Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, October 27, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on debates among candidates during the election campaign on such issues as gender equality (NHK) and a press conference by former Princess Mako and Komuro Kei on their marriage yesterday (NTV, TBS, Fuji TV, TV Asahi).

Asahi, Yomiuri, and Mainichi also gave top coverage to the imperial wedding, while Nikkei’s top item was METI’s plan to restrict foreign students’ access to sensitive data. Sankei led with the first meeting yesterday of a Kantei taskforce on Prime Minister Kishida’s plan to create a “new form of capitalism.”


Latest poll points to solid victory for ruling coalition

Kyodo issued its projection for the upcoming general election on Oct. 31 based on the latest nationwide telephone opinion poll and field surveys in each electoral district, saying that the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito party is certain to capture an “absolute majority” of at least 261 of the 465 seats up for grabs, although the LDP probably will not be able to maintain the 276 seats it held before the Lower House was dissolved on Oct. 14. The leading opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is reportedly waging a tough campaign despite its unprecedented election cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party and other opposition parties. It remains uncertain whether the CDPJ will be able to win more than the 110 seats it held before the dissolution. The second largest opposition party, the Japan Innovation Party, is apparently waging a solid campaign not only in its base of Kansai but also in other parts of the country and is likely to win over 30 seats, three times more than it had ahead of the dissolution. Komeito and the JCP are also likely to maintain the numbers of seats they held previously.

Kishida convenes blue-ribbon committee meeting on “new form of capitalism”

All national papers wrote that Prime Minister Kishida chaired the first meeting of the GOJ taskforce on the creation of a new form of capitalism at the Kantei on Tuesday. He instructed Minister for Economic Revitalization Yamagiwa and other panelists to present a package of recommendations in early November aimed at ensuring a sustainable cycle between economic growth and wealth distribution. He reportedly asked the participants, including a young female entrepreneur and a leading expert on artificial intelligence, to come up with innovative ideas in such fields as economic digitalization, decarbonization, educational investment, and economic security, including the launch of resilient supply chains.

Mainichi speculated that the prime minister convened the session hastily in a bid to call attention to his signature policy ahead of the general election, noting that it remains unclear whether the taskforce will be able to present viable recommendations in such a short span of time. The daily quoted an unnamed LDP candidate seeking reelection as saying: “Kishida’s call for a new form of capitalism is long on words but short on actions. The initiative does not appeal to voters because it is still too abstract.”

Sankei noted that Kishida has talked more about growth and less about distribution in his recent stump speeches during the general election campaign, conjecturing that he has perhaps come to realize that it is necessary to achieve robust economic growth first because that will be the main source of the wealth to be distributed. The daily added that the ambitious policy goals that the premier trumpeted during the LDP presidential race, such as “doubling people’s incomes” and a “breaking away from neoliberalism,” have already receded into the distance.

Kishida intends to retain cabinet members after election

Nikkei and Sankei focused on remarks made on a TV show yesterday by Prime Minister Kishida, who said he will not shuffle the cabinet if the LDP wins the general election. “The cabinet has just been launched,” he was quoted as saying. “The members need to get to work. I would like to move forward with various policy initiatives, such as the launch of an agency for children’s affairs and a new form of capitalism.”

Kishida apologizes for Aso’s controversial remark

According to Yomiuri and Nikkei, Prime Minister Kishida offered an apology during a live appearance on a TV show last night over LDP Vice President Aso’s remark during a recent election campaign speech to the effect that global warming has revitalized agriculture in Hokkaido. Aso was quoted as saying on Sunday: “The rice grown in Hokkaido now tastes better thanks to a 2-degree rise in the average temperature.” The premier reportedly said: “The comment was inappropriate. I’m sorry.”


Colleges required to obtain permits for foreign students to access sensitive data

Nikkei led with a report claiming that METI has decided to alter the existing guidelines on the administration of the Foreign Exchange Law in order to mandate university authorities obtain its minister’s approval before foreign students are given access to sensitive data or technology with national security implications, such as semiconductor assembly equipment and robotics. The new policy, which is intended to block the outflow of key technological expertise primarily to China, will be applied starting in FY2022 to foreign students studying in Japan for six months or longer. The ministry is reportedly concerned that some Japanese colleges have failed to enforce tighter screening when accepting foreign students and researchers.

Motegi comments on Chinese, Russian militaries’ joint operations around Japan

Mainichi and Sankei took up remarks made to the press yesterday by Foreign Minister Motegi who disclosed that Japan has conveyed to China and Russia through diplomatic channels that its has a "strong interest" in the recent passage by a fleet of ten Chinese and Russian warships through the Tsugaru and Osumi Straits. “We will continue to pay keen attention to the maritime activities around Japan by the Chinese and Russian navies while taking into account the security environment of Japan and the region.”

According to Yomiuri, Defense Minister Kishi also commented on the two militaries’ operations by saying: “Such large-scale, extensive operations are unprecedented and extremely unusual. We view them as a show of force to Japan.”


Kishida to attend COP26 in UK

All national papers wrote that Prime Minister Kishida plans to visit the UK to participate in the COP26 conference that will begin on Oct. 31, with Sankei projecting that he will depart Japan on Nov. 2 and return home the next day. The premier will deliver a speech at the confab and hold talks with foreign leaders on the margins.

In a related piece from Washington, Yomiuri took up a press conference at the White House on Tuesday by National Security Advisor Sullivan, in which he suggested that President Biden may meet with PM Kishida in the UK. While noting that the President’s detailed schedule is not yet available, the USG official said: “I’m sure they will have the chance to see each other at COP26 if the prime minister is there.”

State Department to launch cyber bureau

Nikkei and Mainichi reported on State Department spokesperson Price’s announcement on Monday that the Biden administration will establish a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy at the Department as part of its efforts to counter the increasing cyberattacks by China and Russia. The bureau, which will be supervised by Deputy Secretary Sherman for the time being, will focus on three key areas: international cybersecurity, international digital policy, and digital freedom. Price reportedly added that a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology will be appointed.

Japan pledges $65 million in aid for Afghan refugees

Yomiuri reported on a GOJ announcement yesterday that it has decided to provide $65 million in grant-in-aid for Pakistan, Iran, and other Southwest Asian countries hosting Afghan refugees. This is the first time for Japan to extend financial support to displaced Afghans since the Taliban took control of the war-torn nation. The money will be used for food, medicine, and the construction of makeshift shelters.


Seven out of ten Japanese now fully vaccinated against COVID-19

All national papers except Asahi highlighted GOJ data showing that 70% of Japanese people, or almost 88.8 million, had received two doses of coronavirus vaccine as of yesterday, noting that the only G7 nations that have recorded higher vaccination rates are Canada and Italy. While projecting that the nation’s vaccination rate will probably peak at about 80% by late November, Nikkei underscored that the GOJ must consider rolling out booster shots and expanding PCR and other diagnostic testing capacities very quickly to head off a sixth wave, given that large numbers of breakthrough infections have occurred overseas following the lifting of restrictions on economic activities.

In a related story, Asahi reported on an assessment of the current COVID-19 situation released by a Health Ministry advisory panel on Tuesday, noting that the seven-day rolling average of new cases per 100,000 people nationwide as of Oct. 25 was only 1.64, the lowest since last summer.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team