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Japan Political Pulse: The path the Democratic Party should take

The largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) could boost its popularity with voters if it is to express its views on how to ensure Japan's independence as well as on foreign policy.

    I became convinced of this when I saw an article headlined, "Donald Trump mentions U.S. forces pullout from Japan, approves Japan, ROK going nuclear," on the other side of a story about the lackluster launch of the DP on the March 28 morning edition of the Mainichi Shimbun.

    The DP, which was inaugurated through a merger between the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Japan Innovation Party (JIP), is the largest opposition party in Japan, a country which not only is a leading economic power but also has the 10th largest population in the world. Japan's views on the world order are being tested rather than its election tactics.

    Diplomatic and security policies were a weak point of the previous DPJ-led government. The DPJ prioritized follow-ups to individual policy issues, such as an investigation into a Japan-U.S. secret accord on nuclear weapons and the withdrawal of Self-Defense Force vessels operating in the Indian Ocean, because it was trying to reverse the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-led government's policy of following the U.S.

    The DPJ administration's efforts were "far removed from the direction of working out systematic policy measures to appeal to the international community," according to "Minshuto Seiken Shippai-no Kensho" ("Examination of the failure of the DPJ administration") authored by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation and published by Chuokoron-Shinsha Inc.

    There is an abundance of weapons in the world, ranging from rifles, machine guns and missiles to nuclear arms, and there are dictators and terrorists who take advantage of these arms.

    A majority of weapons and ammunition that were used or are being used in armed conflicts in the Middle East, Europe and Africa have reportedly flowed out of Eastern Europe.

    As the world order is becoming increasingly volatile, Japan should come up with "systematic policy measures" to appeal to the world such as the promotion of reductions in nuclear arms, thorough prevention of nuclear proliferation and the strengthening of controls on exports of weapon parts and technologies, including those for conventional weapons.

    A gathering called "The 23rd Asian Export Control Seminar" was held in Tokyo in late February to discuss how to control arms exports. The annual event is organized jointly by the government and the Center for Information on Security Trade Control. The seminar is aimed at urging developing countries in Asia that have no legislation to regulate arms exports to try to put the brakes on weapons proliferation for the sake of profits, as the international division of labor in the manufacturing sector is spreading.

    About 30 countries, territories and international organizations -- including China, India, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the United States and Europe -- participate in the annual seminar. Representatives of four international organizations working to restrain exports of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons were also present at the latest seminar.

    A decision by the previous DPJ-led government in December 2011 to open the way for exports of weapons and relevant materials strictly for the purposes of contributing to world peace and international cooperation served as a turning point at the seminar.

    Economic benefits are undoubtedly prioritized in easing arms export controls and excessive relaxation could be dangerous. However, there is no denying that Japan has been able to be proactively involved in various aspects of the issue since the relaxation of the country's arms exports ban.

    "The Shadow World -- Inside the Global Arms Trade," authored by Andrew Feinstein, translated by Kazuhisa Murakami and published by Hara Shobo in 2015, revealed that the governments of developed countries and arms companies are selling weapons to the Middle East and Africa under the cover of confidentiality. This is drawing particular attention worldwide.

    According to the book, the top-ranking weapons exporting countries are the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Spain and China. The top-ranking exporter is the United States, the former "policeman of the world." The book particularly sheds light on European countries that are secretly proliferating weapons while calling for world peace.

    The latest Nuclear Security Summit was the last one, as these were hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama, whose second four-year term ends in January 2017. There are signs that isolationism is rising in the United States, while many other major countries are deeply involved in arms deals. As such, there is growing room for Japan to play a leading role in forming a new world order to ensure peace.

    The DP's goal of abolishing the security-related legislation, which has opened the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, is an idea. Moreover, there is no room for argument over the DP's call for rectification of the income gap.

    In its inaugural declaration, the DP said it will "move hand-in-hand with the public." The public can move hand-in-hand with the DP if the main opposition party shows that it is not a group that only criticizes the ruling coalition's policies. (By Takao Yamada, Special Senior Writer)

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