Morning Alert   -   Friday, December 14, 2018
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on the scheduled start of earth-pouring operations at the Henoko landfill site this morning, with live coverage of protesters outside the gate of Camp Schwab. Fuji TV's lead story was Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang's acknowledgement yesterday that a second Canadian was detained by Chinese authorities for engaging in activities "undermining China's national security." Other TV networks gave top coverage to the fatal train accident in Ankara, Turkey, yesterday, the discovery of the body of a woman in Aichi, and a traffic accident in Hokkaido.

Top stories in national dailies included a plan by Japan Post to invest in the U.S. insurance company Aflac (Nikkei), draft outlines of a new government program to accept more foreign workers (Mainichi, Yomiuri), a Health Ministry plan to review the current system of charging additional fees for pregnant women at hospitals (Sankei), and a Health Ministry panel's approval for new cancer drugs to be covered by public health insurance from next spring (Asahi).


Chinese President Xi forgoes attending national ceremony for victims of Nanjing Incident

Asahi wrote that Chinese President Xi and other senior government officials did not attend a national ceremony held at a memorial hall in Nanjing on Thursday to commemorate victims of the 1937 Nanjing Incident committed by the Imperial Japanese Army. The paper speculated that Xi's absence from the ceremony indicates China's consideration for Japan. Deputy Chairman Wang Qishan of the National People's Congress delivered remarks at the event, saying that the incident is a dark memory of Japan's wartime aggression that humankind can never forget. However, he added that it is important for Japan and China to work together as neighbors to contribute to world peace.

Thursday evening's Nikkei noted that although President Xi attended the ceremony in 2017 for the first time in three years, he chose to skip it this year. Thursday evening's Yomiuri wrote that Wang, in referring to the 40th anniversary this year of the signing of a Japan-China peace and friendship treaty, said that the two nations will contribute to world peace.

Japan lodges protest with ROK over military drill near Liancourt Rocks

Asahi wrote that in response to an announcement by the South Korean Navy on Thursday that it will hold its annual island defense exercises with the Coast Guard and the Air Force near the Liancourt Rocks (Takeshima in Japan, Dokdo in South Korea) on Thursday and Friday, Director-General Kanasugi of MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau lodged a protest with a senior official at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo. Minister-Counselor Mizushima of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul separately lodged a protest with a senior official at South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Japanese officials told their ROK counterparts that the drills are totally unacceptable in view of Japan's position on the sovereignty of Takeshima and urged Seoul to halt the exercises.

All other national dailies ran similar reports, with Yomiuri and Sankei quoting Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga as telling the press on Thursday that the drills are extremely regrettable and totally unacceptable because there has been no change in Japan's position on the sovereignty of Takeshima.

Japanese, Mongolian leaders confirm cooperation over DPRK

All national dailies reported on Prime Minister Abe's talks with his Mongolian counterpart Khurelsukh at the Kantei on Thursday. Asahi wrote that the two leaders released a joint statement on cooperation between Japan and Mongolia in dealing with North Korea and promoting the vision of a "free and open Indo-Pacific." The statement also included the two nations' plan for strengthening their strategic partnership. Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Mainichi wrote that the two leaders confirmed cooperation in resolving the abduction issue and the importance of fully implementing UN Security Council resolutions on the DPRK.

Asahi added that ahead of the leaders' meeting, Foreign Minister Kono held separate bilateral talks with his Mongolian counterpart Tsogtbaatar on Thursday. The paper speculated that the two officials discussed the current situation surrounding the DPRK, including such issues as denuclearization and the abductions, because Tsogtbaatar held talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho in Ulaanbaatar on Dec. 8.

Russia wants to discuss withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Japan in peace treaty talks

NHK reported online this morning that Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Zakharova stated at a news conference yesterday that "all diplomatic documents," including a 1960 Soviet Union memorandum demanding the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Japan, should be discussed in the bilateral peace treaty talks. The memorandum was drafted by the USSR in reaction to Japan's revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1960. It demanded the withdrawal of all foreign military forces as a condition for handing over the islands of Habomai and Shikotan, which Japan rejected, but this has since become one of the reasons for the stalemate in the territorial talks. Nikkei printed a similar Kyodo story speculating that the Russian official's remark was intended to keep Japan's moves to accelerate peace treaty talks in check by bringing up the U.S.-Japan security arrangements and U.S. forces in Japan amid deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia.


GOJ and Okinawa remain wide apart over Henoko landfill

All national dailies reported on a meeting held between Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga and Okinawa Governor Tamaki at the Kantei on Thursday, saying that they were unable to narrow the gap between the GOJ and Okinawa over the construction at Henoko. The papers wrote that in response to Tamaki's request not to start pouring earth into the landfill site at Henoko, Suga told the governor that although the GOJ understands Okinawa's position, it will move forward with the plan as scheduled.

Governor Tamaki told reporters afterward that the people of Okinawa will voice strong anger against the central government's hardline stance.

LDP working team approves draft national defense programs

All national dailies wrote that the LDP's working team approved the GOJ's draft of the National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program on Thursday. Mainichi wrote that the GOJ plans to purchase 105 F-35 stealth fighters as successors to the ASDF's retiring mainstay fighter F-15. Among the 105 aircraft, 42 will be F-35Bs, which are capable of executing short takeoffs and vertical landings. The paper speculated that the decision to procure such a large number of F-35s is intended to respond to intensified Chinese and Russian activities near Japan's airspace and waters and to President Trump's request for Japan to expand its procurement of U.S.-made defense equipment. Saying that Japan's defense spending in the five-year period from fiscal 2019 through 2023 will likely increase to 27.47 trillion yen, 3 trillion yen more than the previous estimate, Nikkei argued that the planned purchase of expensive U.S.-made defense equipment, such as F-35s, is the reason for the rise in spending.

Yomiuri and Sankei wrote that the GOJ plans to develop its national defense program based on the idea of building "multidimensional" defense capabilities. Asahi wrote that the working team also agreed on a written confirmation concerning the refurbishment of the Izumo escort ship saying that although the vessel will function as a de facto "aircraft carrier," it will not regularly carry fighter jets.


Japan decides not to change period for beef safeguard invocation

Nikkei wrote that the Ministry of Finance has decided to maintain in fiscal 2019 the current safeguard mechanism under which a higher tariff is automatically imposed if beef products from any country rise more than 17% in a three month period year on year. The paper wrote that although the ministry had studied the idea of extending the period to either six months or one year, it decided to maintain the current period. The paper speculated that the ministry may intend to use the system as a bargaining chip in its upcoming trade talks with the United States.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team