Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, April 13, 2022
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Broadcasters led with reports on a press conference by Russian President Putin yesterday at which he said the military operations in Ukraine will continue until Moscow’s goals are fulfilled (NHK), the forecast for more hot weather in Tokyo today (NTV, TBS), a mass shooting in a Brooklyn subway station on Tuesday, (Fuji TV), and a Ukrainian government official’s remark that the war in Ukraine may continue until around 2035 (TV Asahi).

Top stories in national dailies included an informal proposal from the United States, the UK, and Australia for Japan to participate in their AUKUS security framework (Sankei), the Mariupol mayor’s statement to AP that the death toll in the southeastern Ukrainian city could surpass 20,000 (Yomiuri), Russia’s suspected use of chemical weapons in Ukraine (Mainichi), the devastation in Borodyanka, near Kyiv (Asahi), and data showing that global sales of new electric vehicles in 2021 doubled to reach 4.6 million units and overtake hybrid cars for the first time, boosted by strong demand in China and Europe (Nikkei).


President Biden eyes trip to Japan in late May

Mainichi, Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan are making arrangements for President Biden to visit Japan on May 22-24. According to the papers, the President is planning to arrive in Japan on May 22, hold talks with Prime Minister Kishida on May 23, and attend a Quad summit on May 24. The dailies noted that if Biden’s visit to Japan is realized, it will be his first trip to Asia as president. Yomiuri wrote that a meeting with the Emperor is also being arranged for President Biden. Sankei wrote that according to multiple GOJ sources, the governments of the United States and Japan are setting up a meeting for the President on May 23 with the families of the Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.

Nikkei speculated that in addition to cooperation in dealing with China’s intensifying hegemonic activities in the Indo-Pacific, responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda for the Quad summit.

Yomiuri and Mainichi wrote that President Biden is also considering visiting South Korea, with Mainichi saying South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Tuesday that President Biden has begun making arrangements to go there after Japan. The South Korean daily noted that if President Biden’s trip to the nation is realized, Yoon Suk-yeol, who will take office as the president of South Korea on May 10, will hold his first in-person meeting with the U.S. leader.

In related stories, Yomiuri and Nikkei wrote that Senator Hagerty told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Kishida at the Kantei on Tuesday that President Biden’s planned trip to Japan next month will underscore the importance of the region to America. Yomiuri added, however, that the President’s diplomatic schedule is still fluid because it may become necessary to make adjustments in coordination with Australia, which is planning to hold a general election on May 21.

Senator Hagerty welcomes Japan’s sanctions on Russia

Mainichi reported on a meeting held between Prime Minister Kishida and Senator Hagerty, the former Ambassador to Japan, at the Kantei on Tuesday. According to the paper, Senator Hagerty welcomed Japan’s active cooperation in imposing sanctions on Russia. Referring to China and North Korea, the senator reportedly said the U.S.-Japan alliance is being tested.

Quad nations provide COVID-19 vaccines to Cambodia

Nikkei reported on a MOFA announcement on Tuesday that the United States, Japan, Australia, and India have jointly provided Cambodia with 325,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The paper wrote that this is the first time for the Quad nations to take such a joint action, noting that the four nations agreed at their leaders’ meeting in March 2021 to provide vaccines to developing nations in the Indo-Pacific.

Kishida eyes trip to Southeast Asia, Europe during Golden Week

Mainichi wrote that it learned from multiple GOJ sources on Tuesday that Prime Minister Kishida is making arrangements to visit Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam during the Golden Week holidays starting in late April to urge those nations to act in concert with Japan in responding to Russia and discuss cooperation in achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific with China’s advancement in the South and East China Seas in mind. Kishida is also planning to visit the UK and other European nations during the holiday period. The paper speculated that since the United States has expressed its intention not to attend this year’s G20 meetings if Russia participates in them, Kishida may ask Indonesia, this year’s G20 chair, to coordinate between countries with different interests. Sankei ran a similar report, saying that Kishida is making arrangements to hold talks with Prime Minister Johnson in the UK to discuss assistance to Ukrainian evacuees and sanctions on Russia.

FM Hayashi to visit Central Asia from late April

Yomiuri and Nikkei wrote that Foreign Minister Hayashi is planning to visit Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian nations starting in late April, speculating that he is hoping to strengthen Japan’s cooperation in the energy sector with these nations that are rich in oil and gas resources.


Russia spreading disinformation on war in Ukraine

TV Asahi’s weekday evening news show “Super J Channel” aired an eight-minute report on Russia’s attempts to spread disinformation on its aggression in Ukraine. The program took up remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov denying Russian troops’ involvement in a rocket attack on a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk last week that is believed to have killed more than 50 civilians. Lavrov insisted that the footage of the attack was fake news. A Russian representative to the United Nations and a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson also insisted that the Western media has been spreading fake news about civilian casualties in the city of Bucha in the Kyiv region.

The program highlighted the recent exchange of harsh words on Twitter between U.S. Ambassador to Japan Emanuel and Russian Ambassador to Japan Galuzin over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In response to Ambassador Emanuel’s tweet on April 1, “As Russian forces brazenly attack humanitarian convoys and steal food & medicine, international support is needed more than ever,” Ambassador Galuzin tweeted on April 6, “What is truly brazen is the constant compulsive lying of Washington and NATO officials regarding what has been actually happening in Ukraine throughout the last 8 years.” Ambassador Emanuel responded by tweeting on the following day, “Sanctions must be biting your budget and you had to cut your cable service. So let me assist you,” embedding links to foreign media’s YouTube videos on the atrocities against Ukrainian civilians. The network said it is unusual for such an exchange of harsh words to take place on the official Twitter accounts of the U.S. and Russian envoys.

According to the program, multiple social media accounts that were set up in Japan are suspected of being used to shape pro-Russian public opinion. According to a Japanese internet security company, there are at least 20 such accounts that have tens of thousands of followers each. The company suspects that the Russian authorities are involved in these accounts because although they posted opinions against vaccines and other issues and did not mention President Putin or Ukraine before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, they suddenly began posting items defending Russia after Feb. 24. An analyst at the company speculates that pro-Russian groups set up these accounts as part of their long-term strategy to wage information warfare in Japan.

Japan formally decides on additional sanctions on Russia

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ agreed at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that Japan will impose additional sanctions on Russia by expanding the scope of its asset freeze to 398 individuals, including President Putin's two daughters, and banning imports of 38 items, including vodka, machinery, and lumber, starting on April 19. Japan will also prohibit Japanese individuals and companies from making new investments in Russia and freeze the assets of Sberbank and Alfa Bank starting on May 12. Mainichi wrote that Japan took the step to act in concert with the United States and the EU.

Gap remains between U.S., India over Russia

Mainichi wrote that although President Biden and Indian Prime Minister Modi met remotely on Monday to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the United States and India held an in-person 2+2 meeting in Washington, it remains to be seen whether these meetings were successful in pressing India to participate in international sanctions on Russia by altering its conciliatory attitude toward Moscow. The paper speculated that the Biden administration is worried that India will become a loophole in the global sanctions on Russia. The daily also wrote that although the United States is keen to strengthen its relations with the other Quad member states to counter China, India’s soft approach to Russia could become an obstacle.


U.S., UK. Australia sound out Japan on possibility of joining AUKUS

Sankei led with a report saying it learned from multiple GOJ sources on Tuesday that the United States, the UK, and Australia have separately and informally sounded out Japan on the possibility of it joining the AUKUS security framework, speculating that the invitation is aimed at incorporating Japan’s technologies in their development of hypersonic weapons and electronic warfare capabilities. The paper wrote that while some in the GOJ think joining AUKUS is a good idea, others remain cautious because Japan already has agreements with each AUKUS member on strategic partnerships and the transfer of defense equipment and technology.

Japanese, Italian defense chiefs confirm defense cooperation

Asahi wrote that Defense Minister Kishi held talks with his visiting Italian counterpart Guerini at his office on Tuesday. The paper wrote that with China’s increasing maritime activities in mind, Kishi welcomed Italy’s and other European nations’ increasing engagement in the Indo-Pacific and that the two defense chiefs confirmed they will promote their nations’ defense cooperation through joint drills and other activities. At the outset of the meeting, Kishi condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine by saying it is critically important for likeminded nations that share such universal values as freedom, human rights, and the rule of law to respond to Russia in a unified manner.

U.S. flattop conducting joint exercises with MSDF

NHK reported that the U.S. Navy disclosed that the USS Abraham Lincoln is conducting joint military exercises with the MSDF in the Sea of Japan. The network said the training is aimed at warning North Korea amid speculation that it may conduct a nuclear test or launch a ballistic missile. The network said it confirmed from a helicopter that the Abraham Lincoln was transiting the Tsushima Strait toward the east on Monday afternoon. This is reportedly the first time for a U.S. Navy flattop to be deployed to the Sea of Japan since November 2017 when North Korea conducted repeated nuclear tests and ICBM launches.


U.S. raises tariff on Japanese beef

Mainichi wrote that the United States has raised its tariff on Japanese beef as its low-tariff quota this year for imports from Japan, Brazil, and other countries had been met due to an influx of beef from Brazil. Noting that the United States is the second largest importer of Japanese beef, the paper said this may deal a blow to Japan’s beef exports.


30,000 foreign students entered Japan since easing of COVID-19 border controls

Yomiuri wrote that Education Minister Suematsu told reporters on Tuesday that about 30,000 foreign students have arrived in Japan since the government eased its COVID-19 border controls in March.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team