Afternoon Alert   -   Wednesday, April 21, 2021
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Noon news

Broadcasters led with reports on a South Korean district court's ruling dismissing a lawsuit brought by a group of former comfort women (NHK), the Osaka governor's plan to impose strong measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 when the prefecture is placed under a state of emergency (TBS), Tokyo Governor Koike's plan to ask the GOJ to put the capital under a state of emergency during the Golden Week holidays in late April and early May (Fuji TV), and the GOJ’s deliberations on whether to declare a state of emergency to contain the spread of the coronavirus in Osaka, Tokyo, and Hyogo (TV Asahi).


South Korean court dismisses comfort women lawsuit

All networks reported at noon that the Seoul Central District Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of 20 former comfort women and their family members seeking damages from the Japanese government over their treatment during WWII. The court cited sovereign immunity, a concept under international law in which a state is immune from the civil jurisdiction of a court in a foreign country. The same court had ordered the Japanese government to pay damages to the plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit in January.

In addition, NHK reported on the finding that the South Korean district court released a statement on March 29 saying that seizing assets of the Japanese government to secure court fees "might violate international law" and have "serious consequences, such as undermining the trust of the judiciary." The district court reportedly concluded in the statement that there are no court fees that can be collected from the Japanese government. The network noted, however, that the statement only refers to the seizing of assets to secure court fees and not to secure compensation.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato reportedly told the press this morning: "This differs from the ruling by the district court in Seoul on January 8. I will refrain from commenting as we still need to closely examine the contents of the ruling." Meanwhile, when asked whether he believes there has been a shift in South Korea's stance, Kato reportedly answered: "Japan's position on the matter remains fundamentally the same. We will continue to strongly call on South Korea to take measures to rectify its violation of international law." NHK quoted a senior MOFA official as saying: "Although we need to closely examine the contents of the ruling, it is in line with the position of the Japanese government. The plaintiffs will probably appeal the ruling. We will closely monitor the position of the South Korean government on the ruling." Another senior MOFA official reportedly said: "The previous ruling was abnormal. The latest ruling is very normal and reasonable." When asked whether the ruling would have a positive impact on Japan-ROK relations, the official responded: "Definitely not. The bilateral relationship is already on the verge of hitting bottom. The ruling has not turned it around. The relationship is still very strained."

PM Suga decides not to visit India, Philippines during Golden Week

NHK reported that although Prime Minister Suga had been making arrangements to visit India and the Philippines during the Golden Week holidays starting at the end of this month, he has decided not to visit the nations in light of the rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases in India as well as the growing number of cases in Tokyo, Osaka, and Hyogo.

Suga says Japan, U.S. to lead discussions on climate change in international community

NHK reported that Prime Minister Suga said during an Upper House plenary session today that the United States and Japan will lead discussions in the international community toward realizing a decarbonized society and urge China to fulfill its obligations as a major power. The premier made the remarks in response to a question by an LDP member on Japan's China strategy and the division of roles between the U.S. and Japan on climate change. "We will urge China to fulfill its responsibility as a major power, including carrying out further measures toward realizing a decarbonized society," Suga reportedly said. "At the U.S.-Japan summit, we agreed to set up a U.S.-Japan climate partnership. Both the United States and Japan will actively lead discussions in the international community." The network said that when an opposition party member asked Suga if President Biden directly told him whether or not the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics should be held or whether the United States plans to send athletes to the Games, the premier reportedly said: "I have conveyed my commitment to holding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as a symbol of global unity. President Biden once again expressed his support for this commitment. We will work closely with the U.S. and other participating nations and regions to make the Tokyo Games a success."

U.S., Japan to monitor Rakuten for leakage of customer data to China

Kyodo claimed that the governments of the U.S. and Japan have agreed to closely monitor major online retailer Rakuten’s operations following its decision to accept a massive capital infusion from Chinese IT giant Tencent out of concern that its customer information may be leaked to the Chinese authorities as a result. The Finance Ministry and other agencies will invoke the economic security provisions in the Foreign Exchange Law to receive briefings regularly on Rakuten’s data control and the Chinese firm’s involvement in Rakuten’s operations and share the results with relevant U.S. authorities. The news agency said the GOJ has decided to strengthen its monitoring of Rakuten while taking into account Washington’s hard line toward Beijing, projecting that although the Japanese economy relies heavily on trade and investment from China, Japan may have little choice but to take a concerted line with the Biden administration.

New Zealand hesitant to expand “Five Eyes”

Nikkei took up remarks made recently by New Zealand Foreign Minister Mahuta, who voiced caution about the idea of expanding the “Five Eyes” framework by inviting new members, such as Japan. “The Five Eyes relationship was set up for a specific purpose, and it’s not the case that we need to invoke a response from the Five Eyes every time there’s an issue with China,” the top New Zealand diplomat was quoted as saying. “We are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship.” Pointing out that China has reacted very strongly to recent joint statements from the Five Eyes group criticizing its crackdowns on Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the daily speculated that New Zealand is concerned that the idea would provoke Chinese retaliation on the trade and economic fronts.

Secretary Blinken expresses alarm at U.S. lagging behind in renewable energy (NTV)

Comment: Threat of Chinese sanctions tests Japan’s resolve on Taiwan (Nikkei Asia)

Xi takes swipe at U.S. by urging restraint from ‘meddling’ (Nikkei Asia)

China state media stays quiet on Taiwan as Beijing seeks U.S. dialogue (Nikkei Asia)

Japan, Philippines discuss concerns about China (NHK WORLD)

Suga denies possible military involvement over Taiwan (Jiji Press)

Opinion: U.S. and Japan gear up for a new era of competition with China (Nikkei Asia)

Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association’s Taipei office raises Japanese flag (Sankei digital)

Survey: Japan universities lax on tracking researcher ties to foreign recruitment schemes (The Japan News)

Editorial: Japan should support Britain’s measures to counter China, Russia (Japan Forward)

Japan mourns death of former U.S. Ambassador Mondale (Jiji Press)

Ex-U.S. ambassador made great contributions to Japan-U.S. relations (The Japan News)

Obituary: Mondale remembered as a statesman who listened to Okinawa (Nikkei Asia)

Japan welcomes EU’s new commitment to Indo-Pacific region (Kyodo News)

Japan targets Vietnam for first ASEAN oil-sharing deal (Nikkei Asia)

Japan foreign minister to visit Britain, East European nations (Jiji Press)

Japanese Embassy in Myanmar lodges protest (NHK WORLD)

Negative reporting on comfort women is no longer taboo: former Dong-A Ilbo chief editor Shim Kyun-sun (Asahi)

Editorial: China and South Korea have no business opposing the Fukushima plan (Japan Forward)


Chinese ships spotted near Senkakus for 67th consecutive day (Sankei)

U.S. hints at trimming nuclear weapons budgets but seeks to maintain deterrence (Asahi digital)

Taiwan issue offers chance to revise defense assumptions: former MSDF fleet commander (Nikkei)

Japan Coast Guard considering to introduce drones (NHK WORLD)

Cyberattacks on Japan aerospace industry exploited ‘zero-day’ flaw (Nikkei Asia)


Japan, U.S. plan to keep watch on Rakuten after Tencent investment (Kyodo News)

Japan proposes grid expansion for offshore power push (Jiji Press)

Nuclear contracts between local gov’ts and utilities double since Fukushima accident (Tokyo Shimbun)

Coordination with industry necessary to set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target: minister  (Sankei)

Ibaraki fishermen oppose n-plant water release plan (Jiji Press)

Gov. vows to discuss releasing treated water into Osaka Bay (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Global competition to reduce corporate tax rates has reached limit (The Japan News)


Prime minister’s schedule on April 20, 2021 (Sankei)

Japan PM Suga to skip war-linked Yasukuni shrine visit: sources (Kyodo News)

Abe to become top advisor to LDP headquarters for constitutional revision (Asahi)

With release of new book, will Shimomura become “post-Suga” candidate? (Sankei)

Status of vaccination rollout in each prefecture reported on Kantei website (Asahi)

Calls for extra budget emerge from ruling LDP (Jiji Press)

EXCLUSIVE: Japan govt to keep FY 2025 primary surplus target (Jiji Press)


59.9% approve of outcomes of PM Suga’s visit to U.S., Sankei-FNN poll (Sankei)

80% say Japan needs to address China’s human rights issue, Sankei-FNN poll (Sankei)

Opinion poll & results from Sankei Shimbun (Sankei)


Interview with digital minister Hirai: New value through public-private data sharing (Sankei)

Hamburgers on the Moon? Astronaut jokes with Suga about lunar project (Kyodo News)


GOJ to dispatch 90 nurses to Osaka

All national dailies took up the disclosure by Osaka Governor Yoshimura yesterday that the GOJ plans to send to the prefecture some 90 nurses from across Japan to help local health professionals respond to a surge in coronavirus infections. As about 50 of them will staff a public hospital that is treating COVID-19 patients who are in serious condition, the facility will now be able to accommodate up to 30 such patients.

Osaka to go dark as Japan prepares to reimpose COVID emergency (Nikkei Asia)

Japan to receive 50 mil. additional doses of Pfizer vaccine (Kyodo News)

Japan firm to start regenerative medicine trial for COVID patients (Jiji Press)

Infographic: Five COVID-19 indicators for 12 key prefectures (April 19, 2021) (NHK digital)

Infographic: Comparison of trends in new COVID-19 cases in Tokyo, Osaka, and nationwide (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic: Status of gov’t indicators for COVID-19 in Tokyo (April 20, 2021) (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic: 542,968 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 (April 20, 2021) (NHK digital)

Tokyo Olympic athletes to undergo daily saliva testing (Kyodo News)

Japan’s local governments get creative to incentivize vaccinations (The Japan Times)

Cartoon: No exit? (Tokyo Shimbun)


Editorial: Basic issues left unaddressed by move to revise immigration law (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japanese woman who listened to former American POWs for more than 20 years (Asahi)

Vox Populi: Time to consider cutting our losses, canceling Tokyo Olympics (The Asahi Shimbun)


PM Suga reportedly asked President Biden to accelerate return of Camp Kinser

Okinawa Times reported that during a briefing to the ruling LDP yesterday on the latest U.S.-Japan summit held in Washington last week, MOFA disclosed that Prime Minister Suga pressed President Biden to expedite U.S. efforts to return the Makiminato Service Area, also known as Camp Kinser, to Japan. This request was reportedly not mentioned in the post-summit press conference or the joint statement that highlighted the two leaders' consensus on steadily moving forward with the agreed-upon force realignment initiatives in Okinawa.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team