Morning Alert   -   Friday, October 22, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on Pfizer’s announcement that a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine was found to be 95.6% effective (NHK), the winter-like weather yesterday in Tokyo (NTV), Tokyo’s decision to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants on Oct. 25 (TBS), the arrest of a man in Tokyo yesterday for allegedly killing a woman (Fuji TV), and Japanese pianist Sorita Kyohei winning second place in the Chopin Competition (TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included the decision by Tokyo and Osaka to lift their COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants (Asahi, Yomiuri, Sankei), the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on restaurant operators (Mainichi), and the finding that more than 370,000 foreign nationals were unable to enter Japan despite having precertification for residence status as of Oct. 1 due to border controls aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 (Nikkei).


Ambassador-nominee Emanuel expresses hope to boost alliance with Japan

All national dailies reported on Wednesday’s Senate hearing for former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been nominated by President Biden as the next U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Sankei front-paged a report about the hearing saying that Ambassador-nominee Emanuel expressed his expectations for Japan to deepen its alliance with the United States and beef up its defense capabilities. Yomiuri wrote that Emanuel expressed his readiness to make deepening the U.S.-Japan alliance his top priority because the bilateral partnership is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific. Asahi also quoted him as saying that his top priority would be to deepen the ties between the two nations as they confront their common challenges.

Nikkei speculated that Emanuel’s comment that increasing Japan’s defense spending is indispensable for the U.S.-Japan alliance was aimed at urging the GOJ to enhance Japan’s defense capabilities to boost the alliance’s deterrence against China. The paper wrote that the President’s nomination of a “heavyweight” like Emanuel who has connections with both the White House and Congress as the next envoy to Japan is evidence of Japan’s increasing strategic importance for the United States as an ally geographically close to China. Mainichi also wrote that the Ambassador-nominee expressed his expectations for a drastic increase in Japan’s defense spending.

Sankei quoted Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Isozaki as telling reporters at a regular press briefing on Thursday that Ambassador-nominee Emanuel expressed his readiness to further strengthen the ties between the United States and Japan and that Japan will closely cooperate with him in enhancing the bilateral alliance and achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific. Mainichi quoted Isozaki as saying: “We would like to work closely with Ambassador-nominee Emanuel to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance. We would welcome him.”

Japan to forgo talks with Mekong Delta nations’ leaders

Yomiuri wrote that the GOJ has decided to forgo a plan to host a leaders’ meeting with the five Mekong Delta countries—Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar—this month based on the assessment that it would be difficult to invite a representative of Myanmar’s junta to join the session. According to the paper, ASEAN has decided not to invite Myanmar military’s Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing to its online leaders' meeting slated for the end of this month. An unnamed senior Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying Japan would be criticized by the international community if it were to invite a military representative of Myanmar to the conference.

Cabinet spokesperson comments on DPRK’s violations of UNSC resolutions

Sankei wrote that Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Isozaki commented at a press briefing on Thursday on the UN Security Council’s failure to issue a statement at an emergency meeting on Wednesday on North Korea’s recent launches of ballistic missiles. Isozaki reportedly said Japan will continue to work together with the United States and other members of the international community to urge the DPRK to abide by the Security Council resolutions, adding that the missile tests were extremely regrettable because they were in clear violation of UNSC resolutions.


Tokyo, Osaka to lift COVID restrictions on bars and restaurants on Oct. 25

Nikkei wrote that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government decided on Thursday to lift its coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and bars on Oct. 25. In Tokyo, drinking establishments whose COVID-19 prevention and mitigation protocols have been certified will no longer be asked to stop serving alcohol by 8 p.m. and close by 9 p.m. However, non-certified establishments will be asked to stop serving alcohol by 9 p.m. The Osaka Prefectural Government also decided on Thursday to end its request for drinking establishments to close earlier. The paper wrote, however, that many restaurants are hesitant to go back to their regular business hours out of concern that not many people are ready to dine out again because they are afraid there might be a sixth wave of the virus in the winter.

Asahi, Yomiuri, and Sankei ran similar reports, with Yomiuri adding that the Tokyo government will also lift on Oct. 25 its request for department stores, movie theaters, and museums to shorten their business hours.


U.S. servicemember arrested for allegedly possessing LSD

Thursday evening’s Asahi wrote that it learned from the Azabu Police Station in Tokyo on Thursday that the Metropolitan Police Department has arrested a U.S. servicemember in his 20s on suspicion of violating the Narcotics Control Law by possessing LSD. The suspect has reportedly admitted to the charge by saying he bought the drug from someone he met at a bar. According to the police, the servicemember is suspected of being in possession of LSD on blotting paper at around 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 9, and his urine tested positive for the drug. The police found the blotting paper when they inspected his belongings after arresting him on suspicion of assaulting a man in his 20s on a street in Roppongi. Mainichi ran a similar online report, adding that the police arrested the suspect on Oct. 19 for possessing and using LSD and that he told the police that he bought the blotting paper at a bar in Shinjuku on the evening of Oct. 8.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team