Afternoon Alert   -   Thursday, April 21, 2022
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All TV networks led with updates on Russia's intensifying offensive against Mariupol, including President Zelenskyy’s offer to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the safe passage of citizens taking refuge in the city's massive Soviet-era steel mill.


India rejects Japan’s proposal to send SDF planes to collect Ukraine-bound supplies

NHK reported on the disclosure by LDP Research Council Chairwoman Takaichi this morning that she learned from MOFA that India had turned down a Japanese proposal to send SDF aircraft to collect relief supplies held there by the UNHCR for delivery to Ukrainians taking shelter in Poland and other neighboring countries. Japan plans to mobilize SDF airplanes to airlift to Ukraine’s neighbors blankets and other relief goods by collecting them from India, the UAE, and other third countries holding such supplies. New Delhi, which had initially approved Tokyo’s proposal, told the GOJ last night that the plan was unacceptable. The GOJ must now come up with a new plan.

Japanese finance minister denounces Russia at G20 meeting

All broadcasters reported on the conclusion of the G20 financial ministerial meeting in Washington on Wednesday, saying that the absence of a post-conference joint statement points to the deep schism between the West and Russia and other countries, which was also evidenced by the fact that the representatives of the United States, the UK, and other Western countries walked out of the event when the Russian delegates delivered remarks. According to the networks, Japan’s Finance Minister Suzuki did not follow suit. On this, the Japanese official told the press afterward: “I did not walk out, but I sharply criticized Russia by saying its aggression against Ukraine is the very cause of the world economy confronting many difficulties and that Russia should not participate in the G20.” The minister also underscored that he condemned during the session Russia’s invasion in "the strongest language" by saying it is a clear violation of international law and absolutely intolerable.

In a related development, NHK reported that the top treasury officials of the G7 released a joint statement following the conclusion of the G20 finance ministers’ and central governors’ meeting in Washington on Wednesday. They strongly condemned Russia's invasion of its neighbor by saying it constitutes a “flagrant encroachment of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” While expressing regret at Russia’s attendance at the G20 confab, the G7 officials reportedly vowed to step up sanctions against Moscow by saying: “We will continue to take coordinated actions with countries around the world to force Russia to pay a higher price for the aggravated situation in Ukraine.”

Japan’s intelligence agency removes characterization of Azov Battalion as “neo-Nazi” group

The evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai reported that the Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA) has removed from its annual document on global terrorism a reference to Ukraine’s far-right all-volunteer infantry military unit Azov Battalion. The deletion was apparently in response to a tweet posted by the Russian Embassy in Tokyo in early April saying that Japan’s intelligence agency has acknowledged that the Azov Battalion is a neo-Nazi group. In the web version of the document, entitled “Outline of International Terrorism 2021,” the agency had written that “neo-Nazi agents formed the Azov Battalion.” This description was removed on April 8, with the agency explaining: “The document was a compilation of open source information collected from articles and research papers published by domestic and foreign media outlets and think tanks…. The description did not reflect the independent analysis of the agency. The description should not be construed to mean that the agency viewed the group as a neo-Nazi organization.” The tabloid speculated that the PSIA hastily deleted the reference to avoid calling attention to Moscow’s narrative that the Japanese government also regards the Azov Battalion as a neo-Nazi group and hence endorses Russia's war aimed at “denazifing” Ukraine. According to the report, the Russian side reacted sharply to the removal of the reference, with its Foreign Ministry spokesperson commenting several days later: “Regrettably, Japan has taken a spot at the front of the Russophobia queue.”

Kishida comments on Japan-ROK relations

NHK highlighted a meeting at the Kantei this morning between Prime Minister Kishida and former Finance Minister Nukaga, who heads a parliamentary league on relations with South Korea. As the LDP parliamentarian and other members of the league plan to hold talks with a group of policy advisors to President-elect Yoon next week in Tokyo, the premier said to Nukaga: “Given the current international situation, including in North Korea and Ukraine, bilateral and trilateral coordination with the United States is extremely important. I want the league to improve bilateral ties with that fundamental stance in mind.” In response to a request from Nukaga for him to meet with the South Korean delegation, the prime minister was reportedly noncommittal, saying, “I would like to hear first [the outcome of the league’s talks with the group].”

Kishida makes ritual offering to Yasukuni

NHK reported that Prime Minister Kishida sent a ritual "masakaki" tree offering to Yasukuni Shrine on Thursday to commemorate the opening of its semiannual festival. The premier reportedly has no plans to visit the war shrine during the two-day event. According to the network, LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Takaichi and former Prime Minister Abe visited the war memorial separately to pay tribute to the fallen. The broadcaster added that the South Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing “profound disappointment and regret” at the prime minister’s offering and urging Japanese political leaders to come to terms with and repent for the country’s history.

90% of pro-Russian Twitter accounts retweeted “anti-vax” posts, data analysis shows (Sankei)

Japan, S. Korea must build trust: Japan-ROK parliamentarians’ league official (Sankei)

U.K. ambassador to Japan calls for closer cooperation among democracies (The Japan News)

Abductee Yokota Megumi’s classmates submit signatures to CCS Matsuno demanding rescue (Yomiuri)

TOKYO REPORT: Still waiting, abductee families undergo generation shift (Jiji Press)

Japan, Malaysia affirm coordination over Ukraine, Indo-Pacific (Kyodo News)

Second crowdfunding campaign starts for radio broadcast targeting North Korean abductees (Sankei)

Editorial: Provide rapid response to humanitarian crises in Ukraine (The Japan News)

Editorial: Japan should take the lead in coordinating U.N. reforms (The Asahi Shimbun)

Editorial: India is the loophole in the net of sanctions tightening around Russia (Japan Forward)

Nearly 90% of Japanese say E. Asia security environment severer, Foreign Ministry poll (Kyodo News)


Japan’s defense chief to visit Washington in early May

Kyodo took up the disclosure by several GOJ sources that Defense Minister Kishi is likely to visit the U.S. capital early next month for talks with Defense Secretary Austin. The two officials are expected to confirm the close security partnership to counter Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, North Korea’s renewed missile provocations, and China’s hegemonic moves. They will also agree to strengthen the deterrence of the bilateral alliance to prevent the status quo in East Asia from being altered unilaterally by force. Asahi ran a similar report, adding that the Japanese minister is likely to brief Secretary Austin on Tokyo’s plan to bolster its own defense capabilities, including updating the 2014 National Security Strategy and two other key security documents in December.

Chinese ships spotted near Senkakus for fifth consecutive day (Sankei)


Prime minister’s schedule on April 20, 2022 (Sankei)

Kishida sends offering to war-linked Yasukuni shrine, not plan visit (Kyodo News)

Ex-Japan PM Abe visits war-related Yasukuni shrine (Kyodo News)

LDP, Komeito leaders fail to reach conclusion on extra budget (Jiji Press)

Nippon Ishin co-leader Baba sees himself as “catcher and eighth batter” (Asahi)


Singapore, NZ leaders call U.S. return to TPP “impossible,” “unrealistic”

Kyodo reported that during a joint press conference in Singapore on Tuesday, the prime ministers of Singapore and New Zealand expressed pessimism about the possibility of the United States returning to the TPP. “Given the domestic political situation [in the United States], it's impossible,” said Singaporean Prime Minister Lee. “We are not negotiating for it.” His New Zealand counterpart Ardern seconded his opinion by saying: “It's unrealistic.”

Japan logs trade deficit of 5,374.9 B. yen in FY 2021 (Jiji Press)

Wakayama assembly rejects ‘sloppy’ plan for casino resort (The Asahi Shimbun)

Cartoon: BOJ Governor Kuroda hunkers down (Akahata)


METI estimates decarbonization will cost materials industry 20 trillion yen (Nikkei)

To the moon: Japanese insurers leap into lunar exploration (Nikkei Asia)

New Japan institute to focus on photoimmunotherapy for cancer (Jiji Press)


YamatoQ leader arrested after followers disrupt vaccine clinic (The Asahi Shimbun)

Editorial: Japan’s education system is failing kids with foreign roots (The Mainichi)

Japan foreign technical intern group admits treatment of 3 Vietnamese ‘inappropriate’ (The Mainichi)

Japan’s Hara tops U.S. ballet contest for young dancers (Jiji Press)

Companies and employees wide apart on views on teleworking (The Asahi Shimbun)


Okinawa prefecture puts off decision on design change to Futenma relocation plan

Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times reported that the Okinawa prefectural government said in a written response to Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Saito on April 20 that it was unable to reach a decision by April 20 on whether to approve the design change related to the construction of the Futenma replacement facility in Henoko, Nago. The papers reported that the prefecture also sent a letter to Prime Minister Kishida requesting the suspension of the construction work and dialogue between the central government and Okinawa. Ryukyu Shimpo reported that MLIT is expected to further press the prefecture for approval by issuing a legally binding "corrective order" as a countermeasure. The paper wrote that even if the GOJ nullifies the prefecture's disapproval and obtains approval for the design changes, it will take approximately 12 years to complete the construction. The daily added that the closure and return of MCAS Futnema remains uncertain. 

FM Hayashi, DM Kishi fail to clarify when Futenma will be returned (Okinawa Times, Ryukyu Shimpo)

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team