Morning Alert   -   Friday, May 29, 2020
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Morning news

Most networks gave top coverage to reports that 21 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture on Thursday, quoting a senior local government official as saying that the city is "on the threshold of a second wave." Meanwhile, NTV led with a report that 15 new cases were confirmed in Tokyo on Thursday, adding that the first cluster of infections following the lifting of the state of emergency in Tokyo has been reported at a hospital in Koganei, Tokyo.

All national dailies except Yomiuri gave top play to reports on China’s passage of national security legislation for Hong Kong. Yomiuri led with a report on Nissan’s loss of 671 billion yen ($6.23 billion) in fiscal 2019.


Japan bracing for second wave of infections 

NHK reported this morning on the finding that although the MHLW predicts that 44,000 hospital beds will be needed to accommodate COVID-19 patients nationwide during the peak of the outbreak, prefectural governments only have 31,000 beds, or 70% of the target figure, lined up as of today. The network added that the MHLW is asking prefectural governments to make as many preparations as possible because the healthcare systems in some regions have been strained as the number of patients increased more than expected. In addition, the network said the MHLW will launch a website sometime next month to connect medical institutions and public health centers with medical practitioners looking for jobs in order to secure sufficient personnel. 

Tokyo hospital reports possible cluster of COVID-19 cases  

All national dailies wrote that Musashino Chuo Hospital in Koganei, Tokyo, announced on Thursday that a total of nine of its patients and hospital staff members have been infected with the new coronavirus. The papers wrote that the Health Ministry sent to the hospital a team of experts because it is possible that this is the first cluster of cases in Tokyo since the state of emergency was lifted nationwide. In addition to the nine cases, 10 more admitted patients have shown symptoms. The papers also wrote that the government of Kitakyushu announced on May 28 that it confirmed 21 new cases in the city on Thursday. Among the total of 43 cases, the infection routes for 21 are unknown. 


China approves national security law for Hong Kong 

All national dailies reported extensively on China’s passage of national security legislation for Hong Kong at the National People’s Congress on Thursday. Quoting Secretary of State Pompeo as telling Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong no longer retains high autonomy from China, Yomiuri wrote that attention will be focused on whether the Trump administration will halt its trade privileges to the former British colony. Yomiuri and Asahi speculated that the rift between the United States and China over Hong Kong could escalate because Washington reacted strongly and is apparently prepared to impose sanctions on China. Nikkei wrote that China made a decisive move to undermine the autonomy of Hong Kong. Nikkei and Asahi wrote that the “one country, two systems” framework that has sustained the prosperity of Hong Kong is now on the verge of collapse.  

The papers wrote that Vice Foreign Minister Akiba summoned Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou on Thursday and told him that Japan is seriously concerned about the passage of the legislation. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga expressed the view that the situation in Hong Kong could affect preparations for Chinese leader Xi’s planned visit to Japan as a state guest by reportedly saying that Tokyo will communicate with Beijing while keeping an eye on the situation. Foreign Minister Motegi told reporters that Japan is seriously concerned about the situation in Hong Kong. He commented on Xi’s planned visit to Japan by saying that it is important for China to address international issues as a responsible major power. Mainichi wrote that it has become difficult to arrange Xi’s visit to Japan at an early date because the GOJ is worried that it may face criticism at home and abroad if the Chinese leader visits Japan as a state guest despite concern that the legislation may limit freedom and human rights in Hong Kong. 

GOJ having difficulty deciding whether to quarantine Abe after U.S. trip 

Asahi wrote that the GOJ is having difficulty deciding how to deal with quarantine requirements for Prime Minister Abe after his possible trip to the United States to participate in the G7 summit in Washington because the visit would raise concerns about coronavirus infection. The paper speculated that if the premier were to visit the United States, he would have to stay at the prime minister’s official residence or another facility for two weeks. The paper wrote that although some GOJ officials insist that a two-week isolation would not be necessary for Abe, a senior Kantei official is concerned that the premier would be criticized if he were to receive special treatment amid declining public support for his cabinet. A senior MOFA official reportedly said that no exceptions will be allowed in terms of quarantine regulations. 

Japanese, Russian foreign ministers agree to hold working-level peace treaty talks 

All national dailies wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi and his Russian counterpart Lavrov spoke by phone for 45 minutes on Thursday and agreed to hold working-level talks on a peace treaty at an early date. The two foreign ministers also agreed that Japan and Russia will continue to cooperate in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and welcomed the production and sale of COVID-19 test kits by a Russo-Japanese joint venture. 


SDF-related data may have leaked due to cyberattack on NTT Communications

Nikkei wrote that it learned from informed sources on Thursday that information related to the SDF’s communication networks may have been leaked after NTT Communications Corp. suffered cyberattacks earlier this month. NTT Communications said on Thursday that information regarding 621 client companies may have been leaked because of unauthorized access to its network. The paper wrote that the Defense Ministry is investigating the case in cooperation with the company, suspecting that the possible leakage of data could affect the operation of the SDF's core system. According to the paper, the suspected leaks include information about communications equipment and the layout of the MSDF’s maritime operation center in Yokosuka. Communication lines in about 10 SDF locations and more than 100 data files were reportedly accessed without authorization. The paper wrote that all the data was linked to business that NTT Communications had received from the ministry and that although the data in question did not appear to be “secrets” as designated by the ministry, there is concern that the leakage may compromise the Defense Information Infrastructure (DII), a communications network between the ministry and the SDF. The company shut down communications with the outside after detecting abnormal activity on its servers on May 7 and found by May 13 that leaks may have occurred. It also discovered multiple incidents of unauthorized access to Defense Ministry-related information from May 4 to 5 through a Singapore-based server. Sankei ran a similar report.

Defense Ministry to extend survey of possible sites for Aegis Ashore deployment until July 10

Nikkei wrote that the Ministry of Defense decided on Thursday to extend its survey of possible sites for deploying the Aegis Ashore missile defense system beyond the end of May until July 10 due to delays caused by the coronavirus. The paper wrote that the ministry is planning to survey 20 locations in Aomori, Akita, and Yamagata prefectures because errors were found in the survey data for its report concluding that the GSDF Araya training area in Akita was the best candidate. This is the third time for the ministry to extend the deadline of the survey, as it postponed the original March 20 deadline until the end of April due to bad weather conditions and again until the end of May due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Other national dailies ran similar reports.


Chinese premier says China open to participating in TPP-11

Nikkei wrote that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told reporters following the conclusion on Thursday of the National People’s Congress that China has been taking a positive and open stance on the possibility of joining the TPP-11. Pointing out that this was the first time for a Chinese premier to comment on the issue, the paper speculated that China may think that it can take the lead in the multinational trade framework due to the nonparticipation of the United States.


Abe gives up on shifting start of school year to September due to lack of support from ruling coalition

Nikkei wrote that an LDP working group discussing the idea of shifting Japan’s academic year from April to September will finalize its proposal on the issue on Friday. The group is likely to recommend that the GOJ forgo introducing a September start at least until after fiscal 2021. The paper wrote that the idea gained momentum when Prime Minister Abe expressed a positive view on it at a Diet session on April 29 following the release on the previous day of a joint message by 17 governors supporting the idea. However, it lost steam after a number of ruling coalition members expressed cautious views and Abe toned down his stance on May 25.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team