Move Was Loudly Backed by US, Which Envisions Japanese Support in Future Wars
Anti-War, By Jason Ditz, September 18
Ignoring polls that showed a showing a strong majority of Japanese voters opposed, and weeks of massive public protests, the upper house of the Japanese parliament today voted in favor of changes to reverse limits on war fighting in the post-WW2 Japanese Constitution, allowing the military to conduct overseas operations in “collective defense” of allies.
The limits were imposed after WW2 by the United States to prevent Japan rearming, but it was ironically also the US that pushed heavily to pitch those restrictions, envisioning growing Japanese military involvement in their assorted wars abroad. Current PM Abe Shinzo backed the move heavily, though polls show it is hurting his favorability ratings quite a bit.
The real question yet to be resolved is exactly how much this vote loosens restrictions on Japanese wars abroad, as Abe and other politicians have downplayed the matter, while military officials say there will be “almost nothing” they won’t be able to do abroad in the future.
And while many in the military are salivating at the budget hikes this upgrade portends, some are expressing concern that the change is going to open up increasing US pressure to join the war against ISIS and other major conflicts, and risks a US backlash if they refuse.
New York Times: Japan Military Bills Provoke Scuffling in Parliament
RT, August 28
War is imminent in the Japanese gang world, police say, as Yamaguchi-gumi – the largest yakuza conglomerate – is facing a split. Authorities are awaiting an outbreak of bloody violence, as the syndicate boasts some 43 percent of all Japan’s gang members.
To blame are differences in loyalties to the gang’s 73-year-old boss, Shinobu Tsukasa, who became the country’s most powerful crime lord in 2005, the Japan Times reports.
Reports indicate that he angered some of the gangs in the syndicate by giving preferential treatment to certain branches, as well as harboring ambitions of expanding into new territory, straying outside of the syndicate’s home turf. Tsukasa, who also goes by the name Kenichi Shinoda, is the syndicate’s sixth-generation don.
Twelve of the more than 30 groups now threaten to leave and form their own syndicate, according to the Japan Times’ police sources. This is putting police on very high alert, as the gang – now 100 years old – is quite a large organization. Numbering 10,300 members at the end of 2014, it also comprises 23,400 ‘quasi’-members. The gang’s influence is felt everywhere.
Urgent action needed to save children’s lives says UNICEF as failures of early-harvest crops of wheat and barley loom.
AFP, July 9
A serious drought in North Korea requires urgent action to prevent the deaths of children already weakened by widespread malnutrition, the United Nations children’s fund, UNICEF, warned on Thursday.
“The situation is urgent,” said UNICEF east Asia regional director Daniel Toole in a statement. “But if we act now – by providing urgently needed expertise and prepositioning supplies – we can save lives
“If we delay until we are certain of crop failures, it may well be too late to save the most vulnerable children.”
North Korea is suffering what its official media described last month as the worst drought in 100 years that has severely affected the main rice-growing areas.
AFP, May 2
Havana – The foreign minister of Japan said Saturday that Tokyo wants to launch “large scale cooperation” with Havana to support the island’s reforms.
In the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, speaking during a meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, said Japan supports US and Cuban efforts to normalize relations and that Tokyo wants to take its own ties with Havana to “a new level.”
Kishida, who traveled with a delegation of 30 Japanese business leaders, said Japan wants to launch a “new scheme of Japanese cooperation of wide range, large scale” to support reforms undertaken by President Raul Castro.
He said the scheme was called “non-reimburseable financial assistance.”
“Secondly, we would like to consolidate our economic relations,” Kishida said.
Comments seen as rebuke to Abe and others in right wing who downplay Japan’s system of wartime sex slavery.
Al Jazeera / Wire Services, February 23
Japan’s crown prince has warned of the need to remember World War II “correctly,” in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country’s crimes.
Naruhito’s mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right-wing drive to minimize the significance of Japan’s institutionalized system of wartime sex slavery.
“Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back on our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation that knew the war to the generation that doesn’t,” Naruhito said.
The comments, released Monday on the prince’s 55th birthday, come as Abe’s controversial views on history roil Japan’s relations with China and South Korea and cause unease in Washington.
Pyongyang denies involvement in Sony Pictures hack and accuses US of stirring up hostility.
The Guardian, By Haroon Siddique and agencies, January 4
North Korea has furiously denounced the United States for imposing sanctions in retaliation for the Pyongyang regime’s alleged cyber-attack on Sony Pictures.
North Korea’s foreign ministry reiterated that it did not have any role in the breach of tens of thousands of confidential Sony emails and business files and accused the US of “groundlessly” stirring up hostility towards Pyongyang. He said the new sanctions would not weaken the country’s 1.2 million-strong military.
“The policy persistently pursued by the US to stifle the DPRK [North Korea], groundlessly stirring up bad blood towards it, will only harden its will and resolution to defend the sovereignty of the country,” North’s state-run KCNA news agency quoted the unnamed spokesman as saying on Sunday.
The Asahi Shimbun, By Yu Kotsubo & Hiromi Kumai, December 21
Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture – Tokyo Electric Power Co. removed the last four nuclear fuel assemblies that remained in the No. 4 reactor building of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from its storage pool on Dec. 20.
The No. 4 reactor was offline at the time of the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. However, an explosion occurred in the building four days later, seriously damaging it.
After the accident, experts pointed to the risk of nuclear fuel in the pool melting from insufficient cooling and releasing a large amount of radioactive materials. However, the threat has been mitigated with the removal of the last assemblies.
TEPCO started the removal of those assemblies from the pool in November 2013 after installing a new roof and a crane on the building. The removal of spent nuclear fuel assemblies concluded in November this year.
There will be no work in the No. 4 reactor building for the time being. TEPCO will be engaged in efforts at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactor buildings and in dealing with the growing volume of contaminated water partly resulting from efforts to keep the reactors from overheating.
Of course, there are still troubles; EX-SKF: #Fukushima I NPP: Plan C Also Failed in Plugging Reactor 2 Trench… Now What?
Los Angeles Times, By Yuriko Nagano, December 14
With the economy limping but no obvious contenders offering a more compelling fiscal strategy, Japanese voters on Sunday gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party a fresh mandate to forge on with his reforms, known as Abenomics.
Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, predicted late Sunday that the Liberal Democrats and their coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, would together win at least 324 of the 475 seats in the lower house of parliament, a two-thirds majority.
Abe called the snap elections last month even though his approval ratings were faltering amid several scandals and news that the country had officially tipped into recession. But turnout was just 52% — the lowest in the postwar era — and political scientists, economists and foreign diplomacy experts say the Abe win didn’t necessarily mean the ruling party had stellar support among the public.
“The Liberal Democrats are the lesser evil,” said Yoshihisa Hara, a political scientist and professor emeritus at Tokyo International University. There are seven opposition parties and they are splintered, noted Hara. “In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have held together.”
Voter Miho Kobayashi, 20, a Tokyo office worker, agreed. She voted for the Liberal Democrats, she said, because they “seem better than the other parties” and appear “stable.”
Bloomberg BusinessWeek: Abe Faces Policy Balancing Act After Commanding Election Victory
BBC, December 7
Japan’s economy shrank more than initially estimated in the third quarter of 2014, according to revised gross domestic product (GDP) figures.
The economy contracted by 1.9% in annual terms from July to September, well above a preliminary reading of 1.6%.
It also shrank 0.5% on a quarterly basis, compared with an initial estimate of 0.4%, data showed.
A big fall in business spending plunged the economy into a deeper recession.
The revised figures, which come just days before Japan’s national elections, showed that business spending dipped by 0.4% from the previous quarter, instead of the 0.2% estimated in the preliminary reading.
Reuters, October 28
Tokyo – A town in southwest Japan became the first to approve the restart of a nuclear power station on Tuesday, a step forward in Japan’s fraught process of reviving an industry left idled by the Fukushima catastrophe in 2011.
Satsumasendai, a town of 100,000 that hosts the two-reactor Kyushu Electric Power Co (9508.T) plant, is 1,000 km (600 miles) southwest of Tokyo and has long relied on the Sendai plant for government subsidies and jobs.
Nineteen of the city’s 26 assembly members voted in favor of restarting the plant while four members voted against and three abstained, a city assembly member told Reuters.
The restart of Japan’s first reactors to receive clearance to restart under new rules imposed since Fukushima is unlikely until next year as Kyushu Electric still needs to pass operational safety checks.