Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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Morning news

NHK, TV Asahi, and Fuji TV led with follow-up reports on the gas explosion and fire that occurred in central Sapporo on Sunday, reporting that the explosion was probably caused by aerosol spray igniting at a real estate agency in one of the buildings that burned down. NTV gave top coverage to numerous cases of fraud using a QR code payment app called PayPay. TBS's lead story was a fatal accident yesterday in Setagaya, Tokyo, in which a first grader was hit by a bus.

Top stories in national dailies included a plan by Hitachi to review a project to construct two new nuclear reactors in the UK (Asahi, Nikkei), the alleged existence of a memorandum of understanding that includes an agreement on former Nissan Chairman Ghosn's "fixed remuneration" (Yomiuri), a decision by Nissan to postpone naming its next chairman (Mainichi), and Japan's draft budget for fiscal 2019 (Sankei).


DPRK warns U.S. sanctions could block path to denuclearization forever

Yomiuri wrote that North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Sunday that North Korean Foreign Ministry's Institute for American Studies issued a statement by its director criticizing the U.S. sanctions on the DPRK by saying they could block the path to denuclearization forever. The paper speculated that the statement was intended to urge the United States to make concessions by indicating the possibility of the denuclearization talks breaking down.

Yomiuri and Mainichi wrote that KCNA reported on Monday that on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the death of the late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un vowed to implement his father's plan and desire without making any concessions. Kim Jong Un made the remarks when he visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, where the body of his father lies.

In a separate report, Yomiuri wrote that what it referred to as a "stalemate" in the U.S.-DPRK denuclearization talks is becoming prolonged because the differences between Washington and Pyongyang remain unresolved. The paper wrote that while the United States has been using strong economic sanctions to urge the DPRK to take concrete steps toward denuclearization, North Korea is insisting that the sanctions be lifted before it takes denuclearization steps. The paper speculated that it is uncertain whether the two nations will be able to hold their second summit in January or February as envisaged.

IAEA chief says DPRK continues to develop nuclear arms

TV Asahi reported on Monday evening that at a meeting with Foreign Minister Kono earlier in the day, IAEA chief Amano said that based on his agency's enhanced capability to detect nuclear arms development, North Korea appears to be continuing with its nuclear programs. He was also quoted as saying that if the DPRK allows inspections to take place, the IAEA will be able to dispatch inspectors "in a few weeks."

Japan, China hold maritime talks

Asahi wrote that senior working-level officials from Japan and China began two-day talks in Beijing on Monday to discuss such issues as maritime security and the marine environment. According to the paper, officials from the foreign and defense ministries of the two nations discussed the schedule for discussions on a maritime and aerial communication mechanism, including the establishment of a hotline between their defense officials. The two nations also reportedly agreed to uphold the 2008 agreement on joint gas field development in the East China Sea. Nikkei and Yomiuri ran similar reports, adding that the two nations agreed to conduct joint research on marine plastic pollution.

Russian foreign minister comments on peace treaty talks with Japan

Nikkei wrote from Moscow that concerning peace treaty talks between Japan and Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov insisted in a radio interview on Monday that the "necessary first step" is for Japan to accept the outcome of WWII and acknowledge that Russia's effective control of the Norther Territories is legitimate.

Pope hoping to visit Hiroshima, Nagasaki in late 2019

All national dailies wrote that Japanese Cardinal Maeda, who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday, said that the Pope expressed his desire to visit Japan, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, around the end of next year. If the plan is realized, Pope Francis will become the first pope to travel to Japan since Pope John Paul II visited the nation in 1981. Prime Minister Abe invited the Pope to visit Japan when he visited the Vatican in 2014.


Poll: 60% oppose earth pouring operations at Henoko

Asahi front-paged the results of its nationwide opinion poll conducted on Dec. 15-16, in which 60% of the respondents expressed opposition to the GOJ's earth pouring operations at Henoko, while 26% approved of them. Some 76% said there have been no sufficient discussions between the central and Okinawa governments. The same poll showed that 40%, down 3 points from a month ago, supported the Abe cabinet, while 41%, up 7 points, did not.

Signature campaign to stop Henoko landfill collects 75,000 signatures in 10 days

Fuji TV reported on Monday evening that a signature campaign to stop the landfill work in Henoko before the referendum on Feb. 24, 2019 has gathered more than 75,000 signatures in 10 days and is rapidly approaching the requirement of 100,000 signatures in 30 days for the White House to consider the issue and respond within 60 days. The campaign was launched on the White House's "We the People" website on Dec. 8 by Rob Kajiwara, a fourth generation Japanese living in Hawaii. This website was created by the Obama administration to allow citizens to directly petition the White House to take action on issues that concern them.

Democratic Party for the People proposes plan to review U.S.-Japan SOFA

Nikkei wrote that it obtained on Monday a proposal drafted by the Democratic Party for the People concerning a review of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement. The opposition party proposes that Japanese authorities should be allowed to exercise their right to investigate off-base accidents and incidents involving U.S. military personnel in view of the current situation, under which their right to investigate is restricted when the U.S. military takes custody of suspects. The paper wrote that the party plans to call on other opposition parties to adopt its proposal as a common campaign platform for the Upper House election next summer.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team