Aso demands DPJ come to table

by Kazuaki Nagata

With an extraordinary Diet session expected to start later this month or in September, Taro Aso, newly appointed secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, challenged the Democratic Party of Japan Tuesday not to duck talks with the ruling bloc on its own policy proposals.

“We (lawmakers) represent Japanese citizens, so we have to gather and talk,” Aso said at LDP headquarters in Tokyo, accusing the main opposition party of maneuvering to avoid policy discussions with the ruling camp during the last session. “The Diet session does not really move forward unless we have discussions. Do you think the people prefer there be no discussions? I don’t think so.”

The LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc has had a hard time getting bills passed in the divided Diet since July 2007, when the DPJ-led opposition camp took control of the Upper House.

A main focus of the upcoming Diet session will be the ruling bloc’s bid to extend a special antiterrorism bill, which expires in January, to allow Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to continue their refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

“The world’s attention has been shifting from Iraq to Afghanistan,” said Aso, an LDP heavyweight who took the senior post Friday when Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda reshuffled the Cabinet and LDP leadership.

Aso said Japan should think about other ways to make international contributions besides a naval refueling mission in support of antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan. “Only Japan retreating from there, that’s doubtful,” he said.

On the economy, Aso said he thinks Japan is headed toward a recession.