SEOUL, August 24 -- North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on Saturday morning, the Japanese government said, with the launch coming a day after Seoul informed Tokyo of its decision to scrap a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact.
South Korea's military said North Korea fired what were believed to be short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its eastern coast from Sondok in South Hamgyong Province in Pyongyang's seventh round of such launches since July 25. The missiles, fired at 6:45 a.m. and 7:02 a.m., flew about 380 kilometers at a top speed of Mach 6.5 and reached a maximum altitude of about 97 km, Yonhap News Agency quoted the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff as saying. The missiles were unlikely to have landed in Japan's territory or exclusive economic zone, according to the Japanese government. The country's Defense Ministry said the two missiles flew some 350 km and 400 km, respectively. Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya criticized the launches as "a clear violation" of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban Pyongyang from testing such missiles. Tokyo has already lodged a stern protest against North Korea over the missile firings, Japan's parliamentary vice foreign minister Kiyoto Tsuji told ruling party lawmakers Saturday. However, U.S. President Donald Trump downplayed the latest launches, saying Washington and Pyongyang have a really good relationship and that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been "pretty straight with me."
TOKYO, August 23 -- Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday some 90 percent of around 3,700 vehicles and mobility devices it will provide to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be electrified, as it seeks to showcase its advanced low-emission technology at the world event.
Of the total, 1,350 units will be either electric or fuel-cell vehicles that produce no carbon dioxide when running, while the rest will be hybrids and plug-in hybrids powered by electric-gasoline engines, Toyota, a sponsor of the Summer Games, said. With the lineup to be used to transport athletes, officials and spectators to and within venues, Toyota said it can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 50 percent compared with when the entire fleet was made up of conventional gasoline and diesel models. The official fleet will include more than a dozen box-shaped autonomous electric vehicles, 500 Mirai, the world's first mass-produced fuel-cell car, 200 cart-like EVs specially designed for the games that can be used by people with impairments, and 300 standing-type mobility devices for use by security and medical staff, Toyota said. Fuel-cell vehicles are powered by electricity generation through a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, a green system that Toyota has long been focusing on as a promising future technology.
TOKYO, August 21 -- A bullet train running at a speed of 280 kilometers per hour had a door open during its journey from Sendai in northeastern Japan to Tokyo on Wednesday, but no passengers were injured, its operator East Japan Railway Co. said.
The incident in the morning lasted 40 seconds, with the door being completely open at one point, and is a rare occurrence for the Japanese shinkansen known for its safety and punctuality.
The problem was caused by a cleaner who forgot to close the car's device that manually opens and closes doors, the train operator said. The conductor of the Hayabusa No. 46 bullet train made an emergency stop inside a tunnel in Shibata, Miyagi Prefecture, after seeing indications the ninth car's door was open. The train resumed its journey 15 minutes later after a checkup. The crew did not notice the cleaner's mistake as the door was closed when the train left Sendai at 10:15 a.m. It is thought to have opened later. Around 340 passengers were aboard the train but nobody was standing near the door. The bullet train arrived at its final destination 19 minutes late. The problem delayed seven shinkansen services up to 28 minutes, affecting around 3,300 passengers. The transport ministry urged JR East, which initially said the door was closed, to prevent a similar incident.
BEIJING, August 21 -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday asked Japan and South Korea to seek a solution to resolve their differences "through dialogue," amid concern that worsening relations between Tokyo and Seoul may threaten regional economic stability down the road.
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono also called on Beijing and Seoul to bolster trilateral cooperation even when respective bilateral ties sour, but his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung Wha lambasted Tokyo's moves to tighten export controls against her country.
"While maintaining a constructive attitude, it is important (for Japan and South Korea) to find out an appropriate solution through dialogue," Wang said at the outset of a foreign ministerial gathering of the three nations in Beijing.
Kono said, "Two countries sometimes face various difficulties respectively, but even under such circumstances, Japan, China and South Korea should work together trilaterally." A Japanese government official briefing reporters later in the day quoted Kono as telling Wang and Kang that the foreign ministers "should refrain" from raising issues related to bilateral relations during the trilateral meeting.
Kang, however, told Kono and Wang that South Korea hopes that the three nations will stick to "free and fair" trade for prosperity in the region in an apparent jab at Japan, underscoring that strains between Tokyo and Seoul are unlikely to wane soon.
She also said at a joint press appearance following the talks, "It is important to eliminate unilateral and arbitrary trade retaliatory steps and remove uncertainties" in East Asia. Kang did not single out Japan.
The Japanese official said Wang did not make comments aimed at mediating in the row between Tokyo and Seoul.
Recently, Japan-South Korea ties have plunged to the lowest point since normalization in 1965 over Japanese imposition of export control measures in the wake of a string of South Korean court rulings last year ordering compensation for wartime labor.
At a three-way meeting in Bangkok earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged his Japanese and South Korean counterparts to make efforts to ease their confrontation, but no resolution has been in sight.
Although Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul agreed Wednesday to accelerate negotiations to reach regional free trade agreements, Japan-South Korea trade spats would make it more difficult for them to be realized, foreign affairs experts say.
SEOUL, August 16 -- North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into the Sea of Japan early Friday, South Korea's military said, in its sixth round of such launches in just over three weeks.
The projectiles were launched around 8:01 a.m. and 8:16 a.m. from Tongcheon County in Gangwon Province, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. They both flew about 230 kilometers, reaching a maximum altitude of about 30 kilometers and flying at a top speed of Mach 6.1, the JCS said in a statement, adding that South Korean and U.S. authorities are analyzing the specification of the projectiles. It was the sixth launch of projectiles by the country since July 25, with the previous one occurring on Saturday when it fired what were believed to be short-range ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan. South Korea's National Security Director Chung Eui Yong held an emergency meeting with his council members, where they urged North Korea to stop such moves as they could escalate military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The latest launches are likely another warning against a South Korea-U.S. joint military drill that started last week and runs through late this month. The Japanese government said that it has not confirmed any projectiles flying into Japan's exclusive economic zone and that the projectiles posed no immediate security threat. "We will do all we can to ensure the safety of the people by working closely with the United States among others," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters after North Korea's latest launches. Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said, "The advancement of missile-related technology by North Korea is a very serious issue for the entire region and the international community. We will take all possible measures toward vigilance and surveillance."
North Korea did not immediately comment on the latest launches. However, earlier in the day, a North Korean state organ issued a statement harshly criticizing South Korean President Moon Jae In's appeal for inter-Korean cooperation and dialogue in a speech the previous day. A spokesperson for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, a body that manages Inter-Korean relations, said in the statement Pyongyang has "nothing to talk any more with the south Korean authorities," according to the Korean Central News Agency. "Even at this moment, there go on in south Korea joint military exercises against the DPRK. Does he have any face to talk about dialogue atmosphere, peaceful economy and peace-keeping mechanism," the statement said, reiterating the leadership's criticism of the exercises. DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
SEOUL, August 15 -- South Korean President Moon Jae In called on Thursday for a dialogue with Japan amid frayed bilateral relations over wartime history and trade policy, saying Seoul will "join hands" if Tokyo chooses the path of talks.
"Better late than never. If Japan chooses the path of dialogue and cooperation, we will gladly join hands," Moon said as he spoke at a ceremony in Cheonan, south of the capital Seoul, to mark the end of Japanese colonial rule 74 years ago. Moon also made a conciliatory gesture to Tokyo, saying Seoul has "not dwelt on the past" and expressed "hope that Japan will play a leading role together in facilitating peace and prosperity in East Asia while it contemplates a past that brought misfortune to its neighboring countries." His speech came as ties between the two Asian neighbors sank to the lowest point in recent years after South Korean court decisions last year that ordered Japanese companies to compensate plaintiffs who claim to have been conscripted as laborers during World War II. The compensation issue, which Tokyo claims to have already been settled by a 1965 bilateral accord, has recently escalated into tit-for-tat tightening of export controls. Moon said his country aims to become an economic powerhouse despite Japan's tightened export controls. "In the face of Japan's unwarranted export restrictions, we will continue our determined march toward a responsible economic powerhouse," he said. The president emphasized that the normal flow of trade could be disrupted if a country uses its comparative advantage in a sector, referring to Japan's move that requires manufacturers of semiconductor-related materials to seek approval each time before shipping to Seoul. "If any country weaponizes a sector where it has a comparative advantage, the peaceful free trade order will inevitably suffer damage. A country that achieved growth first must not kick the ladder away while others are following in its footsteps," he said. He explained that his government would channel efforts into improving competitiveness of domestic materials, parts and equipment industries, while enhancing cooperation between small and medium-sized enterprises and conglomerates to build "an economy that will never be shaken."
South Korea calls Japan's recent tightening of export controls "an economic retaliation" as Tokyo views that Seoul has failed to deal with months-long disputes over wartime labor. As for inter-Korean relations, Moon also highlighted his government's efforts to help keep a dialogue going between North Korea and the United States. "In spite of a series of worrying actions taken by North Korea recently, the momentum for dialogue remains unshaken," he said, adding that Seoul is committed to denuclearization and bringing about peace on the Korean Peninsula during his term as president. North Korea has recently fired a series of short-range ballistic missiles, which it claims to be "new-type tactical guided missiles," as a warning against South Korea-U.S. joint military drills that started on Aug. 5 and run through late this month. U.S. President Donald Trump said last week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed displeasure at the military exercise in a letter to him and that the two leaders would have another meeting. With ongoing provocative actions by Pyongyang, Moon may be well aware of people's concerns over forming a "peace economy" with North Korea as he suggested. Moon reiterated that his government's intention is not to give unilateral aid to North Korea, but to promote mutual benefits. "Both Koreas will be able to reduce not only huge defense expenditures but also the invisible cost of the division, the so-called 'Korea Discount,'" said Moon.
TOKYO, August 14 -- Japan's weather agency said Wednesday that powerful Typhoon Krosa is set to make landfall in the west of the country the following day, warning of potential record rainfall, mudslides and floods.
Airlines and railway operators announced reduced services in regions near the storm's path, possibly disrupting millions of travelers returning to major cities following Bon holidays visits to their hometowns. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the typhoon, traveling at a speed of 20 kilometers per hour, had weakened from the day before but could still dump around 1,200 millimeters of rain on some eastern and western areas facing the Pacific. Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. have decided to cancel a total of more than 300 domestic and international flights on Thursday. Low-cost carrier Peach Aviation Ltd. canceled 35 domestic flights on Thursday, as well as 13 international flights departing from and arriving at Tokyo's Haneda airport and Kansai International Airport. West Japan Railway Co. will suspend almost all of its shinkansen bullet train services. Services between Shin-Osaka and Kokura will be canceled, while those between Kokura and Hakata in Kyushu will be significantly reduced, the company said.
Central Japan Railway Co., an operator of shinkansen services between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, and Kyushu Railway Co. said they will also cut their bullet train services. Shikoku Railway Co. said it plans to entirely suspend services in its area on the western main island. The season's 10th typhoon with an atmospheric pressure of 965 hectopascals at its center was packing winds of up to 144 kph as of 9 p.m. Wednesday, the agency said. In a valley in Kusu, Oita Prefecture, a group of 18 people including children were stranded following the rise of a river, local officials said. Rescuers headed to the scene where the group was apparently at a barbecue, the officials said, adding there were no reports of injuries. The typhoon is approaching as Japan on Thursday will mark the 74th anniversary of its surrender in World War II, with memorial services including those in Ehime, Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Oita prefectures already canceled. The government will hold an annual ceremony at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, but many relatives of the war dead from the Kyushu and Shikoku regions will be unable to attend the event. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to Tokyo on Wednesday afternoon earlier than scheduled from his hometown in Yamaguchi Prefecture and attended a meeting on the typhoon with ministers at his office.
TOKYO, August 13 -- Asian shares slumped on Tuesday (Aug 13) as fears about a drawn out US-China trade war, protests in Hong Kong and a crash in Argentina’s peso currency drove investors to safe harbors like bonds, gold, and the Japanese yen.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan skidded 1 per cent. Chinese stocks fell 0.8 per cent, while Hong Kong’s main market index tumbled more than 1 per cent to a seven-month low.
“The protests in Hong Kong are negative for stocks, which were already in an adjustment phase because there is talk that the trade war will trigger a recession,” said Kiyoshi Ishigane, chief fund manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management Co. Hong Kong’s airport, the world’s busiest cargo airport, reopened on Tuesday, which could ease some concern about the immediate economic impact of protests over the past two months. The protests began in opposition to a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China but have quickly morphed into the biggest challenge to China’s authority over the city since it took Hong Kong back from Britain in 1997. Japan’s Nikkei was also hit hard, down a sharp 1.5 per cent and on course for its biggest daily decline in a week.
US stock futures were 0.13 per cent higher in Asia, but that did little to ease the mood. Stocks in Singapore shed 1.1 per cent to reach their lowest since June 6 after the government slashed its full-year economic growth forecasts. The city state is often seen as a bellwether for global growth because of its importance as a key trade hub. The selling in regional markets came as Wall Street stocks took a beating on Monday, with the S&P 500 losing 1.23 per cent.
Sentiment was already weak due to increasing signs that the United States and China will not quickly resolve their year-long trade war. Markets were hit with further turbulence after protesters managed to close down Hong Kong’s airport on Monday. Traders were also on edge after market-friendly Argentine President Mauricio Macri suffered a mauling in presidential primaries, increasing the risk of a return to interventionist economic policies. Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields were near the lowest in almost three years, gold was pinned close to six-year highs, and the yen was within a whisker of a seven-month peak versus the dollar in a sign of the heightened anxiety in financial markets already battered by global growth woes. “Long-term rates will continue to fall, and stocks will adjust lower, but this is temporary. Major central banks are cutting rates, which will eventually provide economic support,” Mitsubishi UFJ’s Ishigane said. Analysts said that trading could be subdued as many investors are off for summer holidays. Yet, there was no shortage of gloomy news for investors looking to catch their breath from several months of market ructions. The Argentine peso collapsed overnight, falling to 55.85 to the dollar, after voters snubbed Macri by giving the opposition a surprisingly bigger-than-expected victory in Sunday’s primary election. The Merval stock index crashed 30 per cent and declines of between 18-20 cents in Argentina’s benchmark 10-year bonds left them trading at around 60 cents on the dollar or even lower. Refinitive data showed Argentine stocks, bonds and the peso had not recorded this kind of simultaneous fall since the South American country’s 2001 economic crisis and debt default.
The grim backdrop was enough to push investors into safe-havens, and US Treasury yields dropped across the board on Monday as trade worries and political tensions supported safe-haven assets. In Asia on Tuesday benchmark 10-year Treasuries yields fell to 1.6471 per cent. On August 7 yields had skidded to 1.5950 per cent, the lowest since October 3, 2016. Spot gold rose 0.33 per cent to US$1.516.42 per ounce, near the highest in six years. The yen last fetched 105.37 per dollar, and was within striking distance of 105.03, its strongest since the January 3 flash crash. The Swiss franc, which along with the yen is considered a safe haven in times of trouble, traded at 0.9697 per dollar , near its highest in a year. Oil prices edged slightly lower in Asian trading as expectations that major producers will continue to reduce supplies ran into worries about sluggish economic growth. US West Texas Intermediate futures fell 0.33 per cent to US$54.75 a barrel.
SEOUL, August 10 -- North Korea has fired two unidentified projectiles into the sea off eastern coast on Saturday, Yonhap news agency reported citing South Korea's military.
South Korea's defense ministry said it is closely following the developments. No further details are available at this point. On August 6, North Korea launched new guided missiles under the supervision of leader Kim Jong-un. The two missiles flew around 450 km and struck targets in the Sea of Japan. After test launches, Kim Jong-un said that this was "a warning over joint military drills" held by South Korea and the United States. On August 5, the United States and South Korea started joint military drills. According to preliminary reports, the military exercise will last until August 20.
"This is a serious issue for the international community," Japanese Senior Vice Defense Minister Kenji Harada told reporters after the launches. North Korea's missile launch would constitute a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning the country from using ballistic technology. South Korean military officials and the defense minister held an emergency meeting after the latest launches and took them to be another warning against a South Korea-U.S. joint military drill that started from Monday and runs through late this month. The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday that its launches a day earlier were a "warning" to the United States and South Korea over their ongoing joint military exercises. U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he received a "beautiful" letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which he said he does not like conducting the short-range ballistic missile tests North Korea has been doing in recent weeks but justified the move as a response to the U.S.-South Korea drills. The U.S. president said on Aug. 1 he was not worried about the missiles being tested by the North, calling them "very standard," short-range devices. "Short-range missiles, we never made an agreement on that. I have no problem. We'll see what happens," Trump told reporters after North Korea carried out a series of missile launches. South Korean and U.S authorities are currently working on identifying the exact type of the projectiles, said the JCS, while warning that additional launches are highly likely as North Korea is now conducting summer military drills. The Japanese government said Saturday that it has not confirmed any ballistic missiles flying into Japan's exclusive economic zone and that the projectiles posed no immediate security threat. Even so, "we will strengthen our air and missile defense capabilities," Harada said.
TOKYO, August 9 -- President Moon Jae In on Friday tapped a semiconductor expert as his next science and technology minister as South Korea grapples with Japan's tightening of chip-making material shipments to the country.
Choi Ki Young, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Seoul National University, is a global authority in semiconductors and has helped South Korea become the world leader in memory chips, presidential spokeswoman Ko Min Jung said. The latest reshuffle within the Moon administration also includes the appointment of diplomat-turned-lawmaker Lee Soo Hyuck as new ambassador to the United States. Lee, a first-term National Assembly member from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, was South Korea's top negotiator at six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. Tapped as new gender equality and family minister is Lee Jung Ok, a sociology professor at Daegu Catholic University. The minister's portfolio includes the issue of "comfort women" who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels. The issue, which stems from Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, has been a source of diplomatic tension between South Korea and Japan.