Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, March 19, 2019
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Morning news

NHK, TBS, and Fuji TV led with reports on the arrest of a suspect in the tram shooting incident in Utrecht, Netherlands, yesterday. NTV reported that two Japanese men were arrested in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on Sunday on suspicion of killing a taxi driver. TV Asahi and most national dailies gave top coverage to an interim report issued yesterday on defective construction work by major rental apartment operator Leopalace21 that requires thousands of residents to move out of substandard buildings.


Okinawa leader to meet with premier today

Sankei and Mainichi wrote that Okinawa Governor Tamaki is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Abe at the Kantei today. The governor reportedly disclosed the plan during a press conference yesterday, saying that he will reiterate his request for the premier to establish a venue for dialogue on Futenma relocation between Okinawa, Tokyo, and Washington. The Okinawa politician also noted that he is considering filing a lawsuit asking the court to rule against the land minister's suspension of the rescission by the prefectural government of the landfill permit for FRF construction.

In a related story, Nikkei reported that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga commented on a large-scale rally held Saturday in Naha to oppose the Futenma relocation plan by saying that the Abe administration's commitment to moving forward with the base construction initiative remains steadfast.

New Soryu-class submarine delivered to MSDF

Nikkei reported that Japanese shipbuilder Kawasaki Heavy Industries delivered a Soryu-class submarine to the MSDF on Monday, saying that the-state-of-the-art vessel features a number of advanced systems, including an air-independent propulsion (AIP) mechanism that enables it to remain fully submerged for longer periods of time. While noting that the submarine demonstrates Japan's strong shipbuilding capabilities, the daily said it remains uncertain whether local defense constructors will be able to maintain their technological edge because domestic demand for submarines and other advanced defense equipment is expected to slow and the Japanese government's weapons export initiative is facing difficulties. The paper added that as Komatsu has recently given up on a plan to develop a new type of armored vehicle for the GSDF, concern is growing about the viability of Japan's defense industry in the future.


Senior Japanese officials to visit Moscow for high-level talks

Sankei and Nikkei wrote that Japan and Russia are planning to convene a meeting of vice foreign ministers in Moscow on Thursday regarding the proposed conclusion of a peace treaty. Deputy Foreign Minister Mori will hold talks with his Russian counterpart Morgulov to arrange a session between Foreign Minister Kono and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov ahead of a planned Japan-Russia summit in Osaka on the margins of the G20 summit in late June. A bilateral security dialogue involving the two nations' high-ranking defense officials will also be held there on the next day.

Japan, China to discuss development aid for developing countries

Mainichi reported that the Japanese and Chinese governments are likely to hold a bilateral dialogue on economic aid for developing nations in Beijing in April or May, saying that the participants are expected to discuss possible bilateral cooperation on extending ODA and humanitarian assistance to impoverished countries around the world. In a bid to arrange two trips to Japan by Chinese President Xi this year, including one in June on the sidelines of the G20 summit, the Japanese side is reportedly anxious to deepen dialogue with Beijing on a range of issues, including cooperation on high tech promotion and protection of intellectual property rights. Foreign Minister Kono and other cabinet officials are reportedly likely to travel to China in mid-April for "high-level economic dialogue."


Japanese exports to China decrease due to trade friction between U.S., China

Yomiuri and Mainichi took up data released by the Finance Ministry on Monday showing that Japanese exports to China in the first two months of this year dropped 6.3% from the previous year. The papers attributed the sluggish Japanese exports to the Chinese market to the prolonged trade friction between the U.S. and China that has caused economic deceleration in China. The dailies projected that China-bound exports are unlikely to recover anytime soon since a quick resolution of the U.S.-China trade dispute appears unlikely.


Disposal of toxic water at Fukushima nuclear plant still problematic

Asahi carried a prominent inside-page article on the ongoing difficulties in disposing of the massive volume of radioactive water being stored at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, noting that although over 1 million tons of contaminated water is currently housed in some 950 makeshift tanks built on the plant premises for final disposal, a proposal by TEPCO and METI of diluting the water and discharging it into the ocean has become unfeasible due to strong opposition from local fishermen. Since the makeshift tanks at the plant can only hold 370,000 additional tons of water, they are expected to be full by the end of next year as some 100 tons of radioactive water is still produced per day. As the utility and the central government have not been able to come up with a viable plan for the final disposal of the toxic water, local residents and officials are apprehensive that it may be released into the ocean in the end without their consent.


Majority of public negative about possibility of Abe serving fourth term

Asahi and Sankei both published the results of their latest opinion surveys, saying that almost three out of five respondents voiced opposition to the idea of allowing Prime Minister Abe to serve a fourth term as LDP president. However, in the Sankei survey, some 70% said they could not identify any politician as a viable candidate to succeed the prime minister. In the Asahi poll, support and nonsupport for the Abe cabinet remained almost the same as the previous month at 41% and 37%, respectively. Sankei's poll put support for the premier at 42.7% and nonsupport at 42.8%.

Meanwhile, the Asahi poll found that 55% felt the present FRF construction initiative off Camp Schwab should be reviewed, while 30% felt otherwise. Almost half of the poll's respondents said the Japanese economy is in bad shape and 55% voiced opposition to the planned consumption tax hike from 8% to 10% in October.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team