Morning Alert   -   Thursday, May 30, 2019
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Morning news

NHK, TV Asahi, and TBS led with follow-up reports on the mass stabbing incident in Kawasaki on Tuesday morning. NTV reported on the arrest on Tuesday of a driver responsible for a fatal traffic accident in Mie Prefecture last December. Fuji TV gave top coverage to a video posted on social media of a man playing pranks atop a speeding car in Saitama on Tuesday.

Top stories in national dailies included a G20 proposal on corporate tax in the emerging digital economy, Japan's plan to limit seafood imports from South Korea, updates on the stabbing incident in Kawasaki, and the enactment of a law yesterday enabling public broadcaster NHK to livestream on the Internet TV programs aired on its terrestrial channel.


Ambassador Hagerty, Senator Blackburn call for U.S.-Japan coordination on 5G

Sankei front-paged an op-ed on trans-Pacific cooperation on 5G jointly penned by Ambassador Hagerty and Republican Senator from Tennessee Marsha Blackburn. In the piece entitled "Approaching 5G: Tech Ties Cement Japan-U.S. Bonds," they underscored that in rolling out 5G infrastructure, the U.S. and Japan are strongly committed to safeguarding free speech, privacy, and other human rights, noting that in contrast, the Chinese government monitors its people's communications to stem opposition. While noting that the U.S. and Japan need to cooperate to defend their communications networks from potential disruption, manipulation, or espionage, the authors welcomed recent decisions by the Japanese government and mobile phone carriers to build open, transparent, interoperable, and secure 5G infrastructures by prohibiting the use of communications equipment that poses a national security risk and using trusted technology vendors only. As the Trump administration has already adopted similar measures, the authors said the U.S. and Japan are determined to defend their people and corporations from unfair and harmful Chinese economic practices. The two officials stated in conclusion that clear bilateral alignment will "provide the certainty and scale that market-driven technology companies need to deepen and accelerate their capital investment" in this critical arena.


President Trump's comment on trade deal in August sends shockwaves through GOJ

Nikkei wrote that Japanese officials were rattled by President Trump's remark in Tokyo on Monday that the USG "will be announcing some things probably in August" on trade. GOJ officials had been envisioning reaching a "rough agreement" on trade liberalization after the July Upper House elections and concluding an official agreement later based on the assessment that finalizing the details on import tariffs on more than 9,000 products would require meticulous administrative work and could take as long as six months. Those officials had been envisaging that a rough consensus would be forged in late September between Prime Minister Abe and the President when the premier visits New York for the UN General Assembly.

The daily speculated that as President Trump is impatient to produce deliverables quickly in the run-up to the presidential election in 2020, he may demand a much earlier rough accord, possibly when he travels to Osaka in late June for the G20 conference. Projecting that USTR Lighthizer needs to hold trade talks with Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Motegi ahead of concluding a basic agreement, the daily speculated that a deal in Osaka is unlikely since the two sides remain apart over auto and agricultural trade and the top U.S. trade official will continue to be preoccupied with trade negotiations with China. The paper speculated that with his reelection bid in mind, the U.S. leader might once again propose high tariffs on Japanese auto imports if progress is slow in the bilateral trade talks, adding that some Japanese officials are hoping that the President will instead back down to prioritize an early deal.


U.S. "hopeful" about Abe's planned visit to Iran

TBS reported this morning that with regard to tension between the U.S. and Iran, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ortagus said yesterday that the U.S. "welcomes efforts to ease tension, not only by Japan and our European allies, but also by all other countries," thus expressing hope regarding Prime Minister Abe's plan to visit Iran next month to mediate between the two countries. Ortagus said that the U.S. would welcome Japan's conveying to Iran the U.S. message that it does not want Iran to possess nuclear weapons or give support and economic aid to terrorists around the world.

Meanwhile, Asahi wrote that according to an Iranian government source, Foreign Minister Zarif and other high-ranking Iranian diplomats told senior Omani, Iraqi, and Kuwait officials earlier in the week that President Rouhani would be able to open a channel of communications with the U.S. on the condition that the Trump administration ease sanctions on its petroleum exports. With regard to PM Abe's intention to visit the Middle Eastern nation to arbitrate between Washington and Tehran, the same source reportedly said: "Dialogue [with the U.S.] cannot be held unless it at least relaxes sanctions, such as extending waivers to allow Japan and other nations to import Iranian oil." The source reportedly noted that the Iranian government will convey to the Japanese leader that foreign policy moderate President Rouhani needs to have incentives, such as the easing of U.S. sanctions, in order to persuade anti-American elements at home to allow him to open a channel of communications with the Trump administration.

In a related development, other papers took up remarks made by President Rouhani. He reportedly said that the door to dialogue will be opened if the U.S. ends what he termed "unjustifiable sanctions."

Japan to propose Abe-Kim summit to North Korea next week

In a dispatch on Wednesday evening, Kyodo News reported that according to Japanese government sources, the GOJ plans to reach out to North Korean officials on the sidelines of a Northeast Asian security conference to be held June 5-6 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to propose a summit between Prime Minister Abe and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un. The sources reportedly said Japan is expected to send a senior official of MOFA's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau to the conference, while North Korea may send a vice foreign minister.

President Trump expresses gratitude to Japan in tweets

Sankei reported that upon his return to Washington on Tuesday, President Trump tweeted: "Back from Japan after a very successful trip. Big progress on MANY fronts. A great country with a wonderful leader in Prime Minister Abe!" The paper also said that the President tweeted out a brief video featuring his activities in Japan, such as his audience with the Emperor and Empress and meeting with the families of the Japanese abductees, and thanking Japan. NHK aired a similar story.

Japan to strengthen screening of South Korean seafood imports

Sankei claimed in its lead story that the GOJ has decided to conduct tighter inspections of South Korean seafood at ports of entry beginning on June 1, noting that this is apparently a retaliation against Seoul's continued imposition of an import ban on selected Japanese seafood that was deemed to be valid by the WTO last month. According to the daily, the Health Ministry will impose tighter safety screening on Korean flatfish, ark shell, and eight other seafood items ostensibly to prevent food poisoning. The article added that it is extremely unusual for the Japanese government to impose tighter regulations on seafood imports from a specific country.

Ex-ROK chief justice rebuffs allegation that he delayed lawsuits on requisitioned workers

Sankei and Mainichi wrote from Seoul that a former South Korean chief justice appeared at a local district court on Wednesday to testify in a case in which he is accused of abusing his authority as the nation's top judge to delay, in response to a request from the Park administration, the proceedings of lawsuits demanding that Japanese companies pay compensation to Korean citizens who were requisitioned to work at their plants during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. According to the articles, the defendant dismissed the allegation completely, calling it "groundless" and "fictional."

Japanese, Russian diplomats exchange opinions in Tokyo

Asahi wrote that Deputy Foreign Minister Mori held talks with his Russian counterpart Morgulov in Tokyo on Wednesday, speculating that the officials probably discussed the proposed "joint economic activities" initiative in the Northern Territories ahead of a foreign ministerial meeting to be convened here on Friday.

In a related development, NHK reported this morning that the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement yesterday ahead of the Japan-Russia 2+2 meeting today saying that the meeting will discuss confidence building in security and bilateral cooperation in responding to new threats and that Russia intends to express its opinion on the U.S.'s "expanding missile defense in the Asia-Pacific region," indicating that it will convey its concern about the Aegis Ashore systems that Japan is planning to procure from the U.S.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team