All posts tagged "japan"

The longest lunar eclipse in centuries will happen this week, NASA says. What to know

You can see the longest partial lunar eclipse in hundreds of years this week. The “nearly total” lunar eclipse is expected overnight Thursday, Nov. 18, to Friday, Nov. 19, NASA said. “The Moon will be so close to opposite the Sun on Nov 19 that it will pass through the southern part of the shadow of the Earth for a nearly total lunar eclipse,” NASA said on its website. The eclipse will last 3 hours, 28 minutes and 23 seconds, making it the longest in centuries, Space.com reported. Only a small sliver of the moon will be visible during the eclipse. About 97% of the moon will disappear into Eart...

Biden hosts Australian, Indian, Japanese leaders for Quad summit

Washington (AFP) - President Joe Biden on Friday deepens his bid to cement US leadership of the Indo-Pacific against a rising China with the first in-person summit of the regional Quad group.

Meeting in the White House, Biden and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan will discuss a Covid vaccines drive, regional infrastructure, climate change and securing supply chains for the semiconductors used in computer technology.

While China is not officially on the agenda, the Quad will stress backing for a "free and open Indo-Pacific," a senior US official told reporters. That's a phrase often standing in for ensuring that communist China will not end up dominating the region, including vital international sea lanes.

For Washington, the Quad meeting marks another step to reviving a US focus on diplomatic efforts, following its dramatic exit from the 20-year Afghanistan war.

And "the Biden administration understands that the challenges of the 21st century will largely play out in the Indo-Pacific," a senior administration official, who asked not to be named, said. "We are doubling down on our efforts."

Of three regional groupings that Washington leads in its strategic chess game to manage China's ascent, the Quad is deliberately the most open.

The other two are the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the newest arrival on the block -- AUKUS.

AUKUS was only unveiled last week and centers so far on a project for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines using US and British technology. Although it will take years for Australia's navy to actually get the vessels, the announcement sent waves around the world, angering China and separately causing a furious row with France which saw its previously negotiated contract for selling Australia conventional submarines thrown out.

No military component

The White House meeting is expected to be one of the final international summits for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is not seeking re-election. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia will also attend.

Suga and Modi will hold separate bilateral talks with Biden on Friday, while Morrison and Biden met earlier this week at the United Nations.

With the uproar over the Australian nuclear submarines plan only just dying down, US officials are keen to stress there is no military component to the Quad.

They also say it is not meant to rival or undermine the preeminent regional grouping ASEAN, which includes China.

"This is not a military alliance. It's an informal grouping of democratic states," the administration official said. "I think concerns have been dispelled and I believe at a general level this initiative is welcome across the region."

However, competition with China is at least as strong outside the military domain, including in the effort to supply poorer countries with vaccines -- where the United States is by far the world's top donor -- and in stimulating pandemic-battered economies.

Among the "substantial engagements" expected at the talks, the Quad will make announcements on its vaccine delivery plans, the administration official said.

Just ahead of the Quad summit, China made a major play of its own by applying to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a huge regional free trade pact.

The United States had joined the pact's previous version, the TPP, until Donald Trump pulled out in 2017.

With Japan already a member of the new pact, Biden will ask Suga to brief him on "where he thinks Japan is going and his recommendations for the United States' continuing engagement," the official said.

Japan to impose state of emergency on Olympic city Tokyo

Tokyo 2020 Games preparations - A security guard monitors the access to the National Stadium, the main venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. - Rodrigo Reyes Marin/ZUMA Wire/dpa

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has decided to impose a coronavirus state of emergency on Tokyo, just two weeks before the start of the Olympic Games.

The state of emergency will be in effect from Monday until August 22 provisionally, the government said on Thursday. The Olympic Games are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8.

The reason for the now fourth state of emergency in Tokyo is another significant increase in the number of coronavirus infections.

On Thursday the Tokyo City Council reported 896 new cases of infection, meaning that for each of the past 19 days the number of new infections has exceeded the previous week's figure.

However, the state of emergency is not a lockdown with hard curfews as in other countries. While citizens are called upon to stay at home if possible, restaurants are open but not allowed to serve alcohol, offer karaoke and have to close earlier than normal in the evening.

Many people in Japan fear that the Games could become a "superspreader" event.

Japan's Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have always stressed that everything will be "safe," but possibly without spectators.

Japan's organizers want to make a decision on this with the central government, the Tokyo city government as well as the IOC and the Paralympic Committee, according to the media on Thursday.

Biden on Sha’Carri Richardson suspension: ‘The rules are the rules’

President Joe Biden gave his take Saturday on Sha’Carri Richardson’s Olympic suspension for a positive marijuana test. “The rules are the rules, and everybody knew what the rules were going in,” he told reporters in Central Lake, Mich. “Whether they should remain the rules is a different issue.” “I was really proud of the way she responded.” Richardson tested positive for marijuana after winning the women’s 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Her speed qualified her for the Olympics, but the positive test means her win won’t count and she won’t get to race in Tokyo. “I just want to take res...

60 per cent of Japanese want Tokyo Olympics cancelled amid pandemic

60 per cent of Japanese want Tokyo Olympics cancelled amid corona - A general view of the logo for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Nearly 60 per cent of Japanese favour the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, a survey conducted by Kyodo News showed on Sunday. - Michael Kappeler/dpa

Nearly 60 per cent of Japanese favour the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, a survey conducted by Kyodo News showed on Sunday.

The survey indicated that 59.7 per cent of those polled agreed to cancel the postponed Olympics, while 25.2 per cent said the Games should be held without an audience and 12.6 per cent said the event should go ahead with a limited number of spectators.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organizers are pressing ahead with the Games and are expected to make a decision in June on how many spectators will be allowed to enter venues.

They have already agreed in March to ban overseas fans from attending this summer's Games due to the pandemic.

The survey comes about two months before the scheduled July 23 start of the Olympics in Tokyo, where the coronavirus state of emergency has been imposed since late April.

The measure has been expanded to nine prefectures on Sunday due to the rapid spread of new variants of the coronavirus.

Opposition to the Games has grown as Japan has been struggling to rein in a fourth wave of the pandemic and as people complain about the extremely slow pace of the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines.

Only about 1 per cent of the country's 125 million population has been fully vaccinated since the beginning of the vaccination effort in mid-February.

Japan decides to dump Fukushima water into sea despite opposition

Protest against Japan's radioactive water discharge into sea - South Korean civic activists hold placards as they take part in a protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul against the Japanese government's decision to discharge radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. - -/YNA/dpa

Japan has decided it will start releasing radioactive water accumulated at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea after treatment, despite local opposition and concerns from neighbouring countries.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s cabinet made the decision on Tuesday morning, which comes a decade after the nation’s worst atomic disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The operator Tokyo Electric Power is expected to start discharging the water into the sea in two years.

The operator has stored over 1.2 million tons of water in more than 1,000 huge tanks at the site. The operator said the space for tanks will be running out in 2022, though local officials and some experts say otherwise.

The plant suffered meltdowns at three of its six reactors after it was hit by a powerful earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March 2011.

Since then, the operator has continued to inject water into the three reactors to keep cooling melted atomic fuel there.

Radiation-contaminated water at the site has been treated through an advanced liquid processing system, but tritium - a radioactive isotope of hydrogen - cannot be removed from the water.

The government and the operator say tritium is not harmful to human health in low concentration.

However, Tokyo-based Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy said in a statement that the government "should strictly avoid releasing tritium into the environment as tritium is still radioactive material."

The government’s decision invited criticism and strong opposition at home and abroad.

Hiroshi Kishi, head of the Japan Fisheries Cooperatives, said the release is "totally unacceptable. We lodge a strong protest [with the government]."

Kishi held talks with Suga last week ahead of the decision, telling the premier the group was "absolutely against" the move.

Citizens groups and some experts criticized the Japanese government for lacking explanation of the plan and consensus-building efforts.

Greenpeace Japan said the group "strongly condemns" the government’s decision as it "completely disregards the human rights and interests of the people in Fukushima, wider Japan and the Asia-Pacific region."

South Korea convened an emergency meeting following Japan’s announcement.

Seoul expressed "strong regret" over the Japanese government's decision, Koo Yoon Cheol, head of South Korea's office for government policy coordination, told a news conference after the meeting, according to Yonhap News agency.

China expressed concerns on Monday in anticipation of the decision.

"China has expressed grave concern to the Japanese side through the diplomatic channel, urging Japan to handle the issue of wastewater disposal from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in a prudent and responsible manner," Beijing's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

The US State Department, however, issued a statement saying Japan "has been transparent about its decision, and appears to have adopted an approach in accordance with globally accepted nuclear safety standards."

Japan PM wants Olympics to be 'victory against coronavirus'

Liberal Democratic Party annual convention in Tokyo - Japanese Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Yoshihide Suga delivers a speech at the annual party convention. - Pool/ZUMA Wire/dpa

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Sunday that staging the Tokyo Olympics in summer is to be "proof of victory against the coronavirus."

Suga said the day after Japan announced that no fans from abroad would be allowed to attend the Games the main aim will be to prevent another wave of infections.

A state of emergency for Tokyo and some surrounding areas was to end at midnight Sunday and Suga urged "we must not drop our guard."

The Tokyo Games were postponed last year owing to the pandemic and are now set to take place July 23-August 8. The torch relay starts on Thursday in Fukushima amid a strict hygiene protocol.

In message to China, Biden to meet Australia, India, Japan PMs

US President Joe Biden, then the vice president, huddles in 2014 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi alongside John Kerry, then the US secretary of state

Washington (AFP) - US President Joe Biden will hold first-ever joint talks Friday with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan, boosting an emerging four-way alliance often cast as a bulwark against China.

It will be one of the first summits, albeit in virtual format, for Biden, who has vowed to revive US alliances in the wake of the disarray of Donald Trump's administration.

"That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance that we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.

The meeting of the so-called "Quad" comes amid rising tensions with China, which is seen as flexing its muscle both in trade and security realms.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Biden was "taking this to another level."

"It will be an historic moment in our region and it sends a strong message to the region about our support for a sovereign, independent Indo-Pacific," Morrison told reporters.

Both Psaki and India, which earlier announced the participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that the talks would take up climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic -- two key priorities for Biden.

"The leaders will discuss regional and global issues of shared interest, and exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The talks, also involving Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, will touch as well on promoting maritime security and "ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines" to fight Covid-19 in Asia, the Indian statement said.

China's growing assertiveness

Japan said that Suga spoke separately Thursday to Modi and voiced alarm about China's "unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Sea" as well as the status of rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the Quad was well-equipped to deal with the world's "urgent challenges" but, asked about China, said, the format is "not about any single competitor."

The summit follows talks on February 18 among the foreign ministers of the Quad when they pressed jointly for a restoration of democracy in Myanmar after the military ousted democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.

US officials cast the meeting as a key way of exerting pressure as India and Japan enjoy closer relationships with Myanmar's military -- which has historically counted on China as its main source of support.

The Quad foreign ministers, however, were careful not to make an explicit mention of China, which has voiced alarm at what it sees as an effort to gang up on its interests in Asia.

After Biden's election, Chinese state media had printed articles calling on India to end the Quad, seeing New Delhi as the most likely opponent.

But views have hardened in India after a pitched battle in the Himalayas last year killed at least 20 Indian troops. China has named four dead in confirmation that took half a year.

Australia has also shown growing willingness to participate in the Quad as relations deteriorate with Beijing, last year joining naval exercises with the three other nations off India's shores.

The Quad was launched in 2007 by Japan's then prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was alarmed at China's growing assertiveness around Asia.

Biden has pledged in general terms to continue his predecessor's hawkish line on China, including by pressing on human rights and territorial disputes.

But the Biden administration has promised what it considers a more productive approach that includes boosting ties with allies and finding limited areas for cooperation with Beijing such as climate change.

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Tokyo Olympics chief Mori announces resignation over sexist remarks

Tokyo Olympics organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said on Friday he will resign after his sexist remarks sparked an international uproar. His resignation dealt another blow to the delayed Games, which have been threatened by a resurgence of the coronavirus. Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Mori offered an apology because his "inappropriate remarks caused confusion." Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto is reportedly a candidate to succeed the 83-year-old former prime minister though organizers were first considering appointing former Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawa...

10 countries suffering the biggest tourism revenue loss due to COVID-19

The coronavirus crisis has hampered international travel for the past 10 months and countries all over the world are feeling the effects. Using data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and The World Bank, visa waiver processing firm Official ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) recently revealed the countries with the biggest tourism revenue loss due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "The past year has been extremely difficult for the travel and tourism industry, with the unpredictable circumstances resulting in countries being forced to close their borders to tourists,...

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