Saturday, November 08, 2003

Referendum on Koizumi's foreign policy?

The Japan Times thinks that the approaching election in Japan could be a referendum on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's foreign policy.

During his two and half years in office, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has faced a series of major diplomatic challenges, including the U.S. strike on Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the nuclear-weapons program in North Korea and the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents. In a way, Sunday's general election is a test of his foreign policy.

The biggest of these challenges, of course, has been the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism that followed the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Japan responded quickly to the military action against the Taliban -- the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan -- by establishing a counterterrorism law to provide logistic support, such as supplying fuel to U.S. ships in the Indian Ocean. The law has been extended for another two years.

Japan also backed the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq during the divisive debate at the U.N. Security Council, parting with other major powers that opposed the war such as France, Germany and Russia. Japan is now committed to provide a large amount of reconstruction aid; it is the single largest donor after the U.S. Tokyo is also ready to send troops and supplies to help rebuild Iraq.

The Japan-U.S. alliance today is said to be in its best condition in recent memory. However, Japan's perceived tilt toward the "unilateralist" policy of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration has raised doubts, both here and abroad, about the nation's traditional policy of international cooperation centered on the United Nations. Many Japanese wonder, in fact, whether it is best policy to maintain a hand-in-glove relationship with Washington.

UPDATE: Koizumi holds on to power, although the opposition party makes some gains.


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