Asahi notes that the DPJ move is in response to recent public opinion polls that show rising opposition to the MSDF’s resuming its refueling mission.
Hatoyama Yukio explained that the party’s decision was rooted in a desire to explain the party’s thinking directly to the people.
It’s not clear to me what changed to inspire this about-face. If anything, there’s less need for the DPJ to take on a position of its own now that the LDP has destroyed the plurality of support it once enjoyed on this issue.
The DPJ’s position remains unchanged from the start of this Diet session. The DPJ bill will call for humanitarian contributions in Afghanistan, without armed participation in ISAF. Of course, the more substantial the Japanese contribution on the ground, the greater the need for allied forces to ensure the safety of Japanese personnel. With concerns being raised from all corners about the inadequacies of current allied forces in Afghanistan — the latest being the Rudd government — I don’t expect that the allied countries will be pleased to have to divert forces away from fighting the insurgency to defend an unarmed Japanese detachment.
Additionally, taking this approach, the DPJ may give the LDP an opportunity to regroup, enabling the government to remind the Japanese people that the refueling mission provides a low-risk way for Japan to meet its supposed international obligations and argue that although the DPJ plan is “non-military,” it places a burden on other countries and puts Japanese personnel in harm’s way.
I remain baffled by Mr. Ozawa’s thinking. I agree that the DPJ owes it to the Japanese people to explain their thinking and provide alternatives to the government’s plans, but having decided not to do so on this issue — and having paid no cost as far as I can see — I don’t understand why the DPJ would change at the last minute and submit its own bill.