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Archive for the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ Category

Japan reviewing purchase of 100 more U.S. F-35 fighter jets

NOV. 27, 2018

By Elizabeth Shim

Nov. 27 (UPI) — Japan is considering the purchase of an additional 100 F-35 fighter jets from the United States in a bid to deter China and appease U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a Japanese press report.

The Nikkei reported Tuesday the measure is being pursued following “pressure” from Trump on Japan to buy more U.S. weapons.

Japan could also be building its military in response to trends in China. Beijing deployed its latest stealth fighter, the J-20, in February. China also plans to introduce 250 fifth-generation fighter jets by 2030, according to the Nikkei.

Tokyo already retains a fleet of 42 F-35 fighters. Some of the new jets, if purchased, would replace older F-15 jets.

The new weapons are costly, and the Japanese government could spend upward of $87 million per fighter jet. Japan wants to acquire both the F-35A and F-35B type jets for its fleet.

The report comes two months after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Abe reportedly told Trump acquiring high-performance weapons is important for Japan’s defense capabilities.

Japan could also be considering purchasing the E-2D Hawkeye Early Warning Aircraft.

As direct threats from North Korea have subsided, Japan is turning its attention to China’s military.

Xinhua reported Sunday work has begun on China’s new generation aircraft carrier, the Type 002.

The Type 002 comes more than a year after its predecessor, the Type 001A, was launched as the first domestically built vessel of its kind in China.

Naval sources told the South China Morning Post work on a fourth carrier was “postponed,” because of trade disputes with the United States.

“Beijing doesn’t want to upset Washington further — the economy has already slowed since the two countries started their trade disputes,” the source said, according to the Post.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/11/27/Japan-reviewing-purchase-of-100-more-US-F-35-fighter-jets/8581543342194/.

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Seoul says it will close Japan-funded sex slavery foundation

November 21, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea said Wednesday it will dissolve a foundation funded by Japan to compensate South Korean women who were forced to work in Japan’s World War II military brothels. The widely expected decision, if carried out, would effectively kill a controversial 2015 agreement to settle a decades-long impasse over the sexual slavery issue and threatens to aggravate a bitter diplomatic feud between the Asian U.S. allies over history. Many in South Korea believed the Seoul government settled for far too less in the sex slave deal and that Japan still hasn’t acknowledged legal responsibility for atrocities during its colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono sharply criticized South Korea’s decision to shut down the foundation, saying that Seoul would violate the “most basic rule to live in the international society” by walking back on the deal. Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba summoned South Korean Ambassador to Japan Lee Su-hoon to the ministry to lodge a protest.

“The announcement is problematic and unacceptable,” said Kono, urging Seoul to stick with the agreement signed under its previous government. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry couldn’t immediately confirm Kono’s comments that Ambassador Lee told Japanese officials Seoul doesn’t plan to scrap or renegotiate the agreement.

Seoul’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said it will take legal steps to dissolve the foundation, a process ministry officials said could take months. Lee Nam-hoon, an official from the gender equality ministry, said Seoul’s Foreign Ministry plans to consult with Tokyo on what to do with the 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) Japan funded to the foundation that was formally launched in July 2016.

“After considering diverse opinions over the ‘Reconciliation and Healing Foundation’ based on victim-centric principles, we have decided to push for the dissolution of the foundation,” Gender Equality Minister Jin Sun Mee said in a statement. She said the ministry will continue to push policies to “restore the honor and dignity” of the sexual slavery victims.

The decision was welcomed by hundreds of protesters gathered in Seoul for a weekly rally denouncing sexual slavery by Japan’s wartime military. Organizers played a recorded message by a hospitalized 92-year-old victim, Kim Bok-dong, who said she was happy that the foundation was getting dissolved but also demanded a proper apology and compensation from Tokyo.

“We won, (but) it’s just the start,” said Yoon Meehyang, who heads an activist group representing South Korean sexual slavery victims. “In saying that we won, we mean that we turned back history to the day before Dec. 28, 2015. We will invest all our passion to write a new history of justice while the victims still have time and overcome past three years that were lost.”

Historians say tens of thousands of women from around Asia, many of them Korean, were sent to front-line military brothels to provide sex to Japanese soldiers. Liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been a harsh critic of the 2015 deal reached under his conservative predecessor, told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting in September that the foundation was failing to function properly because of strong opposition by the victims and public. A South Korean government panel in December last year concluded the deal as seriously flawed because Seoul’s previous conservative government failed to properly communicate with the victims before reaching the deal.

South Korea and Japan are already at odds over a ruling by Seoul’s Supreme Court last month that a major Japanese steelmaker should compensate four South Koreans for forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula before the end of World War II. Abe said Tokyo will respond “resolutely” to the ruling, which he described as a violation of a 1965 treaty between Seoul and Tokyo that restored diplomatic ties and was accompanied by more than $800 million in economic aid and loans from Tokyo to Seoul.

Seoul and Tokyo’s bitter disputes over history have complicated Washington’s efforts to strengthen trilateral cooperation to deal with North Korea’s nuclear threat and China’s growing influence in the region.

At the time of the sex slave deal, Seoul said there were 46 surviving South Korean victims. But 19 of them since died. Twelve victims who rejected payment from the foundation sued the Seoul government over the deal in August 2016, saying it didn’t go far enough to establish Japan’s responsibility.

Lee, the ministry official, said the foundation had used 4.4 billion won ($3.8 million) in cash payments to 34 victims who were alive at the time of the 2015 deal and to relatives of 58 victims who were dead by then. Only 27 of around 240 South Korean women who registered with the government as victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery are currently alive, Lee said.

Under the 2015 agreement, which was then described by both governments as “irreversible,” Japan pledged to fund the foundation to help support the victims. However, Japan said it didn’t consider the 1 billion yen it provided to the fund as compensation, saying such issues were settled in a 1965 treaty. South Korea, in exchange, vowed to refrain from criticizing Japan over the issue and will try to resolve a Japanese grievance over a statue of a girl representing victims of sexual slavery that sits in front of the Japanese Embassy in downtown Seoul.

IOC’s Bach and Abe make brief visit to Fukushima region

November 24, 2018

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a quick trip Saturday to the region northeast of Tokyo that was devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed three nuclear reactors.

The Fukushima region will hold baseball and softball games during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The visit was intended to showcase a region that government officials say is safe, except for a no-go zone around the nuclear plant. Environmental groups have disputed some government claims and have raised safety concerns.

Neither Abe nor Bach took questions after visiting a baseball stadium and meeting with local residents and athletes. Government officials want the Olympics to convince a world audience that the region is safe.

Bach is in Japan for a week of meetings with Tokyo Olympic organizers and national Olympic officials for about 200 countries.

Abe’s Beijing visit underscores warming China-Japan ties

October 26, 2018

BEIJING (AP) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a second meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Friday during the first formal visit to Beijing by a Japanese leader in nearly seven years that heralds warming ties following years of acrimony.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Li said 500 business agreements worth $18 billion had been signed between Chinese and Japanese companies during the visit, displaying the “bright future” for cooperation between the sides.

Abe, who has been accompanied by a 500-strong business delegation, expressed hopes for closer ties and a shift in relations from an age of “competition to cooperation,” an apparent reference to rifts that until recently have muted Japanese business interests in China.

Abe is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping later Friday, possibly cementing the steady recovery in relations that hit a low in 2012 amid a dispute over East China Sea islands. Ties have also been dogged by enduring Chinese resentment over Japan’s invasion and occupation during World War II and a political, military and economic rivalry for influence in Asia and beyond.

However, for now at least, the sides appear to have drawn closer by economic necessity brought about partly by President Donald Trump’s punitive tariffs on imports. Asia’s two largest economies are seeking to deepen trade, investment and cooperation on infrastructure and other projects in third countries.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner and economic ties have remained strong despite political differences. Abe is scheduled to return to Japan on Saturday. The last such visit was in late 2011.

Japan reporter freed from captivity in Syria returns home

October 25, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese journalist returned to Tokyo on Thursday after being freed from more than three years of captivity in Syria. Jumpei Yasuda was released on Tuesday and taken to neighboring Turkey.

Yasuda, wearing a black T-shirt, was escorted from his plane at Tokyo’s airport by Japanese officials and ushered into a black van. He left without talking to a large group of reporters who had waited for his arrival.

On an earlier flight from the southern Turkish town of Antakya to Istanbul, Yasuda said he was happy to be going home after living in “hell” for more than three years, but was worried about how he will catch up with a changed world.

“I’m so happy to be free,” he told Japan’s NHK television on a flight from Antakya in southern Turkey to Istanbul. “But I’m a bit worried about what will happen to me or what I should do from now on.”

Yasuda, 44, who was kidnapped in 2015 by al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, said he felt as if he’d fallen behind the rest of the world and was uncertain how to catch up. He described his 40 months in captivity as “hell” both physically and mentally. He said he was kept in a tiny cell and tortured. There was a time when he was not allowed to bathe for eight months, he said.

“Day after day, I thought ‘Oh I can’t go home again,’ and the thought took over my head and gradually made it difficult for me to control myself,” he said. Yasuda was kidnapped by a group known at the time as Nusra Front. A war monitoring group said he was most recently held by a Syrian commander with the Turkistan Islamic Party, which mostly comprises Chinese jihadis in Syria.

Yasuda said he believes he was moved several times during his captivity but stayed in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, where he sometimes heard distant firebombing. “I was living in endless fear that I may never get out of it or could even be killed,” Yasuda told another Japanese broadcaster, TBS. He said he gradually became pessimistic about his fate because his captors kept breaking their promises to release him.

His release Tuesday came suddenly when his captors drove him to the border with Turkey and dropped him off and handed him over to Turkish authorities, he said. Japanese officials say Qatar and Turkey helped in the efforts for Yasuda’s release, though their exact roles were not clear.

Yasuda, a respected journalist who began his career at a local newspaper, started reporting on the Middle East in the early 2000s and went to Afghanistan and Iraq. He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese, but was freed after Islamic clerics negotiated his release.

He worked as a cook in Iraq for nearly a year as part of his research for a 2010 book about laborers in war zones. He also wrote articles about his 2004 captivity. But this time, his captors took away all his reporting equipment including his camera, depriving him of any tangible records.

“I was robbed of all my luggage, and that made me so angry,” Yasuda said. “I couldn’t do any of my work for 40 months.” His last work in Syria involved reporting on his friend Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist who was taken hostage and killed by the Islamic State group.

Syria has been one of the most dangerous places for journalists since the conflict there began in March 2011, with dozens killed or kidnapped. Several journalists are still missing in Syria and their fates are unknown.

Europe, Japan send spacecraft on 7-year journey to Mercury

October 20, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — European and Japanese space agencies said an Ariane 5 rocket successfully lifted a spacecraft carrying two probes into orbit Saturday for a joint mission to Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.

The European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the unmanned BepiColombo spacecraft successfully separated and was sent into orbit from French Guiana as planned to begin a seven-year journey to Mercury.

They said the spacecraft, named after Italian scientist Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo, was in the right orbit and has sent the first signal after the liftoff. ESA says the 1.3 billion-euro ($1.5 billion) mission is one of the most challenging in its history. Mercury’s extreme temperatures, the intense gravity pull of the sun and blistering solar radiation make for hellish conditions.

The BepiColombo spacecraft will have to follow an elliptical path that involves a fly-by of Earth, two of Venus and six of Mercury itself so it can slow down before arriving at its destination in December 2025.

When it arrives, BepiColombo will release two probes — Bepi and Mio — that will independently investigate the surface and magnetic field of Mercury. The probes are designed to cope with temperatures varying from 430 degrees Celsius (806 F) on the side facing the sun, and -180 degrees Celsius (-292 F) in Mercury’s shadow.

The ESA-developed Bepi will operate in Mercury’s inner orbit, and JAXA’s Mio will be in the outer orbit to gather data that would reveal the internal structure of the planet, its surface and geological evolution.

Scientists hope to build on the insights gained by NASA’s Messenger probe, which ended its mission in 2015 after a four-year orbit of Mercury. The only other spacecraft to visit Mercury was NASA’s Mariner 10 that flew past the planet in the mid-1970s.

Mercury, which is only slightly larger than Earth’s moon, has a massive iron core about which little is known. Researchers are also hoping to learn more about the formation of the solar system from the data gathered by the BepiColombo mission.

“Beyond completing the challenging journey, this mission will return a huge bounty of science,” said Jan Wörner, ESA Director General, in a statement. JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa, who earlier managed the project, said, “We have high expectations that the ensuing detailed observations of Mercury will help us better understand the environment of the planet, and ultimately, the origin of the Solar System including that of Earth.”

It is the second recent cooperation between the Europeans and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. JAXA’s Hayabusa2 probe dropped a German-French rover on the asteroid Ryugu earlier this month.

Jordans reported from Berlin.

Japanese PM congratulates Erdogan on election victory

28.06.2018

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his success in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections in a phone call, Turkey’s presidential press office said Thursday.

Erdogan and Abe confirmed their commitment to further enhance bilateral relations in the future, said sources.

Touching upon expediting the construction of a nuclear power plant in Turkey’s northern Sinop province, the two leaders agreed to meet at the G20 Summit that is to be held at the end of 2018 in Argentina’s Buenos Aires.

Recalling that Japan holds the chairmanship of the G20 Summit in 2019, Abe expressed his appreciation to see Erdogan in Japan again.

Erdogan won an absolute majority in the presidential poll with 52.5 percent of the vote, while his main rival Muharrem Ince gathered 30.6 percent.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/japanese-pm-congratulates-erdogan-on-election-victory/1189731.

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