Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, May 14, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on the latest exchange of tariffs between the U.S. and China. TV Asahi reported on Nippon Ishin Lower House member Hodaka Maruyama's remarks on Saturday evening suggesting that it would be impossible to regain control of the Northern Territories without going to war with Russia. NTV, TBS, and Fuji TV reported that a UNESCO panel has recommended adding the Mozu-Furuichi ancient burial mounds in Osaka to the World Cultural Heritage list.

Major front-page news in national dailies included China's imposition of retaliatory duties on American products, the recommendation to add the Mozu-Furuichi burial mounds to the UNESCO list, and Cabinet Office data pointing to the "worsening" of the Japanese economy for the first time in over six years as a result of a sharp plunge in corporate output and product exports due to weak external demand apparently caused by the trade conflict between the U.S. and China. The GOJ and the ruling coalition are reportedly set to compile a stimulus package in anticipation of a rapid economic slowdown in China amid escalated trade friction.


USDA chief calls for early conclusion of trade deal with Japan

All national papers except Nikkei gave inside-page coverage to remarks made to reporters in Tokyo on Monday by visiting Secretary of Agriculture Perdue, who voiced strong hope for the swift conclusion of a trade agreement with Japan. He reportedly expressed concern about the "unfair treatment" that American farmers have to bear when exporting products to Japan because of the effectuation of the TPP and the Japan-EU EPA. "It's high time to achieve progress," said the U.S. official. "President Trump is on good terms with Prime Minister Abe. They may be able to accomplish what the negotiators have not been able to. The President is hoping for a swift settlement." Speaking on the large bilateral trade imbalance, the secretary reportedly said: "Since we purchase a very high volume of Japanese products, we should be accorded top class treatment." According to Yomiuri, the Secretary also said he is "fully aware" of and "giving consideration" to the fact that there will be an Upper House election in Japan in July.

The top USDA official also commented on the trade conflict between the U.S. and China by saying: "American farmers are disappointed by the breakdown of the trade talks. If the Chinese retaliate or backtrack on their previous commitments, President Trump will respond appropriately to avoid putting U.S. farmers in a disadvantageous position."

Senior U.S. Embassy official comments on trans-Pacific business partnership

Nikkei reported on an interview with U.S. Embassy Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs Keith Kirkham in which he highlighted the Embassy's commitment to assisting business tie-ups between emerging American and Japanese companies in such areas as artificial intelligence, heath care, information technology, and big data. Stressing that America is one of the most attractive places for business investment by Japanese enterprises, Kirkham reportedly said the Embassy is looking into holding more events to brief local businesspeople on the rules and regulations to be taken into account when investing in the U.S. market. The article explained that the Embassy has been holding such sessions since last September following the enactment of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act. Kirkham reportedly encouraged Japanese participation in a seminar on startups to be held in the U.S. capital in June.


President Trump to meet with abductees' families in Japan

Asahi wrote that coordination is underway between the USG and the GOJ for President Trump to meet with selected family members of the Japanese abductees when he visits Tokyo this month. The GOJ reportedly asked for the meeting to call attention at home and abroad to bilateral efforts to repatriate the victims.

Japan, South Korea likely to hold ministerial meeting in Paris

Asahi and Yomiuri wrote that Foreign Minister Kono is looking into the possibility of meeting with his ROK counterpart Kang in Paris next week on the sidelines of an OECD ministerial conference. The two diplomats are expected to exchange views on the dispute over requisitioned workers and Seoul's restrictions on Japanese seafood imports. Yomiuri added that FM Kono held talks with South Korean Ambassador to Japan Nam at the ministry on Monday and called on the new envoy to make efforts to resolve what he characterized as the "very difficult situation" between the two nations.

In a related story, Sankei highlighted remarks made on a TV show last night by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nishimura. He reportedly indicated that it will be difficult to arrange a summit between Prime Minister Abe and South Korean President Moon on the margins of the G20 summit in Osaka next month due to Seoul's continued failure to take proper measures to settle the dispute over requisitioned workers.

Chinese leader unlikely to visit Japan as state guest this year

Yomiuri speculated that it may be difficult to arrange a trip to Japan by Chinese President Xi as a state guest this year due to tight diplomatic schedules on both sides. According to the daily, as many major international conferences are planned in the autumn and Prime Minister Abe is likely to visit China later this year for a trilateral summit with South Korea, the Chinese leader may not be able to squeeze in a state visit to Japan between these events.


Satellite malfunction disrupts monitoring of security situation around Japan

Mainichi front-paged a finding that because of a technical problem discovered in January with a U.S. commercial imagery satellite for which Japan's Defense Ministry had priority usage rights, the ministry has not been able to conduct proper monitoring of the security situation around the Japanese archipelago. While the ministry had reportedly paid some 8 billion yen ($70 million) a year to DigitalGlobe, which operated the WorldView-4 satellite to collect high-resolution imagery as part of intelligence gathering on North Korea, China, and Russia, it discontinued the contract in February following the breakdown of the spacecraft, which is said to be irrecoverable. While emphasizing that the prolonged absence of WorldView-4 imagery is "not fatal" to national security, the ministry has reportedly been looking for an alternative imagery supplier amid North Korea's renewed moves to stage military provocations.


Lawmaker apologizes for comment on Northern Territories

All national papers reported that Japan Innovation Party politician Hodaka Maruyama of Osaka has been heavily criticized for reportedly saying Japan may have to wage war to recapture the Russian-controlled Northern Territories when he recently accompanied former residents on a visit to one of the islands on a "visa-free" exchange program. The Diet member, who was reportedly intoxicated when he made the remark, apologized yesterday for speaking inappropriately.

Poll finds slight increase in cabinet support rating

NHK reported on Monday evening the results of its monthly opinion poll conducted on May 10-12 showing the Abe cabinet's support rating was 48%, up 1 point from last month, while the disapproval rate was 32%, down 3 points. In addition, 32% of respondents said they had a strong feeling of affinity toward the new emperor, 49% said they had some feeling of affinity, 10% said they had little feeling of affinity, and 3% said they didn't have any feeling of affinity. When asked their views on the planned consumption tax rate increase to 10% in October, 27% said they approved of the tax hike, 40% were against it, and 26% were undecided. Regarding holding simultaneous Lower and Upper House elections this summer, 20% were in favor of the idea, 23% were opposed to it, and 50% had no preference.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team