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China and Japan: agreement to expand cooperation

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday agreed that the two countries should work together to further improve bilateral ties and expand cooperation. China and Japan are important neighbors and bilateral relationship has gone through some twists and turns in recent years, which affected communication and cooperation of the two sides in various areas, said Wang. year, he said. The Chinese top diplomat, who arrived in Japan Sunday for a three-day visit, expressed the hope that with efforts from both sides, his visit could become an important step for bilateral relationship to return to normal track. Saying that the momentum of improvement in bilateral ties did not come by easily, he emphasized that it should be cherished. He also said that China attaches importance to the positive remarks made by Abe on the Belt and Road Initiative, and Japan will joining the Belt and Road construction. 

Japan to pitch new trade dialogue to draw Trump back to TPP

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The Japanese government on Friday greeted with cautious optimism the news that U.S. President Donald Trump is willing to explore re-entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, while stressing that Washington should accept the original terms. “If this means that President Trump is correctly evaluating the significance and effects of the TPP, it’s something we want to welcome,” Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s minister in charge of the TPP, said after a Cabinet meeting. But he added: “The 11 participating countries share the thinking that it would be extremely difficult to take out part of the TPP and renegotiate or change it.

“The U.S. withdrawal from the TPP shortly after Trump’s inauguration last year made Japan the largest of the 11 Pacific Rim economies left in the deal. Those countries signed a new version last month that had been revised to account for the U.S. absence. Finance Minister Taro Aso suggested that Trump’s shift on the pact should be approached with caution. The shift comes amid a developing trade dispute between the United States and China, which did not take part in the TPP.

Japan’s former chief negotiator for talks on North Korea warns that U.S. lacks expertise on Pyongyang

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In a striking reversal, U.S. President Donald Trump has asked trade officials to explore the possibility of the United States rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a free trade deal he pulled out of during his first days in office as part of his “America first” agenda. Trump’s request comes as he faces pressure from farm-state Republicans anxious that his protectionist trade policies could spiral into a trade war with China that would hit rural America. It was not immediately clear how committed Trump was to embarking on a new path of potentially thorny negotiations. Trump frequently equivocates on policy when faced with opposition, only to reverse course later. It’s unclear how willing the other 11 countries would be to reopen the agreement and make concessions to lure the United States back.

“If the Trump administration doesn’t pose too many demands, it is likely that the other TPP members will see the value of the bringing the U.S. back into the fold,” said Eswar Prasad, Cornell University professor of trade policy. “Undoubtedly, a TPP that includes the U.S. would be stronger and more formidable than one that does not.” Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been renewing their pitches for TPP — rather than Trump’s threats of steep tariffs on steel and other products — as a way to counter China on trade. Sen. Ron Johnson was among a handful of senators who recently visited China to meet with government and business leaders there. He said it’s time to work with a coalition of trading partners to increase pressure on China.

Japan: energy plan through 2050

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Japan will accelerate the development of renewable energy and keep its current policy of lowering its dependence on nuclear power as it aims for a low-carbon society, a government panel report on the country’s energy plan through 2050 showed Tuesday. The long-term policy comes as Japan lags behind the global trend to invest in renewables. The most recent targets set out in 2015 seek to have renewable sources account for 22 to 24 percent and nuclear 20 to 22 percent of electric power generation in fiscal 2030. Under the 2015 Paris climate accord, Japan aims for an 80 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 2013 levels. The report acknowledged that while there have been global movements to phase out nuclear power following the Fukushima crisis, efforts have also been made to enhance the “safety, economic feasibility and mobility” of nuclear power generation. As for thermal power generation, the report said it will remain a major power source in 2050 but inefficient coal plants should be phased out with more focus on gas plants. 

Japan: the US Ambassador and his wife meet abductees’ family members

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The U.S. Ambassador to Japan on Tuesday met the families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea agents decades ago to train its spies, just a week before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to raise the emotional issue at a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. In an apparent nod to Japan’s concerns, U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty and his wife met abductees’ family members, including Sakie Yokota, whose daughter Megumi was snatched from a beach as a teenager 40 years ago. Hagerty told them their plight had not been forgotten, pledging to convey their stories to Trump ahead of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “I know that this issue is high on the list of priorities for both President Trump and Prime Minister Abe,” he told reporters. 

Philippines’ president recognizes alliances with US, Japan

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President Duterte recognized yesterday the importance of the Philippines’ military alliances with the United States and Japan through the years since World War II. “The brotherhood between the Philippines and the US has been forged by the second World War when the Filipinos and American soldiers fought side by side under the flag of freedom, and democracy still remains strong,” it’s possible to read in a note sent to the occasion of the commemoration of “the Day of Valor” at Mt. Samat in Bataan and read by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea before hundreds of guests, including war veterans, foreign dignitaries and local officials.

In the note, Duterte recognized the alliance between the Philippines and the US in terms of military and economic support and also noted how Japan has become a friend from being a foe during World War II. “The Japanese against whom our soldiers defended Bataan for many years now remain as one of our closest allies, a major trading partner and the largest provider of Official Development Assistance, which helps us in the fight against poverty and our quest for economic progress,” Duterte said. During the commemoration, Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda also underscored the importance of the bilateral relations between the two countries as he offered an apology for the atrocities of World War II.

Tokyo 2020: after rocky start, preparations to be back on track

in FAR EAST/POLITICS by

With the Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea over, Tokyo is stepping up preparations for the next event on the Olympic calendar, with busy building sites dotted around the Japanese capital. Unlike in previous Olympic host countries, where there was a scramble to finish venues on time, Japan appears to be living up to its reputation for efficiency. On a recent media tour of sites, foreman after foreman said “We are on schedule.” The Aquatics Centre in Tokyo Bay is a hive of activity, with workers scurrying around the huge site and pushing to finish a venue that will eventually welcome 24,000 cheering supporters. “Roughly 25 percent of the work is already done,” said Daishuu Tone, director of venues for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. “We are confident we will be on time,” he added, with the first test events scheduled for mid-2019.

Organizers are looking at coating pavements with a substance to reduce the surface temperature, and making sure there are plenty of trees to provide shade for competitors and spectators alike, Koike said. There are also worries over contamination in Odaiba Bay, where the triathlon and open-water swimming events will be held. Samples taken between July and September last year showed levels of E. coli bacteria more than 20 times higher than permitted — apparently brought about by unseasonably heavy rain. Muto said organizers would solve this problem using special “underwater filters” that have proven effective at cleaning water in tests.

Iraq leader in Japan for talks on peace, reconstruction

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Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived on Thursday in Japan to seek international support to restore peace and prosperity in his country, torn by extremism. During the opening ceremony of the expert level of the international conference on Iraqi economic development in Tokyo, both Abe and al-Abadi discussed ways to improve public safety in the Middle Eastern country. Japanese officials said the conference was aimed at helping Iraq reconstruct by establishing a system to eliminate weapons held by many civilians. The goal is to create jobs, provide vocational training and motivate people to return to their ordinary lives. Officials from 30 countries and international organizations  partecipated to the conference.

Japanese Foreign Minister protests USA over project on Shikotan

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Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono says Japan has lodged a protest with both Russia and the United States over a joint project on one of 4 Russian-controlled islands claimed by Japan. Last month, Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of the Sakhalin region in Russia’s Far East, announced a plan to build a diesel power plant on Shikotan Island by September. He said a large US machinery firm was involved in the project. So Kono said economic activities by a company from a third country on the islands claimed by Japan are incompatible with the government’s stance. He called the activities extremely regrettable.

He added that he will try to resolve the territorial dispute and conclude a peace treaty between Japan and Russia. The Japanese government claims the 4 islands controlled by Russia. The government maintains they are an inherent part of Japan’s territory and were illegally occupied after World War Two.

India is world’s second largest producer of steel, overtakes Japan

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In a major achievement, India has overtaken Japan to become the world’s second largest producer of crude steel in February, according to the Steel Users Federation of India (Sufi). At present, China is the largest producer of crude steel in the world, accounting for more than 50 per cent of the production. India’s crude steel production was up 4.4 per cent and stood at 93.11 million tonnes (mt) for the period April 2017 to February 2018, compared with April 2016 to February 2017, which has helped India to overtake Japan and becomes the second largest producer of crude steel in the world, the federation said in a statement here.

India overtook the US in 2015 to become the third largest producer of crude steel. Attributed the growth in steel production to the right policies undertaken by the Modi government, Nikunj Turakhia, president, Sufi said, “The government has taken host of steps to curb imports, push local demand with initiatives like ‘Make in India’, implementation of the GST and infrastructure projects, to encourage the domestic market.” According to the World Steel Association, India produced 8.4 mt of crude steel in February 2018, up 3.4 per cent over February 2017.

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