Japan Echo

FINDING JAPAN’S WAY IN THE WORLD
Vol. 37, No. 2, April 2010


CHRONOLOGY

JANUARY — FEBRUARY 2010

JANUARY

3–4 Minister for Foreign Affairs Okada Katsuya visits Turkey, where he meets with President Abdullah Gül and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu. He also attends the opening ceremony of Japan Year 2010 in Turkey.

4 The Japan Pension Service, a new public corporation established to replace the scandal-tainted Social Insurance Agency, begins full-scale operations.

6 Citing poor health, Minister of Finance Fujii Hirohisa resigns his post. The following day Deputy Prime Minister Kan Naoto is designated as his replacement.

12 Creditor banks agree to a plan under which Japan Airlines will file for bankruptcy. This, along with the agreement of JAL retirees to accept large cuts in their pension benefits, clears the way for a restructuring plan to be overseen by the state-backed Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation of Japan. The following day, Inamori Kazuo, honorary chairman and founder of Kyocera Corp., agrees to serve as JAL’s chief executive officer. JAL and two subsidiaries file for bankruptcy protection on January 19.

Foreign Minister Okada meets with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Hawaii. Amid recent tensions over the issue of where to relocate the functions of US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, the two agree to launch dialogue aimed at strengthening the Japan-US alliance this year, which marks the fiftieth anniversary year of the current bilateral security pact.

14 The Bank of Japan announces that its corporate goods price index for 2009 declined 5.3% from the previous year to 103. It was the sharpest decline since comparable data began being recorded in 1961.

15 The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office arrests Ishikawa Tomohiro, a member of the House of Representatives and former secretary to Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ozawa Ichirô. Ishikawa is alleged to have played a role in illegal activities relating to Ozawa’s political funds.

With the expiration of the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law, the Maritime Self-Defense Force concludes eight years of refueling operations for naval vessels of the United States and other nations participating in antiterrorism operations in the Indian Ocean.

17 Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio and other dignitaries attend a ceremony in Kobe to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako also take part in the solemn event.

The first members of a civilian medical team dispatched by the Japanese government arrive in Haiti to begin treating survivors of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation on January 12. A medical team from the Self-Defense Forces starts relief activities in Haiti on January 23.

18 The National Diet convenes for its annual 150-day ordinary session. Legislators are expected to clash over such issues as the budget for fiscal 2010 (April 2010 to March 2011) and a bill to grant permanent foreign residents the right to vote in local elections.

23 DPJ Secretary General Ozawa submits to voluntary questioning by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office to address allegations that he received illicit political donations. Speaking to reporters after the questioning, Ozawa denies the allegations and vows to continue in his post.

24 Inamine Susumu wins the mayoral race for the city of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture. Inamine is a staunch opponent of the agreement reached by Japan and the United States to relocate the functions of Futenma Air Station to Nago from their present location in Ginowan, also in Okinawa.

25 The Japan National Tourism Organization announces that the number of overseas visitors to Japan in 2009 declined 18.7% from the previous year to 6.79 million. It was the first decline in six years and the first double-digit fall since the steep appreciation of the yen following the 1985 Plaza accord.

26 In keeping with the terms of the December 2009 Copenhagen Accord, Japan informs the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change of its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020, contingent upon adoption of similarly ambitious targets by other major emitting countries.

Citing the government’s reduced economic policy flexibility to deal with the country’s ballooning debt, US credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s revises its outlook for Japan’s sovereign credit rating from "stable" to "negative."

A preliminary report by the National Police Agency shows that the number of suicides in 2009 came to 32,753, the fifth-highest number on record and 504 more than in 2008. It marked the twelfth consecutive year of more than 30,000 suicides.

27 Following a 2.3-million-unit recall, Toyota Motor Corp. announces it is suspending US sales of eight vehicle models in response to a possible defect that may cause the cars to suddenly accelerate.

29 Prime Minister Hatoyama delivers his first administrative policy speech in the 174th ordinary Diet session, stressing his desire to "protect people’s lives" and calling on legislators to make 2010 "a new start for Japan."

FEBRUARY

1 Prime Minister Hatoyama meets with Mexican President Felipe Calderón in Tokyo.

2 The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare reports that average monthly wages among companies with five or more employees declined 3.9% in 2009 from the previous year, the largest decline since such data began to be collected in 1991. The number of full-time employees fell 0.9%, while the ranks of part-time workers grew by 2.6%.

4 The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office indicts House of Representatives member Ishikawa Tomohiro and two other individuals in connection with violating the Political Funds Control Law while working as secretaries for DPJ Secretary General Ozawa. But the prosecutors decline to charge Ozawa, citing lack of evidence. On February 23, separate charges against Ozawa concerning a 2007 funds report are also dropped.

5 The government orders the dispatch of a 350-member SDF engineering unit to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in earthquake-hit Haiti.

5–6 Minister of Finance Kan Naoto attends a Group of Seven meeting in Iqaluit, in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Ahead of the meeting he holds talks with US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

6 The Bob Barker, an antiwhaling ship operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, collides with a Japanese whaling fleet vessel off the coast of Antarctica. Each side blames the other for the incident.

8 Prime Minister Hatoyama meets with President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Tokyo.

Japan’s number-one and number-three brewers, Kirin Holdings Co. and Suntory Holdings Ltd., abandon plans for a merger, having failed to agree on a merger ratio.

9 Toyota Motor Corp. announces it is recalling 223,068 hybrid cars sold in Japan, including the Prius and three other models, in order to repair a brake defect.

10 Edano Yukio, former chairman of the DPJ’s Policy Research Committee, is named as state minister for government revitalization.

11 Minister for Foreign Affairs Okada meets with South Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan in Seoul. Yu expresses hope that legislation will be passed allowing foreign permanent residents of Japan, many of whom are of Korean nationality, the right to vote in local elections.

House of Representatives member Ishikawa Tomohiro resigns from the DPJ but continues to serve in the lower house following his indictment on charges of violating the Political Funds Control Law.

15 The Cabinet Office releases figures showing gross domestic product for October–December increased at an annualized rate of 4.6% from the previous quarter, marking the third consecutive quarter of expansion.

19 Prime Minister Hatoyama meets with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Tokyo.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd threatens to take international legal action by November 2010 if Japan continues to hunt whales under its research whaling program. The following day, Foreign Minister Okada meets with Rudd in Sydney. Aside from discussing the whaling issue, the two agree to deepen cooperation in such areas as UN peacekeeping operations, disaster relief, and nuclear nonproliferation.

23 US special envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth embarks on a visit to China, South Korea, and Japan aimed at restarting six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.

24 In the wake of massive safety recalls, Toyota Motor Corp. President Toyoda Akio testifies before a US House of Representatives panel in Washington. While denying any attempt to cover up defects, he apologizes for the recalls, attributing the company’s lax safety policy to its rapid expansion.

Preliminary trade statistics from the Ministry of Finance show the value of Japan’s exports increased 40.9% in January from the previous year. It was the second consecutive month of increases.

25 Prime Minister Hatoyama names newly appointed JAL CEO Inamori Kazuo as a special advisor to his cabinet.

26 The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications releases its consumer price index for January, showing a 1.3% decline from the previous year to 99.2 (2005 average = 100, excluding fresh food). It is the eleventh month of consecutive declines.

28 The results of an opinion poll conducted by the Nikkei Inc. and TV Tokyo show support for the Hatoyama cabinet at 43%, down 2 points from a month before.

© 2010 Japan Echo Inc.


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