Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been selected by senior editors of Kyodo News and its member or subscriber newspapers and broadcasters as the top international news story of 2022.
(1) Russia invades Ukraine, Putin repeats nuclear threats
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, saying that the "special military operation" was intended to protect ethnic Russians subjected to "abuse" and "genocide" by the administration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But Russian President Vladimir Putin's army failed to capture the capital Kyiv and struggled against the defenders' resistance, with Ukraine receiving arms support from the United States and European countries.
Russia faced international criticism for its troops' atrocities in areas it temporarily occupied in Ukraine, including mass killings of civilians in Bucha to the northwest of Kyiv. In September, Putin unilaterally declared Russia annexed four regions in Ukraine. The president has also repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons, raising tensions.
(2) Energy prices soar due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Global energy and grain prices soared as the outlook for a stable supply of commodities grew uncertain following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a major oil and grain exporter, while Ukraine is also a leading grain producer.
European countries were forced to review their energy policies that depended on imports of Russian natural gas. Fears of widespread food shortages also loomed in Africa and the Middle East after Russia attacked a major port in southern Ukraine, temporarily blocking shipments of agricultural products.
(3) Xi secures unprecedented 3rd term as China party chief
Chinese leader Xi Jinping secured an unprecedented third five-year term as general secretary at the twice-a-decade party congress in October. All four new members of the seven-member Communist Party's highest decision-making body are Xi allies. Shanghai party chief Li Qiang was ranked No. 2 in the committee, meaning he is likely to become China's new premier next spring.
As tensions between China and the United States heighten, the new leadership demonstrates how Xi has concentrated power. There are fears global tensions will worsen, including across the Taiwan Strait.
(4) North Korea continues missile launches, nuclear test fears loom
North Korea conducted more than 30 rounds of missile tests in 2022, the most ever in one year, including a new "Hwasong-17" intercontinental ballistic missile test-fired on Nov. 18. The reclusive nation's state-run media said the ICBM was launched successfully and reached an altitude of over 6,000 kilometers. The ICBM could potentially travel over 15,000 km and reach the U.S. mainland if launched on a normal trajectory.
Fears are also mounting that Pyongyang is preparing for a seventh nuclear test which would be its first since September 2017.
(5) Queen Elizabeth dies at 96
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who was crowned in 1953, died at age 96 on Sept. 8. The queen, one of the world's longest-serving monarchs and respected around the globe, inherited the throne when her father King George VI died.
She maintained good relations with the Japanese imperial family during her reign and visited Japan for the first time as a British monarch in 1975. She became the oldest-ever British monarch in 2007 and Britain's longest-reigning monarch in 2015.
(6) 158 die in Seoul Halloween crowd crush
A crowd crush occurred in a narrow alley in the Itaewon district of Seoul during Halloween festivities on the night of Oct. 29, killing 158. Most of the victims were in their 20s and also included two Japanese women. South Korean police have admitted to failing in the security response at the site.
(7) U.S. Fed increases interest rates aggressively
The U.S. Federal Reserve decided on March 16 to raise key interest rates by 0.25 percentage point, the first increase since December 2018. It marked an end to a two-year policy position in which it maintained the level at near-zero to support the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic-caused downturn.
The U.S. central bank further raised the key interest rate by half a percentage point in May, by 0.75 percent at the next four policy meetings through November and by 0.5 percent in December to address high inflation stemming from Russia's war in Ukraine and a recovery from the pandemic. The increase in U.S. interest rates coupled with Japan's central bank not following suit caused the yen to tumble against the dollar.
(8) Shohei Ohtani matches Ruth with 1st 10-win, 10-homer MLB season
Shohei Ohtani won his 10th game on Aug. 9, making him the first player with double-digit home runs as a batter and wins as a pitcher in a single Major League Baseball season since Hall of Famer Babe Ruth in 1918.
Ohtani struck out five over six innings for the Los Angeles Angels in their 5-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics to give him his 10th win of the season. He went on to collect five more wins but the Angels missed the playoffs for the eighth straight year.
(9) Global COVID-19 infections surpass 600 million
The cumulative worldwide total of novel coronavirus infections exceeded 600 million on Aug. 26, with deaths caused by the virus topping 6.48 million, according to data from the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The pace of infection has moderated, as while it took 32 days for the cases to rise from 300 million to 400 million and 63 days from 400 million to 500 million, it needed 136 days for them to increase from 500 million to 600 million.
The rapid global spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant led to the rolling back of strict control measures and prompted many countries to lift travel restrictions. The increase in vaccination rates also allowed governments to ease regulations and shift focus to reviving their battered economies.
(10) Biden's Democratic Party has strong showing in midterms
In the Nov. 8 midterm elections, the Democratic Party led by President Joe Biden performed well despite high inflation and the president's flagging popularity.
It secured a majority in the Senate and only gave up a slim majority to the Republican Party in the House of Representatives despite an anticipated "red wave" of victories. The midterm results also raised questions about the influence and future of Biden's predecessor Donald Trump after Republican candidates backed by him fared poorly.
Ex-PM Abe's assassination Japan's top news story of 2022