Tokyo, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Japan faces unforeseen risks in guiding economic policy as its population of about 126 million ages and declines, the governor of its central bank said Thursday.
Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda told fellow financial leaders Thursday that policies must be devised to prevent the shrinking population from hindering economic growth.
Since taking his post in April 2013, Kuroda has flooded Japan's economy with cash through central bank asset purchases to help fight deflation and keep the economy growing. The BOJ also imposed a negative interest rate policy to keep lending costs ultralow in the longer term.
Kuroda told a seminar that while the conventional strategy of controlling short-term interest rates is well understood, the unconventional methods the Bank of Japan has adopted can have unexpected consequences.
Kuroda said one of the potential pitfalls could be if banks use cheap credit to seek higher yielding, high-risk investments harmful to financial stability.
"Policy makers need to manage prudential policy appropriately, taking into account the fact that the risk profiles of financial institutions could be dramatically transformed during times of demographic change," he said.
On the other hand, aging populations create new markets for many products and services, so there are positives along with the challenges, he added.
Japan's population began shrinking several years ago and is rapidly aging. That has discouraged companies from investing and hiring within Japan, while they direct their efforts toward faster growing overseen markets.
Hsinchu, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Taiwan held live-fire exercises along its east coast Thursday amid renewed threats from China to bring the island under its control by force if deemed necessary.
Artillery and assault helicopters fired at targets off the west coast city of Taichung, while French-made Mirage fighter jets took off amid rainy conditions from the air base at Hsinchu to the north.
The drills are Taiwan's first since Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 2 reasserted Beijing's willingness to use military force to bring self-ruling Taiwan under Chinese control.
The drills also follow a new Pentagon report laying out U.S. concerns about China's growing military might, underscoring worries about a possible attack against Taiwan.
Taiwan's independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen has made national defense a priority while refusing China's demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of China. That's led to Beijing ratcheting up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the island of 23 million.
In a meeting with U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson in Beijing on Tuesday, China's Chief of Staff Li Zuocheng issued a warning against foreign forces coming to Taiwan's assistance. The U.S. is Taiwan's chief source of military hardware and is legally bound to respond to threats against its security.
China's military will "pay any price" to ensure China's sovereignty, Li told Richardson at their Tuesday meeting. China considers Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, as an integral part of Chinese territory.
U.S.-China relations have become increasingly frayed on the military and economic fronts over the past year. President Donald Trump imposed tariff increases of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Xi responded by imposing penalties on $110 billion of American goods.
And last year the Pentagon disinvited China to a major, multinational Pacific exercise, citing Beijing's militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — A senior North Korean official has arrived in Beijing, reportedly en route to the United States for talks ahead of a possible second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Thursday that Kim Yong Chol had arrived at Beijing airport and was expected to leave for Washington later in the day.
A motorcade that included the North Korean ambassador's car and a Chinese car with a sign reading "state guest" could be seen departing from a VIP area at the airport.
Kim Yong Chol is a former North Korean spy chief who has been holding talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on North Korea's nuclear weapons program and related issues.
Athens, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Greece's left-wing prime minister narrowly won a confidence vote in parliament late Wednesday days after the governing coalition he leads collapsed over an agreement to end a long-running dispute over neighboring Macedonia's name.
Lawmakers voted 151-148 on a motion called by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, giving his government the minimum it needed in the 300-seat legislature to survive. During a heated debate earlier in the day, Tsipras argued the Macedonia deal would bolster stability in Europe's Balkan region.
"At the critical times, we all must have a clear position," he said before the vote, which coincided with the one British leader Theresa May won over her Brexit deal with the European Union.
The leader of a small Greek nationalist party, Panos Kammenos, quit as defense minister in Tsipras' government last weekend over the proposed agreement with Macedonia. The deal calls for the country to be renamed North Macedonia in exchange for Greece lifting its objections to its young northern neighbor joining NATO and the European Union.
Several members of Kammenos' party voted to support the government. Along with independents and opposition dissenters, they gave the 44-year-old Tsipras six votes from outside his party, allowing him to remain in power. His term ends in October.
Greece's western allies also strongly back the deal Tsipras and Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev agreed to in June. Russia remains strongly opposed to the prospect of Macedonia's NATO membership.
Tsipras has strongly defended his efforts to end the 27-year dispute with Macedonia over that country's name, which Greece long argued implied designs on its own Macedonia and on Greek cultural heritage.
Tsipras had said he would seek to get the Greek parliament's approval of the name-change deal soon after the confidence vote.
Hardliners in both countries claim the deal conceded too much to the other side. But Greek government officials say they are optimistic the agreement will be ratified in Athens even though most opposition parties reject it.
In Greece, sentiment is particularly high in the northern Macedonia province, where opponents say their regional identity and heritage is being signed away. Posters have appeared in recent days with pictures of local lawmakers who back the deal and the caption: "Will you betray our Macedonia?"
Four people were arrested Wednesday over the posters in the northern towns of Grevena and Kozani and charged with breaching advertising laws and traffic codes.
Opponents of the name-change deal are planning a protest rally in Athens on Sunday.
New Orleans, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — A prominent American anchorwoman on Iranian state television has been arrested by the FBI during a visit to the U.S., the broadcaster reported Wednesday, and her son said she was being held in a prison, apparently as a material witness.
Marzieh Hashemi, who worked for the network's English-language service, was detained in St. Louis, where she had filmed a Black Lives Matter documentary after visiting relatives in the New Orleans area. She was then taken to Washington, according to her elder son, Hossein Hashemi.
The FBI said in an email that it had no comment on the arrest of the woman who was born Melanie Franklin in New Orleans and has worked for Iran's state television network for 25 years.
Hossein Hashemi said his mother lives in Tehran and comes back to this country about once a year to see her family, usually scheduling documentary work somewhere in the U.S. as well.
"We still have no idea what's going on," said Hashemi, a research fellow at the University of Colorado who was interviewed by phone from Washington. He also said he and his siblings had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.
The incident comes as Iran faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual citizens and other people with Western ties. Those cases have previously been used as bargaining chips in negotiations with world powers.
Federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be arrested and detained if the government can prove their testimony has extraordinary value for a criminal case and that they would be a flight risk and unlikely to respond to a subpoena. The statute generally requires those witnesses to be promptly released once they are deposed.
Marzieh Hashemi, an American citizen, had not been contacted by the FBI before she was detained and would "absolutely" have been willing to cooperate with the agency, her son said.
Asked whether his mother had been involved in any criminal activity or knew anyone who might be implicated in a crime, Hashemi said, "We don't have any information along those lines."
Hashemi said his mother was arrested as she was about to board a flight from St. Louis to Denver. A spokesman for St. Louis Lambert International Airport declined to comment and referred questions to the FBI.
The constitutionality of the material witness law has "never been meaningfully tested," said Ricardo J. Bascuas, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law. "The government only relies on it when they need a reason to arrest somebody but they don't have one."
No matter the reason for Marzieh Hashemi's detention, she should have been granted a court appearance by now, Bascuas said.
She apparently was unable to call her daughter until Tuesday night. The family is trying to hire an attorney, but it has been difficult because she has not been charged with a crime, her son said.
Iran's state broadcaster held a news conference and launched a hashtag campaign for Hashemi, using the same techniques families with loved ones held in the Islamic Republic use to highlight their cases.
"We will not spare any legal action" to help her, said Paiman Jebeli, deputy chief of Iran's state IRIB broadcaster. Iran's Press TV aired footage of her anchoring news programs and discussing the war in Syria, set to dramatic music.
There were no references to any case against Hashemi in U.S. federal courts, nor in Missouri.
Hashemi describes herself online as having studied journalism at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She converted to Islam in 1982 at age 22 after meeting Iranian activist students in Denver.
She married a man she met while in journalism school. They had two sons and a daughter. Her husband is dead, said Hashemi's brother, Milton Leroy Franklin of the New Orleans suburb of Metairie.
Last week, Iran confirmed it is holding U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump's administration.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told state TV that Hashemi's arrest indicates the "apartheid and racist policy" of the Trump administration.
"We hope that the innocent person will be released without any condition," Ghasemi said.
At least four other American citizens are being held in Iran, including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father, Baquer, both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 year in prison.
Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a permanent U.S. resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him. His family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.