Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi was to meet with Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Liberal Party, on Tuesday night about the establishment of a coalition government in early January, government sources said the same night.
On Tuesday, LDP Diet Affairs Committee chief Makoto Koga repeatedly proposed to Toshihiro Nikai, Koga’s counterpart in the Liberal Party, that a meeting between Obuchi and Ozawa originally scheduled for Monday be rescheduled Tuesday.
The meeting was reportedly postponed due to the Liberal Party’s dissatisfaction over the LDP’s opaque stance on key issues, including security.
After meeting with Koga, Nikai told reporters that he had told his counterpart that the Liberal Party may accept a meeting of the parties’ top leaders if the LDP sincerely discusses policy issues.
The Liberal Party has been calling for more active Self-Defense Forces participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions. However, the LDP remains reluctant to expand the SDF’s role.
Earlier in the day, the two parties launched two of five project teams to discuss security and other key issues that divide the parties. The step is in line with a decision by secretaries general of the parties to launch the five teams, each with six to 10 members.
One team discussed security issues and the other the ending of the system in which bureaucrats answer questions addressed to Cabinet ministers during Diet deliberations and the introduction of a new vice ministerial system.
Regarding security issues, the two parties confirmed they will discuss in greater detail principles of preserving peace and international cooperation spelled out in the Constitution, as well as common views regarding preconditions for SDF participation in peacekeeping activities.
They also agreed to discuss the details of new Japan-U.S. defense guidelines, including inspections of unidentified ships at sea.
The security team will meet again Jan. 6 to hammer out a common stance before the regular Diet session convenes Jan. 19.
Nobuaki Futami, team leader from the Liberal Party, said the members need to clarify under what conditions the SDF can participate in multinational forces when such forces are set up based on U.N. resolutions, and whether to lift the current freeze on their participation in U.N. peacekeeping forces.
“The most important thing is to clarify what the SDF must not and cannot do,” Futami told reporters after the meeting.
Earlier in the day, the second project team looked into the abolishment of the system where bureaucrats answer questions to Cabinet ministers and the introduction of a vice ministerial system to increase the presence of politicians in the ministries.
The two sides remain apart on the issues. While the Liberal Party hopes to keep bureaucrats out of Diet deliberations, the LDP insists that politicians should be able to refer to them during Diet debate if technical questions arise.
The remaining three teams will discuss issues such as the reduction of the number of Lower and Upper House members by 50, administrative reform and economic policies, including tax reform.