Morning Alert   -   Friday, June 28, 2019
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Morning news

All national dailies except Asahi led with reports on Prime Minister Abe's summit with Chinese President Xi in Osaka last night, focusing on the growing rapprochement between the two neighbors amid the escalating U.S.-China trade conflict.

All TV networks led with reports on the effects of Typhoon Sepat approaching the Kanto region.


G20 to start today

All national papers reported on the opening of the G20 summit in Osaka today, projecting that the leaders are expected to exchange opinions on the global economy, innovation, infrastructure, and climate change. Prime Minister Abe, who chairs the confab, reportedly told the press yesterday: "I would like to see the G20 sending a powerful message on the promotion of free trade and innovation-driven global economic growth." The dailies noted that U.S.-China trade friction is looming large behind the confab, with Yomiuri asserting that attention is being paid to whether the member states will be able to combat growing pessimism about the outlook of the global economy by forging a consensus on the promotion of free trade.

G20 leaders bracing for President Trump's pursuit of America First approach

Nikkei reported that the G20 leaders are bracing for President Trump's plan to pursue an "America First" policy in the multilateral Osaka conference, as well as his individual summits with selected leaders on the sidelines. They pointed out that the U.S. leader has expressed his strong discontent with India, Japan, Germany, China, and others over trade and defense in tweets and a TV interview just ahead of his arrival in Osaka. Speculating the President is using strong rhetoric to press others to make concessions so that he can play up diplomatic and economic accomplishments in preparation for the 2020 presidential election campaign, the paper said the President's hard line will make the formation of G20 consensus on such issues as free trade and climate change more difficult, adding that Prime Minister Abe's chairmanship will be tested to identify common ground between the U.S. and other members.

Yomiuri ran a similar story, noting that the President is attaching importance to one-on-one summits with other G20 members perhaps in the belief that he can cut better deals with this format. He will reportedly hold individual summits with nine foreign leaders on the margins, including Chinese President Xi and Russian President Putin. In his first summit in Osaka, the President held talks with Australian Prime Minister Morrison last night and reportedly voiced frustration with other nations having taken advantage of the U.S. by not shouldering sufficient defense costs. The daily expressed concern that as a result of his focus on one-on-one sessions, the G20 may be put on the back burner.

Asahi claimed that the wording of the proposed G20 joint declaration on climate change, as drafted by Japan, does not appear to be strong, suspecting that as PM Abe is keen to issue a joint statement as a symbol of a successful G20 summit, Tokyo is inclined to use soft language so as to elicit U.S. backing. The daily said some of the other G20 members, including France, are reluctant to issue a weak message on global warming.

U.S.-China summit to be held tomorrow

Asahi published a prominent inside-page article on the summit between President Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi to be held in Osaka tomorrow, wondering if the two leaders will be able to agree to a "truce" by finding common ground to head off the resumption of tit-for-tat tariffs, which the daily worried could possibly make the outlook for the world economy even more murky. The daily said the U.S. leader does not appear to be softening his stance, projecting that he is set to press Xi to make concessions by hinting at slapping a fourth rounds of punitive duties on Chinese imports.

Bolton holds talks with Kono

Kyodo reported on a meeting in Osaka yesterday between National Security Advisor Bolton and Foreign Minister Kono, during which the Japanese minister conveyed appreciation for Bolton's personal contributions to bilateral security cooperation. The article said Japan is grateful to the White House security chief for being a consistent supporter of the bilateral alliance in the face of President Trump's alleged remarks voicing doubts about the trans-Pacific security relationship. Bolton and Kono agreed to enhance coordination to achieve North Korea's denuclearization, with the Japanese minister reportedly asking for additional U.S. support to resolve the abductions. The two officials also reportedly exchanged views on Iran, with Kyodo speculating that Kono probably asked Bolton to exercise restraint and deescalate the situation.

In a related story, Sankei took issue with President Trump's comments expressing discontent with the alliance relationships with Japan, Germany, and others, saying that although the foundation of the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic alliances is very solid, the U.S. leader's repeated criticism of traditional U.S. allies has made them anxious and concerned about the prospects of ties with Washington. The daily said the U.S.'s adversaries, such as China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, are pleased to see the Western alliances apparently being weakened by the U.S. leader.

Asahi highlighted President Trump's remarks made at the outset of his summit with Australian Prime Minister Morrison in which he said: "We've been very good to our allies. We work with our allies. We take care of our allies. Generally speaking, I've inherited massive trade deficits with our allies. And we even help our allies militarily." The daily interpreted the comments as an expression of his dissatisfaction.

Ivanka Trump arrives in Osaka

Sankei wrote briefly that Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump arrived in Osaka last night along with President Trump, saying that she is expected to attend a G20 seminar on women's empowerment on Saturday.

Reconciliation picking up momentum between Japan, China

All national papers gave prominent coverage to a summit meeting between Japan and China held in Osaka on Thursday night, saying that Chinese President Xi accepted Prime Minister Abe's invitation for him to visit Japan next spring as a state guest. They agreed to continue reciprocal visits by high-level officials as "eternal neighbors." Abe reportedly stressed that Sino-Japanese relations are now "fully back on a normal track." In briefing on his recent trip to North Korea, Xi reportedly said he conveyed to Kim Jong Un Japan's DPRK policy, including the premier's willingness to hold a summit with Chairman Kim without preconditions to resolve the abduction issue. The Chinese leader reportedly underscored Beijing's support for Tokyo's desire to mend ties with Pyongyang.

Nikkei described the amicable meeting between Abe and Xi as a "political honeymoon," explaining that the Chinese have moved toward reconciliation amid the escalating trade conflict with the U.S. Asahi wrote that Xi was keen to enlist Japan's support to rein in President Trump's trade pressure by pledging his support for a successful G20 summit. It added that Tokyo is desperate to help Washington and Beijing find middle ground based on the assessment that a rupture of the U.S.-China summit in Osaka would damage Japan's G20 chairmanship. Sankei wrote that China is keen to court other G20 leaders by emphasizing Beijing's opposition to protectionism so as to counter President Trump's intense pressure. The dailies added, however, that Japan and China are still at odds over the Senkaku territorial dispute and Japan's plan to exclude Huawei from the 5G market.

Turkish leader mentions plan to import Russian missile next month

Nikkei front-paged an interview with Turkish President Erdogan in which he reportedly declared that Russian S-400 missile defense platforms will be introduced in July as planned irrespective of strong U.S. opposition. The Turkish leader reportedly called a planned summit with President Trump in Osaka "important" to achieve a breakthrough to the aggravated bilateral relations, expressing hope that the President will condone the procurement. The daily projected, however, that the U.S. will react very strongly.

Abe holds talks with Indian, Australian leaders

Sankei wrote that Prime Minister Abe held separate summits with Indian PM Modi and Australian PM Morrison. Abe and Modi reportedly discussed the free and open Indo-Pacific vision and agreed to hold a bilateral 2+2 foreign and defense ministerial meeting at an early date. Abe relayed his desire to visit India later this year. Abe and the Australian leader reportedly confirmed to strengthen the bilateral strategic partnership for helping Pacific Rim nations build infrastructure and enhance maritime patrol capabilities.

EU likely to relax restrictions on Japanese food imports

All national dailies reported on Prime Minister Abe's meeting in Osaka on Thursday with top EU leaders, highlighting the EU's likely decision to ease the import restrictions on Japanese food products that were imposed following the Fukushima nuclear accident eight years ago. Noting that China, South Korea, the U.S., and other nations also maintain similar bans on selected Japanese agricultural products and seafood, Yomiuri took up a remark made by an unnamed senior GOJ official, who expressed hope that the EU's move will prompt these nations to discontinue their restrictions in the near future. Abe and the EU officials reportedly agreed on the importance of reforming the WTO.


Researcher says President Trump's alleged remarks on security treaty aimed at strengthening his negotiating hand

NTV reported this morning that Toshiya Tsugami, a senior researcher at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, conjectured during the network's "Shinso News" program on Thursday evening that President Trump's alleged remarks on the "unequal" Japan-U.S. Security Treaty were not made because the President has a strong interest in this issue but because he wants to strengthen his hand in negotiations with Japan. Tsugami claimed that the President thinks that obtaining maximum concessions from Japan in the trade talks would be good for his reelection campaign. Tsugami also speculated that the U.S. might demand more substantial unilateral concessions from Japan than previously expected.

Former U.S. State Department Japan Office Director Kevin Maher also appeared on the program and expressed the view that the President's alleged remarks indicated a reemergence of 1980s thinking and that he is not really considering withdrawing the U.S. forces from Japan.

Defense chief to visit Yamaguchi to apologize for errors in documents on Aegis Ashore

Asahi wrote that Defense Minister Iwaya plans to visit Yamaguchi Prefecture on July 2-3 to meet with Governor Muraoka and other local municipal leaders and apologize for the multiple errors in briefing documents on the proposed Aegis Ashore batteries deployment at two SDF camps in Akita and Yamaguchi.


Prospects for profitability of commercial whaling appear bleak

Mainichi reported on Japan's plan to resume commercial whaling on July 1, projecting that seven companies are expected to send whalers to the Northern Pacific. The daily voiced doubts about the profitability of commercial whaling since the number of whales in Japan's EEZ is markedly lower than in the Southern Ocean, where Japan has caught hundreds of whales a year in the name of research whaling. These operators, which have long participated in research whaling, probably will not be able to count on the GOJ's financial support for hunting whales on a commercial basis. The article added that the consumption of whale meat has been declining steadily for decades.


Poll shows LDP leads with 28% support ahead of Upper House election

Kyodo News reported on Thursday night on the results of Kyodo's opinion poll conducted on Wednesday and Thursday showing that the cabinet support rate stood at 47.6%, while the disapproval rate was 44.1%. In addition, 28% of the respondents said they plan to vote for the LDP in the proportional representation segment of the Upper House election, followed by 9% for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. In the poll, 31.3% also said they plan to vote for the ruling coalition's candidate in their electoral districts, while 20.3% said they will pick the opposition candidate.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team