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U.S. State Department Tells Travelers To Avoid All Trips To Japan


Just before the Olympics, the State Department advised all travelers to avoid travel to Japan. Here's NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: The State Department bumped its travel advisory up from level three - reconsider travel - to level four - avoid all travel. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says U.S. athletes will attend the Tokyo Games. In March, organizers decided that overseas spectators will be barred from the games. This past Friday, International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates was asked at a virtual meeting whether the Olympics would proceed if Japan is under a state of emergency.


JOHN COATES: All of the plans that we have in place to protect the safety and security of the athletes and the people of Japan are based around the worst possible circumstances, and so the answer is absolutely yes.

KUHN: IOC President Thomas Bach drew criticism in Japan after saying on Saturday that sacrifices would have to be made for the games to happen. David Leheny, a political scientist at Waseda University in Tokyo, says the IOC's message is clear.

DAVID LEHENY: If more people in Japan are going to get sick and possibly die, well, that's one of the sacrifices that has to be made.

KUHN: One opinion poll shows that more than 80% of Japanese want the games canceled or postponed. Leheny notes that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga faces elections in the fall. He says that bungling the Olympics could cost not only Suga his job but could also knock the ruling Liberal Democratic Party out of power. He says the LDP has held power for most of the post-war era by claiming to be rational and competent managers.

LEHENY: We know how to handle the country. We know how to run things. If they can't run the Olympics, if they can't keep people safe, it's going to be very hard to maintain that sort of claim.

KUHN: Japan's government is now aiming for a million vaccinations per day, but there's skepticism about whether that's a realistic goal. Mass vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka opened Monday, staffed with military doctors, but these will only be able to vaccinate 15,000 people a day. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul.


Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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