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Thursday, Oct. 19, 2006
FIRST DIET FACEOFF
Stop being America's yes-man, Ozawa tells Abe in Diet debate
By MASAMI ITO
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will lead the country down the wrong path if he continues to do whatever Washington asks, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, said Wednesday.
In their first head-to-head Diet battle, during a joint session of both Diet chambers, Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the main opposition party, criticized Abe, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, for relying too heavily on the U.S. alliance and the bilateral security treaty to protect the nation, especially since North Korea's Oct. 9 nuclear test.
"Japan and the U.S. are not the only two countries that are going to save the world," Ozawa said. "I think what is important for the Japanese government to do is to (determine) what kind of role Japan intends to play in the international community to protect world peace as a whole."
Abe then replied: "I have no intention of following the U.S. to the other side of the world. (But) I believe it is important to work closely with the U.S., which is our alliance partner."
The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution Saturday calling for U.N. member countries to impose wide-ranging economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear test.
Since that decision, the U.S. has been urging Japan to consider using the Self-Defense Forces for ship inspections and refueling U.S. military vessels, Ozawa said.
One major debate in the Diet is whether the nuclear test constitutes an "emergency situation in surrounding areas" that under a 1999 law would allow Japan to cooperate with the U.S. military.
Abe has been arguing that the North's test qualifies under that the law as a situation in which Japan could face a serious security threat if the situation in the North is left alone.
Ozawa told the Diet the U.N. resolution defines the test as a global threat to security, which the government says backs its position, and this differs from the emergency law and they thus should not be linked.