Morning Alert   -   Thursday, February 24, 2022
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NHK led with an update on the rising tension on the border between Russia and Ukraine. Commercial broadcasters’ top stories included the prolonged strain on healthcare capacities in Tokyo due to COVID-19 (NTV), the controversy over Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva (TV Asahi), and a wildfire on the bank of the Tonegawa river in Saitama.

All national dailies gave top play to reports on the announcement by the United States, Japan, the EU, and the UK of their sanctions on Russia.


Kishida announces Japan’s sanctions on Russia over tensions in Ukraine

All national dailies reported on Prime Minister Kishida’s announcement on Wednesday of Japan’s economic sanctions against Russia and the two pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine that Moscow has recognized as independent states. The GOJ will suspend visa issuance for officials from the two regions and freeze their assets, ban exports to and imports from the two regions, and suspend the issuance and trading of new Russian sovereign bonds in Japan.

Speaking to reporters, Kishida reiterated Japan’s condemnation of the latest Russian moves as a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and international law. He stressed that Japan will work closely with the G7 partners and the international community and impose additional sanctions if the situation worsens. The premier added that the government will make utmost efforts to minimize any impact of the sanctions on energy supplies to Japan, including hikes in crude oil prices, and evacuate Japanese nationals from Ukraine.

Nikkei wrote that Kishida moved expeditiously in announcing Japan’s sanctions on Russia after coordinating closely with the United States and European countries, speculating that the premier is concerned that Russian moves to change the status quo by force would have an impact on East Asia, particularly China's maritime activities in the region. The paper wrote that Kishida’s prompt action marks a sharp contrast with Japan’s slow response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 under the administration of former Prime Minister Abe, who attached importance to developing friendly ties with Moscow in the hope of making progress in negotiations on the Northern Territories. Yomiuri and Sankei expressed similar views, with Yomiuri quoting an unnamed senior MOFA official as saying that the prime minister’s announcement on Wednesday was important in order to express Japan’s seriousness in responding to the crisis in Ukraine.

Asahi speculated that while Japan is acting in concert with the United States and Europe, it is hesitant to provoke Russia too much in view of its Northern Territories negotiations with Moscow. The paper wrote that some senior officials at the Kantei are wary of imposing stronger sanctions on Russia.

Mainichi conjectured that although Japan announced its sanctions in coordination with the G7 partners, the measures will probably have limited impact on Russia because not many Russian sovereign bonds are issued and circulated in Japan.

Kishida to forgo trip to Hiroshima with U.S. ambassador due to Ukraine crisis

Asahi wrote that it has learned from multiple GOJ sources that Prime Minister Kishida has decided to forgo a plan to visit Hiroshima with Ambassador Emanuel on Feb. 26 based on the assessment that it would be difficult for him to travel outside Tokyo from the viewpoint of crisis management amid escalating tensions over Ukraine. The paper wrote that no decision has been made yet on rescheduling the trip. Sankei and Kyodo News ran similar reports.

METI, Financial Services Agency issue warnings against possible cyberattacks by Russia

Nikkei wrote that the Financial Services Agency and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry issued on Wednesday separate warnings to financial institutions and companies in Japan calling on them to strengthen security against possible cyberattacks by Russia in retaliation for the economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

Ukrainians in Japan stage rally against Russia

All national dailies wrote that about 40 Ukrainians living in Japan staged a rally on Wednesday in front of the Russian Embassy in Tokyo urging the Kremlin not to take military action against Ukraine and calling for the international community to support their nation.

China insists detained Japanese diplomat was collecting information illegally

Nikkei reported from Beijing that China insisted on Wednesday that the Japanese diplomat who was temporarily detained by the Chinese authorities in Beijing on Monday was “collecting information illegally.” The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo issued a statement on Wednesday saying that China would not accept Japan’s demand for an apology. Yomiuri quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying as telling reporters on Wednesday that the Japanese diplomat was engaging in activities inconsistent with the individual’s capacity in China and that the relevant Chinese government agencies investigated this person in accordance with laws and regulations.

ROK conveys concern to UNESCO on recommendation of Sado gold mine as World Heritage site

Mainichi, Yomiuri, and Sankei wrote that South Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong held talks with UNESCO Director-General Azoulay at the organization’s headquarters in Paris on Tuesday. Chung reportedly expressed Seoul’s strong concern over Japan’s recommendation for the inclusion of the gold mine on Sado Island in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites by arguing that the mine was the site of forced labor by Koreans.


Japan to donate $300 million to global coalition for vaccine development

Yomiuri wrote that the GOJ has decided to donate a total of $300 million over five years to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global partnership launched in 2017 to develop vaccines. The paper speculated that the move is intended to increase Japan’s presence in global healthcare efforts by contributing to strengthening the global response to infectious diseases. Prime Minister Kishida is planning to convey Japan’s pledge to CEPI Chief Executive Officer Richard Hatchett by phone on Friday.

Over 80,000 COVID-19 cases reported in Japan on Wednesday

Mainichi, Yomiuri, and Sankei wrote that Japan logged 80,364 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, down about 10,000 from a week earlier. The nation also reported 246 deaths and 1,489 seriously ill patients, down 15 from the previous day.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team