Morning Alert   -   Friday, March 13, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report that the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2,352 points on Thursday in the biggest percentage decline ever, saying that the plunge stemmed from fears that the coronavirus pandemic could have a serious impact on the global economy. NTV and Fuji TV led with reports on a powerful earthquake that hit Ishikawa Prefecture early this morning. TV Asahi gave top play to a report on remarks by President Trump on Thursday suggesting that the Tokyo Olympics should be postponed for a year. TBS led with a report that a woman in Aichi tested positive for COVID-19, noting that she works at a pub where a man deliberately tried to spread the virus after finding out that he was infected.

All national dailies except Nikkei gave top play to the WHO's designation of COVID-19 as a pandemic. Nikkei led with a report on plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Thursday.


U.S., Japanese leaders to speak by phone today

Sankei wrote that it has learned from a source that in response to the WHO designation of the new coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, the governments of the United States and Japan are making arrangements for President Trump and Prime Minister Abe to hold a teleconference on Friday morning (Japan time), speculating that the two leaders will exchange views on how to prevent the spread of the virus and underpin the economy.

Fuji TV aired a similar report saying that the two leaders are expected to discuss how to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and exchange views on President Trump's remark on Thursday suggesting that the Olympics should be postponed for a year.

President Trump suggests Tokyo Olympics should be postponed for a year

Asahi, Yomiuri, and Nikkei wrote that in view of the global spread of the new coronavirus, President Trump reportedly told the press at the White House on Thursday that the Tokyo Olympics may need to be postponed for a year. The President reportedly added that a postponement would be better than seeing empty stadiums. Nikkei noted that the President previously said the decision on whether to hold the Olympics in the summer as scheduled was up to Prime Minister Abe.

NHK aired a similar report this morning saying that President Trump expressed the view that postponing the Tokyo Olympics for a year could be inevitable due to the coronavirus outbreak. The President was quoted as telling the press on Thursday: "For the Olympics, maybe I just can't see having no people there, in other words, not allowing people. Maybe, and this is just my idea, maybe they postpone it for a year." When asked by reporters whether he is planning to ask Prime Minister Abe to postpone the Games, the President reportedly said he is not but added that postponement would be a "better alternative" than having empty stadiums. Concerning the President's remarks, the IOC reportedly told the network that the committee will work closely with Japan and relevant agencies to hold the games safely in July this year. The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee also reportedly told the network that the committee, the IOC, and the International Paralympic Committee will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with the Japanese and Tokyo governments while taking into account advice from the WHO in preparing to hold the event safely in July this year as scheduled.

U.S., Japan discuss development of rules for dealing with infectious diseases on cruise ships

Yomiuri wrote that Special Foreign Policy Advisor to the LDP president Sonoura and Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell agreed during their talks in Washington on Wednesday that the United States and Japan will take the lead in establishing international rules for dealing with virus infections on cruise ships.

Japan proposes trilateral teleconference with China and South Korea on response to COVID-19

Asahi wrote that the GOJ has proposed to China and South Korea that the three nations hold a teleconference between their health ministers to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak. The paper speculated that the move is intended to reaffirm strengthened cooperation between the three nations in light of Seoul's de facto retaliation against Tokyo's stepped-up entry restrictions on China and South Korea. According to the paper, National Security Secretariat Secretary General Kitamura proposed enhancing information sharing through a teleconference in his meetings with Chinese Ambassador to Tokyo Kong Xuanyou and ROK Ambassador Nam Gwan-pyo at the Kantei on Wednesday by saying that the virus outbreak is a national crisis for each of the three countries. Kitamura reportedly told the ROK envoy that Japan's tightened entry restrictions are not politically motivated.

Lower House passes bill to allow government to declare emergency

All national dailies wrote that the Lower House passed on Thursday a bill to amend the existing law governing national actions to be taken in the event of new types of influenza, adding that the bill is set to clear the Upper House on Friday. The revised law would allow the government to declare a state of emergency to deal with the coronavirus outbreak in Japan if needed.

GOJ to develop another emergency economic stimulus package in April

Asahi wrote that the GOJ is making arrangements to develop an additional emergency economic stimulus package in April to underpin the economy amid a slowdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. A senior Kantei official reportedly told the paper that the Abe administration will compile a large-scale supplementary budget. The daily speculated that Prime Minister Abe is planning to instruct relevant government agencies to draw up plans for a fresh package after the Diet passes the fiscal 2020 budget. The paper wrote that this will be the first time for the GOJ to compile an extra budget in April since it formulated a 15.4 trillion yen ($150 billion) package in 2009 in response to the financial crisis triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

PM Abe, BOJ chief Kuroda discuss response to plunge in stock prices, volatile yen

Thursday evening's Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that Prime Minister Abe and Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda discussed on Thursday responses to the recent plunge in the stock market in Japan and volatility in the value of the yen in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Kuroda told reporters afterward that the central bank will try to stabilize the market by providing sufficient liquidity and purchasing appropriate assets. He added that the bank will take appropriate measures in a timely manner whenever needed without hesitation.


U.S. human rights report voices concern over Japan's judicial system in relation to Ghosn's arrest

Thursday evening's Tokyo Shimbun ran a Kyodo report from Washington saying that the Department of State released on Wednesday its human rights report for 2019. The wire service said that the annual report expressed concern over Japan's judicial system in connection with the case of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, who had been placed under prolonged detention in Tokyo and fled to Lebanon at the end of last year. The report referred to legal experts' view that the prolonged detention of Ghosn, who was arrested four times, was being used to force a confession and that forbidding the defendant to have any contact with his wife was punitive.

Regarding the right to freedom of expression, the report took up the suspension of an Aichi Prefecture art festival where a statue symbolizing the comfort women was displayed. The exhibit was closed in response to a barrage of protests from the public against the display of the statue. Concerning the current situation in Japan, the report took up, as it did last year, such issues as an increase in hate speech and continued sexual harassment in workplaces. The report also said that there are concerns that some laws and practices, if misused, could infringe on the freedom of the press in Japan with the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets in mind.

This morning's Yomiuri also reported on the U.S. human rights report by saying that the United States strongly criticized China for its continued large-scale detention of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang autonomous region. The paper wrote that Secretary of State Pompeo criticized China and also Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba by name for their human rights violations, calling China's treatment of Uighurs the "stain of the century" and saying that China tries to hide what it is doing by intimidating journalists. The paper said that the report also took up the situation in Hong Kong and the prolonged detention of Carlos Ghosn.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team