Japan. According to Countryaah, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government, which took office on December 26, 2012, launched in January a stimulus package – one of the largest in the country’s history – to reverse the recession and boost the economy. Japan had been in recession for 15 years as a result of weak growth and deflation. The government invested the equivalent of $ 116 billion on primarily infrastructure projects, including repair of bridges and construction of earthquake-safe roads in the Tohoku region, which was hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The idea was to create upwards of 600,000 new jobs and to increase growth by 2%. Pensions would also be raised.
The conflict with China over the Senkaku archipelago – in Chinese Diaoyu – in the East China Sea continued during the year. The uninhabited islands are controlled by Japan, but also China and Taiwan claim them because there is natural gas and minerals in the waters off the islands. In January, Japan’s new government granted an additional grant to the defense for the first time in eleven years. It was part of the large stimulus package that was deployed to boost the economy. At the same time, Abe criticized the Chinese government for infringing on Japanese water in 2012 and for allowing Chinese protesters to damage Japanese interests in China.
In 2012, several Japanese stores and companies had been looted by Chinese protesters and Japanese cars had been smashed. In January 2013, vessels from the Chinese Coast Guard invaded Japanese waters on the Senkaku Islands a few times. At one point, a Chinese plane flew off the coast guard near the islands. Japan deployed fighter aircraft to counter the plane. Japan’s foreign ministry filed a formal protest against the intrusion of China’s ambassador, who replied that the islands belong to China. At the same time, the Japanese government sought to ease tensions between the two countries through talks with various government officials in China.
A fishing vessel with Taiwanese activists, escorted by Taiwan’s Coast Guard, attempted to reach Senkaku at the end of January. The Japanese coast guard prevented them from landing and the ships fired at each other with water cannons.
At the end of April, eight Chinese military vessels were reported to have approached the islands, leading to a sharp diplomatic protest by the Japanese government. Abe promised before Parliament that if the Chinese tried to land ashore on the islands, they would be forced out by force of Japanese forces.
Japan’s defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, said in October that China’s actions on Senkaku are jeopardizing peace in the region. A few days later, Chinese state media contested, warning that Japan’s stubborn stance on the archipelago would harm trade relations between the two countries. China Daily noted that Japan is still China’s second trading partner after the US, but that South Korea is likely to take over that place if the frosty relations continue. The magazine claimed that relations between China and Japan have evolved “from bad to worse” since Abe became prime minister.
At the end of November, China established a special zone in part of the East China Sea. It requires all flights passing through the zone to identify themselves and state their planned route – otherwise the Chinese military intervenes. In December, the Japanese lower house adopted a resolution condemning the flight zone and demanding that China remove it.
In April, the Japanese central bank began to take measures to curb deflation, that is, increase the money supply and reduce costs for the world to trade Japanese goods. Due to falling exports and rising imports, Japan had a current account deficit since 2011. In addition, the country had a government debt of around 240% of GDP, the highest share of the world’s industrialized countries. The government’s goal was to double inflation to 2%. The central bank bought Japanese government bonds for over $ 500 billion, which would double the money supply in two years.
The government also planned to reform parts of Japan’s heavily regulated and protected economy, including energy, healthcare, agriculture and the labor market. The government set up a series of committees with politicians, economists and business leaders to come up with proposals for the reform changes.
In May, it was clear that Prime Minister Abe’s economic policies, called Abenomics, had had positive effects. Industrial production and exports increased, resulting in improved growth. Growth had increased by almost 1% between year-end and May, which corresponds to an annual growth of 3.5%. The country’s currency, the yen, had fallen and reached its lowest level in four years. At the same time, share prices had increased by about 70% between December 2012 and May 2013, reaching their highest level in five years. But the stock market was shaky and later that month the stock prices fell again.
The world’s oldest man, 116-year-old Japanese Jiroemon Kimura, died in June of natural causes. Kimura was born in 1897, worked as an adult at the post for 45 years and then as a farmer. In December 2012, he was nominated by Guiness’s record book as the world’s oldest person and was also considered the person who lived the longest ever. He had seven children – five of whom survived him – and many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. After Kimura’s death, a Japanese took over the title as the world’s oldest, 115-year-old Misao Okawa.
Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its small alliance party Nya Komeito won the election to the House of Commons on July 21. The Government Coalition took home 76 of the 121 seats in the election and thus received 135 of the total 242 seats in the Senate. For the first time in six years, the government had a majority in both chambers of parliament, which meant the end of the lockout that characterized Japanese politics in previous years. It also meant that Abe could carry out its economic policy without hindrance among the elected officials. The largest opposition party, the Democratic Party (DPJ), made its worst election in 15 years. The party received only 17 seats and thus has 59 of the Senate seats. This was the party’s second defeat after a major loss in the December 2012 general election.
Control of both chambers of parliament also enabled Abe’s goal of reforming Japan’s pacifist constitution of 1947 and arming the military. According to the constitution, the country must not have a regular army but only self-defense forces. After the election victory, however, Abe made it clear that he prioritized economic policy in the near future. He said that the constitutional change was not urgent and that it would require a substantial national discussion.
In early August, TEPCO, owner of the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was destroyed by the tsunami and earthquake in March 2011, admitted that large amounts of radioactive water continue to leak from the plant and probably come out into the Pacific Ocean. Earlier, TEPCO had claimed that no radioactive water leaked into the sea. A few days later, the Ministry of the Environment estimated that approximately 300 tonnes of radioactive water leaked into the Pacific each day from Fukushima. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) warned that contaminated water also threatened to reach the surface and reach surrounding land areas. The authority upgraded the leak from Level 1 to Level 3 on an international seven-point scale of nuclear power plant risks.
Prime Minister Abe pledged support from the government, primarily financial aid with $ 400 million to build a 1.4 kilometer long underwater barrier of ice around the wrecked nuclear power plant to prevent radioactive leaks. Coolant would be injected at a depth of 30 meters to create the ice wall. The method has until now been proven on such a large scale. In October, a new large leak was discovered from a tank at Fukushima where radioactive water was stored. The reason was that the tank was overfilled. A little later, heavy rain caused further leaks in Fukushima. In the autumn, the toxic substance strontium was also found in the groundwater at Fukushima. Strontium is a radioactive by-product that is easily absorbed by the human body and can cause cancer. At the end of October, the authorities announced that the work to clean six cities and villages near Fukushima would take another three years. The cleaning of the evacuation zone around the nuclear power plant would have actually been completed in March 2014, but proved to be much more difficult than expected, the Ministry of the Environment admitted. More than 90,000 people from the evacuation zone had not yet returned to their homes. Tens of thousands of people participate in the purification work, which includes removing millions of tonnes of food soil and vegetation. In the most polluted areas, work had not yet begun. More than 90,000 people from the evacuation zone had not yet returned to their homes. Tens of thousands of people participate in the purification work, which includes removing millions of tonnes of food soil and vegetation. In the most polluted areas, work had not yet begun. More than 90,000 people from the evacuation zone had not yet returned to their homes. Tens of thousands of people participate in the purification work, which includes removing millions of tonnes of food soil and vegetation. In the most polluted areas, work had not yet begun.
In late November, workers at Fukushima began the risky task of moving thousands of fuel rods from one storage pool to another, safer pool. The work was estimated to take a year and was done because the fuel rods were sensitive to new earthquakes.
At least 18 people were killed in mid-October when a powerful typhoon struck Japan’s east coast. The island of Izu Oshima, south of Tokyo, was worst hit by typhoon Wipha. Many homes and roads were destroyed or damaged by the landslides and floods caused by the typhoon. In Tokyo, trains and flights were canceled and schools were closed.
In mid-November, the government announced that Japan was significantly lowering its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The reason is the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed Fukushima and which led to the country stopping all nuclear power production and instead using fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil. The former government had promised to reduce emissions by 25% compared to the 1990 level, a target that the current government considers unreachable. In practice, the new target means a 3% increase in emissions compared to the 1990 level.
In early December, the House of Parliament passed a new controversial secret act with high penalties for whistleblowers. The new law makes it easier for authorities to secretly stamp documents. A public servant who leaks information to the media risks up to ten years in prison, and journalists and others who encourage leaks can be sentenced to five years in prison. Thousands of people gathered for a protest outside the parliament building when the upper house approved the law, which had previously been voted through in the lower house.
In mid-December, the government announced that it would strengthen the country’s defense over the next five years with new fighter aircraft, driverless aircraft, submarines, amphibious vehicles and more. The venture is a way for Japan to mark against China and defend the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which China also claims. At the same time, it is known that Prime Minister Abe wants to give the military a stronger and more offensive role than the defensive task assigned to the military after the Second World War.