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Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006

OPPOSITION LEADER EYES DECENTRALIZATION

Ozawa rallies DPJ with calls for change


Staff writer

The leader of a nation must have ambition above all else, and if he doesn't have it he should quit immediately, said Ichiro Ozawa, who started his new term as president of the Democratic Party of Japan on Tuesday.

News photo
Opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, speaks Wednesday during an interview with The Japan Times in Tokyo. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

Ozawa, who leads the nation's largest opposition party, was speaking of the DPJ's future ambitions in an interview Wednesday with The Japan Times.

Ozawa said that if the DPJ takes over as the government, he will strengthen the power of local governments.

I think "we should stop giving complete control to Kasumigaseki and to (local governments) having to petition the authorities," Ozawa said. "I believe that the age of local autonomy will come."

He is enthusiastic about making changes to education, the pension system and to decentralize power. But some people are doubtful he can do it.

"Why do people have doubt? Because no one believes that the bureaucrats can be persuaded" to make changes, Ozawa said. "In Japan, the government is the strongest. . . . And people are (used to) thinking that (the system) cannot be changed. But give me power and I'll show you that it can be changed."

A former secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Ozawa split from the party in 1993, which led to the LDP losing its grip on government for the first time in about 40 years. After leaving, he was leader of Shinseito and the Liberal Party, both of which are now defunct.

Ozawa's first goal is to win big in the House of Councilors general election next summer. The DPJ leader said that winning a majority in the Upper House is the first step to seizing power from the LDP.

"If our party wins the majority, it will be impossible for (the LDP) to actually control the government," he said.

"For example, we could place members from the opposition parties in all the (Upper House) posts, starting with the speaker. How would you manage (the Diet) then?"

In his book, "Ozawanizumu" ("Ozawanism"), published earlier this month, Ozawa criticized the current government's diplomacy, saying it was "nonexistent."

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi "has destroyed" the Japanese-South Korean and Japanese-Chinese relations, the DPJ chief said. "The fact that we can't build a trusting relationship with China and South Korea is absurd."

Relations with China and South Korea have become strained over Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Class-A war criminals are honored with the war dead.

"But it isn't just about Yasukuni Shrine," Ozawa said. "It is how (we) view the previous war, and (the shrine) has become a symbol" of that view.

He said the contentious Shinto shrine in Tokyo should be changed in such a way that everyone, including the Emperor, can visit it.

Ozawa doesn't think Japan-U.S. relations are very good either.

"Koizumi was just (U.S. President George W.) Bush's little cutie-pie" who would do whatever Bush asked him to do, Ozawa said. The relationship "has not helped Japan create a real relationship based on trust."

In the 1980s, when Ozawa was a member of the LDP, he participated in negotiations with the U.S. several times. He recalled the strong distrust the Americans had toward the Japanese, which he said began with a translation mistake during textile trade negotiations in 1969 between U.S. President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Eisaku Sato.

"Sato said he would take (a proposal) into consideration, which means 'no' in Japanese, but Foreign Ministry officials translated it as I 'will make a great effort,' " Ozawa said. The U.S. side "thought it meant 'yes.' . . . And that was the start of (Japanese) being called liars."



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