Morning Alert - Thursday, September 10, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to the forecast for heavy rain in many parts of Japan today. TBS and TV Asahi led with reports on thunderstorms and other inclement weather across the nation on Wednesday. NTV gave top coverage to a follow-up report on the arrest of actor Yusuke Iseya for allegedly possessing marijuana. Fuji TV aired security footage showing a woman shoplifting at a convenience store in Fukuoka.

Top stories in national dailies included the likelihood that the majority of the LDP local chapters will support Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga in the LDP leadership race (Mainichi), NTT Docomo’s suspension of its e-money service linked with 35 banks in response to improper withdrawals (Asahi), a GOJ plan to impose stricter punishments on crimes committed by 18- and 19-year-olds (Yomiuri, Sankei ), and a plan by Seven-Eleven Japan to begin offering fast home delivery of merchandise from its outlets (Nikkei).


Defense Minister Kono says Japan may hold snap general election in October

Kyodo News reported from Washington that Defense Minister Kono said on Wednesday that there will be a snap general election in October after a successor to outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Abe is selected next week. “We expect an early general election, probably sometime in October,” Kono said during an online event with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, adding that Japan will then be “ready” for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. “I think there's going to be a very small window for a general election. So the new prime minister will probably grab that window, and you will have a new prime minister elected by the people before you elect the president of the United States," Kono said.

Kono also said that China has become a “security threat” to Japan, citing Beijing’s intention to change the status quo in the region through force and coercion, including in the East China Sea, where China continues to contest Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands. Stressing that Japan is prepared to “defend every centimeter of our land,” Kono said he believes the Japan-U.S. alliance will serve that end. “If we don't do that, we’ll see another South China Sea. When China started reclaiming the land, the international society didn’t do anything to stop it, and see what we’ve got,” Kono said, adding that the “same thing can happen” in any other part of the world. NHK carried a similar story.


AstraZeneca halts clinical trials of coronavirus vaccine

All national dailies wrote that British pharmaceutical manufacturer AstraZeneca announced on Wednesday that it had temporarily halted clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine to allow an independent committee to conduct a review of safety data. The company said it paused the late-stage trials of the vaccine after a participant in the UK showed a potentially adverse reaction. The vaccine is being developed by researchers from the company and the University of Oxford, and trials had been underway in such countries as Japan, the UK, Brazil, and South Africa. The trial in Japan, which involves about 250 people aged 18 or older, began late last month. AstraZeneca has agreed to supply Japan with one million doses of its vaccine from early next year. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga told reporters on Wednesday that the Health Ministry has confirmed that the company has temporarily put on hold its trials in Japan and elsewhere. The papers wrote that although countries are rushing to develop COVID-19 vaccines, experts are voicing concern about the unprecedented speed of development. Asahi wrote that there are views within the GOJ that vaccines are very important for maintaining economic activities while responding to the virus outbreak and hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo next year.

Tokyo to end shorter hours for bars and lower virus alert

Asahi, Yomiuri, and Nikkei wrote that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is making final arrangements to end on Sept. 15 as scheduled its policy of asking establishments serving alcohol and karaoke parlors in the capital’s central 23 wards to close by 10:00 p.m. as the number of new coronavirus cases has been trending downward in recent days. The Tokyo government is also planning to lower its virus alert by one notch from level four, the highest level, which means “infections are spreading.” As a result, the alert level for Tokyo will be lowered to the second highest level, calling for “caution against a resurgence.”

GOJ may include Tokyo in “Go To Travel” campaign starting in October

Yomiuri wrote that the GOJ is studying the possibility of including travel to and from Tokyo in its “Go To Travel” subsidy campaign starting on Oct. 1 on account of the recent downward trend in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Tokyo. The paper wrote that the GOJ is planning to make a final decision after hearing the opinions of experts at the GOJ subcommittee on the new coronavirus on Friday.


GOJ to provide $367 million for Okinawa Marines’ relocation to Guam

Sankei wrote that the GOJ announced on Wednesday that it has decided to provide $367 million for the U.S. Marines’ relocation of personnel from Okinawa to Guam. The paper wrote that the contribution is based on the U.S.-Japan agreement on the implementation of the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam and that Chargé d’Affaires Young and Foreign Minister Motegi exchanged letters on the matter on Tuesday. The paper added that the fund will be used for the construction of housing for officers and clinics at the Finegayan district in Guam.


Japan pledges $1 million to support ASEAN’s response to COVID-19

Yomiuri wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi pledged during a videoconference with his ASEAN counterparts on Wednesday that Japan will contribute $1 million to a new fund established to assist ASEAN’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic through the procurement of medical supplies and development of vaccines. Mainichi and Sankei ran similar reports, adding that Motegi expressed Japan’s support for the “ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific,” a vision agreed on by the ASEAN countries in June 2019 to ensure the rule of law and transparency, and called for their cooperation in resolving the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals.

Number of Japanese experts working at UN organizations rises to 912

Nikkei wrote that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday that the number of Japanese experts working at UN organizations increased by 30 last year to a record high of 912. Among these experts, 88 are senior staff.


U.S. Huawei ban could put parts sales by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan at risk

Nikkei wrote that as the Commerce Department’s new sanctions on Huawei Technologies are set to take effect on Sept. 15, semiconductor supplies to Huawei from companies using U.S.-produced equipment or design software could be completely halted. The paper wrote that this could put companies in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea at risk of having to halt their production of 2.8 trillion yen ($26.4 billion) worth of parts that they supply to Huawei each year.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team