Mr. Machimura attempted to shift the blame to the US for reports that US warships used Japanese-provided fuel for activities related to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As seems typical for Mr. Nagashima’s blog posts, he is “dumbfounded” by Mr. Machimura’s remarks, suggesting that in all likelihood the government knew exactly what was going on in the Indian Ocean.
This “scandal” has the makings of other Japanese scandals, with unanswered question following unanswered question (i.e., the question of whether Japan provided 200,000 or 800,000 tons of fuel), which of course justifies the position taken by Mr. Nagashima and other DPJ hawks that the problem isn’t the mission, but the government’s failure to provide adequate information about the MSDF’s activities. This whole “Iraq or Afghanistan” question has probably destroyed whatever opportunity remained of the government’s using the anti-terror bill to divide the DPJ, if such an opportunity even remained — apparently the government doesn’t even have the information that the DPJ wants (and if it’s playing dumb, well, that’s even more inexcusable).
In the meantime, the DPJ continues to support a role on the ground in Afghanistan, doing “DDR”: disarmament, demobilization, and reconstruction. Shadow Defense Minister Asao reiterated the DPJ’s support for a government plan to put personnel — presumably civilians — on the ground in Afghanistan in support of DDR activities.
I have to disagree with Jun Okumura on point related to this, however. I see no way for this bill to pass this year. Depending on how quickly the Lower House acts on a new bill, we’re still looking at a two-month waiting period before the Lower House can vote for the bill again, even longer if the Diet session isn’t extended to last into December or the new year. I find it hard to believe that the DPJ won’t use the full sixty days to embarrass the government, questioning witness after witness after witness about the mission.
The Fukuda cabinet might be able to raise the costs to the DPJ of opting for this strategy, but I think that will depend on the height of the ceiling for public support for this mission. The recent polls on this matter show that the support the government enjoys is soft — of the “can’t be helped” variety rather than the “absolutely must do this” variety.