JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Morning Alert   -   Thursday, July 29, 2021
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HEADLINES

All TV networks except TBS gave top coverage to the continued surge in COVID-19 infections not only in the Tokyo metropolitan area but across Japan, with NHK warning against the false optimism spreading among Japanese who believe the stellar performance of their Olympians is a magic bullet against a coronavirus resurgence. TBS led with a report on Japanese gymnast Hashimoto Daiki, who won the gold medal in the individual men’s all-around event last night.

Asahi and Mainichi gave top play to reports on the record 9,582 new COVID-19 cases in Japan on Wednesday, while Yomiuri and Sankei led with reports on the Olympic medals won by Japanese athletes on Wednesday. Nikkei gave top coverage to moves by major Japanese companies to shift away from advertising based on online users' habits due to privacy concerns.

COVID-19

Japan’s COVID-19 cases reach record high of 9,582

All national dailies wrote that Japan confirmed a record 9,582 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, exceeding the previous all-time high of 7,958 recorded on Jan. 8. Tokyo confirmed 3,177 cases, hitting a record high for the second straight day. The GOJ has begun considering placing Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa, the three prefectures neighboring Tokyo, under a state of emergency as the numbers of new cases in these prefectures also marked record highs on Wednesday. A Health Ministry panel of experts expressed strong concern over the spike in cases by saying the virus is spreading at an unprecedented rate and hospitals are under increasing strain. The head of the panel said the state of emergency in Tokyo only appears to be having a limited effect on the spread of the virus and it is problematic that the public does not share the government authorities’ strong sense of crisis. Omi Shigeru, the head of the subcommittee of the GOJ taskforce, expressed a similar view at a Lower House hearing on Wednesday. Mainichi wrote that although there are opinions within the GOJ that the government should take stricter measures, such as closing large-scale shopping centers and suspending major events, the government has not been able to take action due to opposition from some cabinet members.

INTERNATIONAL

U.S., Japanese officials discuss situation in North Korea

Mainichi and Sankei wrote that U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim and MOFA Director General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Funakoshi Takehiro spoke by phone for 40 minutes on Wednesday to exchange views about the situation in the DPRK. The papers wrote that the two officials welcomed the recent agreement between South and North Korea to restore their lines of communication for the first time in about a year as a positive move. They also reaffirmed their nations’ continued trilateral cooperation with South Korea in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

PM Suga celebrates 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Japan and Philippines

Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that Prime Minister Suga said in a video message celebrating the 65th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Philippines that the two countries are strategic partners that share such universal values as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law and that bilateral relations between Japan and the Philippines have reached a "golden age." The video message was posted on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday

Former PM Abe hopes to visit Taiwan to pay homage to Lee Teng-hui

Sankei wrote that former Prime Minister Abe said in a recent interview with the paper that he is hoping to visit Taiwan to pay homage to former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, who died on July 30, 2020. Abe said that Japan and Taiwan are connected through strong friendship and that Japan will continue to support Taiwan’s efforts to enhance its position in the international community.

SECURITY

U.S. urges Japan to shoulder greater burden for hosting American troops

Kyodo News cited diplomatic sources as saying on Wednesday that the United States has urged Japan to shoulder more for hosting American troops during preparatory talks on a fresh cost-sharing agreement from fiscal 2022 and onward. The two allies will launch full-fledged working-level talks in early August in the United States to conclude the multiyear agreement as Tokyo seeks to convince Washington it cannot greatly increase its burden due to strained finances, the sources said. The United States is urging Japan to increase its burden as it seeks to raise the presence of the U.S. military in the Indo-Pacific region in the face of China's military expansion, according to the sources. The two countries aim to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year, the sources said.

Kyodo said Japan will be represented by Arima Yutaka, deputy director general for the Foreign Ministry's North American Affairs Bureau, and Yamato Taro, deputy director general for defense policy at the Defense Ministry. Donna Welton, senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements at the State Department and former political minister-counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Japan, will continue to take charge under the administration of President Joe Biden.

LINE messaging accounts of more than 100 Taiwan officials hacked

Nikkei wrote from Taipei that it was learned on Wednesday that hackers had breached the LINE messaging accounts of more than 100 government officials and senior political party officials and military officers in Taiwan by disabling a default privacy setting of the smartphone app. Alarmed by the incident involving the popular app, the Taiwanese government has launched an investigation. The hackers are suspected of using the military-grade spyware called Pegasus developed by the Israel-based NSO Group.

SOCIETY

Senior opposition lawmaker says suspension of Olympics due to COVID-19 “unrealistic”

Mainichi and Sankei wrote that Democratic Party of Japan Diet Affairs Committee chief Azumi told reporters on Wednesday that it would be unrealistic to suspend the ongoing Olympic Games in Tokyo unless a new emergency, such as a cluster infection at the Olympic Village, occurs. Azumi had said before the opening of the Games that the Olympics should not be held due to the spread of COVID-19.

SCIENCE

Former U.S. secretaries of state urge Japan to stop sale and trade of elephant ivory

Yomiuri wrote that former U.S. Secretaries of State James Baker and Hillary Clinton contributed a joint op-ed to the Washington Post in which they urged Japan to eliminate the sale and trade of elephant ivory. “As the world watches the Tokyo Olympics, our thoughts turn to the international peace and cooperation that the Games have come to symbolize…. The growth of wildlife trafficking by sophisticated criminal syndicates has heightened our conviction that the world must speak with one voice. With that in mind, we believe Tokyo has now a singular opportunity to finally eliminate the sale and trade of elephant ivory in Japan while improving its reputation as a global leader and financial capital,” they said.

POLITICS

CCS Kato to hold regular discussions with world-renowned scholars

Nikkei and Mainichi wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato told reporters on Wednesday that the GOJ will hold regular online sessions with world-renowned scholars to discuss growth strategies in a post-COVID society. Kato, who chairs a GOJ committee on growth strategy, will inaugurate the series of sessions with a virtual meeting today with Harvard Business School Professor Michael Tushman and Stanford Business School Professor Charles O'Reilly.

JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
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U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team