- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

Minoru Morita, a political analyst and regular commentator on national networks, spoke to reporter Takehiko Kambayashi about Japan's stance regarding a possible U.S. military attack on Iraq. Mr. Morita, chairman of Morita Research Institute Co. Ltd. in Tokyo, also touched on Japan's economic situation.
Question: How do you think Japan will respond to a U.S. attack on Iraq?
Answer: Prime Minister [Junichiro] Koizumi will do anything in order not to be disliked by the Bush administration, because that is his only lifeline.
I would say that right-minded Japanese now think it was unfortunate that Mr. Koizumi became prime minister, and they also think that was a mistake in terms of personality and insight. There is an atmosphere of hopelessness that we can't manage as long as the Bush administration firmly supports Mr. Koizumi.
Mr. Koizumi gets President Bush's protection by doing just as he is told. Mr. Koizumi is dancing on Mr. Bush's palm.
Q: Are you saying the premier doesn't listen to the public?
Not only does he not listen to the public, he lives for the sake of the Bush administration.
When Mr. Koizumi became prime minister, some journalists considered him a savior. If they admitted their mistake they would lose their jobs, so they still support Mr. Koizumi just to protect themselves.
So the Koizumi administration stands on these two legs.
The prime minister's popularity, however, is expected to decline as the nation's economy grows worse in March. People's tax burden will increase, starting April [the start of Japan's fiscal year]. I believe more and more people will criticize him, so he will rely only on Washington.
Probably Mr. Koizumi will support a U.S. attack on Iraq, and give the United States money when the Bush administration asks him.
Q: You mean one main reason that President Bush supports Mr. Koizumi so much is to get much-needed money.
That's right.
While tightening the budget, cutting welfare spending and other domestic programs, Mr. Koizumi will give the U.S. money. If that happens, I'm sure the public will turn its back on him. Then, if President Bush still supports him, very strong anti-Bush sentiments will mount among the Japanese public.
Q: You say that although much of the media coverage these days has been devoted to Iraq or North Korea, Japan's economic situation is so serious that many people cannot pay much attention to nondomestic issues.
It is in the hinterland that the economic situation has become much more serious. The number of those who can't make ends meet is increasing outside Tokyo. With many stores shuttered even on Main Street in the daytime, it turns into a so-called "Shutter Street."
It's very gloomy in those towns and cities. The topics of conversation become "How long will this recession last?" "So-and-so has committed suicide." "What are things coming to?"
Though people continue working hard with their teeth clenched, some [medium-sized and small] Japanese companies go under for lack of only [about $4,150 to $8,300]. If such companies could get loans for that amount of money, they could recover. But the banks, which are under the control of the Financial Services Agency, cannot even save them.
The only prosperous place in Japan is Tokyo, which we can call "Tokyo Bubble." Many people say that there are now two Japans Bubble Tokyo, and the provinces in deep recession.

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