Japan's Naoto Kan promises fresh start with new cabinet
Japan's new Prime Minister Naoto Kan unveiled a cabinet Tuesday of six new members and 11 from the Hatoyama administration. Polls show 63 percent of Japanese have high hopes for Kan's administration.
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Jun Okumura, a senior adviser to the New York-based Eurasia Group, a political-risk analysis firm, says he expects Kan to stay on a more even keel than his predecessor: “There will be more consistency and less politicking.”
“Kan has kept most of the previous cabinet, but they were a very decent team. Now they can follow a non-Ozawa political line that is more appropriate to the current situation and give themselves the chance to make a decent showing in the election.”
Sticking with unpopular US base decision
Despite his reputation for stubbornness, Kan demonstrated his pragmatic side by agreeing to honor Hatoyama’s decision to relocate Futenma airbase within Okinawa, as demanded by Washington.
In a phone call over the weekend with US President Barack Obama, he said relations with Washington were the "cornerstone" of Japan's diplomacy and vowed to "further deepen and develop the Japan-US alliance to tackle global and regional challenges," according to Japan’s foreign ministry
A White House statement said the leaders “agreed to work very closely” on a range of issues. The pair reportedly "hit it off well on a personal level.”
The Futenma debacle has divided opinion not only in Japan but also on the other side of the Pacific. Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Washington D.C.-based libertarian think tank, questioned the need for the US to bankroll Japan’s security.
“The new prime minister won't be much different from the old one,” Mr. Bandow wrote. “Or the ones before him. If change is to come to the US-Japan security relationship, it will have to come from America.
“And it should start with professed fiscal conservatives asking why the US taxpayers, on the hook for a US$1.6 trillion deficit this year alone, must forever subsidize the nation with the world's second-largest economy.”
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- Japan news coverage
- Opinion: The rise of Japan’s new Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and lessons for China