Nishikori raises questions about holding the Tokyo Olympics

Nishikori raises questions about holding the Tokyo Olympics

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Japan’s Kei Nishikori returns the ball to Italy’s Fabio Fognini during their match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Monday, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) more >

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By ANDREW DAMPF

Associated Press

Monday, May 10, 2021

ROME (AP) – Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori has doubts about whether the IOC and local organizers are doing enough to plan for a worst-case scenario of “hundreds” or “thousands” of coronavirus cases at the Tokyo Olympics.

Or whether it’s even still feasible to hold the games when a state of emergency has been extended in Tokyo and other parts of Japan because of the pandemic.

“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after winning his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.

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“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”

Nishikori is one of a growing number of tennis players expressing reservations about the games.

Serena Williams suggested she won’t go to Japan if coronavirus protocols mean she can’t bring her 3-year-old daughter with her.

“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” Williams said. “There is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.”

And on Sunday, second-ranked Naomi Osaka sounded conflicted about the games’ status.

“Of course I would say I want the Olympics to happen, because I’m an athlete and that’s sort of what I’ve been waiting for my entire life,” Osaka said. “A lot of unexpected things have happened and if it’s putting people at risk, and if it’s making people very uncomfortable, then it definitely should be a discussion, which I think it is as of right now.”

Japan has attributed 11,000 deaths to COVID-19, better than many countries, but poor for Asia. The virus and its spreading variants are taxing Japan’s health-care system with only 2% of the population vaccinated.

Public sentiment in Japan continues to run against holding the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic. Between 60-80% of Japanese people in polls have said the Olympics should be canceled or postponed.

But local organizers and the International Olympic Committee insist the games, which were already postponed by a year, will open as planned on July 23.

“I know you still have two, three more months. It’s tough to really say right now,” Nishikori said, adding that he thought organizers should “hold” on making a decision for now.

The 45th-ranked Nishikori, a former U.S. Open finalist and Japan’s top male player, said that if the Olympics were opening now, he thinks it would be “really tough” to hold the competition.

“If you think only about athletes, I think you can do it,” he said. “If you can make a good bubble, maybe you can do it, but there is some risk, too.”

“(What happens) if there is 100 cases in the village … (or) thousands?” Nishikori asked. “You have to really discuss how you can play really safely.”

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

___

Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

200K sign petition to cancel Tokyo Games, say Olympics could be ‘super-spreader’ event

200K sign petition to cancel Tokyo Games, say Olympics could be ‘super-spreader’ event

Organizers insist they can pull off games amid the coronavirus pandemic

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In this March 25, 2021, file photo, a "No Olympics" banner is placed by protesters in Tokyo during a demonstration against the going ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Friday, May 7, 2021

An online petition to cancel the Summer Games in Tokyo received more than 200,000 signatures in two days, underscoring angst around plans to hold a global event in the middle of a pandemic.

The Change.org petition says the Olympics, set to begin in July, threaten to be a “super-spreader” event as Japan combats outbreaks in Tokyo and other places. Also, the country’s vaccination effort is off to a slow start.

The petition also dings the government for spending lavishly on the games while the population struggles from the economic effects of the pandemic.

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“With the circumstances that we are under, it is certainly unlikely that the Tokyo Olympics could be held safely,” the petition created by lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya says. “If the fundamental principle of the government is to protect the citizens’ lives and well-being, the government must declare the cancellation of the Olympic Games as soon as possible, and instead use the limited resources to protect the struggling lives affected by the pandemic.”

Japanese officials and the International Olympic Committee say they are committed to holding the games after a year-long postponement, despite vocal pushback.

They’ve banned foreign fans from events and will test athletes regularly during the games from July 23 to Aug. 8. Pfizer and BioNTech have donated doses of their vaccine for athletes who want to be immunized before heading to Japan.

Pfizer, IOC strike vaccine deal for Summer Games in Tokyo

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This April 12, 2021, file photo shows the Olympic rings floating in the water in the Odaiba section in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File) **FILE** more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Olympics organizers struck a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech on Thursday that will offer a COVID-19 vaccine to athletes before they head to the Summer Games in Tokyo.

The International Olympic Committee said offering a vaccine to participants in the Olympic and Paralympic Games will make the events safer and protect Japanese residents as they welcome visitors.

Donated doses will be added to global supplies and not siphoned out of any country’s planned deliveries, the committee said.

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Japan and the IOC are under intense pressure to hold a safe Olympics from July 23 to Aug. 8 after they had to postpone the games by a year. Some experts are worried, citing outbreaks in Tokyo and other heavily populated areas and Japan’s sluggish vaccine rollout.

Foreign fans will be barred from attending Olympic events and athletes will be tested regularly, among other safety precautions.

“This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Vaccination isn’t mandatory ahead of the games but organizers hope athletes will “lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible.”

“By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities,” Bach said.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla highlighted the importance of the games in offering the company’s vaccine.

“The return of the Olympic and Paralympic Games represents a monumental moment of world unity and peace after a grueling year of isolation and devastation,” he said. “We are proud to play a role in providing vaccines to athletes and their national Olympic delegations where possible.”

India cases up as scientists appeal to Modi to release data

India cases up as scientists appeal to Modi to release data

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A man argues with a policewoman as he waits with others to receive COVID-19 vaccine outside a vaccination centre in Mumbai, India, Thursday, April 29, 2021. India set another global record in new virus cases Thursday, as millions of people … more >

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By Ashok Sharma

Associated Press

Friday, April 30, 2021

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian scientists appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to publicly release virus data that would allow them to save lives as coronavirus cases climbed again Friday, prompting the army to open its hospitals in a desperate bid to control a massive humanitarian crisis.

With 386,452 new cases, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.

India‘s pandemic response has been marred by insufficient data and the online appeal – signed by over 350 scientists Friday afternoon — asks government to release data about the sequencing of virus variants, testing, recovered patients and how people were responding to vaccines.

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The appeal says that “granular” data on testing was inaccessible to non-government experts and some government experts too. Modeling work to predict future surges was being done by government-appointed experts with insufficient information. Similarly, scientists had failed to get information that would allow them predict how many beds, oxygen or intensive care facilities would be needed, it said.

The appeal urged the government to widen the number of organizations sequencing the virus to study its evolution, and also increase the number of samples being studied. It added that restrictions on importing scientific raw materials – to make India ‘self reliant’ is a key goal for Modi and his government — was an obstacle. “Such restrictions, at this time, only serve to impede our ability to deal with COVID-19,” it said.

Meanwhile, families continued to flood social media and messaging apps with pleas for help: oxygen, beds, medicines, intensive care units and wood for funeral pyres.

India’s army chief M.M. Naravane met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

Naravane said the sick can approach their nearest army hospitals for help. Troops were also assisting with imported oxygen tankers and vehicles where specialized skills are required, a government statement said.

India has set a daily global record for more than a week with an average of nearly 350,000 infections. Daily deaths have nearly tripled in the past three weeks, reflecting the intensity of the latest surge.

In the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, a school teachers’ organization said that more than 550 members have died after they were infected with COVID-19 while helping conduct local council elections this month, the Times of India newspaper reported.

Experts have blamed the surge on new, more contagious virus variants and mass public gatherings such as political rallies and religious events that were allowed to continue. On Thursday, millions voted in state elections in West Bengal with little or no regard to social distancing.

In the southern state of Karnataka, Revenue Minister R. Ashoka said nearly 2,000 coronavirus patients under home care have switched off their phones and cannot be traced. Police were trying to track them as they might be seeking hospitalization on their own, he said.

In central Madhya Pradesh state, three villages in Balaghat district have pooled money to convert buildings into COVID-19 care centers. They have purchased oxygen concentrators and started admitting patients. Government doctors are visiting the facilities twice a day.

India plans to step up a faltering vaccination drive by allowing all adults 18 and older to get their jabs from Saturday. It has so far administered 150 million vaccine doses, according to the Health Ministry.

Since January, nearly 10% of Indians have received one dose, but only around 1.5% have received both, though India is one of the world’s biggest producers of vaccines.

Health Minister Harash Vardhan expressed hope that assistance being sent by over 40 countries will plug the shortage in medical supplies. The United States is sending more than $100 million worth of items, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests.

Japan said Friday it will send 300 ventilators and 300 oxygen concentrators in response to the Indian government request. “Japan stands with India, our friend and partner,” the Foreign Ministry said.

France, Germany, Ireland and Australia have also promised help, and Russia sent two aircraft carrying oxygen generating equipment. The Indian air force also airlifted oxygen containers from Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok.

Chinese state media said the first batch of 25,000 oxygen concentrators pledged by Beijing to India also arrived Friday. There was no immediate comment by India but it could be a step in thawing tensions between the two countries.

The reports said China has already sent 5,000 ventilators and 21,000 oxygen generators to India.

___

AP Science Writer Aniruddha Ghosal contributed to this report.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Japan sets June trial for Americans accused in Ghosn escape

Japan sets June trial for Americans accused in Ghosn escape

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By YURI KAGEYAMA

Associated Press

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

TOKYO (AP) – The trial of two Americans accused of helping former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan while out on bail will open on June 14, the Tokyo District Court said Wednesday.

Michael Taylor and his son Peter are accused of hiding Ghosn in a music box so he could flee to Lebanon in late 2019. The Taylors have been denied bail at the Tokyo Detention Center and not available for comment.

Ghosn, arrested in 2018, was awaiting trial on financial misconduct allegations, including underreporting his compensation and breach of trust in diverting Nissan Motor Co. money for personal gain, when he fled. He says he is innocent.

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Japan has no extradition treaty with Lebanon, but has one with the U.S., which extradited the Taylors last month after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their appeal.

Michael Taylor, with the help of another man, George-Antoine Zayek, hid Ghosn in a large box, which passed through airport security in Osaka, central Japan, and was loaded onto a private jet that flew to Turkey, according to Japanese authorities.

Peter Taylor is accused of meeting with Ghosn and helping carry out the escape. The Taylors were paid at least $1.3 million, authorities say.

The Taylors argued in the U.S. courts they did not commit a crime because jumping bail is technically not a crime in Japan.

Tokyo prosecutors have said they are accused of helping a criminal escape and violating immigration regulations. They face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Although prospects for Ghosn facing trial in Japan are dim, Greg Kelly, a former Nissan executive and an American, is standing trial in Tokyo on charges of underreporting Ghosn’s compensation. He has denied the charges.

Ghosn, credited with successfully leading Nissan for two decades, was worried about a possible public reaction to his income and had taken a big pay cut in 2010, when disclosure of such executive salaries became required in Japan.

The focus of Kelly’s trial is on whether the various ideas on paying Ghosn after retirement should have been included in the annual securities report, as well as how much Kelly knew of the plans. Kelly has said he was only looking into legal ways to pay Ghosn because he believed it was in Nissan’s interests to prevent Ghosn from going to a rival company.

Japanese executives typically don’t get the big paychecks and stock options some of their American counterparts receive.

During Kelly’s trial, Nissan officials have said they went to the prosecutors to get Ghosn arrested because they were worried Nissan‘s French alliance partner Renault would gain more power and effectively swallow up the Japanese automaker. Ghosn was sent in by Renault in 1999 to salvage Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy.

___

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Summit catapults world ahead in crucial year to curb warming

Summit catapults world ahead in crucial year to curb warming

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President Joe Biden speaks to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, from the East Room of the White House, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By SETH BORENSTEIN

Associated Press

Saturday, April 24, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – The world moved closer to curbing the worst of global warming after this week’s climate summit. But there’s still a long way to go, and the road to a safer future gets even rockier from here.

With the world trying to prevent more than another half-degree of warming (0.3 degrees Celsius) or so to achieve the most stringent of goals set by the 2015 Paris climate accord, scientists and politicians alike say this decade is crucial for any chance of getting that done. And that means 2021 is a “make-or-break year for people and the planet,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Everything culminates in November with heavyweight climate negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland. While these climate meetings happen annually, every five or so years there is a weightier session of the type that in the past has led to major deals or disappointments. It’s that time again.

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By November, the U.N. climate negotiating process calls for 200 nations to ratchet up commitments to cut emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 2030. The rich countries need to come up with more money to help the poor countries develop greener power and adapt to climate change’s harsh realities. And nations need to agree on a price on carbon pollution after several years of gridlock. They must figure out essentially how to make it all work.

“Glasgow is the world’s last best hope,” said U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry.

There will be important stops in Germany in May for a minister’s level meeting, in a British seaside town in June for a meeting of leaders of big economies and a final push at U.N. headquarters in September, but everything is about what President Joe Biden called “a road that will take us to Glasgow.”

Biden’s summit, organized in less than 100 days, was designed to send the world off on a fast start toward Glasgow, and experts said it did so. They figure it pushed the globe anywhere from one-eighth to more than halfway along the journey, with mixed opinions on whether the United States did enough.

“If it were 100 miles to Glasgow, we have just done the first 12 miles on the lowlands, and we have a 88 hard miles to go, with a lot of difficult terrain to cross before we get there,” said Bill Hare, director of the German think tank Climate Analytics. Hare said while countries showed a significant increase in ambition to fight climate change, he was “hoping for slightly more.”

Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, who directs climate issues at the Breakthrough Institute, was more optimistic: “I’d say this gets us about half the way (say, 50 miles) to where we need to get by Glasgow.”

Nate Hultman, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Global Sustainability, was even more optimistic: “This has ended up being a critical international moment that provided a strong boost. … We’re now, I’d say, about 70 miles toward Glasgow.”

For his part, Kerry concluded the climate summit by saying that countries representing more than half of the world’s economic output have committed to a path that would achieve the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. Beyond that level, environmental problems get substantially worse, with possible dangerous tipping points, scientists say. The world has already warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

Hare’s calculations show the world didn’t quite make as much progress as Kerry claims. For example, to be on the path to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, the United States needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions 57% below 2005 levels by 2030, he said. The Biden target announced this week was 50% to 52%. The European Union’s goals also came close but didn’t quite get there. The only major economy now on track with 1.5 degrees is the United Kingdom, Hare said.

But there’s disagreement on that because of the different ways calculations can be made. The Rhodium Group, a research institute, said Biden’s target puts America in line with the 1.5 degrees goal.

Climate Action Tracker, a group of scientists including Hare who monitors nations’ pledges of carbon pollution cuts, calculated that targets announced since last September cut about 12% to 14% from the emissions gap. That emissions gap is that big area between what nations promise to do and the pollution reductions needed by 2030 to limit future warming to the 1.5 degrees goal. The announcements cut somewhere between 2.9 billion and 4.1 billion tons (between 2.6 billion and 3.7 billion metric tons) of carbon from the gap, the tracker calculated.

With the new targets from the United States, the United Kingdom, European Union, Japan and Canada, the new emissions gap is 22 billion to 26 billion tons (20 billion to 24 billion metric tons) of carbon pollution. Hare chastised Australia’s efforts as “really disgraceful” and said Brazil made a weaker pledge than in 2015, while Russia didn’t offer anything substantive.

“The Earth Day summit substantially improved the odds of a successful global climate summit in November,” said Nigel Purvis, a climate negotiator in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. “With new action by rich nations and new assistance for poor nations, the world should be able to make additional progress in 2021.”

Poorer nations that haven’t made big pollution cut promises yet, especially India, are waiting to see if promises about financial help become more concrete before they commit to bigger pollution cuts, Hare said. But there’s hope there because of Biden’s promise to double public climate finance available to developing countries by 2024 and Germany’s announcing 4 billion euros a year extra, Hare said.

Also important was South Korea’s promise to stop financing coal power plants in other countries, Hare said. Activists hope China and Japan will follow suit, but they haven’t yet.

Alice Hill, a senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, said this week’s summit “did not alone lead to the kind of enormous leap toward that what we need in fighting climate change.”

While the U.N.’s Guterres noted strengthened commitments, he said, “There is still a long way to go.”

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Guterres’ special envoy for climate ambitions and solutions, told The Associated Press that “There’s no question we moved forward. … But now comes the hard work – actually delivering results.”

___

Associated Press writers Christina Larson in Washington and Ellen Knickmeyer in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

The Latest: World leaders pledge climate action at summit

The Latest: World leaders pledge climate action at summit

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U.S. President Joe Biden is seen on a screen as European Council President Charles Michel attends a virtual Global Climate Summit via video link from the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, April 22, 2021. (Johanna Geron, Pool via AP) more >

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By

Associated Press

Friday, April 23, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on President Joe Biden‘s global climate summit (all times local):

10:40 a.m.

World leaders are pledging action on climate change on the virtual climate summit’s second day.

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Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Friday renewed her country’s pledge to end oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, switching to massive wind farms. Danish companies are planning several wind farms off the U.S. East Coast as part of the Biden administration’s plan to boost offshore wind.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his country is a global leader in cutting coal use and says renewable energy will be producing a third of Israel’s energy by the end of the decade. Netanyahu also pledges improvements on battery storage, saying hundreds Israeli start-ups are working on the issue.

Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc says climate disasters have taken hundreds of lives in his country, which he says is “suffering immensely from rising sea levels.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari says his government has implemented programs to transition from use of wood stoves to kerosene and other energy sources.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta calls on wealthy nations to contribute at least $100 billion to address climate change.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE GLOBAL CLIMATE SUMMIT:

The White House brings out the billionaires, the CEOs and the union executives to help sell President Joe Biden’s climate-friendly transformation of the U.S. economy at his virtual summit of world leaders.

Read more:

– EXPLAINER: How come nations’ climate targets don’t compare?

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

10:10 a.m.

Opening the final session of the two-day virtual global climate summit, President Joe Biden says he wants to shift the conversation from climate threat to economic opportunities.

Biden said Friday, “This is a moment for all of us to build better economies for our children, our grandchildren.”

Biden says America “is once again stepping into a leadership role” and pledges to cooperate with other nations in researching and deploying new strategies to decarbonize key industries.

Biden says future jobs will involve installing electric-vehicle charging stations, manufacturing solar panels, researching sustainable farming practices and working in other new industries. But he says economic transitions shouldn’t leave other workers behind. He says, “We must ensure that workers who thrived in yesterday’s and today’s industries” also have a bright future.

Biden says the hard work of implementing the ambitious climate change targets lies ahead and the two-day summit “is a start.”

___

9:20 a.m.

An independent research organization says the American goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% from 2005 levels puts the United States among the four most ambitious nations in curbing climate change.

The Rhodium Group said early Friday that using the U.S.-preferred 2005 baseline, America is behind the United Kingdom but right with the European Union. It’s ahead of countries that include Canada, Japan, Iceland and Norway.

President Joe Biden announced the U.S. goal at the virtual climate summit on Thursday.

Different nations use different base years for their emission cuts so comparisons are difficult and can look different based on baseline years.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions 45% below 2010 levels to limit warming to the strictest of the Paris agreement goals. Rhodium calculates the U.S. target translates to 49% below 2010 levels.

___

9:10 a.m.

An analysis shows President Joe Biden’s climate summit and the run-up to it cut the so-called emissions gap, a crucial measurement used to see if the world can limit global warming, by about one-eighth.

Climate Action Tracker is a group of scientists who monitor nations’ pledges of carbon pollution cuts. It calculated that targets announced since last September cut about 12% to 14% from the emissions gap.

That emissions gap is that big area between what nations promise to do and the pollution reductions needed by 2030 to limit future warming to another half a degree, which is the stricter of two goals adopted by the 2015 Paris climate deal.

The tracker calculated the announcements cut between 2.9 and 4.1 billion tons of carbon from the gap.

With the new targets from the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan and Canada, the new emissions gap is 22 to 26 billion tons of carbon pollution. The tracker says before those pledges it was 25 to 30 billion tons.

Climate scientist Niklas Hohne says “we are now starting to see the kind of near-term climate action the world needs to win the race to zero by 2050.” Hohne says, “While the gap is still huge, the summit created new momentum.”

___

8:55 a.m.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates have helped pitch President Joe Biden’s climate-friendly transformation of the U.S. economy on Day 2 of the world leaders’ virtual summit.

Bloomberg says combatting climate change will depend on improving financial transparency about the risks of global warming.

Bloomberg said Friday that companies need to provide financial disclosures on climate risks, so that investors can direct funding to businesses that are mitigating the threats of climate change. He says it will take historic investments to beat the challenge of global warning.

Bloomberg says mayors and CEOs tell him they want to do more to tackle climate change but need more help. The multibillionaire founder of a financial data and news company is a special U.N. envoy on climate change issues.

Gates thanked Biden and U.S. climate envoy John Kerry for reestablishing the U.S. leading role on tackling climate change. Gates says, “This is a promising moment.”

Gates says activists and young people are rightly demanding action. He says, “Governments around the globe are meeting those demands with ambitious commitments.”

Gates says climate change is “an incredibly complex issue and using just today’s technologies won’t allow us to meet out ambitious goals.”

___

8:45 a.m.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has kicked off the second day of the global climate summit with a commitment to meet the challenge with historic amount of new investment.

The former secretary of state said Friday he heard from representatives of 63 countries on the first day of the summit, from all regions of the world. Many nations have bold plans but lack the resources to implement those plans.

Kerry says, “There is polite but obvious frustration that was manifested by many who have contributed so little to the crisis but who have to deal with so much of the consequences.″

At the same time, Kerry said participants enthusiastically reported one after the other about “significant and exciting measures that they’re taking.″

The agenda for the second day will focus on the economic opportunities of combating climate change and the need for technological innovations.

Japan raises emissions reduction target to 46% by 2030

Japan raises emissions reduction target to 46% by 2030

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By MARI YAMAGUCHI

Associated Press

Thursday, April 22, 2021

TOKYO (AP) – Japan‘s prime minister announced on Thursday an ambitious new target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, hours before he was to join a virtual climate summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Japan will strive by 2030 to cut its emissions by 46% from 2013 levels, up from its earlier goal of 26%, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, a target he announced in October. He said Japan would further try to push the reduction as high as 50%.

“It will not be easy,” Suga said. “In order to achieve the target, we will firmly implement concrete measures, while aiming to create a positive cycle that links the economy and environment and achieve strong growth.”

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Japan’s target of no net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 brought it into line with the European Union, which last year set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by the same date. China in September pledged to be carbon neutral by 2060.

Japan, one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters, has been under pressure from environmental groups and European countries to do more than its earlier 26% reduction target. Britain has pledged a 78% reduction by 2035.

Japan initially was to release its new 2030 target in time for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in November in Britain, and Thursday’s announcement was apparently to show its commitment to taking an active role in the global effort as an important U.S. ally.

Experts say Japan is under pressure to play a greater role as part of a multilateral effort led by the United States in environment and climate issues, where China is also expanding its influence.

Suga, during a visit to Washington last week, agreed to cooperate in leading global efforts to reduce carbon emissions by promoting clean energy technologies and implementing the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Progress toward reducing reliance on fossil fuels in Japan has been hindered by the prolonged closures of most of its nuclear plants after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011.

Japan’s current energy plan, set in 2018, calls for 22-24% of its energy to come from renewables, 20-22% from nuclear power and 56% from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas.

Energy experts are discussing revisions to the plan for 2030 and 2050. The 2050 emissions-free target would require drastic changes and likely prompt calls for more nuclear plant restarts.

About 40% of Japan’s carbon emissions come from power companies, and they must use more renewable sources of energy while stepping up development of technologies using hydrogen, ammonia and other carbon-free resources, experts say.

Suga said he will maximize the use of renewables and other non-carbon power sources, provide support for local decarbonizing efforts and encourage investment.

US, Belgium, France and Japan hold Mideast naval exercise

US, Belgium, France and Japan hold Mideast naval exercise

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Associated Press

Sunday, March 21, 2021

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The U.S. Navy said Sunday it will hold a major naval exercise alongside Belgium, France and Japan in the Mideast amid tensions over Iran‘s nuclear program in the region.

The Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise will see ships from the four countries conduct drills in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. Ships involved include the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, as well as the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.

The Belgian frigate HNLMS Leopold I and the Japanese destroyer JS Ariake also will take part, as well as aircraft from the four nations.

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The drill comes as Iran has abandoned all limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in the wake of then-President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw from the accord.

President Joe Biden has expressed a desire to return to the deal if Iran honors the deal’s limits on its nuclear program. However, tensions remain high after militias in Iraq – likely backed by Iran – continue to target American interests.

Biden last month launched an airstrike just over the border into Syria in retaliation, joining every American president from Ronald Reagan onward who has ordered a bombardment of countries in the Middle East.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran to the naval drill.

Escalating violence ups pressure for Myanmar sanctions

Escalating violence ups pressure for Myanmar sanctions

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FILE – In this March 3, 2021, file photo, anti-coup protesters run as one of them discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar. The escalation of violence in Myanmar … more >

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By ELAINE KURTENBACH

Associated Press

Saturday, March 6, 2021

BANGKOK (AP) – The escalation of violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the Feb. 1 coup is raising pressure for more sanctions against the junta, even as countries struggle over how to best sway military leaders inured to global condemnation.

The challenge is made doubly difficult by fears of harming ordinary citizens who were already suffering from an economic slump worsened by the pandemic but are braving risks of arrest and injury to voice outrage over the military takeover. Still, activists and experts say there are ways to ramp up pressure on the regime, especially by cutting off sources of funding and access to the tools of repression.

The U.N. special envoy on Friday urged the Security Council to act to quell junta violence that this week killed about 50 demonstrators and injured scores more.

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“There is an urgency for collective action,” Christine Schraner Burgener told the meeting. “How much more can we allow the Myanmar military to get away with?”

Coordinated U.N. action is difficult, however, since permanent Security Council members China and Russia would almost certainly veto it. Myanmar‘s neighbors, its biggest trading partners and sources of investment, are likewise reluctant to resort to sanctions.

Some piecemeal actions have already been taken. The U.S., Britain and Canada have tightened various restrictions on Myanmar‘s army, their family members and other top leaders of the junta. The U.S. blocked an attempt by the military to access more than $1 billion in Myanmar central bank funds being held in the U.S., the State Department confirmed Friday.

But most economic interests of the military remain “largely unchallenged,” Thomas Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights situation in Myanmar, said in a report issued last week. Some governments have halted aid and the World Bank said it suspended funding and was reviewing its programs.

Its unclear whether the sanctions imposed so far, although symbolically important, will have much ímpact. Schraner Burgener told U.N. correspondents that the army shrugged off a warning of possible “huge strong measures” against the coup with the reply that, “‘We are used to sanctions and we survived those sanctions in the past.’”

Andrews and other experts and human rights activists are calling for a ban on dealings with the many Myanmar companies associated with the military and an embargo on arms and technology, products and services that can be used by the authorities for surveillance and violence.

The activist group Justice for Myanmar issued a list of dozens of foreign companies that it says have supplied such potential tools of repression to the government, which is now entirely under military control.

It cited budget documents for the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Transport and Communications that show purchases of forensic data, tracking, password recovery, drones and other equipment from the U.S., Israel, EU, Japan and other countries. Such technologies can have benign or even beneficial uses, such as fighting human trafficking. But they also are being used to track down protesters, both online and offline.

Restricting dealings with military-dominated conglomerates including Myanmar Economic Corp., Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise might also pack more punch, with a minimal impact on small, private companies and individuals.

One idea gaining support is to prevent the junta from accessing vital oil and gas revenues paid into and held in banks outside the country, Chris Sidoti, a former member of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said in a news conference on Thursday.

Oil and gas are Myanmar‘s biggest exports and a crucial source of foreign exchange needed to pay for imports. The country’s $1.4 billion oil and gas and mining industries account for more than a third of exports and a large share of tax revenue.

“The money supply has to be cut off. That’s the most urgent priority and the most direct step that can be taken,” said Sidoti, one of the founding members of a newly established international group called the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar.

Unfortunately, such measures can take commitment and time, and “time is not on the side of the people of Myanmar at a time when these atrocities are being committed,” he said.

Myanmar’s economy languished in isolation after a coup in 1962. Many of the sanctions imposed by Western governments in the decades that followed were lifted after the country began its troubled transition toward democracy in 2011. Some of those restrictions were restored after the army’s brutal operations in 2017 against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar’s northwest Rakhine state.

The European Union has said it is reviewing its policies and stands ready to adopt restrictive measures against those directly responsible for the coup. Japan, likewise, has said it is considering what to do.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, convened a virtual meeting on March 2 to discuss Myanmar. Its chairman later issued a statement calling for an end to violence and for talks to try to reach a peaceful settlement.

But ASEAN admitted Myanmar as a member in 1997, long before the military, known as the Tatmadaw, initiated reforms that helped elect a quasi-civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Most ASEAN governments have authoritarian leaders or one-party rule. By tradition, they are committed to consensus and non interference in each others’ internal affairs.

While they lack an appetite for sanctions, some ASEAN governments have vehemently condemned the coup and the ensuing arrests and killings.

Marzuki Darusman, an Indonesian lawyer and former chair of the Fact-Finding Mission that Sidoti joined, said he believes the spiraling, brutal violence against protesters has shaken ASEAN’s stance that the crisis is purely an internal matter.

“ASEAN considers it imperative that it play a role in resolving the crisis in Myanmar,” Darusman said.

Thailand, with a 2,400 kilometer (1,500-mile)-long border with Myanmar and more than 2 million Myanmar migrant workers, does not want more to flee into its territory, especially at a time when it is still battling the pandemic.

Kavi Chongkittavorn, a senior fellow at Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies, also believes ASEAN wants to see a return to a civilian government in Myanmar and would be best off adopting a “carrot and stick” approach.

But the greatest hope, he said, is with the protesters.

On Saturday, some protesters expressed their disdain by pouring Myanmar Beer, a local brand made by a military-linked company whose Japanese partner Kirin Holdings is withdrawing from, on people’s feet – considered a grave insult in some parts of Asia.

“The Myanmar people are very brave. This is the No. 1 pressure on the country,” Chongkittavorn said in a seminar held by the East-West Center in Hawaii. “It’s very clear the junta also knows what they need to do to move ahead, otherwise sanctions will be much more severe.”

Pence, world leaders call for unity at international Rally of Hope

Pence, world leaders call for unity at international Rally of Hope

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The rally, organized by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), drew well over 1 million participants from across the globe, all united in the fight against oppression, poverty and racial discrimination. more >

Print

By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday joined other world leaders in calling on nations to forge new friendships and break down historic barriers to peace as the globe pulls free from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Pence said as coronavirus case counts drop and vaccination levels mount, it is now time to look ahead and begin building a better tomorrow.

“Every day we are one day closer to putting the long night of the coronavirus behind us. Rays of sunlight have pierced the horizon and a bright new day is dawning,” Mr. Pence told current and former heads of state and prominent U.S. political figures participating in a digital “Rally of Hope.”

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“Now, as nations undertake the urgent work of restoring lost jobs, reopening shuttered industries, we must remember that our task is not merely to rebuild the world of the past, but to forge a brighter future for all our citizens,” he said.

The rally, organized by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), drew well over 1 million participants from across the globe, all united in the fight against oppression, poverty and racial discrimination. Saturday’s event was the fifth such rally since last August, with the virtual gatherings offering a valuable outlet for optimism and encouragement in what’s been a bleak period amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In addition to Mr. Pence, a host of other prominent officials and world leaders spoke at Saturday’s rally, including: Cape Verde President Jorge Carlos Fonseca; Guyana Prime Minister Mark Phillips; Former South Africa President F.W. de Klerk; and others.

In her own remarks Saturday, UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon expressed hope that the longstanding dream of a united Korean peninsula will become a reality.

“The people of Korea have been chosen by heaven. Nonetheless, the sad reality is the Korean peninsula remains divided,” she said. “And we dream of a heavenly unified Korea. That dream will come true. If the Korean peninsula, if the people of Korea can become one people and if the Asia Pacific can be united into heavenly civilization, and connect the entire world, we can become a force for good that will expand to all of the continents and oceans of the world.”

Other speakers Saturday said that COVID-19 should serve as a reminder of how fragile life can be, and of the need for human beings to work past even the most entrenched divisions.

“I am optimistic that this unprecedented crisis is also our chance to put aside our differences, to show we are prepared to love our neighbor as ourselves and work as one to create the better and more peaceful world we all want to see,” said David Beasley, former Republican governor of South Carolina who now serves as executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme.

“Every single one of us can contribute and help to build a brighter future for the children of Korea and beyond. If we work together in partnership, I truly believe we will one day achieve our dream of a world free from hunger and conflict,” he said. “I also know for sure that when people come together to pray together, break bread together, miracles begin to happen. So, let us pray together for peace and healing on the Korean peninsula.”

‘Within our lifetime’

In his address, Mr. Pence also underscored the unshakeable U.S. commitment to its ally South Korea, and he stressed that Washington will stand hand in hand with Japan and other Pacific allies in the face of China’s rise as an economic and military power.

A unified Korean peninsula would contribute greatly to a more stable, peaceful Pacific region — and Mr. Pence said that goal is within reach.

“We will stand firm against our common adversaries, even as we work in good faith to turn our adversaries into friends. In so doing, I believe we can lay a foundation to bring about the peaceful unification of Korea within our lifetime,” Mr. Pence said. “That vision of freedom, peace, and prosperity is the same vision the people of the United States and the Republic of Korea have shared for nearly 70 years: A Korea united by the universal values of human dignity, liberty, and economic freedom.”

Mrs. Moon, the leader of the Unification Church, and her late husband, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, devoted their lives to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula and to the promotion of world peace. They founded The Washington Times.

UPF’s global reach was evident Saturday as leading officials from all corners of the planet delivered messages of hope.

“Conflict among humans is a concept as old as time, and peace, as a result, has evaded us on this earth for centuries,” said Mark Phillips, prime minister of Guyana. “But every new day, we have a chance to start anew and fix the errors of the past while forging a new path forward; a path to resolving conflict and uniting as a global unit.”

The need for countries to come together as one has never been more important. Officials said that it will be crucial to lend a hand — economically, spiritually, and in other ways — to less fortunate nations that face the toughest climb back from the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had repercussions not only of a biomedical and epidemiological nature on a global scale, but also social, economic, political, cultural and historical impacts unprecedented in the recent history of epidemics,” said Cape Verde President Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca. “This crisis is global and multifaceted. It is a health crisis, but it is also, without doubt, also an economic, financial, social, environmental and often political crisis — shaping the development of almost the entire planet, and with negative consequences in the least developed countries.”

Military coup yet another blow for Myanmar’s sagging economy

Military coup yet another blow for Myanmar’s sagging economy

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FILE – In this Feb. 1, 2021, file photo, vehicles make their ways on a road in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. The military coup in Myanmar is unlikely to do the country’s struggling economy any good at all. The country once considered … more >

Print

By ELAINE KURTENBACH and VICTORIA MILKO

Associated Press

Friday, February 5, 2021

BANGKOK (AP) – The military coup in Myanmar is unlikely to do the country’s struggling economy, once considered a promising “last frontier,” any good at all.

Myanmar‘s economy has languished as the pandemic added to its challenges and the prospect of fresh Western sanctions in the wake of this week’s army takeover will only make things tougher for those on the ground, economists say.

It’s unclear if China might help make up for lost business due to the increased political risks and potential for turmoil if public anger over the ouster of massively popular Aung San Suu Kyi and fellow civilian leaders erupts in mass protests.

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Apart from raising the risk of political unrest, economic sanctions and other disruptions, the coup likely will prove to be a huge setback to efforts to improve Myanmar’s investment environment, curb crony capitalism and build a more sustainable path to growth.

“With this kind of situation the sad thing is that you don’t even need to put sanctions in place because the dire economic consequences of the conflict, combined with what happening now makes the country look very unstable and not the right place to invest right now. So the repercussions are immediate,” said Laetitia van den Assum, a former diplomat and a member of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which was set up by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annam to improve Myanmar‘s treatment of minority Rohingya Muslims.

The military seized power shortly before a new session of Parliament was to convene on Monday, declaring its actions were legal and constitutional because Suu Kyi’s government had refused to address voting irregularities in November’s election, which her National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

That provoked a rush to ATMs and food stalls. TV signals were cut and passenger flights were grounded. Authorities urged calm, while moving to suppress dissent through Facebook and other social media.

Commander-in-Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who now controls the government, met with business leaders and pledged to maintain financial stability and “continue work on international projects.”

Meanwhile, the central bank promised it would not demonetize any of the currency, a reasonable fear: three past demonetizations provoked much anguish and anger.

“The general public can continue using the banknotes and banking services without any worries, and all the banks have been instructed to provide regular banking services,” the Central Bank of Myanmar said in a notice.

The economy already was faltering before the pandemic. Sian Fenner of Oxford Economics estimates the coup will likely cut growth this year by half, from an earlier forecast of 4.1% to 2%.

The past decade’s average annual growth rate of 7.6% had slowed to just 2.9% in 2019. Last year, the World Bank estimates the economy grew 0.5%.

The economy’s performance fell short of popular expectations as growth benefited a tiny part of the population and reforms took a back seat to efforts to end decades of ethnic civil conflict. Tourism has suffered and new sanctions were imposed following a 2017 counterinsurgency campaign that drove about 740,000 of the mostly Muslim Rohingya to flee the country.

Min Aung Hlaing is one of four generals who were blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Department for the military’s abuses in Rakhine and other ethnic majority regions.

Given the recurring risks of falling afoul of such sanctions, many U.S. companies have held back on major direct commitments, instead opting for local partnerships. Fast food giant Yum! Brands Inc., for example, opened its first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, a franchise with local partner Yoma Strategic Holdings, in downtown Yangon last year.

President Joe Biden said Monday the coup would bring an immediate review of U.S. sanction laws, “followed by appropriate action.”

“We will work with our partners to support restoration of democracy and the rule of law, and impose consequences on those responsible,” he said in a speech to State Department employees on Thursday.

The potential impact of sanctions would depend on how far-reaching they are. Many Western brand names, including Samsonite, LL Bean, H&M; and Bass Pro, have suppliers in Myanmar, based on shipping data from Panjiva.

Exports of clothing, shoes and other consumer goods are a vital source of growth. They doubled after the European Union in 2015 began allowing preferential imports from Myanmar under an “everything but arms” arrangement in recognition of the country’s progress toward democracy.

The garment and textiles sector employs 450,000, mostly women, in more than 600 factories, according to the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association.

“The development of a competitive low-end manufacturing sector has traditionally been the route out of poverty for low-income countries in Asia, so throttling textiles would have lasting repercussions,” Gareth Leather of Capital Economics said in a report.

Japan’s Kirin Holding Co. announced Friday it was ending its joint venture with the military-linked conglomerate Myanma Economic Holdings PLC, whose board is entirely composed of military leaders.

“Given the current circumstances, we have no option but to terminate our current joint-venture partnership,” Kirin said. “We will be taking steps as a matter of urgency to put this termination into effect.”

The military, which had ruled Myanmar for five decades, does not have a strong track record on handling the economy. Beginning in the 1990s, foreign investment rose as the leadership began sporadic efforts to modernize and reopen the economy.

Business and tourism revived as a result of a transition to a civilian, quasi-democratic government a decade ago. Poverty dropped from about half of the population to just over a quarter, according to the World Bank. But rural areas, home to about 70% of the population, still lag far behind.

The coup threatens the short-term outlook for investment and foreign business, but also the longer-term potential for growth, says Fenner of Oxford Economics.

It is likely to delay or perhaps derail the government‘s efforts to improve the business environment, build up a modern banking system and other financial industries, cut corporate taxes and move ahead with “strategic infrastructure projects,” he noted.

Myanmar has made progress in some areas in recent years, including compliance with anti-money laundering standards, opening a stock exchange and enacting a financial institutions law. The government was preparing to implement a medium- to long-term economic resilience and reform plan after the election.

But the military has retained ultimate control both of the government and much of the economy, enabling cronies to dominate lucrative trading in gems and other natural resources. Private businesses are starved of cash while investment in schools, health and other vital foundations of future growth has suffered.

“You need the kind of investment that helps you build and adapt to climate change, that helps you to make your economy more sustainable in the long run. You need innovation. And that’s not going to come from crony capitalism,” van den Assum said.

___

Milko reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.

Japan expresses concern to UK over new Chinese maritime law

Japan expresses concern to UK over new Chinese maritime law

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Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, left, and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi attend a video conference with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defense Minister Ben Wallace on screen, not seen, at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, Feb. 3 2021. Both … more >

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By MARI YAMAGUCHI

Associated Press

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

TOKYO (AP) – Japan‘s foreign minister and defense minister expressed strong concern to their British counterparts on Wednesday over a new Chinese maritime law that took effect two days earlier.

Japan is staying alert and paying close attention to its effect on us,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in online talks between the two sides. “I believe the law should not be used in a way that violates international law.”

Japan sees China’s escalating influence and military activity in the region as a security threat and has been stepping up defense cooperation with the U.S., Australia, Southeast Asian countries, as well as Britain.

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The new Chinese Coast Guard Law, which increases the possibility of clashes with regional rivals, empowers the force to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”

It also authorizes the coast guard to demolish other countries’ structures built on areas claimed by China and to seize or order foreign vessels illegally entering China’s territorial waters to leave.

“We would like to share our strong concern with you” about the law, Motegi, accompanied by Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, told British counterparts Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace, who joined them from London.

China’s coast guard is active near disputed East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing. China also claims virtually the entire South China Sea.

The coast guard’s activities have brought it into frequent contact with the Japanese coast guard and air force.

In a joint statement released after the talks, the ministers expressed “serious concerns” about the rising tension in the regional seas and urged all parties “to exercise self-restraint and refrain from activities likely to raise tensions, in particular militarization and coercion.”

They also expressed “grave concerns” over China’s crackdown on opposition in Hong Kong and “gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” according to the statement.

The ministers also agreed to deepen defense and security cooperation between Japan and Britain to ensure a “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision that Japan promotes with the U.S., Australia and India to counter China.

Japan and Britain are jointly developing an air-to-air missile defense system and increasing the inter-operability of defense equipment and technology as their troops work together more closely.

Kishi welcomed the planned dispatch of a British aircraft carrier strike group this year to East Asia as part of Britain’s growing commitment to the region.

Wallace said the Asia visit for the strike group, led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, was “the most significant Royal Navy deployment in a generation.”

The British government, which is seeking to boost the country’s global profile after Brexit, said the U.K.-Japan meeting was part of an “Indo-Pacific tilt” toward Asian allies.

Raab said the new focus “demonstrates our shared priorities and common strategic interests from maritime security to climate change and free trade.”

___

Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

80% say Tokyo Olympics should be called off or won’t happen

80% say Tokyo Olympics should be called off or won’t happen

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In this Dec. 1, 2020, file photo, a man and a woman walk past near the Olympic rings floating in the water in the Odaiba section in Tokyo. More than 80% of people in Japan who were surveyed in two … more >

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By Stephen Wade

Associated Press

Monday, January 11, 2021

TOKYO (AP) — More than 80% of people in Japan who were surveyed in two polls in the last few days say the Tokyo Olympics should be canceled or postponed, or say they believe the Olympics will not take place.

The polls were conducted by the Japanese news agency Kyodo and TBS – the Tokyo Broadcasting System.

The results are bad news for Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee as they continue to say the postponed Olympics will open on July 23.

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Tokyo is battling a surge of COVID-19 cases that prompted the national government last week to call a state of emergency. In declaring the emergency, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he was confident the Olympics would be held.

Japan has controlled the virus relatively well but the surge has heightened skepticism about the need for the Olympics and the danger of potentially bringing 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes into the country.

The Olympics could also attract tens of thousands of coaches, judges, officials, VIPs, sponsors, media and broadcasters. It is not clear if fans from abroad will be allowed, or if local fans will attend events.

Japan has attributed about 3,800 deaths to COVID-19 in a country of 126 million.

The TBS poll asked if the Olympics can be held. In the telephone survey with 1,261 responding, 81% replied “no” with only 13% answering “yes.” The “no” responses increased 18 percentage points from a similar survey in December.

In Kyodo’s poll, 80.1% of respondents in a telephone survey said the Olympics should be canceled or rescheduled. The same question in December found 63% calling for cancellation or postponement.

Kyodo said the survey covered 715 randomly selected households with eligible voters. Neither poll listed a margin of error.

Japan is officially spending $15.4 billion to hold the Olympics, although several government audits show the number is about $25 billion. All but $6.7 billion is public money.

The Switzerland-based IOC earns 91% of its income from selling broadcast rights and sponsorships.

The American network NBC agreed in 2011 to a $4.38 billion contract with the IOC to broadcast four Olympics through the Tokyo. In 2014 it agreed to pay an added $7.75 billion for six more games — Winter and Summer — through 2032.

What now for British economy with UK-EU trade deal reached?

What now for British economy with UK-EU trade deal reached?

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FILE -In this Friday, Jan. 31, 2020 file photo, the Union flag is folded and removed after being lowered from outside of the European Parliament in Brussels. Britain and the European Union have struck a provisional free-trade agreement that should … more >

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By PAN PYLAS

Associated Press

Thursday, December 24, 2020

LONDON (AP) – The last-minute trade deal between the U.K. and the European Union means businesses will be spared new tariffs and border disruption at the start of the new year – an economic shock that would have compounded the employment and financial troubles inflicted by the pandemic.

News of the agreement Thursday brought sighs of relief from the offices of corporate bosses and politicians, as well as from consumers anticipating produce shortages and transport workers facing the potential of long backups at border crossings.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey recently warned that a failure to secure a U.K.-E.U. trade deal would have a greater long-term impact on the British economy than the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the country’s deepest recession in more than three centuries.

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The deal still must win approval from the British and EU parliaments. Here’s a look at the changes to come and their likely implications.

___

WHAT IS THE U.K. LEAVING ON JAN. 1?

Though the U.K. left the EU on Jan. 31, it is following the bloc’s rules until the end of this year as part of a transition period to the new economic relationship. The problem was, what comes after that?

The U.K. is leaving the European single market, which after its departure will encompass around 450 million people. At its heart, the single market aims to make trade as simple as possible, regardless of where a business is located within the European Economic Area, which in addition to the 27 EU member states includes non-EU nations including Iceland and Norway. The rules governing trade are the same across the single market and are based on the free movement of goods, services, capital and people.

The U.K. is also leaving the customs union, which eliminated tariffs between members and created a common external tariff to non-members. Under the customs union, the EU negotiates international trade deals on behalf of its members – giving it a weight in the global economy that no single member would have.

___

WHAT IS THE NEW RELATIONSHIP?

Under the terms of the new deal, there will be no tariffs on goods traded between the U.K. and the EU. For car manufacturers, for example, that’s a relief as without a deal a 10% charge would have applied from Jan. 1. There will also be no quotas, meaning that exporters can still transport as many vehicles as they wish.

Still, trade will not be as seamless as before as the U.K. leaves the single market and the customs union. Firms will have to file forms and customs declarations for the first time in years. There will also be different rules on product labeling as well as sanitary checks on agricultural products, for example.

The government has estimated that the new red tape will result in an extra 215 million customs declarations each year at an annual cost of about 7 billion pounds.

But a deal averts what could have been considerable chaos and a deeper blow to trade, since new tariffs would have added to the cost of doing business between the UK and the EU for many different categories of good. That has many viewing Thursday’s deal as making the best of a bad situation for business.

___

WHAT WILL THE IMMEDIATE IMPACT BE?

It is possible that it will take time to adjust, likely leading to further traffic jams on both sides of the English Channel as well as delays at the ports in the days and weeks after Jan. 1. Early expectations are that some food prices, notably of imported meat and dairy products, will rise in the weeks ahead.

___

HOW WILL THE NEW TRADE RELATIONSHIP AFFECT ECONOMIC GROWTH?

Economists agree that the deal is better for the British economy than a no-deal outcome, and will help it recover from the coronavirus recession, which is expected to have reduced economic output by around 12% in 2020. The impact is much smaller for the EU and other countries around the world, which would have mainly experienced some volatility in financial markets in case of no deal.

The EU accounts for around half of the U.K.’s exports, so avoiding tariffs will help many companies. Executives can start to implement investment decisions that they’d kept on hold over the past few years of Brexit uncertainty. Still, the deal with the EU does not incorporate the full scope of the services sector. Since it accounts for around 80% of the British economy, those businesses that rely heavily on business with the EU, such as banking and finance, face a murkier future. That’s particularly ominous for the UK’s huge banking sector.

___

WHAT ABOUT LONGER TERM?

In the longer-term, most forecasters think the British economy will end up being a few percentage points smaller over the coming few years than it otherwise would have been if it had stayed in the EU. That may not sound much in the context of this year’s recession, but it does mean that living standards would be lower than otherwise have been the case.

Economists at Berenberg bank wrote that “exiting the EU single market and customs union will lower UK potential growth by harming its export prospects and reducing inflows of foreign direct investment and qualified labor from the EU.” They estimated a maximum growth potential of 2.0% annually as an EU member, against 1.7% with Thursday’s deal and 1.5% with no deal.

___

WHAT WILL THE U.K. DO DIFFERENTLY?

The whole point of Brexit was to allow the U.K. to set its own rules and do things its own way. Therefore the sticking point during the months of tense trade negotiation was to work out what to do when and if the U.K. diverged from the EU‘s rules.

The EU has long feared that Britain would undercut the bloc’s social, environmental and state aid rules to be able to gain an unfair edge with its exports to the EU. Britain has said that having to meet EU rules would undercut its sovereignty. The agreement struck a compromise by conceding a key U.K. demand that the European Court of Justice not be involved in resolving disputes. It instead allows the possibility for arbitration or trade countermeasures in case either side feels they are being damaged by labor, policy or employment measures. If those measures are overused, either side can trigger a reopening of the trade aspects of the treaty.

____

WHAT ABOUT TRADE OUTSIDE THE EU?

Through Dec. 31, the U.K. remains bound by the 40 or so international trade agreements the EU has negotiated over the past few years. In the run-up to the end of the year, the U.K. has sought to rollover those deals, such as with Japan and Mexico, but a few still have to be concluded. At the start of 2021, the U.K. will be able to forge its own trade deals with whoever it wants. Negotiations with the United States have already started though President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that trade deals are not top of his in-tray when he assumes office later in January.

___

Associated Press Writer David McHugh contributed from Frankfurt, Germany.

___

Follow all AP stories about Brexit and British politics at https://apnews.com/Brexit

Nearly 100 world leaders to speak at UN session on COVID-19

Nearly 100 world leaders to speak at UN session on COVID-19

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In this photo provided by the United Nations, Volkan Bozkir, President of the seventy-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly, chairs the General Assembly: General Debate, during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 24, … more >

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By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Nearly 100 world leaders and several dozen ministers are slated to speak at the U.N. General Assembly’s special session starting Thursday on the response to COVID-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic which has claimed 1.5 million lives, shattered economies, and left tens of millions of people unemployed in countries rich and poor.

Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said when he took the reins of the 193-member world body in September that it would have been better to hold the high-level meeting in June. Nonetheless, he said Wednesday it “provides a historic moment for us to come together to beat COVID-19.”

“With news of multiple vaccines on the cusp of approval, and with trillions of dollars flowing into global recovery efforts, the international community has a unique opportunity to do this right,” he said. “The world is looking to the U.N. for leadership. This is a test for multilateralism.”

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When financial markets collapsed and the world faced its last great crisis in 2008, major powers worked together to restore the global economy, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been striking for the opposite response: no leader, no united action to stop the pandemic that has circled the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent a letter to leaders of the Group of 20, the world’s richest nations responsible for 80 percent of the global economy ahead of their summit in late March as COVID-19 was starting its killing spree urging that they adopt a “wartime” plan and cooperate on an international response to suppress the coronavirus. But there was no response.

The two-day special session will not be raising money to finance vaccine immunizations or taking any political action, and there will be no final declaration, just a summary document from Bozkir.

“The real point of this special session is to galvanize concrete action to approach our response to COVID-19 in a multilateral and collective way,” General Assembly spokesman Brenden Varma said Wednesday. He added that there are currently many responses to the pandemic, but what’s needed now is to bring together all countries, U.N. actors, the private sector and vaccine developers.

Leaders and ministers from over 140 countries will deliver pre-recorded speeches on Thursday after an in-person opening in the General Assembly including speeches by Bozkir and Guterres.

Among the leaders slated to address the session are French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and European Union chief Charles Michel. The United States will be represented by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Friday’s session will focus on three virtrual panels, the first on the U.N.’s response to COVID-19 and the second on vaccines that will include representatives from producers BioNTech and Oxford University-AstraZeneca, and the World Health Organization’s ACT-Accelerator which is working to get vaccines to the world’s poorest people. The final panel is on recovery from COVID-19. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is expected to participate in all three panels.

Canada’s U.N. deputy ambassador Louise Blais, who organized the special session with Azerbaijan’s Ambassador Yashar Aliev, said it will be the first time that the U.N. system is bringing key players together to focus on COVID-19′s “myriad impacts.”

“Countries around the world are facing their own internal impacts, but it’s important that the U.N. continue to advocate … that this crisis impacts us all and the solutions are global,” she told The Associated Press in an interview. “So, we have to work together in order to ensure that all of us get out of this, because until everyone does, no one is really safe.”

Blais said the session is “an important step” and will focus on implementing the three resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on COVID-29, especially the wide-ranging measure approved in September.

The special session “comes at a critical time,” Blais noted, “because we now know that there are a number of vaccines that have proven to be effective.”

“Now, all eyes are on the critical distribution of vaccines,” she said, adding that this is expected to be a key them during the special session and it’s one “where the world is expecting us to work together and make sure that we have an equitable distribution of vaccine globally.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said secretary-general Guterres will be focusing on the need for all countries and people everywhere to have access to vaccines.

“The vaccine needs to be treated as a `global public good’ and that will be the basis of the secretary-general’s message” on Thursday, Dujarric said.

Trump skips Asian summits as China set to expand influence

Trump skips Asian summits as China set to expand influence

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In this Nov. 13, 2017, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, reacts as he does the ‘ASEAN-way handshake’ with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, not pictured, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on stage during the opening ceremony at … more >

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By Hau Dinh and Eileen Ng

Associated Press

Friday, November 13, 2020

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — President Donald Trump skipped summits with his Asian counterparts for the third year in a row on Saturday, even as rival China is set to expand its influence with a massive free trade deal in the region.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said Trump regretted he was unable to attend the online summit with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but stressed the importance of ties with the region.

“At this time of global crisis, the U.S.-ASEAN strategic partnership has become even more important as we work together to combat the coronavirus,” O’Brien said in remarks at the opening ceremony, which was livestreamed to ASEAN members watching from their respective countries.

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Trump attended the ASEAN summit in 2017, but sent only representatives during the last two meetings. A special summit with ASEAN that he was supposed to host in Las Vegas in March was called off due to the pandemic.

Trump has been busy challenging the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election, insisting he was the victim of election fraud. Most countries have acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory.

O’Brien also represented the U.S. at an East Asia virtual summit later Saturday that included the ASEAN members as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Russia.

Despite Trump’s absence, the White House said in a statement that ASEAN remains central to his vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” Washington’s strategy to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

China’s sway in the region is set to expand with a free trade agreement that will be signed Sunday. The pact, which will cover almost a third of the world economy, includes the ASEAN nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

India backed out of the plan last year, and the agreement also does not include the United States, despite America’s $2 trillion in trade with the countries in the pact.

In his remarks Saturday, O’Brien touted ASEAN as the fourth-largest trading partner for the U.S., with trade reaching over $354 billion last year.

“We deeply appreciate ASEAN partners’ efforts to keep the key supply chains open, factories operating and PPE flowing,” O’Brien said, referring to personal protective equipment used to protect against the coronavirus.

He noted that the U.S. had contributed $87 million to combat the coronavirus in Southeast Asia, including providing ventilators and PPE.

“The United States has your back and we know you have ours,” O’Brien said.

At the East Asia summit later Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres said the virus had infected at least 14 million people in Asia and killed more than a quarter million in the region. At least 39 million people could revert to extreme poverty in East Asia alone, he warned.

The U.N. has urged countries to put together a stimulus package amounting to at least 10% of global gross domestic product, Gutteres said.

With the global community facing its deepest recession since World War II, the World Bank is on track to commit a record $160 billion over 15 months, including grants and concessional financing, said its president, David Malpass.

Still, the pandemic remains an enormous obstacle to development and a successful vaccination program will be key to recovery, he said.

Earlier Saturday, China, Japan and South Korea sought deeper regional cooperation to battle the pandemic.

“Facing a possible second wave as winter is setting in, we can work together to mitigate the pandemic and to reopen the economy,” said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the region must work together toward the development and equitable supply of vaccines and treatments, and establish an effective mechanism to prepare to battle new infectious diseases.

He said the speed of global economic recovery will be very uneven amid trade protectionism and uncertainties in the financial markets. An accelerated transition to a digital economy could also widen the gap between social classes, Moon warned.

“We must work to strengthen the resilience of our economies and identify measures for inclusive, sustainable growth,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo has been engaged in boosting ASEAN’s economic resilience and remains committed to deepening ties with Southeast Asia.

Japan and South Korea have committed $1 million each to an ASEAN COVID-19 fund, meant to support member states in securing medical equipment and finance research on drugs and vaccines against the coronavirus.

___

Ng reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associated Press writers Ken Moritsugu in Beijing and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Japan rejects nuclear ban treaty; survivors to keep pushing

Japan rejects nuclear ban treaty; survivors to keep pushing

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By Mari Yamaguchi

Associated Press

Monday, October 26, 2020

TOKYO (AP) — Japan said Monday it will not sign a U.N. treaty that bans nuclear weapons and does not welcome its entry into force next year, rejecting the wishes of atomic bomb survivors in Japan who are urging the government to join and work for a nuclear-free world.

The United Nations confirmed Saturday that 50 countries have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, paving the way for its entry into force in 90 days.

The announcement was hailed by anti-nuclear activists, but the treaty has been strongly opposed by the United States and other major nuclear powers.

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan shares the goal of achieving a nuclear-free world, but does not think the treaty is the way to go.

Japan’s approach is different from that of the treaty, and there is no change to our position not to sign it, as we have said,” Kato told reporters Monday. “We doubt if support is growing even among non-nuclear weapons states, let alone nuclear weapons states.”

Japan has said that it is not realistic to pursue the treaty with nuclear powers and non-nuclear weapons states sharply divided over it. Kato said Japan has chosen instead to serve as a bridge to narrow the gap between the two sides.

Asked if Japan at least welcomes the treaty taking effect next year, Kato only repeated Japan’s position.

Japan has decided not to sign the treaty even though it is the world’s only country to have suffered nuclear attacks and has renounced its own possession, production or hosting of nuclear weapons.

That is because Japan hosts 50,000 American troops and is protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Its post-World War II security pact with the U.S. also complicates efforts to get Japan to sign the treaty as it beefs up its own military to deal with perceived threats from North Korea and China.

“We need to appropriately respond to the current security threats, by maintaining or strengthening our deterrence. We have to be realistic about promoting nuclear disarmament,” Kato said.

Atomic bomb survivors, who have long worked to achieve the treaty, renewed their call for Japan to become a signatory. Terumi Tanaka, a survivor of the Aug. 9, 1945, Nagasaki bombing who has long campaigned for a nuclear weapons ban, said he has not given up hope.

“It is the Japanese government that will be embarrassed when the treaty enters into effect,” Tanaka told reporters Monday. “We will keep working to get the government to change its policy.”

The U.S. had written to treaty signatories urging them to rescind their ratification, saying four other nuclear powers — Russia, China, Britain and France – and America’s NATO allies “stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions” of the treaty.

There are over 14,000 nuclear bombs in the world, many of them tens of times more powerful than the weapons dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed more than 210,000 people in the closing days of World War II.

The treaty was approved by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly in July, 2017, by a vote of 122 in favor. The five nuclear powers and four other countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons — India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — boycotted negotiations and the vote on the treaty, along with many of their allies, including Japan.

Asteroid samples escaping from NASA spacecraft, scientists say

Asteroid samples escaping from NASA spacecraft, scientists say

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In this image taken from video released by NASA, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft touches the surface of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (NASA via AP) more >

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By Marcia Dunn

Associated Press

Friday, October 23, 2020

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – A NASA spacecraft is stuffed with so much asteroid rubble from this week’s grab that it’s jammed open and precious particles are drifting away in space, scientists said Friday.

Scientists announced the news three days after the spacecraft named Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu 200 million miles away.

The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta, said Tuesday’s operation collected far more material than expected for return to Earth – in the hundreds of grams. The sample container on the end of the robot arm penetrated so deeply into the asteroid and with such force, however, that rocks got sucked in and became wedged around the rim of the lid.

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The team was scrambling to put the sample container into the return capsule as early as Tuesday – much sooner than originally planned – for the long trip home. Particles are continuing to escape, and scientists want to minimize the loss.

“Time is of the essence,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of NASA’s science missions.

A cloud of asteroid particles could be seen swirling around the spacecraft as it backed away from Bennu – at least one-half of an ounce (5 to 10 grams) at any one time. The situation appeared to stabilize, according to Lauretta, once the robot arm stopped moving and was locked into place.

The requirement for Orisis-Rex – NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission, totaling more than $800 million – was at least 2 ounces (60 grams) of samples for return. The carbon-rich material holds the preserved building blocks of our solar system and could help scientists better understand how the planets were formed and how life originated on Earth.

Launched in 2016, the spacecraft arrived at Bennu in 2018. Regardless of what’s on board, it will still leave the vicinity of the asteroid in March. The samples won’t return to Earth until 2023.

Japan is awaiting its second batch of samples taken from a different asteroid, due back in December.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Shares of Chinese retailer Miniso jump in 1st day of trading

Shares of Chinese retailer Miniso jump in 1st day of trading

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People walk past a Miniso shop at a shopping mall in Beijing, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Miniso, a Chinese discount retailer known for its fashionable but affordable household products, is expected to raise up to $562 million in a U.S. … more >

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By ZEN SOO

Associated Press

Thursday, October 15, 2020

HONG KONG (AP) – Shares of Miniso Group Holding jumped in their first day of trading, while the broader markets were on pace for their third straight loss this week.

Miniso, a Chinese discount retailer known for its fashionable but affordable household products, raised $608 million in a U.S. initial public offering in New York.

The Guangzhou-based retailer is the latest Chinese company to list in the U.S., amid tensions that have taken U.S.-China relations to their worst level in decades.

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The U.S. market remains an attractive place to go public, despite the friction over trade and technology, with Chinese firms raising at least $7.5 billion in initial public offerings in the U.S. this year, according to data compiled by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Miniso founder Ye Guofu, who owns an 80% stake in the company, is set to become a billionaire following the listing on Thursday in the U.S., with a net worth of about $4 billion. Each of Miniso’s depository shares were priced at $20 apiece, above the estimated price range of $16.50 to $18.50, according to a press release by the company.

The stock opened at $24.40, and in afternoon trade, shares were up nearly 12%, or $2.33, at $22.33.

“We chose to list in the United States … because many global companies list there,” Ye said in a phone interview on Thursday, ahead of the company going public on the New York Stock Exchange.

“We are aiming for continuous development of our business model and are not after short-term profit, and we hope the market will see this.”

Backed by Chinese gaming company Tencent Holdings, which also owns social media company WeChat, Miniso found success in brick-and-mortar retailing by modeling itself after Japan’s 100-yen stores, which sell a variety of products at about $1 each. The company has over 3,000 stores globally, more than 60% of them in mainland China.

Miniso stores typically sell a range of goods, from cosmetics to small household appliances, mostly crafted by an in-house team of designers. The company positions itself as a retailer that sells high-quality products at an affordable price – shoppers can pick up waterproof eyeliner for as little as $1.50, perfume for $3, or a pair of sunglasses for less than $8.

It also partners with brands to sell products with intellectual property licensed from Disney or Marvel, offering various items such as wallets, bags and toys featuring Marvel superhero characters and Mickey Mouse.

Ye was inspired to start Miniso in 2013, after he travelled to Japan with this family and was impressed by the Japanese design aesthetic.

“I realized that there are many lifestyle specialty stores in Japan selling household products and home furnishings, and we didn’t have such stores in China,” Ye said.

Ye wanted to harness China’s manufacturing prowess and meld it with good design, to offer quality products at attractive prices to consumers.

Miniso entered the offline retail scene at a time when e-commerce was winning market share. Ye said he decided to take the brick-and-mortar route because he was more familiar with the industry, having had retail experience for over a decade prior to founding Miniso.

“For the products that we offer, it is more suited to an offline shopping experience as consumers can touch the products and get a feel of them, it is an experience that you cannot get online,” he said.

Although the company will still focus on offline retail, Miniso has previously launched some of its products on Chinese e-commerce platforms like Taobao and JD.com. Ye said that they will not exclude e-commerce as a sales channel in the future.

Miniso stores became popular among consumers because they have raised the bar for design and quality, while maintaining a commitment to competitive prices, said Michael Norris, a research and strategy manager at Shanghai-based AgencyChina.

“They’ve been a trailblazer in reimagining discount retail,” he said. “An offline-first approach works for Miniso because it debuts new products almost every week, so every time shoppers browse the store they will see something different.”

“That level of discovery and serendipity is difficult for online-only retailers to match,” Norris said.

Like many other retailers, Miniso’s business has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic. Stores in China were closed for about two months between January and March, and the company reported a 4% decline in revenue to about 9 billion yuan ($1.3 billion).

Its global network of stores, both self-operated and franchised, also weathered temporary closures between April and June this year, impacting the company’s sales to overseas distributors, according to the Miniso prospectus.

With the funds raised from the IPO, Miniso plans to expand its network of stores and invest in warehousing and logistics, as well as technology and information systems.

ADRs of the company are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “MNSO.”

Donald Trump counters China on rare earth minerals

Countering China on tech minerals

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President Trump is shown here in a Sept. 30, 2020 file photo walking out of the Oval Office. (Associated Press) **FILE** more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

President Trump has signed an executive order aimed at countering China’s drive to corner the international market on rare earth minerals — key elements used in high-tech products that are the backbone of the U.S. economy and key weapons systems.

The Sept. 30 order calls on the government to end reliance on China and develop domestic supplies of processed rare earth minerals. A number of reports by government agencies must be sent to the White House in the coming weeks to describe the progress toward those goals.

“Our dependence on one country, the People’s Republic of China, for multiple critical minerals is particularly concerning,” Mr. Trump said in announcing the order, noting that the United States now imports 80% of its rare earth elements directly from China and some of the remainder is indirectly sourced from China through other countries.

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China used aggressive economic practices to strategically flood the global market for rare earth elements and displace its competitors,” Mr. Trump added.

As a result, China exploited its dominance in the rare earths market “by coercing industries that rely on these elements to locate their facilities, intellectual property and technology in China,” he said.

The president noted the danger revealed in 2010 when China suspended exports of processed rare earths to Japan during a dispute over waters in the East China Sea. That forced several companies to add factory capacity in China, threatened Japan’s industrial and defense sectors, and drove up prices worldwide.

Critical minerals are not actually rare, but there is a shortage of manufacturing facilities used to process them. Currently, around 80% of all rare earths are produced in China.

Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin ordered state companies in 1991 to step up development of rare earths to “change the resource advantage into economic superiority.”

Mr. Trump’s presidential order cites the danger that China could cut off U.S. imports of barite, currently 50% of American imports. Barite is used in oil fracking, a process vital to U.S. energy production.

China also dominates the market for gallium, which is used in semiconductors for cellphones, blue and violet LEDs, diode lasers and 5G telecommunications. U.S. manufacturing also is completely reliant on imports for the graphite used in batteries for cellphones, laptops and electric cars. China produces 60% of the world’s graphite.

The Pentagon is in the process of building a heavy rare earth element separation and processing capability. The plant will process dysprosium and terbium, used in powerful magnets employed in precision-guided munitions flight control systems, pumps, sensors and advanced naval radar and ship cooling systems.

Rare earths got the name because, unlike minerals such as iron or silicon, they do not exist in large deposits and the process of extracting them is laborious and involves the use of toxic chemicals.

The United States in the past was a major producer and processor of rare earths, but the Mountain Pass mine in California and its plants were closed.

QUAD TO CONFRONT CHINA

State Department officials say the United States, Japan, Australia and India, known collectively as the Quad, agreed to step up pressure on China over its aggression in regional waters and its use of disinformation and influence operations to promote Beijing’s authoritarian policies.

During a three-hour meeting in Tokyo this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and foreign ministers from Japan, Australia and India held the first formal meeting of what U.S. officials hope could become a kind of “Asian NATO” grouping.

Rather than a formal alliance, the Quad may be set up as a formal “framework” of nations bound together in agreement about the need to promote freedom and democracy in the face of Chinese expansionism.

“There’s no avoiding the fact that it’s China and its actions in the region that make the Quad actually matter and function this time around,” said a senior State Department official who spoke to reporters on Mr. Pompeo’s flight back to the United States.

Mr. Pompeo has been a leading international voice calling out the policies of the Communist Party of China, including its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the stifling of freedom in Hong Kong, building military bases in the South China Sea and repressing Uighurs in western China.

For the Indians, the China threat boiled over in a border clash in the Himalayas that led to the beating deaths of Indian and Chinese troops recently.

Japan is pushing back against Chinese attempts to take control of the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands ruled by Tokyo for decades and recently claimed by Beijing.

Australia raised China’s extensive covert infiltration and subversion operations in its country that included the forced resignation of a senator with hidden links to the Chinese Communist Party.

“If you look at the single thing that’s driving all this, it’s a sudden turn toward gross aggression by the Chinese government in its entire periphery,” said one State Department official. “All the way around the Indo-Pacific and its western borders, you’re seeing things that you haven’t seen before, and [the Quad governments] are responding to that.”

Another topic of discussion in Tokyo was joint freedom of navigation and aerial transit in the face of Chinese expansionism in places like the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Quad leaders’ discussions also focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has damaged economies around the world. Australia’s government angered Beijing in announcing that an international investigation should be launched into how the virus outbreak began, something China has refused to do.

A second U.S. official noted: “Chinese aggression certainly draws a big part of this, but it’s also about the different models that we stand for, democratic countries and an authoritarian model, and which ones will be sort of more successful in the long run.

“This isn’t about a U.S.-China dispute. This is about the free world versus Chinese authoritarianism.”

One area of common concern is Beijing’s use of disinformation and the need to speak out against disinformation campaigns and Chinese propaganda.

“It’s important that we shine a light on what the Chinese Communist Party is doing,” the second official said.

CHINA FIRES ROCKET FROM FREIGHTER

China last month conducted a flight test of a Long March-11 rocket from the deck of a merchant ship, a sign, analysts say, that indicates Beijing could be developing the capability of firing missiles from freighters.

The Sept. 15 flight test of the rocket was carried out in the Yellow Sea from the deck of a heavy lift ship, according to two specialists at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Malcolm Davis and Charlie Lyons Jones wrote in a recent analysis that the Chinese military reporting on the launch said firing systems off freighters provides strategic advantages. The PLA Daily, the official military newspaper, said sea-based missile firing “increases launch efficiency and rocket-carrying capacity” and permits “the freedom to choose launch sites, [which can] effectively offset unwanted risks.”

The PLA also believes sea-based surface-ship ballistic missiles provide tactical flexibility not present in land-based missiles at fixed locations that are more easily targetable.

The LM-11 launch was sponsored by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology and used solid-fuel technology similar to the systems in the DF-21 and DF-26 intermediate-range missiles.

“The launching of the Long March-11 from a civilian vessel raises the prospect that China’s merchant fleet could be used to fire ballistic missiles in wartime,” the two analysts stated.

The use of freighters as missile-firing platforms increases the risk that China’s extensive international network of port facilities could eventually double as military bases. China has one of the largest merchant fleets in the world and is building a network of commercial port facilities around the world.

Iran is also known to have conducted a missile test off the deck of one of its merchant ships.

Some American military analysts have suggested that the Navy could rapidly augment its fleet of warships by developing its own missile-firing capability from merchant ships.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions, while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts,” R. Robinson Harris, Andrew Kerr, Kenneth Adams, Christopher Abt, Michael Venn and T.X. Hammes wrote last year in the U.S. Naval Institute journal Proceedings.

• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

Taiwan says China sending planes near island almost daily

Taiwan says China sending planes near island almost daily

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In this photo taken Feb. 10, 2020, and released by the Republic of China (ROC) Ministry of National Defense, a Taiwanese Air Force F-16 in foreground flies on the flank of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6 … more >

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By

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – China is sending military planes near Taiwan with increasing frequency in what appears to be a stepping up of its threat to use force to take control of the island, Taiwan’s foreign minister said Wednesday.

Such flights are more frequent than reported in the media and have become “virtually a daily occurrence,” Joseph Wu told reporters.

Along with Chinese military exercises simulating an attack on Taiwan, the flights by China are causing major concern for Taiwan’s government, Wu said.

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“What it is doing now is unceasingly preparing to use force to resolve the Taiwan problem,” Wu said.

China claims the self-ruling island democracy as its own territory and threatens to use the People’s Liberation Army to bring it under its control. The sides split in a civil war in 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to the former Japanese colony as the Communist Party took control in mainland China.

Beijing has cut ties with the island’s government since Taiwan elected independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016 and has sought to isolate it diplomatically while raising the military threat. Despite that, Tsai was reelected this year by a wide margin.

Wu said China appeared to have grown in confidence following its crackdown on opposition voices in the former British colony of Hong Kong, facilitated by the national legislature’s passage of a sweeping security law.

“If international society does not give China a sufficiently clear signal, I believe China will take it that international society will not impede it in doing other things,” Wu said. “This is what we are extremely worried about.”

Wu stressed the need for coordination with allies such as Japan and the U.S., neither of which has official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but which maintain close relations. U.S. law mandates that Washington ensure the island can maintain a credible defense and treat all threats against the island as matters of grave concern.

Support among Taiwanese for political unification with China has long been weak and has fallen further following the crackdown in Hong Kong. That comes as Chinese Communist Party leader and President Xi Jinping pursues an increasingly assertive foreign policy, leading to speculation he may attempt a military confrontation in the region.

Taliban make big changes ahead of expected talks with Kabul

Taliban make big changes ahead of expected talks with Kabul

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FILE – In this March 9, 2020, file photo, Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, attends Ashraf Ghani’s inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban put the son of the movement’s feared founder in charge of its … more >

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By KATHY GANNON

Associated Press

Friday, July 17, 2020

ISLAMABAD (AP) – The Taliban have put the son of the movement’s feared founder in charge of their military wing and added several powerful figures to their negotiating team, Taliban officials said. The shake-up, one of the most significant in years, comes ahead of expected talks with Kabul aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan.

As head of a newly united military wing, 30-year-old Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob brings his father’s fiercely uncompromising reputation to the battlefield.

Equally significant is the addition of four members of the insurgent group’s leadership council to the 20-member negotiating team, Taliban officials told The Associated Press.

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The shuffle, overseen by Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhunzada, is meant to tighten his control over the movement’s military and political arms, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the inner workings of the Taliban.

Analysts say the shake-up could be good news for negotiations with the Afghan political leadership, and a sign of how seriously the Taliban are taking this second – and perhaps most critical – step in a deal Washington signed with the insurgents in February.

“I’d say it appears to be a positive development because the Taliban are creating a delegation that seems more senior and more broad-based than they’ve used to date, or than might be strictly necessary for the opening stages of talks,” said Andrew Wilder, vice president of the Asia Program at the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace.

“If you want to see the glass as half full, this strengthened Taliban delegation could be interpreted as a sign that the group is planning to engage in serious discussions,” he said.

When the U.S. signed the deal with the Taliban on Feb. 29, after more than a year and a half of negotiations, it was touted as Afghanistan’s best chance at peace in four decades of war. It was also seen as a road map for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war.

On Monday, four-and-a-half months since the signing, chief U.S. negotiator and peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted that “a key milestone in the implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement” had been reached as American troop numbers dropped to 8,600 from about 12,000 and five bases were closed in Afghanistan.

Even as Khalilzad chastised increased insurgent attacks on Afghan security forces, he said the Taliban had been true to their word not to attack U.S. and NATO troops.

“No American has lost his/her life in Afghanistan to Taliban violence. Regional relations have improved,” he tweeted.

The Taliban have stepped up their military activity against Afghan government forces since Yaqoob’s appointment in May, a sign the militants under his leadership may see battlefield wins as upping their leverage at the negotiating table.

“I can see a lot of reasons for the Taliban to be pushing the envelope – perhaps as a negotiation tactic, but equally likely as a means to test U.S limits,” said Daniel Markey, a senior research professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. “So far, the Trump administration looks like it is heading for the exit, no matter what. Why not ratchet up the violence to see what greater victories can be won? ”

Surprisingly, the shuffle also sidelined senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi, removing him from the negotiating committee. Seen as close to neighboring Pakistan, his removal could limit Pakistan’s influence and buttress their position with Kabul, which is deeply suspicious of Islamabad.

Already a deputy head of the movement, the sudden appointment of the son of Mullah Mohammed Omar as the Taliban military chief reportedly ruffled feathers among members of the leadership council, who had not been consulted. Yaqoob, however, met with the council and won over the dissenters, said the Taliban officials.

“Yaqoob’s appointment appears to be, at least in part, an effort by Mullah Akhundzada to shore up oversight of battlefield operations at a key moment … as the insurgents ramp up violence to strengthen their negotiating position in preparation for potential peace talks with the Afghan government,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center.

In recent weeks, hopes have been raised of a July start to negotiations but the Taliban and the Kabul government have become bogged down in the final release of prisoners, a prerequisite for the start of negotiations. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the AP on Friday that the Taliban reject government efforts to substitute prisoners from the originally negotiated list for the exchange.

Countries have been lining up to host the talks, with Germany being the latest to put in an offer and Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Japan and Norway reportedly among the nations volunteering. However, the Taliban and Afghan government officials say the first round is likely to be held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office.

The newly strengthened negotiating team includes Abdul Hakeem, the Taliban’s chief justice and confidant of Akhunzada, as well as Maulvi Saqib, who was chief justice during the Taliban rule.

Under the U.S.-Taliban deal, the Taliban – who during their rule of Afghanistan hosted al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden as he planned the 9/11 attacks – have pledged to no longer host any terror groups. They also guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a launching arena for future attacks against America.

In a tweet this week, Khalilzad said “more progress is needed on counter-terrorism,” without elaborating.

This week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke about the controversy surrounding the White House over reports of Russian money being paid to Afghan militias – reportedly with links to the Taliban – to kill U.S. troops.

“There’s a lot of Russian footprint; there are Russian weapon systems there. We have made clear to our Russian counterparts that we ought to work together to get a more sovereign, more independent, peaceful Afghanistan,” he said.

___

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington and Tameem Akghar in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

Asia Today: South Korean prosecutors question church leader

Asia Today: South Korean prosecutors question church leader

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Police officers wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard outside of the Supreme Court of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) more >

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Associated Press

Thursday, July 16, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korean prosecutors on Friday questioned the leader of a secretive church sect over accusations it hampered the government’s anti-virus response after thousands of COVID-19 infections were detected among its members in February and March.

Lee Man-hee, the 88-year-old chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was questioned for about four hours at a district prosecutors’ office in Suwon, south of Seoul, before being sent home after he complained about unspecified health problems, prosecution and church officials said. Hwang Seong-hyeon, a prosecutor in Suwon, said his office plans to summon Lee again for further questioning over the possibility that the church violated the country’s infectious disease law.

Lee and other Shincheonji leaders have faced suspicions of hiding some of the church’s membership and under-reporting its worship activities to health authorities to avoid broader quarantines. Prosecutors last week arrested three senior members of the church over the allegations. Lee and Shincheonji have steadfastly denied the accusation.

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More than 5,200 of South Korea’s 13,672 cases have been linked to the church. Its branch in the southern city of Daegu became the biggest cluster after infections spiked in late February.

Health authorities used an aggressive test-and-quarantine program to contain the outbreak in Daegu and nearby towns by April, but the country has seen a resurgence of the virus in the Seoul area since late May as people increasingly venture out in public.

Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said the spread of the coronavirus is stabilizing in the Seoul area and other major cities.

The 60 new cases reported Friday included 39 linked to people arriving from abroad. The country is enforcing two-week quarantines for all people arriving from overseas.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

– India crossed 1 million coronavirus cases on Friday, prompting concerns about its readiness to confront an inevitable surge that could overwhelm hospitals and test its feeble health care system. A surge of 34,956 cases in the past 24 hours took the confirmed total to 1,003,832. The Health Ministry also reported a record 687 deaths for a total of 25,602. The grim milestone comes at a time when several Indian states are imposing focused lockdowns to stem the outbreak amid frantic efforts by local governments to protect the economy.

– Another 293 people were confirmed infected in Tokyo on Friday, the second straight daily high in Japan’s capital. “We have asked people and businesses to raise their alert levels,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said, urging social distancing, disinfecting of hands and other measures. The city is working to increase its testing capacity and Koike said it is boosting the ability of hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. Japan has so far avoided the massive cases of the hardest hit nations, with fewer than 24,000 confirmed cases and about 1,000 deaths. It has been trying to keep economic activity while avoiding the virus’s spread, a precarious balancing act of opening restaurants and theaters with limited seating, and having store clerks work behind plastic shielding.

– Further restrictions are being imposed on the northwestern Chinese city of Xinjiang following a cluster of new cases. Airlines say passengers departing the city’s airport are required to show a negative test for coronavirus and a mobile phone record showing they have a clean bill of health. The main subway line linking the city to the airport has also been shut, some residential communities closed off and restrictions imposed on use of public transport. The health department in the surrounding region of Xinjiang says six confirmed cases have been reported over the past 24 hours, along with 11 cases where people have tested positive but are showing no symptoms. The other cases reported in mainland China were all imported. Xinjiang is the homeland of the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority and has long been blanketed with extreme security.

– China on Friday began requiring those arriving on the mainland from Hong Kong show a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous three days and undergo 14 days of supervised quarantine, following a new outbreak in the semi-autonomous region. Notable exceptions include students and truck drivers who must cross the border daily, along with “important business people,” according to the official notice. Hong Kong reported 67 new infections on Thursday, a daily high. Authorities said 63 were locally transmitted and they could not trace the source of 35 of them.

– Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state reported a new high of 428 cases, as New South Wales state announced stricter measures after a spike in new virus cases. Most of Victoria’s new cases and three deaths reported on Friday were in the nation’s second-largest city, Melbourne, which has been locked down since last week. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the government was increasing the number of testing sites outside Melbourne. There are currently 50 testing sites in regional Victoria. Eight new cases were detected in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said customer limits currently imposed on pubs would be extended to restaurants, cafes, clubs and other hospitality venues from next Friday. The state’s largest cluster, now around 42 cases, began in a Sydney pub. Other parts of Australia have been lifting restrictions.

– Two U.S. diplomats are among five new coronavirus cases in Cambodia announced Friday. All five patients had traveled from the United States. Three are Cambodians who arrived via Taiwan, the Health Ministry said. It said the two Americans are senior diplomats who had flown from the U.S. via South Korea and are being isolated at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh. An embassy spokesman declined to provide immediate comment or details. Cambodia banned virtually all new arrivals in March but last month eased the rules, allowing the repatriation of more Cambodians and the tightly restricted entry of foreigners. It has had 171 confirmed cases with no deaths.

Stocks rise on vaccine hopes; S&P 500 back within 5% of high

Stocks rise on vaccine hopes; S&P 500 back within 5% of high

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A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental … more >

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By STAN CHOE and DAMIAN J. TROISE and ALEX VEIGA

Associated Press

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) – Markets worldwide rallied on rising hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, and the S&P; 500 climbed back to where it was a few days after it set its record early this year.

Investors see a vaccine as the best way for the economy and human life to get back to normal, and researchers said late Tuesday that one developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna revved up people’s immune systems in early testing, as hoped. The S&P; 500 rose 0.9% to pull within 4.7% of its all-time high set in February.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 227.51 points, or 0.9%, to 26,870.10, and the Nasdaq composite gained 61.91, or 0.6%, to 10,550.49. During the morning, the S&P; 500 touched its highest level since Feb. 25, and it ended the day at 3,226.56, up 29.04.

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Several things helped lift the market, including stronger-than-expected reports on the economy and on corporate profits from Goldman Sachs and others. But the vaccine hopes were at the center of the rise, which meant the market’s leaderboard was dominated by companies that would benefit most from a return to normal life. They included cruise-ship operators, airlines, retailers and hotel chains.

Stocks of smaller companies also leaped much more than the rest of the market, an indication of rising expectations for the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks jumped 3.5%, a turnaround from earlier months when big, tech-oriented companies were carrying the market.

“Investors are gaining more confidence of the longer-term direction of the market,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. “It’s not just the behemoth tech stocks that are likely to lead share prices higher, but that mid- and small-cap stocks will also benefit, not only from an economic recovery, but also from very low interest rates.”

Winners of the stay-at-home economy created by quarantines and lockdowns, meanwhile, lagged behind. Clorox, Netflix and Amazon all fell.

Wednesday’s lift for markets, though, came only after another day of choppy trading. The S&P; 500 shot to a quick 1.3% gain shortly after trading began, only to give up nearly all of it before swinging a couple more times.

It’s the latest bout of erratic trading for the market, which has been largely churning in place for weeks. The S&P; 500 is almost exactly where it was on June 8. Often, it’s swung sharply within a single day as hopes for a budding economic recovery collide with continuing increases in coronavirus counts.

On Wednesday, as Wall Street was losing its stride, Florida announced another daily death toll of more than 100 and Oklahoma’s governor said he tested positive for the coronavirus.

“People should be thinking about a balance of optimism and realism,” said Nela Richardson, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

She said there is a “long climb” to go for the economy’s reopening and pointed to other risks for the market, including U.S. tensions with China.

“We think it’s going to be a pretty bumpy road ahead,” she said.

Worries also remain high that the stock market has gone overboard in its rally: It has taken less than four months for the S&P; 500 to almost return to its record after being down nearly 34%. But it could take years for the economy and corporate profits to get back to where they were before the pandemic struck. .

Markets nevertheless climbed Wednesday, bolstered by the optimism about a possible vaccine and encouraging reports on the economy and corporate earnings.

The nation’s industrial production improved more in June than economists expected. So did manufacturing in New York state earlier this month.

Goldman Sachs rose 1.4% after it reported much stronger results for the latest quarter than analysts expected. Financial stocks in general did well, with those in the S&P; 500 up 1.9%.

Other areas of the market where profits are closely tied to the strength of the economy were also particularly strong. Industrial stocks rose 2.6% for the biggest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P; 500, and energy producers gained 2%.

Royal Caribbean Cruises surged 21.2% to lead a group of stocks that stand to gain if shoppers and travelers get back to life as it was before the pandemic. American Airlines rose 16.2%, Gap jumped 12.7% Live Nation Entertainment rose 11.7% and Hilton Worldwide added 10.1%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.63% from 0.61% late Tuesday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX returned 1.8%, while the CAC 40 in Paris advanced 2%. Britains FTSE 100 picked up 1.8%.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 advanced 1.6% after the Bank of Japan kept its ultra-easy monetary stance unchanged. It forecast that the economy would improve later in the year, assuming there is no major “second wave” of outbreaks of the new coronavirus.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.8%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was nearly unchanged.

Stocks in Shanghai slipped 1.6% after President Donald Trump signed a bill and executive order that he says will hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong.

The legislation and order are part of an escalating diplomatic offensive against China that is adding to chronic tensions over trade and other issues.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 91 cents to settle at $41.20 per barrel. Brent oil, the international standard, picked up 89 cents to settle at $43.79 per barrel.

___

AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.

Wall Street ticks higher in another day of unsettled trading

Stock indexes shake off weak start and close broadly higher

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A man wearing a face mask walks past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in Hong Kong, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Asian shares fell Tuesday as skepticism set in about the recent upbeat mood on global … more >

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By STAN CHOE and DAMIAN J. TROISE and ALEX VEIGA

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) – The stock market shook off a weak start and ended broadly higher after pinballing through another day of unsettled trading. The S&P; 500 rose 1.3% Tuesday. It had been down nearly 1% in the early going. The gains accelerated as the day went on. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.1%, lifted by gains for UnitedHealth Group and Caterpillar, among others. The bumpy trading followed another turbulent day Monday, when stocks veered from an early gain to a loss after California brought back restrictions on its economy amid a jump in coronavirus counts.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story appears below.

Wall Street is ticking higher Tuesday afternoon after pinballing through another day of unsettled trading.

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The S&P; 500 was up 0.8%, as of 3 p.m. Eastern time, after erasing an earlier loss of 0.9%. It follows up on Monday’s turbulence, when stocks veered from an early gain to a loss after California brought back restrictions on its economy amid a jump in coronavirus counts.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 442 points, or 1.7% at 26,528, lifted by gains for UnitedHealth Group and Caterpillar, among others. Big tech-oriented stocks were turning in mixed performances, though, which helped hold the Nasdaq composite to a more modest gain of 0.3%.

The latest erratic moves come as earnings reporting season kicks off for the market, and three of the nation’s biggest banks painted a mixed picture of how badly the coronavirus pandemic is ripping through their businesses.

“The earnings season is off to a very guarded start,” said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

He pointed to cautious forecasts from companies that see the economy possibly taking a step back because of worsening COVID-19 trends, or at least taking longer to recover than expected.

“The fact that they are prepared for bad scenarios is helping to give the market a little confidence,” he said.

Like the broader market, financial stocks drifted between gains and losses for much of the day before turning higher in the afternoon. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup said they collectively set aside nearly $27 billion during the second quarter to cover loans potentially going bad due to the recession.

But investors took very different approaches to each of them. JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, was up 0.6% after it said it made a record amount of revenue from April through June. Its profit for the latest quarter also managed to beat analysts’ expectations, even though it roughly halved from year-ago levels.

Wells Fargo, though, dropped 4.9% after it said it expects to cut its dividend. “Our view of the length and severity of the economic downturn has deteriorated considerably,” CEO Charlie Scharf said.

Citigroup fell 3.5% after CEO Michael Corbat said its overall business performance was strong last quarter, though net income dropped 73% from a year ago largely due to the $7.9 billion it had to set aside for loans potentially going bad.

Delta Air Lines lost 2.3% after its earnings and revenue for the latest quarter fell short of Wall Street’s already very low expectations. The pandemic is keeping fliers on the ground, and Delta’s passenger count plunged 93% during the quarter from a year earlier. CEO Ed Bastian said it could be two years before the airline sees a sustainable recovery.

Stocks have mostly churned in place since early June. That’s when the S&P; 500 pulled back within 4.5% of its record high set in February, after earlier being down nearly 34%. The index is now 6% below its record.

Pulling stocks higher has been a budding economic recovery, with the job market, retail sales and other measures of the economy halting their plunge and beginning to resume growth. Underlying it all is massive aid for the economy from central banks and governments around the world.

But pushing stocks down are accelerating coronavirus counts in hot spots around the world, which threatens to halt the recovery just as it got going. California demonstrated on Monday how dangerous that can be when the governor of the country’s largest state economy once again ordered bars, indoor dining and other businesses closed.

The worry is that the continuing pandemic could push states across the Sun Belt to roll back reopenings of their economies.

That’s why COVID-19 trends – along with the potential for more aid for the economy from Congress – will matter much more for markets in upcoming weeks than what companies say about their second-quarter results, said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Global Investments.

“The progression of the virus should still be front and center for what is dictating and going to continue to dictate our prospects for economic growth going forward,” he said.

The stock market’s gains were relatively widespread in Tuesday afternoon trading, after it pulled out of its weak start. Smaller stocks were doing better than the rest of the market, with the small-cap Russell 2000 index up 1%.

And four out of five of the big stocks in the S&P; 500 were higher. Energy companies, raw-material producers and other companies whose profits desperately need the economy to strengthen were leading the way.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 fell 1%, and Germany’s DAX lost 0.8%. The FTSE 100 in London added 0.1%.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.9%, South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.1%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury dipped to 0.61 from 0.62% late Monday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations of the economy and inflation.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 19 cents to settle at $40.29 per barrel. Brent oil, the international standard, rose 18 cents to $42.90 a barrel.

Japan’s ruling party calls for government to cancel Xi visit

Japan’s ruling party calls for government to cancel Xi visit

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By MARI YAMAGUCHI

Associated Press

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

TOKYO (AP) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party adopted a resolution on Tuesday urging the government to cancel a visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping following Beijing’s imposition of a new national security law for Hong Kong.

“Under the current situation where grave concerns have been expressed from the international community about the principles of freedom, human rights, democracy … we have no choice but to urge (the government) to cancel President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan,” the Liberal Democratic Party said in its resolution, read by party diplomatic panel chief Yasuhide Nakayama.

The resolution condemned Beijing’s imposition last week of the security law for semi-autonomous Hong Kong. It said China should address the concerns of the international community, and the Japanese government should call more assertively on China to work toward building friendly relations.

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The new law makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. Critics see it as Beijing’s boldest step yet to erase the legal firewall between the former British colony and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist system.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the top spokesman for Abe’s government, said the timing is not appropriate for arranging details of Xi’s visit and nothing has been decided.

Suga said the government’s position is that Japan and China should resolve outstanding issues through high-level talks including those between the leaders. He declined to comment on the possible impact of the resolution on JapanChina relations.

China has already criticized Japan for its recent expressions of regret over Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong.

Xi’s Japan visit, initially planned for this spring, had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. But China hawks in the ruling party have repeatedly raised criticisms of Abe’s invitation of Xi as a state guest, particularly amid anti-government unrest in Hong Kong since last year.

Abe has made improved JapanChina ties one of his main diplomatic goals.

Japan and China have long had disputes over their wartime history, ownership of a cluster of islands and undersea deposits in the East China Sea.

___

Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Singapore opens gyms, dining out as China outbreak steadies

Singapore opens gyms, dining out as China outbreak steadies

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People have lunch together at the Newton Food Center Friday, June 19, 2020, in Singapore. Singaporeans can wine and dine at restaurants, work out at the gym and get together but no more than five people after most lockdown restrictions … more >

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By Royston Chan and Elaine Kurtenbach

Associated Press

Friday, June 19, 2020

SINGAPORE (AP) — Singaporeans can wine and dine at restaurants, work out at the gym and socialize with no more than five people at a time as of Friday, when the city-state removed most of its pandemic lockdown restrictions.

The latest relaxation comes as reopenings in many places around the world are touching off fresh spikes in infections, raising questions about how to live with the coronavirus without causing unnecessary deaths or economic catastrophe.

Getting back to business in Singapore came as China declared a fresh outbreak in Beijing under control after confirming 25 new cases among some 360,000 people tested. That was up by just four from a day earlier.

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A Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention official said the number of cases was expected to fall soon in outbreak centered on Beijing’s main wholesale market. So far Beijing has confirmed 183 new cases over the past week.

Singapore’s malls, gyms, massage parlors, parks and other public facilities reopened their doors with strict social distancing and other precautions.

“It was a long awaited experience, I would say. It’s been quite a few months long,” said Thomas Tan, a 34-year old customer service officer eating in an outdoor market. “It’s good to be able to eat outside with friends but there still must be social distancing.”

After at first appearing to have been a model for containing the virus, the country of only 5.8 million has one of the highest infection rates in Asia with 41,473 cases, mostly linked to foreign workers’ dorms. Authorities say such cases have declined, with no new large clusters and a stable number of other cases despite a partial economic reopening two weeks ago.

Wee Cheng Yan, a gym trainer, said it felt good to return to work after two months at home.

“Definitely, interaction has been lacking the past few months,” he said. “Watching a lot of TV. Doing a bit of resistance band training, which is not as effective as working out in the gym.”

Members of the gym still must make appointments and are limited to only two hours a day. The steam rooms remained shut and clients must wear masks at most times.

Contact sports, concerts, trade fairs, singing lessons and mass religious meetings are still banned and entertainment venues such as cinemas, karaokes and bars remain shut.

The 25 new cases reported Friday in Beijing were among 32 nationwide in China, four of them in Chinese who had returned from overseas.

Such outbreaks are inevitable, Wu Zunyou of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told a news conference. But he stressed that prevention measures should not slacken.

Beijing suspended classes and put opening-up plans for everything from sports events to art exhibitions on hold. Bus travel to other regions was suspended to prevent the spread of the outbreak.

The outbreak started in the seafood section of the city’s Xinfadi market, raising worries infections might have come from imported fish or sea products. But a customs administration notice said nationwide testing for the coronavirus in food imports were all negative.

The pandemic is waxing and waning in many places, with numbers of cases soaring in Indonesia and India, Brazil and Mexico but appearing to be under control or contained in Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and New Zealand.

Japan’s foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, said Friday that Japan and Vietnam have agreed to partially lift travel bans and ease restrictions step by step under the understanding that both countries have their outbreaks largely under control.

Vietnam is among four countries that Japan is discussing resuming mutual visits in phases. It is seeking similar arrangements with Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, India recorded 13,586 newly confirmed cases on Friday, raising its total to 380,532. Still, shops, malls, factories and places of worship have been allowed to reopen while schools and cinemas remain shuttered.

Infections surged in rural areas after hundreds of thousands of migrant workers left cities after losing jobs in a lockdown announced in late March. Such precautions are now restricted to high-risk “containment” zones.

In South Korea, outbreaks have inspired second-guessing on whether officials were too quick to ease social distancing guidelines in April after a first wave of infections waned. Officials reported 49 cases of COVID-19 on Friday as the virus continues to spread in the densely populated capital area of Seoul, where half of its 51 million people live. About 30 to 50 new cases have been confirmed per day since late May.

The new coronavirus has infected more than 8.4 million people worldwide and killed more than 453,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The actual number is thought to be much higher because many cases are asymptomatic or go untested.

In the U.S., which has the most cases at nearly 2.2 million, states have been pushing ahead with reopenings from full or partial pandemic shutdowns despite surges in cases in many places, including Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and California.

New cases skyrocketed Thursday in Oklahoma by 450, double the record-setting number reported two days earlier. Tulsa County, where President Donald Trump plans a rally on Saturday at an indoor arena, remained the state’s leading hot spot with 120 new cases for a total of 1,825.

The new wave comes amid demonstrations to protest police killings of black citizens and ahead of weekend Juneteenth celebrations marking the end of slavery in the U.S.

Scores of people in campers and tents were lining up early for Trump’s first rally in months. Protesters were also gathering.

Trump said Thursday he picked Oklahoma partly because “you’ve done so well with the COVID.”

Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart pushed for postponing the event, but the state’s Republican governor, Kevin Stitt said Oklahoma was ready and its rate of positive COVID-19 tests was lower than many other states.

“It’s going to be safe,” said Stitt, a Republican. “We have to learn how to be safe and how to move on.”

___

Kurtenbach reported from Bangkok. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

South Korea to reopen WTO complaint over Japan trade curbs

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Na Seung-sik, deputy minister of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s Office of Trade and Investment, speaks during a briefing at the government complex in Sejong, South Korea, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Reigniting a bitter row between key U.S. … more >

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By KIM TONG-HYUNG

Associated Press

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Reigniting a bitter row between key U.S. allies, South Korea on Tuesday said it will reopen a complaint filed with the World Trade Organization over Japan’s tightened controls on technology exports to its companies, blaming Tokyo for an alleged lack of commitment in resolving mutual grievances.

South Korea had halted its WTO action in November when it decided to keep a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan it previously threatened to end over conflicts stemming from wartime history and trade, after months of pressure by the Trump administration.

Japan in return agreed to resume talks on settling a bilateral trade dispute, which was triggered by its move in July in to strengthen export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies used to make computer chips and displays.

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But Na Seung-sik, an official from South Korea’s trade ministry, said there has been no progress since then because of what he described as Japan’s lack of willingness to settle the dispute. He said South Korea will request a WTO panel ruling over the issue and that the process will likely take more than a year.

When imposing tighter controls over the three chemicals, Japan had cited unspecified security concerns over South Korea’s export controls on sensitive materials that could be used for military purposes. But Na said there has been no known security problem related to the chemicals or products that involved them in the past 11 months.

“Our government in the past six months sincerely engaged in dialogue and provided thorough and sufficient explanations so that the Japanese side could understand South Korea’s export controls are functioning normally and effectively,” Na said in a briefing.

“Our thinking is that the process of bilateral consultations is over, and the next step would be for us to request the WTO to set up a dispute settlement panel.”

Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi expressed regret over South Korea’s move and said there was no change to Tokyo’s position that Seoul should improve its export controls.

“It was regrettable that the South Korean side unilaterally made the announcement even though we have maintained dialogues,” he told reporters.

South Korea says Japan’s trade measures threaten its export-dependent economy, where many manufacturers rely on materials and parts imported from Japan. It claims Tokyo is retaliating over South Korean court rulings that called for Japanese companies to offer reparations to aging South Korean plaintiffs over World War II forced labor.

Japan, which ruled the Korean Peninsula for nearly four decades before the end of the war, insists that all compensation matters were settled when the two countries normalized relations under a 1965 treaty and that the South Korean court rulings go against international law.

The countries also downgraded each other’s trade status before letting the row to spill over to the military pact, which symbolizes the countries’ three-way security cooperation with the United States in the face of a North Korean nuclear threat and China’s growing assertiveness.

South Korea initiated the WTO complaint last September over Tokyo’s July export controls, which required Japanese companies to receive case-by-case inspections and approval on the shipments of the chemicals to South Korea.

South Korean officials said the process could disrupt South Korean companies’ manufacturing activities because it could take up to 90 days, compared to the previous fast-track process that took a week or two.

__

AP writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to the story from Tokyo.

Nissan to close Indonesia, Spain auto plants after losses

Nissan to close Indonesia, Spain auto plants after losses

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Nissan workers gather during a protest in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, May 28, 2020. Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor Co. has decided to close its manufacturing plans in the northeastern Catalonia region, resulting in the loss of some 3,000 direct jobs. (AP … more >

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By Yuri Kageyama

Associated Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese automaker Nissan plans to close auto plants in Spain and Indonesia after sinking into the red for the first time in 11 years as the pandemic squashed global demand and disrupted production.

Yokohama-based Nissan’s chief executive, Makoto Uchida, said Thursday that its European production will be centered at its British plant in Sunderland.

Manufacturing now based in Indonesia will move to Thailand, as the Japanese automaker cuts global production by 20%.

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Nissan Motor Co. reported a $6.2 billion loss for the fiscal year that ended in March, its first annual loss since 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

The company reported a 319.1 billion yen profit in the fiscal year that ended in March.

It said its global vehicle production dropped 62% in April from a year earlier to 150,388 vehicles. Global vehicle sales slipped nearly 42% last month.

Nissan’s sales for the fiscal year that ended in March sank nearly 15%, to 9.9 trillion yen ($91.6 billion).

“The future remains unclear and it is extremely hard to predict,” said Uchida, who did give a financial projection for the current fiscal year.

But Uchida said Nissan has secured needed financing and is cutting costs and reshaping its operations to restore profitability.

The automaker, creator of the Leaf electric car, X-Trail sport utility vehicle and Infiniti luxury models, intends to build on its core strengths, Uchida said.

It is reducing the number of its models and focusing on certain geographic areas, such as Japan, China and the U.S., to enhance its efficiency and profitability, rather than chasing sales size.

“We will admit our errors of the past and steer into the future in the correct way, without hesitation,” Uchida said.

Earlier Thursday, Spain’s government urged Nissan to reconsider its plan to close manufacturing in the northeastern Catalonia region, saying it would result in the direct loss of some 3,000 jobs.

Workers’ unions have warned 20,000 more jobs in Nissan’s supply chain in Spain are also at risk if Nissan closes its factory in Barcelona and two smaller ones in nearby towns.

On Wednesday, Nissan’s alliance partners Renault of France and Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp. announced plans to share purchasing, development and technology to slash costs and improve their competitiveness.

Nissan has spent much of the past year seeking to recover from the November 2018 arrest of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, over financial misconduct allegations, including under-reporting future compensation and misusing Nissan money.

The company’s management appeared to be in disarray after the sudden departure of Ghosn, who was sent by Renault to help Nissan recover from near-bankruptcy in 1999.

Ghosn’s successor, Hiroto Saikawa, also ended up resigning amid allegations about dubious income.

Ghosn says he is innocent. He fled to Lebanon late last year, skipping bail while awaiting trial. Ghosn said he escaped because he believed he would not get a fair trial in Japan.