Afternoon Alert   -   Friday, September 3, 2021
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Broadcasters led with reports on Prime Minister Suga's announcement at an extraordinary meeting of LDP executives this morning that he does not plan to run in the LDP presidential election (NHK), the LDP executives' meeting this morning (NTV, TV Asahi), an incident in which a woman was stabbed to death at a shopping center in Kure, Hiroshima (TBS), and the finding that the GOJ is considering allowing bars and restaurants to serve alcohol even under a state of emergency from October or November when the vaccination program is expected to have made progress (Fuji TV).


Suga decides not to run in LDP leadership race

NHK reported at noon that Prime Minister Suga announced at an extraordinary meeting of LDP executives this morning that he will not run in the LDP presidential election slated for Sept. 29 "in order to focus on measures to combat the new coronavirus." Suga is expected to step down as prime minister when his term as LDP president ends at the end of this month. The network added that Suga also expressed his intention not to change the LDP leadership lineup on Sept. 6. LDP Secretary General Nikai told the press after the extraordinary meeting that he was surprised to hear the announcement but decided to respect the premier's decision.

Suga told the press this afternoon: "For the past one year since I became prime minister, I have been putting all my effort into measures to combat the new coronavirus and other various issues Japan is facing. The [campaign for the] LDP presidential election will begin on Sept. 17. While I was planning to run in the election, I realized that an enormous amount of energy will be required to combat COVID-19 while campaigning. I decided that I would not be able to do both and had to choose one.... I decided that I should focus on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus as I have promised the public I would do many times. I will focus on the novel coronavirus as it is the responsibility of the prime minister to protect the lives and the livelihood of the public." Suga reportedly added that he will hold another press conference next week.

Kyodo News reported that former Foreign Minister Kishida and former internal affairs minister Takaichi Sanae reiterated their intention on Friday to run in the party's leadership election after PM Suga's sudden withdrawal announcement. In addition to the statements by the two senior members of the LDP, Hakubun Shimomura, who had withdrawn from the Sept. 29 election after being urged by Suga to prioritize his work as the LDP policy chief in responding to the COVID-19, indicated he might re-enter the race. "The situation has changed. I will discuss (the matter) with my colleagues," Shimomura reportedly said. According to Kyodo, Kishida said his intention to run remains "unchanged" after Suga made the surprise announcement earlier in the day. Takaichi, who would be the LDP's first female president if elected, said she "will fight till the end" of the leadership race. She also said she was "appalled" at Suga's flip-flopping on whether he would run, as he had repeatedly said he would seek re-election. "The remarks of the country's top leader have changed every day," Takaichi reportedly said.

TBS reported that Ishiba Shigeru, who has remained noncommittal about running in the LDP leadership race, told the network after Suga's withdrawal announcement that "this is a totally new development" and said he will consult with his associates and reach a conclusion at an appropriate time.

U.S. signals surprise over Japan PM Suga’s intention to resign

Kyodo News reported from Washington that the USG has apparently been caught off guard by news that Prime Minister Suga intends to resign, with one official expressing surprise at the development on Friday and showing interest in who will succeed him. Noting that the Biden administration has been spending months strengthening the alliance with Japan amid efforts to counter China's assertiveness, Kyodo wrote that James Schoff, an expert on U.S.-Japan relations, expressed disappointment over Suga's abrupt decision not to run for re-election as leader of Japan's ruling LDP on Sept. 29, meaning he will step down as prime minister. "The Japanese government will have to start over with the Biden administration, which is a little disappointing, frankly," said the senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank. But he played down the possible impact on bilateral relations, as the development came less than one year into the Biden presidency. "I suppose it's manageable at this early stage in the Biden term," he added.

NHK's Washington Bureau chief Takagi said the Biden administration has yet to officially respond to Suga's announcement that he will not run in the LDP leadership election. He noted that the Biden administration has been consistently supportive of the Suga administration on matters such as the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics amid the COVID-19 outbreak and that Prime Minister Suga was the first foreign leader to hold an in-person meeting with President Biden. The reporter expressed the view that the Biden administration has placed emphasis on Japan in view of the increasing importance of the alliance in countering China's rise. He said the Biden administration will need to start from scratch in building a relationship with the new Japanese leader, adding, however, that the U.S. has been consistent in its belief that no matter who the Japanese leader is, the U.S.-Japan alliance remains solid. He said that the USG is likely to keep a close eye on political developments in Japan for the time being.

Suga bows out of seeking re-election as head of ruling LDP (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japan’s Yoshihide Suga to resign as prime minister (Nikkei)

Suga says he won’t run in upcoming LDP election, effectively ending term as Japan PM (Mainichi)

U.S. signals surprise over Japan PM Suga’s intention to resign (Kyodo News)

Prime minister’s schedule on Sept. 2, 2021 (Sankei)

Interview with Kishida on his bid for LDP presidency (Nikkei)

LDP leadership fight intensifies as Suga rival outlines COVID-19 plans (The Japan Times)

“We won’t offer election support” says Kanagawa LDP head (Asahi)

Editorial: Suga clearly interested only in saving his political skin (The Asahi Shimbun)

Suga orders specific measures for Japan growth strategy (Jiji Press)


SDF C-2 transport plane returns to Japan from Afghanistan

Fuji TV and TV Asahi reported at noon that a C-2 transport plane that was deployed to Afghanistan returned to Iruma Air Base in Saitama this morning, carrying about 80 SDF members. The networks said the remaining two transport planes are also expected to return to Japan soon, saying that the Japanese government is planning to continue to help evacuate the approximately 500 Afghan staff members of the Japanese Embassy and other organizations who remain in the nation.

Japan to protect Afghan personnel in neighboring nations (Jiji Press)

S. Korea court drops order for Mitsubishi Heavy asset seizure (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Lessons learned from U.S. exit from Afghanistan must be applied in future (The Japan News)


Water released by U.S. military “cannot be said to be safe” (Asahi)

Chinese ships spotted near Senkakus for 25th consecutive day (Sankei)

Commentary: Japan’s economic security debate needs ‘offense’ as well as ‘defense’ (Nikkei Asia)

SDF members are leaving Pakistan (NHK WORLD)

Cyberattacks on Tokyo government’s contractor (Sankei)

Woman shows Okinawa’s plight with photos of U.S. copter crash (The Asahi Shimbun)


Renesas president focuses on increased output, analog tech (Nikkei)

Japan FTC to end probe into Apple over app fees (Jiji Press)

Japanese engineers find greener pastures with Chinese automakers (Nikkei Asia)

Will Japan’s election year stock gains hold true under Suga? (Nikkei Asia)

MUFG bank, 8 others form investment firm for renewable energy (Jiji Press)


METI sets up decarbonization office (Yomiuri)

Japan mulling requiring disclosures on climate change risks (Jiji Press)

U. of Tokyo Honorary Prof. Fujishima transfers to University of Shanghai: Discovered photocatalytic reactions (Mainichi)

Japan-built flying car set for first test flights on home turf (Nikkei Asia)


GOJ mulls allowing bars and restaurants to serve alcohol even under state of emergency

TBS and Fuji TV reported at noon on the GOJ's draft roadmap for relaxing restrictions in areas under the state of emergency or quasi-state of emergency, saying that the government is planning to allow bars and restaurants in such areas to serve alcohol or extend their business hours if sufficient antivirus measures are taken. The new measure is likely to be adopted in October or November, when COVID-19 vaccines are expected to have been administered to most people in Japan. The network said the government is also planning to allow those who are fully vaccinated to travel across prefectural borders and to relax the current restrictions on the number of participants at large-scale events by utilizing vaccination certificates and negative test results. 

Osaka pachinko parlor becomes makeshift vaccination site (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japan to accept vaccination reservations from 30,000 more younger people (Jiji Press)

Infographic: Five COVID-19 indicators for 33 key prefectures (Sept. 1, 2021) (NHK digital)

Infographic: Status of gov’t indicators for COVID-19 in Tokyo (Sept. 2, 2021) (Tokyo Shimbun)

Infographic – Cumulative total no. of COVID-19 cases in Japan (Sept. 2, 2021): 1,529,589 (NHK digital)


Uber Eats Japan halts hiring of foreign students for food delivery (Kyodo News)

Emperor Emeritus Akihito becomes oldest Japanese sovereign (Jiji Press)


Ginowan mayor, GOJ officials discuss U.S. military’s release of treated water

Okinawa Times wrote that at a meeting on Thursday with officials of the Defense Ministry and the Environment Ministry, Ginowan Mayor Matsugawa called on the GOJ to provide a detailed explanation of the U.S. Marines’ recent release of water containing PFOS from the Futenma Air Station to the local sewage system after treating it. The paper wrote that the mayor told reporters afterward that although the U.S. military told the city government that it released the water because it was concerned that the tank storing the contaminated water at the base would overflow if it rained heavily, the GOJ officials did not seem to have a clear understanding of the U.S. concern. The mayor reportedly said the U.S. military should incinerate the contaminated water that remains at the base as a regular procedure. The GOJ officials reportedly told the mayor that the central government will urge the U.S. military not to discharge any more water and that Tokyo will hold discussions with the U.S. side on appropriate steps. According to the paper, the GOJ officials also told the mayor that they cannot say the discharged water was safe and said that it is necessary to establish regulations for the release of such water. Ryukyu Shimpo ran a similar report, adding that the GOJ officials apologized for causing anxiety among local citizens.

U.S. Marine arrested on suspicion of DUI (Okinawa Times)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team