Morning Alert - Monday, September 14, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga will likely be elected as the new leader of the LDP today, saying that the results are expected to be announced at about 3:30 p.m. NTV, Fuji TV, and TV Asahi led with reports saying Naomi Osaka clinched her second U.S. Open championship. TBS gave top coverage to a report on the heavy rain across Japan over the weekend.

No papers were published this morning due to a press holiday.


Three LDP presidential candidates discuss domestic and foreign policy

The Sunday editions of all national dailies reported extensively on a debate among the three LDP presidential candidates—Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, Policy Research Council Chairman Kishida, and former Secretary General Ishiba—held at the Japan National Press Club on Saturday ahead of today’s election.

The papers wrote that Suga, the strong favorite, stressed that he will make utmost efforts to revitalize the Japanese economy as it has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, saying the people have strong expectations for the government to restore the economy.

The papers quoted Suga as saying that the U.S.-Japan alliance is the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy and that he will strategically develop relations with China and South Korea. When asked by a journalist about his foreign policy, Suga said he sat in on most of the teleconferences between the U.S. and Japanese leaders and was involved in all the important diplomatic decisions made during the seven years and eight months he served as chief cabinet secretary. Suga responded sharply to the journalist’s comment that sitting in on leaders’ meetings is different from actually participating in them. Suga praised Prime Minister Abe’s diplomatic style in which the Kantei took the lead in foreign relations instead of bureaucrats, but added that he will conduct diplomacy in his own way. He also said diplomacy will be conducted not just by the foreign minister but by the government as a whole and he will receive reports from the Foreign Ministry and consult with Abe on foreign affairs.

Asahi and Mainichi quoted Suga as saying it is necessary to proceed with the FRF construction at Henoko in view of the need to remove the danger at MCAS Futenma.

Suga corrects statement on need for consumption tax hike

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, who is on track to win the LDP leadership race, corrected on Friday his earlier remark that Japan’s consumption tax needs to be raised beyond the current 10% in the future. Suga said that Prime Minister Abe has said that Japan does not need to raise the consumption tax rate for the next 10 years and he has the same view, adding that he was thinking beyond the next 10 years when he made the earlier comment.

Yomiuri wrote that Suga’s statement on the need to raise the consumption tax caused a stir within the ruling coalition because the opposition camp, which is calling for cuts in the tax rate, will likely take up the issue in the next general election. The paper wrote that some of the ruling coalition lawmakers expressed concern that Suga’s comment will have a negative impact on the ruling parties’ campaign for the general election.

Sunday papers wrote that Suga clarified his position on the consumption tax again during a debate with his two rivals at the Japan National Press Club on Saturday by saying that although he shares Abe’s view that Japan does not need to raise the consumption tax rate for the next 10 years, he does not rule out the possibility of raising it after that.

Foreign journalists interested in Suga’s foreign policy

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote that former LDP Secretary General Ishiba, who is running in the LDP presidential election, expressed his views on a wide range of domestic and international issues before about 60 Japanese and foreign journalists at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Friday. However, the paper observed that the journalists appeared dissatisfied because the participation of the other two candidates—Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga and LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Kishida—was not realized. The paper speculated that the journalists were especially interested in hearing Suga’s views on foreign affairs and security policy because although Suga has stressed that he will uphold Prime Minister Abe’s policy of conducting diplomacy based on the U.S.-Japan alliance, his ability to deal with foreign affairs is unknown compared with Kishida, who served as foreign minister for four years and seven months, and Ishiba, who is well versed in national security issues. Noting that Abe has been a strong presence in the international community by advocating the vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and establishing a good personal relationship with President Trump, the paper speculated that his successor will face difficult challenges as the leader of Japan.

Abe visits hospital again

The Sunday editions of all national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Abe visited Keio University Hospital in Tokyo on Saturday for the first time since he announced on Aug. 28 his intention to step down for health reasons. This was his third visit to the hospital in recent weeks. Abe spent about four hours at the hospital to undergo treatment for his chronic ulcerative colitis.


Japan confirms 440 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

NHK reported that 440 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed nationwide on Sunday, including 146 in Tokyo, 77 in Osaka, and 53 in Kanagawa. The cumulative number of cases in Japan has reached 76,486, including passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess. The number of seriously ill patients on ventilators or in ICU was 180 as of Sunday.

Japan partially eases restrictions on event participants

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that the GOJ subcommittee of experts discussing the new coronavirus basically agreed on Friday on a GOJ plan to partially ease the current restrictions on the numbers of participants in large-scale events. Events at venues with capacities of 5,000 or less at which audience members are unlikely to cheer out loud, such as classical concerts and kabuki performances, will be allowed to be held at full capacity. For venues with capacities of 5,000 to 10,000, the government will keep the maximum capacity at 50% for such events as live music shows where audiences may cheer out loud. As for large-scale events where the number of spectators could exceed 10,000, such as professional baseball and J. League soccer games, the government will remove the cap of 5,000 people and allow such events to be held at up to 50% of venue capacity as long as measures to prevent virus infection are thoroughly implemented. The GOJ plans to apply the new event capacity rules from Sept. 19 through the end of November and will decide whether to keep them in place beyond that after examining trends in the spread of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza.

The GOJ also asked for the subcommittee’s opinion on the GOJ plan to include travel to and from Tokyo in the “Go To Travel” subsidy program from Oct. 1. Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura told reporters after the subcommittee meeting that the government is hoping to include Tokyo in the travel promotion campaign as of Oct. 1 if the current downward trend of virus infection continues, but will make a final decision after carefully examining the infection situation in Tokyo.


U.S., Indian officials agreed to step up cooperation with Japan, Australia

Sunday’s Sankei ran a Kyodo dispatch from Washington saying that the Department of Defense announced that senior officials of the United States and India held online discussions on Friday in preparation for their planned 2+2 meeting of defense and foreign ministers this year. The paper wrote that U.S. and Indian officials agreed to step up quadrilateral cooperation with Japan and Australia amid Washington’s efforts to create a coalition against China. The paper also wrote that David Helvey, the principal director for East Asia in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, East Asia, told his Indian counterparts that the United States attaches importance to India as a security partner and that the two nations, with China in mind, agreed to act in concert against any moves to destabilize the Indo-Pacific region. The paper added that the United States and India held a foreign ministerial teleconference in August and agreed to hold quadrilateral talks with Japan and Australia by the end of this year.

ASEAN foreign ministers express concern over situation in South China Sea

The Sunday editions of all national dailies wrote that at a series of ASEAN-related online meetings held on Sept. 9-12, the foreign ministers of ASEAN and other nations expressed concern over the situation in the South China Sea, where China is moving forward with constructing military bases, and stressed the importance of free navigation in the region. Yomiuri wrote that Secretary of State Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang engaged in a tug-of-war over the South China Sea at the meetings, as the Secretary stressed the United States’ engagement in the ASEAN region.

Japanese ship operator pledges 1 billion yen to help clean up leaked oil in Mauritius

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. pledged on Friday about 1 billion yen ($9.4 million) in aid to Mauritius in response to the recent oil spill involving a freighter it operated, including an 800 million yen ($7.5 million) fund for cleaning up the environment. The contribution over several years will cover projects for coral reef recovery and other environmental restoration and protection activities in and around Mauritius. Although Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is not legally responsible for the damage caused by the oil spill, the company said it will fulfill its “social responsibility” as the operator of the ship because the accident has had a huge impact on Mauritius.


Abe leaves decision on capabilities to attack enemy bases to next cabinet

The Saturday editions of all national dailies reported on a statement released on Friday by Prime Minister Abe on Japan’s missile defense policy in which the premier called on the next cabinet to come up with a new security policy concerning missile defense, including an alternative to the canceled Aegis Ashore deployment plan and reinforcement of capabilities to deter enemy missile attacks. Abe told reporters after attending a National Security Council meeting on Friday that he hopes the next cabinet will discuss the matter thoroughly.

Yomiuri wrote that although Abe called on the next cabinet to reach a conclusion on whether Japan should acquire capabilities to attack enemy bases by the end of this year, it remains to been seen whether progress will be made since the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito Party remains cautious about the idea. The paper added that compared with Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, who is leading the LDP presidential race, does not seem to be very enthusiastic about discussing the issue. In addition, the political schedule for the coming months in Japan is very tight since a new cabinet will be launched this week and the Lower House might be dissolved for a snap general election before the end of the year.


Japan, UK reach basic agreement on new trade pact

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that Japan and the UK reached a basic agreement on their new economic partnership agreement during a videoconference held on Friday between Foreign Minister Motegi and British International Trade Secretary Truss. The two nations agreed to adopt most of the preferential tariffs of the economic partnership agreement between Japan and the EU and abolish tariffs on railway cars and some of the auto parts exported from Japan to the UK as soon as the new pact becomes effective. The two nations will seek to effectuate the accord on Jan. 1, 2021, after it is approved by the parliaments of both countries.

Tariffs on exports of Japanese vehicles to the UK would be as low as exports to the EU and be abolished in 2026. Tariffs on railway cars and parts, electronic control panels for electric vehicles, and turbojet engines for aircraft would be abolished as soon as the new pact takes effect. Japan would impose no new duty-free schemes on agricultural imports from the UK.


JAXA to delay launch of next-generation H3 rocket

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on Friday that it will delay its plan to launch its next-generation H3 rocket from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2021 after detecting technical problems during an engine test.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team