Afternoon Alert   -   Wednesday, March 17, 2021
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Noon news

All commercial broadcasters led with reports that the GOJ has informally decided to lift the state of emergency for the Tokyo region on March 21. NHK gave top play to a report on the ruling by the Sapporo District Court that the government's failure to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.


Senior USG official says U.S. to share deep concerns with China in Alaska

NHK reported this afternoon that a senior official of the Biden Administration said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that during the planned meeting between top U.S. and Chinese officials on March 18 in Alaska, the U.S. side will share its deep concerns with China over a wide range of issues, including the issues of human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea, and cyber-attacks. The official also reportedly said what Yang and Wang say at the meeting will be important in setting the direction for the future U.S. strategy toward China. Meanwhile, another senior USG official reportedly said China needs to modify its behavior in order to improve the U.S.-China relationship and projected that the upcoming meeting will be tough because it will be hard to persuade the Chinese side to modify its behavior in just a few hours.

North Korea may test-fire ICBM in near future

NHK, TBS, and TV Asahi reported that Gen. Vanherck, the head of the U.S. Northern Command, said in written testimony to a Senate committee on Tuesday that North Korea "may begin flight testing an improved ICBM design in the near future." Vanherck reportedly cited North Korea's disclosure of a new large-scale ICBM last October and the fact that the North has indicated it is no longer bound by the unilateral nuclear and ICBM testing moratorium announced in 2018 as the reasons. NHK said, however, that Vanherck did not clarify whether there are concrete signs of an impending test, adding that he said at a press conference that the U.S. military will remain on high alert.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato reportedly told the press this morning: "We always collect and analyze information on North Korea's moves with grave interest, but I will refrain from commenting on individual items. We will continue to work closely with the U.S., collect and analyze the necessary information, and make an all-out effort to conduct monitoring and surveillance."

Secretary Blinken says U.S., Japan should “work in solidarity” to counter China

NTV reported at noon on its one-on-one virtual interview with visiting Secretary of State Blinken, saying that the Secretary stressed that the United States and Japan should work in solidarity to counter the threat posed by China. He was shown saying: "I think both the United States and Japan share a deep concern about what we've seen in recent years which is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad, including particularly in the region whether it regards to the Senkaku Islands or Taiwan, the South China Sea. Based on my conversations here in Tokyo, that clearly is a real concern to both of us. It's important that we work in solidarity to deal with some of the challenges posed by China and I'm confident that we will do that." The network noted that Secretary Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin chose Japan for their first overseas trip and that the Secretary has been wearing a blue ribbon badge representing the wish to bring home the Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. The network said the Secretary disclosed that he received a letter from the families of the Japanese abductees and said it was "very powerful and moving" and added that the U.S. is highly conscious of the issue. Secretary Blinken also reportedly said he would like to raise the abduction issue when he has a chance to hold talks with North Korea.

Secretary Blinken says he plans to share “concerns” with China

TV Asahi reported at noon on its one-on-one virtual interview with visiting Secretary of State Blinken conducted earlier in the day. When asked what he will demand of China when he meets with top Chinese officials in Alaska on March 18, the Secretary was shown saying: "That's an opportunity for us to, very directly, face to face, share with our Chinese counterparts the concerns that the United States has, that our allies and partners have, about some of the things that China is doing. I suspect it will be an opportunity for China to share whatever concerns it has about us." TV Asahi said the Secretary emphasized that the meeting will be a good opportunity for both the U.S. and China. The network added that he explained that he made Japan the destination of his first overseas trip as secretary of state to demonstrate that the U.S. values its alliance with Japan.

Interview: Blinken denounces China’s ‘strings attached’ vaccine diplomacy (Nikkei Asia)

Gist of Japan-U.S. 2+2 joint press conference, March 16, 2021 (Yomiuri)

U.S. and Japan express ‘serious concerns’ over China coast guard law (Nikkei Asia)

U.S. expects Japan to return favor in diplomacy, security (Jiji Press)

Focus: Japan expects deterrence to keep China in check over Senkakus (Kyodo News)

Editorial: Further enhance Japan-U.S. alliance for stability in Asia (Nikkei)

Editorial: Japan, U.S. must strengthen alliance amid China’s military buildup (The Japan News)

Editorial: Beef up defense capabilities to deter China (Sankei)

Editorial: The U.S.’s China strategy – counter China while striving for coexistence (Tokyo Shimbun)

U.S. takes no particular position on Senkakus (Nikkei)

U.S. seen urging Japan to take firmer stance on China (The Japan News)

Commentary: “2 plus 2” takes one step further to Taiwan issue (Mainichi)

Expert: 2+2 joint statement enumerates concerns about China (Nikkei)

Expert: Japan, U.S. should share basic values in dealing with Chinese economy (Nikkei)

U.S. and China dig in heels ahead of Alaska meetup (Nikkei Asia)

Editorial: Quad should form foundation for broader international cooperation (Nikkei Asia)

Africa Society of Japan holds symposium to mark its 60th anniversary (Yomiuri)

Editorial: Quad framework needs to do more than just dealing with China issues (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japan names new ambassadors to Kazakhstan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Armenia (Kyodo News)

Powerful sister of North Korea’s Kim warns U.S. in first comments directed at Biden (The Japan Times)

Editorial: Putin’s press secretary lashes out at Sankei Shimbun over stolen territories article (Japan Forward)


Chinese ships spotted near Senkakus for 32nd consecutive day (Sankei)


Proposal made to promote hydrogen use (NHK WORLD)

Japan Feb. trade surplus slumps to 217.4 b. yen (Jiji Press)

Japanese government to impose safeguards on U.S. beef on March 18 (Nikkei)

Japan’s exports down for 1st time in 3 months in Feb. (Jiji Press)


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

Editorial: Suga must win back public trust amid telecom ministry scandal (The Asahi Shimbun)

Editorial: Japan PM Suga must dispel ministry ethics scandal suspicions (The Mainichi)

Cartoon: Beat virus, support will rise (Tokyo Shimbun)


Australia’s space agency to boost cooperation with JAXA (Jiji Press)

Japan to establish guidelines on int’l joint research (Jiji Press)

Astroscale to launch debris removal satellite (Nikkei)


Senior members of Japan Uyghur Association to hold lecture at LDP headquarters (Sankei)

Tokyo Olympics yet to gain public support days before torch relay (Nikkei Asia)

Will Japan’s first same-sex marriage ruling be a beacon of hope? (The Japan Times)


Japanese companies develop special syringes to reduce waste of COVID-19 vaccine (The Japan News)

Tokyoites grow weary of state of emergency, virus figures show (The Asahi Shimbun)

Infographic: Status of gov’t indicators for COVID-19 in Tokyo (March 16, 2021) (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic: 450,451 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 (March 16, 2021) (NHK digital)

Japan suicide cases rise for 1st time in 11 years in 2020 (Jiji Press)


Okinawa reacts calmly to outcome of 2+2 meeting

Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times reported on local reaction to the 2+2 joint statement reaffirming the planned FRF construction off Camp Schwab as the only solution that avoids the continued use of MCAS Futenma. Governor Tamaki was quoted as saying: “I suppose the document merely confirmed the existing policy. We will continue to seek dialogue [with the GOJ and the USG] and provide information to the U.S. in the hope that opposition [to the project] will grow in Congress.” He insisted that the Futenma standoff has continued for almost a quarter century because the relocation initiative has been pursued in the absence of local consent and asked the central government to support his call for the resumption of three-way dialogue on reducing the base-hosting burden on Okinawa.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team