Cablegate: Dpj Security Policy Still Muddled, As Election

Published: Wed 17 Dec 2008 08:33 AM
DE RUEHKO #3435/01 3520833
O 170833Z DEC 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 TOKYO 003435
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2018
REF: A. 07 TOKYO 3102
B. TOKYO 3387
Classified By: Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer, reasons 1.4(b),(d).
1. (C) Summary. The possible shift from an LDP-led
administration to one led by the DPJ has potentially serious
implications for Japan's security policy, as well as for the
future direction of the U.S.-Japan alliance. The leading
opposition party has opposed the war in Iraq and used its
majority in the Upper House to slow the passage of
legislation authorizing anti-terror refueling support in the
Indian Ocean. Campaign literature outlines the need to
obtain a UN mandate for all security-related deployments
overseas. Party leaders routinely castigate U.S. policies
and call for a more equal security alliance. With an
ideological range that runs from left to right and little
cohesion between the party's assembly of former ruling LDP
members and refugees from several small defunct parties, the
DPJ has done little to lay out a clear framework for foreign
policy decision-making. In advance of Lower House elections
sometime next year, the party has mostly deferred to its
leader, Ichiro Ozawa, to set the parameters for the debate,
but he has been much more focused on the elections than on
what comes next. Ultimately, the contours of DPJ security
policy in the event it wins a majority may depend most on the
ability of the leadership to maintain a sense of unity and
cohesion among members at the two ends of the political
spectrum. Whatever happens, it is clear at this point, based
on numerous conversations with DPJ Diet members, that a new
government will continue to maintain a strong alliance
relationship with the United States, but will likely oppose
the OEF refueling mission and certain aspects of U.S. force
realignment. End Summary.
DPJ Poised to Take Power
2. (C) For the first time in its history, the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP) faces the very real possibility that
it will emerge from the next Lower House election as the
second-largest political party in the Diet, behind the
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). If polling is any guide,
the DPJ could take an outright majority, if not merely a
plurality of the 480 seats. The LDP has held power, either
alone or in coalition, for most of the last 50 years,
ensuring a fair degree of continuity in Japan's foreign
policy. The current Lower House term ends on September 10
and the Prime Minister must call an election by no later than
that date (with an automatic extension into October if the
Diet is in session). Embassy contacts are nearly unanimous
that the most likely time frames for an earlier snap election
are January/February or April/May. The LDP has been girding
itself to lose seats in the next Lower House race ever since
its landslide victory under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
in the ""postal privatization"" election of 2005. The outlook
has become steadily worse through the subsequent
administrations of Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda,
and Taro Aso. Even some senior LDP members, such as former
Secretary General Koichi Kato, believe the clock may have run
out on the LDP. He told the Embassy recently that the LDP
has lost the meaning of its existence, which was to stop the
spread of communism and grow the economy.
3. (C) Should power shift to the DPJ in the next election,
security policy is likely to be less predictable than it has
been for most of the last half-century under a steady stream
of LDP governments, according to a wide range of Embassy
contacts and other political observers. Lower House Vice
Speaker Takahiro Yokomichi, a former Socialist Party member,
told the Embassy recently that the DPJ has a ""100-day plan in
three steps"" for the transition. He notes, however, that
because the focus will be mostly on domestic issues in the
early stages of a DPJ administration, there are not likely to
be many immediate changes to foreign or security policy.
Diversity Hinders Unified Policy
4. (C) The DPJ, founded in 1998, is an amalgam of lawmakers
who have migrated from other parties over the past ten years,
supplemented by a relatively young cadre of members who
entered national politics for the first time on the party's
own ticket (Ref A). The leadership, starting with the three
top executives, Chief Representative Ichiro Ozawa, Secretary
General Yukio Hatoyama, and President Naoto Kan, is drawn
almost entirely from the first category. Those three, along
with fellow transplants Seiji Maehara, Katsuya Okada, and
Yoshihiko Noda, form the axis for six of the eight main
groups that comprise the DPJ. All but Noda have served as
party leader at one time, and all six are cited frequently by
Embassy contacts and the media as the most likely successors
to Ozawa in the future. Most of their followers trace their
lineage to the LDP, the Liberal Party, Sakigake, or the New
Frontier Party. Remnants of the now-defunct Socialist Party
(SP) and Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) comprise the
remaining two groups, and help extend the ideological
parameters of the party from far-left to far-right.
5. (C) Policy differences among the groups clustered around
the ideological center of the DPJ can indeed be vague and
difficult to articulate. Generally speaking, the Hatoyama,
Maehara, Noda, and former DSP groups tend mostly toward the
conservative side of the spectrum, particularly on security
policy, meaning they are supportive of the U.S.-Japan
security alliance, take a firm position with regard to China
and the DPRK, and are comfortable with the idea of lifting
some of the constitutional constraints that prevent Japan
from playing a more active role overseas. The Kan, Okada,
and former SP groups generally take a more dovish stance,
placing greater emphasis on relations with Asian neighbors
and looking for ways to take on a more substantive
international role outside of the Alliance and within the
existing constraints. While many in the latter category are
still supportive of the alliance at some level, they tend to
favor a more equal partnership and can often be quite
critical of U.S. foreign policy. Ozawa's group is probably
the most diverse ideologically, followed by Okada's, and is
therefore more difficult to categorize.
6. (C) Some academics have argued that while the DPJ
membership itself has become more conservative over the
years, in keeping with the general decline of the left in
Japanese politics, the party has actually moved further to
the left ideologically as a means of distinguishing itself
from the LDP. A primary focus of the DPJ's attacks on the
LDP over security policy for the past two years has been
Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Internal DPJ debates over
the constitutionality of the mission in the absence of a UN
mandate and the best role for Japan to play in assisting
Afghanistan have threatened at times to split the party along
ideological lines. Ozawa was criticized heavily by both
wings of his party in 2007 for suggesting that it might be
more appropriate to send ground forces than to provide
maritime refueling support, and quickly drew back to his
original position that the SDF cannot be legally deployed
overseas without UN mandate. Maehara sided with Ozawa in
opposing SDF deployments to Iraq, but opposed him strenuously
on the OEF deployment. The party remains divided over
whether the current OEF refueling mission, which was just
extended for another year on December 12, violates the
constitution or not, but critics of the official line have
maintained discipline to avoid airing the party's dirty
laundry before an election. DPJ Lower House member Mitsuo
Mitani cautioned the Embassy recently against reading too
much into the Diet debates, noting that ""it is easier to
oppose government bills related to foreign policy.""
7. (C) Ozawa is widely acknowledged as the key to holding the
party together, but there is no unanimity as to what will
happen if the party gains power, or if Ozawa steps down.
Some contacts conjecture that the DPJ will implode within
some relatively brief period of time, leading either to a
return of the LDP or some sort of political realignment. A
few Embassy contacts have even posited the theory that the
former Socialist Party elements within the DPJ might seek to
take advantage of the political capital they have earned over
the past several years for keeping a low profile by claiming
the spoils of an electoral victory. DPJ Lower House member
Keiro Kitagami told the Embassy recently, however, that ""the
DPJ is currently more unified than the LDP, because the DPJ
is close to achieving its goal."" Some DPJ lawmakers,
including Maehara, have registered their disappointment that
Ozawa ran unopposed in the party's September 2008 leadership
race, eliminating the possibility of open debate. Discontent
remains, Kitagami acknowledged, but the members are committed
to staying with Ozawa, at least until the election.
Manifesto Provides Basic Policy Plank
8. (C) The DPJ Manifesto, revised for the 2007 Upper House
election, provides a quick snapshot of what might be expected
from a future DPJ administration, although deep divisions
remain over even some of the party's most fundamental
policies. The Manifesto lists ""Seven Proposals,"" the last of
which is ""to build proactive foreign relations."" The term
proactive, according to DPJ contacts, is intended to signify
a shift away from the ""reactive"" policies of the LDP, bred of
an over-dependence on the United States. As DPJ
International Bureau head Tetsundo Iwakuni told the DCM
recently, ""the United States takes for granted that Japan
will always say 'yes' when asked for something."" Specific
goals listed under the heading ""Foreign Affairs and Defense""
include the immediate withdrawal of the SDF from Iraq
(already overtaken by events), increased public engagement in
U.S. force realignment, proactive diplomacy toward the DPRK,
and a more Asia-centered foreign policy. Not clearly
outlined in the Manifesto, but mentioned often by Embassy DPJ
contacts, is a plan to dispatch 100 lawmakers and some
unspecified number of political appointees to the various
ministries to exert control over the bureaucrats, a proposal
with potentially serious repercussions for policy formulation
and implementation.
9. (C) In the broadest context, the DPJ promises in its
Manifesto ""to re-examine the role of the U.S. military in the
security of the Asia-Pacific region and the significance of
U.S. military bases in Japan...from the perspective of
taxpayers and in consideration of the principle of civilian
control and the need to reduce the burden on specific regions
and communities."" At the same time, the party pledges ""to
make the greatest possible effort to develop relations of
mutual trust...and to strengthen the bonds of solidarity with
Asian countries within the framework of the international
community."" Current plans for U.S. force realignment are
criticized for the ""massive costs"" imposed on Japan based
solely on agreements between the two governments, without
regard to the understanding of the affected communities.
""Unresolved problems"" include total costs of the realignment
and the use of subsidies to obtain buy-in at the local level.
10. (C) The Manifesto also blasts Japan for supporting the
war in Iraq based on ""arbitrary and inaccurate information,""
and calls for a full accounting before Japan considers how to
assist in Iraqi reconstruction ""within the framework of
international cooperation."" The document notes the
importance of retaining sanctions on the DPRK and describes
resolution of the abductions issue ""essential."" DPJ Lower
House member Hiroshi Nakai has clarified for the Embassy that
the DPJ is currently studying ways to impose additional
sanctions against the DPRK, but is not considering any sort
of independent designation of North Korea as a terrorist
state. He was not certain that Japan would remain in the
Six-Party Talks under a DPJ-led government.
Ozawa's Policy is the DPJ's Policy, for Now
11. (C) For now, understanding Ozawa may be the key to
divining the direction of security policy under a future DPJ
administration, assuming he is willing and able to take on
the post of Prime Minister, or continues to wield power
behind the scenes. Ozawa has argued for greater ""autonomy""
within the U.S.-Japan security alliance, particularly with
regard to decision-making. In the past, he has expressed
support for close consultations, but he has also accused the
LDP of failing to consider Japan's national interests when
pressured by the United States. Lately, his rhetoric has
become more stridently anti-U.S., a move intended solely to
position the DPJ for the looming Lower House elections, DPJ
contacts tell the Embassy. He continues to argue for
wrapping the national security of Japan in the broad mantle
of the UN, and limiting Japan's overseas activities to those
covered by a UN mandate. He has stated his opposition to
revising the current interpretation of the Constitution to
allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense,
although other voices within the DPJ support constitutional
revision of some kind.
12. (C) Unfortunately, some Embassy DPJ contacts admit that
Ozawa has grown increasingly difficult to read in recent
years, isolating himself from daily contact with party
lawmakers and relying more and more on a very small inner
circle of advisors. A number of Embassy contacts, citing
Ozawa's strong support for the Alliance during his years as
an LDP power broker, question whether his current positions
on security issues represent a true change in thinking, or
are merely a matter of political expediency for tactical
advantage. Countless DPJ lawmakers and staffers have assured
the Embassy and official visitors from Washington over the
past year that Ozawa has not really changed his stripes, but
is focused on achieving a change in government at any price.
In response to those who question his intellectual integrity
for straying so seemingly far from the rather more hawkish
and nationalist positions laid down in his LDP days, or in
his 1993 book, ""Blueprint for a New Japan,"" Ozawa supporters
assert that his view of Japan as a more ""normal country"" has
always presumed a more equal partnership with the United
13. (C) Known as ""the Destroyer"" for his pivotal role in the
creation and subsequent break-up of a number of small
political parties on his journey from the LDP to the DPJ,
Ozawa helped form the first non-LDP administration in 1993
before leaving the party. Many Embassy contacts have cited
his decision to forgo the top job at that time as evidence
that he prefers to wield power behind the scenes. His health
also continues to be a cause of concern, with some DPJ
members hinting to the Embassy that his heart condition could
actually limit his ability to lead. The Embassy has heard
from numerous sources that Ozawa has had to make serious
adjustments to his daily schedule and diet, and a recent
article in one of Japan's weekly magazines noted his frequent
absences from the Lower House during afternoon deliberations.
Allegations of financial scandals involving his sizeable
real estate holdings are often mentioned by the press as
another possible roadblock to his election as Prime Minister.
Successors Waiting in the Wings
14. (C) DPJ contacts stress that Okada, DPJ leader during the
party's lop-sided loss in the ""postal privatization"" election
of 2005, has worked hard to repair his image as a leader by
staying above the fray of internal party politics. Young and
telegenic by comparison to Ozawa, he is seen as a
bridge-builder within the party, and the only potential
leader who can fill Ozawa's role of keeping the peace between
the ideological wings of the party. The relatively dovish
Okada has faulted the LDP for relying on ""a very small number
of Japan experts"" in managing relations, and recently
traveled to the United States to lay the groundwork for
broader exchanges with the incoming U.S. administration.
Returning from his trip, Okada has proposed playing a
""mediating role"" in negotiating with the Taliban, in lieu of
dispatching the SDF.
15. (C) The generally more conservative Hatoyama has also
criticized the LDP for being ""overly dependent on the United
States,"" asserting that a DPJ administration ""will strike the
right balance"" in relations with the United States and with
Asian neighbors, ""but with slightly more emphasis on the
latter."" Speaking to the Embassy recently, he claimed there
is little difference between the LDP and DPJ on foreign
policy. Like the LDP, he said, ""the DPJ positions the
U.S.-Japan alliance as the axis of its foreign policy."" He
acknowledged, however, that a review of U.S. force
realignment will be the first security issue that the DPJ
will deal with once it gains power. What the DPJ wants to
do, he continued, is ""to build equal relations with the
United States in which Japan can say what it wants to say as
a friend."" He cited Germany and its disagreement with the
United States over the war in Iraq as an example. While
Hatoyama believes it is important to focus on UN-based
civilian cooperation, and has pledged publicly ""to place UN
decisions ahead of U.S. decisions,"" he has told the Embassy
that he regards a totally UN-centered approach as ""too much.""
16. (C) Maehara, regarded as one of the more hawkish
lawmakers in the DPJ, told the Embassy recently he views the
bilateral alliance as a ""public asset"" for Japan and the
region and as the ""underlying framework"" of DPJ security
policy. That doesn't mean he is entirely supportive of
existing U.S. policies. He has defined the first order of
business for a new DPJ government as reviewing the OEF
refueling mission and elements of U.S. force realignment --
halting the former, in favor of some other form of
contribution to Afghanistan, and looking for alternatives
that would be more ""acceptable to the people of Okinawa"" for
the latter. At the same time, Maehara has called openly for
increasing Japan's defense capabilities to protect national
interests and safeguard the sea lanes, amending the
Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to
collective self-defense, and taking a harsher stance against
China and the DPRK. He has also promoted the view that Japan
needs to make its own efforts to improve relations with China
and the DPRK outside of the alliance, while still preserving
capabilities for deterrence. Notably, Maehara recently
expressed concern to the Embassy about the ideological divide
within his party, warning that should current shadow foreign
minister (and former Socialist Party member) Yoshio Hachiro
actually become foreign minister in a DPJ government, Japan's
foreign policy and security framework ""would cease to
function"" (Ref B).
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