Morning Alert   -   Friday, July 12, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report saying that Japan-ROK working-level talks on Japan's tighter controls on semiconductor material exports to the ROK will take place today. TV Asahi reported on the arrest yesterday of the suspect in a fatal shooting in Kabukicho, Tokyo, last January. NTV filed a report saying that the stolen car used by a man who fled police interrogation in Wakayama City was found abandoned in Osaka Prefecture yesterday. TBS reported on the trial of musician Junnosuke Taguchi and his girlfriend actress Reina Komine on charges of possession of marijuana. Fuji TV aired a video of a cabbie driving while using his smartphone.

Top stories in national dailies included Hayabusa2's successful touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu on Thursday (Asahi, Yomiuri), South Korean companies' illicit exports of strategic materials to Iran and other nations (Sankei), survey results showing that drugs worth 500 billion yen ($4.6 billion) were prescribed in Japan in fiscal 2016 despite the availability of equivalent over-the-counter drugs (Nikkei), and the punishment of more than ten senior police officers nationwide for receiving payment from a publisher for helping it to compile materials for creating promotion tests for police officers (Mainichi).


Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell arrives in Japan for talks with Japanese officials

Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Sankei wrote that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell arrived in Japan on Thursday on his first trip to the region since taking up his post last month. Nikkei quoted him as telling reporters after arriving at Narita International Airport that he looks forward to building on the U.S.-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. The paper also quoted him as saying that he looks forward to exchanging views with senior Japanese officials on the free and open Indo-Pacific strategy, Iran, and North Korea. Sankei wrote that he told reporters at Narita that he will make efforts to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, which he called the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. Yomiuri speculated that he will discuss such issues as security in the Asia-Pacific region, denuclearization of the DPRK, and the situation in Iran with senior Japanese officials during his visit until July 14. The paper conjectured that the assistant secretary may also discuss the dispute between Japan and South Korea over Tokyo's tightened controls of semiconductor material exports to the ROK. NHK aired a similar report on Thursday evening.

Japan to study feasibility of SDF dispatch to Strait of Hormuz

Asahi, Yomiuri, and Sankei ran reports saying the GOJ may possibly conduct a feasibility study on actions Japan may be able to take in response to the United States' idea to form a coalition of the willing to ensure security in the Strait of Hormuz. Asahi wrote that General Koji Yamazaki, the chief of the SDF's Joint Staff, told the press on Thursday that Japan and the United States are communicating on a range of matters. Yomiuri quoted the SDF chief as saying that the Strait of Hormuz is a vitally important region for energy security and that Japan is closely watching developments by exchanging information with relevant nations.

The papers wrote that if Japan receives a request for the dispatch of the SDF to the Strait of Hormuz, it will have to carefully examine the legal basis for such a dispatch and the risks it might entail. The papers speculated that the government might have to enact a special measures law to allow the dispatch of the SDF to the region if existing laws are not sufficient.

ROK seeks U.S. "mediation" in dispute with Japan

All national dailies reported on South Korean Foreign Minister Kang's teleconference with Secretary of Pompeo on Wednesday during which she said Japan's tightening controls on semiconductor material exports to the ROK will have a negative impact on U.S. companies and global trade and also on trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea. Noting that Seoul sent deputy national security chief Kim Hyun-jong to Washington on Wednesday, Yomiuri speculated that South Korea is hoping U.S. pressure will help persuade Japan to withdraw the tighter export controls. Asahi conjectured that Seoul is seeking U.S. "mediation."

NHK also reported this morning that senior ROK foreign ministry official Kim Hee-sang is in Washington and held talks with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Korea and Japan Knapper and other senior U.S. officials on the impact of Japan's export curbs in order to seek the U.S.'s support.

U.S. vows to boost trilateral coordination with Japan, South Korea

Kyodo News reported from Washington this morning that the United States on Thursday pledged to strengthen trilateral coordination with Japan and South Korea despite a sharp deterioration in ties between the two U.S. allies. "We're going to do everything we can to pursue ways to strengthen our relationships between and amongst all three countries both publicly and behind the scenes," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said at a press briefing. In an apparent reference to pressing issues such as denuclearization of North Korea and China's military buildup, Ortagus said Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul "all face shared regional challenges and priorities in the Indo-Pacific and all around the world." But she did not comment on the sharply worsening ties between Japan and South Korea.

ROK government announces 156 cases of illegal export of strategic materials since 2015

Asahi and Yomiuri wrote that the South Korean government announced on Wednesday that it had detected 156 cases of the illegal export of strategic materials that can be used for manufacturing weapons of mass destruction in the period from 2015 to March 2019. Among those materials was hydrogen fluoride, which was illicitly exported to the UAE, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Other strategic materials were shipped to Syria and Iran.

Asahi wrote that according to the Center for Information on Security Trade Control, an extra-government organization connected to the Ministry of Trade, there have been only nine cases of the administrative punishment of Japanese private companies for illegal exports since 2015 and six of the nine cases involved shipments to the DPRK.

Japan calls on China to stop mass detention of Uighurs

Thursday evening's Nikkei and this morning's Sankei and Mainichi wrote that Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nogami told a press briefing on Thursday that Japan has submitted to the UN Human Rights Council a letter calling on China to halt the mass detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang Province. Nogami was quoted as saying that it is important that the universal values of the international community also be respected in China. According to the GOJ, the letter, dated July 8, was co-signed by 21 nations including the UK and France. Nikkei noted that the United States was not among the signatories because it withdrew from the council last year.


Japanese defense minister, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander agree to strengthen alliance

NHK reported on Thursday evening on a meeting between Defense Minister Iwaya and the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. John Aquilino, at the Defense Ministry earlier in the day at which they agreed to further strengthen the bilateral security alliance. Iwaya stressed the importance of broad collaboration between the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy, while Aquilino called for promotion of bilateral cooperation to realize a free and open Indo- Pacific through joint naval exercises and other activities. NHK said the U.S.'s call for a coalition to patrol the Strait of Hormuz was not discussed at the meeting.


Toyota to build new SUV at Alabama plant

Nikkei wrote in its evening edition on Thursday that Toyota Motor said on Wednesday that it will build a new sport utility vehicle rather than the Corolla compact sedan at its new assembly plant in Alabama where production will begin in 2021. The paper speculated that the shift in the production plan is aimed at meeting the growing consumer demand for SUVs in the U.S., while noting that the automaker has not disclosed the production details for the new vehicle. Toyota will continue to build the Corolla at its Mississippi plant.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team