Japan's opposition stepped up its campaign to delay a bill enabling the dispatch of troops to Iraq yesterday, submitting a no-confidence motion in the Cabinet and insisting it was prepared to force a general election. \nThe government pledged it would pass the bill before the current parliamentary session ends on Monday and failure to do so would mean a huge loss of face for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, possibly forcing him to call a snap general election -- something analysts doubt the opposition is prepared to risk. \n"We will definitely pass the bill in this parliamentary session," said Taku Yamasaki, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which dominates the ruling coalition. \nKoizumi is determined to keep his promise to the US to send troops to Iraq despite the fact that a recent poll showed more than half of Japanese voters oppose the move. \nUnnerved by mounting US casualties in Iraq, many Japanese are reluctant to see their troops -- who have not fired weapons in combat since the end of World War II -- in danger. \nThe bill has been approved by the more powerful Lower House, but must also pass the upper chamber before being enacted. \nSerious stalling began on Thursday, when some opposition members resorted to the "ox walk" tactic, stepping slowly toward the dais where they cast their ballots on a string of censure motions against Cabinet members in parliament's Upper House. \nOne opposition member even patted his pockets in an apparent pantomime of having lost his ballot, helping to delay the end of parliamentary business for the day until after midnight. \nThe maneuvres continued on Friday, with a no-confidence motion against Koizumi's Cabinet submitted to the Lower House. The motion is certain to fail because the ruling coalition has a majority in both houses. \n"We are going to spend the day doing our best to make sure the Iraq bill fails," Yoshihiko Noda, an executive with the main opposition Democratic Party, told a news conference. \nAsked if his party was ready for an election should the bill fail to pass, Noda said: "That's precisely what we want." \nThe Democrats agreed earlier this week to merge with a smaller opposition group ahead of an election many expect in November, but analysts say the two groups are not yet prepared for a campaign. \nRuling politicians also dismissed the opposition tactics as pure performance. \n"If the opposition parties were really serious, they would have submitted no-confidence and censure motions against every member of the Cabinet," said LDP lawmaker Taro Kono in an e-mail message. "The fact they haven't gone that far means they are faking."
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big