Afternoon Alert   -   Wednesday, December 22, 2021
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Top TV news items included a series of meetings earlier today between Finance Minister Suzuki and other cabinet members on the FY2022 budget (NHK), President Biden's unveiling on Tuesday of a package of measures to combat the Omicron variant (TBS), updates on the deadly arson attack at a mental health clinic in Osaka (NTV, Fuji TV), and a snow storm in Hokkaido (NTV).


Kishida again voices hope for early summit with President Biden

TBS reported that during a luncheon meeting with Komeito Chief Representative Yamaguchi today, Prime Minister Kishida reiterated his strong hope for a trip to the U.S. capital in January for talks with President Biden. “We agreed that the first in-person meeting between the two leaders should be conducted in the U.S.,” Yamaguchi was quoted as telling the press afterward, adding that the premier is eager to “jumpstart” his diplomacy next year by traveling to the U.S. first.

South Korean ambassador meets with Japan foreign ministry No. 2 (Nikkei Asia)

NTT’s Sawada becomes chair of Japan-U.S. Business Council (Nikkei)

Japan-China CEO Summit stresses friendship and cooperation (Asahi)

China scuttles Japan embassy event over Abe comments on Taiwan (Kyodo News)

Commentary: Moon stays active in diplomacy as end of his term approaches (Nikkei Asia)

North Korea braces for economic winter as omicron cuts off trade (Nikkei Asia)

Expert: DPRK abandoned brinkmanship after Hanoi summit (Mainichi)

Expert: Concerns over the sophistication of North Korea’s “nuclear first strike” capabilities (Mainichi)

LDP heavyweight says more countries may sever ties with Taiwan (Yomiuri)

Japan to offer $100 mil. aid to Afghanistan (NHK WORLD)


U.S. promises genome sequencing of COVID-19 virus sampled from military personnel

Asahi took up the disclosure by Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno this morning that the USG has informed the GOJ of its plan to conduct genome sequencing in the U.S. of the COVID-19 virus collected from infected service members at Camp Hansen. The U.S. side also reportedly promised to conduct in cooperation with the Japanese side diagnostic tests of the virus-stricken personnel aimed at detecting the Omicron variant. “We have been in close contact with the U.S. side,” the government spokesperson was quoted as saying. "As soon as we are given new information, we will share it with relevant parties.” According to the daily, this morning MOFA North American Affairs Bureau Director General Ichikawa requested the USFJ Commander, Lt. Gen. Rupp, impose greater restrictions on Hansen community members' activities on and off base. The military official reportedly said a total of 215 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the latest cluster infection at the installation.

USG welcomes formal agreement with Japan on host nation support

Yomiuri reported from Washington on remarks made to the daily on Tuesday by an unnamed State Department spokesperson on the official agreement between the USG and GOJ regarding the latter’s support for stationing U.S. troops in Japan from FY2022 through 2026. “It signified the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance, which is the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region,” the official was quoted as saying. The Biden administration reportedly elected not to make the accord public, leaving the Japanese side to make an official announcement.

U.S. sailor at Yokosuka arrested for trespassing under influence of alcohol

Yomiuri reported online that the Kanagawa police on Tuesday arrested a service member belonging to Yokosuka Naval Base on charges of trespassing, saying that the suspect was intoxicated when he was discovered in the hallway of a local primary school by a teacher around 7 a.m. The 36-year-old sailor has reportedly denied the allegation by saying that he did not remember what he did. The suspect reportedly told the teacher: “I am sorry. Gomen nasai.”

Editorial: Use budget to host U.S. bases to boost Japan-U.S. response capabilities (The Japan News)

Chinese fighter departs from aircraft carrier off Okinawa (Jiji Press)

National Police Agency to strengthen cooperation in international cybercrime investigations (Nikkei)

Ex-Japanese worker of U.S. military’s Atsugi base sues gov’t for compensation (Kanagawa Shimbun)


Prime minister’s schedule on Dec. 21, 2021 (Sankei)

DPFP picks Maehara as election strategy head, Otsuka as policy council chief (Nikkei)

Former CCS Kawamura to be tapped as special advisor to LDP vice-president (Yomiuri)

Editorial: Mayor’s haste to let foreigners vote stirred up social division, confusion (The Japan News)

Cartoon: Merry Give Out-mas!! (Tokyo Shimbun)


Kishida Cabinet approval rate rises to 49% on virus moves, Asahi survey (The Asahi Shimbun)

More voters against diplomatic boycott of Games, Asahi survey (The Asahi Shimbun)

Opinion poll & results from Asahi Shimbun (Asahi)


Huawei, Buffalo sign general license agreement (Asahi)

Japan to limit rare-earth mining to protect offshore deposits (Nikkei Asia)

Private sector must face economic security as its own issue: Meisei Univ. prof. (Sankei)

Japan to introduce new framework to promote farm exports (Jiji Press)

TEPCO seeks 2023 finish for treated-water facility (NHK WORLD)

Nagasaki IR plan includes health tourism (NIKKEI Business Daily)

Port of LA to test manure-derived hydrogen as fuel for trucks, cranes (Nikkei Asia)


Nation’s first community transmission of Omicron strain detected in Osaka

All broadcasters reported that according to the Osaka prefectural government, four people tested positive for the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday and that since three of them had not traveled overseas recently and their infection routes remains untraced, their cases appear to be the first community transmissions of the new strain in Japan. The three, members of the same family, are currently hospitalized with minor symptoms.

Close to 200,000 deaths possible if massive quake occurs off Japan’s northern Pacific coast (The Japan News)

Japanese high schoolers create video to encourage disaster-hit Kentucky (The Japan News)

Over 3,000 foreigners in Japan refuse to be deported (Jiji Press)

Sony Life employee suspected of hiding swindled cash (Jiji Press)

3 death row inmates hanged; 1st executions in 2 years (The Asahi Shimbun)

Women at work: Standing out above the old boys: Forging a path as a woman in corporate Japan (The Japan Times)

Glass ceiling intact at one-third of Japan’s top corporations (The Asahi Shimbun)

Hibakusha group urges Japan to ratify nuclear ban treaty (Jiji Press)

Ivermectin for COVID? Unproven treatment stokes concern in Japan (The Japan Times)


Okinawa chief presses U.S. military to take steps to stop COVID-19 infections on base

The two major Okinawa dailies continued coverage of the COVID-19 cluster infection at Camp Hansen, highlighting Governor Tamaki’s teleconference yesterday with the III MEF Commander, Lt. General James Bierman, at which the governor asked the U.S. military not to station additional service members from the U.S. mainland in Okinawa for the time being and not to allow Hansen personnel to leave the installation. According to the dailies, Lt. Gen. Bierman underscored that he will deal with the situation “proactively” so as to stem additional cases. On the governor’s call for a ban on outings, the general was quoted as saying in response: “We’ve been successful in containing infections at relevant units.” As for the request not to accept additional troops, the general said: “We will be looking into what we can do while ensuring that we can fulfill our obligations under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.”

Regarding Okinawa’s request for a testing system focused on the detection of the Omicron variant, the general noted that discussions are underway between the two governments and that “some sort of an agreement” will be announced in the near future. The governor told the press afterward: “The cluster infection is truly regrettable. It would be intolerable if Japanese base employees were infected by the Omicron variant introduced to Okinawa by U.S. personnel.”

Meanwhile, Ryukyu Shimpo highlighted Hansen service members’ conduct off base, stressing that some of them were seen roaming around the neighborhood apparently without restrictions on Tuesday night. The daily gave top play to the arrest of a Hansen-based Marine on charges of drunken driving in Chatan at midnight Tuesday, saying that the suspect was freed following the admission of the DUI charge. “The incident not only showcased the low morale among personnel but also raised doubts about the effectiveness of restrictions on conduct and of infection prevention protocols,” the daily said. "The U.S. military should become aware that local people are greatly alarmed by the infections and that distrust of the U.S. military is surging," according to a prefectural government source.

GOJ to slash funding for Okinawa (Okinawa Times, Ryukyu Shimpo)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team