Morning Alert - Monday, April 26, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports on the LDP's defeat in three parliamentary elections held on Sunday in Hiroshima, Nagano, and Hokkaido (NHK), large numbers of people out and about in Shibuya even though Tokyo was placed under a state of emergency yesterday (NTV, TV Asahi), bars in Tokyo that are shifting to serving only non-alcoholic drinks under the state of emergency (TBS), and the death of popular Japanese chef Toshiro Kandagawa at the age of 81 (Fuji TV). All national dailies gave top play to the LDP’s defeat in the three elections on Sunday.


U.S. demonstrates readiness to lead global effort to combat climate change

The Saturday editions of all national dailies reported extensively on the two-day online summit on climate change hosted by the United States last week. The meeting brought together the leaders of 40 nations, including China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter. Sunday’s Mainichi wrote that by saying in his closing remarks on Friday that nations have a “moral imperative to act for future generations,” President Biden called on countries to work together to tackle climate change.

The papers wrote that President Biden expressed the United States’ readiness to lead the global effort to combat climate change, while saying it is necessary for nations to take action to fulfill their new pledges. Nikkei wrote that President Biden expressed the United States’ resolve to lead the worldwide effort to combat climate change by pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50%–52% from their 2005 level by 2030.

Yomiuri speculated that the Biden administration is planning to continue holding dialogue with China on climate change despite their disputes over such issues as Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Uyghurs, and trade. The paper also conjectured that although the United States announced an ambitious emissions reduction target, it may face challenges in achieving the goal because the coal and other industries have expressed concern about the policy’s impact on their business. The paper wrote in an editorial that it is significant that the United States will take the lead in tackling climate change by shifting its policy from that of the Trump administration, which pulled out of the Paris Agreement.

Asahi wrote that many of the summit’s participants welcomed the United States’ “return” to global discussions on climate change and that President Biden conveyed a strong message to the world that “America is back.” Mainichi wrote that the summit marked a path toward international cooperation in tackling climate change. The paper added, though, that differences between developed nations and developing countries remain, pointing out that China and India, the world’s largest and third largest emitters of greenhouse gases, did not present new emissions reduction targets. Sankei wrote that China tried to bring developing nations over to its side by insisting that developed nations should bear heavier responsibilities for reducing emissions.

Prime Minister Suga considered 50% emissions cut at one point

Saturday’s Nikkei ran a behind-the-scenes story about Japan’s announcement of its goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46% from their 2013 level by 2030. The paper claimed that Suga at one point considered a 50% cut out of concern that President Biden might ask him at their summit on April 16 to set a 50% target. The paper asserted that the premier received a message from the United States a few days before the summit saying that the President was seeking a 50% cut from Japan and that Suga decided before departing for Washington that Japan would respond positively to a request from the President to commit to a 50% reduction in emissions. However, the President did not call for a numerical target from Japan. The paper speculated that a delay in domestic coordination with the coal and shale gas industries was the reason the President did not make such a request at the summit.

Japan’s diplomatic bluebook to express serious security concerns about China

Saturday’s Sankei led with a report on the outline of Japan’s Diplomatic Bluebook 2021 that the paper obtained ahead of the release of the document. The paper claimed that the bluebook will state that China’s increasing military activities in the South and East China Seas pose “serious security concerns for the region, including Japan, and the international community.” The paper wrote that this year Japan will use stronger language than last year when the report said “the expansion and increased vigor of China’s military activities are common concerns in the region and the international community.” The reference to China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang will also be drastically expanded. Foreign Minister Motegi is planning to announce the contents of the bluebook at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

In a related development, the paper wrote on Sunday that China is moving forward with revising its maritime traffic safety law to strengthen control of its territorial waters. The paper speculated that the revision will allow maritime authorities to demand that foreign vessels leave Chinese waters when the authorities judge that they pose a threat to China. The paper wrote that the revision will be another source of concern following the new coast guard law that was enacted in February because it could lead to an increase in Chinese government ships’ activities around the Senkaku Islands.


GOJ reimposes COVID-19 state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo

The Saturday editions of all national dailies gave top play to the GOJ’s formal decision on Friday to put Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo under a fresh COVID-19 state of emergency for 17 days from April 25 through May 11. Prime Minister Suga told reporters that the government will take intensive measures to prevent the virus from spreading further in the face of a rise in new cases involving more contagious COVID-19 variants.

The stricter measures under the new emergency declaration include requests for eateries and other establishments that provide alcohol or karaoke services to close temporarily. Eateries that do not serve alcohol are being asked to close by 8 p.m. The measures also include requests for department stores and large-scale shopping complexes to temporarily close their facilities except for sections selling daily necessities. Amusement parks, large-scale movie theaters, and museums are also being asked to close. Organizers of sporting and other events will need to hold them without spectators in principle. Railroad and bus operators are being requested to reduce service on holidays and weekends. The government is also asking companies to increase teleworking to 70%.

According to the papers’ Sunday editions, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea in Chiba Prefecture will continue to operate beyond Sunday but stop offering alcohol starting on Wednesday, while theme parks in Tokyo and Osaka, including Universal Studios Japan, have decided to close temporarily. Nippon Professional Baseball decided on Saturday to hold games without spectators in areas under the state of emergency starting on Monday, while the Japan Professional Football League announced on Saturday that it will hold games without spectators in Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo and make a decision on those in Tokyo in the near future.

Asahi wrote that some experts are skeptical about the emergency declaration’s effectiveness, saying that 17 days will not be sufficient to curb the spread of the virus and speculating that it will take at least 30 days to determine the effectiveness of the measures.

Emergency declaration forecast to have major impact on economy

The Saturday editions of Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Mainichi wrote that the fresh state of emergency will inevitably have a major impact on the Japanese economy. One economist said the new restrictions on business and other activities could push down consumer spending by 520 billion yen ($4.8 billion) and some 25,000 people may lose their jobs. Another economist said the 17-day emergency will cause an economic loss of about 700 billion yen ($6.4 billion)—411 billion yen ($3.8 billion) in Tokyo and 288 billion yen ($2.6 billion) in Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo combined—accounting for about 0.1% of Japan’s annualized nominal GDP.

GOJ to make government facilities in Tokyo, Osaka available for vaccination

Sunday’s Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is planning to make government facilities in Tokyo and Osaka available for COVID-19 vaccination. The paper wrote that although the central government has allowed local governments to roll out their own vaccination programs, it has decided to take the lead to speed up the process. The GOJ will set up a vaccination center in a government building in Tokyo’s Otemachi business district after the Golden Week holidays in May that will be able to accommodate as many as 10,000 people a day. The central government is also planning to mobilize SDF doctors and nurses to cover a shortage of medical practitioners in the private sector who can administer vaccines. All other national dailies ran similar reports on Monday.

Prime Minister Suga pledges efforts to complete vaccination for elderly in July

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Suga told reporters on Friday that the GOJ will make utmost efforts to help local governments finish giving those aged 65 and older their second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July. The papers wrote that the government began on April 12 vaccinating the some 36 million people in this age category and is planning to distribute a total of about 100 million doses to municipalities around the country by the end of June.

Health minister says COVID-19 vaccination for those under 65 may start in July

The Monday editions of all national dailies reported that Health Minister Tamura said in a Fuji TV show on Sunday that coronavirus vaccination for people under 65 may begin in July depending on the availability of vaccine supplies. He added that if the government can secure more than enough vaccine to finish inoculating the elderly by the end of July, younger people could start receiving shots in the same month.


U.S., Japan, France to conduct joint military drills in Kyushu in May

Saturday’s Nikkei wrote that the Ministry of Defense and the SDF announced on Friday that Japan will conduct joint military drills with the United States and France in Kyushu in mid-May based on the scenario of recapturing a remote island. This will be the first time for the three nations to hold joint exercises involving ground forces. The drills will be held from May 11 to 17 at Camp Ainoura in Nagasaki Prefecture where the GSDF's amphibious rapid deployment brigade, a unit specializing in the defense of remote islands, is stationed. Exercises will also be held at the Kirishima Training Ground in Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures and in the sea and airspace west of Kyushu. According to the announcement, about 100 SDF personnel, 60 U.S. Marines, and 60 French troops will participate in the drills. The paper speculated that the drills are aimed at keeping China’s increasing maritime activities near the Senkaku Islands in check and that Japan is hoping to deepen its security cooperation with European nations in addition to the United States. Yomiuri, Asahi, and Sankei ran similar reports.


Environment Minister Koizumi pledges efforts to increase use of renewable energy

The Saturday editions of Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Sankei ran their respective interviews with Environment Minister Koizumi on Friday. The papers quoted Koizumi as saying that Japan should use as much renewable energy as possible and implement the regulatory reforms needed for this effort. Nikkei quoted Koizumi as saying that Japan should consider requiring solar panels on homes and office buildings as part of its plans to achieve its target of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 46% from their 2013 level by 2030. Yomiuri wrote that the environment minister expressed his readiness to double the proportion of renewables in Japan’s energy mix from the current target of 22-24% by fiscal 2030. Sankei quoted him as saying that it is necessary for China as a “responsible major country” to do what it needs to do to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Defense ministry, SDF to use renewable energy

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote that Defense Minister Kishi said in a video message to a ministerial session of the Climate Summit hosted by the United States on April 22-23 that his ministry and the SDF will begin this fiscal year to use renewable energy for power generation at about 1,000 of their facilities. Mainichi wrote that Kishi told reporters on Friday that his ministry will launch a taskforce on the matter in mid-May in line with the government’s goal of cutting Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions by 46% from their 2013 level by 2030.

Japanese astronaut Hoshide arrives at ISS

The Sunday editions of all national dailies reported on the arrival at the International Space Station on Saturday of Japanese astronaut Hoshide along with his American and French colleagues in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The new crew brought the number of astronauts currently aboard the ISS to 11, including Japanese astronaut Noguchi, who has been there since November. Hoshide said in a call with the NASA control center that he feels honored to be a part of the mission and looks forward to working with colleagues from around the world at the ISS. Hoshide will serve as a commander of the ISS during his six-month stay at the station.

GOJ to establish guidelines for information disclosure on researchers

Monday’s Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is planning to establish guidelines for disclosing information about researchers at universities and companies, including whether they receive funds from foreign governments or entities. The paper wrote that the move is intended to prevent sensitive research and technology from leaking to China and other third countries out of concern over China’s “Thousand Talents Plan,” a scheme to attract foreign scientists. Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy Inoue told reporters on Friday that it is necessary for Japan to create an environment in which scientists can engage in joint international research projects without worrying about unreasonable interference from foreign nations or leakage of technology to third countries.


U.S., Japanese authorities monitoring Rakuten over possible data leakage to China

Monday’s Yomiuri wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan are closely monitoring the operations of major online retailer Rakuten following its decision in March to accept a massive capital infusion from Chinese IT giant Tencent out of concern that its customer information may leak to Chinese authorities as a result. Communications Minister Takeda commented on the Chinese investment in Rakuten during a press briefing on Friday by saying his ministry will deal with the issue appropriately in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in line with the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law. The paper wrote that the U.S. government is also paying attention to Tencent’s investment in Rakuten because the Japanese company is doing business in the United States.


Olympic athletes to be allowed to start training without undergoing 14-day quarantine

Sunday’s Yomiuri led with a report saying that it has learned from multiple GOJ sources of new guidelines to be adopted for athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. According to the sources, they will be allowed to begin training without self-quarantining for 14 days under the condition that they and their coaches undergo PCR testing twice within 96 hours of their departure from their home countries as well as upon arrival in Japan. They will also need to undergo daily tests after arrival. Their activities in Japan will be limited to lodging facilities and practice and game sites, and they may lose qualification to participate in the Games if they violate these requirements. The paper said the GOJ, Olympic organizing committee, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, International Olympic Committee, and International Paralympic Committee will discuss the issue at an online meeting to be held on Wednesday or later. Monday’s Sankei ran a similar report.


LDP loses three parliamentary elections

The Monday editions of all national dailies gave top play to the ruling LDP’s defeat in three national elections on Sunday—a Lower House by-election for the No. 2 single-seat district in Hokkaido, an Upper House by-election in the Nagano constituency, and a re-held Upper House election in the Hiroshima district. Candidates backed by the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan won all of them. These were the first national elections since Prime Minister Suga took office in September last year. The papers wrote that the defeat deals a significant blow to Suga because it apparently reflects voters' discontent with the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak and money-related scandals involving LDP lawmakers. The papers also wrote that the defeat will likely affect Suga’s decision on the timing to dissolve the Lower House for a snap general election, speculating that the premier will likely have no choice but to hold the election in the fall instead of July.

Prime Minister Suga undergoes regular health checkup at Tokyo hospital

The Sunday editions of all national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Suga visited JR General Hospital in Tokyo on Saturday to undergo an annual health checkup. He stayed at the hospital for five and half hours. This was the first time for Suga to undergo a regular checkup since taking office in September. The papers wrote that aides to Suga said he has no health problems.


Nikkei poll: 74% support Japan’s engagement in Taiwan Strait

Monday’s Nikkei reported on the results of its public opinion poll conducted jointly with TV Tokyo on April 23-25. When asked about the summit between President Biden and Prime Minister Suga, 50% welcomed it while 32% did not. With regard to Japan’s engagement in securing the stability of the Taiwan Strait, 74% supported the idea and 13% did not. Concerning Japan’s target of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 46% from their 2013 level by 2030, 58% said it is appropriate while 32% said it is not. Some 54% approved of the GOJ’s decision to discharge treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean, while 38% did not.

Cabinet support stood at 47%, roughly on par with the 45% in the March survey. Nonsupport slightly dropped to 44% from 46% in March. However, 65% of the respondents, up 10 points from a month ago, said they do not approve of the GOJ’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the highest disapproval rate to date.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team