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Japan`s Opposition Leader Speaks to Dong-A

Posted July. 01, 2009 05:30,   


The head of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Yukio Hatoyama, visited Seoul Monday and spoke to Korean media for the first time.

Conducting the interview was Chung Ku-jong, former Donga.com president and current professor of international studies and the director of the Japanese Studies Center at Dongseo University in Busan. The following is excerpts from the interview.

▽ Chung: I expect the Japanese people will show enthusiastic expectations of you considering their strong support for you and your party. Can your party overcome the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and take over the Japanese Diet in the next general elections?

Hatoyama: Just as old saying suggests that a regime that stays in power for a long time becomes corrupt without fail, the Liberal Democratic Party’s prolonged grip on power has resulted in strife between political factions, leaving all policy decisions in the hands of government officials for a long time. As a result, the public’s livelihood is being disregarded. The public has serious complaints about the Taro Aso administration. We must return to politics focusing on the people’s livelihood. As such, we will change the administration without fail this time.

▽ Chung: Even if the Democratic Party of Japan becomes the ruling party, failure to secure a majority in the Diet will prevent it from forming a coalition government. Do you have specific measures?

Hatoyama: We once formed a coalition with the New Komeito Party at the House of Councilors. We can also consider forming a coalition with the Social Democratic Party. If three or four parties form a coalition, we believe we can get a parliamentary majority. We will make securing a parliamentary majority our priority.

▽ Chung: Some claim that your brother Kunio Hatoyama, a former internal affairs and communications minister, resigned over a dispute with Prime Minister Aso, and that two hatos (pigeons in Japanese) are attacking Aso in unison. Do you plan to form a coalition with your younger brother?

Hatoyama: There is no chance for me to form a coalition with my younger brother. It is true that one hato attacked Prime Minister Aso, but the other waged an offensive against me, his own elder brother.

▽ Chung: What kind of politics do you think the Korean and Japanese people want, and what kind of society do they envision?

Hatoyama: We cannot say the situations in both countries are the same, but I think many Japanese want to see the establishment of friendly politics. In Japan, a growing number of people cannot find jobs and homes due to a deteriorating economy. More than 100 people commit suicide every day. We need to build a society where every single member feels they benefit society. We need a society where people have a sense of being humanely rewarded and benefiting society. Japan used to be such a society in the past. Since the Junichiro Koizumi administration, neo-liberalism and the money game has spread and a social gap has emerged, increasing the divide between the haves and have nots. The gap is very wide in employment, regions, education and medicine. All citizens wish to see a society that effectively removes such a gap.

▽ Chung: How does your party’s diplomacy and national security policy differ from the Liberal Democratic Party’s?

Hatoyama: Diplomacy requires continuity and it is impossible to reverse direction completely. The Democratic Party puts priority on Asia, however. It is certain that the Japan-U.S. alliance must be the centerpiece of Japan’s diplomacy in the next administration, but we should not blindly follow U.S. intent. Japan must talk to the U.S. when it needs to and pursue regional security and world peace. It is also important to establish relationships of trust with Asian countries. In the past, comments by Liberal Democratic Party politicians soured Japan-South Korea and Japan-China relations. We will consolidate our relations with neighboring countries to preempt such a situation.

▽ Chung: North Korea-Japan relations have remained very tense due to Pyongyang’s military aggression and previous abductions of Japanese nationals. What is your party’s North Korea policy?

Hatoyama: What is important is how to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. In reality, taking part in imposing sanctions on the North could trigger a military conflict and war. It is important to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table by using sanctions as a means to pressure the North. What is most important is that Japan must collaborate with South Korea and the U.S. Japanese intelligence capability is limited and hence Japan must cooperate with the U.S. South Koreans are the same people as North Koreans, and we need to try to share the sentiment of South Koreans. The Democratic Party of Japan will seek to understand North Korea through trilateral cooperation.

▽ Chung: Proposed Japanese naval inspections of North Korean vessels seem to show an incompatibility between the limitations of Japanese domestic laws and the purported preservation of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

Hatoyama: This reality entails a complicated matter. Japan needs to share accurate information with the U.S. and South Korea. North Korean vessels will strongly reject inspections. Even if a bill being devised by Tokyo is approved, implementation is wholly another matter. Japan’s legislation of new laws will send a message to North Korea, however. It is necessary for Japan to devise relevant laws as a preemptive measure.

▽ Chung: Following your inauguration as party leader, you chose South Korea as the first destination for your overseas tour and held talks with President Lee Myung-bak June 5. In addition, next year will mark the centennial anniversary of Japan’s annexation of the Korea Peninsula. Do you have specific plans to help develop bilateral relations?

Hatoyama: If there is any difference between the Liberal Democratic Party and our party, it is the Democratic Party’s courage to view past history accurately. The Liberal Democratic Party says it is inheriting the 1995 statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, but the Korean people seem to consider it nothing other than lip service. The Democratic Party will honor Murayama’s statement, which envisions a future-oriented development of bilateral relations based on reflection of past history. In the wake of the centennial anniversary of Japanese annexation of the Korean Peninsula next year, the Japanese Diet could consider several measures, including delivery of a certain message or a message exchange between the heads of state of the two countries.

▽ Chung: How do you hope to realize your political mottos of “friendship revolution” and “friendship diplomacy” in Korea-Japan relations?

Hatoyama: Following the Second World War, Germany and France formed a joint coal and steel company and pledged not to go to war again. This exemplifies a “friendship revolution.” In Asia, negative sentiment remains due to Japan’s past infliction of suffering to the Korean people, and it is important for us to overcome such past history through exchanges and establish an environment to prevent a recurrence. We can think about establishing an Asia-Pacific community focused on Japan and Korea that encompasses China and eventually the U.S. If countries cooperate with each other, we can build an Asia of co-existence and co-prosperity wherein countries cooperate with other. This is the “friendship diplomacy” that I envision.