Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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Broadcasters gave top coverage to reports on President Biden’s visit to Japan (NHK, Fuji TV), a gradual decline in COVID-19 cases across the country (NTV) and an update on the Yamaguchi resident who was arrested for allegedly gambling away most of the 46.3 million yen ($359,000) in COVID-19 relief payments that was erroneously deposited into his account (TV Asahi).

Mainichi and Yomiuri led with reports that President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida agreed during their summit to strengthen the deterrence capabilities of the U.S.-Japan Alliance and Kishida told the President that Japan’s defense budget will be increased. Asahi, Sankei, and Nikkei gave top play to President Biden’s remark in the joint press conference after the summit that the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of a contingency.


President Biden, Prime Minister Kishida agree to strengthen deterrence

All national dailies and broadcasters gave extensive top coverage to the summit between President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida at the Akasaka Palace that lasted for more than two hours on Monday, after which they issued a joint statement in which they agreed to “work together to strengthen deterrence.” Yomiuri wrote that the two leaders agreed on the need to swiftly strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the U.S.-Japan Alliance amid concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may prompt China to step up its hegemonic actions in East Asia. Prime Minister Kishida expressed his intention to fundamentally boost Japan’s defense capabilities and substantially increase its defense budget. The premier also reportedly conveyed to the President his plan to host next year’s G7 Summit in Hiroshima.

Nikkei wrote that even though the United States is busy supporting Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two leaders were able to confirm continued U.S. engagement in East Asia on both the security and economic fronts. Mainichi wrote that the two leaders reaffirmed that no attempt to change the status quo by force can be accepted anywhere in the world and that the international community, including the G7, will respond resolutely. They also agreed to closely monitor China’s moves and strongly opposed any unilateral attempt to change the status quo in the East or South China Seas. In view of China’s buildup of its nuclear forces, the two leaders also agreed to step up talks on extended deterrence, including U.S. nuclear forces. In addition, the premier reportedly said the two leaders agreed that the two nations will hold even closer communications, including at the ministerial level, to ensure that extended deterrence remains rock solid.

Nikkei reported that the joint statement called on China to increase its nuclear transparency and said that the two nations will work together to “strengthen deterrence.” The paper noted that the language in this section was upgraded from the wording in their joint statement released in April 2021 that said they “acknowledged” the importance of deterrence. On North Korea, the two leaders shared deep concern over its nuclear and missile programs and agreed that the United States, Japan, and South Korea will work together closely. The President also promised that he will support Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council if the UNSC is reformed. The two leaders also agreed to launch an economic version of the “2+2” meeting in July, the paper said.

President Biden says in joint press conference that U.S. is committed to defending Taiwan

All national dailies highlighted President Biden’s remark during a joint press conference that the U.S. military would defend Taiwan if China invaded it. When asked by a reporter whether the United States would be willing to get militarily involved in a Taiwan contingency, the President reportedly said: “Yes. That's the commitment we made.” Yomiuri wrote that the President’s remark signified a departure from the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan, noting that this is bound to cause a stir. The paper quoted a White House official as saying: “Our policy remains unchanged. The President emphasized our responsibility over peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” Meanwhile, the dailies wrote that the President also said the United States’ One China policy remains the same and it remains committed to supporting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Yomiuri speculated that the President’s remark on Taiwan was aimed at keeping China in check and dispelling the concerns that have spread among the U.S. allies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Noting that the President also mentioned the U.S. commitment to the defense of Taiwan in August and October last year, after which USG officials had to clarify that the U.S. policy remained unchanged, the paper said the GOJ views the President’s latest remark as “a clear manifestation of the U.S. policy of attaching importance to Taiwan,” according to a senior MOFA official.

In related stories, all national dailies wrote that China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin commented on President Biden’s remarks on the United States’ commitment to defending Taiwan by saying: “China expresses strong dissatisfaction with and firm opposition to the remarks. The Taiwan issue is purely an internal affair of China and cannot be interfered in by any external forces. China will take firm action to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests." Meanwhile Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying that Taiwan welcomes and deeply appreciates President Biden’s remarks.

U.S. launches IPEF with 13 inaugural members

All national dailies reported that President Biden delivered a speech in Tokyo on Monday, during which he announced the launch of the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The papers said the new economic framework will begin with 13 inaugural members—the United States, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei—which account for about 40% of the world’s GDP. The IPEF will focus on fair and resilient trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure and clean energy, and taxes and anti-corruption, with the aim of building a new economic order to counter China. The dailies highlighted the following remarks by the President: “We are writing the new rules for the 21st century economy. We are going to help all of our countries’ economies grow faster and fair.... The key to our success will be the framework’s emphasis on high standards and inclusivity.” Mainichi said Prime Minister Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Modi attended the launch event in person and ten other leaders attended the event virtually. Meanwhile, Sankei wrote that China is reacting sharply to the move by calling it “an attempt to isolate” China.

In a related story, Yomiuri and Sankei wrote that Keidanren Chairman Tokura held a press conference on Monday and welcomed the launch of IPEF, which focuses on a wide range of economic issues, such as digital economy, supply chains, and climate change. He also reportedly expressed hope that the United States will return to the TPP by saying: “This will serve as a steppingstone for the United States to return to the TPP.” Meanwhile, Keizai Doyukai chief Sakurada released the following comment: “We hope to lead the rulemaking [for IPEF] and play a role in increasing the number of participating nations, including in Asia.”

U.S., Japan to work closely to secure semiconductor supply

Asahi and Sankei reported that the governments of the United States and Japan agreed on Monday to hold an economic version of the “2+2” meeting in July and set up a joint task force on the development of next-generation semiconductors. The two governments also reportedly agreed on the importance of a stable energy supply. Sankei speculated that the move is aimed at strengthening U.S.-Japan cooperation on the economic security front to counter the hegemonic actions of China and Russia. The daily wrote that the two leaders agreed to cooperate in the area of semiconductors because of the growing need to secure a stable supply of semiconductors and address the shortage that emerged during the pandemic.

U.S., Japan to strengthen space cooperation

Yomiuri wrote that President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida agreed in their joint statement released on Monday that their two nations will promote cooperation in the area of space, including in the U.S.-led Artemis project. According to the paper, the President referred to Japan’s Hayabusa 2 space probe at the joint press conference and stressed that it is a symbol of progress in space cooperation between the United States and Japan toward going to the Moon and Mars. The paper said China is set to work closely with Russia to counter the U.S.-led space project. Mainichi ran a similar story, quoting President Biden as saying at the joint news conference: "I look forward to the first Japanese astronaut joining us in the mission to the lunar surface under the Artemis program."

President Biden meets with families of abductees

All national papers reported on a meeting between President Biden and the families of the Japanese abductees held at the Akasaka Palace on Monday. Yomiuri wrote that the meeting lasted for about 30 minutes and was attended by 11 family members, including Yokota Sakie, the mother of abductee Yokota Megumi, as well as Prime Minister Kishida and Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno. According to the families, who spoke to the press after the meeting, the President shook hands with each member, listened to their stories, and said: “We are always praying [for a solution]. We will cooperate.” Yomiuri wrote that the President talked about losing his own daughter and son and told Yokota Sakie that he understands well the feelings of a parent who has lost a child. The paper said President Biden was the fourth U.S. president for the families to meet with, quoting Yokota Takuya, who represents the association of the families, as telling the press: “This will send a strong message to North Korea. We sensed that the United States is serious about resolving the abduction issue.”

Kishida hopes to travel to U.S. soon

Nikkei reported that Prime Minister Kishida was keen to deepen his relationship of trust with President Biden by spending as much time as possible with him from morning through evening. The daily noted that the Japanese leader is hoping to visit the United States at an early date to further cement the bilateral ties, speculating that he may travel there in August for the NPR Review conference scheduled in New York or in September for the annual UN General Assembly meeting.

President Biden announces establishment of CDC office in Japan

Nikkei and Yomiuri took up President Biden’s disclosure during the joint press conference on Monday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will set up a regional office in Japan, saying that Washington is eager to deepen coordination with Tokyo to prepare for future pandemics.

PM Kishida welcomes President Biden with warm hospitality

All national dailies reported that Prime Minister Kishida welcomed President Biden with the utmost hospitality in order to deepen their personal ties. Mainichi wrote that during the working lunch at the Akasaka Palace, beef and vegetables grown in Kishida’s hometown of Hiroshima were served, while during the informal dinner at a restaurant in Happoen, salmon and chicken, which are among the President’s favorite foods, were served, and the two leaders shared a toast with soda containing lemons from Hiroshima. The President was also treated to matcha served by Kishida’s wife, Yuko. One of the people who attended the dinner reportedly told Yomiuri: “There was a lot of laughter and the two leaders seemed extremely relaxed. The relationship between ‘Fumio and Joe’ has really deepened.”

Kishida greets President Biden without wearing mask

Yomiuri wrote that when greeting and holding talks with President Biden on Monday, Prime Minister Kishida chose not to cover his face with a mask, conjecturing that the premier defied the government recommendation for face coverings when conversing with others at close distances in order to deepen the relationship of mutual trust with the U.S. leader by showing his face. “It is important to be able to see foreign dignitaries’ expressions while holding talks with them,” a source close to the premier said.


U.S., Japanese foreign ministers share deep concern about DPRK

Yomiuri wrote that Foreign Minister Hayashi and Secretary of State Blinken held talks at Happoen in Tokyo yesterday and agreed to enhance mutual cooperation to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, about which they shared “deep concerns.” The two diplomats also confirmed their intention to step up trilateral coordination with South Korea with China’s robust military buildup in mind. The Secretary reportedly reiterated President Biden’s security commitment to Japan, including through the nuclear umbrella. As for “extended deterrence,” the two officials reportedly committed to holding even closer communications to strengthen its reliability at all times. The two ministers also discussed the war in Ukraine and China’s maritime advancement. While welcoming the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, Hayashi reportedly called for the United States’ return to the TPP. Nikkei wrote that the Secretary and the foreign minister agreed to expedite discussions on the details of the economic version of a U.S.-Japan 2+2 meeting which is planned to be held in July. Asahi carried a similar story.

Quad summit to be held today

All national papers wrote that the leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India will assemble in Tokyo today for the second in-person summit of the Quad framework, focusing on the planned participation of Australian Prime Minister Albanese, who was elected only a day ago by defeating incumbent Morrison. The new Australian leader reportedly told the press upon taking office that the fact that he will travel overseas in the first week after his inauguration signifies the importance his administration will attach to the cooperative partnership between the four nations. Albanese reportedly dismissed skepticism about his administration’s approach toward China and underscored that he will uphold the previous government’s policy of reining in Beijing in coordination with the three other members by saying: “It is China that has changed, not Australia, and Australia should always stand up for our values and we will in a government that I lead.”

The papers noted that attention is focused on whether Japan, the United States, and Australia will be able to seek India’s support for stepping up the pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine. Nikkei speculated that the four-way joint statement to be released after the meeting is unlikely to criticize Russia by name and will instead emphasize the importance of respecting the sovereignty of Ukraine.

NHK ran a similar story, projecting that the participants are likely to affirm four-way coordination in ensuring a rules-based free and open Indo-Pacific and dealing with such challenges as climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. The network quoted President Biden as commenting on the upcoming leaders’ meeting by saying: “The Quad is showing the world that cooperation among democracies can get big things done.” The broadcaster noted that the assembled leaders plan to issue a joint statement that pledges cooperation for infrastructure investment in the region, greater sharing of data collected by their space satellites, and the launch of a new framework for combating global warming.


Abe comments on Kishida’s pledge to increase defense spending

Nikkei and Sankei highlighted remarks made yesterday by former Prime Minister Abe on Prime Minister Kishida’s promise to President Biden to bolster Japan’s defense capabilities significantly. “I think the prime minister probably assumes [next fiscal year’s defense budget will be in] the upper 6 trillion-yen ($47 billion) range.”


Three out of four Japanese support increasing defense spending

Mainichi highlighted the results of a public opinion poll showing that some 76% of respondents were in favor of ramping up the nation’s defense budget either substantially or to some extent. As for the ruling LDP’s call for allowing the SDF to acquire “counterstrike capabilities,” 66% expressed support for it while 22% were opposed. The daily speculated that many Japanese people have grown aware of the importance of strengthening Japan’s defense capabilities following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some 55% pinned hopes on improved relations with South Korea under President Yoon.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team