Morning Alert - Wednesday, March 31, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports that Osaka confirmed more than 400 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and plans to ask the GOJ to allow it to call on eateries and other businesses to take restrictions without the issuance of a state of emergency (NHK, NTV, TBS, TV Asahi) and that 23 officials of the Health Ministry attended a party until midnight in the Ginza district of Tokyo on March 24 despite restrictions on restaurants’ business hours due to COVID-19 (Fuji TV).

Top stories in national dailies included the Education Ministry’s announcement of the results of its screening of high school textbooks (Asahi, Yomiuri, Sankei), the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization’s conclusion that there were ethical problems with the reality TV show "Terrace House" in view of a cast member’s suicide after being harshly criticized online for her behavior on the show (Mainichi), and the opinion that the signs pointing to a global crisis today are very similar to those seen before World War II (Nikkei).


U.S., Japan making arrangements to hold summit in Washington on April 9

Nikkei wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan are making arrangements for President Biden and Prime Minister Suga to hold talks in Washington on April 9. The paper wrote that Suga will be the first foreign leader to hold an in-person meeting with the President and is expected to depart Tokyo on April 8 and return on April 11.

FM Motegi eyeing U.S. visit in late April

Yomiuri wrote it has learned from multiple GOJ sources that arrangements are being made for Foreign Minister Motegi to visit the United States in late April for talks with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts. The paper wrote that this will be the first trilateral foreign ministerial to be held by the United States, Japan, and South Korea since February 2020 and that the foreign ministers are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missiles programs. The paper wrote that Motegi is planning to hold a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Blinken on the sidelines, but it remains to be seen whether he will hold a bilateral meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong. According to the paper, National Security Secretariat Secretary-General Kitamura is planning to visit Washington as early as this week for talks with National Security Advisor Sullivan and their ROK counterpart Suh Hoon. Mainichi ran a similar report noting that Secretary Blinken took the initiative in arranging trilateral vice-ministerial talks as deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration.

Japan to suspend new aid to Myanmar

Yomiuri wrote that the GOJ is discussing a plan to refuse the Myanmar junta’s requests for aid for new infrastructure development projects and partially suspend assistance for ongoing projects in response to its security forces’ oppression of demonstrators. The paper speculated that the GOJ is considering suspending economic assistance to Myanmar because there has been no improvement in the situation in the nation despite Tokyo’s call on the junta to stop using violence against demonstrators. However, Japan will continue to provide humanitarian assistance such as medical equipment and food via international organizations. Foreign Minister Motegi stated at a meeting of the Upper House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense on Tuesday that Japan is strongly urging the junta to immediately stop using violence, release detainees, and return the country to a democratic system as soon as possible. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato told reporters on Tuesday that Tokyo will make a comprehensive decision on its future economic assistance for Myanmar by keeping a close eye on developments in the nation. The paper wrote that the GOJ is cautious about imposing sanctions on the Myanmar junta and is planning to continue to hold dialogue with it.

Japan, Indonesia sign arms export agreement at 2+2 meeting

All national dailies reported on a 2+2 meeting of the foreign and defense ministers of Japan and Indonesia in Tokyo on Tuesday. The papers wrote that the two nations signed an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology so that Japan can export defense equipment to Indonesia. Mainichi wrote that the move is intended to send a message to China by strengthening security cooperation between the two nations. During the meeting, Japan and Indonesia shared serious concerns over unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South and East China Seas.

Nikkei wrote that Japan and Indonesia also confirmed cooperation in expanding supply chains for such products as auto parts and semiconductors by increasing Japanese investment in the nation and making Indonesia a production hub with the aim of reducing dependence on China.


FM Motegi asked U.S. to ensure safety of U.S. military flights over Tokyo

Mainichi wrote that concerning U.S. military helicopters’ repeated low-altitude flights over central Tokyo, Foreign Minister Motegi stated at a meeting of the Upper House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense on Tuesday that he has asked Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin to take thorough measures to ensure the safety of U.S. military aircraft operations in Japan. The paper quoted Motegi as saying he believes that it is necessary to take all possible measures to ensure the safety of flights, including low-altitude flight training. The paper wrote that Motegi also said he has asked senior U.S. officials, including Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, Indo-Pacific Command Commander Davidson, and U.S. Forces Japan Commander Schneider, to take thorough measures. The paper speculated that Motegi may have made the request to Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin at the U.S.-Japan 2+2 meeting held in Tokyo on March 16.


Astronaut Hoshide to depart for ISS on April 22

Asahi wrote that Minister of Science Hagiuda announced on Tuesday that Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide will depart for the International Space Station (ISS) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at around 7:10 p.m. on April 22 (Japan time). Astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who is currently at the ISS, is expected to return to Earth on April 29 (Japan time). This means there will be several days when two Japanese astronauts will be at the ISS at the same time, a situation that has not happened since Naoko Yamazaki joined Noguchi at the ISS in 2010.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team