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PacNet #59 – New Politics in Japan and Its Global Security Roles

Prime Minister Aso Taro, whose public support has plummeted below 20 percent, has announced dissolution of the Lower House of the Diet. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has been gaining ground and could win majority control of the Lower House in the election that will be held at the end of the month. The prospect of regime change in Tokyo has triggered discussions about its implications for U.S.-Japan relations and Japan’s global security roles. While the fall of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leads some observers to expect drastic change in Japan’s foreign and security policy orientations, various factors minimize the likelihood of a fundamental shift in Japanese policy, assuring a considerable degree of continuity. To be fair, not all continuities are good from the U.S. point of view. At the same time, however, a U.S. policy based on inflated expectations (or pessimism) from a DPJ-led Japan is likely to invite a backlash from Japan. Properly assessing continuity and change in Japan’s foreign and security policy is essential.