Futenma deadline not a big deal?

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama says it’s “not a big deal” that he failed to meet his own deadline for selecting a new plan to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Hatoyama told reporters Tuesday night in Tokyo he was not ready to make public the alternate sites his government is considering. He had set a deadline of Wednesday to come up with an alternate site to begin the discussions between Okinawa and U.S. officials. He also pledged to reach an agreement on a replacement plan by the end of May.

“It is not time yet to tell you what the ideas are,” Hatoyama said, according to a transcript of the news conference. “Missing the target by a day or two is not a big deal. What is important is to come up with a solid and acceptable proposal.”

There was no indication when his party might make the ideas public.

Hatoyama’s left-center government swept into power in August, defeating the conservative government that signed an agreement with the U.S. in May 2006 to replace Futenma, located in crowded Ginowan, with a new air station on Camp Schwab in the more rural northeast.

The base is planned for the Henoko peninsula and reclaimed land in Oura Bay. During the election campaign, Hatoyama said the project should be reviewed.

Read the rest of the story: Japan misses deadline for selecting alternative Futenma proposal

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in US for Okinawa Base Talks

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada arrived Sunday in the United States for talks on a controversial US military base that has clouded relations between the close allies, officials said.

Okada was to hold talks with Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday before traveling on to Canada for a meeting of Group of Eight foreign ministers, where Okada was to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On Sunday, Okada was expected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery alongside a US official, a frequent gesture between the former World War II foes, officials said.

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Bill approved protecting Temporary Workers in Japan

Japan’s center-left government approved a bill limiting the hiring of temporary workers Friday, in a bid to reverse years of labor deregulation that it says went too far in favoring big business at the expense of workers.

But the proposals have drawn fire from all sides. Businesses and some economists say firms need flexible labor to remain lean amid fierce global competition. Meanwhile, some workers and small unions argue that the reforms don’t go far enough.

Read the rest of the story: Labor reforms? Japan limits on part-timers please no one.

Japan local vote plan allowing foreigners to vote triggers backlash

A plan by Japan’s centre-left leaders to give foreigners the vote in local elections has sparked a conservative backlash, showing ethnic minority issues can touch a raw nerve in the island-nation.

The idea is to grant local and regional but not national suffrage to almost one million permanent residents of ethnic Korean, Chinese and other foreign backgrounds, both those who were born overseas and their descendants.

But when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama floated the idea for the current parliamentary session, a key coalition partner quickly managed to derail the plan, at least temporarily.

Siding with protests from the conservative opposition, the maverick leader of the tiny People’s New Party, Financial Services Minister Shizuka Kamei, this month threatened to quit the government over the issue.

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The Yen and the Carry Trade looking ripe

On Monday it was reported that the Japanese output gap stood at a -6.4%, worse than the preliminary reading of -6.1%. This output gap is designed to measure how much the domestic product deviates from the potential gross domestic product. A negative number suggests that demand is lagging behind supplies, leading to deflationary pressure. Considering the demography of Japan, and much less consumption by an aging population, this should not be a surprise.

Deflationary pressure is a real threat in Japan, and the Japanese Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have been leaning on the Bank of Japan to do something. Today the BoJ kept the three month rate at 0.1 percent, and increased the short term lending to banks by 20 trillion yen or $220 billion.

Read the rest of the story: Bank of Japan Policies Makes Yen Attractive to the Carry Trade

Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Kobayashi to Quit After Four Arrested, Kyodo Says

Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Chiyomi Kobayashi told officials in the ruling party she intends to resign to take responsibility for alleged funding irregularities, Kyodo News said, citing an unidentified party source.

Three people were arrested this month on suspicion of providing 16 million yen ($180,000) in illegal donations to Kobayashi’s campaign office, the report said. The chief accountant of Kobayashi’s election office was also arrested, the report said.

Source : bloomberg

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Japanese Election Landslide – Aso to Resign – Japan to Change


Japan’s main opposition party, Democratic Party of Japan, made a historic landslide victory in elections Sunday, upending the ruling conservative party, which has ruled Japan for all but 11 months since 1955.

Japan has had three prime ministers in three years, all of whom were deeply unpopular for their perceived lack of leadership and for failing to get the country out of its deepening economic morass.

“All the bad things over the last 54 years finally caught up to them,” said Fumio Morita, 45, who runs a bar in Tokyo. “It’s good that they are no longer in power.”

Aso’s Resignation

A grim-looking Prime Minister Taro Aso conceded defeat just a couple hours after polls had closed, and has now stated he will resign as the president of the Liberal Democratic Party to take responsibility.

“The results are very severe,” Aso said. “There has been a deep dissatisfaction with our party.”

“I must accept responsibility” for the Liberal Democratic Party’s expected major losses, Aso said during a televised interview with Japanese national broadcaster NHK.

Japan Now

Unemployment and deflation-and an aging, shrinking population-have left families fearful of what the future holds.

“It’s a historic election in that a clear alternation of power has happened for the first time in the postwar period,” said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. “It’s kind of hard to know whether this is going to lead to a real change in policy, at least for the short term.”

With only two weeks of official campaigning that focused mainly on broad-stroke appeals rather than specific policies, many analysts said the elections were not so much about issues as voters’ general desire for something new after more than a half century under the LDP.

Japan’s Future

“I’m hoping that Japan will forever be changed for the better,” stated an excited voter.

Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the The Democratic Party of Japan, ended 50 years of single-party rule with vows to arrest Japan’s decay and tame its bureaucracy.

Hatoyama’s party, which already controls the upper house with two allies, held just 112 seats in the lower house before parliament was dissolved in July.

The Democratic Party of Japan needed to win a simple majority of 241 seats in the lower house to ensure it could name the next prime minister. The 300-plus level would allow it and its two smaller allies the two-thirds majority they need in the lower house to pass bills.

Official results were to be announced mid-morning Monday, but media exit polls indicated the Democrats would win 300 or more of the 480 seats in the more powerful lower house of Japan’s parliament. That would be enough to give them the power to establish a new Cabinet and name Hatoyama as prime minister by the end of next month.

In foreign relations, the Democrats have said they want Tokyo to be more independent from Washington on diplomatic issues, though they have stressed that the U.S. will remain Japan’s key ally and that they want to keep relations good, while also strengthening ties with their Asian neighbors.

Excerpts taken from stories by AP, Bloomberg, and Dow Jones