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Could the New Japanese Government Herald Novel Departures in Security Policy?

Could the New Japanese Government Herald Novel Departures in Security Policy?

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Originally published in November 2009, this paper says that the stability, or inertia, that has characterized Japanese politics since the end of the Second World War may have been broken apart by the election of a new-look government in September.
Originally published in November 2009, this paper says that the stability, or inertia, that has characterized Japanese politics since the end of the Second World War may have been broken apart by the election of a new-look government in September.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Sep 30, 2010
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Summary: The stability, orinertia, that has charac-terised Japanese politicssince the end of the Sec-ond World War may havebeen broken apart by theelection of a new-look gov-ernment in September. It istherefore an open questionas to whether the new ad-ministration of Prime Min-ister Yukio Hatoyama willprove as reliable a partnerfor the United States andits allies as in the past.
Could the New JapaneseGovernment Herald NovelDepartures in Security Policy?
Tsuneo “Nabe” Watanabe
1
Yukio Hatoyama, o the DemocraticParty o Japan (DPJ), was elected asJapan’s prime minister on September 16,2009. Tis new Japanese administrationis widely seen as heralding a new erain Japanese politics. Questions there-ore arise not only about politics in thedomestic arena but in the oreign andsecurity policy sphere as well.
“This new Japaneseadministration is widely seenas heralding a new era inJapanese politics. Questionstherefore arise not only aboutpolitics in the domestic arenabut in the sphere of foreignand security policy as well.”
o outsiders, the sheer stability (orinertia) o the Japanese political systemis oen a source o amazement. Prior tothe advent o the new administration,the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) hadmonopolized control o the government(either alone or as part o a coalition)ever since it was ormed rom a mergero conservative orces in 1955, except,that is, or an interlude o less than ayear in 1993–1994, when power passedbriey to a coalition o anti-LDP orcesled rst by Morihiro Hosokawa andthen by sutomu Hata.A democratic system lasting a hal-century without a ull-edged shi inpower is quite a historical anomaly.Political scientists have studied postwarJapan’s single-party rule extensively, andmost agree that it was made possible by two key circumstances: Japan’s extendedperiod o strong economic growth andthe stable international structure im-posed by the Cold War.In recent years, however, the dynam-ics have changed. First, a changingenvironment has removed the basicconditions—rapid economic growthand the relatively uniorm distribu-tion o wealth—that once guaranteedthe loyalty o the LDP’s key domesticconstituencies. Second, the public hasbeen witness time and again to the kindso problems that occur when a singleparty stays in power too long—“system
1 suneo “Nabe” Watanabe is director or Foreign & Security Policy Research and senior ellow o the okyoFoundation. Te views expressed are those o the author and do not necessarily represent the views o theGerman Marshall Fund o the United States.
November 2009
Haliax Intnatinal Scuity Fu
Offices
Washington • Berlin • Bratislava • Paris
 
Brussels • Belgrade • Ankara • Bucharest
www.gmu.org 
Pap Sis
 
atigue” characterized by corruption, overdependence on thebureaucracy, and bureaucratic ineciency.
Policy agenda of the Hatoyama cabinet
Te Hatoyama administration’s approval ratings stand atmore than 70 percent. Tat popularity is mainly driven by domestic actors, but Japanese voters have long hoped or aleader who could ofer the country a more signicant roleon the international stage. What does this mean or a U.S.-led Western alliance that has become used to predictability and stability in the management and direction o Japaneseoreign and security policy?Hatoyama has already raised eyebrows in that respect inboth Japan and the United States. A
New York Times
edito-rial on September 1, or example, expressed one concernabout Japan that the Obama administration must be lookingat nervously, pointing to Hatoyama’s suggestion that Japannot renew the mandate or Japanese ships on a reuelingmission in the Indian Ocean in support o United Statesmilitary operations in Aghanistan.A meeting between Hatoyama and U.S. PresidentBarack Obama on September 24 produced the standarddiplomatic mantras rearming both countries’ commitmentto the Japan-U.S. alliance as a bedrock o mutual security.However, both leaders avoided contentious issues, leavingthe precise trajectory o U.S.-Japanese relations as an openquestion. With this in mind, the DJP’s record is not alto-gether encouraging. For example, apart rom its attitude tothe Indian Ocean reueling mission, its 2008 policy platormcalled or building a more “equal relationship” with theUnited States and suggested that it would seek to revise theJapan-U.S. Status o Forces Agreement (SOFA).With regard to the transer o acilities at Futenma Air Sta-tion in Okinawa—something the two governments havespent years negotiating—the DPJ is calling or a solutiondiferent rom that already agreed on by okyo and Wash-ington. By throwing a last-minute wrench in the works, thenew government threatens to provoke the ire o the Obamaadministration and to call into question Japan’s status as areliable partner.Te policy direction o a DPJ administration vis-à-vis theJapan-U.S. alliance is dicult to predict in part because theparty encompasses both realists in the LDP mold who sup-port the alliance and politicians o a more liberal bent, notto mention ormer members o the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Moreover, even i the DPJ takes control o the Houseo Representatives, it may well be obliged to orge a coalitionwith the SDP in order to control the House o Councillors,where it lacks a majority—another source o anxiety orsome government ocials and allies.On a more hopeul note, there are grounds or optimismin relations with regional rivals and old enemies. Te LDPhas long included a minority contingent inclined toward aconservative or nationalistic brand o historical revisionism,which has been the cause o periodic are-ups with Chinaand South Korea. Since the DPJ has ew members think-ing or talking along such lines, we may at least see a thaw in diplomatic disputes over the “rewriting o history.” Tiscould act as a stabilizing actor or the security and stability o the region.More broadly, I believe that concerns about the DPJ’s impacton diplomacy, oreign policy, and international security havebeen overstated. Once the party gets used to the quotidianreality o government as opposed to opposition, it will beorced to respond to circumstances realistically. Questionedon the matter during a symposium in okyo in June, Rich-ard Armitage, deputy secretary o state under ormer U.S.President George W. Bush and a vigorous supporter o theJapan-U.S. alliance, pointed out that campaign rhetoric andactual policy are two entirely diferent things. Indeed, DPJleaders have already shown signs o pragmatism, indicatingthat radical departures are unlikely.Tere are three alliance-related issues that now stand at theoreront o international diplomacy, and that orm the key questions about how Japan’s oreign and security policy will develop with respect to the United States and the widerworld:1. Will Japan in act quit the reueling mission in the IndianOcean?
 
2. Will Japan seek a renegotiation o existing relocationplans or U.S. orces in Japan including the Futenma Air-base, which is located in a densely populated residentialarea?3. Will Japan ask the United States to negotiate a new dealon SOFA, opening the prospect o greater Japanese juris-diction over U.S. military ocers in Japan?Tere are obvious potential headaches over some, i not all,o the above or the Obama administration. Perhaps themost troublesome concerns the question o relocating theFutenma Airbase to Camp Schwab within Okinawa. Many DPJ and SDP supporters want Futenma out o Okinawacompletely. At the same time, the existing agreed plan in-cludes moving 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam and the returno land south o the Kadena Air Base. Tese are signicantsteps aimed at reducing the burden on the Okinawan people.Currently, Prime Minister Hatoyama is sending mixed sig-nals on what he wants the nal outcome to look like.Futenma, o course, has been a thorn in the Japan-U.S.alliance since it was originally enacted in 1996 betweenthen-Prime Minister Hashimoto and then-U.S. PresidentBill Clinton. I Hatoyama shows a willingness to remove thatthorn, this would be a good boost or Japan-U.S. alliancemanagement. For example, the United States might acceptJapan’s civilian aid plan or Aghan reconstruction as analternative to the current reueling mission in the IndianOcean. SOFA revision may still be tough, but it would notbe impossible to at least ormulate a study group to try andresolve it.
Long-term prospects amid newpolitical realities
All in all, despite some possible conusion in the short term,I am optimistic or the Hatoyama administration’s security and oreign policy in the longer term. At the very least, thereis a good chance that Japan can break ree rom the stagnantagendas that became a act o lie or Japan’s relations withthe outside world during decades o rule by the LDP.Lest anyone orget, Japan has pursued a policy o extremesel-restraint in the use o its military. Tis, o course, hasbeen due to deeply ingrained anti-war sentiment arisingrom World War II as well as postwar political structuresdating rom 1955. Such political structures and historicallegacies ailed to oster rational policy debates in the Japa-nese Parliament based on a rounded analysis o the interna-tional environment.Te SDP, historically the largest opposition party, and theJapan Communist Party never accepted military cooperationwith the United States. Both parties strongly opposed any attempts at moves in this direction as well as those aimedat strengthening Japan’s deense capabilities. In order tomaintain smooth relations between government and opposi-tion in parliament and in deerence to deep-seated anti-warsentiments among the general public, LDP-led governmentswere never successul in changing the prevailing interpre-tation o the pacist Article 9 o the constitution. Tis hasle legal and political obstacles in the way o any Japanesegovernment wanting to send troops to conict zones.
“At the very least, there is a good chancethat Japan can break free from the stagnantagendas which became a fact of life forJapan’s relations with the outside worldduring decades of rule by the LDP.”
However, the social democratic and communistpresence in high politics continues to shrink. Telargest opposition party is now the conservative LiberalDemocratic Party. Teoretically, Japans new politicalrealities could allow or more rational policy choices in thesecurity arena than we have seen or much o Japan’s postwarhistory.Hatoyama has in act made positive noises in avor o amending the constitution, including Article 9. He inheritedthe idea rom his grandather, Ichiro Hatoyama, who servedas prime minister rom 1954 to 1956, and who proposedamending the constitution as well as Japanese rearmament.Another powerul DPJ leader, party Secretary General IchiroOzawa, once argued that Japan could send sel-deense

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