Japanese Opposition Victory Could Force US Rethink in Pacific

Japanese Opposition Victory Could Force US Rethink in Pacific

Incoming Party Seeks Closer China Ties, End to Mandate for Afghan War

Though the final size of their mandate is unclear, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has won a landslide victory, outsting the Liberal Democratic Party which has held a virtually unbroken grasp on power since the 1950s. Japanese analysts are calling the election the most significant change in power in the nation since World War 2.

The DPJ will hold at least 300 seats according to most estimates in the 480 seat lower house, and might even net the 320 seats required for a supermajority, which would give it a virtually unchallengable hold on the government. The massive turnout and support for the opposition in a generally politically apathetic nation was a sign that the Japanese population is increasingly unsatisfied with the government’s reaction to the economic downturn.

But while the DPJ’s first order of business will be its plan of free market decentralization and tax cuts to try to stem rising unemployment, in the long-term it may have a significant impact on the US relationship with the island nation, as the DPJ publicly attacked the LDP for letting the US basically dictate policy.

In the near term, the DPJ is expected to only demand a few key revisions to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two nations, and cancel the nation’s role in the Afghan War, which it has insisted is in violation of the country’s pacifist constitution. It will also ban the US from stationing nuclear weapons in Japan, a key issue in a nation which 64 years later is still distraught over twin US nuclear attacks.

But the DPJ has promised to keep friendly ties with the US, and its focus on the economy is likely to put major changes to the US deployment on the backburner, at least in the near term. Yet as the party tries to strengthen ties with long-time rival China, in the long term the US may find its still-significant military presence in the nation less and less welcome.

by Jason Ditz, August 30, 2009


US Rules Out Negotiations With New Japan Govt on Base Deal

Hopes Japanese Officials Will ‘Moderate’ Views After They Take Office

In a statement issued today by the State Department, the United States ruled out holding negotiations with the new Japanese government about a deal it had negotiated with the previous government to pay billions of dollars in return for a slight decrease in US troop presence on the island of Okinawa. Instead they say they hope the new officials will “moderate” their position.
The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power this week in a landslide election victory over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and ran on a platform of condemn the LDP for, among other things, letting the US dictate its foreign policy.Japan’s incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has called for a review of the bases agreement, as well as a broader review of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States and the complete closure of the Okinawa base. The party has also promised to end the Japanese military’s role in the Afghan War by the end of the year.

The LDP had held a virtually unbroken hold on power in Japan for over 50 years, and analysts are calling the vote the most significant shift of power in the nation since the end of World War 2. Though the DPJ has said it wants to maintain friendly relations with the US, it seems unlikely the US is going to take its call for a more even-handed relationship lying down.

by Jason Ditz, September 01, 2009



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