Photo taken on Jan. 26, 2023, in the Shiga Prefecture city of Kusatsu, western Japan, shows icicles formed in trees on the shore of Lake Biwa. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

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


Japan decides to ease medical rules on COVID-19 on May 8: PM Kishida

TOKYO - Japan formally decided Friday to downgrade the legal status of the novel coronavirus on May 8 to the same category as common infectious diseases, such as seasonal influenza, to ease COVID-19 prevention rules, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

Based on the downgrading to Class 5, the government would be able to relax existing intensive COVID-19 measures, including limiting the movements of infected people and their close contacts.


Man detained in Manila allegedly gave robbery orders in Japan via app

MANILA - The alleged ringleader of a string of robberies across Japan, known to have gone by the name of "Luffy," is believed to have remotely given instructions to those carrying out the break-ins via an encrypted messaging app from an immigration facility in Manila, where he is being held.

Philippine Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told Kyodo News on Thursday evening that the man was arrested in the Philippines in 2021 and is being held at the immigration facility, along with another Japanese national suspected of being part of the robbery group.


1st oral abortion pill steps closer to approval in Japan

A pharmaceutical advisory body for Japan's health ministry on Friday expressed no objection to the manufacturing and marketing of an abortion pill, bringing the medication a step closer to becoming the first of its kind to gain approval in the country.

Abortions in early stages of pregnancies in Japan are currently limited to surgical procedures, and the oral pill, if approved, is seen as a new option that could lighten both physical and mental stress on women.


Tokyo core inflation rate nears 42-yr high at 4.3% in Jan.

TOKYO - Core consumer prices in Tokyo rose 4.3 percent from a year earlier in January, hitting the highest level in nearly 42 years, as widespread price hikes in food, energy and other items deal a blow to households, government data showed Friday.

The core consumer price index, excluding volatile fresh food items, for the Japanese capital remained above the Bank of Japan's 2 percent inflation target for the eighth straight month and adds pressure on the central bank to tighten monetary policy. The pace of increase accelerated from last month when the inflation rate was 3.9 percent.


Japan adds targets for Russia sanctions over war in Ukraine

TOKYO - Japan decided Friday to add 36 individuals and 52 organizations linked to Russia to its list of sanctions imposed over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, as the war shows few signs of ending, threatening security in Europe and Asia.

The sanctions, including asset freezes and bans on exports by Japanese firms, target politicians, military officers, businesspeople, companies in Russia and regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, and others.


Nissan recalls 520,000 cars over fault in engine part

TOKYO - Nissan Motor Co. on Friday filed with the Japanese government a recall of over 520,000 cars, including Suzuki-badged vehicles, due to a fault in an electric engine part that can cause them to catch fire.

The Japanese automaker is recalling a combined 527,491 units of its X-Trail sports utility vehicle and Serena minivan, as well as "Landy" minivans supplied to Suzuki Motor Corp., the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said.


Japan court judge ordered to pay damages over social media posts

TOKYO - A Japanese court on Friday ordered a high court judge to pay 440,000 yen ($3,300) in damages after posting messages on social media that the bereaved family of a high school girl murdered in Tokyo found offensive.

Social media posts by Kiichi Okaguchi of the Sendai High Court were "thoughtless" and "inappropriate acts that violate duties imposed on an incumbent judge," said Presiding Judge Masahiko Kiyono at the Tokyo District Court in handing down the ruling.


Ukraine hints at Olympic boycott if Russian athletes take part

TOKYO - Ukraine could boycott the 2024 Paris Olympics if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete, the BBC reported Thursday.

The British broadcaster quoted Ukraine's sports minister Vadym Huttsait as writing on his official Facebook page, "If we are not heard, I do not rule out the possibility that we will boycott and refuse participation in the Olympics."


Nissan, Renault eye alliance revamp announcement on Feb. 6: report

TOKYO - Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA are aiming to announce a deal that will revamp their decades-old car-making alliance in London on Feb. 6, Reuters news agency has reported.

The news surfaced after the leaders of the French and Japanese automakers met online Thursday for an alliance board meeting. Reuters cited two sources close to the matter and another, who said the meeting had gone off "without a hitch."


Video: Icicles on the shore of Lake Biwa