Morning Alert - Wednesday, July 29, 2020
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Morning news

NHK, NTV, and TV Asahi led with coverage of the record rainfall and flooding in Yamagata Prefecture. TBS and Fuji TV gave top play to reports that a record 155 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Osaka on Tuesday, saying that Osaka Governor Yoshimura called on residents to refrain from drinking or dining out in groups of five or more from Aug. 1 through 20.

Top stories in national dailies included a GOJ plan to draw up three-stage guidelines for prefectural governments to assess their coronavirus situations (Mainichi); arrangements by Japan and the UK to grant preferential tariff treatment to British-made autos and industrial goods using EU-made components under their new trade agreement (Yomiuri); Chile’s decision to use a Japan-proposed route for the first fiber-optic cable to directly connect South America and the Asia-Pacific (Nikkei); an interview with Dr. Kim Dong-chul, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was detained in North Korea for alleged spying in 2015 and released in 2018, during which he said he met about seven Japanese nationals in North Korea from 2004 to 2015 (Sankei); and the Tokyo High Court’s scrapping of a lower court ruling and acquittal of an assistant nurse over a 2013 incident in which an 85-year-old woman at a nursing home died after choking on a doughnut given to her by the assistant nurse (Asahi).


Japan reports record 982 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday

Asahi wrote that the coronavirus continues to spread across Japan, with a record high of 982 new cases being reported nationwide on Tuesday and several prefectures reporting new daily records. Osaka confirmed record 155 infections and Aichi reported 110 cases on Tuesday. To try and curb the spread of the virus, the government of Osaka is asking residents and businesses to refrain from drinking in groups of five or more from Aug. 1 through 20.

One of Defense Minister Kono’s bodyguards infected with COVID-19

Asahi, Mainichi, and Sankei wrote that one of the police officers serving as bodyguards for Defense Minister Kono has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Kono, however, has tested negative. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the officer developed a fever on Tuesday and underwent PCR testing.


Statue of Abe kneeling to “comfort woman” deepens schism between Japan and ROK

All national dailies reported on Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga’s remarks to the press on Tuesday concerning a statue showing a man modeled after Prime Minister Abe on his knees and bowing to a girl symbolizing a wartime “comfort woman” that has been installed at a private botanical garden in Pyeongchang in South Korea. Suga said at a press briefing that if media reports that the statue depicts Abe are true, it would be “unacceptable in terms of international courtesy” and would have a “decisive impact” on the relationship between Japan and South Korea. Suga added that Japan will continue to urge South Korea to steadily implement the 2015 bilateral agreement on the comfort women under which the two nations confirmed that the issue had been “finally and irreversibly” resolved.

Mainichi speculated that the issue will likely have an adverse effect on the already cool relations between Tokyo and Seoul because criticism of the statue is growing within the GOJ and the ruling coalition. The paper carried a Kyodo report from Seoul saying that a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said at a news conference on Tuesday that foreign leaders should in general be treated with “international courtesy.” Sankei conjectured that the GOJ’s frustration over the ROK government’s failure to make efforts to resolve the issue of compensation for former requisitioned workers is behind Suga’s strong condemnation of the statue.


Defense Ministry to choose one domestic manufacturer for new fighter production

Nikkei wrote that the Ministry of Defense is planning to contract with only one Japanese company in the development of the next-generation fighter jets slated for deployment in 2035. The paper wrote that the company will lead the development and manufacturing of the fighters and coordinate with other Japanese and American companies participating in the joint development. The paper also wrote that this arrangement is unusual because previous ASDF fighters were either imported from the United States or produced by Japanese companies licensed by U.S. manufacturers. The paper speculated that Japan is hoping that the plan will help improve Japanese firms’ development and manufacturing capabilities by enabling them to develop and manufacture core components such as engines. According to the paper, the ministry is planning to announce the details of the plan by the end of this month or later. The paper added that although Lockheed Martin had proposed a hybrid of the F-22 and the F-35 for Japan’s next-generation fighter, the plan was rejected because Japan insisted on doing the development itself. In view of the U.S. defense industry's strong political influence, the paper speculated that the U.S. side may renew its push for a U.S.-led development after the presidential election in November. Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Sankei ran similar reports, adding that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is the most likely candidate for the main contractor.


LDP pushes for restrictions on TikTok

Nikkei wrote that a group of LDP lawmakers held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of developing legislation to restrict the use of TikTok and other Chinese-developed social media apps in Japan. The group is planning to submit to the GOJ in August its recommendations to restrict Chinese apps in order to protect Japan’s economic security in close cooperation with the United States. The paper noted that Secretary of State Pompeo said in a television interview in early July that people should only download TikTok “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party” and that India announced that it was banning the app in June. Akira Amari, who is leading the LDP discussions on the matter, said at the meeting: “If the Japanese government and companies do not adopt a framework for security clearance, we could be excluded from international joint research and the exchange of talent with the United States and Europe.” All other national dailies ran similar reports.


Japan astronaut Hoshide to travel to ISS aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon in spring

Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Sankei wrote that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on Tuesday that Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide will travel to the International Space Station next spring aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft developed by U.S. aerospace manufacturer SpaceX. He will become the second Japanese to serve as commander of the ISS following Koichi Wakata, and this will be his third trip to the ISS. His fellow Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi is scheduled to head to the ISS aboard a Crew Dragon as early as September.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team