Morning Alert - Thursday, September 24, 2020
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Morning news

All networks gave top coverage to reports on Typhoon Dolphin, which is now at its closest point to the Kanto region, saying that it is moving north and expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds to the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region.

Top stories in national dailies included a GOJ plan to offer support to small businesses in rural areas for hiring more young employees (Yomiuri), a GOJ plan to link the My Number personal ID system to bank accounts (Nikkei), Chinese leader Xi’s video message to the UN General Assembly pledging to reduce China’s carbon emissions to zero by 2060 (Mainichi), the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s approval for restarting reactors in Niigata Prefecture (Asahi), and video messages from President Trump and Chinese leader Xi to the UN General Assembly (Sankei).


Japan to reopen border to long-term visitors from all countries

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ is planning to reopen Japan’s border as early as next month to foreign nationals who have permission to stay in Japan for three months or longer while limiting the number of such visitors to 1,000 people per day. Under the eased border restrictions, Japan will allow people from around the world who have medium- to long-term residence status, including business people, trainees, students, and artists, to enter the country on the condition they test negative for COVID-19 at their ports of entry and self-quarantine for two weeks after arrival. The easing of restrictions will not apply to tourists. The government is planning to make a final decision on the new rules after assessing the infection situation.

Nikkei speculated that the GOJ is hoping that the eased entry restrictions will help revitalize the Japanese economy, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, by allowing foreign trainees and technical professionals to enter the country. The paper noted that the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and European business organizations sent a joint letter to the GOJ in August saying that the entry restrictions are discouraging foreign companies from investing in Japan.

Japan gearing up to accept Olympic athletes

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ is accelerating its preparations for accepting athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer. At their joint meeting on Wednesday, the GOJ, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games discussed the rules for accepting foreign athletes with regard to border control, testing, and transportation within the country. They are considering allowing foreign athletes to enter the country if they meet requirements such as presenting negative coronavirus test results, staying only in designated areas, and not using public transportation within Japan.

Prime Minister Suga told International Olympic Committee President Bach during a teleconference on Wednesday that his administration will cooperate with the IOC to realize safe and secure games. Bach reportedly told Suga that he looks forward to working with the new prime minister to make the Tokyo games a success and visiting Japan in the near future.

Fujifilm to seek GOJ approval of Avigan for COVID-19 treatment as early as October

All national dailies wrote that Fujifilm Holdings Corp. said on Wednesday that it will submit to the Health Ministry as early as October a request of approval for its antivirus drug Avigan to treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus, as clinical tests for the drug have demonstrated efficacy in easing symptoms. The papers wrote that the ministry may approve the drug as early as the end of this year. If approved, Avigan will be the third drug to be approved for COVID-19 treatment in Japan, following remdesivir and dexamethasone.


NSC Secretariat head affirms close ties with top U.S. officials

Kyodo News reported from Washington that according to a GOJ official, visiting National Security Secretariat Secretary General Kitamura on Wednesday affirmed with top U.S. government officials their close bilateral ties in the wake of the first change in Japanese leadership in nearly eight years. Kitamura reportedly said during talks with Defense Secretary Esper that under the new Japanese leader Suga, Tokyo will continue to strengthen the bilateral alliance while beefing up its defense capabilities and deterrence force. Kitamura also explained to Secretary Esper the ongoing study to find an alternative to the deployment of land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense units, according to the official.

In a meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Biegun later in the day, Kitamura reportedly said the Japan-U.S. alliance will remain the cornerstone of Japan's foreign and security policy and that Japan will continue to pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Other issues that were discussed during the two meetings on Wednesday reportedly included bilateral cooperation on space and economic security as well as North Korea and the East and South China Seas, the official said.

Suga, Johnson discuss new trade pact, security cooperation

Nikkei and Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Suga held his first teleconference as prime minister with his British counterpart Johnson on Wednesday. Nikkei wrote that the two leaders welcomed the basic agreement their nations have reached on a new bilateral economic partnership agreement. Sankei wrote that the prime ministers agreed to step up security cooperation between their nations to promote the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

FM Motegi to visit Germany, France

Nikkei and Mainichi wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi is making arrangements to visit Germany and France at the end of this month for talks with his German counterpart Maas and French counterpart Le Drian. Mainichi speculated that Motegi is hoping to strengthen Japan’s cooperation with the two nations to promote the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and counter China’s increasing maritime activities.

FM Motegi discusses UN Security Council reform with Germany, India, Brazil

Yomiuri wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi held a videoconference on Wednesday with his counterparts from Germany, India, and Brazil, which hope to become permanent members of the UN Security Council. The four foreign ministers agreed on a joint statement seeking the early reform of the council.


LDP panel urges GOJ to hold drills with U.S. to strengthen defense of Senkakus

Nikkei and Asahi wrote that an LDP panel on national defense compiled recommendations for the GOJ urging the government to hold joint defense drills with the United States in the vicinity of the Nansei Islands, including the Senkaku Islands, to strengthen the defense of the Senkakus. Nikkei wrote that the panel also recommended increasing information sharing with Taiwanese defense authorities on activities of the Chinese military. The group presented the recommendations to Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato on Wednesday.


Next Diet session may be convened in late October

All national dailies wrote that the idea of convening an extraordinary Diet session in late October, probably on the 23rd or 26th, has emerged within the ruling LDP, noting that Prime Minister Suga will deliver a policy speech during the session. The papers wrote that the ruling coalition anticipates that the next session will continue for about 50 days until early December and that the GOJ is aiming to approve Japan’s new trade pact with the UK during the session.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team