Japan Digest #370

1.        Okinawa Governor Didn’t Follow Supreme Court Ruling About Henoko Landfilling


As reported in Japan Digest #368, the Supreme Court, in September, ruled against Governor Tamaki’s appeal about the construction of the Henoko coastal area.

It’s been a while since the Japanese government and the U.S. government agreed to move the Futenma Marine Air Station to the Henoko coast area near the Camp Shwab where V-shaped runways will be newly built over the sea.   

Landfilling application by the Ministry of Defense for the southern area of the Henoko coast area was approved by then Okinawan Governor Nakaima and the construction started in 2018.

In the meantime, some poor ground was found in the northern area of the coast, which required MoD to apply for some construction design change to the Okinawan government. 

The governor has been changed to Mr. Denny Tamaki, who campaigned for and represented the voters who are against the construction of the Henoko coastline for the military purpose. 

In 2021, Tamaki disapproved the application of the construction design change, which was made in 2020. 

MoD protested against it and demanded the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport to review the case from the national interest point of view. 

In 2022, then minister of MoLIT concluded to cancel the disapproval by Gov. Tamaki and instructed the prefectural government to approve the construction design change.  

Gov. Tamaki protested against the central government’s decision and brought the case up to the court.  And Tamaki’s appeal was not accepted, so the governor was supposed to follow the MoLIT’s minister’s instruction to approve the design change.

Governor Tamaki this time did not follow the instruction by the time limit.

Now, the minister will exercise its authority to approve the design change in place of the prefectural government through the court process. 

Technically, Tamaki is not disapproving the application, but he let the time up while holding its approval so that he kept his face for his political supporters’ group “All Okinawans” who are against this landfilling project, yet abiding by the legal system.


2.   PM Kishida Got Into 3Rd Year Of Tenure With A Slight Increase Of Approval Rating


Prime Minister Kishida marked his second anniversary in office on October 4th.

As the last digest reported, Yomiuri’s survey that was conducted right after the Cabinet reshuffle of September 13 revealed that PM Kishida’s declining approval rating did not rebound by the cabinet reshuffle.

Two weeks later, another media by the name of JNN conducted a similar survey, which showed a slight increase of the approval rating by 0.9 points to 39.6%. 

The cabinet’s disapproval rating was down by 0.3 points to 57.8%.   

Kishida is now working on some economic package including possible tax reductions to alleviate the public burden imposed by the long-lasting inflation. 

If the economic package could put his cabinet’s approval rating on an upward trend, Kishida might dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election, the media reports.


3.   Japan To Advance The Deployment Of Tomahawk By One Year


It was reported on October 5 that Japan’s newly appointed Defense Minister Kihara, who is visiting Washington, DC this week, held his first meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Austin on October 4.

Among various regional issues discussed, the two defense leaders agreed that the timing of Japan’s starting acquisition of around 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the U.S. should be advanced by one year to JFY2025.

Minister Kihara and Secretary Austin talked about regional security issues such as China’s coercive actions, North Korea’s provocative actions and Russia’s military cooperation with China, and Kihara proposed this acceleration of Tomahawk deployment to strengthen the Japan-U.S. joint defense strength in the region, and Secretary Austin agreed to it.


4.  Japan To Lead To Make International Rules Of Generative AI


At the G7 Hiroshima Summit in May, PM Kishida proposed “Hiroshima AI Process”, which institutionalize G7 members’ discussion on how to make international rules to regulate generative AI.

PM Kishida this week elaborated his plan of how to lead this Hiroshima AI Process in a press interview. 

He specifically mentioned Originator Profile (OP) technology as one of new emerging technologies to keep fake information from spreading.

OP is a technology to have the originator of an article or advertisement certified by a third party. 

In Japan, 27 corporations including news paper companies, PR agencies, ICT companies, etc. formed OP Technology Research Institute to demonstrate OP technology aiming at its practical use in 2025.


5.  Japan To Work On UN To Keep The Present EEZ Unchanged Even After Rise of The Sea-Level


Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was defined to be within 200 NM(approx. 370 km) from the coastline at low tide by the United Nations Convention on Maritime Law.

When the UN law was adopted in 1982, it did not assume the rise of the sea-level.  

Now that the global warming is likely to raise the sea-level, PM Kishida, during his address at the UN General Assembly of September 19, expressed his support to keep the present EEZ as it is even if the original coastline recedes due to the rise of the sea-level.

UN’s International Law Commission established a study group in 2019, which has been discussing on how to define EEZ in the case of the rise of the sea-level since then. 

Since the countries of the South Pacific islands also claim the same interpretation of EEZ as Japan, the Kishida Administration is expected to collaborate with these island nations to form a like-minded group and increase the number of supporters.