Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, July 16, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on the reaction in the U.S. to President Trump's tweet on Sunday telling "progressive" Democratic congresswomen to go back to their own countries. Fuji TV's top story was about a social media posting on a bus driver refusing to let a man in a wheelchair board the bus in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on July 3. NTV aired a report on the arrest yesterday of the suspect for the murder of a woman in Fukuoka on July 6. TV Asahi and TBS reported on the lack of sunshine due to the recent abnormal weather.

No morning papers were published today because it is a press holiday.


NHK reports on its interview with Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell

NHK's News 7 program on Friday broadcast a report on the Japan-ROK working-level meeting on Japan's export curbs. The report included a clip of Assistant Secretary Stilwell saying: "I don't plan to mediate or engage, other than to encourage both sides to focus on the key issues in the region, especially with North Korea." Later, on its News Watch 9 program, NHK aired portions of its interview with the assistant secretary in the course of a long report on the Japan-ROK working-level meeting. The broadcaster reported a claim by the ROK's KBS that U.S. Congressional officials have made a commitment to mediate in this bilateral issue, and then aired a portion of the interview in which he was shown saying: "The U.S.'s position is that we need to do everything possible in order to prevent fissures between the U.S.'s strongest allies in Northeast Asia. We will urge both sides to find a way to return the relationship to the positive, where it ought to be." He also stated: "If they deal with each other in good faith, the solution will be easy. First, they need to start talking." NHK reported that Stilwell stressed that at this point the U.S. has no plans to mediate and it is adopting a position of urging both sides to resolve their issues through dialogue.

In its online report on Saturday morning on the interview, NHK said that Stilwell indicated that the U.S. does not want to see a further deterioration in Japan-ROK relations. Commenting on the ongoing spat between Japan and the ROK, he was quoted as saying that tension between the two allies is "not very helpful." He reportedly said that the U.S. will encourage Japan and South Korea to "focus positively on areas of cooperation and get through these bumps." NHK noted that while the ROK has been sending officials to Washington to appeal for support, the U.S. State Department has not come up with a specific response and is adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

NHK's noon news on Saturday also took up Stilwell's comments on the U.S.-Japan alliance during the Friday interview. He was shown saying: "The strategic situation in the Pacific is changing drastically. We need to have regular dialogue because the alliance will need to adapt to these changes." Regarding President Trump's remark on the "unfairness" of the bilateral security treaty, Stilwell said: "I wouldn't say that," but he maintained that the alliance needs to be adjusted to adapt to current conditions. NHK said he indicated that taking into account the President's thinking, he plans to engage in broad-ranging discussions with Japan on issues relating to U.S.-Japan cooperation, including the question of increasing Japan's share of the cost of stationing U.S. forces.

Assistant Secretary Stilwell holds news conference in Misawa

Sunday's Mainichi, Yomiuri, and Sankei reported on Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell's news conference on Saturday held after he visited MCAS Misawa. Mainichi quoted him as stating that the U.S.-Japan alliance needs to change constantly to adapt to the regional situation. He reportedly indicated his intent to engage in wide-ranging discussions with Japan, including its share of support for the alliance going forward. Mainichi and Sankei noted that he did not disagree with President Trump's statement on the one-sidedness of the security alliance, quoting him as saying that the alliance needs to adapt to new threats. Mainichi also reported that Stilwell said that it is important for the two countries to focus on their shared interests and that he would like to work for the mutual benefit of both countries. Commenting on the importance of the Misawa base, Stilwell was quoted by Mainichi as explaining that while the Soviet threat has disappeared, it is necessary to deal with a rapidly nuclearizing North Korea and China's rise, so Misawa remains important for rapid forward deployment in an emergency. Yomiuri said he reiterated the need for the Japan-U.S. security alliance to adapt to changes in the environment.

Assistant Secretary Stilwell meets with senior GOJ officials

Asahi reported on Saturday that Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell met with National Security Secretariat chief Yachi, Vice Foreign Minister Akiba, and Defense Ministry Defense Policy Bureau Director General Tsuchimichi on Friday to discuss the East Asian situation, Japan-U.S. cooperation, and "possibly" also the Iran situation. Asahi noted that this was the first meeting between senior Japanese and U.S. officials after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dunford suggested forming a coalition of the willing for the security of the Strait of Hormuz. Nikkei filed a brief report on Stilwell's meeting with Akiba saying that he was briefed on Japan's position on recent issues with the ROK, including the issue of wartime requisitioned workers. Mainichi also reported on the meeting with Akiba in its story on the Japan-ROK working-level meeting on the export curbs.

Japan, ROK hold working-level talks on export curb dispute

All national dailies on Saturday reported prominently on the Japan-ROK working-level meeting on Friday, noting that the meeting, scheduled for one hour, stretched to more than five hours. According to the Japanese side, Japan explained the legitimacy and reasons for tightening controls on sensitive semiconductor material exports and informed the ROK of the detection of cases of mishandling such materials. The ROK side asked for detailed information, but reportedly did not ask for the revocation of the measure. At a news conference held on Friday evening, an official of the ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy explained that the ROK side expressed serious concern about the adverse effect of Japan's export curb on the global supply chain. Yomiuri and Nikkei said that the meeting basically consisted of the "verification of facts" as originally intended by the Japanese side.

All papers also reported on Saturday that the ROK presidential office disclosed on Friday that it has proposed to Japan that the two countries ask UN experts or an appropriate international organization to look into Japan's claim that the ROK violated UN sanctions on North Korea and that its export control regime is inadequate, saying if the claim is not substantiated, Japan should apologize and withdraw the export curbs. Mainichi cited a government source expressing doubt that an international organization would be able to conduct such an investigation, calling the proposal "baffling." Sankei said a senior Foreign Ministry official commented that asking an international body to judge a country's export control regime is "unheard of." Japan was reportedly also irked by the ROK's efforts to solicit the U.S.'s support by sending senior officials to Washington and claiming that Japan's export curbs will compromise U.S.-Japan-ROK cooperation. Mainichi quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying that the export curbs and trilateral cooperation are "completely unrelated."

All newspapers reported on Sunday that Japan and the ROK appear to differ on whether the ROK asked for the withdrawal of the export curbs at the meeting on Friday, with the ROK claiming that it did and METI refuting the claim at a news conference on Saturday. They also wrote that the ROK will raise the issue of Japan's export curbs at the WTO General Council meeting opening in Geneva on July 23.

In a related development, Nikkei reported from Seoul on Monday that the Federation of Korean Industries released on Sunday results of a survey of 50 representatives of companies doing business with Japan, securities analysts, and trade experts on how the ROK government should respond to Japan's export curbs. It was found that 48% favored dialogue, 30% opted for local production of critical materials, and only 10% supported bringing the matter to the WTO, which the ROK government is planning to do.

All TV stations reported on Monday that ROK President Moon criticized Japan's export curbs at a meeting in the Blue House on Monday and warned Japan that if ROK companies diversify their suppliers of semiconductors and promote local production, Japan will suffer damage from its own action. NHK also reported on Monday evening that Vice Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Cheong Seung-il stated on Monday that the ROK has proposed holding bureau-chief- level talks with Japan before July 24, which is the deadline for soliciting public comments on dropping the ROK from the "white list" of countries receiving preferential treatment in export procedures. NHK said it is uncertain if a meeting will be held.

Japan may take retaliatory steps if ROK rejects arbitration panel on forced labor issue

Saturday's Yomiuri quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official as saying on Friday that if the ROK government refuses to enter into arbitration procedures on the wartime requisitioned workers issue based on the 1965 bilateral agreement on wartime compensation claims by the deadline of July 18, this will amount to a violation of international law, in which case Japan can take retaliatory measures authorized under international law. He reportedly said: "If [the ROK] is found to have failed to fulfill its obligations, it will be necessary to send a message."

Kono to visit countries in region, may meet with DPRK counterpart

Yomiuri reported on Sunday that it learned on Saturday that coordination is underway for Foreign Minister Kono to visit Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Thailand from July 29 to Aug. 3. He will attend the ASEAN Regional Forum's foreign ministerial in Thailand and coordination is underway for him to meet with DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho if Ri also attends the ARF.


Polls show ruling parties set to win Upper House election

All national dailies except Sankei reported on Monday on the results of their polls on voter behavior conducted over the weekend. Yomiuri's poll on July 12-14 combined with data collected by its regional bureaus showed that the ruling LDP and Komeito are expected to win more than half of the 124 seats being contested. The cabinet support rate in this poll was 45%, similar to the 46% recorded during the last Upper House election in 2016, while the disapproval rate was 38% compared with 36% last time. Asahi's poll on July 13-14 revealed that 35% of respondents said they will vote for the LDP in the proportional representation segment of the election, down from 40% in a poll in June, while the CPDJ had the support of 12%, down from 13%, and Komeito, the Japanese Communist Party, and Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party] each got 6% support. The cabinet support rate in this poll was 42%, down from 45% last month, while the disapproval rate was 34%, up from 33%. Mainichi's poll on July 13-14 showed that the LDP is on track to win 51 seats and Komeito, 10 seats, slightly down from a previous poll on July 4-5, but the two parties are forecast to win more than 63 seats. Findings of a Nikkei poll on July 12-14 combined with data gathered by its reporters showed that the LDP is projected to win 53-68 seats; Komeito, 10-15 seats; and the CDPJ, 15-24 seats. The cabinet support rate in this poll was 49%, down from 56% marked in a poll in late June, while the disapproval rate was 35%, down from 36%.Asahi's poll also showed 56% supported the government's export curbs on the ROK while 21% disapproved.

TV Asahi reported on Monday the results of an ANN opinion poll conducted during the weekend of July 13-14 showing that the cabinet support rate was 45.5%, up by 2.8 points from a previous poll in June, while the disapproval rate was 34.0%, down by 4.2 points. The poll also showed that 40% of respondents were in favor of pro-constitution revision forces winning a two-thirds majority in the Upper House, 37% were against their winning a super majority, and 23% had no opinion. On revising Article 9 of the Constitution, 33% were in favor while 59% were against, with 8% expressing no opinion.

PM Abe, GOJ issue statements on compensation for Hansen's disease patients' kin

All national dailies reported on Saturday that Prime Minister Abe issued a statement on Friday expressing profound remorse for the suffering of the forcibly segregated Hansen's disease patients and their family members, pledging compensation, even for patients and families who did not file court cases against the government, and indicating his intention to meet with them. The GOJ also released a statement on the legal issues in the court ruling ordering government compensation.


U.S., Japan hold subcabinet trade talks to set negotiation schedule

Yomiuri and Asahi reported on Sunday that U.S.-Japan subcabinet level talks were held in Washington on Friday to coordinate the negotiation schedule after the Upper House election on July 21 and identify items to be handled at the subcabinet and cabinet levels. Item-specific working-level and subcabinet-level talks will reportedly take place for three days from July 24, and Economic Revitalization Minister Motegi and USTR Lighthizer will meet again in early August.


Japan to cooperate with U.S., Australia to assist Fiji armed forces

Sunday's Sankei front-paged a report saying it learned on Saturday that Japan will extend its capacity building initiative for armed forces of other countries to Fiji in a first-ever project with the U.S. and Australia involving a Pacific island state in an attempt to counter China's increasing efforts to make Fiji a Chinese military stronghold. The paper reported that the groundwork for the realization of this project was laid by a delegation to Fiji on June 5-7 led by the prime minister's assistant Sonoura and comprising officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the Defense Ministry, the Japan Coast Guard, and the Japan External Trade Organization.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team