The DPJ pushes on all fronts

In the midst of chaos in the LDP, the DPJ has been working to press its advantage on all fronts in anticipation of an early election for the House of Representatives. At the grass roots, the party leadership has directed young members to return to their districts to campaign — and bear the message of the need for a quick general election, regardless of who the next prime minister is. Mr. Ozawa has in fact signaled that in mid-October he is set to undertake another trip around the country, ostensibly to thank voters in rural prefectures for their support in the Upper House election but also to bolster the DPJ’s support in advance of another election upon which Mr. Ozawa is “staking his political life.”

Meanwhile, on the legislative front, the DPJ made clear in Upper House budget hearings this week that it intends to trim the pork from the budget, while bureaucrats signaled that they would perform the necessary nemawashi with the DPJ, working with DPJ legislators to formulate the budget and related policies. (It’s not like the ministries have much of a choice.)

Finally, on the foreign policy front, the DPJ has dismissed the UNSC resolution that included a line thanking Japan for its support in the Indian Ocean, with Mr. Hatoyama once again condemning the government’s lobbying for the expression of thanks as “deplorable” and “shameful.”

At the same time, Sankei‘s Komori Yoshihisa has responded to the DPJ’s “UN-centered foreign policy” with a broadside that asks whether the “UN can defend Japan” or “prevent war.” Now, I don’t disagree. In fact, I’ve criticized the DPJ for the same — a UN-centered security policy is not a security policy, it is the absence of a security policy. But should the alternative be remaining dependent on the US? Komori’s own basis for criticizing the UN is the lack of support Japan has received from the UN on the abductions issue. Fine, but the US hasn’t exactly been sticking its neck out on the issue either. In other words, Japan’s foreign policy should not and dare I say will not be all or nothing at all. It should use the UN when it suits its purposes, it should maintain a healthy relationship with the US (in which Japan is free to disagree with the US without fearing for its security), and it should develop a panoply of relationships within the region to maximize its flexibility as an actor in the Asia-Pacific. It is useless to spend one’s energy tearing down the UN — or, for that matter, the US-Japan alliance. As an increasingly middling power in a region of giants, Japan will be best served by expanding its options, which will mean embracing any and every tool and mechanism that enables Japan to wield influence in the region and globally. (And given that the region will not be neatly divided along clear battle lines, this approach is well suited to Asia in the twenty-first century.)

I think the DPJ is groping in the direction of a Japanese foreign policy that would follow these lines; it just needs to do a better job articulating it.

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