Morning Alert   -   Monday, September 10, 2018
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report on the earthquake in Hokkaido last week, saying that the death toll has reached 39. All commercial networks led with reports that Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese tennis player to win a Grand Slam tournament after beating Serena Williams at the U.S. Open final on Saturday.

There were no papers today due to a press holiday in Japan.


President Trump increases trade pressure on Japan

All weekend papers reported extensively on what they referred to as President Trump's apparent intention to focus on Japan in addressing the chronic U.S. trade deficit, highlighting a recent Wall Street Journal column claiming that he plans to take a tough approach toward Japan and his press remarks aboard Air Force One on Friday saying that the U.S. and Japan have begun discussions over trade and that Tokyo "knows it's a big problem" if an agreement cannot be reached. Reporting on President Trump's separate comment that Japan would not deal with the Obama administration on trade since it "felt there was going to be no retribution," the dailies interpreted this to mean that the President will probably use the idea of auto tariffs as negotiating leverage to push Japan to further open up its market to American farm products and autos, with national papers Asahi and Nikkei characterizing the President's latest strong language as a "threat."

The papers conjectured that the U.S. leader might be now inclined to take a tougher approach toward Japan perhaps to deflect attention from what they characterized as various domestic political controversies given that his administration has now successfully negotiated trade deals with the EU and Mexico and is applying greater pressure on China. Nikkei speculated that the U.S. may insist on the adoption of a currency clause in possible bilateral trade talks with Japan, projecting that if such a provision is adopted, it will pose a major risk to the Japanese economy.

Mainichi asserted that President Trump is applying greater pressure on Japan at a time when American farmers are suffering from retaliatory tariffs imposed on American products by the Chinese. The paper claimed that some American farmers are calling for Japan to increase its U.S. imports since their products are being put in a disadvantageous position in the Chinese market due to the retaliatory tariffs.

Japan trying to treat growing U.S. trade pressure with benign neglect

Nikkei wrote that despite what the paper characterized as President Trump's escalated rhetoric critical of the bilateral trade imbalance, the Abe administration appears to be attempting to treat U.S. pressure with benign neglect in the run-up to the LDP presidential race on Sept. 20 because LDP voters in farming communities are expected to play a key role in determining the fate of Prime Minister Abe's reelection bid. The daily explained that local farmers were displeased when the premier promoted the TPP initiative despite their strong opposition. A source involved in the U.S.-Japan "free, fair, and reciprocal" (FFR) trade talks was quoted as saying that President Trump has decided to "target Japan."

The article conjectured that only President Trump will be able to decide on the terms and conditions of any trade agreement with Tokyo. The business daily also asserted that only Prime Minister Abe will be able to defuse what it referred to as the trade dispute with the Trump administration by capitalizing on his close personal bond with the U.S. leader, adding that an idea has emerged within the GOJ for Abe to play golf with the President to affirm mutual ties when the premier visits the U.S. later this month and holds a bilateral summit with him on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting.

Sankei published a similar story. While noting that Japan probably will not be able to make concessions on agricultural trade ahead of the Upper House election scheduled for next summer, the daily expressed the view that it remains to be seen whether President Trump will tone down his criticism of Japan even if the Abe administration agrees to increase imports of American defense hardware and/or natural gas as a concession.


Ambassador talks about North Korea

TV Asahi's weekly news program "Sunday Station" aired on Sunday its one-on-one interview with Ambassador Hagerty held at Embassy Tokyo's studio on Friday. When asked whether he has ever talked to President Trump about North Korea, the Ambassador reportedly said he certainly has and that the President sees denuclearization as a way to offer the people of North Korea an opportunity to achieve further economic development. He said that as that message reaches the people of North Korea, they will hope for change. The Ambassador also said that North Korea should move forward with denuclearization, adding that while the dismantling of one of the nuclear facilities was encouraging, there is still a lot more to be done. He stressed the need for North Korea to present an extremely solid framework for denuclearization. When asked whether the U.S. will apply military pressure on North Korea again if progress is not made in the negotiations, the Ambassador reportedly said the President has never said he was removing the option of military pressure, adding that the President thinks that sanctions are the most effective measure for the time being. When asked the deadline for the U.S.-DPRK negotiations, the Ambassador said that the President is not a very patient person and wants to see results, adding that he believes that the negotiations will not bog down. He also pointed out that the President cancelled Secretary Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang over his frustration with the lack of progress in the talks. He added that the President is expecting Chairman Kim to move forward with final and fully verifiable denuclearization and that the President wants to see this sooner rather than later.

Ambassador Hagerty expresses sympathy for victims of Hokkaido quake

Saturday morning's Nikkei reported very briefly on a tweet on the recent Hokkaido earthquake posted by Ambassador Hagerty on Friday. The Ambassador reportedly wrote: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by the earthquake in Hokkaido."


President Trump expects "positive" letter from DPRK leader

All Saturday evening papers took up remarks made on Friday by President Trump in a press gaggle aboard Air Force One. The President reportedly said that he is expecting to receive a personal letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and he thinks it is going to be a positive one. He reportedly went on to say that the "rhetoric" between him and Chairman Kim

has been very good and that Kim has said he has respect for the President and wants to denuclearize during President Trump's administration.

ROK envoy to visit Japan

All Saturday morning papers wrote that South Korean National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon will visit Japan on Monday to brief Prime Minister Abe on his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on Sept. 5.

Australia, New Zealand to join efforts to prevent ship-to-ship transfers involving DPRK

Saturday morning's Mainichi and Sankei reported that Australia and New Zealand will dispatch patrol planes to Kadena AB starting in mid-September to participate in multinational surveillance operations to crack down on ship-to-ship transfers of sanctioned items involving North Korean vessels in the East China Sea.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team