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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #181: December 22, 2003

Iraq trip by coalition ally brings Japan PM relief

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Iraq trip by coalition ally brings Japan PM relief"
(Reuters) South African Broadcasting Corporation,2172,70916,00.html


The article reports that Mr Kanzaki of New Komeito, upon visiting Iraq himself, has expressed his views effectively agreeing to send SDF to Iraq.

US President Bush went to Iraq to serve turkey to American soldiers on the occasion of Thanksgiving last month, which was announced after he had safely left Iraq, for obvious reasons. In fact, how the whole operation was kept confidential turned out to be a more interesting story than the fact that he went there. Mr Bush probably really wished to cheer up his soldiers there who had been away from home and exposed to threats of lethal attacks. He may have succeeded, though to a very limited extent, as only few officers and soldiers compared to the whole troop in Iraq was able to see the President personally, while others learned about it after Mr Bush was already safely away from Iraq.

As for his other obvious intention of reviving popularity, it seems as though the trip hadn't happened at all. Those who support him shrugs their shoulders and say there was no harm done, and those who do not simply ignore the event as it being a cheap stand play.

New Komeito's leader Takenori Kanzaki went to Iraq just before Christmas. New Komeito is the junior member of the ruling coalition where Prime Minister Koizumi leads the larger partner Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Although the LDP alone holds majority in the lower house, it needs the support of New Komeito in the upper house to carry on the business effectively. Furthermore, a strong support by New Komeito was said to be provided to candidates of the LDP in constituencies where there were no conflicts, which has strengthened New Komeito's position in the coalition.

In reality, however, policy frameworks of the LDP and New Komeito differ significantly, and recently there have been signs of conflicts becoming evident. One was the revision of public pension plan, where the LDP compromised to decrease the volume of reduction of pension benefits because New Komeito was fiercely against cutting the amount of payouts to pensioners. As a consequence, the pension reform plan could not be placed on the track to revive its financial soundness.

Iraq has been another issue. While the LDP initiated the policy to send Self Defense Forces (SDF) to Iraq, New Komeito was generally against it. The issue was made more complex by the fact that New Komeito is backed by Soka Gakkai, a large Buddhist organization, where many members would naively be against any sort of "forces" being deployed anywhere for any reason.

Thus, it was not Mr Kanzaki's objective to cheer anybody in Iraq, but he went there to qualify himself to make "authoritative" comments out of "experience of being there." Such a performance was deemed as a necessary procedure to convince those skeptical members of Soka Gakkai that it would be all right for New Komeito to accede to the LDP's policy to send the SDF to Iraq.

There have been for a long time concerns among critics toward New Komeito's close ties with and reliance upon Soka Gakkai. The trip to Iraq by the leader of New Komeito could certainly be interpreted as a sign of such strong influence of Soka Gakkai.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications