Thursday, September 17, 2009

Japan's new foreign minister an about-face from Koizumi era

The Japan Times is reporting that Japan's incoming foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, will approach his job in a way that runs contrary to how Tokyo mishandled relations with its Asian neighbors during the Koizumi era:
To envision how Katsuya Okada will approach his new job as foreign minister, one need look no further than his grilling of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during budget deliberations at the Diet on June 2, 2005.

For the duration of the standoff, Okada, who was then president of the Democratic Party of Japan, put Koizumi through the ringer for visiting contentious Yasukuni Shrine.

"I have serious concern that this issue will influence ties between Japan and China, and if ties between Japan and China are ruined, it could affect the rest of Asia," Okada told Koizumi.

Touching on the enshrinement of 14 Class-A war criminals at the Shinto shrine, Okada attacked the prime minister's pilgrimage as damaging Japan's shot at becoming a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and sabotaging its attempts to collaborate with its neighbors in resolving tensions with North Korea.

In his 2008 book "Seiken Koutai" (roughly translated as "Change of Regime"), Okada wrote that picking up the pieces from Koizumi's diplomatic maneuvers will be one of the first tasks the DPJ administration will address.
Okada plans to form stronger ties with Asia while maintaining its relationship with the US:
"The DPJ will likely take a different approach than the Liberal Democratic Party on its relations with Asia, and Okada is one figure who is well aware that Tokyo's ties with its neighbors are damaged," said Aiko Utsumi, a visiting professor at Waseda University in Tokyo.

The expert on Japan's postwar ties with Asia said the launch of the DPJ administration is a chance for Tokyo to break with the bureaucrat-oriented diplomacy that prevailed under the LDP.

"I hope Okada has the potential to lead and correct what has been done incorrectly, to resolve any antagonism with South Korea or China," Utsumi added.
I see this as a good sign. What Japan needs to do is show China that there is no Japanese aggression for it to fear, but at the same time I hope cooperation with South Korea can be strengthened so that both countries' relationship with the US can be part of a trilateral arrangement. As I've said many times, South Korea and Japan would both be better off if they see each other as allies than antagonists. And that's a two-way street.


  1. I'll believe it when I see it.

    After 55 years of the LDP's bull shit it's hard not to be skeptical.

  2. Having spoken with many Japanese about politics over the past ten or fifteen years (including a zainichi Korean ex-fiancée who was surprisingly pro-Koizumi), I think there is a sizable group that are tired of the right-wing shenanigans. Maybe even a majority. Hatoyama's party came to power because the people are tired of this.


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