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TOKYO, September 6, 2018 (News Wires) -- A Japanese nuclear energy station is relying on emergency back up power after a powerful earthquake knocked out electricity on the northern island of Hokkaido on Thursday, a stark reminder of the Fukushima disaster more than seven years ago.

The three-reactor Tomari nuclear plant, operated by Hokkaido Electric Power and in shutdown since the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, lost power after a magnitude 6.7 quake hit the island in the early hours, the government said.

The station's fuel rods are being cooled with emergency power supplied by diesel generators, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Thursday.

There were no radiation irregularities at the plant, Suga said, citing the operator.

The atomic regulator said the diesel generators have enough fuel to last seven days.

The toll in a powerful 6.6-magnitude quake that rocked the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido early Thursday rose to eight, public broadcaster NHK said, after the strong tremor triggered landslides.

NHK said six of the deaths were in the village of Atsuma, where a massive landslide caused by the quake engulfed homes.

 More than 100 have been injured and 19 are missing following the quake, according to NHK.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the major temblor was centred in the Hokkaido prefecture at 3.08 a.m. (Japan time) with the epicentre at a latitude of 42.7 degrees north and a longitude of 142.0 degrees east, and at depth of 40 km, Xinhua reported.

 

TOKYO, September 5, 2018 (News Wires) - Japan began on Wednesday to clean up after a powerful typhoon killed 11 people, injured hundreds and stranded thousands at a flooded airport, though when the airport in an industrial and tourist hub might reopen was not clear.

Typhoon Jebi, or “swallow” in Korean, was briefly a super typhoon and was the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 25 years. It came after months of heavy rain, landslides, floods and record-breaking heat that killed hundreds of people this summer.

About 3,000 tourists were stuck overnight at Kansai Airport in western Japan, an important hub for companies exporting semiconductors built on reclaimed land on a bay near Osaka and connected to the mainland by a bridge that was damaged when a tanker slammed into it during the storm.

But by afternoon many people had been rescued by bus or ferried by ship from the airport, where puddles still stood on the main runway after it was inundated on Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday afternoon about 470 people were injured. It was uncertain when the airport would reopen and some roads and train lines in the affected areas were still closed, he said.
But the number of households without power had been roughly halved to 530,000.

“The government will continue to do everything possible to tackle these issues with utmost urgency,” Suga told a news conference earlier.

Japan’s JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy Corp shut at least one refining units at its 135,000 barrels-per-day Sakai refinery in Osaka due to typhoon damage to part of the cooling tower, the trade ministry said.

Many chip plants operate in the Kansai region. Toshiba Memory, the world’s second-largest maker of flash memory chips, was monitoring developments closely and may need to ship products from other airports if Kansai remains closed, a spokeswoman said.

She said the company was not expecting a major impact because its plant in Yokkaichi in central Japan had not been affected by the typhoon.

It could take several days to a week to reopen Kansai airport depending on the damage, the Yomiuri newspaper quoted an unidentified person in the airline industry as saying.

Winds that in many places gusted to the highest ever recorded in Japan, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, left a swathe of damage, with fruit and vegetables, many about to be harvested, hit especially hard.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was criticized in July for an initially slow response to devastating floods that month, posted updates on the rescue efforts at Kansai.

Jebi’s course brought it close to parts of western Japan hit by rains and flooding in July that killed more than 200 people, but most of the damage this time appeared to be from the wind.

TOKYO, September 4, 2018 (News Wires) - Japan issued evacuation advisories for more than 1 million people and canceled hundreds of flights in the face of extremely strong winds and heavy rain as typhoon Jebi made landfall along its west central coast on Tuesday.

Jebi - whose name means "swallow" in Korean - was briefly a super typhoon and is the latest harsh weather to hit Japan this summer following rains, landslides, floods and record-breaking heat that killed hundreds of people. There were scattered reports of mild injuries as the typhoon made landfall.

Tides in some areas were the highest since a typhoon in 1961, NHK public television said, with flooding covering the runways at Kansai International Airport in Osaka.

The strong winds sent a 2,591-tonne tanker crashing into a bridge connecting Kansai airport, which is built on a man-made island in a bay, to the mainland. The bridge was damaged but the tanker was empty and none of its crew was injured, the coast guard said.

The storm made landfall on Shikoku, the smallest main island, around noon. It raked across the western part of the largest main island, Honshu, near the city of Kobe, several hours later, heading rapidly north.

Evacuation advisories were issued for more than 1 million people as the wind and rain began picking up, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. Wind gusts of up to 208 km/h (129 mph) were recorded in one part of Shikoku, with forecasts for gusts as high as 216 km/h (135 mph).

"Our house is right at the base of a mountain, so it's a little dangerous and we decided to leave," one woman told NHK.

Television footage showed waves pounding the coastline, sheet metal tumbling across a parking lot and a truck turned on its side. People in Kobe reported on Twitter that the wind was shaking their apartment buildings and ripping branches off trees.

Around 100 mm (3.9 inches) of rain drenched one part of the tourist city of Kyoto in an hour, with as much as 500 mm (20 inches) set to fall in some areas in the 24 hours to noon on Wednesday.

Video posted on Twitter showed a small part of the roof of Kyoto train station falling to the ground.

More than 700 flights were canceled, along with scores of ferries and trains, NHK said. Shinkansen bullet train services between Tokyo and Hiroshima were suspended and Universal Studios Japan, a popular amusement park near Osaka, was closed.

JAKARTA, Indonesia, September 2, 2018 (News Wires) - Now comes the hard part for Japan, which is pledging to win 30 gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Japan is sure to get a "medal bounce" as the Olympic host country. But how big? China got a giant one at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Britain capitalized in 2012 in London.

Even Brazil got a slight boost two years ago in Rio de Janeiro, despite the country being dragged down by a deep recession and a massive corruption scandal.

Japan won 75 gold medals as the Asian Games closed on Sunday, second to China's 132.

This matches Japan's best gold-medal performance at the Asian Games in 44 years, and just three short of the 78 it won 52 years ago in Bangkok. But this was before the arrival of China as Asia's power.

Will this translate to Tokyo where China and the United States are sure to be on top?

"This is far better than we expected," Yasuhiro Yamashita, head of the Japan delegation, said through an interpreter. "But achieving 75 gold medals at the Asian Games doesn't mean 30 golds at the Olympics."

"We cannot be overconfident," he added. "This is one of our enemies."

The bar is high for Tokyo. Japan won only 12 gold medals two years ago, and its high mark is 16 in 2004 in Athens.

"This is not an unrealistic goal," Yamashita said. "It was established calmly and carefully by analyzing each team and athlete." He said results could change funding for sports and athletes in the two-year run-up to Tokyo.

Swimming earned Japan 19 gold medals — six by butterfly and freestyle swimmer Rikako Ikee — and 52 overall, two ahead of China. This is one of the country's seven core Olympic sports along with judo, badminton, track and field, gymnastics, table tennis and wrestling.

"Our swimmers, they gave us a flying start," Yamashita said.

Japan also won medals in all five sports being added to the Tokyo Olympics — baseball, softball, sports climbing, karate, and skateboarding.

It also had surprises, winning both field hockey gold medals — a first in any large event; gold in women's rugby sevens and silver for men; a rare gold in women's team badminton. All could offer promise for Tokyo.

China, Japan and South Korea dominated, as always. But several other nations closed ground slowly on the Big Three.

China had 289 overall medals with 132 gold, 92 silver and 65 bronze. Japan won 205 (75-56-74) and South Korea had 177 (49-58-70).

Japan won gold in team triathlon in the only event on Sunday just hours ahead of the closing ceremony. South Korea took silver.

The Big Three were followed in the gold-medal ranking order by: Indonesia (31), Uzbekistan (21), Iran (20) and Taiwan (17). India and Kazakhstan each had 15 followed by North Korea and Bahrain with 12.

The combined Koreas won four overall, the best good-news story of the games. The lone gold was in dragon boat racing.

A combined Koreas women's hockey team at the Winter Olympics six month ago made headlines but did not earn a medal.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Saturday announced preliminary plans to bid for the 2032 Olympics. Indonesia finished fourth on the medal table, taking 14 of 31 golds in local martial art pencak silat.

IOC President Thomas Bach welcomed Indonesia's early interest, dismissing the city's choking traffic and widespread poverty.

He said only two other countries had expressed interest — India and Germany — with formal bid still years away. The winner would be picked in 2025.

Paris holds the 2024 Olympics followed by Los Angeles in 2028.

"You see that Indonesia is on the move," Bach said "And you see the enthusiasm of the people. It's a very young country. This of course also makes it very interesting for the IOC."

TOKYO, September 2, 2018 (News Wires) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed confidence in improving ties with China and said the countries' relationship had returned to a "normal track", in a newspaper interview published on Sunday.

Abe, who is expected to visit China at the end of October, was also quoted as saying he hoped to invite President Xi Jinping to Japan in the future.

His comments came amid intensifying US trade pressure on Beijing and Tokyo that has raised concerns about protectionism and its impact on the global economy.

"Premier Li Keqiang visited Japan in May and the Japan-China relationship has completely returned to a normal track," Abe told the Sankei newspaper.

Japan's finance minister expressed similar optimism on Friday, saying the current round of financial dialogue with China was "extremely good", and that both sides agreed to maintain co-operation in macro-economic policies and measures.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to impose tariffs as a key part of his economic message, singling out the US auto sector trade deficit with Germany and Japan.

In his interview, Abe said he shared with Trump the larger goal of expanding trade and investment that would benefit both countries, but reiterated that he would not prioritise friendship over national interests in any discussions over trade.

TOKYO, August 31, 2018 (News Wires) -  Japan's Defence Ministry on Friday made its biggest-ever budget request, seeking better missile defence and bolstered air power amid ongoing threats from North Korea and China.

The Ministry wants 5.298 trillion yen ($47 billion) for the next fiscal year from April, the seventh straight annual increase and 2.1 per cent more than last year.

Among the items on the Ministry's shopping list are two sets of US-made Aegis Ashore missile defence systems to defend the country against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, with a combined price tag of 234.3 billion yen.

It also wants six more F-35 fighter jets and two E-2D Hawkeye radar and maritime aircraft, with plans to expand the air force patrol team by adding 30 servicemen to a current team of 830.

The budget request came hot on the heels of the Ministry's annual defense review, which said North Korea still poses a "serious and imminent threat" despite a diplomatic detente earlier this year.

After the historic June 12 summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, there has been little tangible progress in denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.

In recent weeks, Washington-Pyongyang relations appear to have taken a turn for the worse, with President Trump abruptly scrapping a planned visit to the North by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The defence review also took aim at China's rise as a military power, saying Beijing was sparking "strong security concerns in the region and international community, including Japan".

Tokyo is wary of Beijing, which is seen by several countries in the region as becoming increasingly aggressive over various sovereignty claims, including a long-festering row with Japan over small islands in the East China Sea.

For its part, China announced in March an 8.1-per cent defence budget increase to 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion) for 2018, as it bids to modernise the world's largest military.

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