Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, March 4, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top coverage to a report that the Federal Reserve announced an emergency interest rate cut on Tuesday amid increasing concern over the economic impact of the new coronavirus. All commercial networks led with reports on the growing number of clusters of coronavirus infection across Japan, including multiple people who attended the same concert in Osaka and five people who went to the same table tennis school in Niigata.

Top stories in national dailies included the Fed's decision to cut interest rates (Yomiuri, Nikkei), Prime Minister Abe's plan to call for opposition parties' support for enacting a special measures law to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak at their party leaders' meeting today (Asahi), a plan by the GOJ to cancel the annual ceremony to commemorate the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11 (Sankei), and the arrests of three aides to former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai and Upper House member Anri Kawai on charges of violating the public office election law (Mainichi).


President Trump says U.S. watching Japan closely for possible travel restriction

Kyodo News filed a Washington-datelined report this morning saying that President Trump suggested on Tuesday that his administration may consider expanding its travel restrictions to countries including Japan to counter the spread of the new coronavirus. President Trump was quoted as saying in response to a reporter's question about the possibility of cutting off travel to and from South Korea and Italy: "We're watching Italy very closely, South Korea very closely, even Japan very closely, and we'll make the right determination at the right time." When asked about the Tokyo Olympics, the President said it is up to Japan whether to decide to hold the event as planned. "I think I'm going to leave that to Prime Minister Abe," the President was quoted as saying. "He's a friend of mine. He's built a beautiful venue...They've spent billions of dollars." According to the wire service, the President sounded less upbeat than in late February when he told reporters that he hopes Tokyo will host the Olympics, which run from July 24 to Aug. 9.

Fuji TV reported this morning that the President is considering expanding its entry ban to a few more nations, including Japan, in light of the spread of the new coronavirus. The network said the U.S. government has already imposed an entry ban on travelers from China and Iran. NHK and TBS aired similar reports.

President Trump making efforts to respond to coronavirus outbreak

Yomiuri wrote that in response to the growing spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States, President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to preventing the virus from spreading further ahead of the presidential election in November. The paper noted that the President has held two press conferences on the subject in the past seven days, expanded the coronavirus travel ban to include Iran, submitted a request to Congress for $2.5 billion in supplemental spending to help combat the virus, and urged pharmaceutical executives to accelerate the development of a vaccine. The paper speculated that the President has taken such measures swiftly out of concern that the growth of the U.S. economy could slow if the volatility in the U.S. stock market continues due to the coronavirus outbreak.

G7 pledges joint action to bolster global growth against coronavirus impact

All national dailies wrote that finance ministers and central bank governors of the G7 nations held an emergency teleconference on Tuesday and issued a joint statement afterward, saying: "Given the potential impact of COVID-19 on global growth, we reaffirm our commitment to use all appropriate policy tools to achieve strong, sustainable growth and safeguard against downside risks."

China, India restrict visitors from Japan

All national dailies wrote that the government of Shanghai announced on Tuesday that it will request a two-week quarantine for travelers arriving in the city from nations and regions where the new coronavirus continues to spread. According to the Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai, Japan is included among those nations and regions, meaning that visitors from Japan must now be quarantined in their homes or in city-designated lodging facilities. The papers wrote that the measure will likely have an impact on the more than 10,000 Japanese companies doing business in Shanghai.

Mainichi, Nikkei, and Sankei added that the Indian government announced on Tuesday that it will void visas issued to Japanese nationals to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

IOC president comments on Olympics schedule

Nikkei ran a Kyodo report from Lausanne, Switzerland, saying that International Olympic Committee President Bach said at the beginning of an executive board meeting on Tuesday that the meeting would pave the way for preparations for successful Olympics in Tokyo. The report interpreted this remark to mean that the IOC president was reiterating the plan to hold the Olympics in Tokyo as scheduled despite concern over the coronavirus outbreak.

In related stories, Yomiuri and Nikkei wrote that Olympics Minister Hashimoto told an Upper House Budget Committee session on Tuesday that the end of May could be the deadline for deciding whether the Olympics will be held in Tokyo as scheduled. The papers speculated that Hashimoto made the remark in response to an earlier comment by an IOC member that a decision could be made at the end of May.

GOJ likely to cancel 3/11 memorial ceremony

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ is making final arrangements to cancel its annual national memorial ceremony for the victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake on account of the COVID-19 outbreak. The ceremony has been held annually in Tokyo on March 11 for the past nine years with the participation of about 1,000 guests, including the Emperor and Empress, the families of victims, and political and other leaders. The papers wrote that the GOJ had been considering holding the ceremony on a smaller scale or while taking measures to protect participants from infection, but Prime Minister Abe requested last week that large-scale sports or cultural events be canceled, postponed, or downsized in response to the spread of the virus in Japan. Nikkei speculated that the GOJ will make a final decision at a cabinet meeting on Friday.


U.S., Japan exchange fingerprint data to cooperate in preventing serious crimes

Tuesday evening's Asahi wrote that the National Police Agency (NPA) released the results of the implementation in the past year of the U.S.-Japan agreement on cooperation in preventing and combating serious crime, which allows the two nations to exchange fingerprint data of suspects through an automated online procedure and then exchange their names and criminal records through further inquiries. The paper wrote that the two nations began implementing the accord in January 2019. According to the NPA, it filed 677 requests for fingerprint data with the FBI on an automated basis and there were 617 matching fingerprints. After crosschecking, the police agency identified two criminals and obtained additional information through further inquiries. The FBI filed 771 requests with Japan and there were 16 matching fingerprints.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team