Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, September 24, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on yesterday's start of the UN General Assembly, which was marked by global demonstrations by young people demanding global-warming countermeasures. TV Asahi, TBS, and Fuji TV reported on the murder of a couple and the wounding of their son and daughter in Sakaemachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, shortly after midnight on Saturday. NTV reported on a man who fled by car while being questioned by the police.

Main front-page items in national papers include the opening of the UN Climate Change summit in New York, a GOJ idea to invest $10 billion in partnership with local commercial enterprises for the development of LNG platforms across the world, a GOJ plan to offer subsides for repair of homes in Chiba Prefecture damaged by a recent typhoon, and a GOJ decision to provide the Philippine military first responder equipment for use in disaster relief operations.


U.S., Japanese leaders unlikely to sign official trade accord

Today's Yomiuri claimed that the U.S. and Japan will probably not be able to draft a final trade pact for official signing by President Trump and Prime Minister Abe when they meet in New York tomorrow because legal review of the draft language is still ongoing. As a result, the two leaders will probably not seal a formal accord and instead sign a document confirming their commitment to the final deal. In the document, the two sides are set to affirm that the Trump administration will not impose additional tariffs on Japanese auto imports at least for the time being.

Sankei and Mainichi ran similar articles, with the former claiming that the GOJ's screening of the final document from a legal perspective is being delayed due to frequent U.S. requests for changes to the language of the draft. The legal review will reportedly be completed by early October. Mainichi added that Japan has been on the defensive in bilateral trade negotiations in the face of President Trump's hinting the U.S. may hike duties on Japanese cars, saying Tokyo apparently made major concessions on U.S. beef imports and Japanese car exports.

Japan reportedly ready to scrap trade deal if U.S. imposes additional auto tariffs

Saturday's Sankei wrote that it learned on Friday that the Japanese government will inform the U.S. that if additional tariffs are imposed on Japanese cars under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, it will scrap the bilateral trade deal. According to Sankei, the move is an apparent bid to pressure the U.S. ahead of the signing of the accord. Sankei said that Foreign Minister Motegi has already drafted a document to this effect, so it appears that the two sides have agreed that there will be no imposition of additional auto tariffs and export quotas as along as the trade agreement is in effect.

FM Motegi to seek summit joint statement on autos, rice

Nikkei wrote on Saturday that Foreign Minister Motegi, Agriculture Minister Eto, Economy Minister Sugawara and other relevant ministers met at the Kantei on Friday and agreed that after the Japan-U.S. summit on Sept. 25 Japan will seek the issuance of a joint statement saying the U.S. will not impose additional tariffs and export quotas on Japanese cars and that no tariff-free import quota for U.S. rice will be set. Final coordination on the joint statement is reportedly underway. Motegi will meet with USTR Lighthizer ahead of the summit to finalize the terms of the trade deal to be signed by the two leaders.

Japan, U.S. to reach deal on wheat no-tariff quota, beef import safeguard

Yomiuri reported on Sunday that it has learned that Japan and the U.S. will agree to set a 140,000-ton tariff-free import quota for wheat under the trade deal to be signed shortly, which is 10,000 tons lower than what they had previously agreed upon in the TPP negotiations. The two governments are reportedly also coordinating to set the threshold for Japan to invoke an import safeguard for beef at 290,000 tons per year. The two countries have already agreed to reduce the tariff on U.S. beef imports to the TPP level after the bilateral trade deal takes effect and ultimately lower this to 9%. The threshold will be set at 242,000 tons in the first year to be increased in stages to 293,000 tons.

Meanwhile, Sunday's Sankei reported that it learned on Saturday that Japan and the U.S. have agreed to set tariffs on imports of beef, pork, wine, and other major agricultural products from the U.S. on par with TPP levels in the second year of the bilateral trade deal in order for the U.S. to be competitive with the TPP nations. In exchange for this, Japan reportedly obtained a commitment from the U.S. to scrap its cap on Japanese beef imports and lower the tariff on Japanese rice.

Asahi front-paged a report on Monday saying that while Japan and the U.S. have agreed to lower tariffs on imports of beef, pork, and other agricultural products from the U.S. to TPP levels, the U.S. has yet to agree to Japan's demand to reduce tariffs on Japanese cars and auto parts in line with what the two countries had agreed upon in the TPP negotiations. Asahi said it has learned that coordination is now underway for them to simply agree to continue discussing this issue.

Japanese CEOs see global economy deteriorating due to U.S.-China trade conflict

Nikkei reported on Saturday that its latest poll of 100 CEOs of major companies conducted from Aug. 28 to Sept. 13 showed that 41.3% think the global economy is deteriorating, up 13.5 points from a previous poll conducted three months ago and reflecting the most pessimistic view since September 2012. The U.S.-China trade conflict and economic recession in China were cited as the main reasons for their assessment.


Top Japanese, Iranian diplomats hold talks in New York

All national papers except Asahi reported today from New York on a foreign ministerial meeting between Japan and Iran that was convened in New York on Monday, saying that Foreign Minister Motegi urged his Iranian counterpart Zarif to exercise restraint to defuse tensions with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others. The Japanese official reportedly voiced "serious concern" about the recent drone attacks on oil platforms in Saudi Arabia. He also pressed Tehran to abide by the Iran nuclear accord, asking it to halt uranium enrichment beyond the scope permitted in the international pact. Zarif reportedly expressed gratitude for Japan's diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation.

In a related story, Mainichi wrote that Japan's mediation between the U.S. and Iran is running into difficulties following the recent attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. As Prime Minister Abe is expected to hold talks with Iranian President Rouhani in New York today, the daily projected that the premier is likely to voice "profound concern" about the incident since Japan imports 40% of its oil from Saudi Arabia. Abe is set to press Rouhani to deescalate tensions and comply with the Iran nuclear pact.

Japan to provide first aid gear to Philippines

Today's Sankei led with a GOJ idea to use ODA money to provide the Philippine military first aid kits used by the SDF, saying that this would be the first time for Tokyo to tap its development assistance program to provide military support for a foreign country. Manila has been asking Tokyo for this equipment, which includes rafts and life jackets, for use in natural disaster relief operations. The gear will reportedly be extended as part of capacity-building support for the Philippine military in next fiscal year. The daily added in a separate piece that the GOJ has been active in assisting the Philippine military over the past several years in a bid to counter China's growing military presence in the South China Sea.

Monitoring of DPRK ship-to-ship transfers actually aimed at China

Asahi front-paged on Sunday a report claiming that the eight-nation monitoring of North Korea's illicit ship-to-ship transfer activities in the East and South China Seas is actually surveillance of China. Participants in this operation are the "Five Eyes" -- the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand – and Japan, France, and the ROK, with their command center located on USS Blue Ridge, the U.S. Seventh Fleet's flagship homeported in Yokosuka. Asahi observed that the participants do not share information on their activities but engage only in bilateral coordination with the U.S. It quoted unnamed senior officials of several participating nations saying that the purpose of this operation is to keep China's growing power in the East and South China Seas in check.

Leader of ROK province calls for review of ordinance on "war crime enterprises"

Mainichi reported today from Seoul that the governor of North Chungcheong Province of South Korea has asked the local assembly to rewrite an ordinance it enacted earlier on the grounds that the decree may have adverse effects on a WTO case made by the South Korean government regarding Japan's tighter control of semiconductor materials. The ordinance designates Japanese firms involved in forced labor before and during WWII as "war crime enterprises" and calls for a boycott of their products.


Defense Ministry mulls tapping private firms' satellites for gathering intelligence

Yomiuri's Monday edition led with a story saying that it has learned that the Defense Ministry is considering loading sensors on satellites operated by private companies in the U.S. and elsewhere to strengthen gathering of intelligence on North Korean and Chinese military activities while at the same time cutting costs.

Gov't to research using AI to detect, analyze potential cyberattacks

Yomiuri reported as its top story on Sunday that the government is planning to launch a research project on using artificial intelligence to automatically detect signs of cyberattacks and assess their potential impact. The timeline of the project is to perform verification experiments in FY2022 and apply this technology as soon as possible.

Kagoshima municipality seeks SDF training ground

Tuesday's Sankei front-paged a story saying that the municipal government of Toshima, Kagoshima Prefecture, has decided to ask the Defense Ministry to set up a training facility for use by GSDF amphibious units on a remote island in its jurisdiction. Toshima Mayor Higo is reportedly interested in responding positively to the ministry's idea to establish the facility on the uninhabited island of Gajya. While noting that amphibious training involving Japanese troops has been conducted in the U.S., the daily said the ministry and the GSDF are anxious to build in Japan a facility where amphibious personnel can conduct live ammunition training for operations to recapture an island from an enemy.


Nikkei interviews International Space Station director

Monday's Nikkei carried a report on its recent interview with NASA Director for the International Space Station Sam Scimemi. He reportedly said the U.S. will continue to be involved with low-earth-orbit research after the current ISS is scheduled to end operations in 2025 along with the new project to launch a manned space station orbiting the moon. He said that while the U.S. government has yet to announce its post-2025 plans for the ISS, it will do so next year, indicating that the U.S. is expected to continue its involvement with this research by extending the operation of the ISS. Nikkei quoted Scimemi as saying during a talk at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Sept. 5 that while the ISS will be operated by private entities, the U.S. government will remain its administrator. With Russia already expressing its intention to continue its involvement with the ISS beyond 2025, Scimemi voiced hope that other partner nations will also remain involved in the project and even extend their partnership to the exploration of the moon and Mars.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team