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Archive for Japan

Newsline: Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Elected to Senate

Republican Bill Hagerty has won an open U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee, replacing retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R). Hagerty, who defeated Democrat Marquita Bradshaw, served as U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Trump from 2017 to 2019. When he stepped down as ambassador, Hagerty said, “These past two years have been the greatest of our lives. We will return to Tennessee with the warmest memories of this beautiful nation and the Japanese people. We will forever cherish the hospitality we have been shown here.” (http://www.rafu.com/2020/11/former-u-s-ambassador-to-japan-elected-to-senate/) Hagerty also fostered U.S.-Japan ties for three years from the late 1980s to the early 1990s while working in Tokyo for the Boston Consulting Group.

Newsline: China agrees on Japan’s ambassador appointment

China has agreed on Japan’s plan to name Hideo Tarumi, former deputy minister at the foreign minister’s Secretariat, as ambassador to China, sources familiar with bilateral relations said Sunday. Tarumi, 59, is expected to assume his duties in the new post as early as this year, subject to cabinet approval. (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/08/30/national/politics-diplomacy/china-agrees-japans-ambassador-appointment/) There had been speculation that Beijing may not agree on Tarumi’s appointment as the Communist Party of China was watching his advanced intelligence capability with worry, the sources said. Beijing apparently agreed on his appointment to prevent its ties with Tokyo from worsening amid an escalation in tensions between China and the United States, the sources said. But a Japanese government source said Tarumi will have difficulty acting freely in China if he gets the Beijing post.

Newsline: US Embassy warns Americans to leave Japan or risk long stay as virus cases surge

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo issued a warning to American citizens Friday that said those with plans to return should do so now or risk being stuck here for an “indefinite period.” (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/04/03/national/health-alert-u-s-embassy-tokyo-warns-americans-make-return-arrangements-now-unless-ready-stay/#.XoeQC41RU8o) Singling out Japan’s lack of widespread testing, the embassy gave a sobering assessment of the potential strain the novel coronavirus could place on Japan’s health care system should infections spike. “The Japanese Government’s decision to not test broadly makes it difficult to accurately assess the COVID-19 prevalence rate,” the embassy said on its website, referring to the illness caused by the virus. If U.S. citizens want to return to the United States from Japan they should do so now or risk staying abroad for an “indefinite period,” it said. It also noted that Americans with pre-existing medical conditions may not be able to get the medical care they were used to receiving before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It also noted that only 11 percent of airlines’ pre-pandemic flight capacity from Japan to the United States remained in operation as of Friday. Since Japan’s entry restrictions will further reduce availability in the near future, getting back for a family emergency in a timely manner could become difficult or even impossible, the embassy said.

Newsline: China to halt short-term visa waivers for Japanese nationals

China will temporarily suspend visa waivers for Japanese nationals intending to stay 15 days or less in the country from March 10 amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Embassy of Japan in China said on Monday in a statement on its website. (https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-china-japan/china-to-halt-short-term-visa-waivers-for-japanese-nationals-japanese-government-idUST9N28907I) The visa waivers will remain available for Japanese travelling to China on business or to visit relatives. They will be halted for those going to China for sightseeing, visiting friends or transit purposes, the statement said.

Newsline: US Embassy in Japan refused to let staff get tested for coronavirus

Staff members at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, were refused tests for COVID-19 after having direct contact with Americans infected with the coronavirus. The staff had been working with Americans who at the time were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship when they came in contact with dozens of people infected by the contagious virus last month. According to a Wednesday report from the Daily Beast, the workers were not allowed to get tested for the virus unless they showed symptoms of infection. (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/us-embassy-refused-to-let-staff-get-tested-for-coronavirus-after-contact-with-diamond-princess-cruise-ship-passengers) U.S. Embassy Tokyo Deputy Consul General Timothy Smith told staff members that they would not be receiving tests in the embassy and instructed them not to seek testing from outside the facility despite their work with the cruise ship passengers. The vessel carried more than 700 travelers and crew members who tested positive for the illness, including six who later died. American employees got within arm’s length of infected travelers and were not separated by glass or curtains while working with them. Those who then asked to be tested were told they must present symptoms, including a high fever, first. One employee expressed concern, saying, “It makes people nervous to know there may be infected co-workers walking around the embassy. We don’t want to ostracize them, but we keep hearing of people who tested negative later turning out to be infected. These people haven’t even been tested — ever.” The State Department responded to reports about Smith’s decision, saying, “Throughout this crisis, we have continuously worked hard to ensure the safety of our staff, including through training and the provision of appropriate personal protective equipment by U.S. government medical professionals. All health and safety protocols have been strictly followed.” The statement, however, did not directly address whether staff needed to present symptoms of the illness before being tested despite the weekslong incubation period the novel coronavirus can have.

Newsline: Japan, South Korea summon Israeli ambassador to protest travel ban

Officials in Seoul and Tokyo summoned Israeli diplomats on Sunday to protest Israel’s ban on the entry of people traveling from South Korea and Japan due to the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. Israeli Ambassador to Japan Yaffa Ben-Ari and Charge D’affaires in South Korea Rasha Atamny were both told by the governments in their postings that they view the travel ban with severity. The ban on South Koreans entering Israel began on Sunday while the block on Japanese nationals will come into effect at 8 a.m. on Monday. Israel has also banned entry from people who were in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and Singapore in recent weeks. (https://www.jpost.com/International/Japan-summons-Israeli-ambassador-to-protest-travel-ban-618485) The South Korean government filed a formal complaint to Israel on Sunday, saying they “demanded that such an incident not occur again.” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said his ministry “is taking the necessary steps to ensure the public’s health while keeping up the important relations with Asian countries. We will continue to act in coordination with the relevant authorities in Israel.”

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Tokyo Says Charter Plane to Evacuate Citizens from Diamond Princess

The United States will send a charter plane to evacuate U.S. citizens from the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship Diamond Princess, quarantined off Japan, the U.S. embassy in Tokyo said Saturday. (https://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2020021500414/) The plane will arrive in Japan on Sunday night, the embassy said. It will likely depart Tokyo International Airport at Haneda in the early hours of Monday, according to sources with expertise on Japan-U.S. affairs. In the German city of Munich, visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed close cooperation on the matter. Motegi said Tokyo will cooperate with any other countries that want to evacuate their citizens from the ship early, if they arrange flights or other means of transportation. The U.S.-chartered plane is set to take the evacuees from the Diamond Princess to a U.S. Air Force base in California. They will undergo further quarantine of 14 days.

Newsline: Japanese, Sri Lankan Embassies Mull Evacuation of Citizens Amid Coronavirus Panic

The Japanese Embassy in Beijing said the initial evacuation is limited to those in Wuhan. Evacuees are expected to include employees of Honda Motor Co., Tokyo Electron, Aeon Co. and other Japanese companies operating in Wuhan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his Cabinet will designate the new coronavirus as an infectious disease subject to forced hospitalization and isolation. Such preventative measures appear to be in preparation for the evacuation. (https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/countries-evaluate-evacuation-of-citizens-amid-wuhan-coronavirus-panic/) Sri Lankan embassy in Beijing has applied for a Sri Lankan Airlines plane to be allowed to land at the Wuhan airport to airlift home 32 Sri Lankan students and their family members. The foreign ministry also said it was working to bring back all other Sri Lankan students throughout China. About 860 Sri Lankan students are in China.

Newsline: Rights group denounces Japan envoy for ‘disturbing’ comments on Myanmar Rohingya

Tokyo-based human rights activists on Wednesday decried recent remarks by Japan’s ambassador to Yangon, who told local media he did not think the Myanmar military committed genocide on the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country. Zaw Min Htut, vice president of an advocacy group, Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan, said the ambassador’s remarks were “disturbing”. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-myanmar/rights-group-denounces-japan-envoy-for-disturbing-comments-on-myanmar-rohingya-idUSKBN1ZE0V7) More than 730,000 Rohingya fled the Southeast Asian nation to Bangladesh in 2017 after a military-led crackdown. The United Nations has said the campaign was executed with “genocidal intent” and included mass killings and rape. The military offensive has sparked a series of ongoing legal cases filed in recent months at courts across the globe, including the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), both based in the Hague.

Japan embassy in Seoul posts radiation data amid escalating row

Japan’s embassy in South Korea has begun posting data on its website to show there is little difference in radiation levels between the two countries in its latest retort in a diplomatic and trade row rooted in wartime history. South Korea said last month that it will double the radiation testing of some Japanese food exports due to potential contamination from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. The embassy said the radiation reading in Seoul as of Friday was 0.12 microsieverts per hour, around the same as 0.135 in Fukushima City, and higher than Tokyo’s 0.036. It will update the data every day the embassy is open, it said. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-korea-radiation/japan-embassy-in-seoul-posts-radiation-data-amid-escalating-row-idUSKBN1WE07W) The World Nuclear Association has said the global average of naturally occurring background radiation is a range of around 0.17-0.39 microsieverts per hour.