Iran supreme leader says he has no intention to make or use nuclear weapons

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tehran, Iran June 13, 2019. Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) – Iran has no intention of making or using nuclear weapons, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying on Thursday by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Khamenei’s comment, a reiteration of Iran’s stance, comes at a time of increased U.S.-Iranian tension, a year after Washington abandoned an agreement between Iran and world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international financial sanctions.

“Supreme Leader Khamenei made a comment that the country will not and should not make, hold or use nuclear weapons, and that it has no such intentions,” Abe told reporters in Tehran following a meeting with Khamenei.

“Today, I met Supreme Leader Khamenei and heard his belief in peace. I regard this highly as a major progress toward this region’s peace and stability,” said Abe, the first-ever Japanese prime minister to hold talks with Khamenei.

Abe’s comment was broadcast on Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

On Wednesday, Abe warned of unintended clashes in the crisis-hit Middle East after meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Abe was visiting Iran to help ease rising tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic.

Japan is in a unique position to act as a mediator as the U.S. ally has long maintained close ties with Iran.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel)

‘Makes me shake with rage’: Japan probe shows university cut women’s test scores

Tetsuo Yukioka (L), Managing Director of Tokyo Medical University and Keisuke Miyazawa, Vice-President of Tokyo Medical University, bow as they attend a news conference in Tokyo, Japan August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese medical school deliberately cut women’s entrance test scores for at least a decade, an investigation panel said on Tuesday, calling it a “very serious” instance of discrimination, but school officials denied having known of the manipulations.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a priority of creating a society “where women can shine”, but women in Japan still face an uphill battle in employment and face hurdles returning to work after childbirth, a factor behind a falling birthrate.

The alterations were uncovered in an internal investigation of a graft accusation this spring regarding the entrance exam for Tokyo Medical University, sparking protests and anger.

Lawyers investigating bribery accusations in the admission of the son of a senior education ministry official said they concluded that his score, and those of several other men, were boosted “unfairly” – by as much as 49 points, in one case.

They also concluded that scores were manipulated to give men more points than women and thus hold down the number of women admitted since school officials felt they were more likely to quit the profession after having children, or for other reasons.

“This incident is really regrettable – by deceptive recruitment procedures, they sought to delude the test takers, their families, school officials and society as a whole,” lawyer Kenji Nakai told a news conference.

“Factors suggesting very serious discrimination against women was also part of it,” added Nakai, one of the external lawyers the university hired to investigate the incident.

The investigation showed that the scores of men, including those reappearing after failing once or twice, were raised, while those of all women, and men who had failed the test at least three times, were not.

The lawyers said they did not know how many women had been affected, but it appeared that women’s test scores had been affected going back at least a decade.

At a news conference, senior school officials bowed and apologized, pledging to “sincerely” consider their response, such as possible compensation. However, they said they had been unaware of the manipulation.

“Society is changing rapidly and we need to respond to that and any organization that fails to utilize women will grow weak,” said Tetsuo Yukioka, the school’s executive regent and chair of its diversity promotion panel.

“I guess that thinking had not been absorbed.”

No immediate comment was available from the government or the education ministry official who figures in the case.

Entrance exam discrimination against women was “absolutely unacceptable”, Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters last week.

Reports of the incident set off a furor in which women recounted their own experiences of discrimination on social media with the hashtag, “It’s okay to be angry about sexism.”

Some referred to the potential costs exacted in a rapidly aging society.

“I’m 29 and will probably never get married,” said one poster.

“Women are pitied if they don’t, but Japanese women who are married and working and have kids end up sleeping less than anybody in the world. To now hear that even our skills are suppressed makes me shake with rage.”

Another said, “I ignored my parents, who said women don’t belong in academia, and got into the best university in Japan. But in job interviews, I’m told ‘If you were a man, we’d hire you right away.’

“My enemy wasn’t my parents, but all society itself.”

(Reporting by Elaine Lies, additional reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

On Pearl Harbor visit, Abe pledges Japan will never wage war again

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks with a Pearl Harbor survivor after he and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, U.S., December 27, 2016..

By Jeff Mason

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a symbolic visit to Pearl Harbor with President Barack Obama on Tuesday, commemorating the victims of Japan’s World War Two attack and promising that his country would never wage war again.

The visit, just weeks before Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office, was meant to highlight the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance amid concerns that Trump could forge a more complicated relationship with Tokyo.

“I offer my sincere and everlasting condolences to the souls of those who lost their lives here, as well as to the spirits of all the brave men and women whose lives were taken by a war that commenced in this very place,” Abe said.

“We must never repeat the horrors of war again. This is the solemn vow we, the people of Japan, have taken.”

Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor with torpedo planes, bombers and fighter planes on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, pounding the U.S. fleet moored there in the hope of destroying U.S. power in the Pacific.

Abe did not apologize for the attack, a step that would have irked his conservative supporters, many of whom say U.S. economic sanctions forced Japan to open hostilities.

“This visit to Pearl Harbor was to console the souls of the war dead, not to apologize,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo, adding the trip had showed that the allies would contribute to world peace and prosperity.

Obama, who earlier this year became the first incumbent U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an
atomic bomb in 1945, called Abe’s visit a “historic gesture” that was “a reminder that even the deepest wounds of war can give way to friendship and a lasting peace.”

Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona Memorial, built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, although three others including his grandfather had made quiet stops in Pearl Harbor in the 1950s.

The two leaders stood solemnly in front of a wall inscribed with the names of those who died in the 1941 attack and took part in a brief wreath-laying ceremony, followed by a moment of silence.

“In Remembrance, Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan” was written on one wreath and “In Remembrance, Barack Obama, President of the United States” on the other.

They then threw flower petals into the water.

After their remarks, both leaders greeted and Abe embraced U.S. veterans who survived the Pearl Harbor attack.

In China, which has repeatedly urged Japan to show greater repentance for World War Two and Japan’s invasion of China, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said real reflection was needed, not show.

“Reconciliation between inflictor and victim must and can only be established on the basis of sincere and deep reflection by the inflictor,” Hua told a daily news briefing.

DISPLAY OF ALLIANCE STRENGTH

Japan hopes to present a strong alliance with the United States amid concerns about China’s expanding military capability.

During a meeting ahead of the Pearl Harbor visit, Abe and Obama agreed to closely monitor moves by China’s aircraft carrier, recently spotted on a routine drill in the Western Pacific for the first time, and to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.

The leaders’ get-together was also meant to reinforce the U.S.-Japan partnership ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration of Trump, whose opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and campaign threat to force allied countries to pay more to host U.S. forces raised concerns among allies such as Japan.

Obama has sought to provide a smooth transition for Trump, but he made his opposition to the Republican’s policies, including his proposal to ban Muslims temporarily from entering the United States, clear during the 2016 campaign.

“It is here that we remember that even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward,” Obama said at Pearl Harbor. “We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.”

Abe met with Trump in New York in November and called him a “trustworthy leader.”

Obama called for a world without nuclear arms during his visit to Hiroshima. Trump last week called for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand” its nuclear capability and reportedly welcomed an international arms race.

Some Abe critics noted the Japanese leader’s visit, and the reconciliation with the United States that it symbolized, underscored the stark contrast in its relationship with China and South Korea, where the bitter wartime legacy still plagues ties with Tokyo.

Abe’s cabinet minister for reconstruction of disaster-hit regions, Masahiro Imamura, paid his respects later in the day (Wednesday, Tokyo time) at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for war dead, seen in China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, Kyodo news agency said. Abe angered Beijing and Seoul and upset Washington with his own visit to the shrine three years ago this month.

“A symbolic gesture of contrition to your closest ally is easy,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University’s Japan campus in Tokyo.

“If he (Abe) really is sincere about reconciliation diplomacy and overcoming lingering enmities he needs to visit similar symbolic sights (in China and Korea) … and make similar remarks of remorse that are more specific about Japan’s responsibility.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Linda Sieg and Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell, Lisa Shumaker and Nick Macfie)