Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, July 10, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on yesterday's WTO meeting where the ROK representative criticized Japan's tighter controls on semiconductor material exports to the ROK and the Japanese representative rebuffed the criticism. All commercial TV networks reported on the death of Johnny Kitagawa, founder of the talent agency Johnny & Associates, yesterday.

All national dailies except Nikkei gave top play to Prime Minister Abe's decision not to appeal the Kumamoto District Court's ruling ordering the government to pay compensation to the families of Hansen's disease patients. Nikkei led with a report on a planned tie-up between the Bank of Yokohama and the Chiba Bank.


U.S. diplomat for Asia to make first trip to Japan, region

Kyodo News reported this morning that the State Department announced on Tuesday that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell will visit Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand from July 11 to July 19. It will be Stilwell's first travel to the region since his appointment to the post on June 20. Kyodo said that the trip comes as President Trump has pledged to "change" what he sees as an "unfair" security treaty with Japan. While in Asia, Stilwell is expected to focus on ways to strengthen cooperation with the four allies in advancing a vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and addressing regional issues such as denuclearization of North Korea and China's militarization of the South China Sea. In a visit to Tokyo from Thursday to Sunday, Stilwell will meet with senior Japanese officials to "coordinate efforts on regional and global issues, and deepen the U.S.-Japan alliance in pursuit of our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific region," according to the State Department. Stilwell, an Air Force veteran who speaks Korean, Chinese and some Japanese, will meet with officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the National Security Council.

South Korea requests discussion of Japan's tighter export controls at WTO

All national dailies wrote that South Korea made a request at a WTO meeting held in Geneva on Tuesday to discuss Japan's tighter controls of exports of semiconductor-related materials. The papers speculated that the ROK government will demand the withdrawal of the measure to tighten controls by insisting that it runs counter to the spirit of free trade. The papers also conjectured that Seoul is planning to apply pressure on Tokyo to withdraw the measure by bringing it up at an international forum. Nikkei wrote that although the ROK government is mulling bringing up the issue to a WTO dispute panel, the GOJ plans to maintain its stance of not holding bilateral discussions with Seoul or withdrawing the measure.

NHK reported this morning that at a WTO executive board meeting in Geneva yesterday ROK representative Paik Ji-ah criticized Japan's tighter controls on semiconductor material exports to the ROK, pointing out that the export curbs apply only to the ROK and violate WTO rules and the principle of free trade, which Japan advocated at the recent G20 Summit. Japanese representative Ihara stressed that the step was taken for security reasons and does not violate any WTO rule. All other TV networks also carried reports on the WTO meeting.

In a related development, Sankei wrote that at a news conference on Tuesday South Korea's Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun Mo dismissed an allegation that hydrogen fluoride may have been transferred from South Korea to the North after being imported from Japan. The ROK official insisted that Japan immediately retract the allegation because there has been no evidence of the material being transferred to UN-sanctioned nations including the DPRK.

Jiji Press reported this morning that Sung said at a news conference yesterday that the two sides are considering meeting on Friday on this issue. However, Jiji cited informed sources saying that at the envisaged meeting Japan will only explain its reasoning for imposing tighter export controls and ask the ROK to implement thorough export controls on materials that can be converted to military use.

USG official comments on Iran

Asahi reported on its exclusive interview with Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Ford in Washington on Monday, quoting him as saying that Iran's uranium enrichment above the nuclear deal limit is absolutely unacceptable. The paper also quoted the USG official as saying that in order to resolve all of the problems related to Iran, the United States will continue to apply maximum pressure on Tehran to provide the nation with an incentive to negotiate with Washington. The paper speculated that the United States and Iran will engage in heated debate at an IAEA meeting slated for Wednesday. Quoting Assistant Secretary Ford as reportedly saying that Washington hopes all of the responsible parties in the international community will side with the United States, the paper interpreted this remark as a call on the IAEA members, including European nations and Japan, to join a "coalition against Iran."

Suga comments on Iran

Yomiuri wrote that Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga commented on Iran's uranium enrichment at a regular press briefing on Tuesday. He reportedly said that Japan is very concerned by the development and urged Tehran to abide by the nuclear agreement and refrain from taking any further steps that undermine it. Suga reportedly added that Japan will make efforts to reduce tensions in the Middle East by working together with relevant nations and international organizations.


Iwaya comments on Aegis Ashore

Asahi wrote that Defense Minister Iwaya reportedly told the press on Tuesday that it would be possible for Japan to intercept ballistic missiles heading to Hawaii or Guam by the Aegis Ashore system it plans to deploy in Akita and Yamaguchi Prefectures. The paper speculated that the defense minister expressed the view that Japan would be allowed to take such action for national defense in a situation where its survival is threatened as stipulated in the security-related laws. The paper noted that there is a view that the GOJ is planning to deploy the missile defense system in Akita and Yamaguchi with defense cooperation with the United States in mind because the two prefectures are located on the trajectory of North Korean ballistic missiles targeting Hawaii or Guam. The paper quoted Iwaya as saying Japan can intercept the missiles by exercising its limited right to collective self-defense as long as the attack is deemed a threat to its survival and that Aegis Ashore is a necessary platform for Japan's defense.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team