Afternoon Alert   -   Thursday, February 18, 2021
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Noon news

All broadcasters led with reports that Olympic Minister Hashimoto is likely to accept a request to succeed Mori as the head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee as early as this afternoon. TBS and Fuji TV said Hashimoto is expected step down from her cabinet post and former Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa may be tapped as her successor.


National Security Advisor Sullivan, NSS chief Kitamura discuss Myanmar, China

NHK reported this afternoon that National Security Secretariat Secretary General Kitamura and National Security Advisor Sullivan held a teleconference for about 45 minutes this morning. The network said the two officials exchanged views on the situation in Myanmar, including the situation of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Myanmar officials who have been detained since the recent coup. They also reportedly shared the view that the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming more severe as China recently enacted a new law to authorize its coast guard to use weapons against foreign vessels and agreed that the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India should work closely toward realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

U.S. to contribute more than 21 billion yen to WHO

NHK reported at noon that the Biden administration will pay over 21 billion yen ($200 million) to the WHO by the end of this month, marking a clear departure from the former Trump administration's plan to leave the WHO. According to the network, Secretary of State Blinken delivered a speech during an online UNSC ministerial meeting on Thursday and said that the U.S. will fulfill its financial obligations as a WHO member and pay over $200 million to the international body. The Secretary reportedly stressed that the U.S. will work closely with international organizations to fight the coronavirus. He also said the ongoing WHO investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus must be "independent, with findings based on science and facts and free from interference." He emphasized the need to ensure transparency.

Departing Japanese ambassador’s farewell dinners raise fear of COVID-19 infection in DC (Sentaku)

Russia moving forward unilaterally with plan to build garbage disposal site in Kunashiri (Yomiuri)

Commentary – Biden’s Asia strategy: ‘Personnel is policy’ (The Japan Times)

Secretary Blinken had urged President Biden to remark on Senkakus during call (Sentaku)

Ambassador to Azerbaijan causes stir with talk of military cooperation (Sentaku)

Are South Korea’s “progressives” truly moving toward liberalism? (Asahi)

N. Korea changes Kim’s English title from “chairman” to “president” (Kyodo News)

North Korea ramps up ransomware attacks in hunt for cash (Nikkei Asia)

Analysis: Biden gives Xi a New Year’s gift — time (Nikkei Asia)

Commentary: Myanmar poses the question: democracy or geopolitics? (Nikkei Asia)

Editorial: China violates int’l law as it allows use of weapons vs foreign vessels (Japan Forward)

Cartoon: U.S. and China agree on Tokyo Games (Mainichi)


Japanese executives charged with defrauding U.S. navy (Jiji Press)

Japan and U.S. agree on 1-year cost-sharing deal for hosting troops (Nikkei Asia)

Japan, U.S. agree 1-year cost-sharing deal for hosting U.S. forces (The Japan News)

Japan on high alert after 2nd day of China Coast Guard incursions (The Japan News)

Aegis Ashore alternative only available for a third of the year (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japan and U.S. reach agreement on cost of hosting American troops (The Japan Times)

MSDF sub crew’s failure to check blind spot probed as collision cause (The Asahi Shimbun)


METI starts discussions on carbon pricing (Jiji Press)

SoftBank intensifies mobile price war to match rival KDDI (Nikkei Asia)

Japan FTC warns IT giants of possible law violation in digital ad mart (Jiji Press)

Steel industry sets 2050 target for net zero CO2 emissions (The Asahi Shimbun)

Visitors to Japan plunge 98 pct in Jan. (Jiji Press)

Japan logs trade deficit of 324 b. yen for Jan. (Jiji Press)

Japan Jan. exports up for 2nd straight month (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Government is being reckless in extending lives of aging reactors (The Asahi Shimbun)

EXCLUSIVE: Japan eyes basic policy to help airlines (Jiji Press)

Idemitsu to enter ultracompact electric vehicle market (Jiji Press)

Japan’s core machinery orders up 5.2 pct in Dec. (Jiji Press)

Japanese whisky standards to take effect April 1 (Jiji Press)


Strength of in-house groups in House of Representatives (Yomiuri)

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

Gist of interpellations at Lower House budget committee meeting, Feb. 17, 2021 (Tokyo Shimbun)

PM Suga holds talks with BOJ’s Kuroda (Jiji Press)

Lawmaker quits LDP for bar visit under virus emergency (Jiji Press)

Personal information may have leaked from Japan Pension Service: CDPJ Nagatsuma (Tokyo Shimbun)

Suga receives 5 m. yen from company related to 1st son (Jiji Press)


Japan’s first COVID-19 vaccine center opens in Chiba

TBS reported on the finding that Japan's first COVID-19 vaccine center was established at Chiba University Hospital this month, saying that the new center will conduct research on the efficacy and side effects of COVID-19 vaccines. The network said while about 2,600 hospital staff are expected to be vaccinated, blood and saliva samples will be taken from about 1,000 of them to analyze the efficacy of the vaccine and check their antibodies. The network said the center is hoping to collect data on COVID-19 vaccines and disseminate information that would be useful for the Japanese people.

GOJ to forgo lifting state of emergency this week

TV Asahi reported at noon that the GOJ is expected to forgo lifting the COVID-19 state of emergency this week as the occupancy of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients is reaching its limit. The network added that a GOJ official stressed the need to keep the number of new COVID-19 cases per day down until the vaccination of ordinary citizens begins, quoting the official as saying: "We want to curb the number of cases as much as possible until we finish vaccinating elderly people."

Editorial: Japan must deal with COVID-19 vaccination concerns as inoculations begin (The Mainichi)

Editorial: Disclosing information is key to eliminating anxiety over COVID-19 vaccinations (The Japan News)

Japan govt tallying COVID-19 cases manually (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Government must have proper plan in place for vaccine rollout (The Asahi Shimbun)

Infographic: Status of gov’t indicators for COVID-19 in Tokyo (Feb. 17, 2021) (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic: 421,211 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 (Feb. 17, 2021) (NHK digital)


Illegal drugs seized by Japan customs down 43 pct in 2020 (Jiji Press)

10 years on: Farm, fisheries output recovers in disaster-hit Miyagi, Iwate (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Japan must use Mori’s resignation to change outdated thinking (Nikkei Asia)


Suga defends U.S. military’s low-altitude flight training in Okinawa

Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo reported on remarks made at the Diet on Wednesday by Prime Minister Suga when he was asked by an opposition lawmaker representing Okinawa about low-altitude flight training by U.S. military planes. “I acknowledge that local anxiety is growing,” said the premier. “However, the U.S. military’s flight drills are important to achieve the goals of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty…. The Defense and Foreign Ministries are responsible for having the U.S. military comply with rules, pay maximum attention to safety, and minimize the impact on local communities.” MC-130Js belonging to the 353rd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron have been seen carrying out such flights repeatedly over the Kerama Islands and Kunigami Village in the main island of Okinawa since late December. According to the dailies, Defense Minister Kishi disclosed during the same meeting that the U.S. military has said the training is being conducted based on a bilateral agreement. Okinawa Times wrote that these training sessions were apparently conducted outside of the designated training airspace, adding that combined with the recent arrest of a Marine for molestation, the "dangerous" flight training illustrates the excessive burden imposed on the people of Okinawa for the sake of maintaining the U.S.-Japan alliance.

U.S. military set to relocate graves from MCAS Futenma (Ryukyu Shimpo)

Request to U.S. military in response to indecent assault in Okinawa signed by 34 civic groups (Ryukyu Shimpo)

Chinese ships sighted near Senkakus for fifth consecutive day (Ryukyu Shimpo)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team