JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Morning Alert   -   Thursday, May 19, 2022
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HEADLINES

NHK led with an update on the situation in the strategic port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, while all commercial broadcasters gave top coverage to the arrest of a 24-year-old man in Yamaguchi on charges of allegedly gambling away at least some of the 46.3 million yen ($359,000) in COVID-19 relief payments that was erroneously deposited into his account.

Sankei gave top play to its interview with Ambassador Emanuel. Yomiuri led with a report on Japan’s plan to join the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Other lead stories included Russia’s possible rejection of an exchange of captured soldiers with Ukraine (Asahi), the applications for NATO membership submitted by Finland and Sweden (Mainichi), and the worldwide economic slowdown due to rising prices (Nikkei).

AMBASSADOR

Ambassador Emanuel says U.S., Japan to step up cooperation in space, healthcare

Sankei gave top play to its one-on-one interview with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Emanuel. The paper wrote that the Ambassador noted that President Biden will announce during his trip to Japan starting on May 22 the strengthening of U.S.-Japan cooperation in space and healthcare. The paper also said the Ambassador expressed the view that China will not be invited to join the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). According to the daily, this was the first one-on-one interview the Ambassador has granted to a major Japanese newspaper since his arrival.

The paper wrote that Ambassador Emanuel stated during the interview that one of the major deliverables of President Biden’s visit to Japan, including his summit meeting with Prime Minister Kishida, will be U.S.-Japan cooperation and coordination in space. He expressed the United States’ intention to step up cooperation with Japan in gathering information in outer space. Concerning IPEF, whose launch is expected to be announced by President Biden in Tokyo, the Ambassador said the basic premise of the framework will be to abide by agreed-upon rules regardless of the participants’ size or the strength of their economies. The Ambassador said China is not said to be following rules and is not envisioned as a participant in the framework. Referring to IPEF as a tool for economic diplomacy, the Ambassador expressed the United States’ intention to strengthen its ties with Indo-Pacific nations.

The Ambassador also stated that in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida are trying to coordinate with nations in Europe and Asia to employ an integrated strategy and that collaboration between the two leaders is working well. Concerning Japan’s sanctions on Russia, the Ambassador said Japan has been making decisions very quickly and that President Biden values these decisions highly. The Ambassador added that it is necessary for the United States and Japan to deepen their economic and security relations with their allies and make efforts to win ASEAN and island nations over to their side to confront with such dictatorships as China and Russia. Noting that President Biden will have lunch and dinner with Prime Minister Kishida while he is in Tokyo, the Ambassador expressed hope that the two leaders will further deepen their relationship of trust through a series of dialogues.

The paper also ran an extensive inside-page report on the interview. Concerning the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the paper wrote that the Ambassador said major progress would be possible for the bilateral relations if President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida remain in leadership for a few more years, pointing out that the conditions for the United States and Japan to deepen their relations and alliance are favorable today because they currently have no issues of conflict on the economic and security fronts.

On IPEF, Ambassador Emanuel commented that the initiative is aimed at bringing sustainability and stability to economic activities in the region. The paper speculated that the United States is trying as a permanent Pacific power to establish a new economic order based on international rules and norms vis-à-vis China’s hegemonic activities. The Ambassador said Washington decided to launch a new economic framework because the global economic environment has drastically changed due to the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The paper also carried a profile of the Ambassador, noting how he walked to the Kantei, rides the train, eats at local restaurants, and visits local markets and cafes in Japan. The daily quoted him as saying he prefers to interact with ordinary Japanese to experience Japan’s rich culture and diverse society than staying in the shell of security protection. The paper also highlighted the Ambassador’s active use of Twitter, mentioning his tweets on train rides in Tokyo and Osaka and on Russia and China. The Ambassador reportedly told the paper he was impressed with the enthusiasm of the 16 young people he met in Okinawa last month about their plans to study in the United States. The Ambassador was quoted as saying they reminded him that the United States and Japan are connected not only by their alliance relations but also by friendship.

INTERNATIONAL

Japan to participate in IPEF

Yomiuri led with a report saying the GOJ has decided that Japan will participate in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), speculating that Prime Minister Kishida will convey the decision to President Biden at their summit meeting on May 23 in Tokyo. The paper conjectured that Japan will seek to establish a new economic order in the region with the United States through IPEF based on the view that the United States is unlikely to return to the TPP for the time being. Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno told reporters on Wednesday that Japan welcomes IPEF as America’s proactive commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and that Tokyo was studying membership with a positive attitude.

Mainichi and Asahi ran similar reports, speculating that the two nations will take the lead in strengthening economic solidarity in the Indo-Pacific and demonstrate their commitment to counter China’s growing economic and military presence in the region. According to a GOJ source, Kishida is planning to express the view at the summit that IPEF will play an important role in achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific. However, Mainichi wrote that while calling on as many nations as possible to join the framework, the premier is also considering reiterating Japan’s wish for the United States to return to the TPP.

The papers also wrote that the South Korean government decided on Wednesday to participate in IPEF. According to the papers, President Yoon is planning to directly convey to President Biden Seoul’s decision to join the initiative at their summit meeting on May 21.

Japan to announce additional aid for Ukraine during summit with U.S.

NHK reported that during his meeting with President Biden next week, Prime Minister Kishida plans to pledge $300 million in additional loans for Ukraine to demonstrate Tokyo’s continued commitment to taking a concerted line with the other G7 members to help Kyiv push back Russian forces. This contribution will bring Japan’s loans for Ukraine following the Russian invasion to a total of $600 million.

Komeito calls for G7 summit to be held in Hiroshima

All national dailies wrote that Komeito Chief Representative Yamaguchi submitted to Prime Minister Kishida on Wednesday his party’s proposal for the GOJ to select Hiroshima as the venue for the G7 summit in 2023. Kishida reportedly replied by saying he will consider the proposal. Komeito stressed in the proposal that amid growing concern over the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons in its war on Ukraine, it is necessary to remind people around the world of the real-life consequences of atomic weapons. The party also proposed that the G7 foreign ministerial meeting be held in Nagasaki in 2023.

Japan urges China to play responsible role in ensuring global peace and security

All national dailies wrote that Foreign Minister Hayashi and his Chinese counterpart Wang held a videoconference for about 70 minutes on Wednesday. Hayashi reportedly stressed the need for the international community to work together to achieve North Korea's denuclearization amid Pyongyang’s reported preparations to conduct a nuclear test. Concerning China’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hayashi told Wang that Japan hopes Beijing will play a "responsible role" in ensuring global peace and security. The dailies said that this was the first time in six months for the top diplomats of Japan and China to hold talks and that the videoconference was held at the request of the Japanese side. Hayashi also expressed Japan’s serious concern over China’s behavior in the South and East China Seas, Hong Kong, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and said that the Japanese public’s views about China are very severe.

Nikkei speculated that China agreed to accept Japan’s request to hold foreign ministerial talks at this juncture out of concern over the moves of the Quad members, which will hold a summit meeting in Tokyo on May 24. According to a Chinese briefing, Wang told Hayashi that the United States and Japan should not infringe on China’s sovereignty, security, or interests. Yomiuri wrote that although the two nations are hoping to establish stable relations ahead of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic normalization on Sept. 29 of this year, no sign of improvement is in sight yet.

SECURITY

Defense chiefs of U.S., Japan, South Korea to hold in-person meeting

Nikkei wrote that the United States, Japan, and South Korea are making arrangements to hold an in-person meeting between their defense ministers on the sidelines of the Shangri-la Dialogue to be held in Singapore on June 10-12. These will be the first trilateral talks between their defense chiefs since November 2019, when relations between Japan and South Korea deteriorated due to bilateral disputes. The paper speculated that the three nations will try to rebuild their three-way security cooperation following the launch of the Yoon administration in South Korea.

According to Asahi, Prime Minister Kishida is also making arrangements to attend the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore. The paper wrote that Kishida will be the first Japanese prime minister to attend the regional security conference since Abe Shinzo in 2014.

MSDF conducts joint drills with U.S. aircraft carrier

Nikkei wrote that the MSDF announced on Wednesday that it conducted joint drills with the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan on May 8-16 in waters south of the Kanto region.

SCIENCE

Japan’s nuclear regulator approves plan to discharge treated Fukushima water

All national dailies wrote that Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority approved on Wednesday a plan to discharge treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the sea. The plan will be officially approved in July at the earliest after going through a public comment process. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, will need to gain consent from the municipalities hosting the power complex to start building the water discharge facilities. The water will be diluted with seawater to 1/40th of the concentration of tritium permitted under Japan’s safety standards and discharged 1 kilometer off the power plant via an underwater pipeline.

Yomiuri wrote that Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hagiuda held talks with visiting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Grossi on Wednesday and that the two officials confirmed close cooperation between the GOJ and the IAEA in monitoring TEPCO’s discharge of treated water from the Fukushima plant. Grossi reportedly told Hagiuda that the IAEA review of the safety of the treated water will assure people around the world that it will not have a harmful impact on public health or the environment. The papers added, however, that local fishermen remain opposed to the discharge plan.

COVID-19

COVID-19 testing requirement to be eliminated for travelers from U.S., other nations

NHK reported that the GOJ is likely to suspend beginning in June the ongoing coronavirus testing requirement at ports of entry for travelers from some 100 nations, including the United States and the UK, because their positivity rates have remained relatively low over the past several months. Arrivals from these countries will be exempted from testing and self-quarantine requirements upon entry even if they have not received third doses of vaccine.

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