Morning Alert   -   Monday, April 15, 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 on the Japan-China high-level economic dialogue held in Beijing last night. NTV and Fuji TV reported on a man who removed the gate arms at a railroad crossing in Chiba Prefecture on Saturday. TV Asahi's top story was about a man who caused a Shinkansen train to stop and then jumped onto the tracks yesterday. TBS skipped its regular news program to carry live coverage of the 2019 Masters Golf Tournament.

No papers were published this morning due to a press holiday.


Polls show opposition candidate leading in Okinawa Lower House by-election

Yomiuri reported on Sunday on the results of its polls conducted on April 11-13 in the Lower House 12th district of Osaka and 3rd district of Okinawa, where by-elections will be held on April 21. While the three candidates in Osaka were running neck and neck, the anti-base opposition candidate in Okinawa, freelance journalist Tomohiro Yara, was ahead of the LDP candidate, Aiko Shimajiri. By presenting himself as the successor of Governor Tamaki, who previously occupied the seat, Yara has been able to secure the backing of opposition party supporters as well as over 50% of unaffiliated voters. While Shimajiri has gained the support of over 80% of LDP supporters, she has only managed to obtain the support of 20% of unaffiliated voters.

Asahi also published the results of a poll it conducted jointly with Okinawa Times and local TV channel QAB on April 12-13 showing that Yara has gained the backing of all those who support the anti-base umbrella group All Okinawa Council, as well as over 70% of unaffiliated voters and 20% of LDP supporters, while Shimajiri has secured the support of 80% of LDP supporters and around 20% of unaffiliated voters.

Mainichi reported on Sunday on the results of a Kyodo opinion poll conducted on April 12-13 showing that Yara has secured the support of all opposition party supporters and nearly 60% of unaffiliated voters, while Shimajiri has gained the support of some 70% of LDP and Komeito supporters, but less than 10% of unaffiliated voters. Sankei also confirmed on Sunday the Kyodo poll results with its own findings, but noted that some 30% of unaffiliated voters were still undecided.

Okinawa governor cites example of European nations in demanding SOFA revision

Asahi's Saturday morning edition reported on a news conference by Okinawa Governor Tamaki on Friday in which he announced the results of a study conducted by Okinawan officials on the status of forces agreements concluded by the U.S. Forces and NATO members such as the UK, Belgium, Germany, and Italy, comparing them with the Japan-U.S. SOFA. Tamaki pointed out that unlike in Japan, the U.S. Forces in those countries are fundamentally subject to domestic laws. The governor is reportedly poised to demand that the Japanese and U.S. governments revise the bilateral SOFA. In response to this, Foreign Minister Kono indicated at a news conference on Friday that the GOJ has no plans to revise the SOFA.

SDF to launch 100-member space surveillance unit in 2022

Nikkei front-paged a report on Sunday saying that the Defense Ministry has decided to establish a 100-member space surveillance unit in FY2022, aiming at full operation in FY2023. The new unit will set up dedicated radars in Yamaguchi Prefecture and share information on space debris and suspicious satellite movements with U.S. Forces, as well as cooperate in building an international surveillance network with the Five Eyes intelligence alliance comprising the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. Prospective members of the new SDF unit have already been dispatched to a U.S. air base in Colorado for space-related training.

ASDF conducted second highest number of scrambles in FY2018

Asahi and Sankei reported on Saturday morning that the Defense Ministry announced on Friday that the ASDF scrambled fighter jets 999 times in FY2018, second only to FY2016 when 1,168 such flights were conducted. Almost all of the flights were in response to Chinese and Russian planes, with Chinese fighters and other aircraft being targeted 638 times, 138 times more than in the previous year, while Russian planes engaged in intelligence collection and other missions accounted for 343 of the flights, down by 47.


Japan, China hold high-level economic dialogue in Beijing

NHK reported this morning on the Japan-China high-level economic dialogue held in Beijing last night. The Japanese side was represented by six cabinet ministers led by Foreign Minister Kono, various state ministers, parliamentary vice ministers, and assistants to the prime minister, while the Chinese team was led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The two sides underscored the improvement in bilateral relations and effectively agreed to lift the ban on Japanese beef exports imposed after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. They discussed trade and investment based on international rules and improvement of the business environment. The Japanese side took issue with China's forcing foreign companies to transfer their technology to Chinese entities and asked for stronger measures to protect intellectual property, while China requested fair treatment for Huawei in Japan's 5G services as well as Japan's cooperation in exploring Southeast Asian markets and participation in the Belt and Road initiative.

Sources: GOJ considering foregoing Japan-ROK summit on sidelines of G20 Summit

A Sankei front-page report on Sunday cited several government sources revealing on Saturday that the government is considering not holding a Japan-ROK summit on the sidelines of the G20 Osaka Summit in June in light of the Moon Jae-in administration's "inaction" amid the deterioration of the bilateral relationship to its "worst level ever" due to compensation claims by former requisitioned workers as well as the ROK's recent announcement that its ban on seafood imports from eight Japanese prefectures will remain in place since the WTO ruled in its favor and its refusal to discuss lifting the ban with Japan. A senior MOFA official was quoted as saying that it is unlikely that a bilateral summit would be held under the present circumstances.

WTO ruling upholding ROK's seafood import ban to affect Japan's export strategy

All papers reported on Saturday that the WTO ruling on Thursday upholding the ROK ban on seafood imports from Fukushima and seven other prefectures came as a surprise to Japan and is bound to affect its strategy for exporting agricultural products and diplomacy with the ROK. Sankei attributed this set back to a "tactical error" on the part of Japan in handling the case at the WTO body. Nikkei wrote that Japan had been hoping that if the WTO Appellate Body upheld an earlier panel ruling against the ROK's ban, it would be able to press the ROK to lift the ban and put pressure on it to submit the two countries' dispute over the former requisitioned workers' compensation claims to arbitration by international bodies.


Japan seeks early trade deal with U.S. to remove future sources of dispute

Mainichi wrote in an analytical piece on Sunday that Japan will seek an early trade deal with the U.S. when bilateral talks begin in Washington on April 15-16 in order to remove future sources of friction. It will reportedly reconfirm the joint statement issued after the Japan-U.S. summit last September because it is wary of the U.S.' possible reneging on the agreements reached in light of the Trump administration's threats to impose additional auto tariffs on the EU despite a previous agreement not to do so. The joint statement said that the opening of the market for farm products will not exceed the level under the TPP agreement, that efforts will be made to increase the U.S. auto industry's production and employment, and that no additional auto tariffs will be imposed while the trade talks are taking place. The critical issues for Japan will reportedly be auto export quotas and U.S. access to Japan's market for agricultural products on par with or above the TPP level, both of which it intends to reject.

Finance Minister Aso: U.S. not in a hurry in trade talks with Japan

Yomiuri reported on Sunday that during a news conference held on Friday after the G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington, Finance Minister Aso indicated that since the U.S. is prioritizing trade talks with China at the moment, it will not rush its trade talks with Japan slated to start in Washington on April 15-16. Aso was quoted as saying: "I think they are too busy with (negotiations with) China and won't be able to assign people (to the talks with Japan)."

U.S. treasury secretary keen on currency clause ahead of U.S.-Japan trade talks

NHK reported on Sunday morning that ahead of the start of U.S.-Japan trade talks in Washington today, Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin told reporters on Saturday that there must be no currency manipulation for the purpose of boosting the competitiveness of exports. He was quoted as saying that the U.S. wants to ensure that all trade agreements have currency provisions, thus reiterating his intent to include a currency clause in the bilateral trade deal to prevent Japan from pushing the value of the yen down to benefit Japanese exports.

Japan Display may face U.S. scrutiny after bailout by Chinese-Taiwanese alliance

Nikkei reported on Saturday that Japan Display Inc. (JDI), a government-led venture that combined the liquid crystal display operations of Hitachi, Toshiba and Sony, may now come under close scrutiny by the U.S. government, which is taking a tough stance on China. The ailing company announced on Friday that it will receive a capital injection of 80 billion yen from an alliance of Chinese and Taiwanese companies, which will give them control of 49.8% of JDI shares. JDI is a major Apple supplier that holds nearly 20% of the global market share of LCDs for smartphones. Since LCDs fall within the 27 critical technologies being closely watched by the Trump administration for security reasons, JDI products may face strict CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) national security examination due to the injection of Chinese capital, and the company's exports to China may be restricted if they are deemed to contain U.S. technology.


U.S. service member kills girlfriend, commits suicide in Okinawa

Mainichi, Nikkei, and Sankei carried brief reports on Sunday saying that a U.S. Navy sailor and his Japanese girlfriend were found dead in an apartment in Chatan, Okinawa, on Saturday morning. The service member apparently stabbed the woman and then killed himself. The U.S. Marines Corps in Okinawa told Kyodo that the man was attached to the Third Marine Division and that the Marines were cooperating fully with the investigation. Vice Foreign Minister Akiba reportedly spoke with Ambassador Hagerty on Saturday to protest the incident and ask the U.S. side to cooperate with the investigation and take measures to tighten the U.S. Forces' discipline and prevent a recurrence. Nikkei quoted the Ambassador as pledging to "cooperate fully" with the investigation and "do everything possible" to prevent such an incident from happening again.

Mainichi and Sankei reported online on Sunday evening that Governor Tamaki told reporters that he expressed to the U.S. Marine Corps and III Marine Expeditionary Force commander, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, his "deep sorrow and strong indignation" at the loss of the life of an Okinawan citizen. Smith had reportedly phoned Tamaki on Saturday evening and promised full cooperation with the Okinawa police's investigation.

The two papers also reported online that Okinawa Affairs Minister Miyakoshi told reporters in Naha on Sunday that the incident was "truly regrettable" and that he will demand that the U.S. side take thorough measures to tighten discipline.

Japan's population declines for eighth year in a row

The Saturday editions of all dailies reported on annual demographic data released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on Friday showing that Japan's population stood at 126.44 million as of last October, down by 263,000 from last year and declining for the eighth year in a row. The working-age population aged 15 to 64 shrank 512,000 to 75.45 million, or 59.7% of the total, the same as the lowest level recorded in 1950 when comparable data became available. The ratio of people aged 65 or older was 28.1%, or 35.58 million, while that of people under 15 was 12.2%. People aged 70 or above accounted for 20.7%, surpassing the 20% mark for the first time.

Nikkei focused on an unprecedented rise in the number of foreign residents in Japan, reporting that the foreign population stood at 2.225 million, representing an increase of 640,000 during the past six years. People aged 15-64 made up 85% of all foreign residents, marking a contrast with the rapid graying of the Japanese population.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team