Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, September 18, 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

NHK and TV Asahi reported on the lingering effects of Typhoon Faxai in Chiba Prefecture more than one week after it hit the region. NTV gave top coverage to the derailment of a commuter train in Hong Kong yesterday. TBS reported on the athletes' boycott of the All Japan Taekwondo Association's training camp for potential participants in the 2020 Olympic Games. Fuji TV led with the arrest yesterday of a man for molesting a member of an idol group on September 1.

Top stories in national dailies included a GOJ plan to establish a new economic policy section within the National Security Secretariat (Mainichi, Yomiuri), a GOJ plan to strengthen restrictions on foreign investment in key industries for national security including nuclear power and semiconductors (Nikkei), new mobile phone plans that fall short of expectations (Asahi), and an interview with President Hashimoto of Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank (Sankei).


President Trump notifies Congress of imminent signing of trade agreement with Japan

All Tuesday evening papers wrote that the Trump administration notified Congress on Monday that it has reached an initial trade agreement with Japan on tariff barriers and that it will be signed in the coming weeks. The President also said that the two nations have also reached an agreement on digital trade. Nikkei wrote the President said in a letter to Congress that he intends to continue to engage in comprehensive trade negotiations with Japan. The paper speculated that the Trump administration is planning to address non-tariff barriers in the second stage of bilateral negotiations.

The papers quoted Foreign Minister Motegi as telling reporters on Tuesday that the United States is expected to prepare a document pledging that it will not impose additional tariffs on Japanese auto imports based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act and that he wants to confirm this with the United States during the finishing stages of their trade negotiations. Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that Finance Minister Aso told reporters on Tuesday that a currency clause is unlikely to be included in the U.S.-Japan trade agreement to be signed in late September.

Most national dailies ran follow-up reports on Wednesday morning. Asahi wrote that Tokyo is asking Washington to reduce the annual cap on tariff-free U.S. rice exports to below the 70,000 tons agreed upon during the TPP negotiations and that Washington has shown understanding for Japan's request. Speculating that the United States will probably only partially heed Japan's request for a reduction of tariffs on auto imports, the paper described Tokyo's request regarding rice as an attempt to offset its "defeat" in auto trade. Yomiuri conjectured that Washington and Tokyo will likely confirm the agreement reached in September 2018 that the United States will not impose punitive duties on Japanese autos while the two nations are engaged in trade negotiations.


Abe to hold talks with President Trump next week

Nikkei wrote that Prime Minister Abe will visit the United States next week and hold talks with President Trump there, speculating that the two leaders will discuss the drone strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. The paper speculated that Abe, who is seeking to act as an intermediary between the United States and Iran, will face difficulty in dealing with the issue because the President has indicated that Iran was involved in the attack. The paper added that Abe told a meeting of senior LDP members on Tuesday that he is planning to hold talks with Iranian President Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in late September.

President Trump says he is "not ready" to travel to North Korea

Tuesday evening's Nikkei and Yomiuri wrote that President Trump commented on Monday on the possibility of visiting North Korea by reportedly saying that he is "not ready." However, the President declined to comment on a South Korean media report that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had invited him to Pyongyang in a letter in late August.

South Korea revokes Japan's status as preferred trade partner

All national dailies wrote that the government of South Korea officially revoked Japan's preferential trade partner status on Wednesday. The ROK government said that a public opinion survey conducted between Aug. 14 and Sept. 3 showed that 91% of respondents thought revoking the status would be reasonable. A senior ROK Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry official told reporters on Tuesday that the move is part of a regular review of the nation's trade system and not a countermeasure against Japan.

Japan dismisses ROK criticism of its handling of radioactive water

Asahi, Mainichi, and Sankei reported that South Korea criticized Japan's handling of radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant at an IAEA meeting in Vienna on Monday by asserting that if the water were discharged into the ocean, it would impact the global marine environment. Japan rebuffed the criticism by saying it is not based on facts or scientific grounds. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga similarly rebutted the criticism at a press conference on Tuesday, according to Sankei and Nikkei.

Abe holds talks with senior Russian security official

Nikkei wrote that Prime Minister Abe held a 30-minute meeting with Secretary of the National Security Council of Russia Patrushev, who is regarded as a close aide to President Putin, at the Kantei on Tuesday. According to the paper, the premier reportedly told the Russian official that it is important for the two nations to deepen security cooperation and mutual understanding.

Yomiuri wrote that Secretary General Kitamura of the National Security Secretariat held separate talks with Patrushev, speculating that the two security officials discussed the Russian military's increasing activities near the Northern Territories and Japan's planned deployment of the Aegis Ashore system.


U.S., Japan conduct surface-to-ship combat training

Asahi wrote that the GSDF conducted joint surface-to-ship combat training with U.S. Army on Tuesday at the Oyanohara Training Area in Kumamoto Prefecture and disclosed it to the press. The training was part of the annual bilateral Orient Shield exercise. The paper speculated that the two nations conducted the training in Japan for the first time with China's maritime advancement in mind.

Abe emphasizes space, cyber defense

Yomiuri, Nikkei, and Mainichi reported on Prime Minister Abe's remarks at an annual gathering of high-ranking SDF officers held on Tuesday at the Defense Ministry. He reportedly expressed his administration's plans to strengthen Japan's defense in space and cyberspace. He reportedly said a space unit will be established in the ASDF next year and it is conceivable for the ASDF to evolve into the "Air and Space SDF."

In a related story, Nikkei wrote that Defense Minister Kono told the senior SDF officers at the same gathering that the U.S.-Japan alliance is the linchpin of Japan's security and that he will make efforts to strengthen the deterrence and responsiveness of the bilateral alliance.

U.S. military continues flying aging CH-53E helicopters

Asahi wrote that the U.S. military resumed flights of Futenma-based CH-53E helicopters on Sept. 7 following the incident in Okinawa on Aug. 27 in which a window fell into the sea from one of the aircraft, noting that the U.S. military has still not disclosed the cause of the incident. The paper wrote that the Heritage Foundation pointed out in a report released in October 2018 that the CH-53Es are aging and only 37% of the 143 helicopters are regarded as flyable. According to the paper, the U.S. Marines responded to Asahi's inquiry on the continued use of CH-53Es on Sept. 13 by saying that the aircraft is reliable in terms of training and operation.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team