Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, June 19, 2019
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Morning news

All TV networks led with reports on the strong earthquakes that hit Niigata and Yamagata last night and early this morning, causing widespread damage and injuries in both prefectures.

Major front-page stories in national dailies included plans for a U.S.-China summit in Osaka next week, the earthquakes in Niigata, Facebook's plan to launch its own cryptocurrency in coordination with Visa, Uber, and 25 other companies, and massive investments made by listed Japanese companies last year.


U.S.-Japan summit to be convened in Osaka on June 28

Yomiuri wrote that coordination is underway between the USG and the GOJ to hold a bilateral summit in Osaka in the morning of June 28, predicting that President Trump and Prime Minister Abe will discuss the situation in Iran. According to the daily, Secretary Pompeo is expected to visit Osaka and hold talks with Foreign Minister Kono.

ROK ignores Japan's call for establishing arbitration panel on forced labor

All national papers reported that the Moon administration has not responded to Japan's request for naming by June 18 its member to a three-person arbitration committee that Tokyo has proposed launching based on the 1965 bilateral accord on wartime compensation for resolving the requisitioned workers dispute. According to Asahi, Seoul has effectively ignored what it described as Tokyo's "unilateral" call based on the judgment that the establishment of the committee would roil bilateral relations by provoking strong emotional reactions in both nations. Although the GOJ is reportedly prepared to continue to urge the ROK government to appoint a member, the dailies noted that calls may mount within the ruling LDP for responding by taking such measures as raising tariffs on ROK imports and restricting visa-free travel to Japan by South Koreans.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson reportedly told the press yesterday that the ministry is "carefully studying" Japan's request by taking into consideration various factors, including how to relieve the victims' suffering and build future-oriented bilateral ties. Explaining that a South Korean court probably will not authorize until at least August the liquidation of the ROK-based financial assets of a Japanese steel firm that have already been seized, Mainichi projected that the Moon administration will continue to take a wait-and-see approach toward Japan's request.

In a related story, Sankei claimed in a front-page article that Prime Minister Abe has decided not to hold talks with President Moon on the sidelines of the G20 confab in Osaka given Seoul's failure to heed Japan's request to establish an arbitration panel. The premier has reportedly concluded that a summit with South Korea would be pointless in the absence of concrete steps by the ROK government to improve bilateral relations. While the prime minister is likely to hold individual meetings with 14 to 15 G20 leaders on the margins of the conference, he is unlikely to sit down with Moon for an official summit. Nikkei projected, however, that Foreign Minister Kono will probably meet with his ROK counterpart in Osaka to try to achieve a breakthrough.

Abe's diplomacy to be tested at Osaka summit amid escalated U.S.-China trade friction

All national dailies reported on the growing likelihood that President Trump will meet with Chinese President Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka in late June, highlighting the President's tweet saying he had a good telephone conversation with Xi and they will hold an extended meeting next week. Mainichi wrote that as the escalating trade conflict between the two largest economies has already begun to have global consequences, there are mounting expectations for the two leaders to defuse the tension at the Osaka meeting and for Prime Minister Abe, as the G20 chair, to exercise strong leadership to urge the U.S. leader to move away from his protectionist orientation. But the daily added that persuading the Trump administration to change its tack on trade will be a daunting task for the premier, pointing out that during the recent G20 trade ministerial meeting held in Tsukuba earlier this month, GOJ officials ran into enormous difficulties drafting a joint statement showing a clear stance against protectionism due to strong opposition from U.S. representatives, who allegedly defended the use of punitive tariffs.

Chinese envoy voices support for Abe's desire to hold summit with Kim Jong Un

Yomiuri front-paged an interview with Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou, who said the Chinese government will do everything it can to support Prime Minister Abe's efforts to arrange a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without preconditions. Speaking on President Xi's planned summit with Abe in Osaka next week on the sidelines of the G20, the Chinese diplomat reportedly projected that the two leaders will exchange views on a range of topics. Asked about the operations conducted by Chinese government vessels in the vicinity of the Senkakus, the ambassador reportedly defended them as legitimate and justifiable, stressing that the operations have been carried out in a restrained manner.

While quoting Ambassador Kong as saying that a "reasonable approach" should be taken to realize a state visit to Japan by President Xi, the daily conjectured that Beijing apparently regards such a trip by the Chinese leader as premature perhaps because of the GOJ's moves to exclude Huawei from the 5G market.

French President Macron to visit Japan

All national papers reported that French President Macron will visit Tokyo for two days from June 26, saying that he will have an audience with Emperor Naruhito and hold talks with Prime Minister Abe. The French leader will then travel to Osaka for the G20.


Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan withdraws nomination as secretary

NHK reported this morning that President Trump revealed in a tweet yesterday that Acting Secretary of State Shanahan has withdrawn his nomination for secretary of defense "so he can devote more time to his family." NHK claimed that it is believed that approval of his nomination by Congress is regarded as difficult in light of the issue of conflict of interest due to his being a former executive of Boeing and reports of domestic violence in his family. NHK also reported that President Trump appointed Army Secretary Mark Esper as Shanahan's replacement. TBS broadcast a similar story.

Defense Ministry dismisses Okinawa's complaint about use of new seawall for landfill

Asahi reported that the Defense Ministry has dismissed the Okinawa prefectural government's opposition to the ministry's use of a newly built seawall off Camp Schwab as a platform for unloading sand and earth for land reclamation for the FRF construction. The ministry reportedly explained that there were no administrative errors in a GOJ document concerning the FRF design submitted earlier to the prefectural government, thus defending the use of the seawall, which the Okinawa side has insisted was not specified in the design document.

Defense chief admits to additional error in Aegis Ashore surveys

All national papers except Mainichi reported that during a regular press conference on Tuesday, Defense Minister Iwaya disclosed that the results of the ministry's previous geographical surveys for identifying the best location for Aegis Ashore batteries included additional flawed data. The minister reportedly attributed the error to the use of Google Earth software, which did not provide accurate data on the height of a mountain near one of the potential deployment sites.


USTR Lighthizer seeks to reach trade deal with Japan in "a few months"

NHK reported this morning that USTR Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee yesterday that he hopes to reach a bilateral trade agreement with Japan "in a few months." A Kyodo News dispatch from Washington this morning quoted the USTR as saying: "What I have proposed doing is to try to take care of a couple of the issues, particularly agriculture, early". We don't want to wait the length of time for an entire negotiation," indicating he wants to prioritize a deal on tariff cuts on agricultural products. NHK noted that Lighthizer and Economic Revitalization Minister Motegi are slated to meet before the G20 Summit to speed up the negotiation process.


Ambassador Hagerty pays courtesy call on Osaka mayor

NHK Kansai reported on Tuesday evening that Ambassador Hagerty, who has been in Osaka since Monday to observe preparations for the G20 Summit, paid a courtesy call on Osaka Mayor Matsui at the city government office yesterday. The Ambassador thanked the mayor for hosting the summit, noted that it will be an opportunity for Osaka to project a strong presence internationally, and said he thought it will be the President's favorite city. Matsui expressed his hope that the summit will be beneficial for both countries and invited senior U.S. government officials to a reception for summit participants on June 27. In reference to the incident in which a police officer was stabbed on Sunday, Matsui reassured the Ambassador that thorough security measures are being taken for the summit. The Ambassador told reporters after the meeting that he hopes the summit will serve to demonstrate the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance. The Osaka editions of Yomiuri and Mainichi ran similar stories.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team