Morning Alert   -   Monday, September 9, 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

No papers were published today due to a press holiday. All TV networks gave top coverage to strong winds and heavy rains brought by Typhoon Faxai in the Kanto area.


Anti-Japanese sentiment picks up momentum in South Korea

The Saturday editions of all national dailies highlighted the adoption by the municipal assemblies of Seoul and Busan a day earlier of ordinances designating a total of 284 Japanese firms that were allegedly involved in forced labor during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula as "war crime enterprises" and recommending that their products be boycotted. Sankei opined that these moves indicate escalating anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea incited by the Moon administration, projecting that the adoption of the anti-Japanese legislation by the assemblies of the country's two largest cities may embolden other communities to follow suit.

The Busan assembly also adopted a separate ordinance authorizing the installation on public roads of structures commemorating historical incidents. Sankei expressed concern that this ordinance will prompt civic groups across South Korea to build statues representing the former comfort women and requisitioned workers.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga reportedly expressed "extreme regret" over the adoption of the ordinances and said that they could put the Japanese firms at an economic disadvantage by "denouncing them groundlessly based on inappropriate and irrational logic." The government spokesperson reportedly asked the Korean side to "act prudently."

ROK voices "profound concern" about radioactive water from Fukushima nuclear plant

Asahi, Sankei, and Mainichi reported on Saturday on an announcement made by the South Korean government on Friday that it has sent a letter to the IAEA expressing its "profound concern" about Japan's plan to dispose of radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi NPP by diluting it and discharging it into the ocean. The GOJ reportedly lodged a protest against the letter by saying that the allegation is scientifically groundless and could damage the reputation of the Fukushima fishing industry.

Senior U.S. diplomat allegedly acknowledges nuclear talks with DPRK are stalled

Sunday's Asahi and Yomiuri focused on a speech made at the University of Michigan on Friday by Special Representative for North Korea Biegun, who reportedly admitted that the denuclearization talks with North Korea are stalled. While noting that the U.S. is ready to resume dialogue with the Kim regime at any time, the U.S. diplomat was quoted as saying: "But we cannot do this by ourselves." He reportedly stressed that Washington has clearly conveyed to Pyongyang that it is prepared to engage as soon as it hears from the DPRK.

Satellite data indicates existence of multiple undisclosed DPRK missile bases

The Sunday editions of Yomiuri and Sankei reported on satellite imagery analysis conducted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies regarding the existence of what it claims to be some 20 previously unknown ballistic missile facilities in North Korea. According to the U.S. think tank, one of the installations is located close to the border with South Korea and apparently houses Scud-ER medium-range ballistic missiles, which are capable of reaching all of Japan except Hokkaido and Okinawa.

Japan, France affirm mutual coordination to ensure stability in Middle East

Sunday's Yomiuri wrote from Paris that visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Mori and his French counterpart held talks on Saturday and exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East. The two diplomats reportedly agreed to continue mutual coordination in helping to deescalate the tension between the U.S. and Iran. The Japanese official reportedly explained that if Prime Minister Abe is able to meet with Iranian President Rouhani in New York in late September on the fringes of the UN General Assembly, the premier will press the Iranian leader to make efforts to defuse the situation.

Deputy foreign ministers of Japan, Russia to meet on Monday

The Saturday editions of Nikkei and Sankei reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Mori will hold talks with his Russian counterpart in Tokyo on Monday, projecting that the two officials are likely to exchange views on security issues of mutual concern, such as Japan's plan to deploy Aegis Ashore platforms. They will also probably discuss a bilateral peace treaty.

In a related development, Nikkei, Sankei, and Mainichi reported that the GOJ filed a protest on Friday with the Russian government against President Putin's participation via videoconference at a ceremony commemorating the launch of a new factory on one of the four disputed islands of the Northern Territories.


Funding for USFJ facilities to be diverted for U.S.-Mexico border wall construction

Saturday morning's Asahi reported on the Pentagon's disclosure that some $400 million in funding for facilities improvement projects at five U.S. bases in Japan is part of the $3.6 billion in defense spending that will be diverted to finance President Trump's signature policy of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The construction of hangars at Yokota AB and Kadena AB, a fueling station at MCAS Iwakuni, and several other military projects will reportedly be affected. Funding for schools at Yokosuka Naval Station and Camp McTureous in Okinawa will also be frozen to pay for the border project. The daily speculated that the Trump administration may ask the Japanese side to cover some of the costs of implementing these defunded programs.

In a related story, Okinawa Times wrote on Saturday from Washington that the planned relocation of Okinawa Marines to Guam will likely be delayed from FY2024 to FY2026 because military construction projects on the Pacific island will be diverted for border wall construction. According to the daily, a total of $257 million in Guam military initiatives, including a machine gun range, water well development, and munitions storage, will be delayed due to the diversion. According to the daily, an unnamed senior DOD official predicted that design work for the gun range will be postponed by at least one year and that it may be delayed further unless new congressional funding is obtained. The paper added that when talking to the press after a visit to Guam last month, Okinawa Governor Tamaki disclosed that he was told by local USMC authorities that the transfer would begin in or around FY2024.

First meeting held on FRF design modification

All national dailies reported on Saturday that a Defense Ministry taskforce of eight civil engineers and academics convened its first meeting on the planned modification of the design of the Futenma replacement facility, which is necessary to accommodate extensive engineering work to reinforce the soft seabed in the vicinity. The panel members are expected to offer technical advice on the development of a new design so as to enable the ministry to submit by year's end a request for a permit for the design change to the Okinawa governor, who is strongly opposed to the base realignment initiative.


Abe to replace numerous ministers in cabinet reshuffle

Sankei speculated in a front-page item on Saturday that when Prime Minister Abe reshuffles his cabinet lineup on Wednesday, he will probably replace all ministers except Finance Minister Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga. Former Olympic speed-skater Seiko Hashimoto of the LDP will probably be given a cabinet portfolio in charge of the Tokyo Olympics. Minister of Land and Transport Ishii from Komeito party might be replaced by Kazuyoshi Akaba of the same party.

In a follow-up report, Sankei claimed in its lead item on Sunday that Abe is inclined to appoint Foreign Minister Kono as defense minister, explaining that the premier appreciates the top diplomat's hard line toward South Korea and strong connections with his foreign counterparts, including Secretary Pompeo. Meanwhile, Nikkei conjectured in a front-page story on Sunday that LDP General Council Chairman Kato may be tapped as trade minister.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team