Afternoon Alert   -   Thursday, September 10, 2020
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Noon news

NHK led with the forecast for heavy rain across Japan through tomorrow. NTV and Fuji TV gave top play to reports that the Japan Sumo Association announced today that 18 additional sumo wrestlers belonging to the Tamanoi stable have tested positive for COVID-19 after one tested positive for the virus earlier this month. TBS led with a report that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga officially notified the Diet that an extraordinary Diet session will be convened on Sept. 16 to designate Abe's successor. TV Asahi gave top coverage to a report that Tokyo Governor Koike is expected to announce at a press conference this afternoon that Tokyo will lift the current restrictions on operating hours of nightlife establishments on Sept. 15 as scheduled.


Edano becomes head of new opposition party

NHK reported that Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) chief Edano was elected leader of the new opposition party formed through a merger between the CDPJ and the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), beating DPFP policy chief Izumi by 107 to 42 votes. According to the network, the new party will be called the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Kono’s comment on snap election “sometime in October” creating stir

TBS reported at noon that Defense Minister Kono's recent remark at an online seminar organized by a U.S. think tank that there will probably be a dissolution of the Lower House for a snap election "sometime in October" is creating a stir within the government and the ruling camp. The network said that although there are growing calls within the LDP for an early snap general election in light of strong public support for the LDP in the latest opinion polls, senior members of the government are reacting coolly to the cabinet member's remark on a snap election by saying that "the next prime minister will decide when to dissolve" the Lower House.

•  Suga research” gets an early start in U.S.   (Sankei)

•  Prime minister’s schedule on Sept. 9, 2020   (Sankei)

•  Some question Suga’s ability to handle Diet   (Asahi)

•  Commentary: What to watch for in the LDP leadership race   (The Japan Times)

•  Stances on Abe policies differentiate Japan’s LDP leadership candidates   (The Japan News)

•  Japan ruling bloc seeks to promote research hub in Tohoku   (Jiji Press)


•  Suga most popular pick among public to be Japan’s next leader, Kyodo News spot poll   (Kyodo News)

•  Kyodo News spot opinion poll & results from Tokyo Shimbun   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  65% have low expectations for post-merger opposition party in Japan, Mainichi spot poll   (The Mainichi)


UN Secretary General expresses hope to visit Hiroshima next year

NHK reported that UN Secretary General Guterres said in an online press conference with New York-based Japanese journalists on Wednesday that he hopes to attend the peace memorial in Hiroshima next year. Concerning his canceled visit to the city this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, Guterres reportedly said: "It was very disappointing.... I hope to visit Hiroshima next year. I want to express my appreciation to the hibakusha, for whom I have profound respect." Concerning nuclear disarmament, the UN secretary general reportedly stressed that it is essential for the U.S. and Russia to renew the New START agreement before it expires next February. Meanwhile, he reportedly expressed his strong expectations for Japan, as the only nation to have experienced atomic bombings, to "play a positive role" as a bridge between the non-nuclear powers and the nuclear powers, including the U.S., to promote nuclear disarmament.

•  U.S. and China lock horns over Mekong River data management   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  Russia expects Abe’s successor to inherit his approach to bilateral talks   (Jiji Press)

•  Huawei ban puts $26bn at risk for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  China Up Close: Five things Xi pledged never to allow the U.S. to do   (Nikkei Asian Review)

•  China expects warm ties to continue under Japan’s PM: sources   (The Japan Times , Kyodo)

•  Seiron” column: Japan should face up to situations in Taiwan, Korean Peninsula   (Sankei)

•  Minister under fire for questioning foreign journalist’s Japanese at press conf.   (The Mainichi)


•  Japan’s GSDF trains for defense of remote islands   (The Japan News)

•  Preventing, solving crimes using AI, data to detect suspicious activity in Japan   (The Japan News)

•  Gov’t initiates study of sea-based missile defense systems   (Asahi)

•  Editorial: U.S. alliance grew under Abe, but Asian agenda left unfulfilled   (Nikkei Asian Review)


•  Japan govt to cut wholesale prices of imported wheat in Oct.   (Jiji Press)

•  Gov’t to set goal of attracting foreign capital to regional areas   (Nikkei)

•  Interview: Trade minister cautious about revising energy mix   (Sankei)

•  JIC forms fund to promote industrial reorganization   (Jiji Press)


•  Application withdrawn for linear collider to be included in govt’s 2020 Roadmap   (Mainichi)


Doctors’ warnings about COVID-19 taken more seriously than others’

Asahi reported online on the results of a nationwide survey conducted by a team of University of Tokyo researchers regarding people’s behavior during the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the spring. The team reportedly discovered that the respondents took warnings about the disease and requests for avoiding outings from doctors in the field more seriously than those from prefectural governors, epidemiologists, infected patients, and people from foreign countries hit hard by the pandemic. A health communication expert in the group explained that people tend to heed advice from physicians out of respect for their professional dedication and hands-on experience treating patients with severe symptoms. The academic underscored the importance of tapping doctors to convey messages about the coronavirus if the central and prefectural governments want people to refrain from nonessential travel during possible third or fourth waves of the disease.

Tokyo to lift request for residents to refrain from traveling outside Tokyo

TBS reported at noon that in light of the decline in the number of new coronavirus cases, the Tokyo government is planning to lower its virus alert by one notch from level four, the highest level, to level three. The network also reported that the Tokyo government is planning to lift its request for residents to refrain from traveling outside Tokyo.

•  Tokyo governor says postponed Olympics should be held “by all means”   (Kyodo News)

•  Editorial: Japan’s “X-Factor” in COVID-19 immunity should be considered in vaccine development   (Japan Forward)

•  Infographic: Status of gov’t indicators for COVID-19 in Tokyo (Sept. 9, 2020)   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  Infographic: 74,049 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 (Sept. 9, 2020)   (NHK digital)


•  No conspiracy” with defendant Ghosn: Interview with defendant Kelly   (Sankei)

•  FCCJ considered dissolving last year due to financial woes   (Tokyo Shimbun)

•  Seized illegal drugs in Japan decrease 60 pct in 1st half   (Jiji Press)

•  Panel seeks law revision to have more juveniles face criminal charges   (Jiji Press)


Barbecue allegedly triggered a PFOS leakage at Futenma in 2014

Okinawa Times led with the disclosure by a source who used to work at MCAS Futenma that the heat from a barbecue that was held in a hangar there in the summer 2014 caused the release of foam extinguisher containing perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). According to the article written by freelancer Jon Mitchell, unlike the incident that occurred at the same installation five months ago for the same reason, almost all of the foam that leaked was successfully contained by underground storage. As the personnel involved in the event were transient troops, there was reportedly disagreement among the base authorities over who was responsible for cleaning up the spillage. Consequently, the disposal of the firefighting foam was not completed. Mitchell also reportedly learned that the U.S. military attributed a separate firefighting foam spill in a base hangar at Futenma last December to the use of a portable generator that should not have been used indoors.

While pointing out that the Okinawa Marines commented on the latest leak by saying on Sept. 4 that measures have now been implemented to reduce the risk of a recurrence, Mitchell claimed that such steps, including keeping personnel informed that heat could cause the release of extinguisher foam, had apparently not been taken until recently. The daily added in a separate article that local distrust of the U.S. military is bound to increase since there have been repeated spills of firefighting foam due to “human error.”

•  Okinawa Marines ease COVID-19 restrictions on off-base activities   (Okinawa Times)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team