JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Morning Alert   -   Thursday, October 28, 2021
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HEADLINES

Broadcasters led with reports on the death of a worker in Gifu yesterday when an explosion occurred during tunnel construction for the new maglev bullet train (NHK, Fuji TV), an increase in the number of children suffering from the aftereffects of COVID-19 in Japan (TBS), and Tokyo Governor Koike being hospitalized again due to extreme fatigue (NTV, TV Asahi).

Main front-page stories in national papers included the finding that a large volume of cloth masks that the GOJ procured for distribution during the pandemic last year are still in storage, a GOJ plan to ask both listed and non-listed companies to provide information on major stockholders as part of efforts to combat money laundering, Secretary of State Blinken’s call for UN member states to allow Taiwan’s “meaningful participation” in international organizations, and the upcoming COP26 conference in the UK.

SOCIETY

Greg Kelly pleads not guilty in closing session of trial

All national papers reported on the closing argument made by the defense counsel of former Nissan executive Greg Kelly during yesterday’s hearing at the Tokyo District Court, noting that the U.S. businessman categorically denied the allegation that he underreported former Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s renumeration by 9.1 billion yen ($80 million) by saying, “I did not commit any crime.” The defendant reportedly underscored that he had held discussions with lawyers inside and outside Nissan on how to compensate Ghosn “legally.” The presiding judge is expected to issue a ruling on March 3.

In a related development, Yomiuri ran an interview with Ghosn that was conducted remotely ahead of the final session of Kelly’s trial, quoting the international fugitive as saying: “Kelly is innocent.” Concerning his own case Ghosn reportedly said he was framed by Nissan and the prosecutors and defended his flight from Japan by saying: “I wanted to be in a place where I could protect myself and speak freely.” Asked whether he intends to stand trial in Japan, Ghosn was quoted as saying: “Are you kidding?”

INTERNATIONAL

Japan asks ASEAN for greater cooperation to realize free, open Indo-Pacific

All national papers wrote that Prime Minister Kishida took part in a virtual summit with ASEAN leaders on Wednesday and called for greater coordination toward a free and open Indo-Pacific region. He reportedly pledged $650 million in grant-in-aid to help promote the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), a guide for ASEAN’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions. The money will reportedly be used for infrastructure development and removing microplastics from the sea. The premier also committed an additional $1.8 billion in ODA that will be used by ASEAN to provide COVID-19 vaccines and address climate change. With China in mind Kishida underscored Japan’s resolve to oppose “unilateral moves to alter the status quo” in the South and East China Seas. He expressed support for the group’s efforts to achieve peace between the military regime and democratic forces in Myanmar (Burma). The prime minister later took part in a separate summit that ASEAN sponsored with Japan, China, and South Korea.

According to the papers, Brunei, the chair of ASEAN this year, also hosted a virtual conference between ASEAN and the U.S., Japan, and six other regional partners later in the day, at which Kishida and several other participants voiced concern about the human rights situations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. The Japanese leader also emphasized the importance of ensuring stability across the Taiwan Strait. The papers cited a White House readout as quoting President Biden as saying in the session that the administration is committed to continuing cooperation with allies and friends to support democracy, civil liberties, the rule of law, and freedom of navigation in the region. The President also reportedly highlighted U.S. partnership with ASEAN to promote free trade and infrastructure investment and build resilient supply chains.

U.S. calls for global support for Taiwan’s “meaningful participation” in UN organizations

Asahi and Sankei highlighted a statement issued by Secretary of State Blinken on Tuesday asking all UN member states for support so that Taiwan can participate in UN organizations in a “meaningful” manner. While pointing out that the island territory was not allowed to attend the WHO’s annual meeting in May due to opposition from China despite its “world-class response” to the COVID-19 pandemic, the top U.S. diplomat said: “Taiwan’s exclusion undermines the important work of the UN and its related bodies.” He underscored that Taiwan’s participation will help “harness the contributions of all stakeholders toward solving our shared challenges.” Sankei said the statement represents the Biden administration’s resolve to defend Taiwan from Beijing’s diplomatic and military attempts to isolate it.

Japan to host international summit on nutrition

Yomiuri said the GOJ plans to convene in Tokyo in early December an international conference on improving nutrition around the world, noting that foreign dignitaries, including representatives of international organizations, are expected to participate remotely. According to the daily, the past year has witnessed the disruption of access to food worldwide as a result of the collapse of food supply chains amid the pandemic. Prime Minister Kishida and other participants are expected to exchange opinions on how to build sustainable food delivery networks.

More Afghans expected to arrive in Japan

Asahi took up a MOFA announcement yesterday that 18 Afghan students on JICA’s study abroad program were expected to arrive in Japan later in the day, noting that most of them escaped from the war-torn country by land before heading to Tokyo via Qatar. The GOJ has now arranged the successful evacuation of a total of 285 Afghans, including the 18 students.

SCIENCE

Booster shots to be administered to those with underlying conditions

According to Asahi, the Health Ministry is considering administering COVID-19 booster shots to people with underlying conditions in addition to those aged 65 or older, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, projecting that people in these categories will receive their third doses of vaccine in December at the earliest.

The daily said in a separate piece that the ministry is also likely to accelerate discussions on administering coronavirus vaccines to children aged 5 to 11 following a U.S. FDA advisory panel’s recommendation that the Pfizer vaccine be administered to this age group.

Restriction on number of attendees at major cultural events to be eased

All national papers noted that the GOJ plans to ask the coronavirus taskforce subcommittee today to endorse its plan to lift beginning on Nov. 1 the present cap of 10,000 regarding the number of spectators allowed at major cultural events, such as concerts and baseball games, in view of the steady improvement in the coronavirus infection situation. However, the separate 50% capacity limit will be kept in place for the time being.

Huge volume of “Abenomasks” go unused

All national dailies reported on a finding by the Board of Audit that some 83 million of the cloth masks procured by the GOJ during the pandemic last year have gone unused. The number of “Abenomasks” and other masks that were in storage as of March accounted for almost 30% of the 290 million masks the GOJ had intended to distribute to every household in addition to nursing homes and childcare facilities amid the acute shortage of disposable masks. The GOJ reportedly earmarked some 600 million yen ($5.3 million) for keeping them in storage. During a press conference yesterday, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Isozaki dismissed the view that the highly controversial mask delivery initiative ended up being a huge waste of taxpayer money by saying that supply and demand of face masks was extremely tight then. “It was appropriate at the time,” the government spokesperson was quoted as saying.

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