US - Japan

Chronology from Jan 2009 to Mar 2009

: Public opinion poll released by Cabinet office shows 68 percent of Japanese are pessimistic about the economy with 57 percent expressing concern about unemployment.

: Japan’s Diet enacts a record $897 billion budget for fiscal year 2009.

: A Yomiuri Shimbun survey shows that 68 percent of the public opposes Ozawa Ichiro as head of the DPJ.  PM Aso’s approval rating increases to 23 percent from 17 percent in a previous survey.

: Okubo Takanori, a senior aide to Ozawa Ichiro, is indicted for violating regulations on political donations.  Ozawa announces his decision to stay on as DPJ President.

: In a Yomiuri Shimbun poll asking who is most suitable to be prime minister, former PM Koizumi comes in first with 12.9 percent, DPJ President Ozawa fifth with six percent, and PM Aso eighth with 3.5 percent.

: An Asahi Shimbun poll shows that 60 percent of the public is disappointed with the state of Japanese politics, with close to 90 percent saying politicians have not presented a future vision for the country and are not reflecting the will of the people.

: Japanese Finance Minister Yosano Kaoru and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner meet on the sidelines of a G20 preparatory meeting in the United Kingdom and agree to promote stimulus packages totaling the equivalent of two percent of GDP.

: Defense Minister Hamada orders the dispatch of two destroyers to take part in anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia.

: In an interview with Asahi Shimbun, PM Aso states that Japan will push for a new United Nations Security Resolution sanctioning North Korea if it conducts a missile test.

: Defense Minister Hamada urges North Korea not to conduct what it argues is a satellite test warning that a launch of what others believe to be a ballistic missile could damage peace and stability in the region.

: Secretary Clinton notes during media availability with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Washington that the Obama administration is ready to send Special Envoy Bosworth to Pyongyang to begin direct discussions with the North Korea but that he has not been invited.

: DPJ President Ozawa holds a press conference and apologizes to the public for the Okubo scandal but declines to resign.

: Ministry of Finance reports Japanese exports fell close to 50 percent in January 2009 from a year earlier and that the country posted its first current account deficit in 13 years.

: U.S. Special Envoy Bosworth states in Seoul that a North Korean missile launch would constitute a contravention of UNSC Resolution 1718.

: Asahi Shimbun poll shows 57 percent of the Japanese public thinks Ozawa Ichiro should resign as DPJ president.  PM Aso’s approval rating was 14 percent in the same poll; Kyodo News poll shows an approval rating of 16 percent.

: U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth meets Saiki Akitaka, director general Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Tokyo to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue.

: Public opinion poll by the Cabinet office shows over 70 percent of respondents somewhat or extremely supportive of the MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

: DPJ President Ozawa holds a press conference and refuses to resign in the wake of the Okubo scandal, criticizing the arrest of his aide as an abuse of state power.

: Okubo Takanori, a senior aide to DPJ President Ozawa, is arrested for allegedly violating regulations on political contributions.  Two executives of the Nishimatsu construction company are also arrested for allegedly making illegal donations to Okubo.

: Defense Minister Hamada announces that if North Korea conducts a missile test, Japan will shoot down any debris that falls toward Japanese territory.

: In response to Ishiba’s comments, PM Aso states that the timing of an election is his prerogative and that economic stimulus measures should take precedence.

: Japanese Agriculture Minister Ishiba Shigeru suggests during an appearance on a television program that PM Aso should call a snap election.

: PM Aso meets President Obama at the White House, the first foreign leader to do so.  The two discuss the global economic crisis, North Korea, Afghanistan, and climate change.

: DPJ President Ozawa states that as Japan assumes a greater role in its defense the need for a U.S. presence will decrease and that the presence of the 7th fleet alone should suffice in maintaining security in the Far East.

: Polls by Fuji Television and Mainichi Shimbun show an 11 percent approval rating for PM Aso.

: PM Aso’s approval rating falls to 13.4 percent in a Kyodo News poll.

: Japanese Finance Minister Nakagawa Shoichi resigns after reportedly appearing drunk during a press conference at a G7 summit in Rome on Feb. 14.  He is replaced by Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Yosano Kaoru, who holds both posts concurrently.

: Secretary Clinton meets Foreign Minister Nakasone in Tokyo and the two sign an accord regarding the relocation of U.S. military personnel to Guam.  Clinton also meets PM Aso, opposition leader Ozawa, and relatives of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

: The government of Japan releases figures indicating Japan’s economy shrank at an annualized rate of 12.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

: Former PM Koizumi criticizes PM Aso’s comments on postal privatization deeming them laughable.

:   A joint survey by BBC News and Yomiuri Shimbun reveals that 56 percent of respondents polled worldwide said Japan has a positive influence in the world.

: Still under fire for controversial comments about postal privatization, PM Aso revises his previous marks and states that the plan was acceptable in the end.

: A poll by Asahi Shimbun projects an approval rating of 14 percent for PM Aso, with a disapproval rating of 73 percent.

: PM Aso backtracks, stressing that he never said Japan Post should be nationalized and that the 2005 election was obviously about privatizing the postal service.

: A Yomiuri Shimbun poll asking who is most suitable to be prime minister finds former PM Koizumi most popular with 14.4 percent, followed by Ozawa Ichiro with 13.7 percent.  Aso came in fourth at 4.7 percent.

: PM Aso states during a question and answer session in the Diet that he opposed the break-up of Japan Post into four companies back in 2005, despite his having served in the Koizumi administration at the time, and that the decision should be reviewed.

: The State Department announces that Japan will be Hillary Clinton’s first stop on her first trip abroad as secretary of state.

: In an appearance before the Lower House Budget Committee, PM Aso criticizes the “buy American” provisions in the U.S. stimulus package as a violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

: Sankei Shimbun reports that North Korea has begun preparations for a Taepodong-2 missile launch.

: During a brief telephone conversation, President Obama and PM Aso agree to tackle the global financial crisis and other issues including North Korea.

: A white paper on Official Development Assistance (ODA) prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Cabinet states Japan fell to fifth place in 2007.

: Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu orders preparations for the dispatch of Maritime Self Defense Force (MSDF) vessels to the coast of East Africa and the Gulf of Aden for antipiracy operations.

: In a speech to the Diet, PM Aso vows to create 1.6 million jobs over three years and touts stimulus measures to pull Japan out of recession.

: A second supplementary budget for fiscal year 2008 comes into force after the ruling coalition passes it a second time in the Lower House of the Diet.

: A Mainichi Shimbun poll lists an approval rating of 19 percent for PM Aso, and a disapproval rating of 65 percent.

: Secretary of State Clinton expresses sympathy during a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Nakasone Hirofumi for the relatives of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

: Japan launches the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) Ibuki into space, the first satellite dedicated to monitoring greenhouse gas emissions.

: The Bank of Japan revises previous GDP estimates and predicts the Japanese economy will shrink two percent in fiscal 2009, the steepest contraction on record.

: Japan’s Ministry of Finance announces that Japan’s 2008 trade surplus fell 80 percent compared to the previous year.

: PM Aso issues a statement of congratulations on the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

: DPJ Secretary General Hatoyama offers congratulations on the inauguration of President Obama and criticizes the LDP as simply following the direction of the U.S.

: Japan’s Ministry of Defense releases a policy blueprint for the use of space for defensive purposes.

: Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton praises the U.S.-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of U.S. policy in Asia during her Senate confirmation hearing.

: PM Aso dismisses a vice minister in the Cabinet office for refusing to vote for the second supplementary budget in the Lower House.

: During a farewell appearance at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer states that Japan should consider exercising the right of collective self-defense.

: A second supplementary budget and other measures, including a cash handout program for households, are passed in the Lower House of the Diet.

: MP Watanabe Yoshimi quits the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to protest PM Aso’s policies.

: PM Aso and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agree at a summit in Seoul to jointly tackle the global financial crisis and work closely with the Obama administration on North Korean issues.

: A Fuji Sankei poll, asking who is most suitable to become prime minister, deems Ozawa Ichiro most popular for the first time with 13.2 percent of responses followed by former PM Koizumi Junichiro with 9.9 percent.  PM Aso comes in fourth with 5.9 percent and 25.7 percent of respondents said no one is suitable to lead the country.

: PM Aso’s disapproval rating is 72 percent according to a Yomiuri Shimbun poll.

: The first six of 12 U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters arrive at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa for a three-month deployment, the second such deployment to the Far East since 2007.

: Asahi Shimbun reports that Joseph Nye will become U.S. ambassador to Japan.

: PM Aso rejects DPJ Secretary General Hatoyama Yukio’s call for his resignation citing the need to stem the adverse effects of the financial crisis.

: In his first press conference of the year, PM Aso refuses to consider the dissolution of the Lower House until budget measures are passed in the Diet citing the need for economic stimulus measures.

: In his first interview of the year, DPJ President Ozawa denounces government economic policies and reiterates his desire to win the next election to “protect the lives and livelihoods of the people.”

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