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Two internet leaks. Ongoing spats with China and Russia. Lay judges choose life. Toyota returns to black. The price of the yen. Where can honest gangsters keep their money? More policemen behaving badly with cameras.
Top News: The spat with China over Japan’s arrest of a fishing boat captain has flared up again as video footage of the original collision has leaked onto the internet. Although the authorities are promising an investigation into the leak, the clips have already been shown by Japanese TV stations and were all over Youtube. Lawmakers, who had been shown the video before it went viral, were convinced the collision between a Japan Coast guard ship and a Chinese fishing vessel was the result of deliberate actions by the fishing boat captain. Global Times — an English-language mouthpiece for Beijing — has been reporting that China would send more fishery patrol vessels to the disputed areas where the collision occurred.
Japan and the U.S. are still cooperating behind the scenes in an attempt to keep China’s increasing belligerence over its territorial claims in the South China Seas in check.
Meanwhile, President Dmitry Medvedev made the first visit by a Russian leader to the disputed islands off the coast of Hokkaido, and Tokyo summoned the Russian envoy over the incident.
And if one territorial dispute wasn’t enough, then neither was one embarrassing leak: more than a hundred sensitive documents on fighting international terrorism and lists of foreign nationals in Japan who were being watched, appear to have made their way onto the internet. Investigators suspect a deliberate leak rather than accidental file-sharing or a virus. The leak, including personal information, is particularly embarrassing just as Japan is mounting a major security operation for the APEC summit in Yokohama this month.
The summit will be attended by President Obama, though he will not visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima as part of his trip, despite invitations from the two cities.
The first case in which the prosecution was demanding the death penalty was tried by lay judges, since the new jury-like system began in May last year. Even though the defendant pleaded guilty to double murder on the first day of trial, the lay judges decided on a life sentence rather than capital punishment. Lay judges have been relatively harsh on defendants so far and death sentences are often delivered for multiple murders.
A lawyer was fatally stabbed by an assailant on Nov. 4 after being subdued by police who mistook him for the intruder when they answered an emergency call to his house. When the police entered the house of Hirotaka Tsuya, 55, they saw him holding a handgun-like object, which he had just taken from the actual attacker, Katsuo Sugawara — a disgruntled client. As the police were holding Tsuya down, Sugawara stabbed him with a 20-centimeter (8-inch) blade.
Money: Japan’s intervention in September to weaken the yen against the dollar was even larger than previously thought, new data shows. The Bank of Japan and finance ministry spent 2,124.9 billion yen ($26.17 billion) on Sept. 15 alone, the biggest one-day dollar-buying operation in history. The previous largest was 1,666.4 billion yen in January 2004; the global foreign exchange market has grown exponentially in recent years, making intervention more and more costly. The Tokyo stock market hit a three-month high on Nov. 8 following a fall in the yen against the dollar.
The world’s biggest automaker, Toyota, defied huge recall costs and the strong yen to swing back into profit in the April-September quarter, as many of Japan’s other car and electronics companies posted better financials. Mitsubishi is the latest carmaker to shift more production abroad; small car manufacturing will be ramped up in Thailand, where it already makes 200,000 vehicles annually.
Elsewhere: As part of a wider crackdown on Japan’s huge organized crime groups, a Tokyo Yakuza boss had his bank account closed down using new anti-gang rules governing financial institutions and transactions. Described as the account of the “boss of a top-tier yakuza association based in eastern Japan,” it contained around 400 million yen ($4.9 million.)
Two more policemen arrested this month for shooting "up-skirt" pictures. One, in Fukuoka, had concealed a video camera in a belt pack and was filming up a woman’s skirt in a bookstore. Other similar videos were found on his equipment. Meanwhile a 34-year-old sergeant who had been dispatched on security duty for the Yokohama APEC summit was caught taking pictures up a junior high school girl’s skirt at the city’s central train station.