Morning Alert   -   Thursday, November 18, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on the finding from a survey conducted by the Internal Affairs Ministry that the number of long-term unemployed people reached a monthly average of 660,000 from July to September, up 180,000 from the same period last year (NHK), and the arrest of an 89-year-old man who rammed his car into a supermarket, killing one person and injuring two, in Osaka yesterday (NTV, TBS, Fuji TV, TV Asahi).

Major front-page news in national dailies included a GOJ idea of allowing certain foreign laborers to work in Japan “indefinitely,” this year’s annual U.S. congressional report on China warning of the PLA’s possible invasion of Taiwan, the Kishida administration’s economic stimulus package focusing on massive investment in the development of domestic vaccines for emerging infectious diseases and advanced technology, the launch of a new U.S.-Japan framework for economic and trade cooperation, and a GOJ plan to increase wages for nurses.


U.S., Japan to deepen economic partnership to counter China

All national papers reported on yesterday’s meetings in Tokyo between visiting USTR Tai and Trade Minister Hagiuda and Foreign Minister Hayashi at which the two sides agreed to set up early next year the “U.S.-Japan Partnership on Trade,” a taskforce led by officials with the rank of assistant secretary that will be charged with discussing bilateral trade cooperation with China’s growing presence in mind. In response to Hagiuda’s remark that the two countries and their partners should coordinate closely to build a free and fair economic order, the top U.S. trade official said: “Our close collaboration will support the Biden administration’s economic framework for the Indo-Pacific and help create sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and competitive trade policies.” The framework will discuss measures to address “third country concerns,” deal with issues related to labor and the environment, promote digital trade, and make supply chains more resilient. According to a Japanese readout, the venue is not for the purpose of discussing trade disputes such as U.S. duties on Japanese auto imports. Asahi claimed that Japan’s plan to seek the removal of auto tariffs has effectively been “frozen.”

Asahi also said Tokyo views the new framework as a venue for encouraging Washington to return to the TPP, adding that USTR Tai remained noncommittal on Hayashi’s call for the Biden administration to rejoin the regional free trade initiative. The paper said the GOJ’s trade policy toward the United States may become stalled as the Democratic administration is unlikely to return to the TPP and Japan’s goal of having the 2.5% U.S. tariffs on Japanese cars and auto components removed is likely to remain elusive. The daily also highlighted in a separate piece the U.S. official’s reference to “the Biden administration’s economic framework for the Indo-Pacific,” interpreting it as an effort by Washington to continue to engage with the region without joining the TPP.

Mainichi added that the United States, Japan, and the EU released a joint statement on Wednesday aimed at expanding trilateral cooperation for promoting global free trade.


Senior USG official stresses cooperation with Japan to safeguard cyberspace

All national papers except Nikkei took up a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday by visiting Deputy National Security Advisor Neuberger. She reportedly emphasized the importance for the United States and Japan to strengthen coordination with Australia, India, and other partners to ensure security in cyberspace. “It is urgently necessary to build an international relationship of cooperation to deal with threats in cyberspace,” she was quoted as saying. “There are no boundaries when it comes to technology. A threat to one nation constitutes a threat to all.” The White House official in charge of cyber and emerging technology reportedly praised Japan’s efforts to forestall cyberattacks initiated by China and other countries. She went on to say: “We want the Japanese government to modernize all its [cyber] defense tools.” Speaking on China’s launch of cyberattacks against Taiwan, Neuberger reportedly said Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities must be enhanced, including in cyberspace. “Stability across the Taiwan Strait is critical to the United States and the region,” she added.

U.S. reportedly calls for increase in Japan’s host nation support

Yomiuri asserted that the Biden administration is pressing the GOJ to ramp up Japan’s financial contribution for stationing U.S. troops in Japan, saying that Tokyo remains cautious about the alleged U.S. request. Instead of sharply increasing host nation support, Japan is reportedly inclined to spend more money on items that can enhance its national security, such as facilitating training exercises in Japan by the U.S. military. The paper projected that HNS talks will pick up momentum next month in the run-up to Japan’s compilation of its FY2022 defense budget. Sankei claimed, however, that Japan is likely to heed a U.S. request for an increase in the HNS budget, projecting that an agreement on the five-year spending program beginning FY2022 will be forged by the end of this year.


Hayashi to attend WTO conference in Geneva

Yomiuri wrote that arrangements are underway for Foreign Minister Hayashi to attend a WTO conference scheduled for late November in Geneva, saying that this will be the first foreign trip by Japan’s new top diplomat. He is likely to hold talks with Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Asahi wrote that Hayashi is also mulling attending the G7 foreign ministerial meeting to be held in Liverpool in early December, saying that the G7 participants are likely to hold talks with their ASEAN counterparts on the sidelines with the goal of strengthening coordination in dealing with the rise of China. The daily added that Hayashi may also travel to New York in January to participate in the NPT Review conference.

Government spokesman comments on possibility of diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

Sankei reported on growing speculation that the Biden administration is on the verge of announcing a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics in February, noting that the GOJ remains cautious about the idea even though some LDP politicians are demanding that the GOJ not send a high-ranking official unless the human rights situation there improves substantially. “No decision has been made on who will represent the Japanese government” at the international sporting event, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno told the press yesterday. “We expect that the Beijing Games will be convened as an event for peace in line with the Olympic Charter.” The daily said that while rumor has it that Japan Sports Agency Commissioner Murofushi will attend the opening ceremony, the GOJ is likely to decide who to send while taking into account other G7 partners’ moves.

Japanese embassy local staff members, others remain stranded in Afghanistan

Sankei wrote that over 100 Afghans who used to work for the Japanese Embassy in Kabul and other Japanese entities along with their relatives are still unable to leave the country for Japan due in part to delays in issuing passports for them by the Taliban government. The daily said the GOJ is set to continue efforts to bring these Afghans to Japan [in cooperation with Qatar. Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno reportedly told the press yesterday: “It goes without saying that we will support as much as possible the Afghans who have worked side by side with Japanese people.”

Tokyo, Manila may launch 2+2 forum

Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei highlighted a teleconference held yesterday evening between Prime Minister Kishida and Philippine President Duterte during which they agreed to look into the possibility of convening a bilateral foreign and security ministerial meeting. The Philippines will be the second ASEAN partner following Indonesia with which Japan will establish a 2+2 framework. The premier reportedly pledged Japan’s continued commitment to assisting the Southeast Asian country in promoting infrastructure investment and enhancing law-enforcement capabilities at sea. They confirmed coordination in resolving the issue of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals and dealing with the situation in Myanmar.

Former PM Abe to be dispatched to Malaysia as emissary

All national papers except Asahi wrote that Prime Minister Kishida is considering sending former Prime Minister Abe to Malaysia as a GOJ envoy next month, saying that the two politicians held talks yesterday to discuss the plan.


Three politicians vie for CDPJ presidency

All national papers wrote that three mid-career lawmakers of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) officially announced their intentions on Wednesday to run in the party leadership race to be held on Nov. 30. Policy Research Committee Chairman Izumi Kenta, former Advisor to Prime Minister Osaka Seiji, and former Senior Vice Minister for Health and Labor Nishimura Chinami will file their candidacies in the campaign that will officially begin tomorrow.

zumi is reportedly calling for a review of former President Edano’s policy of deepening election cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party, whereas the two other candidates revealed their plans to uphold it in the belief that CDPJ candidates would not be able to defeat their LDP rivals in many single-seat districts without joining hands with other opposition parties. Asahi said Nishimura underscored her commitment to achieving gender equality, while Izumi stressed the importance for the CDPJ to seek institutional reforms to turn around people’s “negative image” of the party. Osaka, a former mayor and fifth-term legislator, stressed that he would strive to restore public trust in the CDPJ. Two other lawmakers are also reportedly considering running in the election.


Japan to accept more foreign travelers

Nikkei reported that Japan is set to raise the present cap of 3,500 on the number of arrivals at ports of entry to 5,000 on Nov. 26 to accommodate more foreign business travelers, trainees, students, and researchers based on the assessment that a moderate increase in the number of vaccinated foreign visitors will not lead to the infiltration of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 vaccination for young children to start in February

All national dailies reported that the Health Ministry is set to begin coronavirus vaccination for children aged 5 to 11 in February at the earliest, saying that the Pfizer vaccine will be used after it receives emergency use authorization from a ministry panel.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team