Chichibu Night Festival, featuring ornate floats, is held in Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture, eastern Japan, on Dec. 3, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

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


Japanese students climb to 3rd in OECD ranking of reading ability

TOKYO - Japanese students ranked third in their ability to use reading skills to solve real-life problems in an international learning assessment test in 2022, climbing significantly from 15th in 2018, a global survey showed Tuesday.

In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's computer-based test of 15-year-olds in 81 countries and economies, Japan also advanced from the previous survey to second from fifth in science and from sixth to fifth in mathematics.


Death toll in volcanic eruption in Indonesia's Sumatra reaches 22

JAKARTA - The death toll from a volcanic eruption on Indonesia's Sumatra Island reached 22 on Tuesday, with one mountain climber still unaccounted for, according to local rescuers.

At least 75 mountain climbers were in the area when 2,891-meter Mt. Marapi in West Sumatra Province erupted Sunday afternoon. More than 50 of the climbers managed to descend or were evacuated by rescuers.


U.S., Japan, S. Korea ties sustained by shared interests: U.S. envoy

TOKYO - U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday expressed confidence that the trilateral partnership between the United States, Japan and South Korea will be "sustainable" due to "shared interests" between all three countries.

Conversely, China, North Korea and Russia cannot forge a similar relationship as "they don't share strategic interests in the same collaborative, cooperative way that we do," Emanuel told Kyodo News and other media in Tokyo.


Football: Joint top scorer Yuya Osako named MVP after Kobe's 1st J1 title

YOKOHAMA - Vissel Kobe forward Yuya Osako was named the J-League's most valuable player for the first time on Tuesday after the season's joint top scorer played an instrumental role in the club winning their first top-flight title.

The 33-year-old scored 22 goals this term as he started all but two of the 34 J1 games for Kobe with his hold-up play, shooting abilities both off his feet and head, as well as an eye for a pass vital to their attack and title charge.


Japan lower house OKs bill to stop Unification Church moving assets

TOKYO - Japan's House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday to prevent the outflow of the Unification Church's assets as concerns grew that the controversial religious group would try to hide its funds overseas as it faces compensation demands.

The bill is designed to ensure there will be sufficient financial support for those who have fallen victim to the groups' activities, including aggressive donations solicitations.


"Luffy" crime ring members served fresh warrants over 2022 robbery

TOKYO - Four senior members of a group suspected of organizing scams and burglaries in Japan from the Philippines were served fresh arrest warrants Tuesday for allegedly orchestrating a robbery that resulted in injuries in western Tokyo last year, police said.

The latest arrests, including of Kiyoto Imamura, 39, who the police suspect used the pseudonym "Luffy" when planning and coordinating the crime, mark the final charges from eight cases of burglary across the country subject to intensive police investigation since June.


Searches continue for 2 crew after U.S. Osprey crashes off Japan

KAGOSHIMA, Japan - Searches continued Tuesday for two missing crew members after a U.S. military Osprey aircraft crashed off the coast of southwestern Japan last week.

With six already confirmed dead, Japan's Self-Defense Forces combed the southern coastline of Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture for debris in poor visibility due to fog, following the discovery of five bodies and major wreckage the previous day.


U.S. watchdog sues Japan's Seven & i over store acquisition in U.S.

NEW YORK - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Monday sued Japanese firm Seven & i Holdings Co. and its American subsidiary, alleging that the convenience store operator violated an order not to increase stores in certain areas in the United States without prior notice.

The FTC is seeking a maximum penalty of over $77 million against 7-Eleven Inc. in connection with an acquisition of a fuel outlet in Florida, which it criticized as "anticompetitive" and likely allowed the company to charge higher fuel prices at nearby locations.


Australia, France agree to reciprocal military base access

SYDNEY - Australia and France will increase defense cooperation by allowing their military personnel to access each other's bases under a new roadmap for bilateral ties, the two nations have said, amid China's growing influence in the Pacific region.

The roadmap, unveiled Monday, is expected to leverage existing legal frameworks and would give Australian soldiers greater access to France's military bases in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, while the French side will also be allowed to use Australian facilities with more ease.


Kishida again denies knowing of Unification Church members at meeting

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minster Fumio Kishida reiterated Tuesday that he was not aware that senior members of the controversial Unification Church were present at a meeting he held four years ago, following the publication by a newspaper of photographs of the event.

The Asahi Shimbun reported earlier in the day, citing unnamed sources, that a former leader of the Unification Church's U.S. branch was among those present at Kishida's talks on Oct. 4, 2019, with Newt Gingrich, the ex-speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.


Baseball: Yamamoto among top targets as Winter Meetings under way

NASHVILLE, Tennessee - With several teams determined to upgrade their starting pitching, reports from MLB's Winter Meetings on Monday indicated fierce competition to sign star Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are among more than 10 teams said to be pursuing Yamamoto, who won both Pacific League MVP and the Sawamura Award for Japan's top pitcher for the third season in a row this year.

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