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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Rising Sun’

Japan’s move to lower South Korea trade status takes effect

August 28, 2019

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s downgrading of South Korea’s trade status took effect Wednesday, a decision that has already set off a series of reactions hurting bilateral relations. Japanese manufacturers now must apply for approval for each technology-related contract for South Korean export, rather than the simpler checks granted a preferential trade partner, which is still the status of the U.S. and others.

Since Japan announced the decision about two months ago, South Korea decided to similarly downgrade Tokyo’s trade status, which will take effect next month. Seoul has also canceled a deal to share military intelligence with Japan.

South Korea has accused Japan of weaponizing trade because of a separate dispute linked to Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Japan denies retaliating and says wartime compensation issues were already settled.

“Relations between Japan and South Korea continue to be in an extremely serious situation because of South Korea’s repeated negative and irrational actions, including the most critical issue of laborers from the Korean Peninsula,” Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Suga was referring to South Korea’s Supreme Court ruling last year that said the wartime compensation deal, signed in 1965, did not cover individual rights to seek reparations and ordered Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced labor.

Suga said Japan will continue to try to talk to South Korea. The wrangling has dented what had been a thriving tourism and cultural exchange between the neighboring nations, including Japanese becoming fans of Korean pop music and movies. Some South Koreas are boycotting Japanese goods or joining street protests to denounce Japan.

Hiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry, said earlier this week that the trade status review was needed for proper checks on exports because of concerns about what could be used for military purposes.

Japan has never specified the security concerns further, or how they originated. Seko also denounced South Korea’s scrapping the military intelligence agreement, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, arguing the trade decision was not directly related to military cooperation.

The intelligence-sharing agreement remains in effect until November. Japan and South Korea have shared information about North Korea’s missile launches, the latest of which happened Saturday.

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S. Korea, Japan fail to resolve growing trade dispute

July 13, 2019

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea and Japan on Friday failed to immediately resolve their dispute over Japanese export restrictions that could hurt South Korean technology companies, as Seoul called for an investigation by the United Nations or another international body.

Tokyo last week tightened the approval process for shipments of photoresists and other sensitive materials to South Korea, saying they can be exported only to trustworthy trading partners. The move, which could affect South Korean manufacturers of semiconductors and display screens used in TVs and smartphones, has triggered a full-blown diplomatic dispute and further soured relations long troubled over Japan’s brutal colonial rule of Korea before the end of World War II.

At their first meeting in Tokyo since the crisis erupted, Japanese officials told their South Korean counterparts that Tokyo saw weaknesses in Seoul’s export controls. They said that the trade curbs were not retaliation for South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate aging South Korean plaintiffs for forced labor during World War II, according to a Japanese trade ministry official.

Lee Ho-hyeon, an official from South Korea’s trade ministry, said Japanese officials cited inadequate bilateral discussions as a reason why their government tightened controls on high-tech exports to South Korea, but didn’t clearly say whether Tokyo believes Seoul may have illegally transferred sensitive materials to North Korea.

Lee said South Korean officials countered by saying that Seoul has a stronger export control system than Tokyo’s. The Japanese officials also reiterated that they won’t negotiate over the trade curbs and said, without specifying, that there have been “inappropriate” cases regarding Japanese exports to South Korea. When pressed by South Korean officials, the Japanese said the cases were unrelated to illegal shipments to a third country but refused to provide details, Lee said.

He said South Korean officials protested that Japan was providing only “very abstract” reasons for its stricter export controls. “The positions still differ (between the two sides),” Lee said. “We did not see any willingness by Japan to change its measures from this meeting.”

The meeting started in an icy atmosphere, with officials skipping handshakes and staring at each other across the table in silence for several minutes, and continued for nearly six hours. Kim You-geun, deputy director of South Korea’s presidential national security office, said South Korea has been thoroughly implementing U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. He demanded that Japan provide evidence for claims made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his conservative aides that there may have been illegal transfers of sensitive materials from South Korea to North Korea.

Kim said his government proposes Japan accept an inquiry by the U.N. or another body over the export controls of both countries to end “needless arguments” and to clearly prove whether the Japanese claims are true or not.

He said South Korea has been imposing stringent export controls on arms and sensitive materials that can be used for both civilian and military purposes as a signatory of major international pacts that govern such transactions.

“If the result of the investigation reveals that our government did something wrong, our government will apologize for it and immediately apply measures to correct it,” said Kim, reading a prepared statement on live TV.

“If the result shows that our government has done nothing wrong, the Japanese government should not only apologize but also immediately withdraw the exports restrictions that have the characteristics of a (political) retaliation. There also should be a thorough investigation on (any) Japanese violation,” he said.

South Korea plans to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization. Its trade minister on Tuesday said an “emergency inspection” of companies that process and export the chemicals imported from Japan found no sign of illegal transactions allowing them to reach North Korea or any other country affected by United Nations sanctions.

In Washington, Kim Hyun-chong, another South Korean presidential official, was meeting with officials from the White House and Congress as Seoul sought U.S. help to end its diplomatic row with Japan. Kim Hee-sang, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official, also held talks with State Department officials in Washington.

“The U.S. side has showed a good understanding about (the issue) and expressed a desire to provide active support to resolve the problem as South Korea, the United States and Japan should work together and cooperate in the Asia-Pacific,” Kim Hyun-chong told South Korean reporters after a meeting with U.S. congressional officials.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that its minister, Kang Kyung-wha, discussed the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who Seoul said expressed an “understanding” of the South Korean position and agreed to facilitate communication through diplomatic channels between Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.

Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

New faces to watch in the pool on the road to Tokyo Olympics

July 28, 2019

GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) — An American named Michael. Teenage girls from three different countries. A Hungarian who took down Michael Phelps’ favorite world record. New faces emerged in the pool at the world championships a year out from the Tokyo Olympics. They all have potential to make the podium in what would be the first games for each of them.

Here’s a look at the talent pool:

MICHAEL ANDREW, United States

He has been generating attention since turning pro at 14 and skipping college swimming. Andrew is coached by his father using a method that emphasizes swimming at low volume all at race pace. The 20-year-old from Kansas reached his first worlds final in Gwangju and barely missed a medal in the 50 butterfly, finishing fourth with a personal-best time. Andrew has a win over Caeleb Dressel (50 fly, 2018 U.S. national championships) and remains poised to become a breakout star.

MAGGIE MACNEIL, Canada

She stunned four-time world and Olympic champion Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden to win the 100 butterfly in the biggest international meet of her career. The 19-year-old who swims at Michigan helped Canada to bronzes in the 4×100 free relay and 4×100 medley relay. She was a key part of the Canadian women’s team earning eight medals.

KRISTOF MILAK, Hungary

He turned heads by breaking Michael Phelps’ 10-year-old world record in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:50.37. That bettered Phelps’ mark by 0.78 seconds in the American’s favorite event and was more than three seconds faster than the other medalists. Milak was already the European champion and junior world record holder in the event, but the 19-year-old’s fame shot through the roof after erasing Phelps’ mark. No longer is Katinka Hosszu the most famous Hungarian swimmer. How Milak copes with the increased attention and his ability to follow up with a medal in Tokyo will prove whether he has staying power or is a one-hit wonder.

REGAN SMITH, United States

The 17-year-old from Minnesota introduced herself to the world in the 200 backstroke, lowering the world record in the semifinals before nearly doing it again in the final. Smith won gold in 2:03.35, beating her nearest rival by a whopping 2.57 seconds. Her 100 back split of 57.57 seconds in the 4×100 medley relay set a world record, too. She qualified for only one individual event in Gwangju but figures to add several more in the Olympics, including the 100 back.

ARIARNE TITMUS, Australia

Nicknamed “The Terminator,” the 18-year-old from Tasmania upset Katie Ledecky to win the 400 freestyle, finishing a full second ahead of the American star. Turns out Ledecky was ailing throughout the world meet, but Titmus’ presence makes things interesting for Ledecky, who has trounced the competition since the 2012 Olympics. Titmus earned silver in the 200 free, bronze in the 800 free and gold in the 4×200 free relay at worlds.

G-20 leaders clash over values, face calls to protect growth

June 28, 2019

OSAKA, Japan (AP) — World leaders attending a Group of 20 summit in Japan that began Friday are clashing over the values that have served for decades as the foundation of their cooperation as they face calls to fend off threats to economic growth.

“A free and open economy is the basis for peace and prosperity,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his counterparts in opening the two-day G-20 meeting, which comes as leaders grapple with profound tensions over trade, globalization and the collapsing nuclear deal with Iran.

While groups like the G-20 endeavor to forge consensus on broad policy approaches and geopolitical issues, they also are divided on an array of issues. Defying Chinese warnings not to bring up the issue of recent protests in Hong Kong, Abe told Chinese President Xi Jinping it was important for “a free and open Hong Kong to prosper under ‘one country, two systems’ policy,” Japanese officials said, referring to the arrangement for the former British colony’s autonomy when China took control in 1997.

They said Abe reminded Xi of the importance of guaranteeing freedom, human rights, the “rule of law” and other universal values in raising concern over proposed Hong Kong legislation that would allow some criminal suspects to be extradited for trial in mainland China. The bill, now shelved, prompted protests by hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents and minor demonstrations elsewhere in Asia, including Osaka.

Xi is not the only leader facing a pushback from his Western counterparts. European Union Council President Donald Tusk blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for saying in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper that liberalism was “obsolete” and conflicts with the “overwhelming majority” in many countries.

“We are here as Europeans also to firmly and unequivocally defend and promote liberal democracy,” Tusk told reporters. “What I find really obsolete are: authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs. Even if sometimes they may seem effective.”

Tusk told reporters that such comments suggest a belief that “freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete.” Putin praised President Donald Trump for his efforts to try to stop the flow of migrants and drugs from Mexico and said that liberalism “presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”

Trump has at times found himself at odds with other leaders in such international events, particularly on issues such as Iran, climate change and trade. The schisms can vary. At a meeting on the G-20 sidelines, Putin, Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed on the need to rely on international law, respect national sovereignty and refrain from interference in the internal affairs of other nations, Putin said.

Such statements are a swipe at Trump’s “America First” approach in rejecting multilateral initiatives, but also draw a line against criticism of authoritarian governments like China’s and Russia’s. A planned meeting between Trump and Xi on Saturday as the G-20 meetings conclude has raised hopes for a detente in the tariffs war between the world’s two largest economies.

The two sides have levied billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs on each other’s products in a festering dispute over technology and China’s chronic trade surplus. In a meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Trump said he had not promised to hold back on imposing new tariffs on China.

“I think it’ll be productive,” Trump said of his meeting with Xi. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow. It’ll be a very exciting day I’m sure,” he said. “It’s going to come out hopefully well for both countries.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accompanied Trump to Osaka, suggesting potential for some movement after 11 rounds of talks with China stalled in May. But while prospects for detente in the trade war are in the spotlight, many participants prefer a broader approach to tackling global crises.

“I am deeply concerned over the current global economic situation. The world is paying attention to the direction we, the G-20 leaders, are moving toward,” Abe said. “We need to send a strong message, which is to support and strengthen a free, fair and indiscriminating trade system.”

A breakthrough is not assured. On Thursday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing reiterated that China is determined to defend itself against further U.S. moves to penalize it in the trade dispute. China has often sought to gain support for defending global trade agreements against Trump’s “America First” stance in gatherings like the G-20.

Abe has sought to make the Osaka summit a landmark for progress on environmental issues, including climate change, on cooperation in developing new rules for the “digital economy,” such as devising fair ways to tax companies like Google and Facebook, and on strengthening precautions against abuse of technologies such as cybercurrencies to fund terrorism and other types of internet-related crimes.

On the rising tensions between Iran and the U.S., U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world can’t afford the conflict and it is “essential to deescalate the situation” and avoid confrontation. Iran is poised to soon surpass a key uranium stockpile threshold, threatening the nuclear accord it reached with world powers in 2015.

Iran’s moves come after Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the U.S. out of the deal and reimposing economic sanctions on Tehran. In a letter to the leaders in Osaka, Guterres urged them to take action on equitable and stable reforms to strengthen the global financial safety net and increase the global economy’s resilience.

While there are good plans and vision, what’s needed are “accelerated actions, not more deliberations,” he said. Fast and equal economic growth should be achieved so that people who live in “the ‘rust belts’ of the world are not left behind,” he said.

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, in a meeting on the G-20 sidelines, called for joint efforts to stabilize international trade and oppose protectionism. Putin, whose country faces an array of U.S. and EU sanctions, said at the meeting that “international trade has suffered from protectionism, politically motivated restrictions and barriers.” He also emphasized the need for BRICS nations to take coordinated action to help block sources of funding for terrorist groups.

AP journalists Kaori Hitomi and Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this story.

US and Japan partner on future moon mission

by Olufemi Terry for Share America

Washington DC (VOA)

May 30, 2019

At a May meeting in Washington, U.S. and Japanese officials affirmed the desire for continued scientific cooperation between the two countries. They collaborate on space exploration, space and earth science, and aeronautics research.

In one important example, NASA, the U.S. space agency, plans an infrastructure to sustain humans on and around the moon with assistance from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

President Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1 instructs NASA to lead a program of exploration with commercial and international partners to the moon.

Building on more than two decades of partnership – along with the Canadian, Russian and European space agencies – in the International Space Station program, NASA and JAXA are discussing the Gateway, a small spaceship to orbit the moon. The Gateway will support humans on the moon and provide experience that could boost future exploration of Mars.

NASA plans to land the first women and the next men on the moon’s surface by 2024, and JAXA is collaborating on possible robotic missions that could support human activities on the moon.

Beyond the moon

On XRISM, the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, which will launch in early 2021 to investigate X-rays emitted by stars, quasars and black holes, the agencies’ roles are reversed: JAXA leads, and NASA contributes key components.

In the coming days, as Trump visits Japan, he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will seek to extend the two countries’ cooperation into other areas.

Source: Moon Daily.

Link: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/US_and_Japan_partner_on_future_moon_mission_999.html.

G-20 talks trade, finance as Japan readies for Osaka summit

June 09, 2019

FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) — Top finance and economy ministers of the Group of 20 nations were meeting in Japan on Sunday, haggling over issues ranging from taxes to debt and artificial intelligence as China and the U.S. showed no sign of breaking their stalemate over trade and technology.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he had a constructive meeting with China’s central bank Gov. Yi Gang on the sidelines of a financial leaders’ meeting in the southern city of Fukuoka. In a Twitter post that showed the two clasping hands, he said they “had a candid discussion on trade issues.” He gave no details.

The closed-door talks in Fukuoka, and parallel talks on trade and “digital economy” issues in Tsukuba, a city north of Tokyo, are taking place as the world’s two largest economies remain mired in a tariffs war over trade and technology. Talks stalled after 11 rounds of negotiations and both sides are threatening further action, adding to uncertainty and unnerving financial markets.

In diplomatic speak, the word “candid” often signals a degree of disagreement. Mnuchin earlier urged China to rejoin the talks. So far, there has been no word of further negotiations, and he said any major progress in resolving the impasse would likely come at a meeting of Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping during the G-20 summit in late June in Osaka.

Trump has yet to decide, he said, on whether to impose more 25% tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese exports. There was no immediate word from the Chinese side about the meeting between Yi and Mnuchin.

After the Trump administration raised tariffs to up to 25% on $250 billion of imports from China and blacklisted telecommunications giant Huawei, China raised tariffs on rare earth exports to the U.S. and threatened to halt exports altogether.

Last week, China’s Commerce Ministry said it will soon release a list of “unreliable” foreign companies in a move seen as a response to the U.S. decision to penalize Huawei for alleged theft of intellectual property and evasion of Iran sanctions.

The Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily said Sunday that Beijing is creating a strong firewall to strengthen China’s ability to innovate and to accelerate the development of key technologies. “China … will never allow certain countries to use China’s technology to contain China’s development and suppress Chinese enterprises,” the newspaper said, without directly referring to the United States.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, is hosting the G-20 for the first time since it was founded in 1999. The meetings in Fukuoka and Tsukuba were due to wrap up later Sunday with statements to be put forward for endorsement at the summit.

Reports said officials had reached agreement on the need to revamp tax systems, better regulate new areas such as artificial intelligence, reform the rules-making World Trade Organization and ensure transparency about the levels of debt incurred by developing countries.

The venue for the annual financial meeting, Fukuoka, is a thriving regional hub and base for startups. Much attention at the G-20 meetings this year has focused on how to adapt tax systems and regulation to the increasingly digital nature of business.

But the specter looming over all the meetings is what will become of global trade given the rancor between Washington and Beijing. Mnuchin earlier acknowledged concern among fellow leaders over slowing world growth, though he said it was not due to the standoff with Beijing over trade and technology.

He and other members of the Trump administration maintain that the ripple effects of the billions of dollars in tariffs imposed by Washington on Chinese exports over the past year are creating new business opportunities for other businesses in the U.S. and other countries.

The G-20 group includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Emperor performs ritual to report abdication to Shinto gods

April 18, 2019

TOKYO (AP) — Emperor Akihito prayed at a Japanese shrine Thursday in a ritual to report his upcoming abdication to the Shinto gods. The 85-year-old emperor will retire on April 30 in the first abdication in 200 years and a rarity in Japan’s ancient imperial history.

Crown Prince Naruhito will succeed to the Chrysanthemum throne May 1. Akihito performed the “Shinetsu no Gi” ritual at Ise Shrine in western Japan as part of the succession process. Akihito in a tuxedo headed into the shrine, with palace officials holding up two imperial treasures — sword and jewel. The third, a mirror, is kept at the shrine. The treasures were brought from the palace in Tokyo and traveled with the emperor. The regalia, or three treasures, will be handed to Naruhito after his succession.

His daughter and head shrine priest, Sayako Kuroda, also attended. Ise Shrine was a center of Japan’s wartime emperor worship that still attracts political and business leaders today. Japanese emperors were once believed to be direct descendants of the sun goddess Amaterasu, who is enshrined at Ise and who sits at the top of “yaoyorozu,” or 8 million gods of all things in Shinto. Rituals at Ise Shrine are intended for the imperial family, and the emperor was the head priest until 1945 while Shinto was the state religion and the emperor was said to be a living god.

Shinto, a religion perhaps as old as Japan itself, is a rich blend of folklore, reverence for all things natural and the Japanese nation.

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