Saturday, September 1, 2007

The LDP, somewhere between a rock and a hard place

US officials — including the president — continue to voice their desire that Japan renew the anti-terror special measures law (the latest contributor is National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley), and the new Abe Cabinet continues to signal its willingness to compromise with the DPJ in getting the law passed.

It's not entirely clear to me how to square the difference between these two conditions. From the US, the LDP is being pressured to act forcefully and do whatever it takes to get the law passed, including, presumably, forcing the law through the Lower House in the face of an Upper House "veto." From the Japanese political system, meanwhile, the LDP is facing pressure to act responsibly, to defer to the desires of the people and the newly elected opposition majority in the Upper House. At the same time, I remain convinced that every statement by an American official insisting that Japan pass the law makes it all the more likely that the DPJ will remain uncompromising out of a desire not to appear to be caving in to US pressure.

The result of this two-pronged pressure on the LDP? Ishihara Nobuteru, newly selected LDP PARC chairman, actually suggested that if the bill doesn't pass, it could potentially result in the dissolution of the Lower House and a general election. Given that Mr. Ozawa has stated repeatedly that the DPJ's goal this autumn is to force an early general election, I can't see how Mr. Ishihara's admission will help his government's stated goal of inducing the DPJ to cooperate.

Mr. Ishihara also called attention to the role of the MSDF in enabling Pakistani vessels to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom — Japan is "the only country technically able to refuel Pakistani ships" — an argument he repeated on The Sunday Project as I write this. Maybe this is a stupidly obvious question, but can't the Pakistanis refuel their own ships? And will the coalition really suffer if Pakistani ships can't serve in the flotilla in the Indian Ocean? I don't buy the argument made by Mr. Ishihara that Japan is responsible for keeping Pakistan in the fight: It's not like Pakistan can opt out simply by removing its ships, given that the war has spilled over its borders. (And now, on The Sunday Project, Mr. Nukaga seems to be joining the argument on the terror bill as a second defense minister.)

It's too early to rule out a compromise, but as the weeks go on, the challenge facing the government is growing inexorably.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

The Pakastani ships thing certainly seems odd. The question for me is not "why can't they refuel their own ships?", but "How did Pakistan wind up with a whole load of ships that can "only" be refueled by Japanese vessels?" What were they thinking when they bought them? Weird.