Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, December 22, 2021
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NHK gave top play to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant at home and abroad while commercial broadcasters’ lead items were updates on the recent suicide of Japanese actress Kanda Sayaka.

Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri gave top play to reports on the estimate released by the Cabinet Office on Tuesday that nearly 200,000 could die if a magnitude 9 level earthquake hit northern Japan. Nikkei led with a report on a plan by Yahoo Japan to provide all its 8,000 employees with AI training. Sankei gave top coverage to the decision by the city assembly of Musashino, Tokyo, to reject a proposed ordinance that would have allowed foreign residents to vote in local referendums.


Japan to increase share of cost for stationing U.S. forces to $9.2 billion over 5 years

All national dailies wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan have agreed that Japan will increase its share of the cost for hosting U.S. troops in the country to 1.05 trillion yen ($9.2 billion), or 211 billion yen ($1.8 billion) annually, for five years starting in fiscal 2022. The papers wrote that Japan will include spending for the procurement of training equipment in the 1.05 trillion-yen ($9.2 billion) budget under a new five-year agreement to enhance the U.S.-Japan alliance’s deterrence and Japan’s defense capabilities with China’s rise in mind. The papers also wrote that the two governments are planning to sign the five-year agreement at their 2+2 meeting of foreign and defense ministers expected to be held in Washington on Jan. 7.

Foreign Minister Hayashi told reporters on Tuesday that although past spending had focused on utility and other costs to support the stationing of U.S. troops in Japan, the United States and Japan agreed to make the spending for the coming five years serve as the foundation for further strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance, adding that the name “consideration budget” (omoiyari yosan) does not correctly reflect the nature of the new agreement that aims to enhance the interoperability of U.S. forces and the SDF. Nikkei wrote that Defense Minister Kishi separately told the press on Tuesday that the U.S.-Japan agreement on the five-year spending demonstrates the two nations’ resolution to meet together the challenges posed by the difficult security environment and that the name of Japan’s share of the cost will be changed from “consideration budget” to “budget for enhancement of readiness and resilience of the alliance” (doumei kyoujinka yosan).

Asahi wrote that although Tokyo tried to fend off Washington’s pressure to increase its share of the cost by agreeing to pay for procuring training equipment and changing the name of the budget, the definition of equipment for military training is vague and the United States might ask for additional spending in the future, quoting an unnamed foreign ministry official as saying that a slight increase in spending may look good, but the Biden administration will likely ask Japan to share equal responsibilities.

Okinawa governor asks U.S. military to prohibit personnel from leaving Camp Hansen

Asahi wrote that the Okinawa Prefectural Government announced on Tuesday that the number of cases in the outbreak of COVID-19 at Camp Hansen reached 207. Governor Tamaki call on the U.S. military to temporally stop accepting servicemembers and base workers arriving in Okinawa from the U.S. mainland and not to allow U.S. military personnel to leave Camp Hansen.

GOJ to cut spending for Okinawa’s development by 20% in fiscal 2022

Nikkei, Asahi, and Mainichi wrote that the Cabinet Office told the ruling LDP on Tuesday that the GOJ is considering cutting its budget for Okinawa’s development in fiscal 2022 by 20% from fiscal 2021 to 240.3 billion yen ($2 billion). The papers wrote that the budget for Okinawa will likely fall below 300 billion yen ($2.6 billion) for the first time in ten years.


Japan expresses grave concern about Hong Kong election

Sankei wrote that at a press briefing on Tuesday, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kihara commented on the results of the recent legislative election in Hong Kong in which pro-Beijing candidates swept to victory. Kihara reportedly said that Japan expressed grave concern about the fact that the election was held without addressing international concerns about controversial changes to the electoral system in Hong Kong. The cabinet spokesperson added that it is important that a free and open system is maintained in Hong Kong and the region can prosper in a democratic and stable manner.


Japan to ask for 14-day quarantine at facilities to block Omicron infections

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Kishida told reporters on Tuesday that the GOJ will ask anyone who has come in close contact with those infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus to quarantine for 14 days at designated facilities, not at home. The premier added that Japan will maintain for the time being the current entry ban over the New Year's holiday period as scientists continue to assess the threat of the more contagious new variant.

The papers also wrote that three new cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant were reported in Japan on Tuesday, bringing total of such infections in the country to 85. According to the Health Ministry, one of the three cases was confirmed in Saitama Prefecture, and the two others, in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) confirmed 38 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The daily tally in the capital has remained below 50 for 66 days in a row, but the figure is up 14 from a week ago. The TMG reported no deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team