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Japan to accelerate booster shots and maximise island defences

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks before the media at his official residence as an extraordinary Diet session was closed, in Tokyo, Japan December 21, 2021. Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool via REUTERS

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Monday that Japan will bring forward COVID-19 immunisation booster doses by up to two months, as the highly transmissible Omicron form spreads across the country.

The news: In a speech to parliament, Kishida also stated that Japan would strengthen defence capabilities surrounding its southwestern islands, which are close to Taiwan, and that North Korea’s missile capability progress should not be tolerated.

  • With an upper house election coming up later this year, Kishida sees limiting the pandemic as vital.
  • Yoshihide Suga, his predecessor, resigned last year after losing voter support as COVID-19 grew in popularity.

What they’re saying: “The Kishida administration prioritises its coronavirus response,” Prime Minister Yoshihiko Kishida said in his inaugural address to the legislature.

  • Booster doses for the elderly will be given six months after the second shot, rather than the eight months initially intended, beginning in March, and the interval for other individuals will be cut by a month or two, he said.
  • Kishida emphasised that the fight against the epidemic will be difficult, and he begged for the public’s help.
  • On the security front, Kishida stated that he intends to improve Japan’s island defence capabilities in order to better secure the Nansei island chain, which spans from Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, to Taiwan.

What’s going on: Tensions over Taiwan are increasing as Chinese President Xi Jinping strives to assert China’s sovereignty claims over the democratically governed island.

  • Last month, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed that any crisis over Taiwan would be a crisis for Japan, as well as for Tokyo’s security partnership with the US.
  • Kishida also stated that Japan is unyielding in its opposition to North Korea’s missile tests.
  • This year, North Korea has conducted a succession of ballistic missile launches in an unusually rapid series of weapons tests.

Facts and figures: According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, only about 1 per cent of Japanese people have had booster shots, compared to 53 per cent in the United Kingdom and 24 per cent in the United States.

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