Afternoon Alert   -   Friday, May 8, 2020
The following information reflects the reporting of the cited news media and does not reflect the opinions of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Japan Media Highlights is intended for USG use only and should not be forwarded. Visit the website here. For more information, contact TokyoMATT@state.gov.


Noon news

NHK, TBS, and Fuji TV led with reports that President Trump and Prime Minister Abe spoke by phone this morning and confirmed close cooperation in the development of drugs and vaccines for COVID-19. NTV gave top coverage to a report that the number of people at JR Shinagawa Station on Thursday rose by 287.9% from a day earlier, saying, however, that compared with before the COVID-19 outbreak, the figure had dropped by 75%. Meanwhile, TV Asahi led with a report that the number of people in major districts in Tokyo yesterday had dropped by only 50 to 60% compared with before the outbreak of the virus despite the GOJ's goal of a 70% reduction in the number of commuters.


President Trump, PM Abe confirm close cooperation over COVID-19 pandemic

All networks reported that President Trump and Prime Minister Abe held a teleconference this morning. They reportedly agreed to swiftly bring the coronavirus outbreak under control, to continue to work closely to curb its spread, and to develop drugs for the treatment of COVID-19. NHK said the meeting lasted for about 40 minutes and was held at the request of the Japanese government, adding that this was the first time for the two leaders to talk since the end of March when it was decided that the Tokyo Olympic games would be postponed. According to NHK, the two leaders briefed each other on their domestic measures against COVID-19; exchanged views on ways to curb the spread of the virus, the development of drugs and vaccines, and measures toward reopening the economy; and agreed to continue to cooperate closely. TV Asahi speculated that Abe asked the President to provide sufficient supplies of remdesivir to Japan.

NHK said the two leaders also exchanged views on international affairs, including North Korea. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga reportedly told the press this morning: "It was very meaningful for the two leaders to confirm close bilateral cooperation via a teleconference at a time when the international community is being called upon to unite."

Government spokesman says Japan not seeking “herd immunity”

Jiji reported yesterday on press remarks made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, who was asked if Japan will try to achieve herd immunity by exposing a large percentage of the population to the novel coronavirus. He was quoted as saying: “We have been taking measures aimed at buying time for the development of treatment drugs and bolstering healthcare capacity while at the same time reducing the number of patients in serious condition and fatalities to the extent possible. Our approach is not intended to achieve herd immunity.”

Gilead to provide remdesivir to Japan free of charge

Kyodo News reported that the Japanese unit of U.S. drug maker Gilead Sciences Inc. disclosed today that it will provide Japan with the antiviral drug remdesivir, which the MHLW approved expeditiously as a drug to treat COVID-19, free of charge for the time being. Kyodo said the company had already announced that it would provide the drug free of charge for clinical trials involving 140,000 patients around the world, including Japan. Kyodo noted, however, that the company did not disclose how much of the medicine will be supplied to Japan. 

•  Editorial: The dangers of comparing COVID-19 pandemic to war   (The Asahi Shimbun)

•  Parasite-killing drug ivermectin heads into coronavirus trials – Compound Japan Nobel laureate helped develop shows promise in early studies –   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  No specialist needed: Fujifilm cuts coronavirus test to 75 minutes – New reagent enables automated PCR procedures –   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Foreign media critical of Abe administration’s handling of new coronavirus   (Asahi)

•  Some coronavirus tests for corpses rejected by health centers   (Jiji Press)

•  Infographic: 16,287 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19   (NHK digital)

•  Japanese gov’t struggling to obtain accurate coronavirus figures for positive rates   (The Mainichi)

•  Editorial: Swift policy response needed to retain elderly day care services   (The Asahi Shimbun)

•  Editorial: Shore up Japan’s weakened health care system   (The Japan Times)

•  Editorial: Local bodies making up for Japan gov’t delay in responding to coronavirus   (The Mainichi)


•  China willing to accept WHO team on virus origin   (NHK WORLD)

•  Japan, other developed countries wary of companies being acquired by China   (The Japan News)

•  PM Abe discusses coronavirus with Vietnamese counterpart   (Mainichi)

•  In the age of COVID-19, world leaders struggle to adjust to online diplomacy   (The Japan Times)

•  Japan helps sick S.Korean girl fly home from India   (NHK WORLD)


•  Japan housing starts fall 7.3 pct in FY 2019   (Jiji Press)

•  Keidanren to draw up guidelines for reopening businesses   (Yomiuri)

•  Japan weighs unemployment benefits for furloughed employees   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Editorial: Maintain stable financial system to support firms impacted by pandemic   (The Japan News)

•  Japan’s new car sales down 28.6% in April amid coronavirus outbreak   (Kyodo News)


Akita municipalities perplexed by reports on change in Aegis Ashore deployment plan

The Sendai-based Kahoku Shimpo wrote that four municipalities in Akita Prefecture have been perplexed by recent press reports that the Ministry of Defense is considering looking for candidate sites other than the GSDF’s Araya training site in Akita City for deploying the Aegis Ashore land-based missile defense system after deciding to scrap its original plan to deploy it at Araya. These four municipalities are Noshiro, Oga, Yurihonjo, and Nikaho, where the ministry has identified a total of nine candidate sites for the deployment.

Meanwhile, Kyodo News reported that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga told the press on Thursday that the central government is “still re-examining” candidate sites for the Aegis missile defense batteries and that it is not true that the GOJ has made a policy decision or decided on a direction. Kyodo News also reported that Akita Mayor Hozumi told reporters on Thursday that the local defense bureau has informed the city that the media reports are not factual and that he finds them “very regrettable.” Akita Governor Satake told reporters that the Defense Ministry said to the prefecture it has not decided yet whether to abandon the plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore system in Araya.

•  Prolonged coronavirus situation affects Japan’s national defense posture   (Sankei)

•  Editorial: Steadily develop sales channels to expand defense equipment exports   (The Japan News)

•  MS & AD insurance offers free service to protect hospitals from cyberattacks   (Mainichi)

•  The changing nature of the Security Treaty: Japan insists on U.S. nuclear umbrella   (Asahi)

•  Japan gives up plan to deploy Aegis system at Akita GSDF site   (The Asahi Shimbun)


•  Prime minister’s schedule on May 6-7, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Interview with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe   (Sankei)

•  Govt’s slow virus response prompts Nippon Ishin to join united opposition front   (Yomiuri)

•  LDP works out rent relief for virus-hit businesses   (Jiji Press)

•  Japan’s LDP to start talks on 2nd extra budget next week   (Jiji Press)

•  Former senior GPIF official Mizuno tapped as executive advisor to METI   (Nikkei)


•  Majority in Japan support state of emergency extension, Mainichi poll   (The Mainichi)


•  Japanese group engineers artificial antibodies   (NHK WORLD)

•  JAXA: Asteroid Ryugu may have shifted orbit   (NHK WORLD)


Ginowan City detects PFOS, PFOA above permissible levels in water near MCAS Futenma

Okinawa Times led with a report saying that the city government of Ginowan released on Thursday the results of its water quality survey conducted at eight locations near MCAS Futenma in response to the leakage of foam extinguisher out of the base on April 10. The city government said that it detected more than 50 nanograms per liter of PFOS and PFOA. This amount reportedly exceeds the permissible level set by the Ministry of the Environment at four of the eight locations, including a pond at a local elementary school. The high levels were detected at the four locations on April 16, six days after the incident. The municipality has posted the CRS issues report on U.S.-Japan talks on host nation support, trade   (Ryukyu Shimpo)

•  San Francisco court rejects environmental groups’ appeal for suspension of Henoko construction   (Okinawa Times, Ryukyu Shimpo)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team