Afternoon Alert   -   Friday, February 8, 2019
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Noon news

All TV networks led with reports on the record low temperatures in Hokkaido today and forecast of snow and extremely cold weather nationwide.


Russia reacts favorably to subdued tone of Northern Territories Day rally

NTV reported online this morning that the fact that the appeal adopted at the end of the national Northern Territories Day rally on Feb. 7 attended by Prime Minister Abe avoided using the expression "Russia's illegal occupation" of the islands attracted great attention in Russia. Russian state-run TV was quoted as reporting that "Prime Minister Abe avoided using harsh expressions in his speech," while the state-owned news agency cited experts' comments that "it is a good sign that Japan has stopped using overblown language." NTV reported, however, that the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson did not refer to the fact that the term "illegal occupation" was not used. She was quoted as reiterating Russia's position that "sovereignty over the islands must not be a topic of discussion."

Gov't refrains from affirming Northern Islands are "integral part of Japanese territory"

NHK reported online that the cabinet decided at a meeting this morning that it will refrain from responding to a written inquiry from independent Upper House member Hiroyuki Konishi who asked if the four Northern Islands are an integral part of Japanese territory on the grounds that this might affect negotiations with the Russian government. Konishi asked the question in light of his perception that the Abe cabinet is "stubbornly refusing" to make such a statement in the Diet. On the other hand, in response to Konishi's question on whether the policy of "resolving the territorial issue in order to sign a peace treaty" is exactly the same as the previous policy of "resolving the issue of sovereignty over the four Northern Islands in order to sign a peace treaty," the cabinet answered that "our consistent position is that sovereignty over the four Northern Islands is the subject of negotiations."

CCS Suga raps ROK over its response to requisitioned workers issue

NHK reported online at noon today that at a news conference this morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga said it is "extremely serious" that the ROK government has not taken any action to rectify the situation regarding claims for compensation made by wartime requisitioned Korean workers in violation of the 1965 bilateral agreement on such claims despite Japan's request over a month ago to discuss this issue. However, when asked if Japan will take retaliatory measures, Suga was quoted as saying: "Japan naturally expects the ROK side to engage in discussions in good faith," indicating his hope for a positive response from South Korea.

Japan warns of tit-for-tat action in wartime labor spat with S. Korea (Kyodo News)

Can Trump get a divided U.S. Congress to reach a compromise? (The Japan News)


Ambassador Hagerty visits Sapporo Snow Festival, meets with Hokkaido governor

Yomiuri wrote in its Hokkaido edition that Ambassador Hagerty held a meeting with Hokkaido Governor Takahashi on Thursday after visiting the Sapporo Snow Festival. Regarding his impression of the snow festival, the Ambassador was quoted as saying he felt the energy of Hokkaido and got the impression that the region has recovered from the damage it suffered in the major earthquake that hit the area last September The paper wrote that referring to North Korean ballistic missiles' flying over Hokkaido in 2017, the Ambassador told reporters after the meeting that the United States will continue to apply maximum pressure on Pyongyang and that he expects that progress will be made at the second U.S.-DPRK summit to be held later this month. The regional Hokkaido Shimbun ran a similar report.


Prime minister's schedule on February 7, 2019 (Sankei)

Gist of interpellations at Upper House Budget Committee meeting, Feb. 7 (Tokyo Shimbun)

Gist of interpellations at Upper House Budget Committee meeting, Feb. 7 (Asahi)

Supporters' groups still very influential, Yomiuri poll of LDP rank-and-file party members (Yomiuri)


Mimura to serve as JCCI chief for rare third term (Jiji Press)

Stories from my life (Part 1): You must be strong to be gentle (Nikkei, Evening edition)

Stories from my life (Part 2): Spending younger days with two rackets (Nikkei, Evening edition)

Stories from my life (Part 3): My struggle with English led to wonderful world (Nikkei, Evening edition)

Stories from my life (Part 4): Failure to understand IBJ President Kurosawa's kindness (Nikkei, Evening edition)

Stories from my life (Part 5): Reflections for employees at time of bank consolidation (Nikkei, Evening edition)


Japanese team develops motor for Mars drone (Jiji Press)


U.N. panel calls on Japan to address violence against children (Kyodo News)


FM Kono says working-level talks on review of SOFA guidelines underway

TBS reported online this morning that Foreign Minister Kono revealed at the Upper House Budget Committee yesterday that Japan has begun talks with the U.S. government on reviewing the guidelines under the Status of Forces Agreement to allow Japanese police, firefighters, and other officials access to sites of accidents involving U.S. Forces. Currently, this requires the U.S. side's consent. Kono was quoted as saying: "Working-level officials are discussing with the U.S. side such issues as establishing the right to access accident sites that have been cordoned off and restricted." TBS reported that in response to its inquiry, the Foreign Ministry said: "We are engaged in various discussions on the SOFA with the U.S. side, but we are unable to answer questions on the details of the discussions."

Gov't consulting with U.S. for improvements in SOFA implementation (Mainichi)

The front line of Japan's defense (Part 4): "Technology can no longer be handed down" (Nikkei)

The front line of Japan's defense (Part 5): SDF members are the last line of defense (Nikkei)


Okinawa governor, municipal leaders call for resolution of base-related issues

Ryukyu Shimpo wrote that on Thursday a delegation of the Okinawa Municipal Council for Military Land Conversion and Base ProblemS (Guntenkyo) led by Governor Tamaki requested U.S. and Japanese authorities work to resolve issues related to U.S. bases, including Futenma relocation. The paper wrote that the delegation bore a petition consisting of 80 items. These included a reduction of U.S. bases and their associated burden, addressing environmental issues, and a fundamental review of the SOFA. Defense Minister Iwaya reportedly told the delegation that the GOJ will make efforts to obtain Okinawa's understanding by providing detailed explanations of the FRF construction at Henoko and other issues. According to the paper, at his meeting with Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Sugita at the Kantei, the governor asked the GOJ for a meeting to discuss the agreement between the central and Okinawa governments to suspend the operations at the Futenma Air Station "within the five-year period" that will end on Feb. 28 this year. The governor told reporters after the meeting that not only Ginowan residents but all Okinawans have been requesting that the Futenma base be closed as soon as possible. The paper added that the delegation also visited MOFA, the U.S. Embassy, and the headquarters of the LDP and the Komeito Party. Okinawa Times reported on the local leaders' meeting with Defense Minister Iwaya.

U.S. Embassy Tokyo Media Analysis and Translation Team