Morning Alert   -   Thursday, January 17, 2019
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 led with a story on the Labor Ministry's inappropriate handling of labor data and its attempt to cover this up. NTV, TV Asahi, and Fuji TV reported on sumo grand champion Kisenosato's announcement of his retirement yesterday. TBS gave top coverage to the turmoil in the UK after the parliament rejected Prime Minister May's Brexit proposal.

Sumo grand champion Kisenosato's retirement and the UK parliament's rejection of the Brexit deal were the two dominant front-page items in most national dailies. Yomiuri led with data released by the Health Ministry yesterday showing that almost 1 million people were diagnosed with cancer nationwide in 2016.


Japan demands retraction of ROK defense spokesperson's remarks on radar incident

All papers reported that the Japanese Defense Ministry lodged a protest on Wednesday with the South Korean Defense Ministry over remarks made on Tuesday by its spokesperson regarding the radar incident. The Japanese side reportedly took issue with her explanation that during bilateral talks on the matter held in Singapore on Monday, Japanese defense officials asked Seoul to disclose all relevant data in exchange for Japan's submission of partial information. In the protest filed with an ROK military attach=A8=A6 stationed in Tokyo, MOD said the ROK spokesperson's account was not true and requested a retraction. Sankei quoted an unnamed senior MOD official as saying: "The Koreans not only violated their commitment not to disclose the details of the closed-door meeting, but also provided a bogus account of it. The relationship of trust has been completely ruined."

Asahi separately claimed that during the Singapore session, the ROK participants criticized what they called the Japanese patrol plane's dangerously low-altitude flight near the Korean warship on the scene by saying: "If Japan conducts such flights, we will do the same instead of sitting idly by." According to the article, the Japanese side replied by saying that no reckless flight took place. An ROK military source reportedly told the paper that South Korea has clear evidence that the fire-control radar was not activated.

In a related development, Asahi and Sankei took up South Korean Foreign Minister Kang's press conference in Seoul on Wednesday. She reportedly said that in handling the requisitioned worker dispute with Japan, the Moon administration will "respect the judiciary process." The papers asserted that with this remark, the Korean diplomat was suggesting that the ROK government will honor the recent court authorization to seize the financial assets of a Japanese steelmaker in South Korea. As for the comfort women issue, Kang reportedly indicated that the Moon administration is preparing to host an international conference on the subject by saying: "We are planning to take measures in the international community in the first half of this year so that the suffering of the victims will not be forgotten."

Top Russian diplomat says Japan "not a partner"

All papers reported from Moscow on press remarks made yesterday by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who commented on relations with Japan by saying: "Japan falls far short of being a partner in international relations." Mentioning Tokyo's imposition of economic sanctions over Ukraine and its support for UN resolutions hostile to Moscow, the Russian official voiced doubts about bringing Russia's relationship with Japan into a new phase. He claimed that Japan is the only country that has refused to accept the outcomes of WWII and that its demand for the return of the Northern Territories constitutes a violation of the UN Charter. Lavrov reportedly made these remarks in relation to his recent meeting in Moscow with Foreign Minister Kono on a bilateral peace treaty.


Defense Minister Iwaya meets with Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan

NHK reported this morning that Defense Minister Iwaya met with Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan in Washington early this morning (Japan time). The two defense chiefs confirmed the important role of the Japan-U.S. alliance in preserving regional and global peace and security. They also agreed on strengthening the alliance for a free and open Indo-Pacific. NHK speculated that the two sides confirmed close cooperation in space and cyberspace with China in mind and that the two countries will continue to demand the implementation of UN resolutions in order to achieve the full denuclearization of North Korea. Iwaya reportedly also explained to Shanahan that Japan is examining how to handle the fire-control radar incident with the ROK so as not to affect trilateral security cooperation.

Senior opposition officials survey landfill operations off Camp Schwab

Asahi wrote that about a dozen opposition lawmakers, including Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Yamanoi of the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), observed the ongoing earth- pouring operations off Camp Schwab yesterday in a bid to highlight their opposition to the FRF construction initiative. The parliamentarians later met with Okinawa Governor Tamaki and affirmed cooperation to derail the Futenma relocation plan. Noting that DPFP leader Tamaki and CDPJ leader Edano are also planning to visit the island prefecture over the weekend, the daily said the opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, are keen to play up their mutual coordination for upcoming elections this year in Okinawa where many opposition candidates have waged solid campaigns against ruling candidates in the past.

Okinawa activist goes on hunger strike to call for participation in Henoko referendum

TBS reported on Wednesday evening that Jinshiro Motoyama, a 27-year-old activist and resident of Ginowan who started a campaign to collect 100,000 signatures to demand holding a referendum on the Henoko relocation issue, is on the second day of a hunger strike to demand that the five cities that have announced they will boycott the referendum revoke their decisions. He said that until they do so he will not eat anything and will only drink water. TBS noted that if the five cities boycott the referendum, 30% of Okinawan citizens will not be able to vote in it.


Abe to attend Davos forum for first time in five years

Nikkei reported on Prime Minister Abe's plan to attend the World Economic Forum that will begin in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22. The paper predicted that in his first appearance at the major economic confab in five years, the premier is likely to underscore Japan's commitment to contribute to the sustainable growth of the global economy by taking pump-priming measures to prevent the planned hike in the consumption tax in October from slowing down the Japanese economy. He is also expected to emphasize the importance of maintaining and promoting free trade. The daily added that Abe's participation will lay the groundwork for his chairmanship of the G20 this year.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team