Morning Alert - Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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Morning news

NHK gave top coverage to a report that the first trial will be held today of a man who murdered and dismembered nine people in Zama, Kanagawa, in 2017. NTV and TBS led with reports that travel to and from Tokyo will be included in the “Go To Travel” campaign starting tomorrow. Fuji TV gave top play to a video showing a high school student repeatedly hitting another student at school. TV Asahi led with a report that the global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed one million yesterday.

All national dailies gave top play to reports on NTT’s takeover of NTT Docomo.


PM Suga mulls visit to Vietnam, Indonesia next month

NHK reported this morning that arrangements are being made for Prime Minister Suga to make his first overseas trip since taking office. The plan under consideration is for him to travel to Vietnam and Indonesia, where the coronavirus is relatively under control, in mid-October. Noting that Vietnam is this year’s ASEAN host and Indonesia is the most populous member of ASEAN and also a member of the G20, the network said former Prime Minister Abe also made his first overseas trip during his second term to these two nations. The network added that Suga will make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the trip after assessing the coronavirus infection situation in the two countries.

Suga, Putin agree to hold territorial talks based on 1956 accord

All national dailies reported on Prime Minister Suga’s first teleconference with Russian President Putin on Tuesday. According to a GOJ briefing, the two leaders reaffirmed the agreement reached between former Prime Minister Abe and Putin in 2018 to accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on a 1956 joint declaration by Japan and the Soviet Union. The declaration stipulates that the Russian side will hand over two of the four Russian-held islands to Japan after the conclusion of a peace treaty. Suga and Putin agreed to seek a face-to-face meeting at an early date.

Suga reportedly told Putin during the 20-minute telephone conversation that he wants to advance Japan-Russia relations as a whole, including concluding a peace treaty, and put an end to the Northern Territories issue rather than put it off for the next generation to deal with. Putin reportedly said in response that he highly valued his relationship with Abe and is prepared to work constructively with Suga on bilateral and international issues. Suga told reporters afterward that he will negotiate persistently with Russia based on Japan’s basic policy of concluding a peace treaty by resolving the territorial issue. Yomiuri wrote that although Suga is planning to negotiate with Russia in line with Abe’s approach of seeking the return of the two islands first, no breakthrough is in sight in the stalled territorial talks. Asahi expressed a similar view saying that the prospects for resolving the territorial dispute with Russia are dim because Moscow is maintaining a hardline stance toward Tokyo.

The papers wrote separately that the Russian military announced on Tuesday that it has begun military exercises involving more than 1,500 troops on the Kuril Islands. Nikkei speculated that the announcement, which was made hours before the Suga-Putin talks, was intended to send a message to Japan. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato told reporters that Japan has lodged a protest with Moscow through diplomatic channels over the drills in the region that includes the Northern Territories.

Motegi to hold four-way talks with U.S., Australia, India in Tokyo on Oct. 6

Nikkei wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi told reporters on Tuesday that he will hold quadrilateral talks with his counterparts from the United States, Australia, and India in Tokyo on Oct. 6. The paper speculated that the foreign ministers of the four nations will discuss strengthened cooperation toward the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and response to China.

Yomiuri and Mainichi wrote that MOFA made an official announcement on the quad foreign ministerial in Tokyo on Oct. 6. The papers added that arrangements are also underway for Prime Minister Suga to hold talks with Secretary of State Pompeo. Noting that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang is also planning to visit Tokyo in mid-October or later, Mainichi speculated that the Suga administration will take a two-pronged approach of strengthening cooperation with the United States, Australia, and India while continuing to engage in dialogue with China.

U.S. special envoy for arms control discusses U.S.-Japan alliance, China

Nikkei, Mainichi, and Asahi reported on remarks made online by Special Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea to a group of Japanese journalists in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Nikkei front-paged an article quoting Ambassador Billingslea as saying the United States will continue its close security cooperation with Japan under the Suga administration. Stressing the threats posed by China, which is building up its military capabilities, the U.S. envoy reportedly expressed the United States’ intention to develop medium-range missiles, but said it is premature to discuss the details, including whether Washington would ask Tokyo to deploy them in Japan. The paper also wrote that the special envoy said the purpose of his trip to Japan was to discuss the Chinese Communist Party’s buildup of the Chinese military, saying China may have developed and deployed as many as 2,000 missiles. Noting that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, Ambassador Billingslea reportedly said the two nations will look for ways to strengthen their contributions to their alliance in anticipation of China’s growing aggression.

Mainichi quoted Ambassador Billingslea as saying that China has an obligation under Article 6 of the NPT to negotiate in good faith. The U.S. envoy reportedly said the administration of the Chinese Communist Party appears to feel very free to engage in intimidation, coercion, and blackmail, as it is harassing Japanese fishermen in waters around the Senkakus and illegally constructing military bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea and that there is concern that China wants to become a “nuclear armed bully” with a large number of nuclear weapons. He reportedly added that it is necessary for nations to continue urging China to fulfill its obligation under the NPT. Concerning relations with the Suga administration, Ambassador Billingslea reportedly said he believes the two nations will maintain their close relationship but should look for ways to strengthen their alliance in anticipation of growing Chinese aggression.

Asahi wrote that Ambassador Billingslea held talks with Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Mori on Tuesday to discuss the threat posed by Chinese missiles. The paper noted that Ambassador Billingslea spoke with journalists from Asahi and other Japanese media outlets ahead of the meeting. The U.S. envoy reportedly commented on the new START treaty, which will expire in February 2021, by saying it is necessary to reconstruct the accord with the involvement of China.

Suga meets with kin of Japanese abductees

All national dailies wrote that Prime Minister Suga met on Tuesday with families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea for the first time since taking office. Suga reportedly expressed his resolve by saying he will take all opportunities to find ways to realize the return of all abduction victims as soon as possible. The families asked the premier to resolve the abduction issue as soon as possible so their loved ones can return home.

Japan expresses displeasure over installation of comfort women statue in Berlin

Nikkei and Sankei wrote that during a press briefing on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato expressed displeasure over the recent installation in Berlin of a statue of a girl symbolizing the comfort women by a civic group with South Korean ties. Kato reportedly said that the installation of the statue is not in line with Japan's stance on the comfort women issue and is very regrettable. He added that the GOJ will approach various parties to explain Japan’s position on the issue.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team