Tokyo hopes to keep GSOMIA military information-sharing pact with Seoul, Foreign Minister Taro Kono says

SEOUL – In a newspaper interview published in South Korea on Wednesday, Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono indicated Tokyo’s preference to continue a bilateral accord on sharing military intelligence with Seoul that is set to be renewed next month.

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Kono’s written interview, which was published by the South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo, comes amid mounting concern over the potential impact of worsening South Korea-Japan ties on the security cooperation accord between the two countries.

“The ties between the two countries are in a very difficult condition, but Japan will continue to cooperate with South Korea on the agenda on which it should cooperate, including the North Korea issue,” Kono was quoted as saying.

South Korea and Japan signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement, a military intelligence-sharing pact often shortened as GSOMIA, in November 2016.

The accord, which went into effect immediately, has since been renewed every year. But there are worries that it may not be renewed this time, as ties between the key U.S. defense allies in Asia have frayed to their most fragile condition in years.

The intelligence-sharing arrangement can be terminated if either party notifies the other of its intention to cancel the accord at least 90 days before the end of each one-year period.

Regarding South Korea’s position, the Dong-A Ilbo, another South Korean newspaper, reported Wednesday that the office of President Moon Jae-in has determined that South Korea should maintain the intelligence-sharing accord with Japan.

Last autumn, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered some Japanese firms to pay damages to Koreans who said they had been forced to work at their factories or mines in Japan during World War II. Japan views the issue of compensation as having been settled under a 1965 bilateral accord.

This month, Japan tightened export rules for several materials needed by South Korean companies to make semiconductors and display panels, prompting South Korea to accuse its neighbor of engaging in economic retaliation.

“It was South Korea that unilaterally broke a legal promise after over 50 years,” Kono said in the interview, referring to the 1965 agreement, under which Japan provided South Korea with $500 million in grants and loans.

The foreign minister added that the court rulings came as a “disappointment” not only to the Japanese government but also to many Japanese people who hope to maintain a good relationship with South Korea.

Kono also urged South Korea to agree to third-party arbitration as spelled out under the 1965 agreement to settle the dispute stemming from the court rulings. Japan has made the request, and Thursday is the deadline for South Korea’s response.

With regard to Japan’s recent export curbs against South Korea, Kono strongly denied the allegation that the tighter controls were retaliatory.

Kono said he is closely coordinating with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha, but did not clearly respond to a question about whether he thought the leaders of the two countries should have a summit to calm the situation.

Japan and South Korea had originally planned to sign the intelligence-sharing agreement in 2012, but South Korea, then under President Lee Myung-bak, postponed the process at the last minute, due to a surge in domestic opposition stemming from Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Four years later, on Nov. 23, 2016, the agreement was signed under Moon’s predecessor Park Geun-hye, in response to growing concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

School workshops that foster political engagement prove popular in Japan

Workshops at schools that use comedy or games to encourage young people to get involved in politics are becoming more widespread in Japan ahead of Sunday’s House of Councilors election, the third national poll to be conducted since the lowering of the voting age from 20 to 18.

The lecturers often incorporate entertainment aspects into the workshops to help students understand political issues more easily, in the hope of persuading them to go to the polls.

According to the internal affairs ministry voter turnout for teens stood at 46.78 percent in the 2016 Upper House election, in which people aged 18 and 19 cast votes for the first time ever. But young voter turnout fell to 40.49 percent in the 2017 election for the House of Representatives, the Diet’s lower chamber.

Nana Takamatsu, 26, a comedian and board director at Shokasonjuku, a Tokyo-based company that raises questions about social issues through comedy, has been holding workshops at high schools across Japan together with other comedians, aiming to convince students that they can change politics through casting their ballots.

Over 10,000 students have participated so far in the company’s workshops.

Example activities at the events include students engaging in policy discussions, by role-playing as corporate employees, or trying to identify who is the bad politician in a game based on werewolf, a traditional party game.

At one high school, voter turnout among third-year students topped 80 percent after the workshop was given.

“If everyone in their teens and 20s goes to the polls, they can exert a considerable influence,” Takamatsu said. “Because I believe that democracy would become rotten if people become too complacent about it, I want (the youngsters) to perceive not voting as a loss.”

Kosuke Furui, 24, a fourth-year student at Keio University, runs Poteto Media, an advertising agency specializing in politics.

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Through workshops that use playing cards or online games, the agency shows students that politics can be the solution to poverty or other problems that they cannot overcome on their own.

“The problem is that politics has moved away from young people, rather than young people moving away from politics,” Furui said. “I hope more policies focused on young people, such as making education free of charge, will be implemented.”

At a workshop held at a high school in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, students took a test that asked 10 questions about politics.

Kotone Kajiwara, 18, a third-year student at the school, said she had a hard time answering questions about elections as they were very difficult. But she also said, “I want to think hard and vote because people have the right to elect politicians.”

Teppei Enomoto, 17, also a third-year student, said the workshop made him eager to go to the polls. “I want politicians to bring the opinions of young people to politics,” he said.

£36m Man Utd-linked Brazilian set to undergo Arsenal medical

Arsenal are reportedly inching closer to a deal for Gremio’s Everton Soares as the forward is set to undergo a medical in Brazil ahead of a move to London.

The Gunners have intensified their pursuit of the Brazil international over the past month and appear to have finally struck a deal.

It is now reported that medics from Arsenal have on Monday boarded a flight to Porto Alegre to assess the condition of the star ahead of a €40m (£36m) switch to north London.

The move could be completed in the next few days with the player already confirming he’s unlikely to feature in the Copa do Brasil quarter-final against Bahia this Wednesday.

“Really. I do not know what can happen. I have a proposal. I cannot talk to the club,” he said.

“I do not guarantee that I will play against Bahia on Wednesday, we will see.”

These reports have been backed up by respected Brazilian journalist Sergio Araujo, who claims Arsenal have struck a deal for Everton, with the deal set to take a significant step closer if Gunners club doctors are satisfied.

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Fox Sports claim that a £36million fee has been agreed with Gremio, confirming that the medical is set.

Manchester United had also been linked with a move for the 23-year-old and had scouted him.

 

Man Utd 4-0 Leeds Utd: Pogba MOTM as rivals beaten

Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford put Manchester United on course for a comprehensive pre-season win against Leeds in Australia.

Just 37 miles separate Old Trafford and Elland Road, but it was Perth’s mammoth Optus Stadium that played host to these sides’ first meeting since September 2011.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls Leeds showed flashes of quality but were eventually rolled over, with Man United winning 4-0 despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completely rotating his side at half-time.

A fine move involving the impressive Paul Pogba and new boy Aaron Wan-Bissaka led to 17-year-old Greenwood’s first senior goal, with Rashford doubling that advantage with a fine strike after a dizzying turn.

Rashford and Daniel James – so nearly a Leeds player in January – hit the post in the first half and United continued in the ascendancy after the break, with Phil Jones heading home before Anthony Martial slotted home a spot-kick in front of 55,274 fans.

The atmosphere and competitiveness was unlike most friendlies, which United follow by heading to Singapore to face Inter Milan – the side attempting to sign striker Romelu Lukaku.

The 26-year-old was again conspicuous by his absence after picking up a new knock on the eve of the game, but the striker was not missed in Perth.

Bielsa, who took his place on his trusty blue bucket after arriving Down Under on Tuesday, saw his side overawed for the most part, with Rashford hitting the woodwork inside two minutes.

Solskjaer’s side required just five more to open the scoring as Pogba’s defence-splitting pass found Wan-Bissaka, whose first-time cross was prodded home by Greenwood.

Pogba bossed the midfield in the first half and had several attempts to score, while Sergio Romero – in for the ill David De Gea – somehow kept out Patrick Bamford with his feet in a positive period for Leeds.

That spell jolted Man United into life. Greenwood went close before Scott McTominay surged forward and fed Rashford, whose stunning drop of the shoulder left Gaetano Berardi on the deck and was followed up by a cool 28th-minute finish.

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James hit the post after Rashford and Pogba linked up well, with Solskjaer’s side continuing strongly despite 11 half-time changes.

Andreas Pereira saw a shot from distance tipped over but Jones scored from the resulting corner after losing Kalvin Phillips to head home in the 51st minute.

Angel Gomes had an attempt as the match became a little stop-start, with the Leeds fans in fine voice despite seeing their side fall further behind.

Tahith Chong’s turn fooled Liam Cooper and earned a penalty that Martial dispatched in the 69th minute, sending Kiko Casilla the wrong way.

Jesse Lingard directed wide and tempers frayed following an Ashley Young challenge as United’s 100 per cent start to pre-season continued.

 

Police hunt for suspect after boy, 17, stabbed at Saitama home

SAITAMA – A 17-year-old male high school student was stabbed early Tuesday at his home in Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, by a suspected intruder, police said.

The boy sustained wounds to his neck and other parts of his body, but the injuries were not life-threatening, according to authorities. Police said they had received an emergency call around 3:30 a.m.

When the police arrived at the boy’s house, the windows of his bedroom on the second floor were unlocked and they found footprints that do not belong to any of his family members on the balcony, according to investigators.

The 42-year-old father told the police he was in a different room of the second floor when he heard a scream from his son’s bedroom. The father had initially told the police that he was on the first floor.

He then saw his son running out of his room followed by a man in dark clothes, believed to be in his 20s or 30s and about 175 cm tall.

The two are living with a 33-year-old woman at the house and they were all sleeping on the second floor when the incident happened, according to the police.

Police are treating the incident as a case of attempted murder.

Party leaders sound off ahead of Upper House vote

Ahead of the Upper House election on Sunday, party leaders and executives were asked the main issues they want to raise with voters, including the economy, the pension system and constitutional revision.

LDP

Despite growing concerns triggered about the pension system by a recent government report, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai emphasized that it is sustainable and said the report, released on June 3 by the Financial Services Agency, caused a public misunderstanding.

“The public pension system is sustainable well into the future thanks to a series of reforms,” Nikai said. “I have no worries.”

The FSA report said an elderly couple would need ¥20 million in life savings plus public pension benefits to survive after retirement.

“It’s a shame to cause misunderstanding and anxiety,” Nikai said.

Referring to the LDP’s election campaign, Nikai underlined that it is important for the LDP to present its plans for dealing with Japan’s low birthrate and rapidly graying population.

“It is also necessary that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continue to firmly and stably address important challenges, such as making a strong economy, revitalizing local communities and establishing a disaster-resistant country at a time when the world is grappling with increased tensions,” he said.

The Abe administration has won high marks for its stable management of the government and solid achievements, Nikai added.

“I think this is a situation where we can ask the public with confidence to let the Cabinet continue to take charge in the Reiwa Era,” he said, referring to the new imperial era kicked off by the emperor’s abdication in April.

Nikai said the minimum number of seats targeted by the ruling camp, which comprises the LDP and Komeito, is 63, or a majority of the seats being contested. “It will not be difficult if we try hard,” he said.

He also downplayed the impact of the major opposition parties unifying their candidates in all single-seat prefectural districts. No matter how much they team up, they cannot compete with the LDP’s traditional solidarity, Nikai said.

Nikai, however, brushed off concerns about how the scheduled hike in the consumption tax to 10 percent from 8 percent in October will affect the LDP’s prospects in the election. The oft-delayed tax hike is part of reforms designed to bring stability, he said, adding that measures to mitigate its impact are already in place.

Nikai said both the ruling and opposition camps should meet halfway to promote discussions on constitutional revision.

“The Diet has a responsibility to present options that the people can choose from,” he said.

One of Abe’s lifelong goals has been to rewrite Article 9 of the Constitution to legitimize the existence of the Self-Defense Forces, Japan’s de facto military.

Scholars have disputed the legality of the SDF because Article 9 renounces Japan’s right to wage war or use force to settle international disputes. It also says Japan shall never maintain land, sea and air forces or other war potential.

“We need to take time to reach agreement, but time should not be spent in vain,” Nikai said of the Diet’s stalled debate on the issue.

Komeito

The Upper House election is an opportunity for voters to choose between stable government and confusion, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said.

“As a ruling party, we hope to tackle key challenges at home and abroad after securing political stability,” Yamaguchi said.

The LDP and Komeito, the ruling coalition’s junior party, have a two-thirds majority in the Lower House and a majority of about 60 percent in the Upper House.

On the consumption tax hike, Yamaguchi recalled the 2012 law enacted by the then-ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the LDP and New Komeito to double the 5 percent levy to 10 percent in two stages. He called the opposition now being raised by former members of the now-defunct DPJ, including those who are now executives in the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, a “great betrayal of the public.”

“The consumption tax is fundamentally significant as a stable source of government revenue for improving social security services,” Yamaguchi said.

He said Komeito will address the tax hike in its campaign by sincerely explaining steps the ruling coalition has taken to ease its impact, including special shopping vouchers.

He also proposed that all Diet members accept a 10 percent cut to their annual salaries to show they are willing to help bear the burden.

Regarding public alarm bells raised about the public pension system by the FSA’s June report on postretirement savings, Yamaguchi described the system as “stable.”

On Article 9, however, he cast a skeptical eye toward Abe’s pitch to make constitutional revision a key issue in the election, saying it is “unlikely to appeal to voters.”

Komeito’s policy is to add new provisions to the charter, if necessary, without changing its basic principles.

“There are various ideas about including new values in the Constitution, but none of them is ripe enough for a proposal to the people,” Yamaguchi said.

CDP

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan will focus on improving people’s daily lives as a key pillar of its platform, President Yukio Edano said.

“The largest interest of voters and the most important issue is bringing back a sense of safety to people’s lives,” Edano said. “We will campaign on the three major platforms of creating an economy that places importance on family finances, a society that takes pride in diversity, and a democracy in which people can feel they are participating.”

Sunday will be the main opposition party’s first foray into the triennial election. The party was formed in 2017 by defectors from the short-lived and now-defunct Democratic Party. Edano said his CDP will seek to uphold democratic norms and constitutionalism in its election campaign.

He also lamented what he said was the Abe administration’s tainting of the government bureaucracy, saying the supposedly nonpolitical institution has been marred by political influence scandals since Abe took office.

“(The administration) is continuously destroying the foundations of democracy, which is epitomized by the preservation of official records and the public disclosure of information,” Edano said, bringing up the multiple scandals related to the disappearance or manipulation of public documents under the Abe administration.

“A series of scandals has come up as a result of (bureaucrats) having to pander to politicians,” he said.

In this regard, he also raised the issue of sontaku, the practice by which bureaucrats tacitly carry out what they assume to be the wishes of politicians, spawning acts of favoritism and other alleged government misconduct.

To counter these alleged violations, the CDP is pitching “Reiwa Democracy” for the election. The slogan is a play on Taisho Democracy, a wave of democratic movements that took place in the Taisho Era (1912-1926).

“Democracy in Japan was given a major upgrade by Taisho Democracy,” Edano said. “We must do something that matches its scale.”

On the Constitution, Edano said his party is moving forward with discussions on revisions “from the standpoint of strengthening constitutionalism,” specifically focusing on restricting the right of the prime minister to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap election, and bolstering citizens’ rights when it comes to information disclosure.

The Constitution is one of the major issues in the election because Abe is bent on legitimizing the existence of the SDF by rewriting war-renouncing Article 9.

“We will strongly fight against allowing the exercise of collective self-defense and changing Article 9 for the worse,” Edano said, referring to the act of coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack, even if Japan itself is not under attack.

Although a U.N. right, collective defense is deemed by many as contrary to Article 9 as Japan’s actions under it could be perceived as use of force.

The opposition leader also repeated his party’s call to again suspend the second stage of the consumption tax hike.

“It takes an immense amount of time to rebuild an economic structure in which consumption rises in a sustainable way,” he said, wary that another tax hike will again chill consumer spending.

The CDP will join hands with other parties in the election to avoid splitting the vote for the opposition. Many in fact have already agreed to back a single unified candidate in single-seat constituencies.

“We have fulfilled the prerequisites for maximizing the number of seats the opposition can win,” Edano said. “Now it is up to each party to utilize its strengths and work as hard as possible.”

Nippon Ishin no Kai

Ichiro Matsui, leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai, has called for earnest discussions on proposals for constitutional amendments to be held in the Diet after the election.

While noting it feels “a little bit strange” to see this become a key issue in the election, Matsui said he hopes the constitutional revision panels in both chambers of the Diet will hold active debates on the matter after the poll. As a top election issue, politicians owe it to the voters to hold serious debates on the matter, he said.

“If the ruling LDP earnestly aims to revise the Constitution, it should change the Diet’s existing obsolete rule” that the Constitution panels must be convened with the consent from both the ruling and opposition parties, he said.

“Opposition parties that refuse to appear for discussions on constitutional revisions or avoid such debates are giving up on their duties,” Matsui said.

On recent remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump that the Japan-U.S. security treaty is placing a heavy burden on the U.S. and is therefore unfair, Matsui said it would be irresponsible to pretend not to know the view of the president of an allied country.

Discussions should thus be held on the possibility of revising Article 9 in light of the reality, he added.

Matsui also called for discussions on establishing a national facility where anybody can pay tribute to the war dead, noting it is very difficult for Japanese and overseas leaders to visit Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo because those it honors include Class A war criminals from World War II.

The Shinto facility is regarded by countries such as China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

Matsui said Nippon Ishin also sees a need to create an intelligence agency as Japan’s information-gathering capacity is lower compared with other advanced countries.

Among the party’s key policy promises, Matsui said Nippon Ishin aims to freeze the planned hike in the consumption tax.

The tax hike will “dampen consumption and throw cold water on the economy,” he said.

The Abe administration plans to use revenue from the tax hike to fund a program to make nursery and kindergarten services and tertiary education free of charge.

Noting that the Osaka Prefectural Government is working to scrap tuition for private high schools, Matsui, who is also the mayor of Osaka and head of regional party Osaka Ishin no Kai, emphasized it it is possible for the central government to eke out the financial resources it needs without raising taxes.

He also said that Abenomics, the prime minister’s reflationary policy mix, had helped Japan overcome deflation “to a certain extent” but that its deregulatory efforts “remain insufficient,” though the economy is recovering moderately.

Matsui denied the possibility of Nippon Ishin forming a coalition government with the LDP.

“The LDP is a party that protects vested interests,” he said. “While having no intention at all to reform the Diet, the party plans to carry out a tax increase. Nippon Ishin has no plan to ally with the LDP.”

DPP

The Democratic Party for the People is making its “household first” economic policy the center of its election campaign, leader Yuichiro Tamaki said.

“Stubbornly slow consumption indicates the weakest point of Abenomics, as well as its limitations,” Tamaki said.

“We’re advocating a ‘family finances first’ economic policy to enrich household purses and achieve sustainable economic growth,” he said.

Tamaki repeated his party’s opposition to the consumption tax hike and insisted that a tax cut should be considered without reservation if the need emerges.

In the meantime, he argued that the Abe administration is trying to cover up the truth behind Japan’s public pension system because it has not yet released the five-year report on the system’s finances this year.

On the issue of constitutional reform, Tamaki criticized Abe for deviating from substantive talks, saying the prime minister is only highlighting the refusal of some opposition parties to hold discussions.

Tamaki noted that during the previous Diet session, the DPP was the only opposition party to submit a bill to revise the national referendum law to ban political TV commercials throughout the entire campaign period of any referendum on the Constitution.

This is to ensure that a public decision on amending the charter won’t be determined by the parties with the deepest pockets.

Before July 4, when campaigning officially kicked off for the Upper House election, the DPP had 23 seats in the chamber, with eight up for grabs.

“We aim to win more than eight seats,” Tamaki said.

Tamaki stressed that opposition parties, including the DPP, must coordinate their campaigning after fielding unified candidates in the 32 single-seat electoral districts across Japan.

To drum up support for his party, Tamaki underscored the need to make steady, low-key efforts, calling on all DPP Diet and assembly members to “work at full throttle.”

Earlier this year, the DPP absorbed the Liberal Party, which was led by former kingmaker Ichiro Ozawa.

“We’re leaving behind-the-scenes coordination with our support groups to him now,” Tamaki said. “His joining our party reinforced our attitude toward elections.”

Tamaki predicted the next election for the House of Representatives, the Diet’s more powerful lower chamber, will be held this year.

“We aim to field at least 100 candidates in the single-seat districts,” he said.

JCP

Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii has emphasized that the JCP and other opposition parties should unite to win seats to create a divided Diet as a step toward toppling the Abe administration.

“The Abe administration is now at a dead end both in domestic politics and on the diplomatic front,” Shii said.

“In the triennial election, I want to call on people to cooperate to oust the Abe administration and change the nation’s politics to make Japan a country where each and every person can have hopes and live in peace,” he said.

Shii added: “We’re determined to turn the LDP, its Komeito ally and groups supporting the ruling pair into a minority, create a divided Diet and let opposition parties take the initiative of politics to force Abe to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap general election.”

“We aim to form an opposition-led government” by capturing a majority also in the Lower House through a possible general election, he said. “We want to leverage the Upper House election for that goal.”

On the debate over constitutional amendment, Shii said the JCP is actively discussing the matter and that no political party is avoiding the debate.

“Whether or not to support Abe’s proposal to amend pacifist Article 9 of the top law will be a key issue,” he said.

The JCP aims to win 8.5 million votes under the proportional representation system.

“It’s a high goal, but I think it’s not impossible to achieve if we try hard,” he said.

A total of 124 seats — 74 in prefectural single-seat districts and 50 from proportional representation — will be up for grabs in the Upper House election.

The JCP has 14 but only eight will be contested — three single seats and five proportional representation seats.

Its goal is to gain seven or more seats via proportional representation, Shii said.

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“We’re resolved to maintain the three district seats at any cost and are trying to increase the number dramatically,” Shii said.

When asked about the number of seats the party is targeting in single-seat districts, he said “all of our candidates aim to win.”

“Cooperation among opposition parties is progressing compared with the time when the previous Upper House election was held three years ago,” Shii said. “We do hope to attain the target.”

Shii repeated his party’s opposition to the planned tax hike.

He said: “We oppose the consumption tax itself. Raising the tax rate during the current economic doldrums is an absolutely foolish measure.”

SDP

The Social Democratic Party aims to prevent the parties that support constitutional revision from securing a two-thirds majority in the Upper House election, Secretary-General Hajime Yoshikawa said.

The ruling LDP is highly likely to speed up preparations for an attempt at amending the Constitution should the pro-amenment camp get there, Yoshikawa said.

“The biggest challenge for now is to block the LDP, its coalition partner Komeito, and Nippon Ishin no Kai from winning a combined two-thirds majority,” he said.

Two-thirds majorities are needed in both chambers to propose a revision to the Constitution.

Though Abe is eager to rewrite Article 9, “very few” people want such a revision, he said.

“If a third provision is added to the article, it would make its second provision, which prohibits Japan from possessing any war potential, a dead letter,” Yoshikawa said. “We can’t let that happen.”

“Under current diplomatic policy, just following the United States, such a constitutional revision could lead to SDF participation in activities involving the use of force overseas if something happens in the Middle East,” he said.

In the election, the party hopes to win a combined three seats via single-seat districts and proportional representation, he said.

The top priority is to win 2 percent of all votes to maintain its status as a political party, he added, stressing that, for the SDP, the poll is a fight for survival.

This will also be an election to create a foothold for ousting the Abe administration, which has brought crisis to the people, regional communities and the Constitution, he said.

On the consumption tax increase, Yoshikawa said that when the rate was raised to the current 8 percent from 5 percent in April 2014, consumer spending slumped even though the economy was recovering.

Since the economy is even worse than it was in 2014, it is clear that the tax hike will make it even weaker, he said.

Japan saw record 16.63 million foreign visitors in first half of 2019

Japan saw a record number of overseas visitors in the first six months of 2019 with an estimated 16.63 million arrivals, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier, government data showed Wednesday.

Spending by foreign visitors in the period through June increased 8.3 percent from a year earlier to ¥2.43 trillion ($22 billion), also an all-time high, the Japan Tourism Agency said.

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The government has set a target of attracting 40 million foreign visitors annually from this year and increasing their spending to ¥8 trillion next year when Japan hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

By country and region, the highest number of visitors so far in 2019 came from China at 4,532,500, up 11.7 percent, with the increase boosted by the easing of visa restrictions in January.

However, the number of South Korean visitors fell 3.8 percent to 3,862,700, while those from Taiwan decreased 1.0 percent to 2,480,800, the agency said.

In an attempt to achieve the targets, the government has eased visa rules, expanded airports for budget airlines and promoted private lodging services to address an accommodation shortage.

Underwhelming news of the day: Steve Bruce confirmed

Former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has been announced as the new head coach of Newcastle United.

The 58-year-old resigned as Sheffield Wednesday manager on Monday along with first-team coaches Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence.

And now the Magpies have confirmed that Bruce, who was only appointed as Wednesday boss in January, will be Newcastle‘s successor to Rafa Benitez.

“I’m delighted and incredibly proud to be appointed as head coach of Newcastle United,” Bruce told the club’s official website. “This is my boyhood club and it was my dad’s club, so this is a very special moment for me and my family.

“There is a huge challenge ahead of us, but it’s one that my staff and I are ready for. We’ll roll our sleeves up and we’ll be giving it everything from the off to ensure supporters have a successful team that they can be proud of.”

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The Magpies managing director Lee Charnley added: “Steve has a deep affection for Newcastle United and we are very pleased that a coach with his vast experience and connections to the club and city has joined us.

“Steve knows what this club means to supporters and to the region and he will put his heart and soul into leading our talented group of players with the full support of our staff.

“The hard work for Steve and his team starts immediately and we will be fully prepared for the challenge of a new Premier League season.

“I would place on record my thanks to Ben Dawson, Neil Redfearn and our medical and support staff for the way in which they have worked together to oversee the start of our pre-season preparations.”

 

Fleetwood boss Barton charged with actual bodily harm

Fleetwood manager Joey Barton has been charged with actual bodily harm following an alleged incident during a match at Barnsley in April.

Barton has “emphatically denied” accusations that he confronted Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel in the tunnel following the League One match.

In a statement South Yorkshire Police said: “A man has been charged following an incident at Barnsley Football Club in April 2019.

“Joseph Barton, 36, of Fox Bank Close, Widnes, has been charged with actual bodily harm contrary to section 47 assault and has been bailed to appear before Barnsley Magistrates Court on Wednesday 9 October 2019.

“On Saturday 13 April 2019, a man was left with facial injuries after an incident in the club tunnel around 5pm, following the conclusion of Barnsley’s match against Fleetwood Town.”

The force launched an investigation into the alleged incident in which he is said to have confronted Stendel.

Barton was subsequently arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated offences.

Barnsley striker Cauley Woodrow claimed in a tweet, which was subsequently deleted, that the incident had left Stendel with “blood pouring from his face”.

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Barton issued a statement on Twitter in which he wrote: “I emphatically deny all the allegations made.”

Sky television footage showed police stepping in to stop Barton as he attempted to leave Oakwell shortly after the match.

Barnsley then lodged formal complaints with both the Football Association and the Football League regarding the Fleetwood manager’s conduct.

Stendel suffered damage to his two front teeth which required emergency dental treatment.

 

Solskjaer comes up with a ‘plan’ to turn Man Utd into winners

Sir Alex Ferguson transformed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer into a winner, and the current Manchester United manager intends to do the same with his players during his rebuilding process.

Jose Mourinho’s tempestuous spell in the dugout ended in December, when the Old Trafford hierarchy finally grew tired of background backbiting and on-field problems.

Solskjaer, a 1999 treble hero, was the surprise appointment as caretaker manager but his record-breaking temporary stint earned him a permanent chance to shine in his dream job.

After landing that three-year deal, Solksjaer’s tenure then went awry, yet reflection and countless discussions have allowed him to “come up with a plan”.

“We talked about what is expected, what is required, the standards, what we have to do every single day,” Solskjaer said during his most in-depth interview as United manager to date.

“The little margins that get you wins. The little tactical tweaks. It is great being a group together from day one.

“We know the plan, and this is the way we are going to do it. We have agreed to that. The first couple of weeks have been encouraging.

“Of course, you always expect people to come in for the first couple of weeks with fresh energy and focus.

“They have not moaned – maybe that is a bad thing. Maybe we have not worked them enough.

“But I think we have just worked enough so we are fitter and maybe more robust when the season starts.”

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On the patience required from fans, he said: “Well, you’ve got to be patient, you have to know that to build a team and rebuild a squad, it will take time.

“I am not going to ask for too much time because as the manager you’re also under pressure to get results straight away.

“Or maybe not results but maybe the way we want to play football, so I hope with the way we approach the games now, the fans will see what we’re trying to do, and the results will come.”