Asia in Review Archive (2019)

Japan

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16 July 2019

Japan-Russia relations: Moscow rejects territorial talks

(dql) According to diplomatic sources, Russia has rejected beginning talks with Japan on the return of two disputed islands despite an agreement between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin in November last year to intensify talks on a peace treaty based on a key 1956 joint declaration, which states that Moscow will handover two of the four disputed islands after the conclusion of a peace treaty. It is believed that Moscow is fearing that a return of the two islands to Tokyo at this time would further worsen the currently falling approval rate for President Vladimir Putin in Russia. [Japan Times]

The rejection of territorial talks is a culmination of a string of failed diplomatic efforts of both sides to bridge their differences over the disputed territories earlier this year and further dims the prospects for a peace treaty. [AiR 3/5/2019]

16 July 2019

Japan’s Upper House election: Super-majority for constitutional revision likely

(jd) In the Upper House election this Sunday, Prime Minister Abe seeks to receive a mandate for his long-standing political goal, the revision of the constitution by amending Article 9 to “enshrine” the role of the Self-Defense Forces for which a two-thirds majority vote in both Diet chambers is necessary. According to latest polls the ruling leading coalition out of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito is set to win 63 seats, the simple majority of the contested 124 seats (out of a total of 245 seats). Together with other smaller parties, which support the constitutional revision, Abe would retain the required two-thirds majority of 85 vote. [Nikkei]

9 July 2019

Myanmar-Japan relations: economic zone re-imagined as export hub to India

(hg) Japan, in competition with China, works on an economic zone in southern Myanmar to create an export base to markets as India. This Dawei special economic zone shall be developed jointly by Japan, Myanmar and Thailand based on logistics and port facilities to be ready by 2030. [Nikkei Asian Review]

9 July 2019

Japan urges Iran to abide by the nuclear agreement 

(jyk) Japan urged Iran in a statement to abide by the nuclear agreement and refrain from activities of undue uranium enrichment, after Tehran revealed it had exceeded the 3.67% cap of its low-enrichment of uranium as agreed on in the 2015 nuclear deal. Analysts observed Iran’s provoking statement was a distress call for economic relief amid the crippling sanctions imposed by the US. [Mainichi]

Prime Minister Abe visited Tehran and met with the Iranian leaders last month and tried to broker a denuclearization deal with US as a mediator without avail. [AiR 3/6/2019]

9 July 2019

Japan-South Korea relations: Japan reviews removing South Korea from “white list”

(jyk) The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reviews whether to remove Korea from its white list of countries that enjoy minimum regulations in export procedures. The move is widely seen as a retaliatory move Tokyo’s against Seoul which it accuses of inaction against South Korea’s Supreme Court rulings of last year ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

Seoul announced to file a complaint to the WTO, while the Foreign Ministry convened a government-civilian strategy meeting with economists and business leaders to discuss possible countermeasures. Meanwhile, leaders of Korean conglomerates, such as Samsung and SK, were flying for a meeting with Japanese industry officials to discuss the impending export curbs. [JoongAng Daily 1] [JoongAng Daily 2] [Korea Times] [Nikkei]

9 July 2019

Japan-USA relations: Trump calls for change of security treaty

(dql) Causing irritation with the Japanese government, US President Trump called for changes to the US-Japanese security treaty of 1951/1960 at the G20 Summit in Osaka. While he confirmed not to think about a withdrawal from the treaty, he described as “unfair agreement” as “if somebody attacks Japan, we go after them and we are in a battle” while “[i]f somebody should attack the United States, they don’t have to do that.” [Factcheck]

Analysts point out that Trump’s call for the treaty revision could complicate Abe’s push to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution as it could encourage Japanese hawks to assert their call for a more robust Japanese military in the face of China’s rise. [Reuters] 

Ahead of the Upper House election Trumps remarks might also damage the Abe administration as the Prime Minister has been boasting that the military alliance between Tokyo and Washington has never been stronger. [Japan Times]

9 July 2019

Japan: Official campaigning for Upper House election kicked off

(dql) Last week, official campaigning for the Upper House election, scheduled for July 21, kicked off. The election is widely seen as a make-or-break vote for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s (LDP) career-long efforts to revise the country’s Constitution with regard to the legal status of Japans military, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). Opposition parties reject the move fearing an expansion of the SDF’s missions. The constitutional reform would require that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and likeminded forces retain their current two-thirds supermajority necessary to launch a national referendum to enable the reform. [Japan Times] 

2 July 2019

Japan slaps sanctions on its tech exports to South Korea

(jyk) Underscoring currently frosty relations between Japan and South Korea over the drawn-out issue of compensation of South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of Korean peninsula  [AiR 4/6/2019], the Japanese government announced its plan to restrict Japanese exports of semiconductor manufacturing materials used in smartphone displays and chips to South Korea.

The move includes tighter export controls as well as removing South Korea from a “white list” of countries that face minimum restrictions on transfers of technology with national security implications. Removal from the “white list” implies all South Korea-bound exports of advanced technologies and electronic parts that have the potential for military use will require Japanese government’s pre-approval. This new screening process is likely to slow down exports and hurt the South Korean electronics makers that rely on the materials, most of which are only available from the Japanese suppliers. [Nikkei Asian Review]

In a stern response, the South Korean government announced to take necessary reactions, including filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization. [Korea Herald]

2 July 2019

Japan slaps sanctions on its tech exports to South Korea

(jyk) Underscoring currently frosty relations between Japan and South Korea over the drawn-out issue of compensation of South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of Korean peninsula  [AiR 4/6/2019], the Japanese government announced its plan to restrict Japanese exports of semiconductor manufacturing materials used in smartphone displays and chips to South Korea.

The move includes tighter export controls as well as removing South Korea from a “white list” of countries that face minimum restrictions on transfers of technology with national security implications. Removal from the “white list” implies all South Korea-bound exports of advanced technologies and electronic parts that have the potential for military use will require Japanese government’s pre-approval. This new screening process is likely to slow down exports and hurt the South Korean electronics makers that rely on the materials, most of which are only available from the Japanese suppliers. [Nikkei Asian Review]

In a stern response, the South Korean government announced to take necessary reactions, including filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization. [Korea Herald]

2 July 2019

Japan’s upcoming Upper House election: Political parties clash over tax and constitutional revision

(jyk) Three weeks ahead of the election of one half of Japan’s Upper House members, leaders of political parties clashed over the controversial issues of increasing the consumption tax and revising Japan’s constitution. Countering criticisms from rivaling parties on both issues during the first public debate after the government had announced 21st of July as election date, Prime Minister Abe upheld his pledges to raise the consumption tax from 8% to 10% in October to finance free education and child care programs, and to rewrite the country’s war renouncing Article 9 in current pacifist Constitution. [Nikkei] [Mainichi]

18 June 2019

China-USA relations: Hong Kong protest a leverage for Washington in trade dispute?

(dql) Indicating an unexpected leverage for U.S. President Trump at the G20 Summit at the end of the month in Japan where he is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi to strike a deal to resolve the trade dispute, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo announced that Hong Kong human rights would be among the issues to be discussed between Presidents Trump and Xi should they meet at the G20 summit at the end of the month. [Reuters]

Hong Kong, due to its status as an independent economic and customs area separate from mainland China, has so far been largely exempted from the US tariffs. However, China-hawks in Congress last week discussed introducing legislation to revoke Hong Kong’s autonomy status. [Forbes]

For recommendations on how the U.S should respond to the protests last week, centering around a public statement of President of “moral and verbal support to keep freedom’s ember glowing in Hong Kong” followed by drastic economic measures including delisting the six largest China’s companies from the U.S. stock exchange and a total on Huawei, see Grant Newsham in [AND].

18 June 2019

Japan seeks Mongolia’s support in North Korean abduction issue

(jyk) Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met his Mongolian counterpart in Ulaanbaatar on Sunday, in an effort to seek Mongolia’s cooperation in resolving issues related to North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in 1970s and 80s. The two agreed on the importance of fully implementing U.N. sanctions against North Korea toward denuclearization, according to Japanese officials. This is the first time in 9 years for a Japanese foreign minister to visit Mongolia, and the two agreed to deepen ties. North Korea has reacted coldly to Japanese Prime Minister’s offer of holding a meeting so far. Japan currently lists 17 people as missing from NK’s abduction, five of whom were repatriated in 2002. [Mainichi]

11 June 2019

Singapore primary source of foreign direct investment in India

(ls) Singapore is the top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in India. In the last Indian financial year, the country received FDI inflows from Singapore valued at US$16.23 billion. The city state was followed by Mauritius (US$8.08 billion), the Netherlands (US$3.87 billion), the United States (US$3.14 billion) and Japan (US$2.97 billion). The rise of Singapore as an FDI source can partly be attributed to tax treaty amendments that India signed in recent years with Singapore and others like Mauritius that have brought tax parity, providing a level playing field. [Straits Times]

11 June 2019

India and Japan agree to hold “2+2” talks

(ls) India and Japan have agreed to hold a “2+2” dialogue between the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries. It is likely to take place ahead of the summit-level meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe later in the year. So far, India had engaged in such a dialogue format at this level only with the United States since last year. One of the primary objectives for both New Delhi and Tokyo is to prevent the rise of a unipolar Asia dominated by one single hegemonic power. [The Diplomat]

11 June 2019

Japan-Russia relations: Putin says US-Japanese military cooperation impeding peace talks over territorial dispute

(jyk) Ahead of his meeting of his planned meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the G 20 summit in Japan at the end of the month, Russian President Vladimir Putin called at a press conference last week Japan’s military cooperation with U.S an impediment to both sides’ efforts to come to terms on peace treaty, which will also include the settlement of the territorial disputes over the four northern islands located near Hokkaido and the Russian border.

Putin’s statement is the latest reflection of two countries’ deadlock in a long-standing dispute over these islands, with Japan claiming that Russia seized them illegally in World War II, and Russia claiming the seizure was a legitimate consequence of the war. [Japan Times]

It echoes the failure of the last ‘two plus two’ meeting the between Japanese and Russian Foreign and Defense Ministers on this issue two week ago at which both sides accused each other of unacceptable military buildups in the region. [AiR 1/6/2019]

4 June 2019

Japan-Russia relations: Another failed attempt to resolve dispute over islands

(dql) Last week a ‘two plus two’ meeting the between Japanese and Russian Foreign and Defense Ministers failed to achieve a breakthrough in the long-standing territorial dispute between the two countries. Both sides insisted on their own country’s sovereignty over the disputed islands, referred to as the Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by the Japanese. Furthermore, both sides accused each other of unacceptable military buildups in the region, with Tokyo denouncing Moscow’s expansion of its military presence in the islands as “unacceptable” while Moscow criticized Tokyo for its plans to install a US-made Aegis Ashore missile defense system. The failed meeting last week adds to a number of previous equally unsuccessful talks on foreign minister level earlier this year. [Japan Times] [DW]

4 June 2019

Japan: Same-sex marriage bill submitted

(dql) Weeks after Taiwan in a historic first in Asia legalized same-sex marriage [AiR 3/5/2109], major opposition parties in Japan submitted a bill this week calling for the legalization of gay marriage in the world’s third-biggest economy. Analysts, however, believe that the move will not be successful given that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party so far has done nothing to promote civil rights for LGBT people. Furthermore, the bill would possibly face a constitutional hurdle, as Japan’s constitution in Art. 24 defines marriage as “based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.” [Bloomberg] 

28 May 2019

Japan: Ruling and opposition parties agree on bill to ban physical punishment of children

(dql) Last week, the ruling and opposition parties jointly submitted a bill banning parents and other guardians to use physical punishment as method to discipline children for enactment in the Diet during the current session which is expected to end in June.

Background of this move to reform child protection legislation are recent cases of fatal cases of abuse conducted in the name of disciplining children including the death of a 10-year-old girl as result of suspected physical abuse by her father.

While Japan’s current child abuse prevention law stipulates that assault and lewd acts constitute abuse, it only urges people to “give due consideration to appropriate exercise” of parental authority with regards to disciplining children. [Mainichi]

However, the new envisioned legislation still falls short of stipulating penalties for offenders.

28 May 2019

Japan: Ruling and opposition parties agree on bill to ban physical punishment of children

(dql) Last week, the ruling and opposition parties jointly submitted a bill banning parents and other guardians to use physical punishment as method to discipline children for enactment in the Diet during the current session which is expected to end in June.

Background of this move to reform child protection legislation are recent cases of fatal cases of abuse conducted in the name of disciplining children including the death of a 10-year-old girl as result of suspected physical abuse by her father.

While Japan’s current child abuse prevention law stipulates that assault and lewd acts constitute abuse, it only urges people to “give due consideration to appropriate exercise” of parental authority with regards to disciplining children. [Mainichi]

However, the new envisioned legislation still falls short of stipulating penalties for offenders.

28 May 2019

Japan: Court rules defunct eugenics law unconstitutional but denies damages

(dql) A Japanese Court this week declared Japan’s Eugenic Protection Law of 1948 – defunct since 1996 – unconstitutional, but dismissed a damages suit against the Japanese state filed by two women who were forcibly sterilized. In the first of a number of similar suits filed with seven district courts, the Sendai district court argued that the state was not obliged to pay compensation because of the expiration of the 20-year statute of limitations on demands for damages under the Civil Code, stressing the forced sterilization of the plaintiffs was more than 40 years ago. [Reuters]

11 March 2019

Japan: Cabinet endorses legal reform to ban harassment in workplace

(dql) Japan’s cabinet last week approved legal changes outlawing any form of workplace harassment. Furthermore, the revisions oblige firms to prevent abuses of power or bullying, prohibit disadvantageous treatment of workers who report they are the target of sexual harassment, and require firms whose employees sexually harass someone at another company to make sufficient efforts to cooperate with that company in investigating the case. The legislation, however, falls short of setting punitive measures to be taken against violators. [Japan Today]

11 March 2019

Japan-Korea relations: Tokyo considers retaliatory measures over wartime forced labor dispute

(dql) Fuelling tensions between Japan and South Korea, Tokyo is reportedly considering raising tariffs on South Korean products and other measures in response to the seizure and possible sale of assets from two Japanese companies that were ordered by the South Korean Supreme Court last year to pay compensation to South Korean victims of forced labour during wartime. [AiR 3/1/2019]

According to sources, Japan has already compiled of list of around 100 items for possible retaliatory actions, including tariff hikes, suspension in the supply of some Japanese products and visa issuance restrictions. [

]

11 March 2019

Japan’s Self-Defense Force: New type of patrol ship planned

(dql) According to government sources, a plan is underway to start in 2020 construction of a new type of Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol ship, to be mainly used for reconnaissance and surveillance activities in territorial waters. The government aims to have 12 such patrol ships over the next 10 years. [Japan News]

For a critical assessment of Japan’s neglect in SDF personnel recruitment policy see Grant Newsham in [Japan Forward].

11 March 2019

Uncertain future of the “Quad”

(ls) Admiral Phil Davidson, who heads the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, suggested on Thursday that the so-called Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), a loose security grouping of the U.S., Japan, Australia and India, may be shelved for now. Davidson referred, in particular, to remarks made by the Indian Navy chief who did not see any immediate potential of the Quad. However, on Friday, a Pentagon spokesperson said the U.S. will continue to have regular diplomatic meetings to “coordinate our respective visions of and efforts in the Indo-Pacific region.” [Times of India] [Indian Express]

The United States and the other three countries had come together to provide humanitarian assistance after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe then suggested to form the Quad, which met three years later. The meetings stopped for a decade after China formally reached out to each country to seek information on the meetings’ purpose. The Quad then met again in 2017. India had stressed in the past that the Quad was not a military grouping. [The Diplomat]

4 March 2019

Japan: Labor minister survives no-confidence motion

(dql) Japan’s labor minister Takumi Nemoto last week survived a no-confidence motion in the Lower House submitted by opposition parties accusing him of being implicated in an attempt by the government to make the Prime Minister’s “Abenomics” economic policy package appear more successful by using faulty job data which led to the underpayment of work-related benefits to more than 20 million people [AiR 5/1/2019].

The motion demanding Nemoto’s resignation was voted down by the majority of the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. [Mainichi]

4 March 2019

Japan: Record budget approved by Lower House

(dql) The Lower House approved on Saturday a record 913 billion USD budget for the fiscal year starting on 1 April, with more than a third allocated (304 billion USD) for social security programs such as pensions and health care to cope with the increasingly large part of elderly people among the population. [Japan Times 1]

Signaling Japan’s ageing society, a survey of Japan’s National Association of Towns and Villages, released last week, revealed that as of July 2018 out of the 10,956 town and village assembly members 8,442, or 77.1 percent, were aged 60 or over. The average age stands at 64.2. [Japan Times 2]

4 March 2019

Japan: Law banning corporal punishment of children on the way

(dql) Following recent cases of child maltreatment, including the death of two girls aged five and 10 resulting from overly harsh ‘disciplining’ actions by the girls’ fathers, the Japanese government is now pushing for a reform of existing laws to ban corporal punishment of children by parents, child welfare facility heads and foster parents. [Mainichi]

Japan’s current related laws don’t rule out corporal punishment as means of disciplining children.

4 March 2019

Japan-Russia relations: Bumpy road towards a peace treaty

(dql) In a move further complicating talks on a peace treaty, Moscow has called the alliance between Tokyo and Washington a threat and impediment to improving Japanese-Russian bilateral ties. [Japan Today]

In an earlier move last week, several Russian officials made a visit to the disputed Southern Kuril Islands on the occasion of the launching of an underwater fiber-optic communication line providing local residents with Internet access. The visit prompted a stern protest from Tokyo, calling the act “unacceptable”. [TASS]

Moscow’s moves comes as relations between Russia and the USA are deteriorating in the wake of the US withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and as Japan’s Lower House just approved the 2019 budget allocating a record high of almost 50 billion USD for defense spending including the purchase of Aegis Ashore missile defense system and half a dozen F-35A stealth fighters. [Kyodo News] [Nikkei Asian Review]