Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, March 26, 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 led with a report that President Trump's signing yesterday of a proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights is creating a stir in the international community. TBS reported on the arrest of a man yesterday for murdering his parents in Nagoya last Friday, while TV Asahi also gave top coverage to this story and a report about a man in his 80s who stabbed his son and his common-law wife in Fukuoka Prefecture. NTV reported on a Japanese language school in Tokyo that is suspected of swindling about 70 million yen from 70 Vietnamese nationals. Fuji TV's top story was about ace table tennis player Jun Mizutani revealing that his eyesight is failing.

Major front-page stories in national dailies included reactions to the release of the Mueller report, the beginning of additional earth pouring operations off Camp Schwab, a South Korean plan to fly drones over the Liancourt Rocks for maritime research, and a plan by the Transport Ministry to require taxi operators to train drivers on how to accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.


Japanese firms keen to invest in "red states" in U.S.

Nikkei published a prominent inside-page article on a steep increase in Japanese corporate investment in the United States following the inauguration of the Trump administration two years ago, asserting that many of the direct investments appear to be concentrated in so-called "red states" where President Trump enjoys relatively high support from local voters. According to data compiled by JETRO, some 70% of the so-called "greenfield investments," in which a parent firm constructs a subsidiary company in a foreign country, by Japanese companies have been made in red states, such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Texas. As the U.S. leader apparently attaches high importance to reconstructing the economies of these areas in his bid for reelection in 2020, the daily suspected that when opening new factories in North America, corporate Japan is mindful of the President's narrative that America's industrial base and jobs have been lost as a result of the ballooning U.S. trade deficit.

The daily noted that Prime Minister Abe is anxious to highlight Japanese corporate investment in America in view of the U.S. leader's persistent criticism of Japan's trade surplus, speculating that President Trump's assertion on March 6 that Japanese companies are planning to build at least seven major production plants in the U.S. was apparently based on a briefing by the premier during earlier summit talks. The paper expressed hope that active corporate investment by Japanese businesses may help deflect U.S. trade pressure in the upcoming bilateral trade talks.


Landfill work starts in new section off Camp Schwab

All papers reported that earth pouring began yesterday in a new section off Camp Schwab, saying that some 33 hectares of land will be reclaimed in the operation. The dailies noted that the new landfill work flies in the face of the strong opposition expressed by the Okinawan people in the Feb. 24 referendum, saying that many local residents and officials were upset by the Abe administration's resolve to move ahead with the base realignment plan. Okinawa Governor Tamaki, who is currently visiting Hawaii, said in a statement: "I am enraged. The work ignores the local people's wishes that were clearly expressed in the plebiscite, tramples upon democracy, and destroys local autonomy." He went on to say: "While the central government is desperate to establish a fait accompli, the completion of the construction project will be difficult. The central government's policy of going ahead with the Henoko initiative is unacceptable."

Defense Minister Iwaya commented on the earth pouring work by telling the press yesterday: "The central government is responsible for settling the outstanding issue that has been left unresolved for 23 years. We would like to move ahead with operations as quickly as possible so as to realize the return of Futenma Air Station as soon as possible." As the Okinawa leader is reportedly poised to reject a request for design changes to be submitted by the central government in the near future to conduct engineering work to reinforce the soft seabed off the U.S. installation, the Abe administration is likely to file a lawsuit to counter the rejection.

Two SDF camps to be established today on isles off Kyushu

Asahi reported that the GSDF plans to open two bases on the islands of Amami Oshima in Kagoshima and Miyakojima in Okinawa today as part of the central government's plan to safeguard the Nansei islands off Kyushu from China's maritime advancement. Missile units featuring surface-to-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles will be deployed and about 940 personnel will be stationed there initially. Nikkei ran a similar story, adding that with the establishment of the two SDF installations, the "security vacuum" for the defense of the Nansei Islands will be filled.


Assets of Japanese steel firm seized by requisition workers

All papers reported from Seoul that a South Korean district court approved last week a request filed by Koreans who were requisitioned to work at Japanese plants operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries during the colonial rule to seize the company's Korea-based assets, explaining that two trademarks and six patents worth some 80 million yen ($740,000) have now been frozen for eventual liquidation. The victims reportedly warned that the assets will be liquidated unless the Japanese corporation holds talks with them in good faith on their demand for compensation. This is the second time for a South Korean court to approve a request by former requisitioned workers for the seizure of assets held by Japanese companies.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga denounced the court decision by saying: "It is extremely serious". We will continue to respond appropriately from the standpoint of defending the legitimate business activities of Japanese firms." While noting that some LDP politicians are openly calling for economic retaliation, Asahi claimed that most GOJ officials are taking a cautious stance based on the judgment that punitive steps could trigger tit-for-tat countermeasures, which would have adverse effects on both nations' economies.

South Korea plans to fly drones over Liancourt Rocks

Sankei gave top coverage to a finding that the South Korean government is planning to conduct a maritime survey in the vicinity of the Liancourt Rocks by operating drones over the area. The Korea Hydrographic and Oceanographic Agency reportedly plans to mobilize remotely-controlled autonomous observation vehicles for several months to collect such data as underwater geographical features, water temperatures, and ocean currents around the contested outcrops. Speculating that the survey may be for the purpose of collecting relevant data for operating military vessels to protect the islets, the daily said the GOJ has already lodged a protest.

U.S., South Korea to conduct maritime training against drug trafficking off Korean Peninsula

Asahi reported from Seoul that the U.S. Coast Guard and its ROK counterpart are expected to carry out a joint drill to stem drug trafficking in international waters off Jeju Island on Thursday, saying that the USCGC Bertholf and a Korean patrol boat plan to practice onboard inspections of unidentified ships. While noting that it is unusual for a USCGC ship to make a port call in South Korea, the daily speculated that the drill is also intended to display the two government's commitment to prevent ship-to-ship transfers of sanctioned items involving North Korean vessels.

Caroline Kennedy meets with Okinawan students

TV Asahi reported online this morning that 24 high school and university students from Okinawa who are currently visiting the U.S. met with former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy yesterday. The former Ambassador expressed delight that the students are learning about the U.S.-Japan alliance from a broad perspective. She was quoted as telling them: "The future of the U.S.-Japan alliance, which is the strongest and most important alliance in the world, depends on Okinawa," encouraging the students to broaden their understanding of the security alliance. The TV network said that the Okinawan students are on a one-week visit to the U.S. under a Japanese government program to promote better understanding of the bilateral alliance. They traveled to New York for discussions with UN officials, visited the White House and other U.S. government offices, and exchanged views with American students in Washington before their meeting with the former Ambassador.


Tokyo judge to review emails exchanged between U.S., Japan on minutes of Joint Committee

Nikkei wrote that the Tokyo District Court decided on Monday to conduct an "in camera inspection" concerning a case in which a local NPO sued the central government for its refusal at one point to disclose the minutes of Joint Committee meetings held in 1952 and 1960. According to the article, a judge will review the emails exchanged between the two governments on the NPO's request filed with MOFA in April 2015 for declassifying the documents in question. The GOJ has reportedly opposed the procedure by saying that it would undermine the relationship of mutual trust. The GOJ has also reportedly explained to the court that the U.S. side did not agree to disclose the minutes and that revealing the correspondence between the two governments on the matter would make future bilateral coordination difficult.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team