Asia in Review Archive 2021


Date of AiR edition

News summary

12 January 2021

Japan: Coronavirus state of emergency declared for Tokyo and neighboring prefectures

(dql) Amid record numbers of new coronavirus infections and ensuing mounting public pressure and demands among his own health experts, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has declared a state of emergency in the greater Tokyo area. 

Companies are ordered to encourage their staff to work from home and reduce office populations by 70%, while residents of the affected areas are called on to avoid non-essential outings. Restaurants must close by 8 p.m. and sporting events have been instructed to limit the number of visitors to 50% of capacity. Schools, however, will remain open.

The emergency measure will be in place for a month for the time being. [CNN] [The Guardian]

12 January 2021

Japan-South Korea relations: South Korea court orders Japanese government to pay compensation to ‘comfort women’

(dql) In a move further escalating already high running tensions between Japan and South Korea over forced labor during Japan’s rule on the Korean peninsula 1910-1945, a South Korean Court has ordered the Japanese government to pay damages of 91.000 USD to each of 12 victims of war-time sexual slavery. 

In 2016, the victims sued the Japanese government in 2016 for kidnapping, sexual violence, and torture during World War II. In its ruling the court acknowledged that they were subjected to dozens of forced sexual acts by Japanese troops every day.  

Japan rejects the ruling, calling it “absolutely unacceptable,” while indicating that it will not comply with it by saying that “the Japanese government was not subject to South Korean jurisdiction.” [The Guardian] [Deutsche Welle][CNN]


5 January 2021

Japan, Mexico agree to step up joint efforts to deepen and expand TPP  

(dql) During a meeting on Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard agreed to coordinate their countries’ efforts to enhance the steady enforcement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and expand the 11-party free trade agreement’s membership.

Japan, which succeeded Mexico this year as chair of the regional FTA, is expected to lead talks to expand the group’s membership, with Britain, China and South Korea having recently expressed interest in joining the TPP, while it remains to be seen whether the US will return to the framework under the incoming Biden administration. [Mainichi]

The TPP currently includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The US withdrew in 2017.

5 January 2021

Japan welcomes naval deployment plans of European powers in the Indo-Pacific

(dql) Japan has welcomed planned naval deployments this year by major European countries to the Indo-Pacific region, including Britain’s aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its strike group to East Asia, France’s naval vessel to Japan, and Germany’s frigate to the Indian Ocean – all planned for 2021, according to government announcements and news reports. [Japan Times]

In a related move, during talks between Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and his German counterpart, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, in late December Japan invited Germany’s warship to hold a joint naval drill with Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in 2021. [WION]

5 January 2021

Japan: No executions of death row inmates in 2020

(dql) Japan’s Ministry of Justice confirmed that in 2020 no death penalties were carried out, the first time since nine years. As of end of December 2020, there were death row inmates in Japan. [Mainichi]

5 January 2021

Japan: Prime Minister expected to declare Covid-19 state of emergency this week

(dql) Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced the he will decide this week whether to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures as the areas continue to face record numbers of new coronavirus cases, accounting together for roughly half of about 3.000 daily cases nationwide. 

Tokyo alone reported over 1.200 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, marking the second-highest figure for the capital, after 1.337 cases reported on Dec. 31. The number comes along with a record-high 111 Covid-19 patients in serious condition. 

The four prefectures form one of the world’s most densely populated metropolitan areas, with the constant movement of people around this area posing a big challenge to combatting the spread of the coronavirus. 

Suga is believed to impose a state of emergency for about one month, with details of the policy not disclosed thus far. [Mainichi] [Straits Times]

5 January 2021

Maldives signs debt relief suspension deal with Japan, France, and United States

(lm) In a major relief to an already debt-ridden country, the Maldives has signed a series of agreements with Japan, France, and the United States under the G20 ‘Debt Service Suspension Initiative’ to temporarily suspend debt-service payments owed to bilateral creditors. Earlier in September, the government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the treatment of debt service suspensions with the representatives of various lenders countries. [The Edition 1] [The Edition 2] []

The economic outlook for the Maldives has deteriorated dramatically in recent months, as the country has been unable to offset the impact of the drastic reduction in tourism activity caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Against the larger backdrop of projections of a more severe and prolonged external liquidity pressures than initially forecasted, Fitch Ratings in November downgraded the country’s credit rating to ‘CCC’ from ‘B’, ranking Malé’s vulnerability to default as ‘a real possibility’. [AiR No. 46, November/2020, 3]

Moreover, Malé is estimated to have accumulated $1.5 billion in debt to China, equivalent to 45 percent of the island nation’s national debt. Beijing has already reduced this year’s loan repayment to $75 million from the scheduled $100 million under the G20 ‘Debt Service Suspension Initiative’, and agreed to partially suspend debt repayment applicable to $600 million in loans for a period of approximately four years [see AiR No. 44, November/2020, 1]. Earlier last month, China then agreed to defer repayment for loans which were secured via state-owned companies [see AiR No. 49, December/2020, 2].


5 January 2021

South Korea: Mitsubishi appeals asset seizure court order

(dql) Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has appealed a South Korean court’s order to seize its assets held in South Korea soon after the relevant legal process to compensate victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor took effect late last month. The public notifications to the company entered into force last week after the company failed to comply with a 2018 ruling by the Supreme Court ordering the company to pay compensation to five victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. 

In line with the official stance of the Japanese government, Mitsubishi argues that South Korean citizens cannot make any compensation claims as the reparation issue was fully and finally settled in the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and South Korea. The Korean government, however, insists that the agreement was not intended to settle individual claims against Japan for war crime or crimes against humanity, referring to by documents presented during the negotiations which specifically exclude claims for personal injuries incurred by Japan’s violations of international laws. [Korea Herald] [AiR No. 52, December/2020, 5]