Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, May 19, 2020
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Morning news

NTV, Fuji TV, and TV Asahi led with reports that 10 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Tokyo and 31 nationwide on Monday. NHK gave top play to a report that the MHLW released revised guidelines for COVID-19 treatment saying that preventing blood clots is a key to preventing patients from becoming seriously ill. TBS led with the forecast for heavy rain in the Kanto region this morning.

Top stories in national dailies included the decision by the GOJ and the ruling coalition to give up on seeking the passage of a controversial bill to raise the retirement age for prosecutors during the current Diet session (Asahi, Mainichi, Yomiuri), China’s pledge of $2 billion for the WHO at the World Health Assembly (Sankei), and Softbank’s decision to raise $11.5 by selling its Alibaba stocks (Nikkei).


GOJ to closely monitor Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kanagawa before lifting state of emergency

NHK reported this morning that while the GOJ is expected to decide whether to lift the state of emergency for the remaining eight prefectures as early as May 21, the number of new cases per 100,000 people over the preceding week is still above the government target in Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Kanagawa. The network said the GOJ will closely monitor the situation in these prefectures before making a decision. The network said although the overall number of new cases in the eight prefectures is on the decline, the number of new cases per 100,000 people over the week until May 18 was 0.8 in Tokyo, 1.05 in Kanagawa, and 1.14 in Hokkaido, exceeding the target of 0.5 or lower.

Asahi speculated that the GOJ may lift the emergency declaration for all three prefectures in the Kansai region – Kyoto, Osaka, and Hyogo – as the number of new COVID-19 cases has been declining significantly there.

31 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Japan on Monday

Sankei wrote that 31 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Japan on Monday, bringing the total number to 16,333. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced on Monday that it confirmed 10 new cases on Monday, bringing the total number to 5,065. 


China defends itself at World Health Assembly

All national dailies reported on the World Health Assembly that began on Monday via videoconference. Chinese leader Xi Jinping gave a speech at the opening ceremony and pledged $2 billion over two years to help developing countries combat the coronavirus. The papers wrote that a decision was not made on Monday for Taiwan to participate in the meeting as an observer. Nikkei wrote that although Xi called for international cooperation in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, China’s rift with the United States will likely deepen. Sankei speculated that China’s pledge of $2 billion may be aimed at deflecting criticism of its responsibility in spreading the new coronavirus. Yomiuri wrote that although Xi stressed that China has acted with openness, transparency, and responsibility and provided information on the COVID-19 pandemic to the WHO and relevant countries in a timely manner, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar indirectly criticized China for its failure to provide necessary information to the world. The paper wrote that Secretary of State Pompeo commented on the postponement of a decision to allow Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly by saying in a statement that although WHO Director-General Tedros had the legal power to include Taiwan this year, he chose not to under pressure from the People’s Republic of China. Asahi and Mainichi wrote that at a foreign ministry press conference on Monday China expressed its intention to accept the proposal by the EU to send an international mission to China to investigate the origin of COVID-19.


New U.S. sanctions on Huawei will likely affect operations of third-country companies

Saturday’s Nikkei reported on the Trump administration’s decision to step up sanctions against Huawei, saying that while the move is intended to close “loopholes” in the ongoing punitive measures that have been in place since May 2019, it is bound to impact the business operations of third-country companies. The daily projected that other nations will be drawn into the U.S.-China battle for tech hegemony as a result.

Japan’s GDP shrinks annualized 3.4% in January-March quarter

All national dailies reported on the release of data by the Cabinet Office on Monday showing that Japan’s GDP shrank by 0.9% on a seasonally adjusted quarterly basis or an annualized real 3.4% in the January-March period from the previous quarter due to a major decline in consumer spending and exports over the global coronavirus pandemic. Japan has now had two consecutive quarters of shrinking GDP. Mainichi quoted Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura as telling the press on Monday that the Japanese economy will likely continue to decline significantly and will not recover for a while.


SDF launches Space Operations Squadron

All national dailies wrote that on Monday the SDF launched the Space Operations Squadron, Japan's first space operations unit tasked with monitoring space debris and other threats to artificial satellites, with the goal of having the unit begin full operations in fiscal 2023. The unit was established at an ASDF base in Fuchu, western Tokyo, with an initial size of around 20 personnel. Nikkei wrote that Japan will strengthen its cooperation with the United States in monitoring space debris through a space situational awareness (SSA) system to be launched in fiscal 2023. The papers quoted Defense Minister Kono as saying at the launch ceremony on Monday that it is important to ensure that Japan is an advantageous position in space and other new domains as well as on land, at sea, and in the skies amid the changing security environment.


Japan to launch Kounotori cargo ship on final mission to ISS

Nikkei wrote that Japan will launch a rocket carrying the Kounotori 9, an unmanned cargo vessel developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency-(JAXA), from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Thursday. This will be the agency’s final resupply mission to the International Space Station. Japan plans to replace to the Kounotori with the HTV-X in fiscal 2021 with an eye toward participating in future missions to the Moon and Mars.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team