Morning Alert   -   Friday, February 8, 2019
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Morning news

NHK and NTV led with reports on record low temperatures in Hokkaido today. TBS gave top coverage to defects found in over 1,300 apartment buildings managed by rental apartment operator Leopalace21. TV Asahi reported that yesterday a man was arrested in Fukuoka City for assault in a road rage incident last October. Fuji TV's top story was a report on an online video showing an employee of a karaoke chain putting raw chicken on the floor before frying it to serve to customers.

Top stories in national dailies included public entities' inadequate response to the increasing number of child abuse cases (Asahi), an announcement by the National Police Agency that it reported more than 80,000 suspected child abuse cases to child consultation centers nationwide in 2018 (Mainichi), a survey showing delays in providing support to foreign residents in major cities (Nikkei), and the Japan Coast Guard's around-the-clock monitoring of Chinese fishing boats suspected of coral poaching in waters off the Ogasawara Islands (Sankei).


Ambassador Hagerty talks about U.S.-Japan ties, trade talks in TV interview

TV Tokyo aired an exclusive interview with Ambassador Hagerty during its "World Business Satellite" program on Thursday evening. The interviewers first asked the Ambassador to rate the present state of the U.S.-Japan relationship. He gave a score of 120 on a scale of 100, saying the relationship is working well "on so many dimensions." Citing the upcoming U.S.-DPRK summit as an example, the Ambassador stated that this would not be possible without the "strong partnership with Japan" because it is the result of the U.S. and Japan persevering in applying pressure.

On the upcoming trade talks between the two countries, the Ambassador said the U.S. has specified that they will be "primarily on goods and services, and also trade and investments." Asked to comment on the difference between the Trade Agreement on Goods (TAG), the term favored by Japan, and a free trade agreement (FTA), which the U.S. favors, he pointed out that neither country used either of these terms when they agreed to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement. TV Tokyo reported that the Ambassador indicated that regardless of the nomenclature, the trade talks need to move forward speedily. Pointing out that the U.S. is the most open economy in the world, the Ambassador was shown saying: "What we are looking for is reciprocity, that is, a similar type of access to the Japanese market."


U.S., Japanese officials to meet in Seoul to discuss DPRK

Asahi wrote from Seoul that MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General Kanasugi is planning to hold talks with Special Representative for North Korea Biegun in Seoul on Saturday. The paper speculated that Biegun will brief Kanasugi on the outcome of his working-level talks with North Korean officials. Kanasugi also plans to hold talks with South Korean Foreign Ministry's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon.

In a dispatch from Seoul, Sankei conjectured that the special representative will brief Japanese and ROK officials on the results of his talks with his North Korean counterpart after traveling to Seoul from Pyongyang.

Language toned down in government-backed rally on Northern Territories

Asahi wrote that an annual government-backed rally to call for the return of the Northern Territories was held on Thursday in Tokyo, but the statement released at the event did not include language saying the four disputed islands are "illegally occupied" as it has for the past ten years. The organizer also refrained from saying that further delays in settling the dispute cannot be tolerated. The paper speculated that the organizer, while still demanding the return of the islands, refrained from using such phrases to avoid provoking Russia. Noting that some 1,800 people, up 20% from last year, participated in the event, the paper conjectured that the number of participants increased as a result of Prime Minister Abe's agreement with President Putin last November to accelerate peace treaty talks.

Yomiuri wrote that at the event Prime Minister Abe reiterated his resolve to settle the territorial dispute and conclude a peace treaty with Russia. The paper pointed out that although the premier had previously said he would resolve the issue of "the sovereignty of the four islands," he did not use the phrase this time. The daily also noted that while Foreign Minister Kono described the Northern Territories as an "integral part of Japan" at the event last year, he refrained from doing so this time.

Japan protests China's gas field development in East China Sea

Sankei, Nikkei, and Mainichi wrote that Cabinet Secretary Suga disclosed at a regular press briefing on Thursday that Japan has lodged a protest with China over its continued unilateral gas field development in the East China Sea. Suga reportedly said that it is extremely regrettable that China has continued to conduct unilateral development activities. MOFA lodged the protest with a senior official at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo after it confirmed that China had started new gas field development by sending a drilling ship to the area.


USTR Lighthizer to visit China

Asahi wrote that the Trump administration will send a delegation led by USTR Lighthizer to Beijing in the near future to discuss trade issues with the Chinese. The paper speculated that the two nations will discuss such issues as "structural problems," including violations of intellectual property rights, and the possibility of arranging a meeting between President Trump and President Xi. According to the paper, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday that a large delegation, including him and USTR Lighthizer, will visit Beijing next week and that the United States government is making a great effort to conclude the negotiations with China by the March 1 deadline.

Japan's beef imports from TPP nations increase by 55%

Yomiuri reported a surge in Japan's beef imports from TPP members, saying that recent Finance Ministry statistics show that Japan's beef imports from those nations in January totaled 32,885 tons, up 55% from the previous month. The paper wrote that tariff cuts under the TPP took effect only a month after the accord's effectuation on Dec. 30, 2018.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team