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


Japan, U.S. to launch ministerial talks on economy

TOKYO - Japan and the United States have decided to launch regular ministerial talks on economic and environmental issues in an attempt to boost bilateral cooperation amid China's rise, government sources said Friday.

The launch of the framework, akin to the so-called two-plus-two security talks involving the countries' foreign and defense chiefs, is expected to be agreed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden when they hold a virtual summit later in the day, according to the Japanese government sources.


Japan's daily COVID cases top 47,000, new record for 4th straight day

TOKYO - Japan's confirmed daily coronavirus cases on Friday topped 47,000, setting a new record for the fourth day in a row as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country.

Tokyo confirmed 9,699 daily coronavirus cases Friday, eclipsing the previous record high of 8,638 logged the previous day, while the Osaka prefectural government said it also hit a fresh high of 6,254.


Record 88% of Japanese "feel friendly" toward U.S.: survey

TOKYO - The percentage of Japanese who "feel friendly" toward the United States increased to an all-time high of 88.5 percent, a Japanese government poll showed Friday, reflecting strengthened ties between the allies in such areas as security and the economy.

The figure is up 4.5 percentage points from the previous survey a year ago, according to the Cabinet Office survey, which also found that around 85 percent of respondents see ties between Japan and China as "not good" or "not really good."


Japan approves Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11

TOKYO - Japan's health ministry on Friday approved the administration of Pfizer Inc.'s coronavirus vaccine to children aged between 5 and 11 as the nationwide case count continues to climb with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

It is the first COVID-19 vaccine made available in Japan for that age group. Inoculations will begin as early as March after specifics, including guidelines, are worked out, according to officials.


Fed takes "first step" over discussions on issuing digital currency

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Federal Reserve said Thursday it is taking the "first step" in discussions about issuing its own digital currency, as it released a report saying potential benefits include helping preserve the dominant international role of the dollar.

The report, the first of its kind by the Fed, did not draw a conclusion on launching a central bank digital currency but instead focused on the pros and cons of issuing one.


Beijing Olympic torchbearers to visit World Heritage sites

BEIJING - Beijing Olympic torchbearers will visit some of China's World Heritage sites such as the Great Wall and the Summer Palace royal garden, the organizers said Friday, two weeks before the games kick off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three-day torch relay for the Beijing Winter Olympics, which will open on Feb. 4, is scheduled to start at the center of the capital on Feb. 2 and around 1,200 people will join the event, they said. It will be scaled back to ensure the health and safety of the public due to the coronavirus outbreak.


Fuel costs lift Japan's December core CPI by 0.5% on year

TOKYO - Japan's core consumer prices rose 0.5 percent in December from a year earlier, driven by higher fuel costs and a weak yen that have threatened to cool consumer sentiment, government data showed Friday.

The nationwide core consumer price index has been in a tug-of-war between higher energy prices, including for crude oil, and sharply lower mobile data fees, which fell 53.6 percent in December following reductions by major carriers amid government pressure.