OSAKA – The party led by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara will call for a relaxation of long-standing restrictions on overseas use of weapons by the Self-Defense Forces in its platform for next month’s election, sources said Wednesday.
The Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) platform, to be announced Thursday, will also include pledges to strengthen maritime surveillance activities and sharply reduce the number of Diet seats, the sources said.
To conform with the pacifist Constitution, SDF personnel on peacekeeping missions can only use their weapons for self-defense. The peacekeeping operations cooperation law does not allow them to use weapons to counter an attack on other countries’ troops taking part in the same mission.
The limitations have drawn criticism for hampering Japan’s ability to contribute to the international community and to ensure the safety of SDF personnel in harm’s way.
With the Senkaku territorial dispute raising tension with China, Nippon Ishin will promise to strengthen the surveillance power of the Japan Coast Guard, according to the sources.
Ishihara, known for his hawkish views, started the diplomatic crisis when he was still governor by announcing in April that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government planned to buy three of the islets in the East China Sea.
Hoping to prevent the tension from escalating, the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided in mid-September to purchase the islets, though in the end Beijing was still enraged.
Nippon Ishin, founded by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to take on the major established parties, absorbed Ishihara’s small political group earlier this month despite major differences between them over whether to aim for ending the nation’s use of nuclear power.
After the merger, Hashimoto has become less vocal about his goal to shutter all reactors.
On nuclear issues, Nippon Ishin is considering stating in the platform that all reactors will go offline “eventually” in the 2030s, according to the sources.
Antinuclear stand hit
The launch of a new political party announced Tuesday by Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada was greeted with caution and skepticism by existing political forces, who said her plan to create a new force centered on an antinuclear agenda could easily collapse once the Dec. 16 Lower House election is over.
“Japan’s politics would lose trust if the new party is only aimed at winning the election,” Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe said, referring to the launch of Nippon Mirai no To (Japan Future Party) earlier in the day.
Abe questioned if the party can work out policy differences among various small groups, including people close to Kada and members who came from Ichiro Ozawa’s Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First), which disbanded Tuesday to merge with Kada’s party. Ozawa’s party was also against nuclear power, whereas the LDP has been advocating the restart of the nation’s reactors.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, chief of LDP ally New Komeito, warned that the new party may “face the same fate as the Democratic Party of Japan,” saying the DPJ-led government came to a standstill after failing to maintain party unity on key issues.
The DPJ was also critical of the new party.
“It came right out of the blue,” DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi told reporters, while DPJ heavyweight and Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada pointed out at a news conference that the new party “has no organization to carry out its policy agendas.”
The harshest criticism came from Toru Hashimoto, the No. 2 man in Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which was recently launched by him and now has former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara as its leader. Before Ishihara came on board, Nippon Ishin was also pushing for an end to nuclear power, only to backpedal from that stance.
Hashimoto has become wary about moves by Kada and other small parties because Nippon Ishin, despite being seen as the most viable political “third force,” is apparently losing steam as Ishihara’s ultraconservative, and pronuclear power, thrust is beginning to turn off many voters.
“An antinuclear group is very dangerous in some ways,” Hashimoto said on a TV program. “It’s as if former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama promised to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma outside Okinawa Prefecture. It was easy to say, but he was not able to achieve it.”
Hashimoto’s comments came as he indicated Tuesday that he has given up trying to persuade Your Party to join forces with his grouping.
“We’re in a very severe situation,” Hashimoto said, suggesting even though his party and Your Party share policies in key areas and philosophies, they have failed to reach an agreement on which of the two parties would field candidates in districts where both have been planning to have people run.
Hashimoto on Monday urged Your Party chief Yoshimi Watanabe to make a decision on the merger by Tuesday, but Watanabe told reporters, “It’s virtually impossible.”
“Talks about the merger already broke up in August, so it’s a closed issue for Your Party,” Watanabe said in Tochigi Prefecture, adding his party wants to deepen cooperation with Nippon Ishin but without merging.
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