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Japan's PM Suga held no news conferences in Nov. despite virus resurgence

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga enters the prime minister's office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on the morning of Dec. 1, 2020. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga did not hold a single news conference in November amid a surge in the number of coronavirus infections in the country, while the opposition camp is criticizing the lack of opportunities for the public to learn about the central government's COVID-19 countermeasures.

    "He (Prime Minister Suga) is neglecting his responsibilities by not holding a single news conference," said Yukio Edano, the head of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, during a press conference on Nov. 30 as he slammed the prime minister. Edano continued, "The prime minister is responsible for leading from the front to convey the government's policies (to the public) amid what can be called the worst crisis since World War II."

    Akira Koike, the second-in-command of the Japanese Communist Party, also criticized Suga during a Nov. 29 program on public broadcaster NHK, saying, "Prime Minister Suga turns his back on reporters and leaves even when they ask him questions at the prime minister's office. This will only heighten people's anxieties (over the outbreak)."

    Following his inauguration in September, Prime Minister Suga has only held press conferences twice -- including one in Indonesia during his trip in October. He did not hold any news conferences at all in November when Japan was hit by a "third wave" of coronavirus infections.

    While Suga agreed to speak with reporters in nine on-the-spot interviews, he only answered one question each time. For example, on Nov. 26, Suga told reporters at the prime minister's office, "In addition to Sapporo, shorter business hours will be introduced at eateries in Tokyo, as well as in the cities of Osaka and Nagoya, starting this weekend," as part of coronavirus countermeasures. The reporters asked him further questions, including "Are you considering issuing a state of emergency?" "Why don't you hold a news conference?" but Suga left without answering any of them.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato has defended the prime minister's stance of not answering further questions when speaking with reporters.

    "The prime minister showed directions of future (coronavirus) measures to the people right then and there (at the meeting of the government's coronavirus task force headquarters). He then spoke with reporters. He has made time to communicate as necessary," Kato said in a news conference.

    There is a possibility that Prime Minister Suga will hold a news conference after the current Diet session closes on Dec. 5. Once the session is adjourned, opportunities for the opposition forces to attack the prime minister will drop drastically, and the opposition camp is demanding that the ruling coalition extend the Diet session.

    (Japanese original by Yoshitaka Koyama and Kenta Miyahara, Political News Department)

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