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Japan's DPJ revises its foreign policy stance

The party widely tipped to take power in Japan soon has been struggling to define its foreign policy, torn between its pacifist roots and the real-world challenges of government.

For years in opposition, the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ DPJ Democratic Party of Japan
DPJ Département de la Protection de la Jeunesse
) has opposed Japan's gradually expanding role in "American wars," including rear-guard missions in support of US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In recent months, however, as the DPJ has taken a strong lead over Prime Minister Taro Aso's conservative government ahead of August 30 elections, the party has been moderating its foreign policy and security policies.

Few observers now expect radical change if and when the DPJ takes power, and the party itself has been at pains to reassure foreign capitals, especially Washington, that Japan will remain a reliable partner.

The US-Japan security alliance has been the bedrock of officially pacifist Japan's diplomacy during the Cold War and more recently as North Korea has flexed its nuclear muscle and China has steeply raised defence spending defence spending ngasto militar .

The DPJ this month quietly withdrew its past vows for a "radical revision" of the US security alliance or of quickly pushing for a reduction of the 40,000 US forces based in Japan, mainly on southern Okinawa island Okinawa Island (沖縄本島 Okinawa-hontō,or 沖縄島Okinawa-jima) is the largest of the Ryukyu Islands, and is home to Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture. The island has an area of  km ( sq mi). .

Nonetheless, on Wednesday the man who would be prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama Yukio Hatoyama (鳩山由紀夫 Hatoyama Yukio) (born 2 February 1947 in Tokyo) is a politician of the Democratic Party of Japan representing the 18th district of Tokyo in the House of Representatives. , also signalled that not everything will be business as usual and that his DPJ would back away from the current government's more hawkish stance.

Asked on the campaign trail whether his government would end an Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, third largest ocean, c.28,350,000 sq mi (73,427,000 sq km), extending from S Asia to Antarctica and from E Africa to SE Australia; it is c.4,000 mi (6,400 km) wide at the equator. It constitutes about 20% of the world's total ocean area.  naval refuelling re·fu·el  
v. re·fu·eled also re·fu·elled, re·fu·el·ing also re·fu·el·ling, re·fu·els also re·fu·els
To supply again with fuel.

 mission that has since 2001 supported US operations in Afghanistan, Hatoyama said "our basic stance is not to extend it."

It was the first concrete example of the party's campaign pledge, published this week, that it would be seeking "independent-minded diplomatic policies and putting the Japan-US alliance on a close and equal footing."

"There will be some change in Japan's diplomacy as Hatoyama wants to show his own colours, which would be different from Aso's," said Tetsuro Kato, professor of politics at Hitotsubashi University Hitotsubashi University is one of the most renowned Japanese universities for the social sciences, in particular commerce, economics and sociology. It has produced many alumni who went on to play active roles in the finance and industrial sectors.  in Tokyo.

"Ending the Afghan mission is one example. But the change is likely to be limited, partially because the opposition camp is made up of a mixture of conservatives and liberals who are sharply divided over foreign policy."

Taking a cautious approach, Hatoyama also stressed that, if he wins, as polls predict, he would "want to build relations of trust with President (Barack) Obama," who is expected to visit Tokyo in November.

A senior DPJ party source told media that Tokyo would also seek to placate the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  with new aid projects in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The approach would be a return to the traditional "soft power" emphasis of post-war Japan, which has focused much more on generous aid than boots on the ground "Boots on the ground" is an all-purpose term used to describe ground forces actually fighting in a war or conflict at the time of speaking, rather than troops not engaged or being transported to the fighting. , sometimes drawing charges of "chequebook diplomacy."

Japan's post-World War II constitution prohibits military action and limits the role of its so-called Self-Defence Forces, and Tokyo has long proudly flown the flag of pacifism pacifism, advocacy of opposition to war through individual or collective action against militarism. Although complete, enduring peace is the goal of all pacifism, the methods of achieving it differ.  while also strongly campaigning for a nuclear-free world.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan almost without break since 1955, has in recent years sought a more prominent role for Japan on the international stage, in line with its status as the world's number two economy.

Aso's LDP LDP - Linux Documentation Project  has strongly pushed Japan's long-held wish of a permanent UN Security Council seat and also gradually expanded Japan's military efforts abroad, including taking part in anti-piracy patrols off Somalia.

Almost every time the LDP has wanted to send soldiers abroad, the DPJ has objected -- but now most observers expect that the DPJ, once in power, is unlikely to sharply diverge from Tokyo's past positions, and that any foreign policy changes it makes will be incremental and mostly symbolic.

"We live in a world where we cannot expect rapid changes of principle," said Jiro Yamaguchi, politics professor at the Hokkaido University. "By showing degrees of change, you can demonstrate your political philosophy."
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Publication:AFP Asian Edition
Date:Jul 30, 2009
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