The following is the latest list of selected news summaries by Kyodo News.


Summer gathering for U.N. nuclear non-proliferation talks explored

NEW YORK - The chairman of a U.N. conference on nuclear nonproliferation has sounded out member states on a plan to hold a gathering next summer following the postponement from the earlier scheduled January amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, diplomatic sources said Thursday.

The meeting to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons slated from Jan. 4 to 28 was put off again after being delayed three times from its original date in the spring of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.


FOCUS: RCEP's fruits come with challenge of keeping China in check

TOKYO - With the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement taking effect Saturday, Japan and other member nations expect to revitalize the pandemic-hit economy through free trade in the economic bloc, regarded as the world's largest, covering about a third of the global economy.

An outlook on its impact on Japan's economy is particularly rosy, some analysis suggested. At the same time, however, Japan will face difficulties keeping China's growing influence in the region in check, while its ally the United States remains at odds with China over human rights and other issues.


Tokyo reports 78 new COVID-19 cases, highest since early October

TOKYO - Tokyo on Friday reported 78 new cases of the coronavirus, the highest number since early October, amid a gradual rebound in infections with the spread of the Omicron variant.

For 2021, the Japanese capital, which hosted the Olympics from late July to early August, saw a more than fivefold increase in COVID-19 cases from a year earlier to 322,766, according to the Tokyo metropolitan government.


Biden, Putin issue warnings over Ukraine, but affirm diplomatic talks

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday issued warnings to each other amid a standoff over Russia's military buildup on the border with Ukraine, but affirmed diplomatic engagements involving their countries next month.

During the phone call, which was the second exchange between the two leaders in December, Biden reiterated his call for a de-escalation of tensions and made clear that the United States and its allies will "respond decisively" if Russia further invades Ukraine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.


Mizuho hit by system failure despite pledge to improve operations

TOKYO - Mizuho Bank said Friday it has failed to process some 300 money transfer requests following a temporary system failure the previous day that was its ninth this year.

The trouble occurred despite the bank, a unit of Mizuho Financial Group Inc., having pledged to prevent similar failures after Japan's financial authorities ordered it to improve operations in November.


Over 100 Rohingya land in Indonesia after drifting at sea

JAKARTA - Over 100 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, landed safely in Indonesia on Friday after having drifted at sea for at least five days off the coast of Aceh Province on Sumatra Island.

Their boat, reportedly leaking and with a damaged engine, was towed by an Indonesian navy warship to a port in Lhokseumawe, a city in North Aceh Regency, after the government decided to allow it to dock in Indonesia for humanitarian reasons.


Philippine death toll from Typhoon Rai rises to 405

MANILA - The death toll from Typhoon Rai in the central and southern Philippines has risen to 405, with 82 others still missing and 1,147 injured, two weeks after the onslaught of the typhoon, the national disaster agency said Friday.

Some 500,000 people affected by the super typhoon remain in evacuation shelters, the agency said, amid growing concern that recovery will take years in the areas hit by landslides and flooding.


World's 1st "wooden" satellite planned in Japan for 2023 launch

KYOTO - A plan is under way in Japan to launch the world's first "wooden" satellite in 2023, as its development team aims to harness the environmental friendliness and low cost of wood in space development.

A satellite whose exterior is made of wood will burn up upon re-entering the Earth's atmosphere after the end of its operation, giving less burden on the environment, according to the team comprised of Kyoto University and Sumitomo Forestry Co.