Morning Alert   -   Monday, September 30, 2019
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Morning news

NHK gave top coverage to the planned hike in consumption tax midnight Tuesday, while most commercial broadcasters led with Japan's victory over Ireland in the World Cup Rugby tournament on Saturday evening.

Top stories in national dailies included consumers' last-minute shopping before the consumption tax hike (Asahi), 10 prefectures' plans to vaccinate pigs against swine fever (Yomiuri), an interview with LDP tax policy chief Akira Amari during which he disclosed a plan to give companies tax breaks in return for steering idle cash into mergers and acquisitions (Nikkei), an interview with Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow (Sankei), and the disclosure that the released minutes of a meeting of the NHK oversight body did not include the warning given to the NHK president over the broadcaster's reporting on Japan Post Bank's improper sales of insurance policies (Mainichi).


FM Motegi makes "successful diplomatic debut"

Monday's Yomiuri said Foreign Minister Motegi made a "successful diplomatic debut in New York last week by finishing up the U.S.-Japan trade talks as the former minister in charge of the negotiations and holding bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of ten countries, including Iran and China. The paper wrote that Motegi demonstrated his presence in the trade negotiations with the United States and that attention will be focused on whether he will be able to draw on his negotiation skills to improve Japan's ties with South Korea and advance peace treaty talks with Russia.

Japanese, ROK foreign ministers fail to make progress in resolving bilateral disputes

Saturday morning's Asahi wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi held bilateral talks with his ROK counterpart Kang in New York on Thursday for the first time since he assumed his current post. This was also the first time for Japan and South Korea to hold a foreign ministerial meeting since Seoul announced its decision in August to terminate its GSOMIA intelligence sharing pact with Japan. The paper wrote that the two officials reiterated their positions on the outstanding issues between their nations, including compensation for former Korean requisitioned workers and the GSOMIA, but failed to make progress toward their resolution. They agreed that the two nations will continue to communicate through diplomatic channels.

Saturday morning's Nikkei and Sankei also reported on the Japan-ROK foreign ministerial meeting, quoting Motegi as telling Kang that Japan and South Korea must develop their relationship in a forward-looking manner because bilateral cooperation and trilateral coordination with the United States are more important than ever in dealing with the DPRK.

DOS official comments on Japan-ROK relations

Saturday's Sankei ran an exclusive interview with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Korea and Japan Marc Knapper that was conducted at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Tokyo on Friday. The paper wrote that DAS Knapper commented on the Japan-ROK GSOMIA, reportedly saying he hopes that South Korea will rethink its decision and return to the defense intelligence sharing pact. The paper wrote that he reportedly said an effective response to a crisis would be difficult without the GSOMIA. Quoting him as reportedly saying that South Korea still has time to review its decision until the accord ends on November 23, the paper interpreted this remark to mean that DAS Knapper strongly urged South Korea to return to the accord. The paper also quoted the DOS official as saying that the recent frayed ties between Japan and South Korea harm the national interest of the United States. According to the paper, DAS Knapper said that although the United States has no intention to mediate between Japan and South Korea, it will play a positive role in urging them to narrow their differences. Concerning the joint flight training conducted by China and Russia over the Sea of Japan in July, DAS Knapper reportedly said that it is indispensable for the United States, Japan, and South Korea, which share common values, to cooperate in alliance relationships.

Senior DOS official comments on Iran, coalition of the willing

Saturday morning's Asahi ran an interview with Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook that was held in New York on Thursday. The paper wrote that concerning the recent attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, the senior USG official reportedly said Iran is responsible for the attacks. Hook added that silence will invite further attacks by Iran and that the tensions will be eased if many nations condemn Iran by name and hold it accountable.

Concerning the idea of forming a U.S.-led coalition of the willing to secure safe passage through the Strait of Hormuz, Hook reportedly said that the idea is already begun taking shape, as five nations including the UK, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have said they will participate.

Japan downgrades South Korea as security partner

All national dailies reported in their Saturday morning editions on the GOJ's approval at a cabinet meeting on Friday of this year's Defense White Paper. The papers wrote that the document criticizes South Korea's decision to terminate its GSOMIA. The papers pointed out that in a chapter explaining Japan's important security cooperation partners other than the United States, South Korea is mentioned fourth after Australia, India, and ASEAN, down from second place in the previous white paper. The document quotes former Defense Minister Iwaya as saying Seoul's decision to withdraw from the bilateral pact was extremely disappointing.

According to Asahi, South Korea's Foreign Ministry summoned on Friday a minister-counselor at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to lodge a protest over Japan's description of Seoul's withdrawal from the GSOMIA. The ROK government said that Japan was laying blame on South Korea.

Hydrogen fluoride exports to South Korea fall to zero in August

Saturday morning's Mainichi and Sankei wrote that Finance Ministry statistics released on Friday showed that exports of hydrogen fluoride to South Korea fell to zero in August. The chemical is one of three materials used in making semiconductors that are now under stricter export controls imposed since July. Mainichi added that exports of Japanese beer to South Korea in August plunged by 92.2% from July apparently due to the ongoing boycott of Japanese products.


DM Kono, Governor Tamaki remain apart over Futenma relocation

All national dailies reported on Monday on Defense Minister Kono's meeting with Okinawa Governor Tamaki on Sunday during his first visit to the prefecture after assuming his current post. The papers wrote that they remained apart on the issue of Futenma relocation, with Kono calling for Okinawa's understanding for the project and Tamaki insisting that the GOJ halt construction. The governor told the defense minister at the outset of the meeting that the Okinawan people firmly oppose the landfill project and urged the central government to cease construction and hold dialogue with the prefecture. Kono told Tamaki that the construction will allow the complete closure of Futenma Air Station and the return of the land, adding that it is necessary to relocate the base to Henoko as early as possible.

In a related report, Asahi wrote that the GOJ is planning to come up with a new schedule and cost estimate for the Henoko project because it has become necessary to make design changes to reinforce the soft seabed in the area. The paper wrote that the GOJ is hoping to announce the new schedule and cost estimate by year end, speculating that the cost will likely rise significantly.

Ginowan assembly adopts opinion paper calling for "promotion of Henoko project"

Saturday's Asahi wrote that concerning the FRF construction at Henoko, the Ginowan municipal assembly adopted on Thursday an opinion paper calling for the promotion of the relocation project. The paper wrote that although the municipal assembly has adopted resolutions and opinion papers calling for the early return of Futenma in the past, this was the first time for the local assembly to cite Henoko as a specific relocation site.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team