Morning Alert - Wednesday, June 9, 2021
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Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports on the ongoing efforts by local municipalities to efficiently administer COVID-19 vaccines (NHK), random free-of-charge PCR testing currently underway in Tokyo in which 46 asymptomatic people have tested positive so far (NTV), more than 400 applications filed yesterday by companies and universities for setting up their own vaccination centers (TBS, Fuji TV), and the hot weather across Japan yesterday (TV Asahi).

Lead stories in national dailies included Tokyo prosecutors’ summary indictment of former Trade Minister Sugawara on charges of repeatedly offering condolence money at wakes and funerals of local constituents in violation of the Public Offices Election Law (Asahi), the G7 leaders’ plans to express support for the Tokyo Olympics and create common guidelines aimed at preventing leakage of research data in their upcoming summit in the UK (Yomiuri, Nikkei), a report on growing concern among U.S. military officials about the U.S. defense commitment to Taiwan (Sankei), and a sharp increase in the number of deaths among COVID-19 patients waiting at home for hospitalization (Mainichi).


U.S. eases “Do Not Travel” advisory for Japan

NHK reported this morning that the State Department has lowered its travel advisory for Japan by one notch from the highest level of 4 in light of the latest assessment by the CDC. The network said Japan has been returned to Level 3, advising Americans to “reconsider travel.” According to the network, the CDC said it now views Japan as having a "high level of COVID-19 in the country," rather than a "very high level." The CDC urged travelers to be fully vaccinated before heading to Japan.

Latest forced labor ruling jolts South Korea

Mainichi spotlighted the Seoul Central District Court ruling on Monday rejecting a petition filed by former requisitioned workers for a dozen Japanese firms to pay damages for the forced labor they performed during WWII, saying that the latest verdict has rocked the South Korean judiciary since it flew in the face of the top ROK court’s decision a few years ago ordering Japanese corporations to compensate forced laborers. The daily explained that the same judge ruled against former comfort women in March when they requested court authorization to seize the assets of a Japanese firm to use them as compensation. According to the paper, South Korean judges are more prone than their Japanese counterparts to cite their personal views and beliefs in drafting and handing down verdicts. While pointing out that the Moon administration has insisted that it will respect judicial decisions in response to Japan’s calls for taking proper steps to resolve the comfort women and forced labor disputes, the daily said the legitimacy of this approach is being undermined because ROK courts have been issuing conflicting rulings.

Yomiuri ran a similar report, noting that criticism of the latest court decision has surged within leftist circles in particular since the presiding judge referred to Japan’s “contributions” to South Korea’s “miraculous economic development” in the 1960s and 70s in dismissing the victims’ compensation claims. The daily cited a South Korean media outlet as saying that President Moon’s conciliatory approach toward Tokyo has prompted the local judiciary to take into account relations with Japan as a factor in drafting verdicts on the history disputes.

Large majority of Japanese, South Koreans alarmed by China’s military pressure

Yomiuri front-paged the results of its public opinion survey of Japanese and South Koreans conducted jointly with an ROK media outlet in late May. Some 88% of Japanese and 72% of Korean respondents regarded China’s military pressure as a “threat.” Almost 60% of Japanese and 64% of Koreans said their governments should cooperate with the U.S. policy of stepping up the pressure on China. The percentage of Japanese and South Koreans who called for reconciliation in order to deal with China and North Korea was exactly the same at 68%. Almost eight out of ten Japanese and nine out of ten Koreans said bilateral relations are in “bad shape.”

Lower House adopts motion condemning coup in Myanmar

Sankei wrote that the House of Representatives approved a resolution on Tuesday denouncing the military coup in Myanmar (Burma) in February. It described the coup as “trampling on local people’s efforts and hopes for democratization.” The daily added that it is uncertain whether the parliament will pass a proposed motion condemning China’s violations of human rights and civil liberties in Xinjiang and Hong Kong during the current Diet term that ends on June 16 due to reluctance within the ruling LDP.


G7 leaders to support Tokyo Olympics

Yomiuri claimed that according to several GOJ sources, the G7 leaders are likely to embrace Japan’s plan to convene the Tokyo Olympics in late July when they meet in person in the UK this weekend. Their support for the Games is set to be expressed in a joint statement that they will release upon conclusion of the annual confab. As the Japanese public is sharply divided over whether it is appropriate to hold a major international sporting event amid the pandemic, the GOJ is reportedly hoping that endorsement from the U.S. and other major partners will help to revive the momentum ahead of the Olympics.

GOJ eager to let domestic spectators attend Olympic Games

Asahi wrote that calls are growing among GOJ and Tokyo Olympics organizing committee officials for local fans to be allowed to attend the Games, saying that they are increasingly confident that they will be able to accommodate spectators in view of the accelerated coronavirus vaccination programs nationwide. The previous consensus that it would probably be difficult to allow local residents to attend has dissipated following a steady decline in the number of new cases over the past few weeks. The GOJ and the committee are set to decide on an upper limit for the number of spectators around June 20, with some officials saying that as many as 10,000 people should be allowed to attend per venue. However, as most public health experts are warning against holding the Games with domestic spectators in attendance, the daily said many officials are cautious. “The Games will not end with the Olympics, as we also plan to stage the Paralympics through early September,” said an unnamed Kantei official. “The administration could be blamed if something goes wrong as a result of allowing spectators.”

Foreign press corps to be monitored during Olympics using GPS app

All national papers took up remarks made on Tuesday by President Hashimoto of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee that foreign journalists covering the Games will be closely monitored using a GPS app on their smartphones for two weeks after they arrive to ensure that they do not travel anywhere other than their preregistered destinations. She also indicated that their accommodations will be restricted to designated hotels and inns. She expressed confidence that sufficient doctors and nurses will be secured to take care of participants.

In a related story, most papers wrote that in a bid to host a safe and secure Olympic Games, the GOJ and the organizing committee are inclined to swiftly vaccinate most of the approximately 100,000 Olympic volunteers.

Meanwhile, Asahi reported on NBC Universal’s announcement on Monday that it will offer more than 7,000 hours of content from the Tokyo Olympics across its networks and streaming platforms. The network plans to broadcast the opening ceremony live.


Quasi-state of emergency likely to be lifted for three prefectures

Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Nikkei highlighted remarks made to the press yesterday by LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Moriyama, who projected that the Suga administration is likely to end the ongoing COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency for Gunma, Ishikawa, and Kumamoto on June 13 as previously scheduled due to the steady improvement in the infection situations there. According to the senior ruling politician, an official decision will probably be made on Thursday.

Over 400 firms, colleges unveil plans to launch vaccination centers

All national papers took up the GOJ disclosure on Tuesday that a total of 414 companies and colleges, including JAL, Eastern Japan Railway, and Sumitomo Chemical, have requested GOJ permission to launch their own COVID-19 vaccination centers. The delivery of Moderna vaccines and other necessary equipment to the centers will begin shortly so they can vaccinate employees, students, and lecturers beginning on June 21. According to Yomiuri, a total of 49 universities and colleges have drawn up concrete vaccination plans for their workers and students.

Telemedicine to become regular practice

All national dailies focused on remarks made to the press yesterday by Administrative Reform Minister Kono that the GOJ will make telemedicine available permanently beginning next fiscal year. However, patients’ initial online consultations will likely only be allowed to be conducted by their regular doctors unless the physicians conducting the consultations are able to access the patients’ health records.


LDP to rework LGBT legislation

Asahi reported on remarks made to the press on Tuesday by LDP General Council Chairman Sato suggesting that the ruling party needs to rework the legislation on promoting understanding of LGBT people since it is clear that conservative party lawmakers will not endorse the original bill. The politician underscored that enactment will require modification of the draft language.

In a related story, Asahi focused on a tweet posted on June 4 by British Ambassador to Japan Longbottom saying in Japanese that political leadership is indispensable to creating a society where everyone can live freely irrespective of his or her sexual orientation or sexual identity. The UK diplomat reportedly told the daily in writing yesterday that her message was intended to help Japanese people take action toward building such a society.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team