TOKYO, Feb. 18 -- (Kyodo) _ ---------- BOJ maintains ultraeasy monetary policy, expands loan support program
TOKYO - The Bank of Japan decided Tuesday to maintain its ultraloose monetary policy and enhanced its special loan support fund program to encourage banks to promote lending to businesses with growth potential, with the aim of giving an additional boost to monetary easing effects.
The BOJ left unchanged its assessment of the domestic economy for the fifth straight month, saying in a statement that it "has continued to recover moderately," after weaker-than-expected gross domestic product data indicated a slowdown of the country's economic growth amid sluggish exports.
---------- U.S. students who helped return "miracle boat" visit tsunami-hit city
MORIOKA, Japan - A group of high school students from northern California visited on Tuesday their peers in a tsunami-hit northeastern Japanese city after helping return to the high school there a boat that was washed across the Pacific Ocean after the March 2011 disasters.
About 300 students at Takata High School in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, welcomed six students from Del Norte High School in Crescent City, California, and their teachers, and expressed thanks for the U.S. group's role in coordinating the return of the so-called "miracle boat" last October.
---------- Kishida repeats call for meeting with S. Korean foreign minister
TOKYO - Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday repeated his call for a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se to help mend soured ties between the two countries.
Ties are strained due to a territorial dispute over South Korean-controlled islets and differing perceptions of history related to Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, preventing the countries from resuming high-level diplomatic talks.
---------- M'bishi Motors eyes pay-scale hike as it recovers from slump
TOKYO - The president of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. says the automaker is considering raising the pay scale for its employees and resuming dividend payments for the first time in over 16 years in fiscal 2013, reflecting its recovery from a decade of slumping sales.
Asked about the possibility of a wage-scale hike in a recent interview with several news agencies, President Osamu Masuko said the company "should certainly do so" and that it should do whatever it can to help lift Japan out of chronic deflation.
---------- Ministers to give another try to wrap up TPP in Singapore
TOKYO - Twelve countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks will give another push to strike an ambitious deal at a ministerial gathering set to begin Saturday in Singapore, but expectations are low for a significant outcome.
The latest round of negotiations will come after the countries bordering the Pacific Ocean abandoned the goal of reaching an agreement by the end of 2013 at the last session held in Singapore in December, having failed to fill gulfs over such issues as tariff removals, intellectual property rights and treatment of state-owned firms.
---------- Watchdog recommends penalties on overseas firm for stock manipulation
TOKYO - Japan's financial market watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, on Tuesday recommended that the Financial Services Agency penalize an overseas investment company for manipulating Japan's stock market from abroad.
The commission said it recommended Select Vantage Inc., which is based in British overseas territory Anguilla, be fine 60,000 yen for violating the financial instruments and exchange law.
---------- Record amount of stimulant drugs seized at Narita airport in 2013
CHIBA, Japan - Customs agents at Japan'sNarita airport said Tuesday they intercepted a record 269 kilograms of stimulant drugs in 2013.
The haul, which had a street value of 18.8 billion yen, was 1.6 times the amount seized in 2012 and represented a significant rise over the previous record of 232 kg set in 2010.
---------- 4 killed, over 60 injured as Thai police raid protest sites
BANGKOK - Four people, including a police officer, were killed in street clashes in Bangkok on Tuesday as around 25,000 Thai police attempted to clear five sites occupied by antigovernment protesters, the police and public health officials said.
Adding a twist to the political turmoil in Thailand, the National Anti-Corruption Commission decided Tuesday to press charges against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for negligence of duty over the government's rice pledging scheme.
---------- Body of scuba diver found off Bali, identity unknown: official
DENPASAR, Indonesia - Rescuers searching for two remaining Japanese women who disappeared while scuba diving off the Indonesian resort island of Bali found the body of a female scuba diver, the island's rescue agency said Tuesday.
The body has been sent to a hospital on Bali island, and Japanese consular officials are attempting to identify the woman at the hospital.
---------- Gov't to do all it can to ease Okinawa's base-hosting burden: Abe
TOKYO - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday it is an "extremely urgent task" to alleviate Okinawa's base-hosting burdens and remove the danger of leaving a key U.S. military base as it is, as the government held its first meeting with Okinawa officials to study the potential closure of the base within five years.
"The government will do all it can because it's an extremely urgent task to ease the burden on Okinawa of hosting (U.S. military) bases and eliminate the danger of the Futenma Air Station," Abe told Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima at the prime minister's office.