Japan Seems Ready To Do Anything In Order To Strengthen Ties With The US

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was bashed in the 2016 elections by both Democrats and Republicans.

It was portrayed in the campaign as another “bad” trade deal that would cost our country decent jobs and lower wages.

It was no surprise when President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP in his fourth day of office and suggested focusing on more bilateral trade agreements.

Whether or not Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to convince Trump in November to stay in the TPP during their first meeting, it is apparent he has changed his tune now.

Abe seemed optimistic about replacing the TPP with investments from Japan in America’s infrastructure, suggesting a railway that uses their high-speed technology and increased bilateral trade during a trip to the US.

Sounds too good to be true?

The Japanese government has already invested two million in a maglev line project that would connect Baltimore, Maryland to Washington and expects the forty-mile line to open in a decade at an estimated cost of ten billion, with them covering much of the cost.

Many young Americans may be unfamiliar with this meeting, but as our generation starts to shape the public opinion of the time, it is critical that attention is paid to East Asia, as well as other parts of the world.

A 2015 survey by Pew Research Center found that seventy-three percent of Americans had never heard of the Japanese Prime Minister, who has served since 2012.

I asked Dr. William Boettcher in the Political Science Department at North Carolina State University why our relationship to Japan should matter to the incoming generation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting with American Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo Credit: Jim Mattis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

“Japan is the chief U.S. ally in East Asia (with South Korea a close second) and is a key contributor to stability in this very important region,” Boettcher told me. “Japan hosts significant deployments of American troops and is also our fourth-largest trading partner.”

While future relations seem unclear and the two countries have had a rocky history, for the past seventy-some years the relationship has been deeply rooted in mutual trust.

This trust has its beginnings in the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, signed in 1960.

The treaty has been strengthened over time with the US Japan Economic Harmonization Initiative in November of 2010 and the release of the revised U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines in 2015.

According to the State Department, the latter allowed for expanded forms of security-oriented cooperation, which brings us to the uniqueness of our relationship with Japan.

Due to Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution, the county cannot enter into war and can only use their forces in matters of self-defense.

As Japan’s only treaty partner, we are committed to protecting it with the presence of our forces.

The 2016 Index of Military Strength stated that we currently maintain “38,000 military personnel and another 5,000 Department of Defense civilian employees in Japan under the rubric of U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ).”

Japan offsets some of the cost by providing around two billion annually, but they have been pressured in recent years to provide more and increase their own military.

This was especially expressed by Trump during his campaign as he espoused that our allies must give a little more for relationships to continue.

Photo Credit: Metropolico.org/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Japan has loosened some of their restrictions on defense and arms sales in recent years, and they can do more.

The reason a strengthened relationship with the U.S. is so important: China and North Korea.

While President Obama practiced “strategic patience” with North Korea, the rogue regime practiced more missile tests and failed to return to any negotiations.

The long term goal of rejoining families and reinstituting democracy in the North will be a long way off if it is continued to be put on the back burner for issues in the Middle East (an important lesson for President Trump).

Read More: Why This Vietnamese Student Studying In The US Still Loves America Despite Trump’s Hate.

Both the United States and South Korea support the policy of reunification, but a policy of constructive engagement from the U.S. may prove to be more effective.

Japan’s formidable neighbor, China, has not been sanctioned for facilitating North Korean prohibited behavior and does not seem to share concern for the safety of our allies in East Asia.

To move toward the reunification of Korea, it stands to reason that our presence in East Asia should not be depleted, but enlarged.

How does this support President Trump’s claims that our allies need to do more?

Japan can do more and it appears that now that they have been pressured, Prime Minister Abe is rising to the occasion.

The first foreign leader to jump on a plane and meet with our new president, this is a man who is interested in not only dinner, but chocolate and roses too.

Japan has asserted its dominance in East Asia in recent years, meaning it has a dog in the fight.

In 2010 China challenged Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, and the Obama Administration responded by saying that the islands were protected under the security treaty between the United States and Japan.

Then the Japanese central government furthered tensions with China by purchasing three new islands in 2012.

While we must uphold our end of the security treaty, in the coming years Japan must strengthen the Japanese Coast Guard, increase defense expenditures so as to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces, reinforce the National Security Council, and alter its interpretation of the right to collective self-defense.

The Economist maintains that some of the money to improve American infrastructure can come from Japan’s $1.2 trillion public-pension fund, the world’s largest, so perhaps this can also support their own needs to improve and expand defense.

We can increase our militaristic and economic ties with Japan as long as they are willing to do the same.

While in the past public opposition to altering the Japanese constitution would have made it difficult, the increasing buildup of the Chinese military and Japan’s desire to work with the U.S. has changed the public’s outlook.

These short-term changes are now possible to work toward our common long-term goals of standing up to North Korea and China.

It looks like this alliance might make for a sweet relationship after all.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Metropolico.org/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Japan Needs To Have A Lot More Sex Or The Country Could Collapse Into The Sea

The Japanese population is rapidly declining.

The population has lost almost one million people over the past five years.

This decline has been long predicted by demographers but the world’s third largest economy has been unable to find a solution.

The situation is dire and hard to overstate.

If Japan can’t start having many more babies then the country will face great challenges later on in the century. These challenges could undermine the very core of the country’s social order.

Japan has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, 1.41 children per woman in 2012.

As a result, the number of people 65 and over has increased from 12.1% in 1990 to 26% in 2014.

Furthermore, estimates put Japan’s retirement age population at 40% of the total national population by 2060.

This would likely put a tremendous burden on Japan’s social safety net, state pensions alone being ¥792,100 per year ($6,960.76). This accounts for nearly 33% of Japan’s national budget in 2015 and it will only continue to balloon as the years roll on.

Having to cope with close to half of your population being in need of geriatric care is not a problem exclusive to Japan.

There is a lot of pressure on young people in Japan to have more children. But will they listen? Photo Credit: J3SSL33/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There is a lot of pressure on young people in Japan to have more children. But will they listen? Photo Credit: J3SSL33/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

China recently revoked and replaced its One Child Policy, with the Two Child Policy.

In part this is to combat China’s low fertility rates, 1.66 births per woman, and in part to counter act the imbalance between the number of men and women, a 30 million person disparity.

Other low fertility countries include, but are not limited to: Singapore (0.81), South Korea (1.18), Germany (1.44), Russia (1.61), The United States (1.87), and the United Kingdom (1.89). All of these nations have fertility rates incapable of sustaining their current populations without immigration helping to offset the disparity.

Elderly populations then are not only a threat to the economic growth of Japan, but to advanced economies in general.

It would then seem that in order to combat global population decline, and with a greater number of developing nations creating advanced economies, nations may need to compete for immigrants in order to sustain their populations.

This may be particularly difficult for Japan, due to the relative difficulty in learning its national language, and a culture that is not as used to welcoming immigrants as many of its potential competitors.

Of course the other way for Japan to get back to an equilibrium in terms of old and young is to have young people have more children- lots more children. The government has tried many different methods, including offering to pay parents to have kids, but it has had little impact.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Freedom II Andres/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Japan’s Supreme Court Rules That Married Couples Must Have Same Last Name

Japan’s Supreme Court upheld Wednesday a law requiring married couples to have the same name, despite campaigners calling the provision a violation of women’s rights. Opponents of the law have called it discriminatory because most couples in Japan use the husband’s name, the BBC reported. The issue has become controversial in Japan, as those advocating for… Read More

Dozens Of Boats Filled With Dead Bodies Keep Washing Up On The Japanese Shoreline

By Erika Hills

Something very strange is washing up on the shores of Japan. Dozens of old boats, filled with dead bodies keep finding their way to the coastline of the world’s third largest economy.

According to The Japan Times, it has become a yearly occurrence for wrecked ships to drift in the seas near Japan by the dozens.

Between 2013 and 2014, 145 boats were found by officials.

In total, 34 have been found this year, including boats that were discovered within the past two months. These ghost ships are thought to have originated in North Korea.

Most recently, on Nov. 20, officials discovered 10 bodies in three boats off the coast of Ishikawa Prefecture. Just a mere two days later, a fourth boat was found.

Carrying a nearly intact body with the head, six skulls, as well as other bones and remains, there it drifted an hour from the location of the other three boats, at Fukui Prefecture.

“There’s no doubt that the boats are North Korean,” John Nilsson-Wright, the head of the Asia program at the Chatham House policy institute told CNN.

Japanese Coast Guard officials said that for the past two months, 11 fishing boats with bodies on board have been found. They carry equipment, nets, and signs written in Korean, including one saying “Korean People’s Army,” the North Korean army, on it.

WATCH: Japanese TV report on a ship that washed ashore

Coast Guard spokesman, Yoshiaki Hiroto, said the small size and poor condition of the 10-to-12 meter long boats are not typical of South Korea or Japan.

Hiroto told the AP that evidence suggests the vessels are from the Korean Peninsula.

A tattered scrap of cloth on one of the boats also points to where they sailed from, as it looks like it could be the North Korean national flag, according to Japan broadcaster, NHK.

“There’s no doubt that the boats are North Korean,” John Nilsson-Wright, the head of the Asia program at the Chatham House policy institute told CNN.

Upon examining photos of the boats, Nilsson-Wright determined the lettering is Korean or Hangul.

Along with the tattered cloth and “Korean People’s Army,” sign, Nilsson-Wright said it is “very logical” to say the boats are from North Korea.

He believes one possibility is that people are trying to flee the regime, although he added that it is impossible to truly know with the limited information authorities have.

CNN reports that local Japanese media have been indicating that fishing boats under the command of the Korean People’s Army could have fallen victim to Kim Jong Un’s pressure for them to catch more fish.

Experts say that due to this, boats also may have drifted off course, ill-equipped to handle the harsh seas.

Cover Photo Credit: Mario Micklisch/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Man Fixes Your Short Arm Selfie Problem In The Most Ridiculously Perfect Way Ever

By Sebastian Priestman

Selfie sticks can be pretty embarrassing when using them in public, especially if you have short arms.

Even more embarrassing? Not having a selfie stick. Anyone remember this?

Well one young man in Japan named Mansun has aimed to take this decidedly first world problem head on by using a bit of grit, determination and a whole lot of imagination.

Mansun’s invention of the “selfie arms” is a simple invention by attaching two selfie sticks to plastic hands and covering them with a long sleeve shirt modified to fit the length of the arms.


His extra-long arms even help him get a better angle at tall structures. What a clever yet silly invention.

HT/ Laughing Squid

Cover Photo Credit: Ton Schulten/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

AbenomICS: Japan Slips Into Recession After Poor GDP Growth

The Japanese government announced that their economy shrank by 0.8% in the second quarter of the year and therefore into recession for the fifth time in seven years.

The announcement of the figures that covered economic growth (or the lack thereof) from July to September of this year came on the heels of a 0.7% loss in the previous quarter.

The back to back contractions have sent a shockwave across the world’s third largest economy and may increase the pressure on Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his tough fiscal policies.

Abenomics as the suite of policies are referred to, is basically a shock therapy meant to revive the stagnant growth rates in Japan.

As Bloomberg explains Abenomics:

“The central plan is built on unprecedented monetary easing, government spending and business deregulation to snap Japan out of its malaise. He calls it a “three-arrow” strategy, borrowing the image from a Japanese folk tale that teaches that three sticks together are harder to break than one.”

A recent IMF study on Abenomics made it clear how much was at stake for Japan, and how hard it would be for the Prime Minister to actually pull it off.

From the IMF study:

“What was being attempted under Abenomics was unprecedented, and nothing less than a leap from a low-growth deflationary equilibrium to a new equilibrium characterized by positive inflation and higher sustained growth. This requires a parallel shift toward more risk taking, requiring changes in expectations and behavior by businesses, consumers, and financial institutions. Confidence would be key, in both Japan’s growth prospects as well as the government’s ability to carry out needed reforms.”

So what caused the retraction and most recent recession in Japan?

“A big drop in inventory was the largest factor behind a third-quarter contraction. Weak capital spending was a concern, but excluding these factors, the GDP figures were not so bad,” Takeshi Minami, the chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute told Reuters.

Despite the bad news, Japan is somewhat used to the up and down nature of growth in the country and faces larger long term causes for the crisis- including a dangerously rapidly graying nation.

But will Abe and his bold form of reform survive to find another day? Only time will tell.

Cover Photo Credit: Presidencia de la República Mexicana/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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