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TOKYO, September 10 (News Wires) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, eyeing a historic extended term, reaffirmed on Monday his resolve to revise the nation's post-war, pacifist constitution and said he hoped his party could submit a proposal to parliament later this year.

Abe, who returned to office in December 2012 pledging to bolster defences and reboot the economy, is widely expected to defeat his rival, former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, in a Sept 20 election for leader of his Liberal Democratic Party.

Victory would give him another three-year term as LDP head and set him on track to become Japan's longest serving premier, given the LDP-led ruling coalition's grip on parliament.

Article 9 of the constitution, if taken literally, bans maintenance of armed forces but it has been interpreted to allow a military for self-defence.

Abe wants to add a reference to the Self-Defence Focces, as Japan's military is known, to clarify their status.

That would be a largely symbolic change but one long sought by conservatives who see the US-drafted constitution as a humiliating reminder of defeat in World War Two and opposed by critics who worry about expanding the SDF's role overseas.

“Isn’t it the mission of us politicians living today to create an environment in which they (SDF members) can carry out their duties with a sense of pride?” Abe said in a televised speech to LDP members.

“Let’s fulfil our mission by clearly writing in the constitution the Self-Defence Forces that protect peace and independence of Japan,” he said.

Abe told a news conference he hoped the LDP could present its proposal to parliament in an extra session likely to be held later this year.

An attempt to revise the constitution would be politically risky. The public is divided and the LDP's dovish partner, the Komeito, is wary. Amendments require approval of two-thirds of both houses of parliament and a majority in a referendum.

Abe, who met South Korean presidential envoy to North Korea Suh Hoon today, reiterated he wants to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to resolve the matter of Japanese citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang's agents decades ago.

In 2002, North Korea admitted that it kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s. Japan believes 17 of its citizens were abducted, five of whom were repatriated. Eight are said by North Korea to have died, while four never entered the country.

Abe also promised in his speech to strengthen Japan's infrastructure over the next three years to withstand the sort of deadly disasters floods, landslides and earthquakes that have buffeted the country recently. He gave no details.

TOKYO, September 9, 20189 (News Wires) - Japan's agriculture ministry said on Sunday it had confirmed the country's first outbreak of swine fever in 26 years and suspended exports of pork and wild boar meat.

The fever, a different kind from the African swine fever that has broken out in China, was found in a farm in central Japan's Gifu city, the ministry said.

Swine fever occurs among pigs and wild boar, and is not infectious to humans, the ministry said in a statement.

African swine fever was detected in China in early August and has been found in 18 farms or abattoirs in six provinces, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The FAO said last week it was almost certain to spread from China to other Asian countries.

TOKLYO, September 9, 2018 (News Wires) -- Japanese authorities say 37 people have been confirmed dead from a powerful earthquake that struck the northern island of Hokkaido last week.

The Hokkaido government said Sunday that two people remain missing and one other person has no vital signs. Rescue workers are using backhoes and shovels to search for the missing in a tangle of dirt and the rubble of homes left by multiple landslides in the town of Atsuma. All but four of the victims are from the community of 4,600 people.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a hard-hit area of Sapporo, the main city in Hokkaido.

The magnitude 6.7 earthquake before daybreak Thursday knocked out power and train service across Hokkaido. It took two days to restore electricity to most of the island of 5.4 million people.

TOKYO, Sept 8, 2018 (News Wires) - The death toll from a powerful quake that triggered landslides in northern Japan rose to 35 Saturday, as tens of thousands of rescue workers raked through the mud for survivors.

The majority of the dead are from the small rural town of Atsuma, where a cluster of dwellings were wrecked when a hillside collapsed from the force of the 6.6-magnitude quake, causing deep brown scars in the landscape.

Public broadcaster NHK said 35 were dead, with around five people still unaccounted for in the town.

More than 600 sustained minor injuries, according to the Hokkaido island local government.

"We never had landslides here," said Akira Matsushita who lost his brother in Atsuma.

"I couldn't believe until I saw it with my own eyes," he told TV Asahi. "When I saw it, I knew no-one could survive."

Some 40,000 rescue workers, including Self-Defense Forces drafted in specially, were searching for survivors with the aid of bulldozers, sniffer dogs and 75 helicopters, according to the top government spokesman.

"They're doing their best around the clock," Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

ATSUMA, Japan, Sept 7, 2018 (News Wires) - The toll from an earthquake that rocked Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido rose to 18 on Friday, and in one small town two dozen people remained unaccounted for after an entire mountainside collapsed on their homes.

The region was slowly restoring transport links and power, with lights back in about half of the homes on the island after a day of region-wide blackouts. Officials said they hoped to have the generating capacity close to normal by the weekend, though full repairs to Hokkaido's main power plant could take up to a week.

Rescuers were using search dogs, backhoes and shovels as they dug through tons of mud and debris from the landslides triggered by the magnitude 6.7 quake that struck before dawn Thursday.

After more than a day of digging there were no reports of survivors being pulled from their crushed homes in the outskirts of the town of Atsuma, not far from the quake's epicenter.

There were scant signs of damage inside Atsuma itself, a seaside community of about 4,600 that advertises itself as a destination for surfing and a great lifestyle. But by late Friday, the power still had not been restored and stores were closed.

"There are no supplies, so the shop simply cannot function. It's tough," said Yasuhiro Kurosaki, a young father whose wife was cradling their infant son outside the small supermarket owned by his father. Shelves inside the darkened shop were bare aside from a few boxes of potato chips.

Most residents sought meals, water and shelter at the local social services office.

Farther inland, unharvested rice fields stretched before a long expanse of hillside that had collapsed all at once, bringing earth and timber down on homes that had been tucked along the edge of the mountain.

Of the 18 people confirmed or presumed dead, 14 were from Atsuma.

In the regional capital, Sapporo, lights and water were restored to many areas a day after the entire island saw power cut off. Bullet train services resumed and the city's airport at Chitose reopened.

Some parts of the city were severely damaged, with houses atilt and roads crumbled or sunken. A mudslide left several cars half buried, and the ground subsided in some areas, leaving drainpipes and manhole covers protruding by more than a meter (yard) in some places.

TOKYO, September 6, 2018 (News Wires) — A major Japanese airport flooded by a typhoon is expected to partially reopen Friday after officials promised round-the-clock work to repair damage and make the travel hub ready for passengers.

Domestic flights at Kansai International Airport were expected to resume Friday and international flights later. The indefinite closure of the western airport that is a gateway to Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe had raised concerns about the impact on Japan's economy and tourism.

Kansai Airports CEO Yoshiyuki Yamaya emphasised at a news conference on Thursday the reopening would be partial. He said work would be done through the night.

One of the airport's two runways and part of a terminal building were flooded and the bridge connecting the airport to the mainland was damaged when Typhoon Jebi swept through on Tuesday.

The strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years caused 11 deaths and damage in and around Osaka.

The Kansai airport served 28 million passengers last year. It handles exports of computer chips, electronics parts and other cargo while importing into Japan mostly medical goods.

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