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Forecast Podcast: Abe’s military goals persist in Japan as questions swirl around assassination

Shinzo Abe, former Primer Minister of Japan, stands at a lectern delivering a speech. He is in a suit and tie.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Vivian Wang discuss the assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, plus more on Russia’s parliament holding an extraordinary session, an extreme heat warning for the UK, presidents from Russia, Turkey and Iran meeting in Tehran and Sri Lanka’s parliament voting for a new president.

These stories and more are also available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Jeff Landset, Ahmed Namatalla, Jaime Calle Moreno and Vivian Wang.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com.


This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:

Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is July 14th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got Russia’s parliament holding an extraordinary session, an extreme heat warning for the UK, presidents from Russia, Turkey and Iran meeting in Tehran, Sri Lanka’s parliament voting for a new president and a look at the assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

You can read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Russian parliament to hold extraordinary meeting

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: The lower house of the Russian Duma will meet in an extraordinary session on Friday.

The Duma chairman announced the emergency meeting July 11th, calling lawmakers back from summer vacation to discuss more than 60 different urgent measures. 

While the exact topics are unknown, it is reported they will involve competition and information policy

Now, the session is coming just days after the Duma further moved Russia toward full war mobilization by allowing authorities to force companies to produce war goods. What’s more, the emergency session has sparked fears of additional mobilization measures. 

Russia’s grinding and brutal war of attrition in Ukraine has led to such heavy losses among personnel that they have adopted every measure up to full mobilization to augment manpower. 

Making matters worse is Russia’s clear inability to meaningfully intercept western weapon shipments into Ukraine, such as the newly deployed U.S.-built rocket systems that have been highly effective.

Extreme heat warning in U.K.

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: Parts of the United Kingdom will be dealing with a wave of record-breaking temperatures starting on Sunday.

The Met Office issued a rare extreme heat warning for a large part of England and Wales this week.

Meteorologists say that the country’s record-high temperature is at risk of being broken as soon as this weekend, possibly reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) for the first time in recorded history.

Now, high temperatures pose a lot of risks for countries not used to them. 

The Met Office warned that effects of the heat will be felt population-wide and “substantial changes” will be required for daily life Sunday and Monday. 

Experts have also warned travel delays are likely because it may be too hot for trains and planes to operate with some roads possibly even melting.

Putin-Erdoğan-Raisi meeting in Iran

Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla

JIMMY: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will travel to Tehran on Tuesday to meet with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Officially, the three leaders will discuss the conflict in Syria, where they all have troops on the ground. 

The United States claims the visit may advance a possible sale of Iranian drones to Russia for its war effort in Ukraine. 

Of course, Russia, Iran and Turkey have been competing for control in Syria amid a civil war that’s stretched for more than a decade. Russia and Iran have backed Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Turkey has backed Islamists and some Kurdish groups in the north. 

Still, the three countries maintain warm relations due to the alignment of their political and economic interests in other parts of the region and confrontations with the West.

This will be Putin’s second trip abroad since his invasion of Ukraine in February and it will follow what will be President Biden’s first to the Middle East since taking office as president. Biden is expected to travel there on Saturday, with planned stops in Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia. 

Now, if the allegation by the United States proves accurate, Russia’s military may receive hundreds of Iranian-made drones that could boost its advance into Ukraine. 

The sale could also help Iran’s struggling economy amid increasing U.S. sanctions. Sanctions designed to force concessions in talks to revive the nuclear agreement of 2015. 

On the Syrian front, the war remains a stalemate, and little is expected from the talks to change the status quo.

Sri Lanka to hold parliament vote for new president

Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno

JIMMY: On Wednesday, Sri Lanka’s parliament will vote to elect a new president after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s eventual resignation.

The 255-seat parliament will choose candidates by Friday.

Of course, Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis in its history with severe shortages of food and fuel, depleted foreign reserves, and inflation reaching all-time highs

It’s a crisis that’s led to violent protests. 

Just this past Saturday, Sri Lankans occupied the presidential palace, which led to him escaping the country, and giving presidential powers to the current prime minister. 

Now, many countries are watching the transition of power closely amid the political turmoil. 

Talks with the IMF continue over a loan program needed to pay for imports, but the uncertainty puts this on the line, as do continued violent protests. 

While there are concerns of military intervention, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa is a front runner for president and has promised to lead the country to stability. 

Still, Sri Lanka’s economic woes will undoubtedly take years to fully fix.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the assassination of Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Ave. For more on that I spoke with Factal Editor Vivian Wang.

JIMMY: Hi, Vivian. 

VIVIAN: Hey, Jimmy.

JIMMY: You know, I guess to start, can you catch us up to speed on what exactly went down last week?

VIVIAN: Yeah, a whole lot happened all at once. Former Japanese Prime Minister Abe was shot and killed while giving an outdoor campaign speech in support of a fellow political party member in Nara last Friday, July 8th. It’s been a lot to process. 

JIMMY: You know, it seems like there are multiple major stories kind of all rolled up into one. 

VIVIAN: Yeah, there are definitely a lot of different layers to this story. First, there’s the shooting itself. As a lot of media outlets have mentioned in the coverage over the past week, gun violence is really rare in Japan because ownership is so strictly regulated. Guns there are usually associated with organized crime and even then only one person was killed by gun violence in Japan and 2021. Stabbings and arson are the more common violent crimes there. Those stringent laws, and just the scarcity of guns in Japan, are made even more apparent by the suspect’s choice of weapon in the shooting. It was a homemade firearm. And then there’s the assassination itself. Abe may have been a former prime minister, but he was, and still is, such a major political force in Japan. For someone with his influence to get assassinated — even though he wasn’t in office anymore — is pretty consequential. And again, it’s such a rare event. That being said, though, assassinations and assassination attempts are obviously not common in Japan, but they’re not without precedent. There are a decent number of attempts and actual assassinations of Japanese politicians throughout the 20th century.

JIMMY: What do we know about the alleged shooter?

VIVIAN: So there’s been a lot of attention, understandably, on the suspect, but local media coverage has been reluctant to release certain details. Here’s what we know, basically, for sure so far. He’s a 41-year-old man. He’s a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force, though honestly I’m not sure how relevant that career history is to this particular event, apart from maybe giving him a better understanding of firearms than the average Japanese citizen. But, police raided his home and found other homemade guns. His motive is where things get a little ambiguous and is where most of the scrutiny is focused on right now. Japanese media initially described the suspect as having a grudge against a particular group, a group that he felt Abe had close ties with, and it took a few days for major Japanese media to finally name the group outright despite local tabloids and even foreign press, like the Washington Post reporting on it earlier, and police still haven’t made an official statement on it yet, actually naming the group. But, multiple major media outlets, citing investigative sources, have made it pretty clear. The group is widely known as the Unification Church. They’re a South Korean religious movement. They’re often described as a cult, but they have a significant presence in Japan and in the US as well, actually. The suspect told police his mother was financially ruined after being pressured by the church to donate large sums of money. The church has confirmed the suspect’s mother as a member, but it’s declined to comment on the allegations regarding the donations. Anyways, a lot of scrutiny is on the Unification Church now and its alleged connections to the suspect’s motive and that’ll probably continue to be the case for a while.

JIMMY: Well, besides the criminal trial and all that, what else should folks be keeping an eye on for?

VIVIAN: Well, the most immediate impact is the legacy and the kind of power vacuum Abe’s left behind. Like I said earlier, he may not have been in office anymore, but he was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in its history and his views formed a lot of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s ideas. He still had a lot of influence in the party even in his retirement. I mean, he was still campaigning for fellow party members right up until he was killed. After the assassination, the current Prime Minister Kishida resolved to take responsibility for Abe’s policy goals, and the one most people will be paying attention to – the most consequential in terms of regional stability – is Abe’s long-held goal to revise Japan’s constitution to allow for a military and military action. 

JIMMY: Can you say more about that — about the constitutional changes he wanted to see? 

VIVIAN: Yeah, so currently, Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution renounces Japan’s ability to wage war or use force to settle international disputes, which has been interpreted to mean that Japan can’t maintain a standing military. That has also been interpreted, however, to allow for Japan’s right to self defense, which is why Japan’s military forces are called the Self Defense Forces. Like, they effectively have everything that would constitute a military just without the name. In any case, constitutional change is tough to achieve in Japan. It requires two-thirds of the vote in both the lower and the upper house of the parliament and a successful national referendum. The ruling coalition has cleared two of those major hurdles now winning two-thirds of the seats in the upper house elections, just days after the assassination. They already held two-thirds of the seats in the lower house. So, they would just have to hold a national referendum now, which is, you know, is still a big deal, but it seems more likely than ever that Abe’s constitutional reform dreams might come true and if they did, it’d make some regional neighbors very unhappy to say the least. But we’ll see how things pan out.

JIMMY: Well, Vivian, unfortunately, we’re out of time, but I thank you for getting us caught up on this. Such a huge and, well, shocking story.

VIVIAN: Yeah. Thanks for having me on, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, Jeff Landset, Ahmed Namatalla and Jaime Calle Moreno. Our interview featured editor Vivian Wang and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Top photo: Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was shot and killed while giving a campaign speech in Nara on July 8. (Photo: Japanese Prime Minister’s Office)

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