Japan Shinzo

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Longest-Serving Prime Minister, Resigns Because of Illness – The New York Times

Mr. Abe has been prime minister for nearly eight consecutive years, a significant feat in a country accustomed to high turnover in the top job.

Credit…Pool photo by Franck Robichon

Motoko Rich

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said on Friday that he was resigning because of ill health, thrusting his country, during a global pandemic, into a new period of political uncertainty after a record-setting tenure that provided unaccustomed stability at the top.

Mr. Abe, 65, announced his decision to step down just four days after he had set a record for the longest uninterrupted run as Japanese leader — nearly eight years — but before he had achieved some of his most cherished ambitions.

Since taking over at the end of 2012 as the sixth prime minister in five years, he had overseen Japan’s recovery from a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, restored the country to a semblance of economic health, and curried favor with an unpredictable American president, Donald J. Trump.

Yet despite his long hold on power — it was his second stint as prime minister, having held the post from 2006 to 2007 — Mr. Abe fell short of his ultimate goal of revising the pacifist Constitution installed by the United States after World War II. He was also unable to secure the return of contested islands claimed by both Japan and Russia so that the two countries could sign a peace treaty to officially end the war.

And in an often emotional news conference Friday evening, Mr. Abe expressed regret for a third unfulfilled ambition: securing the return of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea decades ago.

Explaining his decision to step aside, Mr. Abe told reporters that he had suffered a relapse of ulcerative colitis, the bowel disease that led him to resign after just a year during his first stint in office.

He said that he wanted to make way for a new leader who could focus fully on tackling the coronavirus pandemic and other challenges, and that he felt the timing was right because Japan had seemed to have gotten its second wave under control.


Credit…Jiji Press/EPA, via Shutterstock

“I don’t want to make mistakes in important political decisions” while undergoing treatment, Mr. Abe said. “I decided I shouldn’t continue sitting in this seat as long as I cannot respond to the mandate of the people with confidence.”

His conservative governing party, the Liberal Democratic Party, is expected to elect a leader within coming days or weeks, according to NHK, the public broadcaster. Mr. Abe’s term was set to expire in September 2021.

The leading candidates to replace Mr. Abe include Taro Aso, the long-serving deputy prime minister and a former prime minister; Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary to Mr. Abe; Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister who once ran against Mr. Abe for party leader; and Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister.

Mr. Abe declined to name a favorite, saying they were all “very promising.”

The Japanese news media had been speculating about Mr. Abe’s health for weeks, particularly after he significantly dialed back public appearances as a new wave of coronavirus infections erupted in clusters throughout the country. When Mr. Abe visited a hospital twice in the span of a week, the rumor mill went into overdrive.

Earlier on Friday, Mr. Suga had reassured reporters that Mr. Abe intended to remain in office. “The prime minister himself has said he would like to work hard again from now on, and I’m seeing him every day,” he said, adding that the prime minister’s health “remains unchanged.”


Credit…Hiro Komae/Associated Press

But Mr. Abe said he had actually decided on Monday, after a visit to the hospital, that he should resign, although he said he would stay until a successor was chosen. “As I’m in the middle of treatment, I judged that this is the only timing that will not create a vacuum of political leadership,” he said.

When Mr. Abe, the grandson of a prime minister accused of war crimes and the son of a former foreign minister, resigned during his first term after a scandal-plagued year in office, he cited the debilitating effects of ulcerative colitis, which has no known cure.

At the news conference on Friday, Mr. Abe said he had been told by doctors a few months ago that they had found signs of a relapse of the disease. He said that he had since lost much of his strength, and that he would now step aside so he could receive treatment with a new drug that he called promising.

Mr. Abe, whose public approval ratings have plummeted into the 30s as the economy has faltered during the pandemic, said he would remain a member of the lower house of Japan’s Parliament and continue to help his party pursue its goals.

During his second period in office, beginning in late 2012, Mr. Abe survived several influence-peddling scandals and rode out numerous elections. In 2015, he pushed through contentious security legislation that permitted Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat missions alongside allied forces, as part of “collective self-defense.”

His political power peaked in 2017, when his party won a landslide victory that gave it, along with its coalition partners, two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. That was the supermajority required to push through a constitutional revision, but Mr. Abe never brought that nationalist dream to fruition, with public opposition to such a change remaining high.


Credit…Kimimasa Mayama/European Pressphoto Agency

Still, perhaps uniquely among world leaders, Mr. Abe developed a close personal relationship with Mr. Trump that many in Japan believe helped avert punishing trade deals or demands that Japan pay more to support close to 55,000 American troops on bases across the country.

He also held together a coalition of 11 countries around the Pacific Rim in a trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, after the Trump administration pulled the United States out.

And before the pandemic and China’s increasingly authoritarian moves in Hong Kong and around the South China Sea, Mr. Abe had pursued warmer ties with China and its leader, Xi Jinping, reversing years of frosty relations.

“I think Abe’s biggest legacy for his successor is that he managed to stay in power in Japan longer than any other prime minister,” said Kristi Govella, an assistant professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “He managed to really elevate Japan’s profile on the international stage and make substantial changes in policy across a number of issue areas, and in Japan that is something we have not seen very often.”

Mr. Abe also helped secure the 2020 Summer Olympics for Tokyo, but they have been postponed until 2021 because of the pandemic.

But by the time he decided to resign, Mr. Abe’s disapproval ratings had risen to their highest level since he began his second term.

I want to celebrate his resignation,” one poster wrote on Twitter. “But he did whatever he wanted without consequences and people celebrated him for exceeding the record for longest consecutive days served in office. And now he just gets to escape, so I feel angry.”


Credit…Kimimasa Mayama/EPA, via Shutterstock

But analysts said that the political opposition, divided and disorganized, was unlikely to be able to take advantage of Mr. Abe’s resignation.

“For the sake of Japanese democracy, they should try,” said Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat who is now teaching at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. “But I don’t think they can do it. They are not even united, and there is no discussion of policies.”

The public has been dissatisfied with Mr. Abe’s handling of the coronavirus, particularly its effects on the economy, which erased what achievements he could claim under his economic platform, known as “Abenomics.”

Under that program, Mr. Abe had administered a three-pronged plan of monetary easing, fiscal stimulation and corporate reform. Some of its promises — including efforts to empower women, reduce the influence of nepotism and change entrenched work culture — remained unfulfilled.

“Abe wanted to be a transformational prime minister,” said Tobias Harris, an expert on Japanese politics at Teneo Intelligence in Washington and the author of “The Iconoclast: Shinzo Abe and the New Japan.”

“But the most difficult, potentially transformative decisions about Japan’s place in the world will be made by his successor, because Abe ended up being a prime minister who prioritized stability over the risks of transformation.”

Makiko Inoue and Hikari Hida contributed reporting.

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Japan’s emperor had to tell his people World War II was lost. He did so on a scratchy recording. – The Washington Post

But Japan’s once-mighty armed forces had been destroyed — its ships sunk, its soldiers killed, its planes shot down. Its cities had been bombed to rubble — most recently by two atomic weapons. And the emperor now had to tell his people the war was lost.

How loudly did one say that World War II was over? That the global catastrophe, which began in Europe in 1939 and spread across oceans and continents, and killed and maimed millions, was at an end?

Nazi Germany had surrendered four months earlier, after its reign of genocide, murder and brutality had been brought down. Adolf Hitler was dead. The concentration camps were liberated.

But Japan had continued fighting, and the world waited now for the emperor to end the tragedy.

Hirohito approached the NHK microphone — the same one the station used to announce that Japan had attacked the U.S. in 1941, according to historian John Toland.

“To our good and loyal subjects,” he began. “After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided … [on] an extraordinary measure.”

Japan would endure “the unendurable and [suffer] what is unsufferable,” he said, and surrender.

The announcement was broadcast to the Japanese at noon the next day, Aug. 15.

Four hours earlier — 7 p.m. on Aug. 14 in Washington — President Harry S. Truman announced in the White House that Japan had surrendered unconditionally, and the war was over.

The official end would come September 2, when the instrument of surrender was signed on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. But the world learned it was over, and rejoiced, when word first came on Aug. 14 and 15.

An estimated 400,000 Americans had been killed, 600,000 had been wounded and 30,000 were missing.

Millions more had perished around the world

Now it was over, and celebrations erupted.

Millions flooded into New York’s Times Square. Spotlights swept over the crowds. Paper, confetti and streamers rained from office buildings.

Fifteen effigies of Hirohito were hung from telephone poles along one avenue in Brooklyn, then pulled down and burned, the New York Times said.

Newspapers blared the one-word headline — “PEACE!” — and took note of the gold star banners in the homes of those who had lost a son, brother or father.

In Washington, people jammed Lafayette Square, across from the White House, and shouted “We want Truman! We want Truman!”

The president emerged from the north portico of the White House at about 8 p.m. and walked onto the lawn to greet the throng.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “This is a great day. This is the day we have all been looking for since Dec. 7, 1941.”

At the U.S. Naval Academy, the ancient Gokoku-ji bell, brought from Okinawa by Commodore Matthew Perry in the 1850s, was pounded with fists and shoes and reportedly rung so hard that it cracked.

In Lincoln, Neb., Mayor Lloyd Marti led 15,000 people in the University of Nebraska stadium in a victory celebration.

They sang the hymn “Old Hundredth” — Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow — along with the classic songs from World War I: “K-K-K-Katy” and “There’s a Long, Long Trail.”

“All over the world today the lights so long darkened … come on again,” the Rev. Raymond A. McConnell, pastor of the First-Plymouth Congregational Church, told the crowd, according to the Lincoln Star.

“The guns are silent,” he said. “The killing has stopped. Victory is ours and it is indeed a despairing heart that is not uplifted in gratitude and hope.”

In Philadelphia that Tuesday evening, people leaped from trolley cars and dashed into the streets from restaurants, leaving meals behind, to join the delirious throng around City Hall. The city’s air raid sirens were sounded in a salute to victory.

Bars closed, but people got inebriated anyhow.

In San Francisco, five people died and 300 were hospitalized during the celebrations.

On the morning of the Truman announcement, The Washington Post reported the death of Navy gunner’s mate Francis X. King, 25, whose parents lived on Fourth Street NW.

King had been reported missing after his ship, the USS Jarvis, was attacked and sunk by a swarm of Japanese planes off Guadalcanal on Aug. 9, 1942. Now he had been declared dead 8,000 miles from home.

The war in the Pacific had been fought over vast distances with armadas of ships and planes.

One stretch of ocean off the island of Guadalcanal was called “Iron Bottom Sound” because so many American and Japanese ships were sunk there.

On the atoll of Tarawa, bitter fighting in November 1943 killed 1,000 Marines. Buried on the atoll, many of their bodies became lost, and have only recently been discovered.

Last week, the Defense Department announced that remains recovered there last year have been identified as those of Sgt. George R. Reeser, 25, of Washington, Ill. He will be buried next month outside Deer Creek, Ill., where his parents, Levi and Esther, rest.

During the same campaign, the aircraft carrier USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine.

Among the dead was Doris “Dorie” Miller, who had manned a machine gun at Pearl Harbor and became the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross for valor.

The Pacific claimed the legendary war correspondent Ernie Pyle, killed by machine gun fire during the battle for Okinawa in 1945.

It killed the famous Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who had overseen the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. His plane was shot down by American fighters in April 1943.

It killed three of the six men who raised the famous flag on Iwo Jima.

It killed the five Sullivan brothers, of Waterloo, Iowa, when the ship they were all serving on, the USS Juneau, was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine in November 1942.

“The war left scars that never healed,” historian Donald L. Miller has written. “This was a war that was so savage it turned some soldiers into savages.”

But it also drew out nobility. “Boys who had barely begun to shave carried out stirring acts of heroism and selflessness,” he wrote.

Jack Lucas, of the Marine Corps, was 17 when he dove onto two Japanese grenades to save his buddies during the battle for Iwo Jima. He survived the blast and was given the Medal of Honor for valor.

Another Marine, Eugene B. Sledge, was 21 when word of the surrender reached him on Okinawa. He had just participated in the grim battle there where 12,000 Americans had been killed.

“We received the news with quiet disbelief coupled with an indescribable sense of relief,” he wrote in his 1981 memoir “With the Old Breed.”

“We thought the Japanese would never surrender,” he wrote. “Many refused to believe it. Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed.”

“Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy,” Sledge wrote, “the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war.”

In Hiroshima, where the world’s first atomic bomb had killed tens of thousands of people eight days before, survivor Michihiko Hachiya, a physician, gathered with others to hear what Hirohito was going to say.

He expected the emperor to announce that Japan had been invaded, and its people were being urged to fight to the end.

Hachiya was the director of the Hiroshima Communications Hospital, which served local employees of the mail, telegraph and telephone service.

“Word came to assemble in the office,” he wrote. “A radio had been set up and when I arrived the room was already crowded.”

Precisely at noon, the popular NHK announcer, Chokugen Wada, came on the air. He said he had a “broadcast of the gravest importance,” and asked all listeners to please rise.

“Like others in the room, I had come to attention,” Hachiya remembered. “We all remained silent.”

The haunting Japanese national anthem was played, followed by Hirohito’s announcement, which had been recorded on a 10-inch record.

Few people had ever heard the emperor’s voice. And historians say he spoke in formal Japanese that many listeners had trouble understanding.

The night before, in Tokyo, the technicians had told Hirohito to speak in a normal voice. But he had lowered it anyway, made several mistakes, and had to record it a second time, according to Toland’s account.

We declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation … it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement …

Now the war has lasted for nearly four years … [and] the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives …

According to the dictates of time and fate … We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable …

The radio buzzed and crackled with static.

The emperor’s voice faded in and out. “I caught only one phrase which sounded something like, ‘bear the unbearable,’ ” Hachiya recalled.

What had he said?

An official “who had been standing by the radio, turned to us and said: ‘The broadcast was in the Emperor’s own voice, and he has just said that we’ve lost the war.’ ”

People began to weep.

“How can we lose the war!” someone shouted. The fight should go on. Was it not “better to die for one’s country and crown life with perfection … than live in shame and disgrace?”

“The one word — surrender — had produced a greater shock than the bombing of our city,” Hachiya wrote.

That night he walked around, and sat down where he could see the devastation of Hiroshima. Here armies of Japanese soldiers had once embarked on conquest.

Now the landscape was apocalyptic.

He saw the Ota River glittering faintly as it sent its tributaries through the city.

The dark outlines of the city’s Mount Futabayama were visible against the sky.

“Even in a nation defeated,” Hachiya thought, “the rivers and mountains remained the same. I became overwhelmingly lonely.”

But the war would not end quietly.

In the southwestern city of Fukuoka, a group of army officers became enraged after they heard the emperor. They rounded up 17 captured American aviators, blindfolded and handcuffed them, according to historian Timothy Lang Francis.

They took the Americans to an open field, and, drawing swords, beheaded them one at a time.

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Carlos Ghosn: Japan ask US to extradite ex-Green Beret and son over Japan escape – BBC News

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn in Beirut, Lebanon, 14 January 2src2src

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Carlos Ghosn fled from Japan to Lebanon last December

Japan has asked the US to extradite a former special forces soldier and his son for allegedly helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan last year.

Ex-Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son Peter were held in Massachusetts in May, several months after Japan had issued warrants for their arrest.

The US authorities confirmed a formal extradition request was submitted.

Mr Ghosn, who was detained in Japan on financial misconduct charges in 2018, made a dramatic escape last year.

The former Nissan boss denies the charges against him.

Despite being under house arrest and monitored 24 hours a day, on 29 December he managed to fly to the Lebanese capital Beirut via Turkey.

Details of the Taylors’ alleged involvement in the escape are unclear. But Japanese prosecutors have said the two were in Japan at the time and helped Mr Ghosn evade security checks as he left.

In May, prosecutors in Turkey charged seven people over the escape. The suspects – four pilots, two flight attendants, and an airline executive – are also accused of helping Mr Ghosn flee.

They go on trial in Istanbul on Friday, with Turkish prosecutors seeking up to eight years in jail for the four pilots and the airline executive.

Full details of the escape have never been fully explained. Mr Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationalities, ran Renault and Nissan as part of a three-way car alliance.

He is accused of misreporting his compensation package, but has insisted he can never get a fair hearing in Japan.

Since his arrival in Lebanon, he has told reporters he was a “hostage” in Japan, where he was left with a choice between dying there or running.

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extends Japan

Japan extends state of emergency as coronavirus keeps spreading – CBS News

Tokyo — Japan’s prime minister on Monday extended a state of emergency over the coronavirus until the end of May, as the government warned it was too soon to lift restrictions.

“I will extend the period of the state of emergency I declared on April 7 until May 31. The area covered is all prefectures in the nation,” Shinzo Abe said after a meeting to discuss the measures.

Abe declared a month-long state of emergency that initially covered Tokyo and six other regions on April 7, later expanding it to cover the entire country.

It had been due to expire on Wednesday, but the country’s minister for the virus response Yasutoshi Nishimura said earlier that new infections were still growing.

“The number of new cases has declined, but unfortunately the decrease has not reached the targeted level,” he said during a meeting with an expert panel advising the government on the pandemic.

“As the healthcare sector remains under pressure, we need continued cooperation from people.”

Japan’s virus outbreak remains comparatively small compared to those seen in parts of Europe and the United States, with over 15,000 infections recorded and 510 deaths.

But the extension was backed by both experts advising the government and regional governors, with concerns that a sudden spike in cases that would overwhelm healthcare systems remains possible.

Japan’s COVID-19 response

The state of emergency falls far short of the harshest measures seen in parts of Europe and the United States. It allows local governors to urge people to stay at home and call on businesses to stay shut.

But officials cannot compel citizens to comply, and there are no punishments for those who fail to do so.

The government is expected to urge residents in 13 high-risk prefectures, including Japan’s biggest cities, to continue cutting person-to-person contact by 80 percent and exercise other strict social distancing measures.

But museums, libraries and some other facilities are likely to be allowed to reopen so long as they take anti-virus measures.

New coronavirus infections in Asia spur fears of resurgence

For the rest of Japan, prefectures will be allowed to loosen restrictions on business closures and small gatherings but residents will still be asked not to travel outside their home regions. Bars and nightclubs will be asked to remain shut.

It remains unclear when and whether schools, many of which have been closed since March, will be able to reopen, with officials recently suggesting a possible phased reopening with certain key grades resuming before others.

Abe said experts would review the situation around May 14, and the measures could be lifted at that time depending on the situation in a given region.

Hospitals feeling the strain

Despite so far avoiding the devastating tolls seen in places like Italy and New York, there have been persistent fears that Japan’s healthcare system could be quickly overwhelmed by a sudden spike in infections.

There are just five ICU beds per 100,000 people in Japan, less than half the number in Italy, and doctors’ associations have warned that hospitals are already stretched thin.

Measures have been implemented to try to ease the pressure, including sending coronavirus patients with mild symptoms to hotels for quarantine rather than keeping them in overcrowded hospitals.

The government has also said it is increasing testing capacity but continues to face criticism for the relatively low numbers of tests being carried out, in part because of stringent criteria.

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