Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, December 31, 2019
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Morning news

NHK led with a report that blizzards are forecast for northern Japan from today through Thursday. Commercial broadcasters' morning news shows were preempted by special yearend programming.

Major front-page stories in national dailies included reports on active trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Monday and the decline in the number of students attending pro-Pyongyang Korean primary and secondary schools across Japan.


DPRK leader calls for "proactive, offensive measures" for national defense

All national dailies reported from Seoul on the ongoing meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea that started in Pyongyang on Saturday, stressing that Chairman Kim Jong Un allegedly said his regime will take "proactive, offensive measures to thoroughly guarantee national sovereignty and security." The papers interpreted this statement to mean that Pyongyang is ready to strengthen the nation's armed forces, including its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Japanese media also focused on an announcement made by the Korean Central News Agency that the Workers' Party session was expected to run through Monday, speculating that during the "unusually long" conference, the DPRK leadership may have discussed military and other measures to press the U.S. to make concessions in the denuclearization talks before North Korea's self-imposed deadline expires today. Sankei projected that Chairman Kim may announce a new policy on denuclearization in his customary New Year's message tomorrow.

Russian leader expresses hope to meet with Abe next year

Sankei took up a New Year's message posted on Russian President Putin's official website in which he expressed hope that Prime Minister Abe will visit Russia next May to attend a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Germany during WWII. Putin reportedly added that the two leaders "have forged mutual understanding" through the course of several summit meetings this year.


Washington likely to press Tokyo to pay more for hosting U.S. troops

In a report on the stalled negotiations between the U.S. and South Korea over host nation support (HNS) for the U.S. military, Asahi claimed that President Trump has been adamant in demanding that U.S. allies boost their monetary contributions for the U.S. military. During recent HNS talks, Seoul reportedly dismissed a request from Washington to pay $5 billion, more than five times the current amount. While predicting that the U.S. leader is bound to apply similar pressure on Japan when bilateral HNS negotiations covering the five-year period beginning in April 2021 start next year, the daily pointed out that some U.S. officials and experts have voiced concern that the President's approach runs the risk of damaging alliance relations. The paper focused on a view expressed by Congress when drafting the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act commending Japan and South Korea for making "important contributions to common security through direct and indirect cost sharing." The U.S. legislature reportedly asked the Trump administration to hold HNS talks with Tokyo and Seoul "based on the spirit of common interests and mutual respect."


LDP determined to win assembly elections in Okinawa

Yomiuri reported on the Okinawa prefectural assembly elections to be held next June, saying that the LDP is eager to help its candidates recapture a majority of the 50-member chamber from forces supportive of Governor Tamaki, who is determined to derail the FRF construction initiative. The daily said the LDP is hoping to take control of the local legislature to forestall Tamaki's use of his ample administrative authority to sabotage the relocation project. LDP Secretary General Nikai reportedly visited Naha yesterday and urged local LDP chapter members to make additional efforts to win their races. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga also visited the island prefecture about ten days ago to make a similar pitch.


Japanese consumers enjoy benefits of TPP effectuation

Mainichi reported on the first anniversary of the effectuation of the TPP on Monday, saying that Japanese people have reaped benefits from the regional free trade accord in the form of increased imports of inexpensive foreign agricultural products, including Canadian beef and Mexican pork, as a result of tariff reduction and elimination. Canadian beef imports reportedly surged by 80% during the first ten months of this year from the previous year, with their market share in Japan now amounting to 6.7%, up 2.9 points. On the other hand, the market share of American beef dropped by 1.7 points to 38% during the same period. While noting that the TPP turned out to be effective in opening up the domestic farm market to foreign products, the daily said it has apparently had a limited impact on imports of industrial products since Tokyo had already concluded bilateral free trade deals with eight of the ten other TPP members and Japanese manufacturers have built extensive parts supply chains in ASEAN nations.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team