Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, September 26, 2018
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Morning news

NHK gave top play to a report on President Trump's speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, claiming that the President emphasized his "America First" approach in view of the upcoming midterm elections in November. All commercial broadcasters and the Asahi Shimbun led with reports that sumo stablemaster Takanohana submitted his resignation to the Japan Sumo Association yesterday.

Top stories in national dailies included the trade talks held between USTR Lighthizer and Economic Revitalization Minister Motegi in New York (Mainichi); a decision by the Hiroshima High Court to accept an appeal by Shikoku Electric Power Co. on restarting a nuclear reactor at the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime Prefecture (Yomiuri, Sankei); and plans by major Japanese banks to upgrade their assessments of loans to Toshiba and Sharp (Nikkei).


President Trump discusses DPRK, trade with China, Iran in UN speech

All national dailies reported extensively on President Trump's speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. The papers wrote that the President emphasized his administration's achievements including the expansion of the U.S. economy. The President expressed confidence that progress is being made in denuclearization but added that much work remains to be done and sanctions will remain in place until denuclearization is achieved. The papers also wrote that the President condemned China for its unfair trade practices and criticized Iran for supporting militant groups in the Middle East, urging other nations to cooperate with U.S. sanctions on Tehran. Sankei wrote that the President thanked Prime Minister Abe, South Korean President Moon, and Chinese President Xi for their cooperation in applying pressure on North Korea.

President Trump expresses readiness for second summit with DPRK

All national dailies in their Tuesday evening editions reported on the bilateral talks held between President Trump and South Korean President Moon on Monday in New York, during which the two leaders reportedly agreed on the need for cooperation in achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and maintaining vigorous enforcement of sanctions on North Korea. The papers wrote that President Trump reportedly told President Moon at the outset of the meeting that he is planning to hold a second summit with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un "in the not too distant future." Mainichi and Nikkei quoted Secretary of State Pompeo as telling reporters on Monday that he expects to travel to Pyongyang probably before the end of the year to make final preparations for the second meeting between the two leaders. Asahi also quoted the Secretary as saying that the United States expects the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea and that the economic sanctions that have been put in place by the UN Security Council will remain in place until the denuclearization is achieved.

Asahi wrote that the ROK leader may have sounded out President Trump on the idea of issuing a declaration of the end of the Korean War at a trilateral summit with the United States and the DPRK or a four-way summit with China when Chairman Kim visits Seoul later this year. However, Yomiuri speculated that preparations for the second U.S.-DPRK summit may run into difficulties because Washington has been urging Pyongyang to put forward specific denuclearization steps before seeking a declaration of the end of the Korean War.

Yomiuri quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga as commenting at a press briefing on Tuesday on President Trump's indication of a second summit with Chairman Kim by saying that it is important that the agreements reached between the U.S. and DPRK leaders, including North Korea's commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, are implemented fully and swiftly. Foreign Minister Kono was quoted as saying that he hopes that the denuclearization process will move forward and the UNSC resolutions will be thoroughly implemented if a second summit is held between the United States and the DPRK.

In a related development, this morning's Yomiuri wrote from New York that Panmunjom and Seoul are under consideration as possible sites for the second U.S.-DPRK summit and that such third countries as Switzerland, Sweden, and Mongolia may also be considered.

FM Kono meets with counterparts from Caribbean Community, former Soviet Union

Tuesday evening's Nikkei wrote that Foreign Minister Kono held a meeting with the foreign ministers of 14 nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on Monday in New York. According to the paper, the foreign ministers confirmed cooperation in dealing with climate change and natural disasters and discussed such issues as Japan's efforts to resolve the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea and reform the UN Security Council. Kono held a separate meeting with the foreign ministers of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova, which form the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, and confirmed cooperation among their nations.

Abe to hold talks with Iranian president

Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Abe is planning to meet with Iranian President Rouhani on Wednesday in New York, speculating that the premier will probably express Japan's continued support for the Iran nuclear deal and stress the importance of implementing the agreement.


U.S., Japan discuss bilateral trade

All national dailies reported on the second round of "free, fair, and reciprocal" trade talks held between USTR Lighthizer and Economic Revitalization Minister Motegi in New York on Tuesday. The papers wrote that Motegi told reporters afterward: "We reached a basic understanding on a course of action for promoting trade between our countries. We hope to produce a positive outcome at the U.S.-Japan summit tomorrow." However, Motegi did not disclose the details of the talks, saying that he will announce the specifics after the summit.

Asahi wrote that according to a GOJ source, Motegi proposed the launch of new bilateral talks discussing tariffs on agricultural and other products early next year and presented a draft agreement on the possible start of the new talks. The paper speculated that Japan is envisaging a scenario in which President Trump and Prime Minister Abe reach an official agreement on the proposed launch of bilateral talks at their summit to be held on Wednesday. Yomiuri ran a similar report, speculating that the U.S. side expressed basic agreement with the proposal. Nikkei conjectured that Tokyo gave consideration to Washington by agreeing to hold bilateral talks, including discussions on tariffs. The paper also conjectured that Japan insisted at the Lighthizer-Motegi meeting that the United States shelve the idea of imposing additional tariffs on auto imports as a condition for entering bilateral tariff talks.

Asahi wrote, however, that it remains to be seen whether the President, who is strongly dissatisfied with the trade deficit with Japan, will agree to the proposal. The paper conjectured that despite its reluctance to hold bilateral talks, Tokyo has shifted its policy to accept bilateral discussions with Washington based on the judgement that it has no choice but to enter bilateral talks on tariffs in order to avoid high auto tariffs. Yomiuri wrote that attention will be focused on whether Abe will be able to obtain a clear answer from the President.

U.S., Japan, EU agree on WTO reform

NHK reported on its website that Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Seko attended a "tripolar trade ministers' meeting" with USTR Lighthizer and European Commissioner for Trade Malmstrom on Tuesday in New York, saying that the three ministers agreed to move forward with WTO reform and are planning to submit a joint proposal to strengthen WTO rules as early as next month. Noting that the Trump administration has been claiming that China has been stealing high-tech technology from the U.S. and is frustrated with the current WTO system, the network said Japan and EU are hoping to ease U.S. dissatisfaction by reforming the WTO and urging the U.S., which has been unilaterally raising tariffs, to act based on international trade rules. Seko reportedly told reporters after the meeting: "Promoting WTO reforms will help to prevent 'trade wars' between two nations." The network said, however, that it remains to be seen whether WTO reform will move forward following the trilateral agreement, adding that attention will be focused on how other nations, including China, will respond.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team