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Japan needs to stand stronger with the US to defend Taiwan — and itself

Japan needs to stand stronger with the US to defend Taiwan — and itself

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
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9:09 AM

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China constantly seeks out ways to complain about perceived slights and provocations as pretexts for its own aggressive behavior. It is both victimisation paranoia and a form of information warfare that keeps the West on the defensive. True to form, it objected even to the innocuous reference to Taiwan at last week’s summit meeting between President Biden and Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga.

Neither leader’s prepared remarks even mentioned Taiwan, out of deference to the Japanese side. Biden’s opening statement was modest: “Prime minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security. We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China, and on issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as North Korea to ensure a future of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga greeted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Photo: AFP

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga greeted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Photo: AFP

Yet, a Reuters story the day before the meeting, was headlined “Biden, Suga poised to present a united front on Taiwan as China steps up pressure.” Citing “a senior US administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” it said the two leaders “are expected to agree on a joint statement on the Chinese-claimed but democratically ruled island at Biden’s first in-person meeting with a foreign leader.”

They did agree on a statement, but it said only this about Taiwan: “We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”

Given the heightened tensions over China’s escalating threats and military moves against Taiwan and the implications for Japan’s own security, it might be characterised as minimally resolute language. The formulation is virtually identical to a US-Japan statement 16 years earlier when the threat from China was not nearly as pronounced as it is today. In February 2005, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hosted their defense and foreign affairs counterparts in the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (the “2 plus 2″ meeting). That produced a terse call for the two governments to “encourage the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue.”

White House officials seemed eager to characterise last week’s similarly anodyne statement as a groundbreaking event in US-Japan-Taiwan relations. It was the first time a Japanese prime minister joined a US president in mentioning Taiwan since Tokyo and Washington officially recognised the People’s Republic of China in 1972 and 1979, respectively.

On cue, Beijing responded to the boilerplate preference for “peace and stability” with its ritualistic protest: “Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang belong to China’s internal affairs. The East China Sea and the South China Sea concern China’s territorial integrity and maritime rights and interests. These matters bear on China’s fundamental interests and allow no interference. We express strong concern and firm opposition to relevant comments in the Joint Leaders’ Statement.”

Given the current widespread concern that the Taiwan flashpoint could suddenly explode into a US-China conflict in Japan’s backyard, is such vacuous language the strongest deterrent message the two allies could muster? Far more tepid than Washington’s own supportive statements and actions on Taiwan under both the Trump and Biden administrations, it reflects Japan’s continuing public reticence on dealing with Beijing.

Close economic relations with China obviously inhibit Japan from challenging its powerful and hostile neighbour. But as Beijing’s encroachment on the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands repeatedly demonstrates, a posture of self-imposed restraint invites China to escalate its moves — a lesson aggressive powers taught the world in the 20th century.

On the Senkakus, Tokyo recognised the need for strategic clarity to provide deterrence against Chinese adventurism. It urgently sought, and received, a public commitment that the US security guarantee would extend to those uninhabited rocks.

Yet, when it comes to Taiwan and its 24 million democratic inhabitants with shared values and cultural and historical bonds, Japan shies away from joining with the United States in an open commitment to resist Chinese aggression. The joint ambiguity simply encourages Beijing to keep pushing the military envelope — with a strategic miscalculation or accident just waiting to happen.

Tokyo has good reason to know Taiwan’s strategic significance in the region, having occupied it as a colony for 50 years under Imperial Japan. The island played a critical role in launching the Japanese Empire’s war in the Pacific. On December 7, 1941, the day it bombed Pearl Harbor with planes from carriers at sea, Japan attacked the Philippines with aircraft flown from Formosa — which Gen. Douglas MacArthur dubbed “the unsinkable aircraft carrier.”

Throughout World War II, Japan’s forces used Taiwan as a staging area and logistics base for its military campaigns in Southeast Asia. It would be an incalculably valuable asset for China to pursue its current ambitions to control the entire South China Sea, and to threaten democratic Japan as well.

At the joint press conference, neither of the two American reporters on whom Biden called chose to ask about the subject at hand, conveniently shifting the discussion instead to gun control and Iran. The first Japanese journalist selected, on the other hand, went right to the heart of the matter before the two leaders. He asked Suga:

“Both governments consider that peace and stability of Taiwan is of great importance, and that has been the agreement between the two countries. What kind of exchange of views were conducted on this matter at today’s meeting? In order to deter contingency in the straits, what can Japan do, and what can Japan do when actual contingency occurs in the Taiwan straits? Did the prime minister explain to President Biden what Japan can do under such circumstances?”

Suga replied: “As we engaged in an exchange of views over the regional situation, we also discuss[ed] the circumstances in Taiwan. … I refrain from mentioning details, since it pertains to diplomatic exchanges, but there is already an agreed recognition over the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait between Japan and the United States, which was reaffirmed on this occasion.”

Only the participants know whether the almost hour’s delay in starting the news conference related to the two sides’ last-minute negotiations over the language on Taiwan. But it is reasonable to assume that Washington would welcome a more full-throated Japanese posture on the critical need for democratic Taiwan to survive and thrive. Enthusiastic domestic press coverage of the event suggests the Japanese people support a more forward-looking official policy on Taiwan. Enactment of a Japanese version of the Taiwan Relations Act would be a good place for Tokyo to start.

Joseph Bosco served as China country director for the secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and as Asia-Pacific director of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief from 2009 to 2010. He is a nonresident fellow at the Institute for Corean-American Studies and a member of the advisory board of the Global Taiwan Institute. Follow him on Twitter @BoscoJosephA.

https://thehill.com/opinion/international/549066-japan-needs-to-stand-stronger-with-the-us-to-defend-taiwan-and-itself

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Category: China, Japan, Taiwan

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Japan prepares to reimplement state of emergency declaration for Tokyo

Japan prepares to reimplement state of emergency declaration for Tokyo

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
The Hill |
7:03 AM

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Japan is preparing to reimplement its state of emergency declaration for Tokyo due to the increase in coronavirus cases as the country is getting ready to host the Olympics this summer.

“We should not fall behind the speed at which variants of the virus are spreading infection,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Koike said on Tuesday she would be asking prime minister Yoshihide Suga to declare another state of emergency due to the difficulty in containing the coronavirus in the city.

Suga suggested he would grant the request, making it the city’s third state of emergency declaration during the pandemic.

Suga said the declaration would not affect the Olympics, which are slated to start July 23.

Osaka’s governor also asked the central government to declare a state of emergency for the area.

Osaka is seeing the British variant of the virus spreading quickly and is running out of beds for the sick, according to the Journal.

Tokyo cases of the British variant aren’t as high but are spreading quickly.

Tokyo lifted its last state of emergency back in March but has seen an increase in cases since.

The restrictions for the requested state of emergency are not clear but might be harsher than previous ones with restaurants and stores closing down.

Tokyo is working to control its cases before the Olympics and has preemptively banned foreign spectators as a precautionary measure.

https://thehill.com/policy/international/549243-japan-prepares-to-reimplement-state-of-emergency-declaration-for-tokyo

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UPDATE 1-Japan weighs state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka regions amid virus surge -media

UPDATE 1-Japan weighs state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka regions amid virus surge -media

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
7:03 AM

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Japan’s government is considering a state of emergency for Tokyo and Osaka as new COVID-19 case numbers surge, broadcaster NHK reported on Wednesday, a move that would enable prefectural authorities to impose curbs to try to stop infections spreading.

With thousands of new cases resulting from highly infectious strains of the virus, prime minister Yoshihide Suga said the government wanted to decide this week whether to declare the state of emergency for major parts of the country.

Suga said the capital Tokyo was mulling a request to the central government to issue the state of emergency, as Osaka and Hyogo prefectures already have done.

Japan has so far avoided an explosive spread of the pandemic that has plagued many Western countries, with total cases so far at about 540,000 and a death toll of 9,707. But the latest rise in infections has stoked alarm, coming just three months before the planned start of the Tokyo Olympics and amid a sluggish vaccination roll-out.

On Wednesday Tokyo reported 843 new infections, the most since January 29 when its previous state of emergency was in place. Case numbers in Osaka have exceeded those in Tokyo in recent days, reaching a record 1,351 on April 13.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is preparing to request an emergency period be declared from April 29 to May 9, encompassing Japan’s annual ‘Golden Week’ holiday period, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

Osaka, the epicentre of a fourth wave of the pandemic, requested a renewed state of emergency on Tuesday, looking to cancel or postpone all major events to restrict the movement of people.

Hyogo prefecture, home to the city of Kobe, reported a record 563 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and made its own state of emergency request official. Quasi-emergency measures were already imposed in 10 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, including the Tokyo and Osaka areas.

Kyoto prefecture is also preparing to request an emergency declaration, Japan’s top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said.

If adopted in all four regions from Tokyo to Kyoto, the emergency measures would cover close to a quarter of Japan’s population of 126 million.

New declarations would mark the third full state of emergency in Japan since the epidemic began. The total economic loss from a renewed emergency in the three regions would be 1.156 trillion yen ($10.71 billion), the Nomura Research Institute said in a report.

Concerns about expanded lockdown measures – and the slow pace of vaccinations – spread to investors, with Japanese shares trading sharply lower and the benchmark Nikkei index losing 2%.

Earlier on Tuesday, Suga said any emergency declaration would have no impact on the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to begin in July.

Kato, the top government spokesman, also said Wednesday the government would continue to work for a “safe and secure” Tokyo Olympics.

Meanwhile Pfiser Inc will sign a contract this month to supply an additional 50 million doses of vaccine to Japan by September, the Nikkei newspaper reported. Suga, during a visit to the United States last week, was in talks with Pfiser’s CEO last Saturday to secure more vaccine doses.

Along with existing contracts with Pfiser and Moderna Inc, whose COVID-19 vaccine is being reviewed by domestic regulators, that would be enough for all of Japan’s adult population.

Government spokesman Kato declined to comment on the amount of additional Pfiser doses. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters. ($1=107.9500 yen)

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/1-japan-weighs-state-emergency-044936434.html

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Japan’s foreign residents ponder travelling for vaccines amid slow inoculation push

Japan’s foreign residents ponder travelling for vaccines amid slow inoculation push

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
7:03 AM

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Japan’s glacial COVID-19 inoculation push is prompting some foreign residents to consider flying to other countries to get vaccinated, as the pandemic surges again with no shots in sight for everyday people.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga negotiated with the CEO of Pfiser Inc on Saturday to secure more vaccine doses, now expected to be enough for all residents by September. That’s well after the scheduled start of the Tokyo Olympics and far behind the pace of most major economies.

Japan only started vaccinating its sizable elderly population this month and health experts say it may take till the winter or longer for most of the general populace to get access to the shots.

It’s unclear how many foreigners are flying out of Japan to get shots, but it is a hot topic on social media and in business circles.

“I can confirm having heard of executives going to their home countries for vaccines,” said Michael president of the European Business Council in Japan, adding the number doing so is limited because of the need to quarantine when travelling back to Japan.

Marc Wesseling is one long-term foreign resident who couldn’t wait any longer. The co-founder of an ad agency in Tokyo flew this month to Singapore, where his company has an office, in part to get the shots so he could safely visit his parents in the Netherlands.

“I love the country and I wish them all the best,” Wesseling said about Japan from his quarantine quarters in Singapore. “They are not the fastest. I think a lot of people are frustrated, especially when you want to have the Olympics and everything. Come on guys. Make it happen. The whole world is doing it. Why wait?”

Japan has vaccinated about 1 percent of its population, compared with 2.9 percent in South Korea, which started later, and at least 40 percent in both the United States and Britain, according to a Reuters tracker.

The Maldives will soon offer shots to visitors as part of a “visit, vaccinate, and vacation” campaign, the tourism minister of the popular Indian Ocean destination told CNBC last week.

Japan bars tourists from entering the country, and it’s no easy matter for residents to get vaccinated overseas and come back. A two-dose regimen would take at least a couple weeks, often longer, and Japan operates a two-week quarantine for people coming into the country, even if they have been vaccinated.

“If you would like to go back to your home country for inoculation, that’s fine with us,” Japan’s vaccine chief Taro Kono said on Friday. “Some countries have a higher rate of COVID-19, so you could consider which is safer for your health.”

Representatives from Japan’s foreign ministry and immigration service did not immediately respond with comment.

Japan’s top health experts say the COVID-19 pandemic has entered a fourth wave.

Quasi-emergency measures have been imposed in 10 prefectures and the western metropolis of Osaka requested a full emergency declaration on Tuesday amid a rebound in cases driven by mutant variants of the virus. Tokyo may follow later in the week with a similar request, local media said.

Lauren Jubelt thought about going home to Florida to get the shots, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the risk of perhaps getting trapped overseas if Japan shut its borders.

“I’m frustrated when I see my family in the US get their vaccine,” said Jubelt, who works in digital marketing in Osaka.

“We don’t even have a solid date on when we can get it here and the cases are on the rise again.”

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/japans-foreign-residents-ponder-travelling-214717184.html

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Japan, India to postpone security talks amid surging COVID cases

Japan, India to postpone security talks amid surging COVID cases

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Kyodo News |
7:03 AM

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The Japanese and Indian governments have decided to postpone their foreign and defense ministerial talks scheduled this weekend in Tokyo as a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in India has made it difficult for the ministers to visit Japan, a Japanese government source said Tuesday.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga is planning to visit India during Japan’s Golden Week holidays starting later this month. Tokyo will judge whether to go ahead with the plan, considering the infection situation in India, the source said.

The two governments are now studying whether to stick to the plan for a physical meeting of the ministers, called two-plus-two security dialogue, or hold it in an online format, the source said.

It will be the second such dialogue by Japan and India since November 2019.

Japan and India are part of the security framework known as the Quad with the United States and Australia as the four countries seek to form a united front against China’s growing military and economic influence and realise a shared vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/04/92992c0e9c1b-japan-india-to-postpone-security-talks-amid-surging-covid-cases.html

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PREVIEW-BOJ inflation prediction to show limits of Gov Kuroda’s ultra-easy policy

PREVIEW-BOJ inflation prediction to show limits of Gov Kuroda’s ultra-easy policy

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
7:03 AM

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The Bank of Japan is set to predict for the first time that inflation will remain well short of its 2 percent target beyond Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s term through early 2023, say sources familiar with its thinking.

The central bank is also expected to trim this fiscal year’s inflation forecast reflecting cuts in cellphone charges, the sources say, underscoring the challenge it faces in eradicating Japan’s sticky deflationary mindset.

Such projections, to be made in fresh quarterly estimates due out next week, would reinforce expectations the BOJ will maintain its massive stimulus for the foreseeable future.

While the BOJ may paint a rosier view on the economy due to robust exports, it will warn of the strains on consumption from a recent resurgence in COVID-19 infections, they said.

“Solid external demand is helping Japan’s economy but renewed pandemic-related curbs cloud the outlook,” said one of the sources.

“It will take time for inflation to clearly pick up, given underlying weakness in price growth,” said another source, a view echoed by two other sources.

The world’s third biggest economy has emerged from last year’s pandemic-induced slump on support from exports. But slow vaccine rollouts and renewed curbs to contain the virus cloud the outlook.

At the two-day rate review ending on April 27, the BOJ is set to maintain its short-term interest rate target at -0.1 percent and that for long-term rates around 0%.

In a quarterly report due out after the meeting, the BOJ is seen trimming its core consumer inflation forecast for the year that began in April from the current 0.5%. read more

It will also release for the first time forecasts for fiscal 2023, which will show inflation hovering around 1%, they said.

While such downbeat price forecasts should come as little surprise to markets, they would mark a symbolic defeat for Kuroda whose current five-year term ends in April 2023.

Years of heavy money printing have failed to fire up inflation to the BOJ’s target, forcing it to maintain for an extended period what was initially intended as a quick fix to beat deflation.

In the report, the BOJ may revise up this year’s growth forecast and offer a more upbeat assessment on the economy than three months ago, as strong US and Chinese growth underpins exports, the sources said.

But the central bank will warn any recovery will be modest as a resurgence in infections hurt consumption, they said.

In current projections made in January, the BOJ expects the economy to grow 3.9 percent this fiscal year and expand 1.8 percent the following year.

https://www.reuters.com/article/japan-economy-boj/preview-boj-inflation-prediction-to-show-limits-of-gov-kurodas-ultra-easy-policy-idUSL4N2MC45S

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Japan says Chinese military likely behind cyberattacks

Japan says Chinese military likely behind cyberattacks

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
AP |
7:03 AM

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Tokyo police are investigating cyberattacks on about 200 Japanese companies and research organisations, including the country’s space agency, by a hacking group believed to be linked to the Chinese military, the government said Tuesday.

Police have forwarded the case involving attacks on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to prosecutors for further investigation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

Police believe a series of hacks of JAXA were conducted in 2016-2017 by “Tick,” a Chinese cyberattack group under the direction of a unit of the People’s Liberation Army, Kato said.

A suspect in the JAXA case, a Chinese systems engineer based in Japan, allegedly gained access to a rental server by registering himself under a false identity to launch the cyberattacks, Kato said, citing the police investigation.

NHK public television said another Chinese national with suspected links to the PLA unit who was in Japan as an exchange student was also investigated in the case. Both men have since left the country, it said.

Police are investigating the attackers’ intent and methods, while also pursuing scores of other cyberattacks that they suspect are linked to China’s military, Kato said.

“The involvement of China’s People’s Liberation Army is highly likely,” Kato said. He added that no actual data leak or damage has been found so far but police are urging the companies to strengthen their protection.

Japan’s Defense Ministry says cyberattacks are part of rising security threats from China as it becomes more assertive in the region — a shared concern discussed in April 16 talks at the White House between US President Joe Biden and Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said cyberattacks are a common challenge faced by all countries and warned Japan against wrongly accusing China.

“Groundless speculation should not be allowed. China is firmly opposed to any country or institution using cyberattacks to throw mud at China or to serve the despicable political purposes with cybersecurity issues,” he said. “China is willing to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with all parties to jointly address cybersecurity threats.”

AP business writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

https://apnews.com/article/world-news-technology-business-tokyo-japan-f35854b6acb5ebd27a1a54d2417d2929

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Toshiba dismisses $20 billion CVC offer as lacking detail

Toshiba dismisses $20 billion CVC offer as lacking detail

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
7:03 AM

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Toshiba Corp on Tuesday dismissed a $20 billion buyout offer from CVC Capital Partners as lacking detail, putting a question mark over the future of the proposal.

The Japanese conglomerate said a new letter from CVC, which previously offered to take the company private, did not provide the information needed for it to be able to evaluate the offer.

“This letter contained no specific and detailed information capable of detailed evaluation,” Toshiba said in a statement. “As this preliminary proposal lacks the required information the board has concluded it is not possible to evaluate it.”

In the letter, dated April 18 and seen by Reuters, CVC said the buyout offer “was and continues to be contingent on obtaining the full support of your board and management team.”

Following recent management changes at Toshiba, “we respectfully step aside to await your guidance,” the letter said. A representative for CVC in Japan declined to comment.

A Toshiba source said the letter meant CVC’s proposal was unlikely to proceed further, as the fund’s offer was unsolicited to begin with.

But CVC also said its buyout proposal had received internal approval. “CVC sees great potential in Toshiba,” it said in the letter. “We remain keen to support the privatisation of Toshiba.”

CVC’s proposal had sparked a strong backlash from Toshiba managers, prompting them to lobby the government and its lenders against it, sources have said.

Toshiba CEO Nobuaki Kurumatani resigned over the proposal from CVC, his former employer, amid criticism the offer, which promised to retain management, was designed to shield Kurumatani from activist shareholders.

Toshiba said it would continue to consider and evaluate any credible offers. But for now, “being a publicly traded company provides a stable equity structure,” it said.

It also denied that Toshiba’s current shareholder structure, with a large activist shareholder base, had aversely affected its corporate value.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/toshiba-says-cvc-step-aside-093929395.html

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Will Japan’s Low Immunisation Rate Pose a Problem for the Olympics?

Will Japan’s Low Immunisation Rate Pose a Problem for the Olympics?

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Time |
7:03 AM

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here are less than 100 days to go before the Tokyo Olympics and the torch relay is busy crisscrossing all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. But far from building excitement for the delayed 2020 Games, the flame is sparking anxiety about proceeding with the tournament amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Torch runners are being heckled by protesters.

“Japanese people are generally cheerful, kind and polite,” says Mieko Nakabayashi, a former lawmaker and current professor at Waseda University’s School of Social Sciences in Tokyo. “But people are frustrated about the COVID situation and some don’t feel they have another place to express that.” She says a close friend of his, chosen to be a torchbearer, was among those verbally abused.

It doesn’t help, of course, that Japan is in the middle of a fourth wave of COVID-19, with 4,111 new cases reported Sunday. (Globally, COVID-19 deaths recently breached 3 million.)

Fears are compounded by a vaccination rate of less than 1 percent across Japan’s population, which is the world’s oldest, with 28 percent of Japanese aged 65 or above. Despite foreign fans being banned from the Games, and strict health protocols in place for athletes and officials due to attend, the potential for the event to be a super spreader isn’t lost on anyone.

“I’m very frightened, very concerned,” says Prof Robert Booy, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Sydney. “If the older population suddenly gets into trouble, there will be a lot of hospital admissions and deaths.”

The reasons for Japan’s low immunisation rate are complex but reflected across the Asia-Pacific region, where many of the nations that controlled the pandemic best are falling behind in the race to vaccinate, potentially undoing early gains and stalling economic recoveries. New Zealand also has less than 1 percent of its people vaccinated. Australia and South Korea fare little better with under 3%. This compares to 48 percent in the UK and 25 percent in the US (although both of those countries admittedly suffered devastating outbreaks, with the world’s sixth highest and highest case numbers respectively).

“It’s problematic, as the more opportunity the virus gets to circulate, the more potential exists for significant mutations that threaten our existing strategies — including vaccines,” says Adam Kamradt-Scott, a public health specialist with the Georgetown centre for Global Science and Security.

In Japan, an extremely conservative attitude towards vaccine approval compounds the problem. To date, Japan’s government says it has signed purchase agreements for a total of 314 million vaccine doses from Pfiser, AstraZeneca and Moderna — enough to cover its entire population. But only the Pfiser vaccine has so far received local regulatory approval. At this rate, it’s estimated Japan’s population won’t be covered until September, while the Olympics begin on July 23.

Many Japanese are asking why such a technologically advanced economy is unable to produce its own vaccines under license from one of the big pharmaceutical firms, or why emergency approval cannot be granted given the risk posed by the Games.

“The government is very cautious and cannot proceed as quickly as people want,” says Nakabayashi.

Problems with some jabs have also spurred vaccine hesitancy across the region. The rollout of both the AstraZeneca vaccine, for example, was briefly suspended in Indonesia and Thailand, due to the very rare occurrence of blood clots. But despite the risk being comparatively low — women taking the standard oral contraceptive pill for a year have a 1-in-2,000 chance of developing a blood clot compared to the 1-in-200,000 chance of clotting from the AstraZeneca vaccine — the damage to public perception has been done.

The problem, says Booy, is that delaying immunisation programmes may boost pandemic complacency. Mitigation tactics such as mask-wearing and social distancing appear to be containing the existing variant — to the extent that populations become more casual about their use.

“People become much more lackadaisical, especially young people, because no one’s getting the disease,” he says. But all the while, “the virus is mutating and becoming more transmissible.”

As the Olympics looms nearer, Japan’s own sluggish rollout makes it tricky to insist that visiting athletes and officials are vaccinated when Japan’s own population hasn’t been. Containment efforts will probably have to rely on testing, quarantines and bubbles. Last week, one leading politician even said canceling the Games “remains an option.”

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach is due to travel to Tokyo next month to assess preparations. But if the Games do go ahead, it seems fairly certain that the athletes won’t be getting the warmest of welcomes.

“People are very nervous,” says Nakabayashi.

https://time.com/5956371/olympics-covid-vaccinations-japan/

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BOJ warns of risks to Japan banks from Archegos-type overseas funds

BOJ warns of risks to Japan banks from Archegos-type overseas funds

22-Apr-2021 Intellasia |
Reuters |
7:03 AM

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Japanese financial institutions have become more exposed to market risks triggered by non-bank and overseas funds, the central bank warned on Tuesday, in the wake of losses caused by the collapse of family office Archegos Capital Management.

Since the global financial crisis in 2018, Japan’s financial sector has become increasingly linked to global market moves as foreign investment funds pile into the country and domestic banks invest more in overseas securities, the BOJ said.

That has increased overlaps in portfolios between domestic and foreign financial institutions, the central bank said in a semi-annual report analysing Japan’s banking system.

“This suggests that the market risks Japanese financial institutions face can be amplified through trading activities of overseas investment funds and other entities more than before,” the report said.

“Studies have shown that an investment fund holding more illiquid assets tend to face more pressure for redemption when market prices fluctuate, and that the degree of price impact by such a fund tends to be more significant,” it said.

The collapse of Archegos, which defaulted on margin calls late last month and triggered a fire sale of stocks across Wall Street, has led to huge losses among some investment banks including Japan’s Nomura Holdings Inc (8604.T) and the securities unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (8306.T).

While the BOJ made no direct mention of Archegos, the focus on overseas funds underscore its caution over the impact of their behaviour on domestic financial institutions.

The BOJ said Japan’s banking system had sufficient buffers to weather the lingering battle with COVID-19, even as a renewed spike in infections stokes uncertainty about the outlook.

But it warned that banks must guard against potential risks such as rising credit costs, losses in securities holdings from abrupt market moves and dollar funding strains.

“Even after the pandemic subsides, financial institutions’ profits will remain under pressure from low interest rates and structural factors,” the report said.

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/boj-warns-low-rates-structural-woes-hurt-banks-even-after-pandemic-subsides-2021-04-20/

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