Morning Alert   -   Monday, November 22, 2021
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Broadcasters led with the forecast for inclement weather across Japan today (NHK), many people flocking to Mt. Takao in Tokyo to see the autumn leaves over the weekend (NTV), a suspected arson case in Hyogo on Friday in which two children died (TBS), an incident in which a man dove into the Dotonbori River in Osaka and died (Fuji TV), and videos showing missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai on the Internet (TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included a GOJ plan to launch three satellites in the mid-2020s to establish a “satellite constellation” for monitoring natural disasters and hypersonic glide vehicles developed by China and Russia (Yomiuri), a GOJ plan to accelerate research and development of technology for quantum cryptographic communications to strengthen Japan’s economic security (Sankei), the pandemic’s economic and social impact on Japan (Nikkei), the LDP Research Commission on the Tax System’s planned review of the decades-old reduced tax rates for alcoholic beverages made in Okinawa (Asahi), and the decision by a local labor standards inspection office to provide compensation for a man who killed himself and his daughter in 2017 by recognizing that his death was related to overwork (Mainichi).


Indo-Pacific coordinator Campbell says Japan has agreed to host Quad summit next year

All national dailies wrote from Washington over the weekend that Kurt Campbell, National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, said on Friday at an online event of the Washington-based think tank U.S. Institute of Peace that Japan has agreed to host a meeting of the leaders of the Quad group comprising the United States, Japan, Australia, and India in 2022. Yomiuri wrote on Sunday that President Biden will likely make his first visit to Japan since taking office to participate in the Quad summit that the GOJ is hoping to host next spring. Prime Minister Kishida reportedly told the press on Saturday: “No decision has been made yet on when and where the second Quad summit will be held. We will discuss the details from now.”

Yomiuri wrote on Saturday that Campbell said the Quad is an “informal gathering” that is not seeking to become a NATO-like group. He also said AUKUS is an open structure that will welcome other participants from Asia and Europe in the future.

Senior U.S., Japanese diplomats confirm importance of trilateral cooperation with ROK

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote from Washington that Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo held a bilateral meeting on Thursday. The paper wrote that the two officials reaffirmed the importance of trilateral cooperation with South Korea following the cancellation of a three-way news conference slated for Wednesday. According to the briefings by the U.S. and Japanese governments, the two diplomats agreed that their nations will strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the U.S.-Japan alliance and make efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific. They also affirmed the need for close cooperation between Washington and Tokyo in responding to China’s maritime advancement and achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Kishida mum on possible political boycott of Beijing Olympics

The Saturday editions of all national dailies wrote that in response to President Biden’s remarks to the press on Thursday that he is considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Prime Minister Kishida told reporters on Friday that each nation has its own thoughts and Japan will discuss the issue from its own standpoint. Yomiuri wrote that an unnamed senior MOFA official expressed a cautious view about the idea of a political boycott by saying Japan’s diplomacy is based on dialogue and cooperation. Another MOFA official reportedly said the idea of a diplomatic boycott has never been discussed between the United States and Japan, speculating that the President may have mentioned it as a way to send a warning to China. Sankei wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno told reporters on Friday that Japan has not yet made a decision on the matter. Foreign Minister Hayashi said he did not discuss the Olympics with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during their teleconference on Thursday.

Sunday’s Nikkei wrote that the issue of an Olympic boycott is becoming a diplomatic concern for the Kishida administration because calls on Japan to act in concert with the United States and European nations may grow at home and abroad. The paper wrote that attention is likely to be focused on how Tokyo will deal with the Beijing Olympics because Tokyo’s options for condemning Beijing’s violations of human rights are limited on account of Japan’s lack of legislation like the U.S. Magnitsky Act to sanction foreign government officials accused of human rights violations.

In an interview with Nikkei, Senator William Hagerty, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan under the Trump administration, urged Japan to implement a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, citing China’s human rights violations in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the Chinese government’s concealment of information in the early days of COVID-19.

Nippon Foundation head Sasakawa aided American journalist’s release from Myanmar

Saturday’s Asahi ran its one-on-one interview on Thursday with Sasakawa Yohei, chairman of the Nippon Foundation and Japan's special envoy for national reconciliation in Myanmar. Sasakawa said that at the request of the United States, he directly urged Min Aung Hlaing, the top commander of the armed forces of Myanmar, at an in-person meeting on Nov. 13 in Naypyidaw to release Danny Fenster, the managing editor of the online news magazine Frontier Myanmar, who had been detained since May. Sasakawa said he was asked by a visiting senior U.S. government official to intercede with the Myanmar military for the release of Fenster. Kyodo News also reported on its interview with Sasakawa on Thursday, during which he said the U.S. government sought his help to win the freedom of the American journalist.

Japan, China, South Korea to skip trilateral summit this year

Monday’s Nikkei wrote that Japan, China, and South Korea will likely forgo holding a trilateral meeting of their leaders again this year. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, South Korea was expected to chair the meeting this year but has not made any preparations for hosting the summit. The paper wrote that relations between Japan and South Korea remain cool over the issue of compensation for requisitioned Korean workers and the Japanese vice foreign minister rejected the idea of holding a trilateral news conference with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts in Washington on Nov. 17 in protest of the Korean national police chief’s landing on the disputed Takeshima Islands on the previous day. With regard to relations with China, Tokyo has conveyed to Beijing its grave concern over Chinese government vessels’ repeated intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands and is calling for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait along with the United States.

FM Hayashi invited to visit China

All national dailies wrote on Monday that Foreign Minister Hayashi said on a TV program on Sunday that his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi invited him to visit China during their telephone conversation on Nov. 18. Hayashi added, however, that nothing has been decided and no arrangements for a visit are being made at this stage. On the possibility of a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, Hayashi said that the GOJ will make its own decision on the matter.

Nikkei wrote that if a trip to China by Hayashi is realized, it will be the first visit to the nation by a Japanese foreign minister since December 2019 and the first in-person meeting between Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers since the one held in November 2020 in Tokyo.

Vietnamese prime minister to visit Japan

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno told reporters on Friday that Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will visit Japan on Nov. 22-25 as the first foreign leader to be hosted by Prime Minister Kishida. The paper wrote that the two leaders are expected to confirm strengthened security cooperation between their nations.

Paraguay foreign mister expresses willingness to conclude EPA with Japan

Monday’s Yomiuri and Nikkei reported on their separate interviews with Paraguay Foreign Minister Euclides Acevedo on Sunday in Tokyo. Acevedo reportedly said that Mercosur, a four-nation South American trade bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, should conclude an economic partnership agreement with Japan. Concerning Paraguay’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the Paraguay official said his nation will maintain its current relations with Taiwan despite increasing moves by other Latin American countries to cut their ties with Taipei and establish diplomatic relations with Beijing.

Japan to donate 3.7 million COVID-19 vaccines to nine nations via COVAX

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote that Foreign Minister Hayashi told reporters on Friday that Japan will donate about 3.7 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca to nine developing countries including Nicaragua and Egypt. The paper wrote that this will be Japan’s first COVID-19 vaccine donation to countries in Africa and Latin America and that Tokyo will provide the vaccines through the COVAX Facility.


Japan to screen defense contractors for data security

Sunday’s Nikkei led with a report saying that the GOJ will introduce a new screening process for the procurement of missiles, ships, and other equipment through increased scrutiny of the reliability of contractors and their parts and equipment to safeguard against leaks of sensitive information. According to the paper, the GOJ will develop new legislation to give it the authority to seek changes to existing defense procurement contracts if concerns are found at the supplier level with the aim of submitting the bill to the Diet in 2022 and beginning the screening in fiscal 2023. The paper wrote that the move is intended to prevent the use of Chinese-made equipment that raises economic security concerns and strengthen the foundation of domestic suppliers and joint development with the United States.

Former USG official proposes U.S.-Japan joint development of surface-to-ship missiles

Saturday’s Yomiuri carried an op-ed piece jointly authored by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Zack Cooper, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, in which they proposed that the United States and Japan jointly develop surface-to-ship missiles. They stressed the need for the two allies to strengthen their measures against China’s military expansion in the article titled “Does Japan need a military technology deal like AUKUS?”

Chinese naval vessel enters Japan’s territorial waters

Saturday’s Yomiuri and Sankei wrote that the Ministry of Defense announced on Friday that a Chinese naval vessel sailed through Japan's territorial waters off Kagoshima last week, marking the fourth time that a Chinese naval vessel was confirmed in Japanese territorial waters and the first time since July 2017. After confirming that an MSDF P-1 patrol plane spotted a Chinese naval vessel sailing within Japan's contiguous waters south of Yakushima Island at around 8:40 p.m. on Wednesday and within the zone further west off Kuchinoerabu Island at around 1:20 a.m. on Thursday, the ministry concluded that the vessel temporarily entered Japan’s territorial waters. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs conveyed Japan’s concerns to China through diplomatic channels. Saturday’s Asahi and Mainichi ran similar reports.

Yomiuri wrote that the Defense Ministry also said it spotted a Russian naval vessel passing through the Tsushima Strait heading south to the East China Sea at around 5:00 p.m. on Thursday and two Chinese naval vessels sailing through the strait at 7:00 p.m. on the same day. None of them entered Japan’s territorial waters.

Yomiuri added that the ministry also said the ASDF scrambled fighter jets in response to two Chinese and two Russian bombers jointly flying over the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, and the Pacific Ocean on Friday because they entered Japan’s defense identification zone. According to the ministry, the four aircraft flew over the Sea of Japan and waters between the main island of Okinawa and Miyako Island toward the Pacific. Monday’s Nikkei wrote that Foreign Minister Hayashi said on a TV program on Sunday that Japan has conveyed to Beijing and Moscow through diplomatic channels its grave concern over the flights by Chinese and Russian bombers. This was the third time for the Defense Ministry to disclose information about joint flights by Chinese and Russian bombers around Japan and the first since December 2020.

Japanese workers at Camp Zama tasked with disinfection as “mission essential” duty

Sunday’s Mainichi wrote that since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020, an increasing number of Japanese employees at Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture have been requested to do disinfection work at the base as a “mission essential” duty to maintain the base functions even though the cleaning staff’s job description does not include sanitization. According to the paper, some of these workers involved in the disinfection of such items as doorknobs and handrails developed headaches and other symptoms from the use of highly concentrated bleaching agents and at least two of them have received GOJ worker’s compensation for industrial accidents. The paper noted that under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, Japanese workers at U.S. bases are subject to Japanese laws. The Ministry of Defense reportedly told the paper that it has asked the U.S. Forces Japan to provide local employees with sufficient explanations about their duties and that the U.S. military has responded by saying it is taking safety measures.


Japan mulls releasing oil reserves along with U.S.

The Sunday editions of all national dailies wrote that the GOJ is considering releasing crude oil from its national petroleum reserves to help curb rising prices of gasoline and other oil products. Prime Minister Kishida told reporters on Saturday: “We are examining our legal options with the understanding that this would be a coordinated action by the United States, Japan, and other countries.” The papers wrote that the Biden administration has sounded out Japan and other nations on the possibility of releasing oil reserves, quoting White House Press Secretary Psaki as saying on Friday that Washington has been in discussions with leaders from various countries to ensure there is an adequate supply of crude oil. Yomiuri quoted an unnamed GOJ official as saying the GOJ is planning to announce its release of oil reserves along with the United States this week. Nikkei wrote that Japan has never tapped its national oil stockpiles although it has told refiners in the past to release crude oil from their stockpiles in response to supply risks and that the nation will make the unprecedented move in response to a call from the United States to take action against high fuel prices.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team