Morning Alert - Friday, June 25, 2021
The following information reflects the reporting of the cited news media and does not reflect the opinions of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Japan Media Highlights is intended for USG use only and should not be forwarded. Visit the website here. For more information, contact TokyoMATT@state.gov.


Morning news

Broadcasters led with reports on signs of another resurgence of COVID-19 in Tokyo (NHK, TBS), the likelihood that the vaccination of elderly people in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward will be completed by the end of July (NTV), Typhoon Champi, which is forecast to approach the Ogasawara Islands over the weekend (Fuji TV), and people lining up overnight to fill canceled appointments at large-scale vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka (TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included a behind-the-scenes article about discussions within the Suga administration on the pros and cons of canceling the Tokyo Olympics this summer and Prime Minister Suga’s determination to host them (Asahi), a GOJ plan to launch a new website providing comprehensive information about medical institutions nationwide and the treatments they offer (Yomiuri), a plan by the National Police Agency to establish in 2020 a new unit dedicated to handling major cybercrimes (Mainichi), a plan by Mitsubishi Motors to offer electric vehicles for under 2 million yen (Nikkei), and the suspension of publication of Hong Kong's pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily (Sankei).


U.S., North Korea in tug of war over resumption of denuclearization talks

Nikkei wrote that the United States and North Korea are now engaged in a tug of war over when to resume denuclearization talks as Pyongyang responded to the Biden administration’s readiness to hold dialogue without preconditions by saying it is not interested in “meaningless” contact. North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon said on Wednesday that Pyongyang is not even considering the possibility of contact with the United States that would only waste time. The paper speculated that Ri’s remarks were intended to put North Korea in an advantageous position ahead of any dialogue with the United States and that the DPRK may call for suspension of the U.S.-ROK joint drills planned for the summer. The paper wrote that it appears unlikely that the Biden administration, which regards the denuclearization of the DPRK as the ultimate goal of dialogue, will make concessions with the DPRK in the early stages of talks.

Japan expresses serious concern over suspension of Apple Daily

Nikkei, Mainichi, and Sankei wrote that during a press briefing on Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato expressed Japan’s serious concern about the suspension of publication of Hong Kong's pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. Kato reportedly said Japan has serious concerns because the move is a major setback for the freedom of speech and the press that has been the basis of Hong Kong’s democracy and stable development.


GSDF to participate in exercise with U.S., Australia, UK forces

Nikkei wrote that the GSDF announced on Thursday that its amphibious rapid response unit based in Sasebo, Nagasaki, will participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre with the U.S. Marines, the Australian Army, and the UK’s Royal Marines. The paper wrote that the UK will participate in the exercise for the first time this year, speculating the move is intended to keep China in check by demonstrating coordination between British and other forces in the Pacific.


GOJ reaches target of 1 million vaccine shots per day

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ announced on Thursday that it reached the target of administering 1 million coronavirus vaccine doses per day last week ahead of schedule. According to data released by the GOJ on Thursday, some 51% of people aged 65 or older in Japan had received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Yomiuri wrote that although the vaccination rollout has started to have positive effects, progress in vaccinating young people will hold the key to the GOJ’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Sankei wrote that a COVID-19 resurgence appears to be occurring in Tokyo, as the number of new COVID-19 cases topped 600 on Wednesday for the first time since May 28. At the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s COVID-19 monitoring meeting on Thursday, experts expressed concern over recent signs of a resurgence.

GOJ to issue vaccine passports through municipal governments

Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is planning to start issuing COVID-19 vaccine certificates by late July through municipal governments. The GOJ will initially issue paper certificates for overseas travel and not for domestic activities but will develop a digital system using a smartphone app by the end of the year. Applicants will need to submit their passport information and vaccination ticket numbers to apply for the certificates, and municipalities will check if the applications match the information stored in the vaccination record system. The certificates will include such information as passport number, name, and nationality as well as the brand of vaccine received. The GOJ will brief local governments on the administrative process on Friday. The paper wrote that the move is aimed at bringing the pandemic-ravaged economy back onto a growth path by supporting Japanese firms’ business activities in foreign countries.

In a related report, Asahi wrote that Keidanren submitted a request to the GOJ on Thursday calling for the early implementation of a vaccine passport system. The business federation is also calling for the system to be applied to domestic activities.


Emperor appears to be concerned about Olympics causing spread of COVID-19

All national dailies wrote that Yasuhiko Nishimura, the head of the Imperial Household Agency, told reporters at a regular press briefing on Thursday that Emperor Naruhito is very worried about the current infection situation of COVID-19, adding that he supposes the Emperor is concerned that holding the Olympics and Paralympics could lead to a rise in infections. Grand Steward Nishimura also added that he has not heard such words directly from the Emperor but his conversations with the Emperor have made him feel that way. "I would like the organizing committee and other related organizations to work together and take all possible measures to prevent infection," Nishimura said. The Emperor may attend the Olympic opening ceremony and declare the start of the Games as Honorary Patron of the Olympics and Paralympics.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato played down Nishimura’s remarks by telling reports that they represented the view of the grand steward and that the GOJ will move forward with preparations to hold safe and secure games.

Four additional people involved in Olympics test positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Japan

Mainichi wrote that it has learned from the Cabinet Office that in addition to the two members of the Uganda Olympic national team who tested positive for COVID-19 after entering Japan, four foreign nationals who entered Japan for preparations for the Olympic Games have tested positive for the virus after arriving—one French national who entered Japan in February, one Egyptian who arrived in April, one person who came from Sri Lanka in May, and one who arrived from Ghana in June. The person from Sri Lanka tested positive for the virus five days after arriving in Japan, while the other three tested positive on arrival. The paper wrote that a total of 2,925 athletes and other stakeholders entered Japan between Jan. 1 and June 13 and that more than 70% of them entered the country under the GOJ’s preferential treatment for Olympic stakeholders that exempts them from the 14-day quarantine period.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team