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Japan crude steel output drops year-on-year, the new Asian measures

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The government and industries in Japan have raised a sense of caution over measures invoked by the United States on Friday to restrict steel and aluminum imports. Although many experts say the direct repercussions on Japanese companies will be limited, some say this could be a blow to Japanese steelmakers, among others, if products that they become unable to export to the United States wind up flooding the market, driving prices down dramatically. Many Japanese car makers have factories in the United States. If additional tariffs are imposed on steel or aluminum when they procure these materials from abroad, there is a possibility that it will lead to an increase in production costs. However, the measures are applied to a wide range of countries.

Toyota Motor Corp. said that effects would be limited as 90 percent of its materials, including those for car bodies, are locally purchased. Only seven steel exporters, including Canada and the European Union, are exempted from the  tariffs. The government intends to continuously ask the United States to exempt Japanese products from the measures. The procedure for exemptions from the measures by product has begun in the United States, and Japan’s public and private sectors continue to seek exemptions.

Chinese ships sighted in Japan’s waters

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Japan’s Coast Guard says 3 Chinese patrol ships temporarily entered Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Friday. Coast Guard officials said the 3 vessels entered the territorial waters off Uotsuri Island in Okinawa Prefecture at about 10:30 AM. They said the ships stayed in the area for about 90 minutes before moving to the contiguous zone just outside the territorial waters.This is the 6th day this year that Chinese government vessels have entered Japanese waters off the Senkakus. The previous incursion was conducted on March 2nd. Japan controls the Senkaku Islands. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. China and Taiwan claim them.


Nuclear refugees build new lives after giving up hope of returning


After seven years, most of Japan’s nuclear refugees from Futaba, the scene of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown, have resigned themselves to the fact that they must build new lives elsewhere and will never be able to return home. Nevertheless, they cling to memories of the past while officials remain optimistic a future still exists where people, jobs and lessons learned from the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant will bring the town back to vibrancy. For over three decades, the nuclear power complex in Futaba supplied electricity, mainly to Tokyo, about 230 km south, without using any itself. Like nearby small municipalities, by hosting the plant, the town benefitted from the central government’s subsidies to support its poor revenue from rural farming. Now almost all of the nearly 7,000 Futaba citizens have scattered across the country due to the nuclear disaster, and 96 percent of the town is still off-limits for habitation. Nearly two-thirds of Futaba’s citizens are aged 60 or older. According to an annual survey released in February, 61.1 percent of all citizens have decided “not to return”. Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa aims to attract firms such as those for nuclear technology research and development into the area to create jobs and help citizens explore opportunities to return, but the Fukushima prefectural government predicts that the scheduled decommissioning of the plant will require 30 to 40 years to complete.

North, South Korea won’t march together at Paralympics amid flag row


South and North Korea will not march together at the opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics, as they did at the Olympics last month, because they cannot agree on a united flag that erases islands disputed with Japan.

Japan complained to South Korea about fans waving the Korean peninsula flag at a friendly women’s ice hockey match in the Olympics between the combined North and South Korean team and Sweden. The flag depicts a map of the undivided Korean peninsula, including the disputed islands, known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea’s delegation to the Paralympics said on Thursday it “does not accept the fact that Dokdo cannot be marked due to political issues held in Korea”, but in response to the North’s claim, the International Paralympics Committee said the two Koreas will march individually as the flag cannot be changed.

‘Let’s talk’: Japan hopes low-key strategy averts U.S. trade flare-up


Economic talks between the United States and Japan, tackling topics from persimmons and potatoes to energy and infrastructure, have helped keep Tokyo clear of protectionist moves such as those that recently hit Chinese solar panels and South Korean washers. Japan hopes that “let’s talk” approach – plus warm personal ties between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald Trump – will keep friction in check. But officials and lawmakers say the outlook could change if the unpredictable U.S. leader turns his attention to Tokyo’s 7 trillion yen ($63.62 billion)trade surplus ahead of U.S. congressional elections in November. Also efforts to showcase the U.S.-Japan security alliance in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats will probably take precedence over trade when U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits Japan from Tuesday, officials on both sides said.

Pence leaves for Asia, focused on increasing pressure on North Korea


Vice President Pence departs Monday for a five-day trip to Japan and South Korea, a visit to Asia intended to focus almost entirely on rallying allies to ratchet up their pressure on Kim Jong Un’s repressive regime, as well as directly pressing North Korea to stop its nuclear ambitions. Even his final stop — leading the U.S. delegation at the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea, on Friday night, and attending an Olympic event Saturday morning — has a clear geopolitical undertone: to combat North Korean propaganda amid the Olympic festivities, White House officials said.

Japan seeking policy talks with China before leaders’ visits


Japan is proposing fresh dialogue with China in several specific fields to prepare for the potential resumption of reciprocal leaders’ visits. It is a significant thaw in Japan-China relations, that are showing signs of improvement: Neither Abe nor Xi has held talks in the format of an official visit to the other’s country since they both took office in 2012. Frameworks will concern the climate change and how best to reduce emissions; the nuclear disarmament to reduce tensions over the fundamental difference in their position (Japan is sheltered by the U.S. “nuclear umbrella”, while China has its own nuclear arsenal); the common ground about counterterrorism.

Japan: government to test safety of burying radioactive soil this spring


The government plans to conduct a demonstration project sometime this spring to test the safety of burying waste generated by decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Environment Ministry said Wednesday. In the project, soil waste from eastern and northeastern areas of the country other than Fukushima Prefecture will be covered with uncontaminated soil at sites in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the town of Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, with radioactivity levels around the locations being measured. The project will be carried out on the premises of the Tokai Research and Development Center’s Nuclear Science Research Institute in Tokai and at a public space in Nasu.

Onodera, Perly call for pressure on North Korea


Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and his French counterpart, Florence Parly, agreed Saturday to maximize pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile development. The ministers also confirmed at a meeting in Tokyo that their countries will cooperate to maintain maritime order and promote Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. Japan hopes to work to deepen its special partnership with France this year, including through mutual visits by President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Abe, Kono said.

Japan tells U.N. of North Korean tanker suspected of sanctions busting


Japan has told the United Nations about a North Korean tanker spotted in the East China Sea that it suspects was engaged in a transfer of goods with another tanker in defiance of U.N. sanctions. According to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, the North Korean-flagged tanker “Rye Song Gang 1” – blacklisted by the United Nations last month for carrying banned cargo – was spotted by a Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force patrol plane with the Dominican-flagged tanker “Yuk Tung” tied up beside it in the East China Sea on Saturday. The two boats were lit up and some kind of activity was taking place, the Foreign Ministry said, adding that the Japanese government strongly suspected them of transferring goods in violation of the U.N. sanctions.

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