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Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 09/19/07

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PP RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNAG RUEHNH
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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
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RUEAWJA/USDOJ WASHDC PRIORITY
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RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA//J5/JO21//
RUYNAAC/COMNAVFORJAPAN YOKOSUKA JA
RUAYJAA/CTF 72
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 5649
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 3235
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 6885
RUEHNAG/AMCONSUL NAGOYA 2196
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 3960
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 9033
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 5093
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 5988

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 11 TOKYO 004373

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR E, P, EB, EAP/J, EAP/P, EAP/PD, PA;
WHITE HOUSE/NSC/NEC; JUSTICE FOR STU CHEMTOB IN ANTI-TRUST DIVISION;
TREASURY/OASIA/IMI/JAPAN; DEPT PASS USTR/PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE;
SECDEF FOR JCS-J-5/JAPAN,
DASD/ISA/EAPR/JAPAN; DEPT PASS ELECTRONICALLY TO USDA
FAS/ITP FOR SCHROETER; PACOM HONOLULU FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY ADVISOR;
CINCPAC FLT/PA/ COMNAVFORJAPAN/PA.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP KMDR KPAO PGOV PINR ECON ELAB JA

SUBJECT: DAILY SUMMARY OF JAPANESE PRESS 09/19/07


Index:

(1) Spot poll on LDP presidential election

(2) UNSC resolution showing appreciation for OEF: DPJ member
"Seeking appreciation is a farce"

(3) DPJ remains opposed to allowing MSDF to continue refueling
mission, describing UNSC's draft resolution as "not a sufficient
condition"

(4) DPJ-PNP relationship estranged over postal privatization freeze
bill

(5) Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano in desperate attempt to explain
reason for not appointing acting prime minister; Abe carrying out
duties from hospital room

(6) Personnel appointments already a focus of attention for LDP;
Only a few cabinet ministers expected to be replaced for remaining
Diet session

(7) Editorial: Japan should not abstain from upcoming UNGA as it did
last year

(8) Cuts in ODA budget a major mistake for Japan's diplomatic
strategy

(9) Shock caused by Abe's resignation (Part 4): Concern about
decline in Japan's influence

ARTICLES:

(1) Spot poll on LDP presidential election

YOMIURI (Page 2) (Full)
September 11, 2007

Questions & Answers
(Figures shown in percentage.)

Q: Now that Prime Minister Abe has announced his resignation, the
ruling Liberal Democratic Party will elect its new president. There
are two candidates running in the LDP race, Yasuo Fukuda and Taro
Aso. Which one do you think is appropriate for the LDP presidency?

Yasuo Fukuda 57.5
Taro Aso 22.4
None 9.2
No answer (N/A) 10.9

Q: What do you think is needed in particular for the next prime
minister? Pick as many as you like from those listed below, if any.

Leadership ability 89.1
Stability 61.3
Public accountability 85.6
Popularity 33.9
Political career 71.5
Political ideal, goal 76.5
Economic sense 76.8
Inter-party coordination 68.6

TOKYO 00004373 002 OF 011


Other answers (O/A) 0.4
Nothing in particular (NIP) 1.0
N/A 1.6

Q: What issues would you like the candidates to discuss in the LDP
presidential election? Pick as many as you like from among those
listed below, if any.

Economy, employment 80.7
Consumption tax 69.5
Pensions 89.4
Social divide 62.7
Education 71.1
North Korea 68.4
Politics and money 75.2
Antiterror law 66.2
Constitutional revision 50.9
O/A 0.4
NIP 1.1
N/A 1.2

Q: Would you like the next prime minister to take over Prime
Minister Abe's political stance?

Yes 25.9
No 62.0
N/A 12.1

Q: In the LDP presidential election this time, LDP factions were at
the center of screening candidates. Do you think it was desirable?

Yes 14.6
No 70.2
N/A 15.2

Q: Do you think it's only natural for Prime Minister Abe to step
down?

Yes 58.1
No 32.6
N/A 9.4

Q: Prime Minister Abe has now announced his resignation. Do you
think it's irresponsible to do so at this timing?

Yes 69.3
No 26.4
N/A 4.3

Q: Do you think it would better to dissolve the House of
Representatives as soon as possible for a general election?

Yes 50.7
No 40.6
N/A 8.7

Q: Which political party do you support now? Pick only one.

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 31.9
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) 27.1
New Komeito (NK) 2.7
Japanese Communist Party (JCP) 2.7

TOKYO 00004373 003 OF 011


Social Democratic Party (SDP or Shaminto) 1.4
People's New Party (PNP or Kokumin Shinto) 0.3
New Party Nippon (NPN or Shinto Nippon) ---
Other political parties ---
None 31.6
N/A 2.3

Polling methodology: The survey was conducted across the nation over
the telephone from the afternoon of Sept. 15 through Sept. 16. For
the survey, respondents were chosen on a computer-aided random digit
dialing (RDD) basis. A total of 1,672 households were found to have
one or more eligible voters. Valid answers were obtained from 1,047
persons (63 PERCENT ).

(2) UNSC resolution showing appreciation for OEF: DPJ member
"Seeking appreciation is a farce"

Asahi.com
Sept. 19, 2007

In reference to a new United Nations Security Council (UNSC)
resolution that would express appreciation for Operation Enduring
Freedom (OEF), an antiterrorism operation, Chief Cabinet Secretary
Yosano said in a press conference this morning: "Since Japan is not
a UNSC member, instead of lobbying for it, Japan has explained to
council member the situation Japan has found itself placed in, its
activities to date, and the outlook for Diet proceedings,."
According to several UNSC sources, the Japanese government's view
was taken into consideration in drafting the resolution.

Some officials in the Japanese government and members of the ruling
bloc in Diet expect the resolution, if adopted, to make it difficult
for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to continue to oppose the
government's plan to extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)
refueling operation. Liberal Democratic Party Diet Affairs Committee
Chairman Tadamori Oshima also said: "If such a resolution is
adopted, we will find it easier to obtain public understanding."

However, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama told reporters: "Even
if a new resolution is adopted ex post facto in an unnatural way, it
is in the wrong order. Our party's stance will remain unchanged."
Demonstrating his recognition that the Japanese government called on
UNSC member nations to adopt a new resolution, Hatoyama commented:
"It is a farce that Japan has urged the UNSC to show appreciation.
Japan will only make itself the butt of international ridicule. We
will rigorously grill the government over this issue."

In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, Keiichiro Asao, defense
minister in the DPJ next cabinet, stressed the need for maritime
intercept operations to be clearly endorsed by the UN in a
resolution, saying: "If only appreciation is shown, it will be
meaningless."

(3) DPJ remains opposed to allowing MSDF to continue refueling
mission, describing UNSC's draft resolution as "not a sufficient
condition"

YOMIURI ONLINE NEWS (Full)
September 19, 2007, 13:49 p.m.

A resolution expressing appreciation for the multinational force's
Maritime Interception Operation (MIO), in which Japan's Maritime

TOKYO 00004373 004 OF 011


Self-Defense Force (MSDF) has participated in the Indian Ocean, was
submitted to the United Nations Security Council yesterday (this
morning, Japan time). The main opposition Democratic Party of
Japan's (DPJ) leadership deems that the resolution bill will not
have any impact on the party's policy of opposing the government to
allow the MSDF to continue the refueling mission.

DPJ Secretary General Hatoyama this morning made this critical
comment to reporters: "It's a farce to force (each member nation) to
express thanks. This can't change the DPJ's stance. It'll only
invite snickers from the public." Many in the DPJ take the
resolution as not directly endorsing the MSDF's refueling
operations.

In response to a question by reporters, "Will the DPJ assume a
different stance if the UN adopts a resolution that will give
approval directly to the MSDF's refueling operations," Hatoyama
said: "A UN resolution is a necessary condition, but it is not a
sufficient condition. Even if a resolution is adopted after the
fact, the order of matters is incorrect. It will not bring a drastic
change in our party's position."

Meanwhile, the government and the ruling coalition this morning
emphasized the importance of the new UNSC resolution.

Defense Minister Komura told reporters at the Ministry: "Even if the
Foreign Ministry thought up a UN resolution that would be acceptable
to DPJ President Ozawa as a legal basis for the MSDF's refueling
mission, they would naturally oppose it. If the resolution were
adopted, the DPJ would lose a major reason for its opposition
(namely that there is no seal of approval for the MSDF's refueling
mission from the UN)."

When asked by reporters at a press briefing, "The DPJ may lose its
grounds for opposition," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano noted, "It
is a matter on which President Ozawa and Secretary General Hatoyama
should confer." The junior coalition partner New Komeito's Secretary
General Kitagawa told reporters: "I hope to see the DPJ take the
resolution bill this time as an international call (for a
continuation of the refueling mission) and sincerely debate the
issue."

(4) DPJ-PNP relationship estranged over postal privatization freeze
bill

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 2) (Abridged slightly)
September 19, 2007

The relationship between the Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto or
DPJ) and the People's New Party (PNP) has been chilly recently due
to a plan to submit a bill to freeze the government's timetable to
privatize the postal business on Oct. 1.

It all started with the PNP's proposal to the DPJ to jointly submit
a bill. DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa gave a nod to it, partly out of
expectations of forming a joint parliamentary group with the PNP.
Subsequently, three opposition parties, including the Social
Democratic Party, submitted the bill to the extraordinary Diet
session in August. But the bill was killed in the Diet, and the plan
to form a joint parliamentary group was also put off due to
objections from the PNP. Given the short deadline of Oct. 1, the
idea of submitting a bill was expected to go up in smoke.

TOKYO 00004373 005 OF 011

But calls reemerged in the PNP for resubmitting the bill to pave the
way for discussions, and the party again asked the DPJ to become a
cosponsor.

But this time, the DPJ reacted coldly to the PNP request, with one
senior DPJ lawmaker saying: "That party is asking for our
cooperation after turning down the plan to form a joint
parliamentary group. They are asking too much."

Privatizing the postal business reflect the popular will, as seen in
the results of the 2005 House of Representatives election. That
factor apparently is discouraging the two other parties from
agreeing to submit another bill.

Meanwhile, a senior PNP lawmaker bitterly noted: "(Depending on the
DPJ's response), we might not vote for Mr. Ozawa in the upcoming
prime ministerial election and not cooperate with the DPJ in the
next Lower House election."

Ozawa is scheduled to have a meeting shortly with PNP head Tamisuke
Watanuki. The two leaders are expected to coordinate views on: (1)
establishing a consultative body to review the postal privatization
plan by giving up on the freeze bill; and (2) submitting a new bill
stopping the phasing in of the postal privatization plan. The
meeting might leave hard feelings, however.

(5) Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano in desperate attempt to explain
reason for not appointing acting prime minister; Abe carrying out
duties from hospital room

MAINICHI (Page 2) (Full)
September 9, 2007

The outlook is that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been admitted
to a Tokyo hospital after the announcement of his intention to step
down, will continue his job without appointing a deputy until Sept.
25 when the new cabinet is inaugurated. The Cabinet Law stipulates
that in case the prime minister is prevented from discharging his
functions, an acting prime minister will carry out his duties. Chief
Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano stated in a press conference
yesterday that Abe's hospitalization did not meet that requirement,
and there was no crisis management problem. However, Abe is now
carrying out his duties from a hospital room, which is a closed
environment. How he is fulfilling his duties and making decisions
are conveyed through certain politicians alone.

Article 9 of the Cabinet Law stipulates that in case the prime
minister is prevented from discharging his functions, or the post of
the prime minister is vacant, the minister of the state designated
by him perform temporarily the functions of the prime minister. The
government's view is that an overseas trip and hospitalization
prevent the prime minister from carrying out his duties.

According to the Cabinet Affairs Office, only two acting prime
ministers were appointed under the present Constitution since due to
the hospitalization of prime ministers. In April 2000 when then
Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki served as proxy of Prime Minister
Keizo Obuchi, who entered the hospital after suffering a stroke, the
decision was criticized because the appointment process was unclear.
Therefore, a system was adopted to decide at the time when the
cabinet is inaugurated the hierarchy of state ministers to serve as

TOKYO 00004373 006 OF 011


an acting prime minister. Under this system, Yosano is ranked the
number one in the list of the Abe cabinet ministers.

According to the hospital, Abe will stay there until this weekend.
Despite that, Yosano said that Abe's hospitalization did not prevent
him from performing the prime minister's functions, explaining, "The
reason is that when he leaves the hospital is clear." He also
revealed the diagnostic outcome of Abe's health that although there
was little progress in his condition, he had no problem in making
decisions.

Moreover, Aso said that prime ministerial secretaries were staying
at the hospital so that they would be able to get Abe's approvals.
He also revealed that in case a crisis that required Abe to return
to the Kantei (Prime Minister's Official Residence) occurred, he
would be able to do so since it would t only five minutes.

International University of Japan Prof. Tomohito Shinoda said:

"There is the deputy chief cabinet secretary for crisis management
in the Kantei. So the Kantei has detailed crisis management
simulations. There is no problem without an acting prime minister."

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe told reporters
yesterday:

"When the prime minister leaves the hospital will be decided by the
political situation. I think he probably takes careful notes of a
negative impact on the LDP presidential election."

He pointed out the possibility that whether to appoint an acting
prime minister was decided intertwined with the political
situation.

(6) Personnel appointments already a focus of attention for LDP;
Only a few cabinet ministers expected to be replaced for remaining
Diet session

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridged slightly)
September 19, 2007

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda is enjoying a
comfortable lead over Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General
Taro Aso in the LDP presidential race. Given the situation, many LDP
lawmakers are turning their attention to personnel appointments
after the Sept. 23 presidential election. Although both Fukuda and
Aso mentioned the possibility of replacing only a few cabinet
ministers, all factions have their eyes on major cabinet portfolios
and LDP executive posts.

Taku Yamasaki, who heads his own faction, delivered a speech in
Tokyo yesterday, in which he speculated that the next prime minister
might keep the same cabinet ministers for the remaining Diet
session.

The Yamasaki, Koga, and Tanigaki factions that threw their support
behind Fukuda ahead of other factions have strong expectations for
key posts. But the ongoing Diet session, which is being disrupted by
the LDP presidential race, would leave little time for thoroughly
screening prospective cabinet ministers. The new prime minister must
staff his cabinet with trouble-free individuals so as not to stumble
right from the start.

TOKYO 00004373 007 OF 011

Another vital element is the ability to answer questions in the
Diet. With both chambers of the Diet expected to host
interpellations as early as Oct. 1 following the September 25 prime
ministerial election, the new cabinet ministers must be able to hit
the ground running.

In 2000, then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi died after suffering a
stroke while the Diet was in session. His successor, Prime Minister
Yoshiro Mori launched his cabinet by reappointing all the Obuchi
cabinet ministers. A Fukuda camp executive predicted that the next
prime minister would replace only the LDP's three top executives and
the chief cabinet secretary for the remaining Diet session.

The personnel approach and the lineup of the new cabinet and LDP
officers would significantly differ depending on who -- Fukuda or
Aso -- becomes the new prime minister. Receiving support from eight
factions, excluding the Aso faction, it would be difficult for
Fukuda to ignore their wishes. Aware of the difficulty meeting their
expectations, Fukuda seemingly mentioned the possibility of
replacing only a few cabinet ministers. In the case of Aso, who is
receiving cross-factional support, it would be easier to display his
originality.

The focus of attention is on such posts as LDP secretary general and
chief cabinet secretary. With a Lower House dissolution for a snap
general election looming, the post of secretary general, who would
spearhead the election campaign, would become even more vital. The
ability to deal with the reversal of positions between the ruling
and opposition parties in the Upper House would also be a key factor
in determining cabinet ministers and LDP officers.

Another key position is chief cabinet secretary, who serves as the
cabinet spokesperson. The chief cabinet minister must be able to
coordinate views and communicate effectively with the bureaucrats
and the ruling parties. With the shift of weight to the Kantei
(Prime Minister's Official Residence) in decision-making, this post
has come to draw more attention than the finance and foreign
ministers.

New Komeito to ask next prime minister to retain Fuyushiba as land
and transport minister

The New Komeito has decided to ask the next LDP president to let
Tetsuzo Fuyushiba stay on as land, infrastructure, and transport
minister in the cabinet to be launched as early as Sept. 25.

With both Fukuda and Aso having voiced their plans to replace only a
small number of cabinet ministers, the next prime minister is likely
to let Fuyushiba keep his current post in compliance with the New
Komeito's request.

(7) Editorial: Japan should not abstain from upcoming UNGA as it did
last year

NIKKEI (Page 2) (Abridged)
September 19, 2007

The United Nations opened its 62nd General Assembly (UNGA) (on Sept.
18). Top leaders and foreign ministers of member states will deliver
speeches there next week. If Japan does not take any action now, it
may result in failing to send either its prime minister or its

TOKYO 00004373 008 OF 011


foreign minister to the UNGA for two years in a row. Whoever may be
chosen as next prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda or Taro Aso, Japan
should somehow send a foreign-ministerial-level politician, or Japan
will further diminish in its presence in the international
community. There is great need to avoid that possibility.

The UN member nations send their top leaders or foreign ministers to
the UNGA every year, and those officials deliver speeches and meet
with other countries' officials on a bilateral or multilateral
basis. Japan will lose such meetings if neither the prime minister
nor the foreign minister is sent to the UNGA. At the time of last
year's UNGA, the then Koizumi administration was in a transition to
the Abe administration. Both Prime Minister Koizumi and Foreign
Minister Aso stayed away from the UNGA, even though they were
physically able to attend it.

The reason Koizumi abstained from the UNGA was reportedly because he
had concluded that attending it would be unnecessary for he would be
leaving his post shortly. Meanwhile, Aso gave priority to
undertaking coordination over personnel selection for a new Abe
administration. The Nikkei at the time wrote: "It's no good to
prioritize personnel selection over diplomatic activities in the
UN." Finally Japan sent Deputy Foreign Minister Nishida to a foreign
ministerial of the Group of Eight (G-8), and Ambassador to the UN
Oshima and the Foreign Ministry official delivered speeches. In the
world of diplomacy, however, importance is given to rank. So, Japan
presumably was seen as making light of the UN.

If Japan failed to send either its prime minister or foreign
minister to the UNGA this year, as well, its bid for a permanent
seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) would be questioned. There
are precedents in this regard for Japan to follow.

For example, the second Koizumi administration was established on
Sept. 22, 2003, immediately before the start of the UNGA. Contrary
to all expectations, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi stayed on
primarily because she was considered to be a ready candidate in the
arena of UN diplomacy. Fukuda and Aso, who are in the midst of the
LDP presidential campaign, are unable to pay attention to UN
diplomacy at present, but one idea for them to consider is to follow
precedent.

Specifically, three options are conceivable: (1) reinstall Foreign
Minister Nobutaka Machimura in the same post in forming a new
cabinet and immediately send him to New York; (2) appoint a ready
workhorse as foreign minister and do the same; or (3) give a status
of government representative to Machimura and allow him to act in
effect as foreign minister in the UN. If Tokyo fails to send
political leaders to the UN for two consecutive years, Japan will be
dubbed an inward-looking country and its influence internationally
will diminish. That would lead to Japan losing diplomatic clout.

Sending a bigwig politician at a foreign ministerial-level to New
York is important not only in view of UN diplomacy but also in terms
of relations with the United States. Given the current political
situation in Japan, it is indispensable for Japan to hold
preliminary discussions in case of a failure to extending the
antiterrorism law, the legal basis for the Maritime Self-Defense
Force's ongoing refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

(8) Cuts in ODA budget a major mistake for Japan's diplomatic
strategy

TOKYO 00004373 009 OF 011

YOMIURI (Page 13) (Excerpts)
September 19, 2007

Official development assistance (ODA) funds and other related
outlays have suffered a 3 PERCENT cut in the budget request outline
for next fiscal year adopted last month at a cabinet meeting. There
has been a growing need for assistance to help the reconstruction of
those countries that have suffered damage from disputes. In
response, European countries, the US and China have increased their
ODA budgets. In contrast, Japan has cut its ODA budget by 38 PERCENT
over the past decade. As a result, Japan's influence in the
international community is beginning to decline.

Since Japan does not use armed force to settle disputes, ODA must be
its major and most effective means of contributing to the
international community. I have been in charge of helping the
reconstruction process in Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaders of both
countries and their peoples repeatedly expressed words of gratitude,
noting that Japan was making efforts to help the reconstruction of
their countries without resorting to military force or having any
political intentions.

Although some Japanese masochistically criticize their diplomacy
saying that it lacks visibility, the face of Japan's ODA is clearly
recognized by the international community. Teamed with its
consistent peace diplomacy in the disarmament area, Japan in fact
has had a sharply-defined presence as an aid donor to developing
countries for many decades, including a period in which Japan was
the largest aid donor in the world.

However, continuous cuts in the ODA budget have begun to undermine
that international status. Japan enjoyed the position of being the
top donor throughout the 1990s. Last year, though, its ODA
performance ranked third, behind the US and Britain. It will likely
be soon overtaken by France and Germany, which were fourth and fifth
respectively last year. China is swiftly boosting its assistance to
developing countries in a bid to secure resources.

I served as an ambassador to Cambodia for three years starting in
2000. Relations between Cambodia and Japan are close thanks to ODA.
Cambodia expressed its gratitude to Japan in the form of printing
the picture of the Bond Bridge, which was built over Mekong River
with Japan's assistance, on its new paper currency. China is
reinforcing its policy of moving closer to Southeast Asia. I acutely
felt that its influence is gradually filtering down to the region,
including Cambodia. While Japan is curtailing aid to African
nations, China is stepping up assistance to them, strengthening
influence in Africa. Japan has encountered much resistance in its
bid for reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This
is not unrelated to those facts.

Japan has been playing a leading role in helping with a
reconstruction process in Afghanistan. However, its role is now
relatively declining due to reinforced assistance by European
countries and the US. Chances are that if the situation is left
unheeded, the high scores the international community has given to
Japan over several decades would be undermined. Continuous cuts in
ODA are a major error in Japan's diplomatic strategy.

Of course, we must accept a certain amount of cuts in order to
achieve a major goal of recapitalizing public finances. However,

TOKYO 00004373 010 OF 011


while the state budget for general expenditures has grown 7 PERCENT
, the ODA budget has suffered a major reduction from 1.1687 trillion
yen in 1997 to 729.3 billion yen this fiscal year. This is a 38
PERCENT cut. In view of the fact that the ratio of the ODA budget
to general expenditure is only 1.6 PERCENT , the margin of the drop
is extremely irrational in terms of the fact that a 3 PERCENT cut
in the ODA budget makes little contribution to efforts to reduce the
fiscal deficit.

If Japan boosts the ODA budget to a considerable degree, it could
regain its image as a country of peace diplomacy and restore its
high international reputation and influence, which it is now
beginning to wane. Numerically speaking, it is possible to boost
ODA funds by close to 10 PERCENT , by slashing budget items totaling
7 trillion yen by only 1 PERCENT . Strategic diplomatic thinking for
the sake of our national interest is essential.

(9) Shock caused by Abe's resignation (Part 4): Concern about
decline in Japan's influence

NIKKEI (Page 1) (Full)
September 17, 2007

By Tetsuya Jitsu, chief correspondent in Washington

It now has been revealed that the Koizumi era was an exception,
after all. The shadows of faction leaders can be glimpsed in the
process of selecting a successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
following his abrupt announcement of his resignation. Looking at the
current situation, some in the US are feeling disappointed.

Americans had a good impression from former Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi, who pushed ahead with reforms by demonstrating his strong
leadership and was eager to play a positive role in the
international community.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Campbell, knowledgeable
about Japan, said: "Americans had believed that the Koizumi
administration's basic policy would continue even after Koizumi left
office." The US placed strong expectations particularly on Prime
Minister Abe, who played up the need for cooperation with such
countries that share democratic values as the US, Australia, and
India.

That was why Americans were stunned by Abe's announcement of his
resignation only four days after his meeting with President Bush, in
which Abe had promised Japan's cooperation in the war against
terrorism. This experience might have led to making the US
distrustful of Japanese politicians.

Campbell said: "We are increasingly worried about the possibility
that Japan will return to the 1990s, when political turmoil was
rife, with one weak prime minister after another coming into
office."

Now that there is no strong leader in Japan, its future course is
also a matter of concern for the US. In the US, views are split over
the propriety of the Iraq war, but even the Democratic Party takes
the antiterrorism operation in Afghanistan as a "good war." That's
why Americans had not anticipated that Japan's cooperation in the
war against terrorism, which can be taken as a symbol of the
Japan-US alliance, would develop into a serious point at issue over

TOKYO 00004373 011 OF 011


which the prime minister was driven into resignation in the end.

The US is also perplexed at calls growing in both ruling and
opposition parties for revising the economic reform policy. A Japan
watcher said in bewilderment: "I wonder where the Japanese who
enthusiastically supported Koizumi reforms have gone."

The US government perceived that Japan and the US had built a
consensus in the diplomatic, security, and economic sectors since
the Koizumi administration. But this perception is now being shaken,
and Americans have begun to see Japan with a delicate sense of
distance.

The current unstable political situation may also work to decrease
Japan's influence in the international community.

The Times, a British newspaper, blasted Prime Minister Abe's sudden
announcement of his resignation: "Japan missed a good opportunity to
increase its influence." If former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo
Fukuda, who has taken the lead over his rival, Aso, in the Liberal
Democratic Party presidential election campaign, and DPJ President
Ichiro Ozawa move backward on the political and economic fronts, it
might become impossible for Japan to play an international role, as
well as to keep its status as an economic power.

During the LDP presidential campaign, the next round of the
six-party talks on North Korea's denuclearization is expected to
take place. The talks, which will be an important stage to determine
whether North Korea will take action to disable its nuclear
facilities, will proceed in the absence of leadership in Japan.
Japan's top leader will not attend the annual UN assembly, either.

In the stalled new round of global trade talks (Doha Round) under
the World Trade Organization (WTO), many countries have denounced
Japan, claiming it has not played a positive role. If Japan keeps
quiet and continues to take a wait-and-see attitude, the
international community's confidence in Japan will be further
undermined.

Other countries are moving forward, as seen from South Korea's start
of talks on concluding a free trade agreement (FTA) with the
European Union, following those with the US. Competition for drawing
in direct investment and able personnel is escalating on a global
scale. As the economy globalizes, economic policies giving priority
to competition and market principles are indispensable for Japan's
prosperity.

There is always political strife in democratic nations. But if Japan
continues to pay attention only to domestic affairs, looking away
from global trends, its influence in the international community
will inevitably keep diminishing. What message will the next
administration send to the world? It will be necessary to give full
consideration to this point.

SCHIEFFER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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