WORLD> Asia-Pacific
Japan vote won't affect US ties much
By Zhang Haizhou and Peng Kuang (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-30 09:41

No matter which party is in power, close alliance with the United States would remain central in Japan's foreign policy making, Chinese experts have said.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), widely expected to win the August 30 general election, has said it would try to adopt a diplomatic stance less subservient to Washington.

Japan vote won't affect US ties much

For example, DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama said Wednesday the party will terminate the anti-terrorism refueling mission by the Maritime Self-Defense Force in the Indian Ocean in January if it wins power in the August 30 general election. The refueling mission began in late 2001 to support Washington's war on terror in Afghanistan.

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The DPJ's quest for a more equal partnership with Washington has sparked concerns over friction in the alliance.

But Gao Hong, an expert on Japan studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said the DPJ, once in power, will surely continue to implement all the Japan-US security pacts, including the one on US military presence in Japan.

He noted that the DPJ has made some changes concerning its foreign policy to win the election.

"It has softened its tough tone on the US-Japan alliance," he said.

In a Reuters interview on Tuesday, DPJ's Secretary-General Katsuya Okada said US-Japan relations are "extremely important for Japan's national interests".

"We should consider how we can make US-Japan relations, the US-Japan alliance, more fruitful," he said.

Okada criticized Prime Minister Taro Aso's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for lack of a clear foreign policy. "Every time the counterpart (the US) changed, they just said the same thing."

Wang Ping, another expert on Japan studies expert at the CASS, concurred, saying the DPJ would strive to "be more independent" in the US-Japan alliance.

Wang Shaopu, former head of Japan studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the DPJ would try to make Japan an "equal partner" with the US in the alliance.

Being a "normal nation" has long been the DPJ's pursuit, meaning pulling Japan out of the shadow of being an invader and loser of the World War II.

It was Ichiro Ozawa, former DPJ head between 2006 and May 2009, who raised the idea of "normal nation" in 1993 by publishing a clear statement of his principles in the book Blueprint for a New Japan.

Ozawa also wished to amend Japan's peace constitution and send more Self-Defense Forces to participate in the United Nations' peacekeeping operations.

Reuters and Xinhua contributed to this story