1. PM Abe Met North Korea’s No.2 Person At Pyeong Chang
PM Abe met with Mr. Kim Yong-nam, the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea on the 9th during the dinner event that was organized by President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to celebrate the opening of the Pyeong Chang Olympic Games.
Reportedly, PM Abe passed his message to him that the government of Japan demands the North Korean regime to solve the abduction issue that North Korean special forces abducted Japanese civilians tens of years ago and have not returned them back to Japan yet.
Also demanded was giving up its nuclear missile development program. It is Abe’s first time to meet with a representative of Kim Jong-un’ regime. Kim Yong-nam is ranked No.2 after Kim Jong-un playing the role of head of state outside his country according to Yomiuri.
He visited South Korea as the head of the North Korean high ranking officials group for the joint participation in the Winter Olympic Games.
2. PM Abe – President Moon Jae-in Meeting At Pyeong Chang
PM Abe met with President Moon Jae-in on the 9th at a hotel in Pyeong Chang for an hour, Yomiuri reported.
PM Abe demanded that the Moon Administration implement the Japan-Korea agreement on the Comfort Women Issue that was made in 2015.
The agreement was made with the special recognition that neither country would ever revisit this issue so that the two nations would be able to constructively explore a futuristic bi-lateral relationship.
However, last year, President Moon released a statement right after his inauguration that he would not think the 2015 agreement would ever solve this issue.
With this as a background, PM Abe asked President Moon to reconfirm that the Moon’s administration honor the 2015 agreement to be fully implemented.
President Moon told Abe that he would not request for a re-negotiation of this issue, while he explained that the two nations should further cooperate with each other to solve this issue.
PM Abe also asked President Moon to reconfirm the Japan-U.S.-South Korean position against North Korea, namely maximum diplomatic and economic pressure to be placed on it without being affected by the North Korean sudden “Smile Diplomacy”.
President Moon responded that the point that the South-North dialogue would lose the momentum of the international collaboration against North Korea is a needless fear.
3. PM Abe Keeps High Approval Rating
In his 6th year of the Prime Minister position, PM Abe continues to receive a high approval rating, Yomiuri’s monthly survey revealed.
According to the survey that was conducted on February 10 and 11, his cabinet approval rating was 54%, which is just the same as the previous month, while its disapproval rating was 36% (35% last time).
Other key findings were as follows:
With regard to possible Constitutional Amendments, how do you want Article 9 Section 2 that states Japan’s giving up military force to be amended?
36% - Keep it by adding another statement to define the base for Japan to hold the Self Defense Force
35% - Delete it and clarify the purpose and nature of the Self Defense Force
20% - No need to articulate the existence of the Self Defense Force
Do you think the thaw of the South-North Korean relationship contribute to solving the issue of the North Korean nuclear and missile issue?
12% - Yes
83% - No
Do you approve the Abe Cabinet plan to move the US Marin Corp’s Futenma Air Station to Henoko?
44% - Yes
43% - No
Who should be the next prime minister?
32% - PM Abe
25% - Rep Shinjiro Koizumi (Chief Vice Secretary General of LDP)
21% - Rep Shigeru Ishiba (Former Secretary General of LDP)
Which party do you approve most?
42% - LDP (36% last time)
9% - Constitutional Democratic Party (8%)
36% - Independent (40%)
4. Pilot Shortage Issue
Yomiuri reported that Japan’s supply of pilots is not keeping up with the pace of the growth of the flights both domestic and international.
Reportedly, Air Do, a Hokkaido based LCC stopped 26 flights between Chitose (Hokkaido) and Haneda this month due to unavailability of pilots.
This issue will become serious in 2030 when so many pilots are scheduled to retire.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation, who takes care of air transportation policies, is warning the Japanese airlines and interest groups that unless the supply of new pilots increases by 40% by 2030, the demand can never be met.
A six (6) percent of around 6,400 pilots working in Japan are non-Japanese.
International market to hire non-Japanese pilots is becoming tighter and tighter due to Chinese LCCs’ strong demand, the article said.
5. Copy Right Protection Period To Be Extended To 70 Years
The original TPP agreement reached in February 2016 included a U.S. led condition to extend the copyright protection period to 70 years after the authors or writers die in case of novels or music, and after the publication in case of records or CDs etc.
Those protection periods are both 50 years currently in Japan.
Since the United States decided to leave the agreement and since the new TPP without the U.S. set aside this condition, the Japanese copyright protection period remains unchanged for now.
However, the Japan-EU EPA was agreed the end of last year incorporating the 70 years copyright protection period, so the government of Japan will present a bill to revise the Copy Right law accordingly to the Diet on March 8, Yomiuri reported.
6. Agricultural Products Exports Increased By 7.6%
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery announced on the 9th that Japan’s agricultural, forestry and fishery products exports were 807.3 billion yen ($7.3 B) in 2017, which is a 7.6% increase from the year before.
It is the 5th consecutive year to break the record of the exports amount.
The largest contributor is sake and other alcohol beverage, followed by scallops, and pearls.
Hong Kong imported most of the Japanese agricultural, forestry and fishery products (187.7 billion yen), followed by the United States (111.5 billion yen) , China(100.8 billion yen) and Taiwan (83.8 billion yen).
7. Trade Surplus Shrunk, Current Account Surplus Increased
According to the Statistics of the 2017 Balance of International Payments announced by the Ministry of Finance on the 8th, Japan’s trade surplus diminished by 10.8% to 4,930.8 billion yen ($44.8 B) from 2016, while its current account surplus expanded to 21,874.2 billion yen ($198.9 B), which is 7.5% more than a year before.
The current account surplus increase is attributable to the increase of the return (dividend) on FDI (9.1% increase to 19,740 billion yen) and the largest ever surplus of the travel balance (1,763 billion yen).
8. Very Slow But Steady Economic Growth
The Cabinet Office announced on the 14th that the 4th quarter of 2017 marked a 0.1% GDP growth in real term, which is the 8th consecutive quarter that recognized positive economic growth.
This long continuous growth is for the first time since the bubble economic period, namely from the 2nd quarter of 1986 through the 1st quarter of 1989.
However, the growth magnitude was much larger in the bubble economy period.
9. Admission Limit of Original Bill Of Integrated Resort Revealed
The Abe Administration presented to the ruling parties (LDP and Komei) its original bill of Integrated Resort to be presented to the Diet this year, Yomiuri reported.
The law legalizes casino as part of integrated resort facilities in Japan, which are expected to boost local economies after 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games is over.
Casino has been illegal in Japan and it is still controversial to legalize it.
The administration, therefore, came up with the following unique admission limit ideas for the review of the ruling parties.
The maximum number for Japanese and non-Japanese resident in Japan allowed to enter casino is three times per 7 consecutive days.
The area to place game machines or equipment related to casino is limited to 15,000 square meters or up to 3% of the entire IR area, whichever comes smaller.
Once the groundwork with the ruling parties is completed, the IR law will be deliberated at the Diet this year.