Morning Alert   -   Thursday, April 25, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with updates on the investigation into the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, while commercial networks led with reports on the death of long-distance running coach Yoshio Koide and a press conference by a man who lost his wife and daughter in a traffic accident involving an elderly driver.

Major front-page news items in national dailies included Prime Minister Abe's apology to victims of forced sterilization, a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority to require utilities to comply with their deadlines for taking measures against terror attacks on nuclear power plants, and a GOJ plan to enact new legislation to enhance regulation of IT giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.


LDP's Nikai meets with Chinese President Xi

All national dailies reported that LDP Secretary General Nikai met with Chinese President Xi in Beijing yesterday as Prime Minister Abe's special envoy, highlighting the Chinese leader's remark that he plans to visit Osaka for the G20 summit in late June. The dailies added that President Xi did not respond firmly to Nikai's request for the Chinese government to ease restrictions on Japanese food imports that were enforced following the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Yomiuri wrote that as a pro-China politician, Nikai is expected to lay the groundwork for President Xi's visit to Osaka in preparation for inviting him to Japan again in the autumn or later as a state guest. While noting that the Trump administration is concerned about the sustainability and lack of transparency of China's Belt and Road initiative, Sankei reported that Nikai told the press after the meeting: "Japan will cooperate closely with China in helping to promote the initiative. We will not try to gauge America's reaction to our dealing with bilateral issues with China." Mainichi wrote that Tokyo needs to coordinate closely with Washington in offering cooperation to China's Belt and Road initiative since the U.S. views it as an attempt to challenge the existing international order.

Japan, Italy hold bilateral summit

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Abe and Italian Prime Minster Conte held talks in Rome on Wednesday and agreed on mutual cooperation for realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Abe reportedly explained Japan's policy of making robust infrastructure investment in the region based on such principles as transparency and openness, apparently with China's Belt and Road trade promotion initiative in mind. The articles noted that as Italy is an avid supporter of the Chinese initiative, Tokyo is concerned about Rome's rapidly cozying up to Beijing. Nikkei said Abe is keen to rein in China's growing presence on the European continent in such high-tech fields as 5G telecommunication networks. Abe and Conte also reportedly affirmed mutual cooperation for making the G20 summit in Osaka a success.

Asahi added that that Abe's European tour is intended to obtain cooperation for a successful G20 summit, conjecturing that he is expected to act as a middleman between President Trump and other participants because the U.S. leader is likely to take an "America First" approach. The daily claimed that the premier needs to make the Osaka conference a success to shore up his public support ahead of the Upper House election in July.

Senior Japanese, ROK diplomats hold teleconference

Nikkei wrote that MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director Kanasugi spoke by phone with his South Korean counterpart yesterday. They reportedly agreed to enhance bilateral and trilateral coordination with the U.S. to achieve North Korea's denuclearization.

Some foreign embassies to be closed throughout Golden Week

Yomiuri reported that some foreign diplomatic missions in Tokyo will be closed throughout the 10-day Golden Week holiday from late April through early May. These reportedly include the U.S., French, Mexican, and South Korean missions. An unnamed U.S. Embassy official was quoted as saying that the Embassy decided to observe all of the local Golden Week holidays this year because of the imperial succession. The daily conjectured that some U.S. Embassy officials will need to work during this period to prepare for President Trump's state visit in late May.


Nuclear reactors failing to take measures to prevent terror attacks to be shut down

All national dailies reported that the Japan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) rejected on Wednesday requests filed by the Kansai, Shikoku, and Kyushu electric power companies for extensions of their five-year deadlines for completely enforcing measures against terrorist attacks. The papers projected that the operation of the utilities' nuclear reactors will be stopped beginning next March unless they complete by the deadlines such steps as the construction of facilities that can manage reactor operations remotely. The dailies projected that a total of nine atomic reactors operated by the three utilities will probably be shut down as a result.

The dailies wrote that as the nuclear watchdog decided to enforce the regulations strictly, the utility firms will be forced to conduct reviews of their existing plans for the resumption of their nuclear reactors. Their current business projections will also be affected since they are partly based on the reactors' continued operation. Asahi added that the NRA decision dealt a blow to METI, which is a proponent of nuclear energy and put together the current GOJ plan to increase nuclear energy to account for around 20% of the nation's total energy output by FY2030.


U.S., Japanese treasury chiefs to meet today

Yomiuri reported on a Finance Ministry announcement that Finance Minister Aso will hold talks with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin in Washington on April 25, saying that the two ministers are likely to discuss the Trump administration's desire to include a currency provision in a bilateral free trade agreement.

GOJ mulls legislation to increase transparency of IT giants' business practices

All national dailies reported on a meeting held yesterday between several GOJ agencies, including the Fair Trade Commission, on proposed regulations on Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon and other IT giants, noting that they are mulling new legislation to increase transparency in these companies' business operations in Japan. Other emerging ideas to ensure transparency, fairness, and competition reportedly include the establishment of "data portability," which allows individuals to move their personal data easily from one IT firm to another. These proposed regulations are reportedly intended to protect consumers and small- and medium-sized companies from the powerful IT firms.


Top Navy officers of Japan, China hold talks

Asahi, Yomiuri, and Sankei reported that MSDF Chief of Staff Yamamura and his Chinese counterpart held talks in Qingdao on Monday and agreed to increase bilateral defense exchanges. They reportedly confirmed that they will continue mutual coordination for a visit to Japan by a Chinese warship. This was reportedly the first such meeting in 10 years.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team