April 25, 2004


Koizumi Leaving His Mark on Japan After Three Years in Office (Audrey McAvoy, Apr 25, 2004, Associated Press)

As he enters his fourth year in power on Monday - a milestone achieved by only five of Japan's 26 postwar premiers - [Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi has wrought dramatic changes in defense policy and broken with conventions in the way Cabinet members are chosen. [...]

Japan began refueling and supplying warships of the U.S.-led coalition in the Indian Ocean to support the war on terror in Afghanistan - the first in a series of decisions by Koizumi that have tested the limits of the nation's pacifist constitution.

Koizumi has tirelessly championed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and pushed special legislation through Parliament to send troops to Iraq on a humanitarian mission, the country's first military deployment to a combat zone since 1945.

The missions in Afghanistan and Iraq broke new ground for Japan's military, which has been severely restricted by a public skeptical of military might and a pacifist constitution drafted by U.S. occupiers after Japan's defeat in World War II.

"He's a different type of character - for better or for worse - and this has enabled him to implement such policies," said Masato Ushio, an assistant professor at Seigakuin University.

The importance for Koizumi of close ties with the United States has also helped this process, he said.

With his preference for popular music and permed silver hair, Koizumi flew in the face of Japan's typically ultraconservative politicians when he was elected three years ago. He was famously called a "weirdo" by his then most-ardent supporter, politician Akiko Tanaka.

He has consolidated decision-making under his office and grabbed the right to make his own Cabinet appointments, a privilege once shared by power brokers in his Liberal Democratic Party.

Still, he has yet to take a hatchet to heavily protected industries and public services to ignite an economic recovery that would lift Japan out of its decade-long slump.

Hard to have any hope for a nation where you can represent a radical break with transition without so much as addressing any of the country's fundamental problems.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2004 11:35 PM

Curiously, though, Japan's economy is growing, though slowly. It is liquidating the stupid investments it made in the 1980s, much slower than Americans would favor.

But the results don't seem too bad overall.

The notion that the was the US jerks around its economy is the only way is perhaps incorrect.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 27, 2004 1:03 AM