Morning Alert   -   Thursday, September 26, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on the Japan-U.S. summit last night in which Prime Minister Abe and President Trump signed a joint statement confirming the final agreement reached in the bilateral trade talks. TBS filed a follow-up report on the investigation of the murder of a couple in Ibaraki Prefecture on Sept. 23. NTV and TV Asahi showed video of a man scratching cars in a parking lot in Kitakyushu on Sept. 17. Fuji TV reported on the arrest yesterday of a man who with his son placed concrete blocks on roads in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, on 25 occasions since October last year resulting in several accidents.

Main front-page items in national papers included the signing of the new trade agreement between President Trump and PM Abe, House Speaker Pelosi's announcement on the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump, a Nikkei interview with Facebook CEO Zuckerberg, and a warning given to NHK President Ueda by its board of governors in response to a complaint from Japan Post Bank that the broadcaster's reporting on the bank's sale of insurance policies was unfair.


U.S., Japan sign new trade accord

All national papers reported on the signing by President Trump and Prime Minister Abe in New York on Wednesday of a joint statement on a new bilateral trade agreement, projecting that the pact may take effect as early as the year end pending Diet approval. The two sides reportedly agreed that import tariffs on U.S. pork and beef will be immediately reduced to TPP levels. Japan also reportedly agreed to set up a low-tariff quota for American beef imports. Washington separately agreed to Japan's eliminating a tariff-free annual quota of 70,000 tons for U.S. rice that was part of the original TPP agreement. In signing the statement, President Trump reportedly said: "This is a huge victory for America's farmers, ranchers, and growers." He also reportedly emphasized that it is a "fair and reciprocal" trade agreement.

The dailies noted that Tokyo obtained an assurance that Japan will remain exempt from higher U.S. auto tariffs. The two sides also reportedly agreed to continue discussions on the proposed removal of import duties on Japanese cars and components. The U.S. will also reportedly expand the low-tariff quota for Japanese beef imports. In meeting with the press ahead of the signing, PM Abe said: "The outcome of the negotiations is actually a win-win solution for Japan and the United States."

Asahi opined that the deal was a "setback" from the standpoint of promoting free trade since both sides were keen to protect their domestic industries. According to the paper, the Trump administration strove to defend the farm and auto sectors with the goal of increasing jobs at home and reducing trade deficits in a bid to boost the President's reelection campaign. The paper wrote that Japan was anxious to protect its own farm sector and at the same time was desperate to avert the imposition of high tariffs on Japanese vehicles.

Nikkei, noting that the accord will likely take effect ahead of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), asserted that this will be the first substantive trade accomplishment that President Trump will deliver to American workers and farmers. The business daily wrote that the Trump administration, which is eager to please Midwestern farmers and ranchers hurt by trade friction with China, elected to pursue with Japan a "mini deal" focused on the farm sector so as to be able to use the Trade Promotion Authority, which enables the early effectuation of a trade pact with a foreign partner by circumventing congressional screening.

Japanese, ROK business leaders call for political reconciliation

All national papers except Sankei wrote that Japanese and South Korean business leaders gathered in Seoul on Tuesday for two days of discussions, noting that the participants called on the two governments to find common ground through dialogue. They also voiced concern about damage to bilateral economic relations as a result of the deterioration in the political and diplomat partnership between Tokyo and Seoul. The business leaders reportedly agreed to seek mutual collaboration for deepening economic bonds by joining hands in investing in Vietnam and other emerging economies.


PM Abe, President Trump discuss Middle East situation at summit meeting

NHK, TV Asahi and NTV reported this morning that Prime Minister Abe and President Trump discussed the Middle East situation at their summit meeting last night. They reportedly agreed to cooperate to ease tensions and stabilize the region, and condemned the recent attack on Saudi crude oil facilities. While the President reportedly said Iran was responsible for the attack, Abe merely said Japan is collecting and analyzing information. The President reportedly expressed hope for Japan, which has friendly relations with Iran, to play a role. TV Asahi quoted a Japanese government source as saying that while the President takes a hardline on Iran, he does not rule out dialogue. According to NHK, while the President harbors doubts about France's mediation efforts, he expressed appreciation for Japan's efforts and hope that its role will be fruitful. There was reportedly no mention of the coalition of the willing for Hormuz security, according to the broadcaster. Abe reportedly said that Japan will protect its own tankers and take necessary actions. A Japanese government source was quoted as saying that Iran diplomacy will require perseverance, indicating that Japan will persist in efforts to promote dialogue between the U.S. and Iran. NHK and NTV reported that the two leaders also discussed North Korea and affirmed the importance of Japan-U.S.-ROK security cooperation.

Abe's mediation in Middle East running into difficulties

Nikkei gave prominent inside-page coverage to Prime Minister Abe's summit with Iranian President Rouhani in New York on Tuesday, noting that the Japanese leader's efforts to mediate between Iran and the U.S. are running into difficulties in view of the growing consensus that Iran was involved in the recent attacks on oil platforms in Saudi Arabia. The premier relayed directly to the Iranian leader Japan's deep concern about the incident, saying that doubts have emerged about the Iranian narrative that the Houthi rebels in Yemen were responsible. Abe also reportedly urged Rouhani to have Iran fulfill its responsibility for ensuring safe passage through the Strait of Hormuz.

Senior DOS official calls for Japan to condemn Iran

Nikkei ran an interview with Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, who reportedly urged Japan to denounce Iran for the recent oil attacks in Saudi Arabia. He reportedly stressed that it is most important to isolate Iran in order to defuse Middle East tensions. The DOS official reportedly said he hoped for the participation of Japan, South Korea, and other Asian countries in the coalition to protect critical waterways in the region.

Japanese Embassy in Seoul posts Fukushima radiation data

Asahi and Sankei said that the website of the Japanese Embassy in South Korea updates radiation data collected at two locations in Fukushima Prefecture, as well as Tokyo and Seoul, almost daily in order to address growing concern among the Koreans about "radiation contamination" of Japanese food. The data is collected by the Fukushima prefectural government, the Tokyo metropolitan government, and a South Korean government agency. The embassy reportedly emphasizes that the radiation levels of the three Japanese sites are nearly on par with those of Seoul and other foreign cities.


Japan, Australia conduct joint aerial training in Hokkaido

Asahi, Nikkei, and Yomiuri wrote that a joint drill involving Japanese and Australian fighter jets that started in Hokkaido on Sept. 11 was opened to the press yesterday. This was the first time for the two air forces to carry out combat training in Japan, the papers said. The SDF reportedly plans to provide fuel to the Australian planes based on the bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement. The drill was apparently intended to rein in China's maritime advancement. Defense Minister Kono gave remarks to the two nations' airmen involved in the exercise. He reportedly called Australia a "special strategic partner" and said "the training will raise bilateral defense cooperation to a new level."

According to Nikkei, defense partnership between Japan and Australia is rapidly deepening. The paper pointed out that their two navies are currently conducting a joint exercise off the Japanese archipelago. Foreign Minister Motegi also reportedly held talks with his Australian counterpart Payne in New York on Tuesday and confirmed mutual coordination on various outstanding issues, such as North Korea's denuclearization. The daily added, however, that bilateral negotiations for the early conclusion of a visiting force agreement have hit a snag over how to deal with Australian service members in case they commit crimes in Japan while on duty.


NASA administrator holds news conference on cooperation with Japan

NHK reported on Wednesday on a news conference held by NASA Administrator Bridenstine. He explained that the purpose of his current visit is to urge Japan to join the Lunar Platform Orbiting Gateway project. The NASA official said that with bilateral cooperation, American and Japanese astronauts will be able to conduct joint activities on the moon, but the Japanese government needs to understand that participation in the project will be costly. NHK reported that JAXA President Yamakawa, who participated in the news conference from Tanegashima Space Center via Internet hookup, announced that NASA is considering participating in JAXA's plan to land an unmanned probe on the moon and in Japan and India's joint unmanned exploration of the lunar south pole. Bridenstine lauded Japan's excellent capability in space exploration and said he expects Japan to continue to make outstanding contributions.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team