Morning Alert   -   Monday, August 9, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on Typhoon Lupit, which made landfall in Hiroshima for the second time early this morning (NHK, NTV, TBS, TV Asahi), and Tokyo reporting the highest number of COVID-19 cases for a Sunday (Fuji TV). All national dailies gave top play to reports on the closing of the Tokyo Olympics.


Secretary Blinken expresses serious concern over China’s human rights violations

The Sunday editions of all national dailies reported on an online ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting held on Friday. Yomiuri and Mainichi wrote that the United States and China clashed over China’s human rights violations and activities in the South China Sea, and Nikkei wrote that China's desire to reduce U.S. influence in Southeast Asia was made clear at the meeting.

The dailies wrote that according to the State Department, Secretary of State Blinken expressed serious concern over China’s human rights violations in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and called on Beijing to abide by international law and cease its provocative behavior. The Secretary also reportedly expressed concern over China’s rapid development of nuclear weapons, saying that this highlights how Beijing has sharply deviated from its nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence.

However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang rebutted Secretary Blinken’s remarks by saying nations should not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries on the pretext of advocating democracy and human rights, the papers wrote. Wang reportedly added that interference by countries outside the region constitutes the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea. Nikkei wrote that Wang’s warning came as the Biden administration tries to rally European allies to join a coalition to isolate China, pointing out that ahead of the ARF meeting, Britain sent an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea and Germany announced that one of its frigates is on its way to the region.

The participants in the ARF meeting also discussed North Korea. According to Asahi, Wang insisted that easing the economic sanctions on Pyongyang would be an effective way to achieve a breakthrough in the stalemate on the Korean Peninsula.

Saturday’s Sankei wrote from Washington that the Biden administration has stepped up its involvement in Southeast Asia by having Secretary of State Blinken participate in ASEAN-related online meetings and sending Secretary of Defense Austin to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines in late July. The paper also noted that Vice President Harris is scheduled to visit Vietnam and Singapore on Aug. 20-26, speculating that these visits are intended to counter China’s diplomatic offensive in the region.

U.S. envoy to UN praises Tokyo Olympics for overcoming adversity

Monday’s Yomiuri ran its one-on-one interview with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who represented the United States at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. The paper wrote that the U.S. envoy reportedly told the paper at the U.S. Ambassador’s official residence in Tokyo on Sunday that the Olympic Games held amid the COVID-19 pandemic symbolized the resilience of the Japanese people. The Ambassador reportedly added that although there were various opinions about the GOJ’s decision to host the Olympics amid the pandemic, the Games achieved great success by overcoming adversity. Concerning whether the United States will send a delegation to the Beijing Winter Olympics to be held in February 2022, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield criticized China’s oppression of the Uyghurs and the pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and reportedly said it is necessary for China to decide by itself how to face these issues.

Saturday morning’s Mainichi ran a Kyodo News report from New York on remarks made on Thursday by Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield during a teleconference with a group of Japanese media outlets including Kyodo News. The report said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield hailed Japan’s efforts to host the Olympics amid the coronavirus pandemic and with the aim of showcasing the recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, saying that the efforts are a testament to the Japanese people's resolve to overcome great adversity. She said she is grateful for the efforts made by the government and people of Japan to host the Games, adding that Japan should be proud that it has overcome great adversity to stage the Tokyo Olympics. The report also said that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is planning to meet with the Refugee Olympic Team during her stay in Japan as the first U.S envoy to do so. Noting her experience in refugee issues, the envoy said she is excited about the opportunity to meet the refugee athletes.

Saturday’s Nikkei wrote that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said in the group interview with Japanese media outlets that the United States is open to considering additional ways to facilitate humanitarian assistance to North Korea as quickly as possible.

Japan asks U.S. envoy to UN for continued support to resolve abduction issue

Monday’s Sankei wrote that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who represented the United States at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, held talks with Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato at the Kantei on Sunday. The paper wrote that Kato expressed Japan’s appreciation for the United States’ support for Tokyo’s efforts to resolve the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals, including its participation in a UN symposium in June, and asked for Washington’s continued cooperation. According to the paper, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield reportedly said the United States government will address the abduction issue as an important challenge. NHK and TV Asahi carried similar stories on Sunday. TV Asahi said the two officials also agreed to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance and work closely toward realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

NSS chief Akiba to make four-day visit to U.S. starting on Aug. 7

Saturday’s Sankei wrote that the GOJ announced on Friday that National Security Secretariat Secretary General Akiba will make a four-day visit to the United States starting on Aug. 7 to hold talks with National Security Advisor Sullivan. This will be Akiba’s first overseas trip since assuming his post. The paper speculated that Akiba will discuss with his U.S. counterpart such issues as strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance, cooperation in resolving the abduction issue and achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific, economic security, and response to China.

Motegi holds virtual meeting with five Mekong states

Saturday’s Yomiuri, Mainichi, Nikkei, and Sankei wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi held an online meeting on Friday with his counterparts from the five Southeast Asian countries situated along the Mekong River—Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam. Yomiuri wrote that Motegi strongly urged the junta in Myanmar to swiftly return the nation to a democratic system during the meeting, which a military-appointed representative of Myanmar attended. Expressing the view that ASEAN's initiative to implement its five-point consensus on how to deal with the situation in Myanmar will be the first step toward ending the violence and launching dialogue, Motegi urged the Myanmar junta to accept an envoy appointed by ASEAN. Mainichi wrote that Motegi criticized the decision made by the military-controlled election committee to nullify the results of last year’s general election in which the pro-democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi won an overwhelming victory.

Japan lodges protest over South Korea’s livestreaming from Takeshima

Saturday’s Sankei wrote that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged a strong protest with South Korea on Friday over its livestreaming of real-time video images of the disputed Takeshima/Dokdo Islands via the Internet starting on Friday and demanded that Seoul immediately stop streaming the images. MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau chief Funakoshi told a senior official at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo by phone that the move by South Korea is totally unacceptable and extremely regrettable because the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory in terms of history and international law. A senior official at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul also lodged a protest with the ROK government.

Polish envoy thanks Japan for assisting with Belarusian athlete’s defection

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote that Polish Ambassador to Japan Pawel Milewski told the paper on Friday that he appreciates Japan’s assistance with Belarusian Olympian Tsimanouskaya’s defection to Poland. The Polish envoy said the coordination with the Japanese police and Ministry of Foreign Affairs was very important and the mission to safely send the athlete to Poland, which offered her asylum, would not have been achieved without the cooperation of the Japanese authorities.

Sankei wrote that MOFA spokesperson Yoshida released a statement on Friday on the Belarusian Olympian’s defection to Poland, saying that the Belarusian authorities’ deportation order was unjustifiable and unacceptable and that their continued oppression of the anti-government camp is very regrettable.


Japan adds 15 U.S. military sites to list of no-fly zones for drones

Saturday’s Yomiuri, Asahi, and Sankei wrote that the Ministry of Defense announced on Friday that based on a revised law, it has designated an additional 15 U.S. military facilities and sites as well as 35 SDF facilities as areas where flights by drones will be prohibited in principle. The facilities include the Henoko Ordnance Ammunition Depot and White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Yokohama North Dock, and the SDF Nerima Camp in Tokyo. The restrictions will be implemented on Sept. 5 for the U.S. facilities and Sept. 16 for the SDF sites following a notification period. Under the regulations, drone operators will be required to obtain the consent of the designated facilities to fly drones within 300 meters of the boundaries of the designated sites.

Defense Ministry studies use of drones to detect hypersonic missiles

Sunday’s Sankei wrote that the Ministry of Defense is studying the idea of using unmanned aerial vehicles for early detection of hypersonic missiles. The paper wrote that the ministry is planning to apply technology used for early detection of ballistic missiles to hypersonic missiles. The paper added that China and Russia are leading the race to develop hypersonic weapons and that Japan is accelerating its development of capabilities to counter such weapons.


Risk of COVID-19 infection at home grows due to surge in new cases

Sunday’s Nikkei wrote that the risk of being infected with the coronavirus at home is increasing as a growing number of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms are being forced to recuperate at home amid the recent spike in new cases. In Tokyo, the rate of infection at home had risen to 61% of all new cases in the first week of August. The number of patients who are being forced to stay home to recuperate is growing because there are not enough government-prepared facilities to accept them. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, it has secured about 6,000 hotel and other rooms to accommodate patients with mild symptoms but only 2,940 of them are equipped with medical care functions and ready to accept patients. Some 18,036 patients were recuperating at home in Tokyo as of Aug. 6, while 1,815 patients were staying at government-designated facilities.

Infection routes of COVID-19 cases shifting due to Delta variant

Mondays Sankei wrote that the infection routes of COVID-19 cases have been changing in Japan due to an increase in cases involving the highly infectious Delta variant, noting that the ratio of infection with the Delta variant has grown to about 90% in the Kanto region and 60% in the Kansai region. Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura said at a GOJ panel meeting last week that although most cluster infections used to occur in close-contact environments such as eateries, live music venues, and fitness clubs, there have been cluster infections recently in places such as department stores, hairdressing salons, and private tutoring schools.

First infection with Lambda variant of COVID-19 confirmed in Japan

Saturday’s Yomiuri, Asahi, and Nikkei wrote that the Health Ministry had informed them that the first case of infection with the Lambda variant of COVID-19, which was first detected in Peru and is believed to be highly infectious, was confirmed in Japan on July 20. The virus was detected in a woman who arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport from Peru during routine COVID-19 testing at the airport.

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination appears difficult in Japan

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote that although there are growing moves among U.S. firms to require their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, there have been no such moves among Japanese companies thus far. The paper wrote, however, that Japanese firms may have to make similar moves in the future because their overseas employees could face mandatory vaccination requirements in their host countries.


Hiroshima marks 76th anniversary of atomic bombing

The Saturday editions of all national dailies reported extensively on the peace memorial ceremony held in Hiroshima on Friday to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. The ceremony was scaled down once again this year amid the surge in coronavirus infections across Japan, but representatives of 83 nations, including the United States, and the EU, roughly the same number as in recent years, participated in the ceremony. In the annual ceremony, Hiroshima Mayor Matsui called on the GOJ to immediately sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January this year. However, Prime Minister Suga said in his speech at the ceremony that in order to promote nuclear disarmament, it is necessary to take realistic steps in a patient manner by mediating between nations that have different positions on the issue. At a news conference held after the ceremony, Suga expressed a negative view about the idea of Japan participating in the treaty by citing the increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan.

Suga denies Tokyo Olympics’ link to spike in COVID-19 cases

Saturday’s Yomiuri reported on remarks made to the press by Prime Minister Suga on Friday in Hiroshima. He reportedly dismissed the view that the Tokyo Olympics is linked to the recent spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Japan. Concerning whether the Paralympics should be held with spectators, Suga said that a five-party meeting involving organizers and the government will make a decision after the closure of the Olympics on Aug. 8 by taking into account the COVID-19 situation in the nation. However, Saturday’s Nikkei wrote that it is becoming likely that the Paralympics, which will open on Aug. 24, will be held without spectators amid the recent spike in new COVID-19 cases in Japan because some Paralympic athletes are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19.

Monday’s Nikkei wrote that Tokyo organizing committee President Hashimoto told reporters on Sunday that a decision should be made on whether to allow spectators to participate in the upcoming Paralympic Games in a careful manner by taking into account the infection situation in Japan.

IOC chief Bach says Tokyo Olympics set great example of power of sports

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote that International Olympic Committee President Bach told reporters on Friday that the Tokyo Olympics are setting a great example of the power of sports to unite people and that the athletes are grateful to Tokyo for hosting the Olympics. He added the Tokyo Games have far exceeded his expectations.


Japan to revise export law to send radioactive waste to foreign countries for disposal

The Saturday editions of Asahi, Mainichi, and Nikkei wrote that the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is planning to revise Japan’s Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law to allow the nation to export low-level radioactive waste generated by decommissioned nuclear reactors. According to the ministry, Japan has decided to decommission 24 reactors at 11 nuclear power plants and most of the decommissioning work will start in the mid-2020s. However, some of the equipment at the reactors is too large to be disposed of at facilities in Japan. International rules on the disposal of radioactive waste stipulate that nations generating nuclear waste must dispose of it in their own countries in principle, and Japan’s Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law does not allow the nation to export such waste to foreign countries. However, it is possible to ask other nations to dispose of the waste if those nations agree to do so. Mainichi wrote that the United States and Sweden accept such large equipment for disposal, and Nikkei speculated that Japan is considering exporting such waste to the United States.


Support for Suga cabinet drops to 28%

Monday’s Asahi reported on the results of its nationwide public opinion survey conducted on Aug. 7-8, in which 28% of the respondents, down 3 points from a month ago, supported the Suga cabinet, while 53%, up 4 points, did not. This was the lowest support since the Suga cabinet's launch in September last year. Some 56% said it was good that Tokyo hosted the Olympics, while 32% said otherwise. The paper wrote that although the GOJ and the ruling LDP had hoped that the Olympics would boost public support for the Suga cabinet, the Games appear to have had only limited impact on the public's views toward the cabinet. The paper attributed the low cabinet support to the public’s low evaluation of the Suga administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 23% welcomed the cabinet’s handling of the pandemic, while 79% did not. When asked whether they hope Prime Minister Suga will remain in his current post by securing another term as LDP president in September, 60% said “no” and 25% said “yes.”

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team