Afternoon Alert   -   Thursday, August 19, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on record rainfall in western Japan (NHK, NTV), Chairman Omi's remarks at the Diet this morning expressing caution against allowing schoolchildren to attend Tokyo Paralympics events amid the COVID-19 resurgence (TBS), the finding that a pregnant woman who was recuperating at home after testing positive for COVID-19 was forced to give birth prematurely at home because no hospitals had the capacity to accept her, resulting in the death of the baby (Fuji TV), and Prime Minister Suga's decision not to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election in view of the rising number of COVID-19 cases (TV Asahi).


South Korean court approves seizure of payment to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

NHK and Fuji TV reported that a South Korean legal team announced on Wednesday evening that a South Korean court approved on Aug. 12 that about 80 million yen that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was supposed to receive from South Korean firms could be seized to compensate victims of wartime forced labor. According to Fuji TV, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato told the press this morning that such a legal procedure would be "a clear violation of international law." He reportedly added: "We have repeatedly pointed out to the South Korean side that if this leads to the liquidation of assets, the Japan-ROK relationship will face a serious situation, and such a scenario must be avoided.... We strongly urge the South Korean side to swiftly present us with a viable solution."

FM Motegi calls on Israel to restore confidence with Palestine

NHK reported that Foreign Minister Motegi, who is visiting the Middle East, held talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid and said he hopes that Israeli moves to improve ties with Arab states will lead to an easing of regional tensions. He reportedly expressed Japan's support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and called on Israel to take concrete measures to restore confidence with Palestine. According to the network, Lapid responded by expressing hope to work closely with Japan toward improving the situation in the region. He also reportedly expressed his understanding of Motegi's explanation that the principle of a free and open Indo-Pacific also contributes to the development of the Middle East. The two ministers reportedly agreed to further strengthen the bilateral relationship ahead of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Israel next year.

Local employees at Japanese Embassy in Kabul stranded

Asahi reported on the disclosure by several sources that many Afghan employees of the Japanese Embassy and JICA office in Kabul and their dependents are stranded in the capital after 12 Japanese diplomats were airlifted to the UAE on a UK military aircraft on Tuesday. Approximately 500 locally employed staff and their family members reportedly wish to flee the country. A Kantei official said the GOJ will try to evacuate them in coordination with other countries. The GOJ has not been able to arrange flights or other transportation to relocate them out of Afghanistan. One Afghan staff member told the daily over the phone that they had been told by Japanese diplomats that efforts will be made to evacuate them.

Japan to be asked to play more roles, take on more responsibilities: ex-ambassador to U.S. (Mainichi)

S. Korean court orders collection of assets from Mitsubishi Heavy (Jiji Press)

INTERVIEW: World needs to watch Taliban over next month (Jiji Press)

Former Abduction Minister Furuya says the abduction issue is a “challenge” (Asahi)

S. Korean lawmaker’s Takeshima visit regrettable: Japan spokesman (Jiji Press)

Robert ‘Skipp’ Orr, key figure in U.S.-Japan relations, dies at 68 (The Japan Times)


U.S. military’s Yokota Air Base – A black hole that swallows up Japan’s sovereignty (Sekai)

Some 40 Chinese trawlers spotted operating near Senkakus (Sankei)

Japan’s defense spending on brink of breaking 1% GDP cap (Nikkei Asia)

German frigate heads to South China Sea; seeks to dock at Shanghai (Nikkei Asia)

Infographic: Defense expenditures as percentage of GDP, FY2011–FY2022 (Nikkei)


Japan defends rare-earths industry from unwanted foreign takeovers (Nikkei Asia)

Japan’s nuclear watchdog suspends inspection of Tsuruga reactor (The Japan News)

Taiwan chip industry’s energy appetite draws Japan investment (Nikkei Asia)

Japan likely imports fish from Chinese ships flagged for illegal acts (Kyodo News)


Prime minister’s schedule on Aug 18, 2021 (Sankei)

EXCLUSIVE: Japan’s LDP eyes security talks with Taiwan party (Jiji Press)

Lower House dissolution in Sept. seen as difficult (Jiji Press)

Shimomura ready to challenge Suga in LDP leadership race (Jiji Press)

Insiders: Suga’s strategy to stay in power on brink of collapse (The Asahi Shimbun)

Former Prime Minister Abe bids for a new role: LDP kingmaker (The Japan Times)

Foreign minister Motegi “gets the job done” and waits for his opportunity (Nikkei)


Japan to support industrial structure reform for carbon neutrality (Jiji Press)

Exclusive: Japan ministry eyes digital platform to nurture IT experts (Jiji Press)


PM Suga calls for 70% reduction in people commuting to work

NHK and TBS reported at noon that Prime Minister Suga met with Keizai Doyukai Chairman Sakurada and asked for cooperation in reducing the number of people commuting to work by 70% through the promotion of teleworking. Suga reportedly said: "The number of cases is rapidly increasing due to the Delta variant, which is highly contagious....Teleworking is extremely important in order to control the flow of people and prevent cluster infections in offices. I ask for your cooperation in achieving a 70% reduction in the number of people commuting by employing teleworking and other measures." TBS said the premier is expected to make a similar request when he visits the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry this afternoon.

Tokyo to open reservation-free vaccination center for youth (Jiji Press)

U.S. Paralympic team invites media to observe training at Yokota AB

NHK reported online that U.S. swimmers and track and field athletes who will compete in the Tokyo Paralympics invited the press to observe their training at Yokota AB on Wednesday. The network said about 40 swimmers and track and field athletes of Team USA have been holding pre-Paralympic training at Yokota Air Base in Fussa, Tokyo, since Aug. 11. During a press conference, swimmer McKenzie Coan, who won three individual gold medals in the 2016 Summer Paralympics, reportedly thanked the people of Japan and others who helped realize the Paralympics amid the coronavirus pandemic and expressed hope to demonstrate to the world that there are no limits to what one can do no matter what difficulties they encounter or disabilities they have.

64 patients die in cluster infection at hospital in Okinawa (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japan’s hospitals still under strain – even after hospitalization policy shift (The Japan Times)

Half of Japan’s population gets at least 1 dose of COVID-19 vaccine (Kyodo News)

Japanese doctor calls for temporary COVID-19 care facilities (Jiji Press)

Infographic: Five COVID-19 indicators for 29 key prefectures (Aug. 17, 2021) (NHK digital)

Infographic: Status of gov’t indicators for COVID-19 in Tokyo (Aug. 18, 2021) (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic: 1,207,309 persons in Japan confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 (Aug. 18, 2021) (NHK digital)

Editorial: Suga must show resolve to ending pandemic crisis, convene Diet (The Asahi Shimbun)

Editorial: Latest emergency extension exposes Japan govt’s irresponsible short-termism (The Mainichi)


Telemedicine gains no traction in Japan despite COVID surge (Nikkei Asia)

Ex-Sekisui Chemical worker found guilty of leaking info (Jiji Press)

Visitors to Japan top 50,000 for 1st time in 7 months (Jiji Press)

Japan sees romance scams surge amid pandemic (Jiji Press)

Sri Lankan’s death in Japan exposes disregard for detainee rights (Nikkei Asia)

Female Afghan Paralympic competitor pleads for help to reach Tokyo (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Implement thorough safety measures for athletes at Tokyo Paralympics (The Japan News)


GOJ cautious about U.S. military’s plan to discharge treated water from Futenma

Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that negative opinions are growing within the GOJ toward the U.S. military’s plan to discharge water containing PFAS that has been stored at the Futenma Air Station into a public sewage facility outside the base after treating it. The paper wrote that in addition to opposition from the local community, the lack of standards for releasing such water into a public sewage system are an issue. The paper speculated that the GOJ is concerned that if it approves the plan by the U.S. military, which is a public entity, the move could set a “bad example” for private companies, which have been handling such water as “waste.” The paper wrote that the issue could extend beyond the framework of U.S. bases issues and affect Japan’s environmental policies.

The paper wrote that the U.S. military told the press on July 8 that it is hoping to discharge the water from the Futenma base after treating it, saying that the levels of PFOS and PFOA contamination in the water will completely meet Japan’s standard for drinking water of below 50 nanograms per liter. However, the production, import, and use of PFOS and PFOA are restricted in Japan because they remain intact in the environment for long periods. The paper wrote that even if the level of contamination per liter is lowered through treatment, a large volume of chemicals could accumulate in the environment as a result of the release of so much treated water. The paper quoted a GOJ source as saying that government approval of the discharge by the U.S. military would have a major impact.

According to the paper, the Ministry of Environment and the Fire and Disaster Management Agency have instructed private companies to dispose of foam extinguisher containing PFOS and other chemicals based on the Waste Disposal Law, and the SDF and other operators have disposed of such waste based on the instructions. The GOJ source said it will be difficult for the government to accept the U.S. request because in the past PFAS-contaminated water has basically been disposed of as waste. The same official reportedly told the paper that although the U.S. military cites the cost of disposing of the water as waste as the reason for its choice to discharge the water, he hopes the U.S. military will acknowledge its social responsibility.

Nakagusuku Village approves resolution to protest TFOA incident (Ryukyu Shimpo)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team