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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Ozawa creates new party – Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Lives Come First)

Former Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa launched his new party together with 48 followers Wednesday, vowing to fight DPJ Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s quest to raise the consumption tax and restart idled nuclear reactors nationwide.

Ozawa’s new party, Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (people’s lives come first), tentatively consists of 37 Lower House lawmakers and 12 Upper House lawmakers. The number is expected to be finalized next week after the DPJ finishes procedures to expel Gaku Kato, who later decided to bolt from the ruling party to join Ozawa’s group.

During the party’s kickoff meeting in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, Ozawa stressed he would concentrate on fiscal and administrative reforms before a tax hike.

Read the rest of the story: Ozawa creates new party to counter Noda.

Japan Lower House Passes Sales Tax Law – Win for Noda Risks Party Majority

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s biggest step yet toward winning a sales tax increase aimed at reining in the nation’s public debt came at the cost of alienating one-fifth of his party’s lower house lawmakers.

While the chamber yesterday approved legislation to double the 5 percent levy by October 2015, 57 lawmakers in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan voted no, and former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa signaled he may leave. If he takes more than 50 followers with him, it could endanger the party’s majority.

Noda, who called the rebellion “unfortunate,” now must hold together a deal with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party to win passage for the bill in the upper house. With the Diet session extended until Sept. 8, weeks of wrangling may be in store for a country that has seen six leaders since 2006.

Read the rest of the story: Noda Victory on Japan Sales Tax Law Risks Party Majority.

Japan’s DPJ seeks to extend Diet session

Japan’s ruling political party has proposed extending the current parliamentary session, which is set to end on Thursday, until Sept. 8 to buy enough time to vote on several contentious tax and social security reform bills, according to media reports. The Democratic Party of Japan and two key opposition parties sent a pair of bills to the Diet Wednesday night in a rare show of unity, the Nikkei newspaper reported in its online edition Thursday. The three parties will submit revised versions of a more contentious proposal to increase a consumption tax rate, as well as changes to the country’s social security, in the coming days. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda addressed an assembly of DPJ lawmakers Wednesday evening, calling for solidarity on the reforms package, but ran into opposition from a faction of the DPJ, headed by heavyweight politician Ichiro Ozawa, which is resisting the consumption tax hike, the Nikkei added.

G-8 Gives Noda Birthday Cake

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda found himself in the spotlight when he was given a surprise treat during his first stint at the Group of Eight summit — a birthday cake from the current G-8 host, U.S. President Barack Obama, with the rest of the G-8 leaders celebrating with him.

On discussions at the annual summit, Noda, being the head of the only Asian nation in the grouping, took the opportunity to put North Korea and Myanmar on the agenda, while reiterating Japan’s contribution to efforts to ease Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

But despite Noda’s pitch about Japan’s role in the G-8 framework, it was not enough to steal the thunder from newly installed French President Francois Hollande, or reposition Japan into significance in the same manner it did at last year’s meeting when the nuclear crisis caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami put it at the forefront of ensuring nuclear safety.

Read the rest of the story: G-8 spotlight falls on Noda but holding stage a challenge.

Japan to start free trade talks with Canada

Japan and Canada agreed today to formally start talks aimed at forging a free trade agreement between the two countries.

If established, the pact would be Japans first with a country from the Group of Eight major economies.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, said they would also seek to boost economic, energy and security relations between the two countries.

“This is a truly historic step that will help create jobs and growth in both countries,” Harper told a joint news conference. “The negotiations we are announcing today complement Canadas ambitious trade agenda.”

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Japan: "an urgent matter" for the government to consider a female headed imperial family branch

Japan’s Imperial Household Agency has told the prime minister that it is "an urgent matter" for the government to consider whether a female member of the imperial family should be allowed to create a new family branch by maintaining her royal status after marrying outside the family, it has been learned.

The agency also told Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda last month it is necessary to design a system to ensure stable succession to the imperial throne, government sources said.

Article 12 of the Imperial House Law stipulates that female members of the Imperial family cannot form a family branch – they lose their royal status upon marriage, unless they marry the emperor or another member of the imperial family.

Read the rest of the story: Japanese leaders urged to allow branches of imperial family headed by women.

Japan’s Prime Minister Noda names new cabinet with eye on unity

Japan’s new prime minister on Friday assembled a cabinet that appears intended to curb political infighting as the government tries to guide reconstruction of the country’s disaster-hit northeastern coastline.

Yoshihiko Noda gave key cabinet posts to both those with ties to rival factions in the ruling party and those with ties to the leading opposition party. The appointments, analysts said, create the possibility of greater cooperation — and easier passage of legislation — following months of gridlock, squabbling and dwindling government credibility.

Noda’s cabinet lacks the experience of its predecessors, particularly with the appointment of little-known Jun Azumi as finance minister. It also skews toward lawmakers with conservative backgrounds, in a sign that his Democratic Party of Japan might be drifting away from the populist agenda that it brought to office in 2009, when it ended the Liberal Democratic Party’s half-century of domination.

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Noda to seek PM role, while Ozawa hints at posttrial run

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda has decided to run for the presidency of the Democratic Party of Japan to succeed Prime Minister Naoto Kan, sources said Monday.

Noda will officially announce the plan at a meeting of his DPJ allies on Tuesday,the sources said.

Noda will set out his policy pledges in an article to be published in a monthly magazine. His campaign will emphasize fiscal austerity in rebuilding Japan’s debt-ridden coffers, the sources said.

Read the rest of the story: Noda to seek DPJ presidency; Ozawa hints at posttrial run.

Yoshihiko Noda to run for Japan PM

Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda has voiced his intention to run for prime minister and lead the nation to recovery from the March 11 disaster, local media said Friday.

Noda, a 54-year-old judo black belt, has told close aides about his plan to succeed Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who currently heads the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the Sankei Shimbun daily reported.

The Yomiuri Shimbun said Noda would run for the planned DPJ presidential election "if condition permits".

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