Election tough for LDP

July 28, 2009 at 9:30 AM
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TOKYO, July 28 (UPI) -- Questions have come up in the United States about Japan's Aug. 30 elections' impact on the U.S.-Japan military alliance and other bilateral issues if the opposition Democratic Party of Japan defeats the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan-led ruling coalition.

There doesn't appear any immediate threat to the alliance, which has made Japan the strongest post-World War II Asian ally of the United States. However, a defeat for the LDP, which has governed Japan for most of the past five decades, could cause the United States to lose the strongest supporter not only of the alliance but other major bilateral issues.

The LDP's fortunes lately have dipped with the country mired in recession, Prime Minister Taro Aso's plunging popularity and interparty rivalries. Aso was forced to call the elections after the DPJ soundly defeated his coalition in the recent Tokyo assembly elections, seen as a determining outcome factor in the national election called to pick the next lower house of Parliament.

The LDP currently controls the powerful lower house, and the DPJ, which has been chipping away at Aso's party, the upper house. Not the least of LDP's political headaches lately has been the resignations of two prime ministers midway through their terms prior to Aso.

The DPJ is also not without its problems. One of its embarrassing moments was the resignation of its powerful leader over a campaign-financing issue involving his ally.

The Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, said in an editorial the public's disenchantment with the LDP has been unusually severe. However, it also said Aso had proved "pathetically unfocused and incapable of convincing the public of his often shaky policies" at a time when the "nation is confronted by widening social and economic disparities, deepening poverty among the underprivileged, job insecurity and battered regional economies."

The newspaper said Japan has always "snuggled up" to the United States, "but the latter's solo domination over the world is already over," adding the United States "cannot ignore the growing presence of China," which will soon take over Japan as the world's second-largest economy.

North Korea's growing intransigence beginning with its May 25 nuclear test may add to the strains already witnessed in U.S.-Japan relations. More and more, Japan feels the United States, preoccupied with Pyongyang, may not be able to devote enough attention to the highly charged unresolved issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by the unpredictable communist country.

Other issues burdening U.S.-Japan relations include the opposition's calls for reducing U.S. troops in Japan and letting Tokyo take on more responsibility for its own defense, relocating U.S. troops from Okinawa and Japan's huge U.S. debt in the face of mounting U.S. deficits.

Some U.S. experts say the future of the U.S.-Japan alliance will be determined by how the Obama administration responds to contemporary issues even as its attention is taken away by other pressing issues such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the fight against terrorism.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, John Roos, the U.S. ambassador-designate to Japan, said the two countries' military alliance is "the cornerstone of security and stability in the East Asia-Pacific region."

Kyodo quoted him as saying the close bilateral relations will remain unchanged even if the DPJ wins the election.

"I believe that the DPJ will be equally committed, to the strength of the alliance and the bilateral relationships, and that those policies will evolve as we get closer and post the election," he said.

Separately, Kyodo quoted Aso as saying the Japanese Foreign Ministry was planning with the U.S. State Department for President Obama to make his first official visit to Japan in November.

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