Dec 23rd, 2017


1)   Japan’s government approved a record military budget on Friday but did not earmark enough extra money to stop a splurge on U.S.-made ballistic missile defense kit from putting a squeeze on funding for an ambitious domestic jet fighter project. The military expenditure is part of a record-high 97.71 trillion yen budget plan for fiscal 2018.

2)   The Japanese government said Friday it will use revenue from an envisaged departure tax only for boosting tourism, amid concern that it would be directed to a wider range of purposes. Japan plans to introduce the departure tax from Jan 7, 2019, requiring each passenger, regardless of nationality, to pay 1,000 yen when they leave the country by air or sea.

Its revenue will be allocated to three areas — creating an environment for pleasant and stress-free journeys, facilitating access to information on the country’s tourist attractions,

3)   The latest price tag for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been trimmed slightly, but is still nearly twice the initial estimate even after a major cost-cutting effort.The organizers said Friday that the event will cost a total 1.35 trillion yen ($11.9 billion).

In their release, Tokyo 2020 officials said the U.S. dollar cost would be $12.6 billion. But at the current exchange rate of about 113 yen to the dollar, it is just under $12 billion.

4)   Kobe Steel Ltd, at the center of a data-falsification scandal that has shaken Japan’s manufacturing industry, admitted for the first time that executives were aware of the cheating, and reassigned three senior officials.

Japan’s No. 3 steelmaker, which supplies the manufacturers of cars, planes and trains across the world, has said about 500 customers had received products with falsified specifications, throwing global supply chains into turmoil.

5)    North Korea’s foreign ministry has denied involvement in a massive cyberattack that the United States publicly blamed on the country.

The WannaCry virus infected computers in May around the world, including Japan. A senior White House official said this week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s government was responsible.

6)   The South Korean military says a North Korean soldier fled to the South on Thursday morning by going over the border of the demilitarized zone dividing the 2 countries.

A spokesman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Roh Jae-cheon, made the announcement about the defection at a regular news conference later on Thursday.

7)   Members of the US Senate have passed a bill that would deliver the biggest rewrite of the tax code in a generation.

Senate members voted along party lines with 51 supporting the bill and 48 voting against it. The legislation is now just one step away from becoming a reality.

The bill calls for a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21. It also includes a break for the richest Americans, who’ll get a reduction in individual income tax from nearly 40 percent to 37.

8)   Taiwan’s authorities plan to make all new vehicles there electric by 2040 to fight worsening air pollution.