Ripples from the controversy over Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s exceptional audience with the Emperor on Dec. 15 have not died down. Statements on the relationship between the Cabinet and the Emperor made by Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa raise serious concerns.

The controversy started because the timing of China’s request for the audience did not meet the conditions set by protocol. A request for an audience with the Emperor must be made at least one month in advance. Although China’s request failed to meet the deadline, the Hatoyama administration pressured the Imperial Household Agency to accept China’s request.

Imperial Household Agency chief Shingo Haketa stated at a Dec. 11 news conference that what happened should not be repeated. He pointed out that the rules of protocol have been applied equally, irrespective of the size of the country concerned or the political weight of visitors. He expressed concern that involving the Emperor when the nation has an issue with a foreign country would undermine the Emperor’s position and role under the Constitution. The supreme law stipulates that the Emperor is the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people, and has no power related to politics.

On Dec. 14, Mr. Ozawa said Mr. Haketa, who publicly protested against a Cabinet decision, does not understand the Constitution and should resign. He also said, “If we ask the Emperor in person, he will say, ‘I will meet (Mr. Xi) although the request may have been delayed through some mistakes.’ “

Mr. Ozawa has no right to speculate how the Emperor would react to such a request. Doing so could quite easily lead to political exploitation of the Emperor.

Making matters worse, on Dec. 21, Mr. Ozawa said the Cabinet is responsible for the Emperor’s behavior and that he should act in accordance with the judgment of the Cabinet: “If we make a request to the Emperor, he will comply gladly.” Mr. Ozawa seems to think that the Emperor is the Cabinet’s puppet. Mr. Ozawa should be made keenly aware that his thinking is wrong.

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