Opposition delays motion to censure defense minister

Kyodo

Two key opposition parties agreed Wednesday to delay submitting a censure motion against Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka until after North Korea’s planned rocket launch, opposition lawmakers said.

The Liberal Democratic Party has wanted to submit the motion to the Diet before the planned launch, but political ally New Komeito objected. The motion will target Tanaka’s inexperience and limited knowledge on security issues.

North Korea has said it will launch an “Earth observation satellite” using a rocket sometime between April 12 and 16 to mark the centennial of the April 15 birth of the country’s late founder, Kim Il Sung.

Japan and many other countries suspect the launch is a disguised long-range ballistic missile test in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The LDP and New Komeito agreed on their policy during a meeting of senior lawmakers from both the Upper and Lower houses.

Senior New Komeito lawmakers argued that if the motion were to be submitted to the Upper House on Thursday, there is a risk that any personnel change involving the defense minister would not be settled by the time North Korea pushes ahead with its launch.

The LDP had proposed to submit the motion Thursday, which is when the fiscal 2012 budget is expected to be passed.

That is no longer feasible, a senior LDP lawmaker in the Upper House told reporters after the meeting, adding that the LDP has no plans to submit the motion on its own.

The LDP and New Komeito will discuss the right timing for the motion after assessing various factors, such as the response to North Korea’s rocket launch, the lawmaker said.

If the censure motion passes, it could pose a new headache for the administration and ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which is struggling to maintain unity after four senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries announced their resignations.

Noda indicated at an Upper House Budget Committee session that their successors will be chosen as soon as possible. “We will take all possible measures so as not to affect administrative tasks,” he said.

The four are supporters of former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, who heads the biggest faction within the DPJ and who is strongly opposed to Noda’s tax hike.