Readers, your comments and feedback on Yves' talk and/or Dan's report are most welcome. Please click "Post a Comment" at the bottom and share your thoughts.
Thank you Yves, for your brilliant and inspiring talk. I felt there was a real sense of a shared purpose in the room for creating an "East Asian Community." We should get together again to develop a concrete plan and a proposal to Hatoyama and other Asian leaders!
Thank you for all the VSA9 members and volunteers who made this event happen.
Thank you for JCCA Human Rights Committee for supporting this event.
Love and peace,
(Photos by Walter Matsuda)
(LDP: Liberal Democratic Party; DPJ: Democratic Party of Japan; SDP: Social Democratic Party; PNP: People's New Party)
October 28th, 2009
The New Hatoyama Administration:
Implications for Japan’s Foreign Policy and Constitution
Speaker: Yves Tiberghien
We were very lucky today to have Professor Yves Tiberghien of UBC speak on the new Hatoyama DPJ administration on Tuesday night. We were very lucky to have a lot of people show up, regardless of the weather, and the time; which goes to show how interested people are on the implications of the new government. We were also very lucky to have the president of the Vancouver Save Article 9 group, Mr. Ochiai, give a small talk on Article 9.
Professor Tiberghien outlined the following in his talk:
1. The Election and Driving Issues
2. The New Government and the Cabinet
3. The Democratic Party of Japan today
4. The Coalition Government and the impact of the October by-elections
5. Domestic dilemmas and priorities
6. Foreign Affairs
7. Constitutional Revision
Professor Tiberghien stated that the shift to the DPJ now means a shift towards a European style Social Democracy, and also a foreign policy rebalancing with Asia and the UN. Professor Tiberghien concluded by stating that there would be major changes to the method of policy making, new foreign and climate change policy, and a shift towards more social welfare. However, he also concluded by stating that the new government is “riddled in dilemmas…spread thin… [and] facing a tough reality” and that “results will be uncertain.”
Professor Tiberghien, in the early minutes of his talk, gave his view on the new government and what would happen to Article 9 under this new DPJ administration. First of all, Professor Tiberghien stated that the new government has “no intention to touch the constitution” and that the “survival of the DPJ depends on social and economic issues.”
I am also inclined to agree with this judgment of the DPJ and the new administration. Having been an election volunteer over the month of August, I have personally seen what was moving voters to vote for the DPJ. The DPJ did not gain power because they did not want to change the constitution, but it was more or less because the DPJ was simply the best alternative to the LDP. Voters in the 2009 general elections did not care about constitutional revision or Article 9; these issues are at the bottom of the list of things the new government should be working on. To touch Article 9 and constitutional revision now would be political suicide and will lead to defeat in the 2010 Upper House elections.
Professor Tiberghien listed four factors that led to the ‘great reversal’ of power.
1. The LDP’s defeat was visible for some time, and that the LDP had been “exhausted, trying to fend off corruption and inertia since 1993.
2. Rejection of LDP traditional politics.
3. The Koizumi Reforms. Professor Tiberghien stated that the reforms that had started under Nakasone in the mid 80’s and onward by the LDP had created a major inequality in wealth, the so-called Kakusa issue, and was eating away at the LDP. The Koizumi reforms were a ‘double whammy,’ because the reforms caused traditional LDP voters, especially the conservative vote in the rural areas, to betray the LDP.
4. The DPJ was able to present itself as a credible alternative to the LDP in 2009. The DPJ has become a more balanced party under the leadership of Kan and Hatoyama’s idealism, and Ozawa’s realism.
Professor Tiberghien went quite deeply into the aspect of a shift towards a more European style social democratic policy being taken up by the DPJ.
“Put People Before Concrete!”
Professor Tiberghien displayed these words on the overhead projector and looked quite pleased with this shift in policy by the DPJ.
The implications for this new shift are that government funding would be diverted from construction and LDP interest groups. There would be more redistribution and social welfare, such as child allowances, minimum wage, fixing the pensions program, and to get results in the fight for temporary workers rights.
These issues will ultimately be the most important issues for the DPJ to face. I feel that as a voter the fixing of these issues should be the raison d'être for the DPJ and the coalition government. I feel that these issues are the primary reason why so many voters, myself included, voted for the DPJ.
Professor Tiberghien also added by stating the changes in Japans rhetoric on foreign policy; primarily the rebalancing of the US-Japan alliance and economic integration with China and the rest of Asia, and if possible currency integration.
Professor Tiberghien also added how the new DPJ is now more coherent on broad issues such as Article 9. There is now a general consensus among DPJ Diet Members to not change Article 9, ban on nuclear weapons, against Yasukuni Shrine visits, and a strong position on climate change. Professor Tiberghien stated that Japan could potentially become a leader on climate change issues along with the EU.
Professor Tiberghien also discussed the implications of the coalition government, and also the implications of the Ozawa faction and its relationship to the other major leaders of the DPJ.
The Ozawa Faction, or the Ozawa Children or Ozawa Girls, as they are often referred to in the media are now the single largest de facto faction in the DPJ. Of course because the DPJ is so new there are no entrenched factionalism’s like the LDP. However, the implications of the Ozawa Faction against former socialists like Kan, or leaders like Okada who are not friendly with Ozawa could have negative impacts on the DPJ and its decision making process.
Professor Tiberghien was able to discuss the situation of power within the DPJ in quite simple terms. Prime Minister Hatoyama controls the cabinet, Ozawa controls the party, and Okada is the best candidate for the next PM. Hatoyama and Ozawa are relatively friendly, while Ozawa and Okada simply do not get along.
The coalition is also of extreme interests to those who are interested in saving Article 9. The SDP and the PNP, both coalition members, but the SDP has a staunch opposition to any changes to the constitution. However, with the addition of new DPJ members in the October by-elections in the upper house, and the addition of four new members from the Renaissance Party in the upper house, the DPJ no longer really need the SDP to have a majority in the upper house.
I see this move by the DPJ as being potentially dangerous to the coalition. Ozawa who organized the Renaissance Parties entry into the coalition may have felt that the SDP could get in the way of the DPJ, the same way the socialists got in his way back in 1994 when he was leader of the Shinseito. Ozawa could see the SDP as an irritant in the coalition.
Professor Tiberghien gave a very long talk on Japan’s new approach to foreign policy and was asked many tough questions on the issue by other participants.
Professor Tiberghien outlined the new direction in the following:
- The Hatoyama government would like to keep the US-Japan Alliance as an anchor of Japanese foreign policy.
- Rebalancing: Rebalance towards Asia and the UN, and give Japan a stronger voice against the US.
- Renegotiation of Okinawa Situation: particularly the Futenma transfers to Nago; however, Japan has no real leverage to bargain a new deal.
- End to the MSDF mission to the Indian Ocean.
Professor Tiberghien also focused on the aspect of the so called East Asian Community.
Professor Tiberghien stated that the success of this proposal depends on the relations with the Republic of Korea and the Peoples Republic of China. Korea would like to see the Takeshima, textbooks, and Yasukuni problems addressed and fixed. China would like to see the oil fields discussed and solved. China would also like to see that Japan respect Chinese sovereignty in Xingjian, Tibet, and Taiwan. Without this problems solved, Professor Tiberghien stated, there would be no hope for an East Asian Community.
The Okinawa issue was also discussed quite deeply by Professor Tiberghien. The current Okinawa issue all comes down to the 2006 agreement between the US and Japan on the relocation of Futenma from Ginowan to Nago by 2014. However, recently Foreign Minister Okada has shown some contempt for the 2006 agreement, and has suggested that Futenma simply be shut down and all functions moved to Kadena, but the US has opposed this deal.
Defense Minister Kitazawa, on the issue of Okinawa had stated that Japan should simply stick to the original plan. However, Okada would like to see this issue fixed in his own way as soon as possible, much to the dismay of the Obama administration. Hatoyama and Ozawa are both not enthusiastic about pressuring the US to a new deal.
There are now, due to the Okinawa issue, visible tensions between the US and Japan. Secretary of Defense Gate’s visit to Japan ended with nothing being discussed because both parties could not agree on what to talk about. Gates had come to Japan wanting to talk about Afghanistan and Iraq, and Hatoyama had wanted to talk about Okinawa.
In my personal opinion, the Okinawa issue should not be the prime focus of the DPJ. The DPJ has more things to worry about than Okinawa with the upper house elections coming up in the summer of 2010. The Okinawa issue could hurt the DPJ in the next elections as being time well wasted by the government, and could represent the DPJ as being out of touch and unable to keep its promises. The Okinawa issue is not something Japan has leverage on, and it could fail disastrously, which could cause a major defeat for the DPJ in the summer at the upper house elections.
In conclusion Professor Tiberghien summarized the change in policy, especially in foreign affairs. However, he also concluded by stating that the new government is facing an extremely tough reality, with a very small time frame between now and the upper house elections. At which point voters could turn against the DPJ if the social and economic issues are not met with real results.
I am once again inclined to agree with this conclusion. For the DPJ to be a pragmatic party that will be able to actually accomplish its goals, subjects such as Article 9 will have to be set aside for now. Article 9 is not an issue at the moment, the economy and social issues are the primary concern. However, the plus side to the fact that there is no interest in Article 9 at the moment is that no one is interested in changing it either.
Professor Tiberghien also stated that, “even if the LDP were in power they would not touch Article 9.” Essentially because it would be political suicide for any party to do so.
However, this does not mean the people are willing to support keeping Article 9 either, if the occasion arose. It simply means that the people don’t care, and to be perfectly frank, the people do not support candidates who do things that they don’t care about, such as issues over Article 9. I feel that the best thing to protect Article 9 in Japan, for now, is to keep Article 9 away from the spot light.
Dan Aizawa is a University of British Columbia student majoring in political science and history.