Various sources have drawn our attention to the possibility that a major power struggle over the “post-Abe” leadership has broken out at the very highest levels of the government. Indeed, the main divide appears to be between Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga. Story goes that Shinzo Abe decided to prepare Fumio Kishida as his successor and wanted to appoint him LDP Secretary-General last autumn. However, incumbent Toshihiro Nikai mobilized his allies to retain his post, threatening to oppose Constitution revision. Since that time, trust at the top has been eroding, with two new power groups emerging. One is led by Abe, and includes Aso and Kishida. The other is led by Suga, and includes Nikai and Koizumi. Each group is trying to eliminate supporters of the other. Understand that if these accounts are true, the Abe-Suga regime which has maintained an iron grip on Japanese politics for seven years may already have silently passed away, and a more “normal” era of LDP tribes at war with one another has reemerged.
—Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso again creates controversy by giving voice to conservative historical fantasies about Japan’s past: “No country but this one has lasted 2,000 years with one language, one ethnic group, and one dynasty.”
—Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso issues a non-apology apology over his umpteenth verbal gaffe: “If I made a remark that has caused misunderstanding, I have to take care of my way of saying and correct what I said.”
—Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi announces he will take two weeks off for paternity leave, but his potentially bold gesture is immediately undermined by explanation that he will spread the days over three months and will probably work almost as much as usual.
—Prosecutors raid the offices of two ruling party lawmakers, former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his wife Anri Kawai, on suspicion of violating campaign finance laws, specifically paying their campaign workers more than allowed under law.
—Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, who faces elections next week, tweets her New Years greetings to Japan in the Japanese language, calling for closer bilateral relations.
—The Chinese government is apparently forcing blackouts on the domestic broadcasts of NHK World in order to keep news of the Taiwan presidential and Legislative Yuan elections away from the Chinese people.
—Local media in Myanmar says that Ambassador Ichiro Maruyama told reporters “I don’t think that the Myanmar [military] committed genocide or [had the] intent of genocide,” thus meaning that Abe’s Japan has become “the first country to voice support for Myanmar” in its trial.
—Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison cancels his official trip to Japan scheduled for late January in order to manage the wildfire crisis devastating his nation. Morrison has been one of the leading climate change deniers among world leaders and is now paying the price.
—Stars and Stripes reports three US soldiers have recently been arrested in separate incidents in Okinawa, including a case of choking a Japanese man at a bar, punching a Japanese girlfriend in the face, and drunkenly breaking into a private Japanese home to steal a drink.
—In his New Year’s press conference, South Korean President Moon Jae-In urges the Abe government to present its own proposals how to resolve the wartime Forced Labor issue: “South Korea’s proposals are not the only possible resolution,” he declared.
—The bilateral US-Japan trade pact that US President Donald Trump extorted from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is effectuated as of today. Mainly it allows more US agricultural products to be sold in Japan, while the Japanese side gets essentially bupkis.
—Abe government working on an iPhone app that will allow employers to more easily identify forged residence cards used by some foreigners. With Japan’s population disappearing at a rate now exceeding half-a-million per year, these guys really have the right policy priorities.
—Foreign tourism to Japan hit a new record of almost 31.9 million in 2019, up 2.2% over the previous year. However, the rate of growth fell due to sharply fewer South Korean visitors. There are growing doubts that the 40 million target for 2020 will be met.
—The first Universal Basic Income experiment is beginning in Japan. Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will provide ¥1 million yen to 1,000 of his Twitter followers, selected at random, and then track what happens with surveys. He wants to stimulate debate about UBI.
—Already the fastest-growing group of foreign residents by nationality, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc agree that more Vietnamese should come to Japan for work.
—Japan Meteorological Agency confirms that 2019 was, by average temperature, the hottest year ever recorded in Japan since records began to be compiled in 1898.
—The National Saury Fishery Association reports that Japan’s 2019 saury catches hit a record low of 40,517 tons, down 66% from the previous year. Rising sea temperatures are cited as one of the key factors in the sharp decline.
—The Japanese government planning financial support to companies for the development of next-generation drones, worried that China is taking a wide lead in this technology. The support will include low-interest loans.
—Toyota has revealed plans to build a prototype “city” of the future on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan. Called the Woven City, it will be a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
—Shipments of hydrogen fuel cells grew by more than 40% in 2019, according to Switzerland-based E4tech. Toyota Motor has been the biggest driver of hydrogen technology for transportation.
—Microsoft announces that it has ended support for the aged Windows 7 operating system. Since nearly 14 million computers in Japanese government offices, businesses, and households still use Windows 7, there are fears for the internet security impact.
—Emperor Naruhito’s wish for 2020 is that the nation is not struck by an additional natural disaster. It’s a fine sentiment, to be sure, but what a deeply pessimistic frame of mind the nation must be in if this is the leading prayer.
—Shiori Ito: Noriyuki Yamaguchi appeals the damages verdict against him which ordered him to pay ¥3.3 million. So the one clear victory in Japan’s #MeToo movement will be back in front of the courts again.
—Tokyo Minato Ward working on what may be Japan’s first LGBT “right to free expression” policies, including the right of students to have different uniforms or clothes. The policy also expected to encompass the recognition of same-sex partnerships.
—The Japanese government has begun emergency collection of information from the WHO and others about the pneumonia-like illness spreading from Wuhan city, China, which may be a new kind of virus. The Health Ministry is being put on alert.
—Journalist Jumpei Yasuda files a lawsuit against the Abe government at the Tokyo District Court over its unwillingness to issue him a passport. Like other cases since the Iraq War, rightwingers argue Japanese journalists taken hostage overseas shouldn’t get government help.
—A group of thirteen Ainu in Hokkaido, claiming to constitute a tribe taking over from their ancestors, preparing a lawsuit against the government to confirm their indigenous rights to fishing salmon in rivers. The government has argued there are no Ainu tribes.
—Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare survey finds that more Japanese women are becoming smokers. In 2018, more than 8% of women smoked, up almost 1% from 2017. Male smoking is more common, but is declining. Overall, Japanese smokers rose to 17.8% of the population, up 0.1%.
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