Japan punishes Coincheck after $530 million cryptocurrency theft

UNTV News   •   January 29, 2018   •   3770

Cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck’s signboard is pictured in front of a building where their office is located, in Tokyo, Japan January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s financial regulator on Monday ordered Coincheck to get its act together after hackers stole $530 million worth of digital money from its exchange, jolting the nation’s cryptocurrency market in one of the biggest cyber heists.

The theft highlights the vulnerabilities in trading an asset that global policymakers are struggling to regulate and the broader risks for Japan as it aims to leverage the fintech industry to stimulate economic growth.

The Financial Services Agency (FSA) said on Monday it has ordered improvements to operations at Tokyo-based Coincheck, which on Friday suspended trading in all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin after hackers stole 58 billion yen ($534 million) of NEM coins, among the most popular digital currencies in the world.

Coincheck said on Sunday it would return about 90 percent with internal funds, though it has yet to figure out how or when.

The FSA is due to brief media on the matter at 2 p.m.

Japan started to require cryptocurrency exchange operators to register with the government only in April 2017, allowing pre-existing operators such as Coincheck to continue offering services ahead of formal registration.

The FSA has registered 16 cryptocurrency exchanges so far, and another 16 or so are still awaiting approval while continuing to operate.

Coincheck has said its NEM coins were stored in a “hot wallet” instead of the more secure “cold wallet”, outside the internet.

NEM fell to $0.78 from $1.01 on Friday, before recovering to around $0.97 on Monday, according to CoinMarketCap.

Singapore-based NEM Foundation said it had a tracing system on the NEM blockchain and that it had “a full account” of all of Coincheck’s lost NEM coins.

It added that the hacker had not moved any of the funds to any exchange or personal accounts but that it had no way to independently return the stolen funds to its owners.

In 2014, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, which once handled 80 percent of the world’s bitcoin trades, filed for bankruptcy after losing around half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins. More recently, South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Youbit last month shut down and filed for bankruptcy after being hacked twice last year.

World leaders meeting in Davos last week issued fresh warnings about the dangers of cryptocurrencies, with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin relating Washington’s concern about the money being used for illicit activity.

Many countries have clamped down on exchanges.

South Korea will ban crytocurrency traders from using anonymous bank accounts to crack down on the criminal use of virtual coins. China has ordered some exchanges to close, with the aim of containing financial risks.

But Japan has taken a different tack, becoming last year the first country to introduce national-level regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges.

The move, intended to protect consumers and stymie money laundering, was praised by many traders and operators as progressive.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki, Takahiko Wada, Thomas Wilson, Chang-Ran Kim in TOKYO, Vidya Ranganathan in SINGAPORE; Writing by Chang-Ran Kim

Farming slowly recovers in Japan’s disaster-hit Fukushima region

UNTV News   •   January 23, 2020

Strawberries at a cooperative in the town of Ono, where farmers are struggling to convince the public that their products are no longer contaminated from the nuclear disaster in 2011, in Fukushima, Japan, Jan. 21, 2020 (issued Jan. 23, 2020). EFE/AGUSTIN DE GRACIA

By Agustín de Gracia

Fukushima, Japan
– The farmers and fishermen of Japan’s Fukushima region are slowly regaining their production rate nine years after the deadly nuclear accident in 2011, and believe that things could return to normal with time and patience.

“It will happen gradually. We have to be patient,” said Koichi Aoki, director of the Hydroponic Producers’ Association in Ono, around 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the Daiichi nuclear reactor, the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Aoki was at a greenhouse full of strawberries ready to be picked. The facility also produces tomatoes and asparagus, mainly selling to large supermarkets.

On Mar. 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami destroyed four of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which led to the worst nuclear tragedy since Chernobyl in 1986 and forced the evacuation of around 164,000 people.

The region’s farms were affected due to the soil, water and tree bark getting contaminated by radioactive matter.

This destroyed the local economy in a prefecture which has the third-highest agricultural production in the country.

However, farmers’ prospects are improving with time, as official data showed that in 2018 agricultural exports reached 218 tons, a 42 percent rise from the year after the disaster.

Even the schools in Fukushima now use around 40 percent local produce as ingredients — a similar level to before the 2011 disaster.

“People have begun to understand that what we produce here is safe,” said Aoki, who heads a cooperative formed by 21 farmers.

Fukushima farmers attribute “rumors” to bad press surrounding their products after the disaster, as the produce is monitored for radioactivity in regular inspections.

A center for agricultural technology situated near Fukushima continuously tests samples of farm and marine products in order to check their radiation levels.

In 2019, none of the samples of the agricultural and aquaculture products showed radioactivity levels above acceptable standards.

In Japan, the food radiation limit is 100 becquerels per kilogram, much lower than the 1,250 becquerel limit established by the European Union and 1,200 in the United States.

However, despite the inspections and growing exports, countries such as China have maintained a ban on a wide range of farm products from Fukushima, while the US has imposed restrictions on some goods.

Authorities have also established facilities to test marine samples, including a center near the city of Iwaki which analyzes 150 samples every week and where 99.8 percent of the samples analyzed since 2018 have tested negative for concentration of hazardous levels of radioactive cesium.

However, Fukushima’s fishing industry is yet to recover from the disaster, with the catch in 2018 barely reaching 15.5 percent of the levels before the nuclear accident.

Despite favorable test results, Fukushima fishermen have faced many hurdles in finding markets for their products, which continue to hold a bad reputation, with buyers opting to purchase from other regions.

Hishashi Maeda, manager of a trawlers’ cooperative in Onahama, 66 km south of Daiichi, expressed hope that the sector will return to normalcy with time.

“We are determined to be patient and keep working hard… otherwise the distribution of fish will drop,” said Maeda, holding the limited catch of the day on his back, ready to be sold. EFE-EPA

ag/ia/tw

Court orders suspension of Japan nuclear reactor over safety concerns

UNTV News   •   January 17, 2020

Tokyo – A Japanese court on Friday ordered the suspension of a nuclear reactor at the Ikata plant in western Japan on safety grounds, revoking an earlier decision that had green lighted its operation.

The Hiroshima High Court said the operators of the plant Shikoku Electric and the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority underestimated the risk posed to residents by a possible eruption of the Aso volcano, located about 130 km (nearly 80 miles) from the Ikata plant, public broadcaster NHK reported.

In December 2017, the court had ordered the suspension of reactor no. 3 at the plant for the same reason, and became the first Japanese high court to question the new safety requirements implemented in the country in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

However, in September 2018, the court accepted the operator’s appeal because the risk of volcanic eruption was very low, thus allowing the company to restart operations in October of that year.

This time, the court took into account the allegations made by a group of citizens from Yamaguchi Prefecture – located adjacent to the plant – who again highlighted the risks arising from a possible eruption of Mount Aso.

Reactor no. 3 at the Ikata plant was one of the few in the country that had received permission to operate under post-Fukushima regulations, although it was temporarily shut down on account of an inspection by the operator.

Shikoku Electric said it would appeal against the court’s decision that has dealt another legal setback to the plans of the Japanese operators and the government to gradually reactivate the reactors that meet the new safety requirements.

The Fukushima disaster triggered a massive review operation of all the nuclear plants and set off new and stricter security regulations in Japan.

Tokyo estimates 20 to 22 percent of electricity in the country will be generated from atomic plants by 2030, slightly lower than the 30 percent before the 2011 tragedy, the worst nuclear accidents after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Radioactive emissions and spills from the Fukushima disaster left around 110,000 people displaced and has severely affected agriculture, livestock, and fishing in the region.

The disaster was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, leaving over 15,000 people dead and more than 3,000 others missing. EFE-EPA

ahg/tk-pd/ssk

Giant Olympic rings installed in Tokyo Bay ahead of summer games

UNTV News   •   January 17, 2020

The Olympic Rings monument is installed at Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan epa08134620 A pedestrian watches the Olympic Rings monument on a vessel being installed at Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan, 17 January 2020. At Odaiba Marine Park, the Olympic aquatic events of marathon swimming and triathlon will be held. Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will open on 24 July through 09 August 2020. EPA-EFE/KIMIMASA MAYAMA

Tokyo – Giant Olympic rings have been installed on the Tokyo waterfront as a monument adding to the Japanese capital’s urban landscape and atmosphere ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics, the capital’s metropolitan government announced on Friday.

The steel symbol of five interlocking rings in blue, yellow, black, green and red stands about 15.3 meters high and 32.6 meters wide on a floating platform at Odaiba Marine Park, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said in a statement.

Odaiba Marine Park will be the venue for the open-water marathon swimming (10 kilometers), as well as the triathlon events.

The huge symbol features a lighting system that will be switched on for the first time on Jan. 24, a date that marks exactly six months before the start of the Tokyo Games, along with a fireworks display in the bay and other events.

After the Olympics, to be held from Jul. 24 to Aug. 9 in Tokyo, the structure will be replaced by the symbol of the Paralympic Games, which will run from Aug. 25 to Sep. 6, according to organizers.

The monument can be seen from Friday in the vicinity of the iconic Rainbow Bridge, one of the most recognizable buildings in the Tokyo Bay landscape, where most of the Olympic venues are located. EFE-EPA

ahg/igx/tw

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