Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, October 30, 2018
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Morning news

NHK and TV Asahi led with reports on the crash of a Lion Air plane in Indonesia on Monday. NTV led with a report that the Japanese men's gymnastics team won the bronze medal at the world championships on Monday. TBS gave top play to a report that a man with whom lawmaker Eriko Imai was having an affair was convicted of fraud charges on Monday. Fuji TV led with a report on the wedding ceremony of Princess Ayako and Kei Moriya on Monday.

Major front-page stories in national papers included German Chancellor Merkel's announcement yesterday that she will not seek reelection in 2021, a Japan-India summit held in Tokyo on Monday, and an LDP panel's endorsement of government-sponsored legislation to ease regulations on accepting foreign laborers.


PM Abe holds summit with Indian leader Modi

All papers reported on a meeting held at the Kantei last night between Prime Minister Abe and his Indian counterpart Modi during which they agreed to enhance cooperation in security, including starting negotiations for a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement for their militaries, launching a "space dialogue," and establishing a 2+2 framework between foreign and defense ministers, which Abe characterized as "signifying the arrival of a new Japan-India relationship." In their twelfth summit, the two leaders also agreed to advance cooperation for the development of artificial intelligence and other digital technology. They also affirmed the need to conclude a currency swap accord to prepare for the possibility of a financial crisis.

Yomiuri wrote that with China's rapid arms expansion and maritime advancement in mind, Abe was keen to elicit India's cooperation in moving forward with his "free and open Indo-Pacific" initiative, claiming that even though Modi was initially hesitant about the idea of establishing a 2+2 framework, Abe succeeded in persuading him. While noting that Japan-China ties are expected to improve further following Abe's recent visit to Beijing, the Japanese leader is reportedly set to further deepen diplomatic partnerships with the U.S., India, and Australia with the goal of curbing China's influence. Sankei and Nikkei wrote that Abe hosted the Indian leader right after his trip to Beijing in a bid to hold China's "expansionist approach" in check by demonstrating Japan's strong bonds with India based on such values as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.

However, Asahi wrote that New Delhi is not enthusiastic about the "free and open Indo-Pacific" initiative because of the implication that it is aimed at reining in China, quoting an unnamed senior Indian official as saying that no country should be excluded from an initiative calling for an "open" Indo-Pacific. While noting that the Modi administration is concerned about China's "Belt and Road" initiative in the belief that it is probably aimed at encircling India, New Delhi is still cautious about alienating China since it is India's largest trade partner.

In a related story, Sankei published an interview with Foreign Minister Kono, who said Abe's trip to China was a "second major step" toward putting bilateral relations back on a normal track following Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's trip to Japan in May. He stressed that with Abe's China trip, the two nations successfully brought an end to an era in which their leaders were not able to visit each other's countries. Kono also spoke about the South Korean Supreme Court's plan to issue a ruling today on a damages lawsuit against Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal for forced labor during Japan's colonial rule, underscoring that all issues related to wartime compensation with Seoul have already been settled and that it is inconceivable that the Japanese defendant will lose the case.

Xi repeatedly mentioned President Trump in meeting with Abe

Yomiuri took up the disclosure by a GOJ source that when hosting a dinner for Prime Minister Abe in Beijing on Friday, Chinese President Xi repeatedly brought up President Trump as a topic of discussion. The paper conjectured that this reflects Xi's strong interest in ascertaining the U.S. leader's true intentions amid China's escalated friction with the Trump administration. In response to the Chinese leader's comment that "President Trump has apparently said nice things about me," Abe said, "Yes, indeed. The President has high regard for you". The U.S. and China should deepen dialogue."

U.S., ROK senior diplomats discuss North Korea's denuclearization

Asahi wrote from Seoul that visiting U.S. Representative for North Korea Biegun held talks with South Korea's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee on Monday and exchanged views on DPRK denuclearization and inter-Korean economic cooperation. Following his separate meeting with Foreign Minister Kang, Biegun reportedly emphasized the importance of deepening communications and coordination between Washington and Seoul in order to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea. The daily added that he was probably eager to address mounting concern within the international community that the rapid rapprochement between the Moon administration and the Kim regime, as evidenced by the planned start in late November of construction work to connect the two nations through roads and railways, will weaken global sanctions on the DPRK in the absence of concrete progress on denuclearization.

Sankei ran a similar report, quoting Biegun as saying that the U.S. and South Korea share the goal of ending hostility on the Korean Peninsula and achieving complete denuclearization and that he is absolutely confident that the goals shared by the two nations' leaders can be achieved.


Land ministry to issue stay of execution of Okinawa's rescindment of landfill permit

Yomiuri projected that Land and Transport Minister Ishii will probably issue a stay of execution today to suspend the Okinawa prefectural government's rescindment of the landfill permit for the FRF construction off Camp Schwab. The minister has reportedly concluded that the ongoing suspension of FRF construction work following the rescindment in mid-August should be ended quickly so as to remove the danger around MCAS Futenma as soon as possible. The Defense Ministry is reportedly expected to resume the construction work soon. According to the daily, the prefectural government is likely to take legal steps to counter the land minister's move by filing a complaint with a third-party panel under the supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications which is tasked with settling disputes between the central government and local governments.

Field surveys begin to finalize locations for Aegis Ashore batteries

Mainichi wrote that the Defense Ministry started conducting field surveys on Monday around two GSDF camps in Akita and Yamaguchi Prefectures to check whether the geological and other features of these locations are appropriate for accommodating the Aegis Ashore platforms that the ministry is hoping to deploy there. The results of the probes, which will also address the potential impact on human health of the radio waves emitted by the platforms' radar, are expected to be released by the end of March 2019.

U.S., Japan hold consultations on "nuclear umbrella"

Nikkei wrote that the U.S. and Japan held a session of the Extended Deterrence Dialogue in Tokyo yesterday, noting that the participants exchanged views on how to maintain and strengthen nuclear deterrence as part of bilateral security and defense cooperation. The talks will reportedly continue until Wednesday.


Abe provides explanation to parliament on "TAG" talks with U.S.

Nikkei highlighted yesterday's Diet session, during which Prime Minister Abe was criticized by opposition officials for agreeing with President Trump to launch the so-called "TAG" negotiations, which they insisted should be regarded as FTA talks. In response, the premier said: "There is no internationally established definition of an FTA. As a matter of semantics, I acknowledge that some people hold the view that the TAG talks are a type of FTA talks". I am determined to safeguard the nation's agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries without fail."

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team