US - Japan

Chronology from May 2012 to Aug 2012

: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru announces that his party, Osaka Restoration Group, plans to propose cutting the number of seats in the House of Representatives from 480 to 240, removing 90 of 180 proportional seats and 150 of 400 single-seat constituencies.

: A number of opposition parties, including LDP and Komeito, pass a non-binding censure motion against Prime Minister Noda in the Upper House of the Diet, marking the beginning of the opposition parties’ boycott of future Diet deliberations.

: The opposition-controlled Upper House of the Diet adopts censure motion against Prime Minister Noda at a plenary meeting.

: The DPJ forces an electoral reform bill through a parliamentary committee of the House of Representatives, while the opposition LDP boycotts the deliberations in protest.

: Prime Minister Noda meets antinuclear demonstrators and vows to improve the safety of the two recently-restarted nuclear reactors at the Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture, but makes no further concessions.

: A team of Japanese government officials meets US counterparts at the Pentagon to discuss the US investigation into recent MV-22 Osprey accidents.

: CSIS hosts release of third Armitage-Nye Report on US-Japan relations and US strategy in Asia.

: A Yomiuri Shimbun survey finds 53 percent of respondents favor the dissolution of the Lower House by autumn, and 53 percent also consider political realignment the most desirable path toward a government framework for the future.

: Mainichi Shimbun survey finds 92 percent of the Japanese public is worried about the effects of an increase in the consumption tax; 44 percent of respondents supporting the legislation.

: A bill that would allow the establishment of special wards similar to those in Tokyo passes the Lower House of the Diet. The proposed bill covers all areas with a population over 2 million (currently 10 cities would fit such a requirement) and requires the consent of both governors and mayors to rezone the administrative districts.

: Legislation to raise the consumption tax rate from 5 percent to 8 percent by April 2014 and to 10 percent by October 2015 passes the Diet.

: Asahi Shimbun poll finds the Noda Cabinet approval rating at 25 percent, the lowest since Noda entered office in September. With respect to political parties, 15 percent support the DPJ, 13 percent favor the LDP, and 55 percent declare themselves unaffiliated.

: In exchange for support from the LDP and Komeito to help pass the government’s comprehensive tax and social security reform bills, Prime Minister Noda promises to “seek a public mandate” once the legislation passes through the Diet, but sets no date for an election.

: Minor opposition parties, including Ozawa Ichiro’s People’s Lives First Party, submit a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Noda in the Lower House and a censure motion in the Upper House in advance of an upcoming vote on the government’s tax hike bill.

: Defense Minister Morimoto and Defense Secretary Panetta meet in Washington to discuss the US-Japan alliance and Japanese concerns over Osprey aircraft scheduled for deployment to Okinawa.

: Japan’s annual defense white paper is formally endorsed by the Noda Cabinet.

: The government’s Council on National Strategy and Policy draws up a strategy for revitalizing the Japanese economy by 2020, emphasizing energy and environment, medical care and welfare, and agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

: Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) releases an independent assessment of US force posture strategy in the Asia-Pacific conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) pursuant to the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

: An Asahi Shimbun poll finds support for Ichiro Ozawa’s new political party at 15 percent, with 78 percent expressing no significant expectations for Ozawa’s party.  Prime Minister Noda’s Cabinet approval rating stands at 27 percent.

: US National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and Prime Minister Noda meet in Tokyo to discuss U.S.-Japan relations and regional affairs.

: US Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter meets Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba, Defense Minister Morimoto and Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense Watanabe in Tokyo to discuss US strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region.

: Tens of thousands of anti-nuclear protestors assemble in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, demanding an end to the use of nuclear power in Japan.

: The government drafts a bill that would revise the existing peacekeeping operation (PKO) cooperation law to allow Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to more quickly provide protection for overseas civilian personnel during UN peacekeeping operations.

: Foreign Minister Gemba, Secretary of State Clinton and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan agree in a trilateral dialogue on the margins of ASEAN-related meetings in Cambodia to make concerted efforts to prevent North Korea from engaging in provocative acts, stating that “any provocation by North Korea, including another nuclear test or missile launch, will be met with a resolute and coordinated response from the international community.”

: Ozawa Ichiro officially launches a new party, “People’s Lives First” (Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi).

: Democratic Party of Japan finalizes decision to expel Ozawa Ichiro and 36 supporters following their decision to quit the party in opposition to the government’s consumption tax bill. The DPJ also suspends former Prime Minister HatoyamaYukio’s party membership for 3 months for voting against the bill.

: Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Gemba meet in Japan to discuss Afghanistan, US-Japan relations, and regional and global issues. Secretary Clinton also pays a courtesy call on Prime Minister Noda.

: Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima reiterates his strong opposition to the US military’s plan to deploy MV-22 Osprey aircraft at MCAS Futenma and demands a thorough investigation of recent accidents involving the aircraft.

: Ozawa Ichiro resigns from the DPJ and announces his intention to launch a new political party.

: The United States confirms that it will go ahead with the deployment of 12 MV-22 Osprey aircraft to American bases in Japan. The Pentagon commits to refraining from any flight operations of the MV-22 in Japan until the results of investigations are presented to the Japanese government and the safety of flight operations is confirmed.

: European Union, United States, and Japan request a dispute settlement panel at the World Trade Organization after failing to resolve a dispute over China’s restrictions on exports of rare earths.

: A bill to increase Japan’s consumption tax rate passes the Lower House.

: The Okinawa Prefectural Assembly adopts a resolution calling for the early return of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma and the cancellation of the plan to deploy US Marine Osprey aircraft to Okinawa.

: Meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Mexico, Prime Minister Noda and President Barack Obama agree to proceed with consultations aimed at Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks.

: Fukui Gov. Nishikawa Issei agrees to restart reactors No. 2 and 3 at the Oi nuclear power plant during a meeting with Prime Minister Noda – the first reactivation in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011.

: US Department of Defense announces that the United States, South Korea, and Japan will conduct a joint naval exercise on June 21-22 in waters south of the Korean Peninsula.

: According to a survey conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun, 64 percent of respondents support the passage of government-sponsored bills to raise the consumption tax rate, with 25 percent opposed to the bills. Fifty-five percent of respondents regard the increase as necessary to rehabilitate the nation’s finances and maintain the current social security system.

: World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report raises Japan’s 2012 real gross domestic product growth outlook to 2.4 percent from the 1.9 percent projected in January, citing progress in reconstruction work after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year.

: International Monetary Fund report states that Japan’s government and its central bank must do more to combat deflation.

: Prime Minister Noda states that Japan must restart reactors No. 3 and 4 of the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture in order to protect the economy and people’s livelihoods. Noda also stresses the importance of nuclear power as a long-term energy source for Japan.

: The ruling DPJ reaches an agreement with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito to begin talks on amending government-sponsored bills on comprehensive reform of the social security and tax systems.

: Japanese government receives a US government report stipulating that the crash of an MV-22 Osprey aircraft in Morocco in April was not caused by any mechanical problem.

: Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko reshuffles his Cabinet for the second time since taking office, replacing five of 18 Cabinet members, including Defense Minister Tanaka Naoki Tanaka, and Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Maeda Takeshi, both of whom were censured by the Upper House in April. They are replaced, respectively, by Morimoto Satoshi, a professor at Takushoku University, and Hata Yuichiro, former DPJ Upper House parliamentary affairs chief.

: Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister Watanabe, Defense Secretary Panetta and Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith agree to draw up an action plan to enhance trilateral defense cooperation and to expand the three countries’ joint defense drills.

: Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister for Defense Watanabe Shu visits Washington and asks Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to explain the cause of the fatal crash of a US MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in Morocco in April.

: Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet at the NATO Summit in Chicago to discuss the US-Japan alliance, Japan’s contributions and hopes for Afghanistan, applying pressure to Iran, and agreeing to a firm response in the event of any further provocation by North Korea.

: Cabinet Office states that preliminary growth figures for the first quarter of 2012 show the Japanese economy grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent.

: Japan’s Ministry of Finance announces that Japan’s debt hit a record 959.95 trillion yen at the end of fiscal year 2011.

: Members of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Standing Officers Council reinstate the party membership of Ozawa Ichiro following Ozawa’s acquittal by the Tokyo District Court of allegations he falsified a political funds report.

: With the shutdown of the No. 3 unit of Hokkaido Electric’s Tomari nuclear plant, all of Japan’s nuclear reactors switch offline for the first time since May 1970.

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