Politicians to lead but knowhow of mandarins vital: Hatoyama

by Masami Ito

New Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama vowed Wednesday to create an administration that will break the strong grip of bureaucrats on policymaking and budgets.

“Now is the time to seek a government that does not depend on bureaucrats, to put it into practice,” Hatoyama said. “We will create a government in which the politicians will take the lead and utilize the excellent capabilities of the bureaucrats.”

Hatoyama recently drew criticism in the United States over an opinion piece that was published in his name in The New York Times, suggesting the new leader is anti-U.S. and opposed to globalization.

On Wednesday, Hatoyama, who is set to go to the U.S. to attend the U.N. General Assembly next week, stressed his intention of building a solid relationship of trust with President Barack Obama.

“The first step is to build a trusting relationship with President Obama,” Hatoyama said. “As for the other U.S.-Japan related themes such as security issues, I think it is important to give it a little more time and review them comprehensively.”

On the North Korea abductee issue, a reporter pointed out that two Cabinet ministers — Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Justice Minister Keiko Chiba — signed a petition for the release of a former North Korean spy and death row inmate in South Korea who was said to be involved in the abduction of Megumi Yokota.

While admitting the facts over the petition were true, Hatoyama pointed out that he appointed Hiroshi Nakai, a key lawmaker “who has been extremely actively involved in the abductee issue,” to serve as minister in charge of the abduction issue.

“I believe that details of the past are true,” Hatoyama said. “But what is most important is to urge North Korea to realistically resolve the abductee issue.”

An extraordinary Diet session is expected to kick off in mid or late October, and the Liberal Democratic Party, the strongest opposition force, is expected to attack Hatoyama over his political fundraising scandal.

In June, Hatoyama admitted his political fund management body reported ¥22 million in donations from people who deny making any contributions or are deceased.

“Having apologized to the people for raising concern (over the scandal), I have made amendments” to the report, he said. “True, it may be difficult to seek the understanding of the people, but I plan on making more efforts to explain.”

Postal reform threat

Kyodo News

Shizuka Kamei, new minister in charge of postal services and financial affairs, expressed his intention Wednesday to review postal privatization reform.

“I want to enact a basic law to unify three Japan Post services at an extraordinary Diet session,” Kamei, leader of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), said.

Kamei opposes the privatization process of the government-owned Japan Post Holdings Co.

“I’m (now) standing at the start line,” Kamei said, recalling the path he has taken to correct what he called “wrong politics.”

“I’m filled with emotion,” he added.

The 10-year process of privatizing the postal services began in October 2007, creating four companies under the Japan Post holding company to provide mail delivery, over-the-counter services, banking and insurance operations.