Afternoon Alert   -   Friday, January 29, 2021
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Noon news

Broadcasters led with the forecast for heavy snow and strong winds along the Sea of Japan coast over the weekend (NHK, NTV, TV Asahi), Health Minister Tamura's press remarks this morning that specimens from the three people in Saitama who tested positive for the UK variant of COVID-19 will be tested on a preferential basis (TBS), and the possibility that the GOJ will extend the state of emergency by three to four weeks (Fuji TV).


U.S. federal court approves extradition of two American nationals to Japan

NHK reported at noon that a federal judge in Boston on Thursday rejected an argument by two American nationals against their extradition to Japan to face charges that they helped former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee the country. According to the network, the ruling will clear the way for a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and his son to be handed over to Japan since the State Department has already approved the extradition. Their defense team reportedly appealed the ruling.

Court rejects appeal to avoid extradition to Japan over Ghosn escape (Kyodo News)

Gist of teleconference between Japan, U.S. leaders on Jan. 28, 2021 (Yomiuri)

Japan, U.S. leaders confirm cooperation in China policy (Asahi)

Significance of Japan-U.S. predawn teleconference (Nikkei)

Editorial: Suga, Biden should repeat talks to deepen Japan-U.S. alliance (The Japan News)

Editorial: Japan should work with U.S. to restore order to a divided world (The Asahi Shimbun)

Editorial: What about the China conversation in Suga and Biden’s summit call? (Japan Forward)

Kogakuin University first school in Japan to close Confucius Institute (Sentaku)

Suga, Biden hold 1st official call, but no mention of Tokyo Olympics (The Asahi Shimbun)

Commentary – With Biden, Washington returns to normalcy: But ‘strategic patience’ with China? (The Japan Times)

China raps U.S.-Japan confirmation on disputed Senkaku Islands (Kyodo News)

China coast guard law reignites Japan push for Senkaku security (Nikkei Asia)

Japan aims to take leadership in nuclear nonproliferation treaty (Mainichi)

Editorial: President Moon should take action, not just talk (Japan Forward)


U.S. Military contributed to developing corona vaccine (Japan Forward)

‘Japan’s Marine Corps’: The nation’s first responders for remote island defense (The Japan Times)

Japan boosting electronic warfare capabilities (Jiji Press)

NTT Docomo’s new “ahamo” service piques interest of USFJ (NIKKEI Business Daily)


Tidal power generation to be tested next month in western Japan (The Japan News)

Auto output in Japan down 16 pct in 2020 amid virus crisis (Jiji Press)


Prime minister’s schedule on Jan. 28, 2021 (Sankei)

Gist of interpellations at Upper House budget committee meeting, Jan. 28, 2021 (Yomiuri)

In trying week, Suga fails to quell disquiet at the Diet over coronavirus response (The Japan Times)

Japan’s 3rd extra budget for FY 2020 clears parliament (Jiji Press)

LDP splits in gubernatorial races (Nikkei)

Cartoon: The gremlin on Suga’s ski (Asahi)


Tokyo to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030: Koike (Jiji Press)


WHO special envoy says isolating Olympic athletes is one way to prevent COVID-19 infection

Fuji TV reported that WHO Special Envoy Nabarro told the network on Thursday that isolating Olympic athletes upon arrival in Japan would be one effective measure for preventing COVID-19 infection. He reportedly said "one way is to set an isolation period for athletes, just like the Australian Open tennis," while stressing that a decision on whether to hold the Tokyo Games must be made based on the infection situation in Japan and other nations. On the future infection situation in the world, Nabarro reportedly said although vaccination is the most effective way to prevent people from getting seriously ill, it will not be possible to distribute enough doses of vaccine to every nation before 2022 and it is premature to think that people will immediately be able to return to their pre-COVID-19 lives.

Nishimura says decision on extending state of emergency to be made next week

NHK reported at noon that Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura told the press today that the GOJ will convene an advisory meeting next week to decide whether to extend the state of emergency beyond Feb. 7. According to the network, Nishimura pointed out that although the number of coronavirus cases in the 11 prefectures under the state of emergency over the preceding week is on a downward trend, there continues to be a shortage of hospital beds and the percentage of elderly people testing positive for the virus is increasing. He reportedly said: "The number of clusters involving bars and restaurants is decreasing. Although I have not checked thoroughly, the number of clusters at bars and restaurants has dropped to about one-tenth of what it was ten days ago. Meanwhile, the number of cases at elderly care facilities is increasing."

Germany advises against giving AstraZeneca vaccine to elderly

TBS reported at noon that a German authority announced that it does not recommend that the AstraZeneca vaccine be administered to people aged 65 or older due to the lack of clinical trial data. According to local media reports, Germany's vaccine committee said that although it supports administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 18 to 64, it does not recommend giving it to people aged 65 or older because the data is insufficient. Meanwhile, Health Minister Tamura reportedly told the press today: "We will give careful thought to the vaccine in light of such media reports. I cannot say anything definite because the vaccine has not been approved under the drug law in Japan, but if it does get approved, we will thoroughly check and confirm its effectiveness and safety."

Head of Japan’s Olympic organizing body says no spectators an option (Kyodo News)

Reporting virus cases likely to become mandatory for foreign ships (The Japan News)

Government indecision frustrates local vaccine plans (The Asahi Shimbun)

Infographic: Status of gov’t indicators for COVID-19 in Tokyo (Jan. 28, 2021) (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic: 381,139 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 (Jan. 28, 2021) (NHK digital)


Former USG official acknowledges presence of 2015 agreement on GSDF deployment at Henoko

Okinawa Times led with a report claiming that an unnamed senior official who worked at the White House under the Obama administration told the paper on Thursday that the administration was aware of the presence of an alleged secret agreement between the GSDF and the U.S. Marines in 2015 to station a GSDF amphibious rapid deployment brigade at the new base to be constructed at Henoko. Quoting the former official as expressing the view that the deployment plan was based on a common understanding held by the U.S. and Japanese governments, the paper argued that the remark runs counter to Prime Minister Suga’s statement at a Diet session that the GOJ has not considered the joint use of the base on a regular basis. The paper claimed that the former official, who is well versed in security issues in Asia and was involved in U.S. base issues in Okinawa, commented on the possibility of having a GSDF unit stationed at Henoko by saying that the Department of Defense began studying the idea around 2011 when Congress proposed a review of the plan to construct a new base at Henoko. The paper also quoted the former official as saying that the Pentagon, which was cautious about the “idea” due to concern over legal issues involving the permission for landfill work for the FRF construction at Henoko, considered upgrading it to a “plan.” The former official reportedly stressed that it is the basic policy of the United States and Japan that the joint use of U.S. military bases is indispensable for constructing an equal relationship between the United States and Japan.

In a related development, Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that GSDF Chief of Staff Yuasa denied the existence of the alleged secret agreement at a press briefing on Thursday by saying that the joint use of U.S. military facilities in Japan is not a matter to be decided only between the GSDF and the U.S. Marines.

U.S., Japan agree to review master plan for transfer of Makiminato Service Area (Okinawa Times, Ryukyu Shimpo)

Okinawa government lodges protest with U.S. Consulate against low-altitude flights over Kerama Islands (Okinawa Times, Ryukyu Shimpo)

Okinawa governor expresses displeasure over U.S.-Japan joint drills (Ryukyu Shimpo)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team