Friday, December 07, 2007

Two groups not likely to intersect

The Japan Observer reports on a creepy meeting of the LDP's reactionary-nationalist wing with arch-exile Hiranuma Takeo. While the right wing is currently in eclipse, attention must still be paid to its activities. Reactionary fantabulism seems to be the only political movement still spanning the rural-urban divide without effort. In the bad old days (say, 1998) when the entire country was going to hell in a handbasket, reform had a broad appeal. Now it is an increasingly an urban-suburban phenomenon.

That an adoption of the untethered beliefs of the right wing would lead the country to ruin is, of course, the other reason why one has to keep a list of the membership in one's breast pocket.

I am saddened that Noda Seiko--the best chance this country has at a woman prime minister--still feels it necessary to associate with this crowd. I guess I will have to console myself with the thought that she sent an underling to attend in her stead.

In other news, Prime Minister Fukuda has established a foreign policy advisory group comprised of non-bureaucrats/non-politicians in advance of the 2008 Summit. Much of the membership is drawn from Koizumi Jun'ichirō's Task Force on Foreign Affairs which Fukuda effectively chaired during his time as Chief Cabinet Secretary.

With the collapse of former prime minister Abe Shinzō's National Security Advisor experiment, the PM has been relying on the traditional bureaucrats seconded from their ministries and private meetings with experts for his foreign policy advice. Institutionalizing the advice coming out of this private network is probably an indication of the PM's impatience with the status quo. The structural changes may indeed serve as a trigger for the release of a new wave of Japanese activism in foreign policy, unconstrained by normal bureaucratic caution.

At very least, the new group represents a clipping of the wings of Foreign Minister Kōmura Masahiko and Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura Nobutaka. The two gentlemen have enjoyed a greater authority in directing and defining Japan's foreign policy than their immediate predecessors (It is natural that they feel rather confident about their foreign policy expertise: both served as Foreign Minister in previous Cabinets). The appointment of the advisory group would indicate that their reign as the lords of Japan's foreign policy is coming to an end. Machimura will be expected to chair the regular meeting of the advisory group, so he will still nominally be in charge of the agenda. However, I suspect that the influence of the group will be rather one-way, with the ideas of the group infiltrating and molding Machimura's thinking, not the other way around.

Later - I see the Yomiuri has posted an English announcement of the formation of the group. The Sankei story above is still the reference for the group's membership, however.

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