The following is the latest list of news highlights selected by Kyodo News.


Japan won’t send top officials to Beijing Olympics

TOKYO – Japan will not send a government delegation to the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, the government spokesman said on Friday, a move seen as consistent with the United States-led diplomatic boycott of sports entertainment on the China’s human rights record.

But Japanese athletes will attend the February games as scheduled, government sources say. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Japan will send Seiko Hashimoto, lawmaker of the House of Councilors and chair of the organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, and two more.


Confirmation of the first community spread of the Omicron virus variant in Tokyo

TOKYO – The first case of community transmission of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been reported in Tokyo, the metropolitan government said on Friday, making the capital the last area to confirm the spread of the highly contagious strain.

A doctor at a clinic in the capital with no history of recent overseas travel has been confirmed to be infected with the variant through an unknown route, he said.


Japanese government panel approves first COVID-19 oral pill

TOKYO – A Health Ministry panel on Friday approved an oral COVID-19 drug developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., making it the first such pill to be used in Japan.

Molnupiravir, which prevents the new coronavirus from multiplying in the body, received the green light in an accelerated process after MSD KK, the Japanese arm of Merck, asked in early December to produce and sell the drug in Japan.


China calls on Japan to support Beijing Winter Olympics

BEIJING – China on Friday called on Japan to support the upcoming Beijing Olympics, hours after Tokyo announced it would not send a government delegation to the Winter Games slated for February.

Japan must implement its commitment to support each other at the Olympics, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.


Ruling parties between Japan and Taiwan step up economic security cooperation

TOKYO – Lawmakers from ruling parties in Japan and Taiwan agreed on Friday to strengthen cooperation in economic security with a focus on supply chain resilience for semiconductors and other essential goods .

In online discussions attended by members of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan and the Progressive Democratic Party of Taiwan, the Taiwanese side showed keen interest in a bill to promote economic security that the Prime Minister’s government Fumio Kishida intends to submit to Parliament next year.


Nissan, Mitsubishi Suspend Mini-Vehicle Deliveries Over Airbag Problems

TOKYO – Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. announced on Friday that they had halted production and shipping of some of their mini-vehicles since the start of the month after discovering potential issues with the airbags installed in several models.

Nissan said crash tests conducted on its Nissan Roox model showed the airbags may not function properly under certain conditions. Mitsubishi said in a separate statement that similar issues were found in its eK space and eK X space models.


All US forces in Japan exempt from virus testing since September.

TOKYO – All U.S. forces in Japan have exempted their personnel from testing for new coronavirus infections upon leaving the United States since September 3, in line with U.S. policy, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Friday.

Hayashi said the practice, which went against Japan’s request to follow its border control measures, has now been changed at Japan’s request. The practice came to light after a cluster infection was reported at the United States Marine Corps’ Camp Hansen in Okinawa Prefecture earlier this month.


Toyota production returns to year-ago level as parts crunch eases

NAGOYA – Toyota Motor Corp. said on Friday that its global production in November fell 0.8% from a year earlier to 821,329 vehicles, almost falling to the level of a year earlier after months of lost production due to constraints supply of spare parts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The resumption of production reflected an easing of the supply crunch in Southeast Asia, the automaker said. November’s figure marked the fourth consecutive monthly decline, but the pace of the decline slowed from double-digit declines in September and October.