Afternoon Alert   -   Wednesday, May 27, 2020
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Noon news

All networks gave top coverage to reports that the Kyoto police arrested this morning the suspect in an arson attack on a Kyoto Animation Co. studio that killed 36 people and injured 33 others on suspicion of murder and other offenses more than 10 months after the incident as the suspect has recovered from life-threatening burns.


Government spokesman calls for “thorough probe” into the WHO’s COVID-19 response

According to Nikkei, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga told the press this morning that a thorough inquiry into the WHO's handling of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak should be conducted once the global public health crisis is brought under control. The government spokesperson stressed the importance of such a probe in reference to China's strong reaction to Prime Minister Abe's recent remark that the new pathogen spread from China to the world. "When dealing with an infectious disease that has had a calamitous impact on the entire world, it is extremely important for all countries to share their own information and insights in a free, transparent, and speedy manner," said Suga. "In order to better prepare for similar situations in the future, the international community must coordinate after the pandemic is brought under control to conduct a rigorous examination into the origin of the virus, the initial response to it, and whether the WHO's functions were fully utilized."  

Kitakyushu bracing for possible “second wave” of COVID-19

All national dailies and NHK reported that the mayor of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, decided on Tuesday to close some 40 public facilities and cancel planned events sponsored by the municipality starting on Thursday in response to a flurry of new COVID-19 cases in the past few days. “We may be on the verge of a second wave,” said Mayor Kitahashi. "In order to forestall the arrival of a second wave, we have to stem the emerging trend.” A total of 14 local people have tested positive in the past four days following an absence of new cases for 23 days until May 22. The local authorities reportedly have not been able to trace the routes of infection in 13 of the 14 cases.

Teleworking may become standard at Japanese companies even after lifting of state of emergency

NHK reported this morning that although the nationwide state of emergency has been lifted, the pandemic is bringing changes to the Japanese style of work, with many corporations beginning to review how their employees work. The network said Hitachi has announced that it will adopt a new work style that is based on teleworking, speculating the move will provoke debate about working styles in Japan. According to the network, Hitachi is currently allowing its 33,000 employees to telework and has decided to extend the measure until the end of July as a way to prevent infection. The company reportedly announced that it will make telework the standard practice starting next April; provide each employee with about 3,000 yen per month starting in June for utility costs incurred from teleworking and for the purchase of face masks for when they need to go to the workplace; and provide an allowance of 500 to 1,000 yen per day to employees working in an environment where there is a high risk of infection. Noting that employee evaluation is one of the challenges of teleworking systems, the network said Hitachi is planning to adopt a system in which employees' salaries will be decided based on their duties. According to the network, Hitachi is planning to have employees telework two or three days a week and reduce the number of employees working in the office by about half. 

The network also reported that Ricoh, which has been allowing 75 to 80% of its 8,200 employees to telework, announced on Tuesday that it will continue the teleworking system because efficiency has improved due to reductions in commuting time and unnecessary work. Ricoh's CEO reportedly told the employees: "We will not return to how we used to work. We will make active efforts so that we will also be able to help our customers introduce practical telework systems." According to the network, Fujitsu is also planning to continue to have 75% or more of its 85,000 employees telework for the time being as part of measures to prevent COVID-19 infection.

•  Infographic: Trends in no. of coronavirus cases and positive test rate in Tokyo   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  Infographic: 17,374 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19   (NHK digital)

•  COVID-19 deals major blow to universities through loss of income from international students   (Asahi)

•  Japan’s coronavirus response offers little clarity and few lessons – Government’s failure to explain its actions leaves reasons for success murky –   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Editorial: Lessons learned need to pave way for possible next wave of infection   (The Asahi Shimbun)

•  Editorial: As Japan’s state of emergency ends, we must decide what we can do better   (The Mainichi)

•  Abe may need to self-isolate after G7 summit   (NHK WORLD)

•  Commentary: The pandemic is unlikely to cause a food crisis   (The Japan Times)

•  Some parts of Japan reopening faster than others after coronavirus emergency – Tokyo is aiming to initiate phase two of its plan by this weekend –   (The Japan Times)

•  Hotels, university offer free stays for foreigners stranded in Japan   (Kyodo News)

•  Tokyo bars and restaurants reopen under a clouded future – Economic uncertainty remains despite outward appearance of normality –   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Editorial: Kimura’s death underscores need for system to ID online abusers   (The Asahi Shimbun)

•  Editorial: Resume professional sports activities in stages while preventing infection   (The Japan News)


•  EDITORIAL: China’s preposterous claim, greedy ambitions over Senkaku Islands disturb peace   (Japan Forward)

•  Economic ministry expresses concern at Chinese acquisition of tech info   (Yomiuri)

•  JAL plane with Taiwanese from virus-hit Russia arrives in Japan   (Jiji Press)


•  Govt bodies to shun Chinese telecom equipment   (The Japan News)

•  Japan’s democracy’ at fault for insufficient coronavirus measures   (The Japan News)

•  Chinese vessels pursue Japanese fishing boat even after Japan lodges protest   (Sankei)

•  Japan must take firm stand on Senkakus: fishing boat captain   (Sankei)

•  3 arrested in Japan for illegal export to S. Korea   (Jiji Press)

•  MSDF destroyer Kirisame completes offshore quarantine   (Asahi)

•  No intention” to beef up defense exchange with Taiwan: DM Kono   (Sankei)

•  MSDF to participate in RIMPAC exercise   (Yomiuri)


•  Firms in Japan to keep social-distancing measures in place   (Jiji Press)

•  Shimadzu to use saliva for coronavirus testing – Non-invasive alternative poses less risk of passing virus to medical staff –   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Expectations grow for development of COVID-19 drugs by Japanese scientists   (Nikkei)

•  Takara Bio drives Japan’s quest for a coronavirus vaccine – Pharmaceutical maker boasts twin strengths in testing and DNA technology –   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Exclusive: Japan to spend 50 b. yen on fiber-optic networks   (Jiji Press)

•  JXTG Holdings posts 188-b.-yen net loss for FY 2019   (Jiji Press)

•  Japan’s net external assets hit record 364 t. yen   (Jiji Press)


Japanese astronaut to join first operational Crew Dragon flight in August

NHK reported this morning that on the eve of the first manned test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft developed by SpaceX, a private American company, NASA Administrator Bridenstine announced at a press conference held at the Kennedy Space Center that if the launch is successful, the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon will take place on Aug. 30 with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi on board. The network said the NASA administrator stressed the significance of a spacecraft developed by a private firm transporting crew members to the International Space Station (ISS), saying that this marks "a new era in spaceflight." The network added that the first test flight of the Crew Dragon carrying two American astronauts to the ISS will take place at about 5:30 a.m. on Thursday Japan time.

•  Plans underway to select Muroran in Hokkaido as new whaling base   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  JAXA postpones launch of lunar exploration vehicle until FY2022   (Nikkei)

•  Japan’s Kounotori cargo spacecraft successfully docks to ISS   (Jiji Press)


•  Prime minister’s schedule on May 26, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Abe moved quickly to lift state of emergency in Japan   (The Japan News)

•  Gist of interpellations at Lower, Upper House Committees on Rules and Administration, May 25, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Abe administration feels sense of crisis over fall in support   (Asahi)

•  LDP’s Kishida meets with CDPJ’s Ohsaka   (Yomiuri)

•  Japan to ease rules on public funding for banks   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Cartoon: I’m pointing at me   (Asahi)


•  Japan ruling bloc increasingly cautious about Sept. school year   (Jiji Press)

•  Editorial: Flexible approach, planning needed for next university entrance exams   (The Japan News)


Okinawa police swiftly wrap up investigation into robbery by SOFA personnel

Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that on Tuesday, the Okinawa prefectural police sent papers to the local prosecutors on a U.S. Army serviceman and an American base worker who allegedly robbed a currency exchange shop in Chatan on May 12. The daily claimed that the police concluded their investigation in just two weeks, which is relatively quick given that their probes into offenses by SOFA personnel have often been slow due in part to the cumbersome procedures involved, such as translating documents. Instead of asking for the pre-indictment transfer of the suspects, the police chose to seek cooperation from the U.S. military while gathering evidence. An unnamed Okinawa detective reportedly underscored that the SOFA did not stand in the way of the local investigation by saying: “The U.S. military was cooperative. Our side was able to take the lead” in building the case.

Okinawa Times, however, presented a different take on the police investigation, noting that the police refused to disclose details such as the nature of the relationship between the two suspects and their motives for the robbery. The police reportedly rebuffed reporters’ repeated queries on whether they had asked the U.S. military to hand over the two SOFA members before indictment. The daily asserted that the police were “very secretive” in their briefings this time and a retired police officer claimed that the Okinawa police were reluctant to disclose information perhaps out of deference to the Kantei, as previous investigations into crimes involving SOFA members have required coordination with the central government.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team