TOKYO, May 18 -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday delayed tariffs on cars and auto parts imports for up to six months and directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate deals with Japan and the European Union to address what his administration perceives as a national security threat.
If agreements are not reached within 180 days, Trump "will determine whether and what further action needs to be taken," the White House said. The administration appears poised to use the threat of auto tariffs to pressure Japan and European countries into making concessions -- possibly by seeking export restraints or quotas, which, however, would be in violation of World Trade Organization rules -- in respective trade negotiations. Trump made the announcement ahead of a planned meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 27 in Tokyo at which bilateral trade is likely to be a major focus. In a proclamation setting a six-month window for talks, Trump said he directed Lighthizer to negotiate deals "to address the threatened impairment of the national security with respect to imported automobiles and certain automobile parts from the European Union, Japan and any other country the Trade Representative deems appropriate."
Lighthizer will "update me on the progress of such negotiations within 180 days," the president said.
It is not clear, however, what the "further action" mentioned by the White House would entail.
Trump and Abe have come to an understanding that the United States will refrain from imposing tariffs on automobile imports from Japan while negotiations are under way.
The two governments launched negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement last month.
Earlier Friday, Japanese economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in Tokyo that Lighthizer had confirmed the United States will not push Japan to restrain its automobile exports as part of a bilateral trade deal. Citing a draft executive order, Bloomberg news agency reported Wednesday that Trump will give Japan and the European Union 180 days to "limit or restrict" exports of automobiles and auto parts to the United States in return for delaying auto tariffs. Trump has threatened to impose additional tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts. If he follows through, the new duties would significantly impact major car exporters such as Japan and Germany.
The president regards automobiles as a symbol of the trade imbalance with Japan because automobiles and auto parts accounted for about 75 percent of the U.S. trade deficit as of 2017. On Friday, Trump said a Commerce Department investigation has concluded that "automobiles and certain automobile parts are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States." The department also found these imports are "weakening our internal economy," and decried "protected foreign markets, like those in the European Union and Japan."
The department said "automotive research and development is "critical to national security," and that "the U.S. defense industrial base depends on the American-owned automotive sector for the development of technologies that are essential to maintaining our military superiority." American automakers and dealers, as well as U.S. business organizations, disputed Trump's claim that car and auto parts imports pose a threat to U.S. national security. "Cars are not a national security threat," said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association representing 12 U.S. and foreign automakers including General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. "We are deeply concerned that the administration continues to consider imposing auto tariffs," the group said in a statement. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Trump's claim "is a misuse of the administration's trade authorities," and that "the continued threat of tariffs on cars and auto parts only creates more uncertainty weakening our economy." The American International Automobile Dealers Association said that if Trump slaps 25 percent tariffs on imported cars and auto parts, he will be responsible for "a drastic tax increase on American consumers." Such action could result in a loss of 2 million vehicle sales and jeopardize up to 700,000 American jobs, it said.
TOKYO, May 18 -- Reports released by a global union federation on Wednesday demanded better conditions for laborers working on the construction of Tokyo Games facilities after several "alarming" alleged labor violations were uncovered.
The report from the Building and Wood Workers' International titled "The Dark Side of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics" is based on interviews with construction workers and documents how low pay, overwork and poor access to grievance mechanisms are creating a "culture of fear" among crews at Olympic projects. The BWI, headquartered in Geneva, is seeking an end to "dangerous patterns of overwork," citing the example of construction workers at the National Stadium and Olympic Village who reported being required to work up to 26 and 28 consecutive days, respectively. "The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics was Japan's opportunity to address some of the long-running gaps within the construction industry in Japan, however, these problems have just got worse," BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said. "Wages remain low, dangerous overwork is common, and workers have limited access to recourse to address their issues," Yuson said.
According to the report, the Japanese construction sector is currently facing an "acute labor shortage," with 4.3 positions vacant for every construction worker. At the same time, an increase in construction activity has been driven by Japan's hosting of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Games, as well as ongoing reconstruction efforts in Fukushima. Among the findings, one case at the National Stadium was highlighted for being particularly grievous. The report cited a complaint about a worker's injury being rejected because it had been brought by the union and not the injured party. The alleged rejection "constitutes a serious violation of the right to be represented, a core component of the right to freedom of association," the federation said in the report. The BWI sent a delegation to Tokyo last September to meet with key decision-makers and investigate the "conditions faced by workers in the construction of Tokyo 2020 Olympic facilities." Their findings were further substantiated by interviews conducted in February by BWI and its Japanese affiliate, the National Federation of Construction Workers' Unions, with workers involved in the construction of the National Stadium and Olympic Village. The report was sent Tuesday to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee, the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Japanese Sports Council -- groups responsible for the construction of Olympic facilities. The 2020 organizing committee said Tuesday evening the report is "under review." Through their "Global Sports Campaign for Decent Work and Beyond," the BWI has been examining large-scale international sporting events for over 10 years to "improve working conditions and ensure safety and health for workers building all projects related to mega-sporting events."
Over 2,000 government officials and representatives in such fields as culture, education and tourism from around 50 Asian and other invited nations are expected to participate in the event, which continues through August.
China has positioned the conference as a "key diplomatic event" to move ahead its "Belt and Road" cross-border infrastructure initiative, foreign affairs experts say. Under the Belt and Road blueprint, Beijing has sought to expand infrastructure networks in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa to achieve its goal of connecting countries along the ancient Silk Road trade routes more closely. Political leaders from Asian and European nations, including Sri Lanka and Greece, are visiting Beijing for the conference.
WASHINGTON, May 14 -- Washington has not yet approached Moscow with an initiative to organize a bilateral meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka in late June, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"So far, there have been no initiatives from Washington," Peskov said commenting on Trump’s statement about his plans to meet with Putinin Japan. According to Reuters, Trump reportedly said he plans to hold meetings with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan’s Osaka scheduled for June 28-29. Earlier, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov also said Moscow had received no requests from Washington for organizing a meeting between the two presidents.
The only full-format talks between Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Donald Trump of the United States were held in July 2018 in Helsinki. The two leaders have had a number of meetings on the sidelines of high-profile international events but have failed to agree on a date for new talks. They were supposed to meet in late November or early December 2018, at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires but the meeting was cancelled by Trump at a moment’s notice over the incident with Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait. Nevertheless, the two leaders briefly exchanged opinions on the sidelines of the event. On May 3, Putin and Trump had a 90-minute telephone conversation.
TOKYO, May 13 -- Police referred a group of pranksters to prosecutors on Monday over a stunt in which they placed a bed with a YouTuber inside in the middle of Tokyo's famed Shibuya scramble crossing while pedestrians were traversing it.
The six men and one woman in their 20s and 30s have admitted to being involved, saying they "wanted to create a fun video that would attract viewers," police said. In the video, four men rush to place a bed in the middle of the busy crossing just as the lights turned green for pedestrians at around 4:30 p.m. on March 27. A mass of people then stop to take pictures and videos of the YouTuber from Tokyo, who pretends to be asleep. The men then lift up the bed with the YouTuber still inside to hurry to safety before the pedestrian lights turned red. The YouTube video, which was uploaded in late March, was taken by a man and woman in their 30s at the YouTuber's request, the police said. The police were first alerted to the video by viewers who considered the prank to be dangerous. There have been recurring incidents of YouTubers causing trouble as they increasingly take more risks in their attempts to gain more followers.
TOKYO, May 10. Tokyo seeks to bring relations with Moscow to a new level, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said at a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Friday.
"Today, I would like to have a detailed conversation with you, Mr. Lavrov, seeking to resolve the territorial issue, which has remained unresolved for a long time, and make a peace treaty, while boosting bilateral relations in a wide range of areas and thus brining Japan-Russia relations to a new level," the Japanese top diplomat said. "True partnership between Japan and Russia will contribute to stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, and it will also be in line with the two countries’ strategic interests," Taro Kono added. According to him, the number of Russians who visited Japan in March 2019 had increased by more than 30% compared to the same period in 2018, reaching a new high.
Peace treaty issueSince the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands. In 1956, the two countries signed a joint declaration on ending the state of war and restoring diplomatic and all other relations, however, a peace treaty has still not been reached. Moscow has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands cannot be called into question. On November 14, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would speed up peace treaty talks based on the 1956 declaration. The two countries’ foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Taro Kono, oversee the negotiations conducted by their deputies, Igor Morgulov and Takeo Mori. The Joint Declaration said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands over to Japan, adding that Tokyo would get actual control of the islands after a peace treaty was signed. However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960, said that those islands would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.
SEOUL, May 4 -- North Korea on Saturday fired a barrage of short-range missiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan, the Yonhap news agency reported citing South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Pyongyang "fired multiple rounds of unidentified missiles from its east coast town of Wonsan in the northeastern direction between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m. today," the JCS said in a release. The missiles flew for a range of about 70 km to 100 km. The Japanese government said these were not ballistic missiles and they did not reach the country’s exclusive economic zone.
In April 2018, Pyongyang announced it was halting tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of various range with the goal of developing the socialist economy and improving living conditions of its citizens. After that last May North Korea eliminated the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where six underground explosions had been conducted. Between 2016 and 2017, North Korea carried out nearly 40 ballistic missile launches.
TOKYO, May 1 -- Emperor Naruhito declared his succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne in a ceremony Wednesday and pledged to fulfill the symbolic, nonpolitical role in accordance with the postwar Constitution.
His enthronement after Tuesday's abdication by his 85-year-old father former Emperor Akihito -- the first by a Japanese monarch in 202 years -- marked the start of Japan's new imperial era, named Reiwa. The 59-year-old is the first emperor to be born after World War II and to have studied overseas. With his enthronement, his wife Masako, 55, an Oxford- and Harvard-educated former diplomat, became empress. "In acceding to the throne, I swear that I will reflect deeply on the course followed by his majesty the emperor emeritus (Akihito) and bear in mind the path trodden by past emperors, and will devote myself to self-improvement," said the emperor in his first speech after his enthronement. "I also swear that I will act according to the Constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them," he said during the "Sokui go Choken no gi" rite.
The ceremony at the "Matsu no Ma" stateroom in the Imperial Palace was attended by some 260 people, including the heads of the government, legislature and judiciary as well as other imperial family members. Following the emperor's speech, as a representative of the people, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe congratulated Emperor Naruhito on his enthronement and pledged to create a "bright future" that is peaceful and full of hope by respecting him as a symbol of the state. In the preceding ceremony known as "Kenji to Shokei no gi," the emperor, dressed in a formal black suit and wearing a number of decorations marking his status, inherited the imperial regalia as proof of his ascension to the throne. The regalia, called "Sanshu no Jingi," consist of the sacred mirror, sword and jewel. The original mirror is kept at Ise Jingu, a Shinto shrine in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, and the sword at Atsuta Jingu in Nagoya in nearby Aichi Prefecture. In the ritual, the jewel and a replica of the sword were passed to the new monarch together with the state and privy seals. At the same time, an aide to the emperor visited a shrine inside the Imperial Palace where a replica mirror is kept. Both ceremonies were brief, lasting between 5 and 10 minutes.
TOKYO, April 30 -- Emperor Akihito declared his abdication at a farewell ceremony Tuesday, expressing his appreciation for the support of the Japanese people during the 30-year Heisei Era under his reign.
"I have performed my duties as the emperor with a deep sense of trust in and respect for the people, and I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to do so," said the 85-year-old emperor, who will become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 202 years, in his final speech at the Imperial Palace. The emperor, who will be succeeded by his elder son Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, on Wednesday, also expressed his gratitude to the people who accepted and supported him in his role as the "symbol of the state" as defined by the Constitution. "I sincerely wish, together with the empress, that the Reiwa Era, which begins tomorrow, will be a stable and fruitful one, and I pray, with all my heart, for peace and happiness for all the people in Japan and around the world," the emperor, wearing a morning suit, said in the nationally televised ceremony. Empress Michiko, 84, who wore a long white dress, stood beside the emperor during the 12-minute event, in which the emperor's aides carried two of the three imperial regalia -- the sacred sword and jewel -- which will be passed on to his successor Wednesday as proof of his ascension to the throne. The emperor made the remarks after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his appreciation to him for "always sharing joy and sorrow with the people" and said he gave them "courage and hope for tomorrow."
TOKYO, April 30 -- Emperor Akihito will give a final farewell to the public later Tuesday in a ceremony to mark his abdication, the first by a Japanese monarch in 202 years.
The 85-year-old emperor will make a final speech to the public at the state room within the Imperial Palace in the rite starting at 5 p.m. after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, representing the general public, will offer words of gratitude. The emperor's elder son, Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will accede to the throne on Wednesday. In the morning, the emperor performed his last rituals within the palace during his reign to ceremonially report his abdication to his ancestors. Clad in a dark orange traditional robe, the emperor paid a visit to sanctuaries within the palace precincts, including "Kashikodokoro," a shrine dedicated to the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu, from whom the imperial family is said to be descended. He read out a statement to report to the ancestors that his abdication ceremony will be held later in the day.
When performing important rituals, a Japanese emperor dons a type of costume called "Korozen no goho" that dates back to the ninth century. Some members of the imperial family, including the crown prince and the emperor's younger son Prince Fumihito, 53, and his wife Princess Kiko, 52, also attended the rites that lasted for about an hour. But Empress Michiko, 84, who has pains in her neck and arms, and Crown Princess Masako, 55, who is suffering from stress-induced illness, did not join the rituals. Braving the rain, a number of well-wishers gathered in front of the palace to mark the last day of the 30-year Heisei Era under the current emperor, taking commemorative photos and looking for a glimpse of members of the imperial family entering the palace for the rituals. The emperor will formally step down at midnight Tuesday, bringing an end to the Heisei Era. After that, he will no longer engage in official duties. On Wednesday, the new emperor will inherit traditional regalia, called "Sanshu no Jingi," including the sacred sword and jewel, as proof of his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne in the "Kenji to Shokei no gi" ceremony from 10:30 am. Later in the day, the new emperor will meet Abe and other representatives of the public for the first time since ascending the throne in the "Sokui go Choken no gi" rite beginning at 11:10 am. In 2016, Emperor Akihito indicated his desire to step down in a rare televised video message, citing concern he might not be able to fulfill official duties due to his advanced age. The following year, Japan's Diet enacted one-off legislation enabling him to do so.