JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Morning Alert   -   Friday, May 17, 2019
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HEADLINES

Morning news

NHK and TV Asahi led with reports on the start of the trial of the mother of a 10-year-old girl who died as a result of parental abuse in January. TBS gave top coverage to Lower House member Hodaka Maruyama's refusal to resign from the Diet over his remark about war with Russia over the Northern Territories. NTV led with a report on corporal punishment by the coach of a high school volleyball team in Hyogo Prefecture. Fuji TV reported on a viral fake video of four men leaving a restaurant without paying the bill.

Top stories in national dailies included moves by the Trump administration to completely exclude Huawei from doing business with U.S. companies (Nikkei, Mainichi, Sankei), the first GOJ numerical goal for curbing dementia patients (Asahi), and a plan by Seven-Eleven Japan to permit its outlets to discount products approaching their expiration dates (Yomiuri).

AMBASSADOR

Ambassador Hagerty speaks about Japan-DPRK relations, U.S.-Japan trade talks

Yomiuri front-paged its interview with Ambassador Hagerty that was held on Wednesday at his official residence in Tokyo. The paper wrote that ahead of President Trump's planned visit to Japan later this month, the Ambassador expressed the U.S. government's position of supporting Japan's efforts to resolve the DPRK's abductions of Japanese nationals and realize a summit between Prime Minister Abe and its leader Kim Jong Un. The paper wrote that the Ambassador stressed the significance of a planned visit to Japan by President Trump from May 25 through 28 as the first state guest in the Reiwa Era by saying that the visit will deliver a message to the world that the U.S.-Japan alliance is "the strongest alliance in the world, bar none." Noting that Ambassador Hagerty attended the President's meeting with Prime Minister Abe in Washington on April 26, the paper quoted the Ambassador as saying that the President expressed his support for the prime minister's effort to seek a summit with Kim Jong Un. The Ambassador also emphasized that the President has "special feelings" for the Japanese abductees and their families and expressed the view that the DPRK has come to realize that the United States attaches importance to the abductions because the President brought up the issue in his meetings with Chairman Kim.

On the economic front, Ambassador Hagerty reportedly welcomed the Japanese government's de facto exclusion of Huawei products from its procurement of telecommunications equipment and pointed out the need for the United States and Japan to work together to urge China to achieve structural reform to prevent violations of intellectual property rights. Concerning the new trade talks between the United States and Japan, the Ambassador reportedly said that the President is very dissatisfied with the fact that a trade pact with Japan is lagging behind the TPP and the Japan-EU EPA, which were effected in December 2018 and February of this year, respectively, and is hoping negotiations with Tokyo will proceed swiftly.

INTERNATIONAL

Iran seeks Japan's support

All national dailies reported on visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif's meetings with Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Kono on Thursday. The papers wrote that Abe urged Zarif to comply with its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal by telling him that Japan is concerned that the situation in the Middle East is becoming increasingly tense. Kono reportedly told his Iranian counterpart that Japan will spare no effort to ease tensions in the region. Asahi speculated that amid the growing tensions with the United States, Iran is expecting Japan to play a role in easing the tensions because Japan maintains traditionally friendly relations with Iran while upholding its strong alliance with the United States. However, Asahi added that when speaking to reporters afterward, Zarif criticized the United States for expanding its oil import ban to Japan and other countries. Yomiuri conjectured that Japan is planning to bring up Iran at the planned summit between President Trump and Prime Minister Abe on May 27 to urge the United States to resolve the Iranian issue through dialogue. The paper wrote that although Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga told reporters on Thursday that Japan will contribute to ensuring peace and stability in the Middle East by utilizing its friendly relations with Iran, an unnamed senior MOFA official told the paper that it appears difficult to improve the current situation because of the Trump administration's strong distrust of Iran. Mainichi wrote that although Zarif expressed hope for Prime Minister Abe to "act as an intermediary" between Washington and Tehran, this will be difficult for Japan because the United States has no intention to ease the economic sanctions.

ECONOMY

U.S. effectively bars Huawei from purchasing U.S.-made components

All national dailies reported extensively on the Commerce Department announcement on Wednesday that it has officially placed Huawei on the Bureau of Industry and Security's "entity list," effectively barring the company from buying components from U.S. companies without government approval. The papers also reported on an executive order signed by President Trump on Wednesday that prohibits U.S. companies from using foreign information technology and services deemed a national security risk, speculating that the order will pave the way toward a total ban on doing business with Huawei.

Sankei wrote that the GOJ is responding calmly to the Commerce Department announcement. Nikkei quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga as telling a regular press briefing on Thursday that the GOJ is aware that ensuring cybersecurity in 5G networks is critically important and that Tokyo is closely watching the moves of the U.S. government. The paper quoted an unnamed GOJ source as saying, however, that Japan may not act completely in concert with the United States because there are geopolitical differences between the two nations. Asahi quoted an unnamed GOJ official as expressing concern that the U.S. policy of excluding Huawei could have a major impact on Japanese companies' global supply chains.

Suga comments on Bloomberg report on possible U.S. quantitative restrictions on auto trade

Nikkei and Mainichi wrote that in response to the Bloomberg report on Wednesday that the Trump administration is considering issuing an executive order asking Japan and the EU to adopt quantitative restrictions on their exports of autos and auto parts to the United States, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga told a regular press briefing on Thursday that measures concerning trade should be consistent with WTO agreements. Mainichi speculated that this matter could become a source of conflict in the U.S.-Japan trade talks. Sankei quoted Suga as saying that if wide-range restrictions are imposed, it will have a major impact on the global economy.

JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
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U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team