Japan PM Calls For Closure Of Public Schools Over Coronavirus

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on October 9, 2018. AFP


Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called Thursday on public schools to close nationwide from March 2 to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

“The government considers the health and safety of children above anything else,” Abe said.

“We request all primary, junior high and high schools… across the nation to close temporarily from March 2 next week until their spring break.”

The spring break for public schools usually starts late March in Japan.

“Efforts to prevent the spread of infections among children are being made in various areas,” Abe added.

Many public elementary schools and junior high schools in northern Hokkaido were closed on Thursday as the governor has requested the public schools to be closed for about a week.

The city of Osaka also said it will close its kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools from Saturday for two weeks.


Japan To Evacuate Nationals From ‘Wuhan City’- Abe

A passenger wearing a facemask to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, arrives at the Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport in Blang Bintang in Aceh Besar, 13 kms south of Banda Aceh on January 27, 2020. At least 80 people have died since the new strain of coronavirus emerged in China’s Wuhan, and millions are now under an effective quarantine in the country, with all flights in and out of Wuhan grounded and a ban on Chinese tour groups domestically and abroad.


Japan will evacuate all its nationals from China’s quarantined city of Wuhan, the epicentre of a deadly virus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday.

“We have decided to send back all (Japanese citizens in Wuhan) to Japan if they wish so, by every means including a chartered flight,” Abe told reporters.

“We are coordinating with the Chinese government at various levels, and we will accelerate the process to realise a swift implementation” of the evacuation from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in central China, Abe said.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during a joint press conference


Earlier, a foreign ministry official told AFP that 430 Japanese were in Hubei province.

The move comes as several other countries are arranging plans to evacuate their personnel and citizens.






The outbreak, which has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000 across China, is believed to have originated in a live animal market in Wuhan.

China is one of Tokyo’s biggest trading partners and around 160 Japan-linked companies have offices in the region’s central city of Wuhan.

Japan’s health authorities confirmed the country’s third case on Saturday — all in patients that had visited Wuhan recently.


Minister Resigns Over Donation Scandal In Japan

Japan’s Trade Minister Isshu Sugawara speaks to the media at the parliament in Tokyo on October 25, 2019. STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP


Japan’s new trade minister has submitted his resignation after being accused of violating election law by offering voters money and gifts, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday.

Isshu Sugawara had been in the hot seat after a magazine reported he was suspected of paying 20,000 yen ($185) to a bereaved family in his constituency.

He was also reported to have given gifts to other voters, including pricey melons and even crabs, Kyodo news agency said.

The sums involved, while small, would constitute a violation of Japan’s public office election law.

Abe said Sugawara submitted his resignation after a cabinet meeting and that he had accepted it.

“I bear responsibility in having appointed him. I deeply apologise to the Japanese people,” Abe said.

Sugawara will be replaced by Hiroshi Kajimaya, formerly minister in charge of revitalising communities in the countryside, Abe said.

Sugawara told Abe and later told reporters “it is not my intention that parliamentary debate stall (because of the scandal).”

He was appointed in a recent cabinet reshuffle but did not take over the key portfolio of handling trade negotiations with the United States.

That task remains the purview of former trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who now serves as foreign minister.

Abe’s cabinet has maintained public approval ratings of around 40-50 percent in recent years, despite several political scandals, with experts pointing to the continued weakness of the opposition as a key factor.


Japan Pressures China On Professor Detained For ‘Spying’

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) shakes hands with China’s Vice President Wang Qishan at the Akasaka State Guesthouse in Tokyo on October 23, 2019. Japan pool via Jiji Press / JIJI PRESS / AFP



Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday pressed China’s visiting vice president over the case of a Japanese professor detained by Beijing reportedly on allegations of spying.

Tokyo confirmed this week a Japanese man in his 40s has been held by Chinese authorities since September on suspicion of violating Chinese laws, without specifying the details.

Japanese media have identified him as a professor from Hokkaido University who is being detained on suspicion of spying.

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Abe “strongly demanded a positive response from China regarding the detention of a Japanese national” when he met Wang Qishan on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

He gave no further details on the exchange.

The man, who has not been named, worked previously for the National Institute for Defense Studies in the defence ministry and the Japanese foreign ministry, according to local media reports.

On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not know the details of the case, but that China “has always handled foreign nationals suspected of breaking China’s law, in accordance with the law”.

Hua said the detention was a “one-off case”.

“We hope that the Japanese side can remind its citizens to respect China’s laws and regulations and avoid engaging in illegal activities in China,” she added.

Beijing has faced accusations of using detentions of foreigners as a political tool, and observers have called it “hostage diplomacy”.

In 2017, China detained six Japanese citizens for alleged “illegal activities.”

Since 2015, at least 13 Japanese citizens — all civilians — have been detained in China on various charges including espionage, Japan’s Kyodo News and the Asahi Shimbun reported.

Tokyo’s ties with Beijing have been at times strained by rows over history and territorial disputes but have been improving recently, with President Xi Jinping expected to visit Japan early next year.


‘We Believe In Africa,’ Prime Minster Abe Says At TICAD Opening Ceremony

The seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama, Japan has officially been declared open by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Japanese Prime Minister at the ceremony describes TICAD as a conference that believes in Africa and one that will continue to guide Africa and Japan.

Abe also listed  Japanese interventions in Africa.

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Some of the interventions listed by Abe include clearing of land mines, health care, water supply, building infrastructure and capacity building in Africa.

Leaders who also gave opening speeches at the conference include Al Fatah Elsisi of Egypt; UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres and the Africa Union Chairperson, Musa Faki Mohammed among others.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is also at the conference. He is accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum; Kwara State governor AbdulRaham AbdulRazaq and Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and other top government officials.

President Buhari is expected to deliver Nigeria’s Statement during Plenary Session Three in which he would appraise Nigeria-Japan relations and takeaways from TICAD6.

Japan To Ban Government Use Of Huawei, ZTE Products

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe/ AFP


Japan is to ban government use of telecoms products made by Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE on concerns about cybersecurity, reports said Friday.

The government plans to revise internal procurement rules to exclude products made by Huawei and ZTE as early as Monday, the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun reported. Jiji Press agency also reported the expected move.

The ban comes after a US request to allies to avoid products made by the two companies over fears they contain viruses used for cyber attacks, the Yomiuri said, citing unnamed government sources.

Domestic products that use parts made by the two Chinese firms will also be excluded from government use, it said.

The Yomiuri said the government was not expected to name the companies directly, so as to avoid angering China.

Asked about the report, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga declined to comment, adding Japan was “closely cooperating with the United States” on cybersecurity issues.

China said it was “seriously concerned” about the reports, adding that Huawei and ZTE have been operating legally in Japan for a long time.

“We hope that Japan will provide a level playing field for Chinese companies to operate in Japan,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

“Do not do anything that would undermine mutual trust and cooperation.”

The reports come after the arrest of a top Huawei executive in Canada infuriated China, sending global markets wobbling on fears of intensifying tensions between Beijing and Washington.

The detention of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, comes after US authorities reportedly launched an investigation into suspected Iran sanctions violations by Huawei.

The firm was already under scrutiny by US intelligence officials who have deemed the company a national security threat.

Huawei’s affordable smartphones have made strong inroads in the developing world, but the company has faced repeated setbacks in major Western economies over security concerns.

Huawei has been under scrutiny in Washington for more than a decade, and is facing bans for 5G contracts in Australia and New Zealand, both Pacific allies of the US.


Japan Prime Minster To Visit China

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during a joint press announcement for the 10th Mekong-Japan Summit at the Akasaka Palace state guest house in Tokyo on October 9, 2018.

Shinzo Abe will pay the first visit to China by a Japanese prime minister since 2011 later this month, Beijing announced on Friday, in the latest sign of warming ties between the rivals.

Abe will visit from October 25 to 27 and mark the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two nations, said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

The visit will “elevate our bilateral ties and put bilateral cooperation back on the right track,” Lu said at a regular press briefing.

Lu added that the two sides will work to “jointly uphold multilateralism and the free trade system” — a comment that comes as China and the United States are mired in a trade war that the IMF said this week will hobble global growth.

Lu said there a reception was planned to celebrate the Sino-Japanese friendship treaty, which was signed on October 23, 1978.

Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping have met numerous times over the last few years on the sidelines of international events.

But no Japanese prime minister has paid an official visit to China since 2011 and no Chinese president has visited Japan since 2010.

‘New stage’

Relations between Beijing and Tokyo soured in 2012 over a territorial dispute over several tiny Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea.

Upon returning to power in 2012, Abe took a firm position on Japan’s sovereignty over the island chain, aggravating tensions with Beijing.

But he has since softened his rhetoric and called on China to press North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programmes.

Abe announced last month that he planned to visit China later this year.

“After that, I very much wish to invite President Xi to Japan,” Abe said after meeting the Chinese leader on the sidelines of an economic forum in Russia.

“Through this exchange of visits at the leaders’ level, I hope to raise Japan-China relations to a new stage. I am firmly determined in this regard,” he said at the time.

Japanese businesses have also voiced a desire for closer ties with China to boost trade.

Despite the rapprochement, sources of tension linger.

Last month, Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said China had been “unilaterally escalating” its military activities in the past year, including carrying out new airborne operations around Japan and running a nuclear submarine near disputed East Coast isles.

Japan also carried out in September its first submarine drills in the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing mostly claims. At the time, the Chinese foreign ministry said Tokyo “should act cautiously and avoid doing anything which would harm regional peace and stability”.


Japan’s Abe Re-Elected As Prime Minister

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe answers questions during a budget committee session of the upper house in Tokyo on March 19, 2018. KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won re-election as leader of his ruling party Thursday, setting him on course to become Japan’s longest-serving premier and realise his dream of reforming the constitution.

The 63-year-old conservative secured 553 votes from lawmakers and party members against 254 won by former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba in a two-horse race for leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.


Prime Minister Meets Survivors, As Rain Disaster Kills 204 In Japan

Police arrive to clear debris scattered on a street in a flood-hit area in Kumano, Hiroshima prefecture,m Japan on July 9, 2018. PHOTO: Martin BUREAU / AFP


Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on Friday with survivors of devastating rains that killed at least 204 people in flash flooding and landslides, as the government pledged more aid.

The toll from the record rainfall has continued to rise, as rescue workers dig through the debris and find the remains of dozens of people reported missing.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Friday that the toll was now 204 dead, with 28 people still missing.

Around 73,000 rescue workers including police and troops “are working as hard as they can, with the priority on saving lives”, he said.

Abe, who earlier this week cancelled a foreign tour, travelled for a second time to areas hit by the disaster.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) visits a shelter for people affected by the recent flooding in Mabi, Okayama prefecture on July 11, 2018. PHOTO: Martin BUREAU / AFP


Television footage showed him visiting Seiyo in Ehime prefecture, where he visited homes damaged in the disaster and talked to residents trying to clean up.

On Friday morning, meeting with the government’s taskforce on the disaster, Abe pledged new assistance.

The government has already said it will tap around $18 million in reserve funds from this year’s budget, and Abe said $312 million in tax grants would be disbursed early to local governments in affected areas.

“I want local governments in disaster-hit areas to do all they can for emergency assistance and reconstruction, without hesitating to spend,” he said.

The financial cost of the disaster is still being calculated, but the agriculture ministry said Friday it has assessed losses of at least $207 million.

That figure is likely to rise further as clean-up operations continue and the scale of the damage becomes clear.

It “could be the tip of the iceberg, as we are still unable to go and inspect fields,” ministry official Yasuhisa Hamanaka told AFP.

Agriculture Minister Ken Saito said the cost of some vegetables had already shot up between 10-30 percent and that the ministry would be “closely monitoring” price hikes.

The size of the toll in what is now Japan’s worst weather-related disaster in over three decades has prompted questions about whether authorities were properly prepared and acted effectively.

The English-language Japan Times daily noted that the flooding that engulfed one district of Kurashiki in Okayama prefecture was in line with forecasts from local authorities.

But “evacuation orders were issued by the city to residents in some areas of the district just minutes before the breach of the embankment took place,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“We need to scrutinise our defences against such disasters, identify the weak points and fix them.”


Japan PM Cancels Overseas Trip Over Flood

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a press conference in Tokyo to announce the 2018 Japonismes events in France, on July 2, 2018. Martin BUREAU / AFP


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has cancelled a four-country foreign trip as the death toll from flooding and landslides caused by record rains hit 100, local media said Monday.

Abe had been expected to visit Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt from Wednesday. His office declined to comment on the reports.

Abe reportedly told the deputy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that he had “no choice but to cancel” as the disaster continues to unfold, Kyodo news agency said.

Public broadcaster NHK and several other media also reported the trip had been cancelled because of the crisis.

Abe is now expected to visit some of the areas worst affected by the flash flooding and landslides as early as Wednesday, the reports said.

He had been due to start the trip in Belgium on Wednesday, where he was to sign a massive free trade agreement with the European Union.


Trump, Abe Say ‘Imperative’ To Dismantle North Korean Weapons


President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Monday that it is “imperative” to completely dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, the White House said.

During a telephone call, the pair “discussed recent developments in North Korea and confirmed they would meet again to continue close coordination in advance of the expected meeting between the United States and North Korea,” a statement read.

“The president and prime minister affirmed the shared imperative of achieving the complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs.”

Japanese PM Kicks Off ‘Difficult’ Election Battle

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gestures as he speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo on September 25, 2017. Abe called a snap election, hoping to capitalise on rising support as tensions with nearby North Korea reach fever pitch.

Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, dissolved parliament Thursday, effectively kicking off a national election campaign where he faces an unexpected and formidable challenge from the popular governor of Tokyo.

Members of the lower house raised their arms and shouted “Banzai” three times — the Japanese equivalent of “three cheers” — after the speaker read out a letter officially dissolving the chamber.

Voters in the world’s third-biggest economy will go to the polls on October 22, as Abe seeks a fresh popular mandate for his hardline stance on North Korea and a new tax plan.

“A difficult battle starts today,” Abe told reporters, shaking his fist.

“This is an election about how to protect the lives of people,” said the premier. “We have to cooperate with the international community as we face the threat from North Korea.”

Abe asked for public support for his “strong diplomacy” on Kim Jong-Un’s regime, which has threatened to “sink” Japan into the sea and fired missiles over its northern Hokkaido island twice in the space of a month.

“We need to fight for our children’s future.”

– ‘Party of Hope’ –

Abe stunned Japan on Monday with a surprise call for a snap election, seeking to capitalise on a weak opposition and a boost in the polls, as voters welcome his hawkish policy toward Pyongyang.

But Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has upended Japanese politics in recent days, stealing Abe’s limelight with her newly launched “Party of Hope” that seeks to shake up the country’s lethargic political landscape.

Koike’s new party, formally unveiled Wednesday, has attracted an influx of lawmakers from a wide range of ideological backgrounds and has succeeded in unifying opposition to Abe, presenting Japanese voters with a credible alternative to the premier.

Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party later Thursday decided not to run candidates in the election, effectively joining forces with Koike’s juggernaut.

For the moment, although Koike is leading the party, she is not running for a seat in parliament, preferring to concentrate on governing the world’s most populous city in the run-up to the 2020 Olympic Games.

“I’ll focus my energy on Tokyo. Leading Tokyo will be a plus to the whole of Japan,” Koike told reporters.

But pundits say the charismatic former TV presenter, 65, could yet go all-in on her high-stakes gamble if she thought she could deflect criticism for ditching her current job after only a year.

“The party may gain some seats in the Tokyo area, but a risk for her is that voters may feel betrayed as they voted for her as Tokyo governor and now she is working in national politics,” Kensuke Takayasu, professor of political science at Seikei University, told AFP.

– ‘Vacuum’ –

Surveys show that Koike’s gambit is starting to put pressure on Abe, 63, who until recently seemed to be a shoo-in for a fourth term at the helm.

Abe enjoyed a healthy lead in the polls of more than 30 points only a week ago but the gap appeared to have narrowed following Koike’s high-profile announcement.

A survey in the Mainichi Shimbun suggested that 29 percent of voters would cast ballots for Abe’s conservative LDP, while 18 percent would vote for the Party of Hope.

Polls also suggest there are a large number of undecided voters, giving some hope to Koike’s party that it can bridge the gap.

Abe returned to power in December 2012 and has pushed a nationalist social agenda as well as his trademark “Abenomics” economic policy — big-spending and easy money — to end deflation and to kick-start the once world-beating economy.

The scion of a political dynasty, Abe had promised to achieve two-percent inflation and stable growth in two years, but nearly five years later, he has failed to deliver on those pledges.

He said on Monday he would use a planned hike in consumption tax from eight percent to 10 percent for new social spending, such as free early childhood education, while pushing back his pledges to restore the nation’s fiscal discipline.

Critics argue that Abe called the election to divert attention from an series of scandals in recent months that weighed on his popularity, including allegations of favouritism to a friend in a business deal — which the premier strongly denies.

The timing of the election, amid the North Korean crisis, has also faced questions, including from Koike, who said it created a “vacuum” at a time of national tension.