Morning Alert - Tuesday, March 23, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports on the results of a simulation showing that Japan would suffer significant economic damage if another state of emergency were issued due to a resurgence of COVID-19 (NHK), a slight increase in the number of people dining out during lunchtime in Tokyo’s business districts on Monday (NTV), a rapid increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Yamagata (TBS), and the first day after the lifting of the state of emergency (Fuji TV, TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included an explanation by U.S. Forces Japan that helicopters are not subject to a U.S.-Japan agreement on flight altitude rules for Japan (Mainichi), an upward trend in new COVID-19 cases (Asahi), a GOJ plan to set a new and more ambitious gas emissions reduction goal for 2030 (Nikkei), the EU’s decision to impose sanctions on China for its human rights violations (Sankei), and nonlife insurance companies’ plans to shorten their fire insurance policy period from 10 to 5 years (Yomiuri).


Japan, Germany sign information protection agreement

Nikkei wrote that the governments of Japan and Germany signed on Monday an information protection agreement that facilitates their sharing of such military information as unit operation plans and antiterrorism measures. The paper wrote that the pact is intended to enhance the two nations’ security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in view of China’s maritime advancement in the region. Japan has already forged similar agreements with eight nations, including the United States, the UK, Australia, India, and South Korea. The paper wrote that Germany set guidelines for its diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific in September 2020 and underscored its intention to increase cooperation with the United States, Japan, Australia, and India since it shares such common values as the rule of law and the freedom of navigation with these nations. Germany is planning to send a frigate to Asia this summer. Asahi and Mainichi ran similar reports.

Prime Minister Suga discusses concern over China with Vietnamese leader

Nikkei, Asahi, and Mainichi wrote that Prime Minister Suga spoke by phone with Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong on Monday. According to the papers, the two leaders discussed concerns about China’s coast guard law and activities in the South and East China Seas as well as the situation in Myanmar.


USFJ says U.S.-Japan agreement on low-altitude flights does not apply to helicopters

Mainichi led with a report saying that U.S. Forces Japan submitted a written response to the paper’s inquiry on U.S. military helicopters’ low-altitude flights in Japan saying that the 1999 U.S.-Japan Joint Committee agreement on aircraft flight altitudes does not apply to helicopters, whose features are different from those of fixed-wing aircraft. Noting that the GOJ has explained that the agreement applies to all aircraft regardless of type, the paper wrote that low-altitude flights by U.S. military helicopters are being conducted despite a discrepancy between the views of the United States and Japan on the agreement. The paper wrote that MOFA’s Status of U.S. Forces Agreement Division has told the paper that the agreement applies to low-altitude flight training regardless of the type of aircraft and that Foreign Minister Motegi stated at a Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee session on March 19 that the types of aircraft to which the agreement applies are not defined.


Japan intends to provide COVID-19 vaccines to foreign diplomats

Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is planning to provide COVID-19 vaccines to foreign diplomats in Japan if they wish to receive them. The paper wrote that registered foreign residents will be able to receive the vaccines in Japan and that the GOJ will also offer them to foreign diplomats even though they do not need to register their residency in Japan.

Kono says vaccination of general public may begin in late April in some areas

Yomiuri ran its one-on-one interview with Administrative Reform Minister Kono on Monday, during which he expressed the view that it will probably become possible for municipalities with small populations to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines to the general public as early as late April. The paper wrote that the GOJ is planning to provide each municipality in Japan with at least 1,000 doses of the vaccine in the last week of April. Although the municipalities will administer the vaccine to people aged 65 and older first, Kono said municipalities with populations of less than 1,000 may be able to begin vaccinating younger people at the same time as the elderly. Kono also said negotiations with the EU on vaccine shipments will probably enter a crucial stage in May and that the GOJ will consider issuing some form of a vaccination certificate to people traveling overseas. Kono expressed caution about China’s vaccine diplomacy, including its plan to issue entry visas on a priority basis to foreign travelers who have received Chinese vaccines.


American father, son indicted on charges of assisting Ghosn’s escape

All national dailies wrote that the special investigative team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office indicted a former Green Beret and his son on Monday on charges of helping former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn to flee Japan. The papers wrote that the father and the son have told the prosecutors that they aided Ghosn’s escape at the request of his wife Carole. Yomiuri and Sankei wrote that according to informed sources, the pair have admitted the charges.

Foreign-based volunteers for Tokyo Olympics not permitted in principle

All national dailies wrote that the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee announced on Monday that it will not accept volunteers from overseas in principle as a precaution to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, the committee is making arrangements to allow foreign-based volunteers with high-level skills to work at the Games to enable smooth operations. About 2,300 foreign nationals living abroad have registered to work as volunteers at the Games.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team