Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, January 23, 2019
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Morning news

NHK, TV Asahi, and Fuji TV led with extensive reports on the talks held between Prime Minister Abe and Russian President Putin at the Kremlin yesterday evening. The two leaders reportedly agreed to further accelerate negotiations for a peace treaty and implement joint economic activities in the Northern Territories, but made no concrete progress on the territorial issue. NHK reporters in Moscow observed that while Abe and Putin agreed to step up discussions, they both expect talks on the territorial dispute to be protracted due to the wide gap between them on history and security issues. TV Asahi pointed out that Putin did not mention in any detail the territorial issue at the joint news conference held after the talks, and Fuji TV noted that the term "Northern Territories" was not used at all in the news conference.

TBS's top story was a follow-up report on a statement issued yesterday by Prince Mako's boyfriend Kei Komuro saying that his family's financial problems have been resolved. NTV reported on an influenza outbreak across Japan.

The Abe-Putin summit in Moscow and improper data collection by the Labor Ministry were the two dominant front-page items in national papers.


Japan-Russia summit held in Moscow

All national dailies reported extensively from Moscow on a summit held between Prime Minister Abe and Russian President Putin on Tuesday, noting that the two leaders agreed in their three-hour meeting to expedite bilateral dialogue for concluding a peace treaty. During their 22nd meeting under the second Abe administration, the two officials also affirmed their commitment to boosting bilateral trade by 50% to about $300 billion per annum in the next several years as part of mutual efforts to strengthen relations. They also agreed to implement "joint economic activities" on the Northern Territories at an early date. Abe and Putin reportedly instructed their foreign ministers, who sat in on the session, to achieve progress on peace treaty negotiations by the time the two diplomats meet in Germany in February on the sidelines of an international security conference. Abe reportedly told the press afterward: "We affirmed mutual determination to actively promote joint efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution under my and President Putin's leadership." The Russian leader was quoted as saying: "We confirmed that the two countries are interested in signing a peace treaty." According to Sankei, Putin added that he believes that the territorial dispute can be resolved. The two officials reportedly did not disclose the details of their conversation on the territorial dispute.

Several national dailies reported that although Abe tried to achieve a breakthrough in the territorial dispute by leveraging his close bonds with Putin, it appears as though no tangible progress was made. Asahi asserted that the premier's goal of reaching a rough accord on a peace treaty by June on the margins of the G20 Osaka summit is growing elusive. Yomiuri claimed that Abe may consider visiting Russia again in the spring to achieve a breakthrough by using economic support as an incentive to draw Russian concessions. The dailies said the Russian side has little interest in promoting the territorial talks in view of growing opposition among the Russian people to Japan's demand for the return of the contested islets.

Sankei wrote that Abe is keen to seal a peace treaty with Russia in the belief that stronger security and economic ties with Moscow will be indispensable to protect Japan's national interests. According to the daily, the premier is anxious to prevent Russia from engaging in a "political honeymoon" with China based on the judgment that although Japan's security still largely depends on the U.S.-Japan alliance, Tokyo may not be able to counter a stronger Beijing-Moscow partnership amid the relative decline in the U.S. presence in global security and economy. As China appears to be determined to aggressively pursue maritime interests in the East China Sea and beyond, Abe reportedly believes that it is important for Japan to conclude a peace treaty with Moscow so as to reduce the security threat from the north.

Senior U.S., Japanese diplomats affirm enhanced coordination on DPRK denuclearization

Yomiuri wrote that MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General Kanasugi and Special Representative for North Korea Biegun held talks in Stockholm on Monday and agreed to enhance bilateral and trilateral cooperation with South Korea in achieving the denuclearization of North Korea. The U.S. official reportedly briefed his Japanese counterpart on the denuclearization talks he held with a senior DPRK diplomat in the Swedish capital.


Radar dispute to disrupt Japan's defense cooperation with ROK

Yomiuri took up remarks on the radar dispute with South Korea made yesterday by Defense Minister Iwaya. He suggested that bilateral defense cooperation will probably be adversely affected by Seoul's continued dismissal of Japan's claim that a Korean warship illuminated a Japanese aircraft with its fire-control radar. The paper wrote that a planned visit to Busan by an MSDF destroyer in the spring may be called off. According to the daily, calls are mounting within the ruling LDP for imposing sanctions on the ROK.

Other papers ran similar stories, adding that the defense minister stressed the importance of continuing to make efforts to increase defense cooperation with Seoul by saying: "As allies of the United States, Japan and South Korea are responsible for ensuring regional security. I would like to make efforts to promote bilateral defense cooperation in a future-oriented manner by overcoming this unfortunate incident."

GOJ to send senior official to Egypt for fact-finding survey on SDF deployment

Yomiuri wrote that the GOJ is planning to send a high-ranking official in charge of national security to Egypt in February to survey the situation in the Sinai Peninsula ahead of the proposed deployment of two GSDF officers to the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO), a peacekeeping mission tasked with overseeing the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The SDF personnel are expected to work as liaisons at the MFO headquarters in Sharm el Sheikh. The GOJ plans to make a formal decision on the dispatch after confirming that the local security situation is stable enough to ensure the safety of the SDF officials.

Japan-Australia defense ministerial meeting to be held today

Sankei wrote that Defense Minister Iwaya is expected to hold talks with his Australian counterpart Payne in Tokyo today, noting that a proposed pact aimed at facilitating joint training between the two militaries will be high on the agenda for the meeting.


Two opposition parties to merge

All papers reported that Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) leader Tamaki and Liberal Party leader Ozawa agreed yesterday to merge their parties in a bid to boost their parties' profile in the opposition camp amid the growing presence of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ). Although the new party will become the largest opposition force in the Upper House, some DPFP politicians are cautious about the planned merger on account of the Liberal Party's policy goal of "breaking away from nuclear energy." The dailies explained that the DPFP leadership headed by Tamaki has been deeply concerned about the party's performance in the Upper House election this summer because public support for the second largest opposition party remains close to 1%.


Four African nationals arrested in Japan for online romance scam

All papers reported that three Nigerians and one Cameroonian were arrested in Saitama and Chiba for their involvement in online romance scams, explaining that one of the suspects allegedly pretended to be a U.S. service member on social media and had a Japanese woman in Fukuoka he contacted via Facebook wire some $10,000 to him for transportation costs and communication fees by suggesting he would marry her. The dailies said a number of Japanese women have recently become victims of online romance scams staged by foreign nationals claiming to be U.S. military members.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team