Morning Alert   -   Friday, May 24, 2019
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Morning news

NHK and TV Asahi led with reports on the unusually warm weather yesterday and the forecast for similar weather today. TBS reported on the trial of a woman for neglecting her three-year-old daughter who had serious burns and going to play pachinko. NTV and Fuji TV carried follow-up reports on the arrest of singer Junnosuke Taguchi for possession of marijuana.

Top stories in national dailies included President Trump's planned arrival in Tokyo on Saturday for a four-day visit to Japan as the first state guest in the Reiwa Era (Sankei), the Health Ministry's agreement with the Department of Defense to boost cooperation in collecting the remains of war dead (Mainichi), a plan by G20 finance ministers to adopt global guidelines on infrastructure investment at their meeting to be held in Fukuoka on June 8-9 (Yomiuri), former Nissan Chairman Ghosn's alleged dependence on two of his friends to respond to Shinsei Bank's request for 5 billion yen in collateral (Asahi), and a plan by the Health Ministry to rectify the concentration of new medical clinics in major cities (Nikkei).


President Trump to arrive in Japan tomorrow

Sankei led with a report on President Trump's visit to Japan starting on Saturday as the first state guest in the Reiwa Era. The paper speculated that Prime Minister Abe will reiterate his hope for the President to help realize his meeting with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to resolve the abduction issue.

The paper quoted an unnamed senior Trump administration official as telling reporters by phone on Wednesday that the purpose of the President's trip to Japan is not to focus on trade. However, the official reportedly added that the President intends to stress the importance of free and fair trade.

Yomiuri and Nikkei reported on the details of the President's itinerary in Japan, including playing golf and watching sumo with Prime Minister Abe on May 26, holding bilateral talks with Abe and attending a state banquet on May 27, and visiting the MSDF ship Kaga in Yokosuka. The papers also reported on the tightening of security measures ahead of the presidential visit in the Tokyo metropolitan area, including Haneda Airport, Chiba Prefecture, where the U.S. and Japanese leaders are expected to play golf, and Kanagawa Prefecture, where they are expected to visit the MSDF ship.

President Trump reportedly urged ROK leader to improve ties with Japan

Yomiuri reported from Seoul that it has learned from multiple sources on U.S.-Japan-ROK relations that President Trump urged South Korean President Moon to improve his nation's relations with Japan at their talks in Washington on April 11. The paper said it is unusual for the President to express concern over Japan-ROK ties, which have been strained over such issues as the court orders to Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean citizens requisitioned to work during the colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and a Korean warship's illumination of a Japanese patrol plane with its fire-control radar. The paper went on to say that although President Trump did not refer to specific issues of concern, the sources claimed that the United States is worried that the deteriorated relations between Tokyo and Seoul will impact security cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

Japanese, ROK foreign ministers at odds over requisitioned worker issue

All national dailies reported on Foreign Minister Kono's meeting with his South Korean counterpart Kang on Thursday in Paris, during which Kono reportedly urged Kang to accept Japan's request for the launch of a three-party arbitration panel on the dispute over the South Korean court orders to Japanese companies to pay compensation to former Korean requisitioned workers. According to the papers, at the outset of their meeting Kono criticized a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson for telling reporters on Thursday that Japanese companies' compliance with the court order would be unproblematic, saying the remark demonstrates a lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation and that comments of this sort are complicating bilateral relations. Kang responded that it is necessary for Japan to make efforts to heal the victims' wounds, according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry. Sankei wrote that it remains to be seen whether it will be possible to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Moon on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka in June.

In a related development Asahi wrote that although the ROK government is looking into the idea of establishing a fund to compensate former Korean requisitioned workers, the GOJ is unlikely to agree to the idea. The paper quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga as telling reporters on Thursday that Japan has heard nothing from South Korea about the alleged plan and that Tokyo will strongly urge Seoul to agree to Japan's request for arbitration.

The papers wrote that the two top diplomats also discussed the situation surrounding the DPRK and South Korea's ban on seafood from Fukushima and seven other Japanese prefectures.

Abe congratulates Modi on election victory

Yomiuri and Nikkei wrote that on Thursday Prime Minister Abe congratulated Indian Prime Minister Modi on his party's victory in a general election. During a telephone conversation, Abe expressed his hope to strengthen Japan's ties with India and work closely with him to realize the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.


U.S., Japan to hold trade ministerial talks in Tokyo

Yomiuri wrote that the governments of the United States and Japan are making arrangements for USTR Lighthizer and Economic Revitalization Minister Motegi to hold trade talks in Tokyo on Saturday. The paper speculated that the two officials will review the progress made in recent discussions so that the U.S. and Japanese leaders will be able to hold productive discussions on trade at their summit on May 27.

In a related development, TBS reported this morning that Trade Minister Seko met with USTR Lighthizer on the sidelines of the OECD ministerial in Paris yesterday. In connection with the U.S.'s reported plan to impose higher tariffs on auto imports from Japan, Seko was quoted as conveying to the USTR the Japanese government's position that "it is unlikely that imports from Japan, a U.S. ally, would constitute a security threat."


MSDF conducts joint exercise with U.S., Australia, South Korea

Yomiuri wrote that the MSDF announced on Thursday that the United States, Japan, Australia, and South Korea have begun conducting a joint exercise in waters near Guam. The paper said this is the first time for the MSDF and the ROK navy to train together since the incident in December 2018 in which a Korean warship illuminated a Japanese patrol plane with fire-control radar. Noting that the United States took the initiative in organizing the exercise, the paper speculated that it is an attempt by the U.S. to urge Japan and the ROK to improve their ties.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team