Finance Minister Fuji Resigns – First Blow to Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama

Since becoming Prime Minister last September, Yukio Hatoyama has had a dedicated cabinet. The Prime Minister and his cabinet have stood fast to battle both a horrible economic downturn in Japan and also the many issues arising from an aging population. However in recent weeks concerns have risen in regards to his Finance Minister’s health (aged 77), in particular high blood pressure. The Prime Minister’s initial reaction was to try to keep him on regardless, as Fuji-san is one of his most experienced and capable cabinet members.

Last night however the Prime Minister called a press conference where he caved in to letting Finance Minister Fuji step down. Each newspaper reported a slightly different take on the event:

Yomiuri ” Next Finance Minister Nominated, he’ll share the position with Sengoku Yoshito” The Yomiuri reported that the Prime Minister had allowed Finance Minister Fuji to resign, and commented (like every other paper) that this is Prime Minister Hatoyama’s first resignation of his cabinet. There was an interesting word choice however used by Yomiuri in its text at the end, stating Sengoku Yoshito will be “forced” to share the position with the new finance minister. (兼務させる)

Asahi “The Prime Minister Announces the Finance Minister’s Successor” The Asahi mentions that Sengoku Yoshito, in order to relieve the burden on the Finance Minister’s successor, will “help with his duties.” They also reported that after long deliberation, the Prime Minister allowed the Finance Minister to resign his post. They also added that his successor, Mr. Kan, is well versed with the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) and his experiences with their Manifesto, etc.

Nikkei “Next Finance Minister will share responsibilities with Sengoku Yoshito” The Nikkei give a different spin on the event vs. Asahi. The last comment they made was that the Finance Minister had a large role in the administration, and his departure might have a huge impact on the Prime Minister’s administration.

Futenma Military Base: Prime Minister Hatoyama Calls for a meeting with Barack Obama

It has been nearly 65 years since the end of World War II, but old alliances and agreements remain in place. One is the bilateral security treaty between Japan and the United States, which currently states that America’s military base, Futenma, will be moved sometime early next year to another spot in Okinawa. While the U.S. expects this to happen, Japanese politicians look like they’re trying to get something otherwise.

As to exactly what Japan’s stance is towards the United States and the relocation of Futenma military base it has not yet been formally announced. Prime Minister Hatoyama made a statement last night requesting that he meet with Barack Obama. Each newspaper had a slightly different take on the situation, and what could possibly be said at a meeting between the Japanese Prime Minister and Barack Obama.

Asahi “The Government’s Policy for Futenma will be communicated to America before the COP meeting” The Asahi, along with the Yomiuri and the Nikkei, reported on the general comments made by the prime minister. He addressed that he would like to meet directly with Barack Obama before the COP meeting on climate change to talk about Futenma. “If I could meet with the president at COP I’d be grateful. Obviously before this I’d have to explain our government’s stance, and I’d also like the opportunity of getting understanding from America.”

While the Asahi reported on the less decisive comments made by the Prime Minister, they also highlighted some stronger opinions. “Now is the time to finally say to America our stance on the issue.” “It’s not that simple as you know, we have an alliance with America, and the expectations of the people of Okinawa are elsewhere.”

NikkeiFutenma: before COP a policy will be announced” The Nikkei also reported that the Prime Minister would like to talk with President Barack Obama, and would like American understanding for Japanese sentiment in Okinawa.

However the language used by the Nikkei was softer than the Asahi’s, and less decisive. “I would like to bring to life a policy that would decrease the weight of the Okinawan people.” The Nikkei left out the fact that America’s alliance and the Okinawa people’s thoughts are two different things.

Yomiru “The policy for Futenma will need to be decided before the COP15 summit” The Yomiuri, while mentioning the general comments made by the prime minister along with the Nikkei and Asahi, focused on comments made by others within the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan).

The Chief Cabinet Secretary claimed “The issue in Okinawa is trying to reduce the danger and noise produced by an American base.” And lastly Ozawa-san, the Chief Secretary of the Party, said “with every new ruling party comes a new way of doing things, and a new way of forming alliances.”

Strong Yen – Japanese Reactions to their Inflated Currency

The Japanese economy has had some bad news in past weeks. The index that measures new housing starts in Japan went down 27.1% in October. The historic news that JAL is lowering their retirement payouts still rocks the news, along with institutions posting historic unbalanced budgets, including JTB and the Bank of Japan.

Usually at the forefront of bad economic news are the effects felt from a strong yen. In an export driven economy with the dollar weakening and the yen strengthening, Japanese exports continue to become more expensive when compared with their competition. The newspapers this morning reported on the yen strengthening and the reactions to it.

Asahi Prime Minister Hatoyama exclaimsWe must do something quickly” The Prime Minister, in an interview with the Asahi newspaper, answered questions about the Dubai economic summit he recently attended. When asked about the weakening stock market and the strengthening yen, he responded by talking about the weak dollar and its effects: “I’ve held meetings previously in Japan about this, but basically my thoughts have not changed. There’s been a strong movement of buying another currency in the face of the weakening dollar; in fact I think only the yen has really experienced such strong appreciation. Something must be done quickly in order to keep Japan the second strongest economy in the world.”

Nikkei “From the first Itoyokado starts its 20-50% off sale” In light of the strengthening yen, Itoyokado from December 1st to December 3rd has decided to drop its prices 20-50%. According to the Nikkei, because the Yen’s getting stronger, Itoyokado anticipates that they can buy groceries such as fruit and pork at a lower price.

For example, American made pork will go on sale for 34% off, to 84 yen per 100 grams. Salmon imported from Chile will be 25% off, to 88 yen per 100 grams.

YomiuriStock Market and Strengthening Yen Policy Announced” Prime Minister Hatoyama announced a plan to combat a volatile market on September 29th, according to the Yomiuri. Just like the Asahi the Yomiuri also mentioned the prime minister’s concern about rising stock prices and a falling yen, but they noted the specifics of how the plan will combat these two things has yet to be determined.

Prime Minister Hatoyama Leaves Japan for the First Time

In early September Prime Minister Hatoyama and his party the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) won a historic election. For the first time since the second world war, the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) is no longer in power, and the DPJ is now in the driver seat in the Japanese government. How things will change, and what this means for Japanese diplomacy, has yet to be seen.

Prime Minister Hatoyama left Japan with his wife last night for the United States, and for the G20 summit. Each Japanese newspaper reported something different about what policies and goals the Prime Minister would have on his first diplomatic mission.

AsahiPrime Minister Hatoyama Leaves for the U.S. for his Speech at the G20” The Asahi describes in their first paragraph how the Prime Minister sees this trip to the U.S. as his chance to really make an impression on world leaders. With this historic change in power, he wants to give the impression of a positive diplomatic change for the heads of state of China, Russia, and the U.S.

The Asahi focused on the ambitious goals for climate change that the new prime minister has. The former Prime Minister, Aso of the LDP, had placed a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 8% in comparison with 1990 levels. Prime Minister Hatoyama has placed a 25% reduction target, representing a change in focus for diplomacy going forward.

“I would like to have everything go smoothly. If possible I would like countries to gain our trust, even if just a little bit.” They also mentioned the theme of his presentation would be “friendship.”

Nikkei “Gaining Trust is our Number 1 Priority” The Nikkei’s theme of “gaining trust” is a large contrast to the Asahi’s “winds of change.” As a whole, these themes are probably representative of how the Asahi vs. how the Nikkei sees the change in political power. The Asahi welcomes change, and focuses on how the first diplomatic mission of the Prime Minister will hopefully demonstrate positive changes. The Nikkei focuses on how the Prime Minister will try to “gain trust,” insinuating even possibly that the Prime Minister will have to gain the Nikkei’s trust.

The Nikkei also mentions Hatoyama’s purpose of discussing global warming, but they also focus on issues such as Nuclear Proliferation, and of course the American / Japanese relationship.

Yomiuri “The Prime Minister Leaves for America” The Yomiuri surprisingly paid little attention to the Prime Minister’s first diplomatic mission. While both the Nikkei and the Asahi had the Prime Minister’s trip as front page and headline news, the Yomiuri stuck an article of 3 sentences towards their backpage in the political section. It was also like the 5th one down, below a political traffic scandal, an article on changing medicare policies in Japan, etc. The Yomiuri did mention one thing the other newspapers did not, and that is the Prime Minister will be visiting a nursing home during his trip to the U.S.