Morning Alert - Tuesday, August 4, 2020
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Morning news

NHK and TBS gave top coverage to reports on the situation in Kumamoto one month after record rainfall devastated many parts of the prefecture. Fuji TV and TV Asahi led with reports that 258 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Tokyo on Monday, with Fuji TV saying that Governor Koike recommended having family members use different tubes of toothpaste as one way to avoid spreading the virus within families. TV Asahi highlighted the fact that yesterday’s caseload was the highest ever for a Monday. NTV gave top play to a report that although Tokyo began requesting pubs and karaoke bars to shorten their operating hours and close at 10 p.m. yesterday, some establishments are not following the request for financial reasons.

Top stories in national dailies included GOJ measures to help rebuild homes destroyed by natural disasters (Asahi), the cumulative total of over 40,000 coronavirus cases in Japan (Mainichi), an interview with Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda in which he stated that the central government may consider extending its support for private firms’ financing (Yomiuri), social networking services’ impact on public opinion (Nikkei), and an announcement by major Japanese retailer Seven & i Holdings that it will purchase U.S. convenience store and gas station chain Speedway LLC (Sankei).


GOJ plans not to ask people to forgo summer travel

Yomiuri, Sankei, and Mainichi wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga said at a press briefing on Monday that the GOJ has no intention to request people to refrain from traveling to their hometowns and elsewhere during the upcoming Obon summer holidays despite the continued spread of the coronavirus in Japan. Suga reportedly said: “We are not asking people to completely refrain from traveling across prefectural borders. We are just asking them to be very cautious.” The papers wrote that the government is planning to discuss what kind of advice to give people traveling to their hometowns at a subcommittee of experts to be convened in the coming days.

However, Asahi wrote that despite Suga’s statement, some prefectural governors, including those of Aichi, Mie, and Akita, separately called on people to reconsider plans to travel to their hometowns during the summer holidays out of concern over shortages of hospital beds and other medical facilities in their regions.

Prime Minister Abe commented on the COVID-19 infection situation in Japan at a joint meeting between the GOJ and the ruling coalition on Monday by saying that although the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing, the number of seriously ill patients has been hovering around 80 nationwide and around 20 in Tokyo for the past several days. The premier said that the GOJ will make utmost efforts to prevent the virus from spreading to elderly people and people with underlying health problems.


GOJ mulls countermeasures against liquidation of Japanese assets in South Korea

Nikkei wrote that in view of the possibility that a South Korean district court will order the sale of the seized financial assets of Nippon Steel Corp. to use as compensation for former requisitioned workers today, the GOJ has begun discussing possible countermeasures. The paper wrote that Japan is vehemently opposed to the sale of the assets, arguing that the wartime labor issue was resolved when the two countries normalized bilateral diplomatic relations in 1965. Quoting Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga as saying in an TV interview on Saturday that the GOJ is studying every possible measure, the paper speculated that the GOJ is considering diplomatic, economic, and international measures, such as a temporary recall of the Japanese ambassador, suspension of visa waivers for Koreans, tightened export controls, and an appeal with the International Court of Justice or the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The paper quoted a senior MOFA official as saying that it is necessary for Japan to prevent the establishment of a bad precedent and take countermeasures if the assets are liquidated. Asahi and Sankei ran similar reports, with Sankei speculating that the Moon administration is alarmed by the possibility of Japan taking retaliatory measures.

Yomiuri and Mainichi also reported on the issue, with Yomiuri saying that attention will be focused on the timing of the court's order. The paper speculated that it will take several months for the court to issue it. According to the paper, the South Korean Foreign Ministry expressed on Monday its position of seeking to resolve the dispute by respecting both legal judgments and South Korea’s ties with Japan.

In a related development, Nikkei and Sankei wrote that a group of LDP lawmakers agreed on Monday on a resolution calling on the GOJ to immediately take effective retaliatory measures against the ROK government if the Japanese assets are liquidated. A member of the group told reporters that the government should take appropriate steps because the ties between Japan and South Korea will be undermined significantly if the Japanese assets are liquidated. The group is planning to submit the motion to the Kantei today.

Chinese government ships leave waters around Senkakus for first time in 112 days

Mainichi and Sankei wrote that according to the Japan Coast Guard, four Chinese government ships left Japan’s contiguous water near the Senkaku islands on Sunday and did not return to the area on Monday. The papers wrote that the Chinese vessels have apparently ended operations in the area for the first time in 112 days, citing a GOJ source as speculating that the Chinese ships left the area due to an approaching typhoon.


U.S., Japan agree to launch joint study on military telecommunications, surveillance

Nikkei and Sankei wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan agreed on Monday to launch a joint study on enhancing telecommunications, surveillance, and command capabilities of the U.S. military and the SDF. The papers wrote that this is part of the two nations’ efforts to strengthen their defense cooperation based on the U.S.-Japan Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, and that Chargé d'Affaires Young and Foreign Minister Motegi exchanged the letters of agreement.

Mainichi ran a similar story, adding that the two governments agreed to move forward with a joint study on command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR). The paper wrote that the United States and Japan will study technical challenges to safety and flexibility of intelligence sharing in the unified operational networks between the U.S. military and the SDF.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team