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 Sees Tighter Scrutiny as Its Economy Recovers

Mainstream media outside Japan has focused on the Fukushima Dai-ichi radioactive leakage. According to Tokyo Electric Power Co, which manages the facility, radiation “levels as high as 100 millisieverts per hour were detected near the tank.” Government regulators’ suggest workers should only be exposed to this amount of radiation in a span of 5 years. Citizens and anti-nuclear energy backers are concerned it could endanger drinking supplies and local environmental life.  Water inside the reactors’ cooling system, however, flow into basements and trenches that have been leaking since the 2011 earthquake disaster. Highly contaminated excess is pumped out and stored in steel tanks on elevated ground away from the reactors, eliminating possible widespread contamination. Local officials have said they will closely monitor the situation, providing help should it be required.

Shinzo Abe, the current Japanese prime minister, nonetheless, has witnessed good economic news out of Japan: exports have risen the most since 2010 impart to stronger demand from Europe and U.S and a weaker Yen (1 € = 132円 and $1 = 99 円, respectively). The exchange rate between U.S and Japan has fluctuated amid recent U.S home sales dipping in July and the Federal Government’s tapering of bond purchasing starting in September: the Fed would bring down its pace from $85 billion per month on bond purchases to $60-65 billion per month.

The Ministry of finance in Tokyo said that exports increased 12.2 percent from a year earlier after a 7.4 percent rise in June. Imports climbed 19.6 percent, leaving a trade deficit of 1.02 trillion yen ($10.5 billion). Exports to China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, rose by 9.5% from a year earlier. The news is advantageous for the economy but it may not translate to employers. Current hope is that a weaker yen will boost exports and profits for Japanese companies, thereby, increasing cash revenue for businesses and employee salaries. Anti-Abeconomics, Shinzo Abe non-backers, criticize this policy because it caters to large companies that can potentially make the Japanese markets reliant on foreign investors who could sell the currency at lower value, thus, making buying imports costly for Japan.

Nevertheless, analysts have predicted that Shinzo Abe’s direction will help revive domestic demand while stimulating economic growth. Next on the agenda for the prime minister is to abate the shrinking labor force by encouraging more women to return to work. He plans to encourage maternity leave and expand child care centers, which could add as many as 8 million workers, bringing the employment rate of women up to that of men. Abe is tackling many issues and next on the agenda for him is the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).

Japan’s $1 trillion pension fund in Abe’s crosshairs

Visitors to Japan’s public pension fund can’t miss signs of the low-cost, low-return culture that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems determined to change with a review of its operations that kicked off on Monday.

There is no receptionist at the dimly lit, 40-year-old Tokyo building where the headquarters of the Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest pension, occupies the second floor.

The waiting area consists of two mismatched couches. Behind a single closed door, over $1 trillion – equivalent to the annual economic output of South Korea – is run almost on autopilot and invested largely in government bonds issued across the street by Japan’s Finance Ministry.

Read the rest of the story: Abe reforms take aim at Japan’s $1 trillion pension fund.

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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Abe says BOJ should have Kuroda at helm

The Liberal Democratic Party-led government will nominate Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda as the next Bank of Japan governor and scholar Kikuo Iwata as one of two deputy governors, official sources said Monday.Both prospective nominees back Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s focus on aggressive monetary easing to defeat deflation.During a meeting, Abe informed Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of New Komeito, of his intention to nominate Kuroda, 68, as BOJ chief, and Gakushuin University professor Iwata, 70, and BOJ Executive Director Hiroshi Nakaso, 59, as the central bank’s two deputies, the sources said.

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Abenomics: Japan Inc. Begins Reaping Benefits of a Weaker Yen

Japan’s major exporters are quickly reaping the benefits of a weaker yen, upgrading profit projections and inspiring confidence in the ability of a newly elected government and a more dovish central bank to steer the country out of two decades of economic malaise.

Toyota Motor Corp. underscored the new air of optimism on Tuesday when the auto giant hiked its profit forecast for the current fiscal year to a five-year peak. This followed similar upward revisions last week by Nintendo Co. and Japan Tobacco Inc. A weaker currency, coupled with a recent wave of cost-cutting in autos, electronics and other key sectors, signals a surge in profitability for Japan Inc.

In the markets, it’s being called “Abenomics,” named for the new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who has taken his overwhelming victory in December as a green light to pursue an economic revival strategy centred on massive infrastructure spending, more debt financing and monetary policies designed to depreciate the currency and put some inflation back into the deflation-prone economy.

Read the rest of the story: Japan Inc.’s appreciation of the yen’s depreciation.


Shinzo Shrugs Off Global Criticism of Stimulus Steps

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waded into the growing global debate about currency wars for the first time on Wednesday, shrugging off criticism that Tokyo was trying to intentionally weaken the yen with its monetary and fiscal stimulus measures.

“The measures taken by the government and the BOJ are aimed at beating deflation and achieving sustainable economic growth,” Abe said, when asked by an opposition party leader in parliament about criticism from some overseas policymakers that the steps were attempts by Tokyo to directly weaken the yen.

It was his first public comment on the issue.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week singled out Japan as a source of concern following recent moves by its central bank to quicken the pace of money-printing.

South Korea has also been vocal in recent days, with the governor of the central bank saying on Saturday that Japan’s latest monetary easing had “created problems.

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Japan PM Takes Aim at China

Japan’s hawkish new prime minister took aim at Beijing again Friday, accusing China of deliberately allowing Japanese businesses to suffer in the corrosive row over disputed islands.

The salvo is the latest from nationalist Shinzo Abe since he swept to victory in elections last month and came as he announced a spending splurge, including on military hardware.

It also follows reports that policymakers want next year’s defence budget in Japan to rise for the first time in more than a decade, as Asia’s two biggest economies continue to face off over the East China Sea.

“For political ends, harming Japanese companies and individuals in China that contribute to the Chinese economy and society — I want to say it is wrong for a responsible nation state in the international community,” Abe told a press conference in Tokyo.

“It not only harms bilateral relations, it has a significantly negative influence on China’s economy and its society.”

Read the rest of the story: Japan PM fires fresh broadside at China in row.


Japan’s New Government Sticks to Three-year Nuclear Safety Goal

Japan’s new government said on Friday it hoped to stick to a three year deadline to decide whether to restart all nuclear reactors after safety checks, despite the country’s newly formed nuclear regulator saying the deadline was impossible to meet.

Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who is also responsible for energy policy, said reactors would be restarted as units received the all-clear from the atomic regulator.

“We will rely on the NRA (Nuclear Regulation Authority) to judge safety from an expert point of view and will not restart ones as long as safety is not confirmed,” Motegi told a news conference.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said in an interview in the Asahi newspaper on Friday that completing safety checks within the three-year timeframe set by new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be impossible to meet.

All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors remain switched off after an earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi station in northeastern Japan in March 2011.

Atomic energy supplied about 30 percent of Japan’s needs before Fukushima, but since the disaster support for nuclear power has plummeted.

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Under Pressure Bank of Japan Boosts Stimulus

The Bank of Japan has delivered its third dose of monetary stimulus in four months in a prelude to more aggressive action next year, as it faces intensifying pressure from the country’s next leader for stronger efforts to beat deflation.

Shinzo Abe, whose opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won Sunday’s election by a landslide, has put the central bank’s independence on the line by repeatedly calling for a binding 2 per cent inflation target, double its current price goal.

The BoJ expanded its asset-buying and lending programme by 10 trillion yen ($112 billion) to 101 trillion yen, a widely expected move to ease monetary policy in response to the intense political pressure.

It also signalled a review of its current 1 per cent inflation target at its next policy-setting meeting in January, when Abe will have a new cabinet in place ready to negotiate with the central bank.

Read the rest of the story: Under pressure Bank of Japan boosts stimulus.