Morning Alert - Friday, September 18, 2020
The following information reflects the reporting of the cited news media and does not reflect the opinions of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Japan Media Highlights is intended for USG use only and should not be forwarded. Visit the website here. For more information, contact TokyoMATT@state.gov.


Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested this morning a former chairman of Japan Life Co. on allegations of fraudulent business practices. NTV led with a report that travel to and from Tokyo will be included in the “Go To Travel” campaign starting today. TBS led with a report that Suga has decided to tap LDP member Junko Mihara as state minister of health, labor, and welfare. TV Asahi led with a report that Deputy Prime Minister Aso mistakenly referred to the new cabinet as the “Kan cabinet” multiple times in a meeting because the Chinese character for “Suga” can also be read “Kan.” Fuji TV reported that footage of a man who fled after cutting a female high school student with a knife in Tochigi yesterday was disclosed to the public.

Asahi, Mainichi, and Nikkei led with the results of their respective public opinion surveys showing strong support for the Suga cabinet, while Yomiuri gave top play to an interview with former Prime Minister Abe. Sankei’s top item was the GOJ’s plan to submit legislation to the Diet next year on launching a digital agency.


Polls show majority of public welcomes launch of Suga administration

Nikkei, Asahi, and Mainichi front-paged the results of their public opinion polls on the launch of the Suga administration, all pointing to strong support for the new prime minister. Nikkei put support for the Suga cabinet at 74%, which was the third highest rating for a new prime minister following 80% for the Koizumi cabinet in 2001 and 75% for the Hatoyama cabinet in 2009. The corresponding figure for the second Abe administration in 2012 was 62%. Some 46% cited trust in Suga’s character as the reason for their support, followed by confidence in the new cabinet’s stability.

Only 17% disapproved of the new cabinet, with 48% of them citing distrust of the LDP as the reason. Support was stronger among women than men, at 77% to 72%. According to the business daily, the public was apparently negative toward the proposed dissolution of the Lower House for a snap election this year, with only 19% supporting such an idea. Almost 60% said the next general election should be held in early autumn next year.

Asahi put support for the Suga administration at 65% and nonsupport at 13%. As some 58% welcomed the fact that the new premier retained more than half of the cabinet members of the Abe administration, the daily speculated that the public probably has high expectations for Suga to continue his predecessor’s policy course. Asked which party they would vote for in proportional representation if the general election were to be held today, 48% chose the LDP, up 13 points from July, while 12% opted for the new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, down 1 point.

According to Mainichi, some 64% approved of the Suga cabinet, while 27% disapproved of it. About 35% cited their expectations for the new cabinet’s policies as the reason for their support, followed by the new cabinet’s stance of maintaining the Abe administration’s policy track (30%).

Suga to launch digital agency next year

Nikkei front-paged the Suga administration’s desire to establish by the fall of 2021 a digital agency tasked with realizing e-government by consolidating relevant offices and functions currently borne by existing GOJ ministries and agencies. Legislation will be submitted to the ordinary Diet session that will begin in January next year. The GOJ is likely to tap someone other than a politician to lead the new organization based on the judgment that such a person would probably have deeper knowledge and expertise in the field than a lawmaker. The proposed organization will formulate and implement measures to expand online services for the public as well as for the central government and local governments and ensure telecommunications connectivity. The digital agency will also reportedly look into measures to enhance Japan’s telemedicine and remote learning capabilities.

Other papers ran similar stories, quoting Minister for Digital Transformation Hirai as telling the press on Thursday: “Prime Minister Suga will not be satisfied unless a digital agency is realized well before April 2022.”

Abe willing to support his successor on diplomatic front

Yomiuri carried an interview with former Prime Minister Abe. He reportedly noted that he is willing to serve as a special emissary for the Suga administration by capitalizing on close personal bonds he has built with such foreign leaders as President Trump and Russian President Putin.


Top U.S. officials congratulate Prime Minister Suga

NHK reported that President Trump posted a tweet on Thursday congratulating Prime Minister Suga on his inauguration, saying: “Congratulations Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. You have a great life story! I know you will do a tremendous job for Japan and for the world. Look forward to talking soon!” The network said that prior to the President’s tweet, the White House released a statement saying that the President “looks forward to working with Prime Minister Suga” to make the U.S.-Japan relationship even stronger.

Sankei focused on a statement issued on Wednesday by Secretary of State Pompeo on the launch of the Suga administration. He was quoted as saying: “I congratulate Yoshihide Suga on his election as Prime Minister of Japan. I am looking forward to working with him and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to uphold the U.S.-Japan Alliance as the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

British leader positive about Japan’s participation in “Five Eyes”

Sankei highlighted remarks made at the British parliament on Wednesday by Prime Minister Johnson. He reportedly suggested that he is open to the idea of allowing Japan to become a member of the so-called Five Eyes. “[Japan’s participation] will present us with a great opportunity to consolidate democratic countries sharing the same values,” the UK leader was quoted as saying. “It may be a very productive way to further develop bilateral relations.” Johnson emphasized that London and Tokyo have already built close ties in the defense and security arena.

LDP heavyweight voices hope for Chinese leader’s visit to Japan

Asahi took up a speech delivered yesterday by LDP Secretary General Nikai in which he commented on the idea of inviting Chinese Communist Party President Xi to visit Japan as a state guest. “Although relations between Japan and China had long been chilly, nobody disputes that spring has now arrived,” said the top LDP official. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that we’ll be able to invite the Chinese leader to visit in a warm atmosphere.”


U.S. defense chief urges Japan, other allies to increase defense spending

Jiji spotlighted Secretary of Defense Esper’s speech at the RAND Corporation on Wednesday, during which he called for U.S. allies, including Japan, to boost their military spending to higher than 2% of their GDP in order to better prepare to compete with China and Russia. The top U.S. defense official reportedly stressed the importance of maintaining military superiority over China in partnership with U.S. allies, adding: “We urge you to increase your defense spending to at least 2% of GDP.... to achieve our shared goals – that is, to protect our mutual interests, preserve our security, and defend our common values.”

U.S. presidential envoy for arms control comments on mid-range missiles in Asia

Asahi ran a telephone interview with Marshall Billingslea, who leads arms control negotiations with Russia as President Trump’s special envoy. He reportedly suggested that the U.S. military will probably deploy medium-range ballistic missiles in Asia within several years, adding that Washington is “ready to discuss with the Japanese government” the idea of basing them in Japan. The U.S. official emphasized the importance of strengthening security partnership with Japan and other U.S. allies in the region in the face of China’s rapid development of various cruise and ballistic missiles, including hypersonic glide vehicles. “We will ensure that the Chinese Communist Party will not be able to use weapons that can be a threat to us,” the diplomat was quoted as saying. “We will coordinate closely with the Japanese government to prevent China’s military buildup from making the Asia region completely unstable.”

According to the daily, Billingslea noted that in addition to Russia, China should be a partner when it comes to regulating nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, indicating that unless Beijing joins a new framework on strategic arms control, the new START Treaty with Moscow may expire in February 2021.


Medical professionals detect signs of potential COVID-19 resurgence in Tokyo

NHK reported last night that a Tokyo Metropolitan Government blue-ribbon commission composed of epidemiologists and other public health experts expressed reservations on Thursday about the COVID-19 situation in the nation’s capital because the number of new cases appears to be increasing lately. The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases in the week ending on Sept. 16 was 181, up from 149 in the previous week. The percentage of patients whose transmission routes cannot be identified has also increased for the first time in a month. As such, the panel reportedly voiced “strong concern about a potential resurgence.”

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team