Unlike Keizo Obuchi, who was already known internationally from his stint as foreign minister when he became prime minister, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori remains a relative unknown on the international scene.
His low profile in world politics may thus prompt him to commence his Golden Week talks with fellow Group of Eight leaders by simple introductory talks, according to special adviser Nobutaka Machimura.
Mori will begin his tour of the other G8 member nations today to exchange views on the agenda of the G8 summit in Okinawa in July and to build close relations with the leaders, who may know little about Japan’s new prime minister.
While some of Mori’s aides have expressed concern that the trip’s tight schedule may affect his health, Machimura says the prime minister is not worried. Mori is a veteran politician determined to carry out his diplomatic task, he said.
“The prime minister is strongly determined to have a successful G8 summit and these visits will be a significant step toward that goal,” Machimura said in a recent interview.
But, he admitted, “for starters, the prime minister should announce himself at each meeting.”
Machimura says he is optimistic because he believes Mori is well aware of the significance of establishing relations and trust with the other G8 leaders before the meeting in Okinawa.
Machimura said that during the Golden Week talks, Mori will seek the cooperation of the G8 states so that “the summit held in an Asian country can contribute to the peace and prosperity of Asian nations.”
Taking recent positive moves into consideration, such as a planned summit between South Korea and North Korea and resumed normalization talks between Tokyo and Pyongyang, Mori will convey to his G8 counterparts his intention to take the initiative to ensure peace in Asia, Machimura said.
Mori will also convey his hopes to discuss the effects of information technology on various countries at the Okinawa summit, he said.
Aside from the agenda of the summit, Mori is expected to discuss specific issues with the other G8 leaders.
In his talks Saturday with Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin, Mori’s mission is to confirm Putin’s opinion on a series of previous agreements between the two countries, Machimura said.
Mori has expressed his intention to make sure the two nations continue their efforts to resolve their territorial dispute by the end of the year, as previously agreed.
“The territorial dispute is not an easy issue, but the Japanese government needs to do its utmost in diplomatic terms to solve the problem,” Machimura said.
Meanwhile, Machimura dismissed speculation that his role has recently been expanded to support the weak position of Mori, who was hastily installed as prime minister earlier this month.
Machimura, a former education minister, was appointed in March as educational issue adviser to Obuchi, who was replaced as prime minister early this month when he suffered a massive stroke and fell into a coma.
Since Mori took office, however, Machimura’s workload has increased. As a close aide to Mori in the Liberal Democratic Party’s third-largest faction, Machimura is now stationed at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence and has begun to be more actively involved in policymaking.
Instead of having close aides of his faction in the government, Mori is still surrounded by key members of the Obuchi faction — including Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukushiro Nukaga.
“Although they belong to a different group within the LDP, Mr. Mori is still the prime minister from the LDP. They are providing him with their full support,” Machimura said.
According to Machimura, the most important policy for the Mori administration is to ensure an economic recovery.
Adhering to Obuchi’s policy line is only natural for Mori right now, Machimura said, adding that Mori’s work will start properly after the next general election. Currently, it is widely speculated that the poll may come as early as June.
“If the three coalition parties can enjoy victory in the elections, the time will come for Mori to be able to present his own color (in the government) fully,” Machimura said. “Mori’s full-scale work (as prime minister) may start after the elections.”