Hard road ahead

Prime Minister Fukuda, upon returning to Japan, was greeted with criticism by the association of abductee families, whose representatives were also in Washington last week (meeting John Bolton, among others).

Interviewed at a press conference upon arrival at Narita Airport on Sunday, Iizuka Shigeo, the deputy head of the family association said, “May not Japan, as an ally, voice its opinion a little more?”

Undoubtedly the complaints of the families will be echoed by abductee advocates within the ranks of the LDP, the self-appointed enforcers of an uncompromising negotiating position in the six-party talks.

Whatever glimmers of the hope there are for Japan’s reengaging in the talks, Mr. Fukuda still has formidable obstacles in his way. I think that if he pushes too hard for a shift in Japan’s negotiating position, Mr. Aso’s retainers will cause trouble for him.

Mr. Fukuda has thus far smoothed over the divisions within the party that were in full view under Mr. Abe, but he has been helped by the DPJ’s opposition to the anti-terror law, on which the LDP is by and large united. But once he starts trying to move an agenda forward — both within the Diet and in Japan’s foreign policy — the need to keep the party united and challenges to that unity will rise in tandem.

After a period of calm following the LDP presidential election, the LDP right is organizing again. Nakagawa Shoichi, PARC chief under Mr. Abe and Mr. Abe’s id, has announced the creation of a new conservative study group (with independent Hiranuma Takeo). That alone isn’t troubling for Mr. Fukuda, but it is a reminder that he walks a fine line as the head of a party that doesn’t exactly share his cautious pragmatism.

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