Shinzo Abe to step down as Japan’s prime minister

KONFRONTASI-Shinzo Abe will stand down as prime minister of Japan because of a relapse in his ulcerative colitis, ending an eight-year term that made him the longest-serving leader in his nation’s history.

His departure will set off a race for the leadership of Mr Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic party even as Japan struggles to deal with the impact of Covid-19, a deep economic downturn and disputes with its neighbours in China and South Korea.

Iran's Rouhani welcomes Japan opt-out of U.S.-led naval mission in Gulf

KONFRONTASI-Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday welcomed Japan’s decision not to join a U.S.-led naval mission in the Gulf and said he had discussions on ways of “breaking” U.S. sanctions on a trip to Tokyo.

Friction between Tehran and Washington has increased since last year when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six nations and re-imposed sanctions on the country, crippling its economy.

South Korea asks IOC to ban Japan's use of 'Rising Sun' flag at Olympics

KONFRONTASI-South Korea has asked the International Olympic Committee to bar Japan from using the “Rising Sun” flag at next year’s Games, Seoul’s sports ministry said on Wednesday, as the Asian neighbours engage in an ever more rancorous feud over history and trade.

Relations between the neighbours are arguably at their lowest ebb since they normalised ties in 1965, strained over the issue of South Korean forced labour during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation.

Typhoon lashes Japanese capital, one dead, power, transport disrupted

KONFRONTASI-One of the strongest typhoons to hit Japan in recent years struck just east of the capital, Tokyo, on Monday, killing one woman, with record-breaking winds and stinging rain damaging buildings and disrupting transport.

More than 160 flights were canceled and scores of train lines were closed for hours, snarling the morning commute for millions in a greater Tokyo area that has a population of some 36 million, with authorities warning it was dangerous to venture outside.

Typhoon Faxai, a Lao woman’s name, slammed ashore near the city of Chiba shortly before dawn, bringing with it wind gusts of 207 kmh (128 mph) in Chiba, the strongest ever recorded there, national broadcaster NHK said.

But by mid-morning the fast-moving storm had veered back out to sea.

A woman in her fifties was confirmed dead after she was found in a Tokyo street and taken to hospital. Footage from a nearby security camera showed she had been smashed against a building by strong winds, national broadcaster NHK reported.

Another woman in her 20s was rescued from her house in Ichihara, east of Tokyo, after it was partly crushed when a metal pole from a golf driving range fell on it. She was seriously injured.

“There was a huge grinding noise, I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then I looked up and saw a big hole in the roof, but I was so keyed up I couldn’t figure out what had happened,” a neighbor said.

Some minor landslides occurred and a bridge was washed away, while as many as 930,000 houses lost power at one point, NHK said, including the entire city of Kamogawa. But the number of homes without power had dropped to 840,000 by early Monday afternoon, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

Some concrete electric poles were snapped off at their bases, while electricity towers in Chiba were toppled over. Some panels of a floating solar power plant southeast of Tokyo were on fire.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that a cooling tower at its research reactor at Oarai, which has not been in operation since 2006 and is set to be decommissioned, had fallen, but there was no radiation leakage, impact on workers or the surrounding environment.

A Sony Corp (6758.T) spokesman said operations at its plant in Kisarazu, southeast of Tokyo, were suspended due to power outages. The company could not say when the plant, which assembles PlayStation gaming consoles, would reopen, he said.

Two Nissan plants west of Tokyo, including its Oppama plant, suspended operations, suspended operations due to flooding, NHK said.

Japan PM Abe's ruling bloc set to win upper house majority

KONFRONTASI - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition is set to win a solid majority in an upper house election later this week, keeping alive his dream to revise Japan's pacifist constitution, a survey showed on Monday.

Abe's Liberal Democratic party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito together are on track to win as many as 83 seats, well over the 63 seats needed for a majority of the 124 seats to be contested on Sunday, the poll by the Nikkei business daily conducted late last week showed.

On Monday, Powerful typhoon kills two, snarls transport for thousands in Japan

Staff members work on clearing railway tracks of fallen trees following typhoon Trami in Tokyo, Japan, 01 October 2018. Powerful typhoon Trami moved across Japan, hitting the entire country with strong winds. Transportation services were largely disrupted across the country, with the suspension of bullet train services and cancellation of more than 1,000 flights. According to media reports, two people were killed and more than 80 people injured. EPA photo


Japanese carrier drills with British warship heading to contested South China Sea

KONFRONTASI-Japan’s biggest warship, the Kaga helicopter carrier, joined naval drills with Britain’s HMS Argyll in the Indian Ocean on Wednesday as the frigate headed toward the contested South China Sea and East Asia.

Britain, Japan and their close ally the United States have found common cause in countering growing Chinese influence in the region that they worry could put key commercial sea lanes linking Asia with Europe, the United States and elsewhere under Beijing’s sway.

“We have traditional ties with the British navy and we are both close U.S. allies and these drills are an opportunity for us to strengthen cooperation,” Kenji Sakaguchi, the Maritime Self Defence Force (MSDF) commander of the Kaga group’s four helicopters said on the hangar deck.

The more frequent presence of the Royal Navy in a region is a chance for the two navies to train more closely in the future, he added.

The Argyll, Kaga and its destroyer escort the Inazuma practiced formations on calm seas in the Indian Ocean close to commercial sea lanes plied by container vessels and oil tankers. Three helicopters from the Japanese carrier hovered above, monitoring the drill.

The Argyll’s arrival in the region comes after Britain’s amphibious assault ship HMS Albion, last month challenged Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea on its way to Vietnam from Japan by sailing close to Chinese bases in the Paracel islands in a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP).

China dispatched a warship and helicopters to counter the British presence and warned London that similar actions in the future could endanger talks for a possible trade deal that Britain is seeking as it prepares to leave the European Union.

Mahathir has come as a welcome surprise for the Japanese government

KONFRONTASI -  Mahathir Mohamad's return to power in Malaysia has come as a welcome surprise for the Japanese government when China's increasing clout in Southeast Asia is eclipsing the influence of Japan and Western nations.

Although diplomats are hesitant to declare it officially, Tokyo is secretly hoping that Mahathir will support its efforts to promote the rule of law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where China and some ASEAN members are locked in territorial disputes.

Japan seems to bend under US pressure on trade

KONFRONTASI - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reluctantly agreed to enter into trade negotiations with the United States, whose president has repeatedly pressured Tokyo to accept new terms in bilateral trade.

“President [Donald] Trump and I agreed to start talks for free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals,” Abe said at a joint news conference after a meeting hosted by the US president in Florida on Wednesday.

Obama calls N Korea ‘a real threat’ ahead of possible Trump-Kim meeting

KONFRONTASI - Former US President Barack Obama, who is on a visit to Japan, has called North Korea “a real threat,” suggesting that the US has little leverage over the resolute nation.

“North Korea is an example of a country that is so far out of the international norms and so disconnected with the rest of the world,” Obama said in Tokyo on Sunday. “That makes them less subject to these kinds of negotiations.”