1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan

l  The number of infected people continues to be increasing this week throughout Japan.     Okinawa is marking highest infection rates this week out of all the 47  prefectures in Japan due, probably, to a sharp increase of tourists and visitors visiting there.  Cross-prefectural border visits had been self-restricted before, but such self-restriction has been lifted since June, and pleasure visits are now somewhat encouraged by the central government under its Go To Campaign that the government shares a half of lodging and transportation cost.


l   According to Yomiuri’s latest monthly political survey that was conducted on August 7 through 9, PM Abe and his cabinet’s approval rating went down to 37% from 39% of last month, while the disapproval rating went up to 54% from 52%. This disapproval rating is the highest ever since he formed his 2nd Cabinet in December of 2012.  66% of those who responded the survey do not appreciate the government response to COVID-19.  Furthermore, 78% replied that PM Abe had not been taking necessary initiative to respond the virus. 49% demand that the government declare “State of Emergency” again immediately to contain the ongoing infection, while 48% said the necessity of another declaration should be carefully contemplated considering its impact over the economy.  Finally, 76% of the respondents said that people having their parents’ home in far places should refrain from visiting there in the O-bon week voluntarily although the government does not insist travel restrictions.


l  National Center for Global Health and Medicine announced on August 7 that the death rate of the COVID-19 in Japan up until early July was 7.5%.  During the study period, 2,638 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in around 230 hospitals in Japan, and 197 died there.     


l  The Ministry of Welfare and Labor announced on August 7 that it reached a basic agreement with AstraZeneca that once the British pharmaceutical company succeeds in developing the vaccine of the novel coronavirus, the ministry would begin to receive the vaccine in the beginning of the next year in the amount of 120 million shots.


l  The Japanese government and JICA decided to help African nations establish public health centers that should have the functions to study, test and prevent new infectious diseases like the COVID-19. The Japanese government and JICA would make most use of the ODA budget to provide both hardware and software (professional services and education etc.) starting from Ghana, Kenya, Nigella, Kongo, and eventually around 100 countries in total.


l  Although the National High School Baseball Summer Tournament for this year was cancelled to avoid the risk of infection considering tens of thousands of people including players and supporters come from all the 47 prefectures to the Koshien Stadium in Hyogo, 32 high school baseball team members were invited to the stadium this week to play one game each without spectators. The 32 teams had been selected by the Japan High School Baseball Federation for this year’s Spring Baseball Tournament, which had been also cancelled for the same reason.  So many people gave up in this O-bon week, a family gathering week to visit grandparents’ homes in local places, which is a typical national scene of summer in Japan, but watching high school baseball games on TV is barely keeping a national summer scene intact.   


  1. Japan-UK Trade Agreement To Be Concluded Soon


Foreign Minister Mogi visited UK last week and met with Ms. Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade on August 6 and 7 to negotiate the new trade agreement.

Reportedly, the two reached agreement on most of the terms and conditions leaving minor issues to be settled by the end of this month.


The agreement will go into force on January 1st next year.

The UK government was relatively in hurry to conclude this agreement, because it intends to use this agreement as a step stone to participate in the TPP ASAP so that the UK will be able to take up the economic dynamism of Asia Pacific region.     


  1. Government-Industry Cooperation For Exports Of Defense Equipment To Indo-Pacific Region


The Japanese Government has solidified its policy to aim at exporting its own defense equipment to four nations in the Indo-Pacific Region, Yomiuri reported on its front page on August 11.


The target nations are Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.  These countries have been very active in promoting defense exchanges with Japan, and they are all eager to strengthen procuring new equipment for their individual military and police organizations.

Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency of Japan’s Ministry of Defense will conclude a contract with trading companies in Japan in September for market research of the four nations so that the agency will be able to select its defense equipment to be promoted for exports. 


Then, the government, trading companies, and original manufacturers of the defense equipment will work out together to come up with a “project concept” country by country.   

Although defense equipment to be promoted for exports are expected to be non-offensive such as transport aircraft or radars, if any counterpart countries demand co-development of fighter or submarine, the Japanese government is willing to collaborate for it with a sufficient local share of production.  


In April of 2014, the Abe Administration changed the 3 Principles of Arms Exports that basically prohibit exports of defense equipment from Japan, to the 3 Principles of Defense Equipment Exports that encourage exporting its defense equipment to its allies and friendly nations to the extent it would contribute to Japan’s national security.

The new policy is expected to contribute to maintaining the Japanese defense industrial base, while strengthening mutual security relationship with the Indo-Pacific Region to check China’s rapid military build-up in the region.


  1. Conscripted Worker’s Issue Complicates Japan-Korea Relationship


In the wake of Korean Supreme Court’s decision to order Nippon Steel to indemnify the plaintiffs for their conscripted work during the WWII, the Service by Publication from the court to seize property arrived at Nippon Steel on August 4.


Although the company made an immediate complaint to a local district court clarifying the fact that the conscripted workers issue had been solved between the two governments completely and finally by the Japan-Korea Claim and Economic Cooperation Agreement of 1965, the complaint is anticipated to be dismissed by the district court, and the company’s property may be attached.


Japan’s Cabinet Secretary Suga has already made it clear at an earlier press conference that the government of Japan would take countermeasures in a resolute attitude if the property of Nippon Steel is ordered to be up for sale.   


  1. New Ambassador To Request Japan For More Burden-sharing


The Japanese media reported this week how Mr. Kenneth R. Weinstein, the president and chief executive officer of the Hudson Institute, who was appointed by President Trump to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan testified at the U.S. Senate’s appointment approval hearings. 

Reportedly, he expressed his recognition of the regional security environment that U.S. and Japan are deploying strategic competition against China in the Indo-Pacific Region, and that China is strengthening invasive behaviors near the Senkaku Archipelagos.  


With such security environment, he expressed his intent to urge Japan to further strengthen its defense capability, and share more responsibility under the U.S.-Japan Alliance.  

With regard to President Trump’s intent to negotiate for an sharp increase of Japan’s share of the expense of the U.S. forces stationing in Japan, Mr. Weinstein implied that Japan would accept the request to the extent possible.