Afternoon Alert   -   Thursday, March 18, 2021
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Noon news

Noon news

Broadcasters led with reports on the government panel of experts on COVID-19 endorsing today the GOJ plan to lift the state of emergency for the Tokyo region on Sunday (NHK, NTV, Fuji TV, TV Asahi) and the resignation of Hiroshi Sasaki as the head creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics over a derogatory comment he made about a female entertainer (TBS).


Secretary Blinken reportedly asks for expansion of Japanese Self-Defense Forces

NTV's evening news program "News Zero" reported on its one-on-one interview with visiting Secretary of State Blinken, describing him as a musician, the top U.S. diplomat, and a key person in U.S. relations with China. The network said the Secretary stressed the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance and solidarity in order to approach China "from a position of strength." When asked about the "burdens" that need to be borne together, the Secretary said: "When it comes to the defense of our people, our values, and our interest, there is a burden that comes with that. That is an investment that we have to make in resources, including human resources, to stand up for our interest and our values." The network interpreted this to mean that the Secretary was requesting that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces be expanded.

As for the soured relations between Japan and South Korea, Secretary Blinken stressed the importance of both Japan and South Korea working "closely together even as they work through any remaining issue of history." On North Korea, the Secretary said the U.S. and Japan "are in lockstep when it comes to the importance of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, when it comes to dealing as well with North Korea's nuclear, missile programs." While showing that the Secretary was wearing a blue ribbon badge representing the wish to bring home the Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, the network said the Secretary said he will raise the abduction issue when he has a chance to talk with North Korea. Lastly, the interviewer took up the Secretary's remarks calling for "investment" in the security sector, surmising that what the U.S. expects from Japan is not only its purchase of U.S. weapons but also its expansion of the Self-Defense Forces to counter China. NTV also carried similar reports in its early evening news program "news every" on Wednesday.

Secretary Blinken talks about upcoming meeting with top Chinese officials

TV Asahi's daily evening news program "Hodo Station" reported on its one-on-one virtual interview with visiting Secretary of State Blinken. The Secretary said he plans to share the concerns the U.S. and Japan have about China "acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad," including with regard to the Senkakus, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Hong Kong. The Secretary also referred to trade issues, including tariffs and the trade deficit but also "some of the fundamental structural problems that China has not addressed," including support for state-owned enterprises, technology transfer, and the theft of intellectual property, adding that China is creating an "unequal playing field that is tilted in favor of China and against the interest of American workers." The Secretary was shown saying: "It's important that we have an opportunity to speak directly, to speak clearly, and to speak openly, also to demonstrate to our counterparts that there is no difference between what we say in public and what we say in private. The concerns we've expressed publicly are the same ones that we will be expressing to them in private.... It's just important to make sure we understand each other, and in particular that our Chinese counterparts understand the concerns that we have, understand why so many countries are increasingly worried about the actions China is taking." On North Korea, the Secretary said that after the Biden administration finishes a review of its North Korea policy in the coming weeks, the U.S. will be able to work in close coordination with its partners to deal effectively with the challenges posed by North Korea, including its nuclear and missile programs, abuse of human rights, and abductions.

The network noted that Prime Minister Suga will be the first foreign leader to have an in-person summit with President Biden in April. When asked whether the U.S. will request Japan to beef up the SDF or increase its share of the cost of hosting U.S. forces in Japan, the Secretary said that these decisions have to be made by Japan, but added that the bilateral alliance has been the cornerstone for peace and stability in the region for decades and that "unfortunately, security, freedom, democracy isn't free, it does come with cost, and cost that we have to bear together in a fair and equitable way." A commentator said that what the Secretary implied is that Washington wants Japan to not only increase its share of the cost to host the U.S. forces but also boost Japan’s defense capability as a whole, including improving its defense equipment, technology, and research in view of China’s rapid modernization of its military over the last 20 years.

U.S., S. Korea call N. Korea nuclear, missile issues “priority” (Kyodo News)

Transcript of interview with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Nikkei Asia)

Blinken presses South Korea to work with Japan in Indo-Pacific (Nikkei Asia)

Analysis: China stages its own ‘2-plus-2’ with US in frigid Alaska (Nikkei Asia)

Editorial: Leverage Japan-U.S. alliance to maintain regional stability (Mainichi)

U.S. on alert against possible Taiwan contingency (The Japan News)

Japan to tighten border controls on travelers from 7 more states (Kyodo News)

Editorial: Stronger intl involvement necessary to end military violence in Myanmar (The Japan News)

Editorial: It’s time to stand with the people of Hong Kong for free elections (Japan Forward)


Chinese ships spotted near Senkakus for 33rd consecutive day (Sankei)

Defense Ministry to deploy electronic warfare units to Yonaguni, Tsushima GSDF camps (Sankei)

SDF’s electronic warfare capabilities surpass those of U.S. (Sankei)

Opinion: Japan shouldn’t send ambiguous message about China’s Coast Guard Law (Nikkei)

Opinion: Japan needs legal basis to effectively counter China near Senkakus (Nikkei)

U.S. military helicopters also flying low in Tokyo residential area: Mainichi report (The Mainichi)

Cherry cheesecake recipe handed down from U.S. Navy in Yokosuka (Mainichi)


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

Editorial: Japan PM Suga’s Cabinet must return to common-sense politics (The Mainichi)

Communications minister dines with NTT as hospitality scandal grows (Kyodo News)


Line’s privacy blunder reveals holes in Japan’s data rules (Nikkei Asia)

Toyota, other firms offer pay hikes but pandemic to cap wage growth (Kyodo News)


Japan court orders suspension of Tokai nuclear plant (Kyodo News)

High court retracts order to halt nuclear reactor in Ehime Pref. (Kyodo News)

Editorial: Breaking free of numerical targets in global climate talks (Japan Forward)


Myanmar protesters gather near U.S. Embassy while Blinken in Tokyo (Kyodo News)

Suga likely to skip Tokyo Olympic torch relay’s opening ceremony (Kyodo News)

Govt to bar overseas fans from attending Tokyo Games (The Japan News)

Japan’s foreign students complain Olympians given priority entry (Nikkei Asia)

Court: Denial of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional (The Asahi Shimbun)

‘Love can only do so much.’ Gay couple moved to tears after ruling (The Asahi Shimbun)

Visitors to Japan dive 99.3 pct in Feb. (Jiji Press)

Japan household financial assets hit record high at end of 2020 (Jiji Press)

Imperial couple talk to 2011 disaster victims in Miyagi online (Jiji Press)


62.1% of Japanese willing to take COVID-19 vaccines: survey (Kyodo News)

Infographic: Six COVID-19 indicators for 10 key prefectures (March 16, 2021) (NHK digital)

Infographic: Prefectures with confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants (March 16, 2021) (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic: 451,984 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 (March 17, 2021) (NHK digital)

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


Mayor calls for reduction of aircraft noise at Kadena AB

Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that in response to an increase in aircraft noise at Kadena AB this week, Mayor Toyama of the town of Kadena submitted to the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Bureau on Wednesday a written request for the reduction in the base-hosting burden on local residents. Bureau Director Tanaka reportedly told the mayor that he heard from the U.S. military that aircraft operations at the base have increased this week to maintain readiness and that the number of takeoffs and landings at the base will return to normal by the end of the week. He added that the bureau called on the U.S. military to minimize the impact on local residents. According to the paper, the frequency of instances of noise generated by aircraft using Kadena increased by two to five times from last week. The mayor reportedly told the bureau chief that he hopes that the base-hosting burden on Kadena citizens will not increase further because the noise is reaching an unacceptable level. Okinawa Times ran a similar report, adding that the municipal government received 20 complaints from local residents on Tuesday alone, compared with only nine last week.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team