Morning Alert - Tuesday, March 2, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports on the GOJ’s expectation that local municipalities will finish distributing COVID-19 vaccination tickets to the elderly by around April 23 (NHK), an expert’s warning that lifting the state of emergency for the Tokyo area could easily lead to a “rebound” (NTV), a scholar’s simulation indicating that a “fourth wave” of infection will arrive in May if the state of emergency is lifted for the Tokyo area on March 7 (TBS, TV Asahi), and the first night in Osaka since the state of emergency was lifted (TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included the resignation of Cabinet Public Relations Secretary Makiko Yamada, who was wined and dined by Prime Minister Suga's son who works for a satellite broadcasting firm while she held a high post in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (Asahi, Mainichi, Sankei), a plan by the ruling coalition to enact a new law on dismissing teachers who commit indecent acts against students (Yomiuri), and moves among private companies to provide local governments with services to support coronavirus vaccination programs (Nikkei).


ROK leader expresses readiness to hold dialogue with Japan

All national dailies reported on a speech delivered by South Korean President Moon at a ceremony marking the March 1 independence movement against Japanese colonial rule. The ROK leader expressed his readiness to improve ties with Japan by saying it is necessary to make efforts to seek future-oriented development in the bilateral relationship. However, he stopped short of presenting specific steps to resolve the comfort women and requisitioned worker issues. Yomiuri wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato said at a press briefing on Monday that South Korea needs to take specific actions in a responsible manner to settle the outstanding bilateral issues.

Yomiuri speculated that President Moon indicated a forward-looking position vis-à-vis Japan because the Biden administration, which seeks to strengthen trilateral cooperation with Japan and South Korea, has urged Seoul to improve its ties with Tokyo. The paper conjectured that Moon cannot ignore the Biden administration’s calls because he needs U.S. cooperation to improve ties with the DPRK. Asahi expressed a similar view.

Japan maintains dialogue with Myanmar junta

Yomiuri wrote that the GOJ is employing “independent diplomacy” by maintaining dialogue with the military of Myanmar (Burma). The paper wrote that although Japan’s approach is different from that of the United States and European countries, which opt for imposing sanctions, the GOJ has begun reviewing its economic assistance policy toward Myanmar because there has been no sign of improvement in the situation there. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato expressed concern over the deaths of protesters in Myanmar and stated at a press briefing on Monday that Japan strongly condemns the violence against citizens. The paper wrote that Japan is the only G7 country that continues to hold dialogue with Myanmar and that Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama, who is well versed in the local situation, has connections with both Aung San Suu Kyi and the military, and speaks the local language, has been playing a pivotal role in talking with the junta.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato told reporters on Monday that the use of force against peaceful protesters is unacceptable and Japan strongly urges Myanmar security forces to immediately stop the violence against civilians. The government spokesman added that Tokyo will consider what steps to take, including a review of economic assistance, while keeping a close eye on the situation in Myanmar.

In a related story, Asahi wrote that the United States, European nations, and United Nations strongly condemned the Myanmar security forces for firing on protesters, killing at least 18. Asahi and Yomiuri wrote that the United States expressed its readiness to impose additional sanctions on the Myanmar military, quoting National Security Advisor Sullivan as stressing in a statement issued on Feb. 28: “We are preparing additional actions to impose further costs on those responsible for this latest outbreak of violence and the recent coup.”

Foreign firms investing in Myanmar express concern over coup’s impact on economy

Nikkei wrote that 40 foreign companies with investments in Myanmar (Burma), including the Coca-Cola Company and the French energy company Total, issued a joint statement on Monday expressing grave concern over the current political turmoil in the nation and calling on the Myanmar military to return the nation to a democratic process. The paper wrote that such companies as the Swedish fashion giant H&M, the British consumer goods company Unilever, and the Australian energy company Woodside joined the statement, but no Japanese firms participated. The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, an initiative to promote transparency and respect for human rights in business activities, took the lead in issuing the joint statement.


New Haneda routes may be causing U.S. military helicopters to fly low over Tokyo

Mainichi wrote that experts told the paper that the new flight routes for Haneda Airport that became available last year may be affecting the flight paths of U.S. military helicopters, some of which have recently been spotted flying at low altitudes over central Tokyo. The paper pointed out that U.S. military helicopters use the Akasaka Press Center in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, which is located near the new routes for Haneda, as their base.


Two Americans linked to Ghosn’s escape to be transferred to Japan

Asahi wrote that it learned from informed sources that the two Americans suspected of helping former Nissan Motor Chairman Ghosn flee to Lebanon would be handed over to the Japanese authorities on March 1 (U.S. time). The paper wrote that the two are expected to arrive in Japan this afternoon and Tokyo prosecutors are planning to arrest them.

Kyodo News reported this morning that U.S. media said the two Americans were turned over to Japanese authorities on Monday. Kyodo said that the handover comes after they lost their battle against extradition last month and that they were arrested in Massachusetts in May of last year by U.S. authorities at Japan's request.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team