Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, October 3, 2018
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Morning news

Most networks and all national papers led with reports on the launch of the fourth Abe cabinet yesterday. Fuji TV led with a report on a press conference held by Kyoto University Professor Tasuku Honjo, who won this year's Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

On the cabinet reshuffle, all national dailies took up Prime Minister Abe's press conference last night in which he emphasized that the new cabinet will address the issue of the nation's declining birthrate and rapidly aging population and overhaul the social welfare system. He underscored that an LDP proposal on constitutional amendment will be submitted to the extraordinary Diet session to be convened later this month. Abe retained key cabinet ministers, including Foreign Minister Kono, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, Finance Minister Aso, and Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Motegi. He also tapped Takeshi Iwaya as defense minister and Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi as Okinawa affairs minister. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga was given the additional post of minister in charge of the abduction issue.


Ambassador Hagerty hails bilateral trade talks, calls for stronger U.S.-Japan coordination to deal with China

Sankei published an exclusive interview with Ambassador Hagerty. On last week's summit between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump, Ambassador Hagerty reportedly stated that the two leaders' agreement on launching bilateral trade talks is the "most important message." However, he rejected the term "TAG" (trade agreement on goods), emphasizing that this is not the term used by the U.S. government. The daily took this comment to mean that when entering new trade talks with Japan, the Trump administration will aim to forge a comprehensive liberalization deal that covers not only goods but also services. The Ambassador reportedly dismissed the possibility of the U.S. rejoining the TPP by citing the political environment at home, adding: "Our only option is a bilateral agreement. I think Prime Minister Abe has finally realized that this is very important for the Japan-U.S. relationship."

On China, the Ambassador was quoted as saying: "I was extremely encouraged to see the joint announcement by Japan, the U.S. and the EU to work to reform the WTO in areas such as e-commerce, intellectual property theft, technology transfer, state-owned enterprises, and subsidies." The Ambassador reportedly stressed that China simply needs to change its behavior.


President Trump comments on trade talks with Abe

All Tuesday evening papers wrote that when speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, President Trump reportedly commented on his recent summit meeting with Prime Minister Abe, during which the two officials agreed to launch bilateral tariff negotiations. According to the papers, the President noted that he told Abe that the U.S. will impose hefty tariffs on autos if Japan doesn't negotiate and that Japan responded by agreeing to start negotiations immediately. Nikkei quoted the President as saying that the premier told him that many Japanese automakers have invested in the U.S. over the last year and a half and that they will expand their investment in the future. Yomiuri wrote that the President reportedly cited his administration's recent trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, and South Korea and said that the U.S. would not have succeeded in the negotiations on these agreements without referring to auto tariffs. Asahi speculated that although the U.S. agreed in the latest U.S.-Japan summit not to impose higher tariffs on Japanese cars while tariff negotiations are underway, Washington may bring up the issue again depending on how the talks go.

Today's dailies carried follow-up reports, saying that Tokyo is bracing for the possibility of the Trump administration stepping up the pressure on Japan to further open up its market to U.S. products in the planned so-called "TAG" trade talks. The dailies highlighted remarks by USTR Lighthizer, who said that the USMCA will serve as a "template" for future trade agreements under the Trump administration and that it is a "paradigm-shifting model." Asahi asserted that the Trump administration will not back down in protecting U.S. domestic industries, while Nikkei projected that USTR Lighthizer is likely to demand Japan adopt "quantitative restrictions" on U.S.-bound autos. The business daily also quoted an unnamed senior White House official as saying that the "issue of currency will be discussed" with Japan. Mainichi wrote that the Abe administration is alarmed by Washington's attempts to "manage trade," expressing the view that Tokyo may come under pressure to adopt a currency provision similar to the one agreed upon in the USMCA deal.


Secretary Pompeo to visit DPRK capital this week

Asahi reported on the disclosure by several sources involved in inter-Korean relations (and later confirmed by State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert) that Secretary of State Pompeo will visit Pyongyang this week, noting that he is expected to hold a trilateral meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts after visiting the DPRK capital. Meanwhile, NHK reported that Secretary Pompeo will visit Pyongyang on Oct. 7 and meet with Chairman Kim, adding that prior to visiting Pyongyang, he will make a stopover in Japan from Oct. 6 to 7 to meet with Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Kono.

DPRK criticizes U.S. stance on denuclearization talks

Tuesday evening's Asahi wrote that North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday ran a commentary criticizing the United States' posture toward its denuclearization talks with the DPRK by claiming that Washington is making unilateral demands on Pyongyang and that a declaration of the official end of the Korean War is a fair demand based on the U.S.-DPRK statement agreed upon in June. The KCNA claimed: "Although we have been taking substantive steps, the United States has been reiterating the need for strengthened sanctions. We will not insist on a declaration of the end of the Korean War if the United States doesn't want one." The paper speculated that the message was intended as a warning to the U.S. prior to Secretary of State Pompeo's planned visit to Pyongyang this month.

Chinese military vessel sails near U.S. Aegis ship in South China Sea

All Tuesday evening papers wrote that the U.S. Pacific Fleet announced on Monday that a Chinese Navy destroyer came within 41 meters of the USS Decatur in the vicinity of Gaven Reef near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Sept. 30 while the U.S. vessel was engaged in "freedom of navigation operations." Asahi wrote that the Pacific Fleet criticized the Chinese move as an "unsafe and unprofessional maneuver." The Chinese Defense Ministry on Tuesday issued a statement saying that China resolutely opposes actions by any nation to make unlawful provocations under the name of "freedom of navigation." Yomiuri conjectured that the tensions between the U.S. and China are likely to grow as a result.

China installs buoy around Senkakus

Sankei front-paged the finding that a large Chinese buoy has been installed within Japan's EEZ in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, speculating that it is intended to collect weather and other data for military purposes. The buoy bears the words "PRC State Oceanic Administration." The GOJ has reportedly lodged a protest.

ROK lawmaker submits bill to ban ships from flying rising sun flag

Asahi and Sankei reported from Seoul that a South Korean ruling party politician on Tuesday submitted to the parliament legislation prohibiting the passage through its territorial waters of ships flying the rising sun flag. The bill is in response to Japan's plan to send an SDF vessel displaying a rising sun flag to an ROK-Navy-sponsored naval review off Jeju Island in mid-October.

Osaka ends sister-city relationship with San Francisco

Asahi and Mainichi reported on an announcement made by the municipal government of Osaka on Tuesday that it has terminated its sister-city relationship with San Francisco given that the U.S. city had not responded by Sept. 30 to its letter requesting the removal of a comfort women statute that was erected in the city last September. Osaka Mayor Yoshimura told the press that the relationship of trust between the two municipalities has been "destroyed."


GSDF, British Army conduct joint training in Japan

Yomiuri wrote that a joint drill involving GSDF and British Army troops was opened to the press yesterday at an SDF camp in Shizuoka, saying that this was the first joint training ever held in Japan between the two services. Some 50 British personnel are currently taking part in the two-week training that began on Sunday. The British general who heads the UK troops told the press that their participation signifies a strengthened security relationship between the UK and Japan.


International panel makes recommendation to Japan on research whaling

Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Sankei reported that the governing body of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (known as the Washington Convention) has asked Japan to take corrective measures on its research whaling of sei whales, which the panel claimed is conducted for "commercial purposes." According to the article, the GOJ has insisted that research whaling of the species constitutes "academic research." The GOJ reportedly needs to respond to the recommendation by next February.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team