Democratic Party of Japan
Japan has a new prime minister, Naoto Kan, but he comes from the same party—the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)—as Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned last Wednesday. He will almost surely want to continue Hatoyama's policies of strengthening Japan’s political democracy and forging an independent foreign policy that is allied with the United States, but not subordinate to it. If Kan follows that course, he will undoubtedly displease much of Japan’s establishment, which still identifies with the defeated Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that Hatoyama's party trounced in last year's election.
When President Obama arrives in Tokyo on Friday, he will confront a country that seeks to be an ally of the United States. For Japan has never been an American ally. It was first a rival, then an enemy, and finally, after it lost the war it foolishly started with the U.S., it became a protectorate, not an ally. The distinction matters. An alliance is an institution negotiated between two sovereign governments in which each agrees to a series of reciprocal obligations that have the force of law.
As I mentioned a few months ago, today's election in Japan will likely have big consequences for climate policy. The Democratic Party of Japan, which just pole-vaulted into power and basically ended 54 years of one-party rule, has promised to cut the country's emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020—closer in line with what scientists are urging—as well as set up a cap-and-trade system for carbon.
In September 2005, Junichiro Koizumi, then Japan’s prime minister and leader of the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), defied expectations and led his party to a smashing victory over the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in that year’s general election.