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MOSCOW, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Boosted by 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez and top scorer Radamel Falcao, a confident Colombia will be looking to demolish low-ranked Japan on Tuesday before moving on to tougher Group H rivals Poland and Senegal.

The Andean nation is ranked 16th to Japan’s 61st, and history is on their side too - Colombia beat the “Blue Samurais” 4-1 in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup.

“We’re going to conquer Russia,” Falcao posted on Instagram recently alongside a picture of the South Americans decked out in ties on their plane to Russia.

Yellow-shirted Colombia definitely conquered fans in Brazil four years ago with scintillating counter-attacking style and salsa-infused goal celebrations which propelled them to quarter-finals, their best result ever.

But they went on to have an uninspiring World Cup qualifying campaign for Russia. They scored just 21 goals during the grueling two-year, 18-match South American qualifiers and limped over the line with three points from their last four games to claim fourth spot.

The squad led by Argentine coach Jose Pekerman are vowing to boost their attacking prowess in the hard-to-call Group H and prove that their run in Brazil was not just a one-off.

“We have to take the initiative. We’re a team that’s characterized itself for that. We need to have confidence to go up front. But we also can’t lose defensive strength,” midfielder Abel Aguilar said on Friday.

Fresh from losing several friendly matches since qualifying for the World Cup, Japan is nervous at the prospect of facing AS Monaco’s Falcao and Rodriguez - on loan from Real Madrid at Bayern Munich.

Japan head coach Akira Nishino, a former international midfielder who took over in April, said last month that beating Colombia would be a “small miracle.”

Nishino has named an experienced World Cup team - including three players with more than 100 caps - Yuto Nagatomo, Shinji Okazaki and captain Makoto Hasebe.

“The quality of the Colombian team has gone up, and they have height and athleticism,” said Fortuna Duesseldorf’s Takashi Usami this month. “We have to adjust the quality of our ball delivery and the recipient’s timing to meet the ball.”

OSAKA, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - A magnitude 6.1 earthquake shook Osaka, Japan’s second-biggest metropolis, on Monday morning, killing three people, halting factory lines in a key industrial area and bursting water mains, government officials and broadcaster NHK said.

No tsunami warning was issued. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said authorities were assessing damage and that its top priority was the safety of residents.

Live footage showed burst water mains and a house on fire after the quake hit Osaka, which will host next year’s Group of 20 summit, just before 8am as commuters were heading to work.

The epicentre of the earthquake was just north of Osaka city, said the Japan Meteorological Agency, which originally put the magnitude at 5.9 but later raised it to 6.1.

The quake struck an important industrial area of central Japan.

Osaka-based Panasonic said it was halting production at two of its plants - one that produces lighting devices and another for projectors.

Daihatsu Motor Co, a unit of Toyota Motor Corp, said it had suspended production at its factories in Osaka and Kyoto while it checked for damage.

Japanese media including public broadcaster NHK said collapsing walls had killed an 80-year-old man and a 9-year-old girl, and that another man in his 80s was killed after being crushed by a toppling bookcase.

The government confirmed two of the deaths.

“We were sleeping and it woke us up abruptly,” said Kate Kilpatrick, 19, an American who was staying in a hotel in Osaka when the quake hit.

“It was so terrifying because this is my first earthquake. I thought it was a nightmare because I was so confused,” she said.

“The whole world was aggressively shaking.”

Kilpatrick, visiting Japan for the first time, said alarms went off almost immediately in the hotel and a loudspeaker told guests to stay away from windows.

 

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2018 (AFP) -- With less than a week to go before meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, US President Donald Trump plays host Thursday to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wants his voice heard ahead of the unprecedented talks.

Trump and Abe will hold a joint press conference at the White House in the early afternoon, before heading to Canada for what promises to be a tense Group of Seven summit clouded by the US leader's aggressive trade policies.

Since the first inkling that a Trump-Kim summit could be on the cards, Japan has repeatedly insisted that Washington be mindful not to let its guard down with the nuclear-armed regime in Pyongyang.

And by coming to Washington to see Trump for the second time in less than two months, Abe wants to be sure to get his point across to the US president, amid the intense diplomatic flurry over the future of the Korean peninsula.

Before leaving Tokyo, the Japanese leader emphasised that during his lightning visit to Washington, he hoped to "closely coordinate and agree" with Trump on an approach to the North Korea issue.

And he clearly outlined what would need to happen for the June 12 summit in Singapore to be a success: tangible progress on curbing the North's nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, as well as answers about Japanese nationals kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s.

At their last meeting at Trump's Florida retreat in April, the US president promised Abe to raise the politically sensitive abductions issue in any talks with Pyongyang.

But the subject is hardly a priority for the businessman-turned-president, whose strategy appears to be in constant flux.

Above all, Trump seems most enthused by the notion of being the first sitting US leader to hold direct talks with a scion of the ruling Kim dynasty.

The intensifying diplomacy on North Korea has so far left Abe as the odd man out: Trump is preparing to meet Kim, while Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korea's Moon Jae-in have each already seen the North's leader twice.

For Richard Armitage, a former senior diplomat during the administration of George W. Bush, Tokyo runs a very real risk of finding itself out in the cold after the Trump-Kim talks.

"We should absolutely prevent decoupling - decoupling Japanese and US security," he told AFP.

"This is and has been an aim of China and North Korea for a long time, and we can't allow this to happen. That would be falling into a terrible trap."

Trump and Abe so far seem to have forged a sort of friendship, but even that bonhomie was revealed to be limited at their last meeting.

On Thursday, it could again be put to the test - beyond North Korea, they are also meant to discuss the thorny issue of tariffs, which Washington says were put in place to protect American workers.

"I will stress that measures to restrict trade would not serve the interests of any country," Abe said before heading to Washington.

Japan had hoped to convince the US to shield it from fresh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and did not hide its bitter disappointment when those talks failed.

The government in Tokyo warned of the "grave impact" that US tariffs could have on bilateral ties and the world trading system.

"The US government's trade measures, citing its security, makes us concerned that they could disrupt the global market," government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Monday.

TOKYO, June 6, 2018 (News Wires) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seeking to draw on his close ties with President Donald Trump in talks on Thursday, will urge the US leader not to forget Tokyo’s security concerns in his drive for a historic deal with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un.

Abe has spoken to Trump 30 times since he became president, including eight face-to-face meetings, and officials say Washington is well-aware of Tokyo’s stance towards Pyongyang.

"Through summits and telephone conversations with President Trump, we have closely liaised and our positions are exactly the same," Abe told reporters before departing for Washington.

"Ahead of this historic US-North Korea summit, I will meet President Trump to coordinate in order to advance progress on the nuclear issue, missiles and - most importantly - the abductees issue,” he said, referring to the emotive matter of Japanese citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang’s agents decades ago.

“I want make the US-North Korea summit a success,” he added.

Still, concerns have simmered in Tokyo that Trump, his eye on November congressional elections, could cut a deal that would allow him to boast of protecting US cities from nuclear attack but leave Japan vulnerable to shorter range missiles.

Japan also fears Trump could eventually agree to reduce US military forces in South Korea, leaving Japan as a frontline state against a Korean peninsula under heavy Chinese influence.

TOKYO, May 29, 2018 (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government came under fire Tuesday after a senior MP suggested only women should raise children under three and another urged newly-weds to have at least three kids.

Abe's government has made "womenomics" -- or boosting women's participation in the workplace -- a priority, as the country's workforce drops amid a rapidly ageing population.

But Koichi Hagiuda, a senior member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), touched off a firestorm on Sunday when he said men rearing children might be "unwelcome" for them.

"Children need an environment where they can stay with their mothers ... if you ask infants under three which parent they like more, the answer should be mama, even though there are no firm statistics to support it," said Hagiuda, 54, the LDP's executive acting secretary-general.

Those remarks came after another MP, Kanji Kato, doubled down on comments suggesting young couples should produce at least three children, saying he had received popular backing.

But the leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party lashed out on Tuesday, saying the comments were "intolerable."

"There are many people who cannot give birth to children despite wanting to and there are many single-father families," Yukio Edano said. "Don't they notice these facts?"

Sumire Hamada, from rights group Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center, told AFP that Hagiuda's comments were "out of the question."

"What happened to the government's pledge to build a society where men can participate in child-rearing?

"These comments overturn what the government has said, and I'm sure many fathers have been angered" by Hagiuda's "rude remarks," she said.

Another campaigner said the remarks could encourage men to persist in the long working-hours culture endemic in Japan.

Tetsuya Ando, founder of the organisation Fathering Japan, told AFP: "When he said children under three like mothers more than fathers, that's unacceptable."

"That kind of remark puts pressure on working mothers to stay at home while removing fathers' rights to rear children," said Ando, 55, himself a dad-of-three.

TOKYO,  May 28, 2018 (News Wires) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday he would seek to convince President Donald Trump of the crucial role his country’s automakers play in boosting the US economy.

The Trump administration decided last week to begin a national security investigation into auto imports that could lead to new US tariffs similar to those imposed on imported steel and aluminum.

“Japanese automakers have created jobs and made huge contributions to the US economy,” Abe told parliament, when asked by a lawmaker how Japan would respond to the US move.

“As a country that prioritizes a rule-based, multilateral trade system, Japan believes that any steps taken on trade must be in line with World Trade Organization rules,” he said.

The number of cars Japanese automakers produce in the United States is double the number it exports to the country, Abe said.

Abe also said Tokyo will continue to urge Washington to join the multi-lateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“Japan has explained to the United States its stance that TPP is the best format for both countries. We will continue to talk with the United States based on this view,” he said.

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