Morning Alert   -   Friday, March 18, 2022
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NHK led with a report on the damage caused by the major earthquake that hit the southern Tohoku region on Wednesday evening, including disruption to water supplies and train service. TV Asahi led with a report on the lives of people under curfew in Kyiv, while NTV and Fuji TV led with reports on the first news conference held by Princess Aiko, the daughter of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, since marking her coming of age in December.

Most national papers gave top coverage to updates on Wednesday’s quake, saying that service on the Tohoku Shinkansen will be disrupted for some time due to the derailment of a bullet train in Miyagi Prefecture.


Ukraine seeks Japanese satellite data

Nikkei front-paged the disclosure by multiple GOJ sources that the Ukrainian government has asked Japan to provide data collected by its satellites, speculating Kyiv is hoping to analyze the images to ascertain the scope of the invading Russian forces since Japanese satellites are capable of accurately collecting data irrespective of weather conditions. Ukraine is reportedly calling on both commercial firms and governments to provide such data. The GOJ is reportedly handling the request extremely carefully since providing such data could help the Ukrainian military wage its counteroffensive more effectively and hence be construed as Japan becoming closely involved in an international conflict.

Ukrainian envoy asks Japan to allow Zelenskyy to speak before Diet

Yomiuri reported that Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Korsunsky held separate meetings with House Speaker Hosoda and Upper House President Santo on Thursday and formally requested that President Zelenskyy be given an opportunity to remotely address the Diet. The ruling and opposition blocs are reportedly making arrangements for the speech next week, although it is still uncertain whether his remarks will be delivered live.

Sankei ran a similar story, quoting Prime Minister Kishida as commenting on the Ukrainian request during a parliamentary committee session on Thursday: “I acknowledge that there are technical issues. But Mr. Zelenskyy is calling for global support. The international community must take strong measures against Russia in response to his wishes. I want the legislative branch to respond positively.”

Kishida calls Russia’s occupation of Northern Territories illegal

All national papers except Sankei highlighted Prime Minister Kishida’s comment at the Diet yesterday that the Northern Territories are “illegally occupied” by Russia. This was the first time for a prime minister to use this expression at the parliament since 2009. When PM Aso used it at the time, Moscow reacted strongly by saying Tokyo had “attempted to raise doubts about Russia’s sovereignty.” Former PM Abe later described the Russian occupation of the contested islands as “without legal ground” in a veiled attempt to avoid displeasing Moscow in territorial talks, and PM Kishida had continued to use this language until recently. Kishida apparently decided to stop using the muted wording following the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

However, the premier also noted that Tokyo does not intend to repeal Japan's bilateral nuclear technology transfer pact with Moscow since it is designed to ensure Russia’s peaceful use of nuclear technology. Kishida also rebuffed an opposition call for canceling a 2.2-billion-yen ($18.5 million) allocation in the FY2022 budget for promoting economic cooperation with Russia on the grounds that it is a “humanitarian support” initiative that finances joint research on pediatric cancer and geriatrics.

Hayashi meets with ambassadors of four Eastern European nations

Yomiuri and Nikkei reported that Foreign Minister Hayashi held talks with the ambassadors of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia yesterday and confirmed mutual coordination to assist Ukrainian refugees. Hayashi reportedly pledged that Japan will proactively take in Ukrainian evacuees.


Kishida speaks with Saudi crown prince by phone

Yomiuri, Asahi, and Nikkei took up a teleconference between Prime Minister Kishida and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad on Thursday night during which the two officials agreed to cooperate to ease volatility in the international oil market in view of the sharp rise in petroleum prices triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The two officials also reportedly confirmed that their nations will hold ministerial discussions on increasing oil production.


Yen continues to lose ground vis-à-vis dollar

Sankei and Yomiuri highlighted the yen’s continued slide against the dollar in response to the crisis in Ukraine, projecting that the Japanese currency’s value may plunge to its lowest level in seven years at any moment also partly due to the Fed’s decision to end its zero-interest rate policy. The paper attributed the decline to the country’s decades-long economic woes that have become even more pronounced amid the coronavirus pandemic. As exports are unlikely to increase even under a weaker yen owing to the “hollowing-out” of manufacturing platforms, the daily projected that the nation’s economic recovery will probably be delayed further because personal spending is likely to plummet on account of the steady rise in the prices of imports triggered by the weaker yen in the prolonged absence of wage hikes.

Denso’s stolen data removed from dark web

Sankei reported that major auto parts supplier Denso announced on Thursday that the sensitive data stolen from its computer server in Germany has been deleted from the dark web. An accompanying statement on the ransomware attack by the hacker group Pandora has also allegedly been removed. A company spokesperson reportedly dodged a reporter’s question about whether ransom was paid by citing “ongoing investigations.”

Diet debate on economic security legislation begins

All national dailies wrote that parliamentary deliberations on the GOJ-sponsored bill aimed at enhancing economic security started at the Lower House yesterday. The Kishida administration is reportedly seeking the swift passage of the legislation with China’s relentless pursuit of tech hegemony and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in mind. The prime minister explained that the legislation is intended to “ensure the nation’s superiority in the international community without disrupting free economic activities.”


Government spokesman comments on transit of Russian ships through Tsugaru Strait

Yomiuri focused on Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno’s comment yesterday on four Russian landing ships’ passage through the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan on Wednesday. “There is a possibility that the ships are transporting troops and tanks for operations in the Ukrainian theater,” the government spokesperson was quoted as saying. “Russia is mobilizing troops from around the country…. We are watching the movements of the Russian armed forces in the Far East with grave concern.”

Okinawa gubernatorial election to be held on Sept. 11

All national papers wrote that the Okinawa prefectural election steering commission decided on Thursday to hold a gubernatorial election on Sept. 11, adding that the official campaign period will kick off on Aug. 25.


GOJ formally decides to end quasi-state of emergency on March 21 as planned

All national papers reported that the GOJ officially decided yesterday to lift the coronavirus quasi-state of emergency for 18 prefectures on March 21 as scheduled, quoting Prime Minister Kishida as saying at the Diet: “It’s high time to return to normal.”

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team