Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, January 30, 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 and TV Asahi led with follow-up reports on irregularities in the Labor Ministry special investigation committee's investigation into its faulty labor data. TBS, NTV, and Fuji TV gave top coverage to a fire yesterday in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, noting the unusually large number of fires recently due to dry weather.

Top stories in national dailies included reports on improper data collection by the Labor Ministry (Asahi, Mainichi, Sankei), a GOJ plan to raise the maximum age for child adoption (Yomiuri), and a GOJ plan to establish a new certification system to prevent digital data falsification (Nikkei).


Japan protests ROK's dissolution of comfort women foundation

All national dailies wrote that in response to the South Korean government's procedures to disband the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, which was set up to support the former comfort women under the 2015 Japan-ROK agreement, MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General Kanasugi filed a protest on Monday with the minister counselor at the ROK Embassy in Tokyo. Minister Counselor Mizushima at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul also lodged a protest with the South Korean foreign ministry.

Chief Cabinet Suga reportedly told a regular news conference on Tuesday that the dissolution is problematic in view of the bilateral agreement and absolutely unacceptable. He added that Japan will continue to demand that the ROK government implement the bilateral agreement faithfully.

In a related development, the papers wrote that Kim Bok-dong, one of South Korea's most prominent surviving comfort women and a vocal activist against the 2015 agreement with Japan, died on Monday at age 92. South Korean President Moon Jae-in paid his respects to Kim on Tuesday and wrote on his Facebook page that Kim led the campaign to set history right by demanding an apology and legal compensation for imperial Japan's atrocities.

U.S. national intelligence chief comments on DPRK denuclearization

Yomiuri reported on remarks made by Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats at a Senate hearing on Tuesday. According to the paper, he commented on the denuclearization of North Korea by saying that the intelligence community currently assesses that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

Japan, Qatar agree to launch strategic talks

Asahi, Yomiuri, and Mainichi reported on a meeting held between Prime Minister Abe and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the Kantei on Tuesday, during which the two leaders agreed that Japan and Qatar will launch a strategic dialogue led by their foreign ministers. The two leaders issued a joint statement afterward saying that Japan and Qatar will promote cooperation in such areas as energy development and investment through the dialogue. Abe also expressed Japan's gratitude for Qatar's assistance in the release last October of Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who was held captive in Syria for more than three years.


Okinawa assembly approves revised ordinance on Henoko referendum

All national dailies wrote that the Okinawa prefectural assembly approved on Tuesday a revised ordinance on the Feb. 24 referendum on the Futenma relocation to Henoko that will give voters the choice of "neither" in addition to "yes" or "no." The vote was not unanimous, as some LDP members had cast ballots against it. According to the papers, it remains unclear whether all Okinawa municipalities will participate in the referendum because their mayors had requested a unanimous decision by the prefectural assembly.

U.S. OKs $2.15 billion sale of two Aegis Ashore systems to Japan

NHK's website andKyodo reported this morning that the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that the Defense Security Cooperation Agency has notified Congress of the sale of two land-based Aegis Ashore systems to Japan for an estimated cost of $2.15 billion. Kyodo quoted a State Department statement as saying: "It is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Japan in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defense capability," and that "the proposed sale of this equipment and support does not alter the basic military balance in the region," apparently in reference to Russia's concern about the deployment of Aegis Ashore.


U.S., Japan likely to agree on new Haneda Airport flight routes

Nikkei wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan appear likely to reach an agreement shortly at their talks on new flight routes to and from Haneda Airport, saying that the new agreement is expected to boost the number of foreign visitors ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as annual arrival and departure slots at Haneda will expand to 99,000 from the current 60,000. The paper wrote that the U.S. side had been reluctant to allow these new flights to pass through the airspace controlled by Yokota Air Base out of concern that they could interfere with training by military aircraft. According to the paper, the United States acceded to Japan's request in the end. The paper added that Japan will likely be allowed to control the new commercial flights when they pass through the Yokota airspace.

Sankei ran a similar report, quoting Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga as telling reporters on Tuesday that it is necessary to strengthen the functions at Haneda to achieve the goal of hosting 40 million foreign visitors ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Japanese economy likely experiencing longest postwar expansion

All national dailies reported that the GOJ released on Tuesday its monthly economic report, saying that Japan's economy is "recovering at a moderate pace" and is "likely experiencing its longest postwar expansion of 74 months since December 2012." Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Motegi told a regular press briefing on Tuesday that the economic expansion has likely surpassed the previous longest expansion between February 2002 and February 2008. However, in view of China's recent economic slowdown, Motegi warned that it is necessary for Japan to be careful about overseas risk, including trade tensions between the United States and China and the slowdown in the Chinese economy.

Asahi wrote that consumers have yet to feel the benefits of the prolonged economic boom because private consumption remains weak as wages have been slow to increase and the GDP has grown a real 1.2% on average during the current expansionary phase, lower than the 1.6% marked during the previous boom.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team