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Agence France-Presse in Tokyo

Japanese prime minister plans to hold general elections on December 14, two years ahead of schedule, as he seeks to bolster public support by delaying a scheduled tax increase, local media reports say.

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An outbreak of mosquito-borne dengue fever in Japan – the first since the second world war – has affected 22 people, the nation's health ministry confirmed on Monday.

Japan and Britain are to jointly develop missile technology for fighter jets, while Tokyo may also start exporting Japanese-made parts for US surface-to-air missiles, a Japanese media report said on Thursday.

Typhoon Neoguri reached the Japanese mainland bringing widespread flooding, ripping up trees and leaving houses half-buried under mud, as thousands were urged to seek shelter.

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Summit to discuss relations between Seoul and Tokyo will focus on wartime compensation, comfort women, trade and the mutual threat posed by North Korea

Thousands of people thronged Japan’s Imperial Palace on Monday to celebrate Emperor Akihito’s 80th birthday, as he lauded his wife for standing by him in his “lonely” pursuit of leading the world’s oldest monarchy.

Broiling temperatures in Japan saw the mercury hit a record 41 degrees Celsius yesterday, after at least nine people died from heatstroke at the weekend.

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Japan’s gaffe-prone deputy prime minister on Thursday retracted controversial remarks that suggested Tokyo could learn from Nazi Germany when it comes to constitutional reform.

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Japan’s parliament on Wednesday approved an international treaty on child abductions after decades of pressure from the United States and other Western nations.

The maritime surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile zone off the disputed Diaoyu Islands, also known as the Senkaku isles in Japan, at around 11am (0200 GMT), Japan’s coastguard said.

The 19-year-old allegedly dismembered his mother’s body in the bathroom, cutting her into at least 15 pieces using kitchen knives, the Sankei daily said Saturday, citing unnamed police sources.

Japan’s hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament on Thursday that he intends to change the country’s post-second world war constitution, lowering the bar for further amendments.

Tokyo stocks climbed 2.61 per cent by the break on Friday, the first day of next year trading, as the yen tumbled on relief over a US deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and huge spending cuts.  The Nikkei 225 index on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which ended this year at the highest level since the March last year quake and tsunami disaster, added 270.92 points to 10,666.10 in morning trade after initially rallying more than three per cent.  The Topix index of all first-section issues gained 2.82 per cent or 24.28 points to 884.08.  “Japan’s markets are opening relatively late after the US government acted, and thus they stand to benefit from the news as well as the enthusiastic response from other bourses,” said SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi.  Global markets rallied after the US House of Representatives late Tuesday passed a deal between the White House and Republicans to raise taxes on the rich and put off automatic US$109 billion budget cuts for two months.  The deal lifted the clouds of immediate crisis, sending the yen to its lowest level since July 2010 against the dollar.   The dollar rose to 87.63 yen by Tokyo midday, up from 87.19 yen in New York Thursday afternoon. The euro was at 114.21 yen and $1.3026 from 113.80 yen and US$1.3052.  The market is watching the next moves by Congress and US President Barack Obama.  CLSA equity strategist Nicholas Smith said: “Thereafter [the] focus will be on who Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe wants to recommend as the new Bank of Japan governor.”  Abe, who took office in December, has pressured the central bank to take aggressive easing steps to help drag Japan out of years of deflation and weak growth.  It has spawned speculation that he will want someone willing to agree to his inflation target to replace current governor Masaaki Shirakawa, whose five-year tenure ends on April 8. Friday was also the first trading day for Japan Exchange Group, which put together The Tokyo Stock Exchange and Osaka Securities Exchange.  “We will aim for Asia’s No. 1 exchange that is selected by investors from around the world,” the group’s chief executive Atsushi Saito said at in a ceremony at the Tokyo bourse.  Exporters were higher, with Toyota Motor up 4.74 per cent to 4,195 yen and Nikon up 4.82 per cent to 2,648 yen.  Among financials Nomura Holdings climbed 3.97 per cent to 523 yen and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group rose 2.72 per cent to 3,200 yen.  Embattled electronics firm Sharp fell 2.64 per cent to 295 yen after a report during the New-Year break that it is considering making a public share offering worth more than 100 billion yen this year.  

A Chinese government ship briefly sailed into the territorial waters of disputed islands controlled by Tokyo in the East China Sea on Tuesday, Japan’s coastguard said.

Japan ordered inspections of ageing highway tunnels on Monday after a fiery collapse that killed nine people, as suspicion over the cause of the accident centred on decaying ceiling supports.

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Tokyo has begun deploying a surface-to-air missile defence system and is putting its armed forces on standby ahead of a planned North Korean missile launch this month.

Delegates from more than 60 countries agreed in Tokyo on Friday to ramp up pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime and urged the international community to unite to force change in Syria.

A wooden boat containing several rotting bodies and with Korean characters marked on its side has been found off the Japan’s west coast on Wednesday.

Japan needs to do more to address fears over radiation in the area around Fukushima, a UN health expert said on Monday, urging Tokyo to consult those affected by nuclear pollution.

US satellites have picked up signs that North Korea is preparing to launch a long-range missile, a Japanese newspaper reported on Friday.