Morning Alert   -   Thursday, May 9, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with the U.S announcement on Wednesday of new sanctions on Iran, while all commercial networks gave top coverage to the traffic accident in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Wednesday, in which two preschool children were killed and nearly a dozen others injured.

Major front-page items in national dailies included the Iranian leader's remarks yesterday hinting at the resumption of nuclear development in protest of the U.S. departure from the Iran nuclear accord and Toyota's announcement of brisk car sales last year.


President Trump to visit Japanese warship

Yomiuri projected that when President Trump visits Japan later this month, he is likely to visit the MSDF destroyer Kaga in a bid to call attention to the strong bilateral alliance, as U.S.-built F-35Bs are expected to be deployed on the Izumo-class vessel. Arrangements are reportedly underway between the two governments for Prime Minister Abe to join the President's visit at the MSDF Yokosuka Base on May 28. Mainichi and Nikkei filed similar stories.

U.S, Japanese diplomats discuss North Korea

All national dailies reported that Special Representative for North Korea Biegun held talks with MOFA Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Director General Kanasugi yesterday to exchange views on North Korean issues including the recent launch of projectiles. The senior USG official reportedly called the launch a "reflection of impatience" on the part of the Kim regime. The two officials agreed to strengthen bilateral coordination as well as trilateral coordination with the ROK to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. diplomat reportedly explained the current status of and prospects for bilateral denuclearization talks with Pyongyang. According to Mainichi, Biegun voiced understanding for Prime Minister Abe's desire to hold a summit with Chairman Kim "without preconditions."

In a related development, Asahi and Yomiuri highlighted comments made on Wednesday by a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson. The official reportedly explained that the recent launch of short-range projectiles "was not directed at anybody, but was part of normal training for self-defense and did not aggravate the regional situation." The official reportedly emphasized that "some elements" have described the launch as a "provocation."

Suga to make "diplomatic debut" in U.S.

Nikkei gave prominent inside-page coverage to Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga's U.S. visit that begins today, focusing on his planned meeting with U.S. bankers and hedge fund managers in New York at which he is likely to give a detailed briefing on Abenomics. A number of MOFA officials will reportedly accompany him, including a diplomat who previously served as the prime minister's official interpreter. The daily took up a growing view held by LDP parliamentarians that the "unusual" diplomatic tour by the chief government spokesperson perhaps is indicative of his desire to seek the LDP presidency, although he has reportedly underscored that he has never desired the post. The paper added that the USG is expected to roll out the red carpet for him, explaining that in addition to Secretary Pompeo and Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan, Vice President Pence will greet him even though he ranks below the Vice President in diplomatic protocol.

GOJ spokesman comments on Iran's announced departure from nuclear deal

Sankei took up Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga's remarks to the press yesterday in response to Iranian President Rouhani's announcement on Iran's partial withdrawal from the nuclear accord. "We have been consistent in supporting the pact," Suga said. "It is important for Iran to play a constructive role to ensure stability in the Middle East". Japan is ready to help resolve the issue through dialogue for regional peace and stability."

New ROK envoy to Japan voices hope to improve bilateral ties

All dailies took up a press conference held in Seoul yesterday by new South Korean Ambassador to Japan Nam Gwan-pyo. He reportedly vowed to improve bilateral relations with Tokyo that have been strained over the comfort women and requisitioned workers disputes. He was quoted as saying: "The present status of bilateral ties is extremely regrettable and differs greatly from the goal or direction that President Moon is aiming for." With regard to the lingering history disputes, the new envoy reportedly stressed that diplomats must make utmost efforts to prevent them from damaging overall relations.

Meanwhile, Sankei wrote in its lead story that arrangements are underway between the Japanese and the ROK governments to hold a bilateral defense ministerial on the margins of the annual Shangri La dialogue that will begin in Singapore on May 31. While predicting that North Korea's denuclearization will be high on the agenda, the article speculated that the radar illumination incident that occurred last December in the Sea of Japan may also be addressed. The paper said some GOJ and LDP officials are cautious about resuming the bilateral defense exchanges that have been suspended since the incident because Seoul has insisted that it never happened in the first place. While an unnamed LDP parliamentarian who belongs to the party's defense clique reportedly said the matter must be taken up in the proposed meeting, some Defense Ministry officials are unenthusiastic about discussing it because they want the session to be "constructive" in view of the possibility of a deterioration of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

FM Kono to visit Russia

Yomiuri and Sankei noted that Foreign Minister Kono will visit Moscow today for talks with his Russian counterpart Lavrov on Friday. The Japanese minister is reportedly expected to focus on talks on economic activities in the Northern Territories in a bid to build mutual confidence based on the judgment that tangible progress in negotiations over the contested islands is unlikely at least for a while. The dailies added that although Prime Minister Abe plans to hold a summit meeting with President Putin on the sidelines of the G20 confab in Osaka in June, it will be difficult for him to achieve Japan's goal of seeking a basic agreement on a bilateral peace treaty.


Defense Ministry hoping to continue discussions on purchase of Mageshima

Yomiuri said that although the owner of Mageshima has notified the Defense Ministry in writing that it will discontinue negotiations over the sale of the island, the ministry is aiming to continue the talks in the belief that the provisional agreement for its purchase for 16 billion yen ($150 million) that it sealed in January with the ousted president of the company that owns the islet is still valid. The daily added that the current president is the father of the former one.

Mainichi ran a similar story, saying that some MOD officials suspect that the notification of the discontinuation of negotiations is a tactic to gain the upper hand.

Japanese parliament endorses ACSAs with France, Canada

Sankei, Mainichi, and Nikkei wrote that the House of Councillors on Wednesday approved Japan's acquisition and cross-servicing agreements (ACSAs) with France and Canada, saying that pending the completion of similar procedures by the two partners, the military arrangements will probably take effect in June. Mainichi wrote that as Japan has already implemented corresponding arrangements with the U.S., Australian, and UK militaries, the latest ACSAs will further enhance defense cooperation with foreign partners in view of China's maritime advancement in the South and East China Seas.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team