Japan Digest #377

1.        China Is Building Up Military Presence Around Taiwan


Yomiuri reported on Sunday and Monday this week on the front page about Chinese Military’s build-up around Taiwan. 

Earlier back in 2020, China deployed at least three ships of a Chinese version of Aegis destroyers on the line of its unilaterally declared Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, and since then, the destroyers have been permanently stationed in the area.

This ADIZ includes the Senkaku Archipelagos overlapping Japan’s own ADIZ.

Then, the paper reported that China’s four frigate ships are also stationed around Taiwan. 

One vessel is positioned near Yonakuni Island of Okinawa Pref., another is between Yonakuni Island and Philippine, one is in the northwest area and another in the southwest of Taiwan. 

China conducted a very large scale military drill in August 2022 when then House Speaker Nanci Pelosi visited Taiwan, and it seems that the four frigate ships have been stationed in the area since then to prevent U.S. military forces from approaching the area.

Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force has been deploying its destroyers in the area to charge such Chinese naval presence near the Senkaku Archipelago.  

When China claimed its ADIZ unilaterally in 2013 in the area, it didn’t have sufficient datalink to cover its declared zone effectively with its Airforce, but now, experts say that China’s datalink between its Navy and Airforce is advanced and sophisticated to effectively cover the zone, military experts explain in the report.


2.   Ordinary Diet Session To Release Emergency Budgetary Package for Noto Peninsula And To Reform Political Fund Regulatory Law


This year’s ordinary Diet session started this week. 

Although the Diet members have to quickly come up with an emergency budgetary package to help more than 30,000 sufferers and devastated local businesses from the earthquake of the New Year Day in the Noto Peninsula, the largest issue of the session is how to reform and amend the present Political Fund Regulatory Law to prevent the repetition of the LDP’s Diet members’ and their factions’ off-the-book funding scandals.

Right after the revelation of the scandals, PM Kishida left the Kishida Faction and eventually dissolved the faction.

This move resulted in the dissolution of the Abe Faction, Moriyama Faction and Nikai Faction.

The Aso Faction and Motegi Faction announced that they would continue the factions yet changing the nature of activity toward political study and learning.  

The opposition parties are mostly demanding that the Political Fund Regulatory Law should be amended to prohibit corporations and organizations from purchasing political party tickets, abolish the Political Activity Account that currently allows the Diet members to freely spend up to a certain amount of money without detail explanation, and strengthen and extend the present punishment toward the Diet members instead of not just punishing account managers, etc.  

The ruling LDP is collecting opinions out of the senior members to propose its own draft of the amendment soon.


3.  Geopolitical Cooperations Continue


This week, Japan and Germany signed Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement. 

The agreement is intended to strengthen security cooperation of the two countries and to facilitate joint military exercises. 

This is the 7th ACSA for Japan after concluding the one with U.S., U.K,, France, Australia, Canada and with India. 

Then, PM Kishida is scheduled to visit Italy early this month to exchange opinions with PM Melony about global issues including the Russian aggression and Chinese aggressive positions in the Indo-Pacific region.

Kishida is also visiting the U.S. in April as a state guest to meet President Biden to talk about global geopolitical issues.


4.  Foreign Residents Will Be Welcomed to Join Local Revitalization Cooperation Teams


The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced this week that it would provide those prefectures which try to form a Local Revitalization Cooperation Team with some budget to promote and welcome foreign residents to the team. 

Originally, Local Revitalization Cooperation Teams were formed with young Japanese members, who are expected to move and live in depopulated rural areas and to reactivate the areas with fresh ideas of revitalization. 

Now that so many foreign visitors have been appreciating the value of not only the cities like Tokyo and Kyoto but also local sceneries, cultures and foods, the central government decided to facilitate prefectures in needs to match with foreign residents who recognize the value of depopulated area and are willing to join the team to disseminate local information through SNS to the world.


5. JAXA's SLIM Started Exploration Of The Moon Surface


Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency(JAXA) successfully made its lunar exploration probe "SLIM" land on the moon on the 20th of January.

It was what JAXA called a "pinpoint landing" meaning the distance gap between the targeted landing point and the actual point was within 100 meters.

JAXA claimed that it was the world's first pinpoint landing.

Although one of the two main engines suffered from some malfunction right before the landing, which caused its solar panel to face a different direction from originally planned and made the probe unable to generate the electricity needed to operate its missions right after the landing,JAXA confirmed this week that SLIM is now able to generate electric power as the sun moves and to establish communication with the earth.

JAXA released several pictures of the moon surface that SLIM took by a specially designed high-performance camera onboard SLIM including six rocks that had been identified by researchers as the valuable objects to be scientifically researched to learn the genesis of the moon.

Here is the picture published by JAXA this week. 

They named the six rocks after popular pet dog types (Saint Bernard, Kai Ken, Akita Inu, Bull Dog, Shiba Inu, and Toy Poodle) inspiring the difference of the size of individual rocks.