JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Afternoon Alert   -   Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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HEADLINES

Most TV networks gave top play to the start of the Quad summit at the Kantei in the morning while NTV led with the finding that a Yamaguchi municipality has successfully retrieved most of the 46.3 million yen ($359,000) in COVID-19 relief payments that it erroneously deposited into the account of a local resident who claimed that he gambled most of it away.

INTERNATIONAL

Japan hosts in-person Quad summit

All TV networks highlighted the opening of the Quad leaders’ meeting at the Kantei this morning, saying that the leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India exchanged views on a host of regional and international challenges, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s maritime advancement, North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, climate change, and the coronavirus pandemic. In his opening remarks as the host of the second in-person Quad summit, Prime Minister Kishida described the Russian aggression as a grave challenge to the rules-based international order that must not be repeated in the Indo-Pacific region. “It is extremely significant for the leaders of the four member states to gather and demonstrate to the international community our quadrilateral solidary and strong commitment to the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.

President Biden said that the United States will continue to be “a strong, steady and enduring partner in the Indo-Pacific,” while newly elected Australian Prime Minister Albanese was quoted as saying: “We have had a change of government in Australia. But Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change.” His Indian counterpart Modi reportedly praised the Quad partnership for making the Indo-Pacific “free, open, and inclusive.”

The broadcasters said the four leaders plan to release a joint statement upon completion of the session playing up their mutual commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, strong support for freedom, the rule of law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity in Asia and elsewhere. With China's intense maritime advancement in mind, the four partners will vow to counter challenges to the rules-based maritime order and reiterate their respect for international law. The document will also introduce a range of regional cooperative programs they are planning to engage in, such as the launch of a mechanism to combat global warming and the provision of data gathered by the four members’ space satellites.

An NHK reporter said that while strongly condemning the Russian aggression against Ukraine, President Biden underscored that Putin’s illegal and unjustifiable war has reinforced his resolve to keep engaging in the Indo-Pacific region even more strongly. The journalist said that with this statement, the U.S. leader tried to address rising concerns among regional powers that Washington’s focus on East Asia may weaken as a result of its preoccupation with the war in Ukraine and demonstrated his plan to cooperate with the three other Quad members and other regional countries to deepen partnership with the aim of pushing back against China’s rise.

U.S. succeeds in demonstrating economic leadership in Asia

TBS’s New 23 noted last night that the launch of the 13-member Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) was perhaps more significant for the United States than Japan’s pledge to deepen bilateral cooperation on a host of issues as the number of participants, including 7 ASEAN nations, in the new U.S. economic initiative perhaps reflects Washington’s current standing in the Indo-Pacific region. As only 6 to 8 nations had initially been expected to take part in the launch ceremony, the network's chief Washington correspondent speculated that USTR Tai and Commerce Secretary Raimondo were pleased with the higher than expected turnout. Noting that the details of the IPEF have yet to be clarified, the report said U.S. economic leadership will be tested as to whether it can make the IPEF an anti-China coalition while allowing certain ASEAN members to enjoy merits on the trade front.

Regular commentator Hoshi said the IPEF signifies a complete shift from the U.S. policy of seeking China’s democratization through allowing it to be a member of international economic frameworks, explaining that Washington is now set to ostracize Beijing economically in the face of its autocratic posturing. As China is by far Japan’s largest trade partner, the journalist argued that Prime Minister Kishida will be required to convince the public that Tokyo will take an economic approach that is fully aligned with Washington even at the risk of significantly damaging its commercial ties with Beijing.

Japan supports U.S.’s hard line toward China by boosting defense spending

During TBS's “News 23” program, regular commentator Hoshi highlighted Prime Minister Kishida’s promise to President Biden that Japan will increase its defense spending “substantially,” conjecturing that as the ruling LDP has been calling for the administration to double the annual budget for the SDF to about 10 trillion yen in five years, the premier’s pledge is tantamount to Tokyo earmarking an additional 1 trillion yen for defense every year through FY2028. Noting that the U.S. leader’s comment vowing to intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if it is attacked by China probably means that Washington is taking a tougher approach toward Beijing, the former Asahi reporter said Tokyo backed America’s stance by committing to bolstering Japan's defense capabilities.

U.S. keen to restore leadership in Asia

NTV reported last night on President Biden’s visit to East Asia, saying the U.S. leader is alarmed by China’s pursuit of economic hegemony in the region as evidenced by its advocacy of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade promotion initiative and its official application for TPP membership. The broadcaster said the President was extremely eager to court ASEAN members over to the U.S. side by hosting ahead of his first East Asian trip the U.S.-ASEAN summit in Washington where he sought their participation in his Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) initiative. The network noted, however, that some ASEAN members remain cautious about the framework on account of its lack of incentives for tariff reduction.

As for the President’s comment that the United States would respond militarily if Taiwan were invaded by China, the network said this was the third time for the President to make a remark that deviates from Washington’s policy of “strategic ambiguity” concerning the defense of the island territory. Pointing out that U.S. troops were secretly deployed to Taiwan last year to train their Taiwan counterparts and that multiple congressional delegations have visited there recently, the broadcaster said the President’s latest comment may indicate that Washington has strengthened its defense and diplomatic commitment to Taiwan.

Editorial: Japan, U.S. should defend Taiwan through alliance (Sankei)

Editorial: Japan, U.S. leaders’ responsibility to support world order (Nikkei)

Editorial: Take leadership in protecting international order through unwavering alliance / Enhance effectiveness of IPEF initiative (The Japan News)

Editorial: Japan should persuade U.S. to smooth over ties with China (The Asahi Shimbun)

Expert: Japan-U.S. summit sent significant message to China (Mainichi)

Gist of Japan-U.S. summit talks (Kyodo News)

Gist of statement issued on U.S.-led Indo-Pacific economic framework (Kyodo News)

Biden’s Taiwan comment sparks uncertainty over ‘strategic ambiguity’ (Nikkei Asia)

Editorial: Maintain regional stability by adhering to firm policy toward China (The Japan News)

India-Japan : A Partnership for peace, stability and prosperity (The Japan News)

Cartoon: Ronald walks (Asahi)

Vox Populi: Ukraine has put India’s foreign policy makers in a tricky situation (The Asahi Shimbun)

AMBASSADOR

Biden-Kishida summit produces consequential “deliverables” thanks to Ambassador Emanuel

TV Tokyo’s late night “World News Satellite” opined that the latest U.S.-Japan summit was extraordinary given the scope and number of “deliverables” that came out of it, including Prime Minister Kishida's disclosure that Japan will host the G7 summit in Hiroshima next year, President Biden’s announcement on the establishment of a CDC office in Japan, the United States' support for Japan’s membership on the UN Security Council, Tokyo’s commitment to bolstering defense spending, and the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Nikkei senior writer Takita, a regular commentator on the program, asserted that Ambassador Emanuel must have been the behind-the-scenes architect who coordinated closely with the Japanese side and capitalized on his direct connections with the White House to enable the two leaders to roll out one consequential initiative after another. Expressing the view that the President’s remark on Taiwan was the most significant comment he made thus far during his Japan trip, the journalist projected that the Ambassador may go on to play a key role in drafting a comprehensive plan for the United States and Japan to deal with a Taiwan contingency.

SECURITY

LDP politicians welcome President Biden’s comment on defense of Taiwan

Sankei reported online that during an LDP meeting on Tuesday morning, the ruling party’s Foreign Affairs Division Chairman, Sato Masahisa, expressed gratitude for President Biden’s remark that the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan militarily if it were attacked by the Chinese. “It was the best slip of the tongue by a U.S. leader,” the LDP lawmaker said: “With this remark, the United States made a departure from its strategic ambiguity…. In view of the President’s remark, it is extremely important for Japan to strengthen both its diplomatic and defense capabilities.” Another LDP official said: “The remark represents the U.S. defense commitment to Taiwan. It will help ensure stability in East Asia.”

Chinese ships spotted near Senkakus for 38th consecutive day (Sankei)

Two Chinese frigates transit Tsushima Strait (Yomiuri)

Yokosuka City calls on U.S. naval base to prevent future assaults by service members (Kanagawa Shimbun)

Japan to deploy 8 U.S. drones in Kagoshima pref. from July (Jiji Press)

Editorial: Japan must debate defense supply to Ukraine to avoid violating principles (The Mainichi)

ECONOMY

Japan and U.S. reaffirm chip partnership, but impact seen as limited (The Japan Times)

Focus: Businesses rattled by Japan’s reluctance to welcome foreign tourists (Kyodo News)

Japan Inc. plays catch-up on economic security after Ukraine war (Nikkei Asia)

POLITICS

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

Major political parties react favorably to Japan-U.S. summit meeting (Yomiuri)

Former NSS Secretary-General Kitamura publishes new book on economic security (Yomiuri)

OPINION POLLS

69% in Japan favor no masks outdoors when not crowded: Mainichi poll (Mainichi)

Kishida Cabinet approval rating increases to high of 59%, Asahi survey (The Asahi Shimbun)

SOCIETY

Toyota and partners launch hotline to protect foreign workers (Nikkei Asia)

OKINAWA LOCAL PRESS

Okinawa governor expresses concern over possible increase in security burden

Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo highlighted the agreement reached between President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida during their bilateral talks on Monday in Tokyo. According to the papers, the leaders agreed that their nations will steadily move forward with U.S. forces realignment, including the Futenma Air Station’s relocation to Henoko as the only option to prevent the facility from remaining in its current location permanently. Ryukyu Shimpo quoted Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kihara as telling the press that the two leaders discussed Futenma relocation in the context of reducing the overall base-hosting burden.

The papers wrote that Okinawa Governor Tamaki commented on the agreement reached between President Biden and PM Kishida to strengthen deterrence by saying in a statement that the moves to strengthen deterrence should not lead to an increased burden on Okinawa, which is still shouldering an excessive base-hosting burden even 50 years after its reversion. Concerning the two leaders’ agreement to strengthen the United States’ extended deterrence and Japan’s plans to fundamentally boost its defense capabilities, the governor said that Okinawa must not become a target of attack because it hosts U.S. bases.

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