People sweep away dust during year-end cleaning at Naritasan Shinsho-ji temple in Narita, near Tokyo, on Dec. 13, 2022. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

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


Japan foreign minister eyes China visit in Dec. amid strained ties

TOKYO/BEIJING - Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is considering visiting China later this month, diplomatic sources said Wednesday, as the two nations look for ways to stabilize bilateral ties that have often been strained over issues including a territorial row.

It would be the first visit to China by a Japanese foreign minister in three years. The plan follows the first in-person meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping last month in Bangkok, where the two leaders agreed to arrange Hayashi's trip to China.


Gov't panel reviewing Japan foreign trainee program holds 1st meeting

TOKYO - A Japanese government panel tasked with reviewing the country's foreign trainee program held its first meeting Wednesday to address issues relating to human rights violations.

The panel of 15 members, including academics and the heads of municipal governments, will draw up its final report regarding the foreign technical intern program and the specified skills worker system -- the former in particular coming under scrutiny due to accounts of physical abuse and withholding pay -- around fall 2023.



H.K. organizer of Tiananmen vigil wins appeal against conviction

The former leader of a pro-democracy group in Hong Kong known for its annual vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown won an appeal against her conviction and sentence over her role in last year's banned event on Wednesday.

Tonyee Chow, the former vice chairwoman of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, was given a 15-month sentence in January after being convicted of inciting others to take part in the unauthorized assembly.


Japan questions Unification Church for 2nd time over illegal acts

TOKYO - The Japanese government exercised Wednesday its "right to question" the Unification Church for the second time, as it continues investigating the controversial religious group with an eye on a court order to remove the organization's status as a religious corporation with tax benefits.

In the latest round of inquiries following the first one in November, culture minister Keiko Nagaoka requested the organization to submit documents related to 22 past civil lawsuits that found it responsible for illegal practices in fundraising and recruiting, sources close to the matter said.


LDP lawmaker questioned over underreporting political funds

TOKYO - Prosecutors have questioned ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Kentaro Sonoura on a voluntary basis on suspicion of underreporting some 40 million yen ($296,000) in political funds, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

The latest in a recent series of scandals involving LDP lawmakers comes as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who heads the party, has been struggling with falling public support for his Cabinet.


Man gets suspended term for temporary plane landing after mask refusal

OSAKA - A Japanese court on Wednesday sentenced a man who refused to wear a face mask aboard a Peach Aviation flight as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to two years in prison, suspended for four years, for causing the aircraft to make an unscheduled landing to remove the passenger.

The Osaka District Court found Junya Okuno, 36, guilty of obstructing the plane's operation. He raised his voice requesting an apology from another passenger during the flight from Kushiro airport in Hokkaido in September 2020, alleging he was insulted for refusing to wear a mask, according to the ruling.


U.S. seeks stronger ties with Africa in summit amid China inroads

WASHINGTON - A three-day U.S.-Africa summit began on Tuesday in Washington, with President Joe Biden's administration planning to commit $55 billion over the next three years to support the continent, where China has been increasing its economic clout.

A total of 49 countries and the African Union have been invited to the event for talks on cooperation on a range of issues such as trade and investment, security, health and climate, and space.


ADB lowers 2023 Asian growth forecast as China lockdowns weigh

MANILA - The Asian Development Bank on Wednesday lowered its 2023 growth forecast for developing Asian economies to 4.6 percent from its September projection of 4.9 percent, partly owing to an impact of China's recurring COVID-19 lockdowns.

The Manila-based lender also trimmed its growth forecast for this year by 0.1 percentage point to 4.2 percent.


Japan plans to extend quake recovery tax to cover defense spending

TOKYO - The Japanese government on Wednesday proposed a plan to prolong a temporary tax implemented to pay for the 2011 quake and tsunami recovery as it seeks to fund an envisioned increase in defense spending.

The government intends to extend the special tax designed to finance reconstruction for affected areas by 14 years from its expiration in 2037, according to the plan proposed to the Liberal Democratic Party's tax commission.