Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, December 15, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on the unlikelihood of an amendment being passed during the current extraordinary Diet session to address the issue of Diet members receiving the full monthly payment of 1 million yen for expenses even if they have only been in the office one day that month (NHK), the cold weather in the Kanto region yesterday (NTV), the finding that three political groups received COVID-19 subsidies from the government (TBS), an incident in which two workers died after falling into a silo at a concrete plant (Fuji TV), and popular singer Aiko’s marriage announcement (TV Asahi).

Top items in national papers included Toyota’s plan to invest heavily in the production of electric vehicles, a GOJ plan to name an organization in charge of issues related to minors the “Agency for Children and Families Affairs,” the GOJ’s flipflop on its cash handout program for households with children aged 18 or younger, and alleged tampering by the Land and Infrastructure Ministry of raw data used in key statistics on the construction industry.


Secretary Blinken calls for greater coordination with allies, partners in Asia to deter China

All national papers except Nikkei spotlighted a foreign policy speech delivered by Secretary of State Blinken in Jakarta on Tuesday. He reportedly vowed to deepen diplomatic, military, and intelligence cooperation with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s unilateral attempts to alter the status quo. He reportedly underscored the importance of promoting “integrated deterrence” to ensure that the region remains “free and open.” The top U.S. diplomat also reportedly referred to Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand as allies with whom Washington plans to strengthen cooperation and coordination on the security and economic fronts. “Those bonds have long provided the foundation for peace, security, and prosperity in the region. We’ll foster greater cooperation among these allies. That’s one of the things we’ve done by …. launching a historic new security cooperation agreement with Australia and the UK,” the Secretary was quoted as saying.

Asahi and Sankei said the Biden administration is extremely keen to expand partnerships with ASEAN countries based on the assessment that they occupy a key geostrategic position in pushing back against China. Noting that the Secretary plans to visit Malaysia and Thailand after Indonesia, the papers said the three countries are ASEAN members that neither Secretary Austin nor Vice President Harris visited when they traveled to the region in the summer.

Senator Hagerty comments on Ambassador-nominee Emanuel

Sankei published an interview with former Ambassador to Japan Hagerty in which he reportedly expressed concern about the prolonged delay in the Senate confirmation of Rahm Emanuel as President Biden’s envoy to Japan. “His arrival in the post will send an important message to China, North Korea, Russia, as well as our allies South Korea and Taiwan,” said the senator, who explained that the confirmation has been delayed because Congress prioritizes the domestic situation over U.S. position in the world. Speaking on the ambassador-nominee, Hagerty said: “He and I are in complete sync” when it comes to the extreme importance of a strong U.S.-Japan alliance for regional peace and security. The former ambassador expressed hope that Tokyo will follow the U.S.’s lead in implementing a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

Kishida says Japan weighing joining U.S.-led consortium on export controls

According to Nikkei and Sankei, Prime Minister Kishida commented yesterday on the recent launch of a four-party export control regime between the United States, Australia, Denmark, and Norway aimed at protecting human rights in China and elsewhere. “Our position on the ‘Export Controls Human Rights Initiative’ will be determined after we scrutinize it carefully,” he was quoted as saying. “We have stopped short of expressing interest since it is still under consideration.”

Kishida speaks by phone with new German leader

Yomiuri and Mainichi highlighted a teleconference between Prime Minister Kishida and new German Chancellor Scholz on Tuesday at which they agreed to deepen bilateral cooperation on a range of issues, including national and regional security, nuclear arms reduction, and nonproliferation. In reply to a remark from the prime minister voicing his wish to attach importance to Japan’s relations with the major European partner, the German leader said: “I would also like to strengthen mutual ties.” The two leaders reportedly did not exchange views on Berlin’s plan to participate as an observer in the first Meeting of States Parties to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons scheduled for March in Vienna.

In a related story, Yomiuri reported on Kishida’s remark at the parliament yesterday dismissing the possibility of Japan taking part in the Vienna conference even as an observer. He made the comment in response to a call for Japan to participate in the conference by former Foreign Minister Okada of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. According to the paper, the prime minister also dismissed Okada’s criticism that the GOJ expressed opposition behind-the-scenes to the Biden administration’s idea of declaring a no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons. “Such a declaration would be meaningless in the absence of mutual trust among the nuclear powers,” Kishida was quoted as saying.

Leaders of parliamentary groups call for diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games

All national papers wrote that the heads of three parliamentary leagues on human rights in China met with Prime Minister Kishida at the Kantei on Tuesday and urged him not to send a government or diplomatic delegation to the Beijing Winter Olympics unless the Chinese government addresses Japan’s concerns about its human rights abuses of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.

In a related story, Asahi reported that a supra-partisan parliamentary league seeking the enactment of a Japan version of the U.S. Magnitsky Act chose former Agriculture Minister Saito Ken of the LDP as their new leader on Tuesday given that Nakatani Gen, who had headed the group since its inception, stepped down last month when he was tapped by Prime Minister Kishida as a special advisor on human rights issues. Upper House legislator Funayama Yasue of the Democratic Party of the People was selected as the co-leader of the parliamentary league.

Japan to expand scope of overseas cybersecurity support

All national dailies other than Sankei reported that the GOJ decided yesterday to expand the geographical scope of its technical and personnel support for strengthening cybersecurity abroad, saying that in addition to the ASEAN members, countries in the Indo-Pacific region such as India and African nations will be given various types of assistance so the local governments can defend their own infrastructure against cyberattacks. Tokyo is reportedly aiming to extend support for capacity building to a greater number of nations to counter China and Russia.


SDF law to be amended to ensure swift evacuation of Japanese nationals abroad

Mainichi, Asahi, and Yomiuri took up remarks made to the press yesterday by Defense Minister Kishi, who disclosed that the ministry has commenced a study on revising the SDF Law to enable SDF troops to swiftly evacuate Japanese citizens overseas. Critics have reportedly insisted that a clause in the statute stood in the way of deploying swiftly an SDF unit to Afghanistan on an evacuation mission following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul on Aug. 15. The provision calls for the GOJ to ensure the “safety” of SDF personnel when carrying out evacuation operations on foreign soil. Prime Minister Kishida has reportedly instructed the defense chief to look into the article, reasoning that the level of safety of SDF troops that the government must guarantee when ordering such operations should not be equal to that of private citizens.


Poll: Three out of four displeased with current state of politics

Yomiuri front-paged the results of a nationwide public opinion poll conducted jointly with Waseda University on people’s attitudes toward politics. According to the weeks-long survey conducted after the Oct. 31 general election, some 74% voiced dissatisfaction with the current state of politics, marking the highest level ever. The percentage of people who approved of the government’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic exceeded that of those who did not at 54% and 45%. However, of those who were displeased with the state of politics, 53% disapproved of the GOJ’s handling, while 45% approved of it.

More than four out of five reportedly expressed hope that the opposition camp will grow strong enough to counter the ruling LDP, with even three out of four voters who supported the LDP in proportional representation in the October race agreeing with this sentiment. While 65% said they wished there would be a change of government once in a while, 75% said such a scenario is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team