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PM Suga, Trump vow to boost Japan-U.S. security alliance

PM Suga, Trump vow to boost Japan-U.S. security alliance

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. security alliance and work together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday night in their first phone call since Suga took office. Suga, elected by parliament on Wednesday as Japan's first new leader in nearly eight years, told reporters after the conversation that he told Trump the alliance is the "cornerstone of peace and stability in the region." Trump was quoted by Suga as saying the alliance should be strengthened even further and that Suga is welcome to call him "24 hours a day." Combined file photo of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Donald Trump. (Kyodo) The two also discussed the situation surrounding North Korea and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic during the 25-minute conversation. Suga asked Trump for continued U.S. support in pushing for the return of Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a Japanese government official. The leaders agreed the two allies will cooperate on the development and distribution of a vaccine and treatment for COVID-19, the official said. They also discussed the importance of pursuing their shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and agreed to work together to strengthen the global economy, according to the White House. Earlier in the day, Suga had a phone conversation with Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, the first head of government he spoke to since his inauguration. Suga's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, is known to have formed one of the closest relationships with Trump among world leaders. The two played golf together on multiple occasions and the U.S. president invited Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida twice, in 2017 and 2018. Suga, Abe's right-hand man as chief Cabinet secretary during that time, is seen as a savvy politician on the domestic front but considered inexperienced in diplomatic affairs. "Congratulations Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. You have a great life story! I know you will do a tremendous job for Japan and for the world. Look forward to talking soon!" Trump had tweeted on Thursday. After talking with Morrison and Trump, Suga told reporters outside his official residence that he was eager to hold phone calls with other world leaders, without naming any names. Among the diplomatic challenges Suga is facing is Trump's claim that Japan is not contributing enough to the alliance, under which U.S. troops are obligated to protect the country from armed attack. Following the November presidential election, Japan is expected to face mounting pressure to share more of the cost of maintaining U.S. military bases in the country. Related coverage: Suga, Trump to hold 1st phone conversation on Sunday: sources Trump tweets he hopes to talk to new Japanese leader Suga "soon" Trump eager to work with new Japan leader Suga to make ties stronger

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Coronavirus

FEATURE: Japanese campsites draw crowds as people look to escape pandemic

FEATURE: Japanese campsites draw crowds as people look to escape pandemic

Camping has been growing in popularity and sales of related goods rising in recent months in Japan as people wanting to go out with friends and family members during the COVID-19 pandemic turn to outdoor recreation. During a weekend earlier this month, a campsite with about 40 pitches in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, was packed with campers of all ages. Campers are setting up their tent at a campsite in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture on Sept. 12, 2020. (Kyodo) "We can avoid risks of being infected with the virus in such an open and large site even though we came as a group," said a 22-year-old man who was setting up a tent with friends. The coronavirus has apparently boosted sales of outdoor leisure goods following the government's declaration of a state of emergency in April, an official of a camping product manufacturer said. "Our monthly sales have been growing by between 10 and 35 percent from a year earlier since May," said Yosuke Takanami, managing director of the outdoor goods development division at Captain Stag Co. A website of the online reservations service for campsites "Nap." (Kyodo)   Takanami said barbeque grills and Dutch ovens were selling well in May and June in line with the government's stay-at-home request. While the nationwide state of emergency was fully lifted in late May, the government asked people to refrain from traveling between prefectures through late June. Demand for folding chairs and tables has also been strong for not only home leisure activities but teleworking, industry officials said. Another hit product is a solo camping tent, even though solo camping was gaining popularity before the coronavirus outbreak, Captain Stag's Takanami said. "You can reduce risks of virus infections if you sleep alone in a tent even though you go camping in a group," he added. Visitors to campsites notably grew once the travel restrictions were lifted even though Tokyo raised its own virus alert and asked its residents to refrain from non-essential trips to other prefectures in mid-July, industry officials said. Campers are setting up their tent at a campsite in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture on Sept. 12, 2020. (Kyodo) "Reservations for camping sites grew 30 to 40 percent in July and August from a year earlier after a sharp 80 percent fall in April and May," said Atsuya Tanaka, director of Spacekey Inc. which operates online reservation service "Nap" for hundreds of campsites across Japan. "Reservations by people living in Tokyo fell 30 to 40 percent from a year before" as the capital saw a resurgence of virus infections, but those by people in Kanagawa and Osaka, the two most populous prefectures after Tokyo, doubled and rose around 30 percent, respectively, Tanaka said. Shimano Inc. is another company benefiting from the outdoor activity boom. Demand is growing globally for its bicycle components and fishing equipment, the company says. The Osaka-based firm has said it expects a 13 percent rise in net profit in its current business year ending in December. "Sales of our bicycle parts in Europe and North America have been robust thanks to the increasing number of first-time bicycle buyers, as people are choosing to ride bicycles near their homes for a breather instead of taking a summer vacation abroad," said a Shimano official. Related coverage: Japan national park facilities upgraded with "workation" in mind Bookings start for trips to and from Tokyo under subsidy program  

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