Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, September 3, 2019
The following information reflects the reporting of the cited news media and does not reflect the opinions of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Japan Media Highlights is intended for USG use only and should not be forwarded. Visit the website here. For more information, contact TokyoMATT@state.gov.


Morning news

TBS led with a report saying that Cho Kuk, ROK President Moon's nominee for justice minister, denied allegations of corruption against him at a news conference yesterday. TV Asahi reported on the arrest of a Vietnamese technical intern on suspicion of murdering an elderly man and injuring his wife in Ibaraki Prefecture on Aug. 24. NTV aired a report on the arrest of a man for walking a bicycle in the wrong direction on the Metropolitan Expressway on Sunday. NHK reported that major beef bowl chain Sukiya has decided to sell eat-in and take-out beef bowls for the same price after the consumption tax rate is raised to 10%. Fuji TV gave top coverage to criticism of the online resale of limited-edition products from Tokyo Disneyland at exorbitant prices.

Major front-page items in national dailies included a GOJ proposal to deploy a warship to the Middle East for intelligence gathering separately from the U.S.'s maritime security initiative, a report that Prime Minister Abe is mulling tapping Fiscal and Economic Policy Minister Motegi as foreign minister in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle next week, and allegations that a senior official of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau leaked the details of a bill on clinical trials to a pharmaceutical company executives.


Japan unlikely to join U.S.-led coalition for protection of Middle East waterways

Tuesday's Yomiuri gave top coverage to the disclosure by several GOJ sources that the Abe administration is weighing the deployment of an MSDF destroyer to the Middle East to collect intelligence for safe navigation, explaining that the dispatch would be separate from the U.S.'s proposed coalition of the willing to defend regional critical waterways. The SDF ship would reportedly operate in waters near the Strait of Hormuz and off the coast of Yemen and might pass through the strait for intelligence gathering pending consent from Iran. However, the destroyer would not escort Japanese tankers in and near the strait since they are not currently "in danger." According to the daily, the GOJ is inclined to forgo joining the U.S. coalition since President Trump did not request Japan do so when he held talks with Prime Minister Abe in France on Aug. 25. The paper added that a final decision will be made in late September by taking into account Tehran's response to Tokyo's idea when Abe meets with Iranian President Rouhani in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

TICAD 7 issues declaration on investment in Africa, Indo-Pacific

All national dailies reported on Saturday that the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Yokohama concluded on Friday and issued a declaration on such matters as the promotion of high-quality infrastructure and private sector investment in Africa and the need to maintain a rules-based maritime order in the Indo-Pacific.

Abe, Putin to meet on Sept. 5

Asahi reported on Saturday that the Russian presidential office announced on Friday that President Putin will meet with Prime Minister Abe to discuss a bilateral peace treaty on Sept. 5 on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok on Sept. 4-6.

In a related story, today's Sankei front-paged the disclosure by a source involved in Russo-Japanese relations that the Russian government decided in January against "rushing to hold territorial negotiations" with Japan even though Putin agreed with Abe two only two months earlier to accelerate bilateral talks to resolve the Northern Territories dispute. The Russian leader reportedly embraced the alleged decision. The daily attributed Moscow's reluctance to hold territorial talks with Tokyo to a plunge in public approval of the Putin administration and mounting opposition among the Russian people to the possibility of the four disputed islands being handed over to Japan.

Japan, U.S. ratify tax treaty protocol

Nikkei reported on Saturday that officials of the Japanese and U.S. governments signed at the Foreign Ministry on Friday ratification documents to put into effect a protocol amending the bilateral tax treaty. The protocol prevents double taxation and tax evasion, and establishes procedures for settlement of taxation disputes.

ROK lawmakers land on Liancourt Rocks

All national dailies reported on Sunday that six members of the ROK National Assembly landed on the disputed Liancourt Rocks on Saturday and held a news conference where they criticized Japan's tightened controls on exports to the ROK. Mainichi, Nikkei, and Sankei said the Japanese Foreign Ministry lodged a protest on the same day. According to this morning's Sankei, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga told the press yesterday that the GOJ does not condone the ROK parliamentarians' visit to what he referred to as the nation's "inherent" territory.

India proposes trilateral economic framework with Japan, Russia

Monday's Mainichi reported that according to diplomatic sources, India has proposed establishing a trilateral economic framework with Japan and Russia in an attempt to increase its economic and diplomatic options and maintain a balance between the U.S. and China/Russia amid the intensifying conflict between the two sides. The paper said that Prime Minister Modi may meet with Prime Minister Abe and President Putin on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum. Mainichi said a Russian diplomatic source remarked that he is not opposed to the idea of a trilateral framework. But a Japanese government source was quoted as saying that the U.S. will "probably" object to such a framework due to its political implications, so Japan will need to be careful. A MOFA official observed that India's participation in the Japan-Russia economic plan would defeat its purpose aimed at resolving the Northern Territories issue.


Japan, India hold defense ministerial talks

All national dailies reported today that Defense Minister Iwaya and his visiting Indian counterpart met on Monday and agreed to enhance mutual security coordination for the creation of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. They decided to convene a bilateral 2+2 foreign and defense ministerial meeting later this year for the first time ever. They also reportedly agreed to swiftly conclude an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement for the two militaries. The Indian official paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Abe later.

Defense Ministry requests record budget of 5.3 trillion yen

All national dailies and Kyodo News reported on Saturday that the Defense Ministry requested a total of 5.3222 trillion yen for its FY2020 funding, up by 6.3% from the FY2019 budget. The defense budget request includes the cost of developing the successor to the Air Self Defense Force's F-2, 84.6 billion yen to procure six F-35B stealth fighters, and 12.2 billion yen to purchase vertical launching systems for the deployment of Aegis Ashore missile defense batteries.

Okinawa vice governor protests U.S. Marine helicopter incident

Mainichi reported on Saturday that Okinawa Vice Governor Jahana lodged a protest on Friday with Okinawa Defense Bureau Director Tanaka over the incident on Tuesday in which a window fell into the sea from a U.S. Marine CH-35E helicopter. He requested that the U.S. Marines suspend CH-35E flights for one week and take thorough measures to ensure safety and investigate the incident. Jahana also complained about the alleged delay in reporting the incident and said the steps taken by the U.S. military to prevent such accidents have been "extremely inadequate."


Abe may tap Motegi as foreign minister

Today's Sankei wrote in a speculative piece that Prime Minister Abe may replace Foreign Minister Kono with Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Motegi when he shuffles his cabinet lineup on Sept. 11. The premier is reportedly inclined to retain Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga and Finance Minister Aso since the two politicians are regarded as the "central pillars" of his cabinet. The daily added that the fate of LDP Secretary General Nikai is the focus of attention among LDP lawmakers.

The daily separately reported on Saturday that LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Kishida is actively seeking appointment to the position of secretary general when Abe reshuffles the cabinet and the LDP leadership next week. Kishida reportedly met with Abe at the Kantei on Friday.

Kitamura to replace Yachi as National Security Secretariat chief

Saturday's Mainichi cited a government source as saying on Friday that coordination is underway for Cabinet Intelligence Director Kitamura to replace National Security Secretariat Secretary General Yachi when Prime Minister Abe reshuffles the cabinet in September. The 75- year-old Yachi has served in the post since the creation of the National Security Council in January 2014 and is known to be a close confidant of Abe. Sunday's Sankei and Monday's Yomiuri published similar reports, citing several government sources.

Budget requests for FY2020 reach record high of 105 trillion yen

All national newspapers front-paged reports on Saturday saying that the FY2020 budget requests submitted by government ministries on Friday totaled around 105 trillion yen, exceeding the 100 trillion yen mark for the second consecutive year, with higher social welfare and defense spending accounting for most of the increase.


Additional Haneda slots to be given to various nations including Russia and India

All national dailies reported on Tuesday on the Transport Ministry's announcement yesterday of the airlines that will be given the landing slots at Haneda Airport to be newly created in March next year. Operators based in Russia, Australia, India, Italy, Turkey, and Finland, as well as one company from Denmark, Sweden, or Norway, will obtain slots at the airport for the first time, while Chinese aviation firms will be given four additional daily slots. Out of the 50 daily slots that will be added beginning on March 29, 2020, half will go to JAL and ANA and 12 will go to U.S. airlines.


Poll shows rise in cabinet approval rate, majority support for ROK export curbs

Nikkei reported on Monday the results of the Nikkei-TV Tokyo opinion poll conducted on Aug. 30-Sept. 1 showing that the cabinet support rate stood at 58%, up by 6 points from the previous poll in July, while the disapproval rate was 33%, down by 5 points from July. The poll also showed that 67% of respondents supported the government's tighter controls on exports to the ROK, up by 9 points from last time, while 19% disapproved of this policy. In addition, 67% said that there is no need to compromise and rush to mend ties with the ROK.

Poll shows Abe cabinet performs well in foreign policy

Yomiuri front-paged on Saturday a report on the results of a comprehensive survey on the public's political awareness that it conducted with Waseda University's Institute for Advanced Social Sciences from July 22 to Aug. 26. The survey showed that 39% of respondents cited foreign policy as an area where the Abe cabinet performs well. The overall rating for the Abe cabinet's performance was 5.2 on a scale of 10, up from 5.0 in the previous poll conducted in September-October last year.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team