Morning Alert   -   Tuesday, January 21, 2020
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Morning news

NHK and NTV gave top coverage to reports on the fourth death caused by the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, saying that a total of 218 patients are now said to be infected with the new strain of the virus. The networks said it has been confirmed that the virus can pass from person to person. Other top TV news included a report that former Trade Minister Sugawara, who stepped down in October due to a money scandal, made his first public appearance in three months at the opening of the ordinary Diet session on Monday after suffering from what he described as a sleeping disorder.

Major front-page items in national papers included Prime Minister Abe's policy speech at the Diet on Monday, the first-ever decline in the number of convenience stores in Japan, and a GOJ plan to have Internet and mobile phone users cover part of the cost of installing 5G optical fiber networks across Japan.


U.S., Japan celebrate 60th anniversary of Security Treaty

The Monday editions of Nikkei, Yomiuri, Sankei, and Mainichi gave front- or inside-page coverage to a speech delivered by Prime Minister Abe at a reception to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty held at MOFA's Iikura Guest House in Tokyo on Sunday. Abe reportedly stressed that the treaty is "a pillar that is indestructible, a pillar immovable, safeguarding peace in Asia, the Indo-Pacific, and in the world, while assuring prosperity therein," and introduced an episode in which President Eisenhower told Prime Minister Kishi during the signing ceremony that the treaty was "indestructible." Abe expressed his commitment to strengthening the Alliance by saying: "Going forward, it is incumbent upon us to make the Alliance more robust, to make it a pillar for safeguarding peace and security in both outer space and cyberspace." Mainichi wrote that approximately 250 people from the U.S. and Japan attended the reception, including Chargé d'Affaires Young and USFJ Commander Schneider from the U.S. side and PM Abe, Deputy Prime Minister Aso, Foreign Minister Motegi, and Defense Minister Kono from the Japanese side. According to the papers, Mary Eisenhower, a grandchild of President Eisenhower, also took part in the reception.

The papers also wrote that President Trump released a statement on the anniversary in which he said "it is essential that our Alliance further strengthen and deepen" amid the increasingly severe security environment. Yomiuri and Sankei claimed that the President hinted that U.S. allies should pay their fair share of the security costs by saying: "I am confident that in the months and years ahead, Japan's contributions to our mutual security will continue to grow, and the Alliance will continue to thrive."

The Saturday morning editions of all national dailies reported that Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Esper, FM Motegi, and DM Kono released a joint statement on Friday ahead of the 60th anniversary. Asahi wrote that the joint statement described the Alliance as "rooted in our unwavering commitment to values such as democracy, respect for human rights, and a rules-based international order" and recognized that "our Alliance has played and will continue to play an integral role in ensuring the peace and security of our two countries, while realizing our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific." The joint statement concluded by saying: "We reiterate our unshakeable commitment to strengthen the Alliance and to uphold our common values and principles towards the future."

Chargé Young marks 60th anniversary of Security Treaty with Yomiuri op-ed

Yomiuri published an op-ed by Chargé d'Affaires Young on Saturday as part of its special coverage of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. The Chargé wrote: "Although the treaty prompted intense debate in 1960, history has proven the wisdom and foresight of Prime Minister Kishi, President Eisenhower, and other architects of our partnership. In the intervening years, the Alliance has become the bulwark of our two countries' security interests, safeguarding peace and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific region." He went on to say that as the regional security environment grows more severe, the United States and Japan must do more. "We can do so by delivering the resources and resolve needed to keep the Alliance strong, while taking steps to maintain military readiness and deterrent capabilities," he wrote. Chargé Young concluded the op-ed by saying: "We should also make every effort to secure the future of the Alliance, already one of the longest lasting in history, as the indispensable cornerstone of peace and stability of the region and beyond."

USFJ commander determined to counter China's ambitions with U.S.-Japan Alliance

Sunday's Yomiuri published its one-on-one interview with Lt. Gen. Schneider, the commander of the U.S. Forces Japan, which was held at Yokota AB on Jan. 7. The paper said this was the first time for the commander to hold an interview with a mainstream Japanese media outlet since he assumed his post last February. According to the daily, Lt. Gen. Schneider pointed out that "over the long term, the biggest challenge will come from China," and expressed concern about China's military expansion, including its possession of a large volume of intermediate-range missiles and development of hypersonic weapons. He also reportedly expressed the view that China is "trying to acquire offensive power in order to rewrite the international order that is based on the rule of law." The paper quoted Lt. Gen. Schneider as saying that in order to counter China's ill-intentioned activities, the Alliance cannot remain as is, adding that both the SDF and the U.S. military must continue to make progress. According to the paper, the commander pointed out that the most imminent security challenge is North Korea, saying that U.S. Forces are prepared for the possibility of North Korea resuming missile testing. He also reportedly said that U.S. Forces Japan are growing increasingly important.

DAS Knapper discusses 60th anniversary of Security Treaty on live Japanese TV

Fuji TV's Sunday morning program "Nichiyo Hodo - The Prime" aired a 15-minute report on the 60th anniversary of the signing of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. DAS Knapper appeared live on the show and stressed that the U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the region and that it has been successful because the United States and Japan have shared interests and values. He also said the Alliance has made progress facing new challenges, even beyond Asia, and expressed appreciation for the deployment of MSDF assets to the Middle East. When asked whether the U.S. is planning to ask Japan to pay more to host the U.S. Forces Japan, DAS Knapper said bilateral negotiations will begin soon. In response to a question on whether the U.S. is planning to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Japan, DAS Knapper said there is no such plan as of now. He also reiterated the U.S. position that the Senkakus fall within the scope of Article 5 of the Security Treaty, and stressed that trilateral cooperation between the U.S., Japan, and ROK is important for peace and stability in the region. On North Korea, DAS Knapper said the door to diplomacy remains open, but stressed that the U.S. will work closely with Japan to continue the pressure campaign and mentioned that President Trump is concerned about the abduction issue.

Commentator Yoshiko Sakurai said after the interview that it gave her the sense that the U.S. and Japan truly have shared interests not only in the Korean Peninsula but also in Asia as a whole. She said Japan has been relying heavily on the U.S. under the Security Treaty, but stressed that Japan should make more active contributions without relying solely on the United States. LDP lawmaker Masahisa Sato said: "China will become the major target under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty from now on. It is extremely important to maintain a posture under which the combined military power of the U.S. and Japan exceed that of China."

Foreign Minister Motegi says U.S.-Japan Alliance "deepening"

Saturday's Yomiuri reported that Foreign Minister Motegi attended a reception commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at Harvard University in Tokyo on Friday. Motegi reportedly said: "The U.S.-Japan Alliance is deepening in the Indo-Pacific region." According to the paper, a total of 600 government officials, experts, and business leaders from the United States and Japan have participated in the program over the past 40 years. The paper noted that Christina Davis replaced Susan Pharr as the director of the program on Jan. 1.

USG mulled evacuating U.S. citizens from Japan, ROK due to North Korean situation

Sunday's Asahi carried its interview with former commander of U.S. Forces in Korea Gen. Brooks, who disclosed that in the fall of 2017 when the North Korean situation was at its most tense in recent years, the U.S. government was considering evacuating hundreds of thousands of American citizens living in Japan and the Republic of Korea. Gen. Brooks reportedly expressed opposition to the idea on the grounds that if it were implemented, North Korea might "misread" the situation and trigger a war. As a result, the evacuation did not take place.

MSDF unit begins intelligence collection in Middle East

The Tuesday editions of all national dailies wrote that an MSDF patrol unit dispatched to Djibouti earlier this month for intelligence collection in designated waters in the Middle East commenced relevant operations yesterday, saying that the first flight will be conducted today. The unit is also tasked with engaging in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.

MOD predicts engineering work off Camp Schwab to have limited impact on environment

Tuesday's Mainichi wrote that the Defense Ministry submitted an opinion to its blue-ribbon commission yesterday claiming that the large-scale engineering work to reinforce the soft seabed off the coast of Camp Schwab will only have a limited impact on the local environment. The ministry reportedly underscored that there is no need to update the environmental impact assessment on the Futenma relocation project that was submitted to the prefectural government in 2012.

Defense Ministry plans to increase number of SDF members engaged in "new fields"

Monday's Nikkei reported that the Ministry of Defense will submit to the Diet on Monday a bill to revise the Act for the Establishment of the Ministry of Defense in order to increase the number of SDF personnel tasked with defending outer space and cyberspace. According to the paper, the MOD plans to decrease the number of ASDF and MSDF personnel by more than 100 and increase the number of members dealing with these new sectors. By doing so, the Defense Ministry intends to prepare itself for the changing global security environment.


Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Esper say ROK is "not a dependent" in WSJ op-ed

The Sunday editions of Asahi, Yomiuri, and Sankei reported that Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper contributed a joint op-ed to The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 16 titled, "South Korea Is an Ally, Not a Dependent," demanding that South Korea pay more for the stationing of U.S. forces in Korea. Asahi claimed that the two officials expressed displeasure by writing that "South Korea bears no more than one-third of the costs most directly associated with the stationing of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula." The paper also noted that they maintained that more than 90% of South Korea's cost-sharing contributions go back into the local economy. Noting that Seoul reacted sharply to a request from the U.S. for a five-fold funding increase, the daily said the op-ed was aimed at applying pressure on the ROK in order to extract concessions.

Abe expresses hope to improve ties with South Korea

All national papers reported on Tuesday on a policy speech that Prime Minister Abe delivered at the Diet yesterday, in which he said, "Essentially, South Korea is the most important country with which Japan shares basic values and strategic interests." He went on to say: "I sincerely hope that South Korea will honor commitments forged between states and build future-oriented bilateral relations." The papers explained that by using the word "essentially," the premier was urging the Moon administration to take proper measures on the requisitioned workers dispute so that Tokyo will be able to treat Seoul as its most important partner again. Abe reportedly did not mention South Korea in his parliamentary address last year.

Abe mentions Taiwan in parliamentary speech

Tuesday's Mainichi and Sankei took note of Abe's reference to Taiwan in his policy address at the Diet on Monday, explaining that it was extremely unusual for a Japanese prime minister to mention Taiwan in a major speech since Japan does not have diplomatic relations with it. Abe reportedly noted that a Japanese rural community in Iwate Prefecture plans to host the Taiwanese team for the Tokyo Olympics. The dailies speculated that Abe may have mentioned Taiwan out of deference to pro-Taiwanese LDP politicians who have voiced strong opposition to the premier's plan to invite Chinese President Xi to Japan as a state guest in the spring.

In a related story, Mainichi highlighted a foreign policy speech made at the parliament yesterday by Foreign Minister Motegi, in which he said the Abe administration will deepen exchanges and cooperation with China in all areas "while addressing outstanding issues properly." The cabinet minister also stressed that Japan will "not accept unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea." The paper conjectured that with this strong wording, the foreign minister probably tried to obtain understanding from pro-Taiwanese LDP officials for President Xi's planned state visit.


GOJ to put off drawing up basic policy on casinos

All national dailies reported today that the GOJ has decided to postpone the formulation scheduled for this month of a basic policy on integrated resorts featuring gambling facilities in view of a scandal involving an LDP Diet member who allegedly received bribes from a Chinese casino operator and persistent public opposition to ending the ban on gambling. The basic policy is expected to set forth benchmarks for screening applications from local governments for hosting casinos. The GOJ is reportedly considering adopting a provision regulating contact between elected officials and other public servants and casino operators. A delay may affect the GOJ's goal of launching integrated resorts in the mid-2020s. Meanwhile, the opposition bloc reportedly submitted legislation to the Lower House on Monday to abolish the casino law.


Poll: 50% support MSDF deployment to Middle East

Monday's Yomiuri carried a report on its latest opinion survey conducted over the weekend, which found that 50% of respondents welcomed the deployment of MSDF assets to the Middle East, and 35% did not. Breaking down the results based on political party supported, 64% of those who support the ruling parties welcomed the deployment, while 52% of those who support the opposition parties did not, exceeding the 42% who welcomed the deployment. Public support for the Abe cabinet was 52%, up 4 points from last month's survey. Nonsupport dropped 3 points to 37%. Support for the LDP was 41%, up 4 points, while support for the CDPJ rose 1 point to 7%.

Mainichi also reported on its survey conducted over the weekend, which showed that 63% felt the GOJ should review its initiative to promote integrated resorts featuring casinos, exceeding the 22% who said the government should continue the initiative as planned. In addition, 45% said discussions on the annual publicly-funded cherry blossom viewing event should continue at the ordinary Diet session, while 44% said this is not necessary. Public support for the Abe cabinet was 41% and nonsupport was 37%, almost unchanged from last month's survey.


Motegi considering attending WTO ministerial

Saturday's Yomiuri reported that according to a GOJ source, Foreign Minister Motegi is considering attending the WTO Ministerial Meeting to be held from June 8 to 10 in Kazakhstan. The paper wrote that if he attends, it will be the first time in 15 years for a Japanese foreign minister to do so, adding that the foreign minister is hoping to call for the reform of the organization since it has become dysfunctional.

Toyota to boost production of SUVs in U.S.

Sunday's Yomiuri reported that Toyota Motor announced on Friday that it will increase production of its Highlander sport utility vehicle by investing an additional $700 million in its plant in Indiana. The paper said Toyota's investment in the plant will total $1.3 billion, including the $600 million it announced in 2017.


Japan to join hands with U.S. and others to monitor typhoons

Nikkei reported today that according to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nishimura, Nagoya University and two other Japanese academic institutions will cooperate with their U.S., South Korea, and Taiwanese counterparts to operate joint flights to monitor tropical storms over waters near Okinawa this summer.


U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team