All posts tagged "japan"

Russia bans entry to Japanese prime minister, dozens of others

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not pictured) hold a joint press conference. Kay Nietfeld/dpa

The Kremlin retaliated on Tuesday against sanctions imposed by Japan for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, by placing an entry ban on 63 Japanese citizens, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kishida's government was accused by the Russian Foreign Ministry of launching an "unprecedented anti-Russian campaign" and "allowing itself to use improper rhetoric against the Russian Federation, including slander and direct threats."

Tokyo's actions are destroying "good neighbourly relations" and damaging Russia's economy and image, it added.

In addition to the Japanese prime minister, Russia's blacklist includes Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, parliamentarians, owners of media outlets and journalists.

The entry ban is in effect indefinitely.

Japan joined Western partners in slapping sanctions on Russia for its war in Ukraine. But tensions between two countries have also flared due to competing claims to the Kuril Islands, which Tokyo calls its Northern Territories.

Moscow terminated talks on a partial return of the archipelago in March. Tokyo subsequently described these islands as "illegally occupied" in April for the first time in years.

Tonga volcano ‘hundreds of times’ more powerful than Hiroshima bomb explosion, NASA says

The undersea volcano that erupted off the coast of Tonga this month was “hundreds of times” more powerful than the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima in World War II, according to NASA. The Jan. 15 blast of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, which triggered tsunami waves which stretched to the Pacific Coast in the U.S. The eruption, which spewed ash across the many of Tonga islands, was heard as far away as Alaska. “The blast released hundreds of times the equivalent mechanical energy of the Hiroshima nuclear explosion,” NASA said in a statement. “For comparison, scientists estimate Mount St....

Japan seeks restrictions on US troops after virus surge

The request from Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to the US Secretary of State comes as virus cases surge in Okinawa

Tokyo (AFP) - Japan's Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi urged his US counterpart Thursday to consider restricting American troop movement in the country after a surge in Covid cases on bases and surrounding communities.

The request to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken comes as virus cases surge in Okinawa, which hosts most of the US forces in Japan and is now seeing a rise in community infections.

The region's governor has blamed the rise in local cases on the clusters first seen among US troops.

Okinawa will request that the central government authorise new virus restrictions, its governor said, after the southern island region reported 623 cases on Wednesday -- nearly triple the previous day's figure.

In a call with Blinken, Hayashi "strongly requested the strengthening of measures to prevent an expansion in infections", Japan's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Hayashi called on Blinken to "consider restricting outings (by US troops) to ease worries among local residents, given the situation of coronavirus infections among US forces in Japan", the statement added.

There were more than 400 Covid cases reported on US bases in Okinawa on January 4, Japan's government said Wednesday.

Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki has criticised the US military for failing to adhere to Japan's strict measures for overseas arrivals, and last month Hayashi expressed "strong regret" to the commander of US forces in Japan over the growing number of virus cases.

Hayashi said then that the US military was not adhering with Japan's policy of testing incoming travellers for the virus on arrival, and requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.

Since the complaint, US soldiers are now being tested within 24 hours of arrival, according to Japan's government.

Infections among US force members are not included in Okinawa's daily case reports, although cases among local Japanese staff at US bases are.

US bases in other parts of Japan have also reported a surge in infections in recent weeks.

Overall, Japan's infection rate remains comparatively low, with just over 2,600 cases reported nationwide on Wednesday. But the numbers are rising, and Wednesday marked the first time that more than 2,000 cases have been reported in Japan since October.

The foreign ministry said Blinken acknowledged Hayashi's concerns and promised to convey them to the US defence department.

Hayashi and Blinken also "confirmed continuing close Japan-US cooperation" on the issues of North Korea and Ukraine, the ministry said.

"Blinken condemned (North Korea)'s ballistic missile launch and stressed US commitment to the defence of Japan remains ironclad," the US Department of State said in a statement.

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.