Japan’s Shinzo Abe Wednesday appointed new foreign and defence ministers and promoted a popular rising political star, in a cabinet reshuffle that fuelled speculation over the prime minister’s successor. The spectacular appointment as environment minister of the telegenic Shinjiro Koizumi, the 38-year-old son of much-loved former PM Junichiro, set tongues wagging in Tokyo political classes as the Abe era draws to a close. “Abe intends to start an open race to pick the next prime minister or even the one after that,” said SMBC Nikko Securities chief market economist Yoshimasa Maruyama. A darling of the Japanese media, Koizumi received blanket coverage for his recent marriage to television broadcaster Christel Takigawa, which was announced at the prime minister’s office. He is the third-youngest minister appointed to the cabinet in Japan since the end of World War II, in a country where seniority is prized in politics and many other walks of life. Despite intense media spotlight, he has been coy on expressing his view on the issues of the day and there will be close scrutiny over his policies on nuclear power, particularly on whether he will break with his father’s anti-nuclear stance. “I hope Mr Shinjiro Koizumi will tackle global issues such as ocean plastics and climate change not with worn-out approaches but with the new ideas of the young generation,” Abe said. “He is more seasoned than I was in my 10th year” (since being elected). I hope he will secure results,” said the prime minister. ‘New challenge’ Abe
Japan hosts development talks with African leaders this week, looking to boost its presence on the continent and offer an alternative to investments by an increasingly assertive China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he wants the latest round of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to help “launch impactful Japanese action” on the continent. And the meeting, held around every five years since 1993 in Japan or an African country, comes against the backdrop of expanding investment in China, which announced $60 billion in development funding for Africa last year. That figure is twice as much as Japan pledged at the last TICAD meeting in 2016. But analysts said Tokyo is unlikely to try to out-pledge China at this year’s talks, which start on Wednesday and run until Friday. It will seek instead to position itself as a partner of “quality”, offering high-impact loans and other assistance without the sometimes-controversial strings attached to money doled out by Beijing. Japan wants to drive Africa’s growth “with its high-quality infrastructure development, science technology and innovation”, Abe said recently. TICAD is a good opportunity for Japan to send a message about “its practical, well-planned lending”, said Sawaka Takazaki, deputy director of the Middle East and Africa division at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a government-backed trade-promotion body. ‘Quiet’ diplomacy China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, which offers hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese financing for massive infrastructure projects, has been eagerly embraced in many parts of Africa.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said South Korea’s decision to cancel a deal to share military intelligence, mainly on North Korea, is damaging mutual trust and vowed Friday to work closely with the U.S. for regional peace. Abe also accused South Korea of not keeping past promises. The intelligence agreement started in 2016. “We will continue to closely coordinate with the U.S. to ensure regional peace and prosperity, as well as Japan’s security,” he said ahead of his departure for the Group of Seven summit of industrialized nations in France. South Korea announced Thursday it would terminate the intelligence deal because Tokyo’s decision to downgrade South Korea’s preferential trade status had caused a “grave” change in the security cooperation between the countries. Seoul says it will downgrade Tokyo’s trade status as well, a change that would take effect in September. Senior South Korean presidential official Kim Hyun-chong on Friday defended his government’s decision. He told reporters that “there is no longer any justification” for South Korea to continue the deal because of Japan’s claim that basic trust between the countries had been undermined. South Korea has accused Japan of weaponizing trade to punish it over a separate dispute linked to Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Japan denies any retaliation. Kim accused Japan of having ignored South Korea’s repeated calls for dialogue and other conciliatory steps to resolve the bitter trade and history disputes. He said Japan’s “breach of diplomatic etiquette” had undermined “our
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga echoed Shinzo Abe’s remarks: “We have been watching the situation surrounding Britain’s exit from the EU with great interest, and have asked both Britain and the EU to ensure that the negative impact, including of a no-deal exit, on Japanese companies and the global economy is kept to a minimum.”
At the end of June, a Nigerian man in his 40s died at an immigration detention center in Nagasaki. According to a support group, the man had been on a hunger strike to protest his lengthy confinement, which had continued for more than three years. The detention center has yet to reveal the cause of his death. Although some media outlets reported the man’s death, most didn’t go into detail. When the public hears of foreign nationals being detained, they most likely imagine people caught working without permits, since that is the context in which foreign nationals have been discussed lately. According to a Reuters report published in the Asahi Shimbun, of the approximately 1,500 foreign detainees who were being held as of June 2018, 604 were asylum-seekers whose situation is different from that of visa overstayers and so-called illegal workers. Although there was an increase in the number of asylum applicants Japan accepted in 2018, the actual number — 42 — was still miniscule, since there were 10,493 applications. However, the number of applications was down for the first time in eight years. In January 2018, the Justice Ministry introduced a stricter process to screen out people who are applying for refugee status in order to gain employment. The ministry stressed that the 42 whose applications were approved had been admitted to Japan for humanitarian reasons, since it was determined that their lives would have been in danger had they been forced to return to their home countries. The
The United States will “do what it can do” to help defuse a worsening political and economic dispute between South Korea and Japan, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Wednesday, as South Korea warned that the row would have global repercussions. The United States has been hesitant to publicly wade into the feud between its allies, but the dispute, which threatens global supplies of memory chips and smartphones, has overshadowed the visit by David Stilwell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia policy. Stilwell told reporters in the South Korean capital, Seoul, that he took the situation seriously but did not elaborate on what steps Washington might take and said fundamentally it was up to South Korea and Japan to resolve their differences. “We hope that resolution will happen soon,” he said. “The United States, as a close friend and ally to both, will do what it can do to support their efforts to resolve it.” Last week, Stilwell had told Japan’s NHK broadcaster the United States would not intervene in the dispute, and instead encouraged dialogue between Washington’s two biggest allies in Asia to settle it. Simmering tension, particularly over the issue of compensation for South Koreans forced to work for Japanese occupiers during World War Two, took a sharp turn for the worse this month, when Japan restricted exports of high-tech materials to South Korea. Japan has denied that the dispute over compensation is behind the export curbs, even though one of its ministers cited broken trust with
Nearly two dozen countries have called on China to halt its mass detention of ethnic Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, the first such joint move on the issue at the U.N. Human Rights Council, according to diplomats and a letter seen by Reuters. U.N. experts and activists say at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centres in the remote western region. China describes them as training centres helping to stamp out extremism and give people new skills. The unprecedented letter to the president of the forum, dated July 8, was signed by the ambassadors of 22 countries. Australia, Canada and Japan were among them, along with European countries including Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland, but not the United States which quit the forum a year ago. It fell short of a formal statement being read out at the Council or a resolution submitted for a vote, as sought by activists. This was due to governments’ fears of a potential political and economic backlash from China, diplomats said. “It is a first collective response on Xinjiang,” a Western diplomat told Reuters on Wednesday. “The idea of a resolution was never on the cards.” Another envoy said: “It’s a formal step because it will be published as an official document of the Council … It is a signal.” In a statement, Human Rights Watch later welcomed the letter as “important not only for Xinjiang’s population, but for people around the world who depend on the U.N.’s leading
President Donald Trump presented a special U.S.-made trophy to the winner of a sumo tournament Sunday as he got a taste of one of Japan’s most treasured cultural institutions. The honor given to Trump was part of a charm offensive by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he courted Trump with three things close to the American leader’s heart: wrestling, cheeseburgers and golf. Sumo diplomacy, to sum it up. The president, first lady Melania Trump, Abe and his wife, Akie, joined an estimated 11,500 fans at Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium to watch massive and muscular men, in bare feet and loin cloths, battle for supremacy in a small ring of dirt. At the match’s end, Trump stepped into the ring and presented the eagle-topped “President’s Cup” to the champion, Asanoyama. Trump, the first American president to participate in such a ceremony, said later it was an “incredible evening.” “That was something to see these great athletes,” Trump said before having dinner with the Abes at a hibachi restaurant. Trump’s four-day state visit to Japan is designed to demonstrate the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Earlier Sunday, Abe warmly welcomed Trump to Mobara Country Club, south of Tokyo, for a round of golf, their fifth since Trump became president. Abe is trying to placate Trump amid growing U.S.-Japan trade tensions and the threat of auto tariffs. Japan also is contending with the continued military threat from North Korea , a concern seemingly heightened by Trump’s apparent dismissal of the North’s recent tests