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Japan's embattled premier said on Wednesday that he plans to visit Okinawa island to resolve a damaging row over an unpopular US airbase that has strained ties with Washington for months.


The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has seen its approval rating fall to 24 percent, according to a survey released on Monday by Nikkei.

The rating fell by 12 percentage points from the last time Nikkei conducted its survey, and is a further evidence of discontent among Japanese over what they consider to be flip- flopping on issues such as the Futenma problem.

The disapproval for the government also rose by 11 points to 68 percent.


The Tokyo District High Court on Thursday sentenced Keiji Katsuba, a former secretary to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, to two years in prison, suspended for three years, for falsifying political funds.

Katsuba was sentenced for falsifying donations to Hatoyama from his mother and sister. The prime minister's mother is the heiress to the fortune of the founder of tyre manufacturer Bridgestone.


A Japanese freelance journalist missing in Afghanistan since last week is being held by the Taliban in the country's north, media reports in Japan citing unnamed insurgent sources said on Monday.

Kosuke Tsuneoka, 40, is in the hands of a Taliban group in the northern province of Kunduz, the Jiji Press news agency reported, citing an unnamed Taliban commander.

The Yomiuri Shimbun daily, also citing an anonymous Taliban source, reported that the journalist was kidnapped in Baghlan province to the south of Kunduz and was now being held in one of those two provinces.


Some 4,200 local residents held a protest rally here on Sunday against the proposed relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the area.

The rally was held in the Kagoshima Prefecture island of Tokunoshima with about one sixth of some 25,000 islanders taking part. Led by the mayors of the three local towns of Tokunoshima, Amagi and Isen, the protesters opposed the central government's plan to relocate Futenma base in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the island.


Japanese agriculture is in a freefall decline. In the years between 1960 and 2005, the share of agricultural output in gross domestic product (GDP) dropped from 9% to 1%, the food self-sufficiency ratio from 79% to 41%, and agricultural land, indispensable for food security, from 6.09 million hectares to 4.63 million hectares.


Loss-making carrier Japan Airlines (JAL) has confirmed it is to apply for financial assistance from a newly-formed state-backed turnaround agency.

JAL said it had started negotiations with the Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corporation (ETIC).

ETIC has access to up to 1.6 trillion yen ($17.7bn; £10.8bn) of government guaranteed funds, but it remains to be seen how much JAL may be given.

JAL reported a loss of 99bn yen between April and June.

Thursday's announcement comes a month after the airline first said it would need state aid.