August 20, 2005


Koizumi lays out bold policy vision (Martin Fackler, AUGUST 20, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

TOKYO Laying out a new policy agenda ahead of national elections next month, Japan's governing party outlined a vision for the country's future on Friday that called for shrinking the size of government, taking a more assertive stance in Asia and strengthening the Japanese military.

The list of 120 policy proposals by the Liberal Democratic Party helps draw the battle lines in Sept. 11's lower house elections, which were suddenly called by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last week after lawmakers rejected by a narrow margin his bill to privatize Japan's massive postal system.

The elections are widely seen here as a referendum on the future course of Japan, both the sorts of measures the country will take to rejuvenate its low-growth $5 trillion economy, and whether it will alter a pacifist foreign policy adopted after defeat in World War II.

Some of the Liberal Democrats' proposals aim to bolster the status of the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan calls its military. The party platform calls for revising constitutional restrictions originally written by American occupiers after World War II that have barred a full-fledged armed forces.

The party also aims to upgrade the Defense Agency, currently under the Cabinet Office, to the status of a full ministry, and to pass a new law making it easier to send Japanese troops overseas to join multinational operations. [...]

Koizumi, who will also be running, is staking his political career on a plan he has pushed to privatize the 250,000-employee postal system, which not only delivers mail but also runs an insurance company and a savings institution whose $2 trillion in deposits make it the largest bank in the world in terms of assets.

Koizumi has made privatizing the postal system the centerpiece in his cautious reform agenda, which he has billed as an effort to shift more functions from the government to the private sector. His reform plan would turn the postal system into four separate companies, including a bank and insurance company that would become private by 2017. [...]

While the Democratic Party opposes Koizumi's plan to privatize the post office, it offered an alternative plan for reducing government by cutting public spending on projects like building dams by 10 trillion yen, or almost $100 billion, over the next three years.

The Democratic Party also offered a very radically different approach to foreign policy, vowing to pull Japanese troops out of occupied Iraq by December, to revise an agreement on the status of U.S. military forces in Japan and to adopt a more conciliatory stance toward demands by other Asian countries that Japan show more remorse for atrocities committed by its soldiers during the 1930s and 1940s.

One focus of the election will be on whether the Democratic Party can gain enough seats to become a viable alternative to the Liberal Democrats, who have virtually monopolized Japanese politics for most of the past half-century.

He deserves full credit for trying, but even in what has been a virtual one party state it seems unlikely that the aging populace of a moribund society is going to choose a more adventurous foreign policy and riskier welfare state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 20, 2005 8:15 AM

My political junkiness doesn't seem to reach as far as Japan. Sorry to say, as long as it doesn't affect us negatively, I can't really care what goes on there.

Posted by: erp at August 20, 2005 9:04 AM

Isn't a "list of 120 policy proposals" TWENTY TIMES larger than what is optimal for an effective campaign manifesto ?

Japan should have a more effective military, and if they only send one division whenever there's some international coalition forming, then the small size of their future military won't much matter, and they can still keep a hand in.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 20, 2005 10:01 AM