- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

Minoru Morita, a Tokyo-based political analyst and chairman of the Morita Research Institute Co. Ltd., spoke to Washington Times reporter Takehiko Kambayashi about the Japanese government and U.S.-Japan relations.

Question: With many Japanese supporting Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s postal reform, the Liberal Democratic Party had a landslide victory in the House of Representatives elections in September. Most people, however, did not understand what his reform involves. What happened?

Answer: The problem is television. In Japan, almost every household has a television set in almost every room. People leave it on all day. The broadcast media have enormous influence over society.

They dramatize political news and have also created the image that Mr. Koizumi is a great figure, turning those who criticized him into “bad guys.” They kept saying that privatization of the postal system is good for Japan, and that without it, bureaucrats would continue doing bad things. They manipulated public opinion.

They hardly told the public about the content of Mr. Koizumi’s reform. They have to be neutral, according to broadcast law, but they did not take this into consideration at all.

The major broadcast media believed that they would be in trouble and subject to change themselves without Mr. Koizumi. So they have supported him. Their leaders have told me straight that they need him in order to continue their control of the media industry.

Q: The other day, Mr. Koizumi appointed Shinzo Abe as chief Cabinet secretary and Taro Aso as foreign minister. Both men visit Yasukuni Shrine and are seen as hawkish. What message do you think Mr. Koizumi sent abroad with such appointments?

A: For 20 years, China had said it would not object to such visits as long as Japan’s prime minister, foreign minister and chief Cabinet secretary don’t worship at Yasukuni Shrine. However, since shrine visitors now hold all three posts, the message Mr. Koizumi sent was that he rejects criticism from China, South Korea and other countries about such visits.

South Korea and China don’t want to confront Japan on this issue. While they seek peace, Mr. Koizumi apparently considers them to be weak-kneed. His attitude seems to be: “We won’t cave in. We’ve got U.S. support.” Recently, many Japanese have come to think the United States implicitly supports Mr. Koizumi’s visit to the war memorial.

Some even think the U.S. encourages him because whenever Mr. Koizumi visits there, Japan sets itself against Asian countries. That makes Japan depend more on the United States, which contributes to U.S. national interests. Many people here believe this.

Q: What should Japan do to develop sound bilateral relations?

A: I believe Japanese politicians have to abandon the idea that they consolidate their political power by citing the authority of the U.S. You should govern your country on your own, then you can be trusted by other countries, I believe.

Those who regard the U.S. as godlike control politics, economy, government and journalism in Japan. These leaders believe things go well with Japan as long as the country relies on the United States.

Q: Are you saying they believe the United States protects Japan’s national interests?

A: That’s right. They think so. Japanese leaders these days don’t have the idea that we protect our country on our own. All they can do is rely on others.

But I have a different idea. I believe we should not abandon the leitmotif that we protect Japan by ourselves.

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