Xinhua Asia-Pacific news summary at 1600 GMT, Feb. 28

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TOKYO -- The number of babies born in Japan in 2022 slipped to a record low, falling under 800,000 for the first time since records began in 1899, the health ministry said Tuesday.

According to preliminary data released by the health ministry, the total number of births in the country fell by 43,169, or 5.1 percent, from the previous year to 799,728, a new record low for the seventh consecutive year. (Japan-Births-Drop)

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RAYONG, Thailand -- The multinational exercise Cobra Gold 2023 was launched in U-Tapao Thai navy airfield in Thailand's eastern Rayong Province on Tuesday, marking the return to its pre-pandemic scale after three years.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Thai Armed Force chief General Chalermpol Srisawat said more than 7,000 personnel from 30 countries participated in the drill this year. (Thailand-Cobra Gold-Military Exercise)

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TOKYO -- Japan's lower house of parliament on Tuesday approved a record 114.38 trillion yen (836.90 billion U.S. dollars) budget for fiscal year 2023, with record allocations made for social security costs while controversial defense spending has been factored in despite the country's grim fiscal health.

A record 36.89 trillion yen (269.81 billion U.S. dollars), the largest amount ever, has been included in the budget for ballooning social security costs in a bid to deal with Japan's rapidly aging population.

The government's budget also includes 6.82 trillion yen (49.88 billion U.S. dollars) in defense spending. (Japan-State Budget-Approval)

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SUVA -- Economic growth returns to the Pacific region, said a World Bank economist for the Pacific on Tuesday.

The World Bank's lead economist for the Pacific David Gould said that debt and inflation remain key concerns for countries such as Fiji, according to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation. (Fiji-Pacific-Economy) Enditem

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