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Japan, U.S. Affirm Senkakus Defense Under Article 5 

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WASHINGTON — Yujiro Okabe reports: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday afternoon (early Saturday JST) before they held a press conference together.

Regarding the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, Abe said during the press conference, “We have affirmed that they are within the scope of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty,” which obliges U.S. forces to defend Japan.

Trump stressed, “We are committed to the security of Japan.”

Abe also revealed that they have agreed to start holding a dialogue headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Vice President Mike Pence, aiming to expand trade and investment between the two countries. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shinzo Abe, James Mattis Reaffirm U.S. Commitment on Senkakus

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Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis clearly said during talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday afternoon that the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture are within the scope of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which obliges the United States to defend Japan, according to a senior government official who attended the meeting.

At the opening of the meeting, Abe said he hopes and is certain the two countries “can demonstrate in our country and abroad that the Japan-U.S. alliance is unshakable.” In response, Mattis said that he intended to make clear during the meeting that Article 5 of the security treaty will be important five years or 10 years from now, just as it was a year ago or five years ago.

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Mattis arrived in Tokyo on the day to hold talks with the prime minister, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and other members of Abe’s Cabinet to exchange views on the security environment in East Asia and to address mutual security concerns. The new U.S. defense chief’s visit to Japan marks the first by a U.S. Cabinet member under the administration of President Donald Trump. The ministerial meeting with Inada is scheduled for Saturday, after which they will hold a joint press conference.

During these talks, the two sides are also expected to confirm that the United States will firmly uphold the “nuclear umbrella” (see below) over Japan in its defense.

During his presidential election campaign last year, Trump was ambiguous about defending the Senkakus and also suggested that if Japan doesn’t contribute its due share to shouldering the burden of stationing U.S. forces in Japan, it would be acceptable for Japan to possess its own nuclear weapons to confront North Korea’s nuclear threat. These remarks caused apprehension on the Japanese side.

Read the rest of this entry »


Japan Scrambles Jets as China Warplanes Fly Through Okinawa Strait

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It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

Jesse Johnson reports: The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled aircraft on Sunday as at least eight Chinese fighters and bombers — and possibly more than 40 — passed through a critical international entryway into the Western Pacific.

They used a legal but politically sensitive passage through Okinawa, apparently to send a message to Tokyo.

“This is a response to what Beijing will allege is a provocation by Japan in joining the U.S. in South China Sea drills despite Beijing warning Tokyo against participating.”

— University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer

It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese aircraft, which also included refueling tankers, flew over the Miyako Strait in Okinawa Prefecture but did not infringe Japanese airspace, the Defense Ministry said in Tokyo.

China said more than 40 aircraft were involved. They flew between Miyako Island near Taiwan and Okinawa’s main island on the way to “regular” patrols and drills in the Western Pacific, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement posted to its website.

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People’s Liberation Army Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke said the massive show of force, which included H-6K bombers, Su-30 fighters and tanker aircraft, conducted reconnaissance and early warning exercises, attacks on sea surface targets, and in-flight refueling “to test the air force’s fighting capacity on the high seas.”

Chinese bombers and fighters also conducted what Shen called a “regular patrol” in the East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that China unilaterally declared in 2013.

“The regular Western Pacific drills and ADIZ patrols are necessary to safeguard national sovereignty, the country’s security and maintain peaceful development,” Shen said.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan Times]

The air force will continue patrolling the East China Sea ADIZ and conduct training to improve its combat capacity in order to “uphold the legitimate rights and interests of China,” Shen added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, told a news conference Monday that although the aircraft never violated Japanese airspace, Tokyo “will continue to devote every effort to vigilance and surveillance and rigorously enforce steps against intrusions into our airspace based on international law and the Self-Defense Forces law.”

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

While it was apparently the first time for Beijing to send fighter jets on the route, its air force first flew other types of jets over the strait in May 2015, China’s Defense Ministry said.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada angered Beijing with a speech last week, in which she said Tokyo would “increase its engagement in the South China Sea through … Maritime Self-Defense Force joint training cruises with the U.S. Navy.”

There was a fiery reaction in Chinese state media, but experts said she had not broken new ground in Japan’s approach to the South China Sea.

Still, according to University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer, the Chinese flights were meant to send a message to Japan not to meddle in the South China Sea issue. Read the rest of this entry »


Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese 

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Amos Zeeburg writes: The stories have become all too familiar in Japan, though people often do their best to ignore them. An elderly or middle-aged person, usually a man, is found dead, at home in his apartment, frequently right in his bed. It has been days, weeks, or even months since he has had contact with another human being. Often the discovery is made by a landlord frustrated at not receiving a rent payment or a neighbor who notices an unpleasant smell. The deceased has almost no connections with the world around him: no job, no relationships with neighbors, no spouse or children who care to be in contact. He has little desire to take care of his home, his relationships, his health. “The majority of lonely deaths are people who are kind of messy,” Taichi Yoshida, who runs a moving company that often cleans out apartments where people are discovered long after they die, told Time magazine. “It’s the person who, when they take something out, they don’t put it back; when something breaks, they don’t fix it; when a relationship falls apart, they don’t repair it.”

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The death rate for U.S. whites (USW), U.S. Hispanics (USH), and six comparison countries (France, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden) since 1990.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

These lonely deaths are called kodokushi. Each one passes without much notice, but the phenomenon is frequent enough to be widely known. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reported there were 3,700 “unaccompanied deaths” in Japan in 2013, but some researchers estimate that because of significant under-counting, the true figure is closer to 30,000. In any case, the frequency of kodokushi has been on the rise since they emerged in the 1980s.

[Read the full story here, at Nautilus]

The increase seems to be associated with deep social changes in the country, particularly the breakdown of the traditional multigenerational Japanese family. In 1960, about 80 percent of elderly Japanese lived with a child; since then that number has split in half. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Japanese island of Okinawa on Alert as Major Typhoon Approaches


Outcry in Japan Over Diversion of Post-Disaster Aid Funds

TOKYO — Japan has funneled much of the money it promised to disaster-ravaged communities into an array of unrelated projects, recent independent audits have shown, setting off outrage among a public already wary of the government and its response to last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear crisis that followed.

An accounting released last week by Japan’s Board of Audit, an independent agency, also revealed that about half of the country’s reconstruction budget of 19 trillion yen (nearly $239 billion) has yet to be spent amid confusion and indecision over rebuilding strategies in the wake of the catastrophes in March 2011.

The audits have cast a harsh light on the bureaucratic morass slowing Japan’s reconstruction effort, made worse by outlays of money to the unrelated projects seen by many as a throwback to the country’s days of unrestrained pork-barrel spending. The revelations are an embarrassment for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, whose Democratic Party promised to make public spending more transparent when it came to power in 2009.

Among the projects that secured a slice of the reconstruction budget, according to the agency, are 330 million yen (about $4.1 million) in fixes to a sports stadium in central Tokyo; 500 million yen (almost $6.3 million) to build roads in Okinawa, over 1,000 miles from the disaster zone; and 2.3 billion yen (almost $29 million) toward measures to protect Japan’s whaling fleet from environmental activists.

A separate audit by Yoshimitsu Shiozaki, an expert in urban planning from Kobe University who looked at 9.2 trillion yens’ worth (over $115 billion) of spending, found that a quarter of that amount was allocated to projects unlikely to directly benefit anyone in the disaster zone…

More…

via  NYTimes.com