Afternoon Alert   -   Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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Noon news

Broadcasters led with reports on Health Minister Tamura's press conference this morning in which he said the GOJ will investigate how three people in Shizuoka contracted the UK variant of COVID-19 by collecting specimens from as many coronavirus patients in the prefecture as possible (NHK, NTV, TV Asahi), Tamura's remarks to the press that the UK variant of COVID-19 is not the cause of the surge in cases during the year-end and New Year's holidays in Japan (TBS), and final arrangements being made by the GOJ to only administer COVID-19 vaccines to people aged 16 years or older for the time being (Fuji TV).


Russian foreign minister expresses concern about Japan’s plan to build Aegis-equipped vessels

NHK reported that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov held an online New Year's press conference on Monday and referred to the GOJ's plan to build two new Aegis-equipped vessels as an alternative to the land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense system. Lavrov reportedly expressed concern that missiles fired from the ships would be able to reach a sizable portion of Russian territory. He also reportedly said Japan's deepening of its alliance with a nation that views Russia as an enemy is creating an unusual situation, expressing the view that Russia continues to closely monitor U.S.-Japan relations and place importance on resolving security concerns in order to move forward with the peace treaty talks.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Kishi told the press today: "Aegis-equipped vessels are necessary equipment for missile defense as an alternative to the Aegis Ashore system. It's only natural for us to strengthen the defense of our nation."

Motegi seeks expanded cooperation on Indo-Pacific vision (Jiji Press)

INTERVIEW: Japan Foreign Min. hopeful for U.S. return to TPP (Jiji Press)

Japan skeptical about Moon’s remarks over labor row (Jiji Press)

Japan welcomes expected U.S. return to Paris accord under Biden (Kyodo News)

Commentary: Why a new Asia policy is needed under Biden (The Japan Times)

Crises at home leave Biden little time for Asia in first 100 days (Nikkei Asia)

Focus: Japan may be buffeted by China in digital field amid economic slump (Kyodo News)

Biden point man Kurt Campbell returns to an Asia that has pivoted (Nikkei Asia)

Mizushima named Japan’s ambassador to Israel (Jiji Press)

Japan envoy to Britain appointed as Supreme Court justice (Kyodo News)

Japan’s new ambassador to South Korea takes third post in Seoul (Nikkei Asia)

Editorial: Utilize European nations’ involvement to help stabilize Indo-Pacific region (The Japan News)

Editorial: Trump’s Twitter exile begs question, what do we want online discourse to be? (The Mainichi)

China and Japan lag Europe in ‘green recovery’ stimulus (Nikkei Asia)

Japan, India to work together to develop 5G (NHK WORLD)

Editorial: Need to face changes in security environment 30 years after Gulf War (The Japan News)

Cartoon: Self-wall building (Tokyo Shimbun)


Kishi holds teleconferences with British, French counterparts (Mainichi)

Volunteer group of U.S. military families fosters lasting friendships in Tohoku (The Japan News)

Chinese ship enters Japanese waters off Senkakus (Jiji Press)

U.S. Forces Japan start COVID-19 vaccinations (Jiji Press)

Okinawa objects to U.S. military’s low flying over residential areas (The Asahi Shimbun)

Man captures Okinawa beauty in shadow of military project (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japan, Britain ministers to hold security talks in February (Kyodo News)


Japan to commercialize mining of rare metals on seabed (The Japan News)

Japan considers decarbonization disclosure rules for companies (The Japan News)

J-Power’s carbon storage technology expected to reduce costs (Nikkei)

Japan development bank launches $500m fund to grow wind sector (Nikkei Asia)

British Embassy disputes UK renewable energy target as quoted by Japan (Asahi)

Japan emergency will intensify losses in struggling sectors (Nikkei Asia)

Biz closures hit record high in Japan in 2020 (Jiji Press)

Ahead of Biden era, Toyota agrees to pay $180m in emissions case (Nikkei Asia)

Japan to use data from outside clinical trials in drug approvals (Nikkei Asia)

Editorial: TSE’s realignment should increase corporate motivation for growth (The Japan News)

Japan CEOs accept state of emergency, but brace for tough losses, Nikkei survey (Nikkei Asia)


Prime minister’s schedule on Jan. 15, 2021 (Sankei)

Prime minister’s schedule on Jan. 16, 2021 (Sankei)

Prime minister’s schedule on Jan. 17, 2021 (Sankei)

Prime minister’s schedule on Jan. 18, 2021 (Sankei)

Highlights of Japan-related events scheduled for Jan. 18-24 (Kyodo News)

Aso stresses need to balance economic revival, fiscal reform (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Govt must address medical system’s needs, clearly guide public on virus (The Japan News)

With election looming, Suga seen facing tough Diet session (Jiji Press)

The political folly of dodging responsibility in Japan (The Japan Times)

Editorial: Ex-farm minister’s cozy ties with industry must be exposed in bribery trial (The Mainichi)

LDP to skip fielding candidate for Hokkaido by-election (Jiji Press)

Slipups call Japanese prime minister’s stamina into question (The Japan News)

Outlook 2021 / Staying the Abe diplomatic course in Japan’s best interests (The Japan News)

Editorial: Uncover full details of collusion in ex-farm minister’s bribery case (The Japan News)

Former farm minister, retired official indicted on bribe charges (The Asahi Shimbun)


Suga Cabinet approval rating falls to 39%, Yomiuri poll (The Japan News)

52% in Japan oppose penalties for businesses uncooperative with coronavirus measures, Yomiuri poll (The Japan News)

Opinion poll & results from Yomiuri Shimbun (Yomiuri)

Japan Cabinet’s approval rating drops to 33%; many say coronavirus response ‘too late,’ Mainichi poll (The Mainichi)

Reform minister Taro Kono most favored for Japan PM as Suga slips to 3rd, Mainichi poll (The Mainichi)

Opinion poll & results from Mainichi Shimbun (Mainichi)

Public less anxious about future of U.S.-Japan relations (Yomiuri)

Suga Cabinet disapproval tops approval for 1st time, Jiji Press poll (Jiji Press)

Over 70 pct not satisfied with Abe’s explanations, Jiji poll (Jiji Press)


Team finds medical agent to remove senescent cells (Jiji Press)

Japan lagging in shift to electric vehicles (Jiji Press)


Suga taps Kono as minister in charge of vaccinations

All networks reported at noon that Minister in charge of Administrative Reform Kono, who has been tasked with rolling out a COVID-19 vaccination program, said he will begin conducting hearings with relevant agencies to grasp the current situation. He reportedly said in an online press conference today: "I will be in charge of the logistics of vaccinations, such as transportation and storage and setting up venues. I will make an all-out effort so that as many people as possible will be able to get safe and effective vaccines as early as possible."

Fuji TV said that Prime Minister Suga hopes to achieve a breakthrough in the situation by appointing Kono as the minister in charge of vaccinations, which the GOJ is seeking to begin in late February. The network said Suga has been telling his aides that the most important measure for preventing the spread of the virus is vaccination. According to the network, he is aware that achieving a high vaccination rate will be a challenge given the low rates in the U.S. and UK. Noting that in Japan METI is in charge of securing freezers for vaccines, MLIT is in charge of distribution, and each local municipality is in charge of vaccination itself, which will be overseen by the Internal Affairs Ministry, the network said Suga tapped Kono on account of his ability to pull together all relevant ministries and agencies. Fuji TV reported that a prime minister's aide said that Suga is hoping to dispel public criticism of the GOJ's response to the outbreak by harnessing Kono's ability to get things done.

Meanwhile, TV Asahi reported that according to a GOJ source, the GOJ is considering administering vaccines to medical practitioners in late February, followed by elderly people and people with preexisting conditions in March and April and others in May and beyond.

Number of seriously ill patients nationwide exceeds 1,000 for first time

TV Asahi reported that according to the MHLW, the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients nationwide had reached 1,001 as of 12 a.m. on Tuesday, exceeding 1,000 for the first time. Meanwhile, the network also reported that the number of COVID-19 patients recuperating at home in Tokyo reached a record high of 9,442 as of Jan. 18, almost triple the figure recorded on Jan. 1.

LDP OKs coronavirus law revision to punish noncompliant businesses (Jiji Press)

Japan virus panel urges minimizing limits to citizens’ rights (Jiji Press)

Japan to study cases of people infected after coronavirus vaccination (Kyodo News)

Japan scrambles to roll out vaccine, but how many people will get the shot? (The Japan Times)

Japan to set up 10,000 bases with ultracold freezers for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (The Japan News)

Editorial: Will penalties in special measures law revision help control infections? (The Japan News)

Editorial: Punishment plan is a misguided approach to curb virus infections (The Asahi Shimbun)

86% accept pandemic restrictions, NHK survey (NHK WORLD)

Infographic: Status of gov’t indicators for COVID-19 in Tokyo (Jan. 18, 2021) (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic: 336,177 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 (Jan. 18, 2021) (NHK digital)

Olympics: Japan scrambles to deny reports that cancelation possible (Kyodo News)


Former Sakhalin residents’ group to disband due to members’ aging (Kyodo News)

Landing of whale in Taiji fishing nets sparks online row (Jiji Press)

A film that traces transient lives of foreigners who come to Osaka (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japan marks 26th anniversary of Great Hanshin quake (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Redevelopment poses new problems, 26 years after Hanshin earthquake (The Japan News)

Liquid marijuana seizure amount surging in Japan (Jiji Press)

View from Osaka: Kansai’s 2030 vision is to think like a penguin (The Japan Times)

Law sought for sexual predators who target disabled people (The Asahi Shimbun)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team