JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Morning Alert   -   Thursday, March 17, 2022
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HEADLINES

All broadcasters and national dailies gave top play to the strong earthquake that hit southern Tohoku late last night. Two people were reportedly killed in the tremor.

AMBASSADOR

U.S., Japan work together to airlift supplies to Ukraine

Asahi, Mainichi, Yomiuri, Sankei, Jiji Press, NHK, NTV, and TBS reported on operations at Yokota AB on Wednesday to load onto a U.S. military C-17 transport plane 38 tons of Japan’s nonlethal defense supplies bound for Ukraine. The supplies included bulletproof vests, helmets, and other equipment. The aircraft departed Yokota for Europe. The media outlets said this was the first time for the U.S. military to transport Japanese supplies for Ukraine. Sankei wrote that Japan requested cooperation from the United States based on the U.S.-Japan Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement. The paper also wrote that although Japan has already shipped some supplies to Ukraine by SDF aircraft, it asked for the U.S. military’s cooperation in order to transport the supplies more swiftly. Sankei, Jiji Press, NHK, and NTV quoted Ambassador Emanuel as saying: “Today, our alliance marks a new chapter in our history, as we come together to help our friends in Ukraine.” TBS showed the Ambassador saying: “This is the U.S.-Japan Alliance in action and the United States will help the brave citizens of Ukraine.”

Ambassador welcomes GOJ decision on Russian MFN status

Jiji Press and Sankei wrote that Ambassador Emanuel released a statement in response to the Japanese government’s decision to strip Russia of its most favored nation trade status by saying that Japan’s actions demonstrate its steadfast commitment to stand in unity with the Ukrainian people.

SOCIETY

Powerful earthquake jolts southern Tohoku

All broadcasters provided updates on the damage caused by the major quake that hit the southern Tohoku region late last night, with NHK saying two people had been killed and at least 92 others had been injured as of 7 a.m. Property damage was reported primarily in Miyagi and Fukushima, and 47,000 households in the two prefectures were without electricity. The power outages in the Kanto region that were widespread right after the quake have been resolved. Train service in the Kanto region began this morning without any significant disruptions, but service in the Tohoku region remains largely suspended. A 17-car bullet train on the Tohoku Shinkansen line was derailed in southern Miyagi last night, but nobody was injured in the incident. The Tohoku and Joban Expressways that connect Kanto to Tohoku are still partially closed. According to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, cooling operations at the four reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant were not disrupted. No abnormalities were reported at other atomic power stations in Tohoku.

UKRAINE CRISIS

Japan to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status

All national dailies reported on a press conference by Prime Minister Kishida on Wednesday in which he announced Japan’s additional sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, including stripping Russia of its "most favored nation" status. Kishida told reporters that he denounces Russia's invasion of Ukraine as an atrocity that should be recorded in history and will impose strong sanctions on Russia in coordination with the other G7 members. The premier also said that in order to hold Russia accountable for its aggression, Japan will impose additional sanctions by expanding the scope of the asset freeze targeting elites and business oligarchs close to President Putin. In coordination with the other G7 members, the GOJ will also block Russian access to loans from international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

DM Kishi reiterates Japan’s support in virtual talks with Ukrainian counterpart

Yomiuri wrote that Defense Minister Kishi held a videoconference with his Ukrainian counterpart Reznikov on Wednesday and condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as undermining the foundation of the international order by attempting to unilaterally change the status quo by force. Kishi told the press afterward that Japan will provide maximum support for Ukraine in coordination with the United States and the international community. Nikkei wrote that the Ukrainian minister expressed his nation’s appreciation for Japan’s provision of defense supplies to the country.

Japan to send team of experts to Moldova to assist evacuees

Asahi wrote that Foreign Minister Hayashi spoke by phone with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Popescu of Moldova on Wednesday. Hayashi told Popescu that Japan will send a team of experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency and other organizations to Moldova to extend aid to Ukrainian citizens fleeing there. According to the Foreign Ministry, the two foreign ministers strongly condemned the Russian invasion as violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as international law.

Russian ships transit Tsugaru Strait, possibly carrying Ukraine-bound troops

Yomiuri wrote that the Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday that it confirmed on Wednesday that four Russian landing ships had passed through the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido from the Pacific Ocean into the Sea of Japan. The ministry speculated that the ships were transporting troops and combat vehicles from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East to Vladivostok for transshipment to Ukraine by land or air. Asahi, Nikkei, and Sankei ran similar reports, with Asahi saying the MSDF first spotted two Russian tank landing ships about 70 km east-northeast of Shiriyazaki, Aomori Prefecture, at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday, and two others about 220 km east-northeast of Shiriyazaki at around 7 a.m. on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy sounds out Japan on possibility of addressing Diet

All national dailies wrote that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has sounded out Japan on the possibility of him virtually delivering a speech at the Diet. According to the papers, the Ukrainian Embassy in Tokyo proposed the idea to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. The Diet affairs committee chairpersons of both the ruling LDP and the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan agreed on Wednesday to study the proposal in a positive manner. However, the idea poses logistical and other issues because the Diet has never hosted a virtual speech by a national leader.

INTERNATIONAL

Abductees’ families urge GOJ to quickly realize return of victims

Mainichi, Yomiuri, Asahi and Sankei reported on a meeting between Prime Minister Kishida and the families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea held at the Kantei on Wednesday. The families urged the Japanese government to bring the victims home while their parents are still alive. Kishida reportedly responded by saying he will make maximum efforts to bring all the abductees home as soon as possible, adding that he will set no preconditions for meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

SECURITY

MOFA asks USFJ to maintain mask mandate at bases

Mainichi wrote that the GOJ disclosed at a meeting with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan on Wednesday that USFJ lifted the mask mandate for its personnel at bases in Japan on March 14 and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the U.S. military to keep the mandate in place out of concern that COVID-19 may spread again. USFJ reportedly continues to require its personnel to wear masks off base. According to the ministry’s office on the Status of Forces Agreement, Japanese employees at U.S. military bases have expressed concern about the lifting of the mask mandate.

ASDF scrambles fighter jets against Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle

Yomiuri wrote that the Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday that the ASDF scrambled fighter jets against a Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle over the East China Sea on Wednesday afternoon. The aircraft did not violate Japan’s airspace. According to the ministry, the Chinese BZK-007 flew through Japan’s air identification zone north of the Senkaku Islands.

COVID-19

Japan’s COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency to be completely lifted

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Kishida announced on Wednesday that his administration has informally decided to lift the COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency that is currently in place for 18 prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, on March 21 as scheduled, as the number of new infections has been declining. The GOJ will make a formal decision on the matter after consulting with a panel of experts on Thursday.

JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
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U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team