Afternoon Alert   -   Tuesday, May 19, 2020
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Noon news

NHK led with a report on the World Health Assembly, saying that nations are having difficulty holding discussions due to the confrontation between the U.S. and China. NTV and TV Asahi gave top coverage to reports that on Monday the numbers of people at major stations in the eight prefectures that are still under a state of emergency had declined between 40 to 60% from the numbers before the coronavirus outbreak. Fuji TV led with a report that the GOJ is considering lifting the state of emergency for Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo prefectures on May 21. TBS led with a report that the opposition parties are calling on the GOJ to scrap the bill to extend the retirement age of prosecutors that the GOJ and the ruling coalition decided not to adopt during the current Diet session.


GOJ considering banning resale of disinfectant products

NHK reported that Health Minister Kato disclosed to the press today that the GOJ plans to ban the resale of disinfectant products as they are in short supply amid the coronavirus outbreak. Kato reportedly said: "We have been asking people to refrain from selling disinfectant products on the Internet. However, there is no sign of a decline in the number of these products being resold at prices higher than the original prices. We can expect a further increase in demand as the economy reopens." The minister reportedly added: "We are considering revising an ordinance to add disinfectant to the list of products banned for resale based on the Act on Emergency Measures for Stabilizing Living Conditions of the Public, and penalize those who resell such products." The network said the ordinance would ban the resale of high-potency alcohol and sanitizing wipes that contain alcohol in addition to disinfectant, and the punishment would be the same as the one for the resale of face masks -- a one-year prison sentence or a fine of one million yen (approximately $9,300).

•  LDP proposal to limit foreign acquisition of Japanese companies   (Sankei)

•  Japan lags behind in sharing its coronavirus research   (Nikkei)

•  Japan faces question of when and how to reopen borders   (Jiji Press)

•  Interview: 2nd wave of COVID-19 inevitable in Japan   (Jiji Press)

•  Japan hospitals turn unprofitable amid coronavirus crisis   (Jiji Press)

•  Mt. Fuji to be closed to climbers this summer due to virus   (Kyodo News)

•  Infographic: 17,079 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19   (NHK digital)


Diplomatic Bluebook says coronavirus broke out in China and wreaking havoc across the world

NHK reported that MOFA states in this year's Diplomatic Bluebook that the new coronavirus "broke out in China and is wreaking havoc across the world." According to the network, the report says the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the world "economically, socially, and diplomatically" and that international communications and cooperation are the keys to containing the virus. It reportedly cites the postponement of Chinese leader Xi's visit to Japan originally planned for this spring as one of the examples of the virus's impact on diplomacy, but also says that Japan and China worked closely on the repatriation of Japanese citizens from China by sending chartered planes to Wuhan. Meanwhile, the Diplomatic Bluebook also reportedly stresses Japan's position that it has consistently supported Taiwan's participation in the WHO annual assembly as an observer. Noting that the Diplomatic Bluebook issued last year drew criticism from the ruling camp as it failed to state that the four Russian-controlled islands belong to Japan, the network said this year's report says Japan has sovereignty over the Northern Territories. According to the network, the report also calls South Korea an important neighbor, but notes that bilateral ties remain strained due to the wartime labor issue.

Japan considering providing medical assistance to Peru

NHK reported that Prime Minister Abe held a teleconference with his Peruvian counterpart Vizcarra this morning, saying that the two leaders explained their countries' domestic measures to combat the coronavirus and agreed on the importance of the international community coming together to deal with the virus. Abe reportedly told the Peruvian president that Japan is considering providing medical equipment and technology to Peru. In addition, Abe reportedly expressed his appreciation for Peru's cooperation in repatriating Japanese nationals who were stranded in Peru and lauded the positive relations between the two countries. The two leaders reportedly confirmed that measures against the new coronavirus are the top priority and agreed to continue cooperating closely to overcome difficulties.

Japan, EU to submit joint motion calling for probe into WHO’s COVID-19 response

Nikkei reported that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga indicated to the press this morning that Japan will submit to the ongoing World Health Assembly a joint resolution with the EU seeking an inquiry into the WHO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “It is important to launch a fair and independent evaluation," he was quoted as saying. "The origin of the virus, initial responses, infection routes, and other aspects must be fully examined.” The government spokesperson reportedly expressed “regret” that Taiwan was unable to participate in the videoconference as an observer, adding: “A geographical vacuum should not be created when addressing issues of international public health.”

•  President Trump threatens to pull U.S. out of WHO if reforms aren’t made   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Japan’s health minister calls for WHO to verify handling of virus, supports Taiwan   (The Japan News)

•  Japan report claims sovereignty over isles disputed with Russia   (Jiji Press)

•  Japan’s Diplomatic Blue Book states consistent support for Taiwan’s participation as observer at WHO assembly   (The Japan News)

•  Hsieh likely to continue as Taiwan’s representative to Japan   (Sankei)


•  LDP’s Amari says gov’t needs to promptly take action to protect sensitive technologies   (Yomiuri)

•  New NSS division aimed at bridging security, economic realms   (The Japan News)

•  Commentary: A welcome move by the U.S. Marines   (The Japan Times)

•  Japan’s GSDF members get new weapons for first time in over 30 years   (The Mainichi)


•  Huawei blasts latest U.S. crackdown as bid for tech ‘supremacy’   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Focus: Japan’s initial goal of V-shaped recovery not on horizon   (Kyodo News)

•  Editorial: Create environment that lifts consumption; reverses GDP decline   (The Japan News)

•  Central Japan Railway Chairman Emeritus Kasai to step down as director   (Asahi)

•  Editorial: Time to set a course away from Japan’s troubled nuclear fuel cycle   (The Mainichi)


•  Prime minister’s schedule on May 18, 2020   (Sankei)

•  LDP willing to accept reelection of Tokyo governor Koike   (The Japan News)

•  Abe suffers a blow as public backlash delays prosecutor bill   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Editorial: Personnel management of prosecutors requires clear autonomy from politics   (The Japan News)

•  Cartoon: The people’s punishment   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  Govt. to delay deadline for budget requests   (NHK WORLD)

•  Opposition lawmaker joins LDP parliamentary group   (Asahi)


•  Abe cabinet nonsupport rate exceeds support, NHK public opinion poll   (NHK digital)

•  41% in favor of September start for school year, 37% opposed, NHK public opinion poll   (NHK digital)

•  Cabinet and political party support rates, NHK public opinion poll   (NHK digital)


•  Japan, EU to sign deal by year-end on mutual use of satellite data   (Nikkei)

•  Mitsubishi Heavy to launch UAE’s Mars explorer in July   (Kyodo News)

•  Japanese space startup eyes launching LNG-fueled rocket in 2023   (NIKKEI Business Daily)


Okinawa leader calls robbery allegedly involving SOFA members “heinous crime”

Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times took up a comment made on Monday by Governor Tamaki concerning the recent robbery in Chatan that was allegedly perpetrated by two SOFA members at Kadena Air Base, who are currently under arrest on the installation. He was quoted as saying: “I think it was a heinous crime. I will file a stern protest with U.S. military authorities.” Okinawa Times wrote that the governor is expected to decide when and with whom to lodge a protest while taking into account the progress of local and U.S. military police investigations, adding that the prefectural police are unlikely to seek the transfer of the suspects prior to indictment based on the assessment that the case is not a heinous crime as defined under the SOFA.

In a separate piece, Okinawa Times wrote that many local detectives have built close relations with U.S. military police in recent years when investigating offenses involving SOFA personnel, noting that the U.S. side has often been responsive to local police requests for cooperation. On the latest robbery case, an unnamed senior prefectural police official reportedly said “there will be no problem with pressing charges" even without the suspects in Japanese custody. However, the daily voiced doubts about the Okinawa police’s "prioritization of smooth investigations over national sovereignty." 

•  Kadena AB prohibits children of base personnel from attending off-base schools   (Okinawa Times, Ryukyu Shimpo)

•  Reliance on the U.S. forces at odds with Japan’s sovereignty   (Okinawa Times)

•  MOFA is in the dark about how much Washington has spent for U.S. forces in Japan   (Okinawa Times)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team