Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, October 15, 2019
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Morning news

All TV networks led with reports on the damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis when it ripped through central and eastern Japan on Saturday. More than 50 people died, at least 13 people are missing, and more than 100 were injured in flooding and landslides. SDF personnel, police, and firefighters continue to carry out search and rescue operations.

No papers were published this morning due to a press holiday.


U.S. allegedly proposed conditionally easing sanctions on DPRK

Monday's Yomiuri ran a report from Seoul claiming that it has learned from an unnamed source connected to U.S.-Japan-ROK relations that the United States allegedly proposed to the DPRK during their denuclearization talks in Stockholm on Oct. 5 partially easing UN sanctions in exchange for the DPRK taking substantial denuclearization measures and promising to completely denuclearize. The paper speculated that a temporary suspension of the ban on the export of coal and textiles was one of the measures included in the proposal. The paper alleged that this proposal is what the Department of State was referring to when it mentioned in a statement issued after the talks between Special Envoy for North Korea Biegun and Kim Myong Gil in Stockholm that the U.S. brought "creative ideas" to the meeting. The paper wrote that this was the first time for the Trump administration to propose easing sanctions. The paper claimed that the United States set two preconditions for removing the sanctions. First, North Korea would have to promise to hand over all of its nuclear weapons and materials to the United States and completely dismantle its nuclear facilities and facilities related to biological and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. Second, the DPRK would need to completely dismantle its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon and take substantial steps toward suspension of its uranium enrichment.

The paper speculated that Washington allegedly expressed readiness to partially lift UN sanctions, allow the provision of humanitarian economic assistance, and agree to issue a declaration of the end of the Korean War as assurances for the current regime in exchange for Pyongyang meeting these two preconditions. The paper wrote that the DPRK responded to the alleged proposal by saying the conditions were too demanding and the sanctions should be lifted completely. According to the source, although the United States proposed holding a fourth summit by the end of this year, the DPRK said it will not hold another summit unless Washington accepts its request for a step-by-step approach.

DPRK demands compensation from Japan for ship collision

All national dailies wrote on Sunday that North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on Saturday that a Foreign Ministry spokesperson issued a statement demanding that Japan pay compensation for "sinking its vessel" which was "in its territorial waters" and take measures to prevent a recurrence of a collision between a Fisheries Agency patrol ship and one of its trawlers. The statement added that "there will be undesirable consequences" if such an incident happens again.

Japan, ROK remain apart on export controls

All national dailies wrote on Sunday that Japan and South Korea failed to narrow their differences over Japan's tightened regulations on exports to South Korea at their first bilateral meeting held on Friday in Geneva under the WTO framework. Director-General Kuroda at METI's Multilateral Trade System Department told his ROK counterpart that Japan believes that it is necessary for the country to appropriately control exports of three semiconductor-related materials that could be used for military purposes because there have been instances of improper trade control in South Korea. Japan also stressed that it is not appropriate to bring this dispute to the WTO. However, the South Korean side demanded that Japan immediately rescind the tightened regulations, insisting that they are "arbitrary and discriminatory and violate WTO rules." According to the papers, Japan accepted South Korea's proposal to hold a second meeting on the matter.

ROK prime minister to attend enthronement ceremony

All national papers wrote on Monday that the ROK government announced on Sunday that South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon will visit Japan on Oct. 22-24 to attend the imperial enthronement ceremony. Asahi wrote that although Seoul had discussed the possibility of President Moon attending the ceremony in an effort to improve its strained ties with Tokyo, the nation eventually decided to send the prime minister. Yomiuri wrote that according to an ROK government source, Lee, a former Tokyo correspondent for a South Korean newspaper, is hoping to hold talks with Prime Minister Abe to convey a message from President Moon. Mainichi wrote that Lee is also planning to hold talks with senior Japanese lawmakers to discuss ways to improve the frayed Japan-ROK relations. Nikkei and Sankei wrote that the ROK prime minister is planning to participate in a banquet to be hosted by Abe and his wife on Oct. 23 and a meeting with Japanese business leaders.

China to send Xi's deputy to enthronement ceremony

NHK reported on Monday that Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang announced on Monday that China will send Vice President Wang Qishan as a special envoy of President Xi to the imperial enthronement ceremony. The spokesperson said that Wang will meet with Japanese politicians and key people from various fields and will also visit Hokkaido. The network said that Wang is regarded as a close ally of Xi. Noting that China sent a vice premier to the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito's father in 1990, the broadcaster speculated that the dispatch of Wang, who is more senior than a vice premier, to the enthronement on Oct. 22 is intended to clearly demonstrate China's policy of attaching importance to improving its relations with Japan.

South Korea, China send condolences to Japan over typhoon damage

NHK reported on Monday that South Korean President Moon sent a message to Prime Minister Abe through a diplomatic channel on Monday expressing sympathy for the damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis. Moon reportedly expressed hope that those affected will be able to resume their normal lives as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a news conference on Monday that his country expresses condolences to the victims of the typhoon, extends its sympathy to those injured, and hopes the lives of the people in the areas affected by the storm will return to normal soon.

Senior LDP, Komeito officials to visit China

Saturday's Yomiuri wrote that it has learned from an LDP source that LDP Secretary General Nikai and Komeito Secretary General Saito are planning to visit China in early November as part of an exchange between ruling party members and members of the Chinese Communist Party. According to the source, Nikai and Saito are hoping to hold talks with Chinese President Xi in Shanghai during their stay in China. The paper speculated that the planned visit by the Japanese politicians is aimed at boosting momentum for Xi's planned visit to Japan next spring.


Ruling coalition endorses bill to approve U.S.-Japan trade agreements

Saturday morning's Nikkei wrote that on Friday the ruling LDP and Komeito Party endorsed a GOJ-sponsored bill to approve Japan's new trade agreements with the United States. The paper wrote that the GOJ is planning to submit the bill to the Diet after approving it at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, with the aim of enacting it during the current Diet session.

RCEP members make progress toward concluding negotiations

Monday's Yomiuri wrote that the 16 members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) reached agreements in eight more sectors at their ministerial meeting on Saturday in Bangkok, meaning that they have now reached accords in 18 of the approximately 20 areas under discussion. The paper speculated that although the nations did not specify which eight areas the agreements covered, they probably focused on such issues as tariff cuts and rules on trade and investment. The paper asserted that the RCEP nations have made major progress toward their goal of concluding their negotiations this year. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Sugawara, who participated in the ministerial meeting, told reporters afterward: "Finally, we are now only one step away. We will endeavor to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year by reaching agreement on the remaining issues." The paper wrote that the RCEP member states are hoping to announce the conclusion of their negotiations at their leaders' meeting slated for early November after holding additional working-level discussions and another ministerial meeting.

The paper wrote that attention is focused on the moves of China and India because India is worried that a large volume of Chinese industrial and farm products will flow into the nation if it accepts major tariff cuts. The paper added that there is also concern that the strained relations between Japan and South Korea may have a negative impact on the RCEP negotiations.

However, Sankei ran a Kyodo story claiming that the RCEP nations did not issue a joint statement at their ministerial meeting in Bangkok because they failed to reach agreements on key issues such as tariffs and investment. Kyodo said it remains to be seen whether they will be able to achieve their goal of concluding their negotiations at their leaders' meeting in early November. Kyodo quoted Trade Minister Sugawara as telling the press: "We welcome the major progress made in a number of areas, but some difficult issues still need to be settled. As for whether the negotiations will be concluded, it depends on whether we can find common ground on the difficult issues in the remaining period."


PAC-3 missile interceptor deployed on Defense Ministry premises

Saturday morning's Mainichi and Nikkei wrote that they have learned from a GOJ source that the Ministry of Defense has deployed two ASDF Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 systems on its premises, speculating that the move was made in preparation for possible ballistic missile launches by the DPRK. This is the first time for the ministry to deploy the system on its premises since July 2018.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team