U.S. Asian allies seen nervous after Spain election
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"U.S. Asian allies seen nervous after Spain election"
(Linda Sieg) Reuters
"Japan divided over Iraq troop dispatch: poll"
It seems Prime Minister Koizumi is at least not losing support regarding Iraqi affairs, as reported in the Related Article introduced above, which conveys the results of polls conducted by Asahi Newspaper. It says 42% percent supports dispatch of Self Defense Force (SDF) personnel to Iraq, and 41% against, while the numbers were 44% and 48% respectively a month ago. It is significant as the poll was conducted after the bombing in Madrid, and was reported by Asahi Newspaper which has been strongly against sending the SDF to Iraq. The same article also reports the overall approval rating of Mr Koizumi rose from 44% to 49% in a month while disapproval fell from 37% to 32%.
One of the obvious reasons for Mr Koizumi's increased support is the recent indications of recovering economy. Although the number was adjusted downward slightly from the preliminary announcement, the real GDP for the last quarter of 2003 recorded 6.4% growth annually. Some economists are still skeptical, as they claim that the numbers could be misleading because they were derived by incorporating the effects of deflation, but it still has made people feel better. It was reported elsewhere today that sales of department stores in Tokyo Metropolitan area in February increased by 0.3% on year to year basis, a turnaround after 27 consecutive months of decline. Over the counter sales, which better reflects the consumer attitude by eliminating the effects of corporate sector sales, has risen by 2.1% even after deducting the effects of this year's long February.
On Iraqi affairs, some explain that as more and more personnel are being sent to the region, the people's sentiment has softened from what may be described as 'sending the SDF members to the unknown where they are unwelcome', to 'give them a chance to do a good job of helping the people there in the adverse environment where most of them had volunteered to go and pursue the task.'
That said, there is no hint as to how people will respond if and once casualties were to be reported from Iraq, though it may be assumed, if the above assumption is correct, that panic, as feared a few months ago, is becoming more unlikely. It is another story, of course, if an attack by terrorists were to be enacted in, say, Tokyo. But it is presently unpredictable, to say the most, as to what sort of collective sentiment might be displayed. While it is possible Mr Koizumi would be accused for sending the SDF to Iraq in the way of supporting the US, but, as the article above indicates, there could be an outpouring of nationalist sentiment that would work to Mr Koizumi's advantage.
Another consideration is the change of political environment in the region surrounding Japan. President Putin has won the election in Russia with unprecedented level of support, South Korea's National Assembly has voted to impeach President Roh Moo-hyun in the face of general election on April 15. In China, National People's Congress has overwhelmingly supported changes to the constitution to protect private property, a stunning move to virtually abandoning one of the key pillars of communism. Election in Taiwan is coming up this weekend, on 20th, where the core issue is the seeking of their own identity.
All this on top of North Korea, where neither issue of their nuclear bomb development nor abduction of Japanese citizens has shown any material progress for quite a while. It would not seem to make Mr Koizumi's life easier during the coming months even if the recovery of the domestic economy is in fact a real one.