Morning Alert - Monday, September 28, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report that MEXT has decided to send epidemiologists and nurses to public schools to help them assess whether their measures against COVID-19 are medically appropriate. All commercial networks led with reports that actress Yuko Takeuchi was found dead at her home early Sunday morning.

Top stories in national dailies included President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court (Asahi, Sankei), the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic of nearly 1 million (Mainichi), a rise in shares of Japanese regional banks based on expectations for the Suga administration’s plan to realign them (Yomiuri), and a survey of the presidents of 100 leading companies in Japan showing that 90% of them are calling for further deregulation (Nikkei).


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

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that the GOJ decided on Friday to reopen in October Japan’s border to foreign nationals who have permission to stay in Japan for three months or longer, including students and business people. The number of such visitors will be limited to 1,000 per day. Japan will require visitors to test negative for COVID-19 at their ports of entry and self-quarantine for two weeks after arrival. Prime Minister Suga reportedly said at a meeting of the GOJ subcommittee on coronavirus response on Friday that resuming international travel is indispensable for revitalizing the economy.

Japan to launch series of campaigns to encourage domestic travel and recreation

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that the GOJ subcommittee on coronavirus response approved on Friday the GOJ plan to implement a series of campaigns to promote domestic travel and other recreational activities as part of Japan’s gradual shift from focusing on containing the coronavirus pandemic to resuscitating the economy.

Under the plan, domestic travel to and from Tokyo will be included in the government’s “Go To Travel” subsidy program starting Oct. 1. Such travel had been excluded from the program up until now because Tokyo had marked the highest number of COVID-19 cases among the 47 prefectures. The government is also planning to launch a “Go To Event” campaign aimed at reviving the sports and entertainment industries by subsidizing admission fees as early as mid-October. The “Go To Eat” and “Go To Shotengai (shopping arcade)” programs aimed at encouraging people to dine out or shop in local shopping areas by offering them discounts are also expected to begin on Oct. 1.


Suga addresses UN General Assembly

The Sunday editions of all national dailies reported on Prime Minister Suga’s first address to the UN General Assembly via a prerecorded video statement. The papers wrote that in his debut appearance at an international forum, Suga called for solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus and pledged to promote the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific as the foundation of peace and prosperity in the region. He also pledged to resolve the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals by saying he is prepared to meet with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un without any conditions. In addition, Suga said Japan is determined to host the Tokyo Olympics next summer as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic.

Yomiuri and Mainichi wrote that Suga played it safe by simply explaining Japan’s foreign policy agenda, noting that although Tomohiko Taniguchi, a foreign policy advisor to former Prime Minister Abe, had helped put Abe in the spotlight in the international arena by writing eloquent English speeches for him, Suga’s speech to the UN was prepared by MOFA bureaucrats.

Suga, Xi agree on close cooperation

The Saturday editions of all national dailies reported on Prime Minister Suga’s first teleconference with Chinese leader Xi on Friday. Suga told reporters afterward that he and Xi agreed to work closely together on bilateral and global issues but did not discuss Xi’s postponed state visit to Japan. Suga reportedly expressed Japan’s concern over Chinese government ships’ repeated intrusions into Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands and China’s treatment of Hong Kong.

Yomiuri wrote that although the two nations confirmed continued efforts to improve their ties, it remains to be seen whether Xi’s trip to Japan will be realized because there is strong opposition within the ruling LDP to the idea of Japan hosting Xi and Tokyo is concerned that the international community is becoming increasingly critical of China’s oppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. The paper speculated that if Japan hosts Xi as a state guest, the move could affect Japan’s relations with the United States because Washington is increasing its pressure on Beijing over the South China Sea and other issues. Mainichi expressed a similar view, speculating that friction could arise between Japan and the United States and European nations if Japan takes too friendly an approach to China.

Chinese foreign minister to visit Tokyo in October

Monday’s Nikkei and Asahi wrote that the governments of Japan and China are making arrangements for Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit Tokyo in October for talks with Foreign Minister Motegi.

Nikkei wrote that a meeting with Prime Minister Suga may also be arranged for Wang. If realized, this would be the first face-to-face interaction between senior officials of Japan and China since the launch of the Suga administration. The paper speculated that Motegi and Wang will reaffirm the importance of maintaining stable bilateral relations between their nations and discuss such issues as the Senkaku Islands and Beijing's treatment of Hong Kong. The paper also conjectured that China is hoping to ascertain Suga’s policy toward Beijing through Wang’s trip to Tokyo amid its rising tensions with the United States. The paper wrote that while positioning the U.S.-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of Japan’s foreign policy, Suga has said he wants to continue dialogue with Beijing to resolve the issues between the two countries.

The paper also speculated that Secretary of State Pompeo, who is expected to visit Japan in early October, is likely to be the first senior foreign official to meet with Suga, and that Wang's visit to Tokyo will likely take place afterward. The paper added that the quadrilateral talks with the United States, Australia, and India that will be held during the Secretary’s visit to Tokyo will be a venue for the four nations to share their economic and security concerns over China. The paper went on to say that the Suga administration will meet first with officials of its main ally, the United States, as well as quasi-allies Australia and India, to share views, and then balance its diplomacy by meeting with Chinese officials later, pointing out that Suga's phone call with Chinese leader Xi on Friday also came after his calls with the leaders of the three quad partners.

Suga, Modi agree to boost bilateral, quadrilateral cooperation

The Saturday editions of Asahi and Mainichi wrote that Prime Minister Suga held a teleconference with his Indian counterpart Modi on Friday. Asahi wrote that the two leaders agreed to deepen their nations’ bilateral cooperation on the economic and security fronts and their quadrilateral cooperation with the United States and Australia. Mainichi wrote that Suga and Modi agreed to strengthen cooperation in realizing the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Suga, Putin to hold teleconference on Tuesday

Sunday’s Nikkei wrote that the governments of Japan and Russia are making arrangements for Prime Minister Suga and President Putin to hold a teleconference on Tuesday. The paper speculated that the two leaders will discuss bilateral relations, including talks on a peace treaty and economic cooperation.

Kono inspects Northern Territories from Hokkaido

Monday’s Sankei wrote that during his first visit to Hokkaido after taking up his new cabinet post, Minister in charge of Okinawa and the Northern Territories Kono inspected on Sunday Habomai, one of the four Russian-held islands, from the easternmost point in Japan at Cape Nosappu in the city of Nemuro. Kono reportedly told the press that it is necessary for Japan to move forward peace treaty negotiations and resolve the territorial issue with Russia as soon as possible.

FM Motegi to visit Saudi Arabia

Sunday’s Sankei wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi is making arrangements to visit Saudi Arabia as an extension of his planned trip to Europe this week. The paper speculated that Motegi will discuss the Middle East situation and other issues with his Saudi Arabian counterpart ahead of the planned G20 summit to be hosted by Saudi Arabia in November, noting that international attention is focused on Riyadh’s response to the UAE’s recent agreement with Israel to normalize their ties.

Abe reflects on partnership with President Trump

Saturday’s Nikkei gave top play to a one-on-one interview with former Prime Minister Abe in which he reflected on the strong partnership he established with President Trump that he believes served as the foundation of Japan’s solid alliance with the United States under his administration.


Defense Minister Kishi stresses importance of defense cooperation with U.S.

Saturday’s Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei reported on remarks made by Defense Minister Kishi to a group of Japanese reporters on Friday. Kishi reportedly stated that the U.S.-Japan alliance is becoming increasingly important and that he will try to deepen cooperation between the two countries, including in the space and cyber domains, and further strengthen its deterrence and response capabilities. Nikkei quoted Kishi as saying that it is necessary for Japan to develop the capability to strike enemy bases to defend the nation. Yomiuri quoted him as saying that Japan will consult with the United States in discussing an alternative to the canceled Aegis Ashore deployment. According to Nikkei, Kishi expressed his willingness to visit the United States to hold talks with Defense Secretary Esper when conditions under the coronavirus pandemic allow.

Kishi also said Chinese government ships’ repeated intrusions into Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands are “extremely regrettable” and “absolutely unacceptable” and that it is necessary for the international community to unite against China’s attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the South China Sea. Yomiuri wrote that Kishi expressed hope to step up Japan’s defense cooperation with the United States, Australia, and India by increasing joint drills and technical cooperation under the concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific. He stressed the importance of communication with South Korea, both bilaterally and trilaterally with the United States, in light of North Korea's missile program.

U.S. special presidential envoy for arms control comments on China’s military expansion

Sunday’s Asahi reported on its one-on-one interview with Marshall Billingslea, special presidential envoy for arms control, that was held on Friday in Washington ahead of his planned trip to Asia this week. The paper quoted Ambassador Billingslea as saying that if he has a chance to meet with members of Japan’s new administration, he would like to discuss how Japan, as an ally of the United States, will respond to China’s rapid military expansion and nuclear ambitions. The paper wrote that Ambassador Billingslea, who assumed his current post in April, is planning to visit South Korea on Sept. 27-28, adding that he is likely to hold talks with senior officials of the Defense and Foreign Ministries if he visits Japan as well. The paper wrote that the U.S. envoy reportedly said it is important to understand and be in agreement on China’s military expansion and threats.

The paper also wrote that during his Asian trip Ambassador Billingslea is planning to brief the U.S.’s Asian allies on Russia’s buildup of short- and medium-range nuclear capabilities and the status of U.S.-Russian negotiations on the New START treaty, which expires in February 2021. The paper quoted the special envoy as saying that it is important for Japan and other nations to call on Russia to agree on the framework proposed by the United States and urge China to participate in the discussions.


Japan to propose new export control framework for advanced technology

Sunday’s Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is mulling the idea of proposing to the United States as well as Germany and several other European nations the idea of establishing a new export control framework with the aim of preventing advanced technology such as AI and quantum computing from being used for military purposes. The paper wrote that the idea is intended to swiftly restrict exports of such technology through close cooperation between the nations participating in the new framework in view of China’s attempts to beef up its military power with private sector technology. The paper wrote that although there are already several multilateral export control regimes, including the Wassenaar Arrangement, it usually takes time for them to build consensus among their several dozen members. According to the paper, Japan is planning to only propose the establishment of a new framework to nations that possess advanced technology so that its members can swiftly decide which items should be restricted when issues arise.


PM Suga visits areas affected by nuclear accident in Fukushima

The Sunday editions of all national dailies reported on Prime Minister Suga’s first trip to Fukushima Prefecture on Saturday since election to his new post. He visited the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In response to a GOJ advisory committee’s recommendation in February to discharge the radioactive water now being stored at the plant into the ocean and the local opposition to the idea, Suga said that the GOJ will make a decision on the matter as soon as possible while carefully listening to the opinion of the local community.

The prime minister also traveled to municipalities affected by the nuclear accident, visiting a disaster memorial center In Futaba and talking with students at Futaba Mirai Gakuen (Futaba Future School) in Hirono. Suga stressed his cabinet's stance of attaching importance to the reconstruction of areas affected by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in 2011 by saying: “There will be no recovery of Tohoku without the recovery of Fukushima, and there will be no revival of Japan without the recovery of Tohoku.”

Komeito launches new executive lineup under continued leadership of Yamaguchi

The Monday editions of all national dallies reported on a party convention held by the Komeito party on Sunday in Tokyo. Natsuo Yamaguchi secured his seventh two-year term as party leader. The party also elected Keiichi Ishii, who is seen as a possible successor to Yamaguchi, as secretary general, replacing Tetsuo Saito, who will become deputy leader. The papers speculated that Prime Minister Suga’s attendance at the party convention was intended to demonstrate the LDP’s close ties with its junior coalition partner. Suga stated that he would like to ask for Komeito’s cooperation in achieving his policy goals.


IOC, Tokyo organizers agree to simplify 52 items for Tokyo Games

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games agreed on Friday to simplify 52 items for the Tokyo games next year, including cuts in the number of officials and other non-athletes and spending for them by 10 to 15%. Since the decision was made in March to postpone the Games due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the IOC and the Tokyo organizers have prioritized streamlining the event in light of both the health risks and extra costs stemming from the unprecedented one-year delay. IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Coates said he is confident that the Tokyo Games will set an example for “future Olympics in the post-coronavirus era.”

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team