TOKYO (AP) _ Japan's trade surplus with the rest of the world jumped 27 percent in June, while soaring 66 percent during the first six months of the year.

The merchandise trade surplus _ a tally of goods the country exports minus its imports _ rose to 1.218 trillion yen ($8.68 billion) from the same period last year, the Finance Ministry announced Wednesday.

Japan's politically sensitive trade surplus with the United States, meanwhile, increased 48.6 percent to 555.58 billion yen ($4.0 billion) in June.

Japan's trade surplus has been rising as it imports fewer goods during a prolonged slump. The country has come under increasing pressure to revive its recession-plagued economy and help struggling Asian nations by importing more.

For the first six months of 1998, Japan's surplus with the world rose 66 percent to 6.567 trillion yen ($46.8 billion) from the same period last year, the ministry said.

With the United States, Japan posted a six-month surplus of 3.074 trillion yen ($21.9 billion), up 37.7 percent from last year.