Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, January 8, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top coverage to the forecast for strong winds and rain across Japan today. NTV and Fuji TV led with reports that Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant on Tuesday for Carlos Ghosn's wife for allegedly committing perjury in court last year. TV Asahi showed security footage of Ghosn on his way to a hotel before he left Japan. TBS focused on a report that Ghosn will hold a press conference in Lebanon today.

Major front-page stories in national dailies included reports on the arrest warrant obtained for Ghosn's wife, a GOJ plan to help Japanese companies market fiber optic cables abroad, and Tokyo prosecutors' intention to obtain a fresh arrest warrant for LDP parliamentarian Akimoto on suspicion of receiving additional bribes from a Chinese company.


FM Motegi to visit U.S. for meeting with Secretary Pompeo

NHK reported this morning that Foreign Minister Motegi will visit the U.S. next week to meet with Secretary of State Pompeo. Concerning the rising tensions in the Middle East following the killing of an Iranian general, Motegi told reporters in Thailand on Tuesday evening: "I am deeply concerned and I call on all relevant parties to make diplomatic efforts to ease tensions in order to avoid a further escalation of the situation." In addition, Motegi reportedly disclosed that he will meet with Secretary Pompeo next week to discuss the Middle East situation. "I will visit the U.S. next week. I hope to discuss this issue," he said. "We will work closely with relevant nations, continue to make persistent diplomatic efforts, and take every measure to ensure the safety of Japanese living overseas."

MSDF assets to be deployed to Middle East as planned

Asahi highlighted press remarks made yesterday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga in which he underscored that an MSDF destroyer and aircraft will be mobilized for intelligence collection missions in the Middle East as planned despite the rising tension between the U.S. and Iran. The government spokesman said the GOJ is committed to taking proper steps to ensure the safety of Japanese commercial vessels there since some 90% of Japan's oil comes from the region. While acknowledging the rapid escalation of hostility between Washington and Tehran in the past week, Defense Minister Kono stressed that the cabinet approval of the deployment should be upheld. The daily noted that a P-3C will begin patrolling over the designated area starting on Saturday and an MSDF warship will depart Japan for the region early next month.

In a related development, Yomiuri and TBS reported briefly that Kono spoke by phone with Defense Secretary Esper last night to brief him on Japan's imminent deployment of SDF assets. The Japanese official also reportedly explained Tokyo's plan to continue diplomatic efforts to defuse the tensions in the region.

Abe to depart for three-nation Middle East tour on Jan. 11

Yomiuri and Mainichi wrote that Prime Minister Abe will visit Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman from Jan. 11 through 15, quoting him as telling senior LDP officials yesterday: "I am deeply concerned about the tense situation in the Middle East. I would like to contribute to ensuring regional peace and stability through diplomatic efforts."

UN secretary general to visit Hiroshima this summer

Yomiuri reported that UN Secretary General Guterres is planning to attend this year's Hiroshima peace memorial ceremony on Aug. 6, noting that he will be the first UN chief to participate in the event in ten years. He is also likely to attend the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics in Tokyo on Aug. 9.


GOJ to support exports of undersea fiber optic cables

Yomiuri gave top play to a GOJ plan to assist Japanese companies in exporting undersea fiber optic cables in order to counter China's growing presence in the field. Although 90% of the global market share of fiber optic cables is currently held by a Japanese firm, an American firm, and a French firm, Huawei and other Chinese rivals are aggressively making inroads into Southeast Asia and Africa. Given that almost 99% of global communications and data are transmitted through fiber optic cables laid along the seafloor, the daily explained that if China takes control of the underwater infrastructure, it will pose a security threat to the West. The GOJ is expected to offer government loans and insurance when local commercial enterprises market their products abroad. The daily added in a separate piece that Tokyo is set to coordinate closely with Washington to forestall China's efforts to export such products to prevent classified data transmitted by undersea cables from being stolen by the Chinese.

Casino management panel launched as scheduled

All national dailies wrote that the GOJ established on Tuesday a four-member panel of experts tasked with supervising casino operators, noting that the commission is expected to screen applications from operators of gambling facilities and conduct onsite inspections of licensed operators to ensure they are taking proper measures to prevent gambling addiction and money laundering. The casino management commission is reportedly staffed by some 100 bureaucrats. Noting that the opposition bloc has been demanding the postponement of the establishment of the panel amid the ongoing scandal involving LDP politicians, the dailies wrote that the launch represents the GOJ's commitment to move ahead with the opening of integrated resorts featuring casinos.

Thailand expresses interest in joining TPP

Nikkei reported from Bangkok that Foreign Minister Motegi met with the Thai prime minister and foreign minister on Tuesday. The Thai officials reportedly conveyed their interest in joining the TPP. The two sides also reportedly confirmed mutual efforts for the early signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade initiative.


U.S. reportedly displeased with Japan's failure to commit personnel to security operations abroad

Mainichi published a prominent inside-page article alleging the Trump administration is applying strong pressure on Japan to increase its financial contribution for hosting U.S. troops. The paper speculated that President Trump and other U.S. officials are insisting on the need for Tokyo to increase host nation support out of frustration with Japan's insufficient personnel contributions on the security front. The article noted that in order to address Washington's complaint about the "asymmetrical" nature of the bilateral security alliance, the SDF is keen to deepen operational coordination with the U.S. military by providing "asset protection" and establishing a space unit in alignment with the launch of the U.S. Space Force.


A third American allegedly involved in Ghosn's escape from Japan

Yomiuri reported on a finding that an American male in his 20s booked a hotel room in Roppongi where former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn met up with two Americans before traveling to Osaka on a bullet train and boarding a private jet bound for Beirut via Istanbul from Kansai International Airport on Dec. 29. This American citizen allegedly met with the former auto executive and the two other Americans in the hotel room but did not accompany them on their trip to Osaka. He apparently left for China later.

In a related development, all national dailies wrote that during a meeting with the Japanese ambassador to Lebanon in Beirut on Tuesday, Lebanese President Aoun categorically dismissed speculation that his government was involved in Ghosn's escape from Japan. The Lebanese leader reportedly pledged to "fully cooperate" with Japan's request for Ghosn's extradition.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team