TOKYO , Dec. 26 -- ( Kyodo ) _ ---------- Japanese foreign minister to visit Spain, France in Jan. TOKYO - Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday he will visit Spain and France for four days from Jan. 7 to meet with his counterparts in the two European countries. In France , Kishida, along with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, will also attend the first two-plus-two security talks between Japanese and French foreign and defense ministers in Paris . ---------- Mizuho Financial Group chairman to resign over loan scandal TOKYO - Mizuho Financial Group Inc. Chairman Takashi Tsukamoto plans to step down from his post to take responsibility for its core banking unit's loans to members of organized crime groups, sources close to the matter said Thursday. Mizuho Bank President Yasuhiro Sato will take a self-imposed salary cut for one year as Japan's Financial Services Agency ordered the megabank to suspend some of its affiliated loans for a month over the lender's involvement in transactions with "antisocial forces." ---------- Akita court rules July poll vote gap in state of unconstitutionality AKITA , Japan - The Sendai High Court's Akita branch ruled Thursday that the disparity of up to 4.77 times in the weight of votes in July's upper house election was "in a state of unconstitutionality," but rejected the plaintiffs' demand that the election results in the Akita constituency be nullified. The ruling was the last of similar lawsuits filed with 14 high courts and their branches across Japan by groups of lawyers. ---------- Thai protesters clash with police at poll related event in Bangkok BANGKOK - Thai antigovernment protesters on Thursday clashed with police in Bangkok while trying to disrupt an event related to the upcoming general election. The police fired tear gas and plastic bullets to prevent the protesters from entering Thai-Japanese Stadium , where political parties had gathered to draw lots to determine their position on election ballots. The lottery was completed, but the clash was still continuing. ---------- Nov. housing starts rise 14.1% on year TOKYO - Housing starts in Japan rose 14.1 percent in November from a year earlier to 91,475 units, up for 15th straight month, the government said Thursday. Starts on owner-occupied homes climbed 22.6 percent for the 15th consecutive monthly increase, while those on rental housing jumped 17.1 percent for the ninth straight month of rise, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said.
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