Morning Alert - Friday, August 8, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report that Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka, and other prefectures with a surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases are on high alert ahead of the start of the Obon holidays in Japan. NTV led with a report that Tokyo Governor Koike called on residents not to travel across prefectural borders or return to their hometowns during the summer holidays. TBS highlighted the fact that 360 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Tokyo yesterday. Fuji TV and TV Asahi led with reports that the first heatstroke alert was issued for Tokyo, Chiba, and Ibaraki yesterday since a new alert system was introduced last month.

Top stories in national dailies included the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (Asahi, Mainichi), a delay in the GOJ’s disbursement of subsidies to hospitals with special wards for coronavirus patients (Yomiuri), a survey showing that Japan’s death rate among people hospitalized for COVID-19 is much lower than those of other nations (Sankei), and China’s expanding loans to heavily indebted developing countries (Nikkei).


Abe remains cautious about issuing another state of emergency

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Abe said at a news conference on Thursday that since the current coronavirus infection situation in Japan is very different from the situation in April when the GOJ issued a state of emergency, it does not warrant the immediate issue of another state of emergency. Abe said that although there are recent reports of higher numbers of new cases than in April, the number of deaths dropped from 460 in May to 37 in July and the number of seriously ill patients also decreased from 328 to 104. While the premier did not ask people to refrain from traveling during the upcoming Obon summer holidays, he advised them to take steps to prevent infection.

Tokyo governor asks residents not to visit hometowns during upcoming holidays

All national dailies wrote that Tokyo Governor Koike asked Tokyo residents to refrain from traveling to their hometowns and elsewhere during the upcoming Obon summer holidays to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further by saying that hospital capacity in Tokyo could be overwhelmed due to a rise in cases, especially among the elderly. According to Yomiuri, there are currently 1,476 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across Tokyo, exceeding the maximum number of 1,413 that was recorded when the state of emergency was in place. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed 360 new cases on Thursday.

Japan reports fewer COVID-19 hospital deaths than other nations

Sankei and Nikkei reported on the results of an analytical study conducted by the National Center for Global Health and Medicine on COVID-19 patients in Japan. The center surveyed 2,638 people hospitalized at around 230 facilities nationwide until early July and found that 197 (7.5%) of them died. The papers wrote this is much lower than the death rates in the United States, Europe, and China, which reportedly exceed 20%.


Ambassador-nominee Weinstein expects Japan to shoulder greater responsibility

All national dailies reported on remarks made by Kenneth Weinstein, who has been nominated as the next U.S. Ambassador to Japan by President Trump, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday. The papers wrote that while welcoming Japan’s efforts to enhance its defense capabilities, the Ambassador-nominee reportedly said in his written testimony submitted to the committee and through online testimony that he will encourage Japan to strengthen its capabilities even further and shoulder greater responsibility within the alliance with the United States.

The papers also wrote that Weinstein said the relationship between the United States and Japan is stronger, broader, and more important than ever and expressed expectation that Japan will expand its role in dealing with China. According to the papers, the Ambassador-nominee expressed concern over Chinese vessels’ activities in waters around the Senkaku Islands. Regarding U.S.-Japan negotiations on Japan’s host nation support for U.S. forces, Yomiuri wrote that Weinstein expressed Washington’s desire for Tokyo to accept to some extent President Trump’s request for Japan to significantly increase its share of the cost of hosting U.S. troops. Mainichi wrote that the Ambassador-nominee expressed expectation that the “phase two” trade negotiations between the United States and Japan will reach a conclusion at an early date, citing the auto sector as the focus of the negotiations. Asahi wrote in its Thursday evening edition that Weinstein also commented on the relocation of MCAS Futenma by saying he will work with Japan to steadily implement the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.

Nikkei wrote that Weinstein’s testimony clearly demonstrated Washington’s expectation for Japan to expand its role in responding to China. The paper wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga said at a press briefing on Thursday that Japan is making independent efforts to fundamentally strengthen its system for self-defense, speculating that Suga made this remark in response to the Ambassador-nominee’s comment urging Japan to play a greater role.


TPP nations postpone talks on Thailand’s participation

Nikkei wrote that the 11 TPP member states postponed at a videoconference held by their ministers on Thursday discussions on whether to accept Thailand as a new member due to the shifting political situation in the nation. The ministers released a statement saying that they welcome the interest shown by several nations in joining the multilateral trade framework. According to the paper, four of the member states said that their domestic procedures to ratify the multilateral trade agreement have been delayed because they are prioritizing dealing with the coronavirus. Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura, who is in charge of the TPP, told reporters afterward that Japan is willing to support efforts by Thailand and the UK to join the trade pact by providing them with necessary information.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team