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Japan-South Korea slanging match over tiny islands dragged again into Olympic Games arena

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A war of words over ownership of a group of tiny islands in the sea between Japan and South Korea spilled over to the Olympic Games on Wednesday.

The development arose as Tokyo criticised Seoul’s complaint over a map of Japan on the Tokyo Games website.

Ties between Japan and South Korea have often been fraught over their shared history.

The neighbours are also at loggerheads over Japan’s export curbs on high-tech materials bound for South Korea.

There was also the issue of compensation of South Koreans forced to work for Japanese companies during World War Two.

“Our government immediately summoned the relevant official at the Japanese embassy in South Korea to protest Japan’s improper assertion of its right of administration over Dokdo, while demanding that the related materials be immediately corrected.”

Japan’s top government spokesman dismissed South Korea’s protest.

“We communicated (to South Korea) that their position is absolutely unacceptable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference, adding that the state of relations was “very severe”.

The two nations had a similar altercation at the Winter Olympics in South Korea last year.

Japan protested at the inclusion of the islands on a flag depicting a unified Korean peninsula.

Athletes from North and South Korea marched together under the flag of white and pale blue at the opening ceremony.

The islands were at the centre of a more serious clash on Tuesday.

That was when both South Korea and Japan responded to what they saw as a violation of their air space near the islands by Russian and Chinese military planes.

OLAL

(Edited by Olawale Alabi)

Foreign

Japan’s corporate profits book sharpest dive since 2009 amid global pandemic

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Japan’s corporate profits in the January-March quarter booked the largest decline since 2009, as numerous companies were hurt financially by the global coronavirus pandemic, which saw demand and consumption slump amid the shuttering of plants and businesses.

According to the Finance Ministry‘s quarterly survey, pretax profits of domestic companies tumbled 32.0 percent to 15.14 trillion yen (140.76 billion United States dollars) from a year earlier, marking the fourth successive month quarterly profits have retreated.

This also marked the sharpest decline since a 32.4 percent fall was booked in the July-September period in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis, the ministry’s figures showed.

Amid falling global demand, manufacturers felt the brunt of the pandemic, with the transportation equipment sector booking a 50.7 percent dive in pretax profit, the ministry said.

As for the non-manufacturing sector, meanwhile, pretax profits marked significant declines in the service sector, dropping 59.6 percent, while those in the wholesale and retail industry fell 38.0 percent, the ministry’s data also showed.

Declining for a third straight quarter, corporate sales in Japan were down 3.5 percent from the previous year to 359.56 trillion yen (3.34 trillion United States dollars).

Capital spending by all non-financial sectors increased 4.3 percent to 16.35 trillion yen (152.01 billion United States dollars), the ministry’s data also showed, with this figure coming on the heels of a 3.5 percent drop in the previous period.

Revised gross domestic product data for the January-March quarter will be released by the Cabinet Office on June 8, with the figures expected to be upwardly revised owing to the increase in capital expenditure, although the rise could be negligible when the drop in private consumption is factored in.

Preliminary data showed Japan’s economy shrank an annualized real 3.4 percent in the three-month period due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This was the second successive quarterly contraction and saw Japan enter a technical recession.

The finance ministry polled 31,540 companies capitalized at 10 million yen (92,963 United States dollars) or more.

(XINHUA)

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Japan begins coronavirus antibody tests on 10,000 people

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Japan’s health ministry on Monday started coronavirus antibody tests, with the ministry planning to conduct the tests on about 10,000 people in Tokyo, Osaka, and the northeastern prefecture of Miyagi by the end of June.

The ministry needs the data to try and better understand the spread of the infection, as it faces a possible second wave of infections following the nationwide state of emergency being completely lifted last week.

The large-scale test of antibodies will enable health officials to be able to gain a better understanding of how much of Japan’s population has been infected by the coronavirus.

The tests, which provide indicators on unique proteins made by a person’s immune system after they have been infected with the virus, will also help authorities better understand how many people will require vaccinating once one becomes available, as well as an idea of the severity of the situation should further waves of the pandemic hit Japan.

The tests will also help to determine the level or possibility of Japan’s “herd immunity,” which is achieved when a large percentage of the population develops antibodies and potential immunity to a virus.

The antibody tests use blood samples and produce results faster that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Some experts have voiced concern, however, that some of the trial antibody tests conducted here as well as overseas have produced inaccurate results.

In April, the health ministry screened for antibodies in experimental tests with donor blood from Tokyo and six prefectures in northeastern Japan.

The ministry at the time used test kits from five firms to conduct the provisional experiments.

With restrictions now largely eased for the entire nation, yet concerns over recent spikes in cases after the state of emergency was lifted in both Tokyo and Fukuoka prefectures continuing, the health ministry said Thursday evening 16 new infections had been detected in Fukuoka’s Kitakyushu City, while Tokyo had confirmed 13 new infections. The nationwide total came to 37 new COVID-19 cases, with the death toll standing at a total off 911 people.

Tokyo’s accumulative infection total comes to 5,249 people, Osaka’s 1,783, while Fukuoka has confirmed a total of 774 COVID-19 cases, Thursday evening’s figures showed.

(XINHUA)

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1st LD Writethru: 5.3-magnitude quake strikes Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture, no tsunami warning issued

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 on Monday struck Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

The temblor occurred at 6:02 a.m. local time, with its epicenter at 36.2 degrees north latitude and 140.4 degrees east longitude, and at a depth of 100 km.

The quake logged 4 in some parts of Ibaraki Prefecture on the Japanese seismic intensity scale which peaks at 7.

So far no tsunami warning has been issued.

(XINHUA)

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Japan gov’t rules out imminent return of emergency for Tokyo, Fukuoka over COVID-19

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The Japanese government has no immediate plan to reinstate a state of emergency for the capital of Tokyo and Fukuoka Prefecture despite an increase of COVID-19 cases in the two areas recently, Economic Revitalization Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Sunday.

Nishimura, also minister in charge of the government’s response to the pandemic, told the public broadcaster NHK that he did not expect the number of new infections to rise quickly as Japan restarted its economy, adding that he would continue to monitor the situation closely.

The city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture has been hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections, after a recent spike in new COVID-19 cases led to the government deploying its cluster response team to the city.

In Tokyo, the epicenter of Japan’s outbreak, the daily infection rate has been in double digits for several days since Tuesday when the government completely lifted the state of emergency.

According to the latest figures from the health ministry and local authorities on Sunday, the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Japan increased by 35 to reach 16,912.

The number excludes the 712 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama near Tokyo.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Japan from the pneumonia-causing virus currently stands at a total of 910, according to the health ministry, with the figure including those from the cruise ship.

In Tokyo, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased by five to reach 5,236, followed by Osaka Prefecture with 1,783 infections.

Kanagawa Prefecture, meanwhile, has recorded 1,367 infections, Hokkaido 1,091 cases, Saitama 1,000, Chiba 902, while Fukuoka Prefecture has recorded 758 cases of COVID-19, according to the latest figures on Sunday.

The health ministry said there are currently a total of 120 patients considered severely ill and are on ventilators or in intensive care units.

The ministry also said that in total, 15,113 people, including 654 from the cruise ship, have been discharged from hospitals after their symptoms improved.

(XINHUA)

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5.6-magnitude quake hits Kushiro of Japan: USGS

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6 jolted 70 km SSW of Kushiro, Japan at 18:13:47 GMT on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 93.89 km, was initially determined to be at 42.4288 degrees north latitude and 143.942 degrees east longitude.

(XINHUA)

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Japanese city in middle of 2nd wave of COVID-19 infections: mayor

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The city of Kitakyushu in Japan‘s southwestern prefecture of Fukuoka has been hit by a second wave of coronavirus infections, the city’s mayor Kenji Kitahashi reiterated Friday, after a recent spike in new COVID-19 cases led to the government deploying its cluster response team to the city earlier this week.

“I recognize that we are in the middle of the second wave,” Kitahashi was quoted as telling a meeting of the city’s response team.

Kitakyushu City registered zero new COVID-19 cases from April 30 to May 22, but confirmed 43 new infections in the six days through Thursday, with 21 new cases confirmed on Thursday alone, according to the health ministry and local authorities.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan‘s economic revitalization minister, also in charge of the government’s coronavirus response, told a press briefing on the matter in Tokyo that of the 43 cases, the infection routes had only been traced in around half of them.

But despite the possible second wave of infections hitting the southwestern city, Japan’s top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that the central government is not going to declare a state of emergency again in Fukuoka Prefecture.

The recent spike in cases in Kitakyushu City follow the state of emergency over the coronavirus being lifted in 39 of Japan‘s 47 prefectures, comprising Fukuoka Prefecture that includes Kitakyushu, on May 14, due to the virus’ spread being deemed to have been contained.

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe completely lifted the state of emergency for the nation, with the five remaining prefectures still under restrictions, including Tokyo, being judged to have also controlled the spread of the virus.

Recently reopened attractions in Kitakyushu City were closed down on Thursday, however, along with 43 public facilities that will be shuttered until June 18.

These include Kokura Castle, a literature museum and a manga museum.

As for the broader prefecture, Fukuoka Governor Hiroshi Ogawa said Friday, “I‘m very surprised and have a strong sense of crisis,” with regards to the new outbreak.

He added that the planned lifting of business restrictions on Monday would now be pending the results of the health ministry’s cluster response team’s analysis of the situation.

(XINHUA)

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Japan’s factory output drops to 7-year low in April due to virus outbreak

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Japan’s industrial output dropped to the lowest level in more than seven years in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government said in a report on Friday.

The pandemic has caused factories to halt operations as domestic and overseas demand fell significantly, the government, the report said.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the seasonally adjusted index of production at factories and mines tumbled 9.1 percent from the previous month to 87.1 against the 2015 base of 100.

The latest reading, which came on the heels of a 3.7 percent fall in March and a 0.3 percent drop in February, marked the lowest since comparable data became available in January 2013, the ministry’s data showed.

The ministry’s assessment of the country’s output, one it has not used since the global financial crisis, was lowered to “rapidly declining.”

The ministry’s data set showed the index of industrial shipments dropped 8.8 percent to 85.0, while inventories fell 0.3 percent to 106.1 in the recording period.

Looking ahead, the ministry’s survey revealed that according to manufacturers polled, industrial output is forecast to drop 4.1 percent in May before increasing 3.9 percent in June.

(XINHUA)

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Japan’s unemployment rate hits 2-year high in April due to pandemic

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Japan’s unemployment rate increased 2.6 percent in April, marking a more-than-two-year high, while the availability of jobs sank to a four-year low, as the coronavirus pandemic caused numerous businesses to shutter their operations, the government said in a report on Friday.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the 2.6-percent increase in the recording period, the worst level since December 2017, came on the heel of a 2.5-percent increase logged a month earlier.

The ministry added that on a seasonally adjusted basis, the unemployment figure stood at 1.78 million people in the recording period, rising by 60,000 from a month earlier.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, meanwhile, said Friday that the job availability ratio dropped for a fourth straight month to its lowest level since March 2016.

The ministry said that ratio stood at 1.32 in April compared to 1.39 in March, which translates to there being 132 job openings in the recording period for every 100 people looking for work.

“We have seen the significant influence of the new coronavirus epidemic so we have to keep closely monitoring the situation,” a government official was quoted as saying, with reference to the state of emergency over the coronavirus being declared in April leading to an increase in people out of work.

Employment in the wholesale and retail sectors were particularly hard hit, the figures showed, with the number of workers falling by 330,000 from a year earlier to 10.48 million.

The number of workers in the accommodation and restaurant services sector also saw hefty declines, dropping by 460,000 people to 3.73 million in the recording period.

(XINHUA)

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5.2-magnitude quake strikes Japan’s Gifu Prefecture, no tsunami warning issued

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A 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck the Hida District of Japan‘s Gifu Prefecture on Friday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

The temblor occurred at 7:05 p.m. local time, with its epicenter at a latitude of 36.3 degrees north and a longitude of 137.6 degrees east, and at depth of 10 km.

The quake logged 4 in some parts of Gifu Prefecture on the Japanese seismic intensity scale which peaks at 7. No tsunami warning has been issued so far.

(XINHUA)

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