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Japan Diary

November 6, 2009

Obama is coming to Japan---new relations between Japan and the U.S.

President Obama is coming to East Asia in one week. This is an important visit because it will set the basic tone for U.S.'s relations with East Asia, the power house of the world economy, in coming several years---the decisive period when the direction of the basic order in East Asia will be determined with the rising China in it.

Japan has now a new ruling party, DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan). The rare shift in power became possible because of people's aspiration for more participation in politics and because of wide-spread frustration with Koizumi's reforms (his reforms not only dealt a blow to many vested interests but also lowered the level of social welfare and medical service).

The most imminent goal of DPJ is the victory in coming (next summer) election in the Upper House of the Parliament. DPJ does not have majority in the Upper House, and because of this DPJ is forced into a coalition with other parties (one of them is Social Democratic Party, off-spring of the pro-Soviet, pacifist Socialist Party), which limits freedom in DPJ's decision-making.

DPJ owes its landslide victory in August election to the efforts of Ichiro OZAWA, current General Secretary of the Party. It is he who now presides over DPJ members in the Parliament. Because of Ozawa and other important politicians in DPJ Hatoyama's power remains relative. One can safely say that DPJ is under collective leadership.

On top of that Premier Hatoyama himself does not have articulate views on many issues. He calls for a "more equal relations" with the U.S. while at the same time says that the Japan-U.S. relations are supreme for Japan. According to him, he is still "studying" about such important issues as Japan-U.S. security relationship.

President Obama will land on such an amorphous ground. But this visit is so important that both sides should not aim at some "dressed-up" success. Differences of opinion should be frankly discussed between both leaders, and they will soon find out that they have many important things in common: belief in the principles of freedom, democracy and open economy---and criticism on the U.S. former administration.

In a word President Obama's visit to Japan should set out basic principles for the relations between Japan and the U.S. under "Democratic Parties".

What is more, we have common interests in the following very important issues, and the cooperation between Japan and the U.S. can make real big differences.

1. Cooperation for macro-economic stabilization
Japan is eager to contribute to stabilization of the world economy.
Japan is aware of the fact that the economies of East Asia and the U.S. are mutually dependent. Japan, the second largest foreign owner of U.S. Treasury Bills, is determined to act that the prices of U.S. Treasury Bills be not disrupted.

2. Cooperation in further strengthening APEC
Hatoyama is promoting the idea of "East Asian Community". This is a long-term goal, and meanwhile he could go along with APEC on which the U.S. government attaches priority.

APEC summit meeting will be held in Japan in 2010, and in the U.S. in 2011. APEC is a good arena where all member countries could confirm the principle of free trade. Further, it may well address political issues like CSCE did in 1975, which confirmed the status quo in Europe and launched confidence building measures.

3. The Futemma issue should not become a stumbling block for the visit.
What is important is the basic: "Japan needs America in its security. For the U.S., too, partnership with Japan is essential for maintenance of stability and open market economy in Asia"
Such a broad announcement is what is precisely needed at this moment in East Asia.

Dear President Obama, you are popular in Japan, too. Many Japanese are looking forward to seeing you.

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