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’s Diet OKs bill to launch National Security Council

Japan on Wednesday voted to create a National Security Council, much like the one in the US. The Diet committee approved a bill to set up the new framework for gathering information and speeding up decision-making in diplomacy and defense.

With the backing of the House of Representatives’ Special Committee on National Security, the lower house will likely pass the bill on Thursday, increasing the likelihood it will be enacted before the current extraordinary Diet session ends on Dec. 6th.

If established, the NSC will empower the prime minister’s office to take the lead in crafting foreign and defense policy by gathering information from various ministries and agencies.


Japan’s government to allow sales of almost all non-prescription drugs over the internet

The Japanese government has formally made adjustment in order to allow more than 99% of the country’s over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to be sold over the internet. While this sales method was previously banned, a ruling by the Supreme Court in January of this year labelled the act as unlawful. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to announce the official lifting of the ban later this week in Tokyo.

Japan categorizes its OTC drugs into three categories based on the risks of side effects. Type 1 drugs, which include anti-allergy and gastrointestinal drugs, are considered to have high risk; type 2 drugs are those that are used to treat pain and lower fevers; while drugs that impose little or no risk, like vitamins, are labelled as type 3. Before now, online sales of type 1 and type 2 medications was banned due to the Health Ministry feeling that consumers needed to speak to a pharmacist in person when making a purchase.

Out of all of Japan’s OTC drugs, there are roughly 100 labelled as type 1, around 8,300 type 2, and about 3,000 in the type 3 category. The only medicines that will continue to be restricted from online sales are the handful of type 1 drugs that have the greatest risks in terms of side effects. While Prime Minister Abe and much of his Liberal Democratic Party are in favor of lifting the online sales ban, many from the various doctor and pharmacist federations remain opposed to the change.

Japan MPs visit controversial war Yasukuni shrine amid islands tension

NEARLY 170 MPs have visited a controversial war shrine seen as potent symbol of Japan’s imperialist past, stoking regional tensions as eight Chinese vessels sailed into disputed waters.

The annual trip to the Yasukuni shrine, which usually draws a far smaller number of legislators, has riled neighbours China and South Korea, which lodged protests after several Japanese cabinet members visited at the weekend.

A total of 168 parliamentarians visited the site in central Tokyo on Tuesday morning according to upper house member of parliament Toshiei Mizuochi.

The shrine honours 2.5 million war dead, including 14 leading war criminals enshrined there, but is seen by Japan’s Asian neighbours as a symbol of its wartime aggression.

The visit came a day after South Korea shelved a proposed trip by Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se to Tokyo in protest at trips by Japanese cabinet ministers to the shrine.

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Japan lifts ban on political e-campaigning

Japans parliament on Friday lifted a ban on Internet electioneering, permitting candidates and their supporters to tweet, use Facebook and update their websites on the campaign trail.

The upper house unanimously approved the bill to revise the public offices election law, ending a long-running debate on the strict ban, criticised by its detractors as an anachronism.

Despite its reputation for innovative wizardry, Japan has a sometimes confounding tendency to shun technology and the format of elections has changed little over the past few decades.

The previous electoral laws, which predate the Internet era, treated anything appearing on a screen as akin to a leaflet, which means it falls under restrictions on how many fliers any nominee can produce.

Read the rest of the story: Japan lifts ban on political e-campaigning.

Japan’s Takehiko Nakao Only Nominee for ADB Presidency – Bloomberg

Japanese currency chief Takehiko Nakao is the sole nominee for the presidency of the Asian Development Bank, Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in a mobile-phone text message today, ensuring that Japan will maintain its hold on the top post at the lender.

ADB member countries will vote on the next president in an election from today to April 24, the Manila-based development bank said in an e-mailed statement earlier this month. The nomination period closed yesterday.

Japan has held the presidency of the ADB since the institution was founded in 1966, and is tied with the U.S. in having the largest voting power at the bank. The Japanese government nominated Nakao to replace former president Haruhiko Kuroda, who became the Bank of Japan (8301) governor last week.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Takehiko Nakao Is Sole Nominee for ADB Presidency.


Japan’s Shinzo Abe Congratulated by Obama on Election Win

President Barack Obama applauded former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on his conservative opposition’s electoral win Sunday, saying he looked forward to working with the next government.

Voters dumped Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda three years after his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised a change from more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

“I congratulate Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe on his party’s success in the elections in Japan today,” Obama said in a statement.

“The US-Japan Alliance serves as the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and I look forward to working closely with the next government and the people of Japan on a range of important bilateral, regional and global issues.”

Read the rest of the story: Obama congratulates Japan’s Abe on election win.


Japan’s Nuclear and Economic Woes at Center of Campaigns

Leaders for Japan’s biggest political parties are kicking off the campaign for parliamentary elections to be held in less than two weeks with visits to nuclear crisis-hit Fukushima prefecture.

Nuclear energy and the economy are key issues in the Dec. 16 election, which is widely expected to send Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s unpopular Democratic Party of Japan to defeat after three years in power.

The opposition Liberal Democratic Party is leading in the polls, but is unlikely to win a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament.

The most likely outcome of the election is a coalition government whose makeup is far from clear.

Polls show more than 40 percent of voters don’t know which party they’ll support in the election.

Shinzo Abe Facebook’s His Thoughts

You don’t have to like Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe, but the veteran Japanese politician’s Facebook page is sure getting lots of attention.

That’s because he used the social media site this week as an outlet to clarify his series of controversial statements on monetary policy.

Did he or did he not say the Bank of Japan should directly buy construction bonds? Check his Facebook page. Indeed, Mr. Abe took the unusual step of directing reporters to his wall of posts on Wednesday where he had posted the answer the previous night.

Read the rest of the story: Facebook Comes First for Japan PM Hopeful Abe.

Tokyo Ex-Governor Joins New Conservative Party

Outspoken leaders from Japan’s two biggest cities formed a national political party Saturday, seeking to become “a third force” to lure undecided voters and challenge the country’s two biggest parties.

Nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, who resigned as Tokyo governor to create his own party this week, said he is scrapping his four-day-old group to join the Japan Restoration Party formed in September by the young and brash mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto.

The announcement comes the day after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the lower house of parliament, paving the way elections next month. His ruling party is expected to give way to a weak coalition government divided over how to tackle Japan’s myriad problems. The biggest problems are getting a stagnant economy going again and reconstruction after the crippling March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Elections are set for Dec. 16, with official campaigning starting Dec. 4. If Noda’s centrist party loses, the economically sputtering country will get its seventh prime minister in six and a half years.

Read the rest of the story: Tokyo ex-governor joins new conservative party.