Japan Justice Minister Resigns After Crime Syndicate Allegations

Japan’s justice minister submitted his resignation Tuesday amid allegations of past links to a crime syndicate, providing more political ammunition to opposition party lawmakers who are pressing Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to call a snap election.

Senior ruling party official Jun Azumi told reporters that Keishu Tanaka had handed in his resignation earlier in the day.

“He submitted his resignation to the prime minister, citing health reasons,” Mr. Azumi, the DPJ’s deputy secretary- general said.

Japan’s top government spokesman Osamu Fujimura later confirmed that the prime minister had accepted his resignation, making Mr. Tanaka the first member of the reshuffled cabinet to quit, just three weeks since its launch.

Mr. Tanaka was hospitalized Friday for undisclosed medical reasons after abruptly skipping a parliamentary hearing, cabinet meeting and press interviews last week. Opposition members had been calling for his head for his past association with members of a crime syndicate, as reported by a tabloid weekly magazine.

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Japan says no decision on buying South Korean debt, disputed island row continues

The Japanese government has not reached a decision yet on whether it will buy South Korean government debt, Finance Minister Jun Azumi said on Friday, as a diplomatic row escalates between the two countries over a territorial dispute.

Azumi reiterated that the government might not extend a currency swap arrangement with South Korea after it expires in October.

Purchases of South Korean government debt and the currency swap were part of efforts to strengthen economic ties, but further cooperation has been thrown into doubt due to diplomatic tensions that have been growing in Northeast Asia.

“I want a little time to see how things develop,” Azumi told a media conference.

Read the rest of the story: UPDATE 1-Japan says no decision on buying Korean debt, island row festers.

Japan to cut oil imports from Iran, says Finance Minister Azumi

Japan is prepared to gradually reduce the amount of oil it imports from Iran, Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Thursday, as the United States seeks to muster international support to put fresh pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Japan imports 10% of its crude oil from Iran at the moment, Azumi said at a news briefing after meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The country is ready to decrease that level “in a planned manner,” he said.

“What I told the secretary is that we have already reduced Iranian oil imports by 40% in the past five years,” Azumi said, standing next to Geithner. “The nuclear development issue is an issue that the international community cannot overlook, so we very much understand the U.S. action.”

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Japan calls on German ‘central role’ in euro ‘firewall’

Japan called on Germany on Friday to step up and help plug the widening hole in Europe’s finances, saying Berlin should play a leading role in creating a debt "firewall".

Finance Minister Jun Azumi said the continent’s largest economy needed to do more if Europe was to get out of the downward spiral of debt that is threatening to tip the global economy into recession.

"It is important for Germany to (play) a central role in creating a firm funding scheme that we can refer to as a firewall," Azumi told a news conference, Dow Jones newswires reported.

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US Dollar Jumps as Japan Intervenes To Pull Yen Back From Record Levels

Japan’s new finance minister, Jun Azumi, carried through on his threat to intervene in currency markets to reverse a strengthening of the yen that has hurt the country’s vital export sector.

The yen weakened sharply to 78.30 to the dollar Monday morning in Tokyo, retreating from a post-World War II record of 75.31 yen touched in early trading. Azumi confirmed that the Japanese government had sold yen for greenbacks, and would continue doing so until it was “satisfied,” according to Kyodo News.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 average rose through the 9,100 level for the first time since Aug. 16.

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Japan boosts intervention war chest to curb yen

Japan’s finance minister said on Friday the government will secure an additional 15 trillion yen in funds for currency market intervention, as it looks to boost its ability to tame the yen.

Jun Azumi added that the finance ministry will require currency traders to report daily their trading positions for another three months beyond the end of September in an effort to deter speculative moves.

Japan will boost the size of its intervention funds by 15 trillion yen ($195.79 billion) to "flexibly" respond to the yen’s upward trend, Azumi said, adding that its current strength threatened Japan’s recovery.

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