TOKYO (AP) — Fumio Kishida, re-elected as Japan’s prime minister after his governing party scored a major victory in key parliamentary elections, said the coronavirus remains the country’s most urgent issue and pledged to take steps to mend the pandemic-battered economy.
Kishida, who briefly met with U.S. President Joe Biden at the U.N. climate summit last week, said he hopes to visit Washington by the end of the year to deepen the bilateral alliance amid growing concerns about China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific.
Following his re-election by parliament, Kishida formed his second Cabinet by keeping all but one of the ministers he appointed when he took office on Oct. 4.
He said the pandemic, the economy and national security are his top priorities.
“Coronavirus remains the most urgent issue,” Kishida said at a late-night news conference, promising to outline new measures later this week to prepare for any surge in cases.
They will include a significant increase in capacity at hospitals so patients can find beds if infections increase considerably from an earlier wave in the Summer, he said. In mid-August, when new daily cases surged to about 25,000 and health care systems virtually collapsed, many patients were unable to find hospital beds and some died at home.
The government will distribute 600,000 doses of COVID-19 oral medicines to medical facilities by the end of December, and eventually secure 1 million more doses, he said. Japan will also begin booster shots next month for anyone 18 or older who received their second dose around eight months earlier, Kishida said.
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nearly 30 people have been killed across Nigeria’s north in violent attacks in recent days targeting rural areas and the police, locals and authorities said.
The three attacks in the northern states of Zamfara, Katsina and Taraba occurred over the past 48 hours. While the attacks were not related, armed groups have been terrorizing local communities across the northwest and central parts of Africa’s most populous country.
Gunmen invaded two villages in the Karim Lamido local government area of Taraba state and opened fire on residents in what was said to be a reprisal after two herdsmen were allegedly killed.
“People on motorcycles numbering 40 invaded the village and started shooting all over. People started to take to their heels for their dear lives and the village was deserted,” police spokesperson Usman Abdullahi told The Associated Press, adding local hunters have helped the police to restore peace in the area.
He said the number of casualties has not been ascertained. The Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper reported 15 killed, quoting accounts from residents in the northcentral state.
In the northwest Zamfara state, seven police officers were killed when gunmen ambushed them while on patrol, according to a resident who witnessed the aftermath of the attack along Magami road about 35 kilometers (21 miles) from the state capital.
Idris Yusuf told The AP the gunmen opened fire on the police vehicle carrying the officers. “They killed seven before the police arrived to take their bodies to the hospital,” he said.
Barely 24 hours after, assailants invaded the Katoge and Yanturaku quarters of Batsari local government area in the neighbouring Katsina and killed 11 people, police spokesperson Gambo Isa said.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Vietnamese oil tanker earlier seized by Iran was free in open water, ending the latest maritime confrontation involving Tehran amid stalled negotiations over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
The Sothys left a position off of Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and had reached international waters in the nearby Gulf of Oman, data analyzed by The Associated Press from MarineTraffic.com showed. The vessel appeared anchored there, but there was no information about its crew.
Shahrokh Nazemi, a spokesperson for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, told the AP that “Sothys left Iranian waters last night after transferring the oil.”
Later, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency confirmed the report and said the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard had released the Vietnamese tanker after draining the Iranian oil from it, under a court order. The report did not elaborate on the time.
Vietnamese officials could not be reached for comment, though its officials earlier acknowledged trying to obtain more information about the seizure from Iran.
The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet declined to comment.
Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard troops on Oct. 24 took control of the MV Sothys, a vessel that analysts suspect of trying to transfer sanctioned Iranian crude oil to Asia. U.S. forces had monitored the seizure but ultimately didn’t take action as the vessel sailed into Iranian waters.
Iran later celebrated its capture of the vessel in dramatic footage aired on state television, the day before the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
The Sothys had been on the radar of United Against a Nuclear Iran, a New York-based advocacy group long suspicious of the Islamic Republic. In a letter dated Oct. 11 addressed to the Vietnam Maritime Administration, the group said its analysis of satellite photos showed the Sothys received a ship-to-ship transfer of oil in June from an oil tanker called the Oman Pride.