Morning Alert   -   Thursday, September 19, 2019
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Morning news

NHK, TV Asahi, and TBS led with follow-up reports on the nine-year-old boy who was found dead near his home in Saitama City yesterday. NTV and Fuji TV reported on the arrest yesterday of a university student on suspicion of murdering a woman whose body was found in a hotel in Ikebukuro on Sept. 12.

All national papers except Nikkei gave prominent front-page coverage to data showing a sharp decline in the number of South Korean visitors to Japan in August.


Number of Koreans visiting Japan drops sharply

All national papers reported extensively on statistics released by the Japan Tourism Agency on Wednesday concerning the number of South Koreans who visited Japan in August. The number, 308,700, was down 48% from a year ago, marking the biggest drop since the decline following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. The dailies attributed the plunge to the escalating tensions between the two governments over requisitioned workers and export controls. According to the agency, Japan is apparently no longer a popular destination for Korean businesspeople and tourists, as the number of flights between the two nations operated by Korean airlines dropped by 15% in the first week of September. If the trend continues, it will reportedly be difficult for the GOJ to achieve its goal of increasing the number of foreign tourists to Japan to 40 million per year by 2020 because South Koreans accounted for almost a quarter of foreign visitors last year.

Japanese food exports to South Korea decline substantially

Asahi reported that according to trade statistics unveiled yesterday by the Finance Ministry, Japanese food exports to the ROK decreased by 40% last month from the previous year. A growing boycott of Japanese products in South Korea triggered by Japan's imposition of tighter export controls may have been the cause of the drop.

Little progress being made in improving Japan-ROK relations

Asahi wrote that both the Japanese and the ROK governments appear to be moving slowly to mend the soured relations. The daily claimed that although the two nations' foreign ministers may meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, Prime Minister Abe has no intention to hold talks with President Moon anytime soon. However, the daily asserted that the Blue House is desperate to achieve a breakthrough in the bilateral stalemate, with an informed Korean source reportedly saying that Seoul is seeking to arrange a trilateral summit involving the U.S. so that President Trump can serve as an intermediary.

ROK municipalities agree not to single out Japanese companies involved in forced labor

Meanwhile, Yomiuri reported from Seoul that the government and assembly leaders of a total of 17 ROK municipalities held a closed-door meeting yesterday in the capital and agreed to avoid as much as possible enacting proposed ordinances designating Japanese companies involved in wartime forced labor as "war crime companies." According to a local media outlet, the Moon administration has allegedly urged local legislatures not to pass such acts.

ROK launches Japanese website to advocate its position on Japan's export curbs

TBS reported yesterday that the ROK presidential office launched a new Japanese website yesterday that explains Seoul's position on Japan's tightening controls on exports to South Korea. The website features videos of President Moon's remarks with Japanese subtitles. An official of the ROK presidential office was quoted as saying that it is important to explain Seoul's position and the measures it is taking to the Japanese people and mass media.

Japan-Iran summit likely to take place in New York on Sept. 24

All national papers except Yomiuri reported that arrangements are being made for Prime Minister Abe to hold talks with Iranian President Rouhani on the margins of the UNGA in New York on Sept. 24.

In a related story, Mainichi wrote that Japan is caught between Iran and the U.S., which suspects that Tehran was responsible for the drone attacks on oil platforms in Saudi Arabia. If the U.S. presents definitive evidence proving Iran's connection to the "terror incident," it will become difficult for Japan to mediate between the two adversaries. While quoting a GOJ source as saying that it will not be easy to identify who was responsible, the daily added that the momentum for dialogue between the U.S. and Iran may have already dissipated following the Saudi oil attack. NHK took up Defense Minister Kono's comment yesterday saying it is still uncertain whether Iran was involved in the incident.

Senior State Department official tapped as new national security adviser

All national dailies, NHK, and Kyodo News reported this morning that President Trump has named Robert O'Brien, the State Department's special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, as the new national security adviser, succeeding John Bolton. Both NHK and Kyodo News speculated that Secretary Pompeo was involved in this appointment and that his influence on U.S. foreign and security policy is likely to increase further.


Low-tariff quota to be set for U.S. beef imports

Mainichi front-paged a story claiming that Japan has agreed to establish an annual quota of 242,000 tons for U.S. beef to be imported at a low-tariff rate. As U.S. beef imports amounted to 255,000 tons in FY2018, the daily projected that a very large volume of American beef may be imported at a low-tariff rate under the newly created quota. The annual quota is likely to be raised to 293,000 tons by FY2033. Pointing out that Japan also set a low-tariff quota of 600,000 tons for beef from TPP member states, the daily said the establishment of a similar quota for American beef will deal an additional blow to the Japanese cattle industry. The article added that Japan is set to ask the TPP nations to reduce their 600,000-ton quota in order to mitigate farmers' opposition to the alleged U.S.-Japan deal.

U.S. industry calls for comprehensive trade deal with Japan

Asahi reported on the imminent signing of a U.S.-Japan trade agreement in New York, noting that U.S. business leaders are calling for a more comprehensive accord for boosting trans-Pacific trade. CEO Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reportedly commented on the basic agreement reached between the two governments by saying: "It represents positive progress, but doesn't go far enough. We continue to ask that future negotiations cover all trade fields including service areas."

Toyota to increase investment in U.S.

All national dailies reported on Toyota's announcement yesterday that it plans to commit $390 million for the renewal of its assembly lines for pickup trucks at its plant in Texas. The spending is part of Toyota's five-year $13-billion investment initiative for America that runs through 2020. The papers added that the Japanese auto giant was apparently eager to highlight its willingness to make robust investments in the U.S. ahead of the imminent signing of the bilateral trade pact.

Japan, Australian leaders agree to promote free trade

Nikkei and Yomiuri took up a teleconference held yesterday between Prime Minister Abe and his Australian counterpart Morrison. The two officials reportedly agreed to continue mutual coordination for promoting free trade by concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at an early date.


U.S.-Japan defense ties deepened due to enactment of security legislation four years ago

Nikkei reported that yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the passage of Japan's comprehensive security laws, noting that defense cooperation between Japan and the U.S. has deepened steadily as a result because the SDF has provided "protection" of U.S. military assets on numerous occasions when they engaged in patrol operations to defend against missile launches by North Korea. Defense Minister Kono reportedly told the press yesterday that the laws have allowed the SDF to seamlessly respond to various types of contingencies and are conducive to enhancing the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Okinawa governor appears in court seeking verdict against GOJ's action on landfill permit

Asahi reported that Okinawa Governor Tamaki made a statement yesterday at the Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court. He reportedly asked the court to declare illegal the land minister's decision to void the governor's cancellation of the landfill permit connected to the FRF construction off Camp Schwab. The Okinawa leader reportedly stressed that the land minister's action ran counter to the Local Autonomy Law. The central government urged the court to dismiss the suit filed by the prefectural government. The presiding judge is expected to issue a ruling on Oct. 23.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team