Morning Alert   -   Friday, May 10, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on the U.S.-China trade talks ahead of the Trump administration's plan to raise tariffs on Chinese products today. TBS reported on North Korea's launch of what appeared to be short-range missiles yesterday. Fuji TV reported that a woman was arrested for phoning in bomb threats to several tourist attractions near Kyoto Tower on Wednesday afternoon, causing the police to ask tourists to evacuate the area. NTV aired a follow-up report on the traffic accident in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Wednesday. TV Asahi gave top coverage to Major Leaguer Shohei Ohtani's first hit after recovering from arm surgery.

Top stories in national dailies included the U.S.-China trade talks (Nikkei), the DPRK's firing of projectiles (Sankei), a GOJ plan to ban exports of plastic waste (Yomiuri), the opening of an online lottery for 2020 Tokyo Olympics tickets (Asahi), and a record low number of applications for teaching positions at elementary schools in fiscal 2018 (Mainichi).


DPRK fires more projectiles

All national dailies wrote that South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that the DPRK on Thursday fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles into waters off its east coast. According to the South Korean military, the projectiles were fired eastward from the Kusong area of North Pyongan Province in the northwestern part of the country at around 4:30 p.m. One of the projectiles flew about 420 km and the other flew about 270 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan.

Asahi conjectured that the United States and South Korea are trying to determine whether the projectiles were ballistic missiles that would violate the UN sanctions resolutions. Noting that the DPRK also fired several short-range projectiles from its east coast on May 4, the paper speculated that Pyongyang may have raised the level of provocation by firing longer-range projectiles yesterday. Yomiuri speculated that the recent projectile launches amid what the paper described as an "impasse" in U.S.-DPRK nuclear talks were intended to send a warning to Washington since it hasn't responded Pyongyang's call for lifting economic sanctions. Yomiuri conjectured that Thursday's firing of more projectiles was aimed at achieving a breakthrough in what the paper described as the "stalled" U.S.-DPRK talks by provoking Washington, which responded calmly to the projectile launch on May 4. Mainichi speculated that the launches were aimed at gaining an advantage in future talks with the United States by raising the level of tension. The paper added that the launches may cast a shadow over Prime Minister Abe's efforts to meet in person with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un if the projectiles are confirmed to have been ballistic missiles that violate UNSC resolutions. Nikkei conjectured that the DPRK is probably raising the level of provocation to urge the United States to ease economic sanctions.

Prime Minister Abe told reporters on Thursday that the GOJ has confirmed that there is no indication that the projectiles had an impact on Japan's security. Defense Minister Iwaya separately told the press that the projectiles did not land in Japan's territorial waters or exclusive economic zone. Iwaya reportedly added that Japan will remain vigilant and make utmost efforts to collect and analyze information by coordinating with the United States and South Korea. According to Nikkei, Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Nagamine spoke by phone with Special Representative for North Korea Biegun, who is visiting South Korea this week, and South Korea's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon, to confirm close coordination.

CCS Suga meets with Secretary Pompeo, Acting Secretary Shanahan

NHK reported online this morning that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, who is on a four-day visit to the U.S. since yesterday, met with Secretary Pompeo at the State Department for about 30 minutes at 6:30 a.m. today (Japan time). The two officials reportedly discussed North Korea's projectile launches and confirmed a closely coordinated response. Suga also sought the U.S.'s support for an early solution to the abduction issue. The network also reported that prior to this meeting, Suga met with Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan at the Pentagon. They are reportedly believed to have confirmed the steady implementation of U.S. military realignment plans and efforts to reduce Okinawa's base-hosting "burden," including the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko.

ROK president expresses willingness to hold talks with Abe

Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Mainichi wrote that South Korean President Moon said during an interview with the Korean Broadcasting System on Thursday that it would be good if he could hold talks with Prime Minister Abe when he visits Japan for the G20 summit in Osaka in June. Mainichi quoted Moon as adding that he hopes that relations between Japan and South Korea will develop further and that it is necessary to develop relations with a forward-looking perspective because the ties between the two nations are important.

Japan voices hope for Iranian nuclear issue to be resolved through dialogue

Nikkei wrote that concerning Iran's decision to partially withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nishimura told the press on Thursday that Japan will work to resolve the issue through dialogue by utilizing its traditionally friendly relations with Iran.


Japan, ROK eye defense ministerial in Singapore

Asahi wrote that the governments of Japan and South Korea are making arrangements to hold bilateral talks between their defense ministers on the sidelines of the annual security forum known as the Shangri-La Dialogue slated to take place in Singapore from May 30 to June 2. If realized, this will be the first meeting between the Japanese and ROK defense ministers since a South Korean navy vessel illuminated an MSDF patrol plane with its fire-control radar in December 2018. Yomiuri and Nikkei ran similar reports, adding that the two nations are also planning to hold a trilateral defense ministerial with the United States in Singapore.

U.S., Japan, India, Philippines conduct joint naval exercises in South China Sea

Sankei front-paged a report from Washington saying that the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet announced on Wednesday that the USS William P. Lawrence sailed through the South China Sea with warships of Japan, India, and the Philippines, and carried out joint exercises from May 2 through 8. The paper wrote that this was the first time for the four nations to train together in the South China Sea, speculating the exercises were conducted in response to China's moves to militarize the region and were intended to demonstrate the U.S. military's strong coordination with its partners in the Indo-Pacific. The paper added that MSDF helicopter carrier Izumo and destroyer Murasame participated in the training. MSDF Rear Adm. Hiroshi Egawa said in a statement released by the 7th Fleet: "The opportunity of a multi-sail with U.S. Navy and regional partners was a great experience. In addition to building mutual understanding and trust, we could contribute to enhancing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region."

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team