Japan’s PM Agrees to Hold December Elections

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Wednesday that he was ready to dissolve Parliament in two days, setting the scene for December elections that could end his administration and thrust Japanese politics into more uncertainty.

A nationwide ballot could usher in Japan’s sixth prime minister in as many years and, with no clear projected winner, deepen the nation’s political inertia at a difficult time for the country.

Tokyo is embroiled in a damaging territorial dispute with China, and Japan’s economy, mired in deflation, is edging toward its third recession in just over three years. Reconstruction after the tsunami and nuclear disaster last year is stalling, and the population is declining and public debt rising.

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Noda Visits Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda toured the crippled Fukushima power station on Sunday in a show of resolve over the nuclear disaster there, amid strong public scepticism about his energy policy. Noda, who reshuffled his cabinet last week before a possible snap general election, encouraged the crews who worked to contain the plants dangerous molten reactors after last years earthquake and tsunami, TV footage showed. “I believe that Japan has survived as we see it now thanks to your dedicated work,” the premier told about a dozen people who carried on working inside the power station after the catastrophe struck on March 11, 2011.

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Japan, China leaders meet amid tension over islands

Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Sunday Japan should not make a “wrong decision” over a territorial dispute when he met Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda after weeks of tension between the neighbors, media reported.

The two leaders met for 15 minutes on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation APEC summit in Vladivostok.

No talks had been scheduled, given the row over their claims to uninhabited islands known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan, but the Japanese prime minister said on Friday he would not shun a brief exchange.

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Bilateral ties strained between Japan and South Korea and no summit likely at APEC meeting

It is unlikely that Japan and South Korea will hold a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vladivostok this weekend.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will be among the leaders of the 21 APEC leaders to attend the annual summit.

A South Korean foreign ministry spokesman told reporters on Tuesday that neither side has proposed holding a bilateral summit.

He also said no meeting is scheduled either between Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kim Sung-hwan. Both will attend the APEC ministerial meeting opening on Wednesday.

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Noda Holding Conference to Express His Views on Takeshima, Senkaku Island Disputes

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will hold a news conference on Friday to express his views on the territorial dispute over the Takeshima islets.

Noda wrote a letter to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak following Lee’s recent visit to the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan. They are called Dokdo in South Korea. The letter calls for a peaceful settlement of the territorial dispute in accordance with international law.

The South Korean government refused to accept the letter and returned it to Japan.
An official from the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo visited the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Thursday, but was denied entry. The South Korean government sent back the letter by mail later in the day.

The Japanese government says it cannot accept South Korea’s response to the territorial dispute.

In addition, Lee recently said that if Japan’s Emperor wishes to visit South Korea, he should offer a heartfelt apology to Koreans who died fighting for independence from Japan.

Noda told a Diet committee on Thursday that the comment lacks common sense.
Japanese authorities say they have not proposed to Korean officials that the Emperor visit the country. They plan to clarify South Korea’s stance through diplomatic channels.

At Friday’s news conference, Noda is also 1expected to speak about problems with China over the Senkaku island group in the East China Sea.

South Korea Returns Japanese Prime Minister’s Letter on Takeshima

The Korean government is showing a stronger stance in dealing with the tensions mounting with Japan concerning recent events surrounding the Dokdo. The government’s renewed position was displayed clearly through a series of actions. On August 23, it decided to return a letter that was sent to President Lee Myung-bak by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) will send an official diplomatic letter of protest in response to comments made the day before by Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba that Korea is “unlawfully occupying” Dokdo.

Tensions have grown since President Lee’s August 10 visit to Dokdo and his August 13 comment that ‘Japan no longer has the influence it used to have.’ The biggest blow came the following day through a comment asking Japanese Emperor Akhito to apologize for Japan’s past wrongdoings. For a while, it looked as if Seoul was easing up, saying that Korea may ease up on physical control of Dokdo.

The new posture comes in reaction to the aggression that the Japanese has shown in dealing with this issue, not to mention criticism by the Korean public pointing out the lack of a strategy to secure Korea’s rightful claim on Dokdo(Called Takeshima in Japan). The Korean government’s choice reflects the worry that this diplomatic friction could provide a pretext for Japan to turn Takeshima into an international dispute.

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Japans PM Meets With Anti-Nuclear Protesters

Japans prime minister met for the first time with leaders of weekly anti-nuclear protests Wednesday but rejected their demand that two recently restarted nuclear plants should be shut again.

Tens of thousands of people have been gathering every Friday night outside Prime Minister Yoshihiko Nodas office compound to protest against nuclear power because of safety concerns set off by last years Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis.

The 11 protest leaders were allowed into the complex for the first time since they started chanting anti-nuclear slogans outside the tightly guarded building in April.

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Noda Might Face No-Confidence Motion Over Consumption Tax

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is likely to face a no-confidence motion over his plan to raise the consumption tax.

Senior officials from three small opposition parties agreed Thursday to submit a no-confidence motion against the Noda cabinet to the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, in order to block the passage of bills to raise the tax.

The three parties–the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party and Your Party–agreed that the no-confidence motion should be submitted before the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of parliament, votes on the bills. The Lower House approved the bills in June.Peoples Life First, a new political party set up by Ichiro Ozawa and his followers after they bolted from Nodas ruling Democratic Party of Japan in opposition to the tax increase, plans to join the three parties.

If the Lower House passes a non-confidence motion against a cabinet, the prime minister needs to resign or call a general election.

Japan’s PM Says No Flights Until Osprey Confirmed Safe

Japan’s prime minister says he will not allow any flights of the US military’s latest transport aircraft in this country until its safety after two recent crashes has been confirmed.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told Parliament on Tuesday that no flights would take place until investigations into the April and June crashes were completed and Japan was satisfied the aircraft are not a safety hazard.

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Hatoyama Plans to Form New Party Spells Trouble for Noda

Speculation is rife that former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his followers will form a new party, and whether he stays in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan could determine the future of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government.

The DPJ has already lost 49 lawmakers to Ichiro Ozawa’s new Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First) and Noda is barely maintaining a majority in the Lower House. If 16 or more lawmakers follow Ozawa’s lead, the DPJ-Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) coalition would fall from power.

Hatoyama denied media reports Friday that he could leave the DPJ over his opposition to the consumption tax hike and launch a new party, saying they are “groundless.”

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