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Archive for the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ Category

Jordan, Israel, Palestinians in rare Japan-hosted meeting

April 30, 2018

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The Japanese foreign minister has presided over a rare meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials to push ahead with an agro-industrial park intended to enhance cross-border trade and cooperation.

Taro Kono, the Japanese minister, acknowledged late Sunday that it “has not been easy for the four parties to get together under current circumstances.” Israel and Jordan only recently patched up relations after a months-long diplomatic crisis. Officials from Israel and the Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank meet only intermittently because of ongoing deadlock in peace efforts.

Sunday’s meeting focused on the Japan-backed Jericho Agro-Industrial Park in the West Bank, near an Israeli-controlled border with Jordan. Twelve companies operate at the park, launched more than a decade ago. Kono says he hopes more will join, including Japanese firms.

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Japan, EU to sign trade deal eliminating nearly all tariffs

July 17, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — The European Union and Japan are signing a widespread trade deal Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs, seemingly defying the worries about trade tensions set off by President Donald Trump’s policies.

The signing in Tokyo for the deal, largely reached late last year, is ceremonial. It was delayed from earlier this month because Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled going to Brussels over a disaster in southwestern Japan, caused by extremely heavy rainfall. More than 200 people died from flooding and landslides.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who arrived Monday, will also attend a gala dinner at the prime minister’s official residence. Both sides are heralding the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people.

Prices of European wine and pork will fall for Japanese consumers. Japanese machinery parts, tea and fish will get cheaper for Europe. The deal eliminates about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods to the EU, but remaining at around 94 percent for European imports into Japan for now and rising to 99 percent over the years. The difference is due to exceptions such as rice, a product that’s culturally and politically sensitive and has been protected for decades in Japan.

The major step toward liberalizing trade was discussed in talks since 2013 but is striking in the timing of the signing, as China and the U.S. are embroiled in trade conflicts. The U.S. is proposing 10 percent tariffs on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods. That follows an earlier move by Washington to impose 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing has responded by imposing identical penalties on a similar amount of American imports.

Besides the latest deal with the EU, Japan is working on other trade agreements, including a far-reaching trans-Pacific deal. The partnership includes Australia, Mexico, Vietnam and other nations, although the U.S. has withdrawn.

Japan praised the deal with the EU as coming from Abe’s “Abenomics” policies, designed to wrest the economy out of stagnation despite a shrinking population and cautious spending. Japan’s growth continues to be heavily dependent on exports.

By strengthening ties with the EU, Japan hopes to vitalize mutual direct investment, fight other global trends toward protectionism and enhance the stature of Japanese brands, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The EU said the trade liberalization will lead to the region’s export growth in chemicals, clothing, cosmetics and beer to Japan, leading to job security for Europe. Japanese will get cheaper cheese, such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits.

Japanese consumers have historically coveted European products, and a drop in prices is likely to boost spending.

Death toll climbs to 76 as heavy rains hammer southern Japan

July 08, 2018

HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) — Searches continued Sunday night for victims of heavy rainfall that hammered southern Japan for the third straight day, as the government put the death toll at 48, with 28 others presumed dead.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the whereabouts of 92 other people were unknown, mostly in the southern area of Hiroshima prefecture. More than 100 reports of casualties had been received, such as cars being swept away, he said. Some 40 helicopters were out on rescue missions.

“Rescue efforts are a battle with time,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. “The rescue teams are doing their utmost.” The Japan Meteorological Agency said three hours of rainfall in one area in Kochi prefecture reached an accumulated 26.3 centimeters (10.4 inches), the highest since such records started in 1976.

The assessment of casualties has been difficult because of the widespread area affected by the rainfall, flooding and landslides. Authorities warned that landslides could strike even after rain subsides as the calamity shaped up to be potentially the worst in decades.

In Hiroshima prefecture, water streamed through a residential area, strewn with fallen telephone poles, uprooted trees and mud. Some homes were smashed. A woman who was reported as missing after getting trapped in her car was found but was pronounced dead, Kyodo news service reported. In another area in Hiroshima, 12 people went missing when a residential area got sucked into a landslide, and one body was later found.

Kochi prefecture, on Shikoku, issued landslide warnings almost over the entire island. Public broadcaster NHK TV showed overturned cars on roads covered with mud. A convenience store worker, who had fled to a nearby rooftop, said water had reached as high as his head.

The Japanese government set up an emergency office, designed for crises such as major earthquakes. Military paddle boats were also being used to take people to dry land. Okayama prefecture said in a statement that four people had died, eight others were missing and 11 were injured, at least one of them seriously. Seven homes were destroyed, dozens more were damaged, while more than 570 were flooded.

Kyodo reported several deaths in a landslide in Hiroshima and more bodies were retrieved from collapsed housing in the ancient capital of Kyoto, both areas where the rainfall was heavy in the past few days.

Throughout the hard-hit areas, rivers swelled and parked cars sat in pools of water. Japan has sent troops, firefighters, police and other disaster relief. People have also taken to social media to plead for help.

Japan to cancel evacuation drills for NKorean missile threat

June 21, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — Japan plans to suspend the civilian evacuation drills it started last year while North Korea was repeatedly test-firing missiles near and over Japanese islands. Nine drills to prepare residents in Japan for possible missile attacks were to be held later this year.

The Cabinet Secretariat in charge of crisis management said Thursday the official announcement of the suspension was underway and that recent diplomatic developments meant the prospect of strikes from North Korean missiles has subsided for now.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised at his summit with President Donald Trump to work toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. The planned suspension surfaced Thursday after officials in Tochigi prefecture confirmed a drill there next Tuesday had been called off at Tokyo’s request.

Strong quake near Osaka, Japan, kills 4, knocks over walls

June 18, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — Residents in western Japan were cleaning up debris Monday evening after a powerful earthquake hit the area around Osaka, the country’s second-largest city, killing four people and injuring hundreds while knocking over walls and setting off fires.

The magnitude 6.1 earthquake that struck the area early Monday damaged buildings and left many homes without water or gas. The quake also grounded flights in and out of Osaka and paralyzed traffic and commuter trains most of the day.

By evening, bullet trains and some local trains had resumed operation, and stations were swollen with commuters trying to get home, many of them waiting in long lines. An exodus of commuters who chose to walk home filled sidewalks and bridges.

Some commuters took refuge in nearby shelters instead of going home. NHK public television showed dozens of men wearing ties and carrying briefcases sitting on gym mats at a junior high school gymnasium in Ibaraki city, where some families also gathered.

Takatsuki city confirmed another victim late Monday, as the death toll rose to four. City officials didn’t have details of the victim, but NHK and Kyodo News reported that an 81-year-old woman was found dead underneath a wardrobe that fell on her at her home in Takatsuki.

Also in Takatsuki, a concrete wall at an elementary school fell onto the street, killing 9-year-old Rina Miyake as she walked to the school. NHK showed the collapsed upper half of the high wall, which was painted cheerfully with flowers, trees and blue sky and surrounded the school swimming pool.

Mayor Takeshi Hamada apologized over her death because of the wall’s collapse. The city acknowledged that the wall did not meet building safety codes. The structure was old and made of concrete blocks — a known risk in earthquakes. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga ordered the Education Ministry to conduct nationwide safety checks of concrete block structures at public schools.

More than 1,000 schools were closed in Osaka and nearby prefectures, Kyodo News reported. Wall cracks and other minor damage were found at several schools. A man in his 80s died in the collapse of a concrete wall in Osaka city. An 85-year-old man in nearby Ibaraki died after a bookcase fell on top of him at home, according to the disaster management agency.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 307 people were treated for injuries at hospitals. Most of the injured were in Osaka. Osaka officials did not give details, but the injuries reported in Kyoto and three other neighboring prefectures were all minor.

The quake struck shortly before 8 a.m. north of Osaka at a depth of about 13 kilometers (8 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The strongest shaking was north of Osaka, but the quake rattled large parts of western Japan, including Kyoto, the agency said.

Dozens of domestic flights in and out of Osaka were grounded, while train and subway service in the Osaka area, including bullet trains, was suspended to check for damage. Passengers exited trains on the tracks between stations.

Some subway service resumed in the afternoon, but stations remained crowded with passengers waiting for trains to restart, many of them sitting on the floor. Long lines of people waited to board bullet trains as they resumed operation.

Some manufacturers, including automakers Daihatsu Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co., electronics makers Panasonic and Sharp Corp., and confectioners Ezaki Glico Co. and Meiji Co., temporarily stopped production lines at their factories in the region for safety checks, news reports said.

The quake knocked over walls, broke windows and set off scattered building fires. It toppled furniture in homes and goods onto shop floors. It also cracked roads and broke water pipes, leaving homes without water.

Many homes and buildings, including a major hospital, were temporarily without power, though electricity was restored at most places by midafternoon. Due to damage to underground gas lines, 110,000 homes in Takatsuki and Ibaraki cities were without gas, and repairs are expected to take as long as two weeks, according to Osaka Gas Co.

More building damage was found in the afternoon as disaster and relief workers inspected and cleaned up the affected areas. Roofs and roof tiles at homes and at least one temple fell to the ground in Osaka. At a shrine in Kyoto, stone lanterns broke and collapsed to the ground.

Defense troops joined rescue and relief operations in parts of Osaka, along with special vehicles to deliver clean drinking water. Residents cleaned up debris at home and stores throughout the day. Meteorological agency officials warned of strong aftershocks in the area, urging residents to stay away from damaged structures.

The earthquake reminded many of the magnitude 7.3 Kobe quake in 1995 that killed more than 6,000 people in the region. Monday’s quake also followed a series of smaller quakes near Tokyo in recent weeks. Japan’s northern prefectures are still recovering from a magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami in 2011 that killed more than 18,000.

“It was not as bad as the Kobe quake,” said Jun Kawanami, a 30-year-old lawyer in Osaka. He said his wife ducked under a table and elevators in his office building were out of operation. “I used the stairs but I was out of breath by the time I arrived at my office on the 22nd floor,” he said.

Hiromi Tanoue in Osaka contributed to this report.

Japan to receive digital radar systems from Raytheon

By James LaPorta

May 30, 2018

May 30 (UPI) — Raytheon was awarded a contract by the Department of Defense on Tuesday for digital radar warning systems that will benefit Japan.

The contract, from the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, is valued $90 million under the terms of an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, which is part of a foreign military sale of digital radar warning receiver systems to the government of Japan, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday.

The Raytheon-produced AN/ALR-69A digital radar warning receiver system provides aircraft with enhanced protection and detection of enemy air defenses at a lower cost.

The system is currently being tested on multiple U.S. aircraft such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and C-130 Hercules, according to Raytheon.

The contract from the Defense Department will specifically provide for the “fabrication, integration, testing and delivery of line replaceable units and shop replaceable units,” the Pentagon said.

Work on the contract will occur in California and Mississippi with an estimated completion date of May 2023.

More than $51.4 million will be obligated to Raytheon from Japanese foreign military sale funds.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2018/05/30/Japan-to-receive-digital-radar-systems-from-Raytheon/9041527699612.

Leaders of Japan, China, SKorea agree to cooperate on NKorea

May 09, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — China, Japan and South Korea agreed Wednesday to cooperate on ending North Korea’s nuclear program and promoting free trade, two hot-button issues challenging their region. The agreements came at the first summit for the Northeast Asian neighbors after a hiatus of more than two years, bringing together Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Abe said they discussed how they can get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but he didn’t provide any details. China and Japan, in particular, have differences over how best to achieve North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.

The meeting comes amid a flurry of developments on the Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Moon on April 27 and Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this week, in a surprise visit to the Chinese coastal city of Dalian. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, early Wednesday to finalize details of a summit planned between President Donald Trump and Kim.

“We must lead the ongoing momentum toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and achieve peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” Abe told a joint news conference in Tokyo. Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said the three leaders also agreed to work toward two free trade agreements, a free trade pact among themselves and the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with Southeast Asian nations.

Trump has threatened all three countries with tariffs in a bid to seek trade concessions from them. His moves have raised fears of a trade war between the U.S. and China. Li, the No. 2 official in China after President Xi Jinping, said earlier that free trade is a good way to promote a global economic recovery.

“We are willing to work with Japan and South Korea to jointly maintain regional stability and push forward the development of the three countries,” he said before the meeting started. The leaders also agreed to hold trilateral summits on regular basis and set up a secretariat. The summits, which started in 2008, are supposed to be held annually, but Wednesday’s was the first since November 2015.

Analysts say Japan is trying to showcase improved ties and cooperation with China and South Korea so its views will be represented in any negotiations with North Korea. Abe reiterated Japan’s position that it would normalize ties with North Korea only if the latter took concrete steps toward abandoning its nuclear and missile programs and resolved the issue of Japanese abducted by North Korean agents.

Japan’s leader was to hold talks separately with Moon and Li later Wednesday. Japanese officials said they plan to propose a free and peaceful East China Sea, but do not plan to raise contentious issues such as South Korean “comfort women” forced to provide sex to Japan’s wartime military.

Moon is to leave Japan after half a day. After that, Abe will host a dinner and lunch for Li and join him on the northern island of Hokkaido on the final day of his four-day Japan visit. Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said they want to improve Japan’s strained relations with China, with the eventual goal of realizing a visit by Xi.

While Japan, China and South Korea are closely linked economically, anti-Japanese sentiment runs deep in China and South Korea because of territorial and historical disputes dating back to Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula and invasion of China in the first half of the 20th century.

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