Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, August 25, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on the GOJ’s plan to formally decide today to expand the state of emergency to cover eight more prefectures including Hokkaido and Aichi (NHK, NTV), the increasing number of children in Japan who become seriously ill after contracting the coronavirus (TBS), and yesterday’s opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics (Fuji TV, TV Asahi). All national dailies gave top play to the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics.


Second gentleman meets with PM Suga

Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who is visiting Japan to lead Team USA at the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, met with Prime Minister Suga at the Kantei on Tuesday. Yomiuri wrote that Suga expressed Japan’s appreciation for the United States’ assistance in evacuating Japanese embassy staff from Kabul. The Second Gentleman reportedly told Suga that he looks forward to the athletes' performances at the Paralympic Games. NHK also reported on the Second Gentleman's meeting with Suga, saying that the two also discussed Vice President Harris's ongoing trip to Southeast Asia and the situation in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Sankei ran a Washington-datelined profile of Second Gentleman Emhoff, saying that he has been involved in the Biden administration’s campaigns to provide food to children in need and promote COVID-19 vaccination since the launch of the administration. The paper added that this is the first time for the Second Gentleman to make an official visit to a foreign country independently.

G7 vows to ensure safe evacuation from Afghanistan

All national dailies wrote that the leaders of the G7 nations held an online meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the G7 leaders said: “Our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have partnered with us.” They urged the Taliban to ensure human rights in Afghanistan, including those of women and children, and pledged to make efforts to prevent the nation from becoming a hotbed of terrorism. The G7 leaders said that a decision to recognize a Taliban-led government in Afghanistan would be contingent on the group’s complying with its international obligations.

Japan’s evacuation mission involves challenges

Yomiuri wrote that the GOJ’s mission to evacuate Japanese nationals and local staff members from Afghanistan involves challenges, such as whether people who wish to evacuate will be able to safely reach the airport and how to screen family members of local staff members. The GOJ is planning to grant Afghan evacuees a short-stay status in Japan if they so desire and has established an inter-agency taskforce to assist them. The GOJ is also planning to help them move onward to third countries or find jobs in Japan depending on their wishes.

Mainichi wrote that the GOJ told a joint LDP meeting of its divisions of foreign affairs and defense on Tuesday that it is planning to use a chartered plane to transport Japanese nationals and local staff members to Japan from a third country they will evacuate to. According to the paper, the GOJ has begun discussing how to treat Afghan evacuees, including giving them refugee status. They will be required to quarantine for 14 days at GOJ-designated facilities after arrival in Japan.

Meanwhile, NHK reported that the Defense Ministry is making final arrangements to dispatch as early as today SDF personnel on a government plane to a nation near Afghanistan to assist with the evacuation of Japanese nationals, local embassy staff, and others from Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Sankei ran a similar report, adding that the nation near Afghanistan will serve as a base for the provision of water and food to SDF personnel involved in the operation.


Japan to expand COVID-19 state of emergency to eight more prefectures

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ told ruling coalition leaders on Tuesday that it is planning to expand the COVID-19 state of emergency that has been in place in Tokyo and 12 other prefectures to eight more prefectures -- Hokkaido, Miyagi, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Okayama, and Hiroshima -- from Friday through Sept. 12. The GOJ is also planning to add Kochi, Saga, Nagasaki, and Miyazaki to the 16 prefectures that are under a quasi-state of emergency for the same period. After discussing the issue with Health Minister Tamura and other relevant cabinet ministers on Tuesday, Prime Minister Suga told reporters that the GOJ will make a formal decision today after consulting with experts of the GOJ subcommittee on the COVID-19 pandemic. Suga was quoted as saying that it is important to secure hospital beds and temporary medical facilities for COVID-19 patients.


TEPCO to build undersea tunnel to release Fukushima water into ocean

All national dailies wrote that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has decided to release treated radioactive water from its Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into waters 1 km off the coast by constructing an approximately 1 km-long undersea tunnel. The company is planning to announce the plan today and submit a construction plan to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for review in September. The operator of the plant is planning to begin discharging treated water in the spring of 2023. Nikkei wrote that although the company hopes that discharging the water offshore will help prevent the spread of ungrounded rumors about radioactive contamination of Fukushima seafood, it remains to be seen whether the move will allay concerns of local fishermen.

Meanwhile, the GOJ announced on Tuesday that it will establish a new fund to purchase marine products as an emergency step to support Fukushima fishermen if the planned discharge of treated radioactive water from the Fukushima plant hurts their sales.


Event held to mark DOS selection of Japanese lawyer as trafficking in persons “hero”

Mainichi wrote that an event to celebrate the Department of State’s selection of Japanese lawyer Ibusuki Shoichi as one of its eight Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes in 2021 was held in Tokyo on Tuesday. He has been involved in efforts to support foreign technical interns suffering abuse in Japan. Ibusuki is the second Japanese to be named a Trafficking in Persons Report Hero following Torii Ippei who was recognized in 2013 for battling human rights abuse in Japan.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team