Morning Alert   -   Monday, March 7, 2022
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All broadcasters and national papers led with reports related to the war in Ukraine, including Russia’s ongoing military offensive despite the agreement on creating humanitarian corridors and the decisions by Visa and Mastercard to suspend their operations in Russia.


Ambassador Emanuel calls Japan’s provision of defense equipment to Ukraine “historic”

Saturday’s Yomiuri took up a statement issued by Ambassador Emanuel on Friday regarding Japan’s decision to provide Ukraine with defense equipment in which he praised Prime Minister Kishida for playing a “historic role.” “[The] unprecedented decision to provide critical support to Ukraine through donations of defense equipment demonstrates Japan’s strong commitment” to liberty, democracy, human dignity, and international law, he was quoted as saying.

Sankei’s website also highlighted the Ambassador’s comment, quoting him as saying that the prime minister “has shown the type of leadership the world is craving, and the Ukrainian people are desperate for…. Every democracy has a role to play to boost the will and resistance of the Ukrainian people and military, and Japan has played that historic role.”

Ambassador Emanuel meets with counterparts from NATO and European partner nations

In an online article on the Biden administration’s accelerated moves to court greater support from European allies and friends in pushing back against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Yomiuri highlighted President Biden’s summit at the White House on Friday with his Finnish counterpart Niinistö. The article also said that Ambassador Emanuel held talks with the ambassadors from Finland, Sweden, and other European nations in Tokyo on Saturday evening.


G7 foreign ministers vow to step up sanctions on Russia

All national dailies reported over the weekend on a teleconference between the G7 foreign ministers on Friday, after which they released a joint statement strongly denouncing Russia’s strike on a nuclear power plant in Ukraine. While pointing out that the recent adoption by an overwhelming majority of a UN resolution condemning Russia’s aggression demonstrated Putin’s further isolation in the international community, the statement expressed the G7’s resolve to ramp up the sanctions on Russia.

Japan’s provision of bulletproof vests to Ukraine signifies landmark shift in security policy

All national papers reported on Saturday that in response to a request from Ukraine, the GOJ informally decided on Friday to provide the country with SDF supplies such as bulletproof vests, helmets, tents, cameras, and generators, all of which are all purely defensive in nature. Although Japan’s provision of nonlethal equipment is in line with growing moves overseas to help arm the outgunned Ukrainian military with an array of weapons such as missiles, rifles, and ammunition, the papers stressed that the military aid from Japan is still “extremely unusual” because one of the nation’s longstanding security principles prohibits the direct export of defense hardware to parties to a conflict. As such, the decision marks a “turning point in the nation’s security policy,” in the words of a GOJ source. Yomiuri said the Kishida administration once again chose to align closely with the United States and Europe, noting that U.S. Ambassador to Japan Emanuel welcomed the move by saying Japan is playing a “historic role.”

GOJ officials reportedly defended the decision to send defense supplies to Ukraine, with Prime Minister Kishida telling the press on Friday evening: “It represents Japan’s strong solidarity with Ukraine. Japan stands side by side with the Ukrainian people, who are trying desperately to defend their sovereignty, homeland, and families. We would like to deliver as soon as possible the necessary supplies to Ukraine as it is facing paramount difficulties.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno said the provision is intended to defend the lives of Ukrainian people and not for abetting the expansion of an international conflict, underscoring that the eastern European country is not a “warring party.”

Kishida holds talks with Ukrainian leader

The Saturday editions of all national papers reported on a teleconference between Prime Minister Kishida and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy on Friday evening, during which the Ukrainian leader voiced gratitude for Japan’s offer of defense equipment. The prime minister commented on the Russian attack on a nuclear power plant there by saying: “We are dumbfounded and enraged that Russia has committed another reckless act. It is absolutely unacceptable. As the country that experienced the Fukushima nuclear accident, Japan denounces the attack in the strongest terms.”

Quad statement omits condemnation of Russian invasion of Ukraine

The Saturday editions of all national papers took up the joint readout released following the conclusion of the Quad leaders’ videoconference held early Friday morning, focusing on the omission of language denouncing the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The omission flew in the face of Prime Minister Kishida’s comment during the virtual summit that Moscow deserves strong condemnation for its unilateral attempts to alter the status quo. The document did not even mention Russia, noting instead that the “leaders discussed the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.” However, the four partners agreed, apparently with China in mind, that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states should be respected in the Indo-Pacific region.

The dailies speculated that India was strongly opposed to the idea of condemning Russia in the statement on account of its strong bonds with Moscow to counterbalance China. The papers conjectured that the Biden administration is growing increasingly frustrated with New Delhi’s hesitancy to fully align with the three other Quad partners on many international issues other than the free and open Indo-Pacific initiative. Sankei wrote that Japan is not in any hurry to press India to change its approach toward Russia, saying that when Prime Minister Kishida visits the New Delhi later this month, he will gently urge Prime Minister Modi to take a concerted line with the Quad members.

Japan to take in local employees of Japanese Embassy in Ukraine

Saturday’s Yomiuri wrote that during a Diet committee session on Friday, Foreign Minister Hayashi said locally hired employees of the Japanese Embassy in Kyiv and their dependents will be given shelter in Japan if they wish to travel here. The cabinet minister said that even if they are not granted refugee status in Japan, they might still be given residency visas from a humanitarian standpoint.

LDP official cautions Japan against pulling out of key oil development projects in Russia

Monday’s Yomiuri focused on remarks made during a Sunday TV show by LDP Upper House Secretary General Seko expressing the view that the Japanese government and businesses should think twice about following the lead of Western companies in disinvesting from two major offshore LNG/oil drilling initiatives in the Russian Far East since such moves would have adverse effects on the nation’s goal of ensuring steady supplies of key natural resources. The former cabinet minister in charge of international trade and industry stressed that pulling out of the Sakhalin 1 and 2 projects would end up allowing China to get involved even though Japan has already invested billions of dollars in them.

Japan to maintain nuclear pact with Russia for time being

Asahi reported online on Friday on remarks made at the Diet earlier in the day by Foreign Minister Hayashi, who dismissed a call by a Japanese Communist Party lawmaker for scrapping a 2009 pact with Russia aimed at facilitating the transfer of nuclear-related technology, material, and equipment for peaceful purposes. Although the opposition politician insisted on annulling the pact on account of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the nuclear threat posed by President Putin, the foreign minister said: “We don’t think that the aggression calls for reviewing the accord right now.”

Poll shows four out of five Japanese support sanctions on Russia

Monday’s Yomiuri front-paged the results of its monthly public opinion survey that put support for Japan’s sanctions on Russia at 82% and nonsupport at 9%. More than three out of five respondents said Tokyo should continue taking a concerted approach with the United States and Europe in dealing with the Russian invasion of Ukraine while 28% said Japan should pursue diplomacy on its own. Slightly over 80% felt that the Ukrainian crisis will end up posing a threat to Japan’s national security. Over half of respondents approved of Prime Minister Kishida’s handling of the situation while 29% felt otherwise. Both cabinet approval and disapproval remained almost unchanged from last month at 57% and 28%, respectively.

Japan’s diplomacy returns to Cold War mode of West vs. Moscow

Sankei wrote today that Japan’s diplomacy has been hit hard by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying that the Kishida administration is busy supporting the United States and Europe in helping Ukraine defeat the invading Russian forces. Japan is now facing a world in which “it is crystal clear who our friends and foes are,” in the words of a source close to Prime Minister Kishida. Noting that former Prime Minister Abe was keen to seize the diplomatic initiative in reaching out to even autocratic leaders such as President Putin and the leaders of Turkey and Iran while at the same time maintaining strong bonds with President Trump, the daily speculated that Prime Minister Kishida may not have the same leeway to conduct his own diplomacy at a time when the international community is divided into a Western camp supporting Ukrainian independence and a Russia-led autocratic bloc that is reminiscent of the Cold War era. The paper noted that even the rhetoric used by Japanese officials resembles that of the Cold War.


Greg Kelly’s defense team seeks appellate court review of suspended guilty verdict

The Saturday editions of all national papers reported that the defense counsel of former Nissan executive Greg Kelly filed an appeal with the Tokyo High court on Friday asking for a review of a lower court ruling convicting him on one account of underreporting former Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s income for 2017. The attorneys of the American businessman are calling for their client’s acquittal. According to the papers, Nissan, which was concurrently found guilty by the same presiding judge of concealing Ghosn’s remuneration for additional years, has decided not to appeal the guilty verdict.


Japan to describe Russia as “security challenge” in new security strategy

Sunday’s Yomiuri projected that when updating the 2014 National Security Strategy in December, the GOJ is likely to change the status of Russia from a “partner” to a “national security challenge” on a par with China and North Korea in view of its aggression against Ukraine. The current defense doctrine calls for stronger partnership with Moscow by saying “it is extremely important to elevate the cooperative partnership with Russia on all fronts in order to ensure national defense.” As Moscow has continued to disregard international law in sending troops into Ukraine, the GOJ has now reportedly concluded that Tokyo should “no longer take a soft stance” toward Moscow. The paper added that although China will continue to be described as a “security challenge” in the updated version of the key security document, the word “threat” will be added for its disruptive conduct overseas. North Korea is already categorized as both a security challenge and a threat in the current document.

Sankei also noted that the SDF will be forced to confront China, North Korea, and Russia simultaneously, emphasizing that the nation’s defense posture will need to be bolstered significantly as the three potential adversaries will perhaps continue to escalate their military provocations around the Japanese archipelago.

LDP policy chief calls for debate on “introduction” of nuclear weapons

Today’s Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Sankei took up remarks made on a Sunday talk show by LDP Policy Research Council Chairwoman Takaichi. She underscored that in view of the war in Ukraine, it is important to commence parliamentary discussions on allowing the introduction of U.S. nuclear weapons to Japanese territory in the event of a contingency. The politician said that if Japan were to prohibit a U.S. military plane carrying nuclear weapons from entering its territorial airspace, it would be tantamount to dismissing nuclear deterrence.

Mobile radar to be set up on remote islet in Okinawa to monitor PLA activities in Pacific

Monday’s Sankei front-paged a Defense Ministry plan to establish a mobile early warning radar on the island of Kitadaito, Okinawa, to quickly detect foreign aircraft approaching Japanese airspace. The ministry is eager to set up radar platforms to cover the airspace over the waters between the main island of Okinawa and the Ogasawara Islands where Chinese military ships and aircraft have stepped up their operations lately. As the municipal assembly of the remote isle has adopted a motion calling for the deployment of SDF troops, the ministry is reportedly hopeful that the installation of a mobile radar platform there will help it collect more detailed intelligence on PLA operations in the Pacific.


DPRK launched ballistic missile on Saturday

All Sunday papers wrote that North Korea test-launched a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on Saturday morning, saying that as it flew some 270 kilometers at a maximum height of 560 kilometers before splashing down outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, the Defense Ministry reportedly speculated that the latest projectile was launched on a lofted trajectory. The dailies said the launch was North Korea’s ninth this year and was perhaps aimed at further honing its ballistic missile technology while the United States is preoccupied with the crisis in Ukraine. The provocation, which Pyongyang later claimed was a “key experiment for the development of a new reconnaissance satellite,” was also probably aimed at gaining negotiating leverage vis-à-vis Washington ahead of the resumption of denuclearization talks in the future. The articles noted that Japan lodged a protest against the launch through its embassy in Beijing, adding that Pyongyang may step up its provocations by potentially test-launching an ICBM around April 15 to mark the 110th birthday of DPRK founder Kim Il Sung.


Japanese firm to invest in power generation project near Las Vegas

Monday’s Yomiuri reported that IHI Corp. plans to join forces with a Nevada company and others to build a solar power plant in a suburb of Las Vegas with the goal of starting operations there in 2023. The $1.2 billion clean energy initiative is aimed at providing enough electricity to cover four hours per day of the volume used by 600,000 residents of Las Vegas.


LDP to field retired central government bureaucrat in Upper House election in Okinawa

Monday’s Yomiuri wrote that the LDP’s Okinawa chapter decided yesterday to field a 38-year-old former civil servant in the July Upper House election to unseat the opposition incumbent who plans to seek a second term. The paper said the ruling party is growing increasingly confident that it will fare well in the national race along with the gubernatorial election scheduled for the autumn in view of the ruling candidates’ victories in three key mayoral races in the island prefecture this year.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team