Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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Morning news

NHK, NTV, TV Asahi, and TBS led with reports on the aftermath of Typhoon Faxai in Chiba Prefecture one week after it hit the region. Fuji TV reported that a training camp organized by the All Japan Taekwondo Association for potential participants in the 2020 Olympic Games scheduled to start today was canceled due to a boycott by athletes to protest the association's policies.

Front-page stories in national dailies included the results of opinion polls signaling public approval of the recent cabinet reshuffle and the repercussions of attacks on oil platforms in Saudi Arabia over the weekend. The dailies highlighted President Trump's tweet saying that the United States is "locked and loaded" in responding to the incident.


U.S., Japan make headway in trade negotiations

Yomiuri led on Sunday with a report saying that the Trump administration has agreed to remove as part of the bilateral trade deal the current low-tariff quota of 200 tons per year for Japanese beef imports to the U.S. The U.S. reportedly agreed to scrap the quota and place Japan in a separate category that excludes major beef-producing nations such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Japan and the other countries in the category will be able to export a combined total of about 64,000 tons of beef to the United States per year at the low tariff rate of 4.4 cents per kilogram. The daily said this will enable Japan to export more high-quality Japanese beef to the U.S.

In a related story, Mainichi wrote on Monday that the USG and the GOJ are likely to substantially lower the annual cap of 70,000 tons on the amount of U.S. rice that can be exported to Japan tariff-free set under the original TPP agreement. The daily said the Trump administration apparently heeded Japan's request for lowering the cap, speculating that the President may not be very enthusiastic about promoting rice exports given that rice is a key crop for California, a Democratic stronghold. The paper added that the GOJ is set to emphasize this development as a major U.S. "concession" when talking to Japanese farmers about the U.S.-Japan trade negotiations.

Meanwhile, Sunday's Nikkei claimed in a front-page article that Japan has agreed to eliminate its tariff on American wine in about 5 to 7 years following the effectuation of the bilateral trade accord, explaining that the tariff on U.S. wine will be phased out around the same time as the tariffs on wine imported from TPP nations. The daily added that consumer prices for American wine will drop by about 10% after the duties are removed completely.

Japan allegedly agreed to import U.S. corn to head off additional auto tariffs

Sunday's Nikkei carried a column by a former Washington correspondent who claimed that Japan agreed to import as much as 2.75 million tons of U.S. corn for animal feed separately from the trade deal in a bid to dissuade President Trump from imposing additional duties on Japanese auto imports. The author asserted that the Japanese side decided to purchase U.S. corn to help President Trump win over voters in Iowa, where corn is a major commodity. According to a number of public opinion polls, President Trump's disapproval ratings exceed his approval ratings in Iowa and other "corn belt" states. The columnist pointed out, however, that it remains unclear whether the President has actually agreed not to raise tariffs on Japanese auto imports.

Farm minister seeks funding to offset effects of U.S.-Japan trade pact

Saturday morning's Nikkei and Yomiuri reported on remarks made by Agriculture Minister Eto. He reportedly said he will do his utmost to secure funding for the nation's farmers who may be affected by the trade pact being forged between the U.S. and Japan. Regarding the central government's policy outline on the future of the agricultural industry that was crafted following the effectuation of the TPP, the cabinet minister stressed that the necessary changes will be made after examining the details of the U.S.-Japan agreement on agricultural trade.

Japan to field former financial official as candidate to head Asian Development Bank

All national dailies reported on Tuesday that the GOJ has informally decided to field former Vice Finance Minister for International Affairs Asakawa as a candidate for president of the Asian Development Bank. As ADP President Nakao plans to step down in the near future, Tokyo is reportedly hoping that another Japanese will be elected as the bank's top official at a time when the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is growing in presence.


Secretary Pompeo, FM Motegi hold teleconference

All national papers except Asahi reported today that Secretary of State Pompeo and Foreign Minister Motegi spoke by phone yesterday for about 20 minutes to exchange views on the situation in the Middle East, including the attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia over the weekend. According to the dailies, they shared the view that the prolonged instability in the region will have adverse effects on the global economy and the Japanese minister condemned the incident as a terrorist attack. As for the denuclearization of North Korea, Motegi reportedly expressed "one hundred percent support" for the U.S. efforts. The papers said the two officials also discussed South Korea's decision to end the GSOMIA defense data sharing arrangement with Japan, reportedly forging a consensus that the disruption of trilateral security coordination between the three partners would be "very problematic." The ministers reportedly agreed to meet on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.

NHK reported this morning that yesterday the State Department issued a statement on the teleconference. The statement congratulated Motegi on becoming the foreign minister and reaffirmed the strong U.S.-Japan alliance relationship. It also said that Secretary Pompeo emphasized to Motegi that Japan and the ROK need to engage in constructive dialogue during their discussion on the GSOMIA.

Meanwhile, Nikkei and Sankei took up remarks made yesterday during a Tokyo symposium by Defense Minister Kono. He reportedly denounced the attacks against Saudi Arabia oil facilities as a terrorist incident. He underscored that Japan will continue to make diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions in the Middle East. The minister reportedly expressed concern that the incident could trigger "some form of military operation."

Kim Jong Un allegedly proposed summit with President Trump in Pyongyang

Tuesday's Yomiuri claimed in a dispatch from Seoul that in a letter sent to President Trump in the third week of August, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un asked the President to visit Pyongyang for a bilateral summit. According to an unidentified source involved in trilateral relations between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, lower-ranking DPRK officials have called for sanctions relief and a regime guarantee.

In a related development, all national papers wrote that according to a statement released on Monday by a North Korean Foreign Minister official in charge of American affairs, U.S.-DPRK talks involving working-level officials are likely to be convened in the next few weeks. The official reportedly demanded relaxation of sanctions and security assurances, stressing that discussions on denuclearization will be possible "only when threats and obstacles to North Korea's security are removed without a doubt."

Meanwhile, Sankei wrote on Monday that North Korea's state media ran a commentary on Sunday criticizing the U.S.-Japan joint training aimed at strengthening island defense that began in late August in southern Kyushu. The Kim regime reportedly called the drill a military provocation intended to "control regional powers," including the DPRK.

GOJ reacts calmly to South Korea's PR blitz on its soured relations with Japan

Sankei reported on Sunday on the aggressive international public relations campaign being conducted by South Korea regarding its deteriorating ties with Japan. The paper said the ROK government has repeatedly made its case at multilateral conferences on such issues as Japan's disposal of radioactive water at Fukushima and the bilateral friction over Japan's imposition of tighter export controls. The daily wrote, however, that the GOJ has tried not to overreact based on the assessment that Seoul's logic and narratives are unpersuasive, electing instead for then-Foreign Minister Kono to contribute to foreign papers op-eds conveying Japan's viewpoint.

New foreign minister underscores importance of using Japanese in diplomacy

Saturday morning's Mainichi took up press remarks on Friday by Foreign Minister Motegi, who said he will primarily use Japanese when speaking to his foreign counterparts and the press. The daily added that Motegi took issue with his predecessor Kono's frequent use of English when communicating with foreign diplomats and the media.

Former national police official assumes top diplomatic post at Kantei

Asahi reported on Saturday that the GOJ appointed Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office Director Kitamura, a former senior official at the National Police Agency, as secretary general of the National Security Secretariat (NSS) on Friday. The paper said it is unusual for the top diplomatic portfolio at the Kantei to be occupied by someone with a police background. The daily explained that a large majority of the NSS staff are on loan either from the Foreign Ministry or the Defense Ministry.

Pope Francis to visit Japan in late autumn

All national papers reported on Saturday on an announcement made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga on Friday regarding Pope Francis's trip to Japan from Nov. 23 through 26, saying he will visit Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki and hold talks with Prime Minister Abe and have an audience with the Emperor. With regard to the Pope's visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the government spokesman said it is important to accurately convey the real-life consequences of the atomic bombings to the international community.


Water pollution detected near U.S. bases in Okinawa

The Monday edition of Mainichi published a prominent inside-page article on the repeated detection of cancer-causing chemicals in spring water in the vicinity of U.S. military installations in Okinawa. As very high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been detected near Kadena AB and MCAS Futenma, the prefectural government reportedly suspects that the U.S. military is the source of contamination. However, as the U.S. military has reportedly turned down the prefectural government's requests for access to the facilities, the daily noted that it has been trying to obtain relevant information through the U.S.'s Freedom of Information Act.

SDF to build ammunition depot on Miyakojima

Sunday's Yomiuri reported that the Defense Ministry has sealed contracts with landowners on the island of Miyakojima in Okinawa to purchase a tract of land for the construction of an ammunition depot, noting that the facility will house ground-to-air and ground-to-ship missiles for the defense of remote islands from China and other potential adversaries. Some 400 GSDF personnel are currently stationed on the island and additional troops are set to be deployed there for missile defense. The SDF also plans to build a shooting range near the planned depot.

Defense Ministry steps up social media messaging

Monday's Nikkei wrote that following the inauguration of Defense Minister Kono, the Defense Ministry has intensified its use of social media, including Twitter and Instagram, to convey its messages to a wider audience. The three SDF branches are reportedly competing with each other to obtain more followers on their social media accounts by frequently posting messages and photos depicting their daily training and disaster relief operations at home and abroad. Kono, who accumulated an unusually high number of followers on Twitter as foreign minister by posting candid messages, is reportedly set to continue being active on social media in order to communicate with the public on "hard subjects" such as security policy.


Polls point to public's approval of cabinet reshuffle

Monday's Mainichi front-paged the results of its latest public opinion poll conducted over the weekend that put support for the new Abe cabinet at 50%, up 10 points from three months ago, and nonsupport at 28%, down 9 points. As more than six out of ten gave high marks to the appointment of Koizumi as environment minister, the daily attributed the rise in public approval of the premier to his decision to tap the popular junior lawmaker.

Surveys conducted by Asahi and Sankei pointed to a similar trend, with Asahi putting support at 48%, up 6 points from two months ago. According to the latest Sankei survey, approval was 51.7%, up 5 points from six weeks ago.

However, Yomiuri's latest poll put approval of the Abe cabinet at 53%, down 5 points from three weeks ago. Disapproval rose by five points to 35%. However, 46% said they approved of the latest cabinet reshuffle, while 34% said otherwise.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team