Morning Alert   -   Monday, March 18, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a follow-up report on the New Zealand mosque shootings on Friday. NTV, TV Asahi, and TBS gave top coverage to the death of rock musician and actor Yuya Uchida on Sunday. Fuji TV reported on a robbery in Shizuoka on Saturday.

Top items in national papers included new Environment Ministry guidelines on garbage collection, press remarks by Renault Chairman Senard dismissing the possibility of a merger between the French auto giant and Nissan at least for now, and a policy by the Education Ministry to ensure that minors of foreign residents legally residing in Japan receive compulsory education.


ASDF to develop long-range standoff missiles

Yomiuri's lead story on Sunday reported that according to several government sources, the Air Self-Defense Force has decided to develop Japan's first domestically produced standoff missiles capable of attacking warships from outside an adversary's range. The ASDF will improve on the ASM-3 air-to-ship missile it developed in 2017 to develop a missile with a range of over 400 km. Yomiuri said the decision was made in response to the rapid advancement of the Chinese navy's striking capability.

Meanwhile, Kyodo reported from Washington on Sunday on the disclosure by a diplomatic source involved in U.S.-Japan relations that final arrangements are underway between the USG and the GOJ to conclude an agreement on jointly developing a type of new radar that can detect at an early stage the hypersonic missiles being developed by Russia and China. Noting that the new radar will be installed on U.S. Navy Aegis warships, the article said the plan signifies the further integration of defense systems between the U.S. and Japan. Kyodo voiced concern that Japan may play a role in an arms race between the three military powers.

Defense Ministry submits report on fortification of soft seabed in Henoko

All papers reported on Saturday morning that the Defense Ministry submitted to the Diet on Friday a 9,969-page report on its study of the design and construction method for the foundation of the Henoko reclamation area, stating that the fortification of soft seabed will take three years and eight months. The papers wrote that this means that even if the reinforcement work starts immediately, the process will not be completed until November 2022 at the earliest. As a result, the Japanese and U.S. governments' original goal of returning MCAS Futenma within FY2022 will be impossible to achieve. The dailies wrote that the government now plans to submit a request to make design changes to the construction method, but the Okinawa government is unlikely to approve it so this could delay the relocation process further.

Okinawa residents hold rally to demand that government respect referendum results

All newspapers reported on Sunday that a rally was held in Naha on Sunday and 10,000 people participated in it, according to the organizers. A resolution was adopted at the rally calling for the Japanese and U.S. governments to respect the results of the referendum on Henoko relocation held on Feb. 24, in which over 70% of those who voted opposed the relocation plan. The resolution also called for the cancellation of the plan.

In a related story, today's Mainichi front-paged the results of its latest public opinion poll, in which 52% of respondents expressed opposition to the GOJ plan to move forward with the relocation initiative and 30% were in favor of it. Asked about their opinions on the hypothetical idea of moving U.S. bases from Okinawa to their communities, over 60% said they would oppose it.

Senior defense official visits Egypt ahead of deployment of SDF personnel

All papers except Mainichi reported on Monday that Parliamentary Vice Minister of Defense Suzuki visited Egypt over the weekend to check whether two GSDF officers will be able to operate safely in accordance with Japan's five principles on international peacekeeping operations when they are deployed there probably next month. The officers are scheduled to be dispatched to the headquarters of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) on the Sinai Peninsula that oversees the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The senior MOD official reportedly said that the two Japanese personnel will probably be assigned to an MFO facility located in the southern part of the peninsula.

Abe underscores importance of vigilance against cyberattacks

All Monday dailies highlighted Prime Minister Abe's remarks Sunday at the National Defense Academy's commencement ceremony, where he stressed to the graduates the importance of maintaining the nation's technological supremacy in such areas as outer space, cyberspace, and electromagnetic waves to ensure national defense. He also reiterated his resolve to revise the Constitution to legitimize the SDF in the supreme law. The daily speculated that the lack of any reference to North Korea in Abe's speech this year perhaps indicates Tokyo's desire to open channels of communication with Pyongyang to resolve the abduction issue.

Two SDF camps to be established in Nansei Islands

Sankei wrote on Monday that new GSDF bases will be established on Amami Island in Kagoshima and Miyako Island in Okinawa on March 26, saying that the Defense Ministry is committed to reinforcing deterrence against China's maritime advancement around the Senkakus. Close to 950 personnel will be deployed to the two camps for the time being, with several hundred additional troops expected to be assigned to the Miyako installation later to operate a missile unit. The daily added that another GSDF facility will be established in the near future on Ishigaki Island as part of efforts to defend the Nansei Islands stretching from southern Kyushu to Japan's westernmost island of Yonaguni.


Toyota president expresses his company's commitment to staying in the U.S.

Nikkei and Asahi reported on Saturday morning that Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda gave a high-profile speech at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., on Friday, a day after his company announced major new investments in its U.S. plants. Toyoda was quoted as saying, "We will never leave the United States." While he did not mention the Trump administration's plan to increase auto tariffs, he said that he is "sad" that imported cars are being called a national security threat and hopes that "this kind of conversation can go away."

Nikkei published a follow-up report on the speech on Sunday, pointing out that Toyota has been increasing its U.S. investments as a preemptive move to win U.S. public support in anticipation of the upcoming U.S.-Japan trade talks and in an effort to strike a balance between its local production, China strategy, and global marketing.

In a related story, Asahi observed on Sunday that the Trump administration has not disclosed the contents of the Department of Commerce's report on Feb. 17 recognizing auto imports as a "threat." The paper surmised that this is probably due to opposition in the U.S. and even within the cabinet to the imposition of additional auto tariffs due to the potential impact on U.S. allies targeted by the tariffs and on the global economy.

Chinese premier eager to conclude Japan-China-ROK FTA

Mainichi and Sankei reported on Saturday morning that during a news conference held after the conclusion of the National People's Congress on Friday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was quoted as saying that a Japan-China-ROK FTA "would have major benefits for all three countries amid the rise of protectionism in the world," indicating his eagerness to step up negotiations for an FTA. In addition to cooperation with Japan and the ROK, Li talked about promoting the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and cooperation with Southeast Asia. Mainichi expressed the view that these remarks are part of China's strategy to project a stronger presence in Asia amid intensifying friction with the U.S. Sankei also noted that Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a news conference that the Japan-China relationship returned to normalcy last year and is on track to improve and develop, although he also reminded Japan that it needs to "face history in good faith."

In a related development, Sankei wrote that its reporter was not allowed to attend Li's news conference and several foreign correspondents, including a reporter from its Tokyo office, were not issued press IDs, prompting the Foreign Correspondents Club of China to issue a statement on March 15 expressing concern.


North Korea failed to provide detailed information on nuclear facilities ahead of summit

Today's Asahi reported from Seoul on the disclosure by a source involved in U.S.-ROK relations that in the run-up to the Hanoi Summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim in late February, North Korean officials refused to provide to U.S. diplomats with specifics on the operations of the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, which the DPRK leader has promised to dismantle in its entirety. The North Koreans reportedly gave vague responses when the U.S. negotiators asked them to provide the names and specific locations of over a dozen nuclear-related facilities at the complex. The DPRK officials also reportedly dismissed a U.S. allegation on the existence of a clandestine uranium enrichment facility near Pyongyang. The daily speculated that the U.S. leader might have ultimately chosen to walk away from the summit because of Pyongyang's uncooperative attitude toward disclosing the details of its nuclear programs.

Putin reportedly says Japan must withdraw from alliance with U.S.

NHK on Saturday cited a March 15 report in the Russian paper Kommersant saying that during a meeting with business leaders, President Putin said negotiations with Japan on concluding a peace treaty "have lost momentum." He was quoted as saying: "Japan must first withdraw from its alliance with the U.S.," otherwise Prime Minister Abe's promise that there will be no U.S. military bases on the Northern Territories after the islands are returned will be "unrealistic." Putin reportedly also mentioned that 99% of Russians living on the Northern Islands are opposed to the return of the islands and "it is not possible to ignore such public opinion." He also reportedly said that while negotiations with Japan should not be discontinued, a "short rest" is needed. Jiji Press and TBS also carried similar reports on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.


Jiji poll shows only 9% support allowing LDP president to serve fourth term

Mainichi reported on Saturday morning on the results of a Jiji poll conducted on March 8-11 regarding the idea of having Prime Minister Abe serve as LDP party president for a fourth term. Only 9% of respondents were in favor of allowing the LDP president to serve 4 terms, or a total of 12 years, while 63.5% supported the current LDP rule that only allows the president to serve 3 terms, or 9 years, at most, and 15.2% saw no need to set any limit. Even among LDP members, only 16% favored 4 terms, 61.9% opted for 3 terms, and 15.1% chose no limit.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team