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Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa’s efforts to convince the public that his and his party’s policies significantly differ from those of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the Liberal Democratic Party are taking concrete shape, especially in foreign policy. He is embracing the principle that an opposition party must present the public with a viable alternative.

Last week, Mr. Ozawa met with Chinese President Hu Jintao. This in itself was a feat. Mr. Koizumi has been unable to hold such a summit because his repeated visits to Yasukuni Shrine have chilled bilateral relations. Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Hu agreed to set up an institution for regular dialogue between the Chinese Communist Party and the DPJ. Mr. Ozawa was also prudent enough not to mention the Yasukuni issue, knowing that doing so could help China push its political agenda on Japan. Mr. Hu did not broach the issue, either.

Before his visit to China, Mr. Ozawa said that relations among Japan, China and the United States must be like an “equilateral triangle” — a proposal for Japan to take an equidistant approach to both China and the U.S. He stated that Japan should be the vertex of such a triangle and serve as a bridge between Beijing and Washington.

This is a clear criticism of Mr. Koizumi’s basic stance that if Japan-U.S relations are good, Japan’s relations with China and South Korea will automatically follow suit.

Mr. Ozawa’s position also differed from the government’s concerning Japan’s reaction to North Korea’s test-firing of seven missiles last week. He called on the Japanese people to stay cool-headed, saying that economic sanctions carry a danger of leading to the use of greater coercion, including military force.

Mr. Ozawa has shown that he thinks differently from Mr. Koizumi and his government in important matters, and has demonstrated that he is politically cautious. His next step should be to bring unity to his party and give it a convincing policy program.

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