Living with a divided government

Fukuda has already changed his government's style in response to the new circumstances. He has signaled that he will jettison his predecessor's ideological bent, shutting down a committee established to implement Abe's vision of a "Beautiful Japan". But he is likely to find it difficult managing the legacy of Abe and Koizumi in this new era of divided government. His most immediate problem comes in dealing with national security. The opposition DPJ opposes a renewal of the law enabling Japanese logistical support for military forces of the US and other countries operating in the Indian Ocean. The US government has publicly pressured Japan to continue with these operations, yet the DPJ has not yielded, arguing they are unconstitutional under Japan's peace constitution. The DPJ has been criticized as opportunistic by conservative Japanese broadsheets, and pundits in the United States and other countries, for taking this position. Yet these accusations are misplaced. The opposition is simply following through on its long-stated disagreement to participation in military activities that do not have a clear mandate from the United Nations. Indeed, the DPJ does not oppose Japan taking a role in international security affairs. Party President Ozawa is the dominant voice on security matters within the party, and has long advocated a broader role for Japanese forces in UN-mandated operations. He argues Japan can undertake a wider range of peacekeeping activities under existing constitutional constraints, including in Afghanistan, but that joint operations with the United States that are not directly linked to the defence of Japan remain out of bounds. This insistence on keeping Japanese military activities firmly within constitutional boundaries is informed by his understanding of the tragic slide into war, rather than any desire for political point scoring.