Morning Alert   -   Thursday, December 6, 2018
The following information reflects the reporting of the cited news media and does not reflect the opinions of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Japan Media Highlights is intended for USG use only and should not be forwarded. Visit the website here. For more information, contact TokyoMATT@state.gov.


Morning news

NHK interrupted its lead story on the immigration bill now before the Diet with a news flash saying that several U.S. reporters covering the Defense Department reported online that an F-18 fighter and a KC-130 air tanker from the Iwakuni military base were involved in an accident while refueling and both of them crashed into the sea. In response to an inquiry from NHK, the U.S. Marines' public affairs office acknowledged that there was an aircraft accident near the Japan coast and that further details will be provided as they become available.

NHK later reported on its morning news program that according to the Defense Ministry, it was informed by the U.S. Forces that an FA-18 fighter and a KC-130 air tanker collided at an altitude of 100 kilometers over waters south of Cape Muroto in Kochi Prefecture and both aircraft crashed into the sea at around 1:40 a.m. today. The FA-18 had a crew of two and the KC-130 had five service members onboard. The ADSF launched a rescue operation and has been able to rescue one U.S. service member so far.

NHK said that the U.S. Marine Corps in Japan issued the following comment: "An FA-18 fighter and a KC-130 air tanker that took off from the Iwakuni base for routine training off the Japan coast collided at around 2:00 a.m. A search and rescue operation is underway and the cause of the accident is being investigated."

NTV, TBS, TV Asahi, and Fuji TV led with reports on an incident in which sumo wrestler Takanoiwa assaulted his attendant.

Top stories in national dailies included a Defense Ministry plan to withdraw from participation in the final assembly of F-35As to be procured by the ASDF (Sankei), a plan by the ruling coalition to pass the bill to amend the immigration law tomorrow (Mainichi), a plan by the Financial Services Agency to require listed firms to provide detailed disclosures of directors' remuneration (Nikkei), a plan by the Health Ministry to allow some doctors to work long work hours (Asahi), and a third-party panel probe concluding there was gender discrimination in past entrance exams for Juntendo University (Yomiuri).


President Trump reportedly to visit Japan next May

Fuji TV aired this morning an exclusive report citing Japanese and U.S. diplomatic sources saying that the two governments are making arrangement for President Trump to visit Japan as a state guest from May 26, 2019. He will stay in Japan for three days and two nights, according to the report.

All Wednesday morning national dailies took up a disclosure by an unnamed senior Abe administration official regarding the arrangements allegedly being made between the USG and the GOJ for President Trump to visit Japan next May or June as a state guest. The dailies speculated that since the President is also expected to visit Osaka in late June to attend the G20 summit, he might end up visiting Japan twice in just two months, which the articles stressed would be extremely unusual. The Abe administration is reportedly making arrangements for President Trump to be the first foreign dignitary to meet with the new emperor, who will ascend the throne on May 1.

While claiming that Prime Minister Abe has several times sounded out the President about visiting Japan in May, Nikkei explained that the premier is keen to invite the U.S. leader as his close bonds with him have solidified his political footing at home. The paper also conjectured that the invitation was probably intended to ease U.S. pressure ahead of the start of new bilateral trade talks early next year.

According to the papers, it is the custom to invite only a small number of foreign leaders as state guests each year, and the honor might be extended to President Xi of China next year. Some GOJ officials are reportedly concerned about giving the impression that President Trump and President Xi are competing over who gets to meet with the new emperor first. According to a GOJ source cited by Asahi, "President Xi would not object if President Trump were the first" foreign leader to meet with the new emperor. While noting that it is well known that Abe attaches foremost importance to his ties with the U.S. leader, Nikkei said the premier should not use the emperor to advance his political agenda. Mainichi quoted an unnamed senior Kantei official as saying: "We will not use the emperor for political purposes, but we will be able to signify that the United States is important to us."

Abe invited Putin to visit Japan next summer

Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei wrote that LDP Deputy Secretary General Hagiuda disclosed in a TV interview on Wednesday that during their bilateral talks in Argentina Prime Minister Abe invited Russian President Putin to visit Japan next summer. Abe reportedly invited the Russian leader to visit Tokyo to watch the World Judo Championships to be held from Aug. 25 through Sept. 1.

FM Kono to visit Russia this month

Nikkei wrote that Foreign Minister Kono is making arrangements to visit Russia this month for talks with his Russian counterpart Lavrov to move forward bilateral negotiations on a peace treaty. The paper noted that Kono is planning to accompany Prime Minister Abe on his trip to Russia next January.

Japan to start space dialogue with India

Wednesday morning's Nikkei wrote that the GOJ plans to launch a policy dialogue on space cooperation with India within the next several months. In the dialogue, government officials, scientists, and engineers from JAXA and the India Space Research Organization are expected to exchange views on how to share technological expertise and scientific and security data collected by their own reconnaissance satellites. India is reportedly interested in tapping Japanese know-how in order to strengthen its monitoring of Chinese military activities on its border with China, while Japan is anxious to learn from India's strong capability to monitor the ocean from space with the goal of enhancing its ability to monitor Chinese naval operations in the East China Sea and detect possible ballistic missile launches by North Korea. Cooperation on surveillance of space debris will also be a key topic of discussion.

Koreans requisitioned to work in Japanese plants plan legal action to seize firm's assets

All Wednesday morning papers took up a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday by lawyers for South Koreans requisitioned to work in Japanese plants during the WWII. The Korean lawyers reportedly stressed that if Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp continues to refuse to hold talks on the payment of compensation ordered by the ROK Supreme Court, they will take legal action to seize the company's financial assets in South Korea. The attorneys have reportedly set Dec. 24 as the deadline. The Japanese steel firm has already twice rejected their requests for meetings.

In a related story, Nikkei wrote that the Moon administration has launched an inter-agency taskforce in charge of dealing with the recent Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese corporations to pay compensation to Koreans requisitioned to work in their plants during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Asahi wrote that several ideas have been discussed within the Moon administration on how to deal with the controversial court verdicts, such as launching a fund, filing a suit with the International Court of Justice, and expressing support for the implementation of the rulings.


GOJ plans to procure F-35s

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ on Wednesday explained to the ruling coalition's working team discussing the National Defense Program Guidelines its plan to procure F-35A and F-35B fighter jets. The papers wrote that the GOJ also told the working team that it is also planning to convert two Izumo-class MSDF vessels to de facto "aircraft carriers." The working team reportedly asked the government to further explain how the plan is consistent with its view that the Constitution does not allow Japan to possess "attack aircraft carriers."

Asahi wrote that the working team agreed to call Izumo a "multipurpose escort ship" and that the GOJ and the ruling coalition will support this idea for the purpose of deflecting criticism from the opposition bloc that Japan cannot possess an "attack aircraft carrier" under the Constitution.

In a related development, Sankei claimed that the Ministry of Defense has decided that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will forgo participating in the final assembly of F-35As to be procured by the ASDF in order to curb the procurement cost, explaining that Japan will be able to save 3 to 5 billion yen per unit if it purchases finished products.

GOJ resumes earth loading operation for Henoko landfill

Asahi, Mainichi, and Sankei wrote that Defense Minister Iwaya announced on Wednesday that the GOJ resumed that morning the loading of earth onto ships in preparation for reclamation work in waters off Henoko that had been temporarily suspended. Asahi wrote that the GOJ's plan to begin pouring earth into the site on Dec. 14 has not changed. Mainichi quoted Okinawa Governor Tamaki as saying in response to Iwaya's announcement that the move is outrageous.

GOJ to maintain current level of economic development funding for Okinawa

Wednesday morning's Mainichi wrote that the Abe administration is likely to earmark over 300 billion yen for economic development of Okinawa in the FY2019 budget, almost the same level as this fiscal year. The central government's economic development budget for the island prefecture has been reduced in the past several years because of former Governor Onaga's opposition to the FRF project. According to the daily, the administration is inclined not to reduce it any further in order to prevent Okinawa's opposition to the central government from escalating as the FRF construction work off Camp Schwab is expected to pick up speed next year.


Japan to give up on nuclear power generation project in Turkey

Asahi wrote that the GOJ has begun discussing with the Turkish government the possibility of giving up on their agreed-upon plan for an alliance between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and French businesses to construct four nuclear reactors in the city of Sinop on the Black Sea. The paper wrote that negotiations with Turkey stalled after the Japanese side estimated that the construction cost would likely increase to around 4 trillion yen due to heightened safety requirements in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. The first reactor was expected to come online in 2023. The project reportedly gained momentum after Prime Minister Abe and Turkish President Erdogan confirmed its implementation at their summit meeting in 2013. However, according to a GOJ source, the two leaders discussed the difficulty of realizing the project and the possibility of canceling it at their bilateral talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina. The paper added that the GOJ is hoping to continue energy cooperation with Turkey despite the possible cancellation of the existing project and plans to send Industry Minister Seko to Ankara in mid-January or later to propose a plan to construct a cutting-edge coal-fired power plant in the nation. The paper commented that the possible cancellation of the project will likely derail Abe's plans to boost Japan's nuclear industry by exporting its technology to foreign nations as part of his growth strategy.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team