New leader pledges to cooperate with rivals

Kyodo

Yoshihiko Noda, newly elected leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, expressed resolve Monday to stick to the policies of outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan and work closely with the opposition camp.

Noda told reporters in his first news conference after winning the runoff election in the DPJ’s leadership race that he will “abide in good faith with an agreement” made by his party with the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and its ally, New Komeito.

Noda, the finance minister in Kan’s outgoing Cabinet, was referring to an accord struck earlier in August among the three parties to review a number of the DPJ’s key policies, including the child allowance program.

His rival in the runoff, trade minister Banri Kaieda, had hinted at nullifying the accord. Kaieda was backed by former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, who has been a staunch critic of Kan’s administration.

Noda repeated that he is open to the idea of forming a grand coalition with the LDP.

The country is struggling to deal with the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters and ensuing nuclear crisis, putting pressure on the ruling party to foster good ties with the opposition in order to pass key legislation.

The ruling party dominates the more powerful Lower House, but lacks a majority in the Upper House — which can delay the passage of bills.

Noda also pledged to tackle pressing issues, including reconstructing areas devastated by the March disaster, containing the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and dealing with Japan’s economic woes.

While emphasizing cooperation with the opposition bloc, Noda said in his remarks shortly after winning the runoff that he will do his utmost to boost unity in the ruling party and work to end long-standing divisions between factions.

“There are no sides now,” Noda said.