Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, April 3, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report saying the Chinese government has decided to replace its ambassador to Japan next month. Other broadcasters' top items included stories on the unusually cold weather and a spike in the number of phone calls and text messages apparently intended to swindle senior citizens by capitalizing on the era name change.

Top stories in national dailies included reports on the new era name Reiwa (Mainichi, Yomiuri), a GOJ study on a system that would give individuals the right to stop companies from using their personal data in response to increasing moves to use such data for business purposes (Nikkei), a Supreme Court notice to family courts urging them to review reward payments under the adult guardianship system (Asahi), and a story about former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui (Sankei).


U.S., Japan likely to hold trade talks on April 15-16

All national dailies wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan are making final arrangements to hold the first session of a new round of trade negotiations in Washington on April 15 and 16, speculating that Economic Revitalization Minister Motegi will visit Washington for talks with USTR Lighthizer. The papers speculated that the two governments are making arrangements to launch the new trade talks ahead of Prime Minister Abe's planned trip to the United States to meet with President Trump. The papers wrote that Motegi told the press on Tuesday that the GOJ is making arrangements to hold the first meeting of the talks by the end of this month.

Asahi wrote that the focus of attention will be the extent to which the two nations will expand the scope of their negotiations beyond reducing tariffs on goods including agricultural products and automobiles. The paper also conjectured that although the GOJ is hoping to only discuss tariffs at the talks, it will likely face tough negotiations if the U.S. side calls for reducing tariffs on farm products below TPP levels or expanding the scope of the negotiations because the two governments previously agreed to discuss services as well as goods.

Yomiuri conjectured the trade talks may be intense because the United States is apparently interested in addressing currency issues and expanding exports of beef and other agricultural products, while Japan is hoping to settle the talks at an early date by limiting their scope. The paper speculated that the United States may bring up pharmaceuticals and quantitative restrictions on auto trade and call on Japan to reduce tariffs on farm products below the levels under the TPP and other trade agreements.

Nikkei conjectured that Tokyo is hoping to reach an agreement with Washington by lowering tariffs on American farm products to TPP levels, but it wants to limit the scope of negotiations on services as much as possible.

Mainichi wrote that the gap between Washington and Tokyo may become more pronounced in the upcoming talks because Japan is hoping to focus only on tariffs on goods, while the United States has expressed its interest in discussing a wide range of issues.


Suga plans to visit U.S. to discuss abduction issue

Nikkei wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga is making arrangements to visit the U.S. in May to raise awareness of the abduction issue in America and in the international community. According to the paper, Suga plans to attend a UN meeting in New York as Japan's minister in charge of the abduction issue to provide a detailed explanation of the issue and meet with senior USG Officials in Washington to call for their cooperation toward its resolution. The paper wrote that it is very unusual for a chief cabinet secretary to travel overseas because one of the responsibilities of the position is to head crisis management at the Kantei.

U.S., Japanese officials discuss DPRK

Yomiuri wrote that Special Representative for North Korea Biegun and MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director-General Kanasugi spoke by phone on Tuesday, speculating that the two officials coordinated their policies on DPRK denuclearization and confirmed trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea. The paper also conjectured that Special Representative Biegun, who visited China after the second U.S.-DPRK summit held in Hanoi in February, briefed his Japanese counterpart on the details of discussions between the United States and China. Sankei ran a similar report.

Japan, Russia hold strategic dialogue

Asahi and Mainichi wrote that the governments of Japan and Russia held in Tokyo on Tuesday a session of their strategic dialogue, a framework to discuss bilateral relations and international issues, with the participation of Vice Foreign Minister Akiba and his Russian counterpart First Deputy Foreign Minister Titov. The papers wrote that the two governments discussed their peace treaty talks and North Korea in preparation for a possible summit between their leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit to be held in Osaka in June. Sankei ran a similar report, speculating that the two governments agreed to expedite their peace treaty negotiations.

Chinese envoy to Japan to step down

NHK reported this morning that Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua will be replaced and return to China in early May. The diplomat has been in the position for nine years, longer than any of his predecessors. The GOJ has already been informed of the Chinese government's decision to appoint a new envoy. The broadcaster said that as a seasoned Japan hand with an excellent command of Japanese and solid connections with influential Japanese political and business leaders, the Chinese envoy has been instrumental in mending bilateral ties that deteriorated following the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in 2012. As Sino-Japanese relations have improved rapidly in the past year as evidenced by Chinese Premier Li's trip to Japan and Prime Minister Abe's visit to Beijing, the Chinese government reportedly feels this is a good opportunity to replace Cheng.


Poll: Majority approve of Reiwa as new era name

Yomiuri led with the results of its nationwide poll asking the public their views of Reiwa as Japan's new era name. Some 62% of the respondents said they have "positive feelings" about the name, while 31% said they were having difficulty getting used to it.

Mainichi and Sankei reported on the result of a Kyodo poll showing that 73.7% of respondents have "positive feelings" about the name Reiwa, while 15.7% felt the opposite.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team