Morning Alert   -   Thursday, September 20, 2018
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Morning news

NHK and all national dailies led with reports on the Pyongyang Joint Declaration signed by President Moon and Chairman Kim on Wednesday. NTV and TBS led with reports that Naomi Osaka advanced to the Toray Pan Pacific Open quarterfinals on Wednesday. Fuji TV and TV Asahi gave top coverage to an incident in which a university student stabbed a police officer to death in Sendai.


Kim promises to shut down nuclear facility

All papers gave prominent front- and inside-page coverage to the third inter-Korean summit this year held in Pyongyang yesterday, highlighting a pledge by Kim Jong Un to permanently shut down a nuclear facility in Yongbyon on the condition that the United States takes "corresponding measures." President Moon and Chairman Kim also agreed to halt military drills around the DMZ starting in November and arrange a visit to Seoul by the DPRK leader this year. In the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, Kim also promised to permanently dismantle the missile engine test site and launch platform at Dongchang-ri under the observation of experts from relevant countries.

The dailies expressed skepticism about the DPRK leader's commitment to denuclearization since the shutdown of the Yongbyon complex is conditional. The papers also argued that the dismantlement of the fixed missile launchpad at Dongchang-ri is not militarily significant because North Korea possesses multiple mobile launch platforms. Since Kim effectively dismissed U.S. calls for unconditional denuclearization, the dailies stressed that it remains to be seen whether the latest Korean summit will help jumpstart what the papers characterized as the "deadlocked" nuclear talks between the U.S. and DPRK. The local press also wrote that North Korea is taking a "piecemeal" approach to denuclearization perhaps in a bid to bring the United States to the negotiating table. Asahi suspected that Washington and Tokyo may not necessarily be pleased with the Moon administration's apparent eagerness to provide economic support to the DPRK despite a lack of tangible progress toward denuclearization.

The national papers also focused on the separate accord reached between the defense ministers of the two Koreas to substantially scale back their military activities on the border to reduce mutual hostility, with Yomiuri conjecturing that the pact served to lay the groundwork for the issuance of a declaration on ending the Korean War. The paper added that with this pact, the DPRK is probably hoping to restrain the U.S. military's operations in South Korea. Sankei and Yomiuri voiced concern that the U.S.-ROK alliance's deterrence capability may weaken following the latest inter-Korean summit.

President Trump praises inter-Korean summit

All papers took up a tweet by President Trump on the inter-Korean summit in which he said he was excited about the results. They conjectured that the President appears eager to play up progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as one of his key diplomatic achievements ahead of the November midterm elections, adding that he is looking to hold another summit with Kim Jong Un later this year. Asahi claimed that some USG officials are skeptical about the latest denuclearization pact since Kim failed to submit a report describing his entire nuclear development program and a timetable for its dismantling. Asahi and Yomiuri spotlighted Secretary of State Pompeo's plan to chair a UN Security Council ministerial on North Korea on Sept. 27 where he is expected to urge all member states to enforce existing sanctions.

Japan responds cautiously to results of inter-Korean summit

All papers except Nikkei reported that in response to latest inter-Korean summit, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga reportedly said at a press conference: "We respect the efforts made by the leaders of the two Koreas". We hope that the meeting will lead to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It is important that the [June] agreement between the U.S. and the DPRK, including North Korea's commitment to complete denuclearization, be fully and swiftly implemented." The top government spokesperson added that the ROK government has briefed the GOJ on the details of the inter-Korean summit.

Yomiuri said that although the GOJ is hoping that the Pyongyang summit will lead to a breakthrough in denuclearization talks between the U.S. and the DPRK, some Abe administration officials remain skeptical of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration given that North Korea has previously moved forward with nuclear and missile development while holding dialogue with the international community. Prime Minister Abe plans to hold separate summits with President Trump and President Moon in New York later this month to confirm bilateral and trilateral coordination on North Korea. The daily added that Japanese officials are hoping that progress in U.S.-DPRK talks will renew the momentum for a meeting between Abe and Kim to resolve the abduction issue.

Asahi wrote that Japanese officials are concerned about possible disunity between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, given that inter-Korean reconciliation is progressing rapidly in the absence of progress on denuclearization.


Abe to reshuffle cabinet next month

Sankei, on the assumption that Abe will win today's presidential race, projected in a front-page article that he will likely reshuffle his cabinet and the LDP leadership on Oct. 1 in order to launch a new cabinet ahead of the opening of the extraordinary Diet session.

Mainichi published a similar story, noting that Abe is expected to secure an easy victory in the LDP presidential race and that he is likely to keep Finance Minister Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, and LDP Secretary General Nikai in their current posts.


Abe comments on passage of key security laws three years ago

Sankei took up a stump speech made by Prime Minister Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday, which marked the third anniversary of the enactment of the comprehensive security laws. He was quoted as saying that the security laws "have made the U.S.-Japan alliance the most powerful alliance". It is important to strengthen the bonds between the two nations so as to demonstrate that no country in the Asia-Pacific region can threaten Japan."


Turkish trade minister expresses willingness to conclude EPA with Japan

Wednesday's Nikkei published a written interview with Turkish Trade Minister Pekcan, during which she expressed hope for reaching a rough consensus on an economic partnership agreement with Japan by the time of the G20 summit to be held in Osaka in June 2019. The paper speculated that the two nations are holding intensive discussions on opening the Japanese market for agricultural imports from Turkey.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team