DPJ and Japan-U.S. relations

Some media in the United States expressed concern that the new Japanese government to be headed by Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama may pursue a more independent foreign policy. The DPJ’s election platform and a recent article by Mr. Hatoyama that appeared in The New York Times Web site edition are the reason.

The DPJ’s platform calls “close and equal” allied ties between Japan and the U.S. the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy and says that to create such ties, the party will “establish an autonomous diplomatic strategy and then actively fulfill Japan’s responsibility by dividing roles with the U.S.”

In his article, Mr. Hatoyama wrote, “How should Japan maintain its political and economic independence and protect its national interest when caught between the United States . . . and China?” He also said, “Of course, the Japan-U.S. security pact will continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy.”

His mention of “unrestrained market fundamentalism and financial capitalism” and “the excess of the current globalized brand of capitalism” also has invited criticism in the U.S.

The DPJ seeks a review of the Japan-U.S. agreement to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma, Okinawa, to another part of the island, saying it should be moved to mainland Japan or abroad. It also opposes the massive financial burden placed on Japan by the plan to move U.S. marines to Guam. The U.S. views these demands as inconsistent with its world military strategy. The DPJ also plans to end the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s fueling mission in the Indian Ocean in January.

In a telephone conversation Thursday, Mr. Hatoyama and Mr. Obama “stressed the importance of a strong U.S.-Japan alliance and their desire to build an even more effective partnership.” It will be imperative that Mr. Hatoyama do his utmost to reaffirm the importance of the alliance and to establish trustful relations between him and Mr. Obama when they meet later this month.

Mr. Hatoyama needs to take an insightful and careful approach. A trustful relationship with Mr. Obama will provide a solid foundation for him to take up individual issues and make proposals for joint projects with the U.S.