JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Afternoon Alert   -   Thursday, February 24, 2022
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HEADLINES

All TV networks gave top coverage to updates on the Ukrainian crisis, the declaration of a state of emergency in Ukraine, and the two Ukrainian separatist regions’ call for Moscow to provide military assistance.

INTERNATIONAL

Kishida comments on Russian invasion of Ukraine

NHK reported that Prime Minister Kishida met with the press following the conclusion of an NSC meeting that was convened hastily at around 3 p.m. in response to Russia’s launch of military operations in Ukraine. The prime minister, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno, Foreign Minister Hayashi, and Defense Minister Kishi participated in the meeting. “We discussed the increasingly tense situation there,” the premier said. “I instructed relevant officials to ensure the safety of Japanese residents in Ukraine. I also instructed them to collect more detailed information about the situation. The Russian invasion trampled on the international order’s core principle of not allowing the status quo to be altered by force. We will respond to the unfolding situation in close coordination with the United States and the international community."

The broadcaster separately reported that during an Upper House committee meeting earlier in the day, Kishida denied the possibility of Japan dispatching to Russia a Japanese envoy tasked with helping to deescalate the tension over Ukraine. In response to a suggestion from an opposition lawmaker that the prime minister ask former Prime Minister Mori, who maintains close bonds with President Putin, to go to Moscow to conduct diplomatic mediation, Kishida was quoted as saying: “We have currently no such plans. Personal connections or bonds between individuals matter when it comes to diplomacy. However, diplomacy must be conducted in accordance with international law and fundamental rules and ideals. Diplomacy should be built upon this principle.” He also commented on potential additional sanctions on Moscow by saying: “We have to swiftly consider additional steps if the situation worsens. A decision on further measures aimed at improving the situation will be made while taking into consideration Japan’s national interests.” The prime minister expressed hope that the punitive measures will help defuse the tension diplomatically, adding that Japan will never recognize the two Ukrainian breakaway regions as “independent.”

In a related development, Nikkei wrote that some LDP politicians regard Japan's sanctions as "muted" compared with those of the United States and Europe. They are reportedly urging the Kishida administration to ramp up Japan's sanctions by saying: "It is troubling to see Japan's response being somewhat weaker in tone than the G7's unified response."

Japan prioritizes coordination with U.S., Europe over Ukraine at least for now

All national papers published analyses of the Kishida administration’s announcement on Japan's economic sanctions on Russia, saying that Tokyo took a fully coordinated approach with the United States and Europe, marking a sharp contrast with the nation’s reaction to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Japan’s sanctions at the time were limited in scope perhaps in view of then-Prime Minister Abe’s alleged desire not to derail Northern Territories talks by antagonizing President Putin. The papers speculated that with the growing threat posed by China in mind, Tokyo elected to prioritize solidarity with the United States and Europe over bilateral ties with Moscow this time.

However, quotes from GOJ sources on Japan’s future course of action cited by the outlets appeared to point to ambivalence within the administration about what Tokyo should do in the event of a full-fledged invasion. “Japan cannot be allowed to become a loophole” in the application of sanctions, said a source cited by Sankei, which emphasized that the Kishida administration is firmly committed to acting in unison with the United States and Europe. “Even if the extent and severity of the sanctions differs right now [between Japan and the U.S. and Europe], they will eventually fall in sync. If Moscow launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Japan’s sanctions will be focused more directly on Russia.” On the other hand, Asahi claimed that some administration officials are not necessarily enthusiastic about ramping up punitive measures on Moscow. “Japan will not take the lead” in imposing fresh sanctions, said a MOFA source, while an unnamed senior Kantei official said, “I don’t think Japan will continue to have to be completely in sync with the United States.”

Tokyo-based ambassadors, diplomats take to the streets to denounce Russia

NHK reported that in response to a call from the Georgian ambassador to Japan, ambassadors and other senior diplomats from 13 nations gathered at an unspecified location in Tokyo this morning to show their solidarity with Ukraine ahead of an imminent Russian invasion. The network aired video showing the envoys condemning Russia for violating the sovereignty of Ukraine while holding printouts of the Ukrainian flag at an outdoor space. “Now is the time for the international community to unite in confronting [Russia],” Georgian Ambassador Lezhava said in Japanese. “We support Ukraine. Our common goal is peace.” In response, Ukrainian Ambassador Korsunsky said in English: “All the nations are with Ukraine. Ukrainians must see this support. That will encourage them to fight.”

Japan mulls sanctions on export of semiconductors to Russia as G7 eyes joint action (The Japan News)

Japan holds key to Arctic Sea Route, as both China and Russia make approaches to it (Nikkei)

Confronting China over Taiwan necessary, says Hayashi (Sankei)

Cartoon: Putin wields curling brush (Asahi)

SECURITY

Kishida hints at operation to retrieve DPRK missiles in Sea of Japan

Nikkei highlighted remarks made at the Diet earlier today by Prime Minister Kishida, who suggested that Japan may try to recover from the Sea of Japan the debris of missiles launched last month by North Korea. “Successful retrieval might enable us to obtain technical data on DPRK projectiles,” the premier was quoted as saying. “We will decide whether or not to launch such an operation while taking into consideration various factors, such as the sea currents at impact points.” Defense Minister Kishi said separately that an SDF surveillance ship has been deployed to the impact locations to assess the feasibility of retrieval operations. “It is possible that the missiles broke into pieces due to the impact of splashdown at high speed. We have not been able to recover them for various reasons.”

MOD hesitant about using quantum technology (Sankei)

Different USFJ COVID-19 testing requirements on arrival and departure in 2021 (Tokyo Shimbun)

POLITICS

Prime minister’s schedule on Feb. 23, 2022 (Sankei)

DPFP’s decision to support budget plan causes stir (Sankei)

LDP’s draft campaign policy vows to promote policy coordination with Rengo (Sankei)

JCP vows “never to abolish” Imperial system even if it becomes ruling party (Nikkei)

OPINION POLLS

70% approve of diplomatic boycott of Olympics, Sankei-FNN joint public opinion poll (Sankei)

Over 70% support female emperors in Japan, half favor female-line emperors, Mainichi-SSRC mail-in survey (The Mainichi)

ECONOMY

Japan eager to restore domestic production of semiconductors (The Japan News)

Personal info leaks from listed Japan firms hit record high in 2021 (Kyodo News)

SCIENCE

Japan materials makers embrace carbon neutral production (Nikkei Asia)

SOCIETY

Gov’t to launch online site to facilitate procedures for new foreign entrants (Yomiuri)

Japan facing uncertainty over COVID-19 pre-emergency removal (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Harassment in academia past the point of doing nothing (The Asahi Shimbun)

OKINAWA LOCAL PRESS

Okinawa marks three years since referendum on Futenma relocation

Both Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times reported that today marks the third anniversary of the prefectural referendum on Futenma relocation in which more than 70% of voters voiced opposition to the existing plan to build the replacement facility off Camp Schwab. The papers said that despite the results of the referendum, the Japanese government continues to build a "new base" in Henoko. In a front-page article on the anniversary, Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that the Futenma issue has "entered a new phase" since Governor Tamaki rejected last November FRF design changes to address the engineering problems associated with the soft seabed in Oura Bay. The paper claimed that while Prime Minister Kishida is hoping to move forward with the existing relocation plan, the plan is becoming less and less realistic because in addition to the lack of local consent for the reclamation work, the GOJ itself is admitting that building the replacement facility will be difficult unless the design is substantially changed due to the soft seabed in the vicinity.

Okinawa Times wrote that today Governor Tamaki released a statement criticizing the central government for continuing to move forward with the relocation work in Henoko. He reportedly said: "The will of the people, which is clearly against the reclamation work, carries weight and is sacred...The central government must respect the will of the people from the viewpoint of securing the autonomy and independence of local municipalities with which it enjoys equal and cooperative relations."

JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
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U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team