1. Japan-U.S. Alliance Evolving To New Dimensions
As reported in the previous Japan Digest (351), the Japanese government released three new documents in the end of last year, namely National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy and Defense Build-up Plan in order to respond rapidly changing regional security risks. PM Kishida visited the United States last week, met with President Biden on the 13th and showed strong commitment of contributing to the regional security and stability together with the U.S. and its friendly nations by explaining about the three documents. President Biden highly appreciated Japan’s commitment to the regional security and expressed firm engagement of Japan’s defense effort including Japan’s building up counterattack capability.
During the same week, the 2+2 meeting was held in Washington, DC. Within a few days in the week, quite many agreements and consensus were made between the two governments with regard to the security issues including the economic security evolving the Japan-U.S. alliance to new dimensions. Some of such agreements and consensus are as follows:
2. PM Kishida’s International Campaign For Rule Of Law
Taking the opportunity to chair the UN Security Council for the month of January, Japan organized a minister level open discussion at the council on January 12 under the theme of “Rule of Law”. Japan’s intent was to reveal the fact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is against the UN Charter.
India, who is a traditional friend of Russia, and Armenia, who used to be part of USSR expressed importance of strengthening the rule of law concept to avoid regional conflicts, while Russia countered that western countries breached the UN Charter by attacking Iraq and former Yugoslavia. China also objected to strengthening the concept saying it would harm international harmony and stability.
Meanwhile, Kishida visited France, Italy, UK, Canada and the US from January 9 through 15 and met with the top leaders respectively. Kishida will chair the G7 Summit at Hiroshima in this May, and he intended a sort of ground work by sharing his thoughts and priority for the summit meeting with his counterparts beforehand.
3. Korean Initiative To Thaw Out The Frozen Japan-Korea Relationship
When the Korean Supreme Court concluded in 2018 that the Korean plaintiffs, who claimed that they were forced laborers by Japan during the WWII should be compensated by the Japanese companies who used the laborers, then Japanese government publicly responded that the sentence is totally unacceptable due to the fact that Japan’s liability against any loss and damage caused to Korean people during the war should be covered by and indemnified under the Japan-Korea Claims Agreement that was concluded by the two governments in 1965, and that the Korean government should be fully responsible for the claims from the plaintiffs and should keep the accused Japanese companies harmless.
President Moon Jae-in, during his tenure, didn’t stand by the international agreement and showed the attitude to support the Supreme Court’s judgement, which frozen the bilateral relationship of not only the diplomacy but also the tourism and some businesses.
In the last presidential election, Yoon Suk-yeol, who represented the conservative People Power Party, promised to improve the diplomatic relationship with Japan during his campaign, and defeated the Democratic Party's nominee Lee Jae-myung, who stood by the Supreme Court’s decision and demanded Japan to further compensate the plaintiffs.
Around 8 months have passed since his presidential inauguration, the Yoon administration announced a plan last week to use a government affiliated foundation to compensate the claim from the plaintiffs in place of the accused Japanese companies.
Close and intensive diplomatic exchanges are in place between the two administrations based on this Korean initiative to thaw out the frozen relationship as soon as possible, Yomiuri reported.
4. Kishida’s Approval Ratings Continue To Lag
According to Yomiuri’s monthly survey that was conducted from January 13 through 15, the Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating stayed unchanged from the previous month, namely 39%, while its disapproval rating went down by 5 points from the last month (52%).
Other key findings are as follows:
When should the Lower House be dissolved?
Within this year 33% As soon as possible 18%
Do you agree that defense spending be significantly increased in five years?
Yes 43% No 49%
Do you agree to pay by tax increase for the increase of defense spending?
Yes 28% No 63%
How do you think the cabinet’s plan to increase birth rate?
Approve 58% Disapprove 34%
5. Eisai’s Alzheimer Disease Approved By FDA
Eisai, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Japan announced on January 7 that LEQEMBI which it co-developed with Biogen in the U.S. as a medicine to prevent Alzheimer disease from further damaging brain cells was approved by FDA under its fast approval process. The approval was made out of the paper that a group of patients in Alzheimer’s early stage took this medicine once every other week for one and a half years showed 27% better result in limiting worsening the disease in comparison with another group of similar patients who took a placebo. Eisai announced that the medicine’s selling price in the United States was set at US$26,500 per person through the year.
6. B2B Inflation Marked Highest Record Of 9.7% Last Year
Bank of Japan announced on the 16th that domestic industries’ price index of December last year marked 119.5, which is 10.2% higher than the same month in 2021. 2022’s annual inflation of business-to-business prices was 9.7%, which is the highest ever since 1981 when the bank began to take a comparative statistics. In December, utility prices jumped by 52.3% on a year-to-year comparison basis, followed by minerals (33.9%) and steel (20.9%). Consumer price index went up by 4% in December from a year ago, showing a large gap from the B2B inflation, but B2B inflation will be reflected into B2C inflation eventually, economists say.
Have a wonderful weekend!