Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki, left, and Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa (Asahi Shimbun photos)
Abe's environment, justice ministers connected to questionable donations
Two more members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet have been tied to questionable political donations.
Tomomi Inada, policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, raises questions in the Lower House Budget Committee. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Abe ally raises doubts about Tokyo war crimes trial
A close political ally of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe questioned the legal basis of the Tokyo tribunal that convicted 25 Japanese military and political leaders of Class-A war crimes.
Education minister Hakubun Shimomura responds to questions at the Feb. 26 session of the Lower House Budget Committee. (Shinichi Iizuka)
Education minister disputes report of political fund transgression
Education minister Hakubun Shimomura on Feb. 26 denied receiving financial donations from groups not officially registered as political organizations, saying he has no knowledge about the activities of such groups.
Toshihiro Nikai, the Liberal Democratic Party's General Council chairman, meets South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Feb. 13. (Provided by Dong-A Ilbo)
LDP's Nikai to visit China in bid to improve relations
In an attempt to mend ties, a ruling party executive plans to visit China with 3,000 Japanese people, including tourism and local government officials, more than double the size of his delegation that went to South Korea.
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga speaks to reporters Feb. 24 at the prefectural government office in Naha. (Koshin Shisui)
Okinawa governor likely to halt seabed survey for Futenma relocation
NAHA--The governor of Okinawa looks set to reverse his predecessor's decision to allow the central government to destroy coral reefs as part of a seabed survey for the construction of a U.S. air base.
Hiroji Yamashiro is greeted by supporters after being released from the Nago Police Station in Okinawa Prefecture on Feb. 23. (Tetsuro Takehana)
Anti-base anger grows in Okinawa after U.S. military detains 2 protesters
NAGO, Okinawa Prefecture--U.S. military security personnel detained two Japanese anti-base protesters here, intensifying an already vociferous situation over the planned construction of a U.S. air station.
The Asahi Shimbun
Defense ministry eyes more power for SDF officers
The Defense Ministry intends to shake up the principle of civilian control that governs the Self-Defense Forces by giving equal oversight of SDF operations to serving uniformed officers.
Construction work has started for the deployment of a Self-Defense Forces unit in Yonaguni, Okinawa Prefecture. (Koshin Shisui)
60% of Yonagunijima islanders vote for stationing of SDF unit
YONAGUNI, Okinawa Prefecture--About 60 percent of voters in a referendum here backed the central government’s plan to station a Self-Defense Forces unit on Japan’s westernmost island near the Senkaku Islands, the center of a dispute with China.
Riot police put South Korean activists in a bus near the venue of Shimane Prefecture's Takeshima Day ceremony in Matsue on Feb. 22. (Yohei Kobayakawa)
Abe dispatches envoy to Takeshima Day ceremony, drawing backlash from Seoul
MATSUE--Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government sent a ministerial aid to Shimane Prefecture’s 10th annual Takeshima Day ceremony on Feb. 22, drawing a backlash from South Korea, which controls the islets that the prefecture lays claim to.
Koya Nishikawa during a Lower House Budget Committee session on Feb. 23 (The Asahi Shimbun)
Farm minister quits over shady political donations
Koya Nishikawa resigned Feb. 23 as farm minister over questionable political donations, making him the third Cabinet member in recent months to quit in a money scandal.
The Oiso town assembly in Kanagawa Prefecture is the nation's only local assembly in which women members outnumber the men. (The Asahi Shimbun)
Survey: More than 20 percent of local assemblies lack female representation
More than 20 percent of all 1,788 prefectural, municipal and ward assemblies in Japan have no female members, in stark contrast to 30 European nations where the ratio of assemblywomen exceeds 30 percent on average, an Asahi Shimbun survey found.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, right, at a recent meeting (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Japan shelves SDF deployment to Ebola-plagued Sierra Leone
Facing political opposition, the Defense Ministry decided on Feb. 23 not to dispatch Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Sierra Leone for assisting international efforts to battle an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.
Jordanians express outrage over the execution of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh by the Islamic State. (Takaharu Yagi)
Jordanian pilot was dead before Islamic State proposed swap, negotiator says
AMMAN, Jordan--An influential Muslim cleric who negotiated with the Islamic State for the release of hostages says the extremist group lied about the fate of a captive Jordanian pilot from the outset.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force's Soryu class submarine (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Japan, Germany, France potential partners for Australia’s submarine program
SYDNEY--Australia will not partner with Sweden to build its next-generation submarine fleet, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Feb. 20, narrowing the list of potential partners for the $39 billion program to Germany, France and Japan.
The Asahi Shimbun
Abe confidants among the 16 tabbed for 'balanced' panel on war anniversary statement
A wide-ranging mix of experts, from those close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to media representatives, will constitute a 16-member advisory panel on the Japanese leader's planned statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
ANNOUNCEMENT: Asahi Shimbun to host Tokyo talk by German Chancellor Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will talk about world affairs and her country's relations with Japan at an event in Tokyo to be sponsored by The Asahi Shimbun.
Peter Maurer during a recent visit to Hiroshima (Yoshihisa Aoyama)
ICRC president seeks elimination of nuclear weapons from a humanitarian standpoint
Peter Maurer, International Committee of the Red Cross president, believes it is important to focus on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and "the necessity to move forward on nuclear disarmament."
Emi Kayama, left, and her lawyers hold a news conference in Tokyo on Feb. 18. Kayama is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit on the ban against using different surnames by married couples. (Shigetaka Kodama)
Top court to rule on key provisions in family law
The Supreme Court said it will convene its grand bench to examine a provision in the Civil Law that prohibits married couples from using different surnames. The 15 justices will also consider a provision that says women cannot remarry within six months of a divorce.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a Lower House plenary session on Feb. 16 (Shinichi Iizuka)
Abe: Gay marriage not an option under the Constitution
Responding to growing calls to protect the rights of sexual minorities, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said same-sex marriages were never considered by the Constitution and that it would be difficult to revise provisions concerning rights that are enshrined.
Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Yokohama city set to follow suit in recognizing same-sex couples
YOKOHAMA--The mayor of Yokohama, the nation's second-largest city, welcomed the announcement of a draft ordinance in a Tokyo ward to recognize same-sex relationships, saying it galvanized her administration to consider a similar measure.

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