Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nihon wa fantasutikku desu

In recent years, the fates of various Japanese politicians have been closely linked to the war in Afghanistan. In September 2007, notorious right wing Prime Minister (and grandson of a war criminal) Shinzo Abe resigned in part due to popular opposition to Japan's participation in naval support for the conflict. Leading opposition politician Ichiro Ozawa's words resonated with the pacifist tradition in Japan when he said the war in Afghanistan "had nothing to do with the United Nations or the international community." Abe's successor was himself soon replaced by Japan's own version of George W. Bush. Taro Aso, heir of an industrialist family whose coal mine used POW's for labor during WW2, was known for his sub-par intellect and soon led his Liberal Democratic Party to a historic landslide defeat this past summer.

Now, new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is faced with a long-standing crisis over Japan's pacifist constitution existing side by side with military engagements such as the naval mission in support of the war. While Obama's commitment to change has proven rather weak, Hatoyama's government has already moved to end the death penalty and the naval mission:

Japan To End Afghan Refueling Mission: Defense Minister

TOKYO, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Japan will end its refueling mission in support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan when its legal mandate expires in January, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa has said, a month before President Barack Obama visits Washington's close Asian ally.

"The law will expire in January. We will solemnly withdraw based on the law," a ministry official quoted Kitazawa as telling reporters.

It is the clearest statement so far by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's new government, which has pledged to take a diplomatic stance more independent of Washington, that it is set to end the nearly 8-year-old mission.

The mission supplies fuel and water to U.S. and other ships policing the Indian Ocean for weapons and drug smugglers, as well as terrorists. (link)

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