JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
Morning Alert   -   Wednesday, April 27, 2022
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HEADLINES

Broadcasters led with reports on the ongoing search for 15 missing passengers and crewmembers of a tourist boat that sank off Shiretoko, Hokkaido, on Saturday (NHK) and the discovery of human bones near a site where a 7-year-old girl went missing three years ago (NTV, TBS, Fuji TV, TV Asahi).

Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri led with reports on the continued search and rescue efforts in Hokkaido. Nikkei gave top coverage to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, and Sankei led with a report on South Korea’s plan to conduct a geographical survey of the Takeshima Islands and the surrounding area using drones. The paper wrote that the GOJ has called on Seoul through diplomatic channels to suspend the plan and also asked the delegation sent to Japan by South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol not to move forward with it.

INTERNATIONAL

Kishida meets with ROK delegation

All national dailies reported on Prime Minister Kishida’s meeting with a delegation representing South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday at the Kantei, noting that the meeting lasted about 25 minutes. The papers wrote that the two sides agreed to work together to improve ties between their countries. Kishida reportedly told the ROK delegation that given that the rules-based international order is under threat, strategic cooperation between Japan and South Korea as well with the United States is needed now more than ever and that Japan and South Korea have no time to spare in improving their relations. Kishida added that the two nations need to resolve their outstanding issues including the issue of the former requisitioned worker. Mainichi speculated that Kishida, despite cautious views within the GOJ and the LDP, decided to meet with the delegation in the belief that bilateral cooperation between Japan and South Korea and trilateral coordination between the two nations and the United States must be strengthened in response to the threats posed by North Korea and China following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Asahi conjectured that moves by the United States prompted Kishida to meet with the ROK delegation, pointing out that the Biden administration stated in its Indo-Pacific strategy released in February that the United States will work together with partners in the region and beyond to confront China and mentioned promoting strengthened Japan-ROK relations. The paper noted that Ambassador Emanuel told the press during his visit to the USS Abraham Lincoln with Foreign Minister Hayashi on April 23 that he looks forward to the start of a new chapter in U.S.-Japan-ROK relations based on their new friendship. The paper went on to say that Washington urged the incoming administration to make maximum efforts to improve South Korea’s ties with Japan in exchange for its agreement to have President Biden visit South Korea ahead of Japan in May.

The delegation reportedly told Kishida that President-elect Yoon attaches importance to relations with Japan and hopes to improve bilateral ties together with Japan. According to Yomiuri, the delegation handed Kishida a letter from President-elect Yoon, saying that Yoon is hoping to meet with Kishida at an early date. Chung Jin-suk, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly and leader of the delegation, told the press that the delegation had a good discussion with Kishida and that the two sides agreed on the need to make efforts to achieve common interests in building forward-looking relations. However, Yomiuri and Asahi speculated that it will not be easy for the Yoon administration to come up with specific measures to resolve the history issues with Japan at an early date due to Yoon’s weak political base.

Japan conveys concern to Solomon Islands over security pact with China

All national dailies wrote that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Tuesday that Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Uesugi visited the Solomon Islands on Tuesday and held talks with Prime Minister Sogavare. The ministry said Uesugi expressed Japan’s concern over the island nation’s recently signed security pact with China. Sankei added that Sogavare responded by saying his nation has no intention to allow the Chinese military to build bases on the Solomon Islands.

UKRAINE CRISIS

Kishida vows to provide food aid to Ukraine in talks with Zelenskyy

All national dailies reported on Prime Minister Kishida’s 40-minute teleconference with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy on Tuesday. This was their fourth teleconference this year. Kishida reportedly told Zelenskyy that Japan will provide food and medicine to Ukraine as additional relief supplies, and the Ukrainian leader reportedly expressed appreciation for Japan’s support. The premier told reporters afterward that Japan will proactively make diplomatic efforts to support Ukraine in coordination with its G7 partners. Mainichi noted that Agriculture Minister Kaneko has received a request for food aid from Ukrainian Ambassador to Japan Korsunsky and that State Minister for Agriculture Takebe will deliver about 15 tons of food to Poland when he goes to Germany to attend the G7 agriculture ministers’ meeting in mid-May.

LDP urges Kishida to step up diplomacy toward Asia

Mainichi wrote that Sato Masahisa, the head of the LDP Foreign Affairs Division, told reporters on Tuesday that he submitted to Prime Minister Kishida at the Kantei the party’s resolution calling for Japan’s strengthened diplomatic efforts. According to Sato, the prime minister told him that he will step up diplomacy toward Asia, including cooperation in development projects in the region, in view of the lack of unity among Asian nations in responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

SECURITY

LDP to propose that Japan acquire “counterstrike capability”

Nikkei wrote that the ruling LDP officially agreed on its recommendations for the GOJ on Japan’s strengthened defense capabilities on Tuesday in which the party will urge the government to develop a "counterstrike capability" and aim for a defense budget that is equivalent to 2% or more of GDP. Former Defense Minister Onodera, who heads the LDP’s Research Commission on Security, will submit the recommendations to Prime Minister Kishida on Wednesday or later. According to the paper, the panel recommends using the term "counterstrike capability" to describe the capability to attack enemy bases to differentiate the concept from preemptive strike capability. Yomiuri and Mainichi ran similar reports.

Kim Jong Un reportedly hints at possible use of tactical nukes

All national dailies wrote that North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday that the nation held a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Monday to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army. DPRK leader Kim Jong Un reportedly stated at the parade: “The fundamental mission of our nuclear forces is to deter war, but our nukes can never be confined to the single mission of deterrent to war. If any forces try to violate the fundamental interests of our state, our nuclear forces will have to decisively accomplish an unexpected second mission." The papers interpreted this remark to mean that Kim Jong Un indicated the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons. Mainichi conjectured that Kim’s remark was intended to send a warning to South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who will be sworn in on May 10.

Russian official comments on U.S.-Japan drills

Nikkei wrote that during an interview with a Russian media outlet on Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Morgulov stated that the U.S.-Japan joint military exercises conducted near the border with Russia pose a threat to Russia’s security. He added that Russia has warned Japan through diplomatic channels that Moscow will take retaliatory measures if Japan steps up such drills.

ECONOMY

Government unveils economic package to mitigate impact of rising prices

All national dailies reported on the GOJ’s approval on Tuesday of an emergency economic package worth 6.2 trillion yen ($48 billion) to mitigate the impact on households and small businesses of rising prices for oil and other items. The key features of the package include subsidies for oil wholesalers to bring down retail gasoline prices, support for small- and medium-sized companies, and cash handouts of 50,000 yen ($390) per child for low-income households. Prime Minister Kishida told the press: "We must prevent surging raw material and other prices from preventing social and economic activities from recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic at all costs." The GOJ is planning to draft an extra budget to be submitted to the Diet in late May, with passage expected before the current regular Diet session ends on June 15. In the second phase of its efforts to support the economy, the government will craft an action plan by June to achieve wealth distribution, the centerpiece of Kishida's agenda to create a new form of capitalism, and unveil specific steps to achieve the goal after the Upper House election in July.

JAPAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
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U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team