Morning Alert - Tuesday, June 30, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top coverage to the forecast for heavy rain in western and eastern Japan, calling for caution against landslides and flooding. The network also reported that 110 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed nationwide on Monday, including 58 in Tokyo, saying that the virus appears to be spreading to Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures. All commercial networks also led with reports that Tokyo’s daily tally has topped 50 for four days in a row, saying that out of the 58 new cases on Monday, 32 were connected to nightlife districts, and the routes of infection were unknown for 24 cases. Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura reportedly told the press yesterday: “We are seeing an increase in the number of cases in Saitama, Chiba, and other prefectures adjacent to Tokyo.... To tell the truth, I have a bad feeling about this.”

Top stories in national dailies included the global tally of more than 500,000 deaths and 10 million cases of the coronavirus (Asahi), the impact of COVID-19 on immigrants in New York (Mainichi), a plan by NTT to invest more than 1 trillion yen ($9.3 billion) in the renewable energy market by 2030 (Nikkei), a GOJ plan to revise the law on child support to help divorced mothers (Yomiuri), and China’s possible passage today of national security legislation for Hong Kong at the standing committee of the National People’s Congress (Sankei).


Japan’s hospital beds and testing capacity still insufficient for “second wave” of COVID-19

Nikkei wrote that as Tokyo has confirmed more than 50 new coronavirus cases per day over the last four days, the GOJ is worried about the possibility of Japan facing a “second wave.” The paper wrote that although a total of 30,000 beds were secured nationwide for COVID-19 patients and only 559 of them were being used as of June 24, the nation may face a serious shortage of beds because as many as 95,000 beds may be necessary in the worst-case scenario. According to the paper, 4,100 of the 30,000 beds are equipped for patients in serious condition, but Health Ministry estimates have found that as many as 13,000 people could become seriously ill. The paper also wrote that the PCR testing capacity remains inadequate in Japan and the stockpile of personal protective equipment for medical practitioners is also insufficient.

GOJ remains cautious about reinstating state of emergency

All national dailies wrote that although 58 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Tokyo on Monday, neither the GOJ nor the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is planning to reinstate a state of emergency or ask businesses to temporarily suspend operations. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga was quoted as telling reporters on Monday that there is no immediate plan to declare another state of emergency or ask people not to travel between prefectures.

Japan adds 18 nations to entry ban list over new coronavirus

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ decided on Monday to add 18 more countries to its entry ban list as part of its border control measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Under the ban, foreign nationals who have been to these countries within 14 days of their arrival in Japan will be denied entry in principle, starting at 12:00 a.m. on July 1. Japanese nationals arriving from these countries will undergo PCR testing. The 18 nations are Algeria, Cuba, Iraq, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Eswatini, Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Senegal. The decision made by the National Security Council brings the total number of countries and regions on the entry ban list to 129.


No conclusion reached on whether to set up WTO panel on Japan-ROK dispute

Nikkei and Sankei wrote that the WTO failed on Monday to reach a conclusion on whether to set up a dispute settlement panel to discuss South Korea’s complaint about Japan’s tightened export controls on semiconductor materials bound for South Korea, and decided to discuss the issue again next month. According to Sankei, Japan argued against Seoul’s proposal at a WTO meeting on Monday by saying that Tokyo is strongly concerned that Seoul’s request to set up a panel is a challenge to the international framework for nonproliferation of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction..

In a related development, Nikkei wrote that moves are accelerating in South Korea to increase the production of semiconductor-related materials at home following Japan’s imposition of stricter export controls on July 1, 2019, as the ROK government is supporting private sector research and development efforts.

Japan begins anti-dumping probe into imported chemicals from South Korea

Nikkei wrote that the Ministries of Finance and Trade announced on Monday that they will launch an anti-dumping investigation into imports from South Korea of potassium carbonate, a chemical compound used in the production of glass for liquid crystal panels. The ministries are planning to decide whether to impose anti-dumping duties on the South Korean products within a year after interviewing concerned Japanese and South Korean companies. The GOJ has stressed that the probe is unrelated to Japan’s tightened controls on its semiconductor-related materials to South Korea.

GOJ to support companies’ development of post-5G technology

Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced on Monday that it will provide financial support worth around 70 billion yen ($653 million) to domestic companies, including Fujitsu, NEC, and NTT Electronics, to support their development of post-5G technology with the aim of boosting Japan’s global competitiveness in the wireless network market. The funds will come from the 110 billion yen the ministry has earmarked for the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.

Major U.S. shale gas producer files for bankruptcy

Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Mainichi reported that Chesapeake Energy Corp., a major shale gas producer, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday as a result of plunging energy prices due to the new coronavirus pandemic. Nikkei claimed that the end of the “shale gas boom” in the United States demonstrates the challenge of achieving energy security in the world.


GOJ to revise basic space policy

Asahi and Nikkei wrote that the GOJ’s strategic headquarters for space development agreed on Monday on revisions to Japan’s basic plan on its national space policy for the next ten years. Asahi wrote that the revisions demonstrate the GOJ’s policy of attaching importance for Japan’s use of outer space for security purposes, as the nation will increase the number of information-gathering satellites to ten from the current four and jointly develop with the United States a satellite to detect and track missiles. Nikkei wrote that the headquarters agreed to study the idea of launching multiple small satellites to detect missiles fired by North Korea and other nations in cooperation with the United States. The headquarters also established a goal of doubling the scale of Japan’s space development industry in the early 2030s. The GOJ established its basic space policy in 2009 and will revise it for the first time in five years in response to the growing importance of the use of outer space for security and disaster prevention purposes. The paper quoted Prime Minister Abe as saying at a meeting of the headquarters on Monday that the GOJ will make large-scale investments in the development of quantum cryptography for satellite communications and measures to deal with space debris.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team