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Rift between LDP and Komeito over diplomacy, security

By Ishinabe Kei

 

The agreement the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito signed on Oct. 1 to form a coalition government clearly states the importance of “unshakable security arrangements based on the Japan-U.S. alliance” and “universal values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.” The agreement will serve as a guideline for the future administration of the government, but there remains a gap between the positions of the LDP and Komeito over diplomacy and security. Whether LDP President Kishida Fumio as prime minister will be able to transform the agreement into concrete measures remains to be seen.

 

“I’m sure President Kishida will take various matters into account as he is now in a position to consolidate policies on behalf of the LDP,” said Komeito leader Yamaguchi Natsuo on Oct. 1. Yamaguchi said this in response to a question about whether Japan would move to acquire enemy base attack capabilities, which LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Takaichi Sanae called for during the recent LDP presidential race. Komeito is strongly opposed to the idea of increasing the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces. Yamaguchi apparently made this clear to Takaichi as she now heads policy-making for the LDP.

 

Enemy base attack capabilities are, however, a powerful deterrent for “unshakable security arrangements.” Kishida has also expressed the desire for Japan to possess such capabilities. “Kishida expressed a willingness to possess the [enemy base attack] capabilities just for the LDP presidential race,” commented Yamaguchi in a precautionary move. But as long as Kishida made such a comment during the presidential election, which effectively decides the nation’s prime minister, the comment is regarded as essentially being a campaign pledge. There is no denying that this could become a source of conflict between the two ruling parties in the future.

 

The agreement also calls for “peace diplomacy” with an emphasis on universal values, including human rights. It apparently is thinking of the Chinese government’s crackdown on ethnic minorities. During the last Diet session, the ruling parties failed to adopt a resolution condemning China’s crackdown on human rights, and this resulted in their being criticized.

 

During the LDP presidential election, Kishida declared that “a resolution [condemning China’s crackdown on human rights] should be adopted,” although he did not specify when such a resolution should be adopted. Kishida also revealed his plan to establish a new special advisor to the prime minister for human rights issues. On Oct. 1, Yamaguchi, who attaches great importance to relations with China, also expressed his willingness to accept Kishida’s idea, saying, “If China’s actions run counter to universal values, we may discuss the matter during a Diet session.”

 

At the same time, however, Yamaguchi stressed the importance of “Japan’s traditional diplomatic style,” apparently with  reference to Japan’s basic diplomatic stance of emphasizing “dialogue” and “cooperation.” This is different from the diplomatic policy of the West, which imposes severe sanctions against human rights abuses. It remains to be seen whether Komeito will really come on board with a resolution to condemn China.

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