Morning Alert   -   Thursday, January 27, 2022
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Most broadcasters gave top coverage to the continued spike in COVID-19 cases across Japan and the increasing strain on healthcare capacities (NHK, NTV, and TV Asahi). The number of cases amounted to 71,644 nationwide on Wednesday, exceeding 70,000 for the first time. Fuji TV led with a report on a fire in Utsunomiya, Tochigi.

Top stories in national dailies included the signing of a memorandum of understanding on technical cooperation between the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and TerraPower for the development of a next-generation fast reactor (Yomiuri), a delay in administering COVID-19 booster shots in Japan (Asahi), a shortage of COVID-19 testing kits in Japan (Mainichi), a plan by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to require power utilities to open up their grids to energy storage systems operated by other companies to promote the use of renewable energy (Nikkei), and Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s meeting with International Olympic Committee President Bach (Sankei).


Quad foreign ministers may hold talks in February

Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that Japan, the United States, Australia, and India are considering arranging an in-person meeting of their foreign ministers in mid-February in Australia. However, the talks could be held virtually depending on the COVID-19 situation. The gathering of the Quad foreign ministers, if realized, would be their first in-person meeting since October 2020. The four nations plan to discuss security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific among other matters.

Kishida says Japan to closely watch situation in Ukraine

Nikkei wrote that Prime Minister Kishida said at a Lower House Budget Committee meeting on Wednesday that Japan will closely watch developments in Ukraine, including moves by the Russian military. The premier added that Japan will respond appropriately by cooperating with the international community and attaching importance to the G7 framework.

Ukraine envoy asks Japan to play greater role in easing tensions with Russia

Mainichi reported on remarks made by Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky on Wednesday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. He reportedly commented on the current tensions with Russia by saying that although it is highly unlikely that a full-scale war would break out between Russia and Ukraine, there may be localized conflicts. Korsunsky reportedly added that Ukraine is not threatening any nation, would never attack Russia, and wants to solve the problem peacefully through diplomatic negotiations. The envoy also said he wants Japan to get more involved in multinational efforts to ease the military tensions with Russia because Japan has an important role to play as a G7 member. Asahi and Sankei ran similar reports.

Komeito supports idea of hosting G7 summit in A-bombed city

Mainichi wrote that concerning the G7 summit that Japan is scheduled to host in 2023, Komeito policy chief Takeuchi told reporters on Wednesday that the party supports the idea of holding the meeting in Hiroshima or Nagasaki because it is important for the G7 leaders to see firsthand the tragedy of the atomic bombings.

Australia to award former NSS chief Kitamura for intelligence cooperation

Mainichi wrote that the GOJ announced on Wednesday that the Australian government has said it will present an award to former National Security Secretariat Secretary General Kitamura Shigeru for his distinguished service for promoting bilateral cooperation in intelligence exchanges. Kitamura will be the first person from Japan to receive this award.


GOJ launches discussions with experts on updating Japan’s national security strategy

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ held its first meeting with a group of experts on Wednesday to discuss updating Japan’s National Security Strategy and other key security documents this year. National Security Secretariat (NSS) Secretary General Akiba and senior officials of the Defense and Foreign Ministries represented the government at the meeting, and former Defense Minister Morimoto and former NSS chiefs Yachi and Kitamura also took part in the discussions.

Nikkei wrote that Japan will revise its security strategy to extend its cooperation with the United States to new domains such as space and cyberspace. The paper added that expert panel hearings will be held until the fall and cover a broad range of issues with security implications, including artificial intelligence, quantum technology, and climate change. The paper also wrote that as the United States has been conducting its own strategic review, Tokyo looks to align closer with Washington on the security front in view of the growing military threat posed by China, including its handling of Taiwan and maritime expansion in the Indo-Pacific region. The paper went on to say that although economic security has never been part of Japan's security strategy, it is growing in importance and the revised strategy will bolster supply chains and safeguard advanced technologies that could be used for military purposes.

U.S. drones may be deployed to SDF base in Kagoshima

Yomiuri wrote that it learned from multiples GOJ sources on Wednesday that the governments of the United States and Japan are considering deploying seven to eight MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles at the MSDF’s Kanoya Air Base in Kagoshima Prefecture this spring or later. Some 100 U.S. military personnel are expected to be stationed at the base to handle the operation and maintenance of the aircraft. The Ministry of Defense is planning to give a briefing on the matter to the local community in the future. The paper speculated that the move is aimed at stepping up surveillance of China’s maritime activities around the Nansei Islands.


Japan’s daily COVID-19 cases top 70,000 for first time

All national dailies wrote that Japan confirmed 71,633 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, marking a new record, surpassing 70,000 for the first time, and rising by nearly 10,000 from the previous day. The number of seriously ill patients was 470, up 26 from the previous day, and 34 people died. Tokyo confirmed 14,086 cases, Osaka logged 9,813 cases, and many other prefectures also reported record-high daily figures.


U.S., Japan sign MOU on joint development of fast reactor

All national dailies wrote that the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said on Wednesday that they will participate in a project to build a prototype plant for a fast nuclear reactor led by a U.S. startup. They signed a memorandum of understanding with TerraPower to help construct a 345-megawatt prototype plant in Wyoming that will be subsidized by the U.S. Energy Department with the goal of starting operations in 2028. However, the papers wrote that judging from Japan’s decision to decommission the Monju fast-breeder reactor project, the commercialization of fast-reactor technology remains a long way off. NHK ran a similar story.


U.S., Japanese officials discuss cooperation on human rights protection

Yomiuri wrote that Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Issues Nakatani Gen held a virtual meeting with U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya on Wednesday and the two officials agreed to cooperate in protecting human rights, including under multilateral frameworks.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team