Morning Alert   -   Thursday, October 24, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report on Typhoon Bualoi, which is approaching the Ogawasawa Islands in the Pacific. TBS led with a report on the foreign dignitaries who are visiting Tokyo to attend enthronement events, while other commercial networks gave top coverage to a tax evasion scandal involving comedian Yoshimi Tokui.

Major front-page items in national papers included Facebook's intention to delay the launch of its Libra cryptocurrency, a likely delay in Brexit, Japan's plan to enhance maritime defense cooperation with India, a bill on offering compensation to family members of Hansen's disease patients, and Google's announcement on a breakthrough in quantum computing.


Secretary Chao pays courtesy call on PM Abe

Yomiuri and Nikkei reported that Transportation Secretary Chao paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Abe at the Akasaka Palace on Wednesday. According to the articles, the premier commented on the U.S.-Japan trade agreements by saying that they will develop bilateral economic ties and hence strengthen U.S.-Japan relations. The two officials also reportedly exchanged views on cooperation on social infrastructure. Secretary Chao also held a meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga.

ROK PM Lee meets with Japanese politicians

All national papers wrote that visiting South Korean Prime Minister Lee held talks with Japanese ruling and opposition lawmakers yesterday and explained that when he meets with Prime Minister Abe, he will deliver a letter from President Moon. The dailies reported that the requisitioned worker dispute came up during the sessions and Lee emphasized his government's desire to resolve the matter through dialogue.

Sankei wrote some ROK officials expect Lee's meeting with Abe will lead to a breakthrough in the bilateral standoff. However, Lee was reportedly quick to tamp down expectations by telling the press yesterday that the bilateral friction is not something that can be resolved through an exchange of a few words. "The purpose of the meeting is to create an atmosphere to promote dialogue to the maximum extent possible," he added. According to the daily, Lee interacted with Keio University students yesterday, telling them that economic issues should be kept separate from politics. The daily interpreted this remark to mean that the Moon administration views Japan's tighter export controls as the most pressing issue that needs to be resolved to achieve reconciliation.

PM Abe holds talks with Chinese Vice President Wang

All national papers wrote that Prime Minister Abe and visiting Chinese Vice President Wang held talks yesterday and agreed to enhance mutual cooperation on the political and economic fronts to make President Xi's trip to Japan scheduled for next spring a success. The premier also asked for China to exercise restraint in naval operations near the Senkakus and to release Japanese citizens, including a Hokkaido University professor, who have been detained in China. Abe voiced "deep concern" about the continued unrest in Hong Kong, urging China to resolve the conflict through dialogue.

According to Yomiuri, the prime minister referred to the detention of Japanese nationals and the Hong Kong situation in response to calls from LDP lawmakers, who said that even though the meeting was intended to be ceremonial, Abe should raise outstanding issues "without hesitation." The daily added that the Chinese are anxious to deepen ties with Tokyo amid their testy relations with the Trump administration. Sankei noted that Abe spent more time exchanging views with Chinese officials than he did with other visiting foreign dignitaries, stressing that this is indicative of the importance he attaches to China.

Japan to strengthen naval cooperation with India

Mainichi gave top play to a GOJ plan to enhance maritime security cooperation with India, saying that MSDF personnel will be dispatched to an Indian Navy unit called the Information Fusion Centre (IFC), which is tasked with collecting and analyzing naval intelligence. The unit was reportedly launched last year with the goal of sharing information with friendly nations on vessels of interest in the Indian Ocean. Japan reportedly intends to dispatch an MSDF official and share relevant images and data collected by Japanese military assets, including intelligence-gathering satellites, as part of Prime Minister Abe's "free and open Indo-Pacific" initiative. Details of the maritime collaboration will be worked out during a bilateral foreign and defense ministerial meeting in November and Abe's summit with his Indian counterpart Modi scheduled for December. The daily added that the Abe administration is keen to enhance collaboration at sea with the U.S., India, Australia, as well as some ASEAN countries, in order to secure the safe passage of vessels sailing from the Middle East to Japan via the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea, with the ultimate goal of reining in China's rapidly growing presence in the region.


Diet debate on U.S.-Japan trade deal begins today

Yomiuri and Sankei reported that Diet deliberations on GOJ-sponsored legislation to obtain parliamentary endorsement of the U.S.-Japan trade agreements will start today. Prime Minister Abe is expected to attend a plenary session of the Lower House to explain the goals of the bill. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga called for opposition support for swift passage by telling the press yesterday: "It is a balanced, win-win deal for Japan and the U.S." Although the opposition bloc is determined to derail the legislation on the grounds that the GOJ has failed to obtain assurances that President Trump will not impose higher auto tariffs, it will automatically be enacted 30 days after being approved by the Lower House based on a constitutional provision. The ruling coalition is reportedly aiming to pass the bill in the lower chamber by Nov. 8.


Court dismisses Okinawa's plea on FRF initiative

All national papers wrote on Wednesday that the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court rejected a suit filed by the Okinawa prefectural government claiming the illegality of the rescindment by the land minister of the Okinawa governor's cancellation of the landfill permit for the FRF construction off Camp Schwab. The court reportedly dismissed Okinawa's argument that since the land minister's action constituted central government "involvement" in municipal affairs, as defined by the Local Autonomy Act, it was illegal. The prefectural government will likely file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

GOJ briefs LDP lawmakers on planned deployment of warship to Middle East

All national dailies except Yomiuri reported that on Wednesday the GOJ briefed LDP parliamentarians on its plan to deploy military assets to the Middle East for "intelligence collection." Some were reportedly unconvinced by the plan to apply a provision of the Defense Ministry Establishment Act to justify the deployment. They argued that invoking a clause that authorizes the ministry to conduct "research and study" is inappropriate. The GOJ briefers reportedly said a separate act may be invoked if the deployed vessels are required to escort or protect commercial Japanese ships. Other politicians reportedly raised doubts about the GOJ's plan not to operate MSDF assets in the Strait of Hormuz.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team