Tokyo Notes

Hatoyama Blasts Kan Policy

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Tokyo Notes

Hatoyama Blasts Kan Policy

Japan’s ex-prime minister says Japan should focus on improving Asian ties, and criticizes the latest Cabinet reshuffle.

Yukio Hatoyama’s vision of a ‘sea of fraternity’ between Japan and its neighbours is falling victim to Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s short-sighted foreign policy, the former premier said Wednesday.

Hatoyama has long advocated an East Asian community between Japan and the likes of China and South Korea along the lines of the European Union, and is dismayed by the Kan administration’s change of tact towards a more US-centred policy.

‘While the US-Japan relationship will continue to be crucial, we need to attach critical importance to ASEAN, northeast Asia and the Japan Sea ring,’ Hatoyama said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

‘I'd like to ask Kan why his administration has dumped the concept of an East Asian community in favour of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While I agree with Kan that Japan should be opened up, I don’t agree with his method. It seems to be the thinking of the bureaucracy, especially the Foreign Ministry with its strong inclination to join the TPP.

‘It’s a reversion to the situation under (former Prime Minister Junichiro) Koizumi. Everyone is focused on the US rather than Asia. I feel that rather than pushing forward with the TPP, it’s better for Japan to focus on relations with Asia.’

Hatoyama also had some harsh words for Kan on his appointment of Kaoru Yosano to a government post. The new minister of state for economic and fiscal policy is a former opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Japan stalwart who recently penned a book detailing how he believes the ruling Democratic Party of Japan will destroy the nation’s economy.

‘I can accept someone switching parties if it’s down to their political convictions,’ Hatoyama said. ‘He was a person who followed his convictions to create a new party to destroy the DPJ—and then he changed his position. I don’t understand this at all.’

Hatoyama also made his anti-Kan stance clear by reiterating his support for Ichiro Ozawa, the former DPJ president who was indicted Monday on corruption charges. Indeed, he even hinted Ozawa could take over the party reins again one day.

‘I hope Ozawa will prove his innocence in the courts,’ Hatoyama said. ‘There's a strong desire for a strong leader in these times when confidence in politics and the economy has yet to recover. (If the court decision goes in his favour), Ozawa will be able to employ his considerable skills to improve the situation in Japan.’

Hatoyama went on to say that the main reason he quit as prime minister, after only nine months in the job, was the ‘unexpected’ allegations over his involvement in so-called money politics.

Another reason he gave for his resignation was the opposition he faced in fulfilling a DPJ election pledge to move a US air base in Okinawa out of the country—a brick wall constructed as much by Japanese bureaucrats as Washington.

‘For years (before I became prime minister) the US and the defence and foreign ministries have held deep conversations (about US bases in Japan) and came to a joint conclusion,’ he said. ‘Pressure (to stick to the original agreement) came from the US, but the bureaucracy held a deep conviction there was no alternative…If I’d had more time, a different answer could have been found.

‘Look at the history of the world. It’s not appropriate for one country to be present on another country’s soil and for the (host nation) to receive protection from that military.’

Hatoyama also blasted the LDP for not reflecting on its past record and failing to put forward any constructive ideas, saying the party was ‘disdainful of the intelligence of the Japanese people.’

On Russia and the issue of the disputed Northern Territories, Hatoyama said: ‘One of my biggest regrets is being unable to find a solution during my tenure…But the door is still open and there's room for discussion. I will play any role asked of me.’

Precisely what political role he will play in the coming months and years is still unclear. Kan, for one, will be wanting to keep him at arm’s length.