Okinawa Mayor’s Election Deals a Blow to Marine Base Relocation Plan

Efforts to relocate a Marine air base that has been a longstanding irritant in ties between Japan and the United States suffered a new setback on Sunday when voters in a small Okinawan city re-elected a leftist mayor who promised to block construction of a replacement site.

The victory for the mayor of Nago, Susumu Inamine, dealt an embarrassing blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has invested his political capital in efforts to restart the long-stalled relocation deal, and who seemed to achieve a breakthrough last month by gaining the support of Okinawa’s governor.

Mr. Abe, a conservative, has vowed to build closer ties with the United States at a time when both nations face growing challenges from a militarily resurgent China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

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Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting Yasukuni WW2 shrine

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to visit a controversial shrine to World War Two dead, local media report.

The visit later in the day to Tokyo’s Yasukuni memorial comes one year after Mr Abe took office.

The move is likely to further inflame already tense relations with neighbouring China and South Korea.

The shrine honours several convicted Japanese war criminals. Beijing and Seoul see it as a symbol of Tokyo’s war-time aggression.

This will be the first visit to Yasukuni by a serving prime minister since 2006.

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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.

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Abe Offers Support to Syria’s Opposition

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to send supplies to Syria’s opposition forces. It would be the first time for Japan to do so. He will announce the decision at the upcoming G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Syria’s civil war is expected to be one of the issues on the agenda at the G8 meeting starting next Monday.

Abe says Japan will provide the rebels with supplies such as vehicles and power generators.

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Japan’s Abe Promises 3% Annual Increase in Japanese Incomes

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to raise incomes by 3 percent annually and set up special economic zones to attract foreign businesses in the third tranche of measures aimed at boosting growth in the world’s third-biggest economy.

Abe is also considering a push for public pensions and other public funds – a pool of $2 trillion (1.3 trillion pounds) – to increase returns by raising investment in equities, a government draft growth strategy showed, confirming a Reuters report.

The government will seek the view of experts and aim to reach a conclusion by autumn, the draft said. Still, such a move could face opposition from Japan’s risk-averse voters.

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Abe defends shrine visits amid tensions with China and South Korea

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday there is no problem for his Cabinet members to visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, even if there is criticism from China or South Korea.

“My ministers will not yield to any kind of intimidation,” Abe said during a session of parliament. “It’s a matter of course to secure the freedom to express one’s respect and worship to precious souls of the war dead.”

Abe made the remarks at a time when China and South Korea, which see Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, have sternly protested against the visits to the Tokyo shrine by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and two other Cabinet members last weekend, as well as Tuesday’s mass homage there by 168 Japanese lawmakers.

Japan PM vows to expel by force any Chinese landing on disputed islands

Japan’s prime minister on Tuesday vowed to “expel by force” any Chinese landing on islands at the centre of a territorial row, after eight Chinese government vessels sailed into disputed waters.

“We would take decisive action against any attempt to enter territorial waters and to land” on the islands, Mr Shinzo Abe told parliament in response to questions from lawmakers.

Eight Chinese government ships have entered Japanese territorial waters near disputed islands, the most in a single day since Tokyo nationalised part of the archipelago, the Japanese government says. A flotilla of boats carrying more than 80 Japanese nationalists had arrived in waters near the islands on Tuesday, risking further straining Tokyos already tense relations with its Asian neighbours.Japan’s coastguard confirmed the Chinese vessels had entered waters near the East China Sea island chain.The maritime surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile zone off the Senkaku chain of islands, which China calls the Diaoyu, about 8am 9am AEST, the Japan Coast Guard said in a statement.State-owned Chinese ships have frequently spent time around the five disputed islands, also claimed by Taiwan, in recent months.

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Okinawans Protest Celebration of ‘day of humiliation’

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says that the government is planning to commemorate the day when Japan regained its sovereignty from the United States 61 years ago on April 28 by holding a special ceremony. But Okinawans are angry about this since they consider this their “day of humiliation”, when they were abandoned by Japan.

Moriteru Arasaki, a professor emeritus of Okinawa University was a first year high school student on that day when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect. While Japan got its sovereignty back, Okinawa was placed under the control of the United States. Arasaki believes it is an insult to Okinawans for Abe’s government to consider celebrating that day. And he is not alone in that thinking. Choho Zukeran, the former chairman of the Political Local Party of Okinawa believes that his prefecture was used as a pawn to the U.S, in exchange for giving back freedom to the rest of the country. Zukeran participated in protests held every year on April 28 until they finally succeeded in 1972 when the Okinawa prefecture was returned to the Japanese government.

But to this day, residents of the southernmost prefecture of Japan feel deep anger at being “forced” to host the U.S bases and half of its more than 47,000 military personnel. Protests, sometimes led by their political leaders and government officials, have continued against the US military presence, safety issues over the deployment of MV-22 Osprey aircraft at the Kadena Air Force Base by 2015 and the recent spate of criminal misbehaviour by military personnel. Some have warned Abe’s administration that the continued unrest in the region might someday lead to a move for secession from the central government. If the celebration on April 28 pushes through, this will just be another reason for Okinawans to resent the government.

U.S. to Abe: Collective self-defense off agenda for U.S. summit

Washington does not want Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring up the issue of collective self-defense at the Japan-U.S. summit to be held later this month, diplomatic sources said.

The U.S. reaction comes as Abe hopes to bolster bilateral security ties by gaining President Barack Obama’s support for lifting Japan’s self-imposed ban on the right, which conflicts with Article 9 of the Constitution.

Washington has told Tokyo that if Obama openly welcomes Abe’s drive to allow Self-Defense Forces troops to engage in collective self-defense — the right to come to the defense of an ally under armed attack — it risks upsetting Beijing, which might interpret the gesture as an attempt by Japan and the U.S. to increase pressure on China, according to the sources.

U.S. officials also said during preparatory talks for the summit, set to be held Feb. 21 or 22, that heightening Sino-Japanese tensions with Washington’s close involvement could damage regional stability and harm the interests of Japan and the U.S., they said.

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Abe Visits Fukushima Nuclear Plant

The clean-up at Fukushima after its tsunami-sparked nuclear meltdowns is unlike anything humanity has ever tried, Japan’s prime minister said Saturday during a tour of the plant.

“The massive work toward decommissioning is an unprecedented challenge in human history,” the newly-elected Shinzo Abe said. “Success in the decommissioning will lead to the reconstruction of Fukushima and Japan.”

Dressed in a protective suit and wearing a face mask, Abe was taken by bus to see two of the damaged reactors.

Thanking workers for their efforts at this time of year, when many people are celebrating New Year at home with their families, he said: “Decommissioning work is hard work, but it is progressing. We owe it all to you. We, the government, will give full support.”

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