The Japan Times


Iran vows to ditch more nuclear curbs in war of words with U.S.

The Japan Times

TEHRAN - Iran said Tuesday it will further free itself from the 2015 nuclear deal in defiance of new American sanctions as U.S. President Donald Trump warned the Islamic republic of "overwhelming" retaliation for any attacks. Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have spiraled since last year when Trump withdrew the United States from the deal under which Tehran was to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. The two arch-rivals have been locked in an escalating war of words since Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in what it said was its own airspace, a claim the US vehemently denies. On Monday, Washington stepped up pressure by blacklisting Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs, saying it would also sanction Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later in the week. Tehran was defiant on Tuesday, saying the new US sanctions against Iran showed Washington was "lying" about an offer of talks.


Japan aims to provide one computer to every student by 2025

The Japan Times

Japan aims to make a computer terminal available to every school student by around fiscal 2025, the education ministry said Tuesday. The target is included in the ministry's new plan to improve the educational environment through the use of technology. A ministry survey in March 2018 found that computers were distributed on average at a rate of 1 terminal per 5.6 students at public elementary and high schools across the country. By prefecture, Saga performed best with a rate of 1 terminal per 1.8 students, while Saitama saw the worst rate of 1 terminal per 7.9 students. To further increase the number of computers at schools, the ministry's plan showed examples of how computers can be procured at lower costs.


Mike Pompeo in Mideast seeks to build coalition against Iran but faces hard sell

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks Monday with the Saudi king and crown prince about countering the military threat from Iran by building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and European countries. Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that President Donald Trump repudiated last year. With tensions running high in the region after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone on June 20 and Trump said he aborted a retaliatory strike, Iran's naval commander warned that his forces won't hesitate to down more U.S. drones that violate its airspace. The U.S. has been building up its military presence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. announced additional sanctions Monday on Iran aimed at pressuring the Iranian leadership into talks.


Japan to start testing unmanned vehicles on public roads

The Japan Times

The economy ministry plans to start testing unmanned ground vehicles on public roads by the end of March next year through cooperation with private-sector companies, hoping to put them into practical use soon. The ministry agreed Monday to establish a public-private council on UGVs. Members include e-commerce firm Rakuten Inc., Yamato Transport Co., Japan Post Co. and transport company Seino Holdings Co., as well as the National Police Agency, the transport ministry and local governments. The council is to identify challenges, including ways to secure the safety of UGVs on public roads and who would bear responsibility for accidents, officials said. The ministry is considering possible revisions to the road traffic law in fiscal 2020, which starts in April next year.


Iran says 'spy drone' violated its airspace in May amid U.S. escalation

The Japan Times

TEHRAN - Iran said on Sunday a "spy drone" had encroached its airspace in May, about a month before it downed an American drone as part of a series of escalatory incidents between Tehran and Washington. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted a map saying the U.S.-made MQ9 Reaper drone -- also widely used for carrying out military strikes -- had entered his country's airspace on May 26. Iran shot down a U.S. Global Hawk drone Thursday, saying it had violated its airspace near the strategic Strait of Hormuz -- a claim the United States denies. U.S. President Donald Trump called off a planned retaliatory military strike Friday, saying the response would not have been "proportionate," with Tehran warning any attack would see Washington's interests across the Middle East go up in flames. On Sunday U.S. national security adviser John Bolton cautioned Iran against misinterpreting the last-minute cancellation.


Yemen's Houthi rebels strike Saudi airport ahead of Mike Pompeo visit

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - One person was killed and seven others were wounded in an attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on an airport in the kingdom Sunday evening as U.S. Secretary of State was on his way to the country for talks on Iran, Saudi Arabia said. Regional tensions have flared in recent days, The U.S. abruptly called off military strikes against Iran in response to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone. The Trump administration has vowed to combine a "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region, following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. A new set of U.S. sanctions on Iran are expected to be announced Monday. The Sunday attack by the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, targeted the Saudi airport in Abha.


U.S. launched cyberattacks on Iranian military computers last week

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - U.S. military cyberforces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems on Thursday as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike in response to Iran's downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, U.S. officials said Saturday. Two officials told The Associated Press that the strikes were conducted with approval from Trump. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the strike. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the operation. The cyberattacks -- a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions -- disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, the officials said.


Drone may have tracked tanker

The Japan Times

DUBAI - The "flying object" that flew over a Japanese tanker before it was rocked by a blast in strategic waters in the Middle East earlier this month could have been a reconnaissance drone, experts have said. The owner of the Kokuka Courageous said the tanker's crew saw a "flying object," just before a blast that caused a fire on board the vessel, sparking a crisis between Washington and Tehran. "The crew members are saying that they were hit by a flying object. They saw it with their own eyes," Yutaka Katada, head of Kokuka Sangyo shipping company, said the day after the mysterious June 13 attack. "We have received a report saying that something seems to have flew in, there was an explosion and it created a hole in the body of the ship," he told reporters in Tokyo.


Georgians keep protesting Russian's speech in parliament despite speaker's resignation

The Japan Times

TBILISI - The speaker of Georgia's parliament stepped down Friday in the wake of violent clashes that left at least 240 people injured, but the move failed to assuage protesters, who returned to the streets demanding that the interior minister also step down over a brutal police response. A night of clashes Thursday was sparked by a Russian lawmaker who took the speaker's seat as a group of international lawmakers met at the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi. It angered the opposition, which sees the current Georgian government as overly friendly to Russian interests. The protests mark the largest outpouring of anger against the ruling Georgian Dream since it took power in 2012. Officials said at least 240 people were injured when riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas and unleashed water cannon on protesters outside Georgia's parliament building during the clashes that lasted into early Friday.


Last-minute reversal on Iran strike showcases Trump's confusion

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - Sebastian Smith and Jerome Cartillier Donald Trump wants to be warlike and he wants to avoid war -- and late Thursday, with U.S. bombers poised to unleash explosive fury on Iran, those contradictory impulses came to a head. The surprise revelation that Trump ordered the bombing of Iran in retaliation for downing a U.S. drone, only to pull back at the last minute, encapsulates the paradox at the heart of the White House foreign policy over the past two years. One is caution, believing that endless, repeated wars have been too costly for the United States," said Rob Malley, a former advisor to President Barack Obama who heads the International Crisis Group. "The other instinct is to look like someone strong, who can't be pushed around." Many days, Trump resembles a geopolitical John Wayne, a swaggering global sheriff out to duel with rivals like China and old allies alike. And even if the 45th president famously managed to avoid serving in his generation's big war, Vietnam, he revels in his role as commander-in-chief. He rarely seems happier than when boasting about the billions of dollars spent on "rebuilding" the military or talking lovingly about the latest, deadliest weapon system. But Thursday evening in Washington, with U.S. forces on the verge of striking three sites in Iran, that hawkish version of Trump suddenly transformed into Trump the dove. "We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die.