Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, January 7, 2020
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Morning news

NHK and TBS gave top play to the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran, with NHK saying the international community is urging the two nations to exercise restraint. NTV, Fuji TV, and TV Asahi led with follow-up reports on former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn's escape from Japan.

Major front-page items in national dailies included Iran's latest announcement on rolling back its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a finding by the police that Ghosn rode a bullet train to Osaka before boarding a private jet, and the Justice Ministry's plan to revise relevant laws to prevent defendants awaiting trial from skipping bail.


Abe voices concern about Middle East situation

All national dailies took up remarks made to the press yesterday by Prime Minister Abe. He reportedly expressed deep concern about the rising tensions in the Middle East following the U.S. military's killing of the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Abe reportedly did not comment specifically on the U.S. military operation or Tehran's announcement on Sunday that it will move further away from the terms of the Iran nuclear agreement. While quoting the premier as saying, "We call on all relevant parties to make diplomatic efforts to ease tensions. Japan will tirelessly make diplomatic efforts to ease tensions and bring stability to the region," Asahi speculated his remarks represent his desire to avoid displeasing either Washington or Tehran.

Yomiuri said the GOJ is concerned that the rapid escalation of hostility between Washington and Tehran will disrupt the stable supply of Middle East oil to Japan. The paper speculated that PM Abe plans to confirm with leaders in the region mutual coordination to deescalate the situation when he visits Saudi Arabia and the UAE later this month. The daily also noted that Tokyo is committed to deploying MSDF assets to the region later this month irrespective of the situation there. Senior Vice Foreign Minister Wakamiya said on a television program last night: "Ensuring the safety of Japanese vessels is of foremost importance. It is necessary for Japan to do whatever it can." However, Sankei conjectured that Japan may delay the dispatch of a destroyer that is currently scheduled for early February.

According to Mainichi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga appeared live on a TV show last night and said regarding the U.S. operation to take out General Soleimani: "Given that I don't know the details of the situation, I should refrain from making offhand remarks." As for the SDF deployment to the Middle East, the government spokesman reportedly stated: "About 90 percent of our oil comes from the Middle East. As countries around the world are making contributions, Japan cannot do nothing=E2=80=A6. We've given detailed briefings both to the U.S. and Iran."

Lawyers for Korean victims of wartime forced labor propose launch of consultation body

All national dailies reported from Seoul that the lawyers for former requisitioned workers have suggested establishing a forum composed of representatives from Japanese and South Korean political and business circles to discuss how to resolve the bilateral dispute. The lawyers reportedly insist that the conclusion of the envisaged panel should be respected by the two governments.

Abe's top security aide to visit Russia

Asahi wrote that National Security Secretariat Secretary General Kitamura is likely to visit Russia in mid-January for talks with senior Russian officials on the Northern Territories dispute. The top Kantei security official will visit Washington later this week and meet with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts. Kitamura also plans to accompany Prime Minister Abe on his trip to the Middle East that will begin on Jan. 11 before heading to Moscow on Jan. 15.

Japan, Vietnam hold foreign ministerial talks

Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Nikkei reported from Hanoi that Foreign Minister Motegi met with his Vietnamese counterpart yesterday. The two diplomats reportedly agreed to enhance cooperation in addressing China's militarization of the South China Sea and creating a "free and open" Indo-Pacific region. They also reportedly confirmed the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation and abiding by international law and agreed on the need for improved coordination to quickly conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade talks.


Ceremony marking 60th anniversary of U.S.-Japan security pact to be held on Jan. 19

Sankei wrote that the USG and the GOJ plan to hold in Tokyo on Jan. 19 a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. Prime Minister Abe, Foreign Minister Motegi, Defense Minister Kono, and other senior Japanese leaders are expected to join Charg=C3=A9 d'Affaires Young and senior USFJ officers in commemorating the achievements under the bilateral alliance. The daily quoted Abe as saying in a press conference on Monday: "The U.S.-Japan alliance set the stage for Japan to open a new era. It has been the foundation of the nation's diplomatic and security policies."


Two Americans allegedly helped Ghosn escape from Japan

All national dailies reported on a finding by Tokyo prosecutors and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department that two Americans apparently escorted former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn from Tokyo to Osaka on a bullet train before departing Kansai International Airport for Istanbul late on Dec. 29. The investigators reportedly analyzed security footage from Tokyo and Osaka to determine how the former auto executive "vanished" after leaving his home in Tokyo earlier in the day. The two Americans reportedly met Ghosn at a hotel in Roppongi and took a taxi to Shinagawa Station where they boarded a bullet train. Ghosn was allegedly last seen checking into a hotel near Kansai Airport together with the two Americans, who later checked out of the hotel carrying two large cases for audio equipment. According to Asahi, the two Americans went through proper CIQ procedures before boarding a private jet bound for Istanbul. Yomiuri wrote that the prosecutors are investigating the case based on the suspicion that the two Americans abetted Ghosn in his escape from Japan.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team