Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, December 4, 2018
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on the demonstrations in France over fuel price increases. NTV, TV Asahi, TBS, and Fuji TV all reported extensively on the first day of the trial of a prominent "road rage" incident last year that resulted in the deaths of a couple and the injury of their two children.

Major front-page items included Okinawa's strong opposition to the GOJ's decision to begin pouring earth into the Henoko reclamation site on Dec. 14, the Abe administration's plan to convene a regular Diet session in late January with an eye on holding Upper House elections on July 21, and updates on the controversy over the arrest of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn. Sankei claimed that Tokyo prosecutors are expected to seek fresh arrest warrants against Ghosn and his aide Greg Kelly on charges of understating Ghosn's income in annual stock disclosure reports from FY2015 through FY2017. The two suspects were initially arrested for similar charges covering five years through FY2014.


President Trump to visit Japan next May or June as state guest

Asahi highlighted the disclosure by an unnamed high-ranking Abe administration official that coordination is underway between the GOJ and the USG for President Trump to visit Japan in May or June next year as a state guest. Pointing out that Crown Prince Naruhito is set to ascend the throne on May 1, the daily projected that the U.S. leader is likely to become the first foreign dignitary to meet the new emperor. The President's trip will be arranged sometime between May 1 and June 28-29 when the G20 summit is slated to take place in Osaka. According to the daily, President Trump commented on his possible meeting with the new Japanese emperor during his latest summit with Prime Minister Abe in Buenos Aires over the weekend by saying: "I would be extremely honored."

Abe capitalizes on ties with President Trump in diplomacy with other nations

Nikkei wrote that Prime Minister Abe has been conducting balanced diplomacy with major foreign partners such as China, Russia, and France by taking advantage of his close bonds with President Trump. The paper noted that as the premier is expected to chair the G20 next year, he appears to be eager to exercise strong leadership in order to call attention to Japan's role as a leading advocate of free trade prior to the Upper House election next summer. The paper claimed that German Chancellor Merkel and other European leaders who used to play key roles in maintaining balance between the U.S., China, and Russia have lost their diplomatic clout due to problems at home and this has allowed the Japanese leader to enjoy the limelight in global diplomacy. While speculating that Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi have extended overtures to Abe perhaps on account of his strong connections with the U.S. leader, the daily warned that Moscow and Beijing may lose interest in reaching out to Tokyo if they are able to improve their ties with the Trump administration. The daily also mentioned the possibility that President Trump could at some point turn critical of Japan.

Warrant to be served against ex-ROK judge for delaying rulings in requisitioned worker cases

Asahi wrote that Seoul prosecutors on Monday asked a district court to issue a warrant for the arrest of a former Supreme Court justice for abuse of authority. The paper noted that the judge, who sat on the bench from 2011 through 2017, is suspected of postponing the issuance of rulings on cases of Koreans requisitioned to work in Japanese plants during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in response to requests by the Park administration, which was reportedly concerned that verdicts ordering compensation would damage its relations with Japan. According to the daily, the top South Korean court did not issue rulings on those cases over five years until this October.

Russian ambassador to Japan confirms territorial issue not included in new framework

TV Asahi reported briefly on Monday evening that Russian Ambassador to Japan Galuzin confirmed at a news conference an earlier remark made by Presidential Assistant Ushakov that the Northern Territories issue will not be on the agenda of the new framework for peace treaty talks agreed upon by Prime Minister Abe and President Putin in Buenos Aires on Dec. 2. Ushakov made the statement shortly before the summit meeting.

Abe meets with leaders of Uruguay, Paraguay

Monday evening's Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that Japan and Uruguay agreed to allow two-way beef imports at a meeting held between Prime Minister Abe and Uruguayan President Vazquez on Sunday in Montevideo. The two leaders also discussed the launch of negotiations on a tax treaty. Abe later visited Asuncion to hold talks with Paraguay President Benitez. The two leaders reportedly agreed to swiftly conclude negotiations on an investment accord, and Abe pledged 500 million yen in grant-in-aid to support healthcare services in Paraguay.


Okinawa determined to thwart landfill work off Camp Schwab

All national dailies reported on a GOJ decision to begin pouring earth into the FRF site in waters off Henoko on Dec. 14, saying that soil for landfill was loaded onto a cargo ship yesterday at a newly built pier owned by a commercial firm in Nago for shipment to the construction site. Okinawa reportedly reacted sharply to the plan, with Governor Tamaki telling the press: "Prime Minister Abe has said he is sympathetic to Okinawa. It is truly regrettable that the central government has decided to conduct landfill operations right after we held consultations." The Okinawa prefectural government is expected to instruct to the company to forego the loading operation on the grounds that it failed to notify the prefectural government of the completion of the pier construction work.

Asahi explained that the GOJ chose to use the commercial port for shipping earth because the municipal government of Motobu refused to allow the Defense Ministry to use its pier as originally planned. The central government was reportedly determined to start the landfill work this year based on the assessment that if it were delayed until next year, it would have adverse effects on the planned prefecture-wide referendum on Futenma relocation on Feb. 24, a series of municipal elections in the island prefecture, a special April by-election to fill a Lower House seat vacated by Governor Tamaki, and the Upper House election in the summer. The administration is reportedly hoping that public and opposition bloc criticism of the landfill work will fade over New Year holiday season.

Japan to authorize cyber response to cyberattacks that cause serious damage to infrastructure

Yomiuri front-paged a GOJ plan to stipulate the conditions under which the SDF would be allowed to initiate cyberattacks, noting that the SDF would be authorized to launch a counter cyberattack if the perpetrator of the original attack were clearly identified and the nation's critical infrastructure such as utility and railway operations were seriously disrupted as a result of the attack. Anti-cyberattack operations would be permitted even in the absence of an attack by conventional weapons. The cabinet is expected to approve this policy in mid-December.


Japan mulls participation in U.S. fast reactor project

Monday evening's Yomiuri reported on its recent finding that METI is studying the idea of Japan's participation in a U.S. project to develop a fast reactor. The reactor, which is expected to go into operation as early as 2026, will be the world's most advanced experimental reactor. The paper speculated that Japan's participation is intended to strengthen the U.S.-Japan nuclear cooperation agreement. Noting that a fast reactor is a high-performance reactor capable of efficiently using nuclear materials such as plutonium in addition to the uranium used by a conventional reactor, the paper wrote that the Japanese government regards a fast reactor as a central feature in the nuclear fuel cycle. The U.S. experimental fast breeder reactor is a sodium-cooled and versatile test reactor (VTR) that is expected to be designed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a joint venture between General Electric and Hitachi. The paper added that since the GOJ decided to decommission the Monju fast breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture in 2016, it has regarded the French demonstration reactor Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID) as a pillar of fast reactor development. However, since the French government is reviewing the ASTRID project, the paper conjectured that Tokyo is planning to deepen its relations with the United States.

The daily carried an update this morning, adding that the GOJ is likely to exchange memorandums on this partnership with the USG in the near future.


GOJ committed to deepening space cooperation with U.S.

Nikkei reported that the GOJ on Monday released a roadmap for its space policy, noting that it specified Tokyo's desire to promote cooperation with the U.S. to hone capabilities to detect launches of ballistic missiles in view of a U.S. plan to develop next-generation early warning satellites.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team