Morning Alert - Wednesday, March 24, 2021
The following information reflects the reporting of the cited news media and does not reflect the opinions of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Japan Media Highlights is intended for USG use only and should not be forwarded. Visit the website here. For more information, contact TokyoMATT@state.gov.


Morning news

Broadcasters led with stories on U.S. media reports that North Korea test-fired multiple short-range missiles over the weekend (NHK), the GOJ and municipal governments’ temporary suspension of their usage of the messaging app LINE to communicate with the public following the revelation that Chinese engineers were able to access users’ personal information (NTV, Fuji TV), and Tokyo’s plan to continue requesting eateries to close at 9 p.m. until around April 21 (TBS, TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai’s announcement of his resignation as a lawmaker after pleading guilty to charges of vote buying for his wife in a 2019 Upper House election (Asahi, Mainichi), a drop in land prices in Japan for the first time in six years (Yomiuri), survey results showing that 60% of Japan’s major universities are planning to resume face-to-face classes (Nikkei), and an interview with a scholar from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in which he expressed concern over Chinese authorities’ increasing pressure for cultural assimilation (Sankei).


U.S. media: North Korea fired multiple short-range missiles last weekend

NHK reported this morning that several media outlets in the U.S. reported that according to a USG source, North Korea fired multiple short-range missiles over the weekend. According to the network, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that North Korea fired multiple short-range missiles. ABC TV also reported that a U.S. official confirmed on Tuesday that North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles sometime over the weekend. The network said no details of the test-firings, such as the launch site or the landing point, have been reported. North Korea has yet to announce that it launched the missiles. A senior USG official reportedly said on Tuesday that although the USG is aware of North Korea’s military activity last weekend, it is not covered by UNSC sanctions that limit the use of ballistic missiles. The official reportedly added that while the USG takes all military activities of North Korea seriously, the move is considered to be within North Korea’s normal activities. The official also reportedly stressed that it was a short-range system.

Japan remains cautious about sanctions on China over Uyghurs

Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is taking a cautious position on imposing sanctions on China over its human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region because China is Japan’s largest trade partner and Beijing is stepping up its military pressure on Japan. The paper wrote that some in the ruling LDP are calling for the enactment of a new law allowing Japan to impose sanctions on foreign countries over human rights violations because Japan may be asked by the United States and European nations to act in concert with them on the matter in the future. Although Japan can freeze the assets of foreign nationals and limit their entry to Japan through the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law, it has no legislation allowing it to impose sanctions over human rights violations. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato expressed “serious concern” about the human rights situation in Xinjiang during a regular press briefing on Tuesday and added that there is no law in Japan to impose sanctions on foreign countries by explicitly citing human rights issues.

Japan froze the personal assets of Libya’s Gaddafi for his human rights violations in the past, but the move was based on a UN resolution. Nikkei speculated that Tokyo is cautious about imposing sanctions on Beijing because it is difficult to obtain accurate information about China’s human rights abuses. Foreign Minister Motegi told reporters on Tuesday that the GOJ will hold further discussions on how to respond to the issue. When asked in a TV interview on Tuesday whether Japan has been asked by the United States and Europe to adopt similar sanctions on China, Motegi reportedly said no and stated that there are various ways to send a warning to Beijing. However, Chairman Masahisa Sato of the LDP Foreign Affairs Division told Nikkei that Japan could become isolated over the issue in the G7 summit in June. Noting that Prime Minister Suga is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with President Biden in April and attend the G7 summit, the paper speculated that the pressure on Japan to act in concert with the United States and Europe may increase. Yomiuri and Sankei ran similar reports.

DOS spokesperson dismisses Chinese report on working group on climate change

Mainichi wrote that a State Department spokesperson dismissed on Monday a Chinese media report saying that the top diplomats of the United States and China agreed during their talks in Alaska on March 18-19 to form a working group on climate change by reportedly saying that the two nations discussed the climate crisis but did not agree to form a working group on the issue.

PM Suga expresses concern over China in phone call with Polish counterpart

Nikkei and Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Suga spoke by phone with Prime Minister Morawiecki of Poland on Tuesday. According to the papers, Suga expressed serious concern over China’s coast guard law, activities in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

PM Suga expresses hope for successful meeting with President Biden

Nikkei and Mainichi wrote that Prime Minister Suga told Komeito chief representative Yamaguchi at the Kantei on Tuesday that he would like to make his planned talks with President Biden a success and strengthen the foundation of the U.S.-Japan alliance.


FM Motegi comments on discrepancy over U.S. military helicopters’ low-altitude flights

Mainichi wrote that concerning America's and Japan’s different interpretations of their 1999 agreement on aircraft flight altitude, Foreign Minister Motegi said the agreement does not define the types of aircraft to which it applies at a meeting on Tuesday of the Upper House Committee on Foreign and Defense Affairs. The paper wrote that although this view is different from the United States’ interpretation that the accord does not apply to helicopters, Motegi did not say he would try to resolve the difference.

Japan to reach basic agreement with Indonesia on defense equipment transfer

Yomiuri wrote that the governments of Japan and Indonesia are planning to hold a 2+2 meeting of their foreign and defense ministers on March 30 in Tokyo, noting that this will be the first time for the two nations to hold such a meeting since December 2015. The paper speculated that the two nations will reach a basic agreement on a bilateral accord on the transfer of defense equipment and military technology that will allow Japan to export defense equipment to Indonesia. The paper wrote that Japan is seeking to export a warship and air defense radar systems to Indonesia.


USTR Tai holds online meetings with Japanese counterparts

Sankei wrote that United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai held separate online meetings with Foreign Minister Motegi and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Kajiyama on Tuesday. The paper wrote that according to the Office of USTR, Ambassador Tai and the Japanese ministers shared concerns about the unfair trading practices of non-market economies such as China and discussed WTO reform and digital trade. Noting that Ambassador Tai discussed how to respond to China during her virtual calls with her EU and UK counterparts on Monday, the paper speculated that the Biden administration is accelerating its moves to form a coalition against China.


Japan asks IAEA to help dispel concern over release of Fukushima water

Nikkei wrote that Industry Minister Kajiyama held a video conference with Director General Grossi of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Tuesday. Kajiyama asked for the IAEA’s cooperation with the GOJ’s efforts to dispel concern over its planned release of wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Grossi reportedly said the IAEA is prepared to fully support the GOJ’s efforts.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team