Afternoon Alert   -   Wednesday, March 16, 2022
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Broadcasters led with reports on North Korea's apparent failure to test-fire what appeared to be a ballistic missile (TBS, Fuji TV, TV Asahi), Russia's ongoing attacks on Ukraine (NHK), and the 35-hour curfew imposed on the entire city of Kyiv on Tuesday (NTV).


North Korea missile fails after launch

All networks reported at noon that Defense Ministry sources said that North Korea test-fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile this morning, adding, however, that the South Korean military's Joint Chiefs of Staff later announced that the missile failed immediately after launch. The launch reportedly took place at around 9:30 a.m. from Pyongyang's Sunan Airport. TBS said that the Ministry of Defense announced that Japan has not confirmed the flight of a ballistic missile thus far. The network said Prime Minister Kishida told reporters this morning that the GOJ is currently collecting information on the launch. Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno said there have been no reports of damage to Japanese aircraft or ships.

Kishida keen to display “hard line” toward Russia

Mainichi wrote that Prime Minister Kishida appears to be eager to demonstrate a hard line toward Russian over its invasion of Ukraine, saying that he has repeatedly used tough rhetoric and imposed stringent sanctions against Russia in coordination with the other G7 members based on the assessment that Japan's response to the Russian aggression will have a significant bearing on a potential contingency across the Taiwan Strait. He is also mindful of conservative LDP lawmakers calling for strong measures to penalize Moscow. The premier is reportedly worried about the media and his detractors characterizing his decisions on punitive steps as "not speedy enough" or "merely following the lead" of Western nations and instructed one of his deputies to disclose to the media a letter from President Biden thanking him for his proactive leadership in assisting Kyiv and punishing Moscow. The administration is also busy playing up Japan's contributions for a global audience, with the Kantei website posting information on aid for the Ukrainian people and sanctions on the Putin administration in eight languages. As the nation's tough response is bound to boomerang in the form of increased prices for imported foods and energy, the paper said public discontent may eventually be directed toward the administration even ahead of the Upper House election in July, projecting that it may not be able to resist the ruling coalition's growing calls for pork barrel spending.

Top business exec voices concern about oil development projects off Sakhalin

Asahi highlighted remarks made to the press on Tuesday by Keizai Doyukai Chairman Sakurada on the massive Japanese investment in the Sakhalin 1 and 2 offshore oil/LNG drilling initiatives in the Russian Far East. On two U.S. and UK energy giants' decisions to pull out of the projects on account of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the top business executive expressed skepticism about Japanese trading firms’ continued participation. “The impact [of withdrawal] would not be small," he was quoted as saying. "But I don’t think such a scenario would be catastrophic for the Japanese economy.”

GOJ to continue to refer to Ukrainian capital as “Kiev” in Japanese

Yomiuri wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno told reporters on Tuesday that the GOJ has no intention at this point to change its current Japanese pronunciation of the name of the Ukrainian capital from キエフ (Kiev; pronounced "kee-e-fu" in Japanese), which is originated from Russian, to キーウ (Kyiv; pronounced "kee-u" in Japanese), which is based on the Ukrainian pronunciation. Matsuno reportedly said: “The name 'Kyiv' is not yet widely used in Japan. We haven’t heard from the Ukrainian side that there is a problem [with referring to the city in this way].” [Note: Although MOFA uses Kyiv in its English-language documents, it uses キエフ (Kiev) in Japanese documents.]

FM Hayashi says Japan to seek permanent membership on UNSC

TBS reported that Foreign Minister Hayashi stressed today that Japan will seek the reform of the UN Security Council, including Japan's permanent membership. Hayashi was quoted as saying: "Although it will not be easy, I would like to put all my efforts into realizing the reform of the UN Security Council, including permanent membership for Japan, through continued cooperation with many nations under the Kishida administration." The network pointed out that the UN Security Council has not been fulfilling its function as Russia vetoed a resolution denouncing its invasion of Ukraine. Hayashi also reportedly said: "Russia's outrageous action indicates the need for a new framework for the international order."

Business community split on companies’ withdrawal from Sakhalin energy projects (Mainichi)

Editorial: Gov’t should suspend Russian gas import and restart nuclear power plants (Sankei)

Withdrawal from Sakhalin projects a difficult prospect for resource-poor Japan (The Japan News)

Japan, India likely to hold 2-plus-2 security talks with eye on China (The Japan News)

Japan, Australia and India target Indo-Pacific supply-chain code (Nikkei Asia)

Japanese firms looking out for their Ukrainian IT engineers (The Asahi Shimbun)

Gov’t downgrades rating of trade insurance credit for Russia and Belarus to highest risk (Yomiuri)

METI details items subject to export ban on Russia (Nikkei)

Strong NATO, weak U.S., puzzled China: Ukraine war hints at new order (Nikkei Asia)

Japan firms brace for more supply chain disruption after Ukraine war (The Japan Times)

Editorial: How far is China willing to go in its support for Russia in Ukraine crisis? (The Japan News)

Cartoon: China’s position is unclear (Tokyo Shimbun)


Prime minister’s schedule on March 15, 2022 (Sankei)

Focus: Kishida worried LDP too relaxed ahead of upper house election (Jiji Press)

Komeito warns of “worst postwar crisis,” urges new economic package (Jiji Press)

Kishida’s foreign policy plays to LDP conservatives ahead of Upper House election (Asahi)

Editorial: Regaining public trust offers LDP best path to political stability (The Asahi Shimbun)

Editorial: LDP must responsibly steer nation amid increasingly difficult times (Yomiuri)

Abe, Aso, Motegi discuss upcoming Upper House election (Yomiuri)

Editorial: It’s reasonable to insist on indicting lawmakers in vote-buying scandal (The Japan News)


Govt to set production targets for storage batteries, expand support for materials procurement (Mainichi)

Japan delays introduction of Basel III capital rules for megabanks (Nikkei Asia)

Over 50% of Japan companies receive COVID-19 loans, Yomiuri-Teikoku Databank poll (The Japan News)


Chinese ships spotted near Senkakus for 19th consecutive day (Sankei)

China may have conducted scientific research in Japan’s EEZ (Sankei)

Japan’s lower house OKs increasing budget for hosting U.S. forces (Kyodo News)

A Russian weapon carrier passes through Tsugaru Strait (Sankei)

Japanese gov’t to conduct detailed examination of economic security risks (Nikkei)


Asian space business upended by Russia’s war in Ukraine (Nikkei Asia)

LDP’s major groups, lawmakers involved in promotion of renewable energy sources (Nikkei)


PM Kishida to announce complete lifting of quasi-state of emergency at 7 p.m. today

NHK reported that the GOJ has decided to lift the quasi-state of emergency measures currently in place in Tokyo and 17 other prefectures as scheduled on March 21. The network noted that this means Japan will be completely free of quasi-state of emergency measures for the first time in about two and a half months. Prime Minister Kishida will reportedly hold a press conference at 7 p.m. today to announce the GOJ's decision.

GOJ considering not requiring “close contacts” to refrain from reporting for work

TBS and Fuji TV reported at noon that the GOJ is considering not requiring people identified as close contacts of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in workplaces to refrain from reporting for work. The networks said the Health Ministry has been calling on business operators to investigate whether there are any close contacts when one of their employees tests positive for the virus and requiring them to self-quarantine for seven days in principle. However, due to the spread of Omicron, an increasing number of people identified as close contacts have had to refrain from reporting to work and this has been disrupting business operations. The government is reportedly considering the new measure in order to maintain social activities. TBS said the Health Ministry is planning to notify local municipalities of its new policy in the near future.

Japan health panel urges caution over COVID resurgence despite recent fall in cases (The Mainichi)

Police accused of racial profiling by questioning foreigners (The Asahi Shimbun)

Japanese firms near domestic rollout of their COVID-19 vaccines (The Japan Times)

Vietnamese denied tumor treatment urges Japan immigration to ‘treat detainees as humans’ (The Mainichi)


Nago seeks new subsidies as “compensation” for prolonged FRF construction

Okinawa Times wrote that Nago Mayor Toguchi is calling for the Defense Ministry to establish a new subsidy program for the municipality since the current generous allowances connected to the U.S. force realignment are expected to expire in 2031. The municipal leader is reportedly seeking a firm commitment from the ministry to set up a new scheme while he is still in office since the completion of the FRF project off Camp Schwab is highly likely to be delayed well into the mid-2030s due to the need for extensive engineering work to reinforce the soft seabed in the vicinity. As the overall amount of the current subsidy program is already fixed, Toguchi is anxious to secure funding to cover the years beyond 2031 until the construction is complete. "Local residents will suffer more as a result of the prolonged construction," said an unnamed senior city government official. "We want new benefits to compensate for this."

Gov’t considering offering English education through homestays on U.S. bases in Okinawa (Ryukyu Shimpo)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team