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Japan plays down impact of U.S. travel warning on Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO — The government on Tuesday sought to play down the impact of a U.S. advisory against travel to Japan on its plan to stage the Olympics this summer.


“Travel (from the United States to Japan) is not banned when it is necessary,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told a parliamentary committee. “I know that there is no change whatsoever in the U.S. position that it will support the Japanese government’s decision to realize the Olympics and Paralympics.”


The U.S. State Department’s raising of its travel alert for Japan to the highest level of 4 came as media polls show a large majority of people in the country are not supportive of staging the global sporting event this summer in the capital.


“For now, we don’t expect any particular impact,” Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa said, noting that the United States has issued the level 4 alert for about 140 countries and regions.


“To give the highest priority to securing a safe and secure environment, we will continue to make efforts to grasp the infection status in and outside of Japan,” she said at a regular press conference.


With two months to go until the Olympics, Japan continues to struggle with a fourth wave of infections propelled by the spread of mutated variants.


Tokyo, Osaka and several other prefectures have been under a state of emergency since late April due to the resurgence, while the public has been frustrated with the government’s handling of the coronavirus for months, including its slow vaccination rollout compared to other developing countries.


Following the travel alert issuance, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said in a statement that the move will not affect the “safe” participation of its athletes.


While referring to the committee’s statement, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said she believes the United States issued the travel advisory based on the infection situation across Japan, not just Tokyo.


“We will need to exert all our efforts to make the games safe and secure,” Koike told reporters.

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