1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan
l The pace of declination of new cases and that of deaths is still slow, but the available number of beds at medical institutions are rapidly improving, so most of the governors of the 18 prefectures including Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba that are under the semi state of emergency asked the central government to lift the restrictions. PM Kishida held a press conference on the 16thand announced that his administration would end the semi state of emergency state for all the 18 prefectures effective on March 21.
l Ministry of Finance announced on March 16 that February’s trade balance was a deficit of 668.3 billion yen ($5.7 billion). It is the 7thmonth in row recording a deficit. Despite the fact that Japan’s exports further increased in February, imports also increased due to soaring prices of oil and natural resources.
<As of 10 pm of March 17th>
The cumulative number of infected and dead in Japan are 5,976,127 and 26,812 respectively. The number of new cases and death in the nation for the day was 53,590 and 171. 80.6% of the population have finished the first dose of the vaccine, while 79.3% have done for the 2nd and 32.6% for the 3rd.
2. PM Kishida’s Approval Ratings Remain Relatively High
NHK, Japan’s national public broadcaster announced the results of its monthly survey that was conducted on March 11 through 13 for 2,202 people on an RDD basis as follows (Response rate was 55.5%):
l Do you approve the Kishida Cabinet?
Yes 53% (1 point down from February) No 25% (2 points down from February)
l Do you approve the government responses against the Russian invasions?
Yes 58% No 35%
l What do you think of Japan’s list of sanctions against Russia?
Appropriate 42% More sanctions needed 40% Too much 7%
l Do you approve the government decision to accept Ukrainian refugees?
Yes 85% No 10%
l Do you approve the government responses to the pandemic?
Yes 57% No 36%
l What do you think of the government plan to loosen the border controls to increase entry of foreign visitors up to 10,000 a day?
Appropriate 35% More to be allowed 27% Not appropriate 30%
l Do you think Covid-19 should be degraded from a designated special infectious disease that requires strong governmental intervention to a seasonal infectious disease like flu?
Yes 35% Not yet 56%
l Do you agree to resume operation of the nuclear power plants that have been on hold since the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident of March 11, 2011?
Yes 22% No 27% Difficult to answer 44%
l Do you think the Japan-South Korea relationship will be improved or worsen under President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol? Improve 25% Worsen 4% No change 59%
3. Russian Military Movement Observed Near Japan
The Ministry of Defense announced on the 14th that six vessels of Russian frigates and submarines were found passing around 130 km south east off Point Soya of Hokkaido. In response to Japan’s announcement of the economic sanctions against Russia, the government of Russia took a series of retaliatory actions as follows:
March 7: Russian government designated Japan as an unfriendly nation of Russia.
March 9: It passed a law to set up a free tax zone in the Northern Islands of Japan that Russia occupies and controls, to incentivize foreign companies to invest there.
March 10: Russia announced that it conducted an exercise of its high performance surface to air missile launching in the Northern Islands.
March 10 and 11: Japan’s Ministry of Defense found ten Russian Navy frigates passing through the Tsugaru Straight.
MoD found that these Russian military movement in the northern part of Japan is somewhat coordinated with Chinese military buildup in the west part of Japan and in the South China Sea. MoD is now strengthening its alert and surveillance system. In the meantime, MoD has been providing Ukraine with its non-combat defense equipment including ballet proof vests, helmets, tents, heavy winter clothing, generators, binoculars, flash lights and medical equipment.
Some of them are transported by American transport aircraft departing from the US Forces in Japan. MoD also announced on the 17th that it reorganized the individual cyber combat units of the Ground, Maritime and Air Self Defense Forces into one consolidated unit called Cyber Defense Command. The command is staffed with 540 members of the Self Defense Force and intended to defend SDF’s command and communication networks against cyberattacks from China, Russia and North Korea. PM Kishida announced on the 16th that as an additional sanction, the government of Japan decided to cancel giving Russia the most favored nation treatment.
4. Mr. Horie’s Trans-Pacific Voyage
60 years ago, Mr. Kenichi Horie, then 23 years old successfully completed a yacht voyage from Japan’s Nishinomiya Yacht harbor to San Francisco. It was the very first nonstop and solo trans-pacific voyage in the world. Mr. Horie, now 83 years old, announced last November that he would explore the same challenge the other way round, namely nonstop sailing from San Francisco to Nishinomiya with his yacht named Suntory Mermaid III (5.8 m long). On March 15, Mr. Horie flew from Narita International Airport for San Francisco. He will sail out from San Francisco on March 26.
Have a wonderful weekend!