Morning Alert - Friday, March 5, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports on a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 that hit New Zealand early this morning (NHK) and the GOJ’s plan to formally decide today to extend the state of emergency for the Tokyo area by two weeks (NTV, TBS, Fuji TV, TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included U.S. Forces Japan’s planned drills off the Senkaku Islands in February (Yomiuri), a U.S. plan to build a missile network against China along the first island chain stretching from Okinawa through the Philippines (Nikkei), China’s accelerating construction of large ships in a bid to create a more powerful navy (Mainichi), activities by QAnon members in the United States (Sankei), and the Ministry of Communications’ probe into NTT's alleged wining and dining of its senior officials (Asahi).


Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin to visit Japan mid-March

All national dailies wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan are making arrangements for Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin to visit Japan as early as mid-March for talks with their Japanese counterparts. The papers noted that Blinken and Austin will be the first Biden administration cabinet members to visit Japan. Yomiuri wrote that arrangements are being made for them to arrive in Japan on March 15 and hold a 2+2 meeting with Foreign Minister Motegi and Defense Minister Kishi on March 16. The paper also wrote that the United States and Japan last held a 2+2 meeting in Washington in April 2019.

The papers speculated that the U.S. and Japanese officials will confirm the importance of strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance as a deterrent force in the region in view of China's military expansion and discuss Chinese government vessels’ intrusions into Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands and China’s new law upgrading its coast guard to a quasi-military force. The two governments are expected to also discuss such issues as the South China Sea, Hong Kong, and human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The two nations are also planning to discuss North Korea’s nuclear programs and security cooperation in new domains including space and cyberspace. The issue of Japan’s host nation support for U.S troops may become a topic of the bilateral discussion.

U.S., Japan, Australia, India to hold online summit in mid-March

Yomiuri wrote that it learned from multiple GOJ sources on Thursday that the United States, Japan, Australia, and India are planning to hold an online meeting of their leaders as early as mid-March. The paper wrote that this would be the first summit held under the Quad framework and that the four leaders are expected to confirm strengthened cooperation in realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific in view of China’s attempts to change the status quo in the South and East China Seas.

U.S. to build missile network against China

Nikkei led with a report from Washington claiming that the United States government and Congress will consider setting aside $27.4 billion over six years from fiscal 2022 for strengthening deterrence against China in the Indo-Pacific region. The paper speculated that Washington will consider establishing a network of precision-strike missiles along the so-called first island chain stretching from Okinawa through the Philippines under the plan. Nikkei wrote that it learned of the plan from the budget proposals the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command submitted to Congress earlier this month. The paper wrote that the document says in part that the United States will focus resources on vital military capabilities to deter China and that the proposals are aimed at persuading potential adversaries that any preemptive military action would be too costly and likely to fail. The paper speculated that growing concerns over China’s activities in the East and South China Seas and with respect to Taiwan are behind the budget request for $27.4 billion, a 36% increase from the request made in fiscal 2020.

A senior Japanese government official told the paper that Tokyo has not discussed such a plan with Washington, but the Indo-Pacific Command’s establishing a network of missiles countering China "would be a plus for Japan." The paper wrote that challenges lie ahead for realizing a missile network against China because Asian nations who accept the U.S. missile deployment would face the risk of becoming the target of a Chinese attack or economic retaliation.

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires welcomes Taiwanese representative to Ambassador’s Residence

Yomiuri wrote that Chargé d'Affaires ad interim Young disclosed in a tweet on Thursday that he welcomed Taiwanese Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh to the Ambassador's Residence on Tuesday. The paper wrote that Chargé Young posted photos of their meeting and Hsieh’s message wishing for lasting friendship between the United States, Japan, and Taiwan. According to a Taiwanese wire service, this was the first time for the Taiwanese representative to be invited to the Ambassador’s Residence since the United States and Taiwan broke their diplomatic relations in 1979.

Japan condemns violence against citizens in Myanmar

Nikkei and Asahi wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato said at a press briefing on Thursday that Japan strongly condemns the continued violence against civilians in Myanmar (Burma). Asahi wrote that Japan has urged the Myanmar military to stop committing violence against citizens and will continue to press the Myanmar junta in coordination with other nations because the current tensions in the nation show no signs of easing.


U.S. military planned drills near Senkakus in February

Yomiuri led with a report saying that it has learned from multiple GOJ sources that U.S. Forces Japan had planned to conduct supply training near waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands in February under the scenario of a contingency in the islands. The paper wrote that the drills were cancelled due to bad weather and that the exercises were intended to send a warning to China over its provocations in the region, including its government ships’ intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters. The paper quoted a GOJ source as speculating that the planned exercises were intended to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to the Senkakus issue and prevent China from escalating its provocations.

U.S. military helicopters fly near Tokyo Skytree

Mainichi wrote that it confirmed that two U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters repeatedly flew near Tokyo Skytree, a 634-meter television broadcasting tower and landmark of Tokyo, at around 4:10 p.m. on Aug. 27, 2020. The paper wrote that the U.S. military has not provided reasons for the flight. An expert speculates that it was a field training exercise using the tower.


GOJ to decide today to extend state of emergency for Tokyo region

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ will officially decide today to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency for Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa for about two weeks beyond March 7. Prime Minister Suga reiterated his intention to extend the emergency at an Upper House Budget Committee meeting on Thursday by saying that Japan is at a critical juncture on whether it can bring the coronavirus outbreak under control. The premier plans to hold a news conference at the Kantei this evening following the GOJ decision to extend the emergency.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team