AJMEDIA News Digest: Jan. 23, 2023

Tokyo, 23 January, /AJMEDIA/

PM warns Japan on brink of social dysfunction amid falling birthrate

TOKYO – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned Monday that Japan is “on the brink” of losing its social function due to its rapidly declining birthrate, pledging to focus on child-rearing policies as the most pressing agenda item this year.

In his policy speech at the beginning of a 150-day regular parliamentary session, Kishida voiced his readiness to revive the world’s third-largest economy, beset by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to play a leading role in diplomacy as this year’s chair of the Group of Seven summit.


Japan wage talks begin with unions, business agreeing raises needed

TOKYO – The heads of Japan’s largest labor group and top business lobby met Monday to discuss the country’s labor market as the annual union-management negotiations began, with both parties agreeing on the need for significant pay hikes to offset the impact of high inflation.

Tomoko Yoshino, the head of Rengo, or the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, called for pay hikes including base salary increases to ease the pain related to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and recent rapid inflation. She said this year “should be a turning point to change our future” through sustained pay raises at companies of all sizes across the country.


Japan court orders gov’t to pay damages over forced sterilization

KUMAMOTO, Japan – The Japanese government was ordered Monday to pay damages to two people over their forced sterilization under a now-defunct eugenics protection law in the first such ruling by a district court.

The Kumamoto District Court found the 1948 law unconstitutional and awarded a total of 22 million yen ($170,000) in compensation to the plaintiffs, Kazumi Watanabe, 78, and a 76-year-old woman. It is the third case in which damages were awarded, after two high courts overturned lower court decisions.


Ex-U.S. Indo-Pacific commander sticks to 2027 window on Taiwan attack

TOKYO – Former chief of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Philip Davidson said Monday he is standing by his earlier assessments that China may try to attack Taiwan by 2027, with Beijing showing no signs of backing down from its threat of using force against the self-ruled island to achieve reunification.

In an interview in Tokyo, the 62-year-old retired admiral also welcomed Japan’s recent decision to acquire long-range strike capabilities and to significantly increase its defense spending despite its long-held pacifism, calling them the “most profound change in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces in more than 60 years.”


Japan finance chief warns of “unprecedented” fiscal health worsening

TOKYO – Japan’s fiscal health has been deteriorating on an “unprecedented” scale after massive spending amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said Monday, saying it is crucial to secure fiscal space for the debt-ridden nation in case of future crises.

Suzuki noted in his parliamentary speech that the environment surrounding Japan’s economy is becoming “increasingly severe” due to rising prices and fears of a global economic slowdown caused by monetary tightening. The government will aim for economic revitalization before fiscal reconstruction, he told lawmakers on the first day of a regular Diet session.


Asia lagging in removal of unhealthy trans fat from food: WHO report

GENEVA – Asian and African countries are lagging in efforts to eliminate harmful trans fat from food products by the end of this year, despite the substantial progress made worldwide since the World Health Organization set the goal in 2018, a report said Monday.

“Asia is a region where progress (in the elimination of industrially produced trans fats) is relatively slow compared to Europe and the Americas,” Rain Yamamoto, lead author of the report and scientist at the WHO’s department of nutrition and food safety, said.


Robbers of east Japan homes suspected of striking other areas

TOKYO – Members of a group suspected of staging robberies across east Japan are believed to have been involved in similar crimes in two western prefectures as well, investigative sources said Monday.

The group is suspected of carrying out multiple robberies, including some causing death or injury in six prefectures in the Kanto region, including Tokyo, from November, with police investigating possible links between these cases and three others, including one in Hiroshima.


Ex-Kabukicho host club worker allegedly forced customer into prostitution

TOKYO – A former worker at a host club in Tokyo’s Kabukicho nightlife district has been arrested on suspicion of coercing a female customer into prostitution so she could pay off her bills, police said Monday.

Takuya Akiba, 27, allegedly forced the woman, who is in her 20s, to work at various brothels in Tokyo as well as Fukushima, Ehime, Kumamoto, Oita and Okinawa prefectures between October 2021 and March 2022, police said.

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