Kyodo News Digest: Aug. 18, 2023

WASHINGTON – The leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea will agree Friday on a range of initiatives to make their framework of cooperation more durable, leveraging the benefits of the recent rapprochement between the two Asian neighbors amid China’s growing clout and North Korea’s escalating threat.

The initiatives will include holding a trilateral summit at least once a year, carrying out joint defense drills more frequently, bolstering supply chains for semiconductors and other key industrial items, and working closely on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, according to senior officials of the three countries.

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Japan’s consumer prices rise 3.1% in July in blow to households

TOKYO – Japan’s core consumer prices in July rose 3.1 percent from a year earlier, well above the Bank of Japan’s 2 percent target, as food and service price hikes kept the overall inflationary trend intact, government data showed Friday.

The nationwide core consumer price index, excluding volatile fresh food items, rose for the 23rd straight month, amid emerging signs of entrenched inflation hurting consumer sentiment.

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Hacker group attacks Japan nuclear websites over Fukushima water plan

TOKYO – International hacker group Anonymous has launched cyberattacks against nuclear power-linked groups in Japan in protest at the planned release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, a Japanese IT security firm said.

Anonymous has been intensifying its cyber offensives since last month, shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency said in its final report that the planned discharge would comply with global safety standards, NTT Security Japan said.

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Japan, U.S., Australia eye ship deployment to Philippines for drill

MANILA/TOKYO – Japan, the United States and Australia are considering conducting a joint naval drill with the Philippines next week in the South China Sea, sources close to the matter said Friday.

The exercise, set for Wednesday, comes amid mounting tensions between China and the Philippines after a Chinese coast guard vessel fired a water cannon at a Philippine military-chartered boat near the Manila-controlled Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea earlier this month.

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Biden trying to meet North Korean leader without preconditions: official

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “without preconditions” to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a senior White House official said Thursday.

“They have not responded positively to that offer, but it’s still on the table. We are willing to sit down and negotiate without preconditions,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said in an interview with Kyodo News.

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China appears to be building runway on disputed South China Sea island

HONG KONG – China appears to be constructing a runway on a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan in its latest move to claim sovereignty in the contested waters, a Hong Kong newspaper reported Friday citing satellite images.

The South China Morning Post said what appears to be a 630-meter-long airstrip was seen last month on Triton Island, part of the disputed Paracel Islands, in images taken by the European Space Agency.

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Police seize 20 blades from home of suspects in Sapporo beheading

SAPPORO – Police have seized around 20 blades, including four saws, from the home of a family arrested over the case of a decapitated body found at a Sapporo hotel room in July, investigative sources said Friday.

Runa Tamura, 29, and her parents were served fresh arrest warrants earlier this week on suspicion of killing a 62-year-old company worker who lived in a city adjacent to Sapporo. The three were first arrested last month on allegations including abandoning a corpse.

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Japan town OKs survey for interim spent nuclear fuel storage facility

YAMAGUCHI, Japan – A western Japan town on Friday gave the greenlight for a geological survey by two major utilities companies, in a step toward the building of an intermediate facility to temporarily keep spent nuclear fuel.

Chugoku Electric Power Co. proposed earlier this month to Kaminoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture a plan to jointly construct the facility with Kansai Electric Power Co. It will be the second such storage facility in Japan, following one already built in Mutsu, Aomori Prefecture in northeastern Japan.

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