National / Politics | Decision 2017

Japanese Communist Party says dialogue, not pressure will work on North Korea

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The leader of the Japanese Communist Party says Japan should shift from pressure to dialogue in its effort to curb North Korea’s nuclear development program.

JCP chief Kazuo Shii, in an interview Monday with The Japan Times, also slammed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s support for Washington’s policy on the North that “all options are on the table.”

Abe’s “pressure-first” approach toward Pyongyang is one of the key issues the prime minister has stressed in the campaign for next Sunday’s general election.

“In order to break through the current nuclear problems on the Korean Peninsula, it’s essential that Washington and Pyongyang talk directly,” Shii said.

Abe has said he wants his get-tough attitude endorsed by voters before embarking on a series of much-anticipated meetings with world leaders later this year, including a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump to Tokyo in November.

“Economic sanctions against the regime are necessary, but they alone wouldn’t resolve the problem,” Shii said. “They need to accompany an effort to open up dialogue.”

Shii likewise expressed concern that Abe’s publicly proclaimed support for the U.S. position that “all options are on the table ” — indicating military action — suggests Japan is ready to fight alongside the U.S. in the event of a war.

Sunday’s election, Shii said, is a chance to “say goodbye to Abe-led politics.”

“No past administration has ridden roughshod over the pacifist Constitution or abused power like Abe,” he said, referring to allegations the prime minister gave preferential treatment to a longtime confidant in establishing a new university department.

“Opposition parties and citizens must stand up and put a stop to this administration and create a new Japan,” he said. “That’s the biggest issue in the election.”

Shii said the JCP is serious about forming a coalition government “in the nearest possible future.”

At the same time, he said he is keenly aware that his party needs to shred its radical image, often associated with its push for revolution, and convince voters it is capable of realistic policies and action.

The leftist party has long been known for urging the abolition of the Japan-U.S. security treaty and the disbandment of the Self-Defense Forces, which it argues is incompatible with the Constitution.

The past two years have seen the JCP soften its image. Shii and other party executives, for example, attended the opening ceremony of a Diet session for the first time in nearly 70 years in January 2016. Its long boycott was based on the grounds that an emperor’s presence at the event recalled the prewar constitution’s principle that “sovereign power resides with the Emperor.”

In another compromise, Shii said during a nationally televised debate earlier this month that a JCP government would temporarily regard the SDF as constitutional unless an overwhelming majority of the public thinks otherwise.

“We need to constantly evolve our policy so that the public will feel comfortable letting us hold power. If we oppose a consumption tax hike, for instance,we need to be able to demonstrate how else we would manage fiscal policy,” he said.

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