Morning Alert - Tuesday, April 6, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports that new measures went into effect yesterday allowing the governors of Osaka, Hyogo, and Miyagi to impose strict measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 (NHK, TBS, Fuji TV, TV Asahi) and the city of Hachioji in Tokyo began taking appointments from the elderly yesterday for COVID-19 vaccination (NTV).

Main front-page items in national papers included a report on strained hospital capacities in Osaka, Hyogo, and Miyagi due to the COVID-19 resurgence, Fuji TV’s apparent failure to comply with a foreign ownership rule under the broadcasting law between 2012 and 2014, a GOJ plan to assign individual identification codes to sole proprietors to simplify taxation and subsidy disbursement, and the death of popular TV scriptwriter Sugako Hashida.


Japan, U.S. to boost infrastructure investment in Indo-Pacific

Nikkei wrote that when President Biden and Prime Minister Suga meet in Washington on April 16, they are likely to forge a consensus on helping developing nations in the Indo-Pacific region build robust social and economic infrastructures, including 5G networks and clean energy facilities, with the goal of countering China’s Belt and Road initiative. According to the paper, the two nations plan to create a set of guidelines for offering relevant assistance, such as procurement standards and facility maintenance rules for nations receiving support, so that their financial institutions and companies can move forward with high-quality infrastructure investment in partnership with local entities.

Japan conveys “serious concerns” to China

All national papers reported on a teleconference held yesterday between Foreign Minister Motegi and his Chinese counterpart Wang. The Japanese official reportedly conveyed “serious concerns” about a range of issues, including China’s human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and maritime push in the South and East China Seas. In reply, the Chinese diplomat complained that Japan has been “intervening in the internal affairs of his country,” expressing the view that the Senkakus are the inherent territory of China. During the session, which was initiated by the Chinese, Motegi and Wang confirmed the importance of international coordination to settle the situation in Myanmar (Burma). They also agreed to enforce relevant UN Security Council resolutions to realize DPRK denuclearization, increase mutual economic and cultural exchanges, and deepen dialogue on such global challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.


Five-nation naval drill involving Japan, France, others underway off India

All national papers took up an MSDF announcement that the three-day multinational naval exercise La Perouse involving forces of Japan, the U.S., France, Australia, and India began in the Bay of Bengal yesterday. The La Perouse exercise was reportedly orchestrated by France in an effort to deepen security coordination with the Quad members to deter China’s maritime advancement. The French Embassy in New Delhi reportedly said the drill will “further deepen mutual cooperation in the free and open Indo-Pacific.”

MOD briefs Miyazaki official on proposed deployment of F-35s at local SDF base

Yomiuri and Asahi reported that a senior Defense Ministry official met with the vice governor of Miyazaki Prefecture yesterday and explained the ministry’s idea of stationing F-35Bs at Nyutabaru ASDF Base in the town of Shintomi. The MOD official separately met with local municipal government officials to provide a briefing on the proposed deployment.

LDP split over proposed legislation to empower Japan Coast Guard

Sankei highlighted a growing schism within the ruling LDP over the idea of either drafting a new law or revising an existing statute aimed at enabling the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) to take more aggressive actions in countering China’s relentless patrol operations in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands. Opponents within the party and many JCG officials are reportedly dismissive of the idea on the grounds that the current legal framework is sufficient for carrying out the necessary operations to defend the outcrops.


Suga alarmed by potential COVID-19 resurgence

All national papers highlighted remarks made at an Upper House meeting yesterday by Prime Minister Suga, who expressed alarm over the resurgence of the novel coronavirus. “At this moment, I don’t think the current wave is big enough across the country to be called a fourth wave,” he was quoted as saying. “But we need to be extremely vigilant.” Chairman Omi of the GOJ coronavirus taskforce subcommittee also said during the parliamentary session that Tokyo may soon witness a spike in infections similar to the one in Osaka unless thorough mitigation measures are enforced immediately. Sankei said the new COVID-19 strains are spreading rapidly nationwide, with the number of people infected with the emerging variants increasing 2.5-fold as of the end of March from three weeks ago.

In a related story, Yomiuri wrote that hospital capacities in Osaka, Hyogo, and Miyagi are under heavy strain due to the continued surge in cases. Some 66% of the beds secured for COVID-19 patients were occupied in Hyogo as of April 4, up 15 points from two weeks ago. The corresponding figures in Osaka and Miyagi were 47% (up 18 points) and 42% (up 20 points), respectively.

COVID-19 vaccination for elderly to start next week

Asahi reported that COVID-19 immunization for people aged 65 or older will begin across the country on April 12. The paper noted that even though the nation appears to be entering a “fourth wave” of infection, the central and local governments’ preparations for vaccination have been frustratingly slow on many fronts, including securing sufficient vaccines and enough doctors and nurses to administer them.

Meanwhile, Nikkei wrote that the operators of many nursing homes and elderly care facilities have been hesitant to test their employees for the virus frequently out of fear that their service will be disrupted if they test positive. Explaining that early detection of the virus carriers is extremely important to head off cluster infections among the elderly, the daily underscored the importance of government assistance for facility operators in securing enough caregivers through financial and other support given the chronic personnel shortage in the elderly care industry.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team