TIME World

These 8 World Leaders Are Taking Major Steps Towards Gender Equality

From closing the pay gap to implementing board quotas to requiring all soldiers to take violence prevention courses, here's how 8 world leaders are embracing HeforShe

UN Women’s “He for She” initiative is in full swing, and on Thursday nine world leaders announced major steps they are taking to bring their countries to full gender equality. Each has pledged to champion HeForShe in their individual nations, and has outlined specific actions they’ll take towards ensuring equal opportunities for women.

The announcements are part of UN Women’s IMPACT 10x10x10 initiative, where 10 heads of state, 10 CEOs, and 10 university presidents commit to taking tangible steps to achieve gender equality, as part of the HeForShe movement that actress Emma Watson announced at the UN last year.

Here are some of the main commitments from 8 heads of state from around the world– the final two leaders will be announced at a later date.

Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland, has vowed to decrease violence against women by 5% over the next five years, partly by requiring all soldiers in the Finnish Defense Forces to learn about aggression control and violence prevention. Since Finland has universal male conscription, that means that almost all young men in Finland will be required to complete an education program on violence against women.

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Prime Minister of Iceland, has committed to eliminating the gender pay gap in Iceland by 2022: currently, women are paid 6-18% less than men. The government will achieve this by conducting major audits of all companies in Iceland, to ensure that women are being paid fairly. Gunnlaugsson’s administration will also sponsor major reports on the status of women in media in Iceland, in order to achieve parity by 2020, and has pledged to make 1 in 5 Icelandic men commit to supporting HeforShe principals by 2016.

Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, is pushing a to make the Indonesian parliament 30% female (up from 17%.) The government plans to promote more women to senior leadership positions, mandate gender training for all government institutions, and study trends in female voting and women who run for political office. Widodo also pledges to extend national health insurance coverage to reproductive and maternal health care, and improve sexual health services around the country. He also wants to fight violence against women, by launching a nationwide survey in 2016 that could help the government make targeted interventions to help the 3-4 million Indonesian women who face violence ever year. And, providing women migrant workers with financial literacy training is just one way they help give them more independence.

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, is unrolling major reforms to support more women in the workforce. Abe is proposing a bill that would require all public sector institutions and companies with more than 301 employees to demonstrate concrete action plans to increase the representation of women. He’s also increasing nursery school capacity, and enhancing family leave policies. Japan is also leveraging $3 billion in international aid to enhance peace and security and ending sexual violence abroad.

Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of Malawi, is committing to fully ending child marriage in Malawi. Currently, about half of girls in Malawi are married before they turn 18– the government just passed a new law to address this problem, and Mutharika commits to fully implementing this law by creating new local marriage courts and improving marriage registration. Malawi is also making major steps towards economic empowerment of women, by requiring all commercial banks to develop lending options just for women by 2016, in order to increase the number of women accessing credit by 30%.

Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania, is launching a new nationwide analysis of violence against women, to make sure agencies and public institutions have the data they need to inform policy that could protect victims. Based on the data they find, Iohannis plans to create emergency shelters in every region of the country. Romania is also creating two entirely new professions — Expert in Gender Equality and Gender Equality Technician — to implement gender equality strategies, and 70% of Romanian public institutions are required to employ one by 2020.

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, is pledging to make sure women have equal access to technology and increase girls’ enrollment in tech fields. Currently, women represent only 20% of employees in the tech sector, and only 35% of women own mobile phones (compared to almost half of men.) Kagame also wants to get more girls enrolled in technical and vocational training programs by launching a national mentorship and career guidance program to encourage girls to take science and technology courses, aiming at 50% of eligible girls enrolled by 2020. Currently, only about 18% of eligible girls are enrolled. Rwanda is also rolling out an initiative to end gender-based violence, by building One Stop Centers all over the country to provide medical, legal, and psychological support to victims, part of what they call a “zero tolerance policy” towards sexual violence.

Stefan Löfvén, Prime Minister of Sweden, says Sweden already has a feminist government, but that more men need to stand up for gender equality. He promises to get more women into the workforce (64% of Swedish women are employed full time, compared to 69% of Swedish men) and close the wage gap– currently, Swedish women make only 87 cents for every dollar a man makes. Sweden has achieved a remarkable level of gender equality in government, but women are still under-represented in business and academia. The government has set a target that boards of top Swedish companies must be 40% female by 2017– if that goal isn’t met, the government will start implementing a quota.

Read more: Twitter, Vodafone and Georgetown University All Commit to Gender Equality

TIME Japan

Japan Lowers Voting Age From 20 to 18

japan lower voting age
Kyodo/AP High school students cast their votes for a simulated national election at the parliament building in Tokyo on June 17, 2015.

Potentially adding 2.4 million voters to the voting pool

Japan has officially lowered its voting age from 20 to 18.

The change could add 2.4 million people to the country’s existing pool of 104 million eligible voters, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The country last changed its voting age in 1945, the year Japanese women gained the right to vote, when it lowered the requirement from 25 to 20.

Across the world, 90% of nations have a voting age of 18, though Japan’s voters are not particularly active: less than a third of 20-somethings voted in last year’s general election.

With 26% of the country over the age of 65, Japan has the world’s fastest-aging population.

[Wall Street Journal]

 

 

TIME Japan

Japanese Court Says Adultery OK If It’s For Business Purposes

Ruling suggests cheating on one's spouse fine if there's a financial incentive at stake

A Japanese court ruled that extramarital affairs are alright, so long as they’re done for business purposes.

According to the Japan Times, the Tokyo District Court ruled on a case where a man’s wife was seeking compensation from a night-club hostess who had a sexual relationship with the husband.

The court ruled the wife should not receive compensation because the hostess was engaging in the affair for business reasons: to retain the husband as a customer. This precedent could also apply to prostitution, a more direct type of sexual business transaction.

Some legal and judicial experts worry that this case will justify extramarital affairs under what the judge called “makura eigyo,” which loosely translates to “pillow sales tactic.”

The decision was handed down in April 2014, but is discussed in the current issue of legal magazine Hanrei Times. The wife did not appeal the ruling so the case has been finalized.

 

 

TIME Military

The New Head of the U.S. Pacific Command Talks to TIME About the Pivot to Asia and His Asian Roots

SINGAPORE-ASIA-MILITARY-US-CHINA
Roslan Rahman—AFP/Getty Images U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Harry Harris, left, speaks to journalists during his visit to U.S.S. Spruance (DDG 111), Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyer, docking in Sembawang wharves in Singapore on Jan. 22, 2014

Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. sees his background as an Asian American as useful in helping the U.S. forge better relationships with its allies and other powers

On May 27 Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. becomes the U.S. Navy’s highest-ranking Asian American ever when he assumes leadership of the U.S. Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Harris will be responsible for all military operations in a region stretching from California to the Indian Ocean, and from the Arctic Sea to Antarctica. He takes over at a critical time, as the U.S. “rebalances” to Asia and confronts an erratic and nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly powerful and assertive China.

It’s a job that takes Harris, 59, full circle. He was born in Japan to a Navy-enlisted man and Japanese mother, and raised on a subsistence farm in Tennessee. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harris did postgraduate studies at Harvard, Georgetown and Oxford and spent much of his career as a naval flight officer aboard P-3 patrol planes, including three tours in Japan. Affable, direct and with a confessed weakness for “both kinds of music — country and western,” Harris talks to TIME contributor Kirk Spitzer about taking on one of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. military.

You’ve said that the most important event in your life was World War II, yet you weren’t even born then. What do you mean by that?
My dad had four brothers and all of them served in World War II, mostly in the Navy, in the Pacific theater. In fact, my dad was on the aircraft carrier Lexington just a couple of days before Pearl Harbor. They pulled out O.K., but the Lexington was sunk at the Battle of Coral Sea. Growing up in Tennessee, where he and all his brothers lived, they told sea stories about the war throughout my whole life. So I just knew that I was going to serve in the military.

The other thing is, in this job and living in Hawaii, World War II is all around you. I live in the Nimitz House, which was built for Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. He was in charge on Dec. 7, 1941. So not a day goes by that I don’t remember that one of the primary lessons of World War II is to be ready to fight and win the nation’s wars — and to be ready to fight tonight.

You’ve said that your mother had a great influence on your life. She was born into a wealthy family in Kobe, Japan, but ended up living on a small farm in America. How did that happen, and how much of an influence did she have on you?
I learned a lot from her. She lost her home, her school, members of her family and friends to bombing raids. After surviving that, she had nothing and she went to live with an aunt in Yokohama who helped her get a job on the big American naval base in Yokosuka. My dad was posted in Japan and Korea from 1946 until he retired in 1958. They met sometime in the early 1950s and got married and then I came along and they moved to Tennessee.

My dad bought a subsistence farm, with no running water or electricity. So that was pretty rough. But she adapted, and she adapted with a lot of grace. She became an American citizen in the mid-1970s and she always told me that her proudest moments were voting and jury duty. She was really thrilled that I went to the Naval Academy, of course. She never taught me the Japanese language because we had moved to a tiny town in the South, and she didn’t want me to be any more different than I already was. She wanted me to focus on being an American. But she taught me to be proud of both my Japanese roots and my Southern roots. And she taught me about the Japanese concept of giri, which means duty. I carry this with me to this very day.

You are the first Asian American to reach four-star rank in the Navy and the first to head U.S. Pacific Command. Did you have role models when you were young?
I can tell you that being a Japanese-American kid in Tennessee in the late 1950s and early ’60s, there weren’t a lot of role models out there. So that’s when my mother started telling me about the American nisei soldiers during World War II. They left a segregated nation — to fight for a segregated nation. They had no guarantee that when they got back home the things they had fought for would be returned to them. We’ve come a long way in the past six or seven decades because of them and folks like them who fought for what’s right. Their courage made a great difference in the lives of a whole bunch of people at that time, and even today. I’ve always said that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and I mean it.

Before being named commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 2013, you worked as a military representative to two Secretaries of State: Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. What did you learn in that job?
I got to visit and meet with leaders from about 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and that’s really important to me in my present job and even more so in my next job. It reinforced something that I already knew, and that is that American leadership matters and it matters greatly to our friends, partners, allies and competitors abroad.

Your appointment as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and more recently as head of Pacific Command, was met with great approval in Japan, but perhaps not so much in China, where there still seems suspicion of all things Japanese. Will it be difficult for you to manage expectations, on both sides?
People know when they look at me that I’m an American first, last and everything in between. I’m only ethnically [Eurasian] or ethnically [half-]Japanese. Protecting American interests is my focus. No doubt, Japan is a great ally of the United States and I do hope that my personal background has helped me enhance our relationship. But I think my background has also helped me forge critical relationships with South Korea, another important ally. My father served in the Korean War and I grew up with a deep appreciation for Korean culture.

And I can tell you that I was warmly received in China when I went there last year to finalize a new agreement among navies of the region to help communications at sea during unplanned encounters. This was an important step forward to help reduce tensions at sea and help avoid miscalculations. I’ve always tried to give China credit when they act in responsible ways that adhere to international law and norms, and enhance stability.

The Obama Administration has talked about an economic, diplomatic and military “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region. Some skeptics wonder if it’s real, or just rhetoric.
Not only is the rebalance real, but the military part is well on its way. We’ve strengthened our security alliances and partnerships throughout the region. The Navy has already brought our newest and most capable platforms to the area, like the P-8 surveillance airplane, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Virginia-class submarine and new amphibious ships like the U.S.S. America. The Marine Corps has brought the V-22 Osprey out here to great effect and we’ll have the Joint Strike Fighter out here soon. The Navy has set a goal of moving 60% of the Navy out here by 2020 and we’re at about 55% in terms of surface ships now. So I can tell you the rebalance is real.

In your new job you’ll be responsible for an immense and diverse region: “From Bollywood to Hollywood, from polar bears to penguins,” as Pacific Command puts it. What are your priorities?
Our war-fighting readiness, our ability to fight tonight, will always be my top priority. We have to be ready for the unexpected. We have to be ready to prevent strategic surprises. When you are responsible for an area that covers half the worlds’ surface, you need friends. So building stronger relationships and working with our allies and partners, to foster a collective to the security challenges — that’s important.

You’ve expressed deep concern about recent Chinese actions, including construction of a string of artificial islands in the South China Sea — a “great wall of sand,” as you put it. Why should the U.S. be concerned?
I have been critical of China for a pattern of provocative actions that they’ve begun in the recent past. Like unilaterally declaring an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea, parking a mobile oil platform off the Vietnam coast, and their lack of clarity on their outrageous claim — preposterous claim, really — to 90% of the South China Sea. All these examples, I think, are inconsistent with international laws and norms. They make China’s neighbors nervous, it increases tensions in the region, and I think they are destabilizing for peace in the region.

More than $5 trillion — that’s trillion with a t — of shipborne trade passes through the South China Sea annually. Freedom of navigation is critical. That’s why what China is doing in the South China Sea is troubling. They have manufactured land there at a staggering pace just in the last months. They’ve created about 2,000 acres of these man-made islands. That’s equivalent to about 1,500 football fields, if I get my math right, and they’re still going. They’ve also made massive construction projects on artificial islands for what are clearly, in my point of view, military purposes, including large airstrips and ports.

What do you worry about most? What keeps you awake at night?
The greatest threat we face is North Korea. They have an unpredictable leader who is poised, in my view, to attack our allies in South Korea and Japan. He is on a quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them intercontinentally. He kills people around him who disagree with him, and that’s something we should always keep in mind. North Korea keeps me up at night.

TIME Turnarounds

How Sony Got Up and Out of Its Death Bed

President and CEO of Sony Corporation Hirai speaks at a Sony news conference during the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
Steve Marcus—Reuters President and CEO of Sony Corporation Kazuo Hirai speaks at a Sony news conference during the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Jan. 5, 2015.

For the first time in a decade, the electronics company has a shot

In the annals of consumer electronics companies that have slipped from great heights, none has taken a bigger fall far from its glory days than Sony. But after years of struggling to right itself, the company is finally making real progress on a turnaround.

Just as Apple helped revive itself in the early 2000s with the iPod, Sony built much of its success on the idea of helping people carry music around in their pocket–first with the transistor radio in the 50s and 60s and later with the Walkman portable cassette player. Those products, coupled with smart engineering, made the Sony brand synonymous with peerless quality.

In the early 2000s, Sony began to lose its competitive edge. Rivals like Samsung had emerged to undercut its higher-priced TVs and stereos. Sony couldn’t get a foothold in new markets like mp3 players. Its earlier expansion into new areas like insurance and its overspending on film and music studios left it with a structure that was at once bloated and siloed.

Sony named Howard Stringer as CEO in 2005 to turn things around. Stringer cut a charismatic figure, but couldn’t speak Japanese and, as a lifelong media executive, lacked an engineering background. Stringer tried to conjure a convergence of electronics and media properties that never quite gelled. (Stringer is on the board of Time Inc.) Meanwhile, further setbacks struck: the global recession in 2009, the Fukushima earthquake in 2011 and a stronger yen that hurt Japanese exports.

MORE: How Apple Just Save Best Buy

Sony has posted net losses for six of the past seven years. As a result, the price of its ADRs traded on the NYSE fell from $55 in early 2008 to below $10 in late 2012. (An ADR is a stock that trades in the U.S. but represents a specific number of shares in a foreign corporation.) Its credit ratings eventually fell to near junk levels. But then things began to look up: After bottoming out below $10 in 2012, its ADRs have risen back near $33 this month, a rally of 238% in the last two and a half years.

The change came after Sony replaced Stringer with Kazuo Hirai in early 2012. Hirai was a Sony veteran known for wringing profits from troubled businesses like the PlayStation gaming division. And like Stringer, Hirai didn’t fit the mold of the Japanese salaryman. Hirai grew up in Japan and North America, giving him a fluency in English and also a gift for being plainspoken, like when he told the Wall Street Journal on taking the job, “It’s one issue after another. I feel like, “Holy shit, now what?”

Hirai began an ambitious restructuring of Sony over the three years that followed. He quickly announced a “One Sony” structure that built on Stringer’s convergence with an emphasis on communication and joint decisions among siloed divisions. He focused the electronics business on mobile, gaming and imaging products. Over time, he cut thousands of jobs, sold off the Vaio PC unit, separated the ailing TV business into its own company and overhauled the smartphone lineup.

All of this added to financial losses with restructuring charges and made for a tumultuous 2014. But the low point came last November, with the infamous hack that left sensitive documents from Sony Pictures Entertainment in public view. But it was just around this time when some analysts began voicing their conviction in a Sony turnaround. The turnaround painstakingly plotted by Stringer and Hirai was finally bearing fruit.

That became more evident when Sony reported its most recent earnings. There were encouraging signs in the past year’s finances, like revenue rising 6% and the TV business posting its first profit in 11 years. But the better news was in the cautious forecast for the coming year.

MORE: These Are the Fastest Growing Cities in America

The bulk of the restructuring was behind Sony, CFO Kenichiro Yoshida said, and while revenue may decline 4% this fiscal year, operating profit would rise fourfold to $2.6 billion, its highest profit since 2008. Hirai had earlier projected net income to rise above $4 billion by 2018, which would be its biggest profit since 1998, before the great fall began.

There’s still some restructuring to do. The revenue decrease this year will come largely from Sony’s move away from mid-range mobile phones to focus on the high end of the market. While camera sales continue to decline, Sony is seeing strong growth in imaging sensors used in smartphones. Overall, Sony will be a smaller company in terms of revenue but with bigger sales and slow, steady move from aging markets into growing ones.

A turnaround needs more than cost cutting and restructuring. Sony has a long road ahead to go from playing catch-up in technology markets to playing a leading role in new ones. That step requires a lot more work, but Sony’s return to profitability makes a major turnaround as feasible as it’s been in more than a decade.

TIME Japan

Japanese Aquariums to Stop Buying Dolphins From Town Criticized for Mass Animal Killings

Fishermen trapping a group of dolphins in a holding cove following a large capture of dolphins in Taiji, Japan in 2007.
Lars Nicolaysen—EPA Fishermen trapping a group of dolphins in a holding cove following a large capture of dolphins in Taiji, Japan in 2007.

"This momentous decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan"

A group of Japanese aquariums voted to stop purchasing dolphins from the town of Taiji after an international zoo and aquarium organization condemned the town’s annual tradition of killing hundreds of dolphins and other marine mammals.

Most of the members of the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums voted Wednesday to remain affiliated with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which will require them to stop getting dolphins from Taiji, the Guardian reports. The vote came nearly a month after WAZA suspended its Japanese members for acquiring Taiji dolphins. Leaving the group would have prevented Japanese zoos and aquariums from acquiring some rare animals from their counterparts in other parts of the world.

The Pacific coast town of Taiji is known for its fishermen who trap dolphins and then kill them to sell their meat, a practice widely condemned as brutal. Fishermen also capture a small number for sale at zoos and aquariums.

“This momentous decision marks the beginning of the end for dolphin hunting in Japan,” Australia for Dolphins chief executive Sarah Lucas told the Guardian. “Without demand, the hunts won’t continue. It is the first major step towards ending the Taiji dolphin hunts once and for all.”

[Guardian]

TIME Food & Drink

The World’s First Hello Kitty Chinese Restaurant Has Opened in Hong Kong

Hello Kitty Chinese Restaurant
Hello Kitty Chinese Restaurant

These meals are just made to be Instagrammed

Never mind stationery or fashion accessories. Hello Kitty’s cute face now stares back at you from the bottom of your bowl, in the form of dumplings and other kinds of dim sum in the world’s first Chinese restaurant inspired by the cartoon character.

“Hello Kitty is more popular in Hong Kong than in [her native] Japan,” restaurant owner Man Kwong tells TIME. This may be true — the city, after all, is even home to its own Hello Kitty organic farm. Fans will squeal when looking at the Hello Kitty–shaped dim sum platters: her flour bow is colored with beetroot, her eyes dotted with squid ink, and her soft skin is made with high-quality flour. Man Kwong, who goes by his pen name, wanted to stick to all-natural ingredients because, as the founder of a Chinese-language health magazine, clean eating is important to him. He sees the restaurant as a healthy, family-friendly space.

Opening the diner, wedged into the traditional Yau Ma Tei neighborhood on the Kowloon peninsula, was an onerous process. Man Kwong, a first-time restaurateur, started negotiations with Sanrio, the company that owns Hello Kitty, in late 2013. He finally got Sanrio on board in April 2014.

Man Kwong experimented with hundreds of different iterations of dim sum and Sanrio executives had to approve each dish before the final menu was drawn up. It now consists of 37 items ranging from fresh shrimp buns to stir-fried beef and noodles. Making the items can be laborious: there are 17 different steps in creating the buns alone.

Sanrio launched Hello Kitty in 1974 as a female character living, perhaps implausibly, in England — then the romanticized travel destination of many young Japanese schoolgirls. Forty years later, the Hello Kitty brand has blossomed into a $7 billion-plus franchise, licensed to everything from commercial airliners to Italian wines.

Now, the pink-bowed fur ball is emblazoned on Chinese restaurant mirrors, faux wood screens, teapots and chopstick holders, while pictures of her as the Four Beauties of ancient China adorn the walls.

The official launch will be on June 1. Expect lots of shrieking young girls taking photos of their dinners.

TIME Japan

Japan’s Shinzo Abe Is Talking in Washington — but He Needs to Talk to Asia

Shinzo Abe, Joe Biden, John Boehner
Carolyn Kaster—AP Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks before a joint meeting of Congress, April 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Japanese Prime Minister is a hit in Washington, but the reaction in China and South Korea will matter more

Shinzo Abe landed in the U.S. this week to great fanfare. Delivering the first-ever speech by a Japanese Prime Minister to a joint session of Congress, Abe proclaimed his resolve to “to take yet more responsibility for the peace and stability in the world.” Japan is busy trying to shape a new foreign policy course for itself after years of relative isolation on the geopolitical stage, a result of its pacifist constitution that dates back to its defeat and occupation by the U.S. after World War II.

Yet while much attention has been focused on Abe’s overture to Washington, just as critical to Japan’s re-emergence on the global stage is its relationship with its Asian neighbors — especially China and South Korea. How these two economic powers respond to a more assertive Japan will go a long way in determining how far Abe’s ambitions will take Tokyo.

After decades of hostility, Japan-China relations have markedly improved over the past six months. Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping have had productive encounters over the past two years, and have agreed to keep the lines of communication open going forward. China and Japan have both promised to use “dialogue and consultation” to deal with territorial disputes in the East China Sea and to work towards developing crisis mechanisms to avoid escalation.

While this might not sound like much, it is a significant achievement for two Asian heavyweights who have long been at each other’s throats. China’s rise casts a long shadow over all of Asia, but Japan has signaled a willingness to collaborate, boding well for the future. Japan’s dramatically improved relationship with India should also make China cautious in its dealings with Japan. There remain a host of issues to work out — particularly over Japan’s actions during World War II — but the China-Japan relationship now has the best trajectory of any bilateral relationship in the G20.

Yet for all the progress Japan has made with China, its relationship with South Korea — technically an ally — remains strained. The trilateral relationship among the U.S., Japan and South Korea is critical to American plans for the region, but historical disputes have threatened this framework. During World War II, South Korean women were forced to work for the occupying Japanese army as “comfort women” — a euphemism for sex slaves.

While Abe said in a speech at Harvard University on Monday that his “heart aches even now” for the victims, he has stopped short of officially recognizing and apologizing for the practice, as Seoul has demanded. Abe maintains that previous government apologies for Japanese wartime aggressions are sufficient. The South Koreans clearly disagree, with a Korean newspaper denouncing Abe as “the root of the problem” on its front page this week. With a sputtering economy and a government weakened by scandal — South Korea’s Prime Minister resigned on April 27 after bribery accusations — it is no wonder that Seoul is eyeing Japan’s aspirations warily.

The U.S. has tried to stay out of this charged dispute, and is taking a page from its playbook with another key American ally: Turkey. Out of concerns for Turkish feelings, President Obama has refrained from uttering the G word to describe the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey early in the last century. That caution — even though most historians accept that a genocide occurred — is calculated to avoid damaging a strategically important relationship.

In Japan, Abe has the political capital to apologize for historical aggression, but chooses not to. Japan is too important to Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy to risk estranging its leaders, especially with the critical Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on the horizon.

If the pivot to Asia is to succeed and Japan’s new foreign policy ambitions are to be realized, America’s democratic allies in Asia need to find a way to move forward. Abe is talking in the U.S., but what matters is whether Asia is listening.

TIME Japan

Japanese Premier Dodges WWII, Pushes Trade Deal in Address to Congress

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to a joint meeting of the US Congress while flanked by Vice President Joseph Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R) in the House chamber of the US Capitol on April 29, 2015 in Washington.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to a joint meeting of the US Congress while flanked by Vice President Joseph Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R) in the House chamber of the US Capitol on April 29, 2015 in Washington.

Pledges New Military Cooperation

For the first time in history, a Japanese Prime Minister addressed a joint session of Congress Wednesday. And 70 years after the end of World War II, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe avoided an explicit apology for the war’s worst tragedies, focusing instead on the turnaround between the two countries and their efforts to strengthen their military and economic ties.

“The peace and security of the post-war world was not possible without American leadership,” said Abe. “That’s the path for Japan to ally itself with the U.S., and to go forward as a member of the Western world.”

“We support the ‘rebalancing’ by the U.S. in order to enhance the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “We will support the U.S. effort first, last, and throughout.”

Abe stuck closely to his script and spent much of the speech, titled “Toward an Alliance of Hope,” looking forward. As Congress prepares to debate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal that would affect 12 countries and 40% of the world’s GDP, Abe called for a “successful conclusion” to the multi-party negotiations. “We must take the lead to build a market that is fair, dynamic, sustainable, and is also free from the arbitrary intentions of any nation,” he said. “Long-term, its strategic value is awesome. We should never forget that.”

Abe said the U.S. and Japan would strike a historic deal this summer further uniting the military cooperation between the U.S. and Japan. And he underscored what he said was a peaceful strategy to resolve a simmering fight over disputed territories with China in the South China Sea.

On the darkest time in U.S-Japan relations, WWII, Abe expressed sorrow for Japanese actions. His sentiments received a standing ovation, despite the feeling among some members, including Japanese-American Rep. Mike Honda, that Japan should issue an unequivocal apology for Japan’s subjugation of “comfort women” during the war. Abe said he visited the WWII memorial before the speech and “gasped” after learning that the thousands of gold stars there each represent the lives of 100 fallen soldiers. An American soldier who landed in Iwo Jima sat next to a member of Abe’s cabinet, whose grandfather fought in that bloody battle.

“History is harsh,” said Abe. “What is done cannot be undone. With deep repentance in my heart, I stood there in silent prayers for some time…On behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II.”

“Armed conflicts have always made women suffer the most,” he added. “In our age, we must realize the kind of world where finally women are free from human rights abuses.”

While a recent poll found that over 70% of Americans had never heard of Abe, his speech revealed a personal familiarity with their country, dropping references to filibusters, Gary Cooper and Abe Lincoln. He noted his time as a student in California eating Italian food and ended his speech quoting Carole King, who sung “a song that flew out and shook my heart.” Acknowledging U.S. aid after a devastating tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Abe said, “Yes, we’ve got a friend in you.”

TIME Music

Ozzy Osbourne Says Black Sabbath’s Final Album Will Happen in 2016

FILE - This Aug. 3, 2012 file photo shows Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath performing at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago's Grant Park
Steve Mitchell—Invision/AP This Aug. 3, 2012 file photo shows Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath performing at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago's Grant Park

There will be one last tour to promote it as well

After flip-flopping on a planned November farewell show in Japan, Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne said the band will release a final album and go on an accompanying tour in 2016 .

“The plan is that next year we’ll do the final Black Sabbath tour and album. I’m not stopping… my wife spends all my money so I can’t,” Osbourne said at a press conference.

But even the latest announcement lacked conviction as Osbourne acknowledged plans could change because “we all live in different countries and some of them want to work and some of them don’t want to.”

One hurdle for any planned reunion is going to be alleviating tensions between Osbourne and drummer Bill Ward. The two have been in a war of words and on April 18 Ward posted a long Facebook message criticizing Osbourne, “Sad we couldn’t roll it out for the fans one more time,” he wrote.

Black Sabbath’s last album, 13, was released in June 2013 to modest reviews.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com