Japan asks U.S. military to stay on base to stop COVID spread
Japan's foreign minister asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a call Thursday for American soldiers to remain inside their bases in response to a recent increase in COVID-19 infections around U.S. military facilities, according to AP.
Why it matters: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday he asked Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to make the request for stronger restrictions on the bases because he was dissatisfied with the U.S. military's response to the spread of the virus, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- The same day, U.S. Forces Japan implemented stricter mitigation measures for all military installations in Japan. The move includes a mask mandate, a required coronavirus test upon arrival in Japan and restricting movement until testing negative.
By the numbers: Okinawa, home to 32 U.S. military facilities, reported at least 981 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, though there were zero new cases on some days in December, according to AP.
- Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki said U.S. soldiers were responsible for the increased number of cases and asked the national government to strengthen the prefecture's virus restrictions.
The big picture: In a readout of the call published Thursday, the State Department did not mention Hayashi's request but said he and Blinken "expressed their shared commitment to combatting and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic."