Category Archives: Politics

Abe defends Japan secrets law as poll ratings plunge

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday defended as “necessary” an unpopular secrets law that he rushed through parliament, as a new poll showed his support rating had plunged 10 percent in a month.
The conservative hawk admitted he could have better explained the new law, but insisted that it was a vital step to protect Japan and bring it into line with its allies.
“Unless our country establishes rules to manage confidential information, we cannot obtain such information from other countries,” he told reporters.

“In order to protect people’s lives and property, it was necessary to pass the special secrecy law as quickly as possible.”

The bill, which vastly broadens the scope of information that ministers can designate as a state secret, was railroaded through both chambers in just a month, thanks to the handsome majority Abe commands in the two houses.

Supporters have claimed Japan’s notoriously leaky government machine needs to be plugged to help support the creation of a new US-style National Security Council, and to encourage ally Washington to share its secrets.

But journalists, lawyers, academics and rights groups say the law is illiberal and represents “the largest threat to democracy in postwar Japan”. They claim it undermines press freedoms and the public’s right to know.

Read the rest of the story: Abe defends Japan secrets law as poll ratings

VP Biden in Japan – Supports Japan – ‘Deeply concerned’ over China’s Air Defense Identification Zone

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a carefully calibrated show of support for Japan on Tuesday, declaring the United States was “deeply concerned” about China’s move to control airspace contested with Japan. But he stopped short of demanding that China retreat, and urged the feuding neighbors to talk to each other.

Mr. Biden’s statement, at the start of an unexpectedly challenging trip to Asia that includes a stop in Beijing, captured the strategic complexities for the United States in the tense showdown between Japan and China over disputed claims in the East China Sea.

China, Mr. Biden said, was trying to “unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea,” with an air defense identification zone that he said “raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation.” He said he would raise the American concerns in detail when he meets with the Chinese leadership on Wednesday.

Read the rest of the story: Biden, in Japan, Calibrates Message Over Tensions With China.

Japan and China in a war of words over air defense zone

A war of words between Japan and China over a territorial dispute escalated Monday, with each country summoning the other’s ambassador and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling a newly declared Chinese maritime air defense zone dangerous and unenforceable.

Abe told a parliamentary session that the zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and escalates a tense situation.

“The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever for Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace,” Abe said. “It can invite an unexpected occurrence and it is a very dangerous thing as well.”

On Saturday, Beijing issued a map of the zone and a set of rules that say all aircraft must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey Beijing’s orders.

Abe said the measures one-sidedly impose rules set by the Chinese military on all flights in the zone, and violate the freedom to fly above open sea, a general principle under international law. He also slammed China for showing the disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, as Chinese territory in the zone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3ZQwTqdo7N0

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy presents credentials to emperor

New US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy has presented her credentials to the country’s emperor to mark the formal start of her duties.

carroline-kennedy-ambassador

The daughter of late US president John F. Kennedy arrived in Tokyo last week. She’s the first female US ambassador to Japan.

On Tuesday, Kennedy went to the Imperial Palace in a horse-drawn carriage, a tradition for newly appointed ambassadors to Japan. She smiled and waved at crowds along the way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1zvrP4NRDZU

IAEA calls for strengthened efforts from Japan to increase radiation exposure awareness

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday the Japanese government should communicate well to the public that the country’s goal to reduce annual individual radiation exposure to 1 millisievert in areas contaminated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis cannot be achieved in a short time.

“The government should strengthen its efforts to explain to the public that an additional individual dose of 1 millisievert per year is a long-term goal,” the team said in a preliminary report released after its weeklong mission on decontamination efforts in Japan, adding such a strategy would allow resources to be reallocated to the recovery of essential infrastructure in disaster-hit areas.

The report also said that Japanese institutions are encouraged to increase efforts to communicate that a dose in the range of 1 to 20 millisieverts per year is “acceptable” and “in line with the international standards.”

Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster that resulted in the release of massive amounts of radioactive substances outside the plant, the Japanese government is aiming to scale down areas where over 20 millisieverts of annual exposure is measured to help evacuees return to their homes.

As for areas with doses of less than 20 millisieverts, the government has said it will seek to bring down the figure to 1 millisievert or below as a long-term goal.

But according to Environment Ministry officials, some people are concerned about returning to areas that have not achieved the long-term goal.

You Ought to Know The Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Taking a quick poll of current trending news, using that word loosely, you will notice that the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is largely missing from the media. Why?One reason is due to the U.S government stalemate over the fiscal ceiling that, if left unresolved, could lead to ramifications we could sum up as cray banger.

    The Trade-Pacific Partnership, Initially under the acronym TPSEP, planned to liberalize trade in the Asia-Pacific region among  Brunei, Chile, Singapore, and New Zealand. After several negotiations with original members new candidate countries are being considered into the agreement; some of which include Mexico, the United States, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Japan. The United states began courting the TPP in early 2008 under the Bush administration’s leadership and now under Obama’s administration is being completed.  The TPP’s main priority is to “free” trade among partners to dilute barriers that stifles economic growth, i.e, tariffs and corporate restrictions.

    Japan voiced its interest in the TPP in early March 2013 to improve its trade in Asia especially after China advanced its position as the second largest economy–one Japan once held. The agreement would give Japanese corporations larger access to different markets; an overall positive outcome to minimize China’s growth within Asia as the  largest exporter. Concerns have grown among anti-globalization, environmental, and consumer-labor groups that the trade pact would stiffen nation business growth; in other words,Japan would become dependent on foreign companies similar to Mexico during its NAFTA treaty with the U.S and Canada.

    The Citizens Trade Campaign, a social and environmental trade policy group, pointed out that the TPP special provisions for corporations are “a wishlist of the 1%…[that] of the 26 chapters under negotiations, only a few have to do directly with trade….new rights and privileges [are enshrined] for major corporations while weakening the power of the nation states to oppose them.”  More concerning is that a larger majority of  information on the TPP meetings stem from Wikileaks and the Citizens’ Trade Campaign leaks. For instance, Intellectual Property Watch reported that $25,000 dollars were raised for Wikileaks to collect and publish drafted text from current TPP agreements because most has been redacted from the public domain and shared chiefly with industries. The shrewd secrecy in these negotiations concern Japanese as the chief majority of proposals  involve fields in government procurement, competition policy, labor standards, intellectual property, financial service, investment, telecommunications and environmental standards.

    One goal of the TPP is to eliminate tariffs and some of those involve what are labeled “sacred precincts.” Japanese tariffs cover about 9,018 specific items, of which the “sacred” categories of rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar account for 586. If current tariffs on all those items were maintained, according to The Mainichi, Japan would still eliminate tariffs on 93.5 percent of trade goods in the TPP zone. It is widely believed, however, that TPP negotiations are shooting for tariff elimination on more than 95 percent of items.Farmers in Japan have been protesting the TPP agenda for a while now. The Liberal Democratic Party, however, has vowed that it would seek to maintain tariffs on vital “national trade goods” including rice, wheat and barley. It was a clear move meant to reduce worries among voters that food safety would be jeopardized for trading consensus. Even if, the Mainichi notes, tariff protections are maintained for certain agricultural products and dropped for processed items, there is still a real possibility that domestic industries would take a hit under the TPP.

    Japan has fared well under Shinzo Abe’s leadership since 2012 winning its bid for the 2020 summer Olympics, raising exports, and taking a modest step out of recession. Consumer spending rose 0.9% and public sector infrastructure spending, part of Japan’s stimulus package, rose 0.8%, which is all good news for the country. Japan, however, faces  a wave of declining prices; a good thing for the average Joes who can now buy more with the same amount of money. For companies, however, if deflation persists for too long then their profits decline; thus, setting into motion a slew of policies that are meant to offset this scenario that involve cutting labor, closing manufacturing facilities, and reducing employee wages. For Shinzo Abe, TPP’s allure is the possibility that it could open new markets for the country in locations where it does not have strong footing. Nonetheless, he risks letting outsiders dominate Japan if he acquiesces to any compromises drafted by other nations such as the U.S; as to how Abe will handle the ramifications of the agreements is unknown. One thing is certain, Japan has much to determine before it can safely procure its citizens that Japanese  businesses, foods, and jobs will not be negatively affected. In the meantime, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) indicates the Japanese economy may see some advances against deflation fairly soon–continuing a string of welcomed reports.

Japan’s PM’s Abe on Syria and U.S. decision

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday he will closely monitor how the U.S. Congress will react to President Barack Obama’s decision to ask it to support a military strike punishing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for the alleged use of chemical weapons.
“I took President Obama’s announcement as the expression of his grave determination,” Abe told reporters in Chiba Prefecture. “I will closely watch the process in the U.S. Congress.”
Japan “will continue to closely cooperate with the United State and international community in collecting and analyzing information” on Syria, he also said. “We will work to ensure even a little improvement” in the situation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zY9BR6d1iLs

Japan Supporting Philippines in China Row

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged support for Philippine maritime forces as both countries confront China in separate territorial disputes.

Following a meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Saturday, Abe announced Japan would provide a concessional loan to build 10 coast guard patrol boats for the Philippines.

Aquino says the two reviewed security challenges both countries are facing and promised to co-operate to push for what he calls responsible action from international players in a reference to China.

Read the rest of the story: Japan supports Philippines in China row.

President Obama Nominates Caroline Kennedy for Ambassador to Japan

President Obama on Wednesday afternoon announced he was nominating Caroline Kennedy as the US ambassador to Japan, an appointment that would catapult the only surviving child of slain President John F. Kennedy to a dynamic diplomatic post.

Kennedy, who has been rumored to be in line for the position for months, would be the first female American ambassador in Tokyo.

Kennedy has a long history with President Obama, having endorsed him at a crucial point in the 2008 Democratic primary contest. She also cochaired Obama’s 2008 search for a running mate and cochaired his 2012 reelection effort.

Read the rest of the story: President Obama nominates Caroline Kennedy to become ambassador to Japan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EjG9Ln2W2_A

Fighter Antonio Inoki – Who Fought a Draw against Muhammad Ali – Wins Election in Japan

A former Japanese wrestler who took on boxer Muhammad Ali in a cross-discipline bout in the 1970s is among the winners in his nation’s election to the upper house of parliament yesterday.

Antonio Inoki, 70, was elected as a member of the Japan Restoration Party, resuming a presence in Japan’s legislature decades after he fought Ali to a draw in 1976. The ballot, which suffered a slump in turnout as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition swept to a majority, also saw a television actor win a seat on a platform opposing the restart of nuclear reactors after the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns.

“I would like to thank everyone who gave me energy as I rushed around sweating for this,” Inoki, who has made several trips to North Korea, told Fuji Television last night. “I would like to focus on diplomatic issues.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TrUeNKpnaYM

Read the rest of the story: Muhammad Ali Combatant Inoki Among Japan Election Winners.