Morning Alert   -   Friday, April 1, 2022
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NHK gave top coverage to a report on the United States’ announcement of plans for its largest-ever release of emergency oil reserves to address rising energy prices amid Russia's war in Ukraine. TV Asahi led with an update on the situation in Ukraine. NTV led with a report on the 8,226 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Tokyo on Thursday.

Top items in national papers included the GOJ’s description in this year’s diplomatic bluebook of the Northern Territories as being “Illegally occupied” by Russia (Sankei), surges in food prices (Nikkei), a UNHCR estimate that 4 million people have fled Ukraine (Mainichi), the repositioning of Russian units from Kyiv to eastern Ukraine (Yomiuri), and a U.S. intelligence estimate showing that President Putin has been given wrong information on the situation in Ukraine by top generals who are afraid of their own leader (Asahi).


Kishida says Japan to continue LNG development in Russian Far East

Sankei, Asahi, and Yomiuri took up remarks made at the Diet on Thursday by Prime Minister Kishida, who underscored that Japan “will not withdraw” from the Sakhalin 2 offshore LNG drilling project in the Russian Far East. “It is an extremely important project for ensuring energy security, as it has contributed to the long-term, stable supply of inexpensive LNG,” the premier was quoted as saying, adding, though, that the GOJ will also make efforts to reduce energy dependence on Russia. The prime minister made the comments in reply to a question from an opposition lawmaker, who insisted that the continuation of the Sakhalin 2 initiative disrupts the coordinated G7 economic sanctions. “The G7 has agreed to give consideration to the circumstances unique to each member and allow it time to secure sustainable alternative supplies,” Kishida explained.

Japanese oil wholesalers steer clear of Russian products

Mainichi front-paged an article saying that Japanese energy companies are moving to discontinue purchasing Russian petroleum out of fear that importing Russian products may provoke strong reactions from consumers and stockholders at home and abroad in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Some oil wholesalers have reportedly received complaints from customers who said that the continued purchase of Russian oil is tantamount to “abetting Putin’s war.” Noting that many Japanese enterprises are now keenly aware that continuing business with Russia risks reputational damage, the daily observed that the corporate exodus from Russia is picking up further momentum, extending to the oil industry in addition to the retail and manufacturing industries.

Japan now calls Ukrainian capital Kyiv

All national papers reported that yesterday the GOJ officially decided to change the phonetic representation of the Ukrainian capital from Kiev to Kyiv, which is based on the pronunciation in Ukrainian, in response to the wish of the Ukrainian government. The pronunciations of other Ukrainian cities were also changed, with Chernobyl now being called as Chornobyl. MOFA reportedly stressed that the decision was made to “demonstrate further solidarity with Ukraine.”


Military leaders of U.S., Japan, South Korea affirm trilateral cooperation

NHK, Nikkei, Kyodo, and Jiji reported that top military officials of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea assembled in Hawaii on Thursday and confirmed coordination and cooperation to deal with regional challenges, including North Korea’s renewed provocations. Gen. Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Yamazaki, chief of staff of the SDF Joint Staff, and Gen. Won, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, also shared the importance of the steadfast U.S. commitment to the defense of Japan and South Korea and maintaining the rules-based international order, according to a Japanese readout. In the first meeting of its kind in almost a year, the generals also exchanged views on joint training to strengthen trilateral defense partnership as part of efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific. Indo-Pacific Commander Aquilino, USFJ Commander Rupp, and USFK Commander LaCamera reportedly sat in on the session.

According to Kyodo and Yomiuri, the U.S. and Japanese officials held bilateral talks on Wednesday on the margins of the meeting and discussed the situation in Ukraine and North Korea’s repeated missile tests. They agreed to not allow the status quo to be altered by force and to promote mutual and international defense cooperation to rein in China.

Law revised to extend economic support for Okinawa by ten years

Yomiuri reported on the enactment on Thursday of a revised special measures act on economic rejuvenation in Okinawa, explaining that the legislation is aimed at renewing the central government’s commitment to economic development of the island prefecture through 2032. “The passage marks a fresh start for Okinawa’s economic promotion,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno. “The central government will move forward comprehensively and proactively to realize a strong Okinawa economy.” The paper said both the central and prefectural governments must come up with measures to sustain Okinawa’s economic growth, which has thus far depended disproportionately on tourism and public work projects.

ASDF radar unit installed on westernmost island

Yomiuri reported on the launch today on the westernmost island of Yonaguni of an ASDF unit tasked with monitoring the airspace over the Nansei Islands, saying that some 20 airmen will operate a mobile radar at an existing GSDF facility to guard against violations of territorial airspace.


Japan to impose additional sanctions on North Korea

Yomiuri reported that the GOJ plans to immobilize the assets of an additional four entities and nine individuals in response to North Korea’s test-launch of an ICBM on March 24, saying that the latest punitive measure will take effect immediately after approval by the cabinet this morning.

Japan’s ODA projects for China all completed

Asahi reported that all official development assistance (ODA) programs that Japan has carried out in China over the past four decades were completed as of yesterday, saying that although the economic aid initiatives have strengthened bonds between the two nations, they have been criticized as lacking transparency. Tokyo has reportedly committed roughly 3.6 trillion yen ($29.6 billion) in ODA for China starting in 1979, including 3.3 trillion yen ($27 billion) in loans. Although Japan’s generous economic aid initiatives have helped China build infrastructure and improve the environment, the paper added that the ODA’s goal of promoting democracy there remains elusive.


U.S., Japan to urge ASEAN to join coalition to reinforce supply chains

Nikkei reported that the United States and Japan are set to call for ASEAN to participate in the Indo-Pacific Economic Forum (IPEF) that the Biden administration is pursuing to build resilient supply chains for semiconductors and other strategic materials, saying that the two governments are coordinating to draft language for the initiative to encourage the participation of those ASEAN members who are concerned that the forum is intended to contain China. In order to not provoke China, the two governments plan to use such wording as “establishing a mechanism to prevent supply shortages” and “bolstering production lines, assuring supplies of goods, and securing employment at home by ensuring the smooth functioning of international supply chains.” While noting that the IPEF is not simply an economic framework, as evidenced by the proposed language saying “economic and foreign policy interests in this region are closely intertwined,” the paper wrote that Washington and Tokyo are hoping to enlist South Korea, in addition to ASEAN, with the goals of not only promoting market liberalization and open digital trade but reinforcing economic security through reducing dependence on China. The article added that Washington is eager to see the early reconciliation of Japan and South Korea since a strong partnership between the three countries, plus ASEAN and Taiwan, can serve as a bulwark against China’s quest for economic, technological, and military hegemony.

U.S. to partly waive tariffs on Japanese steel

Nikkei wrote that beginning today, the USG will partly waive the additional duties that it has imposed on Japanese steel imports since 2018. A tariff-free quota of 1.25 million tons per year will be established for Japanese products. As the extra tariffs on aluminum imports will remain in effect, the GOJ will continue to press the USG to remove them as well.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team