Morning Alert   -   Thursday, December 9, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on the fourth case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 confirmed in Japan (NHK, TBS, TV Asahi), Japanese entrepreneur Maezawa Yusaku’s arrival at the International Space Station, where he is expected to stay for 12 days (NTV), and Empress Masako’s 58th birthday today (Fuji TV).

Top items in national dailies included Prime Minister Kishida’s remarks at the Diet yesterday on a plan to distribute economic relief payments to parents of minors aged 18 or younger, a GOJ plan to revise a law governing tax accountants to prevent them from avoiding disciplinary action, a lawsuit filed by a U.S. firm against Toyota, Honda, and GM over its patents related to “connected vehicles”—cars that can connect with various devices via wireless networks — and the Kishida administration’s plan to have the Children’s Affairs Agency take the lead in creating a database of teachers who have been involved in sexual offenses in the past.


Anti-Chinese sentiment rising within LDP

Yomiuri reported on growing criticism of China within the ruling LDP over its human rights and civil liberties abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Conservative-minded hardliners are reportedly mulling submitting to the ongoing Diet session a resolution denouncing such conduct and urging the Chinese leadership to halt these practices. They are also calling for the Kishida administration to join the United States, Australia, and the UK in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. “Dispatching a cabinet-level official to the event would send the wrong signal,” said Chairman Sato Masahisa of the LDP taskforce on diplomacy. LDP Policy Research Council Chairwoman Takaichi has also called for a diplomatic boycott of the international sporting event. These politicians reportedly take issue with Prime Minister Kishida apparently being conciliatory toward Beijing as suggested by his appointment of Foreign Minister Hayashi, who is regarded as an expert on China. The premier is reportedly displeased that the hardliners see him as a “panda hugger.”

Foreign, defense ministers to visit U.S. for 2+2 talks early next month

Nikkei wrote that arrangements are underway for Foreign Minister Hayashi and Defense Minister Kishi to visit Washington in early January to hold talks with their U.S. counterparts on strengthening deterrence against China. During the first 2+2 ministerial meeting under the Kishida administration, the Japanese side is set to explain its plan to update several key security documents next year, including the National Security Strategy.

Kishida to participate in virtual Summit for Democracy

Nikkei and Yomiuri reported that Prime Minister Kishida will participate in the Summit for Democracy that President Biden plans to convene virtually on Dec. 9-10. “The prime minister decided to participate to show respect for democracy and other universal values,” said Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Isozaki during a press conference on Wednesday. “He expects to hold substantive discussions on the promotion of democracy.”

Top government spokesperson comments on Pearl Harbor attack

Yomiuri highlighted remarks made to the press yesterday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno, who commented on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 80 years ago. “The anniversary this year presents us with an important opportunity to recognize the value of U.S.-Japan reconciliation and renew our determination never to repeat the tragedy of war,” the government spokesman was quoted as saying. “Nothing is more important for the two countries than to coordinate and cooperate closely for regional stability while retaining the memory of the past war.”

Russia invites South Korea to participate in development of Northern Territories

Sankei spotlighted an online meeting held on Tuesday between the Russian deputy prime minister in charge of Far Eastern economic development and the South Korean deputy prime minister during which the Russian official allegedly called for South Korea’s business investment in a tax-free zone that Moscow plans to set up in the Northern Territories.


Joint drill demonstrates accelerated military interoperability between U.S., Japan

Nikkei took up Resolute Dragon 21, a joint exercise that the USMC and the GSDF are currently conducting in Japan, saying that the two forces airlifted a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from Kadena AB to an MSDF base in Aomori earlier this week. They also reportedly performed a tabletop exercise at a GSDF training area in Miyagi to practice Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. The paper said the drills showcased the rapid deepening of interoperability between the U.S. military and the SDF. The daily said the training was held with China in mind and noted that PLA fighters have repeatedly intruded in the airspace around Taiwan.


CDPJ distancing itself from Communist party

Yomiuri and Mainichi took note of the growing distance between the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party, focusing on the disclosure by CDPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Mabuchi on Wednesday that he will no longer hold regular talks with his JCP counterpart. The largest opposition party led by President Izumi is apparently inclined to keep its distance from the Communist Party, with Mabuchi saying: “We will deal with the Kishida administration while proposing policy alternatives and cooperating if necessary. We must reconsider the role of an opposition party.” According to the articles, the Diet affairs committee chiefs of the CDPJ, the JCP, the Democratic Party for the People, and the Social Democratic Party met every Wednesday to coordinate their approaches toward the LDP administrations until before the general election on Oct. 31.


Fourth case of Omicron variant confirmed in Japan

All national dailies reported on a Health Ministry announcement on Wednesday that a man in his 50s tested positive for the Omicron strain of COVID-19 upon arrival at Narita Airport via Qatar on Saturday. He is the fourth person found to be infected with the emerging variant in Japan and is reportedly asymptomatic. All 103 passengers on the same Japan-bound flight as the infected traveler are undergoing daily health monitoring.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team