Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, December 8, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on preparations being made in Japan for the possibility of a sixth wave of COVID-19 infection (NHK), the impact of the Omicron variant on the tourism industry (NTV), Japanese entrepreneur Maezawa Yusaku’s plan to travel to the International Space Station from Russia this afternoon (TBS), differences between local municipalities on how to distribute the 100,000-yen economic relief payments to children (Fuji TV), and an interview with an American man who was infected with the Omicron variant (TV Asahi).

Top items in national dailies included the United States’ announcement of its diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics (Mainichi, Yomiuri, Sankei), the story of one Japanese American who was sent to an internment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Asahi), and increasing moves among Japanese universities to offer courses in data science (Nikkei).


U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

All national dailies reported extensively on the Biden administration's announcement on Monday that the United States will not send any diplomatic or official representatives to the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics given China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.” Prime Minister Kishida told the press in response to the move: "I am aware that the United States announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics. I will decide on Japan's response based on our national interest by taking into consideration the significance of the Olympics as well as our foreign policy."

Nikkei wrote that it remains to be seen how many countries will follow Washington’s lead and that the GOJ plans to wait and see how other countries react to the U.S. decision before making a move. The paper speculated that although a decision to act in concert with the United States would send a warning to China on its provocative actions around the Senkaku Islands, Japan needs to keep a close eye on the development of the boycott issue by observing how Beijing reacts to Washington’s decision and the extent to which a diplomatic boycott would affect the Japanese economy, including businesses operating in China. At a meeting on Tuesday with a group of LDP lawmakers calling on the GOJ to implement a diplomatic boycott, Kishida said he will make a decision that will serve Japan’s national interests.

The other national dailies expressed similar views, with Mainichi pointing out that Japan and China will mark the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic normalization next year. Asahi wrote that the U.S. decision weighs heavily on Japan as it could be criticized for adopting a double standard if it gives consideration to China while stressing the importance of human rights issues by appointing a special advisor to the Prime Minister on human rights. Mainichi, Yomiuri, and Sankei added that the GOJ is considering sending non-cabinet officials, such as Sports Agency Commissioner Murofushi Koji and Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita, to the Beijing Games.

FM Hayashi comments on 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

Mainichi wrote that Foreign Minister Hayashi commented on Tuesday on the 80th anniversary of the Imperial Japanese Navy's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The foreign minister said: “At the time, Japan challenged the international order by trying to resolve a diplomatic and economic impasse through force. Learning lessons from this experience, Japan has maintained the principle that any conflict must be resolved peacefully and diplomatically. Although Japan fought a fierce battle with the United States, the two countries have now established one of the strongest alliances in the world." According to the daily, the foreign minister, apparently with China’s increasing hegemonic moves in mind, said: “We are facing a challenge to the international order. We will further strengthen cooperation with like-minded countries to maintain and strengthen the international order."

Japan pledges $2.8 billion in nutrition-related aid to developing nations

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Kishida announced Japan’s pledge of more than $2.8 billion (300 billion yen) over the next three years to help developing nations address nutrition challenges at the two-day Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit that started on Tuesday. Officials from over 80 countries, international organizations, and private companies participated in the event virtually.


Japan offers to increase host nation support to almost $2 billion annually

Nikkei wrote that the GOJ has proposed to the United States during their working-level negotiations that began in late November increasing Japan’s share of the cost of stationing U.S. forces in the country to around 210 billion yen to 220 billion yen ($1.85 billion to $1.97 billion) a year from the current 201.7 billion yen ($1.78 billion). The paper wrote that the two governments will continue their discussions with the aim of reaching an agreement on a new five-year deal by the end of this year so that Japan can incorporate the cost in its draft budget for fiscal 2022.

The paper speculated that the United States called on Japan to increase its share of the cost to around 250 billion yen ($2.2 billion). While expressing its readiness to meet the U.S. request to some extent, Tokyo reportedly asked Washington to transform the spending from what is referred to as a “consideration budget” into a budget for strengthening the alliance by bolstering the two nations' joint response and deterrence capabilities as opposed to the traditional arrangement of Japan paying for electricity bills and local staff’s wages, and eventually agreed to add 10 to 20 billion yen ($88 million to $176 million) to its share. The daily conjectured that the GOJ made the decision based on the view that it will be difficult to win the public’s understanding for spending more for utilities and made a proposal that would satisfy both the U.S. request for greater funding and domestic sentiments in Japan by focusing on strengthening U.S.-Japan security cooperation.

Yomiuri wrote that it has learned from multiple GOJ sources that the governments of the United States and Japan have broadly agreed that the GOJ will increase the total share of its cost to station U.S. forces in Japan to more than 1 trillion yen ($8.8 billion) for five years from fiscal 2022 to 2026, up 50 billion yen ($440 million) from the amount spent in fiscal 2016 through 2020.

GOJ counters Okinawa’s rejection of Henoko design changes

Asahi, Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei wrote that the Ministry of Defense on Tuesday took action to counter the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s rejection of its application for design changes to the construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility at Henoko. The ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau filed a complaint with Land Minister Saito under the administrative appeal act, demanding a review of the move by the Okinawa government. In April 2020, the GOJ filed the design change application to drive over 70,000 piles into the soft seabed in a section of the waters subject to reclamation for the Futenma replacement facility off the coast of Henoko. Last month, the Okinawa government turned down the central government’s application, saying that necessary research on the deepest point of the soft soil had not been carried out and that the central government has failed to fully address the possible impact of the design changes on the local environment.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno told reporters on Tuesday that the GOJ will make utmost efforts to realize the complete return of the Futenma base as soon as possible. Okinawa Governor Tamaki also told the press on Tuesday that the prefectural government’s decision to reject the GOJ’s application was legally appropriate and that the central government should immediately suspend the construction at Henoko and hold dialogue with Okinawa.

GSDF, U.S. Marines conduct joint training

Sankei front-paged a report saying the GSDF invited the press on Tuesday to cover its joint exercise with the U.S. Marines called Resolute Dragon 21 currently being held in Aomori Prefecture. The exercise, which involves a total of about 4,000 troops, is one of the largest ever held between the GSDF and the U.S. Marines and is aimed at strengthening the GSDF’s operational coordination with the U.S. marines’ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.


Group of lawmakers visits Yasukuni Shrine

Mainichi, Yomiuri, and Sankei wrote that a supra-partisan group of 99 Japanese lawmakers visited Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday. The group aims to visit the shrine three times a year for its annual spring and fall festivals and the anniversary of the end of World War II, but its members had not visited the shrine en masse since the fall of 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team