1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan
l Although the 7th wave seems to have peaked out by now, still large numbers of new cases continued this week such as 200,000 cases a day as a nation. Yet, no prefecture imposes any restriction of dining, drinking, gathering or traveling. So, many of Japanese visited parents’ house, grave yard or scenic spots in this year’s Obon week for the first time since 2019. Experts are afraid that this national migration may add up new cases for the time-being.
l The Ministry of Finance announced on the 17th that Japan’s trade deficit for July was 1,436.8 billion yen (US$10.8 billion), which is the largest ever since 1979. This is the twelfth consecutive month that recorded a trade deficit. Although the amount of exports in July also marked the highest for the month, the amount of imports increased by 47.2% in comparison with the same month last year due mostly to the price increases of oil and gas coupled with the weakening yen.
l The Cabinet Office announced on the 15th that Japan’s GDP in the 2nd quarter (April – June) grew by 2.2% in real term on an annual basis. This is the 3rd consecutive quarter that marked an increase of GDP. Personal consumptions, especially dining outside and travelling, contributed to the increase of the 2nd quarter, when the daily numbers of new cases were quite low.
<As of 8 pm of August 18>
The cumulative number of infected and dead in Japan are 16,465,637 and 36,302 respectively. The number of new cases and death in the nation for the day was 255,534 and 287. 82.1% of the population have finished the first dose of the vaccine, while 81.0% have done for the 2nd and 63.8% for the 3rd. The 4th shot began in May for those who are 60 years old and above as well as who have higher risk of getting serious conditions out of the infection. As of August 19,785,004 people received the 4th vaccination.
2. Kishida Lost Approval Rating Despite His Cabinet Reshuffle
According to Yomiuri’s monthly survey that was conducted on August 5 through 7, 51% of the respondents approved the Kishida Cabinet, which is a 6 points decrease from the previous month, while 34% disapproved it, which is a 2 points increase from July. This large declination of the approval rating was mostly caused by PM Kishida and his party’s handling of the issue of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the former Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, which was founded in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon, an American religious leader born in Korea.
The suspect of the assassination of the former PM Shinzo Abe reportedly mentioned his personal grudge against this religious group where his mother had repeated oversized donations by desperately collecting money from the family members and by borrowings, which led to the suicides of a family member and a disastrous destruction of the family. The suspect aimed at Abe just because he unilaterally judged from an online speech of Mr. Abe for one of group’s past events that Mr. Abe had been a patron of the group.
This big incident shed a light on the activities of the religious group in Japan, and it was revealed that some well-known politicians including cabinet members had some relationship with the religious group such as campaign support and so forth. In order to refresh his cabinet image and respond the public demand of accountability, Kishida shuffled his cabinet last week and made the members publicly clarify if there is or was any relationship with the group.The results of this Yomiuri’s survey are showing that the general public is not fully satisfied with Kishida’s handling of this issue yet.
How would you assess the newly reshuffled cabinet?
Positive impression 45%
Not much 34%
No answer 21%
Do you think PM Kishida’s response to the issue of Family Federation for World Peace and Unification is sufficient?
No answer 10%
How long do you want Kishida to stay in the office?
As long as possible 21%
Up to his term of LDP Presidency (September 2024) 45%
One more year 19%
Should change immediately 10%
Are you afraid of China’s exercising military power over Taiwan under the present circumstances?
Yes 80% No 15% No answer 5%
Which party do you approve most?
LDP 35 (38)%
CDPJ 6 (6)
New Komei 3 (3)
Japan Restoration 5 (5)
Communist 3 (3)
3. New Aegis Ships To Be Equipped With Long Range Cruise Missiles For Counterattack Capability
The Japanese government earlier gave up deploying “Aegis Ashore” missile defense systems on the soil of Japan Proper for various reasons. The government, instead, decided in December 2020 to build two ships with Aegis missile defense system onboard.
These ships are in addition to the eight Aegis destroyers that have already been deployed.
The new Aegis ships will be deployed and stay in Japan Sea to watch North Korean missile launches.
Then, it was revealed on the 16th that the two new ships will be designed to be able to install long range cruising missiles for counterattack capability. The candidate missile is an improved version of Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s Type 12 Ground-to-Surface Missile, and the improvement is expected to extend its range to 1,000 km.
The Kishida Administration is scheduled to revise the National Security Strategy and two other related documents in order to articulate Japan’s possession of “counterattack capability” for the purpose of self defense. The new Aegis ships with the counterattack capability are expected to strengthen Japan’s regional deterrence.
4. Japan’s Diplomatic and Defense Alert For Regional Security
Mr. Takeo Akiba, National Security Advisor of Japan and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi met in Tianjin, China on August 18, and agreed to make mutual effort to build a constructive and stable relationship between the two nations in preparation for marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the relations between Japan and China on September 29.
During the meeting, Mr. Akiba made a protest that China’s military drill near Taiwan is causing negative impact over the regional peace and stability, and demanded self-control. Yang responded that Taiwan is China’s undividable territory, so the Taiwan issue is part of the political foundation of the China-Japan relationship and of the mutual fundamental trust.
Newly appointed Defense Minister Hamada had a telephone conference with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin on August 16. The two denounced that the Chinese military forces conducted a large scale military exercise near Taiwan, which wound up with five ballistic missiles landed inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Also on the 16th, Japan’s Ministry of Defense announced that it participated in a missile alert joint exercise called “Pacific Dragon” that was held off the coast of Hawaii from August 8 through 14. Japan, U.S., Korea, Australia and Canada dispatched their individual naval vessels for the joint exercise simulating North Korean ballistic missile launches.
Have a wonderful weekend!