Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Morning news

NHK, TV Asahi, NTV, and Fuji TV gave extensive coverage to Kyoto University Distinguished Professor Tasuku Honjo's attendance at the Nobel Prize award ceremony and banquet in Stockholm last night, noting he was the first laureate to wear a formal Japanese haori and hakama since literature prize winner Yasunari Kawabata in 1968. TBS gave top coverage to a report that today is the coldest day of the season in the Tokyo area.

Major front-page items in national papers included the resignation of all nine private-sector executives of the 11-member board of directors of the public-private fund Japan Investment Corporation over a feud with METI concerning their remuneration, the indictment of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn and his top aide Greg Kelly, a GOJ decision not to procure telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei and ZTE, and the admission by two medical colleges in the Kanto area that they discriminated against female applicants.


Japanese telecom giants to exclude Chinese firms when procuring 5G equipment

Asahi and Mainichi reported that in reply to a GOJ decision to include "security risks" as a factor in procurement decisions, Softbank disclosed on Monday that it will "take a concerted approach with the central government" when purchasing equipment for the planned launch of 5G telecommunications networks next year. Although the firm reportedly stressed that the policy does not target certain manufacturers, the daily speculated that it is meant to exclude Huawei and ZTE. Japan's two other telecom giants, NTT Docomo and KDDI, have yet to announce their responses to the GOJ move.

Yomiuri speculated that NTT Docomo is likely to adopt the same policy as Softbank, noting that the two Japanese carriers have undertaken 5G-related demonstration experiments using equipment provided by Huawei. Nikkei claimed that all three telecom giants, as well as Rakuten, which plans to launch 5G services next autumn, are inclined to steer clear of Chinese products, explaining that U.S. pressure to exclude Chinese telecom equipment is having an impact on Japanese corporate decision-making.

As for the GOJ's plan to change its internal rules for telecom equipment procurement, Prime Minister Abe told the press last night: "It is important not to procure equipment with functions of malicious intent". This is not aimed at excluding specific companies or equipment." Nikkei wrote that unlike the U.S. and the four other "Five Eyes," Japan has chosen not to single out Huawei and other Chinese firms by name so as to avoid disrupting the Abe administration's recent reconciliation with the Chinese government.

Japan to earmark 27 trillion yen for defense spending from FY2019 to 2023

Nikkei, Yomiuri, and Sankei reported that the Abe administration has decided to allocate a total of some 27 trillion yen for defense in the five-year period through FY2023, the largest amount ever. According to Nikkei, when updating later this month the Mid-Term Defense Program for the next five years starting with FY2019, the GOJ is expected to specify for the first time the amount of money to be spent on defense equipment in a bid to mitigate the Trump administration's pressure to rectify the bilateral trade imbalance. The amount will reportedly be set at about 17 trillion yen.

Collision between U.S. military planes off Shikoku categorized as "Class A" mishap

Sankei took up an announcement made on Monday by III MEF that the collision between an FA-18 and a KC-130 off Kochi Prefecture has been categorized as a "Class A" mishap. According to the announcement, the mishap reportedly occurred while the two planes were engaged in regular training. Search operations for the air tanker's five missing crew members are ongoing.


Abe likely to forgo issuing message to meeting of Japan-ROK parliamentary groups

Asahi speculated that Prime Minister Abe probably will not send a congratulatory message to a meeting of parliamentary leagues promoting Japan-ROK ties to be held in Seoul on Friday in view of the renewed tension over history disputes. A group of some 30 Japanese Diet members is expected to visit the ROK capital for the annual confab and its leader, former Finance Minister Nukaga, is planning to pay a courtesy call on President Moon. The premier reportedly does not plan to ask the Japanese politician to deliver a letter to the ROK leader. A GOJ source was quoted as saying that "Prime Minister Abe has nothing to say" to the conference or President Moon amid the deterioration in bilateral ties.

Japanese, ROK vice foreign ministers discuss denuclearization

Yomiuri and Nikkei reported that Vice Foreign Minister Akiba and his South Korean counterpart met in Tokyo yesterday and affirmed enhanced coordination with the U.S. in pressing the DPRK to take steps toward denuclearization.

Congress adopts motion on investigating American possibly kidnapped by DPRK

Sankei wrote from Washington that the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution in late November asking the Trump administration to conduct a thorough investigation into the fate of American David Sneddon, who disappeared in 2004 in China's Yunnan Province. The resolution reportedly claimed that the Brigham Young University student was probably abducted by North Korean agents and is still being held in the DPRK, and called for the USG to join forces with Japan in investigating the case. The daily expressed strong hope that the U.S. legislature's move will support Japanese efforts to resolve the abduction issue.

Russian deputy prime minister says Abe, Putin have "never" discussed return of islands

NHK reported this morning that although Japan and Russia have agreed to accelerate negotiations for a peace treaty based on the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Communique, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Trutnev, who is in charge of the Far East, was quoted as referring to the Northern Territories on Dec. 10 by saying "the two leaders have never discussed the issue of the handing over of the islands; they have only discussed joint economic activities on these islands," thus emphasizing a hard line ahead of the diplomatic negotiations. NHK speculated that Trutnev's statement was meant to appease Russian public opinion that largely disapproves of the return of the Northern Territories to Japan, and to set conditions in the territorial talks, including a Japanese commitment not to allow the deployment of U.S. Forces to the islands.


U.S. trade lobbying groups demand greater market access to Japan

Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei wrote that the USTR convened a hearing in Washington on Monday to solicit opinions from industrial organizations in preparation for the planned start of new trade talks with Japan. According to Yomiuri, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) criticized Japan for impeding access to the Japanese auto market with currency manipulation and nontariff barriers such as discriminatory taxes on U.S. products. Various American trade lobbies, including the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the American Automotive Policy Council, planned to attend the session to urge the Trump administration to press the Japanese government to import more U.S. products. The trade lobbies are reportedly calling for Washington to negotiate a deal with Tokyo that will give them greater access to the Japanese market than Tokyo promised other trading partners under the TPP11. NHK carried a similar report this morning.


NHK poll puts cabinet support at 41%

NHK reported on Monday evening that an opinion poll it conducted on Dec. 8-9 showed that the cabinet support rating was 41%, down by 5 percent points from last month, while the disapproval rate was 38%, up by 1 point.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team