Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, February 27, 2019
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Morning news

NHK, NTV, and TBS led with reports that a man wanted for murder in Hiroshima on Feb. 20 was arrested this morning in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture. TV Asahi reported on the arrival of President Trump and Kim Jong Un in Hanoi yesterday for their summit meeting, noting that the President wore a grim expression while Kim appeared to be in good spirits. Fuji TV focused on Kim Jong Un's activities yesterday.

Major front-page items in national dailies included scene-setters on the U.S.-DPRK summit, reports on proposed bills prohibiting parents from physically punishing their children, British Prime Minister May's inclination to delay Brexit, and a GOJ panel's prediction that a major earthquake is highly likely to occur along the Japan Trench in the Pacific off eastern Japan in the next 30 years.


Second U.S.-DPRK summit talks to begin this evening

All national dailies reported extensively on the arrival of President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi on Tuesday for their second round of summit talks that are set to begin tonight with a brief one-on-one session followed by a working dinner to be attended by Secretary of State Pompeo and several other officials. While projecting that the DPRK strongman will press the President to relax sanctions by saying that his regime has already taken steps toward denuclearization, the dailies speculated that the U.S. leader appears to be ready to extend rewards on the condition that Chairman Kim pledges additional measures, including suspending activities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex and other relevant facilities and allowing them to be inspected. The rewards that the U.S. might offer reportedly include humanitarian assistance, the establishment of a U.S. liaison office in the DPRK capital, and a political declaration on ending the Korean War. Instead of easing existing restrictions on trade with Pyongyang, the President may reportedly agree to the resumption of operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and South Korean tourism at Mt. Kumgang. The papers expressed apprehension that such concessions could weaken international pressure and thus allow the Kim regime to procrastinate on denuclearization.

Sankei wrote that Secretary Pompeo will probably take the "lead" in assisting the President in the talks with Chairman Kim, adding that it is uncertain whether National Security Advisor Bolton, who the daily referred to as a "hardliner" toward the DPRK, will sit in on the summit. Nikkei claimed that upon conclusion of the summit, the two governments may issue a joint communique detailing what was agreed upon between the two leaders, speculating that final coordination may take place between Secretary Pompeo and his DPRK counterpart Kim Yong Chol about the wording of the purported document. Mainichi conjectured that on his way back to Pyongyang, Chairman Kim may visit Beijing to brief President Xi on his discussions with President Trump.

In a related story, Yomiuri reported from Washington on a meeting on Monday between Prime Minister Abe's Special Advisor Sonoura and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Hale during which the Japanese official asked that President Trump bring up the abduction issue during talks with Chairman Kim. According to Sonoura, Hale said Washington understands the importance of the matter and indicated that the President will brief Prime Minister Abe directly about the U.S.-DPRK summit.

NHK reported this morning that the Foreign Ministry is sending Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau chief Kanasugi to Hanoi to gather information and ensure close coordination between Japan and the U.S.

ROK leader comments on pro-Japan forces during colonial era

Yomiuri and Sankei highlighted remarks made yesterday by ROK President Moon during a cabinet meeting. He reportedly emphasized that settling issues related to pro-Japan collaborators and treating those involved in Korea's independence movement respectfully would be the start of becoming a "righteous nation." The session was reportedly held at a memorial museum for independence activist Kim Koo to commemorate the centennial of the March First Movement this week. Sankei claimed that these remarks point to the Moon administration's preference to look back on local anti-Japanese movements, conjecturing that the South Korean leader appears to have little interest in reversing the deterioration of diplomatic relations with Tokyo.

According to Sankei, Foreign Minister Kono on Tuesday voiced concern about the South Korean leader's remarks by telling the press: "We want Japan-ROK relations to be more future-oriented." The daily also wrote that the GOJ on Tuesday filed a protest with the ROK government against a speech delivered by Foreign Minister Kang at a UN panel on Monday in Geneva expressing regret about the 2015 comfort women accord with Japan. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga reportedly told the press that the Moon administration is obligated to implement the pact since it represents a bilateral commitment to settle the history dispute finally and irreversibly.

Two senior Russian officials visit Northern Territories

Mainichi, Sankei, and Nikkei reported that the telecommunication and information minister and one other senior Russian official visited Shikotan on Tuesday to attend a ceremony marking the installation of an optical fiber network connecting the Northern Territories and Sakhalin. Noting that it is extremely unusual for high-ranking Russian government officials to travel to the disputed islet, Mainichi conjectured that the trip was intended to rein in growing expectations in Japan for the swift return of Shikotan and Habomai. The GOJ reportedly lodged a protest over the visit.

NHK carried a similar report this morning, noting that the Russian government tapped Chinese IT equipment giant Huawei to lay the undersea cables for this 5.5-billion-yen project.


PM Abe prepared to meet with Okinawa Governor Tamaki

All papers except Asahi reported on remarks made at the Diet yesterday by Prime Minister Abe, in which he suggested that he is ready to hold talks this week with Okinawa Governor Tamaki, who plans to visit Tokyo on Friday in the hope of briefing the premier on the results of the recent referendum on the FRF construction off Camp Schwab. The premier reportedly commented on the referendum by saying: "We must prevent Futenma Air Station from becoming a permanent fixture. We will complete the construction of a new base in Henoko."

In a related story, Mainichi reported on press remarks made yesterday by Defense Minister Iwaya regarding the agreement reached on Feb. 18, 2014, between PM Abe and then Okinawa Governor Nakaima to end Futenma operations in five years. The defense chief said the two sides need to negotiate a new timeline for the closure of the Marine installation.

U.S. Osprey conducts test flight

Sankei wrote briefly that a USMC Osprey performed a test flight on Tuesday morning, noting that the tilt-rotor plane has been undergoing regular maintenance by Subaru mechanics and engineers at GSDF Camp Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture since February 2017. The daily added that the maintenance work was initially scheduled for completion in just seven months, but reportedly has fallen behind schedule because of difficulties in procuring components and insufficient training of Subaru personnel.

Defense chief comments on possible ROK participation in naval review

Asahi and Sankei took up press remarks made yesterday by Defense Minister Iwaya, who disclosed that his ministry has not invited South Korea to participate in a naval review that the MSDF plans to host in October. However, he suggested that an invitation may be extended to Seoul if its participation is deemed to be extremely beneficial to both nations and to the region as a result of improvement in bilateral relations.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team