(Sep. 30, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Will Ozawa rise to Aso's challenge?
所信表明演説 小沢民主党代表はどう応じる(9月30日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Taro Aso's first policy speech at the Diet on Monday was unusual in that he deliberately tried to provoke the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest force in the House of Councillors, by asking questions and making requests to it.

Aso demanded the DPJ be prepared to provide answers to the questions he posed when it tries to grill him in the interpellation session. By doing so, Aso apparently aimed to address issues likely to be in the spotlight in the run-up to the anticipated dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election.

Aso's speech thus appeared as a challenge to the DPJ that Ichiro Ozawa, the party's president will be unable to completely ignore. Close attention should be paid on how Ozawa will respond.

Aso first asked whether the DPJ is prepared to establish rules on consensus building.

In the divided Diet, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda continued to be shaken by the DPJ during the last ordinary session despite showing a cooperative attitude toward the opposition camp.

Aso obviously wants to avoid falling into the same trap as Fukuda.


Going on the offensive

Saying that the passage of a supplementary budget and its related bills are an urgent need, Aso pressed the DPJ hard to declare its position on the issue and clarify its stance on the government's plan to create a consumers affairs agency. Aso also suggested that ruling and opposition parties hold talks to coordinate policy.

Regarding the nation's foreign policy and security issues, Aso raised two key questions.

First, he asked which the DPJ considers a higher priority: the Japan-U.S. alliance or the United Nations.

Ozawa has been taking the U.N.-centered approach for a long time. Aso underlined that the nation's top diplomatic priority should be strengthening of the Japan-U.S. security alliance. He also said the nation could not realistically leave its fate entirely up to the United Nations.

Second, Aso took up the issue of passing a bill to revise the new Antiterrorism Law to continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. Aso pressed the DPJ, asking whether it considers it appropriate for the nation to avoid engaging in activities that are required by the international community.


Chance of course change

There is the possibility of major policy changes regarding both issues if the DPJ takes power. Ozawa needs to wipe out that concern.

Aso referred in the policy speech to the reconstruction of the nation's economy as an issue to be urgently tackled. He said that top priority for the time being should be given to measures to boost the flagging economy. This stance has apparently been announced as a lower house election is in sight.

On the promised review of the health insurance system for those aged 75 or older, which some observers say is an effort to win votes in the upcoming election, Aso ended up merely saying that he would consider reviewing the system within a year or so. It is quite unclear how the system would be reviewed and what changes would be considered.

Since Aso delivered the speech in an unusual manner by asking the opposition's stance on a number of issues, he must answer sincerely during the upcoming interpellation session without dodging the opposition's questions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2008)
(2008年9月30日02時18分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2008-09-30 09:04 | 英字新聞

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