Morning Alert - Friday, May 28, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports on a collision between a Japanese cargo ship and a foreign chemical tanker in the Seto Inland Sea yesterday evening in which three of the ten crew members of the Japanese ship went missing (NHK) and the GOJ’s plan to formally decide today to extend the state of emergency until June 20 (NTV, TBS, Fuji TV, TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included the GOJ’s plan to decide to extend the state of emergency (Mainichi, Nikkei), a GOJ plan to provide Taiwan with a portion of its AstraZeneca vaccines (Sankei), a plan by the Education Ministry not to fully introduce digital textbooks in FY2024 (Asahi), and a plan by nonlife insurers to raise fire insurance premiums in response to a recent increase in damage from torrential rains, typhoons, and other natural disasters. (Yomiuri).


Democratic Party’s liberal wing opposes planned nomination of Emanuel as envoy to Japan

Asahi wrote that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has reacted strongly to President Biden’s reported plan to nominate Rahm Emanuel as U.S. ambassador to Japan. According to the paper, they take issue with Emanuel’s handling of an incident in October 2014 in which a 17-year-old African-American boy was shot dead by a police officer when he was Chicago mayor. The paper wrote that the Biden administration is likely to announce the nomination of Emanuel as U.S. ambassador to Japan in the near future, but he will still need to gain confirmation at the Senate to be appointed to the post. One Democratic politician said that although Emanuel has expertise in domestic affairs, he has limited knowledge of foreign affairs and limited connections with Japan.

Kurt Campbell indicates possibility of convening in-person Quad summit

Quoting a Reuters story, Yomiuri reported from Washington that Kurt Campbell, the coordinator for Indo-Pacific at the National Security Council, said in a speech on Wednesday that the United States is looking to convene an in-person leaders’ meeting with its Quad partners in the fall to discuss cooperation on infrastructure development. He reportedly added that other countries would be welcome to work with the Quad. The paper wrote that if the idea is realized, it will be the first in-person meeting between the Quad leaders. The paper speculated that Campbell is probably thinking of convening the summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September. Sankei ran a similar report.

Japan mulls provision of COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan

Sankei wrote that it learned from multiple GOJ and LDP sources on Thursday that the GOJ is mulling the idea of providing Taiwan with a portion of its COVID-19 vaccines produced by AstraZeneca through the international vaccine distribution framework COVAX. Japan is hoping to provide the vaccines to Taiwan as early as next month after consulting with Taipei.

Leaders of Japan, EU call for peace and stability in Taiwan Strait

All national dailies reported on a videoconference held between Prime Minister Suga, European Council President Michel, and European Commission President von der Leyen on Thursday. In a joint statement issued following the conference, the Japanese and EU leaders underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and expressed strong opposition to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South and East China Seas. The remark on Taiwan echoes Suga's joint statement with President Biden last month, as well as the statement by G7 foreign ministers this month. Nikkei speculated that Japan hopes its joint statement with the EU will pave the way toward discussing Taiwan at the G7 summit to be held in the UK next month.

The paper wrote that the participants in the meeting also discussed the EU's Indo-Pacific strategy to be finalized by September. An outline of the EU strategy published in April stopped short of explicitly referring to China. Suga explained to his EU counterparts China’s actions that violate international laws, including operations near the Senkaku Islands. The EU leaders said they will take a united stance and speak out against activities that undermine a free and open international order.

The paper also wrote that the Japanese and EU leaders agreed to launch the Japan-EU Green Alliance to advance comprehensive cooperation on decarbonization. Under the alliance, Japan and the EU will work together on assisting emerging countries in Asia with technological innovation.

The joint statement also said that the EU supports the holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Foreign Minister Motegi discusses ceasefire with Palestinian counterpart

Yomiuri wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi spoke by phone with his Palestinian counterpart Malk for 20 minutes on Thursday. Motegi welcomed the ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and urged the Palestinians to continue efforts towards easing tensions in the region. He also expressed Japan’s readiness to provide emergency relief to Gaza.

South Korea reacts strongly to Japanese map including Takeshima

Thursday evening’s Mainichi reprinted a Kyodo story saying that South Korea’s former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun posted a message on Facebook on Wednesday calling for the removal of the Takeshima Islands, also called as Dokdo in South Korea, from a map of Japan on the website of the Tokyo organizing committee for the Olympics and Paralympics. Chung also said the ROK government ought to prepare all possible measures, including boycotting the Tokyo Games, should Japan refuse to remove it. Kyodo speculated that Chung’s statement might have been a politically motivated attempt to win public support because he is seen as a possible candidate in the ruling Democratic Party’s race to replace President Moon next year.

However, a spokesperson of the Korean Sports & Olympic Committee expressed a negative view about Chung’s indication of the possibility of boycotting the Tokyo Games by saying that the committee’s position is different from that of the government and politicians and that it will not discuss the possibility of a boycott while ignoring the point of view of the athletes.

Asahi wrote this morning that a spokesperson for South Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs told reporters on Thursday that Japan’s inclusion of the islands in the map is unacceptable. Sankei wrote that former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon also made an online request for Japan to remove Takeshima from the map.

China justifies indictment of scholar for espionage charges

Thursday evening’s Nikkei wrote that during a regular press conference on Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian justified Chinese authorities’ indictment of Yuan Chengji, a Chinese scholar who had worked at Hokkaido University of Education, by insisting that Yuan had long been engaged in espionage and intelligence activities against China at the request of Japanese intelligence agencies. The scholar was detained by the Chinese authorities when he temporarily returned home two years ago.


Okinawa governor asks GOJ to reduce base-hosting burden

Asahi wrote that Okinawa Governor Tamaki asked Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato and Defense Minister Kishi on Thursday to set a goal of reducing the ratio of U.S. military facilities in Okinawa from the current 70% to 50% or less of the total land area in Japan used by the U.S. military and make efforts for its realization. Tamaki is pursuing the goal in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in May 2022. The governor also asked the senior GOJ officials to suspend operations at MACS Futenma at an early date and give up on the plan to relocate Futenma’s functions to Henoko. Sankei wrote that Tamaki also visited the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to deliver a written request for U.S. base reductions.


GOJ to extend COVID-19 state of emergency to June 20

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ will decide today to extend the COVID-19 state of emergency set to expire on May 31 in Tokyo, Hokkaido, Aichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka for another three weeks to June 20 after consulting with a GOJ panel of experts. Okinawa is already set to remain under the state of emergency until June 20. Prime Minister Suga is planning to hold a news conference this evening to explain the details of the extension, including whether all of the existing stringent measures will be kept in place.

The GOJ is also set to extend the quasi-emergency set to end on May 31 in Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Gifu, and Mie until June 20. However, the measure will be lifted on June 13 as scheduled in Ishikawa, Gunma, and Kumamoto.

GOJ to accelerate vaccination schedule at large-scale center in Tokyo

Nikkei wrote that the GOJ will begin accepting reservations at a large-scale vaccination center in Tokyo for elderly residents of the three prefectures surrounding Tokyo—Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa—at around 11:00 am today. Although next Monday was the original date for people aged 65 or older living in these prefectures to start making such reservations, the GOJ decided to move up the schedule because surplus reservation slots for next week are available.


Developer gives up on plan to construct major theme park on returned land in Yokohama

Thursday evening’s Asahi wrote that Sotetsu Holdings, a Yokohama-based holding company of a group of businesses related to transport, real estate, hotels, and other fields, has given up on its plan to construct a major theme park like Tokyo Disneyland on the land returned to Japan from the U.S. military in 2015 in the western region of Yokohama. The U.S. military’s Kamiseya Communications Station used to be located there. According to the paper, discussions are underway for a major real estate company to take over the plan. Sotetsu discussed the possibility of the joint operation of the envisaged theme park with major American film companies but they failed to reach an agreement. The paper wrote that although the city government of Yokohama is planning to pour public funds into the development of the area, it has become unclear whether the theme park project will be realized. This morning’s Nikkei ran a similar report.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team