Morning Alert - Thursday, September 3, 2020
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Morning news

All networks gave top coverage to reports on powerful Typhoon Haishen, which is expected to approach Kyushu over the weekend. The Japan Meteorological Agency announced yesterday that it may issue a special emergency warning as the typhoon is gaining strength and could inflict serious damage.

All national dailies except Nikkei gave top play to reports on Suga’s official announcement of his candidacy for LDP president. Nikkei led with a report saying that the Japan Fair Trade Commission said Japanese convenience store companies’ moves to force franchisees to keep stores open around the clock could violate the antitrust law.


Suga announces candidacy for LDP president

All national dailies reported on Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga’s formal announcement on Wednesday that he will run in the LDP presidential election to succeed Prime Minister Abe. During a news conference, Suga stated that if he is elected to lead the party and country, he will do everything he can to uphold and move forward with the Abe administration’s economic, diplomatic, and security policies, including “Abenomics” and measures to combat the coronavirus. Suga also pledged to do whatever is necessary to prevent COVID-19 from spreading further while putting the economy on a recovery track.

The leaders of the Hosoda, Takeshita, and Aso factions stressed at a joint press conference on Wednesday that their groups have decided to support Suga because his crisis management and policy implementation skills are necessary in an emergency like the coronavirus pandemic. The papers wrote that Suga has apparently garnered as many as 264 votes, or about 70%, of the 394 votes held by all LDP lawmakers, as five of the seven LDP factions are supporting him. Sankei speculated that former LDP Secretary General Ishiba and LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Kishida, who will compete with Suga in the LDP leadership race, are eager to gain as many votes as possible to demonstrate their presence as promising future candidates.

The papers also wrote that the LDP formally decided on Wednesday to begin the official campaign for the presidential race on Sept. 8 and hold the election on Sept. 14, and the ruling coalition agreed on Wednesday to convene an extraordinary Diet session on Sept. 16-18 to designate a successor to Prime Minister Abe on Sept. 16.


Japan mulls offering free COVID-19 vaccines to all residents 

Nikkei and Sankei wrote that the GOJ is considering offering coronavirus vaccines free of charge to all residents of Japan. The papers wrote that the government is planning to offer vaccines to people at high risk of developing severe symptoms, including the elderly and health care workers, first. The government is also considering using national funds to pay the full cost of immunization to ensure that the mass vaccination program is implemented smoothly. According to the papers, the government will discuss the details of the program at its experts’ panel subcommittee and other venues.

Health Ministry advisory panel believes COVID-19 infections are gradually declining 

Asahi, Mainichi, Nikkei, and Sankei wrote that an advisory panel of the Health Ministry discussing the coronavirus outbreak expressed the view at a meeting on Wednesday that the number of new COVID-19 cases is “gradually declining” nationwide. The panel also noted, however, that it is necessary to continue to monitor the situation in such prefectures as Osaka, Fukuoka, and Okinawa, which are showing upward trends in the number of new cases or seriously ill patients. 

U.S. to forgo joining international framework to procure coronavirus vaccines 

Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that the United States government has decided not to join the COVAX Facility, an international framework that aims to guarantee equitable global access to potential vaccines for the novel coronavirus, but will develop and distribute treatments and vaccines by itself. The papers quoted White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere as saying that the United States will not be constrained by the WHO or other international organizations that are influenced by China.

GOJ to discuss possibility of acquiring hospital ship 

Nikkei wrote that in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the GOJ will begin specific discussions on the possibility of Japan acquiring a hospital ship. The paper wrote that the government will discuss the cost and capabilities of such a ship by studying those used by the United States, the UK, and China. 


U.S. issues worldwide alert over DPRK’s missile procurement push

Mainichi ran a Kyodo report saying that on Tuesday the United States issued an alert asking companies around the world to be wary of the DPRK’s efforts to acquire technologies and equipment for its ballistic missile program and warned that companies could risk violating U.S. and UN sanctions by assisting Pyongyang. The advisory issued jointly by the State, Treasury, and Commerce Departments said that the United States is committed to disrupting North Korea’s ballistic missile procurement network and promoting accountability for entities and individuals providing support to North Korea.


Pentagon expresses concern over China’s military buildup in annual report

All national dailies reported on a mandatory annual report to Congress on Chinese military power titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2020” that was released by the Department of Defense on Tuesday. The papers wrote that the Pentagon expressed strong concern over China’s military buildup, including its naval capabilities and intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, saying that the Chinese military is a growing threat to the United States and its allies.


Japanese, UK leaders agree to swiftly conclude new trade deal

Nikkei and Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Abe and his British counterpart Johnson spoke by phone on Wednesday and agreed on the need to swiftly conclude a new trade accord between their nations. Johnson reportedly expressed his gratitude to Abe for strengthening the ties between their nations during his tenure as prime minister.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team