Sunday, September 23, 2007

Can the anti-terror law be rescued this session?

The most significant challenge facing Mr. Fukuda as he enters office may be responding to allegations that the MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean was in fact refueling US ships participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which would, of course, contravene the terms of the MSDF mission.

In addition to the allegations noted by Jun Okumura, the former commanding officer of the USS Enterprise told Asahi that Japanese vessels provided fuel for operations related to OIF — with the Ministry of Defense's admitting that this was possible.

All of this gives credence to the DPJ's claims that the government has been less than forthcoming with information about the MSDF mission, thereby justifying the DPJ's opposition to the extension of the law.

Argues Nagashima Akihisa, DPJ member of the House of Representatives: "And still the government argues this [the MSDF only support OEF] vehemently! They not know when to give up, and they're excessively dishonest and insincere." Mr. Nagashima suggests an important point — namely that American officers weren't particularly concerned about the finer points of the law enabling Japan's contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom when they went about their missions, which straddled OEF and OIF. He is unclear, however, about the impact these revelations will have on public support for renewal, which has been trending in the government's favor of late.

But Mr. Fukuda has expressed his determination to introduce a new bill this session that authorizes support for OEF, this despite the recommendation of Yamasaki Taku, his ally, that a new bill should wait until next year's regular Diet session. He insists that it is necessary to pass the bill this session, lest other countries begin to wonder "what is Japan really doing." It's altogether unclear to me how Mr. Fukuda can do this. As Amaki Naoto suggests, these latest revelations about the deception surrounding the MSDF mission should and will likely stiffen Mr. Ozawa's and the DPJ's resolve on this issue, which means that presumably any anti-terror bill sent by the Lower House to the Upper will languish there until the end of the session. Regardless of how quickly the government could get a new law through the Lower House, that would mean that the government would have to wait until several weeks into the new Diet session before the bill automatically became law by virtue of the Upper House's not acting on it.

The wild card might be public opinion. If Mr. Fukuda is given a honeymoon, he may be able to use public support as a bludgeon to pressure the DPJ to compromise on the Indian Ocean mission, regardless of the allegations of illegal activities by the MSDF. The ASDF's Iraq mission is probably beyond salvaging in light of these revelations, if it wasn't doomed already; it's too good a bargaining chip for the government not to use to get a compromise on a bill that has become the single biggest test facing Mr. Fukuda.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read in Time (or Newsweek) that Fukuda was a compromise made as a bargain between the DPJ and LDP for the DPJ to (quietly) allow the anti-terror law to be rescued in the current session. I submit this as a different take on what happened.

Japan Observer said...

Interesting theory, but at what point in this scheme does the DPJ drop its opposition and start talking? There have been few signs of the DPJ backing down, loudly or quietly.