Morning Alert   -   Thursday, November 7, 2019
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Morning news

NHK and TV Asahi led with reports on water supply disruptions at Haneda Airport since yesterday, saying that the airport operator is still investigating the cause. NTV and Fuji TV gave top coverage to the arrest of former Olympic snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo on suspicion of smuggling marijuana. TBS led with a report on the arrest of former entertainer Masashi Tashiro for allegedly possessing illegal stimulants.

Major front-page items in national dailies included the SoftBank Group's first quarterly loss in 14 years, a GOJ plan to release the minutes of Education Ministry panel discussions on the use of private-sector English tests as part of college entrance exams, the dissolution of the UK House of Commons yesterday for a general election on Dec. 12, Taiwan's program to develop mid-range ballistic missiles in the late 1990s as a deterrent against China, and the Naha Firefighters Headquarters' announcement yesterday that the Shuri Castle fire probably started because of a problem with electrical equipment.


A/S Stilwell apparently urges ROK officials to extend GSOMIA

All national papers reported from Seoul on Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell's meetings on Wednesday with several high-ranking ROK officials, including Foreign Minister Kang. The dailies speculated that the U.S. diplomat probably pressed them not to terminate the GSOMIA defense intelligence sharing pact with Japan, with Nikkei's headline reading: "Senior U.S. official applies pressure on South Korean foreign minister." The business daily said A/S Stilwell also held talks with a senior Blue House official who allegedly campaigned hard within the ROK government for the termination of the defense data sharing arrangement. According to a Blue House press release, the two officials reportedly held "concrete, productive, and future-oriented consultations" on the subject. While quoting the same announcement as saying that the two partners agreed to continue discussions in order to resolve outstanding issues in a future-oriented manner, Sankei conjectured that they apparently failed to narrow the gap on GSOMIA.

Yomiuri cited a report by South Korean paper Dong-a Ilbo claiming that senior intelligence officials of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea gathered in Washington recently to hold intensive discussions on GSOMIA. Noting that DOS Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements James DeHart accompanied A/S Stilwell at the session, the ROK paper speculated that the presence of the lead U.S. negotiator for host nation support talks with South Korea signified Washington's intention to press Seoul to take on a much larger share of the cost of hosting U.S. troops unless it maintains the defense data sharing arrangement with Tokyo. Yomiuri and Nikkei speculated that amid U.S. pressure, some senor ROK officials may now be hinting at renewing the ROK-Japan pact on the condition that Tokyo eases its export control over certain Korea-bound products.

Korean requisitioned workers' legal counsel criticizes assembly speaker's proposal

Mainichi wrote from Seoul that the defense counsel of the former requisitioned workers criticized South Korean National Assembly Speaker Moon's proposal on collecting donations from Japanese and South Korean businesses and the general public to launch and finance a fund that would pay compensation to their clients. The team reportedly denounced the idea in a meeting with the press, saying that it makes light of the pain that the victims had to endure and calling for Japan to offer an apology. According to the article, the lawyers are also displeased with the speaker's idea to use a portion of the 1 billion yen that the GOJ earmarked for the defunct "Reconciliation and Healing Foundation" that was established for the comfort women to compensate the former requisitioned workers.

U.S. diplomat may meet with DPRK official in Moscow

Yomiuri wrote that as U.S. and DPRK diplomats plan to attend a three-day international conference on nuclear nonproliferation to be held in Moscow starting today, there is a possibility that the two sides will meet on the margins of the event to discuss denuclearization. Special Envoy for North Korea Mark Lambert is expected to join the U.S. delegation.

U.S. denounces China's oppression of Uighurs

Sankei reported on a statement issued by Secretary of State Pompeo on Tuesday, in which he said he is "deeply troubled" by recent reports on the detention and other forms of harassment and coercion of Uighurs by the Chinese government in Xinjiang Province. Explaining that some of these abuses occurred shortly after the detainees' meetings with USG officials, the Secretary conveyed heartfelt condolences to the "courageous people" who were victimized by the Chinese Communist Party's oppressive policy. The top U.S. diplomat demanded that Beijing stop harassing the Muslim minorities.

In a related story, NHK reported online on Wednesday evening on remarks made by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang on Wednesday, during which he criticized the Secretary's statement on China's oppression of Uighur minorities. Geng said that the United States has repeatedly smeared China's Xinjiang policy through "fact-distorting" comments and that China deplores and firmly opposes that.

Japan, Russia hold vice-ministerial talks on Northern Territories

Yomiuri and Asahi reported from Moscow that Deputy Foreign Minister Mori and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Hasegawa met with senior Russian diplomats yesterday and agreed to launch a bilateral taskforce on promoting joint economic activities on the Northern Territories following the recent completion of a pilot sightseeing tour of Etorofu and Kunashiri Islands. The two sides also reportedly agreed to arrange for the two foreign ministers to hold talks in Nagoya on the margins of the G20 foreign ministerial conference in late November. They also confirmed that Foreign Minister Motegi will visit Russia by year's end.


Diet debate begins on U.S.-Japan pact on digital trade

Yomiuri reported that the Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee started deliberations on a bill to effectuate the U.S.-Japan agreement on digital trade, with Foreign Minister Motegi explaining that the legislation is aimed at creating a free and open international economy through enhancing digital connections between the two economies. The daily said the accord is also intended to rein in China's growing presence in the digital economy.

Sankei wrote that the committee also examined separate legislation on the U.S.-Japan trade agreement on goods on the same day, quoting FM Motegi as saying that the accord is based on the assumption that U.S. tariffs on Japanese auto imports will be eliminated and that the two sides will negotiate on when the tariffs will be removed. The minister dismissed criticism from the opposition that the GOJ failed to obtain a U.S. commitment eliminate the auto tariffs, stressing that Tokyo will hold "negotiations on tariff elimination." He also stated that the trade agreement is compatible with WTO rules. The daily added that senior ruling coalition officials confirmed yesterday that the two trade bills will be enacted during the current Diet session, which will end on Dec. 9.

Japanese firms have yet to purchase excess U.S. corn

Mainichi reported that although more than two months have elapsed since President Trump announced with Prime Minister Abe in France in late August that Japan plans to buy surplus U.S. corn, no local agents have done so. According to the daily, no importers have applied for the monetary incentives that the Agriculture Ministry instituted in August for "emergency imports" of foreign crops to compensate for a shortage of corn for animal feed that the ministry had anticipated due to insect damage. The importers reportedly stressed that there is currently no concern about supplies. They are also apparently hesitant to purchase U.S. corn since it requires extra processing for use as animal feed. The paper said the GOJ appears to be keeping a low profile on the matter out of fear that Washington might be displeased if it learns that there is little demand for U.S. corn in Japan.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team